Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Barn Brag

I ADORE my new barn. It is so wonderful here and just so much more friendly than the last barn. I didn’t even realize how cold and clinical that place felt until I moved out here. The other improvement that I’m most happy about is how everything at this new barn is set up how it should be for horse owners. Nice big strong clips on all the gates (rather than having to mess with a chain getting wrapped around the gate and then clipped), Convenient cross ties, handy muck buckets, saddle racks everywhere, and the ability to leave a little bit of a mess if your safety requires it.


Everyone has been so welcoming and it’s so nice having other dressage riders around!


Katai is in a semi private paddock with one other small Arabian mare. That mare is most definitely in charge but Katai is good in situations like that because she reads other horses well and is sensitive enough go get out of the way and not enrage boss mares (sounds like her owner). Apparently this Arabian mare has had some issues getting along with other horses in the past but she and Katai seem to be doing really well together. There is also some talk about moving her to a different stall. I’m both happy and slightly concerned about this since the new stall is much nicer, closer to the tack room, and has a lower front so Katai won’t have her head craned around to see out all the time. The negative is that it’s pretty much in the busiest part of the barn which means either Katai will thrive with that much going on, like a good tv show sometimes, or not. Basically as an owner it’s a nicer stall but not necessarily as a horse.


The footing has also been getting nicer and nicer. At first it was a little packed, opposite problem of the last barn which was always a little too deep, but now a little has been added and it’s been ridden in enough that it is getting way nicer. 


The ability to ride outside and around the property is also really nice. It reminds me of when I was growing up and we would go on adventures. Katai and I have gone out once but just for a short trail ride and it was so much fun! None of the craziness that was the busy biking/walking/running/rollerskating/baby crying/icecream stand trail that was the only place to ride outside at the last barn. Here I feel comfortable going out alone which is nice especially since I usually end up at the barn at odd times so it’s tough to consistently have anyone else to ride with.


I’m so glad that I made the decision to move and, knock on wood, hope to be here for a long long long long time :-)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Making Plans: Lesson Recap 9/27

So sorry for being such a bad blogger recently. I'm still trying to figure out my schedule and we are understaffed at work so there's no way that I have the time to blog from there. I've been riding consistently five days per week and doing a great job of sticking to my schedule. I'm especially proud this week since I got almost got derailed by a migraine on Wednesday and still managed to get five rides in! With those five rides, dates, and doing adult things like buying groceries and cooking food so that I don't have to eat out all the time I feel like I've got very little time. Now I just need to get a blogging schedule figured out around my riding :-)

The good news about all of this is that we are making real, actual, tangible progress.

For so long I've felt like we are on the struggle bus and yes, making some improvements such as that pony stopped rearing, but not much that was really visible to most people watching. It's part of why I haven't posted video because honestly it's just been making me feel fucking depressed.

(Pictures are good moments from the bad video)

I was feeling especially bad about myself after a crummy ride on Thursday where after Katai's extra day off and having stayed in all day due to rain she was stiff and just not wanting to move. Of course I'd chosen to video myself that day and so the resulting video made me feel like giving up.

For about two hours.

And then I moved on and really looked at what was happening on the video. I watched it through, cringing, but thought about what L would have been saying as I was riding if it were in a lesson and I realized that while I've been thinking I've "got" certain things down it's just that they've improved. They aren't actually to where I thought they were yet but I actually do have the tools to get us there.

With that analysis I went to the barn the next day and really RODE my horse. Every step I chose what we were doing and kept making instant, small, gentle corrections. Every time I felt her just barely beginning to get hollow I'd make a small correction and bring her back before we were at the head flinging in the air stage. I kept her bent, I kept her at the same speed, and I kept her back up and I had a sort of epiphany that when I'm always letting her change her balance she never is balanced and that makes her feel panicky and like racing around. If instead I'm more firm about her staying the same balance she can get comfortable there.

Part of this is that I was riding more this way about 6 months ago but I was doing it in a very strong, forceful way and that was pissing Katai off. She also didn't have the skills or strength to go there at that point so it was just making her more upset and defensive. In some ways I've actually needed to get to a point where I was riding less and letting her do more as she developed that strength for us to be able to get back here but we are definitely at a point where I should be riding more consciously now.

