Tag Archives: green horses

When a Pony Ride Cures What Ails You

I had a really craptastic day Tuesday. After getting some really bad news about a family member, I went out to my car and found this:

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God Damn you, Siri. I had started letting her out of her crate when she was in the car because she had been doing SO WELL. We were about 6 months post crate when she decided the passenger seat of my Subaru was really tasty. I about lost it and considered just leaving her in the parking lot and driving away.

But, instead, I put her in her crate in my car and drove to the barn. Being sad while also fuming is a weird emotion to try to describe. I tried my best to let it all go, as I had a jump lesson on June in 60 minutes.

Thirty minutes later, as I was tacking up June, I was still a bit of a sad/angry mess. So, before starting to lunge June, I asked Sarah if one of two things would be possible. I explained my current state and how I really didn’t want to get on June and have an explosion of emotion. So, would she consider riding June? And if that wasn’t ideal, could we just jump a grid or something simple where I didn’t have to think “turn here, remember your course?”

Sarah was game to ride June, but also game to set up a straightforward jump exercise. Since June has been feeling great, and I really, really, wanted to ride, I decided to hop on her.

And I am so glad I did.

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So happy with herself

We’re almost three weeks into the Gastrogard and for the last couple of rides, June has felt like a different horse. She is calm on the lunge line, but really forward under saddle. It’s really lovely. She used to be a bit of a kick ride, but recently I’m having to execute half halts and do lots and lots of transitions to get her to listen to me and not just trot as fast as she can. I never knew I would enjoy a forward horse this much, but it’s been really fun. Also, the buck, while I am sure it is still in there, seems to have gone on vacation. I ask for the canter and she canters. Our transitions are smooth and just not an issue.

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We even worked on cantering a circle over this pole all on our own!

Excited to do some jumping in our lesson, we started by working on maintaining a nice rhythm as well as staying straight through a set of poles on the ground. Sarah brought two flower boxes out and set them up at the third pole in the line. She asked me to walk up and over it. June’s ears shot forward as we approached it but she didn’t waiver. After doing this a couple of times in each direction we then approached it at the trot. She gave it some room as she jumped over, but it was calm and lovely. She landed in the canter and was easy to bring back to the trot.

As the lesson progressed, June got a bit stronger in the bridle. She began to anticipate the jump and would quicken through the turn and hollow as we approached. So, as often happens with green horses, we stopped worrying about a jump lesson, and instead worked on remaining calm with a consistent rhythm. And while I love that June appears to love jumping, the last thing I want is a horse who is like “WE JUMP NOW! MUST GET TO THE JUMP!” And moderately loses its mind. Instead, I want a horse who thinks “We’re jumping? YAY! Ok, fine, I’ll maintain this rhythm, ok, I’m adjustable, ok, fine, your way works.” That’s the hope, right? We worked a bunch on approaching the line of poles to the jump in a walk, trot, circling, and just asking her to relax and listen to what I was asking. In the end, I have to say, she was really great and I am loving this forward horse I have, especially as she begins to listen to my aids and understand what I am asking of her.

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I’m also loving how she just voluntarily stands for a conformation shot

Our second to last time over the flower boxes she did this funny little hop on the backside. I wouldn’t call it a buck, or even a kick, it was more like she was trying to swap leads and just hopped. Instead of pulling and clamping  I laughed and just kept going. Guys, I didn’t freak out that she was going to buck. Sarah, asked me to come through the line one more time. So, we came back to the trot, appoached the line calmly without having to circle first,  jumped the flower boxes, and cantered on the back side without issue. It’s like if I stay calm, she stays calm.

This ride, although simple, was the highlight of my day. If I can ride June this calmly even when my mind is racing, it must mean that she makes me happy. Because even when we had to work through her hollowing and quickening, nothing escalated. We just slowly worked on understanding what was expected. She never got pissy or naughty. She just acted like a green horse. And I reacted kindly and fairly. And it was SO FUN.

Sometimes, a ride on your pony really is what helps.

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Out and About with a Baby Horse

Since June is only a couple of weeks back into “work” I’m trying to have as much low pressure fun with her as possible, while ultimately getting her fit enough to be back in lessons and regular work. I’m trying to mix it up a bit, a day of lunging in side reins followed by a hack around the the property.

