Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mah truck :(

So I went and rode yesterday, in the outdoor in the Imus saddle. Well, I didn't ride much - we ended up doing a lot of groundwork beforehand, but I did eventually get to ride around. Still forming an opinion about the saddle, and I did orginally have more to say but my truck tried to fall apart on the way home.

I knew I'd been needing new brake pads soonish, but it was never a good time, what with the moving and the Champ dying and all these other miscellaneous expenses that managed to get bumped to the top of the line. But yesterday my truck started making really ominous grinding-metal noises when I turned the steering wheel, and definite bad-brake vibrations when I pushed the brake. So I worried about it all night.

We drove it over to a shop today and we're dropping just over $1000 on it. Needs new brake pads and rotors (ffffffff), a new U-joint, and I'm getting them to change the spark plugs too. I know, spark plugs are usually a home-mechanic level repair, but the #5 and #6 spark plugs are buried deep in the block behind the front driver's tire and brake assembly. They are due at 80k, and I was not looking forward to trying to do them myself.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Step 1a of Escape From The Arena is complete!

I am an outdoorsy rider at heart. Arenas are nice and all, especially when it's cold or rainy, but I am slowly going nuts riding in circles in the arena all the time. But Dixie's so spooky, I figure she'll leap sideways in front of a car and it's lights out for us.

Thus The Plan was born. I am getting in shape, and Mel does an inspirational (crazy) amount of running alongside her horse, so I figured I'd take her out a couple times on on foot. Do some walk/jogs and model calm behavior around traffic, mailboxes, loose dogs, etc. Today was Day 1.

We did 1.5 miles, round trip - not very far. But holy shit it was HOT. I am kind of a wuss about the heat; I got heatstroke when I was 16 and it took 12 years for me to mostly recover. I still can't tolerate heat like "normal" people. It was in the 80s, sunny, and about 90% humidity - it rained a tiny bit when I first got to the barn, so that touch of rain was evaporating the whole time we were chugging along.

I jogged a bit, but mostly I walked. My head is still throbbing, which means I almost overdid it with the tiny bit of jogging I managed. And of course I wore my stupid horrible worthless Ariat Terrains, which rubbed blisters on the balls of my feet and rubbed my heels. Poor me!

But Dixie did very well, and I'm very glad I walked her out. She is very spooky about traffic, could care less about dogs and mailboxes, and does not approve of a tree that had a plastic bag hung in it. We saw one bicyclist, who predictably freaked her out, and we saw a rare carnivorous groundhog.

Our route out anywhere from the barn leads about 50 yards down a very busy road, then onto much quieter roads. I shamelessly walked her through a yard for the busy road, and on the way back the homeowner and his daughter came out. I chatted with them for a long time, explaining what I was doing and answering horsey questions. He was totally cool with us walking on his lawn, yay! It was great for her - there were lots of cars zooming by about 10' away from us, and she went from half-panicked running in circles around me to somewhat irritable and walking in circles around me. When I believe she's not actually scared anymore, I'll insist on better behavior, but I won't punish her for being afraid of stuff.

Anyway, my head hurts and my feet hurts and my horse had another positive experience. I'll take it!

Monday, May 25, 2009

She's had a brain transplant!

Well, either a brain transplant or I've finally reached some kind of tipping point with Dixie. I feel like I bumble through life haphazardly and there's no way I have managed to be consistent and kind enough to deserve THIS from her, so it must be aliens.

Ok, today's saddle experiment was back in my saddle, re-rigged so it uses both rings on each side. A quick google doesn't turn up a good explanation, so I'll give it a stab and maybe one of yall knows the name of this? You take a long latigo and run it from the front ring, down to the girth, up to the back ring, back down to the girth, back up to the front ring, and tie off there. It puts the girth a skosh further back, and it pulls the back of the saddle tighter against the horse, which is good in my case.

I put the stirrups back on too >:(

She's still in heat but she managed to walk down the aisle without stopping to pee for every horse on the way. She was actually pretty sprightly and alert when I rode! I didn't manage to get her attention at first - lots of wandering around aimlessly. She meandered to a stop by a little spilled hay FOUR times, and every single time I just locked the reins so she couldn't drop her head to eat it and waited til she decided to pay attention to me again. The fifth time I got annoyed - locked the reins, nudged her side with my leg, then kicked her when she ignored me.

That got her attention! But here's the crazy part - she didn't flip out and bolt into a wall. She didn't suck up behind the bit or try to rip the reins out of my hands. She settled down and started working for me.

I finally got her on the bit, too. She has decided that it's ok if I hold the reins with enough tension that they don't flop in the wind. See what I mean? Aliens have transplanted her brain.

We've got a long way to go, but I feel like we've finally made a big step in the right direction.

Anyway after I rode I yanked the saddle off and hopped back on bareback. Just cause. I didn't post any more about riding bareback the other day because it was such a non-event - I got on, she was mildly confused, we walked around, I got off. Did the exact same thing again today.

