January 30, 2014

A Wonderful Wednesday

1/29/14 lesson recap.

I have been finding that groundwork before getting on helps A LOT.  Her attitude is 10x better when I work with her on the ground before taking the leap of faith and mounting up.   Unfortunately, her usual bit (Myler comfort snaffle d-ring w/ hooks) is being borrowed, so she is in the Myler kimberwicke for now.  I noticed that she was really mouthy with the bit and she seemed a bit disturbed about it, but she quit chomping/gaping her mouth open after awhile.

We worked on small circles and passing another horse.  The small circles have improved a lot.  Making her turn used to be such a chore, but more outside leg and a tighter outside rein have fixed that issue.  She was turning on a dime today!  I'm used to having to argue with her over everything, be it walking in a straight line or leg yielding.   The first turn we did was so sharp and precise (an immediate response to my cue) that I nearly fell off out of surprise.  As far as passing another horse went, we have gotten substantially better since last week's lesson.   Once again, the issue was not using enough outside leg and letting my outside rein fall forward.  Go figure... it always comes back to the outside leg and outside rein.

As far as asking her to collect goes, it is definitely coming along.  I can feel and see the difference now that I have switched from seesawing the reins to the new way (inside rein up slightly, outside rein back slightly, a light squeeze with my calves, and a looser rein).   I noticed that she does get a little behind the vertical; I'm sure that this is probably just both her and I being new to the concept of collection.   Needless to say, I will be sure to look into the issue anyways.

Ypke didn't have the "quit after 30 minutes" attitude today!  She seemed eager to work, probably because of all the small circles, passes, and reverses we were doing.  Ypke is definitely the kind of horse that needs a job to do; putzing around in circles for an hour is not her type of thing.

All in all, I am really happy with how the lesson went.

On another note, be sure to check out Dandyism's fly bonnet contest!  Contest ends February 2nd!
Adventures with Shyloh is also having a giveaway, four people will win prizes from Horze.  Hurry and enter!
She Moved to Texas is also giving away a pair of breeches.  Contest ends February 5th!
Equestrian At Hart is having a Higher Standards Leather care giveaway.  Be sure to enter!

January 23, 2014

Day 7 - Post A Long Rant of Your Biggest Pet Peeve

There are two types of trainers around here: Teeniebopper wannabe trainers and midlife crisis wannabe trainers.  Of course, they think they are the best of the best and charge outrageous monthly prices for the honor of having you horse ruined by them.  If you would like your horse ruined, you only have to pay $900 a month!  What a deal!

Here are the three memorable ones...

Trainer #1:
Called and scheduled a time to work with one of the horses at the barn.  Showed up two hours late without telling me she was going to be late.  What was she wearing you ask?  Flip flops, loop/dangle earrings, tank top, and ripped jeans.  She took one look at the horse, lunged him at a walk, and said he was going to be super easy to train.  Proceeded to leave three minutes later due to "plans."   I understand that life happens, so we rescheduled for another day for her to work with the horsie.  Once again, absolutely no warning and she flat out didn't show up.  Several days later a text that says, "Sry 4got 2 come wat time wrks 4 u now"  Needless to say we never replied.

Trainer #2:
This person, in short, makes me want to rip out my hair.   He showed up to work with one of the horses at the barn.   Proceeded to gallop the horse around the round pen for 30 minutes.  In order to reverse, he would run in front of the horse, wave the whip, and scream.
After the horse was drenched in sweat, he got on and proceeded to say, "he feels like he is going to explode," then got off.  This happened while the horse was out of breath and about to take a nap.  He left and we sent him an email saying that we were not interested in his training services at this time  He proceeded to call and tell us how stupid we were for needing a horse trainer, how everything he did was correct, how we didn't know anything about horses, etc.
I occasionally run into him at this public riding arena and he always tries to insult me.  Be it the way Ypke looks (apparently she is fat and doesn't look like a Fjord) or the way I ride.  This is coming from the man who slouches, has a chair seat, and slams in the saddle like a sack of potatoes

