Misty and I had our 4th baking lesson with Sir Cowboy today.
I call them baking lessons because during lesson #1, Sir Cowboy called Misty a half baked cake. He said we need to turn up the heat and finish baking.
The heat is on and Misty and I are baking together. Stick a toothpick in us, and it will still come out with some batter on it, but we are progressing and on our way to becoming fully baked.
Lesson #1: We walked and trotted in the round pen, working on my use of reins and leg aids. Sir Cowboy evaluated my tack and made some adjustments and suggestions. He loaned me a breast collar and rigged up a makeshift flank set out of a light horse sized flank cinch, nylon straps and baling twine. (Baling twine...almost as versatile as duct tape.) It did the trick until a local saddle maker could make those items in draft size to fit Misty. It is hard to shop "off the rack" for Misty.
Lesson #2: We trotted a lot and did exercises around barrels. Sir Cowboy surprised me when he instructed me to put Misty into a fast trot around the round pen and kiss her into a lope. She kicked out a little bit the first time we moved into the lope. The furthest we loped was 1/2 way around the round pen. Loping under saddle is unfamiliar to Misty and it was the first time I had loped (cantered) in 25 years. Then we finished up with some trotting exercises so Misty could end the lesson with confidence.
During lesson #3, I was surprised Sir Cowboy didn't make us lope some more. Instead we did our turning and trotting exercises in the round pen. Then we ventured out of the round pen to the front pasture where Sir Cowboy had us trot through a line of poles suspended from a high wire. We worked on leg cues and releasing pressure through the poles. It wasn't pretty, but we did it with only one mishap. While turning around the end pole, Misty stumbled on some uneven ground and went down onto her front knees. Don't ya just hate it when that happens?! She recovered fine and I stayed in the saddle. Sir Cowboy said, "It's OK, she just tripped. You are riding a horse with big feet, you know." Next we walked over a wooden bridge Sir Cowboy uses for training. We walked over that bridge as if we had crossed it a thousand times. The next time over the bridge Sir Cowboy told me to stop Misty on top. No problem. Piece of cake (even if it is just half baked). But Sir Cowboy likes to challenge us. He told me to back Misty off the bridge. What? Back her off the bridge? We've ridden over these types of training bridges before, but always in one direction....forward! I'd never thought of backing her off of a bridge before. Misty was a little surprised with that first step backward off the bridge, but handled herself well. The next time, Sir Cowboy had me say the word "Step" to prepare her for the step down, much like I do when I back her out of her horse trailer. She stepped backward off the bridge with ease. I really need to have Mr. OnceUpon construct a bridge for us at home. I like riding over bridges. We ended that lesson by trotting a barrel pattern.
During the two weeks between lesson #3 and today's lesson, I've been practicing trotting in an arena, around barrels and through a line of orange cones. I've also been putting Misty into a lope on the lunge line often. That is something I have not done with her until the last 4 weeks. I've stayed in my comfort zone too long, lunging her at the walk and trot only and that's probably why she kicked out a little bit when we went into our first lope under saddle during lesson #2.
Lesson #4: Today we stayed in the round pen for the whole lesson. We started out with ground work to warm Misty up like we do at the beginning of every lesson. Then I mounted and we did some trotting. Sir Cowboy had me stop and get off while he made an adjustment to my saddle. He tied a rope onto the rings at the back of the cantle. I still tend to perch forward a little too much and he said this would help me get the feel of sitting deeper in the saddle and will give me confidence at the lope. He doesn't want me sitting back with my butt all the way in the saddle. He wants me sitting on my pelvic bones, with weight in the stirrups, but not pitched forward so much. He instructed me to hold the reins in my left hand, hold onto the rope behind my hip with my right hand, move to the rail at a fast trot and then move into the lope. Misty picked up the lope without kicking this time. We did this several times and she was very good, if only a little difficult to get into the lope because she was tired, and it is harder for a horse, especially a draft horse, to lope in a circle in a round pen. I was tired too and made some mistakes. One time Misty started trotting faster and faster, but wouldn't go into the lope and I felt a bit out of control. Sir Cowboy said I was tensing up and using my legs to tell her to lope, but was hanging onto her mouth at the same time; giving her mixed signals. We started over and I concentrated on moving my hands forward with her and not pulling back and we went right into a nice relaxed lope and traveled several times around the round pen. It was great and we are a little more baked.
