Sunday, October 24, 2010

Me and My Mare - Horsemanship Clinic Getaway

Work continues to be very stressful and demand long hours of me.  There has been little time for blogging or riding and it is going to remain this way through February. Every now and then, I have to TAKE some time to get away from work, and purposefully schedule some "Me and My Mare Time".  That's what I did a couple weeks ago. 

Misty and I attended a Debbie Bibb Horsemanship clinic and I had a blast focusing on my sweet mare.  It was a real bonding weekend for us.  The clinic was held at the CSU Equine Center in Fort Collins where we had a very nice, comfortable indoor arena in which to work and ride.

We started out with some ground control exercises, then rode a pattern to see where we are with our horses and what we need to work on.  We walked along the left side of the arena, turned right, through two orange cones, over ground poles ,then turned left around another cone and trotted to the far end of the arena where we did two big circles that formed a figure eight when put together, then we continued back down the long side of the arena, trotting serpentines through about 8 ground markers, then to the right where we came to a stop between two parallel ground poles, then we moved forward at a walk, turned right, came to a stop and backed up.

Other exercises during the weekend:

  • Controlling our horses feet and mind from the ground
  • Leading exercises to get in synchronization with our horse and control their stride as we lead them
  • Giving to the bit on the ground
  • Giving to the bit from the saddle
  • Riding exercises to help us with our seat and balance
  • Sitting trot, to learn to move with our horse and not against the horse
  • Emergency Stops
  • Moving our horse's shoulders and hips from the ground and from the saddle.
  • Walk, trot, and canter transitions
  • Lengthening and shortening our horse's stride

We had a competition during the lengthening/shortening exercise.  Four ground poles were placed to form a square (a box).  We practiced riding straight through the box to gauge how many strides our horse walks normally through the box.  Misty took 4 strides.  Then as the competition began, we had to state how many strides our horse would take to walk through the box on that 1st round, then each successive round we had to add an extra stride.   Sometimes strategy works if you lengthen your horses stride through the first round, then let them walk naturally (the easiest to predict and control) through the 2nd round.  It can give you the advantage of having an extra round before shortening the stride gets really challenging.  But sometimes it backfires.  Most of us started with our horses normal stride.  So first time through I said Misty would take 4 steps, and she did.  2nd time through I said she would take 5 steps; I shortened her stride and she took 5 steps inside the box.  Next time she took 6 steps.  If a horse takes fewer or more steps than you state, then you are out of the competition.   Misty and I won the competition with 8 strides through the box.  For fun we tried to do 9 strides,  but didn't quite make it.  She stepped outside the box on the 9th step.  

We did another fun challenge near the end of day 2.  Parallel poles were set up for us to ride through, forming a "shoot" (pictured above). We each took a turn riding up to the shoot, through the shoot, and beyond the the shoot.  For example, a simple instruction may be: "Ride a posting trot to the middle of the shoot, then ride a sitting trot out."  As we did this, we had to look ahead at Mark (Debbie's husband) and call out how many fingers he was holding up as we rode through this exercise.   Debbie gave each rider different instructions on each turn. These were instructions meant to challenge us individually.  My biggest challenge on my last turn was "trot up to the shoot (sitting or posting) and then in the middle of the shoot transition to a canter.   Misty and I are both new to cantering under saddle together and I've had a tough time getting her into a canter when I've tried it on my own in a large arena.  She just keeps trotting faster, faster, faster. (And the previous day, when we worked on walk, trot, canter transitions in a large circle, I worked only on our walk-to-trot and trot-to-walk transitions.  We aren't ready to canter in a circle and have only gotten into a canter a few times.)  So I was surprised when Debbie challenged me to canter.  I wasn't sure if I could get Misty to canter in the shoot, but we had been doing so well together all weekend, I decided to give it a try.  We trotted into the shoot, I asked her for the canter, and what did she do?  She immediately picked up a lovely canter!!!  I was really quite surprised.  We cantered forward for a few strides, then  back to the walk and I gave Misty lots of At-A-Girl pats on the neck and told her what a good mare she is. 