Trainer #3:
This is the person who I was talking about in my previous blog post.  I took lessons with Ypke with him as my instructor and I regret ever even meeting him.  He was extremely arrogant and was constantly talking about how his method worked on every horse and was the only way to train a horse (I kid you not, that is what he said).  In a few short lessons I was seesawing Ypke's head into place and doing crazy things to achieve what I wanted with her.  It worked, but after an amount of time I noticed their were pieces of the puzzle missing.  According to him...
-Seesawing is the way to collection
-ALL snaffles are abusive, shanked bits are better
-If you ride with stirrups, they need to be long enough that way your heels are NOT down
-Horses spook only because they do not trust you.  
-You shouldn't keep any horse barefoot
-You should never ride when it is cold or windy
-If the horse ever responds incorrectly to a cue, it is in severe pain.

I'm sure there must be some good trainers around here, but I have yet to find them.  Luckily, the trainer I have now is great!

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January 22, 2014

A Seesawers Confession

1/22/14 lesson recap.

During the lunge session we only had two bucks, a sign that she would most likely be good for the lesson.  At 0 bucks, you should be suspicious she is planning something; when she hits 5 bucks, you need to ride Western for a false sense of security.  If she hits 10 bucks, and you ask your trainer to give her a training ride and your trainer replies, "You will never learn if I get on her before a lesson," you know you are in for a horrible day. Luckily, this was not one of those days.
She is gonna get you!

There are two things you must know about me before I continue on with this post:
1.) I am getting out of a seesawing habit.  You can blame this terrible habit on a previous trainer of mine that told me, and I quote, "Seesawing is the only way to get a horse to collect."  Both he and I were ignorant in the ways of collection.
2.) I ride with a tight rein due to that same trainer (read my "Day 7" post tomorrow and I will tell the story of that trainer) and because Ypke can be a bit unpredictable at times.

I decided to try something different today... to quit seesawing and give her a loose rein.   What caused me to make this decision you ask?  Well, seesawing and tight reins just were not working.   Plus, after reading blog posts I can tell that the method I was taught (really... you should come back tomorrow and I will explain everything) was a wheelbarrow load of manure.

Alas, I started out on a very loose rein and waited to see if my plan would work or if I was going to fail miserably.   The pony was actually being good!  Very relaxed and not worried that the sky was going to fall.  We moved up into the trot and I left the reins alone and gave an ever so slight squeeze with my calf.   After this, I actually felt her round and she slowed way down!  Before, she would just put her head down and not really "round," we were just faking it.

We ended up moving onto small circles and with a slight lift of the inside rein while keeping the outside rein pressure even, we maintained a rounded/collected circle!  There was no more sky high head bracing against the circle like there was when I seesawed.  Of course, we are just in the early stages of collection and are no masters of the concept, but I could feel we were stepping into the right direction.  I could tell the difference between the hollowed out back and the rounded back, what a change!

Eventually, Mrs. Yppy (pronounced similar to Mississippi) decided she was absolutely done half way through the lesson.   Ypke doesn't have the greatest work ethic and gets bored VERY easily.  She decided that she wasn't going to do small circles at a slower trot, and decided that star shaped circles at a, "run for your life" speed would be much more acceptable.  She also figured that she wasn't in the mood for slowing down.  Envision a giraffe loping across the plains of Africa, about to crash into a tree, with someone sitting on it's back, trying desperately not to die.   If you can imagine that, kudos to you, I can't.  For those of you that fall into category 3 and need a visual aid, I had the decency to make one for you.
A moment of terror

There I was: Riding the giraffe-necked horse at an insanely fast trot, about to crash into the horse's butt in front of us.  I hate it when people ride up Ypke's butt... now I was riding Ypke up some other horses butt.  I tried to make the pass, outside rein back, inside rein slightly up, and outside leg.  Ypke wasn't having it and stared up at the sky, saying her last prayers before the inevitable.   I think I joined her in those prayers.  Enough was enough and I demanded that she turn... she finally did with just feet to spare.  Needless to say, we practiced passing A LOT until finally she was passing well.  We ended the lesson while I was ahead and did a free rein walk.


