Saturday, March 26, 2011

Horsey Headlines: Cute mini and his prosthetic

Cuteness alert!

Prosthetics aren't for every horse, but there are definitely some that seem to do well with them.  This mini is hilarious — check out the adorable video footage when he realizes that for the first time in his life, he can actually run and play!

Mini horse gets lifesaving prosthetic leg

What a cutie!


Friday, March 25, 2011

Jumping, trail rides, and playdates, oh my!

First trail ride of spring

I'm sorry I've been so terrible lately about blogging.  I actually have had things to blog about — I just haven't had the time to do it.

The first thing I missed blogging about was yesterday's jumping lesson.  My trainer is pushing us a lot harder, so we got a lot of jumping in, but both Panama and I were exhausted by the time the lesson was over.  I didn't think I did as well as last week's jumping lesson, but she reassured me that I'm doing fine — it just takes time to learn.

Panama, of course, loves jumping.  I can see in the set of his head and his ears how excited he gets when he sees the jump standards and the poles come out.  We have to have the periodic discussion about whether or not he is allowed to run on auto pilot the minute I point him at the jump, but usually if we discuss it once, the topic doesn't have to be revisited for the rest of the lesson.

Today we managed to squeeze in a trail ride — our first of the spring.  I nearly backed out, because I could tell before we even left the property that Panama was excited, anxious, and just in general ready to blow at any minute.  I was surprised because after our lesson on Thursday, I wouldn't think he'd have so much energy.  But Spaghetti was along, and he was hyper from having been cooped up in his run all week, so Panama may have been feeding off of his energy.

Regardless of why, three of the four horses on the trail ride were constantly acting up.  I spent the first half of the ride practically fearing for my life — perhaps a little bit of exaggeration there, but only to give you an impression of how bad it was!  If it wasn't Panama ready to bolt, Spaghetti was spooking or Shadoman was jigging.

I thought we were going to have to turn back, but we pressed on and eventually Panama did calm down.  I don't know if it was because I let him lead (which he prefers), because we got out about 30 feet in front of everyone so that he was no longer surrounded by nervous horses (which he seems to feed off of), or because I was very softly singing to him (we have our little "calm down" song that seems to help him relax and refocus on me).

Spaghetti, who was behind us for a while, seemed to calm down too — until he noticed we were passing the site of the controlled burn from a couple of weeks ago.  Panama kept looking over at the black and green (from new growth) field as we passed, but he was merely interested, not overly concerned.  Spaghetti, on the other hand, apparently freaked out a bit and refused to keep moving forward.  His owner had to dismount and lead him across the road to see it, and then he wouldn't let her remount until someone else dismounted to hold the reins.  Shadoman's owner and I had gotten pretty far ahead, so we circled back to them through the burned area in the hopes that Spaghetti would feel a bit more secure once everyone was together again.

Once we got through the burned section, they all relaxed again, until we encountered a tractor on the bike path.  Shadoman and his owner, and Panama and I crossed the path, followed shortly thereafter by Spaghetti and his owner; our caboose, Zans and his owner, were cut off from the rest of us until the tractor passed.  Both Spaghetti and Panama were pretty upset as the tractor passed; Panama wanted to run away, but I wouldn't let him, so he threatened to rear in protest.  I put him into a tight circle and turned him around to face the tractor, which was at this point heading away from us, so Panama decided it was okay after all and watched it go.  I was just pleased to have "won" and kept him from running away.

After we got back — all on the same horses we rode out on, thank goodness — we turned Spaghetti and Panama out together to blow off some steam.  They were acting a bit tired from our trail ride, but once turned out they perked right up, and romped together with a surprising amount of energy.  I guess "blowing off steam" was exactly what they needed to do!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Spring!

Yesterday was the spring equinox, the first day of spring.  It certainly feels like spring here — it's been 60 and 70 degrees each day, with overnight lows usually around about 40 degrees.  That's really nice weather for March in Colorado!  Usually March is our snowiest month, and I don't believe we've had more than a couple of inches this month so far, if that.

I hope we don't get a huge snowstorm this spring before winter decides it's done with us.  We usually do get dumped on in the spring at least once or twice!  Poor Panama's winter coat will be nearly gone, so it'll mean a lot of blanketing if we get a big snowstorm like that this year!

How is your weather?  Does it feel like spring yet where you live?


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Things to work on

I've been quietly amassing a list of things I need to work on.  I am definitely going to have to start riding a little more often if I am going to have time to fit all this in.

Not pinching the saddle between my knees — a big, bad habit I've picked up that seems to exacerbate all other problems, including my tension levels and, evidently, Panama's speed.

