Thursday, July 31, 2008

On The Road Again

Well, in about 10 minutes I'm heading off for three days of an Eventing camp at Inavale!

Two 1.5 hour lessons a day, lunchtime lecture, and so on. I'm very excited.

I may or may not have internet access -- so if there's a lack of posting and/or commenting, that's why.

I will report on the experience when I return!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Things I Sometimes Take For Granted

There are some qualities that McKinna possesses that I am very grateful for, but sometimes forget to be. Things that she does that Bailey never did and possibly never would, just because of personality. Things that most horses will never do, perhaps because their owners wouldn't take the time. Stuff like that.

It's not that these are things I wouldn't normally expect of a horse -- because I would. It's just that I am grateful for so many of her traits, and I wanted to list a few of them!

So --

  • Never, ever pulls back when tied.
  • Never panics when she gets caught up in something.
  • Pretty much never bucks.
  • Leads perfectly. Stops on a dime, backs up, forehand turn, haunch turn, sidepass, whatever I want, she does it.
  • Stands (albeit with a long-suffering look on her face) like a statue when we spend an hour washing her entire body. Yes, owning a grey sucks.
  • Never offers an ears-pinned nasty face to a person for any reason.
  • Sound. Knocking on wood.
  • Neck reins. (My horses forevermore will neck rein, whether they're English horses to the gills or not.)
  • Cheerfully goes through water, over bridges, past all kinds of noisy motorized vehicles, etc.
  • Stops when I say ho.
  • Has no bad habits.
  • Actually enjoys being groomed (Bailey hated grooming, period. The only time he ever enjoyed it was when I was scratching a really good itch, and that was only when he was shedding).
  • Has really adorable form over fences.
  • Trailers perfectly. Every time. (As much training and practice and work we did with Bailey, he just was never comfortable in trailers. He'd load right away, he'd stand fine, he'd unload safely, but he still disliked them.)
  • Is an easy keeper. I love only feeding a handful of orchard grass pellets, instead of six pounds of Ultium.
  • Stands politely for the farrier. Less politely for the vet, but doesn't fight shots of any kind.
  • Tolerates worming. With disgusted faces.
  • Comes when she's called, mostly (I plan to play around with this and see if I can get it really sharp).
  • Respects fencing, regardless of substantialness of said fencing.
  • Tolerates my random experiments, like cantering bareback in a Batman costume.
  • Gets along well with other horses, minus squealing at all the boys when she's in heat.
  • Stands rock still for fly spray, clipping, brushing, braiding, etc.
  • Has a cheerful, "What's next?" attitude.
Okay, so that was a bit of a ridiculous list, and a lot of things on it are things I'd expect from any horse (holds still for farrier, holds still for fly spray, stops, goes over stuff, and so on). But the fact remains that it's so easy with her.

Even though we worked through so many of his issues, Bailey was just not the kind of horse that settled down easily. So even through all his improvements, he was still nervous in the trailer, he was still kind of an ass for the farrier, and he still hated grooming. On the other hand, he did learn to trailer, mostly stand for the farrier, stand as still as McKinna for bathing, never fought the vet (even for that terrible intranasal Strangles vaccine), and so on. He wasn't a demon, after all, he was just a high-energy horse that I hadn't worked all the kinks out with.

Anyway, here's an example of just how chill McKinna really is:

She hates having her face washed. Hates it. She'll tolerate it if you do it with a washcloth, but that's it. No hose near her head is okay.

Tonight I finally got fed up with washing her forelock by pulling it backwards towards her neck. So I started working on the hose-face thing. Turned the water down low, approach and retreat, the usual. I had my mom give her treats when she relaxed.

Not exactly the most sophisticated training regime, as you can see. But with matters this simple, I know McKinna is easy to convince. Once she 1. understands what you want and 2. realizes there's food involved, she's sold. She knew damn well what I wanted, and she was nervous, but she was willing to ignore her fright if she got treats out of the deal.

Within five minutes, she was holding perfectly still while I ran the hose on her forehead to rinse it, with water streaming down her whole face.

Sigh. Let that be a lesson to you. I accepted her face-washing phobia as an idiosyncrasy, something that was just 'one of those things.' I should have realized that it was an oddity for a mare who's normally rock-solid about everything, and known that it would only take a tiny bit of work to get her over that fear.

