Friday, February 29, 2008

It's Finally Friday

Chewie had a "buck & run" night last night. I intended on a light trail walk, while waiting for the A/C repair guy to come. He instead spooked & shot forward a few times. So, I figured if he had enough energy to keep doing the wrong thing, he could find the energy to do the right thing. He lunged himself in the round pen for nearly 20 minutes, refusing to calm down or do more than gallop & kick out. Leaving him stand still would have only made it worse, so I sat on the mounting block & waited until he was done. Worked on a little trot, and plenty of downward transitions, all the way to halt. He found his calm side, and his brakes, and we called it a night. Total work, 55 minutes.

Today, at work, is a celebration afternoon. I am finally Six Sigma Green Belt Project Leader certified. It was nearly a year in the works, with what should have been an easy project and turned out not to be so simple. I received my certification email today, paperwork to follow. I knew the project was done, but seeing it in print put sprinkles on top of the icing on top of the cake. A large milestone accomplished.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Applying what I learned, or trying to

Round pen was still slushywet on the low side, but we went in anyways. Warmed up free lounge 10 minutes, side reins 5 & 6 another 10.

Climbed on, "head chest belly pulse, roll the ball forward", he didn't move. I clucked, he walked on. Tried to stop the ball spinning for a halt, exhaled, still nothing. Told him "whoa", and he stopped. Thinking he was just wound up in the wind, we went into some contact-full walk, and contact trot work. Tigger it was! Nice big springie trot, light on contact, alert, and paying attention. Worked in both directions, tried the light seat to posting and a little sitting, but really didn't find the light seat to be working out (I think stirrups were shorter, "light seat" felt almost like two point). Did get some sitting trot without holding onto the saddle pommel. Tried to keep hands a bit farther side-to-side from his withers, and found it a little bit easier to stay light in his face. They were in a happy middle from where I had them before the clinic, and where Instructor said they should be.

After about 25 minutes in the round pen under saddle, gathered up his stuff, went to the front yard and cooled off at the walk. His halt still wasn't stellar, so I worked on that a bit, tuned that up. Also worked on turning mid section before moving head & neck. I was certainly looking where I wanted to go with my eyes, and that went well.

Total work, 45 minutes. Back at it again tonight with a lunge in side reins - not as much free time between work & choir this evening. It was nice to have my horse back, under my control, riding under my terms, and with my expectations.

I'm suddenly playing through the weekend like a Mastercard commercial..

Clinic to train rider... $330
Boarding for dogs to attend clinic... $150
Hotel, meals, travel tolls, and gas... $250

Riding my horse back at home after it's all over... priceless.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

For Posterity's Sake - Old Chewie Photos

Photo taken 2/22/05
Photo taken 11/10/06
Going to work real hard this weekend to get a newer shot. I have some non-digital images from last year, but nothing spectacular.

The Wrong Way to Haul a Ladder

In this edition of "People are Stupid"...

Taken 02/22/08 on Hwy 59 near Houston, Texas.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Day Three Post Ride & Overall Summary

Ground work - held the bit in my fingers while Instructor demonstrated various hand positions. Also demonstrated the difference between muscles pushing forward as opposed to bones & "energy" pushing forward.

To the horse. Iris was tacked up in jump saddle, and off we went. Worked on turning left & right by turning one back bone at a time. Started at top, worked to bottom. Both directions. Didn't feel this one, but went along for the ride anyways.

Was told to gather up my reins with (I believe) intent on trying to canter. I gathered up like I normally do, and immediately everything I did was wrong. Told inside rein was too tight, outside not tight enough. I tried to adjust, and Iris pulled the reins from my hands a little, and I allowed it. To "make sure" I was turning the horse with my reins, I was told to drop inside rein, and keep oscillating contact on outside. Iris' nose was to the outside throughout this whole routine. I was told "It has to be her idea to turn. Turn from your center, and she will follow." She did turn, but with her nose out. I could see her outside bridle parts, outside eyelashes, outside nose hairs. The works. Walked the long side still with nose out. At this point, I was asked "does this at least make logical sense to you what we're doing?" I said, "Absolutely not." So she yelled at me that it should make sense, and until I learn how to hold the reins I'm never going to learn how to ride correctly. Mental Shutdown began right here.