January 21, 2014

Day 4 - A Ride That Impacted Your Life

Hands down the ride that impacted my Ypke/riding life happened on July 4, 2012, during my weekly lesson.   I used to be a fearless (*cough* ignorant) beginner rider, that is, until THAT day.  THAT day was the day when my confidence with Ypke went from on top of the world to level zero.  You see, THAT day was when my perfect pony discovered that she could take advantage of me.  She used to be a fun, tolerant horse until the Fourth of July.

Mug shot of the guilty pony

It was a normal lesson.  The pony and I were doing absolutely amazing, I remember exactly what we were working on: using my seat to make upward or downward transitions.  I rounded the corner when out of nowhere she just blew up.

She flew 20 feet to the side (unfortunately that isn't stretching the truth) and off I flew.  Supposedly I sat the first 15 feet like a pro. I am proud to say that my gymnastics lessons as a toddler came in handy.  I did an awkward front flip and stuck the landing... before falling to the ground.   You didn't waste your money on the gymnastics lessons, Mom!  I was terrified and just wanted to cry, there was no way I wanted to get back on that horse, but I got back on anyways.  I almost had waterworks on the Fourth of July, but I refrained and canceled the event.  

All kidding aside, things haven't been the same since then.  She will just spook with no warning (we average at about one small spook a month and two blowups a year). No warning at all, I don't even have time to prepare.  Her small spook is just a sudden leap forward, her blowups are either bolts off to the side or bronc buck fests.  I just thought I might clarify that she is NOT in pain.  Her teeth are checked yearly and they are about as close to perfect as you can get, she has had her back checked, and both her saddles fit.   

Ever since then, I just have not been confident anymore.  Sure I didn't get injured, but the whole "give no warning at all" is always in the back of my mind.  I do keep her working when she spooks and I don't let her think that spooking equals getting put away.   One day, she will be a wonder pony again.  Just wait and see...

January 20, 2014

Day 3 - Your Proudest Riding Moment

I would have to say my proudest moment with Ypke was the 2013 Veteran's Day Parade.   I am not going to lie, I was a ball of nerves and thought I was going to hurl.  Of course, when you are nervous the horse picks up on it... that made me even MORE nervous. She had never been to a show or parade, just in an arena and trails, so I had no idea how she would react.  Ypke and loud noises is like wearing your helmet backwards, it just doesn't happen.

The start of the parade was about a one minute haul from my house, so instead of dealing with all the traffic I decided to walk her there.   She was good on the way there, but she snorted and stepped away from the storm drains whenever we passed one.

Alas, we finally arrived and I hitched her up to a friend's trailer and decorated her up.  My friends loaned me some hay and she stood there munching away contently.  Note how I opted for the western tack... false sense of security. Isn't she a cutie?  Banded mane, ribbons in her mane, spray painted tail, stars on her rump, a bandana, her cute EasyBoots...

I (somewhat) reluctantly got on, my beginner nerves acting up, and prepared to be thrown off.  The bands and motorcycles began, but there was no spooking, just a bit of prancing.  We rode to the starting point and off we went.  She did awesome, although she was walking fast.  I had loads of fun waving to the spectators and people would point at us and say, "Woah, look at it's hair!" or "What a cute fluffy pony!" and even "That one is my favorite!"  

Flags, horns, motorcycles, bands, cheering crowds, cameras, spooking horses, and more.  Sure she was walking fast and would gawk at the storm drains, but there were no blowups!  I had a wonderful time and hope to go back next year.  

January 19, 2014

Day 2 - The Last Time You Rode and What You Worked On

  Due to weather, the last time I rode 1/16/14.   I thought all would go well, after all, there was no bucking on the lunge line and she was as sweet as sweet can be while I was getting her ready.  Plus, she was as close to perfect as you can get the day before.   The weather was great, so it would be wonderful if she was too!

 Gawk, gawk, gawk.

