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Friday, April 30, 2010

Zion's First Week

Zion has handled his first week like a champion. He was a little spooky and concerned the first day. But by day two we were taking on the arena boogyman. Of course we had to lunge first, but on Thursday we rode without lunging and the results were better than I expected. Attached are some video clips of our adventure. He has trouble keeping attention, but I am going to chalk that up to everything still being so new. Ryan sure does owe me, because this pony is going to be very good for him next week! :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A New Man in my Life

Those that know me, know that I love my husband very much... He is a saint to put up with all my horse things, especially the newest addition to my horsey addiction: Zion. I have to admit, I am starting to fall for the new man in my life. Granted he has four legs, lives in a barn, and loves to be covered in mud, but he is so easy. Don't get me wrong, I love my Grammy Bear too, it is just a different ride on Zion. Gramarye has no problem buckling down and paying attention. She tried hard, but when she gets frustrated, watch out for that tail and those back legs! She lets you know exactly what she is thinking all the time. I don't yell at Gram, as she is a mare and would just get more mad at me for yelling at her. I don't get after Gram, because it turns a little thing, into a huge thing. She tries and can take a lot of pushing. The work is hard for her, but I truly believe that she likes it.

Zion on the other hand needs to be yelled at and gotten after. In the cross- ties I yelled, he stood. I brushed, he stood. I put the saddle on, he stood. Really very boring compared to Gram. In the arena he is a child at heart, always curious always looky looky- but that is it. He doesn't get tense, just looks around and screams. Once we get passed the screaming, he starts to pay attention. He is easy. Hot off the leg, light in the hand. Though he needs to work on connection and correctness, when he falls off to the right side, I put my leg on to re balance and he does it. His short back is a gift. He just sits down and goes. Never a tail swish or a kick out.

The farrier had some great things to say. I was worried about Zion's feet. They look like pancakes, and I really thought he had some serious hoof wall separation as well as long toes with no heels. I thought for sure when I got to the barn yesterday Travis the farrier would tell me I owed him $350 to put special shoes and pads on his feet. To my surprise, he actually had nothing but good things to say- which just confirms the more I think I know about feet, the less I find out that I actually know. Travis said that Zion's legs are so big, he needs a big foot. The wall separation is normal when a horse is that big. Once he trimmed Zion's feet they looked 100% better! We will now have Zion on a biotin supplement to help his feet along a bit more. Travis said that conformation-wise, Zion is one of the best looking horses he had seen. He even went as far as to say he wanted the mare and told us to re-breed to the same combination again! I was so happy and relieved! Next week he will become Ryan's project and then we see if Ryan likes him as much as everyone else! :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Big Sister Gramarye?

I had been looking forward to this past weekend for quite some time for two reasons: 1. the arrival of Zion on Saturday morning 2. a night out with Paige, Jen, Orrie, Mandy and Andi AKA Dressage Queen in the city!

First Zion... Zion is like an annoying little brother in every way. He is cute, so he gets attention. He gets away with things because he is cute, and has a face that is hard to get mad at plus he runs to mommy every time he get scared. When he was growing up I felt bad for poor Gram. Zion would bite at her, annoy her while eating, always wanting to play. When she would tell him enough, Olivia would come in to the rescue and protect Zion from his well deserved butt kick by Gram. So Gram really didn't like him all that much. Now Zion has entered the next phase of his life, he is learning to be a real dressage horse for a couple of months. Saturday marked the 4 time he had ever left the place he was born (AKA Momma and Papa Leon's house!) The first time was when he was weaned, but that was walking distance so it really doesn't count. The second time was to be broke (4 months). The third time was to get broke again (4 months), since he was immature and got held back from kindergarten. Now this 4th time, first time in a trailer for that long. He had some issues remembering how to get on the trailer, but Pat Ford, the young horse trainer extraordinaire was patient and got him on after about 45 minutes. So now we fast forward three and a half hours to his arrival at Legacy USA. He got off the trailer, started walking to the barn... SCARY, he stopped and it took come coaxing to get him into the barn, then it took some coaxing to get him into the stall- those darn stable monsters waiting to attack him. We left him in the stall to figure things out for a bit, drink some water and just settle. After a little bit, we went on a walk, first in the indoor... again scary stable monsters were sure to attack, thankfully they didn't :). Zion is funny. When he is afraid, he stops. That is it, just stops; No bolting, no jumping, he just Freezes. After the indoor was not really an issue, then we went for a walk outside and he was completely fine. So back to the stall to eat.

