Friday, April 30, 2010

A cantering lesson

Originally today my trainer and I were going to work on trailer loading in preparation for the schooling show in June, but my trainer wasn't able to bring her truck, so instead we worked on cantering. It was the first time I'd cantered intentionally since our April 2nd lesson, and after I freaked out about it following Prince's passing, I knew I needed to get some more practice in. I'm no longer feeling nervous about it when he canters when he's not supposed to, so I just need to get to the point where planning to canter doesn't make me nervous, either.

Anyway, last time we worked on cantering I was doing it in my two-point, but my trainer wants me to start learning to sit it. Early on, when Panama wasn't yet anticipating the canter, I did fairly well when cantering from a sitting trot:



After cantering a couple of times, though, Panama got excited and I couldn't keep him to that nice slow sitting trot. I wasn't able to sit the faster trot without getting too bouncy, so my trainer had me try going into the canter from posting and then from the two-point.

Going into the canter from the two-point worked pretty well in this video, but usually it gets him more excited and he really pops up into the canter, which throws me off-balance. Therefore I don't like cantering in the two-point as much anymore. However, my trainer wants me to try cantering in a half-seat until I get used to the motion of the canter, so she is trying to get me not to put my weight into the saddle yet. As you can see, I struggle with that — I'm either too high and popping way up, or too low and too bouncy from the unfamiliar motion.



Obviously I still have a lot to work on, and so far I don't really feel like I'm improving. But being able to do it without getting so nervous is obviously at least a mental, if not a physical, improvement! Until our next lesson, I think I'm going to work a lot on the sitting trot — perhaps I can get him used to the idea that if I'm sitting, he needs to go slow! And maybe one day, I'll look like this:

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Panama being good

Despite his general level of excitement on Tuesday (probably due to the fact that we haven't been able to ride outside in a while, and there were other horses about), Panama was pretty good. We worked on not automatically trotting whenever I shortened the reins or went into my two-point, and I worked on keeping my heels down — when I can remember! It's not second nature yet, and remembering all the time is hard work!

We also worked a little bit on going through the big puddles at the barn (the video below). Panama hadn't been through water since our trails rides two summers ago. He doesn't like to walk through puddles — in fact, when I lead him around the barn, he has discovered that if he falls in behind me, I will pick the driest route. I was pretty pleased with how quickly I was able to get him to walk through these puddles. See him wanting to play in the water when I let him put his head down to check it out?

If you don't want to listen to the conversation between my sister (who had the camera) and my trainer, feel free to turn the volume down. If you keep the volume up, though, notice how I was so focused I didn't hear my trainer telling me to lean back? Does anyone else find it challenging to ride and pay attention to instruction at the same time?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Panama being bad

Yesterday during my lesson, Panama was pretty "up." He kept trying to go faster — as soon as I adjusted the reins, he'd start trotting, and at a certain spot in the arena, he kept trying to sneak a canter in (which is strange because I've never asked for a canter there)! My trainer got a little video of it one time. Notice his tail going up as he starts to canter! Excited but hesitant — hopeful, perhaps — is what the body language says to me. He knew I wasn't asking for the canter, but he was trying it anyway, in hopes that I'd let him!

I know I look a little awkward and stiff when he starts cantering; I was trying to sit back for a decent halt, and I don't have enough practice at the canter yet to sit it gracefully. But I wasn't unbalanced at all, and I was able to slow him down before we rounded the turn, so I'm going to consider it a win!



The title is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, by the way. I am well aware that if this is Panama's worst behavior, I am darn lucky!

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Birthday bash at the barn

Today — Monday, that is — was my 30th birthday. I started off the day with my biggest wish for my birthday: a nice ride on Panama.

My horse greeting me on my birthday!

Isn't he adorable, with his tippy ears, and his neck stretched to get his little head over that gate? The little bugger knows he's cute, too.

