Monday, October 29, 2012

Working cows!!!!

I took Mac to a trail clinic on Saturday - not for the "trail" experience, per se, because he has that down pat (duh!). What he needs help with is going new places and being around new horses and dealing with whatever that might bring . . . like, I don't know . . . mares?!

So of course there were mares there - three of them. One of whom he fell in love with right away - a little chestnut Peruvian Paso mare (or was it Paso Fino?). There were about 8 riders on a variety of horses - another mustang gelding, 2 QH mares, 2 QH geldings, an Arab gelding, and the little gaited mare. We started the morning off with ground work and Mac was fine. We bridled our horses and got on and went out into a huge hay field to warm up under saddle. Mac right away wanted to be with the mare, but the owner of the mare had her own problems so she went and found a spot away from us where she could work on her stuff. I got really good help from Susan on how to deal with his distracted-ness and also high energy in that type of situation. I thought maybe I should be turning him in small circles to get his attention on me but she said to actually make him work on a bigger circle, since he has energy he wants to and needs to use, but don't let him get straight - keep him bent. So we did that and he settled down and everybody was ready to move on.

Next we crossed a river and went to a sandy beach next to the river that had a nice track for trotting and cantering. Susan was very clever in planning it this way as the sand was a bit on the deep side so it would tire the horses out and slow them down a bit. We started going two at a time away from the group and then making a small downhill turn in the sand to continue on the track and return to the group. We trotted out and cantered back and Mac started his bucking that he does on the trails with the other horses. It wasn't bad to start so I just went with it, but after we did a couple rounds and moved on to the next exercise - horses going out in staggered starts so that one horse would go out 1/4 mile, then the next horse would follow, then another horse would follow a bit after that - then Mac really kicked his bucking into high gear and I almost came off. Thankfully my one-rein stop saved me! Susan had me canter circles as other horses came and went and then we worked on half halting and letting go, which turned out to be the key. The more we try to hold them back, the more pissed off they get - but if we half halt and show them the pace where we want them to be, and then let them go, they will better stay there and be happier than if we're just hanging on their faces. Something I of course do in the arena but seem to forget if I'm feeling nervous in a group of horses! We finally had a good round and everyone called it quits on that exercise. Then we went to the river to let the horses drink and splash around a bit.

Went back to the trailers for lunch and I untacked Mac and let him have a roll in the round pen. Hosed him off, tied him up to let him dry, and put out water and hay for him while we went inside to eat. I always worry about leaving horses unattended, but he was just fine.

After lunch was trail obstacle and cow-working time! All the horses were tired out from the morning work so they were very well-behaved for the afternoon. The trail obstacles weren't really any big deal (although a couple horses did have problems with some stuff) - walking over a tarp, walking over logs, walking through brush, walking over a fake bridge...stuff like that. The trail that we followed led us to another big pasture area where there were cows. I've never been around cows before with Mac so I wasn't sure how he'd respond, but he didn't seem to care. After the first loud "moooooooooooo" with Mac just chillin', I knew we'd be fine.

We went into the cow field and Susan told us about moving cows around. There was a big tree in the middle of the pasture and we were to move all the cows from one end of the pasture to around the tree. It was great fun! Once we got them around the tree, we cut through the herd one horse/rider at a time and parted the cows just a bit so the horses would be used to having cows all around them. Mac did great and I had a lot of fun trying to pick a cow and move it. I've always thought cutting would be fun and now I'm even more interested in giving it a try!! We moved the herd again to the far end of the pasture, turned them around, and they went running to the opposite end when one of them started running. So we moved them again back to the tree and again took turns moving through the herd.

Susan was taking pictures on her phone but they came out so tiny. You can make out that this is me and Mac because of his coloring, but otherwise you can't really see us!

All in all it was a great day, but we were both pooped at the end!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

First jumping lesson!!

Today was Mac's first jumping lesson! He did great - he was a perfect gentleman and went over everything I pointed him at. Sometimes it was a little sticky in the beginning, but the second time around he was always great. He did things he's never done before - his first grid, barrels, a vertical with "stuff" underneath it, a gate - and he was a cool cucumber about it.

