Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 in review

Normal folks start their year-end review in January, but for context.. a year and a few days ago my lovely princess pony bucked me off.  I came away mostly unscathed aside from a mild shoulder separation.  It was, needless to say, not a great way to end/start a year.  Comments on how to work through it included the gem that she is lacking in her responsiveness to a 'forwards' cue; we're continuing to work on that even now.

February 2014
In January, I took a lesson!  It was excellent as per usual.  We started to address my canter issues, and reminded me to take more contact with shorter reins (woops, still needs work).  The dam stayed down and we kept on riding along.  Also, we met a train.  Not really recommended.

February consisted mostly of pretty pictures and walking in circles, but eventually the dam came down, so we followed a bobcat.

In March it rained.  It rained a lot.  We were safety/drag riders for ACTHA, in the mud, and I apparently never posted pictures?   Well.  Okay.

ACTHA photos by the Morgan Hill Photography Club:
It really is that steep.  Also, really that muddy on this particular day.
I admit to feeling like an eventer riding a drop.. sit back and let go!
I washed and brushed out her full-mane on the left and everything. 
Naturally, all the photographers were shooting from the right side. 
Happy happy.
This is local trail to me.  Yes, her head is blocked by the tree, but whole areas really can look like this.

My car battery died in April.  Prius batteries are expensive and it made me sad.  It kept raining, I took a non-horsey vacation, and Confetti turned 18.

...and then immediately on returning from vacation, Funder trailered us over to Mount Diablo for a NATRC ride in May.  I had more thoughts about NATRC afterward.  I mean, I know we did more than that in May, but that's about all I remember.
I guess there were hills, but I don't really remember anything feeling steep.

A new horse moved in next door at the beginning of JuneFetti went lame, twice.  And then a minor colic.  And then lame a third time, and really June just sucked.

We completed Fireworks in July and it was wonderful even if we did come in to the finish with one boot instead of four.  Booting issues need work.  But she was sound and happy; I started to feel like maybe we could really do this endurance thing.
:-)  :-)

In August I took another lesson and jumped things!  I also broke my saddle

I did get the saddle back in September and that left me pondering the differences between the Eurolight and Thorowgood.  (September was a pretty terrible month for me personally, so I obsessed over saddles because it gave me something to focus on.)  Not really pictured anywhere: my tack room got a serious makeover and I am so much happier with it.

Quicksilver in October was really pretty lovely aside from the half hour in the middle where Confetti and I hated each other.  We took a week or two off beforehand due to the heat.  I also failed to test boots before the ride due to the heat wave.  Serious mistake.  Both boots had cable issues during the ride and we did most of it barefoot.

but it was gorgeous.
November was muddy and wet.  Trees came down.  We found ways around trees.  It rained some more.

December continued to be muddy and wet.  We should get a bit of sun.. and then rumor has it January will be back to muddy and wet again.  But!  On Christmas we made it out for a brief trail ride, a second trail ride after Christmas, and a small jumping session in the arena.  If all goes well, there should be a New Years Eve ride too.

Next: a post of ride stats/mileage/etc from 2014!

Monday, December 22, 2014

TOABH: Shining Star

Shining Star
Let's talk about the biggest achievements your horse has accomplished.  I'm not talking about you as a rider - I want to know what your ponykins has done to make you proud.  Is there a glorious satin collection, did he/she figure out some dressage movement that took months to learn, or is it just a great day when your butt stays in the saddle?  

As much as I sing her praises and tiny accomplishments to anyone that will listen, this is hard for me to answer.  Fetti was a solidly broke horse who is not childsafe because she can be reactive and occasionally unpredictable.  Fetti is also somewhat a schoolmaster for me, as she knows the cues better than I.  She's jumped, she's done exceptionally well in PC dressage, she's been ridden bareback and bitless.  I know that I am often her limiting factor.

We've worked hard on trails because that doesn't scare me the way arena work does.  I can work up to endurance goals knowing that I have a built-in out if we fail spectacularly (even as I know I never want to use it).  

I'm proud of how far her confidence has (usually) come on trails solo.  At first she wouldn't lead.  Then she'd refuse to go out alone.  Sometimes we'd make it to the park, often we'd get stuck even before then.  Once we were in the park, she'd walk, maybe trot a few reluctant steps.

I'm not really sure how we went from the problem being 'any forwards motion on trail alone' to 'sandbagging on the way out with a moderate trot rather than full steam ahead.'  But that's where we are now.  Frustrating as it is, we can do 20+ miles alone now, and I'm grateful we've come this far.

