Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Practice, practice, practice

Does it get boring that I keep writing about all my bareback rides?  I rode bareback again last night — for only about 30 minutes, but I find that's usually about all I can take bareback.  I'm mostly trotting these days, though I always take a few minutes, usually toward the end, to work on leg yields and turns on the haunches and the forehand.

I'm finding that as I start feeling more secure at the trot, I'm able to do more with my lower legs without feeling like it throws off my balance.  At the same time, Panama is getting a lot more responsive to leg and seat cues.  I've been doing a lot of "butt-steering," and I'm continually amazed how responsive he is to that.  Just the slightest shift and he responds!  I can keep him going straight by making sure I'm keeping my weight even between both seat bones, too.  I think he is enjoying the bareback practice, and our heightened awareness of one another, as much as I am.

He's also getting much better about maintaining a constant (and slow-ish) pace.  At one point last night I realized that we'd been trotting for a long time without him changing his pace whatsoever.  That's a pretty big accomplishment for him!

I'm still trying to work up the nerve to try cantering bareback.  I've been thinking about it a lot while riding, so close sometimes to just going ahead and asking for it, but so far I haven't really had the right circumstances.  I want it to be a night when no one else is there, because I don't want to have to worry about distractions and navigating around someone else in the arena.  He'll also have to be behaving himself, of course, as I'm most concerned about that upward transition — sometimes, especially when he's excited about it, he still will explode into the canter just a little bit.  And I want my husband there... just in case!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

A follow-up on Randy Byers

A couple of years ago I posted on Randy Byers, a Washington-area trainer who was outed by Fugly for abusing clients' horses.  My blog post, though old, has generated a lot of interest lately, so I thought I'd post an update.

Just a week ago, I received this anonymous comment on my blog:

I have no idea who "Anonymous" is but I have had a good 4 years of learning advanced riding skills with Randy both at Ron Coppels stable and at Carbon stables. I have 2 overly smart paint/mustangs and an not so intelligent appendix gelding which Randy has worked with quite extensively. He has never mistreated my horses, and has always welcomed my being there any time night or day to show up to ride and work them myself.randy has also helped my husband to learn and appreciate the finer points of horsemanship. I am very grateful for his help.

I was a little surprised to get a comment on such an old post, but in my experience controversial posts often attract comments for years after the original posting date.  However, when I received the following email, I realized something must have triggered the sudden interest:

hi. i came across your blog while doing some research on randy byers. you did a blog on him in 2009, when he got outed on the fugly blog. i thought maybe you would like an update. this is from an arabian horse blog, posted by someone in canada who is aware that he's been crossing the border there to work without proper papers.

Randy Byers is NO LONGER a Lyons Certified Trainer, due to his unscrupulous training techniques.
Randy Byers is NO LONGER a Royal Champion Supplements Endorser due to his unfair treatment of horses.
Randy Byers is in jail in Canada up on 3 counts of contravening the Immigration and Customs Act. Evading Customs, Failing to Report to Customs, and Failing to report for Examination. This IS PUBLIC INFORMATION. Call the Courthouse at 519-333-2950.
He has been incarcerated since Sept 8th. His first video court appearance was Sept. 20, his second video appearance is Sept 22 at the Sarnia Courthouse, presumably to face more charges.
Now....would you like any more proof of his horse beating????
I'll invite some of his victims on here, and you can hear their testimonies.
Fugly was right.
Where there is smoke, there is usually fire.

if you go to facebook and look up Forest Trails Horse Relief they have posted a video of him "working" a horse here in minnesota, where he's been since april. i encountered him at a clinic, and watched him whip a friend's horse because she wouldn't take one more step than he wanted.

perhaps you would find it interesting as a follow up.

I Googled the quote from a "blog" and found it on this horse forum thread.  The thread has generated 5 pages of comments in just a few days.  I'm guessing that the post(s) on the Arab board (which is either not open to the public, or the post has been removed, as it didn't come with a Google search) started the controversy up again, and that's why I got that comment on the 18th.

