Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Heigh Ho, A Riding We Will Go

Gorgeous Day

The temperature was up near 60F today with sunshine, blue skies and no wind to speak of.  Perfect for the last day of January.

I had a rather lengthy meeting in the morning, then stopped at the supermarket to use my $10 worth of Purina coupons...cat food, and headed home to make eggplant parmesan for lunch and dinner.  I ate, relaxed a little then headed out to the barn to do the chores and....ride!

I saddled Chance up this time and gave him a perhaps 20 minute school in the arena. Most of it was at the walk, but I did a good session of trot.  I have to laugh a bit at me, because I was actually getting winded as we worked--a pretty sad commentary on my general fitness at the moment. But aside from the barn chores, I haven't been doing any really serious exercise, so I'm not all that surprised.  We finished the arena work with 50 canter strides on each lead and then went out for a super short loop on the trails directly behind my property. It's basically a hairpin out and back.

When we got back, I was surprised to see my farrier's truck in the yard.  Apparently, he had arrived just as I was leaving to go out the gate and I never saw him.  Meanwhile, Toby and Tucker were all riled up, galloping and bucking wildly along the arena fence putting on quite a show. Toby, the herd boss, was quite upset that Chance and I had left, and Tucker was joining in just for the heck of it. I guess at that moment, Scott figured there was no point in trying to catch either one for shoeing, so he decided to wait for me to get back.

Everything settled peacefully as soon as I returned, and we put Chance on the crossties at one end of the barn for Scott's assistant to trim while Tucker stood on the ties at the other end for Scott to shoe him.  Kevin, Scott's assistant, fell in love with Chance almost at once and spent the rest of his time there trying to  buy him. Some of it was joking, but he was also serious.

Both he and Scott kept remarking at what wonderful feet Chance has--the kind you dream about. And, of course, Chance's steady personality and nice chunky, solid body add to his appeal.

It had been 12 weeks since Tucker's last shoeing, and his shoes were still on nice and tight despite the many rains/snows/muds we have had.  Either we were really lucky or his feet are improving.  He has been on the Purina Healthy Edge for about a year now and I'm wondering if that has helped his feet.  I held off on the shoeing so he could grow some good hoof, which he did.  Since I really wasn't riding much, the extra length didn't matter too much and he was moving just fine, so the wait may have been worth it. I guess we will know if these new shoes manage to stay on for the duration.

Toby got his trim, I played with Mick, Scott's border collie for a good long time, and we shared  some good stories all the while.

As for my ride, my knees felt all rubbery when I got back--not bad at all, just tired--so it is just as well Scott had come. I was considering riding Tucker as well, and that might have been a bit too much for my legs. This way, I had an excuse to just ride Chance and let the rest go.

I don't know what the weather is going to be like for the rest of the winter, but we are in for a mild spell again. I will try to do some riding as long as it's nice, with no real goals or plans to accomplish much except some general fitness.

No pressure. Just pleasure.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In Real Life

Meeting A Fellow Blogger

Stacey, who writes Behind the Bit, is in search of a new saddle for Riley, her young dressage horse.  As  matter of course, I recommended she try and Ansur, and sure enough, she got in touch with me to arrange a demo ride.

I drove to her farm yesterday.  Stacey is as genuine in real life as on her blog. While I'm not sure about the rest of the Internet world, I have a feeling most other horse bloggers I know are as real as they are in their writings too.  There's something about the connection to horses here.  If we talk about our relationships to them on an everyday basis, I think it's kind of hard to pretend to be someone else. Our horses will never let us be anything less than honest.

I'm sure there are some charlatan horse bloggers out there somewhere, but I don't think I have any on my "reading list."

But back to Stacey, Riley and the Ansur. She may well post about the experience, but on the whole it was a good one. But as a representative, I have a problem. As with many riders who are not 100% convinced that treeless is "the way to go," one demo ride is really not enough.  Ansur does have a policy where, after you order and pay for your saddle, you have a seven day trial period, but that's only after purchase.

