Tuesday, December 30, 2008

12/29/08 Great to be Riding

Convinced I could canter Ransom both directions, I chose my western saddle for the ride. Knowing full well I wouldn't have the confidence to canter right in my english saddle. I figured Ransom would either adjust, or have a huge bucking fit. Either way, I needed to know if he could handle it.

He acted like that wasn't his first run in a western saddle. He responded great. Since I didn't have to focus so hard on myself, it was easier to ride & read his reactions.

Things I learned
*Ask for canter, then sit light. Don't sit solid or deep - he'll just go faster
*Close reins & pulse rein & thighs for downward transitions
*I was able to use Half-Halt that finally worked like every instructor I've ever had intended
*If I sit light, I can get a sitting trot. The instant I sit deep, and "lean on my pockets", he speeds up considerably
*Plenty of breaks and pats make a happy horse - He thrives on positive feedback. I might try to find sugar cubes & carry some in my pocket for a while. Let him know that when I get it right & he responds, I really appreciate it.

We worked for nearly 45 minutes, and had a blast!!!

Caught Romeo out in the pasture, way in the back. Jumped on him bareback, and let him carry my lazy behind back to the gate. I saw him smiling at Ransom... "See, dude.. she trusts me.. It'll take about 2 years, if she's the same with you as she was with me.. But she'll get there."

Romeo and I worked for another 45 minutes. Walk, trot, canter, in the smaller pasture. Worked on a few rollbacks with great response, as well. He was sweaty & exhausted by ride's end. Good for him, too..... I still saw smiles when I turned him out after the work.

Got a little more arena-widening work done. Posts are started on one long side, most of the leveling work is done too. Finished my day with a hot bath & a long massage. A great day off overall.

12/28 Ransom Spooks

I saddled Ransom, intending on a solid ride. However, we were greeted by deer running across the pasture, and 4-wheelers on the neighbor's property. These were both things Ransom wasn't expecting. When the deer came in, he slammed on the brakes, turned & faced them, ears up. I let him stand & watch. Then, just as quick, other side of the pasture, the kids & 4-wheelers were whizzing by. I felt him tense. So I dismounted... I could see his chest shaking. Poor kid got scared, and wasn't sure what to do.

I stayed off until the commotion went away, then remounted. A little more walk & trot work, then called it done. Total work-work was probably only 20 minutes, but total time was nearly 40. He got flat-scared, and since it was our first ride on my property, I sure wasn't going to ruin it for him.

Romeo was of course, more solid. It was his house, his pasture, and his momma. He was obviously pretty happy to have me back, giving at all three gaits. We got in about a 45 minute work-out, full of all kinds of work. I focused on basics, since I wasn't sure how much ride he'd had while I was gone. I think he was happy to have me again as a partner rather than a boss or trainer.

Back in Texas

I arrived in Houston around 11:30pm Friday night. Safe, but exhausted. Parked my little bottom at a LaQuinta Inn south of the city, for the night, a little before 1am. There was no way in this life I was going to drive the extra few hours to the house, not without fear of a huge "fall asleep at the wheel" accident. The hotel was one I'd been at before, and I was a bit disappointed in the evening check-in attendant. Her attitude suggested I had ruined her peaceful night, and I wasn't in the mood to play. I've commented as such to the hotel manager and in a random survey. Hoping there will be resolution in the future with a better attitude when I arrive.

Arrived at home Saturday morning well-rested. Les came over, we fixed some fence wire that was grounded. Happy to have hot fence, we went to the vet to pick up the little furries. All were glad to see their Momma, well fed, well loved, and tired. Brought them home, a little play time, then off to their puppy crates so Momma could go get the ponies.

Both boys were pretty darn happy to see me. Pretty darn. Ransom nickered his way to the gate, Romeo quick behind him. I got my scratches & nuzzles in, then caught Ransom for a ride.

Rode english in Les' round pen, with a cold front full of thunder & lightening off in the distance headed our way. Got in about 40 minutes of solid walk & trot. I was considering canter when the lightening got closer, and called it a ride.

Things I learned -
*Ransom likes leg - off! He will adjust to my stride on seat alone. Ask for gait, then leave him alone. Don't nag... no reason to. Any added leg pressure in any particular gait means "gimmee more".
*Stop cue still isn't clear in my mind. I feel like I ask, then 6-8 strides later, I get the change.

Weather broke yuckie cold before Romeo got his ride. He was clearly pouting, and angry with me, too.

Got both boys loaded (along with their menagerie of junk), and settled back at home.

A long busy day, but I settled to sleep in a bed full of housepets, with horses in the pasture less than 100ft from my bedroom window.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Holiday Update

I'm sitting in Atlanta, with a few thoughts. My 3pm departure from PA was delayed until 525pm. The 6pm departure from Atlanta to Houston is now scheduled to leave Atlanta at 1030pm. The airport bustles with folks running to their gates, others wandering aimlessly. Then there's folks like me, plugged into wall outlets with computers & cell phones, bumming wireless internet access. Here are my gathered thoughts from the past few days...