"You want me to do my western jog; well I would like to do my extended trot.  Are you asking me to soften?  Ehhhh, how 'bout no."

The ride didn't go very well.  I pretty much just worked on getting her to not gawk.  A lot of direction changes and transitions ensued, which helped a little.   My goal by the end of the ride was to get her to do a free rein walk without looking everywhere with a sky high head.  The goal was achieved, but I was still a little bit disappointed with how it went.  

January 18, 2014

Day 1 - When and Why You Started Riding

Since I am new to the blog-o-sphere I figured doing the 7 day horse challenge (throwback to 2011) would be a great way to help you get to know me better.

    I’ve been around horses (my mom has always been really into horses) my whole life, but never had an ounce of interest until late 2011.   To be honest, I’m not quite sure what sparked my interest.  I remember that I had been watching horse videos on YouTube, and ignorant me was thinking about the romanticized version of horses.  Ya know, jumping a 5’ fence with no hands, galloping bareback and bridleless on a beach, developing a unbreakable bond.  Shortly thereafter, I began looking at for sale ads.

    I had my heart set on a Fjord, I had always heard about how gentle they were and I loved their look.  I tried one Fjord, Tonka, but decided he was a no go.  With two riding lessons under my belt, I tried Ypke and immediately fell in love with her.   She was kind, tolerant, and on the lazier side; she seemed like the dream beginner horse!

     It just so happens that I purchased her during the time change, forgot to set the clocks ahead, and was TWO HOURS LATE picking her up.   Talk about a lousy and embarrassing second impression.   March 11, 2012 was the day when I bought Ypke and the rest is history!


January 17, 2014

Barn Blog Hop

SprinklerBandit and A Process of Learning have started a Barn Blog Hop and I decided to jump on the bandwagon.  I am lucky enough to have Ypke on my family's property at our little barn!

1. A view of the barn:

View from the driveway

 The barn is a very cute 4 stall barn.  The indoor amenities include a hayloft, a hay elevator, a stock, a spigot, a tack room, trailer parking, and tractor parking.

2. Your horse's living space:
Ypke in the interior of her stall

Ypke has a 12x12 stall, there is an attached 12x12 run as well.  There are two pastures, a larger one and a smaller one.  The gate of the run is always left open, it attaches to a walkway that goes out to her pasture. She gets around 9 hours of turnout a day and she can walk to and from the pasture whenever she chooses to due to the set up.

3. The tack room:
The Western side 

Come to the dressage side... where the tack is black
Complete with saddle pad racks, bridle hooks, halter hooks, and saddle racks.  The cabinets you see are used for storing helmets, fly masks, and first aid equipment.  The table is used for keeping girths, leathers, irons, and what not; the containers beneath the table consist of all the tack cleaning supplies and bits.  Furthermore, there is keypad entry which helps assure me that my beloved tack isn't getting carried off.

4. Where you ride:

Ghetto dressage arena

50' roundpen

The property has several places where you can ride, in the winter I opt for the 50' roundpen.   In the summer I prefer our "ghetto" legal sized dressage arena, I use the word ghetto lovingly due to us sectioning off part of the pasture and the letters being stuck onto orange construction cones.  Hey, it works and the footing is good!  We also have a trail obstacle arena (not pictured due to being trashed by the windstorms) and some sagebrush/wooded trails.  The pastures are also flat, making them good for riding in, there are also some gentle slopes as well though.

5.) My Favorite Feature:
While the facility isn't anything super fancy, I really like all of it! 

The hayloft and hay chutes are handy!

                                                                   The stock is always handy!

                       The warmblood size trailer fits, even has enough space left over to load a horse!

January 16, 2014

On the 12th Day of Not being Ridden...

  Ypke gave to me...

   It was super windy during the lesson and Ypke was a ball of nerves.  She wasn't terrible on the lunge line, just several big bucks.  Sand and tumbleweeds were flying down from the hills at us and it was just miserable.  She had a few big spooks and decided to bulldoze me around while I was leading her, so my trainer and I decided that today would be a showmanship lesson!