Oh well. At least I have a horse with a clean face now!

What little 'idiosyncrasies' do you turn a blind eye to in your horse that you could probably fix if you set your mind to it?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm Still Alive, I Swear!

I've been fairly busy since I got back from camp. First I was just exhausted, and then once I started recovering, I started doing things like spending whole days visiting with friends in Portland.

So that's why I haven't posted.

But it's interesting -- the more I ride, the more I write. The more I write, the more I think about what to write when I'm riding. The more I think, the better I ride.

It's a nice cycle.

When I don't ride very often, I don't post very often because I'm not constantly thinking. I've noticed that as I ride now, I am always questioning: what is the guiding purpose of this ride? What am I trying to work on right now? What am I asking McKinna to do, and how am I asking? How is she reacting? Should I respond to her reaction, and if so, how? What can I do to make this concept clearer and easier for her? Do I need to push harder, or back off?

And so on. It makes for way, way better rides because I'm not just going up-down all around the arena for 40 minutes.

For example, the other night, I had an awesome ride. As I was tacking up, I was contemplating how lazy McKinna had been lately. In a way it's nice, because it makes it easy to work on relaxation and such at the walk and trot; on the other hand, it's really irritating. My first horse was an ex-racer, ladies, I don't like riding a horse that's like a jar of molasses in February. While it can be entertaining to see the feisty little mare look like an ancient lesson pony, it gets old pretty quickly. So I decided to lend a sense of purpose to our ride. I acted like we had somewhere to be.

I did not rush or hurry, but I tacked her up quickly and marched her little self over to the mounting block like there was a deadline to meet. Already she was waking up, her eyes a little brighter. When I got on, I could already feel the difference: she stepped out nice and lively at the walk, swinging through her back, and after a short long-reined walk I started challenging her. Move off my leg here, move back. Circle, serpentine, halt, walk, slow the walk, speed up the walk, turn on the haunches.

And through all of it I was polite but firm. "Excuse me," I was saying, "but we have a job to do and we are going to get it done now." And she listened!

We did a lot of trot work, where I was supportive but insistent that she listen. I didn't give her an option to evade -- my inside leg was pushing her into the bend, my outside leg and outside hand were right there to catch her and keep her from drifting out, my inside rein suggested a bend in the neck. I carried a dressage whip my whole ride, which I don't always do. I wasn't afraid to use it, either, because when my leg goes on, the response needs to be right there.

By the end of the ride she was going beautifully in this forward, relaxed trot, trucking along at a very workmanlike speed, moving very responsively from my leg, and paying very close attention to me. One of her problems is that she likes to change bend before you want to, i.e., she starts bending to the outside. Not a problem that night -- we changed bend when I said so, not before or after.

I think the slight urgency in my ride surprised her a little, and I was actually surprised at how big of a difference that change in demeanor can make. Our whole ride was shaped from the attitude I took at the very beginning.

If that's not incentive to leave your grumpiness at the door, I don't know what is.

Incidentally, leaving emotions at the door is what I talked about at leadership camp -- but I will get into that when I talk about my seminar.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Cake Walk

I'm a bit too tired to recount my talk at leadership camp right now -- been pretty busy lately, but I promise I will tell it soon. To hold you over, here is the story of the now-infamous Cake Walk that used to be an entertainment activity at OHSET (equestrian team)!

It was held on Friday nights, I believe, before Grand Entry. Or something. It was a fund raising event; each team was asked to bring a cake to be auctioned off, and all the money was put into the pot. The total money was split: half to the team that came up with the idea and set it into place, and half to the team that won the event.

Anyway, it went a little like this:

Each team selects a member representative. Generally chosen are the daredevils with really, really fast horses. In the center of the largest arena, they set up a giant circle of cones -- one less cone than there are riders. They play music as everyone lopes around the perimeter of the circle. When the music stops, the riders stop, jump off, and grab a cone, though stopping before jumping is sometimes skipped. One rider is left without a cone, they're out, and so it goes.

Not too bad, though sometimes people trip and fall going after the cones. The center circle gets smaller and smaller as more people are eliminated.

Then there's two people left.