My horse begging for treats through the fence

We've gotten a lot of rain lately, so it was too soggy to ride outside, let alone hit the trails. So we rode in the indoor with Zans, Mozart, and their respective moms. Panama was pretty revved up at first — I think, when we were all getting our horses ready at the same time, he thought we were going for a trail ride — but he relaxed pretty quickly. We all rode and chatted for over an hour, and it was quite nice!

After I put Panama back in his corral, I went back inside to sweep the aisle. When I came back to my car, I found this:

Tina the calf eating the horses' hay

This is Tina.

Black calf face

Tina was sick after she was born, something having to do with being born during a really cold time. She had to be kept in the barn owners' laundry room and bottle fed. By the time she was well again, though, she thought the barn owner was her mom, and no longer had any interest in her real mom. As a result she is extremely tame: She follows the dogs around, and you can walk right up to her and pet her. She even licked me once today — I was surprised to find her tongue is rough, like a cat's! She roams the property freely during the day, eating grass and the horses' hay.

Calf eating scraps from the horses' hay

When I first saw them, Tina and Panama were checking one another out through the fence. Panama is very interested in the cows, especially those that don't run away from him! But he declined to have his picture taken with her, so I got Mozart and Daisy staring at her instead. I think they were wondering why she was eating their hay scraps!

Horses checking out a calf that was eating their hay

It was a delightful visit to the barn, and a perfect way to kick off my birthday!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Enough sense to come in out of the rain

This morning when I woke up, it was dark and rainy. It suddenly occurred to me that I'd heard it raining overnight, all night, and that thought launched me out of bed and into my barn clothes: I hadn't put Panama's rain sheet on yesterday, not realizing that when they said "Chance of thunderstorms," that actually meant, "Non-stop rain."

I was picturing Panama wet and shivering, but it turned out that I needn't have worried. When I got there, I found this:

My prissy pony, dry after a rainstorm!

Yep, that's my prissy pony — it rains all night and all morning, and not only is he completely dry, but he's clean as well. His fur was only the slightest bit spiky on one side, so he'd obviously gotten sprinkled on, but otherwise spent the entire night and morning in the shelter.

Having found that my concern was not needed, I decided to ride so that the trip wasn't wasted. I groomed him (almost done shedding now!) and tacked him up.

The outdoor arena was waterlogged, but it was gorgeous outside and really didn't want to have to ride inside. I took Panama to the obstacle course behind the outdoor arena, but found that even there, the ground was rather mucky. So instead, we went inside.

We rode for about 30 minutes, not counting all the time setting up and putting away ground poles, but it was a good ride for me. Panama was really excited about the ground poles, and I had to get him used to the idea that just because they were out, didn't mean he was going to go over them every single time we passed! We trotted around the arena several times in each direction before I took him over the poles, and then after riding over the poles a few times, we did figure 8s at the trot for a while before going over the poles some more.

I had the poles set up as trot poles initially, but toward the end — when I was ready to stop, but Panama clearly wanted to do more work with the poles — I put the three poles in a pile and we went over that a few times. Once Panama jumped them unexpectedly, and to my dismay I let the saddle hit me on the butt. The next few times I kept my position more forward, but he never jumped them again. I know my trainer would say that was fine, because it is me learning the correct position that we are working on right now, but I was still disappointed. I didn't have the guts to try jumping without her yet though.

We did have one big spook. The individual turnouts for the indoor horses are right on the other side of the wall, so sometimes we can hear the horses squealing at one another when we are riding inside. They were doing something strange today, though, and Panama started staring very hard at the wall. When he spun and bolted, I wasn't ready for it at all, because I'd been letting him walk on a long rein as a walk break for both of us! I lost my left stirrup, too, but I stayed on and managed to pull him up, even with ridiculous amounts of rein. After that we spent the remainder of our ride walking back and forth along that wall until Panama calmed down somewhat.