Saturday night was DQ night. We had a blast, talked about horses, people we all knew. Andi saw her first transvestite, Orrie was getting hit on a lot, we got rained on, but were still able to bar hop in Wrigleyville.

Sunday was the day of truth. I was a little tired from that festivities of DQ night, but had to make it out to the barn to ride both horses. I went with every intention of riding Gram first, however when I got to the barn I discovered that Zion was left in his stall, because he refused to let anyone put his halter on, so he pulled the annoying little brother move this time with people. Everyone else cooperated and were outside. Little boy was left screaming in his stall all alone with the scary stable monsters. So I went straight to his stall, got him and took him up to an empty paddock which was right next to Gram. I was a little worried at first, because she didn't like him. When I walked him passed her stall the day before she opened her mouth and lunged forward at him. But little baby Zion was freaked out and big siter Gram came to the rescue. It was almost as if, she leaned over the fence and said, "Don't worry, you will be just fine. I know it is scary but I am here for you little guy." Zion walked up to her smacking his lips saying "I Scared, I scared!" She then rested her head on his whithers, and he calmed down. Then is started to rain, so everyone was being brought back to the stalls. So he got out for a grand total of 10 minutes. I thought I had better just saddle him up and roll the dice...

I took him into the baby cross-ties, then ones in a stall, so if he got crazy I could always just close the door and let him figure everything out. Thankfully after a few times of SCREAMing in my ears, I was able to connect the cross ties and walk away. First just a few steps, then all the way to the tack room, then into the tack room and out of sight. He was fine- he actually handled it like a champ. I told myself, I would just lunge him and let him check the arena out while I wasn't on his back. The lunging was uneventful, including when it starting really raining, and the doors needed to be closed. No reaction from him (which made my jaw drop!) So then I decided to just hop on to walk him out.... again nothing. So I thought, lets try some trot... nothing. Ok let's try canter... nothing. Then we walked out and called it a day. I was shocked at how much he has grown up. Of course there was screaming at first. But by the end of our 45 minutes in the arena, no more screaming, relaxed and calm like he had been into the barn before. I was impressed. Now I am excited to go back. Gram got an easy day. She was so good to him, I thought she deserved a little gallop and then just about 5 minutes of actual work.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to take any pictures because Donnie was in Vegas... I should be able to get some later this week!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Let it be- by Ryan Yap

I have been waiting to post until I have the video posted, but I am getting anxious to write down what I learned during my Ryan lesson on Sunday. Some really great things happened. If you have read my blog, you know I have been stressing out about my own position and that silly left elbow of mine! Well, I started to feel like I was throwing other things off and Ryan confirmed it. One of the things that I have always enjoyed about my lessons with Ryan (even 10 years ago), but his ability to break things down. To paraphrase here, he basically said, yes your elbow does a funny thing, but it does not make your aids any less effective. He told me that one of my strengths has always been my seat, the swing in my hips. He told me that me focusing on the elbow was causing me to tighten up and was preventing my seat from doing its job. In the "Ryan way", he told me to not worry about a silly elbow, it is just an aesthetic. If you get to know Ryan at all, you know that he is not the type to tear you down, but he is also not the type to tell you it was good unless it really was. So when he says "Good!" you know you really earned it. He encourages dialog during a lesson which is also something I enjoy, I am not getting yelled at the entire time, nor I am I just hearing the good. I get a great balance of the both. Here is a great example. Leg yields. The toughest thing about bringing up a horse, is that in the beginning of teaching a movement you really must over ride certain aspects depending on what the horse naturally gives you. With Gram being so long, I have a hard time in the LY keeping each body part where is is supposed to be. So I start with more bend, expecting to lose it a couple strides in... well as it turns out, I have schooled that enough, and now it is time to build the YL. Ask for less bend, and just let her do the job since she now understands what the aids mean. This is a hard thing for me to comprehend... I get the logical side of it, but when I am on her back I think, "ohh this is a baby, I have to over ride the movement that is tough." Ryan explained what I was doing wrong, I understood now it is just reminding myself that she is now 6 not 4 :)