Today for my lesson I planned ahead and got to the barn with plenty of time. At one point I was trying to keep my warm up to a minimum because Katai was getting tired by the end of the lesson and I didn't want to push it even longer. Now though she is getting to a point where I can have her warmed up before my lesson and able to start right in on more difficult stuff. When L showed up she was really impressed and started off saying how amazing Katai looked. She let us go for a little while and then said that we were looking so good that she wanted to start working on lateral work! Yay!!! She also decided that we were doing so well that she didn't want to climb on for this lesson.

For most of the lesson we worked on getting my body in the correct position for spirals in and out. She doesn't want me cheating anymore and steering her or pushing her in with my leg and wants it to properly come more from my body. Then we took those skills and used them to help me cue the canter correctly on the spiral while on the way out to the edge of the circle. Going to the right I had a tough time and that is also Katai's tough side for canter. One time I even had my body so perfectly wrong that she instantly picked up the counter canter. We did get two good transitions that way though and then I got two great ones in the other direction and we called it quits so that my amazing progress pony could get a break before she started feeling to fatigued.

One of the best parts of the lesson for me, other than a perfect left lead canter depart that had L grinning from ear to ear, was that after watching us for a few minutes at the beginning of our lesson she said that if she keeps going like this we could start out showing training next year and dabble at first!!! She said that Katai would be in a great place compared to some rated tests that she's seen at training level as long as we can continue to make improvements in a couple of areas. I've got homework, namely not allowing Katai to throw my weight to the outside of the circle and to practice picking her up at the walk and then giving her the rein again. She wants me to do this a lot so that it no longer offends princess pony and she just expects that its part of the routine.

I really thought I was going to be starting out at intro at a schooling show and maybe possibly doing a training level test at the end of the year. Training with a possible Level 1 test at the end of the year is more than I even thought we could accomplish next year but with how she is feeling I have complete confidence that as long as the wheels don't fall off the wagon before then we'll be able to do it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

WWLS: Lesson Recap 9/20

I adore my trainer. We are making so much progress and I'm enjoying every lesson. She has been so good at helping my identify what I need to work on and making me feel enabled to make those changes.

On Sunday we started out with L having me pick up contact at the walk and keep Katai's speed the same. At first she used to throw her head in the air, get hollow and freak out but it's slowly become better and now she just tries to rush and eventually work her way into a trot. As I was working on this the first time L actually said "She's too good of pony to let her get away with this." It was such an amazing thing to hear about my pony especially after the way that J treated both of us. It was so encouraging to hear that she has some talent after all and that it's not just me that believes in her completely. 

That walk work set the trend for the lesson and that was that we were going to get speed and rhythm above all else, then bend through her body, and finally good contact. L pointed out that sometimes I settle for pleasant and don't push for great work. I agree completely but it was good to have that pointed out to me because I didn't even realize until she said that. 

The other thing that we both identified is that at times I just sort of give up and try to hand off control to Katai. Except she has no idea what we're doing. Sort of like the person leading the dance just throwing their hands in the air and telling their less experienced partner good luck. Anytime I do this, of course, Katai has no idea what to do so we really falter and L pointed out a few times I do this consistently such as changes of direction.

By about 5-10 minutes in we were getting really good work. I'm still getting used to/enjoying it not taking the whole lesson, and I was really figuring out how to get a consistent speed. Funny how when my coach says I'm going to do something I can do it but on my own I just sort of coast along thinking man wouldn't that be nice. That same sort of thought during the lesson led to me saying I was going to make a WWLD bracelet and then she said it should be WWLS for What Would L Say. 

I really think I need one :)

We were getting a nice enough and consistent enough trot for us to be able to work on canter and that went well as well but we've got some new evasions. It sounds like L is probably planning on riding her at my next lesson so I'm hoping that she'll have some canter specific feedback for me. I can't wait!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Human Analysis

I've had a couple of not so good rides this week on Tuesday and Wednesday. Don't get me wrong, compared to where we were about a month ago we were still ahead but she was beng resistant again and our biggest improvement lately is that she'd mostly given that up. For that past couple of weeks she has consistently been more reasonable and when she has resisted it's been for individual movements rather than a whole ride and once we've moved past that moment she doesn't bring it up again. She been a really grown up pony and that lack of resistance has meant that I've actually been able to get things accomplished since I don't lose whole rides to pony-tude.

That's why going backwards a bit in just that one area this week has been depressing. I got through the ride on Tuesday, hoped it was the weather or that she was cycling but then after a repeat ride on Wednesday I realized that that was not the case. 
So on the half hour drive home on Wednesday I analyzed what I thought was going on and came up with three things. 
1. I was riding too much with my hands.
I think it's always going to be my natural instinct to go to our hands to fix a problem and I used to only ride with my hands. I've gotten so much better at riding back to front but I failed at that both days that things went wrong. L has me working more on consistent contact so since I'm concentrating there suddenly it seems like that can fix everything.
2. I was going into my meditative mode and tiping forward like a rag doll and thus throwing off pony's balance and causing her to rush around on the forehand.
When I start concentrating I stare at a point that gets lower and lower and slowly topple forward led by my head. Sometimes I think that if I weren't pulled out of that meditative state I'd probably just fold completely over and eventually end up like this.

Failing hard at the dressagez
3. That whole relationship thing. 
I'm just not an especially soft, sweet, cuddly person and, while I did have my Black Stallion moments when I was growing up, I'm an eventer born and raised. Pony crosses me and she knows about it and that's why she's become such a good citizen. Every once in awhile though I feel like she's concerned that some Pony Council is going to kick her out of the Pony Club unless she pulls some proper pony attitude. Her go tos are little things, since she knows I won't stand for big stuff, and are usually things like trying to turn around in the cross ties for no reason, refusing to go to one end of the arena for a few minutes, or (what she knows really gets my blood boiling) trying to climb on the mounting block.

She started this behavior about a year ago when she was young enough to not know better and I dealt with it then and thought that I'd defeated it. It's surfaced intermittently ever since just like the trash monster in Star Wars.
She's never gotten away with it, I've never thrown my hands in the air and not ridden, in fact all she's ever gotten out of it is a lot of lateral work and then a normal ride. Therefore, since she's smart, I've come up with the pony council theory.
On Tuesday she decided to pull this stunt. She lines up to the mounting block, I climb up, and then she slowly walks perfectly sideways over it which puts it under her belly which then pushes me off - or knocks me off. Or she puts her foot on the first step when I walk her over to it and tries to smush the mounting block or maybe her goal is this maneuver.

At any rate she gets lots of sideways work with her shoulders and lots of gentle and progressively firmer lateral work until she gets the point that putting her shoulders into me is a no go. Then we go back to that mounting thing and it normally works.

We repeated the same situation on Wednesday.

Tonight she started getting tense and tight through the jaw (her stubborn pony face) on the way to the mounting block but I had already decided that I wasn't going to handle it the same way I did on Tuesday and Wednesday. Instead I stopped her before we ever got there and, very much like a girl in one of those bad horse movies that we all loved (who am I kidding, I still love them), I put my hand on her neck and talked to her. Told her that we were going to get along tonight, "lets work as a team", etc. (can you tell I work in HR?) and petted her and cooed to her until I saw her relax. Then I led her to the mounting block and she stood stock still for me to mount while staying relaxed.

Then, thanks to me also making improvements in the other areas, we had a really wonderful ride. She was right back to being sweet and not overreacting to things. She was forward but not fast and listening to both my legs and the contact. She wasn't trying to pull the reins out of my hands but also wasn't ducking. It was actually pretty magical and I hope that we have a similar ride tomorrow morning :-)


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Book Review: Light and Easy Dressage by Penny Hillsdon

I bought this book only because I was hanging out the a local Half Price Books store while they were tallying up the total offer on some books that I was selling them. I was in the horse section and then the sports section and was looking at a different dressage book that was more pictures rather than instructional. When I put that one down I saw this one, picked it up to look over, and it just looked friendly enough that I decided to try it out and I'm so glad that I did!

This is probably one of my favorite Dressage books that I've read recently and I read it from cover to cover in about a week.

To start off, let me just say that it's probably not for everyone. It may be a little touchy feely for some of you but for me it was amazing. I'm already a perfectionist and this is something that I ultimately do for fun so the typical language of dressage books can be discouraging to me. Especially when they're talking about flying changes by something like chapter 4-5. It's easy to get the message that if you can't do it perfectly you just shouldn't do it but this book isn't like that at all.

The writer routinely talks about how it's ok to make mistakes as long as you analyze and go back to try again. She talks a lot about the relationship with the horse and about not bullying them or expecting more than they can give. She takes on a very fun, relaxed and comforting tone while still making sure that she makes her point about how certain things are necessary or other things should be avoided at all costs.

I loved that the entire book felt like it was at a level that made sense for me and, while she talks about things like counter canter and shoulder in which is above our pay grade at this point, that means that the whole book was useful while still feeling like there was room to stretch and grow. I actually go so much out of the explanation about canter transitions that I've changed how I'm cueing and have been able to get Katai to take the correct lead about 9 times out of 10 when before, to the right she was only correct about 2 times out of 10.

She makes some great points that I needed to hear about how certain things are like bullying the horse and that, while expecting a quick upward transition is great and will be necessary, when you are starting out you need to give them time to react. This and many other things in the book made me think and gave me things to work on.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone in Intro through maybe somewhere around 1st level and while I think that all riders could gain insight from this book I think it would be most valuable for the lower levels which is what it was really written for.

I would give this book 5 stars out of 5 for the truly encouraging tone, lovely exercises, and fun writing.

Lesson Recap: First at the New Barn

My - Pony - Is - A - Superstar!

Me....not so much. (Photos are from Wednesday night)

But really, we had an amazing lesson. Katai is getting better so much more consistently and she has given up the worst of her fight and is just staying so much more relaxed. She's also understanding contact better and not getting back to that sewing machine trot that was haunting us for so long.

L is impressed and that makes me happy because she is someone who is tough to impress.

We started out the lesson a bit early since her previous lesson was getting worn out because her horse was not reacting to the new arena well (she also just moved to this barn) so L and I started talking while I warmed up. I brought up that I'd really like to start showing next year and L is thankfully on board. She actually brought up rated shows, when I was just thinking schooling, and didn't want to commit to me starting in intro level!!! She said that we should see how things go over the winter, reminded me that we have eight months, and said that we should see where we are before we start talking about which level to start at. It's so encouraging to me when the expert seems to think that we may not need to start at ground zero based on our progress this winter.
Lookit how much better her underneck is!!

Then we got into the meat of the lesson and started working at the trot. L was happy with how she was to start off today which I think is a first! It certainly helps that I've been riding more consistently lately but I think Katai is also finally starting to understand her job. I think that the improvement in our relationship is a huge part of this too since I'm not picking fights with her and she's starting to realize that I'm not going to. I'm also focusing on rewarding her more which is really, really helping more than I ever would have thought it would. She is a bit of a diva and really likes the verbal praise more than any horse I've ever worked with in the past so that's working for us as well.

After a really decent set of trot circles and some of the most balanced changes of direction that we've done we took a walk break and then when we went back to a trot L added something new. She said that she wanted to work on our transitions. I think this was partially based on our conversation from earlier but it could have been on the docket anyway. She said that it's time to start working on balance in those transitions which will help keep her from throwing her head in the air and getting bent out of shape about them. To work on this she had me make a 20 meter circle and then make a really small (smaller than 10 meter circle in this case since I have a small pony) against a wall and as we were heading towards the wall either make the transition up or down.
Why you no pet me humon?

After the first couple of times I realized that I always throw the transition at her and hope for the best and really just stop riding entirely until we are back at a comfortable rhythm. This made me really stop and think and make sure I was riding her in a nice, consistent bend and asking her inside leg to really come up under her body for the transition. We started with her less balanced side so she got a little bent out of shape initially but after a brief break we tried again and had some really nice moments. On the other side she did even better so eventually L had me try a transition on a more normal 20 meter circle and it was great! She wants me to do more sitting trot in and out of the transitions so that I have more tools to actually ride them rather than throwing them at Katai.

