Friday, March 27, 2015


Night ride in days past.
The adorable, bombproof, beginner-safe lesson pony (mentioned briefly in my last post) went over the Rainbow Bridge this morning. As he wasn't mine - just part of Fetti's herd - it's not for me to share details, but it's been a rough few days and he's already sorely missed.

This is the pony that gave me my bareback trail confidence, taught me a solid sitting trot at high speeds (also bareback), and rarely put a foot wrong. Good mind, good heart. He took a little piece of mine with him.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lesson pony

One of the perks of having a pony is that I get to introduce friends to the joys of horses.  Fetti makes an excellent leadline and petting pony.  She's cute, un-intimidating, and friendly.
Blonde. Pink. Usually braided. "Food, maybe?"

If I ask nicely, other ponies are often available to me for beginner trail rides.  I'm very lucky to have generous friends with bombproof, beginner-safe ponies.  Several friends have gone out on rides with me, and my boyfriend comes out a few times a year.

It dawned on me that aforementioned boyfriend, despite gamely attempting to keep up on the adorable, wonderful, bombproof, pogo-stick trotting pony on the trail, had never really had a Proper Lesson, and never quite entirely got his posting trot down.  This must be fixed.

I started his mini-lesson with him riding a bombproof pony in a Western saddle.  Unfortunately, I'm an English rider through and through.  I have drilled in the basics of alignment head-hip-heel.  This does not work quite so well in a Western saddle where the seat naturally sets one further back.  Safe trotting: accomplished.  Position: needs work, fighting saddle.

I have a perfectly good horse with a well-balanced saddle, and how hard can trotting on a lunge line be?

Hard enough that I can't get photos while lunging - it took two of us in the round pen to get video for boots.

To my credit, I did lunge Fetti without a rider first.  She was fine.  Put the rider up.  She was fine.  Bunch of polite circles, both directions, only mildly fussy until the reins got dropped and then all was well.  If I were smart, the blog post would be ending there, her career as an occasional lesson pony secure, her halo appropriately transparent and sparkly.

Another dear friend of mine came out recently.  He's been on for a few tiny trail rides, but less experienced and recovering from some injuries a while back.  Bombproof ponies are unavailable, but Fetti should be fine.  This time, I stuck her in the round pen first, knowing she'd been full of herself lately.  It took thirty minutes for her to settle into a reasonably polite semi-beginner trot.  Maybe she's just forwards today, I thought.  Usually once she's settled, she stays settled.

Tacked up.  Added rider.  Back in the round pen, ask for a trot, acquire a FLOUNCE into five steps of trot and some threats at canter, interspersed with the occasional solid 7-10 steps of trot.  The assumption is made that the rider is somehow cuing incorrect - after all, horses are honest, we know there's an imbalance from an old injury, she's already been worked and unlikely to go forwards, that's not her normal.  To his credit, the friend managed to work out a fair bit of posting trot and balance even as Fetti is not making it easy.

I hopped up to demonstrate the difference between western pleasure jog and serious endurance trot, and found that my generally sane horse was a raging snotty bitch. Leg? OMGIHATEYOU. Canter? FLOUNCE. Trot politely? CANTER.

A dressage whip was retrieved.  The pony and I had a Serious Discussion about how such behavior is unacceptable (and in which I deeply regretted not turning her out in the arena within the past week).  I apologized to beginner friend for doubting his balance and told him that he was (probably) fine and it was just Fetti being obnoxious.  He's a little bit crazy, too; he got back on and we did a bit more work, slightly more productive, slightly less attitude.

Lesson pony halo status: seriously tarnished, possibly confused with devil horns?

I know she needs turnout.  I know she hasn't worked hard enough this week.  Honestly, I'm really grateful that this is the first day in ages that she's thrown this sort of full-blown hissy fit.  It used to be a regular event!  Nonetheless, let this serve as a reminder to me: Fetti is never going to be 100% beginner-safe.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bale bag update; convention notes; ACTHA year #2

If I don't write something now, I'm never actually going to get around to posting, and then it'll be time for the monthly recap with nothing having been said.  Oops.

