Monday, August 29, 2011

8/26/11 AM

Up and at it super early. Skies were relatively clear, but incredibly humid. Gathered up Harley and all his tack, and headed to the arena.

Warm up looked good, neck stretcher work was pretty decent. Hopped aboard, and worked on some bending and turning to start out. Spiral in and out at the trot, with decent results. At the gate-side of the circle, both directions, quarter of the circle before turning away from the gate, Harley would pop his shoulder out, turn his head, but continue straight, or drifting out of the circle. A bunch of direction changes, smaller circles, and some figure 8s, he finally got his attention in the arena, and out of the gate.

With his left trot work relaxed and bending well, on the back half of the circle, without thinking much about it, I sat deep, gave a squeeze and a small kiss. Harley, apparently caught off guard, pushed up into the left lead canter, on light bit contact. He stayed steady, even, and didn't hesitate. We rode about three circles, and eased back to trot. When the trot was relaxed again, I asked the same way, though in a different spot on the circle. Same result. Four requests total left lead canter, all the same results. A nice easy departure, correct lead, and a gentle ease back to trot.

Right lead canter was much of the same, though incredibly lazy to keep in it. I had to keep kissing to him, and adding inside leg. At the last of those, I added a LOT of leg, and he got the point. Harley launched forward in a very forward canter-right, so I left him there a little while. Awesome results.

Another perfect canter day! Total work, about an hour. Both Harley and I were dripping with sweat, as I decided when I left the house, "Oh I won't need my coolvest today, I'll be okay." FaiL!

08/25/11 Harley PM

Found the arena with puddles in the longing circle. Wandered with Harley and all his tack to the center of the arena. Ground was damp, and soft to about a half inch. Good for me.

Sent him out on the line, free longe warmup. Lookin' good. Added the neck stretcher, mostly walk and trot, minimal canter. A little too much slip risk at canter for my overprotective self.

Rode at walk and trot, on nearly all of the arena (avoiding the mudded puddles) for about 20 minutes. Light contact, and while he was a bit stiff, pretty good overall.

About a 45 minute time in the arena. Skies were minimally cloudy, with significantly lower temperatures, thanks to the near-inch of rain we got Thursday during the day.

I Sure Hope So

Monday & Tuesday are much like it's been.

Let's all start praying Thursday through next Monday are where we're headed.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Light is Back on Outside the Arena

parents, hide your kids' eyes. explicit language, which you readers know I don't do very often. apologies in advance if I offend.

Last year, I was here. My entire life was being turned inside out, through battles on the job that no human should have to endure. The hollering, the yelling, the cursing, the insults, the threats. Things NO one should have to endure. For some reason I will never understand, I endured.

Things are finally changing, and I feel like a light has been turned back on. I don't have hope my entire life outside of the barn will turn around overnight. The world won't be all sunshiney and delightful, and I realize that. Earlier this week, I took charge of the situation. I very appropriately made my mark. Now, a few days later, I'm hearing words that are meaningless. To vent my frustration, let me say this.. "Apologies are bullshit."

However, I won't be shouted or cursed at again. It just won't happen. I've gotten out of that deep, dark funk, found joy in the horses again. I've learned how to turn the radio back up and sing like a rock star at my favorite loud "girl power" songs.

It's ironic, and celebratory, that for the first time in about two months.. It rained at my house..

It really rained. I'm hearing rumors of about an inch of heavenly precipitation. With that, I felt God crying the last time over my situation. He brought a strong storm, and said, "Enough. That's it. Now, the sun's out. Go enjoy."

Who wants to go ride with me tonight? I don't care if you hop on bareback, and walk for five minutes. Go for a ride with me, take a picture, or blog the story, and share in my renewed hope. Help me celebrate the rain we finally got, and the emotional sunshine that follows.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Looking for the Sunshine

I got a little more less than delightful news at work today. Ugly four-lettered words come to mind, and I've decided my mood needs picking up. Here goes...

Friday morning, Harley had a nice longe, and didn't throw his normal "too many days off" fit. Free longe, followed by the neck stretcher. I'd like to graduate him to side reins, but with our irregular work routine, it doesn't seem fair to change things. The ride was walk and trot only, and with a little effort he improved his bend in the turns. I've found lately, he behaves better and more relaxed on the lines than in the corners. I refreshed my memory on the number of times I've read judges' comments of, "use the corners to rebalance", yet he seems to stretch out & up more in the corners and on the circles.

Saturday early morning was spectacular. The blog headline would be "No Missing Left". On the longe, he was fantastic. Quiet, cadenced and steady. Under saddle, good as well. Straight away, his trot was *big*. Knowing he had canter on his mind, we worked on some walk/trot/halt transitions to focus him on the task at hand, and paying attention to me.

