Entering the Fall

Oh man, wow it’s been a while! How I’ve missed writing on here. I felt no real stories to share worth really writing about since riding has been pretty much MIA for quite some time. But things are changing….!

I’m not a weekend rider, I’m not a pleasure or trail rider per se. I don’t want to go showing every weekend, and shows aren’t exactly where I’m headed. I’m a program builder, goal setter, horsemanship, constantly learning, growing and training type of rider. I like bringing along horses and bringing my self along. Challenging myself and always, always training. I utilize the sand box, the trails and never forgetting to have fun as my tools. I love the escape riding gives me from the rest of the world, which can be inevitably stressful at times. I love the feeling of connecting with these large animals through the aids. I love the feeling of a horse lifting it’s back under saddle, or the feeling of the horse pushing through from behind. I love hearing and watching the rhythmic, metronome-like  beat of the trot. I love riding on crisp, cool, fall days. Foggy days, foggy nights. Freshly groomed arenas and riding in an outdoor two days after rain. I love the sight, the sounds, the feelings and the beautiful horses. When I’m not riding, I feel lost. I feel distant from something that brings so much joy to my life.

I haven’t ridden in an arena for a couple years, consistently. Which means, I don’t get to enjoy or build a program that I really want. I had to be mindful of footing and the impacts on the entire body of the horse. One thing I did get to do, was take a break to appreciate what I’ve had. I got to see my horse relax in a pasture. It made me humble, taking a break. So many people take riding and horses for granted and this break made me sure that I wasn’t going to be one of those people. I wouldn’t forget the cost, the time and dedication it took and takes to have horses in my life.

Now the time has come! I’m getting back to riding after this long break! Reason and I will be back at a barn, able to re-start where we left off.

Ironically, my last pair of breeches fell apart and so did my tall boots, when I rode last. Which means, in order to get back on the horse, I have get some new gear… I’m starting fresh again!

State of Education

It’s been a long time since my last post, though things haven’t really been going on much from the more obvious outside view.  I’ve been striving to improve my life, it’s direction and passionately, diligently pursuing it.  One of my commitments is to bringing Reason’s talents and our work together to fruition.  For me as a rider and his trainer, it has been somewhat a dance.  We go forward, back, side to side, sometimes beautifully, sometimes wondrously.  Tumultuous is a good word.  He’s been a tricky partner at times and my dedication and finesse in riding have really been tested and pulled to forefront.  But, he is my ultimate educator and I feel like the more I ride him, the more I learn, the more my hunger to be better, my passion to be immersed in the education, is increased.  (And the more I ride, I learn to sit his antics, and keep us focused).

ReasonVroom

Last week we finally tilled in a rough riding area in the horses’ pasture.  I think the only way this could get better is if the area was actually built on a base, with some all weather footing and oh, maybe a nice hedge around the perimeter ;).  We also brought in a few logs for our growing cross country jump collection and hopefully I’ll be painting my weathered and unruly jump standards here soon.  The footing isn’t perfect, but both Reason and I are pretty conscious of it and it does the trick for now.

Speaking of education.  I want to ride lots of horses, work around them and in addition to that, be around people who can offer their own knowledge to help me go forward in my riding.  I take my equine education seriously (but with lots of humor, fun and a positive face) so I can get good.  I want to face my fears, challenges and be successful.  Riding horses is not only to be successful over jumps, performing a Dressage test, or retraining young Thoroughbreds (for me), but also helping in being a success, balanced person all around.

Last year I also started my own business.  It’s still a baby, and there is lots of growing to do, but how perfect, how right it feels, I know it’s here to stay.  Who knows what’s going to happen, or what direction it will go, but I feel so at home in finally finding a niche, for finally finding something that makes me so happy to do (besides riding and horses of course).  It’s been a goal for me to be a successful business woman, and also a successful rider and I’m seeing both come together.  Both are helping each other, a ping pong effect of good things.  I know now exactly what I want in my life, which is such a good feeling when for so long I felt unsure.

So with everything I’m pressing forward, creating my own path and am so happy and so excited.  I’m taking every free bit of time I have and using it to be around horses and further my education.  I have a few opportunities to get closer to horses and dive more into the game.  And Reason, he’s doing better everyday.  I’ll have more posts soon. 🙂

Education Odometer – First Outing

Reason enjoying breakfast before the day started at his first Play Day.