There was a trail ride scheduled for tomorrow morning, but with all the rain I'm thinking we may not go — even if it isn't raining tomorrow, my trail riding friends don't like to go when the trail is very muddy. I also have a session scheduled with my trainer in the afternoon, but I think we are going to practice trailer loading, in preparation for the schooling show in June!

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Playing catch up

It seems like I'm playing catch-up everywhere right now. Work, bills, blogs, even riding. I wasn't doing much of anything for several days after we euthanized Prince, and in fact hadn't done much of anything the previous week either because of the infection in my hand, so now I have lots to catch up on.

I did get out to the barn on Sunday and Monday, but I didn't ride either day. I probably should have, though, because when it came time for my lesson yesterday, I hadn't ridden since my last trail ride, a week before.

It was unfortunate, because it seemed like I needed to ease into riding again. My emotional state is improving every day, but I guess it's still a little bit tenuous, because at one point my trainer started telling me what she wanted me to do in the canter, and at the thought of cantering I just wanted to cry.

Cantering still makes me a little bit nervous, but I've learned to master it so that I just do it as quickly as possible, before I get too worked up about it. Yesterday this obviously wasn't going to work, because I just about fell apart right away.

I told my trainer I wasn't up for cantering, and although I know her personality is much different than mine, she understood and didn't push the issue. Instead we worked on lots of trotting, keeping my heels down, and then toward the end I did take Panama over the poles. He didn't really jump — they were really low, and my trainer said he is learning to conserve energy by only jumping when he actually has to — but my trainer said my position is getting better.

And we did get one little canter in there, as he got excited and cantered after leaving the poles. No big deal, as it turns out!

I probably could have cantered after all, but unfortunately we were out of time, and my trainer had to get going right away. All in all, though, it was just what I needed after the events of last week: A fairly relaxed lesson that moved at my pace.

When we got back outside, this is what we found:

My gelding's girlfriend, waiting for him to come back after a ride

This is the more subdued version of Daisy waiting for Panama to come back. She gets really worked up when I first take him out of the corral, completely with whinnying, pawing, and pacing! Daisy loves Panama, but sometimes I wish she didn't love him quite so much!

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

In memory of Prince

Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

- Hamlet
Act V, scene ii

My cat Prince

Thursday morning I had to euthanize my sweet kitty, Prince, who has been sick since November. Some of you may remember me mention at time that I was force-feeding him. Although he was doing relatively well with the force-feeding, he wouldn't eat on his own.

In the last few days of his life, it got increasingly hard for him to breathe, so late Wednesday evening we took him to an emergency clinic. An x-ray found that one of his lungs was completely filled with fluid. After spending the night in an oxygen box, in the morning a specialist did an ultrasound in preparation to drain his lung, and discovered that he had a large tumor behind his heart. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to drain enough fluid off to make him comfortable out of oxygen, so we had to put him to sleep.

Losing Prince has been one of the hardest things I've ever gone through. I'd had him for 11 years this month, so he's been with me virtually all of my adult life — through moving out of my parents' house, and back in again, through boyfriends and breakups, through many different schedules as I changed jobs and went back to school.

My cat Prince

I found Prince on my 19th birthday, in 1999. I had actually been looking for a kitten, but even in a cage, he had a way about him that quickly won me over. He flopped around on his back and looked up at me with his head upside down. When presented with a finger, he licked it and gnawed on it, purring the whole time. Not to mention he was gorgeous! They didn't have the adoption paperwork, so I returned the next day to get him.

When I got him, the vet said he was about 2 or 3, and he weighed a mere 7 pounds. That was pretty typical for him throughout his life: He ate just enough to stay alive, and always on the thin side, as you can see by how easily he fits into this mixing bowl.

My cat Prince

One of Prince's most startling features was his different-colored eyes. I later discovered that deafness follows the white cat, blue eyes genes. I didn't know it at the time, and it took a couple of weeks before my dad suggested he was deaf. He would holler at the top of his lungs everywhere he went, and it never occurred to me why. Luckily, I quickly learned to sleep through it when he did it at night!