After about ten minutes of trot (direction changes, circle size variation, lines and large ovals), I relaxed him to the walk. I slowly let the reins out, and for the first time, he volunteered the free walk. He reached down into the bit contact. Shocked, I let him walk out a few feet, and shortened the reins. Easily back into collected walk. Very slowly again, I spread my hands a few inches apart, and let him gently pull the reins longer. He repeated this collected to free walk exercise about five times down the long sides before he got lazy and back to old habits. I asked for a little effort/try at it one more time, got some try, and dropped to a loose rein with lots of praise.

Time for his canter work - left lead ask, got it Right on the FIRST ASK. He broke gait, and with a squeeze, right back into it again correctly. We rode canter left all of the arena that doesn't have taller weeds growing, and he was fantastic. Super Super light, steady, and relaxed. :) Canter right he was lazy, and I had to keep the squeeze/kiss going to keep him in it. Out of practice going right , not doing it enough. Thanks Harley, Point made..

Sunday was more of the same. Longe was nice, canter work was fantastic, first ask canter-left was incorrect lead. Eased back to trot, and without much motivation, he worked back into canter correctly. He's picking up on it, for sure. Exhilarating to ride his progress.. Absolutely satisfying to know, even the few rides a week we're getting, he's picking up on the training, and remembering what I'm asking for.

Romeo... Short summary...
Friday - arena. W.T.C. no problems, no issues. A bit of a zip in his step, but I expected it. He's eating well, not moving around much in the heat, and I'm not riding him like I want to.
Saturday - down the road. Walk-only. Of all the things to take a hard look at, he paused and gave some negative snorts at the string of leftover empty trashcans. Dingleberry!
Sunday - back to the arena. Chose to ignore the "Whoa" in my seat and heavy sighs, so I gave him a good hard run, and asked again. Still lazy on the air-brakes. More run it is, Mo. Good hard canter both directions, and again when I let out the heavy sigh, he was much more agreeable to the idea.
Romeo simply put - he's getting lazy in his response, and that will need some effort on my part. I've gotten into the habit of a loose rein, not demanding a perfect reaction to my cues, whether to increase or decrease speed. Fine enough, I know where his cues are. Time to put the spurs back on, and ride him in a bit that means something. One day with spurs and the twisted wire O-ring, and he'll realize I'm relaxed but still the authority.

Yup, that helps some... Now, to get the rest of my day on-track. Where'd I leave that herbal tea.. ahh yes, there it is, sitting on my desk. Chai, take me away... didja get it? didja smile?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Princess Runs 08/08/11

I caught Dusty, groomed her, and sent her off the end of the lead rope to see if she'd longe. Perfection. Off she went, trotting with little legs zipping about. She launched her silly self into a canter with a spurt, and I set my body "in front" of her shoulder. "shhh" I told her, and as fast as I got out the verbal cue, she eased back to trot. Again, stepped assertive in front of her shoulder. "Whoa!" Dusty turned, halted, and faced me. Awesome. I turned her the other direction, and asked for the same. More good trotting on the line, and another quiet halt. Good place to quit, knowing now what she is capable of. :) Hosed her down, turned her loose, and laughed as she rolled in the dirt, applying a gentle coating of fly-repellant mud.

Caught Princess, though not without some effort. Once haltered, I brought her out of the pen, and asked her to lead with me. Took her to the trailer, brushed her off gently, and out to the spot I'd longed Dusty in. Princess wanted NO part of longing. In fact, she tried to bolt, tried to dart away from me, and generally seemed confused. She reared up, *snap*... There went the clip on the lead rope in my hand.

And there went Princess. It took a single second for her to realize she was free, and off she went. Like a lightening bolt, Princess ran down the lane between her pen and Romeo's pasture, turned a sharp right around Romeo's fenceline, and ran his fenceline rapidly. As she turned again like a flash, I realized she was running herself into a corner of fenceline and brush/treeline. Princess, realizing the rest of the herd was up by me at the barn, ran back towards us all. She flew by me, towards the space between Mo and Harley's stalls. *whew* Suddenly, she turned around, and made for the dirt road. "Oh no you don't", I called out, and I jogged in front of her movement until she decided against the dirt road.

Princess ran down the lane between pastures again, as I grabbed a small bucket of feed and a new lead rope. I shook the feed, and she nickered at me. When she trotted to me, hungry, I clipped the lead rope to her halter. *caught* And, no, she didn't get any grain, either. :)

Took her to the wash rack, and turned the hose on. Complete chaos again, as she did all in power to get away from the hose. I led her down to the dirt by the wash rack, and did a little "approach & retreat" with the hose. She stood still finally, shaking all over, obviously terrified of the hose. I settled for hosing her neck, chest, and front legs hosed down. I scraped the water off gently, Princess still shaking. She swatted her tail at some flies and mosquitoes (how the skeeters got there? heck if I know, as dry as it is). I sprayed her lightly with fly spray, and while she was terrified of it shaking scared, she didn't move. The bugs backed away from the repellant, and she finally let out a heavy sigh.