Went to the other end of the arena and continued with both reins again. My habit was to put my hands down at her withers, inside rein a tad shorter, and tried to move quietly with her irregular walk. We argued, and Instructor became more persistent that my hands must be up a good 4" higher than they were, and a decent 4" away from her neck on each side. I was reminded again and again that "until I get my hands in the right place, she isn't going to respond, and is not going to know what to do. I must quit trying to turn the horse with my hands." What it felt like was, I was starting the turn with my body, she would turn hers, then, in an effort to keep contact, the inside rein had to come back about an inch. Everytime my hands were uneven, I'd get scolded again. After about 15 minutes of this, the hour lesson time came to an end, and I hopped off, untacked, and the ride was over. I started crying, upset that I've never had an instructor tell me to hold my reins up that high, and in fact, have been yelled at for doing it accidentally once in frustration. It's never been acceptable to ride a horse with reins there, and my muscle memory & habit just aren't going to do it. When I asked "How is this the right way to do it, when I see hands & reins like mine were in the hunter & dressage lower level shows, and those are the riders that do well?", the answer was, "If winning the blue ribbon is all that matters to you, then do what you need to do for first place. But why not school your horse the right way at home?"

We had discussed, and agreed it was a good idea, that she ride Chewie a bit (make sure he knew what to expect), then repeat another lesson with me on him. That did not happen. After she lost her temper & yelled, there's no way I want that kind of attitude atop my sensitive horse. Absolutely no way.

I tried to gather my things & pack up, with full intent on gathering up my emotions & settling down before beginning the long journey home. Twice the Instructor tried to start the conversation again. Finally, after her fourth or so ask of "You look upset. Why are you so upset about all of this?", I realized she wasn't satisfied, and wouldn't be, until there was a big debate about the whole weekend. So I told her, "I thought we had an agreement. I did not realize I was going to commit this much time and this much effort to walk. I can walk my horse at home. I did not plan on driving all this way just to walk." She asked me, "Well, do you think you could do these things at the trot?" I answered, "I honestly don't know. You never gave me the chance to try." She half-heartedly apologized a few times "that the weekend wasn't what I expected", but would then repeat that, "She hopes that after I get home & get a chance to try all of these things on Chewie, I'll realize how much I've learned." I was told I'm welcome back, with or without my horse. I was also told "I'm a talented rider, and Chewie's a talented horse. She sees us going really far in the future. But I need to learn how to walk correctly first and learn how to hold my reins & turn my horse before I can even dream of going into trot or canter."

So, overall, my hopes of having a series of intense lessons at trot with a few confident bursts of canter just didn't happen. Instead, I settled for a lot of lessons at walk, and a few small things I might be able to carry into future rides. Chewie was hauled for two boring lessons, and I feel like I let him down by not letting him show Instructor how bright he really is. She saw one bad morning and automatically assumed he's a "hot, sensitive Thoroughbred."

Back on schedule, with plans for lunge line and ride free in the lunge circle tonight. Round pen still has a puddle in it, which perplexes me, as it hasn't rained in quite a few days.

Chewie and I are both happy to be home.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Day Three - Pre-Work Thoughts

I've centered myself a few times, focused on soft eyes, did the leg & hip work as well as the shoulders, and a little "shake out", and I'm feeling more aware. Not just aware of the people around me in the breakfast room, but aware of everything. Last night, leaving the restaurant, I noticed everything was LOUD. Lights seemed loud, people talking seemed loud, even the traffic congestion seemed loud. It was like everything was screaming. I think focusing on bones & tiny joint centering has me so aware of myself, that I'm incredibly aware of everything around me. Even in the little hotel breakfast area, a few talking children seem loud. The TV volume is barely on, and I can almost hear it. I can even hear the juice machine as it buzzes off & on. Everything is just loud, and almost distracting.

Really hoping to get a lesson on Iris followed up by a ride on Chewie. There may be some benefit to even having the Instructor ride him a bit, and then myself some.

Day Two - afternoon session

After lunch, worked Chewie. Side reins 5 & 6. "3" was number for the day. Free lunge to start up, and canter work with & without side reins. I figure if he doesn't canter in a lesson, he might as well at least keep it up on the line. Rode a little. What a babysitter. I did a little of the new I've learned (lining up all three balls, intentionally turning in my mind rather than just with reins & legs), and he did well. Asked for a little trot, and he shuffled like an angel, almost like he was thinking about taking care of me, and not trotting any more than he had to. I think it was a fear thing - he was scared what would happen if he moved out, and I was worried he'd take off without me. Instructor noted that, while he wasn't very full-stride, he was picking his feet up, and moving lightly. She said "It looked really good, and you're applying some of what you've learned." Hmm.. that's good.

Groundwork focused on hips & legs. It was an opening feeling to find the hip joints, and use them like I'm supposed to. Also felt good to hold the leg up under my thigh and shake the joints all loose.

Horse dujour - Iris. It was incredible to see her float over the ground with the Instructor riding her, but even more incredible to ride. I had been warned that "if I asked for something a centimeter off, she would be slow & difficult. wouldn't buck or rear, but would just become lazy & beligerent." Hmm.. didn't have any problems of the sort. In fact, as soon as she stepped out to walk, I was amazed. It was HUGE! Chewie only has a walk like that if I force the issue, pushing with all of my leg muscles. Absolutely amazing. I praised her lavishly for her great behavior, and she rewarded me with more of the same. Instructor said a few times during the lesson, "I got on her with a plan, and I'm not changing my mind. I'm telling her she has to do what I want without being mean, and she knows I like her." Well, she ought to. I gave her enough wither scratches & nuzzles, it should have been obvious I thought highly of her. Awesome.