Here are some videos:

Cross rail:

Cross rail grid:

Grid with vertical/gate:

And the last jump which was a vertical with some weird blocks underneath:

I lifted some stills from the videos:

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fun with plastic bags

Mac and I are headed for another training session tomorrow so I thought I'd do some practice in the arena yesterday. I started with ground work on the lunge line, working with the lunge whip with a plastic baggie on the end. I can have him stand still and swing the baggie all around his head, over his face, over his back, around his legs, under his belly, etc. But when I do these things and he is moving, it is a different story. It is really interesting how he compartmentalizes something. Standing still with a baggie flapping around is okay. Moving with a baggie flapping around is not. So we practiced having the lash of the lunge whip laying across his back with the baggie flopping wherever it may - next to the saddle, next to his butt, on his back, moving/falling - and having him move off. That would be fine until I moved the baggie again (meaning, while he is walking or trotting I lift the whip and the baggie moves) - then it is scary, even though the baggie was just flopping in his peripheral vision. Sigh. We got to a good stopping place and I climbed on.

We did a bit of w/t/c work with the lunge whip and baggie inside the arena gate, which got some googly-eyed looks from Mac, and then I had the brilliant idea of grabbing the whip and dragging the baggie behind us for our cool-down walk. Wouldn't you know it, that was not a problem at all! I first had him stand while I got the whip, and I made the baggie swoosh all around him. Then I put both reins in one hand, the whip handle in the other hand, and asked him to walk out while dragging the baggie next to us, flopping it up in front of him, draping it over his butt, etc. Did that in both directions with the baggie on each side in each direction (so four times total) and called it a day. He was really good about that, I was pleased! I'll be able to say I did some fun homework when we go for our next lesson.

Today - off to the trails! :-)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New video!

My mom got me a new video camera for my birthday and was kind enough to video my ride yesterday. After much cursing, fist-shaking, pouting, stomping, and more cursing, I finally got the video edited and up on YouTube.

Fall is here. The winds have picked up and there is a chill in the air...and up Mac's butt. ;-p He was mostly good yesterday but kept spooking in the corner where the deer were migrating behind trees, stomping through our property. Of course, these are the deer that Mac grazes in the pasture with, but when they are jumping behind trees then they are the boogeydeer. His spooking was cleverly edited out so all you see is Mr. Good Mac.

The quality of the camera is great and I grabbed a couple stills from the video.

Thanks for the videoing, mom!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hey Sexy Lady!!!!

This week's lesson at Susan's was perfect. While the first two times Mac was on his (mostly) best behavior, this week was different . . . there was a Haflinger mare *in heat*, no less, tied outside of the round pen while he was having his lesson. AND, some joggers went by on the path directly behind the round pen. This was a perfect scenario and was directly related to the problems we've had: how to act or react to a sexy lady or scary distractions when it is time to work.

Susan worked on the ground a lot and this time he wasn't so willing to give up control of where his feet were but he did come around. After a while she got on and got some lovely canter work from him and when I got on he felt great.

Perhaps next time we'll graduate to moving into the arena which is away from the other horses!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New training tactics

After our last show fiasco, I decided I'd take Mac out of dressage training for a little while. Really this doesn't mean too much except not having a weekly lesson - he lives at home, he's not ridden by anyone else but me, and he's not in a disciplined program. But I figured that we needed a change of focus to get through the naughtiness he exhibits when he gets scared or excited - he needs to learn how to control his emotions (with my help, of course).

After much searching and reference checking I found Susan Wirgler and took him over for an evaluation a couple weeks ago. She agreed that he does have holes in his training, although there were some things that he was good about and she said he's got a good brain and is a nice horse (she hasn't seen his studdish side yet!). She did some basic ground work with him - yielding shoulders, yielding haunches, working with a rope, just general foot work - and he responded well.

Since our first appointment, I took him back to the place of the first bucking incident where I came off. There was a dressage clinic going on that I audited and I brought him along for the ride. He was pretty good - I rode him twice on Friday for 30 minutes each time and once on Saturday. He (of course) fell in love with a Haflinger mare who (of course) was his neighbor. On Saturday when we were riding, she was also out - he was making googly eyes at her so I took the opportunity to school and work on getting his attention. Once his focus turned to me I got off. We hung out in the same general area as her, but when he started vocalizing a bit, I took him away and walked him around the property. It was a good schooling session.