They put one really big cone in the middle. Dead center. They tell the two remaining people to gallop around the whole outside of the arena. When the music stops, they both gallop hell-bent for leather towards the center to leap off and grab the cone.

Two people galloping towards each other on gaming horses, both dead set on grabbing that stupid cone! Yay!

Dangerous? Oh hell yes.
But my goodness, it was exciting to watch!

Needless to say, the Cake Walk was discontinued rather quickly.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Brain is Mightier Than The Pony

My ride on Wednesday night was the first time I'd ridden in almost two weeks. Mainly because I'd been at camp for a week, then I was too tired to drag myself out to the barn, let alone ride.

But it was a really, really good ride. I could feel things shifting in the way McKinna and I interact when I ride -- it was cool.

She's now consistently stretching down at the walk. I can manipulate her stride length by how much or little I move my back with her step; I can get her to relax into the bit just by exhaling and sitting a little deeper. I'm getting used to gently bending her around the squeeze of an inside calf rather than poking her over with a turned heel.

Then we picked up a trot, and it's much of the same. She's relaxing into the bit, and for a few strides here and there, she brings her back up and I can feel the lift and the briefest "hang time" in each step. She's starting to bend without dropping her inside shoulder, move off of my leg without dropping the outside shoulder, and in general just straighten up and carry herself.

So I asked for a canter. She picked up the wrong lead, I brought her down to trot, and we came back up on the correct lead.

She was pretty anxious by this point, though her canter was fairly nice.

When we came back down, we started to fall back into that old familiar pattern: her trot was rushed, her head relatively high, she resisted bend with her neck and body, when I used an opening rein to make her bend into some circles, she dropped her inside shoulder to resist the bend that way.

But then all that thinking that I've been doing paid off.

I did something magical, right? A special cue that I've learned, or I threw my reins away and immediately she was fixed, or I stopped for five minutes and when I picked up the trot again she was nice and relaxed?


I didn't do anything. I just rode her, but here's the difference.

Instead of riding like I was riding a tense, rushing, resistant horse, I rode like I was riding that same relaxed, obedient horse I had ten minutes ago.

I can't describe it as anything specifically that I do. I just stop riding a rushing horse, and start riding the responsive one I had earlier. And then she turns back into that responsive horse. My legs are supportive, and she politely moves off of them. My hands are relaxed and steady, and she stretches into them. My legs and hands guide her through loops and circles, using inside rein to outside rein and expecting her to stay upright, without dropping her shoulders -- because she can't. She can't move like that when I am giving her all of the support and guidance to go correctly.

It was really, really cool. I stopped reacting and started thinking.

Here's where I give you the little disclaimer that says: just expecting your horse to do what you want her to do is NOT going to fix all of your problems. It's taken McKinna and I quite a lot to get to this point.

The point of this blog is that you need to THINK while you are riding. Think about your problems, think about solutions to them, and then TRY them on your horse. I was so busy thinking about the ideal movement I'd had minutes ago that I automatically recreated the feeling with my body, and she followed.

I like this whole thinking thing.

By the way, we finished out the ride with a few more really nice relaxed canters, and we kept that calmness throughout the whole time. It borders on the Zen sometimes, I swear.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

That's the Last Time I Buck Hay in a Tanktop

I have little red scratchies all over my arms, ugh. Didn't think about that before I started tossing hay bales around.

Today is my birthday! I am officially 18 years old.

Every time I ride on my birthday, I wonder if I'm going to get bucked off.

Let me tell you the story:

It started a couple years ago, on I think my 15th birthday. Some friends gave me a lovely little mechanical hackamore to try on Bailey! What fun!

I put it on him, figuring he'll be fine, since I regularly ride him bareback in a halter. So I tack him up, hop in the saddle, and start walking around on a long rein. I pick up the trot. Buck. Buck, buck. Trot, head toss. Buck buck buck. As usual, I boot him through it, fully aware even at this point in my riding career that the best answer to a buck is to go forward.

Buck, buck, buck. BUCK. Buck buck.

At this point, the bucks are getting nasty. Let me tell you something -- Bailey was a very honest horse. Even his bucks were honest. He was never trying to get me off; he only wanted to let me know he was displeased. They were always smooth and relatively low.

Not these ones.

When I got thrown far enough forward by a big one that I was actually close to falling off, I decided to hop off. I put the longe line on so I could see what was up (I do have the occasional moment of foresight). So I start longing him on the circle.