Then, after another nice walk break we went to the canter. I had told L that I think I finally figured out my canter transition cue because Katai has been taking the correct lead in both directions and just doing a much better transition. She wanted to watch and see what she could add to it. I did the first one and it was a little rough but she took the correct lead and the rest of the transitions we did were excellent!! I told her that I was doing exactly what she had been telling me but that I had read it in a book and the way they described it finally clicked :-)

Speaking of that we also talked about clinics and clinicians while I walked Katai out and it sounds like there's a really good one coming to our barn either later this winter or early in the spring. L encouraged me to audit and see if I'd like to take a lesson with  her the next time she's out here and I'm really excited to do so!
Starting to feel like home

Finally, can I just rave about my new barn for a minute! It is so amazing and the people are just so nice. Katai is finally getting the level of care that I've been wanting and that's basically just someone taking her best interest in mind and doing the little things. I had noticed on Saturday when I rode that her left eye was slightly goopy. I cleaned it off, thinking she just got some dust in it, and when it didn't look swollen or like she was squinty or anything I just went ahead and turned her back out after our ride. When I got there today though someone had been wonderful enough to put a mask on her. That would never have happened at the last barn and it was just so thoughtful. Then when I saw the owner and thanked her I also asked her opinion about next steps since her eye was more goopy today rather than less. I grew up on a farm so my tendency is to wait fairly long to call the vet and as the new person at the barn the last thing I want is to have someone think that I'm not providing my horse with good care. She also felt that it made sense to wait a bit longer but said that she had some ointment and then not only found it for me but got it into Katai's eye with minimal fuss despite Katai not being easy about it. She was kind and gentle but firm with her and it makes me so confident to know that she is caring for my horse. I've really never had a BM before that is like this.

I'll try to get more barn pictures soon but they are still in the moving in process so there are some areas that are still kind of a disaster and I don't want to share until things are going more normally so that it is a better representation of the type of care that the BM is providing :-)

There is also a wonderful community there and when I stayed to watch another of L's lessons, which I've never been able to do before, one of her students had me in stiches as she pretended to coach L who had climbed up on the student's horse since he was being naughty.

I'm sooooo happy that I made the decision to move here!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Challenge of Goals

Tell me about a challenge you set for yourself and accomplished, or set yourself a new challenge and keep us updated!
I’ve honestly been avoiding this blog hop like the plague. I have issues setting goals, not that I don’t do it or won’t do it but that I’ve learned that I can’t and although that frustrates my type A personality it’s just better this way. I’m a perfectionist and have some OCD tendencies. When I set a goal I do anything to meet it and in the past that has included things like ruining friendships or hurting myself. Because of that I’ve learned to not set big, specific goals. When I was a cellist I pushed myself so hard that at one point I was having up to 3 stress headaches/migraines per week and I developed tendonitis and a shoulder injury, both of which still bother me. It took me almost a year to let that go. Then when I was looking for my current job I had set a goal about when I needed to find something (I beat it by a few months) and again, multiple stress headaches/migraines, two colds, and some weight loss but I met my goal. Riding Dressage is what I do for fun, it’s what I do to get away from the world and to escape some of my perfectionism. I come from a long line of obsessive people, I have multiple relatives (including my mom and sister) that have struggled with eating disorders. I have a different sister who is a professional musician (already successful at a young age in an incredibly competitive career) that has so many injuries that I don’t know how she’s going to be able to continue to retirement. It’s a daily struggle for me to not bring that to my riding.

It is really tough for me not to be able to set goals and succeed but I’ve figured out a workaround. My yearly goals are a good example of this. I set small goals that will slowly work me towards a bigger goal but I don’t get down to specifics and I don’t set dates. Both are extremely important for most goals but so far I have been circling my big goal (and sort of stalking it :-) ). My goal is to keep wearing it down and eventually go in for the kill when I’m pretty much there so that my risk of hurting something/ruining something/breaking myself is at a minimum.

My big goal right now is a Bronze Medal on my pony.

My even bigger goal that I’ve never even mentioned on this blog is to get that accomplished early enough in Katai’s life that we could actually take the next step and start on a Silver Medal but that’s getting ahead of myself.

Regarding the Bronze I obviously haven’t talked about it much on this blog and I haven’t, and won’t set any specific goals or dates about it since based on past events I know that the likelihood of hurting Katai or myself or ruining our relationship over it is just too high. However I have, and will continue, to set small goals that head me in the correct direction.

Things like finding transportation to shows, showing in at least one clinic still this year, continuing to improve me and Katai’s relationship, and continuing to take weekly dressage lessons. They’re small, maybe insignificant seeming, goals but since I’m still aware of where I’d like to be they’ve been working to head me in the right direction over the past couple of years. I mean we went from this

To this

To this

In almost exactly three years which I feel like is a huge success especially without a consistent trainer and on a disaster (said with love) of a pony that I trained myself. So far, in that time frame, I’ve checked off the following list.

