Friday, August 28, 2009

Reality check...but for who?

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was considering leasing a particular horse. I've actually been thinking about it for awhile, not only that particular horse but leasing in general. I was especially interested in that guy because I think we would both benefit and he is just one of those horses you feel a special affection for. Unlike my other love Justine , who needs someone more skilled at training than I am, this boy needs regular work, thoughtful exercises and refining. I can do that.

I got a quote for half-leasing (3 rides/week) at the stable where I take lessons. It varies depending on the horse but I was given an initial estimate (minimum). I was very surprised at how high the amount was. I've also been looking at other stables, on the internet etc., so that I know what is out there. I am a researcher, it's what I do. To me, it seems high when compared to other available leases too. To be fair, I haven't seen a perfectly comparable situation so it's hard to say if it's fair.

I would like your opinion! I know it will be hard with different countries etc. but I would like to know if I am being unreasonable, or if it really IS a lot to ask for a lease.

The main base price is (at minimum) half the price of board. That's $350 Canadian.

That doesn't include lessons and I would want to do at least one/week. Add $176.

That's $526/month for 3 rides/week, one in a lesson. On top of that, I would have to pay half of all farrier costs AND vet costs! So I'd be looking at at least $550/month but likely more. Ok, seriously, to me one reason to lease a horse is that you can ride more without the commitment and worry over vet bills!

Consider also that if I were to take 3 lessons per week at the same barn it would cost me $528/month. So it actually costs less to have qualified instruction for the same number of rides! I find that seriously odd.

What do you think? Am I just naive?

Now, some photos just for fun.
Hazel loves to run
the jump fields.
My pretty girl.
Warming up.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Feathered Friends

I love my new house! I get some nice visitors in the backyard (click pictures to enlarge).

Mating pair of cardinals. This was
taken a few weeks ago when the male
still trying to impress his lady.

Then there are what I believe are Peregrine Falcons but I haven't confirmed it yet . They are still young so it's hard to tell if their feathers will darken on top or not. The eye is dead-on for a Peregrine though. I have had 2 juveniles regularly flying around the house and I think this is one of them. In the beginning they made a lot of noise as they flew around and they often flew in large circles. But they are maturing very quickly and now are quite quiet and fly straight.

This is what they sound like. Hope this works!

This morning I finally managed to get a half decent picture of one on the telephone pole at the back of my yard. Too bad about the pole but it's pretty amazing to me all the same.

Look at that eye!

And then he (or she!) was off.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Silly Horses and How Far is Too Far?

The horse I posted about last week now has a shoulder full of stitches :( It seems he was kicked by another horse, poor guy (or, maybe he was being an ass, who knows?). So, no riding and no turnout for him for a little while. I feel so bad for him, with all the wet weather we've had the bugs are still in full force. It must be so annoying!

On another note:

I just recently heard back from someone who advertised a lease for their horse. It is a different stable from where I ride but the price is very good and he sounds like a nice horse. I would have the opportunity to come out and go for a trail ride with him first. They are having a new indoor arena built which should be finished this week. Also trails. Sounds really great.

The only catch is it will take almost an hour to get there, which will make it difficult to go during the week. My question to you guys is: How far do you or would you go to ride? I know, most of you have your horses at home! My lesson barn is only about 20-25 minutes away and it's great. I'm not sure how reliably I could do a 1 hour drive after work.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Is verbal reward enough?

I finally got the chance to ride a horse I've been longing to ride for a very long time at my lesson barn. He is an OTTB that I've been secretly wanting to ride for at least 6 months. Last week, I made my desire known to my instructor. It paid off this week. His "usual" rider does well with him but tends to hold him in too tight, a fairly natural reaction to his fast, fast, fast, approach. I was both nervous and excited for this opportunity as I love his build and his expression.

I mostly worked on getting him to relax and soften. The usual "release as reward". I quickly realized that it worked best to give him a fairly strong correction/half-halt and release as opposed to a softer correction more frequently. He is used to being held fairly tightly most of the ride, from what I've seen.

Our warm-up and trot work was very good. He was relaxed and most of the time soft and on the bit. He would occasionally be reactive, fast and high-headed but since I was able to be consistent and calm he would settle fairly quickly. Until the canter work.

He was fast and not all that well under control at the canter. He wasn't super crazy but I had a hard time balancing the aids. It is difficult to simultaneously not hold too tight, keep him from running all out AND prevent him from breaking. It might sound strange that he would break, but he is so used to being "held up" by the mouth that when you try to have 2lbs versus 10+lbs of pressure, his balance is off and he subsequently breaks gait.

There are a lot of issues going on here, for sure. But what I am most interested in right now is whether verbal praise is enough. The idea is that every time he relaxes and softens, I want to reward him. This horse did give me several opportunities during our hour of schooling, which is great. The release is the main reward, but I think it would help to have an additional reinforcement. Do you agree?

Giving treats at this time would be impossible, at least for me. I would not be able to keep the action I want and then give a treat. I would have to stop or walk him first and then I think I would be rewarding the stop/transition, not the soft, on the bit, forward motion. Also, since I ride with 3-4 other people, stopping for treat rewards would be disruptive, I think. This whole issue is compounded by the fact that I will only ride this horse once or twice a week (unless I lease him for the fall/winter...) and I am not his only rider. He is not ridden by inexperienced riders, but there is still variation in approach, no doubt.

Do you think verbal praise is enough of a reward, in combination with the release? Any thoughts on how to approach this situation? He has already shown me that he is responsive to the way he is ridden in the moment. For example, I wondered how he would react to not being held in death-grip because I knew I would not be doing that. He quickly adjusted to my level of contact and improved greatly in his trot work. I am not being arrogant here, it comes from my instructor's feedback. It also just makes sense that helping the horse carry himself will be better in the long run.
I want to go from this
to thisor this
I definitely want some improvement in our canter work if I don't want to resort to holding tight. I just don't think that is a long-term solution, though it might look better in the short term. We did have awesome moments at the canter where I had exactly what I wanted. I want the best way to communicate to him that he has it right, as soon as he's doing it!

Any thoughts?

The cat came back...[the day after] the very next day!

Thank you Horse of Course and Adventures for your comments and concern. It truly was a terrible two days and I'm sorry I didn't update you right away, I had a lot of work to catch up on!

In typical feline sensibility, Tonka showed up at the back door at 11:30 pm Saturday night. Recall that he escaped at 11:30pm Thursday. I suspect he thought it was funny.

My mom was staying the night with me and she went into the kitchen to get some water before bed. She looked out the patio door into darkness and thought, wouldn't it be cool if Tonka showed up back there. She looked away, did some stuff, glanced back and saw his face in the window. Thinking maybe she was imagining it, mom opened the door. Tonka sauntered in like everything was normal. Are you surprised?

I stated in the comments that Tonka is not very cuddly. He loves attention and being pet, but with all four paws on the floor. When my mom called me and I saw him, I scooped him right up and cuddled him so much. I think he was glad to be home as he didn't struggle at all. He just let me love on him and purred SO loud.

He was dehydrated and hungry but otherwise looked good. He was also very tired! I later discovered a small cut on his chin which I cleaned up and I'm sure it will heal just fine. Whew!

Little brat probably knows the neighbourhood better than I do now!