Today I took him back to Susan's and we did more work in the round pen but this time she got on him and I got on him after her. She started with a lunge whip with a baggie on the end, but she didn't chase him with it. She just stood in the middle of the circle and moved it around. He was pretty agitated at first - uneven in his gait, tense, head high, going back and forth between trot and canter.

Once he settled down, his body softened and he became more relaxed.

After going both ways, he got to stand there and relax.

The next exercise was for him to stand there while Susan swung the whip around and draped it over his neck and head - here he's alert and a bit curious, but he stood well for the whole time.

After this exercise she bridled him up and she got on . . . and commented that he has a great walk! She did some walk, trot, canter exercises in both directions - mainly working on forward - and then I got on.

Wow! He felt so soft and supple! It really was amazing and I was so happy to feel the change in his body. I think this training will be really good for him and it is obviously something he missed early on and something I'm not skilled enough to do on my own. I'm looking forward to learning some new skills!

Now he's home and we'll have another lesson in a couple weeks. In the meantime, I'll continue to take him to new and different places and see how we can work through it together.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mr. Mac's Wild Ride

Well, we ventured to another show a couple weekends ago. I had signed up for the show a few weeks ago but due to the fires that were burning in that area, I waited until the last minute to decide if I'd actually go or not. The show organizer sent me a note and let me know that the winds had changed and it was clear and not smoky in the area, so I decided to go.

I should have gone the night before but I didn't. We trailered over the morning of the show and I walked Mac around a bit and he seemed fine. He's been to this place a few times now and I thought that it would be okay if we got there early in the morning. And in the beginning, it was fine. Got him settled, did some yoga and meditation, then tacked him up and warmed up for our first class. He was so good and quiet in the warmup that I offered to go in early. I spoke too soon. Just as it was my turn to go in, a certain horse (and I don't know *what* it was about that horse) caught Mac's attention and got him riled up. He was very naughty in our pre-starting around-the-arena warmup (what IS that called, anyway?) when he let out a huge buck. But then the judge rang the bell and we had to go in. The first test was very tense - he wasn't listening to my leg at all and so we were drifting sideways, he wouldn't bend through the corner, etc. All the things we had been practicing at home flew out the window. We got a 60.5% which was good for a yellow ribbon. But I didn't feel good about it.

Before the next class I did a take-no-prisoners warmup and he was GREAT! Had comments from others in the arena how cute he was and what a nice horse he was and I was so happy with how he was behaving. Things seemed to be going fine when we went in for our second test and then BAM!!!! The second half of our first canter circle was a disaster - something had caught his eye and he ran in the opposite direction and then threw a bucking fit. After getting him stopped I asked the judge where she'd like me to start. She and her scribe said "wow, I can't believe you stayed on!" She told me to do the circle again. Again I got a bucking fit, but it didn't last as long. I told her I'd withdraw from the class.

The judge was very nice and accommodating and asked if I'd like to stay in the arena to school him, so I did. Guess I shouldn't have withdrawn after all because we were able to complete the rest of the test without incident. I wouldn't have scored well, obviously, but I would have liked to get scores so I could get her feedback. Oh well. We finished. My husband was proud of me for not having a meltdown, for being a good sport and finishing, and holding my head high.

As a result, though, I realized Mac needs more work with busy stuff. His issues all seem to revolve around one of two things: mares or horses running around him (like running, not just cantering under saddle in the arena). I'm interviewing trainers to see if there's somewhere I can send him for a couple months so he can be put into situations that will trigger his outbursts and then he can learn how to work through them. I want someone close enough that I can go and work with him a couple days a week so I also can be part of the training program.

Until then, I'm suspending my dressage lessons, although I am hauling him all over the place. Next week we'll go audit a dressage camp, then we're going to go visit a friend and go trail riding, and then maybe go to a show and just hang out without showing. He needs more exposure before we put ourselves in front of another judge.

I will say I had the most lovely ride on him yesterday, so I know not all is lost!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The joys of trail riding!

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Wait, there is no victory in trail riding! (At least not the way I do it.) Can you tell I'm watching the Olympics?

Went on a fun trail ride in Mac's old 'hood on Monday. We rode down to a lake and then actually to his old stompin' grounds when we mistakenly went through a gate that wasn't meant for us to go through. It did seem like he recognized where we were! We went by the house of his old owner, then into the pasture where he lived when I bought him. We had some nice trotting and cantering work until a rider on a pony who was in our group decided to pass us and so Mac had to indicate his displeasure with a bucking fit! To which I promptly yelled at him to "knock it off, you little shit!" (in front of an 11-year-old) and that was the end of our cantering for the day because I was NOT going to come off in a field in the middle of nowhere on the hard ground. I may have brought the level of fun down for the rest of the group but I've got to look out for number one first (in case you couldn't tell, I'm number one).

Had a fun trail ride today by ourselves where I rode in my western saddle and looped the reins over the horn and did 99% of the ride without using my reins. I like doing fun little challenges like that on trail rides. I steered with my legs or with pressure from the whip on his shoulder; we walked, trotted, and cantered, and I did the transitions without using my reins. Then we worked on walk-trot-walk-trot transitions for a while, leg yields at the trot, and finally walk-halt-walk-halt transitions. It was really fun!

Our next goal is another schooling show in a couple weeks. I think I'm going to do Training level test 1 and 2 instead of Intro C and Training 1. My goal next year is to do rated shows at Training level, so I might as well start working on those tests now.

It is HOT here, in case you were wondering!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Here are the videos from my tests this weekend. First, Intro C.

We got a 5 on our first turn from centerline (REALLY need to practice those!), and an 8 on our right lead canter (yay!) and the rest of the scores were 6s and 7s. Judge's comments were that we are a nice pair and that we need to work on relaxation and . . . guess . . . submission in the bridle!

Here's Training 1.

Got a 5 on our first halt (immoble) and an 8 on our right lead canter half circle (last cantering section). Again, the rest were 6s and 7s. Better collective marks except for submission, which was still a 6 - looks like that's what I need to work on the most . . . and don't I know it! Other comments were that he was more relaxed in this test - "good job."

I'm pleased that she gave him 7s for gaits both times. He's really come a long way - from a lateral walk and no canter, to a normal walk and an okay canter. It isn't naturally easy for him to 1) submit in the brain, and 2) submit in the body, and 3) do "horse ballet" in an arena when he'd really rather be out on the trails (or, let's face it, in the pasture eating grass!)!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Second dressage show - Intro C and Training 1!

I just got back from a schooling dressage show with Mac - his third show ever. After he violently bucked me off at the last show, I will admit I was a bit nervous heading into this show and as I was driving there yesterday I thought, "why am I doing this?!" I went the night before to ride him around and camp out and give him a chance to settle in before show time. I set him up in a paddock where he could see all the arenas and could see other horses, but not have contact with any of them. Since he is a ladies' man, I thought I'd treat him like a stallion and keep him separate so he wouldn't fall in love and get attached. I let him settle in a bit and handwalked him, then tacked him up to ride. OMG, it was like a hurricane out there! On one hand we were very lucky this weekend in that it wasn't the 100+ degree weather we had last weekend. On the other hand, it was soooooooooo windy! He (and I, frankly) was a little tense at the beginning of work, but he settled in nicely and we had a good ride. Put him in his paddock to chill and I cleaned my tack. As I was tack-cleaning and boot-polishing, I could watch him from my truck. Every time a horse came or went from the area he would leap around and buck and fart in his paddock. Great - didn't give me the greatest confidence that he'd be quiet and mellow at show time. I took him out for a couple more walks and hand grazes and he settled down nicely.

I couldn't sleep at ALL last night because the wind made some branches squeak and brush up against my trailer. A fitful night - not the rest I was hoping for before a show!

Today I woke early and fed Mac and did some yoga and meditation. Figured I'd try to braid him for the first time. He was pretty fidgety but good and let me do the braids and so I was happy with that - his neck looks nice with his mane all braided! I didn't get to the forelock but I like the braided mane/unbraided forelock look anyway so oh well. Colin wasn't with me to be my groom so I felt like I needed to hustle to get tacked up and dressed and ready.