The thread is pretty heated, but in my opinion, I didn't need to look any further than this video:

I'm sure it'll end up being taken down, so if that happens, the video basically shows him riding a horse with its head tied down and a whip in each of his hands.  He's whipping the horse constantly throughout the entire video, even though it doesn't look to me like the horse is doing anything to deserve it — until about halfway through, when the horse starts really freaking out.  It had been clearly agitated about the whips the entire time, and boiled over about 1:10.  The video ends as the horse is getting more and more worked up, and heaven only knows how it ended.  According to the owner, it was the second day of training, and the horse is now unrideable because of how much worse the treatment got from there.

Of course, everyone got pretty worked up on the thread, calling one another names and debating whether or not the treatment in the video was "abusive" — but let me tell you, I would NEVER let anyone work with my horse if this was their approach.  Let's say Anonymous is telling the truth, and s/he is completely thrilled with Randy Byers's work.  But the second story is obviously also the truth, as we have video proof to support the owner's claims.

I don't care if Anonymous thinks Randy is the bee's knees — just having seeing his methods with the horse in the video, I can tell you I would never let him within a quarter mile of my horse.  Why would anyone?  Why take the risk with someone who has been proven as a horse abuser, even if they have a few happy clients, when you can just as easily use someone who has nothing but happy clients?


Saturday, September 24, 2011

An inconvenient time to have an eye phobia

I don't think I've ever had cause to mention this, but I have an eye phobia.  I've never worn contacts, primarily because I can't even watch someone put their contact in or take them out without my eyes watering and stinging.  And my blink reflex is epic — the only way I (or the eye doctor) can get eye drops in my eyes is to close my eyes, tilt my head back, put the drops in the corners, and then I pry my eyes open (even that is tough) until the drops go in.

So as you can imagine, Panama's goobery eye has been quite the experience for me.  I can clean out eye boogers when they are in the corner, but you know those stringy ones that cross their entire eye?  No way am I touching one of those.

The vet came out late yesterday afternoon.  The first thing he did was to put numbing drops in Panama's eye, then a green dye so he could look for scratches on the cornea.  He told me that as goobery as Panama's eye was, he really thought he'd find something, but luckily for me (and Panama), there wasn't anything.

Then he suggested we flush the tear duct.  He approached it like he was afraid I was going to say no, pointing out that if we didn't do it and Panama didn't improve, he (the vet) would just have to come back out.  I already knew a blocked tear duct was likely, though, and approved the flush immediately.

I couldn't watch, though, so the vet had me stand on the other side and hold Panama's head up (he was drugged at this point).  Sure enough, he said the first flush produced some "chunks" (SO glad I didn't watch), and the second flush produced a little bleeding, which he said was a sign there was a lot of inflammation in the tube between his eye and his nostril.  Then he gave me some eye drops and showed me how to put them in: three times a day over the weekend, and if he's back to normal by Monday, once a day for the rest of the week.

The drug he used to make Panama sleepy from the flush — an anesthetic with a little painkiller — wore off shortly after he left.  Immediately I noticed a difference — he was happy and excited, and when I tried to walk him around the property (the vet said to wait 20 or 30 minutes before I let him eat), he pretty much dragged me from one place to another.  I figured that probably meant he was awake enough to eat, and took him back to his corral to get his dinner!

This morning I got to the barn to find he had figured out how to get out of his fly mask: sign #1 that he was feeling better.  Sure enough, his eye was clear and happy with no goobers.  Sign #2: He was very vocal and kept nickering to me the entire time I was there.  Sign #3: He hardly fussed at all about getting his eye drops, even when it took me a few tries to get it right.  I think I was more anxious about it than he was!

I think he's probably wondering when our next ride will be.  I might hop on bareback a little bit this evening, when I'm there to put in the last eye drops of the day — but if not, surely tomorrow.  Heaven knows I'll be out there plenty this weekend!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Vet telephone tag and Panama's first fly mask

Panama's eye was still gross yesterday, maybe even a touch worse — I'm fairly certain he's not opening it all the way, though whether that's because he's afraid he's going to get poked in the eye every time I look closely at it, or because it's bothering him (causing discomfort or just sensitivity to light), I have no idea.

