Monday, May 17, 2010

fun and fast

I hadn't planned on a fast ride, just a short one. But it ended up being a great time, fast and (mostly) behaved, making me proud of my horse! Saturday I didn't want to spend all day at the barn (well, I would have but house and home and friends are important too, balance, right?). Went out and was ready to ride at 10. Thought I'd do a short loop up the road, to Sterling then Horseshoe Bar.

At Sterling a boy scout group was working on an Eagle Scout project (installing benches, nice) so we skirted our usual trail. Heading to Horseshoe Major was good, some trot and walk, a balance for us both. We did so much trotting though (since he was behaving and rating!) that we were there really quickly! I looked at my watch...there was time, I'd go towards Rattlesnake a bit...ended up going the whole way! At one point we did a lovely fast trot (10+ mph) for close to 10 minutes. I know that isn't much for some people, but these trails are tricky, and we haven't had much time for the big extended trot. Major slowed pretty nicely over rocks, around corners, down steep hills, listening quite well, and maintained a slower trot in other sections.

We may finally have some sort of agreement on having more than one trot speed, something I'm very happy about. The most fun though was at Rattlensnake Bar. The lake is so high, I found a nice spot where the dirt road disappears into the lake, to get Major a drink. I'd dismounted and held the reins as a leadrope. He sniffed the water's edge a couple times, then dove right in! He drank with all four feet in the water, kept going deeper, put almost his whole head under a couple times, and I think he would have gone swimming if I hadn't stopped him! It didn't look safe since the water dropped off sharply, plus all my tack did not need to get wet, but someday that would be fun.

He was refreshed, we were heading home, I was expecting a fight. Other than a couple times of running off (and being circled into bushes, highly annoying) we was very good, and seemed to figure out I'd let him trot if he'd walk the downhills and slow down over the rocks and bridges. Coming home we took a new trail, when I turned him onto it he didn't even question, just kept trotting. I love how brave he is. After about a 1/2 mile he questioned where were were going, convinced it wasn't the way home. We just kept going, and when I had to dismount and walk along the road, the light bulb moment on his face "Oh. Now I know where we are!" was just too funny.

It was fast and fun, he did the whole thing barefoot no problems, the more miles the better everything is getting (feet, behavior, relationship). He got two carrots for being good and a roll in the is good.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

renegade boot testing

Friday I thought I'd do a short ride with the fitted Renegades, just to try them out. Major stood fine while i put them on, tightened them, and went into the arena. Tried them out in there for a bit, then went out on the trail. He'd been going on the side of the gravel road to avoid the big sharp rocks (it's not nice smooth rocks, but sharp shale) and he tried to stay to the side still, getting used to them maybe? Went out on the trail, into the forest. Went through the water (looked down to check the boots…still on) and short mud area (looked down to check the boots…still on). Picked up a trot, went up and down some hills (looked down to check the boots…still on)at the end cantered up a nice hill (looked down to check the boots…still on). The best part was knee-deep sucking mud (no, I didn't know it was that bad before we went in!). Boots still on!

Could have done a faster ride if I didn't keep stopping to check! But I was nervous, didn't want them to rub him, didn't want to lose my investment! Heading home Major was a bit of an idiot, do we did some work near the creek (not rushing, etc). We went into the water, back out, some spinning...and then I saw the boot just sitting in the trail by the water, he'd stepped completely out of it! Gaiter hadn't held it on, so I think I can make them a bit tighter. I'd been worried about over-tightening, but I think he stepped on himself while dancing around. Of course the boot was muddy, Major's foot was muddy, but I was able to get it back on, more on principal than necessity (we were less than 10 minutes from home). Major stood while I fussed, which I was glad for.

Back home we cantered in the arena with boots, then later had to hose all the mud and sand out of the boot and velcro. It's another chore, but didn't take that long, so not really a hassle. He seemed to move nicely, I think they'll be great for some rides on super hard ground or rocks, but hopefully most of the time he won't need them as his feet get stronger and stronger.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

the horrors of cows

Major got extra carrots on his birthday, even one on his beet pulp, and some nice grazing. Then I tormented him with a cow! There is a new little cow in the field next door, it was standing near the edge where we can walk. So I nonchalantly walked Major up, who was completely engrossed in trying to eat everything green in sight. Then he looked up and went into full Arab mode, snorting, tail up, prancing (he looked lovely). He was still respecting my space, so I just watched as he danced around on the end of the lead rope. Finally realizing the cow couldn't come any closer, he put his head down to suspiciously eat the weeds. If the cow moved at all his head came popping up! Now I'm contemplating evil ways to expose him even more to this horse-eating creature. Ha! Happy birthday!