Canter Buck. BUCK BUCK BUCK, buck buck, canter, head toss, BUCK BUCK.

"Man," I said, "I'm REALLY glad I'm not riding those ones."

Buck buck. Buck.

Then I got smart and took the hackamore off.

No more bucking.


So, intelligently enough, I decided to not ride him in that mechanical hackamore anymore. It only took, oh, about a year before I looked at it molding quietly in the tack room and said, "Hmm. The shanks are about seven inches long, and it has a curb chain instead of a curb strap. MAYBE my darling OTTB, never ridden in anything but a french-link snaffle, objected to the leverage and curb chain."

Gee, ya think?

Despite my yearly trepidation about being bucked off, I'm still riding tonight. Since McKinna has only bucked (mildly) twice in the whole time I've ridden her, and both times were when she was misbehaving and I kicked her, I think I'm safe.

This is more for my reference than anything, but here's upcoming posts:
My Ride Last Night
The Talk at Leadership Camp
Bailey Update
The Horse's Perspective
Cake Walk at OHSET
Long Reining, Trial 3
College (and Horses)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Honey, I'm Home!

Okay -- just got back on Saturday from an amazing week at leadership camp. On the flip side, I also got about half the sleep I'm used to because we stayed up late every night, so I have been an absolute zombie.

I'm only just now starting to feel like a human again, so bear with me as catch up on comments and start thinking about new posts.

I am definitely going to be writing about a talk I gave at camp -- it related horses to marching band :)

So that's all for tonight! I will go start replying to comments now.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Trailering Fiasco, in Points

This is one of those incidences that makes me cringe when I think about it. You know -- sometimes green horse owners do stupid, stupid things, because they haven't been around horses enough to know better. In this case, it wasn't so much a case of doing, as NOT doing.

So my freshman year when I joined OHSET, I signed up as a groom because I knew Bailey wasn't ready (+1 for me). I still went to practices, though, and rode an extra horse that one of the team members brought along (+1). One week we decided to bring Bailey so I could ride him around at practice. So out we bring our itty bitty two-horse straight-load, which probably would fit McKinna decently but, in hindsight, definitely not a TB (-10). We did, however, remove the center divider (+2).

At home, we load Bailey up. This involves alfalfa bribery (-1), feeding a longe line through the window clipped to his halter to pull him in (-2), and general swishing of whip behind him (+1 for not hitting him!). After horsie was sufficiently squished in the trailer (and I mean squished!), we set off for practice.

As we get there, I undo both doors instead of the one just behind his butt (-1) and undo the butt bars before untying him (-1). Bailey does not pull back, thankfully (+1). I untie him and instead of backing out, he immediately turns his big self around in that tiny place, squishing me against the wall, and steps out (-3). Unhurt though a little shaken, I take him in to get tacked up.

Practice goes well, or at least well enough that I don't even remember what transpired (+5). This is because I so vividly remember What Came After (-10).

Because, of course, we needed to load him back up (-1). Into the Itty Bitty Trailer (-3). In the dark (-10).

Yeah. Did I mention that Bailey cheerfully broke the stereotype of the easy-to-load, beentheredonethat OTTB?

Bailey was not going into that death trap. He was quite adamant about this.

Everything would have been fine as we were extraordinarily patient, willing to bribe and pull and whip-swish our way into the trailer, even if it took a few hours (+3). We almost got him in once (+1).

Then some friendly teammates came to help (-100).

I believe it is largely because of this incidence that I completely and totally hate any offers to help me load my horse into the trailer, ever. Do not offer to help, do not tell me that "You just hafta . . ." and do not tell me that I need a butt rope or a whip or a stud chain. I can manage my own horse, and if I want help, I will ask for it. I understand you are trying to be helpful, and I appreciate it. I will even think kindly of you, as long as you don't keep hovering and offering advice after I politely decline your offer!

So first they attempted to butt-rope Bailey into the trailer. Okay, a reasonable technique in an emergency for a horse that understands the concept. It was not, and he did not (-5). It freaked him out some more, though (-10).

Next up two people took control. Trying to use two different methods (-50).

