January 30, 2014

A Wonderful Wednesday

1/29/14 lesson recap.

I have been finding that doing groundwork before riding 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 other horses. 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 other horses 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 anyway.

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.

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 your 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, hoop earrings, tube 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 horse.  Once again with absolutely no notice, she flat out didn't show up. Several days she sent a text saying, "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 and 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 issue a bloodcurdling scream. After the horse was completely drenched in sweat, he got on and proceeded to say, "he feels like he is going to explode," then got off. This happened when 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 whom I was talking about in my previous blog post. I took lessons with him as my instructor, and I regret ever even meeting him. He was extremely arrogant and constantly talked 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 actually claimed). 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 due to severe pain.

Luckily, the trainer I have now is great!

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 behave well during the ride.  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 round."  Both he and I were ignorant in the ways of collection.
2.) I ride with a tight rein due to that same trainer (see tomorrow's post for the details) 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. Much to my surprise, 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 her pace!  Before, she would just put her head down and not really "round" — we were just faking it.

We ended up moving on to 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 not masters of the concept, but I could feel we were going in 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 halfway 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 slow jog, 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 a vast area, 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 horse's 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 inches 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 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. 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, and 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. Using every ounce of courage left, I reluctantly got back on.  I almost had waterworks on the Fourth of July, but I refrained.  

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 one blowup a year). There is no warning at all — I don't even have time to prepare. Her small spook is just a sudden leap forward, and her "blowups" are involved teleporting lightening fast to the side. 

Ever since then, I just have not been confident anymore. Sure, I didn't get injured, but it 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 out of work. 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 Veterans Day Parade. I am not going to lie, I was a ball of nerves and thought I was going to hurl. Of course, horses can sense when you are nervous, and the knowledge of that fact made me even MORE nervous. She had never been to a show or parade, so I had no idea how she would react. Ypke and loud noises don't go well together.

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 to a friend's trailer began the decorating process. My friends loaned me some hay, and she stood there munching away contently. Note how I opted for the western tack for a false sense of security. Isn't she a cutie?  Banded mane with ribbons, spray painted tail, stars on her rump, a bandana breast collar, cute EasyBoots...

I (somewhat) reluctantly got on and braced myself 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 enjoyed listening comments such as, "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 was 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 would be a great way to help you get to know me better.

I’ve been around 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 because 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 on the start of Daylight Saving Time and forgot to set the clocks ahead, making me 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 4 stall barn!

1. A view of the barn:

View from the driveway
The indoor amenities include a hayloft, hay elevator, wash rack, spigot, 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 12x24 run as well. There are two pastures: a larger one and a smaller one. The gate of the run is always left open, and it attaches to a walkway that goes out to her pasture. This set up allows her to walk to and from the pasture whenever she chooses.
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, and 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:

Low budget dressage arena

50' roundpen
The property has several places where you can ride, but in the winter I opt for the 50' roundpen. In the summer I prefer our "low budget" legal sized dressage arena, I use the word low budget 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 level! We also have a trail obstacle arena (not pictured due to being trashed by the windstorms) and some sagebrush/wooded trails. The pastures are primarily flat and even, but we also have some gentle slopes that are great for hill work.

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. Sand and tumbleweeds were flying down from the hills at us, and it was 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 a circle around cone B, trot to cone C, halt, back four steps, and do a 180 degree haunch turn. We failed, and the thoughts going through my trainer's head were probably along the lines of: Have you ever even heard of showmanship?!

The 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 — just a couple little steps after being asked to stop — 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. 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 standing further back towards 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 or spooks. 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 11, 2014

Introduction To My Blog

I was raised on a small hobby ranch and never had any interest whatsoever in horses. 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 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. After talking to different riders and trainers, I received solutions anywhere from "Just ignore it" to "Whip her until she respects you," but 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 slicker sessions, I had a completely different horse. She was still disrespectful, but not to such a great extent. Gradually, I was able to enjoy riding her and worry about my equitation instead of falling off. Is she still a pain at times? Of course! 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.