Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Second Forever Horse

I'm feeling a little sappy tonight, just a fair warning ;)

I had a really great jump lesson yesterday and another great ride today. I feel like Loki and I are definitely starting to understand each other more and more. He is such a good boy! After our ride tonight when we were cooling down I got to thinking how much I love this horse already. We have our first combined test tomorrow and I am a little nervous about it. We are doing really great with small cross rails but anything bigger is still so-so, sometimes great and sometimes not. This is way more me than the horse and I know it is something we will work through just fine in time but tomorrow could end up wonderful or not. (Nothing dangerous or anything, btw, just not always quite in sync.) But then I realized it really doesn't matter so much how tomorrow turns out. I will love my horse no matter what. If we nail it tomorrow that will be wonderful but if we don't it will be perfectly fine, too.

I've realized what was missing with some of the other horses I've had in between Ghazal and Loki. With Ghazal and now with Loki I love being around them no matter what we are doing. If it is just a trail ride or working on the flat or jumping or even if we are just "hanging out" (that usually entails me hand grazing him which I'm sure he probably enjoys the most, lol) it is all time well spent. I don't really feel any pressure to be "doing" anything with Loki. He is just my horse and whether he knows it yet or not I'm his girl. :) 

And now that I think about it I feel pretty dang lucky to have had two wonderful horses be a part of my life. My only real wish at this point is to someday (obviously after Japan) be able to keep both of my horses somewhere where I can spend time with both of them. I know Ghazal is in good hands with my sister but I don't get to see him nearly enough!

So, in case you missed the theme here, I LOVE MY HORSE(s)! :D

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rain, Rain Please Come Today!

... and tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that...

I don't know what the weather is like where you live but here in southwest Ohio it is as dry as bone and the ground is as hard as rock. One of our local events has already been cancelled due to "the impending heat, humidity and drought conditions." Pretty soon I think it is going to look something like this:
Consequently, Mr. Loki is getting back shoes put on tomorrow as he had some heat in his hind feet today. It wasn't a lot and he isn't off at all but why take a chance? I am riding him about 5-6 times a week so I certainly don't begrudge him needing the shoes. My wallet might, but I don't!

Other than that things are going pretty great. The show as you might have seen from the previous post went amazingly well. Both Pony and Loki got a 1st and a 2nd place in the ground poles classes and Loki got a second in cross rails. I was very, very proud of him. We also did one warm-up class with bigger fences and he went over everything with no hesitations. (I should add that there were only about 4 or 5 other competitors in each of his classes and at least one of them didn't even make it all the way around the course!)

The reason we decided to do the ground poles was because the day before the show we had a fairly bad lesson. Loki started running out on a couple of fences and we had a very hard time getting it together. My trainer ended up getting on him and we worked through it but we wanted to have a positive experience at the show and I think we accomplished that.

What I learned was simply my horse HAS TO be put together before a jump. If I let him get all strung out before hand he will run-out, end of story. My trainer kept telling me that it had nothing to do with the actual jump but everything to do with what was happening before the jump. Well, I was a little skeptical at first but now I am a believer. Ever since I started concentrating on keeping him together right up to (and over) the jump we have had no major issues. We have a combined training test on Sunday at the starter level so I guess we'll see if we can keep it together through an actual show. 

I've also been riding other horses as much as possible. Logan (from Friends of Ferdinand) is doing wonderfully. I have started cantering him and he actually has quite a nice canter. He's still a little unbalanced and can be a bit fast but he has so much potential. Someone is going to get a nice horse with him I think.

I also rode Pony today but I was too lazy to put a saddle on her. I only ever ride her for about 10 minutes as I feel so big on her but she is coming along. I have to say that cantering on her is a little like torture, though!

Today I also got to ride a new horse that we just got in to try and sell. His name is Dauntless. He is an OTTB but most people probably wouldn't think that to look at him. He is built a little bit like a tank and he seems to have a bit sour of an attitude. My trainer rode him first and he did okay except that he does not move off your leg very well. I rode him for a while and he definitely had a bit of a hump in his back at times and even tried a small buck but I was able to keep my cool and just put leg on him and keep him moving. I even took him over a small cross rail. He acted like he wanted to buck again right after the jump but for the most part he wasn't horrible. I think my trainer was a little impressed with my willingness to not only ride him but to jump him as well.

One thing I can say about this summer so far is that I am becoming a better rider. Sure, I have a looooooong way to go but I'll take whatever improvement I can get!

