Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Another one

And here's another video!

susie and mac dec 26.2

It worked!

Finally I got the video to work. I had to do a conversion from one file type to another and in the process think I lost the quality of the video, as what my friend took was sharp and clear and lovely and this one is fuzzy and dull. But no matter, I have video! I think this is the first video of Mac that I actually really like, so I'm proud to show his progress.

Mac dec 26.3

I'll be back later with another one!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Trying to post video

Our friends came up for the holiday weekend and were nice enough to get video of me and Mac today. I switched his bit/bridle configuration to a regular caveson (noseband) without a flash attachment and I put my Myler comfort snaffle on. He likes this bit and I think he likes this bridle but this is a new combination of the two together.

Anyhow, my friend got video but her camera didn't synch well with my computer so Colin downloaded it onto his computer and then transferred the file to me, but it is in Quicktime, not Real Player, so I'm not sure if it will upload or not - I seem to be having trouble getting it into my Webshots album.

Here goes...

Well frack, it didn't work - back to the drawing board...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Canter? Can we? Please?

Well, for some reason, Mac has decided that he loves to canter. Or wants to canter. Or something like that. The past few rides when we're trotting to the left, he wants to canter. I let him do so on Wednesday and Thursday and we used it as part of our warm-up. It was funny and fun to have him WANT to canter and jump into it so easily! It was cold outside so he was fresh and had a hump in his back, so in the beginning it felt like riding a dolphin!

I set up a couple of fun cavaletti exercises that he did well with. I'll see if I can type out the diagram. Imagine that C and A are at the top and bottom of the page and E and B are to the left and right.


| | |
| | |
| | |

Ok, so . . . the three vertical lines represent cavaletti set at a walking distance. The four horizontal lines represent cavaletti set at a trotting distance. The distance between the sets of the two trot poles was two trot strides. Hmmmm, when I went to "preview" mode, the lines don't line up as they should - the walk poles are set at the end of the trot poles so I have to turn in between the opening of the trot poles to get to the walk poles. I hope that makes sense.

We figure-8-ed over the walk cavaletti to start, working on maintaining a nice, steady contact, making good turns, and going straight. Then we trotted over the poles while working on the same thing. Then I put it together as an exercise: walk over the poles (going from the right side of the screen to the left side of the screen); turn left, pick up the trot and trot over the poles; turn left and come back to the walk along the long side of the arena; turn left and walk across the poles (from the left side to right side of the screen); turn right and pick up the trot; go all the way down the long side of the arena on the left side of the screen (as the trot poles were set on the quarter line along the right side) and trot over the poles. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Mac did really well so we increased the difficulty to be a Big Boy exercise. After walking over the poles, we picked up the canter and cantered the long side, then came back to the trot and trotted over the poles. It was a double-edged sword. The exercise got him really energetic, so that's good. And the exercise got him really energetic, so he started running through my aids and not paying attention, so that's not good. So we went back to the 20-meter circle and worked on balance and rhythm and paying attention and we had some really lovely trot work!

Our schooling session was only 30 minutes, but he was so good that I called it a day and went for a short cool-down trail ride. I'm so proud of my buddy!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful that Colin is in the kitchen cooking while I'm in the living room drinking coffee!

I'm thankful for my family and my friends, Colin being at the top of the list.

I'm thankful for my health and my good fortune.

I'm thankful for my dogs and cats and horses and that they are happy and healthy.

I'm thankful that our living room floor was done just in time for today! Actually, I'll spend the day putting everything back in place and cleaning the house so our guests have somewhere to sit!

I'm thankful that I don't have to work today.

I'm thankful that we decided a few years ago to not do Xmas presents anymore so I don't have to spend time shopping for stuff that people really don't need because they already have what they want.

I'm thankful that my lessons keep getting better and better. Which leads me to the rest of my post. I was having a pouting pity-party the other day when I posted the videos of Mac. But I'm over it now. He really has made a lot of progress and I do see that. I was focusing on one thing that I saw (or didn't see) in the videos, but when I go back and look at them, I see something else that really important, which is straightness. Sheesh, for a long time we couldn't even go on a circle that resembled anything like a circle, and cantering with any semblence of balance was impossible. Now he's straight - wait, let me rephrase that. Now I can ride him and give him the aids to help him stay straight in his body (meaning, he doesn't just automatically go straight, but he lets me help him get there), we can go in a 20-m circle and it looks like a circle, and we can canter in a circle with some measure of balance, both longitudinally and laterally. He really is a very cool horse and I'm so happy to have him. He's got some attitude, but I like that in a horse and it is what makes our journey interesting and exciting (ok, and sometimes frustrating).

We went on a trail ride on Monday and I rode him bareback (with the awesome warm fleece-on-the-inside breeches that my friend gave me). We came upon two little dogs who were off-leash, and their owner who was walking behind them. We were at a state park which has an on-leash rule, but sometimes people don't pay attention to it. One of the little dogs was a Bichon and the other was a Pug. The lady stopped and tried to call the dogs back but they wouldn't mind her. Mac and I stopped to let her get everything sorted out. The little Pug ran up to Mac and started barking at him, reminiscent of the old "I'm a chicken-hawk and you're a chicken!" cartoon. Mac just stood there, with all this feet planted on the ground, calm as could be, put his nose down to sniff the dog, but otherwise didn't move. I told the lady it was ok, that Mac liked dogs and that we'd just stand there and wait for her to get the dog back on the leash. She was so impressed with Mac - she was nice enough to be worried that her dog would scare him and I'd fall off! - she complimented him on his calm temperament. That made me feel so good. I always tell people he's a mustang and that he was born in Nevada because I think it is an interesting tidbit that people should know!

Colin came with us on the ride (on his mountain bike) but by that time he was way ahead of us. He caught up with us at the tail end and he rode his bike next to us as we moseyed back to the trailer. That was good, too, because we see bikes all the time and the more ho-hum they are to Mac, the better.

Well, looks like Colin is wrapping it up in the kitchen so we're going to move some furniture and I'll start cleaning. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

More "Mac as Buck" pictures!

I heard from Mark, the person I bought Mac from, and he was kind enough to send me a bunch of photos of Mac (previously known as Buck) from his packing days. Here they are!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Finally - updated video!