One decided to make the trailer a pleasant place for Bailey by working him elsewhere. Okay, reasonable enough. So he marches Bailey away from the trailer, makes him back up (which he HATED, by the way), trot in circles, move around, then brings him back to the trailer which is the theoretical 'safe place.'

Except that the other person's method mainly consisted of "Pull his head forward and smack his butt with the whip. Repeat until first person takes Bailey away for more work." -400.

So much for the trailer being a nice safe place.

After being worked into a bit of a lather for a good half hour (-25), and still adamantly refusing to step into the trailer (+1 for Bailey, I suppose), we gave up. One of the people offered us a ride in their big four-horse slant.

We lined him up and opened the doors. He stepped right in. +100 for Bailey.

Final score: Bailey 101. Us -617.

Both my parents and I were really, really pissed but in the presence of such strong personalities (you know how horse people can be), we couldn't bring ourselves to say anything. It was amazingly overwhelming and there was no room for the novice horse owners to say "Um, excuse me, could you be nicer to our horse please?"

I swore nobody would ever take my horse away from me again. I am still ashamed to think of the way I let those people treat my horse.

From there began a long, frustrating road of trailer-training Bailey. We worked with him patiently and we worked on it often. Progress was set back when we had to trailer out of the barn in the middle of a flood and the water came about a foot and a half into the trailer, scaring the horses out of their minds. After that, both Bailey and Loki were terrified of trailers for a long time. There were times that it would take us more than an hour to load him. He was fine riding on the trailer, but as soon as he stepped on, he got nervous; when he would step back to unload, he'd take tiny steps and his hind legs would tremble.

By the time he left us, he would walk right up to the trailer and step in, then stand while we shut the divider and tied him. He never was very comfortable backing out, but he'd do it if I asked him to.

But man, did that night teach me something. I will do what works for MY horse, not what someone else thinks I "just hafta" do. And I will never, ever let people handle my horse unless I trust them.

On that note, we also bought a larger trailer ;)

It was a really good learning experience and also helped teach me the value of groundwork. Going through the trailering struggles that I did with him makes me feel a lot more confident about working with horses in the future. I can be patient and persuasive with a troublesome loader and I know what to do to train a horse to calmly load.

The learning curve's pretty steep when you first jump in the horse world.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


An update on McKinna's riding progress, since that's mainly what this blog is about --

The other night I had a lesson where I explained to Ellen that I wanted to focus on taking things slowly and allowing McKinna to think about and understand what we were doing. As a result, in that lesson we really focused on the walk, getting her to relax and stretch out and bring her back up.

It was a really eye-opening lesson. I've been reading a lot of Mugwump's blog lately, thinking about how each horse really tells you what they need from you if you pay attention, whether they need soft gentle understanding or a swift kick in the sides. That night, McKinna was telling me that she was cranky (I really think it's because she was about to go into heat, as she's usually particularly resistant at that time. I wonder if she gets a little sore?), but she was going to try for me anyway. In return, I tried to cut her some slack. We worked on walk relaxation for awhile. When I could tell she was getting bored, we picked up a trot, trotted around for a little while, then came back to the walk and worked on leg yields and finished with a bit of shoulder-in.

I know it's standard practice to shake up your lesson and have changes of pace. But often when I ride or lesson, I drill until I get it right -- something I should not be doing. I am going to start trying to really pay attention to what McKinna needs, not just what I want to work on. I would love to work on the canter and have it be nice and beautiful and flowing, for example. But I know that in order to achieve that, I need to do some serious homework in walk and trot to get her relaxed and stretching down; this way she can achieve a balanced, smooth canter transition, and thus a balanced smooth canter.

Just something to think about. When you're riding, do you focus more on what the horse wants or what you want? There's also the opposite problem -- if your horse tends to rush around, I bet you're not using your leg very much because that's what the horse wants. If your horse has a beautiful canter but a jackhammer trot, I bet you spend more time in canter. I'm trying to find the right balance, and so far it's working.

Working on shoulder-in was really fun. I'll explain it in depth sometime, but basically it's walking on three tracks, with the shoulders slightly in but everything still straight. The inside hind is on one track, the inside fore and outside hind in line on another, and then the outside fore on the third. In any case, it's a fun new challenge, and McKinna is slowly but surely starting to understand.

