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Friday, January 28, 2011

Things that go bump in the Night

Our rides have been odd lately, some are good and some are bad. This week the trend has been hearing something go boom and Gram losing her mind. I cannot blame her as she had 3 days off, and it was so cold she probably didn't go outside much. When I got on Tuesday, she was a bucking bronco... Something in the barn made a noise and Gram went from maturing horse to ticking time bomb! Leg on her side meant leap in the air. Her back felt like a ball of nerves. Wednesday wasn't much better either. Last night we finally had a great ride... The only problem was that I heard things the ENTIRE time!
Last night marked the first time I rode with no one else in the barn. At first I thought that someone else would come, so I think that was what started me hearing things. At one point a boom happened... it sounded like someone knocking on the metal slider doors, and then knocking something large off a shelf. There were a few crashes. This of course is pretty standard in a metal building full of 4 legged creatures, but in my head I thought there was an intruder. In this instance, I was actually the one that felt like a ticking time bomb. Eventually I got over my thoughts that someone was breaking into the barn. As soon as I did, Gram and I were able to get to work. In the walk, I started with lateral work; shoulder-in, haunches-in, half pass, turn on haunches. Then I picked up the trot, I skipped the rising, but still just let her stretch over her back for a few minutes then went into canter. I tried to get more jump in the canter and then we were ready to get to work. I started asking for half passes in the trot. At first she protested, we had a conversation and the entire time I thought about how much I got after her. I tried to make it quick and then move on, and she reacted in the most positive way. She gave up her protest and we got some great half passes at the trot. I over shot the centerline on purpose in order to make sure she was listening. Then we tried the canter half pass which were actually better than the trot. My final test was to ask for counter-canter and simple changes across the diagonal. Both went well, so I called it a day and praised her for her hard work. I guess hearing things that go bump in the night aren't always a bad thing!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of getting a couple lessons from a tan Ryan. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, Gram and I were having issues as a result of my changing the bits. When I entered the ring for my first lesson, I explained to Ryan our current situation. I told him Gram was going really good, so I decided it was time to change bits... In true Ryan form, he responded with, "Well, if she was going good, why did you change bits?" My response, "Because I am not smart!" As soon as he said it I thought to myself, he is so right... why did I mess with a good thing? I guess I learned my lesson. Ryan was able to diagnose the problem almost immediately. When I would half halt and Gram would run through, I would sit in more, and really try to get her to listen, in doing so, I guess I was holding the more deliberate half halt for about a second too long. She would get mad, and fight it, then I would get mad and it would turn into this downward spiral. As soon as Ryan pointed this out, I released, and she was a happy mare. So about 30 minutes into our first 45 minute lesson, she decided she was no longer mad at me.

Before the fight was up, we did have a major melt down preparing for a canter depart. We changed directions worked on something else and came back to the canter to the right and things were much better. So point number two from Ryan, don't forget that changing the subject is also an option.

Having that eye on the ground is so important to progress. I am not a green rider, but it is like you get into a way of doing things and don't realize. I cannot tell you how many times I have told people in lessons to not hold a half halt so long. Granted, I am no longer giving lessons, but I should know better! It is kind of frustrating really. I guess the whole intent of this blog is for me to document things like this, so that while I am on my own, I don't forget. If Gram gets snippy again, this will be the first thing I think about.

On Sunday, we picked right off where our lesson left off, so we were able to accomplish a bit more. The only problem we had was near the end in the half pass work, where she tightened her back and ran a bit. We were able to work through things and end on a high note. We need to continue to strengthen in our collection, our transitions are much better, but we are still rather weak in the canter to the right.

This week will be a short week as I have to travel for work on Thursday, plus it is scheduled to be extremely cold later in the week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The unforgiving mare- grunt

As my last post stated, I changed bits only to change back after just a few days. Saturday I gave the expensive KK French snaffle one more try, and Sunday I was back to my cheapo Korsteel loose ring... Well, Gram had not forgotten my infraction. Saturday was no ride to write home about. I had hoped that I would have better luck on Sunday after the bit change. Which leads me to my topic of the day; why are mares so unforgiving??? I think I have managed to set things back at least two weeks, for attempting to change the bit. At first, Gram seemed to approve of the bit change, and then I asked for downward transition and she tossed her head like a crazy horse. It took a while for us to come to an understanding again, and let me tell you she is a vocal horse! She grunts, moans and squeaks until she finally gives a disapproving snort like a dragon or passes gas followed by a large steaming pile. From on top of her back, I must admit it is kind of amusing. She makes an "erp, erp, erp" noise, then an "arrrrrrhhhhhh" then the dragon snort, which of course requires a stop (either in a dramatic show of her protest or a simple coordination challenge- personally I think she has a flare for the dramatic). Her mom used to humm when happy... Gram does it mostly when she is either working really hard or tired.