Went into light seat to ask for the trot. It might be easier in my own saddle on my own horse, but overall, it felt like I was sitting on the front of my crotch & squeezing & contracting tummy muscles. "Light seat" from Instructor - Head, Chest, Belly, Pulse, fold over at my center, eyes up & soft, and deliberately thinking "trot, trot, trot". Again, I haven't the foggiest idea if it will work on my horse or not, but it worked with Iris.

Worked on transitions from light seat, to sitting, to posting. My sitting trot wasn't fantastic, but it felt more secure. =) Secure.. Huh... It sounds funny in my head, but it's true. At one point, I lost my right stirrup, the left stirrup was floating all over the place, and I was still doing the transitions. Light seat, back upright sitting, posting, repeat. I could hear Susan from SC in the background hollering "You'll thank me for these lessons the first time you lose your stirrups and you have to concentrate on staying on the horse." She was right. Thank you Susan!!!

Dinner last night at Fish Daddy's near Pflugerville. Mahi Mahi with lemon herb butter, baked potato, steamed broccoli. Very good dinner. Probably the best meal so far of the trip.

Plan for today is a lesson on ground, riding lesson on Iris, and then Chewie independant. I'm thinking about asking Instructor if I can have a lesson on Iris, then a final "will this work or not" ride on Chewie. Will cost more, yes, but I'm willing to fund that adventure. Applying the lessons to a horse that's trained to respond is good, but I'm curious if it will work on my horse that hasn't a clue what's going on.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Day Two - morning session

Feasting on just about the best pizza I've had in Texas at Paisano's in Georgetown. This is worth it, even if I do have a train wreck ride this weekend.

Cleaned stall, cleaned Chewie, back to ground work. Worked on a "body shake", which I don't think ever made sense. Anyways, I was looser at the end - but I think I was loose to start. Laid on the floor belly up, and did some shoulder stretches. Stretch down, stretch up, and forward.

To the horse! Instructor added a wedge pad, and while it might have helped him, it made me feel like my seat was higher than normal, and a bit uncomfortable. We worked on bends & turning. Turning by spinning the top of the belly ball in whatever direction I wanted to go. Worked out pretty good, once Chewie got the idea. A few times I cheated, and looked with my eyes in the direction. He seems to like direction eyes rather than a spinning belly ball. Chewie's overall mind was somewhere else. He was in the mood of looking around nervous "What was that?!? Where did that noise come from?!? The monsters are going to eat me!! I know it! There's a booger on the wall over there, I'm sure the world is going to eat me, and I'm going to protect you Mom! I promise!" His mind wasn't anywhere on me 75% of the ride. To get his mind on me, I kept repeating "soft eyes, soft eyes, soft eyes." At one point, mid-lesson, focusing on spinning the top of the belly ball, his head popped up tense, his back got very tense, and it was all he wanted to do to get away from whatever had spooked him. I started saying, out loud, "soft eyes, soft eyes, center, soft eyes." Instructor praised me during the spook, and after it was over, saying, "You did the right thing, and you got him relaxed. That was very good. You applied the lesson and it went very well." I'm glad nothing bad happened, but there was a thought in my mind of "if I could let him trot it out, and get some of the goobers out of his system, I'll have a horse that will wait it out while I walk & learn things at that gait."

Finished up with riding squares at walk. Total work time for him, 1 hour.

Watched Instructor ride one of her horses for about 40 minutes. She's a Paint-Trekhaener cross, Iris. Her movement is large, fluid, and slow. It's almost like she calculates every single footfall. Pretty neat. Iris worked on many many transitions, little figure eights with half circles at canter. It was incredible to see her gather up, walk to canter, 8-9 strides, and back to walk. Pretty cool. Iris ended with cavaletti, while Instructor demonstrated a light seat. Pretty cool to see the horse love her job, and stay in that same fluid trot. Most absolutely more energy in the trot, and a bit faster. That mare loves to jump, and it shows.

Plan for the afternoon is to lunge Chewie on side reins (give him a job & make him work for it), and be ready for another ground less & ride on Iris at 3.

more updates later. For now, I must continue to enjoy this fabulous slice..

Day Two - Pre Work Thoughts & Musings

Hotel breakfasts are fun. There's wireless here, so while I gobble down some carbs to motivate me through the morning ride, figured it was a good chance to update. Put up the update from last night, as the connection isn't strong enough from the room. I've noticed the people watching in town is nearly as fun as the riding. There's a bike race or something going on in town today, as I noticed a few biker-pants wearing guys scurry out of the breakfast area. They looked at my full seat breeches funny, I looked at them funny. And, of course, then there's always the peeking eyes of folks reading over my shoulder. Amusing, because unless you love horses, there's not much to see. That combines up nicely with the other single-sitting folks pondering life as it is, reading up on local news.