My cat Prince

I've never known another cat like Prince. He was quirky and personable. He liked car rides. He looked at you so attentively when you took his picture, almost like he was posing. He didn't suffer from the aloofness cats are known for, and was generally pretty obliging.

My cat Prince

Prince was with me through quite a few changes in my life. The biggest one was when Michael came into my life. Prince adored Michael from the start (it took getting really sick for Cleo to warm up to him, but then she's pretty reserved in general). He quickly took to sleeping on Michael's chest at night.

My cat Prince

However, with Michael came Emma, his big brown dog. Cleo didn't handle it well (she stopped eating and got very sick), but as always, Prince rolled with the punches. He wasn't shy about sniffing Emma right back, or about swatting her on the face if she got fresh with him. There were times when he clearly wanted to play with her, but she didn't know how to read his signals.

My cat Prince

Prince was one of those cats you could always expect to find sleeping in some strange place. Sometimes it would just be a few times, and other times he'd make it a favorite spot for a while. And watch out if you dared to leave out a basket full of clean laundry!

My cat Prince

My cat Prince

My cat Prince

Although Prince was kind of clueless and wacky, there was still something regal and surprisingly intelligent about him. I remember when he figured out what mirrors were. I watched as he looked back and forth between me and my reflection in the mirror, and I could see him putting it together. He liked to watch me in mirrors; if I left clothes on my vanity top, he'd lie there facing the mirror, and watch what was going on in the room behind him.

My cat Prince

In the last few years of his life, his tolerance for the dogs grew to the point that he was comfortable sleeping in their beds with them. We'd often come home to find him snuggled up on one corner. The last time was only a few days before he died.

My cat Prince

My cat Prince

Right up until the end, Prince maintained his sweet, quirky, affectionate nature. Even though I'd been force-feeding him since November, we'd often comment on how much like himself he was acting. He still slept in the same places, enjoyed the same things, kept the same routines. He loved to sit in our laps and appeared virtually any time we sat down. Just a couple of mornings before his death, I awoke to him giving my hand a bath as he snuggled up to my side in bed.

My cat Prince

This picture was taken on his last morning at home, 24 hours before we had to put him to sleep. Although he'd been having trouble breathing on and off for two days, he was completely comfortable and happy to be sleeping with me.

My cat Prince

In the emergency clinic overnight, the staff kept telling me what a tough kitty he was, expressing surprise at how well he was hanging in there, despite the fact that he had only one functioning lung and weighed only 5.5 pounds. The next morning, when I mentioned to the specialist who found the tumor that I'd been force-feeding Prince for the past five months, he was surprised. "You've been doing a good job with him, for him to still be here," he said several times. It was gratifying to hear, but I also know that a lot of credit has to go to Prince for his strong will to live. Other than the fact that he stopped eating, you never would have known he was sick.

My cat Prince

I wasn't sure how Cleo would react at him being gone. They were never terribly close, though I did see a few surprising moments of closeness in his last week: She licked him for a moment once, and we came home to find her sleeping on the couch next to him Wednesday evening. But since he's been gone, she has taken to sleeping in his favorite spot on the couch for long periods at a time, something she never showed interest in before. And despite how reserved she usually is, she has been quite needy the last couple of days.

Letting go of Prince was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but I have no regrets. I was able to give him five months of life that he wouldn't have had otherwise, and it was good life, too. There was no question, Thursday morning, that it was the right time to let him go. It didn't make the grief any easier to bear, but at least I haven't had to deal with doubts and regret on top of it.

Sorry for the really long post, but Prince has been such a part of my life that I felt he deserved it. I've had him for so long that I didn't even know anymore what it was like to live without him, but I am relearning it. It will be a while before I get used to not having to schedule my day around when I have to feed him next, or before I stop expecting to see him curled up somewhere, sleeping. But I have 11 years of happy memories, too, and I can't think of a better gift.