I got on 45 minutes ahead of time and just like the past two shows, he only needed 20 minutes or so of warmup. He felt great today!!! Where did his nice canter come from? We took it easy, had a relaxed warmup, had a pee (him, not me), then went in after our friend on her pony. I was worried about this - he loves the ladies and my friend's pony is really cute so I was worried that he'd go bonkers when she left warmup to go in for her test; or, that he'd go bonkers when he went in for his test and she left the arena area. But there was no need to worry, he was great! I didn't feel as solid in my first test (Intro C) as I did at our first show back in May, but we did ok. Some bobbles here and there (turning right at C I totally messed up), some pokey walking in the medium walk, but we got an 8 on our right lead canter (highest score on our test), and 7 for gaits and rider position. Our score was 65.5% - I was very pleased with that and the judge's comments were very fair.

Here's a warmup photo:

I put him up for a half hour or so so he could drink and eat and relax before the next test - Training 1. This was our first outing at Training level - ack!!! What was I thinking?!

I tacked him up again when it was time and headed to the warmup arena. Again, he warmed up great - forward and relaxed and...BAM! Just as we were practicing our last move of the test a horse in the warmup area reared and spooked. Mac handled it great - he spooked a little bit but no over-reaction. Just as I was patting him, I saw what the first horse spooked at - another horse had somehow gotten loose from his longeur, had reared up and gotten his legs tangled in the side reins, and flipped over. ACK!!!!! The horse got up but was now all tangled in his side reins so he reared up again and fell over again - right on his withers (with the saddle on) and then flopped over to his side. Then he just stayed down. All this in front of Mac, just as we were to head into the arena for our second test.

Before that we were working on our free walk:

This is our last trot just before the spooking incident:

There were people tending to the horse (whom they extracated from his sidereins whilst on the ground - a vet came over to help him out - he didn't die but I'm sure he's not feeling well at all) so I took Mac to the other end of the schooling area and waited for the person in front of me to finish her test.

I was looking forward to being able to sit the trot in Training 1, which you can't do in Intro. Mac goes better when I sit the trot so that was my plan. This second test felt much better - better canter (again we got an 8!), better geometry, better submission (although we still don't score well on that collective mark). Our score was 67.083%.

Looking at the video after the fact is hard - I don't like my riding in these tests as much as in May. I realized after looking at it that I had shortened my stirrups after the bucking incident and didn't put them back down to where I usually have them, so I feel like I was bouncing too much versus letting my leg drape longer. Oh well - I'll change them before the next ride.

For the next show (don't know when that will be) I need to work on my geometry more - I find the turns to/from centerline hard, and since I ride in an oddly-shaped arena at home, I don't really have an idea of where all the points of the circle are. Well, I do, but I just don't have practice riding them.

I'm very proud of Mac - he didn't act studdish, he held it together during a scary horse incident, he felt really good (in the warm up especially), he let me braid him, etc. I think my trainer's program has helped Mac develop his gaits more - when I got him I'd say his gaits were a 5, but he's consistently gotten 7s and 1 8 for gaits - but we need practice on geometry and breaking down the test so we're better prepared.

Yay Mac! Video to come soon!

Monday, June 4, 2012


No, Mac wasn't being a turkey, he was chased by a turkey!

I wish I had my video camera or at least my cell phone to get a picture or video. After riding on Saturday, I put Mac out in the pasture. He had a nice roll and walked over to the tall grass to eat. And he was promptly chased away by a mama turkey - tail feathers fanned, wings spread, neck out, and screaming! She startled Mac and he turned and ran away, only to turn back and go check her out again! Back and forth they went, chasing each other, until I put his halter on and took him out of the pasture. Mama turkey then guided her little turklets out of the tall grass . . . they couldn't have been more than a few days old. So cute!

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Here's the video from our Intro A test at the horse trials last weekend. He hadn't ever stepped foot on this part of the property, so hadn't seen the ring or the two rings next to it or the cows across the street. Considering what we went through the evening before, I was pretty pleased with him!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Well if I post the good I guess I should post the bad, too...

I had signed Mac and I up for our first horse trials last weekend. Coming off a great dressage show debut I was excited for the HT, where we were entered in the elementary division.

Mac has been to this venue a couple times before - once for a clinic and once for schooling when we happened to be the only people there (with his girlfriend Bugzy). Since he's been there before and has been so good at the past couple of show venues we've been to, I didn't give it a second thought that we might have any problems.