That makes it a bit frustrating for riders who need more time and more rides to make a decision.  I have one client who has now had two test rides and would like a third.  I understand completely.  An Ansur, and most any good saddle, is a big investment.  The trouble is, she is a nearly two hour drive away for me.  I will definitely go there for her, but it would be so much nicer if there were a way she could borrow a saddle to try for herself for a week or so.

Most saddle companies do not offer that option. Liability, lease contracts, etc. are just to complicated. There are tack shops that offer trial periods, for sure, mostly on used saddles, but Ansurs do not show up very often in such places, nor do a number of other excellent saddle brands out there.

I keep thinking, if I had the money, I would buy another Excel--the Ansur dressage model--and create some kind of leasing arrangement for clients. I'd certainly have to look into all the ramifications, but it would help people more easily "take the leap of faith" to treeless saddles if they could ride in one for more than just the few hours of a demo ride.

For now, we just have to deal with the situation as it stands.

Regardless, I am glad the Ansur saddle allowed me to meet my fellow blogger. That, in itself was well worth the trip.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Having a Ball, Part 2

The Weather Turns Again

Once again "Spring in Winter" is here. All the snow melted within about two days except for an odd pile here and there mostly left by the plows.

I substituted on Monday and then had the day full of doctor's appointments on Tuesday, when it was about 50F.  Today was sunny and in the mid 40's F, so I went out in the afternoon for some "play time" with the Boys.

But first, I needed to clean the stalls and poo pick the riding arena--part of their turnout area.  I realized once I started that it had been well over a week since the last pick and the Boys had been hanging out in the sand based arena quite a bit because of the iffy footing elsewhere.  That meant a good bit of work to do.

I filled the wheelbarrow with cleaning about 2/3 of the arena and just managed to push it out to the manure pile. Since the ground was wet, the poo was wet and heavy, and there was mud on the way to the pile.  I kind of made it all the way...sort of. But it's OK.  There is more to clean up, but the area where I ride or work the horses is clean.

Then I got "The Ball" out for a play session.  I had a pocket full of peppermint treats and two very interested horses--Tucker and Chance. Toby still thinks "The Ball" is "Killer Ball."

Chance was not really interested in the ball, but kept focusing on my pockets where the treats were.  If I rolled the ball at him, he just let it careen off his legs and made no move to interact. Tucker, however, seemed to remember that somehow touching the ball had earned him a reward in the past, so it didn't take long for him to make contact.  This time, though, he did not get any praise or a treat for simply touching. He had to actually push the ball with his nose.

All it took was about three tries with rewards and the game started to fall into place. Each time I rolled the ball to him, he gave it a shove with his nose and got his praise and a treat.  Step one complete.  I need to reinforce that and then start getting him to actually roll the ball back to me so we can play "catch."

I'm not sure what to do to get Chance into the game as a three way would be a ton of fun. I do think I'd have to get him alone in the arena without Tucker nearby to get him to think about perhaps giving the ball some attention.  Right now, Tucker's very focused and determined attitude about both ball and treats kind of backs Chance off.

Once the ball game was over, I got out the lunge line and lunged first Tucker, then Chance for just a bit.  Nothing much except perhaps five minutes of trot and canter--a little in each direction.  Both Boys looked nice and sound and fairly willing to move along for me.

Chance does, however, have the most relaxed little "rocking chair" canter I've seen in a long time. While it does get a bit "up and down" instead of forward, it is just amazing that he can canter that slowly. I'm not sure what the pleasure horse class judges are looking for nowadays in the show arena, but  there was a day when he would have been a star.  If only he were a Quarterhorse.....*lol*

I thought about riding, but my knees are just a little sore this week. I'm not sure why, but the exercise of pushing the wheelbarrow for the stalls and arena was enough of a workout for now. Perhaps on the weekend or next week. The weather appears to be pretty calm for a while again, with rain in the forecast, but nothing more dire.

Once again, as it often is in the winter, we'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Well, It's Finally Here

Winter, That Is

We have several inches of snow on the ground. But that would not be too bad. The "bad" is that it is already starting to rain on top of that and the rain is mixed with sleet, so we may be in for a coating of ice.

Ice is not good. My biggest worry is the Boys. If the footing gets dangerous with ice, I will have to keep them in the barn until things thaw. This happened a few years ago just before Christmas and the Boys were in for three days or so.  We also had bad ice one year when I was boarding out and that was dreadful. I finally made a path all the way to the indoor arena by lugging buckets of extra sand from the arena.  It was a long haul, but at least the horses were able to get out for a while to stretch their legs.

Here, I have no option like that. It's either in or out.  So right now it's just a matter of wait and see.

I also need to make a decision about whether or not to plow the driveway. Once before, I let the snow sit and it froze over and all I had was a mess of ice for at least a week.

On the plus side, it's supposed to go up to 53 F on Monday, so there is a good chance the worst of whatever falls will melt quickly.  Tonight is the bad one as it's predicted to be around 18F, so frozen is definitely the norm.  Tomorrow, it may go up to 36F or so, and if there is sunshine, that's good too.

Ah, well. My other problem is that I will be doing some substitute teaching next week so I will not always be here to monitor the Boys or see to their needs. I'll just have to see how the whole thing plays out. For now, all is well.

The Boys are fed and have hay to keep them content.

But, all three of them were coated in snow and little icicles when I went out to feed. As usual, instead of sheltering during the little storm, they had been standing outside somewhere.  They are all dressed in their winter blankets, so that's not a problem except for their icicled manes and wet necks. You'd think they'd take advantage of all the roof options they have--three run-in shed roofs and the barn itself.

One of my former trainers said when the weather is bad, horses actually want to be outside because the noise of wind and rain falling on the barn roofs upset them and they needed to be out where they could see what was going on. I suspect a part of that is true.  As prey animals, horses would not want to be trapped if there was danger about. They would want to be free to run. As well, when it snows, in particular, visibility is limited and being out gives them a wider range of vision to see any predators that may try to take advantage of the weather's cover.

Could be.

The Boys too tend to take shelter when it rains--at least some of the time. I suppose I need to monitor exactly what kind of rain brings them in and what kind of rain keeps them out as there have been many times I've seen them standing outside as well.

It's all just another one of those mysteries of horse behavior we simple humans cannot fathom.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Shredding Continues

But This Time.....

When I went out to feed this morning, I saw a puff of white stuffing by Tucker's outside stall door. Aha!! The Boys were all dressed in winter blankets. The detective in me suspected the worst, so I first examined Tucker's blanket.

Fine. Nary a rip.

Then I checked Toby.


That meant...yes, Chance, sporting a brandy new (Rhino) (Edited it's an Amigo)  midweight I had just purchased about two weeks ago.

No longer is it a brandy new Rhino. It had a large, L shaped tear in the left side.


Fortunately most of the stuffing is intact and the rip is pretty clean, so a stitch up job is quite possible.  I now have said blanket on the back porch awaiting my tender loving care and the sewing machine. Meantime, I put an old Roma thinsulate on Chance since it's not supposed to rain until tomorrow night. (Romas are not waterproof.)

I had a doctor's appointment this morning, then went to get my hair cut and ended up at a friend's house to see his new kittens. (Shy little ones but cute as bugs. They were born in the wild and are a bit wary of strangers, so all I really got was fleeting glances and one quick pet.)

All this occupied the better part of the day, so the blanket still waited for me. I just did a straight stitch job on it, with the seam on the outside since there was now way to sew the top layer with the seam underneath since the lining was still intact. It's not the best job in the world, but it will do fine provided no one decides to strike again.

I can testify, Amigos are not indestructible, despite any ads to the contrary. They are not the top of the line in the Rambo family, but I would have hoped it would have lasted more than a couple weeks.

But, these are my Boys.

I think someone bred a little shark into my equines.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

Winter Makes a Move

Seems the winter blogs turn into weather reports more often than not. Same here, I fear.

I woke up to the sound of sleet--heavy sleet--hitting the skylight in the sunroom.  Once fully conscious, I could hear it beating down outside my window as well. Weather forecast called for rain. Darn it.

Yesterday was in the mid forties F with calm, still air.  Today? Sun in, sun out, snow showers now and then, the sleet attack, of course, and then wind.  All off and on, reminding us all that winter in New Jersey is a fickle  visitor, not sure whether to sit down to make a statement or to hurry through with quick comments.

I'm not sure which I prefer, sometimes. I switched the Boys back into their insulated blankets this morning, putting the sheets aside for the time being. Each Boy poses his own challenge. Chance simply refuses to stand still when he is free in his stall for a clothes change.  He walks about in a circle or makes a break through the gate into the barn aisle to meander about with straps hanging before I've managed to do them up.

Now, I could to the right thing and put each horse on the crossties to change blankets, but it's just as easy to do the work when they are eating.  And, for the most part, they tolerate it pretty well.  I've always made it a point to bother my horses now and then when they are eating anyhow. While I can understand that they do like to focus on the food, I also want them to know that I am in charge and though food may be their priority, accepting both my presence and my control at all times is a part of their lives.

Toby and Tucker take a rather dim view of this idea. At least Tucker does. While I try to buckle blanket straps on him, I get his "snake face," a tossing head, and some pretty good efforts on his part to bite me. Biting is not his option, of course. I correct that by "biting" him sharply--usually on the neck--with my stiff fingers. If I can get a little pinch in there it makes the point even more effectively and he usually stops. The best reward is when his ears go up and he assumes an innocent expression as if to say, "OK, Boss! Who, me? Nope, I'd never bite you."

Toby, if eating is fine, but when he is engaged in his cribbing, as he was this morning, he too will react with an annoyed snap at the air in my direction. Depending on how much he's actually aiming, and how much of it is intentionally in the air, I will either use the finger bite or a simple verbal reprimand. He is herd boss and understands the responsibility of power, so he does not challenge me as much as "wannabe herd boss," Tucker.  And, Toby has a much more sensitive personality than Tucker. He will overreact to things much more quickly.

It is an interesting contrast in personalities and reflects each horse's reaction to "The Ball."

Chance was not at all intimidated and though he spooked a little from it at first soon just ignored it, even when it bounced into his legs. Instead of interacting, he just kind of wandered away, off on his own "walkabout," despite "The Ball's" presence.

Tucker, was at once fixated on "The Ball" and alternately spooked wildly or did repeated approach and retreat. He simply could not leave the strange pink thing alone and needed to touch it and eventually push it around, taking charge of its presence in his life.

Toby wanted nothing to do with "The Ball."  It spooked him and still spooks him. It is "something dangerous," to be watched out for and avoided. But, I am sure that if "The Ball" went after him in earnest--say if it trapped him in his stall or a round pen--he would try to kill it. That is exactly what he did when Kenny Harlow challenged him with a mylar balloon. Despite the fact that Kenny introduced the balloon and got Toby to accept it, when he turned his back and the balloon trailed to the ground on the end of its string, Toby attacked full force with two incredibly quick and accurate forefeet and blew the balloon to smithereens.

It's for that very reason, that despite all his super ground manners, I always use a little extra caution when working around Toby. The key is not to corner him so that neither he nor I have an escape route. Kenny told me to always be careful if there was something Toby was afraid of, and I am.  "The Ball" will eventually become something Toby accepts, but I am not pressing the point. So far, he has eaten a carrot off "The Ball" even though his body was in "I am going to fly back in a split second of that thing moves," but I have not challenged him further.

Today is not the day. The wind would make "The Ball" a lively adversary.

I'll wait until winter decides to leave the room again.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Rain Here

But Not Cold

It's kind of "Springy" outside with rain and fairly warm temperatures. That, of course, curtails the horse activity, although the Boys were out frolicking before breakfast. I'm guessing that standing in the stalls or under the run in shed for most of the night inspired some activity this morning when the rain let up.

I had to take Tucker's orange sheet off and put on another waterproof one--fortunately I found a spare that was not too torn--because all the repair work I had done, including the rip in the side, had been undone. The surcingle was gone again as well.  I did get the sheet off before it got wet, but it's lying on the back porch for now until I figure out just what to do. I am wondering if using the zig zag stitch on the sewing machine is the problem. This time I will used a smaller straight stitch to see if that holds better.