Reason hit his first, real trail ride Sunday.  Well first real one with some actual hills, rocky crossings and narrow paths.  I guess that’s what constitutes as a ‘real’ trail ride, anyway.  This was his 3rd time being out for this type of ride.  This particular park has Frisbee golf on a majority of it’s smaller property.  Being Sunday, I was expecting to see a lot more people than we’ve encountered before and some golfers.  Matt thought it was going to be interesting with that added element.  But I wasn’t worried about it and figured Reason was going to fare well.  Reason loves people and being around them and I think is more comforted by the sight of people just enjoying a good time, so the Frisbee was a second thought.  It was, no big deal.  We hit the trail with another couple.  Reason was in company, though the two guys rode ahead of us on their mares, leaving my friend and I riding together on our geldings for most of the ride.  Reason got nervous when Errika was too far ahead, but it was great for Reason to 1) ride with another horse, 2) trust me to get him through being some distance away from his mare.

During our short ride, Reason wasn’t exactly a calm cucumber, especially (and what I generally think it was) because Errika was lead horse and Reason was trailing behind.  He’s attached, really attached.  But his head was on straight, so I just sat up there and enjoyed the company and scenery giving him space and not crowd his already thinking brain.  He relaxed as the trail ride was coming to an end.  For his first time riding out with company and in a new place, I was proud of him and it’s just another trip we can add to his education odometer!

Reason and I on our Sunday trail ride with friends.
Me on Reason and Errika guarding one of his ribbons.

Last weekend Reason went to his first playday.  Like I wrote before, I thought this would be a great first outing to a kind-of show, type environment.  Some horses may need a buffer like this and others may not.  We aren’t in any rush to do anything or get anywhere, and I’d rather take my time to make sure he’s brought along with the wellness of his mind as top priority.  Reason does in fact need this buffer, although I think it’s most in part due to his attachment to Errika.  Actually I think Reason and I are being cheated out of seeing how things have changed because the focus is on not leaving his herd mate anywhere we go.  I don’t get a chance to see how he’s truly grown with that extra influence.  But I can see beyond that to a degree, and I do see a much more confident and stable horse than I’ve ever seen before and so, I will just go with the herd dynamic flow at this current point in time.

Reason and I head out to do his first ever [slow] pole bending pattern.
The playday went well.  It was a friend’s birthday so Reason was able to hang with a whole new group of horses he’d never seen before.  He was well-behaved and loved being in the sights of horse and human affection.  We had many compliments.  People loved the big dark horse!  We had adults and little girls coming up and asking about him.  I was proud to tell them he was in fact and off track Thoroughbred and this was his first ever ‘event.’  One of the ladies who put on the show said she was “impressed” with what I was doing with him.  I was thankful to just be there, on my horse and to let people get up close and personal with him.  We were a little bit out-of-place with all the western gear and looked more like we were ready to hit the jumper ring, but everyone was really nice and accepting.  I love being in a place with such nice people just wanting to have a good time!

The warm-up was slightly sketch.  I didn’t have a chance to lunge Reason.  It was a cool, brisk morning and he was a little fresh.  He was a little wondrous about the sudden ‘paddock’ we entered.  I felt him jolt a little underneath me as we made our way into the large outdoor.  The arena wasn’t bustling as your typical schooling ring would be.  Being that first time, in that new place, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect nor wasn’t sure how Reason was going to react initially.  One of the reasons I think going to a lower-key event such as this one, was a perfect introduction to the new world of ‘paddocks’ and rings and the world of showing.  I felt Reason get light in front when I to asked him to go forward.  He was reluctant to leave his mare, Errika.  Although she stood calmly at the fence.  I wasn’t sure if he was going to hold it together completely.  When things aren’t always on his terms, especially in these situations, he has tendency to get frustrated and will try many tricks to get through it, in his own way.  I wasn’t sure if the rearing tendency was going to, rear its ugly head or not.  It didn’t, but Reason did scoot and hop about sometimes.  I used my little box of tools to deter it even though at first I was nervous about the possibility of having to school through rearing.

Another shot of Reason enjoying breakfast. Handsome guy!

I know I shouldn’t have been nervous, but I was and I couldn’t help it.  I tried really hard to buckle down and focus my attention to the sights and sounds around me. –  The noise of crunching as we trotted along, the sand footing beneath us.  The cool air.  The lofty and floating trot Reason was doing (boy did that feel great!  I can’t imagine how it looked.)  The reins resting on my pinkie finger.  My leg sitting quietly against Reason’s barrel.  Eventually as best I could, I just lulled myself into a rhythm and went along with the ride.  Nothing in particular was being asked, just that he travel forward and in a somewhat large circle at one end of the arena.  Periodic halting and other things to put some emphasis on the braking and steering system.  It wasn’t soon into the warm-up that Reason put on the ritz and just went.  And boy did he.  The trot I was feeling was something out of a fairy tale.  Probably the unrefined floating, free trot you like to see in an upper level Dressage test.  Man I want to relive that trot over and over.  It’s the same trot I’ve seen him do freely, showing off in the pasture, but have never gotten to ride.  Now I can say I’ve had a glimpse from in the saddle!