Sir Cowboy wants me to practice loping Misty on my own when I take her to an arena. He told me not to lope around the corners, but to put her into a lope as we travel down the long side of the arena; start with a short distance and work up to loping the length of the arena. He told me to be brave and that I've got to turn up the heat to get to the next level.
I took MyLady on a ride through the neighborhood today, accompanied by a couple of my horsey friends and their humans. We've only cruised the neighborhood once before and that was exactly 1 year ago. It's sort of like a trail ride, but with a lot of strange and noisy things moving around; the kind of things that can worry a horse.
I had no problem passing the driveway culverts and the big green electrical boxes and the "house-for-sale" signs. The cars driving by me on the big road didn't bother me at all.
Then we turned onto one of the neighborhood side streets and I became distracted by all the activity on both sides of the street.
It was very windy on this street and there were flags flapping atop poles on both sides.
Humans were moving around in their yards. Some were traveling on their 2 legs, others were riding ATVs and noisy lawn mower machines.
There were horses on both sides of the street that caught my attention. One was running along his fence and calling to us. I've met him before. I think he wanted to join us.
I was pretty nervous as we left the street and rode into a big grassy field. When I get nervous, MyLady gets nervous. And when MyLady gets nervous, I get even more nervous. It's a vicious circle.
It wasn't so windy in this field and soon MyLady and I both began to relax and enjoy our ride. We circled a bunch of picnic tables. No big deal. Picnic tables don't eat horses.
Then we had to go back onto that street with all the busy humans. That's when I saw a REALLY, REALLY tall human, the tallest one I've ever seen, making a loud hissing noise as he spit white stuff onto the side of his house. I got nervous and MyLady didn't know why. Then she saw the really tall human too and said, "Oh Misty, it's just a man on a ladder spray painting his house." I was glad when we moved passed that scary, tall, spitting man.
The rest of the ride home was easy. The street we live on is much quieter. As we rode onto our home property, our next door neighbor came over and said he and his wife had seen us riding on the side of the road. They said from now on we don't have to ride on the road, but can pass through their property to get to the field behind us. That is so nice of them and gives us access to more riding area.
MyLady removed my saddle, brushed me, and turned me loose in my paddock. I was so glad to be home. I immediately found a spot in the sunshine, stood very still, cocked one back hoof and let my head down and my eyes got droopy. Mr. OnceUpon laughed at me because I got so sleepy, so quickly after getting home.
I've been a good mare during this holiday weekend.
Saturday I took my lady on a lovely trail ride through the pine trees
Sunday afternoon I rode in my rolling box to an arena where MyLady trotted me around orange cones and barrels. Whew, that was hard work.
Today we experienced strange sights and sounds in our neighborhood.
Yesterday I rode the trail horse I dream of owning.
Oh wait...I do own that horse! It was Misty!
Yesterday Misty and I went on a trail ride with two of our equestrian neighbors. It was only our 3rd trail ride of the year. The first two trail rides were good, but there were minor issues to work through.
Drainage culverts to cross where the dirt changes and horse-eating pipes protrude from each side.
Mountain bikers riding up behind us with little or no warning.
Tree stumps and gnarly wooded shapes that look like strange beasts.
Hikers with dogs off-leash
Misty trying to eat every pine tree we pass.
Regulating our pace along the trail. (Misty can be a speed walker)
Circles, circles, and more circles.
Motion sickness. (Don't eat lunch and drink soda pop shortly before riding a draft horse with a big, lumbering stride.)
But yesterday the ride was different. Within a few minutes along the trail I exclaimed, "I'm riding the trail horse I've dreamed of owning!" Misty was very calm and relaxed on a loose rein. I felt calm and relaxed, enjoying Misty's steady, rhythmic stride. The ride was beautiful and peaceful. We are making progress. And it was great fun to ride with friends.
Unfortunately I have no pictures. My camera is hiding from me. I know I could find it if I did some house cleaning. But right now, this bumper sticker from Horse Hollow Pressis my motto:
September is offering up some of the best riding weather of the year. We must take advantage of it. Soon enough, the snow will fall and there will be plenty of time for house cleaning then. (I promise Mr. OnceUpon).
I've loved horses all my life and owned several when I was younger. I showed in English Pleasure and Amateur Hunters in my 20s. Now in my 50s, following a long absence of horses, I've rekindled my passion. I have three equines at home - Misty, a Percheron mare, Lyra a mini horse and her daughter, Lola, a mini mule. We're an odd looking group, but we get along great.