Oh! But proudest, I think?  Is that she is now a Good Trail Citizen who can set the example for less well-behaved or inexperienced horses.  Other horse bolts: meh, whatever.  Other horse lags: she turns her nose back to check on them.  She has genuinely become a solid trail babysitter, and I can honestly say I am proud of her for that.

Good Trail Ponies stand still long enough for a "tree is no longer blocking trail" photo to be taken.


Miscellaneous update:  the farrier came out and trimmed the ponies on Friday.  Fetti was way long.  Not neglect-long or anything, but long and overdue.  I blame some of this on doing the October LD completely barefoot for most of the miles, and most of it on me being too demotivated to do anything with her feet in the last month.  Also, we haven't actually done a Real Ride since the day after Thanksgiving.  (Not even a Kinda Real Ride.  Nothing worth tracking whatsoever.)  So.. long hooves + farrier visit = pony is footsore.  It was definitively LH on Saturday, but Sunday was a more generalized 'uncomfortable on anything even remotely rocky'.

The forecast is for sunshine the next week and a half, so fingers crossed she improves quickly and we can get back out on the trails soon.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Today's lesson: Rivers.

Specifically, what happens to rivers after a big storm?

When there's a dam downstream and the dam goes up, the river gets higher.  Normal, sane people are aware the river is not crossable, and even us crazy trail folk won't try it when the dam is up.  River to my feet?  Fine.  River that would probably be to pony-ears?  Nope.

However, when the dam goes down, it is often safe to cross again fairly soon thereafter.  Woo, exciting!  No longer stuck going in muddy circles!

So, as the dam was down (we confirmed Saturday evening) and there had been nearly 48 hours without rain, we figured what the heck: let's try it before the next rain comes (expected late Sunday night).

We did not slip and slide down the steep section en route to the river.  It was amazing how well the water had soaked in.

It did take some convincing to get the ponies in the river.  Yes, ponies, it's okay.

However, what shows up in rivers after a storm?  Silt.  Silt means that the 'solid' bottom of the river is no longer solid, and ponies sink.  Little bit of silt?  Fine, if the rest of it is solid.  But when we get slightly more than halfway across.. my poor, tolerant pony sunk when I asked for a pause to consider how bad it was.  Bad move: stopping leads to sinking.

I'm not sure how wet I was, but I wasn't soaked and she wasn't falling over, so I asked for another step.  She dutifully rocked back, hauled herself up, and LEAPED forwards a step, only to sink just as hard.  Several more rear-leaps later and I turned her around and back towards home we went, careful to NOT stop no matter what.

Note that the pad is wet about halfway up.. and pretty much her entire front end is wet.

What a good pony.  We won't try that again, at least not today.  Maybe after the next storm blows past...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TOABH#1: History of the Horse

from The Owls Approve:
History of the Horse
Before you met, where was your horse?  Who bred him/her?  What do you know about his sire and his dam?  What do you know where he came from?  Tell me about the time before he had a trainer.

Confetti is a 1996 Haflinger mare out of a mellow chocolate Haflinger mare (Cayleen AFH) and by a feisty and athletic Haflinger stallion (Aspect).  She was bred in northern Washington by some lovely Haflinger folks up there.  I was lucky enough to connect with both the sire's then-owner and dam's then-owner through a Haflinger facebook page where 'Fetti was recognized - so I have a fair bit more history than most folks who enter their horse's story at 16.  Fetti's breeders called her "Squiggle", likely for the "L" star on her forehead. It sounds like she was a bit of a handful then, too.

baby Fetti, photo from her breeder

She is a registered Haflinger and her pedigree is here.

I know and love Cayleen, but out of respect for her current owner's privacy, they rarely get more than a passing mention on the blog.  Rest assured I spent lots of time adventuring with the two of them.  She's a solid, child-safe mare who has taken multiple children through Pony Club and I cannot speak highly enough of her.  English, Western, jumping, leadline, vaulting, and I know she was harnessed when she was younger.  Lovely true all-around Haffie.  'Fetti was her first foal; it's unclear where her second foal, Apocalypse, ended up.  Cayleen was one of several chocolate Haflingers that came from the East Coast to California.

Aspect is one I don't know so much about.  I'm not clear on where he's ended up now, either!  I do know the feisty/good jumper tendencies are common among other Aspect foals.

