Saturday, May 30, 2009

Strange Things About the Horse World

Lately I have been noticing some ridiculous things about the horse world. Some are general, some are specific to me.

1. Your longe whip [/lead line/longe rope] always ties itself into knots of Eagle Scout proportions, but you can spend ten minutes flipping it around trying hard to get it into a knot with no success.

2. You can have the worst ride one night - so bad it makes you wonder whether you know what the heck you're doing - and the next night, you wonder who this angel is you're riding and what they did with your horse.

3. Walking up to anything new? Terrifying. Cantering towards it with a clear intent to jump? No problem.

4. You're standing in a group of horses. Yours has been doused ears to tail in fly spray, and the others have had a light spray. Which horse has the persistent cloud of flies around eyes, ears, and flanks? Yours.

5. The scissors for cutting hay bales ALWAYS disappear. I swear, it's like a horse version of Sock Gnomes.

6. On that note, hoofpicks. I can never seem to keep track of any one for more than a couple weeks. But where the heck do they go?

7. You can fall off at terrifying speeds and get up with just a bruised butt and ego...but you can also slip slowly off at a halt or walk and break something badly.

8. Your horse can walk past the same frightening object every single day for weeks (or months), and yet every single day it's newly terriying. Thankfully, Pandora is not one of these types because it drove me nuts when Bailey did it.

9. Sometimes I swear they do things just to irritate us. For example, Pandora poops in the cross ties. Every day. Several times. She's not nervous, she just poops. I pick it up and by the time I'm back from dumping it, she's pooped again. Lather, rinse, repeat for three or sometimes four times. Ugh.

10. I don't know about you guys, but McKinna has white shirt radar. The instant you're in her grasp, she firmly wipes her dirty, slobbery nose on your shirt, leaving you with a lovely streak of dirty slime. Bonus points if you have to go somewhere like the store before you get home to change.


I had a fantastic lesson last night - the weather's finally warm enough that the Pony Club Friday lesson was held at our Lesson Coordinator's house, where they have a cross-country course. It was pretty hot - actually quite unpleasant at first - but cooled off after awhile.

The course is set on a couple fairly big hills. There's not a lot of super flat ground, but the hills aren't uncomfortably steep. A really nice variety of fences makes it interesting - they're all simple, but well constructed. Tires, railroad ties, some half-rounds, a big brush made of a street sweeper thing (THAT one was cool!), several hanging logs, and one skinny made of a water trough. Our instructor designed our course so it was mostly uphill, which was really nice.

We started at the base, then hopped over a small bending line. Then uphill over a 2'6ish RRtie fence and a couple strides to a low tire fence. Then downhill a lot - had to come back to a trot for the narrow trail and steepness - and a tight right turn to ride down the little valley between the main hills of the course. In the valley we jumped a line over a big half-round to a stone wall, then a left turn over a ditch - she disliked the lack of approach to the ditch - and a nice long gallop up the second, bigger hill. Over the brush, another hanging log, then loop back and over a white fence before swinging wide and jumping the ditch with a stone wall and log in the back of it. Then straight uphill to the skinny water trough, which rode really nicely!

On the first hill, there were a lot of trees and little paths, while the second hill was very sweeping and open. It made for a good combination - the trees on the first hill made the horse really focus on where you were telling them to go, while the big open hill really encouraged some nice forward movement. The uphills backed Pandora off just enough that she was with me the whole time. I never felt like she was trying to go too fast, but she was magnificently forward.

All in all I had such a positive, fun, educational ride. It more than makes up for my frustrating ride at the Foxhunt Derby last weekend, where I had a speed-demon partner rider and was fighting with Pandora the whole time to not go too fast.

Dressage lesson today, then next weekend is the eventing derbies at Inavale!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Summer - at a glance

This summer is shaping up to be a few months of immersion in horses.

The first weekend in June - AKA, immediately before finals - I am signed up for an eventing derby clinic on Friday, followed by the actual derby on Saturday. Derbies, if you'll recall from my post from last month, are a dressage test followed by a Stadium Jumping/Cross Country mix in a field. This will be our next eventing competition (other than the Hunter Pace I'm riding in tomorrow), and our second visit to Inavale. I'm excited to put all of our hard work to the test.

