Lease Day

Spring is here!

Last week’s lesson was fun and challenging. The most important exercise I learned was about flexion.

Exaggerated Flexion on a Circle

Instructor had me get Misty moving with lots of impulsion on a twenty metre circle. Then I had to take my inside hand all the way back to my hip to really bend Misty’s neck. Give with the outside rein enough for her to flex but without losing contact, and keep her on the circle with my inside leg. This proved… challenging. I kept letting her fall in. In between attempts I let her go straight and stretch out her neck with her nose near the ground. Instructor’s tips were to give the aid clearly, then let it happen. If I start nagging or fiddling, she’ll just put her head up and fall apart, so if that happens, go forward then start again. We did get a few awesome steps in each direction, which I was thrilled with. Misty is apparently quite a hard horse to get on the bridle. I look forward to trying this with Mr Bean next time I get to ride him, since I bet he’d be awesome at it.

*tweedle deedle time ripple to today’s lease day*

It was a gorgeous, sunny day today. 11 degrees and no wind. Somehow I was still the only one in the outdoor arena this morning. Misty was a brat at first and refused to walk up to the mounting block, then stopped repeatedly during warm up. After a couple minutes of arguing though we agreed that I was the leader. After some loose rein trotting and stretching, the canter warm up went great. Misty doesn’t even try to buck anymore. She offered right lead canter without too much trouble.

I worked on three exercises at the trot today. First we did circles with flexion like we learned in lesson last week. I had a bit of trouble judging how well we were actually completing the exercise, but it did feel a lot better than before. I was able to keep her on some semblance of a circle with my leg. In between bends I let her neck down, then switched direction. Next I tried for a bit of roundness. A few times I had to do a short canter transition to remind her to keep her feet moving. We did some figure eights so I could practice changing to my new inside leg and outside hand. I kept repeating to myself “hold the outside rein, keep it off her neck”. Finally I did a couple leg yeilds. Misty was unusually responsive and bendy by this point. The slightest movement from my hand and she flexed. I should try doing quick versions of these exercises in warm ups to get this responsiveness more often! The leg yields themselves were mediocre, though definitely way better than past attempts. I need to figure out how to get her moving her back legs in response to my aids. I’ll try to remember to ask my instructor tomorrow.

I didn’t do too much canter work, since I’d been doing a bit of canter already to keep Misty going forward. We did have a couple awesome transitions while doing figure eights though, and of course the pure joy of careening around the arena. I got immediate left lead transitions and right lead transitions within 3 steps, so that’s a big improvement.

After the ride I washed her tail and back legs. Look how pretty! (Also I finally updated my iPhone to iOS 7 and I swear it takes worse pictures now :( Realistically I probably just had dirt on the lens).

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Someone was unloading hay to the barn rafters and blocking our way out with the big scary truck, so we did a few carrot stretches in her stall. “Why you take picture instead of giving me treats?”

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Last on the agenda was a nice walk/graze. It’s definitely spring now, and the nearby paths get greener every week. We’re back to a pace of approximately 1 metre per 5 minutes since she has so much to eat. This tall grass wasn’t there last week:

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Apparently it’s horse catnip, because Misty went nuts for it. She didn’t even look up as a few dogs walked by barking.

Before going back inside, I took Misty to the wash pad and asked to her stand there for a minute. She was so good! She walked on with almost no hesitation, and stood mostly still. She snorted a little, but had a good sniff and seemed to settle down. I even pulled out the good treats, so she called it a win. I hope I can get her comfortable enough to give her some full-body quicksilver baths this summer!

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 Exercises, Lease Day, Lessons No Comments

A New Centre

So today I resolved to practice balancing in my new jump stirrup length. I warmed up at my normal length, then hiked them up. At first it was quite uncomfortable. I kept feeling like I was tipping up Misty’s neck, or that I would just topple off. Some things that helped me feel more comfortable were holding Misty’s mane to keep my hands moving, bending my knees, and consciously engaging my core. I definitely didn’t get it perfect at the walk or trot, but I think I made some big improvements. I did some posting where I went between two point and standing. We had a few great moments where she was very responsive to my leg, and I tried to keep it interesting for her by doing lots of turns, figure eights, and changes of direction.

The canter was amazing today. By this point I had the ring to myself, so I was able to barrel around without a care. We careened around corners, weaved back and forth, flew up the diagonal, and twisted our way through the centre. Misty had her ears pricked forward the whole time and seemed so happy. I can’t believe how far we’ve come. Two weeks ago I was getting to the point where I was almost scared to even try to canter. Now our transitions are snappy and I don’t tense up at all. By the end I was feeling quite comfortable in my shorter stirrups. I wasn’t quite staying up without touching the saddle at all, but I was able to go for eight to ten strides consistently before losing it.

