Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Little Push

Sometimes, no matter how convinced your heart is that you'd like to do something, your brain stops you. And all you need is a little push.
I saw my boy for the first time in a week yesterday. I walked out to his pasture determined not to let the fact that I have both a Calculus and Physics test tomorrow get in the way of enjoying my favorite horse. Luckily, Blue agreed, as all I had to do was call "BOYS!" to have him, Tex, and Sequel all gallop up to greet me. Fortunately they're pretty gentlemanly - they each stopped clear of me and didn't threaten to run me over like some others I know would.
I have decided to try coconut oil on his mane and tail - he's part Appaloosa and has the hair to prove it, and he likes to rub his tail anyway, so what did I have to lose? Coconut oil is a natural oil that is unique in its ability to moisturize and nourish hair from the inside out - yes, it permeates into the hair. I bought a 1 lb-tub at Wal-Mart for $10, and the less you use the better, so I consider it a worthwhile investment, especially since it's only applied once a week. I wiped the excess on his hooves...apparently people report it's a great conditioner. Unfortunately I forgot the fact that coconut oil congeals below 76 degrees...and today was one of those 69 degree September days. >:-(
After an uneventful warm-up, we began the lesson with lots of lateral movements. That means shoulder-in, shoulder-out, haunches-in, and haunches-out. This gets Blue to really listen to leg cues, and of course really makes him collect and use his back if he is to do the movement properly. The result of this is that he was very willing to round up at the trot and canter and move freely forward. His trot today was pure ecstasy...I like the feeling, and it's happening more and more!
And, as it often does, this transferred to our over-fences work, as well. Though, annoyingly, he did canter the trot jump, as he tends to do when he thinks we're not jumping fast enough, he picked up a nice pace and we hit a nice pace to the warm-up oxer.
When we jumped our 2'6" course, we were very consistent and got all of the distances I aimed to get! He was very responsive, and I have had none of the hesitation or crankiness that I had last week that contributed to my stress. Of course, the footing was much better today, too, so that could have contributed. Hey, I'm just happy to have the horse I know and love back, and not that cranky bronco!
Then, probably the real subject of my entry today, three of the jumps were raised to 3'. I have jumped single 3' fences but never more than one in a lesson, and since I was just thrilled to have the horse I had lost briefly back, I was a bit nervous. Six inches is kinda a big difference! My heart rate rose, and I told my trainer I felt uncomfortable. Yet, at the same time, I knew if I didn't try, I would be mad at myself. Trainer told me, "Please, just try and if you have trouble we'll lower them." After hemming and hawing, I finally just decided the worst that would happen is that he'd refuse and I'd fall and we'd jump the lower jumps.
I think we only got tight to one jump...the rest were pretty good and consistent! We did have to hustle a bit to make the distances, but, hey, the horse was responsive, so why not? We still drift a bit to the left down the line, but that's fixable. I'm mainly proud at my horse for supporting me and myself for just sucking it up and trying.
Best part is, my trainer is going away for a week in October, so although I won't have a lesson, I'll be staying in the house at the farm all week, meaning tons of time to ride and generally be with the horses! Yay!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sorry for Not Posting!

Yeah, I know, I only have one follower, but I still need to apologize.

Part of the reason is that inclement weather has prevented me from riding. The other reason is that when I have been riding, all the stresses surrounding me (college, school, friends being dumb, parents) have been getting to me, and I haven't been very fair to Blue. There's no reason I should make him have to deal with me and the weight of my worries.

So I'm going to take a deep breath, forget all of it, and come back fresh with a post on how Tuesday's lesson goes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

RIP Ladybug "Bugsy"

I rode today, and I'll post about it tomorrow, but I'd like to dedicate today's post to one spunky little pony mare.
Yesterday, my instructor's pony Bugsy was put down. She didn't suffer from any acute ailment or injury, but she did suffer a high bowed tendon that, at age 23, was not healing as it should and rendered her pasture sound only. Most riding instructors with 5 other horses and a business to look after don't have the time or money to dedicate to an old, unsound, retired school pony, and it would not have been fair to sell her or even give her away as a companion horse, as Bugsy was very closely bonded with a mare, Lisa, at our barn and would've been devastated to have to leave her. There are retirement barns around, but most are quite expensive and the one with the best reputation, Ryerss Home for Retired Equines, has a 5-year waiting list and a $5,000 fee. It was decided that the most responsible thing to do would be to put Bugsy to rest while she was still happy and comfortable.
I should note that, in addition, Bugsy's eyesight was beginning to go, making her even more spooky and reliant on Lisa for communicating danger. Putting her into a totally different situation would have been unfairly stressful on her.
I write this because Bugsy was one of those ponies that taught me what I needed to know to get to where I am today. She was a toughie, and if you weren't totally committed to getting her over a fence or keeping her pace up, she would simply plant her feet until you managed to figure out what you were doing. I had my fair share of falls from her, but I think she also taught me some of the most important lessons in my riding career, including the importance of using both leg and a supporting contact before a fence. When I did win blue ribbons with her, it was sweet - when she stopped at the first fence three times, it strengthened my convictions and showed me the importance of riding each stride. Everyone at my barn has a Bugsy story to share...I have more than one. :)
So here's to Bugsy - maybe not the easiest or my favorite horse to ride, but definitely one of my best teachers. She will live forever in my heart and memory, and also those of the people who loved her more than I did. It still hasn't truly sunk in yet; I suppose I wrote this post in hopes that it would help me realize this fact. I know she is no longer with us, yet I will not stop expecting to see her grazing side-by-side with Lisa, whinnying to any horse that would care to answer.

Rest in peace, Ladybug. 1985 - 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Now That Life Has Settled...

...I can get back to blogging again! Yay!

Since last episode, I was in Big County Fair Show (did not go so well...Blue was having a bad day and I chalked it up to experience) and Local Schooling Show (went very well...Blue was stellar except for those pesky lead changes, and we ended up coming home with two Grand Champion ribbons, one in Equitation for me and one in Low Children's Hunter for him). I had a couple of less-than-good lessons in a row, and I rode Tex again (that went fairly well, though I was a bit out of my comfort zone). I'm finally beginning to fall into a regular schedule again, and I'm planning on clipping the big hairy beast after our last planned schooling show in October. There's a new, younger girl leasing Blue. Her name is Maddie and she's very sweet - I think she'll learn a lot from my goof.

Sorry for the short catch-up post. I just am too tired and don't feel like going into a ton of detail. Rest assured that Blue and I continue to try and hear the other, even if we do get a little pissed off by each other at times.

In other news, I discovered three of his scratchy spots. His withers and chest are good places, and he likes his belly button scratched if I get my fingertips in there. After so much battling with him to clean his sheath (his owner was very lax about it and let it go too long, and Blue formed quite the sour opinion about the process in general), he's finally starting to twitch his lips for that, too. I always try to "make friends" with him by getting those spots (well, except the sheath) each time I ride, it's so much more gratifying to bring a little happiness to my horse without the pushiness that results from treats.