Yeah, people watching is just about as much fun as riding horses. However, it's nearly time to muck stalls, and that's a chore I can't get out of. Here's hoping Chewie was kind enough to poop in the paddock, and keep my work to a minimum.

Day One

Up super early. Dogs off to the vet, and back home. Hooked up trailer, gave Chew a bath, and off we went.

Traffic was minimal to non existent. Toll 130 passed Austin turned out to be a super saver on my stress level.

Arrived to find a small place, many horses. Particularly surprised no fence around the arena. Makes fine for dressage, but quite stressed for jumping at any decent leve, I’d assume.

Got Chewie settled in his stall / paddock. Surprised by two great danes, one of which had her nose in whatever I happened to be doing.

Worked for an hour ‘on the ground’. I was asked to imagine a blue marble at the top of my neck, a pink marble just behind my heart, and a bowling ball settling into my pelvis. Getting myself where I was supposed to be landed me in what felt like leaning forward, looking down. Instructor seemed to be happy, but I didn’t notice much change in me. Maybe deeper breathing, but the overall equitation just seemed wrong.

Tacked up, and then the famous “this doesn’t fit right, you need to buy ____ to protect his back from injury.” Each instructor thinks I need to go out & buy something.. doesn’t seem to matter who it is, they all have their opinions. Opinions are like ____, everybody has one. Anyway, moving on, Chewie was tacked in his normal stuff, and while there may be “uneven contact” or “bridging”, his overall attitude lately hasn’t reflected any discomfort.

She lunged Chewie at walk, for, oh, about 3 minutes, then launched me up there. He spent a few minutes nervous & concerned, probably from my own nerves & concern. We repeated the same centering drills, with Chewie at the walk. Centering the head & chest were easy. Getting in my mind the image of a bowling ball settling in my pelvis is very difficult. I’m just not feeling it . worse, when it’s “right”, I can’t feel any change in him. I can feel when I think I’m right, and he shortens his stride. Instructor was quite happy when he fully halted, which seems wild. If “halt” is what we’re going for, I can get that much easier than with anything she’ll try to teach us. I’ll exhale sharp, put on the air brakes, problem solved. He stops.

Had an average dinner that was pretty good. It’s nearly after 9, and, starting the day at about 5am, I’m exhausted.

Maybe more in the morning when I can translate the lessons in my sleep.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

180 Turnaround

Great night workout last night. Lunge-circle, due to the stupid puddled round pen. Fair amount of goings-on in the background, from trucks driving through neighboring pastures, FedEx truck rushing down the road, neighbor's playing catch with their goofy dog chasing traffic.

"2" number for the day. Warm-ups, free lunge, 2 walk-to-trot, one walk, 2-canter, 2 trot, reverse. Added side reins on 5 each side. A few circle sets walk & trot.

Climbed aboard with a friend to hold the lunge line. He was an angel. Absolutely no problems. A little lean to the outside going right, but add a little contact to the lunge line, and back to perfect. Worked on posting trot hands-up, and sitting trot inside arm up, outside arm up, both arms up, two circles each.

Side reins removed & cooled down with a little extended walk, collected trot posting, and a little WP jog.

Happy Rider, Happy horse. Total work - 45 minutes.

Countdown to Satori - 3 days. Weather's looking to be fabulous, and I've about got my trip route planned out. Go Verizon Wirless VZ Navigator!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Front Yard & Monsters

Tacked up Dressage, no warm-up. Decided to concentrate on walk & trot in the front yard. Pasture seemed a little spooky, and with nobody around, I didn't think it'd be a good idea to be out there alone.

Worked on my seat, and tried to get a nice full trot. Chewie was incredibly lazy, probably due to not warming up decent. He was responsive to my aids, just tripping at trot, I'm sure because he was too lazy to pick his feets up.

We just got to a decent trot, when something in the tree overhead rustled. He spooked, I didn't concentrate on pushing forward. A little buck & toss. I landed with no injuries. Looked up at a terrified horse. He immediately walked over to me, eye-wrinkles & all, nuzzling & sniffing me, absolutely horrified. Poor guy thought he'd hurt me, and he was checking me over. It was a pretty tender moment. I wasn't scared, just re-thinking "man, if I'd kept my heels down & pushed him forward, I'd still be up there. Dangit!" I don't blame him one bit for spooking, I might've done the same, what with no warm-up & all. Hand-walked him, hopped back on, and went back to work a little. Still tripping & stumbling, so I hopped off again & free lunged just a few circles each way. Sheer focus on him picking his feets up rather than dragging them around. The entire untack & brush he did nothing but nuzzle & watch me, not letting me get out of his sight. Geez... And to think when this would happen before, I'd be terrified. No wonder he was scared - he was waiting for me to be scared, too, and I wasn't. Too busy consoling him...