Near the end of the clinic, we repeated the riding pattern we started with, to see how we had improved in just 2 days.

I had a great time at the clinic.  Misty was super focused on me through all the exercises and I couldn't have been more pleased with her.  I love my mare!

It was a busy weekend and I didn't have time for pictures,  except for a few taken during our breaks.

During breaks we tied our horses to sturdy hitching posts outside the arena where they could relax and visit with their neighbor.

 Next to Misty is a 2 year old Holsteiner gelding, not yet started under saddle since he is young and still growing.  But his owner did just about everything from the ground that the rest of us did in the saddle, including the riding pattern by leading the gelding at a walk and a trot over poles, through and around cones,  and  in circles and serpentines.  It was a lot of fun to watch the youngster progress from being scared to walk into the building at the start of day 1, to trotting alongside his owner confidently through the patterns by the end of day 2. 

 Hitching posts double as scratching posts.

 That's the spot!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Misty's Monday Muse - Welcome Wagon

On her first day here my new roomie, Miss SaraJane, received a welcome gift from the Misters Pippin and Doc of  Living a Dream.  The boys'  Mrs. Owner was kind enough to deliver it for them; I think they were a little shy about meeting the new girl. 

Carrots (my favorite)!  Horse cookies! A cute card! All tied together with the ever useful baling twine!  I was so jealous!  Then SaraJane shared her treats with me and I got over it.

Thanks Pippin and Doc.  Your gift was well received and deliciously thoughtful.
SaraJane sends you carrot kisses.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

About SaraJane our Foster Filly

Misty was a lonely-only for several months this summer after her barnmate went to a new home.  I considered purchasing another horse, but decided against it.  I've made great progress with Misty since she has been an only-horse and she needs to remain my focus. My job is stressful and requires some long hours; upwards of 60 hours a week lately. The reality is: I don't have time to ride two horses.

But horses are herd animals and I didn't want Misty to be alone for long.  So SaraJane has come to live with us.  SaraJane belongs to a horse rescue and we are providing her a foster home. 

SaraJane and her herdmates were picked up last Spring by the rescue after receiving a phone call from a concerned individual who knew the horses were in jeopardy.  SaraJane and her herdmates were being kept in a junk filled pasture with no grass. They had not been fed in two weeks.  Their keeper did not care about them at all so fortunately relinquished them with no argument.

SaraJane is as sweet as they come.  She is a gentle soul who likes people.  She seeks people out, follows people around, and loves attention.  She is a beautiful rose gray color and cute as a bug's ear.  She is 2 years old and apparently had no hoof care her whole life.  She came to the rescue with a slipper foot, 8 to 12 inches long, on her left front hoof.

SaraJane's farrier told me when she walked, she rolled onto the outside of her deformed hoof.  She had no heel to support her weight and her frog - what there was of it - did not make contact with the ground.  He was not sure he could save her hoof, but started working on it little by little.  In four months time it began to resemble a normal hoof.  Below you can see her left hoof is still much smaller than her right hoof and her heel is contracted.  But at least she has a heel now.

SaraJane's hoof is a work in progress. She needs time to just hang out, receive regular hoof care, eat good food, and interact consistently with people.  Her future is a little uncertain, but the  rescue's veterinarian thinks she will eventually be suitable for light riding. Time will tell.  Until she is ready for more training or gets adopted, she is welcome at our home.  She is fitting right in and follows Misty's lead, even napping in one of Misty's favorite spots....the ditch-o-poo.

Misty napping in the poo last winter.

SaraJane napping in the poo today, as Misty stands guard.

A girl needs a warm, cozy spot to nap on a chilly morning.

Check back soon to see the adorable Welcome Wagon gift SaraJane received from two handsome admirers.