(And more importantly I am totally enjoying the journey!)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

How It Went

I'm way too tired to try and coherently put a post together about our show today so I'll just leave you with this for now. :D

Friday, June 22, 2012

From Trail Horse to Show Horse

Just a quick note to say how awesome trail riding was yesterday. We had such a great time and Mr. Loki acted as if he'd been doing this his entire life. He led the entire way as all the other horses had a much smaller walk than his. He looked at a few things but never really hesitated to go forward when I asked. I rode him on the buckle for the entire ride and even took my feet out of the stirrups from time to time to get the blood flowing in my ankles and knees. We passed a parking lot full of school buses and kids running around and people walking dogs and all kinds of things. Nothing phased him. I guess that is the good thing about having a track pony. :D

Tomorrow is the schooling hunter show. I'm going to ride Pony again in the ground poles class. It will be interesting to see how that goes as it will be her first time off property since she came in for training. Loki and I will also start off in the ground poles class. We had some trouble in our jump lesson today but I'm too brain dead to try and write about it. But the result is we are going to start off with ground poles and simply work on being on the aids before, during and after each pole. Turns out horses are much like kids if you don't enforce the rules and expectations from the beginning you will eventually pay for it one way or another. There really IS such a thing as being too nice. We'll also do the cross rail warm-up class and then go from there. It's going to be a very long day tomorrow as I am also going to stay for the later classes to "groom" for my trainer who is riding two horses in the same classes. Here's hoping for some good sleep tonight and nice weather tomorrow!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Quick Trip to Fantasy Land

This is not horse related but I had to make note of it. My amazing, little sister's (Mindee Arnett) debut young adult novel is coming out very soon (soon in the publishing world anyways). Her cover reveal was today and you can view it here. It is also available for pre-order on Amazon. If you in any way, shape or form enjoy reading young adult/fantasy fiction I can promise you will enjoy it. Think Harry Potter meets Veronica Mars. Yeah, it is that good! (Of course I'm biased but that's okay.) 

Back in horse land everything is going great. If I wasn't impressed by Thoroughbreds before Loki has certainly taken care of that now. I feel like he does his homework every evening after we ride and comes back even better the next day. He's finally getting the idea that a little leg doesn't always mean more forward but can also mean more up or move over. It's been so long since I've worked with a green horse and it can be very intimidating. He is learning so fast and it makes me realize that not only is he going to learn all the good things I teach him he will also learn all the bad things, too, but no pressure, right?! He's still a tad unbalanced at the canter but his trot work is coming along fabulously. We are trail riding tomorrow, maybe cross-country schooling on Friday and a schooling hunter show on Saturday. My plan for Saturday is to simply enter him into the warm-up cross rails class and see how he does/go from there. I haven't tried to do any kind of showing with him off property so it will be interesting to see how it goes.

Happy Hump Day!

Oh and seriously if you've never seen Veronica Mars you should check it out. All three seasons are available on DVD and the show is definitely in my top 5 favorite shows of all times. I'll leave you with this:

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Just Call Me Alice

... in wonderland that is.

(I tried to write this post last night and I could not keep my eyes open.)

Yesterday was the Greenstone Dressage Show. It's part of the local area show association. It's a pretty laid back schooling show and a great way to introduce showing to a green horse, especially when the show is on your own property.

I rode three horses. Actually, I rode two horses and a pony in the show. I only found out I would be riding the pony and the second horse about three or four days before the show so there was certainly not a lot of preparation. The pony is a four year old Welsh that is either a big-small pony or a small-medium pony. (Does that even make sense?) Well, the point is I'm one of the only people small enough to get away with showing her. She is at the farm for training. We just call her Pony, btw, she has a fancy show name that I don't even know but everybody just calls her Pony. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of Pony at the moment but I'll try to get some. Pony did very well. She certainly got the cute points. She even managed to place 4th in her second class, although, I'm not sure how many other people were in that class but she did score somewhere between a 64 & a 65 (I can't remember the exact score and I gave Pony's owner her score sheets). Of course Pony did buck me off about 20 seconds before we went in to her second test. (Of course she did!) She somehow managed to get a hind leg tangled up in some flowers next to the show ring fence and panicked herself and pretty much did a handstand. The ground was so close I could literally reach out and touch it so I'm not even sure if it counts as a fall, lol.