Total work - 50 minutes. Damage to me? Bruised ego. Damage to Chewie? none obvious.

Robin mentioned Sunday she might know somebody living nearby with a tractor & perhaps the know-how to disc & drag for an arena in the back pasture. Wow, I hope so. I've probably got enough old T-posts, and could get some white electric fence tape to barrier-off some space for an arena of sorts. It wouldn't be perfect, but on days like today, when the round pen's a puddle, the pasture's too big & daunting, and the front yard is full of distractions (like monsters in the trees & traffic rushing by), I wish I had something even close to an arena.

Countdown to Satori - 4 days

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lesson For The Day - Giggles!

Friday, I had stage-fright. The sky had an eerie grey "ready to burst any moment" look to it. Caught the Wookie-monster with intentions on doing something, and while clipping his ears & muzzle, the sky opened up a couple times for brief strong showers. I chickened-out, and did not ride.

Saturday, repeat. Weather crews were calling for anywhere from brief showers to thunderstorm watches. Lesson postponed to Sunday, and from inside the house, I kept waiting on the storms. Nothing arrived until nearly dark. So I wasted a day when I could have ridden. Darn it! When the rain did come, we had thunderstorms, heavy bursts of rain, and wind for about six hours. Nasty nasty weather...

Sunday, after the rains came, all that was left as a dry spot was the lunge-area. So, to the line we went. Chewie was a wonderful lesson horse. A little fussing to get into the trot after a walk-break, but overall, not too bad. I would like to figure out why he's so against starting back to work, but maybe it's just a phase. Overall lesson was walk, posting trot off the lunge, then focus on sitting trot on lunge. I had a few "soft eyes" moments when I would deliberately focus on the sky ahead rather than the track in front of me, and he would immediately respond. I also tried to focus some on where my breathing was coming from, and found that, with a good seat, it was easier to use my middle rather than breathing from my chest. It is getting easier to focus again on body parts & more automatic to use soft eyes & a deep breath. In each direction, we did one arm up for three circles, other arm up for three circles, both arms up for three circles. "Look Mom, no hands!" If my arms were straight over my head, and my toosh tucked underneath me, my heels would pop up. If everything was perfect, it would last for about 3 strides, then something would fall apart. I am improving at sitting on my pockets, but also kept moving my body weight to the back of the saddle, leaning too much against the back rather than sitting in the deep middle. Total Chewie work, including warmup, 1.5hours. What a patient horse, to go only two rides all week, then stick with me steady for a long lesson ride. This was another one of those fun lessons. While going to the right, I hesitated, almost waiting for Chewie to act up. He was also hesitant, since I did not provide him any direction.. Before it spiraled out of control, Robin caught us, told me to be determined in what I wanted, and he instantly became super-horse. More importantly, I was laughing. Here I am, trotting around at a pretty good clip, both arms up in the air, Robin in a military-like fashion barking "arms up, heels down, tuck that toosh, repeat repeat!" All I could do was laugh. By the end of the lesson, both of us were giggling. Must have been something in the horse hair Chewie's shedding... we both had a blast.

Countdown to Satori - 5 days. I'm anxious, and ready to get into it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

So that's where my pockets are...

Almost as important as the ride, was my walk back to the round pen right after work to check for puddles (of which there were none). Rather than Chewie's standard reaction of 1)show no interest in what I was doing, or 2)run around the pasture, terrified he'd have to work again, he actually walked up to me, nuzzled a little, and followed me back to the gate out. I could almost see him asking, "Can we work today, Mom? I missed you yesterday, and Sunday was pretty scary. Can we work together please?" I couldn't tell him no, even though my plans weren't to ride yesterday, but to relax him another day off. Oh well, I ran inside, walked the doggies quick, and out to catch an awaiting, anxious horse.

Lightbulb moment last night. Warmed Chewie up free lunge, 10 minutes. No side reins, since I didn't plan on the ride being for his benefit, but for my learning.

Rode in my dressage saddle, trying to focus on homework from the last lesson. Robin asked that I focus on sitting trot, trying to feel like I was sitting on the back of my seatbones, almost leaning back in the saddle. I worked on a little regular rising trot, trying to see where his mood was. He was great, so I sat, trying to stay as still as possible.

Transitioned back & forth from walk to trot & back to walk. At one point, I scooted my rear underneath of me, checked my jeans, and I was suddenly almost sitting on my pockets. It helped that I was trying to ride in blue jeans in almost-too-long-stirrups, with that stupid "all four parts of the blue jeans meet here" seam right in the middle of my crotch. Made it awful uncomfortable to sit like I've been doing. *That's* what all those lessons meant when I'd hear "move so you're trying to sit on your pockets." I may have finally figured it out. I stared at my shadow off of the sunset a while, trying to check if I was aligned up & down with a straight back. The shadow looked much like the illustration in the CR book.

Better yet, as soon as I sat what felt like leaning back, it was all I could do to keep Chewie from trotting off. His walk was HUGE! As soon as I changed my seat, he immediately moved incredibly freely, and as long as my arms & elbows kept moving, he stayed just off of the bit, accepting the light contact. Another confirmation that horse is entirely smarter than I am. The sitting trot felt much different in this new seat - I didn't bounce on every stride, but rather every other one, and rather than up & down, I felt like I was pushed forward. I doubt he was giving me his full effort at trot, since I didn't have any leg on him pushing, but it certainly felt more like more effort than an itty-bitty jog. I tried to focus on pulling myself into the saddle, holding onto the pommel with my inside hand, as well as using soft eyes, focusing up ahead. I did peek at his track in the dirt a little bit towards the end of the ride, and it looked like a "tracking up" set of hoofprints. YAY!

A fantastic 45 minutes, ended with some excellent collected walk.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Welcome Nelda

Pictures tomorrow, hopefully. There's a handful on my camera, but no cables with me at the moment to transfer from camera to pc.

Pick-up went great, initial intro into the family good as well. She met Hobbs at the front door in her carrier, hissed a little. Taken into the spare bathroom where she was absolutely terrified for the first few hours. Very skittish, peeking around all the corners.

Throughout the evening, I spent some spurts of time in the room with her. She was not at the door when I'd go in, but right at my heels when I went out. Met Allie briefly nose-to-nose, no bad reactions. She's been meowing a lot, which is either stress, or just how she is. Can't tell yet for sure.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lesson Update & Sunday Trail Ride

Friday - Round Pen, lunge on side reins 5&6, 4 - number of the day. Added three ground poles equidistant around the circle. Walk, trot, canter. Total 45 minutes. Very good work - He was in the mood to work, and I enjoyed watching him figure out how to avoid kicking the poles. [ I walked Romeo bareback around the yard for a time on Friday; had a *blast*... sometimes, it's great to kick back on the older quiet trail horse, not focusing on perfect balance & form. ]

Saturday, lesson. Caught early, round pen warm up on side reins (5&6). 2 - number for the day. Very good warm up.
Lesson was phenominal. Received plenty of praise for good heels down, good balance, sitting upright, nice fluid posting movement, nice light hands moving with his face. Lesson all at walk & trot, posting & sitting. We're moving on to sitting trot again, focusing on almost leaning behind his motion a little bit, trying to find my center to open & close hips with his motion. Overall, it was a wonderful lesson, and I got to show Robin the great progress he & I made last week.
After lesson, Robin hopped on, and showed me what I was doing. I got to see the difference between what I was doing, and what I need to be doing. I noticed she was almost leaning against the back of the saddle at sitting trot, something I haven't been doing. I've focused a bit on staying in the middle of the saddle, front to back, and if I mentally "lean up against" the back of the saddle, that really might help me use the back of my seat bones, and move more with him rather than against. Homework this week comes straight out of my Centered Riding text book, from Chapter 5, Anatomy, exercises involving torso & upper legs. I have riding exercises, and reading to complete before next Saturday.

Sunday, I caught Romeo, tacked up Western, little lunge line warm up, and walked him around a bit, waiting on Robin to arrive. She pulled in the drive way, spooked both horses a little with the truck banging. Chewie just unglued from there. He didn't want to be caught (running all over the pasture for about 5 minutes before walking right up to her). Robin saddled him dressage, took to round pen to "get the bugs out." Free lunge, he was still a little spooky. She got on, and we walked around, oh, for nearly an hour. Chewie was tense nearly the entire time. He spooked once good in the pasture, sprang forward about 1.5 feet, and just seemed real nervous. It carried over to Romeo, who started looking at everything Chewie looked at. I rode both before the day was over, and I stayed calm enough that nobody spooked or jumped out with me. It felt pretty good to see Chewie nervous, and feel him nervous under me, and with a few walk to halt transitions, on a loose rein, he really started to cool down.

Both horses will enjoy at least today off. I'm picking up a barn cat today, keeping her indoors for a few weeks until she realizes my house is "home", and stays near the house. Some little vermin monster ate part of an electrical wire under the house, which was repaired Friday. Hope that Nelda will serve a purpose of "mouser", and keep the vermin out in the woods where they belong. Will add pictures after I have some good ones.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Stretching Doooooown

Tuesday was wonderful. W/T round pen, left & right. 3 was the number of the day. His free warmup was good, side reins 5&6 also good.