   The pattern set up was simple.  Start at cone A, trot to cone B, trot circle around cone B, trot to cone C, halt, back four step, and a 180degree haunch turn.  We failed, the thoughts going through my trainer's head were probably along the lines of: Showmanship, I doubt you have ever heard of it.

    Trot circle went well, backing went okay, but the haunch turn was a mess and we were having issues halting.  Her not wanting to halt wasn't anything major per se, it was just one step, but if you give her an inch she will take a mile.  After I became more consistent with backing her up fast whenever she took another step forward, she got the hint and quit.  You would be surprised about her inhand trotting and walking skills (and the halt is quickly coming along, consistency will fix the issue), she is actually not bad at all.  We did have some issues doing the trot circle clockwise though, be eventually it improved quite a bit.  As far as the haunch turn goes, it turns out that I was not standing at the right place.  After moving farther to her nose I actually started to get the hang of it, but of course whenever my trainer asked Ypke to do them, she would be perfect.  In short: Started out terrible, but in the end we were doing pretty good!

    After the lesson, it was still really windy so I wasn't able to ride.  At around 3:00 a miracle happened!  The sun was out, the wind was gone, and it was 55 degrees!  I decided to tack her up Western and lunged her a little to see where her mind was at.  Much to my surprise, there was no bucking on the lunge line; I suppose the groundwork earlier helped!  I hopped on and she was the perfect pony, no tantrums and no spooks, although she did throw her head up twice in the beginning.   She was doing a slow jog on a free rein by the end of the short 20 minute ride.  It was very enjoyable and fun!  Sometimes it is nice not to work on anything and just enjoy the ride.

January 14, 2014

Weather Woes

I have not been able to ride Ypke in 12 days.  Well, for the past two weeks we have had 75mph winds during the day and either freezing rain or snow at night.  As you can imagine, these aren't ideal conditions to ride in.  I realize that you cannot expect perfect conditions, but 75mph winds and slushy footing?  No thanks.   We never have weather like this around here, so nobody ever builds indoor arenas.   I am really starting to wish that someone around here has an indoor, though....

The weather actually cleared up today but of course I had meetings, errands, and school.  By the time I made it to the barn, it was already dark outside.   I decided to trim Ypke's mane and brush her off a bit, so at least that is something.  She was extremely fresh and kept on fidgeting, but finally stopped after several scoldings.  I have a lesson tomorrow which should be interesting.

January 11, 2014

Introduction To My Blog

   I was raised on a small horse ranch and never had any interest whatsoever in horses (that goes against all the laws of a girl though!).   In January 2012 I decided that I was going to start taking riding lessons and the rest is history.   My whole plan was to purchase a been there done that/beginner safe Norwegian Fjord horse to take lessons with. After trying out two Fjords, I bought Ypke.  I thought that she was the most tolerant, sweetest, safest horse you could ever own.  How perfect!
Ypke (pronounced ip-cuh) at a NFHR evaluation

   There was only one problem...
   I had no idea how to work with a horse!  Unfortunately, those 1 hour weekly lessons were just not enough and she assumed the role of the alpha mare and took advantage of every single weakness in my horsemanship abilities. Somebody call the Red Cross; there is a disaster and we need assistance!  After talking to different riders and trainers I received solutions anywhere from "Just ignore it," to "Whip her until she respects you," none of those seemed appropriate. 
   There was one thing I was sure about with Ypke; she loved food and would do anything for food.  I researched different methods that involved food until I found out about clicker training.  After just a few short sessions of this I had a completely different horse.  She was still disrespectful, spooky, etc. but not to such an extent.  Gradually I was able to enjoy riding her and worry about my equitation instead of falling off.  Is she still a pain? Yes.  Is she still spooky and what not? Yes.  She is far from perfect but we have improved by leaps and bounds; it may not seem like it, but if you had seen us a year ago you would be shocked by the change. 
    "Chronicles of a Moody Mare" will chronicle my adventures with Ypke.  Throughout our struggles and successes, feel free to laugh at us.