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While the sun is setting way too early, this sunset sure was beautiful

I’ve arranged to have her turned out at least 5 days a week for a couple of hours and it seems to be making a difference in her whole attitude. Now, every time she comes out of her paddock it isn’t necessarily to go to work. When we do go to work she seems more relaxed and just…happier. I’m sure this will change if we get lots of snow, but for now, we’re both really enjoying the fact that she gets to wander grass pastures and enjoy some June time.

I’m working on increasing my confidence on her, and riding better should things go awry. After lightly lunging her the other day, I decided to ride her out on the fields surrounding the property. I have hand walked her out there lots, but as we know, ghosts are most likely to appear when we’re on their backs.

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We have an irrigation canal, which in the summer is an impromptu drinking spot for lots of critters. Usually Siri is flushing birds and digging for voles. June clearly remembers two ducks that flew out in front of us this summer and nearly hit her in the noggin. Now she gives that canal the major hairy eyeball. But, knowing it’s empty and there is nothing to fear, I made her walk as close to it as possible. She gave one very impressive spook just so I knew she was serious that it is SCARY, but we were able to walk along it quite reasonably after that.

I put my big girl pants on and even trotted one stretch. I’ve never trotted her out there alone, and guess what? It was totally fine. And even kind of fun!

Feeling brave and like we’re on the right path, I accepted an invitation to go to our local cross country course and play around while people were schooling some jumps. I figured this was a great next step. See how June would be in a situation that could mimic a show, or a clinic. I arrived later than everyone else and when I got to the schooling field, the other riders were leaving to return one student to their trailer. I lunged June around some jumps and she was calm and listening well to me. I saw that some riders would be coming back to us shortly, but June did not seem to care that we were out there all by ourselves. So, I decided to once again, put on my big girl pants and hop on her by myself, alone in the field. As I looked for a log to use as a mounting block, a horse at the trailer nearby began screaming for her friends. This got horses at the boarding facility wound up. And now the two horses returning to us were in full view. Was it too much for June? Would she buck me off the minute I got on her and start galloping and screaming?

Nope.

She let me get on, we walked around, joined the other horses, watched as they jumped some jumps and had a very grown up experience about the entire thing. In fact, June was just about perfect for the entire experience. I was really, really proud of her.

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I also had her walk up to the prelim table in the field, just to give her some inspiration for the future….

Two highlights that really sealed the deal for me:

  1. June is a bit ditchy. Once, when she got away from me in the jump field while I was lunging her, she gallop across the alfalfa field back to home. All the sudden she just slammed on the brakes and wouldn’t go any further. When I caught up to her I realized she didn’t want to cross the ditch the wheel line made. We worked on it a bit out in the field, but again, this was someone’s crop field, and they probably didn’t want my horse in it to begin with, so I kind of just filed it away for later. So, when we got to a rutted road in the field, I shouldn’t have been surprised that June would slam on the brakes. Using what I learned from a Hawley Bennett clinic years ago, I just walked June alongside the rut, just asking her to see it from both directions. Then we walked to where the rut ended, and was just a normal road and I asked her to cross. And she did. And I kept telling her how brave she was. We walked a little further and she continued to cross. Finally we got to where the ruts were quite large and ditch like, and she walked across them with ease.  Smartest and bravest young pony ever.
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    I even had her stop in the middle so I could get a photo
  2. The second moment wasn’t as exciting, but still was a great moment. I decided to leave the group a little early, as I wanted to walk June away from them and through a new part of the facility by herself. June didn’t object at all. We passed two young horses playing, some chickens, lots of farm equipment and people riding. She got a little concerned at one point, but I was able to keep her going and it was a lovely, drama free ride.
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Plus I stayed nice and warm in my new Horseware coat!

These outings are helping me bond with her as well as build my confidence. She is such a fun horse and capable of so much. I don’t want to get lost in thinking that “training” only pertains to jumping and dressage. There’s so much more to training a youngster and for me, these two outings were some of the best training rides we’ve had so far!

 

 

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