In any case, I'd missed a call from the vet first thing in the morning, so I called the vet back to let him know and ended up canceling my lesson.  My trainer said he should be okay if we did something "easy," but I figured if Panama was crabby "easy" could turn into an epic battle pretty quickly.  I know I sure wouldn't want to work if my eye was goopy and running, so I figured he wouldn't, either.

While I was waiting for the vet to call back, I went out and bought a fly mask for Panama.  He's never worn one before, so I wasn't sure how he'd react.  It went better than I expected.  He didn't shy away at all when I brought it up over his face, but he remained unconvinced for quite some time that he could still see.  He kept looking at me askance, and he was moving his head back and forth to look all around him, probably looking at how different everything looks through the mesh.

My horse with a fly mask on

I actually think he looks pretty cute with his little head in a little fly mask!

When I led him out to graze, he hung way back behind me, moving his head all around and snorting softly — and when I released him in the yard, he walked for quite a while longer, almost as if he didn't realize there was grass under him.

Once he figured it out, though, he sure didn't let that fly mask interfere with eating!

My horse grazing with a fly mask on

When I put him back in his corral and removed his halter, he stood at the gate for several minutes, watching while I got ready to go.  It was as if he were saying, Hey!  You forgot to take this thing off, too!  You aren't actually going to leave it on, are you? 

I called the vet again this morning and left a message stating that Panama's eye was still the same.  According to several fellow boarders, it's probably a blocked tear duct, so not a desperate emergency — but still, I'm hoping to be able to get it taken care of before the weekend!  Hopefully my vet will call back soon!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

All thing considered...

...Panama did all right today.

Not that it was a perfect ride.  It was a quickie bareback ride with not much focus, but he was dealing with a lot, so I let it slide.

It was dinner time.

Savvy was out of the corral, getting shod, and throwing an absolute tantrum.

A new horse was moving into the 12-stall, which inspired every horse within a 50-foot radius to whinny and run back and forth.

The barn owners were cleaning runs, so the front loader was running and making lots of noise.

And we were riding outside for all of this, where Panama is distracted on even a quiet day.  And then, to top it off, Panama's right eye is weeping.  I cleaned underneath and cleared out eye boogers at least half a dozen times while I was there.  I don't think it's causing him any pain, but I suspect it may be a little light sensitive, because he is squinting just a teensy little bit.  (Of course, that could just have been a reaction to me sticking my finger in the corner of his eye every ten minutes to clean out eye boogers.)

So, as you can imagine, I didn't fuss too much when Panama was distracted.  We had to have a few discussions about what a half-halt means, but overall he was good, and I made sure not to push him too hard.  Mostly we just piddled around with A and Spaghetti.

I did put a call in to my vet to find out what I should do about Panama's eye, and at what point I should be concerned enough to have him out.  If it's worse in the morning, I'll call him on his emergency line, but I'm hoping that it'll be something that will resolve itself, or something that I can take care of on my own!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bareback butt-steering

Last night I discovered I can steer Panama with my butt.  Pretty damn well, too.

A book I've been reading, Enlightened Equitation, talks about steering by weighting the front of the seat bone in the direction you want to go (without leaning forward, of course).  I decided to try it out next time I rode bareback, which I did last night.

I was actually amazed how well it worked.  With no other cue than just weighting my seatbone — no rein, no leg — I could not only turn him, but specify how tight or wide the turn should be.  I have to make sure I don't lean, of course, but riding bareback tends to prevent me from doing too much of that anyway.

That gave me an idea, and I decided to find out how much else I could do with my butt.  Back up?  Sure.  It took a few tries for him to figure out what I was asking, but I figured out that by sort of digging my butt in, I could get him to back (with crazy ears on me the whole time, like he was saying, What the HELL is Mom doing NOW?).