Reason going back up through the pattern.

We went around poles for the pole bending class.  Reason has never done this, but we walked and did some trotting through the pattern.  I was able to use this class to bounce him off different legs as the pattern required.  It was actually really neat to do that with him.  It will be definitely something I incorporate with his training here and there.  Nothing like adding in something totally from left field to keep things from becoming monotonous.

Reason and I also did barrel racing (without the racing).  This was totally weird to him, going around barrels and such.  But he looked once, and just went.  Most of his focus was on not leaving Errika.  The mere fact that he stayed with me through all this and didn’t throw me or just handle the situation his own way, was the most important thing to me though.  I felt like he was listening and trying really hard to be good in what was occasionally a stressful and confusing situation for him.  My job was just to sit there, put my heels down, stay relaxed and guide him along.

What’s he thinking?

It was a great experience for Reason.  I don’t think we could have started his future showing experience on a better foot.  It was a great test, a great schooling opportunity and he was set up well for it.  I was proud of him and thankful to have been apart of it.

We are planning on riding in a real arena a couple days a week now on a regular basis, trail riding and attending another playday at the end of the month.  More exposure and more fun!
Here is a video during the end of the day.  I was trying to get Reason to just chill some more and eventually walk without the need to break into the trot.  (Yes, I am on the wrong diagonal.  I rarely pick up the right one when I’m not paying attention to my equitation.  Sorry for the shaky video.   You have been warned if you get motion sickness!)

Every Which Way

Reason showing his sweet, kind, willing eye! Please ignore the bridle that needed adjusting..

Last week was Reason’s first real week back into work and he did really well.  Prior to that we were doing light stuff and bareback riding as mentioned in our last post.  We had a couple of hacks and lunging to start week one.  I’m back to teaching him lateral flexion mixed in throughout our rides as that’s where we left off last time.  Reason is going off my leg nicely (good pony!) and is flowing right along.  He and I have come some long ways recently in our trust and understanding.  I don’t want to sound corny and say ‘relationship’ but yes, we’re coming strides in our relationship ;).

Yesterday though, I had [my first in a while], kind-of, fall off of Reason.  It wasn’t his fault really although I was disappointed in what happened.  Normally I do our riding and hacking outside of the pasture, which is where he lives with Errika.  Sometimes I’ll ride him inside the pasture, but the ground is much softer outside for regular purposes.  Both the horses are attached to each other, which poses its unique challenges.  But they have been getting really good about being apart during Reason’s ‘work.’  Reason is focused and settled in his work and Errika watches Reason leave and then returns to eating and grazing.  But yesterday my mom came along with me and she took Errika on a walk.  Reason was being fine about Errika being outside the pasture for a change, but after I mounted and he called out, I wasn’t so sure.  I kept him moving along and we briefly stopped because I could feel him starting to rush under me as we ventured a little further away.  The ground where we were walking was not safe [enough] to send him forward beyond the walk.  Then I felt ‘it’ and what went through my mind in that instant was what was just about to happen…

I felt Reason get tall and I felt him ready to blow, I knew my snaffle bit wasn’t going to stop him if he decided to take off and I wasn’t about ready to take that ride.  I began to dismount quickly as my time was seemingly running out.  Reason quickly turned around before I could get my feet on the ground, knocking me down and sending my body sideways into the ground.  I hit the hard dirt, seeing Reason’s hind feet standing still, but as soon as he realized I was off, he bolted off into a full gallop.  I watched him run and then return to the pasture gate where Errika left from.

Reason regained some bearings once he realized everything was really ok, except that his rider was no longer on him..  I managed to hop back on and continue riding, this time with Errika closer to the gate.  Reason was being good, but he was still a bit checked out, so it wasn’t really a good ride, mostly one born out of necessity, I guess you would say.

Before yesterday, everything was going so well!  But now that I have this very obvious issue in front of me.  I have to dive right in and deal with it.  I’m still figuring out how, without stressing either horses, but it’s going to inspire creativity, and of course, diligence.