I just saw the garbage collect truck drive past and suddenly realized it was actually Thursday, pick up day, instead of Wednesday.  This is a sad state of affairs, but not totally shocking for me. When I was teaching and had the summer off, it often happened that I'd lose track of just what day it was. Now that I am retired, the whole concept of the week can get "misplaced" pretty easily. Without a set schedule dictated by outside forces, what day it actually is really doesn't matter.

All that being said, I did have appointments this week and should have realized that I was at the eye doctor for a check up yesterday--Wednesday, and not Tuesday. Ah, well. My garbage and recyclables did not go today so I will have another week to collect a more impressive amount.  And, I will remember to go to choir practice tonight as well--Thursday......

Of course, the Boys don't care what day it is.  Seven days a week, they still need the same care and regular feeding. There is now weekend sleeping in late for me, although I have made the morning feed a little later than it was when I was teaching every day. Having animals at home is a big responsibility with some drawbacks well outweighed by the advantages.

At least that's my opinion. I don't have to drive anywhere to check up on them and I know exactly what they are being fed and when. I am aware of every aspect of their care and maintenance from veterinarian to farrier to trainer and handler. Nothing is left to chance--well, aside from Chance who has his own agenda in life including ripping Tucker's blankets.  But it also ties me down or challenges me to find alternatives if for some reason I can't do some of the chores.

Thankfully, I have found a wonderful horsesitter, Debbie, who took care of the Boys after my recent knee surgery and so far has been available on short notice for a day here and there. She took care of the Boys on Christmas Day so I could go to my cousins's house for the day, for example. While I do have to pay her, it is well worth the money to have someone I can depend on in a time of need.

Meantime, it's all up to me, no matter what day it is.

Even if it is Thursday.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Grin and "Bare" It

Saturday Through Monday

Saturday was at least 60F, perhaps more in the sun.  I took the Boys's sheets off and let them go bare.

We started off with a little photography session, and some ball play, neither of which merited much action. I do, by the way, have a movie option on my digital cameras and I have a camcorder as well. I just haven't taken the time to fool around much with either of them. Without an extra camera person here, it's kind of hard to get much good stuff and I always miss the action when the Boys are playing on their own as the camera is usually somewhere else. By the time I get it, the games are done.

At any rate, even working with the still camera, it's not an easy task to get pictures of my little herd. Every time I hold the camera up to get a shot of someone, said someone turns and walks directly to me. It's as if the camera were some kind of horse nose magnet. I did get a few OK views of naked horses, though, so here they are:

Toby, heading for the camera.....
 Toby showing what he thinks of having his picture taken.
 Tucker thinking about entering the arena while Chance mugs the camera.
 Chance, encounterint "The Ball."
 Chance, starting to turn towards me for another camera "assault."
 Tucker and Toby caught in a candid moment. Note the missing fence rail. Surprise!
 Tucker, front shot as once again, he heads towards me.
 Tucker and his new best friend, "The Ball."
OK, enough nude photos. I hope you aren't blushing.

I need to add.

I rode.

I saddled up Chance on Saturday and meandered around the arena for about five minutes. He was rather wiggly mostly because not only did he want to go out on the trail instead, but I was using Toby's bridle and bit, not his.  Chance goes much better in a single jointed snaffle instead of the lozenge bit   He broke part of his bridle when I fell off and I just haven't gotten around to fixing it yet. Why not? Heaven only knows, but since I wasn't riding, it didn't seem a priority.  We walked and trotted a little and despite being very fussy in his mouth, he was a good boy.

Sunday was a bit more brisk and I didn't really do much outside at all. Then today, Monday, I headed out in the early afternoon to do a bit of ball playing.

Once again, Tucker was the most interested in the ball and by rewarding him with treats, I got him to push it around just a little. I don't know if he connected the pushing the ball with the little carrots, but he surely was involved in the whole affair.

Then, I put the ball away and saddled Tucker up for a short ride in the arena. Since he stood quietly at the mounting block until I was seated, I offered him a peppermint horse treat as a reward.

Error. Did you know Tucker cannot walk and chew treats at the same time? *LOL*  At least that's what he tried to convince me to believe.