A hard workout for Princess, mostly of her own doing. Nobody tell her she could've had a day as easy as Dusty did. :)

Harley Catch Up

I've been riding, well, when I can. This means weekends and days off, early in the morning, as soon as it's light enough to see, I'm outside catching, grooming, and starting. The evening temperatures have brought heat indeces >100F. While I love to ride, I don't need sick horses. It's been a downer of a summer. Need rain, need moisture, need cooler temperatures. This is the hottest, and the driest, it's been the whole time I've lived here. *blech* If you're outside of this stupid High Pressure system, and enjoyed any precipitation, be thankful. Don't fuss about the puddles, or the mud. You're better than us. Hay prices have soared, and the grain I feed even increased nearly $2 a bag. Grr.

Harley's education has slowed to a crawl. I give him a longe day with a short ride, focusing only on giving/bending at walk & trot. His canter time has increased, though I'm still fighting that left lead. Still, when he is in the correct lead, we're cantering about 2/3 of the arena (avoiding the taller weeds), and staying in the gait for at least three trips around. It struck me pretty awesome to be out there, cantering in a light 2-point seat, reins flapping about, just as the sunlight makes shadows from the trees. Harley is entirely unflapped by the morning wildlife movement, just cantering around, like he's been doing it his whole life.

This past weekend, we suffered a fatality where I work. No one I knew well, but had heard of. Experienced fellow, and a tragic accident. It leaves me feeling like I should "fix it", improve the system so that just can't happen again. In the midst of that, I've tried my best to serve as an ear and a shoulder to my colleagues more affected by it. I have a few coworkers on "friend watch", checking in at least once a day, conversating with them, and checking their emotional "radar". The historical stories I've heard nearly bring me to tears. "When I heard that call for an ambulance on the radio, it was the same frantic tone I heard years ago, just a different voice."

Monday night, with all of that looming in my mind, the gruesome details of the event haunting me, I went outside and grabbed Harley. "You're going to need to be Mo tonight, Little Man." I put the bit in his mouth, the bareback pad tightened down, and I hopped on. We walked. And that was it. Arena gate wide open, pasture gate closed, we walked. I let him go anywhere he wanted. He knew... Harley understood just what I needed, as he plodded about, never leaving the back 2/3 of the arena. He stayed out of the sandy dust, he never took a bad step. Just walked around. When I tried to back him up, he twisted his head and neck, almost saying, "Mom, this isn't a work day, so don't make it into one." I got one step, and halted. I laid over his back, scratching his chest, my face leaning over his neck, and lower legs stretched over his butt. Harley didn't move, licking and chewing, soaking up the moment.

Ultimately grateful that little grey fellow landed in my life, and in my pasture. Not every day will be that terrific, but when I needed quiet and peace and a plod, he was exactly that. Thanks Harley.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

We Represent the Lollipop Guild

*got that song in your head yet? haa haa!!*

I've tried to find the day this happened blogged, but darn it, I dunno where it went. Anyways.. I longed Harley one day a few weeks ago, things were good, so we went for a hand walk down the road.

He did great. Right up until he met the new equine neighbors. First neighbor horse? Okay. Second neighbor horse? Good. Third neighbor, a mini donkey? No.. Just No. Harley's head flew to the sky, he stared at it with the biggest wrinkly eyes I've seen from him, and as he tried to crawl in my lap, I stood as steady as possible. He stepped nearly on me, and I backed him up off the halter a few steps. Things got even more complicated when a neighbor in his truck approached us on the road. Really?! Goodness Gracious. After he calmed down a little bit, we walked back home.

All that in mind, I asked Jen if we could borrow their mini and pony. They were gracious, and allowed R and me to pick them up earlier this week. I've got a pen just behind my back yard, and we're probably going to use that for a while. Eventually, we'd like to put up some panels on the front pasture (bordering Harley's pasture), and let them all sniffle noses through fencelines.

My plans for the Littles? Not much yet. I have a bunch of ideas whirring through my head, but for now, I'm going to bathe, clean manes & tails, slather up the LaserSheen, and snuggle. Highlight of my day yesterday was the snuggling on these two that occurred after I took the pictures. Mini Dusty had her nose all over me, no nibbling, no biting, just snuggling. Pony Princess took a little longer watching me, but eventually, she was nosing my face, hair, shirt, and poking pockets looking for cookies.

Much Fun with the Littles!