Fetti had basic groundwork training at her breeder, but was sold before she reached riding age.  She had two foals by age 6 (2002), both colts sired by Friesian stallions.  By then she was in California.

being a good mama?  first foal. Photo from the foal's sire's owner came titled "oy that child".

summer 2002.  that MANE!
being a good mama, second foal.
I tried following up on the second foal, but the search got stuck knowing the gelding was last sold to the Midwest somewhere, the breeder thinks.

It seems that only afterwards was she trained under saddle.  She had some solid w/t/c training, jumped a bit, and somehow ended up with a nasty buck.  My memory says she was originally Western trained, and I know she'll still do a streeeetchy on-the-forehand walk or trot like your standard Western horse, nose practically to the ground.  (I do know some horses can do it properly without being on the forehand. Thus far, she is not one of them.)  Her early under-saddle years are a little bit more of a mystery.  I have been told that at her previous-previous owner's place, the other horse they were selling had similar bolt/buck issues, so the theory is that some of her stuff probably started there.  It's hard to know.

From here, I don't have many gaps.  Her previous owner (and her dam's current owner) purchased her as a pony for her daughter when Fetti was 9.  That didn't go so well due to the aforementioned buck/bolt issues.  They worked through some of that, she jumped some more, she nearly managed to be sold to a jumper home but wasn't quite the right height, she did Pony Club with a few advanced kids, and she hung out in a nice large paddock with other ponies at home.  She wasn't a good fit for her owner and family, but it's hard to sell a middleaged large pony as primarily suitable for small adults with riding experience, and they weren't willing to sell her off to another unsuitable home.

I started leasing in August 2010.  Two years later she officially became mine. Another two years and I finally got all the paperwork: I am officially the registered owner of one very spoiled Haflinger.

Unrelated note: we're expecting some major rainfall in the next few days.  Combine that with the winter blues/low motivation.. I'm hoping to get in on most of these Blog Hops to keep the writing coming and not drop off the face of the earth for too long.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

November recap, December goals, miscellaneous updates

November: where not much really got done.

General winter goals are still:
1. quit nagging, and reinforce that aids Mean Something.
2. prompter transitions (should follow from #1)
3. continue addressing my canter issues, as weather and footing permits
4. off-side mounting
5. strengthen my lower leg for more stability.  (posting with no stirrups? two-point?)

Worked on #1 and #2 periodically.  Canter work has been spotty.  Off-side mounting was generally a success.  Lower leg.. still needs work, but that's okay, we're still (very much) in winter.

November specific goals:
- If riding in saddle, mount from right side.  90% of the time, accomplished!
- Try shortening stirrups in Eurolight and work in two-point, working up to a half-mile; aim to do this once weekly as weather permits.  I worked in two-point for at least a few minutes most rides where pony-brain permitted.  Stirrups did not need to be shortened.
- Continue not nagging and being mindful of what I'm asking.  I remembered this and mostly stuck to it.  Continued progress required, but it's something.

October stats, since I did not note them in my post:
approx 72 miles, including one 25-mile LD
9 rides tracked - quiet 10 days pre-LD, quiet week after, some moseying/shorter rides that were not "real work" and didn't get logged.  Miles & number of rides limited by heat wave + LD.

November stats:
approx 49 miles
9 rides tracked, plus some moseying/shorter rides.  Limited by early darkness, rain, mud, and fallen trees.
Near the beginning of the month, I began round-penning Confetti before most of our rides.  She's not getting out as much as she'd like, and this is my compromise.  She's not working up a major sweat, or working until she's submissive, she's just working until her brain is back in her head and the excess energy is gone.  The energy needs to be let out somewhere when we cannot safely get a fast and/or long work on the trails.

Unplanned noteable accomplishments:
- lunging on a line in the arena at walk/trot and with a few canter steps.  No bolting!  Just a polite little tiny canter.  I was very, very impressed.
- one day of solid arena work, w/t/c, not included in the mileage count
- reflocked dressage saddle, since I believe that was the cause of the new white marks on Fetti's back

Spurs update:
Tried spurs again on a solo ride.  They were totally unhelpful and made absolutely no difference.  Verdict:  complete failure, no need to use them for a while as they are not helpful.

December goals, then:
- if riding in saddle, mount from right. This needs to stay as a goal until it feels comfortable!
- wet-weather work: forwards walk! lateral work! halting from seat!
- avoid getting bucked off*

*a year ago I separated my shoulder after a particularly nasty buck had me hit the ground hard.  Highly not recommended.  Thus, primary goal for any actual trail rides this month involve staying on the horse, or at least not getting seriously hurt.