Find a good dressage instructor, get Katai used to clippers, get Katai used to trailering, get Katai to go forward off aids, get Katai to accept saddle and bridle, get Katai to accept cross ties, get Katai to pick up all four feet, be able to lead said pony, condition pony, get rid of underneck muscle, teach pony to lunge, get pony out on trail rides, find a place to board with dressage instructor, make sure you can blanket pony, make sure I can fly spray pony, teach pony to wear a fly mask, teach pony to tie to trailer, get pony to stop running me over, get pony used to stall, teach pony to stand still at mounting block, teach pony to wear bit, teach pony to steer, teach pony about leg cues, teach pony about contact, teach pony to stop, teach pony to stop off seat, teach pony about indoor arenas, teach pony to accept treats nicely, get pony to stand for farrier, get pony to stand for vet, teach pony about hoses, teach pony about wash stalls, teach pony about ground poles, teach pony about bridges, teach pony to ride, make sure other people can handle pony, teach pony to not freak out when friend leaves, improve relationship, teach pony to be caught, teach pony not to pull back when tied, teach pony not to rear, teach pony to walk, teach pony to trot, teach pony to canter, teach pony not to counter bend, teach pony to slow down (still in progress :-) ) and of course many more that I can’t think of right now.

So I think that my goal, for this blog hop, is actually to continue down the path I’m on and not set any one big specific goal but to continue to keep riding fun and relaxed and build that relationship with my wonderful pony :-)

‘Know thyself" - Socrates

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Thinking Rider

When riding, especially dressage, I tend to operate off of instinct. In some ways I think this is good as it is very meditative and I’m really in the moment but in other ways I really need to work to think ahead a bit more and/or make a plan based off the horse I have when I start riding especially since I’m really training her and not riding a schoolmaster. The tough thing is how to do this.

How do I pull myself out of that meditative state and develop a plan using the tools that I’ve been learning in lessons. This is something I think will be a struggle for me for the long run and I know I need to develop a plan to work on improvement. Otherwise I end up on a 20 meter circle for half an hour trying one thing over and over and eventually taking a walk break when there is some improvement. In other words I get so bogged down by the minutia that I don’t actually create any development since I’m just drilling one thing trying to find my version of perfection which isn’t fair to Katai.

I think a way to start is to develop a plan on the way to the barn. Not anything set in stone since she could come out of her stall with a completely different feel each day but more of a loose set of guidelines for myself. I’m thinking something like;

Tonight after I warm up I’m going to start with a trot circle to the left and analyze how she feels, what she’s doing or not doing and then give myself permission to slow things down to a walk for a minute to develop a plan on what tool to use tonight to get her feeling better.


If she comes out tonight feeling like xyz I’ll be able to use this exercise to improve how she is/isn’t doing abc.


I think that having just a basic plan will be helpful. I’m also going to try to make it a goal to use more of the arena and learn some more patterns so that rather than picking at something little right from the beginning I can work on bigger picture things until she settles and then try to get some really good work. I think that by giving myself permission to slow things down and make sure that I’m in that mind set on my way to the barn I’ll be more likely to analyze more and think in a more developmental or strategic way.

Now I just have to put it to the test and see if it works!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Movings In

This is just a short update post but I'll write more soon and share more pictures once I have a chance to settle in a bit.

The move went really well despite the horrible heat and humidity that made it tough to breath while walking much less do anything actually taxing. It was up to 95 with 82% humidity by the time we were getting ready to load Katai and I think the news said that it felt like it was over 100.

Katai was a rockstar and loaded right into the two horse straight load without batting an eye. I think she loaded in about 5-10 minutes and other than a couple calls she rode really well. When I went to unload her though she was soaked in sweat despite the fact that we left every possible window and vent open. It really was extremely hot to haul but without having a trailer I'm at everyone else's mercy and this was my last option.

Once I had her in her new stall and eating a nice pile of hay I unloaded my stuff and then went to get her rinsed off. I rinsed her, scraped her, and parked both of us in front of a fan. She was a little too quiet and was almost asleep so just to be sure I rinsed her and scraped her again and then back in front of the huge fan. I kept turning her so that all of her would dry since leaving that water on in that heat and humidity wouldn't have been helpful. She did perk up a little and was more interested in her hay so I finally left with instructions to call me if anything seemed off.