Thirsty Thursday

Have you seen the new TX rain gauge?

It's so dry.. How dry is it?
* I saw two trees fighting over a dog yesterday

We had 10" of rain yesterday. Yup we did we did...
* 10" between raindrops on my windshield

It's so Hot .. how hot is it?

* Birds started using pot holders to pull worms out of the ground.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Details tomorrow..

August, Enough Already

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

7-31-11 Canters and Shadows

7-29, it rained. Not much, now, mind you. Tropical Dud Don waved at the house, and a short little burst of ten minutes of rain came. I'm thankful, I'm grateful. Just enough to knock the dust down. My front yard was green for a total of about 24 hours. It's done being green already, and has faded to a taupe-pea green. Boo.

7-30, I longed Harley, knowing he'd had almost a week off. He was nice. Big, forward, happy. Ears everywhere, and when we finished up, he seemed pleased with himself. One wrong lead left, but it was easy enough to correct. Good job, kiddo.

7-31, we got down to business. At 6:45Am, as the sun brought enough daylight to see and not yet make shadows, we headed to the arena. Warmup was good, and I focused 75% left. Left trot, left canter. Good work, good forward. It wasn't "hot" yet, and while there was no breeze, fog lingered on the grassline in what looked more like steam than fog. I hopped on, and my glasses very quickly said, "Eh! Screw you!". I spent most of the ride fogged over, wishing I'd put my contacts in before I went outside. (Now, remember this, because it's going to be important later - I couldn't see exactly what was going on through the streaky fog on my glasses.)

Trot work started out stiff and lazy. I expected it. Harley would rather do nothing, and who could blame him? Again, if I had to pick a horse, I'll take lazy requiring leg over 'riding the brakes' any day.

Back to the walk, and he started to give to pressure. Thank you, son. Up to canter right, long enough to make him realize that's what his feet were doing on that Sunday morning. Good work, over half the arena, and for the first time, when I looked down the long side, that's where his loping legs went, rather than the habitual circle. About three happy circles right, and back to trot. Stayed at trot right until he gave, relaxed, and was steady. Down to a walk, when I got a little free walk (holding the light contact long & low), eased to a halt. I offered him a few ice cubes to crunch, and I grabbed some water.

Harley was less than pleased when I got back on. We'd been at total work time of about 30 minutes, and I'm sure he thought he was finished. He argued by flipping his head around at the walk a little. Up to trot, then, monster. Heading down the long side, he shifted away from the rail abruptly. (I still can't see quite exactly where we're going,, remember?) "What the #($* was that for, You?!" I scowled at him. He pressed on, but in the same spot, did the same thing. Then I realized it... He was spooking at his shadow that had recently appeared. He did it going both ways at trot, and right at the spot on the long side where the tree no longer shaded, and his shadow appeared. Two spooks around each way, he realized what it was, and relaxed. *laugh*

Canter left. First ask, wrong. Back to trot, ask again. Second ask, correct. Off we go, directly down the long side, turning at center. Fan-stinking-tastic. Steady, easy, relaxed, me up in a 2-point, trying to keep him going and stay out of his way, let him find his legs. When it got easy, I barely put a little weight on the saddle. Half an arena later, he broke to trot. I had been kissing to him, and adding leg, so the body weight was more than his balance could take. No problem. Back to trot, and a long walk break. Walk between working collected and free walk, with moderate results.

Up to trot, staying there until he relaxed, and back to canter left again. First ask, correct. Sweetness. I rode a brief few strides in 2-point, and I decided to settle into the saddle with my seat, and start to introduce him to pushing with my hips and my legs. He felt very wobbly for the first few strides of my rear end driving, but then relaxed. We rode at least 5 "laps" around half the arena, when I chose to ease to trot, and I let out a heavy sigh. He broke to trot immediately, and very quickly started to search for the contact.

There I am
In the early morning shadows
Pretending to look ahead through foggy glasses
Cantering half the arena
On green baby Harley
Loose rein, no contact, guiding 65% with my legs and upper body
Glowing with success

The kid's got a good memory, for sure. His left lead departures were better, he stayed on the straight lines rather than wiggled all around, and he didn't break gait at the slightest change from me. Progress. Slow, heat-delayed, but progress.

There are LOTS of other things on my mind these days about the equestrian world. A LOT. To some of my readers, I've privately emailed you about my frustrations. You all have probably seen Courtney King-Dye's video, so wear your helmets! Plenty of other bloggers have stirred up enough controversy, from all kinds of topics. Everything, from slaughter, to breeding, to human fitness, training & clinic fees, horse fitness and treatments... I'm only one writer, and I use this blog mostly to record my progress. I've not yet decided how ugly I want to be in print, but know I'm reading, I'm reacting, and a lot of it isn't good.