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!