So I have updated video to share. Many thanks to Colin for hanging out in the arena with me today.

I know that nobody (as far as I know) likes to watch themselves ride. But I especially didn't like the video I saw from today's ride. Sigh. I've been feeling like things have been going better, but when I look at the video I don't see the progress that I've been feeling. I think that we've made a lot of improvement in straightness, which may or may not be evident in the video. I also feel like my position is better in the dressage saddle, so that is good. But Mac is so fussy with his head. Of course all I post here is the best of our session, but it took a lot to get here and I wonder if we're making any progress. I have to wonder *what* I'm doing wrong that he's not just forward and easy in the bridle. I feel like it is always a struggle to get him to "submit" and happily go along.

So here are some videos for you to . . . enjoy?

Nov. 19 canter1.mov

Nov. 19 canter2.mov

Nov. 19 trot1.mov

Friday, November 18, 2011

Before and after

Ok, well, just before since the blog is about the after. Although I STILL want to get some current pictures and video with our new dressage saddle but I haven't managed to do so. I must say again and again and again how much I LOVE my saddle!

Anyway, about the before.

My friend sent me a photo of Mac in his earlier years, when he had another job.

The person I got him from has a couple of pictures of Mac (formerly known as Buck) on his Facebook page, so I downloaded them. I wrote and asked his permission to use the photos in my blog, and sent him the link to get here. I haven't heard back from him yet but I'm hoping he doesn't mind. If he does mind, I will be happy to take them down. I'll at least say that photo credit goes to Mark Montgomery.

Herewith are a couple more pictures of Mac's early days!

In the above picture he's just left of center, mugging for the camera.

In the above picture he's actually got his head down, drinking, and you can't see him (he's in front of the palomino) - I just wanted to show what beautiful country he's visited!

Since I'm already writing, I'll give a bit of an update from our last ride - we had the BEST canter departs yet! For some reason, there was something that hadn't dawned on me with regards to cue-ing him to pick up the canter. Maybe because it is so instinctual with Paddy, and I've never actually *taught* the canter departs myself. That coupled with the fact that I feel discombobulated in that particular transition made for some really ugly attempts.

I suppose that it helped that it was windy and gloomy on Wednesday when I rode him last. He's really alert and aware and responsive and I *ride* more when the weather is like that. At first, I thought I wouldn't give it a try since he was a little bit on edge. But I figured what the hell, he doesn't do *bad* stuff even if he is a bit fresh, so I didn't shy away from it. Actually, *he* decided that he was ready to pick up the canter. We were just trotting along on the left rein (typically the side I have more trouble with) and I sat up and kept my contact and used my inside leg to move him over and set him up and that was pretty much it - it was so smooth and easy. And the canter that we got was good, too - I could maintain contact with my outside rein and reach forward and give a "good boy" scratch on his neck and he maintained the canter. I promptly gave him a break and did it again, with the same result. I was so pleased! Repeated the exercise on the right rein and called it a day.

Whenever I have a great result like that, I can't wait to ride again!!!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Best lesson today!

Today we had the best lesson! I finally figured something out. First, let me back up a few days. Winter has decided to make an appearance and on Tuesday it was a cold and blustery day. Mac was very fresh for our ride and he was spooking (which for him just means looking around and trotting sideways - he *knock wood* doesn't really do anything naughty) and in order for me to keep any kind of contact with him I had to shorten my reins. In case I haven't mentioned it or in case you can't tell from photos/video, I like to ride with my reins long. I know it is wrong, but I've always "equated" long and loopy reins with soft contact. In my mind, I know that's not true, but it is just a bad habit that I have. So on Tuesday, that kind of loopy rein would just not do - with his head in the air, I had to have short reins to keep the contact. Lo and behold, though, despite the spookiness, we had a really good ride!

So then when I rode him on Wednesday even though he wasn't spooky, I rode again with the shorter rein. And again, he was really good. We practiced transitions both from walk-trot-walk and trot-canter-trot. Transitions are something we need to work on (especially at the canter) but they are improving.

I used the same short-rein approach in my lesson today (mind you, I've been told this by trainers my whole life!) and had such a good lesson. It really keeps a constant connection between us and shortens the reaction time on both sides - I can more quickly respond to his balance, and he can more quickly respond to my requests. We did a couple new exercises and did more trot-canter-trot transitions and I was so pleased! He does move over his right shoulder more than the left so I do a lot of straightening on that side. I think that has something to do with the crookedness I feel at the canter - going left I feel like I'm falling off the right side and going right he falls in on that shoulder. Just another thing for us to work on!

Have I mentioned that I love my saddle?!

Captain Destructo

I have no idea how Mac did this:

If you look closely, you can see that he pulled the hose out of the barn and somehow got it wrapped around his neck!!!

Good thing Paddy is a tattletale. Colin could hear Paddy screaming outside so he went up to the barn to see what was the matter and he found Mac just standing there like that.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Well I still don't have dressage saddle photos or video, but I do have fun jumping photos and video from today!

Yesterday my friend trailered her pony up to my place for a fun pony play weekend! This is the same pony who came up earlier in the summer for a trail riding adventure. Yesterday afternoon we just hacked around in the arena at home with Bugzy and Paddy (just got him back from his lease situation) and popped over a few crossrails. Last night we decided we would give XC schooling a try today with Bugzy and Mac.

Mac has been to this place once before to walk around and check things out - he'd gone through the water and walked up a bank but I was in my Western saddle so we really didn't do anything else and it was shortly after I got him. I've had him about a year and a half almost and I've jumped him maybe five times and only cantered him over a fence once. So jumping is VERY new to us. Bugzy has also been jumped only a handful of times and has never been to this venue and my friend has never taken her XC schooling. So this was to be an adventure indeed.

After recovering from our mild hangovers we decided to venture out. We got the trailer packed, put the ponies on the trailer, got into my truck, turned the key and clickclickclickclickclick....dead battery. MoFo!!!! We transferred everything to my friend's trailer and then I had to do some magical trailer-backing-down-the-driveway-and-turning-around-between-two-gates to get her trailer facing the right direction and we moved the ponies from my trailer to hers. They were so good about it and didn't care.