Next week we head out for hopefully at least one light trail ride and a playday at the end of the week.  The playday will be Reason’s first outing to something other than a trail ride.  I was very optimistic about going before yesterday, but now I’m not sure how easy-going it will be.  The whole point of really taking Reason is to expose him to a new environment without exposing him to un-needed stress and anxiety during his first outings after the race track.  I want him to be comfortable and trusting of me when he goes anywhere no matter what may come.  The only way that will happen is if we go out and do that, but I want to do it in the best possible way for him.  (Set him up for success!)  I can’t completely write off the playday because I do think it will be just fine.  I just do not want to take him if I feel he’s going to melt-down or it be completely contradictory to what I am trying to do.  I’m hoping the following days and next week will give me an idea of if it should be a scratch or not.

Despite the fact that this post isn’t exactly what I thought it would be – up until yesterday I had some great things to write about that didn’t include the above – I am so very proud of Reason and how well he’s doing.  I’m starting to feel ‘at home’ on him.  Even after my failed attempt at an emergency dismount ;).  And in spite of everything, I am learning so much for my very talented and smart dark horse.

More soon!

Reas being silly and showing off his lovely coat!

A little bit of This and That.

Reason and I on his second trail ride, in early August. He was such a champ!

I haven’t written in some time now.  (One day I may be doing something interesting to actually write a blog post that doesn’t consist of, ‘haven’t been doing much riding lately…’)

Reason is doing great and looks great too.  Both the horses have been a little less enthused about their dry grass pasture, missing the green lush one of the winter and spring, but as the winds change and the air gets colder yet again, the green will soon be here.  Just a little longer kids!  The horses did have a pasture guest for a short period of time, which they both loved.  Reason became quickly attached and took the 20 year old gelding under his 6 year old wings.  It was cute and we all miss the little horse!  The horses settled back into life with just the two of them just as quickly as they invited the other horse, so no stress or worries in that department.

Reason has been maturing so much and is such a different, but same, horse than he was 2 years ago.  He’s outgrown his baby face and his baby antics and is coming into quite the gentlemen.  He’s always had some great qualities, but also some challenging ones as well, that have made the journey a little tough a times.  He’s incredibly smart and can be liked to a genius child who could either do wonders for the world, or.. He was a horse who verged on the ‘maybe’ and ‘no’ category with hints of ‘YES!’ but things were not easy.  He is getting into the ‘YES’ horse I have known was always inside of him and to watch his expression change has been wonderful.

Unfortunately, as the usual theme, I have not been riding.  Again, no riding space with appropriate footing I’m comfortable working him on on a regular basis,the horses pasture has made our riding experiences low-key.  Very low-key.  It’s actually been nice in a way because what riding we do, is walking some trotting, bareback in a halter.  I play with him and just keep moving forward to help him ease into the horse I want him to become without any pressure or worries.  As the days go by, I keep thinking about all the fun things we could do and what I need to do to get us there (horse camping, getting into jumping and Dressage, take him neat places, teach him to do the Spanish walk under saddle, passage and piaffe.. Go to clinics in all different disciplines. So much!).  I want to take him to a low-key play day soon, just to be in a new place and do fun, simple things without putting him into a stressful environment I know he is not ready for at this point.  I want him to be confident and happy and once we get there, we can go anywhere!

Reason all buckled up for safety!

 

 

One End to the Other.

Reason and I after Sunday’s first tack walk after being legged back up.

You know when you’re riding and you feel those moments come through that for a second everything is in a harmonic, rhythm?  Every part of your body and your mind is communicating to the horse just right and in return the horse is responding by traveling in balance, in rhythm and in excellent focus.  You know in those moments that what you’re feeling is exactly right.  You feel it and suddenly you grow an obsession of sorts, of a driving force to go to that place, all the time, every-time.  Parts of my ride yesterday were like that.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like that in the saddle!

Bax picked up a nice canter and in the beginning we were cruising over a simple pole on the ground.  My goal was to stay light, stay balanced and ride the pole like it was a fence.  Eyes up, shoulders up, heels down, hand light, seat light, moving with the motion, balanced, supportive and riding in the moment.  At times the distance was off, or I was too focused on one part of the equation, that others faltered.  This is how riding works.  You diligently pursue mind and body to build an ultimate riding machine, so you can better communicate to your horse.  It teaches you to be very aware.  In order to ride that fence right, you have to have all your ducks in a row and all cylinders firing.  That’s why riding is such good therapy.  When you put your mind and body ‘there’ the horse responds with as much as you put into it.  – Some make you work harder for it, some like Bax, make you strive for it because the connection with the horse spans deeper. –  This horse loves to jump.  My friend who owns him described him as “attacking the jump.”  He goes towards it on a mission.  It’s the coolest thing to be riding a horse with as much drive to hit that fence as right as you want too.