The horses will see me tomorrow. I don't usually realize how much they ground me, until I'm not around. When someone else gets to feed them, gets to pet on them, gets to sneak them cookies, it's not th esame. I need that routine - with all of my pets. I still wake up insanely early every morning, but with no chores to do. It's awkward, and doesn't suit me. I've gotten into a habit of being a responsible caretaker, and it doesn't fit to not have chores to do.

There isn't much scarier than landing a plane in fog. As we began our descent into Atlanta, the fog increased denser and denser. It was a scary thing - white fuzz blocking the light beams off the airplane wings. The plane made landfall pretty abruptly, wheels slamming into the asphalt. The whole landing was frightening, something I'd rather not do in fog again for quite a while.

Having had luggage delayed in Pittsburgh, and now sitting in Atlanta, I'm reminded - I HATE Delta Airlines! For the years I lived in SC, they were the best deal for cost, and usually convenient for time. But in the past four years, I've only flown with them twice, and both were a disaster. I made my plans too late, and have learned my lesson never to do this again. I will plan months in advance, and I will insist on flying Continental or USAirways. There's no reason this many customers should have this many issues... especially during the holiday rush.

Time with family is good, but again, I'm grounded in my routine, and I like being in control of my own comings and goings. I've grown up enough now that I don't really enjoy having to wait on someone else to tell me "what I'm doing next." Too many other people were making too many decisions for me, and the stress was overwhelming. Sitting in the airport, waiting on someone else to make my decisions, is a bit relaxing. Nothing I say here will be "wrong", and I won't offend anyone so much that they'll delay my flight more. I can look at people here, random strangers, and smile mildly in their direction, and the response won't matter. If they smile back, fine. If they glare at me as if to say "you freak, stop staring at me!", that's okay, too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Cheer?

I'm in Pennsylvania again, freezing my breeches off. There isn't enough clothes in my whole closet to warm me in single digit temperatures. This is NUTS! Anyways, I'm here visting family, missing the kids.

News is the boys are doing good. Romeo and Ransom have been pasturing together, and rumor is Romeo is "Big Dude" in the herd. What a riot! Little pony Romeo bossing around masive hunter Ransom. I can only imagine the thumping Ransom's getting. Just hope they stay safe while they do it.

Yesterday I ordered Ransom a bit (slow twist full cheek) and saddle pad (Medallion wither lift fleece). I thought seriously about putting him in a soft bit like I have, but then realized it'd be easier to train me than the horse. As long as I'm on easy contact, that bit won't be so severe. I have a show photo of him going in a 3-ring elevator, which I have no clue how to ride with. Time to reprove my "soft hands" Susan keeps talking to me about.

Miss the boys... Miss the warm(er) weather. It's good to be with family, but each year I feel my "family" is in Texas...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Introducing Ransom

Gotta Love the face that says "it's frigging cold, you took my blanket off, and I don't have a job today. Why are you standing here and not riding me?!?!?"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

1992 Appendix QH Tidal Wave AKA Ransom

I talked to Barbara, owner of Blue Ribbon Meadows. We discussed through email a lesson horse she had named Buddy. He is 17.0H tall, and was teaching little kids & beginner adults. I made plans to take Chewie for a trade. Then Buddy found a new home (I found out later, this was for the best, for many reasons). I talked to Barbara, and she must have heard my desire and need for a quiet mount, because she called many times Friday night.

Finally, she introduced me via phone to Ransom, an older lesson horse that's "seen the countryside and is ready to settle down with one person." He's a teenager, coggins say he was born in 1992 - teeth pretty much agree with that. His show name is "Tidal Wave." He's jumped in hunters & jumpers, takes an easy bit, and carries around little lesson kids, now in his semi-retirement, after being shown all over the US.

I figured I'd be in over my head on this smart horse, but wanted to know in my heart I tried. On the ground, Ransom was a gentleman, although a bit pushy leading. Tacking & grooming, he was a saint. I stood by and watched while Ms Barbara's groom saddled him. We went to a covered arena, where two other ladies were riding. The groom explained Ransom has been carrying all kinds around, and he won't do anything bad to me at all.

I donned my helmet, and crawled on. Les stood by, watching intently. We walked, we walked, and walked. I mustered courage, and tried to sit his trot. Holy Moley! He took off! Scared the willies outta me! I finally got him stopped, and tried again. Turns out Ransom likes a posting trot, and will adjust his stride to the post. OOH! He's so freaking smart, he was reading me. The more tense I got, the slower he got, carefully adjusting his body to each move I made. I felt he wasn't going to let go of me, but he was waiting on his "stop cue". Barbara explained that "If you squeeze your thighs & use those knee rolls, he'll stop." Sure 'nuf, Ransom shut down in a matter of feet. I laughed inside - he's the opposite of Romeo. You squeeze Rom, hold on! He'll go go go! You squeeze Ransom, he stops.

As Chewie & the groom entered the arena, I felt my focus change and fear rise. Les suggested we head to the round pen. I had a rhythm with Ransom by then that wanted to canter, but sure didn't want to do it in a large arena full of other horses.