Stopping him with my butt is more difficult — we'll need some more practice.  The book says to tighten your butt muscles downward, but I found it was all too easy to tighten the legs too when I did that, which of course signals the opposite of stopping.  I'll have to work on that one some more next time.

Not that I need to be too worried about stopping bareback.  The half-halt still needs a little work, but it's getting much better.  Everything else is great and only takes the barest whisper of cues when I'm bareback.  He easily breaks to a walk, or even goes from a trot to a complete halt in just a few steps.

I'm feeling good enough about it that I might try cantering him bareback soon.  I thought about it last night, but it was an uncharacteristically busy night for a 9:30pm ride.  All the night owls showed up on the same night, and as a result there were four of us in the indoor arena (which is fairly small).  Usually it's just me and my husband, so I wasn't willing to attempt a canter with so many distractions!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Bareback, biting, and changing colors

I had a busy weekend, and forgot to blog about my horsey day Friday.  I had quite the busy day — a doctor's visit for a medical study I'm participating in, a short visit to my barn and bareback ride on Panama, and a visit and grooming session with Rondo.

With Panama, I didn't have as much time as I'd wanted, but I did get to ride for about 20 minutes or so. One thing I noticed was how easy it has gotten to sit the trot bareback.  I'm not needing Panama to trot quite so slowly anymore (though I still don't like him to go too fast).  This is all with that pad, of course — it's not nearly so comfortable (for either of us, I think) without it.  If I try to sit the trot in the saddle, however, I can't do it, with or without stirrups — I just can't convince my back to move the same way to absorb the trot, and I feel like the saddle is forcing me to tip forward (not to mention it's slippery).  It's amazing how much easier it is without the saddle.

Panama is also becoming much more sensitive to my cues now that I'm riding bareback.  For instance, I can ask him to drop from a trot down to a full halt, and he does it, within a couple of steps, no more.  This is BIG for us.  I don't know if it's because I'm sitting back more, or he can feel my cues better, or what, but everything we do — from leg yields to halts — is better when I ride bareback.

Now I just need to get up the gumption to try cantering bareback...

Oh, and by the way, I solved the mystery of where all these bites on Panama are coming from.  Apparently Sammy, who has been low man since he first joined our "herd" of three, has decided to make a play for the beta horse position.  I saw him bite Panama — hard — on Saturday when I stopped out at the barn to check on him.  Sammy started to go after him a few more times while I was there, but I chased him off.  Poor Panama...  I know it's natural herd behavior, and they'll work it out, but I still feel bad for him!

I finished up my horsey Friday with a visit to my in-laws' house and a short grooming session with Rondo.  I didn't have time to work on lunging him, but we had a nice visit nonetheless.  He and my mother-in-law's young horse, Montana, came running up to me when I walked out into the pasture, which was encouraging — Rondo hadn't done that yet, and although I think he was just following Montana's lead, I gave him lots of praise in the hopes that he'll pick up on the idea.  Of course, then he decided to play the "I'm taller than you" game, but I persisted until I got the halter over his nose, and this time it didn't take as long.

Rondo is shedding his summer coat with enthusiasm now, and he's getting steadily darker as it comes out.  He's not finished yet, so he'll probably get even darker, but every week I'm taking a new picture to record the changes.  I'm fascinated and pleased with all the little changes — Panama's coat really doesn't change color much from season to season, and although I know a lot of horses' coats do, seeing it up close is something new for me.

Here is how he looked a month ago, before he started shedding his summer coat:

Rondo, a bay roan gelding, in his summer colors

All the roaning gives him a silver sheen (except for his head!).  And Friday:

Rondo, a bay roan gelding, as he sheds his summer coat and starts to grow his winter coat

He's only partway through the color change, so I expect it'll get even more obvious as we get closer to winter.  I also noticed, interestingly, that he has a lot of black hair in his coat on his neck — you can see it in this picture if you look closely.  I don't know if it is new hair, or just that with all the roaning in the summer, it wasn't as noticeable.