My cat Prince

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trail ride!

Today I was lucky enough to get to go out on a trail ride — my first since before the infection in my hand. It was a little bit windy, but it calmed down for most of our ride, and the horses weren't bothered at all by the wind.

Our trail companions today were just Zans, Panama's big Fresian-Thoroughbred cross buddy, and his mom. Zans's owner lunged him, and then we rode in the arena for a few moments just to check both his and Panama's moods. They were fine, so we went right out on the trail.

It was a great ride, though I had a few anxious moments. The biggest one — actually several moments — was when we passed the rental stables inside the park, and there were horses there! The stables has been closed, but is opening up this weekend, so they moved the horses over to get them ready for the trail riding season. Having passed the stables several times and never seen horses, Panama was very excited about this change, and I had the distinct feeling that my control over him was suddenly rather tenuous. Particularly when a pretty little mare came running over to the fence to visit! It took us five or ten minutes to pass the stables, and the entire time I was fighting to keep Panama on track. He was much more interested in stopping and looking at the horses, and would have greeted them if I'd let him, rather than continuing on our trail ride.

We took the lead several times throughout the trail, more because Zans walks so slow than for any other reason. Panama just naturally kept passing him. He is getting better about pacing himself a bit slower, but once he discovered he could lead, he forgot all about trying to keep up (or keep down, rather) with Zans. The problem with that is that we have to stop periodically and let Zans catch up, so that he doesn't get too far behind and panic!

The lovely green grass is coming up all throughout the park, too. I've been letting Panama stop and eat periodically, which is a big change for me, but I feel that it is helping him to relax and keep his excitement at manageable levels on the trail. The only rules are that he only gets to when I say it's okay; and when I say, "Head," and give his reins a gentle tug, he has to stop. So far that's going well, with only the occasional attempt to graze when I'm not permitting it. Usually a gentle jiggle of the reins is sufficient reminder if he forgets himself!

It was a very satisfying ride, but I don't know whether I'll be going out again tomorrow. I have a lot of work still to catch up on from last week, and my cat, Prince, has been doing more poorly lately — increasing his food seems to be helping, but it means force-feeding him more frequently, which is hard to schedule around trips to the barn. Staying home tomorrow and taking care of some other things might be a better plan of action!

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Stolen horse in New Mexico

Just cross posting from Mugwump Chronicles:

Missing Horse

Someone stole some little girl's horse in New Mexico. Black, 16hh Tennessee Walking Horse. Click on the link above to see pictures. Poor kid — I hope she gets her horse back.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

...and back in the saddle

Today I rode again for the first time since my Easter Day bareback ride. I had a session with my trainer, though I wasn't sure whether I was more excited to ride again, or to see Panama jump.

As it turned out, I rode and did a little of my first jumping. We walked over a low cross rail a number of times (no jumping required), and then jumped it perhaps a half a dozen times at a trot. He is very excited to be jumping, but even though he is fairly green at this himself, he is being amazingly patient with me.

I don't think I pulled on his face at all today, though I did have a hard time keeping forward — I wasn't getting slammed on the butt with the saddle or anything, but I was letting it make contact with my butt. My trainer said I'm expecting the landing too soon, and sitting back as a result. I also know that I'm getting nervous as we get up to the rail, and sitting back because I'm afraid of him stopping or putting his head down, and me going right over it!

The last time we jumped, she said I did much better, so we were able to end on a good note. My trainer did say, though, that I need to be sure to keep a little more leg on as we're getting up to the jump. I'm afraid he'll overreact to it, so I've been taking my legs off, and she said he needs a little bit more confidence and guidance from me — he's being a bit inconsistent, too, because I'm essentially making him do it all by himself.