Boy was I wrong.

We got there on Friday afternoon so he'd have time to settle in and we could go out for a nice hack the day before the show started. He seemed to be fine when I got on, although a bit distracted. Then, when we went to the creek area, a woman was coming out of the creek on a young, green horse. When she got out of the creek and up the hill, her horse spooked and spun. And so Mac spun. And that was the beginning of the end. I could not get him to pay attention to me and settle. He came completely undone. I decided to get off and do some ground work, but I was too late. I don't know if something happened that I didn't see, but he started leaping in the air and bolted forward, bucking at the same time. As hard as I tried, there was no way for me to stay on. I came off and landed on my back. OUCH!!!! Mac ran away to some paddocks which, oddly enough, were not the paddocks where he was stabled. Someone caught him and brought him back to me.

Ouch. Did I say that? I was very sore. Did I say that?

But after a little chat I got back on. And Mac then decided that he was able to pay attention to me. We had the "sweaty saddle pad" schooling session where we basically trotted on the bit (with circles, changes of direction, transitions) for an hour. Found a friend with ibuprofen or something like that, took a couple, had a beer, and went to bed. Ouch. Did I say that? I couldn't sleep well because I could barely move. Turning over was such an effort that it caused much moaning and groaning and time to get my body moved over to one side. It was a very fitful night. I don't think Mac had trouble sleeping, though.

The next day was dressage and stadium jumping. I gave myself a good 45 minutes to warm up but of course he was perfect and only required 20 minutes. And his canter felt fabulous! The few riders before me were nowhere to be found so the judge let me ride my test early. Mac didn't have a chance to even have a peek at that arena ahead of time but he was sooooo good and held himself together and we put in a good test. As I went to the judge to thank her, she commented that my test was "very well ridden!" So that was good news. Turns out we got a 26.3 score (which would be a 73.7 in regular dressage). Good job, Mac.

Put him up after that and let him chill for a while, took him out to graze for a while, put him up again...we had a long wait until stadium.

Finally the time came for us to warm up for stadium. Again, he was really good. This was the first time he'd been in a jumping warm-up arena, with horses coming at him from all directions, and people jumping fences in the middle of the arena. He did a great job of handling it all and keeping his wits about him. Unfortunately, when we went into the actual show ring, he was bothered by the change of scenery, all the people in the stands, the shadows, the creek crossing, the crazy jumps. We got eliminated. Thankfully the judge was really nice and let us finish the course so I got him over all the jumps.

We could have requested to do XC the next day, but given how much pain I was in, it wasn't worth it. If anything else happened to me, I don't know that my body could have handled it, so we packed up and came home. I'm quite sure Mac didn't care!

I don't mind being eliminated, but I was bummed by being thrown on Friday night. And I'm still feeling it. Doing yoga every day, plus going to the chiropractor, has definitely helped and I DO feel better; I just wish I could go back in time and have tried a different approach. Maybe it would have worked; maybe not.

Anyway, I was very proud of him for his performance on Saturday! Colin got some video of the dressage but isn't finished uploading it yet so it will have to wait a few days.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

First dressage show and two blue ribbons!

Yesterday I took Mac to his first dressage show, where we did Intro B and Intro C. I thought he'd probably be well behaved on the show grounds because he likes to be in an atmosphere where there are other horses around. What I wasn't sure of, though, was how he'd be in the dressage arena itself, since he'd have to leave the company of any horses (or mares, more likely) that he made friends with and he'd be going into a covered arena where he had never been before and that had light and dark areas and a judge's booth and whatnot.

When we got there we let him graze for a bit, which he enjoyed, and we watched the trailers coming in with horses and unloading and all the commotion going on. I was so lucky to have an amazing team to support me - Colin was my groom extraordinaire, and my friends Kali and Kevin came up to be photographer and videographer. While Colin was grooming Mac I went to check out the arena and it was huge! I don't have an opportunity to practice in a "full court," which is 20m x 60m. Our arena at home is oddly shaped and not quite the size of a small court (20m x 40m) - our arena is a bit shorter and a bit wider. So the show arena to me looked very long and narrow!!! I had to plan my geometry out ahead of time and check where the points of my circle would be.