As a final note, Rondo is getting much better about me handling his feet.  He still seems to need some help realizing that he has to shift his weight in order to give me a foot — I usually have to butt my shoulder up against him gently as I'm reaching for his foot (I also say, "Foot," so he knows what I'm asking — a verbal command I've always used with Panama, too).  If I don't use my shoulder, he doesn't seem to shift his weight on his own.

He still fusses from time to time about his back feet, but it's usually when I first handle them that day, like he's still testing a little bit. On Friday, he got smacked on the hip for "paddling" with the first back foot I picked up, trying to shake me off — after the smack, he didn't fuss at all, and gave me each back foot the instant I asked.  Silly horse!

I love my horsey days, days where I both ride Panama and work with Rondo.  I haven't decided for sure yet whether I'm going to take Rondo, though I sure do want him, but even if I just help my mother-in-law find a home for him, Michael and I are thinking about bringing him to my barn as soon as another corral spot opens up.  Wouldn't it be nice to be able to have my "horsey days" every time I go out there, not to mention I wouldn't have to drive an hour each way to get to my in-laws' house!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Horseback riding is a lot of work!

...At least, if you do it right.

I remember a while back, reading a novel (*cough* romance *cough*) in which the heroine was being given riding lessons, and her teacher told her it was pretty easy once you were on the horse's back.  Uh huh.  Obviously that author had absolutely NO riding experience, except for maybe a guided trail ride or two on a quiet horse at a walk.

Anyway, Panama was less fussy today, but we still had kind of a rough lesson.  We both have a lot still to learn, and on days like today that fact becomes painfully obvious.  My trainer was having me trot and canter him around the arena, circling in each corner of the arena.  We started at the trot, and he had a hard time figuring out what I wanted, so when I first asked him to start circling, he'd dive into the turn instead of taking it one step at a time.  As we worked that out and improved our circle, he started slowing through the circle — I think because he was listening to me and waiting for me to tell him what I wanted next, but because I'm not accustomed to having to constantly put leg on, the result that he was slowing a lot and my trainer was having to remind me to keep his pace consistent.

When we added in the canter, we had all sorts of issues with the upward transition — he's generally not terribly responsive about cantering right away when I ask (something I need to work on, I know), but today it was worse than usual, probably because he was concentrating so much on listening for my turning/circling cues that he was having a hard time switching gears.

Once we (kind of) ironed out the transition issues, we worked on cantering with a circle in each corner.  We got it pretty good to the left, but to the right, of course, he has a much bigger problem with dropping his shoulder into the turns.  (On a bigger circle, I've been able to get him not to lean in quite so much by giving him some inside leg support, but I usually feel like he's relying way too heavily on that leg, instead of trying to hold himself up.)  Also, toward the end he started wanting to throw up his head and rush down the long side of the arena (because he was thinking about the upcoming circle in the corner, I'm sure), and breaking to the trot in the circle itself.

And of course, whenever I have a lot else to think about, my position falls apart — my heels come up, my shoulders go forward, and I get bouncy at the canter.

My trainer says that we'll eventually be able to fix the problems that frustrate me the most — our difficulties balancing through turns and circles (what's causing him to drop his shoulder and lean in, she says), and our struggle to maintain a consistent pace that's neither too fast or too slow — but in the meantime, I find it discouraging sometimes when a single ride highlights how much we still have to work on!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mixed bag

Today's barn trip was neither great nor terrible — Panama was pretty fussy, but with some hard work I was able to get him focused — it just wasn't as pleasant a ride as either of us would have liked.

I had a farrier appointment first off, and I was running late so I didn't have any time to groom Panama beforehand.  He was fussy while the farrier worked on him, unusually mouthy — he kept trying to lick me, take the farrier's hat off, pick up his tools, etc.  I think it was probably a case of me not having ridden him since Friday, and him feeling a bit needy as the result of being bored.

After the farrier, I spent a long time grooming, then tacked up and rode.  We followed another horse into the outdoor arena, a 10-year-old bay roan that Panama hasn't had a chance to make friends with yet, so that and his overall fussy mood added to his usual distractions in the outdoor.  The roan's owner was giving a riding lesson to her friend, a novice, though, so I was concerned about Panama being disruptive and tried to keep him far away from them.