(From the FoF website. I will remove if requested.)
The second horse I rode was Logan. He is a Friends of Ferdinand foster horse. You can read about him here. The guy had 78 starts!! as a race horse. I was super, super impressed with him. He was unbelievably well behaved. Absolutely not spooky in the least with all the new horses and people milling about the place. Marched into the arena and just gave the judge's tent a little look but was never hesitant about going forward. (This was his first show ever! and after I'd only ridden him twice before.) On both of his tests the judge commented about how nicely forward he was. He was a little tense but remained calm the entire ride. We just did intro tests and he scored a 63.4 and a 65.93. I know this guy will someday make a wonderful show horse for somebody. He still has racing flashbacks now and then which is why on the website it says no beginners but I do think those moments are going to get fewer and further between every time we ride him. He's the kind of horse who will learn his job and then just go out and do it with no complaints. Friday evening he let me pull his mane and clip him, including his ears, without any qualms. As far as we know that's a first for him as well. Honestly, if I could afford two horses I'd consider adopting him myself. I don't know that he will be the most talented horse on the block but he will definitely make a wonderful companion for someone. He so wants his own person.

And of course the last horse I rode was my own boy, Loki. I can't say how proud of him I am. He was really wonderful. We just rode two tests. Beginner Novice test A and Beginner Novice test B. The way the schooling show is set up there is one class for all of the USEA tests so you can ride whatever USEA test you want in that class but you are competing against other people who may or may not be riding a different test from you. Since we did two tests we also competed against ourselves. It just so happened that the other two riders in the class (my sister included) also rode the same two tests. Loki managed to score a 35.24 on test B (and that was with an error on my part!) for a 1st place ribbon!!! On test A he scored a 42.5 for last place in the class. I find this to be a perfect image of where we are in our training which is completely inconsistent but hey we've only been working together for around a month or a little more so of course I'm as pleased as punch (as the saying goes).

The judge made some really nice comments of course. My favorite was "lovely horse. When you let him go in a longer, lower frame he looks AMAZING!!" I did get a lot of comments from different people about what a handsome boy he is. I do wonder about the "when you let him" part of that comment. I love for him to go in a longer, lower frame since that is where we should be right now in our training. The problem (as I see it) is that when he gets long and low it is wonderful for about two or three strides and then all the sudden I've got about 1,000 pounds of horse sitting in my hands. I try to bump him up as politely as possible but he is so sensitive to my leg aids that this often results in him throwing his head in the air and scooting forward like I zapped him with an electric prod. Of course this has become a little cyclical of a problem because I then get leery of using any leg at all and end up trying to ride with just my hands and seat and as most of us know that just doesn't work either. So, I guess I just need to keep working on it and working on how to use my legs even more subtle than ever. We'll get there. Again we are just starting out, lol.

I wish I had more pictures but my Mom was only able to get this one of my sister and I. There was a photographer at the show but I just took a look at his photo pricing and let's just say I probably won't have any new photos to share this time around.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Kittens Are Away

Today was the start of summer camp for all three of my kids. That means that for the next two months (give or take) I will have six entire hours free to be at the barn; no worrying about baby sitters required! I know I am very spoiled right now and even though I know the exchange is 9 months in Japan I do still feel a little guilty about it... a little... but still... while the kittens are away Momma Cat is gonna play!!

So of course as Murphy would have it it rained all day today. And just in case that wasn't enough Loki threw a shoe yesterday. The vet was also scheduled to come out to my sister's barn where Ghazal is. All the horses over there and the dogs got their shots. Loki also got a new coggins pulled so that his new name is on it and so that I am listed as his owner. (It's the little things, people!) So no riding for today but the farrier is scheduled to be out tomorrow and hopefully we'll start getting into a summer routine. There is a dressage schooling show this weekend. It's actually on the property so it will be fun without the stress of going someplace new. I can't wait to see how we do!

I did go to the tack store today and scored some Good Rider breeches for 75% off. Not bad!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Happy Happy

Loki and I had our first "real" jump school today. It was ah-mA-zing! Loki continues to amaze me in general. Every time I ride him I feel like he makes huge strides forward. I even asked my trainer if she was riding him at night when I wasn't around. Surely it's not just me, right? Well, so far it turns out it really is me. Of course this doesn't mean that we are even close to perfection or anything but it does mean that we are figuring some things out. The biggest thing we are getting is rhythm. When I first started riding Loki our rhythm was all over the place and he didn't have a clue what a half halt was. Now, I feel like we can maintain a nice rhythm for most of the arena. He still has a hard time whenever we turn to the right, though. He speeds up because he has a hard time balancing in that direction but it is getting better. I do have to work on not "water skiing" according to my trainer. Sometimes I forget to add leg to my half-halts and Loki starts to lean on my hands. My trainer calls that water skiing and I "occasionally" need a reminder to stop doing it!