On Sunday I went back to check on her, thankfully there was no call the night before, and had no plans of riding. I was pleased to see that she seemed like a slightly tired version of her normal self and other than being a little afraid of the slightly crabby mare she's turned out with for now she seems fine. I stuffed her with carrots, organized a few more things, stuffed her even more with carrots and then headed home.


Tonight I finally went out to ride and she was SOOOO good! She was speedier than she has been recently but otherwise she was brilliant. Not spooky and giving me the same quality of work that she was at the previous barn. She felt strong and ready to go and I blame the speedy on the change from full pasture to stall, new place, and a few days off. I'm going to plan to ride Tue, Wed, Sat, Sun so with my ride today that's five rides in seven days and after that I'll get back to my normal proposed schedule.

I can't wait to ride tomorrow!!'

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lesson Recap

For some reason yesterday I just was not feeling like doing anything other than going home and sitting on the couch and maybe reading a book. Those days are far and few between for me and while very occasionally I don’t feel excited about working with pony, some days it’s nice to just do other things, usually I at least want to do something.

At any rate yesterday was when my lesson was scheduled and with the barn move throwing off my schedule for the next week and a half it was important that I get this lesson in while I could. Plus I’m not someone that is willing to cancel a lesson last minute just because I don’t feel like it. I had talked myself into it by the time I left work and, thanks to Viva Carlos’ last quote, I wasn’t even whining too bad. I got to the barn and luckily the woman who is going to be trailering Katai on Saturday was there so we were able to talk through the plan for that day. I had received a text from my trimmer earlier and apparently we had scheduled a trim for that day (damn you iPhone calendar for not coming through for me!) but were able to get that in before the scheduled move so Katai will have nice short toes for her arrival to the new barn.


After that conversation I went out to get Katai and was surprised when she whinnied to me and walked up to me in the pasture. She never runs or moves away but normally she’s not clearly excited to see me. I felt renewed hope that this was going to be a great lesson. However, as I was grooming and tacking up she started to express her displeasure in small ways. She’s usually not naughty anymore during the process but she did a few things that were unlike her such as refusing to take the bit at first and stepping away when I went to put her saddle on. I’m still not exactly sure what was into her unless, like me, she just wasn’t feeling it that day.


As I walked into the ring L was showing up and warned me that she was early. I started to go through my normal warm up routine but Katai was clearly tight, tense, and didn’t want to go on the bit or listen to my legs so I started making her work earlier than I normally would. I’m not sure if it was that, the two days off in a row, or something else but once we started to trot and actually got into the lesson she was full of it. She just wanted to run and was allergic to any leg pressure. Finally after hopping up and down in place a few times I got her going forward and we went with it and started with the canter.


L let me know once we finally had some semblance of a calm pony that “She is setting the difficulty level and if she wants to do things the hard way and not listen she’s going to have to work and work until you are ready to let her rest.” Because of this we did a lot of canter and trot in a row and waiting awhile to give her a walk break. After that initial blow up though she did come back to good work again fairly quickly. I feel like this is our main improvement over the past few weeks since it used to take at least half an hour to get good work. Now she may still blow up but at least we get to good work after about 10 to 15 minutes.


Once we were back to a trot I mentioned to L that she was just not listening to my legs and at even the hint of pressure she was blowing through everything else to run. Since we had her actually going forward L had me do spiral circles at the walk on the bit and be REALLY picky about how she was moving, when, and where and having me put my leg and keep my leg on her so that she couldn’t get away from it. Slowly, after a few circles in each direction, we had a pony that was listening properly to each leg and not overreacting to leg aids so we moved up to a trot. She was still a little fast but she actually was listening to my aids and after I got her slowed down we did more trot spirals and then after some great work on bend to the left, which is her tough side, we went ahead and called it.