Anyway, today was a really windy day so I didn't get to see Panama jump the course outside (where my trainer lunged him over the jumps on Friday). Instead I rode the entire time in the indoor. He was pretty good, despite the wind, but he was a bit spooky about a sliver of sunlight that came in the south-facing door and lengthened or shortened a bit at times — something was being blown across the crack in the door outside, I guess. The first time he saw it, he spun and bolted a few strides before I could pull him up. It was such a surreal experience — I stayed sitting back, kept my heels down (my trainer said), and talked to him like normal, even though the whole thing was a blur and my weight was thrown entirely into my right stirrup from the spin. I was just able to rock my weight back into position and pull him up. I have no idea how I did it, but my trainer says it goes to show how much I have improved — once upon a time, my weight would have just kept going to the right, and I would have ended up on the ground.

Hopefully on Friday I will have some pictures and video of him jumping the course outdoors — and perhaps a little of me learning to jump, too!

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Back to the barn...

Today I was able to get out to the barn for the first time in almost a week. I hadn't been out at all since Wednesday, when I ran out there just to take off his sheet, and the last time I spent any amount of time there was Tuesday, when my trainer rode. My trainer did work with Panama on Friday, but he was a lad of leisure for the most part last week.

So today when I got out there, Panama was pretty happy to see me, whinnying to me over the fence when I came with his halter and lead rope to collect him. He was also a bit of a spaz, which I expected since he hadn't been out of his corral much, so I didn't plan on riding him. One of Panama's trail riding buddies and his owner were hanging out along the road, grazing (well, the horse was grazing — his owner wasn't), so I took Panama out there to do some of the same. He hadn't been out that direction before, so I figured it would be good for him to munch on some grass there with a trusted trail buddy.

After chatting for a little bit, we headed back and I put Panama in the cross ties to groom him. By this time, Daisy (his live-in girlfriend, remember) was hollering for him, and he was acting a bit impatient with my efforts to make up for a week's worth of neglected grooming. He was shedding out like crazy, and I know I could have gotten more hair off, but he had ants in his pants and it was driving me crazy.

The outdoor arena finally emptied out, so I turned Panama out. He dropped and rolled almost immediately, and then sprang to his feet like an acrobat and took off. Round and round me he ran, tail flagged. Clearly he'd missed getting out while I was out of commission! Then Daisy's owner and my trainer showed up for their lesson, and they turned Daisy out along with Panama. The two of them ran together, round and round some more! By the time I caught Panama to bring him in, he was blowing and his neck, chest, and shoulders were damp.

I definitely wasn't going to ride at that point, as running with Daisy had made Panama even more of a spaz than he had already been — impossible as that would seem! I stood and chatted with my trainer for a bit while her student tacked up, while Panama whinnied incessantly for Daisy (who wasn't interested in answering him now that she was the one being messed with. Then I took him back to his corral, where he continued to whinny until the arrival of dinner distracted him (though he still kept an eye on her across the parking lot while he ate).

Tomorrow I will ride — and although my hand was started to get a little irritated today, I have to admit, I am anxious to get back in the saddle again!

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Missing out

It has been a crazy week, and I'm sorry to say that I haven't ridden since we tooled around bareback on Easter.

Some of you may remember that I burned my hand two and a half weeks ago. Well, it seemed to be healing fine until a week or so ago, when I started getting hives where the burned skin had peeled off (like a sunburn). They got worse and worse, so I used a cream called Lanacane to try to stop the itching. I don't know if I had a reaction to it or what, but next thing I know my hand is turning red and swelling up like a grapefruit.

I've been falling asleep early all week, partly from the Benadryl I'm taking to stop the itching, and partly I think because my body is fighting this infection. By yesterday, my hand was looking much worse, so I went to the doctor and got a prescription for antibiotics. Today it was less red but more swollen, so I called and tried to get back in again. Instead they told me to go to the emergency room.

Luckily it wasn't as serious as my doctor's office thought it might be, and I was given a shot of antibiotics, prescriptions for steroids and Allegra (for the swelling and the itching, respectively), and sent on my way. We'll see how my hand looks tomorrow. I don't know why I wasn't given steroids the first time around, as it was pretty swollen then, too.