Since we were having so much fun already, I popped her tack off and cooled her out bareback. She’s not the most comfortable, but it’s still awesome.

IMG_1888Ah, the joys of a grey horse that loves rolling in… everything.

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Bareback “selfie”!

 

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments

Canter NOW

It was a beautiful, sunny day today, with highs of 14. I was so excited to ride outside! The outdoor arena was still a little frosty when I arrived at 9:30am, so I took the time to wash Misty’s tail. Some workers were up on the roof drilling and dropping things. All the horses were pretty spooky, but Misty did very well. She pranced and backed up a few times, but she always calmed down and stood with me. Needless to say, she got quite a lot of cookies!

Here’s the result of her bath. Her tail isn’t quite “white”, but at least it isn’t full of poop and twigs. And I can get a brush through it again. I cleaned up her back legs a bit too, since she’s quite good at aiming her poop all over them.

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She got a shiny new blanket, too! I’ve never seen the 3 lesson horses with blankets that aren’t patched up and faded. I think she looks pretty striking. Also, look how glowing white she is! (shh, it has nothing to do with the photo being overexposed, nope).

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By the time I was done, the outdoor arena was sunny and warm. We had an amazing ride. After a long walk warm up, we did some nice trot. Then it was time to test out my canter trick. I mentally prepared myself – no wimping out, use the whip! I can do this! Deep breath… I asked nicely and clucked. She pinned her ears. I tapped her with the whip. She started to buck. I sat my butt down and pulled her head up. She went “what the crap… ok, canter”.  Wow. I grinned ear to ear as we cantered around a circle. Then it was back to trotting and walk breaks for a little bit. We didn’t do much hard work in the trot. A couple lame attempts at leg yielding, and some circles with bending in then out. Once she was nicely stretched out, I went back to canter. The trick worked again! Over and over I was able to get her cantering within a few steps of asking. She didn’t get one buck out the entire ride. We did some canter serpentines, and she was amazing. I didn’t have to use the whip at all after the first couple times. I couldn’t stop smiling.

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Misty says “I don’t like it when you figure out my tricks”.

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments

Another nice ride

Misty was an angel in her stall today. She stood calmly while I got her ready to go. I know there’s a lesson that ends at 10am and often the indoor is empty for a while after that, so I aimed to get there right at 10. That didn’t work out today. Someone else was starting just as I walked in. Luckily it was someone I really like. She’s friendly, a great rider, and it’s easy to share the whole ring with her. Hurray!

The walk went well. I let Misty meander around for a couple laps since it was cold. Then I took off her cooler and asked for more rhythm. She moved forward nicely. I focused on not nagging. Squeeze, let her keep the rhythm, squeeze again only if she slows down. She responded nicely. We had a few stalls where she decided to stand still, but we got going again.

She picked up the trot quite easily. I did a few walk trot transitions to get her listening. I’ve learned that also gets her moving in a faster trot, too. We worked on shortening and extending, bending, and roundness. I still have trouble feeling when she’s round, but I think I got a few steps.

Canter transitions were not good. We did a couple circles of fast fast trot instead. Then I remembered what Instructor said about how you have to half halt and take the reins, give her something to move into. So I pulled her back. Bam! She dropped into canter and I grinned from ear to ear. We cruised around once in two point as a reward – she loves going fast. I negotiated my space in the arena and tried not to be a bother on the other rider, and managed to do one figure eight canter exercise like we’d done in class last week. It went pretty well! As soon as I got a good transition, I gave her lots of “good girl”s and did one more bolt around the ring. Yay Misty!

She was still sweaty after walking around the ring a few times, so I traded her tack for her cooler and took her out for a walk. The groundwork is paying off. She stops quickly when I do and follows me around much more easily. When I turn, she turns. She even backed up with me while I shut the gate. Here’s her “I did good, where’s my treat?” face:

We found a little bit of green on the ground for her to eat. The only issue was the very scary horse-eating woodpecker hiding on a light post. She spooked a few times, but not too badly.

Horse Eating WoodpeckerCan’t wait for my lesson tomorrow!

 

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments

Happy Human

I showed up at the barn with no idea what kind of horse I’d be greeting. I was prepared for rearing, ear pinning, and twine breaking. Instead I got the sweet mannered angel I was used to. Misty was perfect while I groomed and tacked her. While I was sorting out the straps on her bridle, she turned her head and craned her neck in order to stick her face into the bridle. She even grabbed the bit with her lip and sucked it in. So cute! I gave her a big hug. Up to the arena we went, through leftover snow. The rider inside was on her way out, warning me that snow was falling off the roof and spooking horses. Misty stood nicely as I picked the snow clods out of her feet, then toddled along at my side to the mounting block.

