Friday, January 28, 2011

All I wanted was to walk outside

I had the day off work and, although overcast, it was a beautiful day. After the bitter cold last weekend, it felt so warm at -3C(26F). I was determined to ride outside. Yes, I knew I might have a fight on my hands...but we've hacked out alone before without a problem. Of course, we've also hacked out and had TONS of problems. I figured if I just stayed calm and patient, surely Brumby would see how much fun we could have.


We got along just fine at the start. I mounted and he was very forward as we walked away from the barn. Not TOO forward but he was striding out nicely. Of course, we were also walking toward his turnout at that point :)

There is a galloping track on the property with turnouts in the centre and along two sides. My intention was to start there and then head into the fields. I had checked the footing when I first got there and it was fantastic. As I got to the track and turned Brumby down the track, away from his turnout, he was still walking with calm confidence. That is, until we approached boogey man #1.

There are two places along the track that have known boogey men who most certainly exist for the sole purpose of eating him and only him. If I can get past these, chances are I`ll have a good ride.

If I can't, well, I guess I get what I got today. The return of the balking, rearing, bucking monster. I got after him pretty hard initially. Not right away, mind you, I gave him enough of a chance to be good, and offered that he could simply stand still as long as it was in the direction I wanted. But when he reared, I was not very nice about it. I got him pointed back in the direction I wanted and offered to let him just stand still, which he did for about a  nano-second. The second time he went up (or maybe it was third or so...there were a couple little hops in there too) I brought my crop down on the side of his neck, a couple inches behind the ears. This surprised him! He stood stock still and was fortunately still in the direction I wanted. Once again, I sat extra still, breathed deeply, and made sure I was relaxed.

Throughout this, I was actually very relaxed. I don`t think punishment is very effective on a good day and I don't think it`s ever a good idea to punish if you are angry, frustrated, or upset. At the same time, I had to let him know that this was BAD. Keep in mind, we've been hacking around the property a hundred times, he wasn`t spooking at anything, he just didn`t want to go that way.

I was glad that he was happy enough at that point to just stand (he is usually terrible at this, even in the arena, and I've been trying to work on it but he has zero patience). It gave me time to think about how to proceed. I did not want to get in a fight and push him too far but I also think it's ridiculous that I can't walk the horse around an area he is extremely familiar with. I did not think it would be a good idea to "give up" though it was rather tempting to just go to the arena.

After standing for awhile, I turned him around and headed in the other direction. He was happy! And even passed by his gate without a sign of hesitation. Then we hit the edge of the reach of boogey man #2 and I got to enjoy more fireworks. Once again, I insisted on standing quietly for a bit and then I turned and went the other way.

On the other side, we actually got further than we had before and I was quite pleased. Still, the brakes went on and I got an extra special rear-buck combo - Brumby's specialty in situations like this. Ok, I got several. I was only asking that he face that direction, I was not pushing him forward at that point. As soon as he did, I would relax with a light contact and my seat and legs relaxed but there. Not pressing but not absent.

We would stand quietly for a time, and I rubbed his neck and softly told him he was a good boy. Then, I would gently apply some leg and he would either spin, rear, or buck, or some combination of those. So, I would get him (often with a fair bit of "discussion") facing the direction I wanted and stand still again. After doing this twice, he started to show interest in a path just ahead that leads off the track into the fields where I had hoped we would ride today. I decided he could have the choice - the track or the path.

After a few moments, he moved forward toward the path. He went a few steps down it and then hopped a bit and spun around. Sigh. Yet again, I got him facing the right direction and let him stand still. He looked around. Breathed deep and chewed. Hmm. Once again, he volunteered to head down the side path and once again put on the brakes after a few strides.

At this point, I could feel I was losing patience and really wanted to wail on him. So I decided that once I had him standing calmly for a few moments again, I would call it quits. As long as I was the one to ask him to turn away. It had been about 30 minutes at this point.

After I untacked and had him blanketed, I hand walked him down the track, past the side path and well down the long side. Then, I turned around and walked him to the side path and up it a good way into the field. It was the best way I could think to end things.

I know there are probably lots of things I did wrong, and many other ways I could have handled it. I did the best I could in the moment and now I just have to try to learn from it.

Some of my (early) thoughts:
- I wish I could dismount and lead him through the tricky spots. If I were to do that, there would be no hope of getting back on from the ground. Perhaps next time I can pre-place a mounting block of some kind but I'm not sure anything would be available.
- I considered riding back and forth along the stretch he will travel both to drain energy and to see if he would go a little further each time. In this way, I could keep the pressure off as soon as I felt him resist, but would continue to make him move. On the other hand, I thought this would just be letting him get away with the behaviour.
- I guess I have to give up on the idea of hacking out alone. I realize many horses have issues with this...but I wonder if I should be leasing a horse like this since I value being able to hack - alone or in groups.
- I am glad that I at no point felt like I was in any danger of coming off. Without this, I wouldn't have been able to be as calm as I was through it all.
- I am also glad that I know for sure my contact did not make the rearing worse by taking a strong hold on his face. I was able to maintain some contact but not get strong or tense with his shenanigans. Yes, I'm sure. I think the regular jumping helps with this!
- I've been toying with the idea of terminating this lease for some time, for a variety of reasons. Today was one more reason to pursue another option. Maybe.

Ok, I'm done for now. I need to digest the day a little more. Feel free to share your thoughts. I don't mind criticism but please keep it respectful, I'm doing the best I can and am always trying to learn.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Impossibly Cold.

I am normally not one to complain about the cold. Living in Eastern Ontario, cold is just the way it is in the winter. But several days of serious deep freeze and I'm a little grumpy about the weather. I switched my lesson this week from Sunday to Friday, to avoid the worst of it. Still, it turns out it was -19C(-2.2F), -25C(-13F) with the wind chill. In the arena, which is an unheated coverall, it actually wasn't too bad, surprisingly. Tomorrow is supposed to be -24C without the wind, so definitely a good decision to move the lesson. I would have just canceled at those temps - it's just not good for horse or rider.  Even Hazel (my dog) is feeling the cold and I've never seen her get cold before, only bothered by the salt on the roads. It figures that just when I need extra warmth the most, my husband is away for work. In Vancouver. Which is 6C (43F) right now. Freaking summer, compared to this. Worst of all, it's too cold to actually do things that help me appreciate winter, like cross-country skiing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Leftover Turkey and Too Much Squash?

I was spoiled with a wonderful 2-course meal last night before I went out to the barn. My husband said he "threw something together" to use up some of the turkey we had frozen after Christmas dinner and some of the squash, which we have tons of right now.

First course was a simple, yet delicious, turkey soup. You just can't beat homemade stock! Then he brought out the second course. He had made pasta from scratch, from which he made large rolls stuffed with a mixture of cooked squash, swiss chard, ricotta cheese, onion and herbs. These were then sliced cross-wise and served with homemade tomato sauce, a few extra slices of turkey, and topped with a dollop of ricotta. YUM!

He wasn't too happy with the pasta since it was pretty thick but I can tell you I was pretty happy with the pasta :)  I knew what he meant though and encouraged him to refine his technique!

We were out and about with my mom this morning and invited her to our place for some lunch. I said we had some leftovers we could have.

She thought I was showing off when I brought this out.

They were our leftovers though!  Ok, so it's not what people typically think of when they hear the word 'leftovers'.   My mom is no slouch in the kitchen but we seem to do a good job impressing her with our creations. Ah, it's good to have a husband that loves cooking and eating good food as much as I do.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fun Show Review

Well, I had a little delay in posting about the fun show. It was back to reality with respect to work this week, so I was busy trying to get back into the routine. It was the longest week EVER which really sucked because I am extremely busy - despite making faster progress on a project than I thought I would, I'm still crazy behind in the grand scheme of things.

Anyway, the fun show WAS fun. Really!

We did horribly and it was still fun :)  In the morning, I had a deecnt warm-up and then rode in 3 flat classes. We were awesome in warm-up, he felt really great right away and didn't even seem to mind the (relative) chaos in the arena. That lastesd until after I did some canter warm-up. The canter warm-up itself was fine, Brumby was soft and uphill; though more tense than I would have liked, he was still with me.