We drove to the XC schooling location and we had the entire place to ourselves - everyone is at a HT this weekend so we lucked out! Mac and Bugzy are old friends at this point and they trailer very well together and hung out in their paddocks eating hay while we got ourselves organized. We then tacked up the ponies and got on and did a bit of warm up in this lovely grassy field area. Then we went into the water. Mac lead the way for Bugzy to follow and despite having a staring contest with a frog, she went in and so we did a couple laps in and out of the water complex.

Then we moved on to another field and did a bit more trotting around before taking some jumps. Mac is not very good at trotting jumps so I cantered him instead and he was better, although he kind of crow-hopped over a lot of them because he just doesn't know what to do with himself. Bugzy just went over them like it was nothing and she's been doing it all her life.

Bugzy video:

Kali and Bugzy.MOV

We moved on to a little ditch area and the ponies could have cared less about it, they were so good. So then we did some more logs and I put two together in a line. Mac was good and actually jumped and cantered away vs. crow-hopping and landing with a hump in his back.

Mac video:

Susan and Mac.MOV

Then we tried an up-bank and Mac trotted up and over it but crow-hopped on the landing side and so Bugzy thought she should do the same thing!

Off to another field we went, via going down an embankment, through the dry creek, then up the embankment on the other side. Good ponies!

This field had a flock of geese in the way - great. The horses didn't really care, though, and the geese moved out of our way so we could do some more water and then one more log. Mac had a bit of a fit trying to get to the log (part of the approach was alongside a line of tall trees that he could kind of see behind and something was getting his attention) so we had to school it a couple times at the trot, but then finally we cantered it and he was good. Bugzy did it after us and was awesome!

Mac video:

Susan and Mac 4.MOV

Bugzy video:

Kali and Bugzy 2.MOV

Back to schooling the front water one more time for Bugzy so she could go in by herself, not following Mac, and so I could get a video, and she was great. Called it a day and ate some lunch and now we're drinking a beer while the ponies are grazing in the pasture.

Bugzy in the water:

Kali and Bugzy 4.MOV

I'm so proud of us weenie eventer wannabees and our brave ponies who went over everything we pointed them at - they were so good!!!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It just keeps getting better

Well unfortunately Colin hasn't had time to video tape me riding lately, but I'm happy to report that things are going well. I had a great lesson last Wednesday, then Friday we jumped! Mac went back to "hopping" over the fences, so I decided to be brave and canter him over, instead. He actually got it and from the canter jumped over the fences - he got himself to a good take-off spot and jumped well. They were just small cross rails so it was more like a big canter stride, but he did a good job.

Sunday I trail rode bareback, which I love to to do, and that was fun. Colin came along with his mountain bike but had some chain issues so had to cut his ride short.

On Monday I went back to the dressage saddle, and our ride was better than the last one. So far with this saddle every ride is better than the last. His canter is really improving, we worked on more interesting exercises (turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches), and we were getting nice forward work.

Hopefully I can talk Colin into getting a video for me within the next week or so.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The new phone books are here! The new phone books are here!

Wait, actually, my new saddle is here!!!!!

I will admit to being scared that I wouldn't like it once it arrived. I LOVED the demo I rode in, but no two saddles are alike, and I was just worried. Especially after my friend just got her custom saddle and both she and her pony hate it.

Susan and Dave from Saddles that Fit came out on Sunday to deliver it. First, props to them. They are ALWAYS on time. That is a big deal to me because being late is one of my pet peeves, so I appreciate that they always arrive when they say they will. I got Mac out and Susan checked his back and adjusted the flocking accordingly. Then I got on for a quick test ride. Mac seemed to like it - had a nice big walk, moved easily into the trot, seemed relaxed. It did feel a bit high on his back, though, like it was perched up there, so Susan pounded the flocking down a bit. She said it would be a few weeks before the flocking settled but assured me that it would.

I rode in it on Monday and still liked it. It puts my leg in a good place, there's a natural balanced place for me to sit, and it fits Mac well. At the canter, I had a big grin on my face and actually said aloud, "Well this feels nice!" There may be hope for us yet!

Today I had my lesson and Lucy likes the saddle, too. She said it is a good size for me, well-balanced, a good fit for Mac, puts me in a nice position, etc. She's really pleased with it. So now I can really start riding "proper" dressage since I have the right saddle for the job. It even felt better today than on Monday. I like having a suede seat because it shows the marks from my butt, which tells me if I'm sitting correctly or off to one side. I'm happy to say that today I was sitting even and centered!

Hopefully in the next week or so I can get Colin to get some photos and/or video.

Yay for the new saddle!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mac jumped!

I'm sure it sounds quite silly to those who regularly jump, but Mac jumped yesterday! And it was an actual "jump," not a "bunny hop landing on all four feet" type of movement.

I had had a less-than-stellar lesson on Wednesday and was pretty down. It was one of those lessons where even just steering is difficult and I felt like a total ass. Yes, we walked; we trotted; we cantered. But we cantered sideways, we trotted almost over the arena perimeter, and we were distracted by the other person walking her horse around.

On Friday we went trail riding with our friend and that was so much fun - being on the trails always puts me in a good mood.

Yesterday I decided I would take myself less seriously and just have fun and not worry about DRESSAGE (yes, in all caps) and trying to be perfect. I went to the arena and set up some trot poles and jump standards with the idea that we'd give jumping a try again. We've "jumped" before, but it was more like the aforementioned bunny-hopping and it seemed like Mac just didn't get it.

Our walk, trot, and canter work was good. I tried a new approach with him on something and it seemed to be a good tactic. We worked on circles and just going forward into contact, wherever that may be. His canter work was actually the best yet - an actual 3-beat canter, not a "push off with both hind legs and then see what happens with the front legs" gait. I was able to get up into a light seat and have a light contact and we did a couple laps - he was really good! So I decided I'd jump. I put the poles up into a crossrail with a take-off and landing pole. I think the extra poles confused him, as he pretty much crashed through it the first time. I rolled the poles in so they were just at the base of the crossrail (on either side) and then went through again. This time I got a bunny-hop. Did it again with the same result. Then I closed my leg a bit, and he actually took off and jumped and landed in a canter and cantered away quietly!!!! (And he was on the correct lead!) Did it again to make sure it wasn't a fluke and we had the same result! So after a little break we did it going the other direction and he was equally as good so I called it a day at that. It was so much fun!