I had a little fuss to the left, but the final two requests were pretty. Very forward - he didn't dwiddle along with a little WP jog to start, having to be forced to work at the trot.. Instead, he was very forward & energetic to start each request. Very much appreciated. Towards the end of the ride, rather than resting just behind the bit, he started leaning forward on it. I made a "deal" with him - if he was leaning down, and stretching down, I let the reins run through my hands. If he popped his head up & hollowed his back, I took the contact & short reins back.

Total work Tuesday - 55 minutes

Wednesday, we trimmed trees together. =) I climbed up on my Western saddle, English bridle & bit, and grabbed some manual tree limb snips. Up on Chewie's back, I reached up for the hanging branches that would interfere walking around the property, worked on his "air-brakes", and trimmed tree limbs. He never moved off, never avoided the work - I think, in fact, he liked it. It was more of a "utility job" rather than one requiring his full attention & muscle use. It was fun, for sure. Finished up the "work" with some leg yield, turns on forehand, turns on haunches. All was well.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Monday In the Round Pen

Woo Hoo~~~ These are the days I don't think anybody could take Chewie from me. Super Tigger Horse!

Short 20 minute warm up - Free lunge & Side reins (5 & 6).

He finally didn't run me into the round pen wall. Everything is dried up enough that the ground doesn't move when he steps on it, which is good.

The number of the day was 2. Two circles of walk, two circles of trot, everything in 2's.

I experienced something I've never felt before in the reins yesterday - light contact. Chewie came up into the bit, and there was almost slack in the reins. I know he wasn't bent 90 at the poll, I could tell. What I did notice, is he wasn't leaning on it. Also, his strides were extended, and light. It was quite incredible. I know 90% of the "good" was because I was balanced & posting quietly. I can feel it in my legs this morning - heels were certainly down, and I was absolutely posting with my calves on him - they're pulled like rubber bands almost ready to snap.

What wasn't good, is the walk to trot transitions to the left were horrid, again. It was just like the lesson. Instead of just going into the trot, he would dive in on the circle, toss his head all around, and basically ignore me. I was asking nice once, then immediately start kicking. I got angry, he got angry, but nobody got hurt. To the right, I didn't have any problems in the up transitions - they were pretty. At the end, I settled for an up transition to the left where he didn't dive in the circle, tossed his head a little, but at least promptly went into the trot.

Overall, a nice ride.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Day After the Super Bowl

I have so little to say. Sunday was Chewie's day off, and the dinky little town I live in has the market-own on Local Network channels carried by antennas & cable only. I have satellite TV since I live farther than the cable goes. With satellite, no networks, therefore no Fox, therefore no Super Bowl.

However, NFL Network had some coverage of it - Radio feed from Sirius Satellite Radio, along with stats coverage. I turned it on occasionally during the game.

Having seen some of the highlights on NFL Network this morning, and being a HUGE NFL Football fan, I must say...

Congratulations to the New York Giants on their Amazing 17-14 Victory.

I'm glad to see nobody got hurt, and got my own personal little pleasure watching coverage of Tom Brady's numerous sacks. Go Giants!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Saturday Lesson

Started at 2:00 pm with a plan to catch Chewie, tack up, brief warm-up, and be on his back ready for the lesson (me all stretched out & ready) at 3:00pm. I sometimes wonder if that horse doesn't see me coming with a purpose, and decide "yup... this is the day I'm going to warm myself up without her." Off he went, running at a full gallop around the pasture for about ten minutes. He was warm & breathing hard by the time he walked up to me of his own choice, almost to say, "Nevermind, that's not worth the effort. You must have something more interesting for me than that!"

2:30pm We were tacked up & ready to warm up. Side reins, round pen, all in place. Good 20 minute warm-up full of a cooperative horse. Slobber everywhere, running out of his mouth.

3:05pm Robin arrives. I hopped on, and Chewie decided the edge of the round pen was the place to be. We spent probably 20 minutes asking him to cooperate, even raking the dirt around in the round pen. Chewie was clearly irritated by the whole lesson situation - head tossing, little hopping about. He was obviously not happy. Angry eyes, angry ears, tail swishing all over the place. The more angry he got, the more angry I was. Robin asked if I was scared - NO! Not one bit... I was frustrated he was so mean.

Went outside to the pasture, lunge line. Robin lunged him a while, probably another 10 minutes, asking for a good trot & a little canter. Chewie obliged, cooperating mostly. I climbed on, asked him to walk, he was great. No problems.

Asked for trot.. here we go again with grouchy horse. He started throwing his head, diving in on the circle, trying every trick he knew. I was pushing with my legs, okay, I was kicking with my legs, giving him his face (side reins on him on 5), Robin had her outside hand up, waving it. Both of us were clucking & kissing to him,, no doing. Finally, I asked, her "What else can I be doing here to make him go?" She answered me, "Keep doing what you're doing. It's a battle of wills. You want to work, he doesn't. Just keep doing the same until he gives up & agrees."

Finally, a trot... We worked on keeping him in it, then extending & collecting it. I worked on breathing, and posting with legs down, and not out (apparently that's how I handle the frustration - I throw my legs out & away from him, rather than push straight down). Once he looked good, we stopped, and reversed.

Lots of walk again... And, of course, when I asked for trot, the tempered fit restarted. Diving in on the circle, throwing his head, even a little hop in the rear. Angry, I persisted again, kicking, kissing, clucking, growling... And finally, I got cooperation. We worked on "posting down" again, and varying his strides - Shortening & Lengthening, from a Western Pleasure jog, up to a Dressage Working trot. Definitely a good end. Ended lesson at 4:25 pm.

Robin said at the end, "What does he really like to do? Let's end on that, on a good note, and let him realize what it takes to get his reward." So, we left the pasture, dumped off the side reins & the lunge line, and meandered down the dirt road. Chewie was clearly pleased to be able to give me his trail-walk, slower than a quarter horse, "half awake but alert enough to not trip" gait. On the way back to the house, my neighbor thought it necessary to throw a bucket of water on his cement slab. Chewie spooked, but not out of control. I had my normal "Yikes" reaction. Robin explained I did 90% correct. I "caught him" on the reins, kept my upper leg on him, and turned him towards the spook. What I did wrong, was I pulled my lower leg back & heels up, basically off him completely. She explained that I'll be good & safe once my instinct is to do all the other things I did, and keep my lower leg on him, to tell him, "here I am, I'm here to keep you safe, stay in between me."

Total work out? Almost 2.5 hours, including the 30 minute walk-out down the road. Rewarded the big Chew-monster with Vetrolin rub on all four legs, his cookie-stretches, and a good brushing massage.

The goods of the lesson? I didn't chicken-out & ask Robin to ride the stupid out of him, I stayed with it. I also learned that it's a battle of wills with him on his grouchy days. The bads of the lesson? Still accomplishing nothing new... No new drills for me, or him.

I was encouraged for the upcoming week to "Pick a number." 2,3,4, no more than 5. Decide that I'm going to go "X Gait" for "# times" around the circle, then change gait, or change direction. At least 4 changes in direction, alternating between walk, and trot, turns on the forehand, turns on the haunches, leg yield down the fence line, anything to break it up, and keep Chewie guessing. Robin thinks he's bored with "one direction walk, trot, change direction, walk, trot, climb off". I sure hope that's the reason for the grumpy-horse. He's not sore, he's not lame, and there haven't been any major changes except for some time off for the weather.

Sunday will be a day-off, followed by back to work Monday evening.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Friday night Ride

Chewie got his stunt double Tigger to work for him tonight. His warmup in the round pen (20 minutes or so) was focused on the side reins. He was stretching waaaaay down into them, and it looked cute.

Round pen outer lane still a bit muddy, he kept trying to go at the rail. Fine idea without me attached to him, but I kept banging my toes into the sides of the pen. To the front yard we go!

I read in the CR book to get the horse at trot, post one, stay up for two, repeat. So we tried it. Out goes Chewie, in comes Tigger. I don't think he was hollow-backed or startled... just Springie! What a bouncy little man. It was kind of strange. He definitely had a bigger trot. So I was alternating posts & "ups", sits, and a little two-point just to keep it interesting for both of us.

Total time = 45 minutes. Trying to conserve calories & energy for Saturday's lesson.

Splish Splash

Wheee!! Yeah that's what Chewie was thinking when we walked out to the round pen. The sun was shining, with 30-40 mph winds, which made things wildly interesting.

I thought the round pen was dry enough. As it turns out, the low side was still pretty splishy muddy. Chewie trudged through the slop for about 40 minutes, side reins 5 & 7, walk, trot, canter. Something in the wind spooked him in his little work out. It took a bit of time to relax him, but he finally calmed down.

I joined in the work in the front yard, relaxing, working on walk with deep breathing & soft eyes. All of a sudden "Ring Ring Ring!" Startled both of us. It was Mom, calling to say "hi!" Oh boy.. okay. We talked a while, phone in one hand, reins in the other, while I focused more on staying relaxed, moving with him, breathing. Chewie got so relaxed he apparently forgot to pick up his feet, took a pretty big stumble, trying to kiss the ground. I stayed with him, apparently a product of the new work I've been doing. Nice to have it work out when I needed, but I wish it'd been a bit drier for some more real work.

Lesson Saturday at 3pm with Robin. Haven't had a lot of riding to show improvement, but such is life...

Cold enough to stick my tongue on a light post out there this morning. 27F according to my little indoor/outdoor thermometer. Chewie was less than pleased to have his blanket removed. Romeo just turned mid-breakfast & looked at me, asking, "Momma-lady... what did I do wrong that you want me to freeze my little roan hairs off?" Poor boys.