We cantered twice in the round pen. Ransom was short & Uphill in his stride. I figured out how to squeeze to slow him, but until I did, that first canter, he shortened and shortened and shortened, but didn't let go of me for a second. No buck, no fart, no twisting. He just proceeded forward.

He's a neat horse. I have taken pictures, and he's every bit 16.3H. Blood bay, dark front legs, back legs blend red to black to bright white socks & hooves. Black mane, black tail, with red points. He's adorable.

Can't wait to ride more!

Chewie's New Life

I started with him, and I learned a whole lot. When I got Chewie, he didn't know the first thing about turning on leg contact, he wouldn't give to a gentle bit, and absolutely ignored the word "whoa". We came a long way. No matter how much courage I'd muster up, no matter how much training he had, I still would get terrified in my heart everytime I'd canter him. It didn't matter how small the space, my heart would race, and my whole body would tense up. I couldn't control it. I tried trainers, clinics, reading books, taking lessons, different farriers, chiropractic work, accupuncture, supplements, lunging, ground driving, and days just walking around on him bareback. But the thought of a canter on his back scared me to death.

I thought it was the fear of canter. Then Romeo (& others) taught me it wasn't me - it was me with Chewie. We weren't the pefect match, and he needed to be put to use.

Saturday, I took him to Blue Ribbon Meadows in Katy, TX. There, a beautiful young lady hopped on him (hunter saddle, french link eggbutt bit, no helmet, blue jeans & boots), and I got scared thinking about what he might do. He was a saint. I watched (aboard another horse) at a distance, my heart pounding. "Don't do anything stupid, Chewie. The barn owner likes you, please don't be stupid." And he wasn't. They looked magical. She was a rider with a solid seat & light hands. Chewie gave to her, showed he was out of shape, but responded to all of her requests. He had a gorgeous flowing big stride, and good control.

Farewell , my friend. My eyes well up thinking that you're gone. Romeo and Ransom will take your place. Romeo will become my confidant - the shoulder I cry on when work and life sucks. Romeo will be that horse I slip cookies to "just because I can." Ransom will become my hunter mount, and we will jump together.
Farewell, my friend... I will be back to see you again someday... maybe even take you for a stroll.. But not until I find my balance, my seat, and my confidence..

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mending Me, Mending Friendships

I'm healing... Slowly. I overdid coming to work yesterday, and I paid dearly for it last night. By around 8:45, I was dead tired asleep on the couch, dogs cuddled around me. It was pretty nifty relaxing, too. Woke up this morning feeling a bit better, and headed out the door. I'm on some work-provided sinus meds today, and they seem to be making a bigger difference.

One offer for trade on Chewie for what would be a "step up" horse for me. Unfortunately, that's not the direction I wanted to head.. So I offered my regrets.

I sent a note to an old acquaintance about Chewie's sale, and we're talking again. She's got a few more connections and a few more leads in the hunter world than I do, and may have some leads on a lease for the big guy.

I'm toying back and forth. Sell him, trade him, lease him, keep him. This isn't an easy decision, and I'm still not comfortable with it.

Fortunately, if the market keeps up as it is, he'll probably stay at my house until something changes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chewie is For Sale

Listed on Equine.com, Dreamhorse, and a few other little sites. HAH... I just thought of something...

If he doesn't make it to the Fugly Horse of the Day website, I guess I have a better shot of selling him, right? =) If he does get there, I ought to delete all selling offers and abandon hope of finding him a new family ....

LOL... Must be the antibiotics wearing off...

12/17/08 Where Have I Been?

Saturday - Rode a little bit, but nothing too intense. It was horrific windy - the 20-something mph winds that seem to blow one sideways... Romeo, bareback, nothing too serious, though.

Sunday - Les and I have this plan to widen my arena to 70ft wide. We worked on it, got most of the posts pulled and the fence tape down. Area was disced heavily, and it's beautifully soft sandy dirt back there... Unfortunately, the harsh winds continued, and turned my back pasture into a dust bowl. No riding... Too windy.

Monday - after work, I stopped at a walk-in med clinic - Sinus Infection, as I had feared. Drugs, drugs, drugs.

Tuesday - stayed home, watched the horses from the window in their turnout blankets. More drugs, sleep, and good home cooked food.

And here we are at today. I won't be riding again today. While the weather is cooperating, my health isn't, yet... I question to myself if I should even be in the office today, spreading these germs and nasties all around the lab. *cough cough* Mild fever and Tylenol doesn't seem to be hitting it. Darn it...

So, I'm sick, and too stubborn to admit I'm sick. Darn it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

12/12/08 Lesson

Arrived at Susan's place just in time for my lesson to start. She saddled up a senior ottb at her place, and off we went. We walked through a good solid buncha trail obstacles. Poles, ground poles, over the bridge, through the L-shape, around the barrel pattern. All of it without a hitch. Romeo was bored, but listened to all of my cues, without any problems. He even walked up to the mailbox, after a few efforts. He never spooked at it, which was great. Susan's horse got cookies for walking to the mailbox, and Romeo watched nearby. When I got to the box, Romeo quickly tilted his head, looking at me, as if asking, "Mom, Okay, where's MY cookie? I did it, didn't I?" I agreed. I'm looking forward to being able to tack up, and walk him to the string of mailboxes at the end of my street to get the mail.