Sometimes I think I do better when I can practice on my own and I'm not totally in someone else's program. I mean, yes, I continue with lessons, but I have to experiment and find my own way of doing things that feel natural to me and get results.

Today we went for another trail ride with our friend and of course Mac was so good. So in a matter of days we went from good to bad to best. Oh, and supposedly my dressage saddle has shipped and will be here next week! Unfortunately I don't think my schedule will synch up with the fitter until the week following, but I can't wait to get it!!!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Silly pony, water is for drinking!

Well we finally got some hot weather. It isn't AS hot as it has ever been here, but it is in the nineties. I guess Mac just thinks that is too hot because he's been jumping into his water trough!

When he gets in there he starts splashing around and making a lot of noise until Colin comes out to check on him. The past couple of times Colin has had to help Mac get OUT of the bucket!

And I'm sure you're wondering how I'm enjoying my dressage saddle, since I was supposed to get it yesterday. Well, I'm sorry to say that it STILL is not here. When I found out I said many bad words and I'm still pissed about it. Really there's nothing I can do. It isn't the saddle fitter's fault, as she's not the one who made it. The saddler is in the UK and it *supposedly* has been finished and shipped over but my saddle fitter has not yet received it.

So fingers crossed that NEXT weekend it will be here. Anyone want to place bets? ;-)

Monday, August 15, 2011

What a difference a bit makes!

For some reason I decided to change Mac's bit. He was going in a KK loose ring bit, in a thick mouthpiece, and he just fought it all the time. I felt like he was fighting more than he should be and that riding should not be this difficult. *Eventually* we would get there, but it took the whole ride for him to "submit" and it was a bit of an argument to get there.

So I changed his bit to a Myler comfort snaffle. It is a loose ring bit (the cheek pieces are big rings that move loosely through the mouthpiece) and the mouthpiece is much thinner and lighter in weight than the KK. It also has a small roller in the middle and each side of the bit moves independently from the other.

I put the bit on his bridle and lunged him with it first so he could get a feel for how it was different. I got on and WOW! I had the best ride on him ever! He was so light and forward and accepting of the bridle and easy to ride and it was just such a joyous feeling to have that connection with him.

Colin came out the next day to take some video and pictures of me riding, so here it is:

Mac July 30

And here's some canter work. We've obviously got a lot of work ahead of us, but he's getting better and better, especially with this new bit!

Mac canter left 2.mov

Mac canter right.mov

I was supposed to get my saddle last weekend but it STILL isn't in yet. The new expected delivery date is August 27th - I sure hope it happens because I'm having a hard time doing "dressage" in this big ole' honkin' jumping saddle that is two sizes too big for me and puts my leg out in front of me!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mac, the trail guide

My friend K came up to visit me and Mac (ok, and Colin, too) with her cute pony, Bugz, last weekend. Bugz is a 4-year-old Connemara mare and I told Mac ahead of time that he was going to have a new girlfriend and fall in love.

I was right.

They got here on Friday night and Bugz got one of the pastures to herself. The boys could see her from their pasture across the driveway and of course they were both making googly eyes at her. I thought it best if we wanted to trailer the horses together for a trail ride on Saturday that we do a short ride together on Friday afternoon. So we tacked up the ponies - Mac looks like a big horse next to the pony! - and rode around the arena for a bit. Colin was nice enough to take our picture!

Mac was very distracted by Bugzy's cuteness, though, and didn't really want to work. K and I switched horses and I rode the pony, which was quite fun! I actually think it was my first time riding a real pony! She felt so small and narrow and made Mac feel like a big horse!

K is such a lovely rider and she gave Mac a bit of a lesson in doing his job.

Then we went for a little trail ride down the irrigation ditch and came back and gave the ponies baths.

On Saturday morning Colin cooked us a yummy breakfast then we headed off for our first trail ride together. The horses trailered together wonderfully and same for riding out on the trail together. Mac led the was, as he's been there before and he trail rides a lot so he's kind of a pro.

K and her pony followed behind and Bugz was such a good girl!

We stopped to take a break and get some more photos, but Mac was only interested in his girlfriend!

We trail rode for about an hour and a half in a national forest, mostly on single track surrounded by pine trees. We had some zig-zagging through the trees, some uphill, some downhill, and some long straigtaways. It was a great introduction to trail riding for little Bugz, and at the end of the ride they were tired and ready to go home.

On Sunday we went to a different location that would have more challenges for a horse new to trail riding - there are rocky areas to scramble over, a bridge to cross over a creek, the creek itself to walk through, hikers, bikers, joggers, people walking dogs, etc. The pony was very good with all of it and followed her trusty leader, Mac. On the way home she wanted to lead the way and did so with confidence - a great experience for her! She had to pose for a picture because she was such a good girl.

So that was Mac's adventure as a trail guide. He performed his job perfectly and gave the pony a great introduction to the trails and how to handle the sights and terrain. I was sad to see my friend go on Monday, but we'll do it again soon - next time in her neck of the woods!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Broken finger!

Well, my pinkie finger is broken. Colin tried to get me to go to urgent care last week but since I already had a doctor's appointment scheduled for yesterday I decided to wait. Went to the doctor and showed her my finger and she said, "that doesn't look right" and ordered an x-ray. Radiology is at the hospital, not at the doctor's office, so she sent orders over for me to show up following my appointment. Must have been a slow day for injuries because they saw me right away and I was in and out in 15 minutes.

Colin called me at work this morning with the news that the doctor called and said that indeed my finger is broken at the joint (closest to the fingernail). It isn't displaced, but in order for it to stay that way they want to put it in a splint. Colin went and got a temporary splint and doctored my finger, but not before I took a picture of it.

I wish I had a Mac because I'm sure there are photo tools I could use to circle and use arrows to show where the break is. You can see that the bottom of the finger (by the knuckle) is bruised, and you can see a cut at the top (closest to the fingernail) joint where the break is. I hope I get to see the x-rays when I go in on Friday to get the bona-fide splint.

It isn't too painful, but it is throbbing a bit so Colin gave me some of his super-duper Tylenol to help it feel better. I will figure out how I can keep riding with my splint on!