If she were a human she would be that girl that always said exactly what was on her mind, no matter who was around, or who she might offend. She would be the girl that would be fun to be around in moderation, but would make it very difficult to stand her as a best friend. I digress...

Someone in the tack room said it best this weekend: "A gelding will give you 80% 100% of the time and a mare will give you 100% 80% of the time." I couldn't agree with her more! When Gram wants to please, she is an overachiever, but when she is upset, me and the rest of the barn know it! We had a few mini meltdowns when she would try to run through my half halt. But once we got over that hump, things got better, but it was still obvious that she had not yet forgiven me. Hopefully, this week's training sessions will be better... Otherwise I might have Ryan sit on her to remind her how hard her life could be without me!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The woes of changing bits

I thought it might be a good idea to finally take Ryan's advise and change Gram's bit. I found a french loose ring KK snaffle in my bit arsenal that fit Gram, so I thought I would give it a try... She hates it. It has been two days, and I am about ready to go back to my cheap snaffle! She is tossing her head in protest, something she has never done before! I am asking for a continues up and out thought... trying to get a bigger, better trot out of her and continuing to make progress on the half passes. Tuesday we were dealing with the new bit, so I just tried to get her used to it. Last night, I thought it was time to put her to work. I focused primarily on the trot... we actually only cantered during our warm up. I took a very light hand approach, but added more leg support. She was still not feeling this new bit. Even the slightest bit of contact, and the head went shooting out. Needless to say, I think I am over the idea of changing bits!

Even with Gram's protest over the bit, I thought it was important to press on with developing the bigger trot. I took on the half pass in the trot, but it was a bit of a fight. Every time I half halted, she freaked out. We finally got a few good steps of half-pass without a freak out, and I called it good. Donnie's birthday is tonight, so I will be giving her a day off tonight and friday, then back at it this weekend with our old bit :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

2011 has started with a bang!  Gram is really progressing in her training.  I have been boycotting the computer for the holidays, so I will make this entry short and sweet.  Over the last couple of weeks, I got to spend a ton of quality horse time!  If I wasn't in Chicago riding Gram, then I was in Michigan working with Zion.  It was great for my horsey mental health!
First Gramarye, she has really grown up... I know I have been typing this more a lot lately, but every ride she seems to offer up more.  I am still working on getting her up and out.  I can feel a difference, I just hope that Ryan agrees with me when he is back in a couple of weeks.  Our lateral work still needs help, but for now I am practicing at the walk.  I have been doing a lot of the quick transitions to get her thinking with her hind end and we have been working a ton of circles.  The canter has really improved.  I can work within the gait now, bigger and smaller without feeling like I am a passenger holding on for dear life.  Our medium trots have also improved, she no longer trails out behind.  There is still so much inside of her that I have yet to tap.  I am just excited what she will offer up next.  Over the last week, my training rides did not accomplish what I set out to do... For example one day I said, I am going to work lateral movements today.  I got on and she was not right for that, so instead we worked lots of transitions and circles until we were good.  The next day I started with some lateral work in the walk, and went into our transitions and circles, then ended with mediums.  The third day I again started with lateral movements in the walk, then mediums and ended with one canter half pass and called it a day.  Since we did so much building on basics last week, my hope is to actually work the lateral movements in trot and canter this week... of course Tuesdays are always a stretching and suppling day, so Wednesday I should have a better update.

Zion is in training with a local eventing rider, Philippa Humphreys in Michigan.  She is doing a great job keeping him going.  He still struggles with his big canter.  He would much rather trot all day.  When I went back to Michigan I pushed him probably a bit too hard in the canter.  He likes to barrel down with his shoulder so he takes tons of back, seat and half halts. I was exhausted after riding him for two days. My mom has been progressing too.  She has really developed a better idea of the feel for things, now she just needs to work on not gripping poor baby Z. :)