That was the end of the good stuff for awhile. We broke gait in all 3 flat classes during parts where we were supposed to trot and Brumby broke into canter. He was ignoring my seat and ducking behind the bit, so brakes just weren't there. This is, in my opinion, the essence of all our problems and will get it's own post soon. I was really trying to look at the whole day as a learning experience for him (and me!), so I tried to keep a good attitude about it all, even though he was really being somewhat insane.

Turns out his owner hadn't been riding much at all in the previous number of weeks. That could help explain it, as could the huge quantities of grain he's getting (also another post of it's own!!). Whatever the cause, Brumby was barely obedient to my aids throughout and just wanted to run, run, RUN. You can't hide a break to canter in an indoor arena, no matter how brief, the judge can hear it. And we had two sets of eyes, the judge and my coach who organized it. And apparently there are no points awarded for bucking :-D

After that, we had about an hour and a half break before our dressage test. Brumby was still pretty fresh for that test, since the morning classes were pretty light for him. Still, he was more attentive without the other horses in the ring. We managed a decent test, but I knew it wasn't anywhere close to our best. I was shocked when it turned out that we placed second! It was a large group of fairly advanced riders (mostly hunters) with well-trained and reasonably calm horses. I attribute most of it to the horse's naturally nice movement compared to some of the others. My coach assures me it was a nice test and we hit the exact marks, even though it's training level and therefore have some "space" in which to make the transition happen. Our comments included a head toss (negative), a dramatic transition (negative, though I joked later it could be positive ;) ), and a nice finish, very straight down centre line.

So we had a small redemption before the afternoon.

At least I'm smiling! 
I'm pretty sure Brumby is 
thinking about chewing on the 
fake flowers in front of him!

This is the only decent photo I have. Sasha had to stay home with a sick foster puppy.

The afternoon I was supposed to ride in the 2'3"-2'6" hunter class. Given our morning, my coach and I decided I should take him in the poles class and make him trot it, mwhahaha! Of course, I wasn't super happy about it since it is WAY harder to trot through a course but I knew it would be good for the horse.

So we did that, which was fun (eek!), and then the 2' cross rails. All in all, a good learning day for myself and the horse. I wish I wasn't having so many issues with his owner right now, then I'd feel like it was all worth it. But when you consistently disagree on horse care issues...well, it starts to get pretty frustrating. I might be nearing the end (but again, that's a post of it's own!).

Ok, so fun shows are fun, as long as you take along a sense of humour and don't mind eating a bit of humble pie.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The tack box was packed by the front door with care...

So, I'm almost all ready for tomorrow. I just need to make a couple sandwiches/wraps and prepare my water & gatorade bottles and a thermos for tea. The food planning has been the hardest part for me, oddly enough. I have a tendency to have sugar crashes under certain circumstances such as: physical activity, stress, more than 3 hours without eating, and sometimes for no real reason at all. I've had blood work done a number of times and it's always "textbook perfect" so I just need to make sure I'm always prepared. Especially since most of the time I do not feel hungry before a crash. Anyway, all that to say that I need to make sure I've got plenty of balanced, easy to eat food on hand for a day like tomorrow.

Here's what I'm brining to eat/drink:
3.5 litres cold fluids - 1L water, 2.5L weak gatorade
1 thermos of tea
2 wraps, one turkey, one ham. both with ample amounts of veggies
1 small container of leftover beef stroganoff (hey, I wanted something warm!)
Electrolite chews and energy bars - in case of emergency

Ha! You think it'll be enough?? No wonder I can't drop that excess 10lbs or so.

I have my clothes laid out and my bin of barn essentials ready to go. I sound like I'm getting ready for a real show :) Whatever, you always want to do your best!

My husband unfortunately can't accompany me because it's an all-day thing and we have a foster puppy right now. She's probably ready to stay the day by herself but she has had crazy diarrhea, so she needs to be monitored. Why, oh why, do I have to mention the quality of canine poop so much? My husband asks this regularly, lol. What can I say, poop is the window to animal health.

Anyway, wish me luck!

(By the way, I am very disappointed that no one commented on my super-awesome do-it-yourself bit warmer post. Ok, so it could have been more instructive, but come on! I freakin' did something with the sewing machine! And it was useful in the horseworld!)