Monday, July 28, 2014

Wishlist

am extremely happy to say that for the most part I have all of the tack that I need for Katai right now and it all fits, is in good shape, matches (at least for the most part), and works well. This means that I’m mostly able to focus on what I need/want which is absolutely wonderful since I used to feel like a homeless person when I went to the barn wearing old, baggy, stained t-shirts and old, baggy, stained breeches that sometimes had holes in them. Since then I’ve come a long way and have six, yes SIX, pairs of nice breeches that fit and don’t have stains or holes. I’ve also been stocking up on polo shirts, from Goodwill mainly, and have five or six nice tops to wear to the barn but let’s face it, that’s not a lot especially in the summer when I don’t dare wear a barn shirt more than once before I wash it. So I’ve been doing some shopping :)

 

Katai:

Thankfully right now I only have one item on my tack wishlist and that is for an ergonomic girth from Total Saddle Fit. 


http://totalsaddlefit.com


Katai’s girth groove and size mean that she always hits her girth with her elbows on every stride. I’ve tried several different standard girths in different lengths, thicknesses and shapes and she has the same issue with all of them. Luckily it doesn’t seem to bother her much and she doesn’t show any rubs or marks but to me it looks like it would be uncomfortable and I don’t want to wait until there is an issue to try to fix this. The girth I’m using right now is very low profile and long enough that when she is girthed up she doesn’t hit the buckles but it still looks really uncomfortable. I don’t particularly have trouble with the saddle riding forward on her and it pretty much stays where I put it but I think this girth would be worth a try especially with the 30 day 110% money back guarantee.

 

Of course if I decide to go this route it will mean that my girth was more expensive than my pony but hey, if it works.

 

Me:

SmartPak Wishlist:



Horze Wishlist:


Can you tell I like socks?

Tonight I had another excellent ride on Katai. She was so so good and although I lost steering and forward at various times she also tried the whole time and didn't get so sensitive and upset about my minor corrections when I tried to tell her that something she was doing wasn't what I was looking for. She is getting really strong too so she gets less frustrated when I ask her to do things that used to be hard for her.



Just look at that nice foamy mouth!


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Houdini Pony

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this on this blog before or not but Katai is apparently an escape artist. I believe that at the previous barn it was mentioned to me that once or twice they had found Katai in a different pen especially when they were swapping around where horses were located but once they put up a strand of tape that was closer to the ground she stayed where she was supposed to.


At the current barn J had mentioned to me that Katai has been ducking under gates and I was disappointed. It’s just one more thing to have to worry about and it would always be nice if your horse/pony was just a good citizen and didn’t try to wreck anything, escape, or otherwise cause any problems.

On Sunday when I went to ride I noticed that Katai was still in the dry lot all by herself. I was a little concerned but since I knew she had been escaping before I assumed that a student had found her where she wasn’t supposed to be and put her there just to be safe. However, apparently Katai’s previous motivation for getting out was the grass. After she kept sneaking under the gates, which didn’t have the lower strand of tape to keep her in, several times she figured out where the boys are housed. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that Katai is hugely boy crazy. Like seriously nuts over cute guys and most particularly she goes straight for the leader, like Every. Time.

 

J, understandably frustrated, put second lower strands on all of the gates that Katai had access to so that she wouldn’t be able to escape any more but now that Katai had figured out where the boys live she wasn’t going to be deterred. I asked J how she had managed to get over/through/under the new double strand gates and J said that so far no one has seen her do it. Hence pony prison.

 

J brought it up to me by saying “Your pony is incredibly horny”. Hmmm, yeah that doesn’t surprise me. Apparently one of the geldings, named Conquest, who was gelded late is so interested in her that he won’t eat and gets aggressive around the other geldings when she is in their pen. She squeals, flirts, rubs herself on them and basically just makes a fool out of herself.

 

The situation is tough on me because since I’m used to keeping my horse(s) on my property and taking care of them myself I feel extremely responsibly for her naughty behavior. Of course there is nothing I can do and I’m paying board to someone to deal with this type of thing. I’m sure Katai isn’t the only pony/horse that’s done things like this and since J has to deal with cribbers, kickers, muzzling the fatties etc. It’s not like this is especially bad and so far Katai hasn’t broken anything, just managed to find a way under or through.