I noticed right off the bat that his focus was practically non-existent.  His trot was also extremely choppy and bouncy, clearly a result of his excitement and lack of focus, and his canter was rushed and not very controlled.  We rode for a long time, and eventually I got him to settle into a nice canter in both directions, but it took some time and work.  As a result of all the work I did there, though, I didn't get to practice dropping a stirrup at the canter — because there was no way I was going to do that with him not under good control.  I wish I would have had the opportunity to practice that a little more since my last lesson 2 weeks ago, but I also think the bareback practice (trotting) has been very helpful, so I guess it's a trade-off.

I've got lots of horsey plans over the next few days — a lesson, a ride with a friend, and some time with Rondo — so it should end up being a very horsey week!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

My bareback pad came in, and Panama surprises me

My bareback pad came in this week, so yesterday I picked it up at the tack store.  It's just like the one I've been borrowing from my fellow boarder, since I liked hers so much: the Tacky Too bareback pad from the Reinsman catalog.  It has a tacky bottom to keep it from moving around on Panama, and a microsuede top to keep me in place, too.  I also like the fleece girth, since I think that the plain nylon strap on most bareback pads must be rather uncomfortable for the horse.

I went out to the barn yesterday evening to try out our new pad.  Panama was really jumpy in the cross ties, and very ticklish when being groomed, which usually indicates he's really tense and full of anxious energy.  So imagine my surprise when he turned out to be very well-behaved for our ride!  He wanted to trot too quickly at first, but slowed down when reminded with a few half-halts, and was fine after that.  He stayed pretty focused, with no spooking or silly behavior, and paid close attention to all my cues.  I had a feeling that it took a lot of mental energy for him to focus when he was obviously so fired up, however, because even though I didn't ride for very long (maybe 20 minutes), he seemed pretty tired afterward.

I really ought to pull the saddle out and practice cantering with one or both stirrups dropped, but it's going to be hard to bring myself to do so when I'm enjoying our bareback rides so much!  Too bad I don't quite feel comfortable yet attempting a canter while bareback...


Friday, September 9, 2011

Rondo figures out he's taller than me

Well, I suppose I should have expected it would have happened at some point.  Rondo is now fully aware of the fact that he's taller than me, and can keep his nose out of my reach if he so wishes.

Last week when I haltered him, he kept his head out of my reach for a moment or two before letting me put his halter on.  I should have known it wouldn't end with that.  Yesterday Michael and I visited his family briefly, and when I went out into the pasture to halter Rondo and bring him in for a little grooming, he played "keep away" with his nose.

First he lifted it up into the air and to the right.  Then he tried to walk away — I fisted his mane and told him to whoa, and he did (I figured out some time ago that even if he tries to walk away from me, if I still have at least one hand on him, he thinks he's still "caught" and stops walking).  This time when I produced the halter he tried lifting his nose straight up, and when I didn't give up, he tried walking away again.  Lather, rinse, repeat!  Finally he tried lifting his nose up and to his left, right over my head.  Still I didn't give up, so after we'd been at this for several minutes, he finally just hung his nose low and let me slip the halter over it.

He may have realized that he's taller than me, but hopefully he's also figured out that he can't use that to avoid doing what I want for very long.

I didn't have a lot of time, so I just groomed him.  He's starting to shed his summer hair, and I think his coat may be starting to get a little darker as he sheds out.  Last year his winter coat was much darker than his summer coat, with considerably less roaning — it'll be interesting if it's the same this year, or if it changes from year to year.

I did find an inch-long gash on the outside of his front right pastern, so I decided it was as good a day as any to introduce him to Mr. Hose.  I was half-expecting a rearing episode, like when he first met Mr. Fly Spray, but he was actually pretty good.  He danced around a bit at first, trying to keep as far back from the hose as possible, so I started slow — I hosed his pastern for a couple seconds at a time, ending it before he could pull away, and praising him each time.  I started hosing his leg for longer and longer each time, continuing with the praise, and he quickly he stopped fidgeting altogether.  Before long I was able to kneel next to the leg while I hosed it, touch the cut, and use a washcloth with some betadine on it to clean out the cut (which was initially packed solid with dried blood and mud).