Overall, I have to just let it be... my elbow isn't perfect, but the more I stress about it, the more things go wrong. When I am riding along, when Gram feels good, I must think good girl, now where is that darn elbow of mine so I can be a good girl too. Once my horse understands and reacts in the correct way to an aid, I need to let it be and not over ride as she doesn't need my step by step guidance any more.

days until baby Fraggle Rock arrives! :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Up until last night, I thought that I had seen some bad thrush in a horse hoof. The first barn I brought Gram to when she moved to Chicago didn't provide the best horse care. They switched to straw, and didn't think they needed to clean out the wet spots. They just picked out the manure piles daily, and stripped the stalls every Monday. There were 90 horses on 4 acres, so only 3 paddocks. I was told the horses got out 20 minutes per day. Living in the city and working it was my only option until I could find a better place that wasn't a 2 hour drive for me. Gram was only at this facility for about 7 months. The final two month we were there was when they made the switch to straw. Immediately her feet came down with thrush. It wasn't pretty. I had a hard time controlling it, since she was constantly standing in a wet stall. I was so happy when we found our current home! She hasn't had thrush since.

So last night there was a new horse in the barn that had the worst case of thrush I had ever seen. It gave me a new perspective. The thrush Gram had at the other barn was nothing compared to what this poor horse has. Luckily the team at the barn is keeping a watchful eye on it, so hopefully this horse will start to have a healthier foot again.

So our ride was great. We are at a point in our training where she is really starting to understand the activation of the inside hind. She used to fight me a little when I applied my inside leg. She still has her moments, but last night there were some really great strides. I try to do a little something different each day. The basic transitions are something we work on every day. Some days are good, others are a mess. Last night was one of those in between nights. We had a few really bad downwards and then a couple really good ones. It was a hot night, 86 degrees, so she wore down a little faster than normal. She never feels tired, actually she just keeps going and going (yes like the energizer bunny). When she gets tired she gets quicker. I don't really know how else to explain it. She is a big horse, so it is a lot for her to hold her self up, when she is tired instead of stopping, she starts running, getting flat and it just is plain ugly. So I had anticipated to work a little harder than we ended up working. Although we did get to do a little bit of shoulder in, and really work the canter to left. She naturally is weaker to the left, and carries her haunches-in. So I rode her in a little more than shoulder fore to try to over compensate (also probably why she got tired). Overall, it was a good ride. I was happy with the note we ended on. tonight I will try to leave more time for lateral work so that we will be ready for Ryan on Sunday!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time to get serious

I just found out today that Mr Ryan Yap is coming back from Florida and stopping at the barn on Sunday before he leaves for Europe! I am excited to get in a serious lesson routine again. Riding by yourself is great, but there is only so much that can improve when all you are worrying about it the horse. Of course I try to work on my position, but I kind of feel like in the process of trying to work on it, I have actually screwed it up. I guess I will see what Ryan has to say. In other good news we are confirmed for Baby Zion to join us- move in date is April 24th.

My favorite part about the barn last night was when I walked into Gram's stall. I tried to make an effort to leave work at home, as well as home at home; the thoughts of neighbors construction projects and screaming babies banging on the door in my condo building...Oh the joys of big city condo living! I walked into the stall, she looked like she had just woke up from her afternoon nap. I walked in slowly, saying hello, and then giving a little scratch to her withers... her big long neck, wrapped around and she placed her chin on my shoulder. I swear I couldn't even make this up if I tried. It was like she was saying, "thank you, I missed you... lets be friends". The more I am around Gram, the more I like her and also realize we are truly bonded. I get her and she gets me. As I type this, I know it must be crazy and something only horse people will understand. There is the whole other world of non-verbals and so much of dressage is rooted in non-verbals.