We checked my eventing saddle for fit, and my guess was correct - it didn't fit quite right. But it's not the saddle - it's the padding, or lack there of. Susan looked at my english pads, and explained they're not fluffy enough for his back, with the muscle tear up by his withers. She suggested I use my western pad, english saddle, and Tom Thumb bit. "Only change one thing at a time, and since you said he wouldn't stop in a complete tack change, let's just change the saddle, and then the rest of it a little bit at a time."

He was much better when I only changed the saddle. He stopped when I asked him to, and felt more like himself walking around. Definitely more like Romeo, and less like a nutty speed demon without brakes. I'll look a little goofy for a while, tack all mis-matched. But we're not headed back to any shows for a while, so I'll be content looking silly and learning how to balance again in my english saddle.

Next week, we're meeting again, but it'll be a feed lesson, with Romeo staying at home. Susan has what looks like a pretty neat feed program, and I would like to learn more.

12/11/08 Look! There's Something There!!

*laugh* Romeo's got this cute way of getting my attention, and it's all ears.

We were loping around my pasture. I was riding him amongst the weather, wind, and sunset. It was getting cooler every minute we rode, but I wanted to get the ride in pending Friday's lesson. As we were loping, in one spot, he kept looking outside my pasture, towards some tall grass & trees. I knew the stray momma cat had been in the grass, so I figured she was hunting something.

Before that same spot, after about the fifth time passed, I let him halt, and look. Just then, four deer, one after the other, wandered out from the trees, crossed under my fence, and wiggled across the pasture. :) Romeo was saying , "Momma! There's deers over there! I can smell 'em & hear 'em! Momma! I don't want them deers spookin' you, so I'm trying to warn ya!" Good boy, Romeo, good boy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Favorite Christmas Carol?

The Christmas season is here. Our home performance of the church Christmas choir cantada is complete, and our 'away' performance will occur on the 21st. I'm in the small women's group, scheduled for next Tuesday. All this festive-ness makes me want to listen to Sirius 81 Holiday Holly. I heard my favorite Christmas carol today.

Little Drummer Boy

So what is your favorite?

And, to quote Jeff Dunham & Walter, "I've been waiting to say this for four years now! It's MERRY CHRISTMAS!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gripe Session - The "Youth of America"

Quite frequently, I read about, or hear about, "this generation".... or "my generation". We're called selfish, irresponsible, weak-minds that don't know what "real work is".

I'm sick of it. I am going to start replying, "Fine! Hate me! But keep in mind, my check's getting garnished for your Social Security. So shut up, or I'll quit working, too." =)

If you're in the older population, I'm sorry you grew up without the internet. If you're reading this, you have it now. I'm sorry you grew up without hundreds of TV channels. If you watch old MASH re-runs, you have those channels. I'm sorry you had a manual labor job as a kid. I painted fire hydrants, I know what work is. I went on a mission trip, contracted mono on the trip, and was sick half of the ten week adventure. I had three part time jobs my senior year in college with a full course load.

What I won't apologize for, is my work ethic. Just because I don't jump in head-first to a problem doesn't mean I'm lazy or stupid. It just means I am smart enough to know that it's better to think about a solution before possibly breaking the situation more. I'll lug horse grain, stack hay, clean house, cook a good supper, and mow my grass like a normal citizen. I keep gas in my truck, and the inspection current. I pay my bills on time, and over-pay when I can in an effort to get ahead.

Keep griping about me and "my generation". The more you put us down, the less motivated some will become. Those unmotivated folks won't pitch into SS nearly as much as you want them to.

In The Weather

My winter isn't hardly a cold season like it is many other places in the country. It's my own little weather, filled with hot, humid days where the skies suddenly grow eerily still. Then, all of a sudden, the wind bursts in from the north, gusting sometimes to 35mph, tree leaves & limbs thrashing in the air. Temperatures will drop sometimes 20F degrees in ten minutes.

That was what I started my ride with last night. Just as I started to saddle Rome, the Schwan man came to my driveway. I hurried up & ordered the few things I needed, then got back to getting ready. As I tightened my girth, the wind howled, with that screechie noise through the trees. I mounted up anyways, figuring we would have quite the ride.

Romeo must have seen and been ridden through some tough times in his life already. He didn't flinch at the harsh winds, didn't blow by any tree leaves flying in the sky. He just cantered along. Refused to start on the right lead headed right, but did his own little flying change in a tight circle. We had a pretty strong conversation about turns on the forehand at the end of our work, but he finally realized that being hard-headed wasn't going to get me off.

I dismounted after 45 minutes of work, in the dark, under the north winds & moonlight.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What's the Economy Doing to You?

My company is closing plants. Some permanent, some temporary. Contractors are being sent off without pay for some determined time. Some of my co-workers are going to be laid off in 2009.

This sucks. There's no other way to say it. It just sucks. I've been trying to be strong, focusing on doing what I can do, and not ruffling feathers. Anytime someone's asked for extra work, I've been saying "yeah, sure", and eagerly getting it accomplished.