The ride went well. I focused on praise. Every time she did something I asked, or even tried, I showered her with praise. She responded well. I got a nice stretchy trot out of her. I did struggle a little bit with roundness and getting her on the bridle. She was much more content to run around with her nose on the ground. I practiced steering without my reins and controlling speed with my core. Then we went to the canter. The transitions weren’t exactly speedy, but she didn’t buck at all. I had trouble picking up the right lead. Even on a circle, she kept choosing the left lead. I repeated a few times until I got it, then we cruised around the arena in half seat for fun. I finished up with trying a few steps of collected canter. This proved tricky, and resulted in lots of breaks to trot, but we got it. I hugged her and told her she was good so many times.

Friday, February 28th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments

Miss grumpy pants

Misty sticking her tongue out

This is what Misty thinks of your silly “riding” ideas

I was nervous as I pulled up to the barn today. Last week, Misty was a nightmare. She was rearing in her stall and managed to break the baling twine twice. She’s often grumpy in the arena, but I’ve never had her be anything but perfect in her stall. I thought maybe she was hurting, since she’s never been like that before. I opted to take her for a walk in hand rather than ride. But today, she didn’t get to pull that excuse again.

I got out of my car and imagined putting all my stress and anxiety in the trunk and locking it inside. If I’m afraid she’ll be naughty, then she will be. That’s not fair. I strode up to her stall thinking happy thoughts and gave her a big hug. As soon as I tied her up, she gave me a wild eye and tossed her head. She didn’t rear, but she danced around as if to say “I trust you, but I’m really scared right now”. I gave her a big pat to reassure her. Once she relaxed a little, I untied her and just looped a lead rope around to provide a little resistance. She stood nicely the rest of the time while I finished grooming and tacking. Yay!

With that victory completed, we went up to the ring for the actual ride. My goal today was to try tying the reins and riding with one or no hands. I didn’t make it to no hands, since Misty was really dropping her head and they kept sliding down her neck, but I alternated one handed riding. It was lots of fun. I always seem to have better balance when I let go of the reins, since it makes me focus on my core.

We got some good walk work in, including stopping facing the rail and doing a quarter turn on the forehands. We’re pretty terrible at them right now, but I did get her moving off a tiny bit faster today. I’ll have to keep practicing that a couple times each warm up. I think it will really help our leg yield if I can get her moving off my leg more easily. The trot was pretty mediocre, and she was none too happy to go forward. We finished up with a couple nice cruises around the ring in canter. I always love that part. I get up in two point and it feels like we’re flying. Once each way around, then I let her walk and cool off. I got off grinning like an idiot and gave her a huge hug.

The sun was bright and even a little warm, so Misty got out for a well deserved graze. She performed admirably when an off leash dog came running up yapping. The grass was way more interesting anyway. I felt a huge amount of trust today. Normally the back of my head is alert for scary horse eating monsters and making sure Misty doesn’t step too close to pot holes. Today I just pet her and enjoyed her company. We were both much more relaxed. I mixed in some ground work, which I’ve been doing for a past couple weeks and has really been paying off. Misty now stops right beside me when I do, and is improving at walking forward with me. Today I got her to take a couple steps backward with me, and to move her hind quarters quickly and freely when I ask. Misty very much enjoys getting her face stuffed with treats, so this works well for both of us.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s lesson!

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments

Making the most of my lease days

I started leasing Misty in August of 2013. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to spend time just hanging out with “my” horse. I take her out to graze, wash her tail, and do groundwork with her. I get to lease her on Wednesdays, then I have my lesson on Thursday.

"my" horse Misty

The struggle I’m having now is how to really make the most of my riding time. I have come to appreciate how important it is to have someone on the ground telling you when you look like a floppy chicken. Just coming up with a lesson plan is a challenge, since I have trouble knowing how long to keep doing one exercise, when to move on, when to stick to my guns and keep asking, and so on.

I’ve decided to start picking one goal for each lease ride. Sometimes it will be a mantra like “keep your hands quiet” that I’ll work on through all gaits. Other times it could be “improve canter transitions” or “practice leg yields in walk and trot”. I think picking a goal will help me feel I’m accomplishing something without just riding around in circles for an hour.

I’ll also try to commit to keeping a log here of my rides. Things that worked, things that didn’t, and especially tips and homework from my instructor on lesson day.

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments