Wednesday, April 2, 2014

March recap and April goals

There have been some really good rides lately.  I've started at least four separate posts, gone for late rides, come home late and then I'm too tired to blog them out.  On the whole, she's been pretty awesome.

This past weekend was a local ACTHA event.  I try not to fry 'Fetti's brain by asking her to do all the obstacles, but I thought volunteer-riding it would be an excellent experience for her.  Rating speed, bunch of horses, home terrain.  It doesn't sound so bad!

We headed out in the rain Saturday morning early for a pre-ride.  Five miles of brisk trot to meet up with folks.  She was clearly a bit amped, but I figured we'd be going slow enough she'd be fine.  Instead, she was borderline explosive, needing to keep alternating walk/tinyjog to keep up with the gaited horses in front of us, then stand awhile while the humans chatted.  She threw a few bucks.  I had chosen to ride in my synthetic Thorowgood in the interest of not soaking my good saddle; I decided, after several bucks, that I would be just fine hiking with her for a while.  Even walking, she was pretty amped still.  We made it through the six mile ride relatively incident-free.  She was still lacking in brainpower.  Then we headed home alone.  I knew she needed a good run.  I knew she couldn't have that run in the round pen (tried that, too muddy) or the round pen or arena at home (same problem).  So.. off we went to the fire road.

In hindsight, I regret not turning on tracking for this ride.  I grabbed the front of my dressage saddle and let her really go up the fire road - full-blown gallop.  We walked for thirty seconds or so while she caught her breath, maybe not that long.  Off again.  Stopped for a few pats by passing hikers.  Off again - still at a full gallop.  Walked past a bike and flew up the last section of the hill.  Lessons learned: I can stick bucks and gallop in the dressage saddle.  We weren't done, though, much to my dismay.  Headed through the sand wash at the top, a slight downhill.. I let her trot rather than risk another hissy fit.  Trot turned to canter, canter turned to gallop, gallop got mixed with bucks.  Both stirrups gone, wet reins, visions of flying over her head.. in the wet sand.. by myself.  One-rein stop is the usual option - but I didn't think I could stick the turning.  I hollered at her, hauled back on the reins, stopped her and immediately bailed to walk the next four miles.  I love my horse but man, that sucked.  I did get back on to walk sedately the last mile home.  It was cold, rainy, and very wet, and I was tired of walking.

Sunday, we were given a trailer ride over.  'Fetti called a bit when we arrived, but was otherwise well-behaved.  I tacked up, eventually hopped on, and we had an excellent, sedate six-mile walk on a loose rein.  Inner calm and channeling our Western Pleasure dreams made for a wonderful ride.  The trails were pretty slick, so when we rode home, I stuck to our sedate walk.  I stayed on all ten miles and we slid down a bunch of steep hills.  The pony was excellent.  She earned her carrots!  (Come to think of it..  I actually forgot to give her the carrots and they are still in the tack room.  Oops!)

Key lessons:
- Pony cannot go from 'brisk endurance mode' to 'sedate, lazy trail horse' very easily.
- Turnout.  Turnout.  Turnout.
- Four days of minimal work leaves me with a firecracker horse.  Can I learn this lesson yet?

So, March.
Total tracked mileage on Fetti: 65.79.  Add 22 more for the weekend (or so), but mostly not Real Work.  Wet, slow month for us.
Goals were -
Weather permitting, one 8+ mile ride weekly, aiming for 12-15 twice in March if possible. Hm.  I think we had two days with total (ridden) mileage over 10, but only just. (Not counted: the past weekend's two days with mileage over 10 both days, but one day of solid walking and one day with over half of it hiking.)  Various factors contributed; weather was a big one.  We'll try this again in April.
- continue experimenting with Myler combination bit.  Success!  I'm fairly happy with it.  I do need to be mindful to use both bits and not hold her too much with the stronger one, else it will lose its effectiveness as well.
- focus on riding balanced even when fighting her for forwards.  I don't think I fought for much forwards this month.  I will give myself points for balanced riding and being more conscious of my bareback seat (not slouching to absorb the motion).
- work on Confetti's confidence when taking 9 out for a solo ride.  I don't think this happened, mainly because I lacked motivation to work her on 9 in the mud.

April goals:
- Ride more.  Ask harder questions.
- Focus on increasing distance rather than increasing speed.
- Work on within-gait changes of speed
- Weather and time permitting, at least one 15+ mile day, whether all at once or split between two rides.  As long as we're trotting a good chunk of it, speed is not important.

I have photos and videos, but I am so very fried by non-horse life the past few days that it will have to wait til later this week!


  1. Oh, Fetti. Glad the last big ride was a good'un! What rein set-up are you using with the combo bit? (I've finally gotten to try one, like it lots for the intended purpose, definitely want two reins and haven't decided yet what my "curb" rein should be.)

    1. I'm actually just using one rein on the second ring. She objects to the ratio of bit-to-nose pressure on the first ring, and I'm figuring if I need to drop to the third ring for a ride, I'll try it. Also.. I am not sufficiently coordinated to haul on the second rein when I need it, and I'm not convinced it'll make an awfully big difference for her. Pony seems happy enough with me riding on a fairly loose rein 90% of the time, picking it up for half-halts, letting her go again. I'm just hoping I don't break her responsiveness to other bits in the process!