Forward and onward!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Batman on Horses

Okay, so I told you there was a reason for me riding my horse in a Batman costume, right?

Well, there is a reason.

In addition to riding horses and trying to kill myself with really advanced classes, I also am/was very active in the band. I played in our top jazz band, in our wind ensemble, and during the marching season, I was drum major. My most visible job as drum major is standing up on the podium conducting the band during performances -- but my most important job was being student leader of the band, teaching rookies things, leading rehearsals, organizing things behind the scenes, blah blah blah. All that stuff that looks good on a college application. It's a very hard and occasionally thankless job (hmm, sounds like horses!) but I loved it very, very much. There's not many places you can get that kind of experience, teaching and leading your peers. Mmm.

So anyway.

The drum majors often dress up to suit the theme of each year's marching show. This year we did music from Batman, so I dressed up as Batman and my co-DM dressed up as Robin. I assure you the cape effect was very dramatic when one of us ran between podiums. Conducting with a cape is also very cool.

Why we decided to get pictures on horses, I'm not sure. A coming-together of the two halves of my life, I suppose. Band and horses.

So it ended up that my friend and I pulled on the old gear (it's really weird -- I hadn't worn that stuff since the marching season and it was rather nostalgic), and saddled up. Only we were bareback, so I suppose we bridled up.

We were going for the backlit dramatic look.
First up is my partner, Robin, on Loki (Rose's horse):

Then the Dark Knight on the white horse:

The two of us together out in the field:

I think this is one of those Stupid Kid Moments that people talk about. It's the only time I can remember riding a horse without a helmet. Also I was wearing a mask that severely limited my peripheral vision. Also I had a Big Flapping Cape.

Which neither horse minded, I might add. I was quite proud of both of them!

I also took each of them for a bareback canter around the arena. Just to, um, make sure they were okay with the capes.

Cantering bareback with a cape is FUN. Your cape goes all flowy in time with the strides. Mom got a video -- I'll have to post it sometime.

So, there -- Batman on horseback. I told you my horse puts up with a lot!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Long Reining, Round 2

So tonight I brought out the nice new caveson and played around with long reining some more. I really should ride her since I'm leaving tomorrow for a week (don't worry, I've got some posts scheduled, but I won't be replying to comments).

Here's how the night went.

Mom took her out of her stall and tied her. I went into the tack room and grabbed caveson, surcingle, two longe lines to serve as long lines, and the top half of a two-part whip (perfect for long-reining -- it's light but the lash itself is serviceably long).

I swear she rolled her eyes at me.

At the very least, she heaved a big sigh and stood patiently while I adjusted the caveson (needs to be a bit tighter in the jaw straps I think, it slipped a bit) and put the surcingle on and threaded the lines through.

Patiently, she followed me into the arena, and perked her ears at me. This is McKinna's trademark Arab Face, as in "Okay, you've gone off the deep end again, and I'm somewhat interested in figuring out what the hell you're doing."

So we set off with some walk-trot circles, figures-8, serpentines, and general loopy goodness. She did really well. The disadvantage of working in both directions in one session is that both reins are attached directly to the caveson, run through the surcingle rings. I like it better when the inside rein is run through the caveson and clipped to the surcingle, because it's less direct and encourages them to relax into the bend rather than resist, but then you have to switch it every time you change directions. So we managed.

Then we both got bored and she was doing well, so we went for a walk outside. Down the hill, around through the weeds while she patiently turned and stopped and circled, then a bit of walking in the outdoor arena and we called it good.

In any case, I am really enjoying this long-reining stuff, and for all her disgusted sighs when she sees the tack come out, McKinna seems to be enjoying the mental challenge.

Isn't that field behind our arena gorgeous? It's massive, it's gently sloping, and I covet it SO SO MUCH. It's wasted with cattle on it, I tell you.

As always with one ear on me and one on the lady with the camera.

I didn't mean to aim her between those two frisbees, by the way. They were just there and we happened to go through them. See what I mean about the strap sliding a little, though? I think it's a bit too close to her eye.

Tomorrow: the promised Batman Post.