Monday, May 10, 2010

happy birthday Major

Major turns 7 today. I've heard so many people think that they start getting their brains at this age, so my wish for Major is that our work together begins sinking in and we become a better team with every ride. He'll get an extra carrot today, and maybe some good grazing time. Happy birthday pony!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

long, slow ride

My plans keep being revised, but I really think it is all OK, we're both learning. I want to expose Major to many types of rides, so Saturday saddled up with another boarder and went to Granite Bay. She doesn't usually go that way (doesn't like the cliffs) but was willing to come along. Major can always take the lead in a scary situation, he is brave about things like that. It is a trail I've done before, about 11 miles round trip, usually takes me about 2 hours, with a break in the middle.

We rode for 3.5 hours...mostly walk, a very little trot. It was good for Major. He (and I) were a little bored, but rides like that are good for him (and me to learn patience). He had to follow, stay back, go down hills slowly, it was all good. Both horses behaved themselves, we encountered hikers, runners and other horses, mud, rocks, tight trails and got home all in one piece, That is a successful trail ride. This week we'll be back to our regular scheduled program, but it is nice to know Major can be a slow casual trail horse if the need arises.

Friday, May 7, 2010

it started out badly

This afternoon I was really looking forward to a good fast ride. I tacked up, started heading out, and another boarder ran up, telling me our barn manager had fallen in the forest and the horse was loose! That's one of the scariest things. You have to cross a road with fast traffic to get to our barn, so a loose horse is always scary. I made sure the barn manager would be OK, and headed right out on a search mission for the horse. Major and I trotted all over, I think he knew we had a mission, the horse was expected to come home in a couple particular places, so we searched that area. Luckily, after about 1/2 an hour, I got a call that they'd found the horse and everyone was OK. I sighed with relief, and after that just rode all over the forest, lots of hills, lots of trotting. I think Major was confused as we didn't have a destination, but he was good, it ended on a positive note.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

shiny orange renegades

Yesterday Major tried on his new boots. My trimmer came and did a nice trim, then helped me with the cables and straps. We'd done it once before, but had just tried them on, not fitted them. I think the orange is great, and we walked around, trotted as well, no issues. He didn't even seem to notice that he had something new on his feet (maybe because the farrier's daughter was feeding him carrots). For now, I really don't think I'll use them much, he is happy barefoot on the trails, but the trails are getting harder and drier, his pasture is beginning to be being watered, and the difference between the two might be too much. I'll definitely go on a few short rides just to see how they fit, make sure there isn't any rubbing, get everything set for the summer. I know some people look at the boots as a hassle, but I see them as just another piece of tack to learn about and use, and look forward to many miles!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

these are the days...

After all the previous fretting, then there are days like yesterday. It was 87 degrees when I started the ride, hottest day of the year so far. I had considered doing my usual loop, but thought i'd rather just ride in the forest, in the shade. Major was so good! On the way to the first lookout we walked, trotted, even a little canter nicely. He thought we were turning for home, and thought he could go faster, but after a reminder he settled in. I refound an old trail, it has amazing views, some fun places to canter up hills, and some major issues! Now I remember why we abandoned using this trail; it is full of ruts and overhanging trees and more leg-eating gullies. It was good to see Major work out footing issues, he did think we were going the wrong way and kept wanting to turn back. I convinced him otherwise and when we popped up on the big trail you could almost see the recognition.

Once we were on familiar trail we did have one running off issue. On what we call the "trotting trail" we were doing just that when he picked up a canter. He wouldn't slow down, I couldn't circle, we cantered for about 50 feet before I could get him to stop. We immediately went back into a slow trot where he had to listen. The rest of the trip home was uneventful. We walked on a loose rein through the meadows, quail flying up, Major snatching bites of grass, blue skies. Through the creek (he wouldn't drink) and towards home (where he drank at the guest horse trough). He was sweaty, I was tired, but I washed him off and turned him out in the arena (cleaner to roll!). He cantered off, bucking, twisty head, happy. After five tough miles he still has plenty to burn.