For five days, June 17 - 21, I will be at a Pony Club eventing camp down in Ashland. Talk about total immersion! Two riding sessions plus a horse management lesson per day. We will cover everything: dressage, gridwork, XC fences, roads & tracks (steeplechase/galloping), pacing, conditioning in general, care of your horse after riding, etc. I think after five days of that kind of intensity, two things will happen: one, I will be VERY ready for a break. And two, Pandora and I will have taken a big leap forward in our skill set!

After four short days to relax, I will be heading to the Inavale recognized HT. I will not be riding in it - that would be a lot to ask of Pandora, not to mention my checkbook - but I will be grooming for a friend. I am looking forward to getting the experience, learning how a recognized HT works, and getting a feel for the pacing and things. That way next year I will be more prepared when I ride in it!

Two weeks later, I will head off to the Inavale eventing camp for 3 days. This is the camp I had so much fun at last summer until I broke my ankle. Much of the same - two lessons a day, one SJ or dressage and one XC. At this camp, I am hoping to push my comfort levels, learn how to do some bigger and more complicated questions, and in general start taking us to the next level.

THEN, two weeks after that camp, I will head to a Pony Club Mega-Rating. I was really hoping to get my D3 at the club level so I could go for my C1 at this rating -- after all, I'll be coming off of two solid months of intense riding -- but the DC of my club doesn't sound like she wants to do that. It's frustrating for me and I will try to see what I can do, but I may be forced to get my D3 at this Mega-Rating and then go for my C1 in September. That is not as ideal because by September I'm already starting to wind down my riding in preparation for school, but you take what you can get, I guess. My Pony Club is pretty darn good, so I shouldn't complain.

As you can see, it's going to be an awesome summer jam-packed with eventing. Entering all these things sure sucked up a lot of money, but to me it's better to pay $200 for a five-day camp than to pay $200 for one show, which is what it would have cost to enter the Horse Trials.

I also plan to do plenty of low-cost rides, especially trail riding. And maybe sometime this summer I can figure out a way to take Pandora to the coast for a beach ride :)

Got any summer plans?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Combined Test

Phew, what a great day I had at that Combined Test. Not only did I have a fantastic day, I knocked out practically all of my May goals in one fell swoop.

A Combined Test is sort of quasi-eventing, I guess. It's a schooling show with an eventing dressage test and then a stadium course. So, eventing minus the fun part ;)

Our dressage test was mediocre. In warmup, Pandora was beautiful - relaxed, stretching into my contact, bending nicely, transitioning nicely, completely ignoring all other horses and the very colorful jumps set up in the outdoor arena we were riding in. Once we got to the indoor arena to perform our test, it wasn't quite as good. She is not a big fan of the judge's box in any way shape or form, which is unfortunate since it's the first thing you ride straight towards! This tells me we need practice riding straight towards scary things and ignoring them.

She was distracted so we lost more 'forward' than I was expecting, at two times actually breaking gait for a step (though the judge only caught one of them). Distraction aside, it's still the best test I've ever had, the previous two horses preferring giraffe and motorcycle impressions. We ended with a 40.5 (eventing dressage - it's like golf, not bowling), tied for 5th place.

We had a few hours until my stadium ride, so we camped out at the trailer in style. Pandora had a big ol' haybag and a bucket of water, and we were in the shade about 15 feet away. Dad brought a little propane BBQ so we had cheeseburgers. Yum! We also brought our young dog, who behaved wonderfully. He hung out at the trailer with us, respected the horses, and played fetch with blades of grass when he got bored. No, seriously. I actually threw pieces of grass and he would bring them back. We have it on video.

I got on a bit too early to warm up for stadium. Well, if they had been running on time it would have been fine, but they were about a half-hour behind schedule. Pandora, I've discovered, loves about a 5 - 10 minute warmup for jumping. Get in, w/t/c, jump a couple fences, and call it good. When you do it that way, she's light and soft and springy and fantastic. Unfortunately I was on her a little longer than she would prefer, but once I dismounted and stood with her, she stood patiently. I hopped back on just before my round and it worked fine.

Our jumping round was awesome! The fences at Inavale are both beautiful and spooky, so I was worried we'd have some 'forward' issues. Not a chance. She didn't hesitate at a single fence! None of our distances turned out particularly well, which is my fault - I have only practiced jumping once in the last month and a half, so I think I've just lost a bit of feel for pace. I could tell that I needed to have her moving with a little bit bigger steps so we made better distances, but overall we had a smooth pace and a good clean round. I was very pleased with her - she was soft, controllable, easy to steer, and honest about the fences.