I'm sure he cut himself in the pasture on Wednesday, when it was raining and muddy.  The cut didn't turn out to be all that deep, and the area was only slightly swollen, but I'm glad that I took the opportunity to teach him to stand for some cold hosing and first aid.  Standing patiently for this kind of thing is a skill that I don't think any horse should be without, and I'm glad we had a relatively minor cut to learn on!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Panama takes me down a peg

My husband, Michael, took this entire week as vacation, so I haven't had as much time to ride as usual — between our plans and a new medical study I just started participating in at my doctor's office, we've been pretty busy.

I did manage to get out to the barn Tuesday evening for a little bareback ride, however.  It was raining a little bit that evening, but not hard.  Panama was a little jumpy when I was tacking him up, but I wasn't worried.

I didn't want to continue borrowing my friend's bareback pad, so I started out by trying to ride bareback without it.  I have been feeling much more secure bareback lately, and I figured maybe the pad has given me enough confidence to try riding without it for one night.  Unfortunately, Panama was feeling rather perky, and as I discovered, having developed better balance doesn't mean that Panama's back has stopped being narrow or slippery.  After we trotted once around the arena with me constantly having to alternate between asking him to slow down and pushing myself back off his withers, I gave up and decided to borrow the darned pad one last time.

And of course, once I had that pad, I stopped feeling like I was on a slip 'n' slide.  Just like magic, there was my balance again!  Panama calmed down after a few minutes and started trotting a little slower, too, which also helped.  He was a bit fired up, for sure, but I think he was also stiff and bouncy without the pad because me bouncing on his spine without the benefits of a pad isn't any more comfortable for him than it is for me, and as a result he hollows his back and speeds up, which of course just makes us both more uncomfortable.  Maybe someday we'll both be able to go bareback without the comfort and sticking power of a bareback pad...  But we're just not there quite yet!

As disappointing as it was to realize that I haven't actually gotten good enough to ride either comfortably or securely without the pad, I was quite thrilled at my sticking power when I've got that pad under my butt.  Panama was a bit fired up Tuesday night, and spooked once at something he thought he saw across the arena (nothing was there) — he didn't teleport sideways or anything, just slammed on the brakes from the trot, but I hardly budged.  Without that pad, I'm sure I would have been climbing off his neck — if not picking myself up from the ground!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Riding with friends for motivation

I've been a little behind on blogging because of our busy holiday weekend, but on Friday morning I rode with a fellow boarder, someone I haven't ridden with before but one of the few people at my barn who rides English (and she actually rides Western, too — I'm an oddity at my barn, I guess).  She likes to get out there early, so meeting her motivated me in more than one way — to get up and out to the barn earlier than usual, and to get some good riding in.

Friday was a gorgeous day, the first day in a while that wasn't too hot (until this past weekend, we were having a massive heat wave here in Denver).  We stayed on the property, and ended up riding for about an hour in the outdoor arena.  I got a lot of cantering practice in (though I didn't try dropping a stirrup since we were outside, and I was worried about the fact that Panama tends to like to go faster in the outdoor arena).  I often find it difficult to ride for that long without a friend to ride with or my trainer making me do it, so it was nice to ride with someone who was motivated to get a long ride in.

I often struggle with motivation when it comes to riding — it's hard sometimes to stop what I'm doing and head out to the barn during the day, and once I'm riding, I tend to lose interest if I don't have a plan in mind or something specific that we're working on — or, as sometimes happens, a battle of wills with Panama that we have to work out before I'll call it quits.  But riding with someone really seems to help keep me on the horse for longer.  Going out to the barn on weeknights with my husband also helps when I haven't felt like leaving the house all day.  I guess it's kind of like meeting a friend at the gym to help you get the motivation to work out.