 

On Wednesday I went out to check on Katai's eye and luckily it was almost completely better. I was so relieved and glad I listened to a friend and didn't call the vet right away. Eyes are just something I don't feel like you should take any chances with. Unfortunately on Wednesday I was unable to ride because I was moving my couch to the new apartment and because of Katai's eye and moving and I've been sick as well with some sort of crazy lung cold where I can't stop coughing so I decided to cancel my lesson on Thursday. I was disappointed to do it but between being sick and only having a chance to ride once since my last lesson it really didn't make sense to try to get anything productive done in a lesson. 


Then since I didn't ride Thursday or Friday, I had plans, today I was really ready to see her again. I can't believe how much I missed her and I feel like it was mutual. She came right up to me with her ears pricked and was so quiet and well behaved in the barn even though we were the only ones there. I then proceeded to have the BEST ride on her that I've had. She was ready to go and trotting with rhythm but she listened to every half halt and I was getting some wonderful bend around the circles since she was listening to my leg just beautifully. She even had wonderfully soft white foam.



This pony is really mine and not going anywhere :)



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Consistent

1.     Definition of consistent (adj)

Bing Dictionary

con·sis·tent

[ kən sístənt ]

 

1.  coherent: reasonably or logically harmonious

2.  reliable: able to maintain a particular standard or repeat a particular task with minimal variation

3.  with common solutions: having a set of solutions in common, especially for two or more equations or inequalities

 

I have been doing a great job of being consistent in working with Katai. The past few weeks I’ve ridden 4-5 days a week, mostly it’s been 4 days a week, and she has been mostly great. Sunday’s ride was particularly good and while getting her to do things consistently during our ride is still a challenge, hey green baby horse, she has moments where it all comes together.

 

She has gotten really good about reaching into the contact which means I have more control of her balance and I’m able to pick her up from a nice long stretch into a more upright balance where I can start to feel her step under herself and push from behind rather than pulling herself around by her front end. J is also having me work on getting her to crawl at the walk which means that she moves one foot at a time as I ask, extremely slowly. It is a way for me to get control of every foot which J says I need to progress.

 

We are making progress with having her move off my leg as well. In fact she is getting sensitive enough to the leg cues that I need to improve my balance and riding position so that I don’t keep asking her to do things I don’t want. Little bugger just learns way too quickly. I need to get her to slow down to my level :P, in fact, she is almost doing walk pirouettes albeit very babyish ones.

 


Finally, we are working a lot on transitions. She gets really stuck at a certain speed, right now either trot or walk, and then doesn’t want to listen when I ask for either the slower or faster speed. This just needs some fine tuning and relaxed work since if I focus too much on them she gets tense and throws her head.

 


What I find really interesting about all of this is the order that we are teaching Katai different movements/abilities/expectations. In the past trainers that I have would focus on the simple stuff first. Things like walking and trotting patterns would have been the first thing we completed with her and we would have probably been doing things like practicing intro tests and maybe even starting some canter. With J, however, the focus is on correct work first and foremost. Before we ever even walk a circle we need our walk to be correct, our steering to be there, have the ability to stretch down into contact, etc. I am learning SO much so quickly and I can see how if I were just to let her do incorrect work now it would be that much harder to teach her how to do things correctly in the future. Right now because she is so green she just assumes that the correct way is the only way and her muscle memory will capture that correct movement and hopefully retain it so that she always, or almost always, moves in the proper way. If I were to let her bop around a circle like a green horse she would start to assume that was the correct way and in a year, or two, when we decided to teach her to carry herself properly she would be frustrated and confused wondering why we were changing things. I just find it really interesting to see how incredibly good she is at some things already when she’s only been really ridden consistently since late May/early June. I am also soooooo glad that I sought help when I did. I was pretty aware of what I was qualified to teach her and I got it just about right :)


Unfortunately tonight when I went to the barn to ride I noticed right away that something was off about her left eye and when I got closer I saw that it was a little swollen and she obviously didn't want to open it. Luckily Haley was at the barn with me and she has completed four years of vet school recently so I was able to ask her opinion. She suggested I flush it with saline and give it a day to heal before I decide whether to call the vet. I will update tomorrow when I go out and check on her. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

From The Heart

Long and mushy post to follow so if you want to skip to the lesson update it’s at the start of paragraph 7. 