Last weekend I took Mac for a trail ride and rode him bareback and he was so good! I got off to walk with him up a long hill so that I could get some exercise, too, and found a big fallen tree to use to get back on. We saw a few bikers and he did well with them. We also saw some other riders who crossed our path and that was a good schooling opportunity because he wanted to go with them and so I made us go the opposite direction. We passed another group of horses, and then another, and each time he was better (not that he was ever bad, he just wanted to follow them). I think growing up in a herd like he did makes him more tuned in to seeking out a herd for (perceived) safety - he's inclined to turn to horses vs. people. I want him to know that I am his safety and I will be the lookout and protector for him.

At the staging area I met some nice ladies who were about to go out on the trail and gave them my number so I could show them some other trails this summer (they trailered from out of town). Really, I just love trail riding!!!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mac's first show!

Well, we didn't enter the show, but we went to the show!

There was an outbreak of EHV-1 recently, and because it is very contagious I didn't enter the show because I wasn't sure if/when it would have been over. The outbreak is over, but it was too late for me to enter the show (that and my dressage saddle isn't here yet), so I decided to just go to hang out and show Mac what it's all about.

I was kind of nervous ahead of time because I didn't know what to expect, but he walked off the trailer like, "oh, where are we today?" No excitement, no shenanigans, nothing. There was a gymkhana on one side of the showgrounds, and a dressage show on the other, and our paddock was under a tree in the middle so we could see a bit of everything.

Put him up, walked around and found my friend who was there, and then went back to fetch Mac. We hand walked around the show grounds for about an hour, grazing, watching the dressage, watching the gymkhana, watching the water truck, checking out all the stuff he doesn't get to see at home. I kept thinking he'd find something a Big Deal but he didn't.

I watched my friend ride her test, then I tacked up Mac and we went for a trail ride through the XC course with my friend and her pony. He found some of the XC jumps pretty interesting, but he marched right ahead with his big swinging trail ride walk. We got back to the show grounds area and went to the warmup ring where we walked around for a bit. My friend decided she would leave and go back to her paddock and I stayed to continue to ride Mac and do some trot work. I was glad for this opportunity to school this situation (friend leaving arena) and while our circles drifted toward the gate, he was really well behaved. We had some good trot work and so I finished with that and gave him a sponge bath and put him up for lunch. Watched a few tests and came home.

So hopefully I'll get my saddle soon and there will be another schooling show that I can actually enter!

Expletive, expletive, expletive!!!XXX***&&&%%!!1

I just wasted over an hour trying to figure out this stupid blogger thing and FINALLY I was able to get the email address changed to something else. Stupid technology.

Speaking of expletives, there was an episode of Myth Busters about whether or not swearing reduced pain, and indeed it does. If you hurt yourself and you swear, your perceived pain is less than if you didn't swear.

Which leads me to my last lesson...

We had a good lesson and afterward as I was taking Mac's bridle off and putting his halter on, he stepped on my foot. Using my favorite expletive that starts with the letter F, I yelled at him and pushed his shoulder. Which caused him to startle and pull back. Honestly, I cannot remember exactly what happened, but my fingers were caught in the rope halter and when he pulled back the halter squeezed tighter and tighter on my fingers and when he finally stopped and I got my hands free, I said some more bad words. Three out of my four appendages were just brutally assaulted!

I got his halter on, but had that "this hurts so bad I want to throw up" feeling in my stomach. I did not throw up but instead ran my hands under water and sucked it up and stayed calm and finished untacking him and loaded him on the trailer for home. My foot hurt and my hands were throbbing.

When I got home I unloaded him and gave him a bath, then gave Tomato a bath, put them out in the pasture, cleaned out the trailer, and went in the house to ice my hands and foot. It was pretty hard to do - ice both hands and my foot all at the same time - but Colin came down from the neighbors' house and helped me out.

The long and short of it is that my foot no longer hurts, although it looks ugly:

And my fingers look normal but still feel weird. Maybe there's nerve damage there? My middle finger on my right hand is still kind of numb...maybe it is just the nail bed...there's a lot of pressure in there. The pinkie finger on my left hand also hurts. Don't know if it is broken or sprained or whatever. It isn't straight and it hurts to type. If it is broken, it is just the tip.

So I got out the Blocker Tie Ring that I bought years ago and will attach it to the trailer and start using my leather halter regularly (instead of the rope halter) - less stuff for my fingers to get caught in, and easier to work with!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Stupid Google blogger!

I've been wanting to check in for a while but something is going on with Blogger that makes my usual email not work and I have been temporarily unable to access my blog. I found a work-around for it but am not pleased and I do hope they fix this soon!

So the latest...I had Mac fitted for a dressage saddle! The same people who came out to do the Western saddle last year came out a couple weeks ago with a huge selection of dressage saddles. We started with about 15 saddles and put them all on his back. From there the selection was narrowed down to 10 saddles. I sat in each of the 10 saddles on the rack and from there whittled it down to 5. Then we tried each of the 5 on him and I walked up and down the driveway and narrowed it down to 3. We went to the arena and I gave each a proper test ride.

From the test ride it was quite obvious which one I liked the best. I of course wanted to like the least expensive one the best but that didn't work out! The one I chose is a Frank Baines Capriole. This particular saddle had nubuck seat and knee rolls, and the rest of the saddle was buffalo leather. It felt so nice and like it was already broken in!

Unfortunately, the seat size was too big.

I really debated for a long time about getting a smaller seat size because I'm so in love with THIS saddle. So I ordered a trial saddle from another place but in a smaller seat size just so I'd have something to compare it to. I did like the smaller seat size better so I've got one on order. And now the waiting, ahhhhhh, it will kill me!

Now on to the weather. We had TORNADO warnings here last week! It was last Wednesday, my lesson day. I can't believe I did it, but I took Mac for his lesson (granted, I didn't know at the time that there were tornado warnings). He was a bit distracted, to say the least, but I lunged him in side reins to get him focused on work and when he was then I got on and he felt wonderful! One the heavy rain set in we stopped and stood in the arena for a while and I called it quits because I wanted to get him home. Looking back on it it was kind of a dumb thing to go to my lesson in that weather, but I'm proud of how he handled it.

I was hoping that we'd get to go XC schooling this weekend but our weather has been so horrible that we got rained out. I was hoping that this schooling would let me know if I should enter a horse trials in July but since we didn't school I have decided against it.

