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

Nov. 19

Nov. 19

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.