Following that, there'll be posts about my lesson the other night, the story of the first time we trailered Bailey to an OHSET practice, a description of the now-infamous "Cake Walk" event that OHSET once held, and teenager-glee about the Eventing camp I'll be going to in the beginning of August.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Long Night

Tonight's been a long night -- I just got home from working the Elephant Ear booth at the local rodeo. Our equestrian team (my high school's, that is) runs the booth as a fundraiser and let me tell you, it makes pretty much all the money for the whole year. It's a sweet deal (ha, no pun intended). I got to watch quite a bit of the rodeo. I alternate between watching the bull riders or bronc riders, and admiring the horses of the riders who catch or herd the bucking animals afterwards. Damn, those are some nice horses. Especially the ones they use to herd the bull. I mean, really? How many horses do you know that will calmly go after an animal that probably weighs more than they do, and is bucking, and has horns, and is really really pissed off?

In any case, that's why I'm a bit tired for a real post. I'll write a post tomorrow, either about why I rode my horse in a Batman costume or about my lesson today, which went really well.

But to tide you over for the night, here is the reason you never hose off a gray horse and put her in the arena:

Thankfully, I hear most of it brushed right off. Mom took this picture while she was at the barn last night. Aside from the fact that the angle makes her head look so whonking huge, it's not a bad picture for a cell phone camera, eh?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Equestrian Team

So here's why participating in Oregon High School Equestrian Teams (or OHSET, if you don't want to tie your tongue in a knot) was really, really good for me and my horses.

There's something like two hundred riders. Lots of them have more than one horse.
Therefore, your horse gets introduced to crazy warmup arenas. Big time. After the first meet, Bailey was an awful lot less concerned when A. people tried to run their horse up his butt, B. horses went flying by bucking wildly, C. people with flags galloped around playing tag, or D. miniature ponies with carts were about.
After a few minutes of sensory overload, the horse generally starts ignoring all the other asshats and just listens to you.

You haul to practice once a week and you haul to three meets, once a month in the winter/spring. This provides a very nice incentive for your horse to learn to trailer nicely, doesn't it? And how convenient that you get weekly practice! By the end of my time with him, while trailer loading could still be a high-stress experience simply because he was never quite happy being shut in, Bailey would pretty much walk right on the trailer. With McKinna this has never been an issue.

Did I mention the asshats? People will cut you off and glare at you. People will see that you accidentally crossed your reins before you put them over your horse's head and say nothing. People will roll their eyes if your horse misbehaves. They will also run their misbehaving horse into you in the warmup arena. Their training methods are right, and yours are wrong. Also, if you don't want to wear a neon-colored helmet cover for dressage, you have no team spirit and are a Diva. After awhile, it all rolls off your back, a valuable skill to have anywhere and especially in the horse world.

Then again, there's also nice people. Making friends from other schools, spontaneous bonding with people who I empathize with ("Yeah, I have a crazy horse too..."), people who loan you tack and rule books and horses and help you with your patterns, people who offer a free spot in their trailer, people who cheer for you even though they don't know you. Life's not all that bad, is it?

You are expected to compete in 5 individual events and as many team events as possible. This is so your team can get as many points as possible. You're an English rider and there aren't 5 English events? Guess you'd better learn to ride Western then. My three safe things were Over Fences, Hunt Seat Equitation, and Dressage. With both Bailey and McKinna, I have competed in Pole Bending, Individual Flags, and Figure-8 for individual events. I also learned how to team pen, do Canadian Flags, and run Birangle. Another popular event, IHOR (In Hand Obstacle Relay), which I stepped in to do after a team member quit, involves showmanship at speed over obstacles.

Basically, doing all that different stuff means your horse had better be one hell of an all-around horse. My horse neck reins very well, grasps the basic concept of pockets though I never patterned her, understands working cows in a team, and gets really, really excited when we're about to run Individual Flags. She already lead well before I started OHSET, so I wouldn't have worked on it; thanks to competing in IHOR, she can flawlessly (and quickly) turn on her forehand or haunches, sidepass, trot in hand (on the off side too!), or back through an L, all without me touching her. She also stops dead on a dime.

Here's some pictures to illustrate the different sides of it all (these were all taken at OHSET):Lining up for the sidepass in IHOR

Getting ready to carry the flag for Grand Entry

Team Penning (sorry Mugs, I'll never be as good as you with cows ;)

We're serious about our pole-bending. Really.

Just trying to keep a gray horse clean!

That's all for today!
Related Posts with Thumbnails