L mentioned again that she thought we looked really good at the end and that she agreed with me that we were making progress and it was great to get good work 10-15 minutes into the lesson rather than only for the last 10 minutes. She said that I need to focus on doing what she needs when she needs it. If that’s canter right at the beginning that’s what I need to work on, if she’s in front of my leg but not listening to independent leg aids I need to do some slower walk spirals to take the tension out of leg aids etc. L also mentioned that at some point she would like to ride her. I think she was waiting for me to be displeased about it but actually I’m really proud since this is because she wants to be sure we aren’t headed in the wrong direction and that means that she thinks we can actually get places. She’s never mentioned riding her before, probably because it wasn’t worth the risk to herself to ride such a green, naughty, pony who wasn’t showing any real ability. Now that she is L wants to help me make sure that I’m not creating a habit or problem that will haunt us later and that makes me happy.

Unfortunately H wasn't able to make it because she was feeling under the weather so I still don't have anymore new photos or video. Coming soon hopefully!


I think my next lesson will be on Tuesday but with the hoof trim on Saturday and the move we’re going to play it by ear and see how she’s doing. Now I just need to make sure that I ride consistently before the move/hooftrim so that we can have a productive lesson!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Life in the City

I love my new home so much! I’ve wanted to live in the twin cities for such a long time and I’m glad that so far it’s been everything I thought it would be and more even if I do feel a bit like I’ve stumbled into an episode of New Girl.

Sans model this looks pretty much like us
 Yes, I have three male roommates and one of them could easily take the place of Schmidt.

Yep, pretty much exactly like my roommate
We’ve even considered implementing a Douchebag Jar but so far I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to actually make it happen.
Veggie looking cool on his way to the dog park.

Wedge, who quickly changed to Wedgie and now Veggie (hey, it’s funny cause I’m vegan), has been slowly adjusting to life in our new place. He was a little nervous about the roommate situation at first and was constantly asking me “Why are they here in our house lady?”. Now though he’s pretty comfortable and adores N (the Schmidt character in our lives) because N naps with him and feeds him. Really, how could life get any better for a little dog.
My life is slowly settling into more of a routine and, to get back to pony related topics, I’ve been slowly able to work my way up to riding 4 days per week. The goal over the next month is to get to 5 days per week on a consistent basis. The drive to the current barn take me just about 30 minutes each way and the new barn will be just about 33 minutes each way. In order to miss most of rush hour traffic, and to take care of myself and the Veggie, I go home after work have dinner and take Veg for a walk and leave home around 6:30-7:00ish. This gives me enough time to get there, go through my riding routine, and leave by barn close at 9:00 I’m looking forward to the move to the new barn partially because barn close will be at 9:30 which just give me a little more flexibility.

New Tack Room

New Indoor

New Oversized Outdoor

The barn move is schedule for Saturday in the afternoon and other than being a little nervous about getting Katai to load into a two horse straight load, when she’s only ever ridden in a larger slant, I’m feeling excited and happy about getting to the new place. I’m planning on riding on Friday and Saturday before the move. Hopefully she’ll adjust well enough that I’ll be able to do our regularly scheduled ride on Sunday. I’m posting my goal schedule here for accountability.
Sunday -Morning Lesson
Monday – Pony Vacation Day
Tuesday – Late Evening Ride
Wednesday – Late Evening Ride
Thursday – either Off or Late Evening Ride 
Friday - either Off or Late Evening Ride 
Saturday – Early Morning Ride
With the above schedule I’ll be riding five days and never giving her two days off back to back. I had thought that I wanted to always ride on Thursday and never on Friday but I think choosing to ride one and not the other gives me some needed flexibility and based on how she’s going and if she feels tired I could give her both days off which would still put me at four rides in a week which I think is decent. I’ve also thought about more clearly defining what I’m working on each day, for example Tuesday – Cavalletti, Wednesday – Hillwork etc but I just think that’s too much at this point and that leaving it open to work on what’s most needed is going to be enough structure.
I have been proud that I’ve varied our work outs more than I used to. I’ve added in cavalletti on a regular basis as well as riding outside and I try not to ride in either arena (indoor or outdoor) more than two days in a row unless there’s a good reason such as weather or an event. I think it’s working to keep her more fresh in her job and also good for her to get used to riding other places.
Tonight I have a lesson with L and H is coming to watch and hopefully take some video. For some reason all I want to do today is go home and nap so hopefully we’re able to make it through our lesson and still be productive especially since, with the move, it will be more than a week until I have another lesson.


With my current decision to move I didn't have to think that long to decide which barn I would move to if I could. The barn I'm movi...