But with so much not running, there's little to keep busy. I don't have enough vacation to just disappear until January 2009. I was told I wouldn't be forced to take time without pay.

The whole thing is a total mess. We had economic crises locally, and some of it I'm convinced was due to the Hurricane evacuations. It wasn't our fault the storm blew away some of our sites. We sure didn't do it. It's not my fault Oil prices went through the roof.

If the "shut down, lay off, and close" plans continue to surface, I just might put up the following on our CEO's corporate blog..

Mr X, How's about you take a $1 salary next year, refuse to take your stock options and bonuses, and keep some of my colleagues employed? We don't need much. It sure would be nice if you'd stop running those damn TV commercials about how much you care about people. You might care about clean drinking water in some African country, but you could obviously care less about the US Employees who fund all the research pet-projects you embrace. When the top 10 in management take $1 salary for 2009, then and only then, will I understand why my boss has to choose which of us stay, and which of us go.

No, it's not horse related... Yet. This economy keeps up, I'm going to have to sell Chewie for even less than I already want for him. Crap and double crap!

Monday, December 8, 2008

12/7/08 Re-Establishing the Brakes

I hauled Romeo to Les', and we added Amigo to the trailer and sailed off.

Les rode Romeo to start, me on Amigo. I have said this before, and fear my readers may become bored with it, but I LOVE RIDING AMIGO! That horse only lopes on one lead, it's not a rocking horse lope, but once he's in it, it's a dream. I could sit and canter him for an hour, easily, and not get bored. I can feel every hoof hit the arena ground, and by glancing at his ears, I can tell exactly what he's paying attention to while he's going. He is listening to me, and staying on the rail, but those ears are paying close attention to everything else going on everywhere else around him. The fire training grounds near the arena was filled with workers & trucks, putting out a few propane-controlled blazes. "Practice", Les told me. I kept loping Amigo, and he complied.

Romeo got a few pretty serious reminders what "Whoa" was all about. I told Amigo once, "Wow, buddy. It ain't pretty, so let's just get on passed him & ignore it, huh?" Les told me at one point, "He thinks he can do his own thing, and take off anytime he wants. It's nothing you did wrong, he's just seeing what he can get away with. Give me a few more minutes with him, and you can have him back."

We switched saddles eventually, and I told Romeo, "No more funny-stuff. I don't care what you thought you learned at the parade, that's over. It's back to just you and me, and I refuse to take any more crap."

I asked for walk, and halt. It was beautiful, much like when I originally got him back. Same for the trot. Then we tore into a nice big canter. It started out pretty quick, and about 4 circles later, I said to him, "Whoa", almost under my breath. Complete halt in about 4 feet. He was back to his old self.

Les and I loosened our saddles, and took a snack break. I got back on as the cowboys were coming for team roping practice, and cantered what seemed like a hundred circles around the arena. With the break and the temperature dropping, Romeo got a little fast again, his head high in the air. I stayed after the canter until his head started to lower, and I could feel his footfalls. I asked for "whoa", and he slammed on the brakes. We worked on canter left, we worked on canter right.

While the ropers did their thing, I walked around a bunch. Also helped push the steers back up twice. Les has had bronchitis pretty bad, and finally was able to rope. Lots of happiness there. We called it an early evening, and I got home much earlier than normal.

Total work for Romeo, a few hours under saddle. Total "hard" work, probably 45 minutes. I know I got his attention.. He was much better behaved while we just stood around at the arena watching. Calmer, better attention, ears flicking back to me to make sure I didn't need anything from him. A much happier horse.

12/6/08 Saddle Fit, and Brakes

Tacked Romeo up in my hunter saddle, and headed to the arena. I was pretty confident he'd stop in his snaffle bit, so I mounted pretty confident in the arena.

He had other plans. He was walking through my "whoa", and when I got that better, I went to trot. Romeo instantly turned into that stupid speed demon he was at the June show - sprinting for the gate, whizzing around the arena, refusing to listen to "whoa", or any other halting gestures.

I took him back to the trailer, switched to my tom thumb bit and western saddle. Then off to the round pen. I figured if he wanted a run, that's what he was getting. He took off in the round pen like a complete nitwit freak. Ran and ran and ran. He seemed to calm down, listened to "whoa" again, and I went back to the arena.

Still no brakes. He galloped around the arena as if that round pen work hadn't happened. It was pretty intense. I felt all over my tack, but still "in the middle". He started to finally break gait to the trot, so I pushed him a little harder, then asked for halt. It took a whole lot more bit than I ever want to use on him. Just about then, I saw Les' truck pulling down the road (I had Sugar at my place from Friday night, the full intention we were going trail riding - he didn't make it to my place until nearly dark, so the ride didn't happen).

I took Romeo up to the trailer, and explained what kind of ride I had. Les said, "Let's look at that english saddle of yours, and see if there was a problem and he was just upset about it." He was right - it sits slanted back, much farther back than my western seat does. The back of the saddle seems to need elevating about 3". There are pads available for this sort of thing, I think. Les also said, "He might be stirred because of the weather, or your tension from Friday. He's probably just messing with you. I'll ride him tomorrow."