It is time to get serious, Jen and I will be riding together tonight to help each other out. I should have an interesting update for tomorrow.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Everyone needs an easy day...or two

So I got to the barn last night, and Gram was angry. I had to pull her away from her grain, which is never a good thing to do to a mare. In the cross- ties she spent most of her time pinning her ears back and threatening to kick, which earned her a deep voice "QUIT" a few times, but did little to change her mind about being angry with me. She is a funny mare that requires a bit of love. So once I realized she was very offended by my removal of her from her grain and wasn't forgetting about it any time soon, I moved to her head, held out my hands and she lowered her head into my chest. Like a little kid having a temper tantrum and then running to mommy. We snuggled for a moment and things were much better.

Our ride was actually really good. It was a light day. We did a few leg yields and that was about as tough as it got. Then at the end we worked on the correct answer to the tap of the whip on the hind leg- AKA not mare kicking out at it, but instead taking a step under. It took one mare kick and that was over. Thank goodness! Tonight I am not feeling very motivated, it is cold and rain/snowing. So I may do the same light workout tonight and then she will have Friday off.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Who can pass up a horse related sale?

I cannot decide what I should write about first, my great horse shopping finds or the ride last night... I will start with the ride. Gram was pretty good. She started quiet stiff to the left and ready to fight me when I asked for the bend. She quickly got over this. So I turned the ride into a playful one. I asked for a flying change from the left to right, and she did it clean and nice. Then I asked for the change from the right to the left... not so nice. I couldn't get her to change behind and then she just got frustrated. So we were not able to end on the best note ever. Tonight I will just ride lightly. Basically just riding her deep and round at walk, trot and canter in both directions and call it good.

Yesterday I received some of the fruits of my online shopping labor. Gram has her very own personalized show blankey thanks to a clearance sale at Libertyville Tack Shop... for the normal price of the sheet, I was able to get her name embroidered on the blankey:

I also was able to get a new pair of rubber reins on Tack of the day for 55% off and a new pair of white breeches with a real leather full seat! It was a good week or so of horse shopping. I try not to wait until I need something to buy, because then I will be at the mercy of the store. The way I look at it, my reins are still usable, but will need to be replaced in about 6 months- year. Found then on clearance an bought them. Ok the blanket was just for fun :)

In other exciting news, we are planning on now bringing Zion to Chicago for a bit. He will go into training with Ryan Yap and I will be able to ride him on the weekends. I wish I had the time for the two horses and a job and sleep, but I am glad that I have a wonderful trainer that can assess where Zion is and tell me an honest professional opinion. More to come on his training as well as Gram under Ryan's watchful eye. :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Baby Face Zion- AKA big fraggle

Had a wonderful Easter weekend in Michigan! It was all about Ponies, Family and Fun. I rode on both days with my mom. Her on her trusty mare Olivia and me on Olivia's offspring Zion. I still cannot believe how different he is from Gramarye. He has a much more free in the shoulder, shorter back, shorter neck, short attention span, but still has that will to try. I started off the first day and things were not so great. He kept telling me to leave him alone. He would use himself properly for about 2 strides and then completely fall apart- head toss included. by the end of our first time out together, he stopped fighting and he came together quite nicely. By day two he was ready and willing to accept a new challenge. We worked for a bit on Tempo. He likes to run, and then slow way down. He really needs me to metronome for him, whereas Gram never had that issue. He is much straighter than Gram, she naturally wants to throw her butt to the inside. He likes to throw his shoulders to the inside, which become very apparent at the canter. He is at the point where he needs lots of balancing and re-balancing. The canter reminds me of those motorcycle races where the operator of the bike is mere inches away from scrapping their knee on the pavement.