We had a couple of run-outs at two different "scary" fences just the first couple of times but once he figured out that forward was the only option he was great. I wish I could say I was improving as fast as he is but sadly I don't think that is the case! I rode with two other students I don't normally ride with and both of them complemented Loki saying what a cute mover he is. :D On top of that my trainer said the greenest horse (Loki) actually performed the best. Double smiles!

Sadly no pictures from today but I felt about like this:

Considering we didn't jump anything higher than about 2'3" that isn't how we looked but that's alright. It felt great!

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Let Me Count The Ways

I love my horse! I keep finding more and more reasons to love him even more than I do. We went xc-schooling again today and I feel like we made huge strides in our training (both his and mine! lol). The biggest improvement was I actually had a relaxed horse for most of the time! This was our third time out and the first time where I was able to get Loki to just stand and relax for several minutes at a time. It was really nice. When we were finished he had half or less of the sweat that he had the first two times we went even though we did a lot more work this time. I was also able to trot and canter him without feeling like we were on the verge of being out of control. He's starting to get it. He's not a race horse anymore and he doesn't have to run the fastest. I could almost hear his brain clicking things into place.

Another huge improvement was straightness. We've (or at least I've) been working on keeping Loki between my aids. I'm getting much quicker to respond to his attempts to pop a shoulder out here or there. In response he is getting much more responsive to my aids especially my legs asking him to stay straight please! The wonderful thing about this is it makes jumping so much easier. We still had a couple of run outs at first (my fault!) but in general once he figured out that the only way he could go was straight ahead he went over everything easy. Of course we aren't doing anything big at this point but we did do a couple of ditches and those haven't been a problem at all. Like I said, the boy is smart!

We finished the day by doing a little bit of dressage work in one of the arenas on the property. Again, I was so very impressed with my horse. I got some really nice, rhythmic trot work and even got several very nice and mostly round circles. My trainer even said he looked much better than he has before. She also said that I was riding better than she'd seen before. Yippee!!

Of course there are still plenty of things to work on. We are really only at the very beginning of our journey together. But today I actually felt like hey I can do this! I'm sure there will be lots of bumps along the road and since I'm not a professional I'm sure we will move along much slower than someone else could possibly do with him but hey we got plenty of time!

My sister came with us and very kindly took some pictures of Loki and me after we finished up. I still don't have any action shots but here ya go:

I know that ideally I would look better on a horse about one hand shorter but I'm already so comfortable on him that I don't feel too small at all when I'm in the saddle.
Do they get any handsomer? I think NOT! :D

Saturday, June 2, 2012

R is for Radically Red!

Buying horsey clothes is so much fun!! I got to try our new scrim/cooler on Loki today and it is FABULOUS! I am so pleased with it. I actually got sort of lucky. I had to buy one size bigger than what Loki normally wears because they didn't have his size available. Well, it turns out that the Integrity Linens must run a size small because the scrim actually fits him perfectly. Bonus!!
In case it isn't obvious I really like red!

He's giving me a funny eye here but the color of the scrim is truer in this photo
Eatin' hay in my stall.
I've had some really nice rides the past couple of days on Loki. We are still working on rhythm and keeping our shoulders from popping out and he has really improved and I have some too. We are getting more and more nice moments between our green, inverted, fast moments. I know if I were a better rider he would be progressing very quickly! He is so smart! He is sensitive which can sometimes work against me because I don't always have the best control over all of my body parts (sometimes I am too quick to grab and too slow to let go.) but once he gets something he's got it and he's never been ugly about anything. I don't think I could ask for anything better, really. In a couple of years he is going to be very nice and I'll be able to look back and say we did it together!

In other news I had to take my husband to the airport today. He's on his way back to work and eventually back to Japan. Not to get all mushy but I miss him already. I am so looking forward to when we can both be back in the states for good. I know this summer is going to absolutely fly by and I am going to have a blast but it won't be absolutely perfect since he can't be here with us. (What can I say sometimes I'm a sap!)

We are possibly going to our first schooling show next weekend. We may only go as a non-competitive entry depending on how anxious he gets but it will be good to start exposing him to the show atmosphere.  Have a great weekend!