12/5/08 Not Ready for Nights

Plain and simple, I saw all the lights, all the commotion, sirens going, we were assigned the front of the parade, lineup was crazy, the additional horses in the parade (those that were not participants in the other parade I was in), I froze. The fear eventually got to Romeo, and he refused to stand still. I chose to let someone else ride him, and they were fine. Watching the parade, there were quite a few riders drinking, well-intoxicated, and horses all doing their own thing. Sugar was even tense, side-stepping most of the route. There was a horse-drawn buggy in front of them, and a band of wild motorcycles behind. I've made great progress, I'm not nearly as scared as I used to be, but I'm not ready for that much chaos at night.

No pictures, either. Romeo did look pretty darn cute, but nobody was around to take pictures, and I didn't take my camera.

Friday, December 5, 2008

12/4/08 Romeo More

Chewie seems to be doing better on the left hind ankle. At least while he was galloping around his pasture, making sure I knew he wasn't happy I was riding Romeo. I will check him sometime this weekend (in whatever small portions of free time I have).

I knew daylight was limited, so I got right after loping around on Romeo. A great ride, with good response & relaxed manner from him. Chewie would act up each time we got near their adjoining fenceline, Romeo looked over his way a couple times, but no reaction. Some neighbor kids were walking behind my pasture, and a few cars went to the neighbor's house, but he still didn't do more than look. He does that "hard looking" a lot. Susan said it's because he was a stallion for a while. Having the stud-horse behavior, he would have been looking around a lot for a "ready mare". That, combined with his personality, makes him very "lookie" and alert to things around him, but not reactive. Susan said "When he wants to look, let him. Don't force him to quit looking. He'll let you know when he's seen enough of whatever he is looking at."

We finished up our ride through the trail obstacles, and a bareback walk to the barn. About 40 minutes total before the sun set, and the colder temperatures settled in.

Christmas parade tonight. I hope I get more awesome pictures... We're both going to be festively prepared for the event. :) I'm going to pretend to be an elf on a reindeer... we'll see how good that goes.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

12/2/08 Romeo

Whatta Man! He still impresses me on each ride. It was a blustery cool evening, and nearly 5pm before I mounted up. I yapped on the phone while in the walk & trot, in figure eights, circles, stops & backups. He was a champ.

Ended my phone call long enough to lope circles in both directions. Yee HA! Woo... he felt fast to the right.. fast fast fast! It was probably bad balance on my part, because the scenery wasn't whizzing by in a blur...

Walked him through the trail obstacles, over the bridge, backed up in some swurvy lines. Unsaddled, groomed, put on his halter, cribbing collar, and attached some cotton reins to the halter. Mounted up bareback for a walk back to the barn. All of a sudden, the neighbor's hunting rifle sounded through the trees. I leaned forward, felt my body weight shift right, grabbed a wad of mane to catch my balance, and, to my complete surprise, he stopped. Completely halted, right in place. He felt my hand on his neck, and he knows that's the "emergency halt" cue.

Absolutely awesome! In a small panic, I did what I would automatically do - grab mane for balance. That mane-grab, along with my balance shift, and he stopped to catch me. :) Neat-o pony!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Things that Make me Giggle

I enjoy watching comedy on TV. When there's a decent comic on Comedy Central, I'll stop and watch. I might smile, chuckle softly, but that'd be about it.

There is one comic that makes me laugh out loud, hit pause, rewind, watch it again, and laugh some more.

Jeff Dunham

If you haven't see him, check out the video clips on his website. This guy is a RIOT! I laugh watching re-run re-runs. I can record it, and watch it three consecutive times, hear something new each time, and laugh flat out loud every time.

Check it out!

11/30/08 Trail Obstacles

Tacked up Romeo, and we worked all at the walk, over the bridge, forward and back through an L-shaped pattern, in and out of some old white buckets (pretending to be orange cones). He did pretty good. His back-up out of the L got over-done towards the end, and he would overswing his hind end around too far... Things to work on.

Someone in the neighborhood was practice shooting a shotgun, and when I took Romeo to the pasture to work on canter, the gunfire increased. I felt him tense up, ears headed every direction, head up in the sky. So we worked on staying calm, and plenty of walking around, all the while waiting on him to relax. I yapped on the phone with my mom during most of the ride. Romeo took it all in stride, and began to relax.

A good hour's work, though nothing above the walk. "Mind work", as Susan calls it.

11/29/08 Playing Cow

Les delivered a handmade wooden bridge to the house, a flat one, made from an old wooden pallet. We dumped it in the side yard, and repaired a plywood stall wall that Chewie pulled off.

Then we loaded Romeo, and hauled to his house. He grabbed Amigo, we loaded up in his trailer, and off we went to the arena. We were going to play with the steers, and nobody else got called that we'd be there. This would be what the day before was supposed to.

Amigo tracks cows like a madman! He stayed right on their hip, often bounding one way or the other before the cow would move. It was hysterical fun to ride. I spent most of the time in the saddle hanging onto the horn tightly, trying really hard to keep my reins loose and my rein-hand on his neck. He galloped down the arena a few times. Les insisted "the Old Man only gave you about 10%. If you had your spurs on, he would've cut off every single one and kept them from running back to the herd." It didn't matter, I had an absolute blast, and got my cow-horse therapy in the form of outright squealing giggling aboard the OldMan.