I was hoping to take him to a schooling dressage show at the end of the month but there have been two new cases of EHV-1 diagnosed in California so I'm not sure if it is worth it to go or not. There have been no cases reported in our county, and all the horses have been at Western barns, but I just don't think it is worth the risk. I think there's a bit of time still to make the decision so I'm just going to wait.

In the meantime, I get to ride in the loaner saddle for a couple more days before I have to return it, at which time I will pout and stomp my feet until I get my new saddle!

Monday, May 2, 2011

New Mac videos!

I convinced Colin to come out to the arena yesterday to videotape me while riding. First was our warm-up.

Then we did some trot poles.

After that, I thought we'd continue where we left off with our jumping lesson. Again, though, more of a "hop" than a jump.

And again in the other direction.

We're going to do a cross-country clinic next soon - at the itty-bitty elementary level, though! The logs are small enough to just trot over as he's been doing with the crossrails. Slow and steady, or so it goes!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

First jumping lesson!

I don't know that you could call it jumping, but we had our first jumping lesson yesterday!

We started out trotting over some poles and that went great (we've been doing poles at home and Mac is just good about where he puts his feet anyway). So then we did a crossrail on a circle. He was very unimpressed and only trotted over it. We did that in both directions. Then we did a trot-in/trot-out crossrail to crossrail. Again he was not impressed and only trotted over it. Our biggest problem is going straight so that's what I tried to focus on. Coach was interested in having him do more of a "jump" so she put scary flower boxes in front of the crossrail (it could be alarming to him because he hadn't seen them before so he would perhaps have more of a "reaction" or desire to go over it instead of just across). He did take a little peek and do a bit of a jump, but just the first time. After that he didn't care anymore so continued to just trot over the crossrail. So then she put the crossrail up to a vertical with the flower boxes in front. He did a bit more of a jump but not consistently. I guess that is really what I want, though, for him to be unimpressed and not scared of the obstacle and go over if I ask him to. Of course, we need to work on straightness.

I'm signed up to do a small cross country clinic in a few weeks so hope to get a couple more jumping lessons under out belt before then!

Growing up . . . or out

It appears that Mac has grown from his training such that I think his western saddle might not be fitting him quite right anymore. I pulled out Colin's old jumping saddle that we used on our QH a few years ago and this time it seems to fit better. (I had tried this saddle on Mac when I first got him but it was too wide.) I've been riding in that for a couple weeks and he seems to like it. I do have a call in to the saddle fitter to come check things out. I've been going back and forth about wanting a dressage saddle. I LOVE my western saddle and if I could make that work then I think that would be my first choice. I like having a jumping saddle because, well, I hope to do some jumping with Mac. The western saddle is so comfortable for trail riding.

Speaking of trail riding, we went out for the first time since he got back and had a great ride. He is just sooooo good on the trails! We went down the steepest trail that scares the snot out of me and I've never gone down on it (I have gone up) because I don't like downhills! But on Mac, I felt confident and he was very sure footed and good. Here's a view from the bottom.

Then when we got to the bottom I noticed that a trail that had been closed for a couple years was now open. Trouble was, there was a tree that had fallen across it.

I was confident that Mac and I could go over it and that's just what we did. He didn't bat an eye and I wasn't worried.

Here's a picture from my viewpoint.

New friend

Well new old friend, that is. Mac and Tomato have always been friends over the fence but I never put them out together because I didn't want anyone to get hurt. They are both dominant and show it by kicking out at the other horse (but not people!).

I decided, though, that I didn't want Paddy to keep getting pushed around by Mac so I put Mac and Tomato out together. It was so uneventful I couldn't believe it. They sniffed noses, then shared a pile of hay.

And that was it. They are good buddies and like to hang out together. Without much pomp and circumstance it was decided that Tomato is on top, then Mac, then Paddy.

Back home

I've been so bad about posting, bad me! I even went so far as to take pictures to put up last month but never did anything about it. So here's a short recap. Mac was at trainer's for three months. The last month he was there we had HORRIBLE weather - very cold rain storms and howling winds. Mac doesn't wear a blanket and he REFUSED to go into his shed because the way the door is situated he cannot stand and look out and see all the other horses. So one day I decided I would move him, but he wouldn't let me catch him. It was the worst weather day - sideways wind, freezing cold rain - I was soaked in about a minute so I gave up and hoped that he'd be ok.

The next day I went out and the weather was still bad but he let me catch him and move him to another paddock that had a better situated shed that was bigger and totally open on one side. He could look out and see all the other horses and there was also grass in there so he was happy.

My friend at the barn took a couple pictures of him while he was out in the pasture one day.

So at the beginning of April I brought Mac home. I missed him so much, it was nice to have him back!

Friday, February 25, 2011


Ack, we're having a winter storm and it snowed here today!

I miss Mac while he's at the other barn but I am assured that despite being wet from rain and snow that his undercoat is dry and he's not shivering.

I of course visit him and since it is so cold I bring him extra hay to help him generate some heat. He just doesn't like his "stall" there so he'll stick his head in to eat the hay but his butt will be sticking out. I'm torn between wanting to bring him home so I at least will know he's inside and not wet vs. keeping him there where he will be outside and walk around more. There are only two more weeks to go so I'll keep him there. Also, if he's there I can use the indoor arena and still work on training vs. if I had him here we wouldn't get to do any sort of training since our arena is half under water!

In the meantime, here's a picture of Buffy:

And our poor blossom that thought it was spring!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Pictures and video!

Today we had a lunge lesson and I got some photos and video. The more lessons we have the more it seems like Mme. Trainer likes Mac. She seems to be very interested in his personality and how he learns, and she reads him very well. Today she commented on how sensitive he is and how he's a one-person horse. He bases his trust on the relationship he has with someone and while he seems to be very friendly and likes people, he doesn't trust everyone.

It was funny because I started lunging him and he was good (the past couple of times he hasn't done any "acting out" or protesting about working). I asked her to lunge him so I could get some pictures and when she went in to work with him his demeanor changed with the change in energy between her and me. He knows me and is used to me but he hasn't worked with her one-on-one very much so he isn't used to her presence. It was very interesting to see how his reaction was very different to subtle personality differences.