We soon sorted that out and walked around in a few simple patterns before going into the trot for some experimental work.  I did a little sitting trot now and then, did figure 8's, serpentines, leg yield and then a little half pass in each direction. As usual, the left half pass is a little sticky compared to the right, but both of them were certainly acceptable at this point.

Then, I decided to try just a bit of canter. We are talking perhaps 20-30 strides on each lead.  I am pleased to report that from the trot, he struck off in both directions without any fuss. This is a good sign as the canter depart is where he shows any discomfort in his hocks. These were, of course, not fully engaged, rock back on the haunches canter departs, but nice prompt relaxed ones, so that is a fine start for us at this point.

My knees felt fine when I was riding with just a tiny bit of soreness now and again at the posting trot, but it's so much less than before the replacements I hardly notice.  They are less stiff than they were when I first tried to ride, but not yet as flexible as they need to be. The main issue is when I swing my leg over to mount. Fortunately, my horses do not seem to mind if my foot brushes them on the rump as I get on or off, so no real problem.

I don't know how much I will ride now. The weather will be a factor as will the rather long list of doctor appointments I have this month--three this week. But I will take one day at a time.

Meanwhile, we do have the ball to play with.

Oh, yes. Here is one more picture. This is Peppercorn, the barn kitty who now lets me pet him when he is eating and upon occasion elsewhere.  He is a well fed little critter.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Having a Ball

What's That?

I bought a big play ball for the horses today. The saddle shop had a pretty good price compared to what I have seen advertised on the Internet.  And, it turned out the only one in stock was already inflated and covered, so it was even better for me not to have to assemble it all.

We did have to let a little air out to stuff it into my car, but we managed and home I came.

Reactions from the Boys were mixed, but curiosity won out in the end--except for Toby who never did quite manage to touch the ball. To my surprise, the boldest moves were made by Tucker. Chance, though, did not seem at all concerned about the ball when I pushed it into him, so he gets good scores for the "scare" factor.

Tucker, though, was really interested.  Several times he pushed the ball across the arena and later, when the other two Boys had left, he pushed it around a little on his own.  There was no real play interaction going on yet, just inquisitive tests of what the ball would do if approached and touched.  I decided to leave it out for a while longer and bring it in later tonight.  The weather has taken a turn to the warm side again, and I am hoping to ride a little tomorrow. So having the ball out there will be a good diversion to keep the Boys occupied and maybe even a little exercised.

Here are some pictures of the introduction to the ball:
 Chance checks it out.
 Tucker takes a look from a distance.
 Tucker approaches.
 Toby watches from a safe distance, just in case the ball attacks.
 Tucker's not so sure as Chance takes charge.
 But once again, it's Tucker's turn.
 And later, all on his own, Tucker pushes the ball across the arena.
I think this is first introduction again, but you can see that Chance is not at all intimidated.

The colorful array of pink and orange is kind of dramatic. *LOL*  They had two covers for sale. The other one was blue and red. I might have gone for that, but the ball was already "dressed" in the pink cover, so I was quite content to get it.

Now we have a toy. All I need to do is figure out some fun games to play.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Training Thoughts on a Cold Winter Night

 My Brain Does Work Even When I'm Shivering

Cold here in New Jersey. I put winter blankets on the Boys for the night. Hopefully they will be comfortable.  

But, on to the topic of the post.......

Interesting comment from Muriel on my last post about the western riders and flying changes.  She noted that they do not worry about collection and such for training or teaching the exercise.

I am in total agreement. In fact, aside from a few of the upper level dressage movements that might require collection to be done properly—piaffe and passage, in particular—most of the “tricks” of dressage do not require the horse to even be on the bit.

Now, hardcore dressage riders/trainers may scoff at that. There is a certain mystery to teaching the horse according to the “training scale” and at each level of expertise, there are specific exercises that should be mastered.  According to their theory, a horse cannot master, for example, a walk/canter transition when it first begins its training.

But, horses walk/canter in the field all the time. They do flying changes, as Muriel noted, and some of them even passage across the pasture. They are certainly not “on the bit” and the only collection they offer is whatever their bodies need to do to maneuver. Why should it really be any different under saddle once the horse is comfortable about the idea of how to carry a rider on its back?