Les rode Romeo, and said while he didn't track great, he did "lock on" to one steer, and when the steer stopped wiggling around, so did he. Les never got upset with Romeo while teaching him, and when Romeo got it right, and tracked up, Les was praising the daylights out of him. "Good boy!", patting him on the neck. Romeo's eyes looked bright, ears pricked forward. He knew he'd done good.

More work will be needed in this area if I intend on ever helping move cows out in a pasture, or the like. But a fun day overall.

11/28/08 Roping Hand

After my lesson, I scrambled home, tended the smaller family members, and hauled Romeo to the roping arena. Plans were to track cows, and Les and I intended the trip to be very low-key.

Then Les called R, told him we would be there. R called Mr D and M, and next thing we know, we're wrapping the steers for roping practice. The full intention of the trip was for us to goof off, Les wanted to steer-stop on Sugar, work on her rate, and let me goof off on Romeo. None of that happened.

I worked the chute a while, watching Romeo stand tied, as bored as I was. I got to ride a bit more, and tried to push the steers back to the chute by myself. That didn't go so good. They ended up getting away from me, and it took a lot longer than it might've if I would have had help. I was a bit annoyed - it was supposed to be a fun day, that turned into a roping day, and turned into me being a "non hired hand". R and Mr D didn't even express any appreciation for the work I did helping them. R offered up his fifteen cents on all things Romeo. My saddle didn't fit right, I wasn't wearing spurs, and I need to learn to throw a rope. Saddle fit is fine, thank you. I don't need spurs, and don't intend on having them on, also, thank you. And I don't really want to be a roper, so bugger off.

A frustrating evening, since the plans we had didn't pan out. I suppose I'm "earning my stripes" with the ropers, having to learn how to do all the workings and goings on. Unfortunately, that would be great if I wanted to be a roper... I just want to ride.

Monday, December 1, 2008

11/28/08 Lesson #2

Susan was as giddy happy to see us for the second as she was for the first. It's funny - she must often give lessons to little kids. She trains students like Ken McNabb does horses - wild rewards for the slightest try. It just about makes me laugh inside when I hear, "You did such a good job! That was fabulous!", and it's in this slap-happy tone of voice. I find myself mid-lesson wanting to sing aloud, "I'm a Little TeaPot, short and stout... Here is my handle, here is my spout!"

I was silly proud of myself when I entered the square pen and got to show off what I'd learned.
Things I did well
+legs were forward
+halts were better
+hand was up and I lifted up on the bit better

Things I need to work on
-"Help" less. Rather than pester & nag and help Romeo on every stride, I need to ask him to do it, then leave him to do it.
- keeping legs forward

Next lesson is scheduled for December 12th. She explained we are ready to work out of the little pen, and will begin working on trail obstacles.

Thanksgiving 2008

I arrived at Cowboy Les's house early, around 10am, with Chewie in-tow. Romeo was already there, sporting short feet & new shoes. I could hardly contain the enthusiasm. He galloped across his pasture to the gate, nickering & snorting at me. My boy was happy to see me! How awesome!
Turned Chewie out into a little paddock, and gave both the boys hay to occupy their minds. I went inside, and began helping with the cooking preparations for the meal. Family and their children all began arriving, and we all settled in the kitchen and living room to feast.

Turkey for you, ham for you, and chicken for me! I have this incredibly foul turkey allergy, which causes me great digestive distress when I feast on it. No giblits in the gravy, no turkey-based stuffing, please. I'll pass... as my body would go into overload & complete disruption should I consume it. I ate heartily on my chicken, chicken-based cornbread dressing, home-made mashed sweet potatoes, corn casserole, rolls, the works. Many dessert-like things I also should not have consumed, and I did it anyways.

Les and I saddled Romeo & Sugar to lead the nieces & nephews around the pasture. One of the nieces had her own idea on Sugar, turned her away from Les, leaned forward, and squeezed. Yup! You guessed it! Les and I hollering "pull back! Pull back! Touch her neck & pull back!" as Sugar took off out the driveway, across the road, and down the road a piece. The little girl bailed, fell to the ground, with Sugar turning on the forehand, planting all four hooves, staring down at the little girl saying, "What you doing down there, human? I'm up here, I was in control!" No injuries to horse or rider, for that we're thankful. Romeo behaved like the perfect leadline pony for a little girl named C. I let her demonstrate Romeo's great brakes a few times, and laughed at his face when she hollered, "WHOA!" He slammed to a stop, eyes all wrinkly like, "Momma? She yelled! What'd I do??" cute boy... and well behaved.

We found Chewie in the paddock with a small scrape on his left hind ankle. He appeared to be favoring it, but we weren't sure. Later on, he looked sound and a bit impatient he wasn't in on the riding or saddling action. Les took him to the round pen, free lounged him a while, and he appeared sound & good to go. He saddled him up, lounged a bit more, then tied him to the "post of knowledge". We waved all the guests farewell, a bit grateful they were going. We could get the guests gone, and get to the real reason for the day - Riding!