I gave myself plenty of time to warm up, just in case he would be excited or nervous. Turns out he was so good and relaxed that I only needed to warm up for 20 minutes or so. Here are some pictures from the warm-up arena.

We were told the judge was ready for us a few minutes early, which made me happy since I was ready to go a couple minutes early! This was his very first time in the ring and while he gave the judge the hairy eyeball as he walked in, he was fantastic after that - he trucked around like he had done it many times before, he was SO rideable, and even though we were a little wiggly at a couple parts (oh and had to poop as we trotted in), he was such a champion with a great attitude! Here's a video of our Intro B test - we got 64.357%. Judge's comments were "Lovely presentation!" and "Nice harmony between horse and rider."

Then a little break for Mac and I before the Intro C test. I loosened his girth and his noseband so Colin could graze him while I reviewed my next test.

I hopped on for another quick warm up so we could practice our canter work (which is in this test but not in the Intro B test - these tests are for green horses and/or green riders new to the sport of dressage so they are basically geometry, transitions, establishing contact, etc. - no fancy movements at all). I wondered how he'd be for the second test because usually once his quarter runs out he's done and I haven't practiced riding him, getting off and letting him chill out, then getting back on and asking him for more work. But he was again such a good boy. During our first warm up session he fell in love with a little pony mare in the arena with us and so at the beginning of this test you can hear him calling for her but he got over it and went to work.

Here he's cantering.

His canter is not his best gait, although his transitions are generally prompt. Going in a circle and maintaining the correct straightness is hard, especially going to the left. So imagine my surprise when the score I got on my left canter circle was a 7.5! The judge's comment for that was "prompt, better roundness." We also got a 7.5 on our change of rein (changing direction by going down the long diagonal) and our final halt/salute.

Here's the video from the Intro C test.

Our final score for the Intro C test was 67%; the judge's comments on this test were "Well-matched pair!" and "Good potential."

I'm just so proud of him! And of me, too! He's the first horse I've brought along from not having any basic dressage or flatwork training and he was so well behaved and rideable. What makes me most thrilled, though, is what a happy horse he is and he seems to enjoy the work we do together - whether riding the trails or going to a dressage show or learning how to jump, which is what we've got going on next weekend. We're going to do our first horse trials at the Elementary level (walk/trot dressage, jumping over small crossrails, and jumping over small logs on the ground)!

Kali got some shots at the end with Mac and his blue ribbons.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pictures of Mac!

These are the first professional pictures I've got of Mac - these were taken at the trail challenge last weekend!

The first photo was taken as we were coming off the little bridge.

The next photo is as we were about to go in the water. Notice he is looking down at one of the many rubber duckies (?!) that were floating in the water complex.

He thought that perhaps pawing at the water would clear the way.

It wasn't the ducks that were scary, it was the algae . . . you can't see it in this photo, but you can see his reaction to it.

After a few more tries (and running out the clock), we made it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Mac's first competitive trail challenge!

I've always been curious about competitive trail riding, but there was never an event around me that I could go to (at least that I knew of). A few weeks ago while at the feed store I saw a flyer for an event at the same location where I was planning on doing a schooling dressage show . . . and on the same day! What to do?!

I let the weather decide.

It had been so rainy in February and March that I haven't been able to do much riding and so when the skies finally cleared I did what I could. The closing date for the dressage show was more than 10 days before the date of the show. Which meant that couldn't give me a show forecast! The CTC had a closing date of just a few days before the trail trials, so I could make my decision at a later date. And so the trail won out.

It was great fun!

Mac was amazing - just so amazingly fabulous that I couldn't have asked for more. Well, ok, I could have asked for him to go through the water obstacle willingly within the time allowed, but other than that he was wonderful.

I signed up for the earliest ride-out time, but the starters were running late so everyone at my time slot and the time slot after were all milling about waiting for the go-ahead. Mac made lots of friends (especially with the ladies) during the waiting time and so when it was time to head out he was a bit confused as to why everyone wasn't going together. Some of his new friends went ahead of him, and he left some of them behind. He had his little motor running for the first 30 minutes or so when he wanted to catch up with everyone, but after the first obstacle he had it figured out and he happily kept his own pace between a couple of different groups. He was so well behaved! There were horses jigging, frothing with sweat (well, it was a very hot day), but he just maintained his pace and kept his energy level down (he is a mustang, after all!). One of the riders ahead of us excused herself and left the trail because her horse wouldn't settle - I felt for her, because I've been in that type of situation before and it is not fun!