Anywhoo, here are some pictures:

This is not a great shot in terms of movement, but I think his butt looks cute:

And here's a better movement shot:

And in this photo you can see the development of his neck muscles:

I also got some video:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mac in the pasture

I put Mac out in the pasture yesterday. His neighbor, George, was out in the other pasture, so I thought that Mac wouldn't be missing his friends on the other side of the property since George was there to keep him company.

Well, turns out George is not so interesting as the Ladies Who Love Mac. I should start calling him LL Cool Mac, 'cause he's got a way with the mares.

Back in the paddock area, which you cannot see from the pastures, one or more ladies started calling. So Mac had to call in return.

He had a nice little run-around and then I brought him in for some lunging work in the round pen. I wonder what he'd do if he could actually be out with one of his girlfriends? (cue Barry White...)

"Bridle training"

Trainer suggested a new bit for Mac. I was using a Nathe, but she thought I should move to a KK training bit, which she had in her collection and let me borrow.

Trainer is also very classical in her training methods and her advice was to go back and do more "bridle work" - meaning lunging in sidereins (which admittedly I don't do a lot of on my own) and teaching him how to long line, which I don't know how to do.

Step 1, though is more work in the side reins so he learns to give to the bit (aka, submit), balance himself more, be attentive to voice commands, move forward on contact with the bit, etc.

We had our first lunging session with the new bit and it went very well. He seemed to be more accepting of it than the old bit, and he was starting to carry himself lightly.

Then he had a day off and then after that I think maybe I just took him on a short trail walk. Then the day after that was Saturday and I couldn't ride because I was going some where so she lunged him for me. Sunday I also couldn't ride so he had the day off. When I got on him on Monday, I could definitely feel the difference in his mouth. He was soft and giving to the bridle and it felt really good in my hands!

I think for the next lesson I'll ask her to lunge him so I can get some video because he's looking like a different horse! And for some reason, he seems bigger to me...guess he's "growing up" and filling out with this work.

My plan is to lunge, ride, day off, lather, rinse, repeat. Yesterday I lunged him in the round pen and with side reins. And of course the person who trailers in sometimes did so yesterday and rode in the outdoor arena, which is next to the round pen. This was actually good because I knew it would distract Mac, but it was a good test of keeping him working through it until he got his focus back and then we could stop.

We were just doing our last exercise when OR (outside rider) got to the arena, so we had done most of our work already. Mac had his tail up in the air, was snorting, and of course had this lovely suspended trot (oh to be able to get THAT under saddle! - minus the tail and snorting, of course), but he kept going on the circle and eventually got over it! So that was good! I took all the tack off and left him in the round pen so he could have a nice roll in the sand, after which he stood there staring at OR and what he was doing. I think that was a really good "teaching moment" for him.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Beauty Parlor

Well I did it. I "pulled" Mac's mane. I didn't actually pull it but I used the Solo Comb to shorten it. The Solo Comb doesn't do anything for thinning so it isn't much help when it is time to braid for a show, but I'm not planning on braiding Mac any time soon so the Solo Comb was perfect for this situation.

I don't really like long manes and decided that since he's in training that he might as well look like a proper English riding horse.

Here's Mac in the cross ties before I shortened it. Cross-tie pictures are never good - his head looks larger than life and his body looks long and skinny.

It took me about 30 minutes and he was a bit fidgety, but I got it done.

I put him back in his paddock and he wouldn't stand still away from me so someone kindly stood outside his gate and bribed him with a treat.

I think he looks very handsome!

We had a great lunging lesson on Wednesday and if I can get him to go like that under saddle, then he'd look like quite the fancy little mustang!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

From great to horrible to better than great

Ahhhhh the green horse blues!

So Mac's been doing great at the new place. We cantered last weekend and had a lesson on Wednesday and things were going great.

Until Friday.

Friday there was a lesson going on the arena when I got there, which is not uncommon. But there was also someone who had trailered in to school in the outdoor arena. The outdoor arena is across a driveway of sorts and separated from the indoor by a row of trees. The trees are all in a row and you can see movement through them but not an entire view of what's on the other side. Mac knew there was a horse over there, as at one point we could glimpse a head walking by, so he called out a couple times and was totally and completely distracted by the other horse whom he didn't know. Also the horse who was having a lesson left the arena, and Mac's neighbor from the next paddock was on a trail walk down the street. For a bigger boarding barn this would be a quiet day, but for a quiet barn like this one, this was quite the day of chaos . . . as far as Mac was concerned. And he was concerned!

I tried to just stick to my game plan of walking in various circular patterns around the arena but he kept wanting to drift over toward the outdoor arena and look and crane his neck to see what was going on with the "new horse." Our circles weren't very good, our brains weren't very in synch, and I wasn't really enjoying the moment.

Sometimes Mac gets more into the schooling session if we trot so I thought I'd give that a try.

Whoo boy! I'll never again say this horse isn't athletic! We started trotting and I don't even know what happened. Perhaps he was having a temper tantrum because he wanted to go join the other horse. Perhaps something spooked him, although I don't think so because he would have gone sideways not up in the air. So up in the air he went! All four feet off the ground, hump in his back and it felt like we were flying. But not in a good way! When we landed we did lots of small circles in each direction and kept our work area small. Then we gradually expanded it. Then we went back to the trot and stayed on a circle. I'd say the quality of our work wasn't great but I was just going for working on keeping feet on the ground for the rest of the day.

I was able to salvage the schooling session somewhat but he was very fidgety for the rest of the ride. Once I got decent enough trot work out of him and I felt like he was more focused on me I called it a day and we went for a walk down the street to cool out and of course he was quiet and happy.

Yesterday I rode in the morning and no one was there so it was nice and quiet. We worked again on circles and staying between the reins and legs and it was much improved from the day before. We even cantered in both directions and he was very good. He's actually good at picking up the correct lead, so at least there's that!

Today I went out in the afternoon and again it was really quiet, which I wasn't expecting. The horse who had been trailered in the other day was there again but I think that since Mac could see him in the arena from his paddock that it was no longer interesting.

I rode Paddy this morning and had a lovely ride so I carried that feeling to my ride with Mac. Today was the best yet - he felt relaxed but forward and happy. We cantered in both directions and I found that when I really lighten my hands he's quiet. I worked on that same feeling at the trot - lighter hands, more of a hunter-type ride than a solid-contact dressage-type ride - and he was light and forward at the trot after we cantered. It was quite fun and so we ended our ride with a nice walk down the street. We hand-grazed for a half an hour and did some easy groundwork stuff.