I won't have as much of a problem with it as the cooler weather sets in, though.  The heat of the summer tends to sap my motivation, because really, who wants to ride when it's hot?  It doesn't sound like fun to me, so I'm pretty sure it's probably not any fun for the horse, either.

Do you ever deal with lack of motivation to ride?  How do you get past it?


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rondo doesn't bat an eye, and bareback pays off

I've had a pretty busy week, and until yesterday it was looking like I wasn't going to ride between lessons.  I hate going a whole week between lessons without riding, but I was too busy, too hot, too something all weekend until Tuesday came around — and then Panama had another huge, swollen bite, this time where I couldn't ride at all without irritating it.  But that was okay — I just did a little desensitization work, and called it a night.

Yesterday was another horsey hump day.  I started out the day by heading down to the in-laws' house to work with Rondo.  My mother-in-law and I had to walk to the far end of the pasture to catch him, and then I had to play a little cat-and-mouse to get him haltered — he wanted to stay and graze, and made his preference clear.  When he ran from me and the halter, I slapped it against my leg and chased him a few steps — and with that, he seemed to recall what happened the last time he ran from the halter.  He stopped, looked over his shoulder at me, and let me approach — and though he fussed a bit when I haltered him (I have to say I've been totally spoiled by a horse short enough that he can't lift his head out of my reach!) he quit when told and followed me back up to the barn without any balking.

Grooming was quite a success.  Picking the back feet is still a little touchy — he fusses occasionally, but only briefly, and then we get the job done.  But the real miracle was when I pulled out the fly spray.  I haven't sprayed him down in a couple of weeks, ever since I was able to spray the whole horse.  I was worried that I'd waited too long, and he'd have forgotten — but by his behavior yesterday, you would think he'd never had a problem with fly spray at all!  The muscles in his belly jumped a bit when I sprayed there, but that was IT.  No threatening to rear or kick, not even putting his head in the air like he did last time.  Wow!

We finished up with a little lunging — I'm still trying to convince him to trot when I say trot, though I'm not sure anymore whether he's not getting it or just doesn't want to.  I suspect it's a little of both — he seems to get it faster when I "trot" along with him, but I think there's also a bit of draft horse sluggishness in him that I'll have to work around.  It's a big difference from Panama — who, when he was first learning, if we said "Trot," he said, "How fast?"

After spending the afternoon and early evening with my in-laws, I went straight to the barn as soon as I got to town.  I like following up a visit down there with a ride on Panama, as if I'm reminding myself that Rondo won't be a baby forever (or of how far Panama has come).  It was my first time in a long time riding in the evening without my husband there, so I had to figure out how to turn lights on and off with a horse in tow (the arena lights are in the lounge, where the horses can't go).  Turned out he was pretty amiable — I just left him inside the arena at the gate with his reins hung over the rail, and he stood there patiently and waited for me.

I'm getting much better at trotting bareback, and that microsuede pad sure helps — I'm borrowing this one, but I've got one on order for myself.  It also has the tacky underside, so it doesn't move on him, either — AND it's small enough in the girth to fit my little horse (who only weighs in at about 750 on the weight tape).  I can now trot several laps around the arena without getting tired or starting to feel like I've been kicked in the crotch repeatedly with cleats.

I've been riding bareback almost every time for the past week and a half, maybe 2 weeks, and it's sure paid off — I rode in the saddle for my lesson today, and my trainer was full of compliments.  She wants me to start cantering without stirrups and bareback, which scares the bejeezus out of me, so we compromised and I cantered with only one stirrup.  Even that much made a difference — my butt stayed in the saddle better, and I felt more secure than I was expecting, even in the transition (which is where it worries me the most).  I'm planning on practicing that in the next week, as well as the bareback work, and maybe soon I'll be able to move to cantering in the saddle without stirrups — all with the ultimate goal of being able to canter bareback eventually, too.  (I want to do this not just because it seems to be good for my position, but also because I like riding bareback.  It's fun.)

All in all, a really satisfying couple of days!