And the saddle seems to be fitting...strange how one day it makes him sore, and not another. we'll just use it for awhile and see.

Monday, May 3, 2010

training vs. conditioning: my take on it

Love the Boots and Saddles blog. Today she has a great discussion of training vs. conditioning. I've been thinking about this a lot as well. I read all these blogs and people are sooo far beyond me, I think it's hopeless, but remember that they were once where I am (maybe?). I think I have this discussion with Major all the time. I want him to be independent, bold, think though scenarios, take care of himself. Some time he does: he slows down through bad footing, approaches scary things to take a look before reacting, will always eat. Many times he doesn't: rushing down hills, crowding other horses, hating the water trough on trail. Sometimes it is a combination of the two: he shouldn't have gone so fast and started sliding in the rain, but he caught himself, balanced with a rider and managed to get us to level ground safely.  

I think all our rides are training rides at this point. I'd certainly like them to be conditioning rides, but he needs so much help right now to make some of the decisions (not needing to trot 12mph all the time, find some consistency). Sometimes this is not fun. I occasionally miss the rides with well-trained horses where we trotted and cantered whenever I wanted, only thinking about where we were going, when we'd be back. It is so hard to see the progress when it is right in front of you, but 6 months ago we could barely go on the trail alone, now we go 10 miles and have established a (small) partnership.

I'm trying to be consistent, but there are so many options. When he starts getting rushed, I can circle, back up, more work (like sidepassing), turn around the other direction, go home to the arena and work. But at the trot, I want him to be trotting, not those other things. So he speeds up, takes a canter step, and I pull him back to a trot: allowing him to trot since that is what I've asked for. But then when to get different speeds out of the trot? Is that the next step, or work on it now?

When does he get to make decisions, and then when is my turn? I give him his head to pick through rocks, but on the smooth ground after that he isn't allowed to canter like he wants. He can trot toward home, until we get to the upper pasture, then all walking only. I'm probably confusing my horse, but luckily, with the best of intentions and we're somehow muddling through.

may day ride

I thought yesterday was May 1, but no, I just can't read the calendar. So it wasn't a May Day ride, just a nice one. Took Major out with a new horse, good friend brought her mare, who was in heat. Major may have learned something by almost getting kicked on Friday's ride, or he knew not to mess with this pretty thing, but he stayed back and was a good boy. The wind was crazy again, and we were in the forest, with trees and bushes blowing every which way. The trail would be moderately calm, then we'd come around the corner to a blasting gale! Both horses didn't even seem to mind, but we kept it safe and stayed at a walk. The mare called a few time, I think Major was wondering what she was talking about.

My favorite is that the mare very nicely goes down hills, using herself well, nice and slow. Major was behind and had to do the same thing. I can certainly tell the difference between his usual scrabbling and me pulling on him and his nice downhill walk. Now that I know he can do it, I'll be sure to ask for that walk!

Only bad part, and it's a big one, is that Major's back was sore to touch (dipping his back) after our ride. Well, of course it's been more than a week, but I don't really care if I have to sell the saddle myself, I just want something that fits! I'll see how he is today, we'll do a quicker ride, need to get some energy out (of both of us!)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

spring fever

Left work early Friday (with approval from the boss) to ride, the weather was just too perfect. It ended up being really windy, wind-tunnel type windy. People at the barn were warning about spooking and telling of scary scenarios...the ride was fine. They are much more fair-weather riders, and are great in the arena and jumping, things I'm bad at, but I want to hit the trail! Went out with a friend, rode to Rattlesnake Bar. The trail was slippery in places from the recent rain, so we kept is very slow, but that is fine with me. Major needs that kind of ride too.

On the way out Major was in front. My friend's horse was a bit jumpy, he usually is a little bit, and we like to keep his actions to a minimum. Major was bold and brave over rocks and bridges, next to cliffs, down by the water, all was good. Turned for home, both horses liked that! Put the other horse in front, Major didn't especially like that, and I spent the next 4 miles keeping him back. Obnoxious, and did manage to get too close and cause the other horse to kick. I felt terrible about that, I need to stay on top of Major, and not make other riders worry!

All in all a nice ride though. I was a bit uncomfortable in the saddle, I'm hoping because it was a longer ride in a newish saddle.