Controlling Panama's speed with my seat — maybe one day I'll figure this one out.

Transitioning into a canter — I still tend to hunch and pull my heels up going into the canter, though I'm getting better about finding the rhythm once I'm in it.  Still not perfect, but better.  Time to start working on my transition a little more.

Cantering in the two-point — I don't feel comfortable in a two-point at the canter, which is why cantering up to a jump scares me.  I've got to practice this one some more too.

Trotting bareback — totally different type of goal, but I want to start riding bareback more, especially at the trot, so that I start feeling more confident.

Oh, yeah, and one more: Working Panama through distractions outside — since he tends to be very distracted and fast and crazy in the outdoor arena.  It's also been a while since we've ridden out there, because of the winter weather and all, so my trainer wants me to start riding him outside once a week — which means that day I'll be focusing on him as much as, or more than, me.

I can't work on all of this in one practice session or my head will explode.  I really am going to have to start getting out to the barn to ride more often!


Jumping lesson!

Today Panama and I had a really awesome jumping lesson.  My trainer was all business today, and we got lots done — and achieved a lot, too, I think.

We started out with just poles, spaced so that we could get two trot steps between or one canter stride.  Panama got very excited when he saw the poles come out, though, so at first my trainer had to talk me through getting both me and him straightened out — mainly helping me to control his pace more with my seat and making sure I wasn't inadvertently making him go faster with the way I was riding (no leaning forward, no pinching with my knees, etc.).  Then we both trotted and cantered over the poles in each direction.

Then my trainer put up cross rails, and we worked on jumping.  I've been working on staying tall, giving him enough leg to keep him going over the jump, and holding on with the back of my calves instead of my knees.  He wasn't jumping much over the lowest setting, though, just kind of hopping over it,so my trainer moved the end of each rail up a notch.

The first time we jumped the higher jump, Panama got a little mad at me for letting my butt slam down on the saddle, but after the first attempt we both figured things out and started doing a little better.  Up until now we've been trotting up to a jump, rather than cantering, but toward the end of the lesson Panama started wanting to canter up to the jump.

The first time he started to canter, I kind of freaked out and slowed him, for which my trainer gave me a little grief — "He totally would have done it!"  (It wasn't him doing it I was worried about, actually.)  The second time, though, I managed to stay tall and stay with him... and it was so much easier than I thought it would be.  Wow!  Not that I think I'm ready to canter up to a jump every time, and not that I want him ignoring what speed I am asking him for, but I was pretty pleased that I rode it well and didn't fall off.

I always knew somehow that Panama would enjoy jumping, but I wasn't expecting that I would like it, too!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Unintentional cues

I think Panama is figuring out when I ask for a trot, how to tell if it's a faster, posting trot that I want, or a slower, sitting trot.  Part of it is (I think) that he has finally slowed down a little and isn't rushing all the time anymore — I'm actually having to use leg to keep him going sometimes, which is a first in the three or so years we've been working with him — but he's obviously also figured out that he needs to pay attention to whether my weight is back in the saddle, or whether I'm more forward, preparing to post.

I've been noticing this for the last few weeks, but it became especially obvious last night, when I rode bareback for a bit.  I haven't dared a trot bareback since I had a couple of scary falls last fall, so I was pretty nervous about trotting bareback last night.  Sometimes he does a little hop up into the trot, and I was concerned that if he did that with me bareback or just took off, I wouldn't last a second before falling off.

When I finally worked up the courage to ask for a trot, though, he was really good.  No hops up, just a nice, slow, even trot.  He was rather reluctant to go back down into a walk, and my poor nerves could only take about half a lap in each direction before I was ready to take my success and run with it (figuratively, not literally!), but all in all it made me feel pretty good about things.  My seat is definitely improving — remember how I agonized about trotting bareback last fall?  I still need to work on remembering to sit back when I'm asking him to slow or stop, but I didn't feel unbalanced last night at all.

Anyway, I got a little off topic, since my original idea was fascination with how keen they can be to unintentional cues.  I've been trying to figure out for months, maybe years, how to teach him a cue for a slower trot, and here he's gone and figured it out on his own!


Monday, March 14, 2011

I rode today...

But first I had to find my horse beneath all the fur.

Horse shedding out in the spring

There he is!

Horse shedding out in the spring

When I got to the barn, I discovered that Savvy was back.  Her owner was there, so I stopped to chat, and found out that Savvy came back outside yesterday.  Apparently she was so fed up with being on stall rest, that when her owner was handwalking her on Saturday, she bucked and reared and took off.  After running all over the property, her owner figured that if she wasn't sore the next day, she was probably okay to come back out to the corral!