I remember being taught and reading about how to get a horse to take the correct lead at the canter. It’s a rather complex process according to some experts. The cue to canter must be given as the off hind leg strikes off to encourage the inside hind to take a larger stride. The horse must be positioned “just so,” with a proper half halt to gain balance for the depart. You support with your inside leg and cue the lead with the outside leg (some people do use other cues, by the way) and if you do everything just right, you will get the lead you want.

Out in the field, horses take the correct lead for turns all the time, and if they change their minds about direction, most often will fly the change to make the new turn. Why not? They want to be in balance on their own and would much rather do it right than do it wrong.

Yet, we get in the saddle, and suddenly, we can’t canter on the correct lead at all.  In all my serious riding experience, I can only recall two horses that posed a problem for me about taking their leads. One was my friend’s horse that turned out to have a permanently injured stifle, so he was actually too lame to take the lead, and the other was my very on PJ, who had apparently broken a bone in his front hoof at some point and had developed the habit of never taking that lead.  I overcame PJ’s issues with lots of training, but other riders who rode him often could not get the right lead for “love or money.”  Otherwise, I have never found getting the correct lead to be a big issue. Sometimes, it might require a little mental work to find the right exercise to encourage the correct lead, but that’s about it.

I think too many riders—dressage riders especially—make too much of what needs to be done to simply ride. Certainly, creating a beautiful Grand Prix test does demand all the “magic,” but for just plain old riding? 

All it really takes is the proper cue to ask the horse to do what comes naturally. 

Monday, January 02, 2012


Just A Thought

I don't, as a rule, make New Year's resolutions.

I am not a "far into the future" planner and never have been, usually letting life kind of take its course as it comes.

All that being said, when I was competing my horses, I did plan, especially for eventing. I knew then that my horse's fitness was an essential ingredient to both success and safety.  And, back then, even if I were not eventing, I assured my horses' fitness by riding a varied program 5-6 days a week.

I still have to laugh about the time I attended a jumping clinic with a prominent trainer. My horse, PJ, was a bulky Thoroughbred and the trainer began his group clinic with a lecture about how most amateur hunter/jumper riders never really had their horses fit enough for competition. He railed on about that for a moment, then walked over to PJ to poke his shoulder muscle to prove his point, planning to demonstrate just how "soft" my horse was.

He almost broke his finger on PJ's solid, well developed muscle. "Well, I'm not talking about this horse," he said, finally.

That was then. This is now. I have not ridden my Boys since last Spring--except for the ill-fated after surgery week before I took my tumble.  They are far from fit, but do benefit from 24-7 turnout with lots of playtime. (As their sheets and my poor fence prove.)

I plan on riding, of course, so that means I need to give my Boys some basic fitness.

For that, I do need a bit of a plan.  Trouble is, January in New Jersey is not exactly the time or place to start a fitness regimen for horses when you don't have an indoor.

But, I can think a bit about some training goals.  I'm not at all sure about what Tucker can do since he has shown some chronic soreness in his hocks. Still, I would think that we could master flying changes this year. So, once I get him in shape, that's a plan.

Chance just needs a good solid foundation in all the basics. I'd like to have him trainer to at least first level competence, with, perhaps some flying changes as well. The first level competence is not a problem but the changes might be a bit much, depending on how he progresses.

Toby? Hard to say. He deserves his retirement, but I think being ridden now and then is good for him. He's definitely a "take it as it comes," fellow at this point. He can be very obvious about not wanting to get caught sometimes, so I guess I can just let him tell me what he wants to do.

Nothing grand here.  There may be an opportunity for a "despooking" clinic in the Spring that would be decided fun for Chance and there is the outside chance I may decide to show him a little.  I really don't have any ambition in that direction, though.  Shows have gotten super expensive and there don't seem to be too many fun little schooling competitions around any more. We'll see.

So, that's it. No real resolutions, per se, but some goals.  I am hopeful that my new knees might spark some more ideas once they are fully recovered.  And I also hope that new legs will help me get myself more fit and even lose some weight.

Only time will tell.