Anyway, I've been missing out on a lot of barn time during this entire ordeal. I did get out there on Tuesday for a session with my trainer, but I was crabby and uncomfortable and had her ride instead of me. Panama did quite well, and even did a little jumping over a low cross rail.

Wednesday, however, I was worse, so I went out to the barn to take off Panama's sheet and came right home afterward.

Today I had another session with my trainer, but I let her know I wasn't up to it. I told her she could work Panama without me, but if she couldn't that was okay too. She called me after her session with him to tell me that she's lunged him over all the cross country jumps at the barn, and that he was doing quite well. There were a couple that he wanted to stop and sniff first, but she said overall he liked the jumping quite a bit. She said she thinks that he and I can start working on jumping if I want.

It's all good news, of course, but I'm disappointed to have missed out on something so major in his training. Hopefully my hand will be back to normal in time for next week's lessons!

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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Today was a beautiful, sunny, 60-degree Easter. We were supposed to go on a trail ride this afternoon with a couple of other boarders, but I had the meeting time wrong so Panama and I got left behind. Instead, we hung out at the barn and still had a great time!

I spent a long time grooming Panama today. I tied him up out in the sun and let him sunbathe while I gave him a vigorous rubbing with the Epona shedding flower. This is an awesome product for shedding out your horse — the fur was coming off of Pan in droves! I have been doing quickie grooming jobs all week, so I haven't really taken the time to thoroughly shed him out. Even after 45 minutes of grooming today, I'm still not sure I'm done, but he's looking much sleeker — especially since I finally brushed out his mane and tail again, after probably a month or two of being conditioner-less!

After our extended grooming session, I hopped on Panama bareback for a bit. He was being pretty good, even though the other horse with us in the outdoor arena had spring fever and was jigging a bit. We had a hairy few moments when the other boarders came back from their trail ride, bringing with them a friend who had trailered her little mule in (Panama thought the mule looked like great fun). Since I was bareback, I didn't take any chances — I just hopped down until they left.

I only intended a short, relaxed ride, so after the other rider left, I hopped off, removed Panama's bridle, and turned him loose. At first he wanted to stay in my back pocket, so with his bridle in my hand I snapped the reins at him, and he ran off to go roll.

After rolling, Panama sat up, curled his legs under him, and just looked at me. That was a new behavior — he's never not gotten up after rolling right in front of me. I went over and knelt next to him for a few minutes, stroking his face and shoulder, until he decided to get up. Then I snapped the reins at him some more, and he took off, running and bucking and flagging his tail like I haven't seen him do in a while! I guess he was feeling good!

Happy Easter, buddy!

Me and my horse

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

More cantering, and questions about showing

I had a riding lesson yesterday, but it was quite windy so I decided to have it indoors. Other than the wind, though, it was a perfect day for it — it was fairly quiet at the barn, and Panama was behaving very nicely. (The sound of wind and dirt hitting the side of the indoor used to scare him, but he hardly reacts at all now.)

He was a bit distracted and excited when I first got on, because a high-strung Arab (appropriately named Spunkie) had just gotten done lunging in the indoor arena. To give him something else to think about, my trainer got out some ground poles. It served to immediately refocus Panama's attention on the work at hand, and my trainer said I was also doing much better with trot poles.

In fact, he was being so good that within 10 minutes, my trainer said, "We're definitely cantering today." I had a little bit of the old sensation of seizing up, so I said, "Let's do it now, before I get too tired." (Read: Before I have a chance to think about it for too long and start worrying.)

We worked in half the arena again, and I cantered the most times (and for the longest times) that I've done yet. (On purpose, that is.) I also had several near-falls, as Panama started shaking his head and pulling on the reins at the canter. The first time he did that, my trainer said I'd been pulling on his face a bit, but she later said that my hands were quiet and I was doing everything right. Perhaps, after the first time, he was shaking his head in anticipation that I might pull. My trainer did say I needed to be sure not to lean forward quite so far in my two-point, though, as he almost pulled me right out of the saddle a few times.