 

I’ve known for a while that I never get that attached to animals, even close pets. I rarely, truly involve my heart in their care. I believe that this started because I grew up on a farm and so I learned from a very young age about death and suffering, there is really no nicer way to put it. I saw lambs that I had fed from birth die for no apparent reason and baby bunnies that I had saved and spent hours with getting eaten by one of our pet cats. I also was taught how to raise an animal for meat. These are things that the majority of people never experience especially from such a young age and in many ways I know it made me a stronger person but it also taught me to keep my heart out of things.

 

Of the eight horses I’ve owned I only ever really loved one of them and that was Sora. Even with her, when she was hurt and I had to make some tough decisions I pulled away and insulated my heart so that by the time I lost her it was only really painful for a few days. I’ve actually always been happy and even kind of proud that I don’t get hurt and don’t mourn the loss of pets/horses like other people do. It was reading Viva Carlos that made me start to question myself. At first when I started reading J. Williams' blog  after she lost Carlos I was extremely heartbroken for her but at the same time I was sort of proud that I’d never gone through that myself. However, the longer I followed her blog and the more I read the more I started to wonder why I’ve never felt that way. Was it because I handle grief differently or was it because I’d never really loved any of the horses that I’ve owned. Maybe the reason that I’d never felt real grief when they moved on to different homes, which is of course different than having to make the decision to put them down, was because I’d never really let myself get attached to them in the first place.

 

This is a topic that I’ve spend a lot of time thinking about recently and I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that since my teens I’ve never really let myself get attached to, or love, any animal or pet that I’ve owned. I’ve always done my best to keep my heart out of the way. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’ve slowly learned, while dating of all things, how to open up my heart and love someone even though there is the possibility of getting hurt and it is ultimately a good feeling, a better feeling than just keeping myself from getting attached. I bring this up now in this blog because I feel I’m at a crossroads with Katai.


 

Down one path I put some more training into her, find her a little girl and use the money from that sale to buy myself something else.  I’m not exactly sure why I would do this other than to get something a little taller, and I do mean a little taller because I absolutely adore this height range. I’d love to be able to afford a fancy GRP with warmblood movement in a small package but that unfortunately won’t be in my price range. Right now since I don’t really know how talented Katai is I don’t know if I could afford something with more talent.

 

Down the other path I keep her, ride her, train her, show her, and learn how to get truly attached to her. This path is scary to me for several reasons but especially because I don’t know what the future will bring. I can only partially trust any advice I get from anyone on her ability to do dressage because all they can see is her height or maybe her coloring. She is not what anyone of the people I know, who own warmbloods or quarter horses, would want so of course they advise me to sell her and get something different. That means that the only way for me to figure out if she has what it takes to get to 2nd or 3rd level, which would be where I’d like to ride at eventually, is my knowledge and I don’t have a lot of that at this point. Of course there is also the possibility that I will put my heart into her and she will top out at 1st or, and I doubt it, training. That, of course, doesn’t make this the wrong path but again it does make it tough for me since I like to keep my heart out of it until I KNOW that things will work out. I think Katai is incredibly talented and I see her doing things that people say are good signs such as her easy balance at the canter and the fact that it has always been easy for her to canter at the drop of a hat, even on the lunge. She is built uphill and has reasonably good, balanced confirmation especially for a mutt pony :) She balances on her hindquarters more naturally than any horse I’ve owned and her penchant for rearing, more of a Lavade, means that she does naturally balance her weight on her haunches.

I’ve even heard one of the instructors at the barn, while watching Katai pull her lavadeesque naughtiness on J comment that “she tucks under well” which was said in an excited and impressed way. Ultimately I’m more likely to hold us back than Katai and I realize this as well.