Despite having his buddy back, Panama was pretty eager for me to come get him.  He stood waiting at the gate while I chatted, occasionally whinnying with impatience.  I put him in the cross ties and spent 15 minutes shedding him out with my Epona shed flower — my favorite springtime grooming tool.  I always feels like he doesn't have enough hair in the winter, but this time of year it seems to be limitless.  I could have kept going and still kept getting more and more hair, but I gave up after a little while and turned him out.  Once he'd run a little, I hopped on bareback for a bit.

We didn't ride for long, mainly because I had to get home, but also because he was hyper and hungry and I was worried about an explosion.  It had been a while since my last ride, so we did a little refresher work on leg yielding — he has a tendency to leave his back end behind, so we've been practicing — and keeping his head relaxed and low (a real challenge this evening).

It seems the greatest irony of the evening that I spent as much time shedding him out as I did riding, and I still hopped down with my butt covered in fur afterward!


Thursday, March 10, 2011

High alert

My horse on high alert

Today was a busy day for a lot of reasons.

First was the farrier appointment. I arrived just a few minutes after the farrier, and found Panama waiting at the gate already. Apparently he's so bored, being all alone, that even the farrier sounds like good fun.

After his farrier appointment, Panama hung out and acted impatient while I talked to Savvy's owner.  Savvy is doing well and should be able to come back out to the corral in a few days, once she finishes her bute — the vet wants to be sure she's comfortable before she's let off stall rest.

Panama had been in the cross ties for quite a while, so I turned him out and kept chatting with Savvy's owner.  I looked up to see Panama going berserk in the arena, running around with his tail in the air.  Panama loves to run, but he's a "social runner," and usually isn't so keen on running by himself.

Turned out there was a controlled burn in the park, and apparently the smoke had gotten Panama all fired up.  He wasn't the only one, either — the horses on turnout who could see the smoke were all on high alert, and one of the horses inside the barn (a pretty easily agitated horse) worked himself into a lather, running circles in his stall.

Today is gorgeous, one of the nicest days we've had yet this year, but with all that was going on I decided not to ride.  I hadn't felt like it when I got up this morning, even though I dressed in my riding clothes (hoping I'd change my mind once I was there), and I didn't need much of an excuse.  I'm sure Panama would have enjoyed a ride, but I just wasn't in the mood to deal with any general uppiness as a result of the controlled burn.

I did hang out at the barn for several hours, but I felt like I ought to get a little more enjoyment out of this nice weather, so right now I'm doing my work out in the backyard.  Poor substitute for a ride, I know, but some days you just aren't feeling it!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

All alone!

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted — it's not for lack of stuff to post about.  I've just been really busy.

Poor Panama has been all alone in his corral since last Thursday...

My horse all alone in his corral

Since Daisy left at the end of November, it's been just him and Savvy, an older mare.  Well, last week her owner discovered she had a mild case of founder, and the vet said she had to be on stall rest.  Which meant pulling her out of the corral, and leaving poor Panama all alone.

He's actually taking it pretty well, much better than I expected.  I was riding when they moved her last Thursday, and when I brought him back to an empty corral, he was convinced she'd gone on a trail ride.  He kept whinnying for her out in the direction of the park.  I guess he whinnied periodically much of the evening, but he wasn't sweaty or showing other signs of extreme distress, so we let him stay.

He's definitely not crazy about being alone, so I've been trying to get out there a little more often, to give him something else to think about.  He's always quiet when I arrive, but as soon as he sees me, he starts whinnying, like he has to tell me all about how lonely he's been.  The first couple of days, whenever I took him back to the corral, he would pause before walking through the gate and just look around, like he was surprised to see that there were still no other horses in there.

He's been a little jumpier than usual, though that didn't stop us from having a really good lesson on Friday, the day after Savvy moved.  On Friday I also showed him where Savvy was, in the indoor barn — she was really happy to see him (she was upset about being suddenly confined to a stall), and he was a bit surprised, but I haven't heard him whinny out to the park since I showed him where she was.  In some ways, I think it's good for him to be able to adjust to a change like this, and learn to handle different sorts of situations.

Apparently we are supposed to have another horse coming into the corral, but likely not until April 1st.  I was thinking it would be a long, lonely month for Panama, but it sounds like Savvy's founder was fairly minor, and she may be back as early as tomorrow — they've had x-rays taken (no problems there) and the farrier is coming tomorrow to shoe her.  Hopefully Panama will have his buddy back tomorrow.  Keep your fingers crossed for us!