We ended up with 4th place. Hooray!

Then we got to the fun part!!

I headed out to school some XC. I can tell we need more practice at rating in general on a cross-country course, but we definitely have a good baseline. I hopped over some low fences, then came to the water complex expecting to have to patiently insist for the next 40 minutes that she really could take a step into the water.

It took about 40 seconds.

After a brief and halfhearted protest, she went straight in and splashed straight out the other side. I trotted in, she trotted through. The next time I trotted in, she picked up a canter as she stepped into the water and cantered through. This water comes almost up to her chest.

I guess I have a water horse!

After that I practiced hopping over some little tiny ditches (no problem), then put together a couple short courses for myself. By the time I finished, I'd pushed myself to go over some larger fences, like the house you see me jumping in the picture in the last post (I'm jumping the larger house in the middle, not the coop that's nearest the camera). Those fences were either maxed-out Novice or tiny tiny Training, but my money's on novice. Either way, they were pretty big, and when I finally talked myself into letting Pandora have a decent pace coming in, we stopped chipping in and got a good distance.

Seeing a pattern here? Need more pace, need a longer stride, need to let her go a little's a good lesson for me to learn.

Overall it was a fantastic day and I love this girl more all the time. On Monday we're riding in a fun Hunter Pace/Foxhunt Derby, where you ride in teams around a set course but get to choose which height of fence you jump (if you jump at all). That'll be great because we can start out at our level and then pick a couple fences at Novice or small Training to jump too.

I will post this weekend with an overview of my summer horse plans. It's going to be an awesome summer!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Good Day

I'm too tired to write a real post.

But, I was at a Combined Test (dressage and stadium) at Inavale today. We ended up with 4th place out of 10ish, then I got to go school XC.

It was a good day.

Here's a preview.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Horses are Weird

Before I tell you exactly how my horse is weird, I just want to say that I had a fantastic dressage lesson on Saturday. I have been whining in my training log about how stuck I feel in dressage, simply because I've never taken a horse past this point before and I just don't know what to do without possibly messing things up.

This lesson really helped me get a glimpse of what comes up next, and gave me some good homework. I'll talk about it in another post soon, because I'm still digesting what I learned and felt. There was some pretty subtle stuff going on and I had to think about a million things at once, so we'll see how well I can recreate it at home!

Anyway. Horses are weird.

Pandora has been spooking at her water bucket lately. I kid you not. 15 gallon tub in the back corner, filled every evening, drinks most of it down every day.

I first noticed it sometime last week. I put her in her stall after working her, and expected her to go take a drink of water, as usual. She walked to that corner, snorted at her bucket, touched it with her nose and jumped, then sidled away and went to eat her hay.


I went and sat next to it, on her big salt block. After a moment's hairy eyeball, she wandered over to me. She touched the rim of the bucket firmly with her muzzle several times, then at last streeeetched her neck out to drink, keeping her body as far away as possible. She took a big, long drink, then quickly moved away.

I kept a close eye on her water consumption. She drank enough, but whenever she went to her bucket she'd approach cautiously, stretch her neck to drink, swallow a bunch of water, then immediately leave. Every time she went near it she'd do that rattling snort she makes when she sees something exciting or scary.

It was starting to bother me that she still was acting worried about her water bucket. My girl drinks a lot of water, and I definitely don't want anything limiting her drinking! So, this weekend I finally decided to move the bucket -- not sure why I didn't think of it before.

I dragged it up to the front of her stall, next to the door and where her hay goes. She couldn't avoid it, and it would be next to her hay, so I figured she'd warm up to it gradually.

As soon as I moved it there, she turned her head from where she'd been munching on hay, took a casual drink, and went back to eating.

Weird horse.

She drank almost the entire bucketful between that day and the next evening. I think her consumption has leveled out a little now.

I noticed she still acts wary of the corner it was in. I wonder if a bird flew in when she was drinking, or a horse in the arena kicked the wall when she was back there? Anyway -- I have no idea why she was acting that way, but problem solved and she's drinking properly now.

So I am sure you guys have horses just as silly if not more so than my girl. I want stories!
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