The ride was 2 hours, 6 miles long, and had 7 obstacles - it was all done at the walk. I'm sorry to say that I thought the footing sucked and on any other horse I would have been worried about pulling a shoe or tweaking an ankle or something, but Mac handled it very well. (The management had disced the fields beforehand, but they disced muddy footing so it was all clumpy and when it dried it dried in clumps - oh well, not much to be done about it. It probably would have been better if they just mowed a trail area.)

The first obstacle was a bridge crossing. We were to walk on the bridge, halt, then walk off. That was fine, we had no problems there. The next obstacle was backing uphill. That was fine, too, although in the rules it said we weren't to be asked to back uphill so I'm not sure what was up with that. We completed that test, but not gracefully. Then we had a looooooong walk to the next question which was a set of 4 raised cavaletti and we were to walk through without bumping them. The judge commented that we were the first to go cleanly through that obstacle - good boy, Mac! The fourth test was to dismount (that wasn't judged) and then mount from a rock. It really sounds so simple, and for us it was, but some horses don't want to stand for mounting, I guess. We were judged on the horse standing still and not walking off or shifting weight as we got on, and our "politeness" in mounting - meaning not jerking the saddle to the side or plomping down heavily in the saddle. After that we went to the water. Let me start by saying that at this point we had already done two water crossings and Mac could have cared less. This time was different, though. We had to go through the water complex used on the cross country course. It had lots of algae in it, chlorine discs dotted all around the bottom, and rubber duckies floating about! The rubber duckies were fine, but the algae freaked Mac out and he did not want to go through that part of the water so he was balking and splashing about, which does not exhibit the polite manner that they were looking for. We timed out of that event but did manage to get through. The next obstacle was to drag a pvc pipe behind us, which Mac did just fine. The last obstacle was to go through a maze that had very sharp turns. That was fine as well. Not very finessed, but we had no problems. We trotted out for soundness at the end then got a big handful of carrots - well deserved!

Mac was such a champ superstar - I was so proud of him!!!

I was also proud of him because after not drinking the water from the hose provided by the host location (I had put a bucket in his grassy paddock and he wouldn't touch it), I took him out of the paddock and tied him to the trailer and gave him water I brought from home. He did drink that and eat hay and hung out at the trailer for a couple hours while we waited for results. I was also very proud of him for that!

I was hoping that at the results they would hand out cards that had our scores and comments from the judges (like dressage), but no luck. We didn't win any prizes, but that's no matter as I couldn't be prouder of him. It was a real bonding day for us and that was the most satisfying thing of all. After I got home I looked up scores on the website and it showed what we got for each obstacle but not the total (I have no idea how they are tabulated). We got 2 10s (mounting and cavaletti) 1 9 (dragging the pole) and then the others were a range of 5 to 8, with a zero for timing out at the water. Both the horse and the rider are scored (when we got our 9 and 10s, both Mac and I got them, but on other obstacles we got different numbers).

Mac will get a couple days off for his efforts, then time to start practicing for our schooling dressage show in a couple weeks!

There was a photographer there who got some good photos, so I'll post them when she sends them to me!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wow, it has been a looooong time!

It has been soooo long since I've posted! I suppose one reason is that I haven't been riding much this winter. I rode through January (if I remember correctly!) but then went on vacation in February and then March I went to a two-week yoga intensive. Before that and after I was sick, so I just got on for the first time last Friday.

I didn't know what to expect from Mac (guess I should know by now since it has been almost two years!) but I took him for a trail ride after about a month off. He was fine, of course. Then I schooled dressage at home and he was great! Then another trail ride and he was even better - especially considering that a woman who was headed in our direction fell off her horse as he spooked and then the horse had to trot around for a bit. Mac just stood there and watched it all and then calmly walked up to the thing that spooked the other horse and gave it a look-over.

I'm considering doing either a dressage schooling show or a competitive trail ride next weekend. Then there's a dressage schooling show in May that we're for sure going to sign up for.

I'm busy starting my Yoga for Equestrians business and that is keeping me quite busy!