 

Right now I feel like I’m about 80% - 90% sure that I’m going to head down the second path but I need a little more time to think about it and commit.

 

All of this is funny to go over right now because I had a horrible lesson last Thursday. Katai was absolutely convinced that she didn’t want to work with us and was resisting absolutely everything we asked for. I believe that she was in heat again due to a new mare being added to her pen. She seems to get tight and sore when she is in heat, and of course crabby which I can relate to, which leads to her trotting around with her head in the air stiff as a board. I also blame myself because it has been proven to me time and again that all she really needs is consistency and last week I was completely unable to provide that because of stuff going on in my life. Since that lesson I’ve had two good rides on her and I finally moved from my old apartment to the new one on Monday so my life should settle down again. Yesterday she was absolutely fantastic and we had the best, maybe only, real stretchy trot that we’ve had. She did it nice, and slow, and uphill in both directions.


I couldn’t stop grinning.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

VCBH: Interested Parties

So way back in week seven of this tortuously long blog hop I have going we talked about the Pros of our current horse. Some of us experienced these pros after buying our horse. Now I am curious, what made you interested in your current horse that lead you to buying them in the first place?

This is a really interesting idea for a blog hop topic! 

I always end up with horses based on some weird turn of events. I've never had a "normal" horse shopping experience where I tried multiple horses, had a checklist, budget, PPE etc. and Katai was no different. I'd had a couple of tough decisions to make about horses such as the decisions after Sora hurt herself and deciding that Myshla was just too small. I'd decided after having Myshla that I wanted a pony and since I still owned Myshla and didn't really want a second horse I was only casually looking. I was looking through Horse Clicks and stumbled over an ad with this picture. 
The ad listed a 13.1 hand pony for sale at $400. It stated that she was untrained and half Haflinger. She also just happened to be about half an hour north of where I was living at the time. I held out. I KNEW that I didn't need another horse, I really didn't want to start and train another myself after dealing with Sora's issues and I really wanted a pony that was closer to 14 hands.

A few months later as I was getting more convinced I could handle having two horses and was also pretty sure I was going to find a little girl home for Myshla I decided to start looking more seriously. I wasn't having much luck with the searches I was doing so I lowered the height I was looking for and there she was again. At that point I had nothing to lose by going to see her and I was pretty sure that since it was going into winter, late September, and she had been listed for a few months that her owner may be willing to take a deal.

I went to see her and I wouldn't say I was blown away but she was what I was looking for. She was reasonably calm and despite having not been handled much, or correctly, she picked things up pretty quick. I asked for her to yield her shoulder and she thought quietly about it and although she resisted a little she figured it out without a blow up. I could do almost nothing other than lead her so I played around with groundwork as much as I could. It was her mind and her Haflinger heritage that actually sold her. 

That and the fact that her teenager owner accepted a trade of a whole bunch of extra, horse sized English tack for her instead of cash :)


After her purchase I struggled with several things including intermittent lameness, rearing, lack of any ground manners, two 4+ hour trailer loading experiences, and much worse/tighter/shorter gaits than I hoped she'd have.


 The lameness turned out to be thrush which is now completely gone, the training issues went away with, guess what, training and time, and her gaits have improved immensely now that her feet feel better and she's got some strength. She went from a fairly naughty, headstrong pony with attitude to one of the quietest, bravest, calmest, smartest equines that I've ever had the pleasure to work with. She also grew around an inch and is now 13.2 1/2 - 13.3 hands


My plan was, and has always been, that I COULD train her for a little kid. Get a good return on investment and buy myself something else but honestly, this pony has stolen my heart. I'd hoped from the beginning that I'd keep her and earlier this week I had a whole post typed up about how I know she is my heart horse and how I plan on doing just that but then it disapeared. She has made riding fun for me again after a few bad or scary experiences. I no longer want to go to the barn because I love horses or know I need to train her or myself, now I'm going because I want to ride HER, spend time with HER. 


I need to get new pictures since she is really developing a top line and has filled out a lot since even the most recent photos I've posted. I'll try to post an update after my lesson on Thursday!