The biggest accomplishment for him (and to my surprise), was when I asked him to leg yield for the very first time and he did it like an old pro. The video shows all our of amazement, and me not realizing he had never been asked before. The toughest part about riding Zion this weekend was having to leave him. The only thing that he and Gram have in common is they are both chestnuts and they both love of learning new things- everything else is completely different. So now I have to figure out a way to make a bunch of money so that I can afford the $ and time it takes to bring two horses up the levels!

In my excitement about riding "Baby Z", I sent pictures to Paige. Her comment about the still pictures: "I love this pic where you're saying something and petting Z on his neck, his face totally says fraggle rock to me that's what he reminds me of... a big fraggle"

Friday, April 2, 2010

Trying too hard

So last night was not a good ride. I can only point the finger at myself. I made the big mistake of ignoring my gut feelings. As I went to take her out of the stall, she was very lazy. Not normal for her. I was tried and sore for working on my left elbow. I *said* I was just going to make it an easy night. Then Donnie came into the ring with the video camera. I went against my better judgement and pushed her too hard too long. I was trying to show off our deeper frame and my elbow at my side. I was tired though so it didn't feel or look pretty at all. The thing I love about every Roemer offspring I have had is that they never stop trying, and sometimes they try too hard. Last night after the ride, I was very upset with myself, for not listening to my horse. It brought me back to Willy in Colorado at the NARYC. Canter pirouettes were the toughest movement for him. We went into to warm up and he didn't feel right. Then we went into the ring to do the team test and went for broke. The test was going well, and then we got to the canter pirouettes. Across the diagonal, I started to ask him to canter on the spot to prepare. He sat down, I started to ask for the around and everything feel apart. He let out a Argh!! and then walked, his whole body shut down. I remember being so mad. We went to do the next one, a little better but still not good. We finished the test, and I cried. He was just not himself. We took him to vet when we got back... he had basically displaced 5 vertebrae in his spine, and it was causing pressure on his nerves. He lived for 30 days in a special padded stall at Dr Merrit's and had radio active dyes injecting into his body. The poor guy was in so much pain, but still tried to do his job the best he could. This was Gram last night. She was tired, I was trying too hard for the video camera. By the end of our workout when things were really going downhill (both figuratively and in reality) she was running on the canter 20 m circle... I finally gave up for us both. She was too tired to do thing properly and I was trying to force it for the camera's sake.

The moment I got off, I thought to myself why didn't I just stop after the warm up to have jsut a lite workout? How many days did I set myself back because of my bad call? This is why I have a love hate relationship with riding. There is only so much you can blame on the horse. It is never 100% the horses fault. There are thinks would could have done better or differently to get the result we orginally wanted.

Lesson learned. When we are both tired, it isn't worth it to ride if it isn't going to better one or both of us. Hopefully, I will not make this mistake again anytime soon. I am sure I will do this type of thing again, but the next time the situation will have a better result. I will stop instead of try to fix everything all at once. Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Feeling the burn

So after a week of trying to keep my left shoulder at my side, I am now to the point where my left side is hurting :) I am viewing this as a good thing, as it means I am finally using the right muscles. I have also been working on sitting up taller and really feeling my stomach muscles working. I have been trying to ride Gram a little deeper and rounder over the last few days. I can tell it is hard work for her, but I am seeing sweat in the right places: along her topline and between the cheeks. Last night it was 74 degrees when I got to the barn at 7:30; Gram was of course very sweaty after our weeknight short workout. I really have been working on mostly me, which is why my blog isn't as up to date as I would like. One of the biggest changes I am trying to make is to stretch more in the morning and before I ride (I am the least flexible person I know!) and during the day at work, I have been making an effort to sit up straight in my aeron chair! It is amazing how my bad daily posture has translated to my riding. I am really trying to get my collective marks to the point where they are at least the same if not higher than Gram's!

Tonight will be my final ride on Gram this week. I asked Jen to ride her while I am in Michigan for the Easter weekend. Good news is that I will not be horseless. I will try to ride Zion applying the same training for myself. Maybe try to give him a couple days of some tough love work. I am excited to see how he is coming along. I will try to get Donnie to take some pictures and videos of the little prince. I am sure this weekend is going to make me wish that I had the time for two ponies!