We went on to jump a small vertical and work on more technique and played jumper with a tighter turn and therefore a smaller window for preparation and to arrange all those ducks in a row.  It was so much fun!  Then we did an in and out, with a cross rail to another vertical which was between 2’3″ and 2’6″.  The end portion was cantering to the small vertical, which was set on the diagonal, jumping the in and out and then back over the ground pole.  With this I also got to further practice the flying changes coming out of the jump, which is also so much fun.  It felt so good and I was so proud of Bax and I.

Later on in the day on Tuesday, Reason also got his chance to go out.  It was a tack walking day.   Reason was a very good boy.  He gave me some attitude in little tiny bits here and there, but that’s also him and it was over as quickly as it began.  He was very pleased with himself.

Yesterday I rode Reason for another tack walk.  I wanted to casually walk the pasture on the buckle and allow him to take us to the areas he desired.  The footing in some spots of the pasture are hard, crusty and not comfortable for the dark horse to travel over, but he knows where the good spots are.  I do too, but I wanted him to work for himself a bit.  I guided him if he ventured off, but left him alone for the most part.  I created boundaries, but gave him the door and the opportunity to make the right choice.  We had some great walking in.  The whole ride his head was low, there was not fighting, chomping or sour attitude related to the bit.  We watched as a tractor came by to mow the ditch for the county and the cows across the street once again lined up to watch their neighbor horse-friend walk around all dressed up.

Reason is such a curious horse.  Ink was much the same way and it’s something I love and encourage, encourage, encourage.  When Reason heard the tractor coming down the road, long before I heard or even saw it, he began to want to walk straight towards the fence parallel to that road.  We watched as it went by and he kept wanting to get a little closer and watch all the action.

I had only one little test from Reason, but it was needed.  I knew he may test his boundaries at one point and I was open to it.  I knew that it would be an excellent opportunity for me to further establish the guidelines (that he needs to truly become a confident, happy horse).  As we were walking in the opposite direction of the shelter, where Errika was hanging out in, Reason stopped.  I gave him a squeeze to see what he would do.  He swished his tail, I turned him in a circle, kicked and we carried on.  We didn’t have any problems after that and I think he was happy that I handled it that way and happy to see me rise to the leader he needs and wants me to be.  I allowed him to make the decision to react that way as I carried on with walking, there if he needed my guidance, but he didn’t sway.  With that I ended the ride.

Lately everything is going so well and I’m so thankful.  I’m meeting new [horse] people and reconnecting with old people and of course more horses!  I just love it!  The horses have taught me a lot about myself, who I want to be and just, life.  They truly are special creatures with amazing gifts in everything they do.  What is special, what is meaningful lies in the journey, the end goal is a reflection of it.

Horse with Heart.

Re-Evaluate

Yesterday Reason and Errika were to attend a clinic.  Not a riding clinic.  In a perfect world, both horses were to load and head to said clinic without a hitch.  But it didn’t work that way.  Perhaps there is a greater reason for this.  In fact, I was reminded that, everything happens for a reason from Matt.  He was disappointed we didn’t get to go as well, but was quick to say the above.

Reason managed to step into the trailer a few times, but quickly with-drew as the inner skeptic emerged.  The normal trailer that we use; the same one in 2006 that Ink stepped right in as we picked him up to bring him home, was not available which made me have to get together a plan B quickly.  The trailer is a nice 3 horse, which is inviting for the horses.  I love this trailer and if I had the money, I’d buy the exact same one.  Reason has stepped into this one without much of a thought times before and I had no reason to believe he’d address our plan B trailer without the same attitude.

I was wrong.  The trailer we used was a 2h, extra tall, extra wide.  I like Logan horse trailers.  They are solid and well-built (to my eye).  But Reason, he was not into this trailer apparently.  I attributed it to the fact that it wasn’t a 3h therefore the space in the rear, was not as large and therefore not as inviting.  Lesson learned.

unfortunately without a trailer to practice loading in and out of on a regular basis, I’m kind of stuck.  After selling my little Miley trailer (that Errika loved, but was WAY too small for anything larger than her) I’m looking for a trailer.    It kind of stinks not having one right there to use, although we have managed.  And so the hunt for a trailer commences.