The dam is still up.  Our conditioning rides are still trucking along, and we're still not hugely enthusiastic.  Not much to say on that front!

Bale bag/slow feeder: we seem to have reached our happy point!  Confetti is now going through a bale a week, or approx 130-150# of hay.  It took about two months.  I'm still using the bag for 2-3 days of hay rather than putting in the entire bale; right now that's an entirely satisfactory solution.  In the future we may revisit the idea of bagging the entire bale in one swoop.  One perk to filling a third of a bale at a time: it's possible to mix in a few grass/alfalfa flakes with the straight grass.  I may up that to 50/50 grass/alf and straight grass.

Convention: was most excellent.  I'd never been before, and it was a lot of fun.  Lots of vendors, chatted with the Renegade folks, got some neat Renegade swag (photos hopefully forthcoming), chatted with American Trail Gear, sold some stuff, bought a little bit of stuff.  I also got to meet Aarene - pestered her with various questions and bought a paper copy of her book.  One can never have enough good books.  One of my questions for Aarene: how to speed up a slow horse?  Her answer - which I think she's given on the blog, too! - is to sing.

Shiny mane!
I put some music on my phone and we headed into the arena yesterday.  The music should be excellent motivation to keep going with arena sessions rather than getting bored ten minutes in.  In fact, we managed to sustain trot/canter circles and serpentines and direction changes for probably 25 minutes.  Woohoo!  My choices of music need to switch to those with a faster tempo.  Even so, they served as an excellent mental preoccupation and it's an experiment we'll keep working on.  (Aarene gives song suggestions here, now that I thought to look.)

Other convention notes included reassurance that some alfalfa is good for helping with ulcers (no, I do not want to switch to only straight grass), slowfeeding is also good prevention, turnout is ideal.  There were way, way more topics covered and things I took notes on, but migraines have left my memory a little bit lacking.

It was really lovely to get to see/talk to/socialize with all sorts of people, drop in on interesting seminars, and generally feel like I got something out of it.  Very worthwhile.
"Tied to a tree. Whatever."

This year I judged an obstacle rather than drag riding. Way better for Fetti's sanity even if she was full of herself on the way back to base.  She stood, well-behaved, tied to a tree for a bunch of hours. Except when she rolled with the saddle; then I was not quite so happy with her. Overall, though? Pretty good.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

February recap, March goals, convention!

First off: I will be at the AERC convention this weekend!  I would love to meet up with folks if anyone else is going - comment, email, whatever.  (It's harder to recognize me without the Haflinger.)

February was a pretty dull month.  Serious slump.  Unmotivated.  57 miles, two serious works, just the one where we stayed near 5mph.  One incident with the tree.  Blogging should step back up as we start actually doing stuff again!  I won't bother recapping goals.  They didn't happen, or if they did, they just managed to happen by themselves.

March I have higher hopes for. 

Mounting practice.  It's funny how anxiety is.  I used to hop up on giant horses in an English saddle with short stirrups weekly, sometimes daily.  That was totally fine.  Then I got used to just sliding onto Confetti (who needs stirrups when you're already higher than the horse?). 
I tried ground-mounting in a dressage saddle a few years ago.  The saddle started to roll.  That fear, unfortunately, has stuck.  Intellectually, I know the saddle is not going to roll.  Emotionally, it still feels like it might.  I have a 14hand pony and I'm too afraid to mount from the ground.

So.  This month, I want to work on using stirrups to mount.  I can use stirrups to mount from low mounting blocks, or high mounting blocks, or fences, or whatever.  There's fear about putting all my weight in one stirrup.  I want to fix that.

Tied in with that, we're going back to giving treats after mounting.  She needs to stand, not walk off, even if I'm anxiety-ridden and not holding her in one place. 

Long trots.  As was mentioned in the last post, it feels like it should be beneficial to continue our 'trot at any speed as long as possible' training, and gradually amp up the distance.  I can already think of ways to add a mile or two to the 8-mile loop. 

Rasp hooves weekly.  This didn't happen enough in February.  It needs to happen in March.  It's important to me that we start training in boots again, and to do that effectively, I need to be maintaining the trim between paid farrier visits.