Part of me knows that I haven't done much cantering yet, so it will take some time to learn what my hands, legs, upper body, etc. are all supposed to do at every moment. Part of me is still hung up on the things I did wrong, though. I guess that just leaves us with some stuff to work on next time: improving my position and getting him to stop that head-shaking nonsense.

After my trainer had nearly worn me out with cantering, we went back to working with ground poles. Not thinking, I tried to trot Panama over the poles right after we'd been cantering, and he balked — I think he was still fixated on cantering, and didn't see the pole until the last moment. I fell forward, right onto his neck. My trainer had me do it again, and the same thing happened! Then she had me walk him back and forth over the poles several times (which got some annoyed tail-swishing from him — I think he knew he was in trouble, but he was more interested in cantering than doing stupid ground poles!), which I probably should have done from the very beginning anyway.

Once he was trotting over the poles without hesitation again, my trainer introduced us to a pile of poles — three poles stacked over one another. The first couple of times, it took a lot of leg to convince him to step over the poles, but my trainer said I was handling it well. Once he would walk over it without hesitation, she had me trot him over. She had me grab mane with my right hand in case he jumped them, which he did, but unfortunately I did pull on his mouth with my left. My trainer said not to worry about that — we haven't done any jumping yet, she said, so it was just because I didn't know how to prevent that from happening.

I'm really pleased with our progress since we moved to the new barn, especially the last couple of months. I think that once Panama settled in and stopped acting like a dingbat, both of us were able to improve quite a bit. I think a great deal of that is having a real arena, poles, etc. — it allows us to practice things that we weren't even able to learn when we were just riding in a pasture.

Because of how well we've been doing, I've actually started to think about the possibility of showing. This isn't something I'd ever thought I'd be interested in, but lately I've been wondering if it might be good experience for us both. Then my trainer brought it up yesterday, asking if I'd be interested in doing a walk-trot class in a schooling show this summer. I am definitely thinking about doing it, at least once to see how we both do and introduce Panama to some different sights and sounds. First, though, I told my trainer I'd want to do some more trailer loading practice, and then perhaps load him and take him somewhere to ride once to see how he handles it. I also would like him to see that trailering somewhere doesn't always mean leaving his home — that we can go somewhere, ride, have fun, and come right back again.

Since I don't know anything about showing, I'm interested in what knowledge and experience my readers might be able to offer. Have you ever done a schooling show? What's the difference between a schooling show and another kind of show? Keep in mind that I'm not considering serious showing at this point — I'm thinking about it as possibly being fun and a good experience for both of us.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

A surprise trail ride

I was fully expecting today to be a not-so-nice day, since they were calling for rain this afternoon and rain/snow mix tonight. When I went out to the barn a little after 11am, however, it was sunny and in the mid 60s.

Panama was happy to see me, and eager to get to work. We started out riding in the outdoor arena. It was empty when I arrived, but by the time I got Panama tacked up, the group lesson that we shared the indoor with last Friday was out there, as well as two other boarders.

Panama and I got some good walk and trot work done. Despite being a bit distracted at the walk, once we started trotting he was able to focus himself a bit better. He did fairly well at keeping a consistent pace, and I found that my endurance is improving — I was able to maintain a posting trot for more laps than usual around the large outdoor arena.

After we had been riding for 15 minutes or so, one of the other boarders asked me if I wanted to go out on the trail with her and another boarder. I was more than happy to! So we went out and did the same loop through the park that Panama and I have done twice now. He did really well, despite the fact that one of the horses hadn't been out before and both she and her rider were a bit nervous. I did learn that I personally don't care for trail riding as much when the other riders are nervous, but luckily Panama didn't seem too bothered by it!

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