Five steps back, two steps forward, five steps forward . . . what does that add up to?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

We cantered!

I'm sure it sounds silly to exclaim that we cantered, but . . . we cantered!

First, here's a picture of Mac's new digs.

You can see that he's got a nice big paddock to walk around in and a stall where he can go to get out of the rain or have a nap. In the paddock to the left you can see a chestnut mare looking at Mac. As far as I can tell she stands there all day staring at him. It must be his dashing good looks!

Ok, now on to our adventures!

I've taken Mac out for canters/gallops on the trails, which is really fun, but I haven't actually cantered him in the arena until Saturday. Cantering on the trails is easy and fun - it doesn't matter what lead you are on, you have a wide open trail ahead of you (depending on the trail, of course), and the horses are keen to go.

Because Mac is green and learning how to steer and move off my leg, etc., I haven't tried to do the canter under saddle until now because he didn't feel balanced enough to not careen around like a motorcycle. Since moving to the trainer's he has been very good and since he seems to have somehow retained everything we were working on before AND actually shown some improvement, I thought there's no time like the present. It also helps that he's been kind of jumping into the canter when I ask him to trot so I think that he's mentally ready.

The first time I asked I think he thought it was a mistake because he picked it up and then went back to the trot. The second time I asked, though, he picked it right up (correct lead, too!) and we did a couple circles. I was so pleased that we finished our ride on that good note and walked out of the arena for a little trail ride.

Our first lesson is tomorrow.

Here's Mac learning how to stand quietly in the cross ties. This picture makes his head look really big and his neck look really skinny!

And here's a picture of him looking handsome.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

First ride at new barn

Took Mac to the new barn on Sunday and he got settled in. I visited him on Monday and played with him in the round pen, just doing some ground work at liberty (move your shoulders, move your haunches, stand, come to me, let me take off my long winter coat and flap it around and throw it on your back, etc.) and that was fun. He did want to run around and buck and fart, which I didn't want him to do as there was a slippery spot. Once he realized that was not our purpose for being in there he settled and we had fun playing.

I took him in the cross tie area and didn't tie him but just stood (ground tying style) and groomed him. That was fine. We had some hand grazing time and then I put him up and gave him his bucket.

Yesterday I had yoga so didn't get to work with him but did make him his bucket which he thought was tasty.

Chatted with trainer when I first got there today and she said that he seems quite happy and relaxed there, so that's good. He seems to like his neighbors, and spends time watching the cows. He goes in his stall to pee and eat his hay and he's got lots of room to go out and walk around.

I decided today would be a good day for our first ride. Of course one has to get tacked up before riding so I put him in the cross tie area and worked on tying a bit. He cross ties well at home but this is a new place and there's stuff for him to see all around his peripheral vision (vs. at home when he's in the barn there's mostly just stuff in front of him to look at). I tied up one side but he kept trying to turn and look behind him. At one point he got antsy and tried to back out of the tie area but I got him stopped. So I un-did the cross ties and we worked on just standing there with head straight ahead and not wiggling all around and trying to see what's behind or go out in front to try to eat grass. That worked well. I'll definitely be focusing on training in the cross ties over the next few weeks.

I had my big, clunky muck boots on and brought my riding boots with me. My riding boots had big spurs on them (can't even remember the last time I rode and whom with those spurs!) and I was debating about wearing my muck boots or riding boots because I was too lazy to take the spurs off! Decided on the muck boots, which was a good decision, because I wouldn't have needed spurs today.

Took him to the indoor where someone was just finishing a lesson and I thought it would be a good discipline (as in self-discipline not like I have to discipline him) situation as the mare was leaving and so we'd be in the arena all alone. It is up to me to create his work ethic so he can work quietly in new or uncomfortable situations. When the mare left, so did his attention!

We started by just walking around in a large circle. He had no interest in standing still so we changed direction, did small circles, figure 8s, etc. At one point he called to the mare but she didn't answer and he didn't call again. The more we walked and halted, the longer he could stand still until we had a short stop-and-chat with the mare's owner. Great! Time to move on to the trot.

He was still interested in where the mare went, but he (mostly) listened to me and worked as I asked. We started with trotting down the long side and walking on the short side of the arena. Then we moved to trotting one long side, then one short side, then one long side, then walk. Then we progressed to trotting large circles and I had a couple really good ones with good contact and bending and forward so we quit the trot work. We worked a little more at the walk with transitions and moving forward and back within the gait as well as halting. I thought it was a really great first day, especially considering that we haven't had a lesson (or a ride, save for Sunday for 15 minutes) since November. I actually expected that we'd be starting at square one or square minus one, so I was very very pleased that not only did we start where we left off but I thought it was actually an improvement.

One of these days I'll bring out my camera...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Long time, no write

Wow, it has been a loooooong time since I've written any updates about Mac! Well with the bad weather and busy holidays he's had about six weeks off. Winter is hard here because our arena is not covered and so when it rains we have to wait for it to drain before we can ride in it again. Depending on how much rain we've had it could be just a day or so or it could be a week. Then, depending on the forecast, if the arena's just dried out and it is going to rain the next day, then we also don't ride because we'd have to drag it again and I guess we're just lazy that way.

I do have access to a covered arena to which I could trailer the horses, and I planned to do that, but depending again on how much rain there's been, the road to get to the covered arena may not be accessible to horse trailers. So stuck again.

I decided, then, to take Mac to my dressage trainer's place for the next couple of months. This will be a good way to keep his schooling up through the winter, keep me focused on his training, and also get the benefit of working closely with a great trainer who can teach us both a lot.

I took Mac there today and got him settled in. I think he'll like it as all the horses are in their own stall/paddock area that has good footing and is larger than what he's got here. She also has a round pen, a huge outdoor arena, a covered indoor arena, and a separate turnout pasture that is a couple acres. He didn't seem bothered by anything at all so I feel good about leaving him there. Although I already miss him!

Looks like I'll be going to the barn every day now in addition to doing my home barn chores and whatnot. I am very hopeful that we'll make a lot of progress in the next couple of months!