Les crawled on Chewie, cantered him in the round pen like a real pro. Chewie threw his head a bit, but I figured it was the curb chain he didn't appreciate. They went out to the pasture to ride a while. Chewie finally did what he usually does - blew up to a rearing fit when he decided that was just about enough work for one day. Les stuck both legs (and spurs) on each side, and they bounced a bit more. Les stayed on, and Chewie gave in, and the cantering continued. He and Chewie worked for nearly an hour plus some, and then Chewie stood unsaddled & tied for a while.

We got back on Sugar & Romeo, and took them for a leisurely ride around some crop fields. They wandered through black gumbo dirt mud, hooves sticking in the tarry dirt. Good long ride, nearly an hour, mostly at walk, and it was great. The sunset was gorgeous, and made the day worthwhile.

After more laying back & relaxing at the house, fed the boys, and then wandered myself and my boys back on home.

A much better Thanksgiving than years' past, where I've eaten alone, or spent a few awkward hours in someone else's home where I felt like a shadow rather than a guest. One of the better holidays of the many I've spent away from my blood-relatives. Les and MG are becoming like family to me, and I'm pretty thankful for that this year.

11/24 - 11/26

I rode both horses Monday and Tuesday. Romeo walk, trot, canter in the pasture Monday, trail ride Tuesday. Chewie walk, trot, canter in the round pen. All in Western tack, all through a variety of paces. Average work 45 minutes to an hour. The rides were good overall.

Romeo supported me in some fear on Tuesday's trail ride. There was some bad communication between the other trail rider and myself, and I ended up in some places I didn't feel were safe. Romeo stepped in a deep, small, missing covered city-hole as we walked through town. It didn't appear to do any damage to his leg, but scared the daylights out of me. I did get some canter in an open old ballfield. He was a great horse, despite his timid rider.

Tuesday evening, I delivered Romeo to Cowboy Les's house, for four-shoes to be set on Wednesday.

Wednesday, I tacked up Chewie, and repeated the work of the days previous. He was stiff and a bit uncooperative, just about refusing to neck rein figure8s at the trot. I was annoyed, and allowed him to stumble all he wanted to due to laziness. I figured if he wanted to be lazy, he would stumble, and it would be his fault, not mine. He finally complied, but it took over an hour to get his attention.

11/23/08 Lesson #1 Susan

I arrived at Susan's barn after missing her driveway. I've learned that my trailer hauling skills are improving in increments... getting a bit better each time I have to put it somewhere complicated.

Things I liked on first impression...
-grass was well mowed & cared for
-no wild accumulation of tractor-junk anywhere
-she was dressed to ride, except for the sneaker-shoes

Things I didn't like on first impression...
-her stalls were a mess, filled with poop atop of rubber mats
-her tackroom was overly cluttered with too many saddles & empty feed sacks
-the poop stunk

I saddled Romeo, while she talked to me about the basics. I pretended not to notice while she analyzed my saddle pad, my saddle, my girth, the breastcollar, and even the bit I used. I pretended not to pay attention while she fussed with my saddle, checking for proper fit. I even pretended I didn't see her check the curb chain for proper adjustment.

She led us to a smallish square pen, one side at a slight angle towards the barn. I again pretended not to notice while she watched me lightly climb on my horse. The little things... I figured.. "she's making sure I can safely at least mount.... She doesn't know what I do know or don't know." I agreed in my mind on the way there I would pretend I didn't know diddly squat, and let her tell me all about every little thing there was to tell me.

She asked that we walk forward, and halt. Her "halt" is on thigh pressure, which I'm still not entirely sure Romeo can feel through the saddle tree. We walked and walked and walked, and halted a dozen or more times. We then weaved in and out of three cones, with a long story about pole-bending, and barrel racing (my guess is she looked at my barrel saddle & assumed that was my aspiration.. not knowing I bought the saddle for security & comfort only).

After almost a half hour, we picked up a trot. "Finally", I thought in my head "I get to ride". The trot sessions were short, but beautiful. In a few moments of tense panic, I did lean a bit forward, but otherwise, I did good.

Things I did well...
+soft hands, so I'm told
+paid attention, and looked happy to be in the saddle
+quiet legs

Things I needed to improve
-Legs in front of me, allowing the saddle fenders to fall naturally, rather than pulling them back to where dressage-legs would go
-Halt with thighs
-Pull up on the bit, rather than back for changes
-Work less, and allow Romeo to do the work

A good hour overall. Her horses were nice, and sweet enough in their stalls. I didn't like seeing that much poop in the stalls, though. YUCK!

11/22/08 The Roping

Romeo and I attended in full fashion. We didn't work the cows, we didn't push them around, we just rode. I got in the middle of the chaos. I walked, jogged, and loped, all in the chaos of a variety of rider skill and ability. A few folks were clearly training their horses in the warmups, and I stayed far out of their way. A few others rode from their feet, standing in the saddle, and I stayed farther away from them.

We loped all over the place in the arena, and in a small warmup area behind the arena. There were horses everywhere, people everywhere.

And we had fun fun FUN!