I swear to god, if I'd tried to get on her bareback a year ago or 6 months ago and my foot had whacked her butt on the way over, she'd have thought I was trying to kill her and spun/reared/bolted. I'd have ended up in the dirt just like Julian. But lately it's ok if I do strange things to her.

I have been on Cloud Nine all day, yall.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

You win this round, Princess...

So I had a clever idea - I should ride without stirrups a bit, as a compromise between riding bareback and pounding her back with my buttbones, and riding with stirrups and not improving my balance. Clever, yes? I thought so.

Dixie is in heat again, but - I hesitate to say this and jinx it - but she's not losing her mind. She wanted to stop and flirt and pee for every horse in the barn, but she didn't have that crazy edge to her. Perhaps we're really getting somewhere!

I pulled the stirrups off the old saddle - they hang directly on the bars, so they'll come completely off - and stuck the saddle on my princess. She patiently waited at the block while I tried to figure out how to get on without stirrups. If she were shorter, or if she wasn't a living creature, I could've made it just fine, but I hesitate to fling myself at her like she's a rock climbing wall. So I got mad and decided hell with this, I'll just give her a bath.

I scrubbed at her tail for like 10 minutes - got lots of yellow suds, but no huge visible change overall. Her mane cleaned back up nicely! I put gobs of conditioner in her tail and very gently finger-combed it while it was conditioned, just to get it straightened a bit and get the dead hairs free.

She doesn't pose well, unfortunately. Also I only really scrubbed her mane and tail. It's all such a exercise in futility. (Cue ominous foreshadowing music...)

Sulky stare.

Then I realized I'd have to come home and blog about how I could not climb on my damn horse - who stood like a ROCK - without any damn stirrups and I decided we'd go for round two. I let her dry off mostly while she hand-grazed, then we went back in and I put the saddle on her again.

If the block was one step taller, no problem. If I was a graceful nymph who could vault lightly up there, no problem. I tried variations on flinging one leg over (got stuck on the cantle) and the belly-flop scramble (stuck in the belly flop). My amazingly patient mare just stood there, kind of confused about this strange new ritual but remarkably content to let me act like a retarded monkey.

Then I got super frustrated and yanked the saddle off her back and went storming back to the tack room, to grab Sara's saddle and just ride, hell with this no stirrup learn to balance nonsense. When I came back, seconds later... she was on her back.

My wet white horse was on her back in the stanky arena sand.

Rolling. Gleefully. Really grinding it in.

I threw up my hands and put her back in her stall. You win this round, Dixie. Tomorrow is a new day.

Here's the aftermath:

Friday, May 22, 2009


I just rode my silly mare BARE BACK. I swear I'm gonna write a big post, with pictures, real soon but I had to tell yall that.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Leprechaun horse

Had a nice ride again yesterday. Dixie is finally starting to figure out longeing - she doesn't get personally offended when I ask her to w/t/c in a circle on a line anymore, and she rarely freaks out and tries to run away from me.

I rode for just a little while, got her to pick up her head and calmly do some serpentines, then calmly pick up a faster walk, then I tried moving my hands down and out and wiggling the reins and ohmygod, she dropped her head and relaxed. Katphoti, DiJ, it's finally starting to work!

But then the depressing part. Dixie had gleefully laid down in some bright green manure, so I wanted to bathe her and try to get the huge green spots off her butt. She was fantastic in the wash stall - she's finally figured out the water doesn't hurt - but she is not white. :( How am I supposed to get grass/manure stains off of her? What is the Magic Horse Shampoo I'm lacking here?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'd like to be perfect right now, k thx?

Argh, I know I haven't updated in forever. Here's the quick recap:

Thursday was excellent!

Friday was terrible. Friday night the package from OSU arrived with Champ's hair and hoof impression, and I went into a deep sulking depression all weekend. I only pulled out of it, somewhat, after finishing off Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. He made a good case that nobody's actually very good at anything until they put in 10,000 hours of practice at it. This made me feel slightly better about my abject failure to turn a green broke horse into a calm, collected, willing partner in 30 days. Or my failure to turn myself into a fantastic, brave, fair and effective trainer/rider in 6 months.

So yesterday I slogged back out, yet again, to work on becoming a better rider and work on teaching my horse to, I dunno, do stuff. She was really quite good! And I had another huge revelation!

I can, pretty easily, unlock my arms and follow the motion of her head with the reins. I can also close my fingers to give her a rein aid. I could not do both at the same time. The reason she gets so pissed when I try to USE the reins is because whatever hand I activate freezes up and the bit yanks on her mouth. Sigh.

Once I figured that out, I spent a full hour yesterday working on following her head while I closed the fingers of a hand to activate an aid. She was much better, and I really feel like that is the main problem she has with the bit.

It's a really stupid lesson that took me a really long time to learn, but I'll never forget it, I bet. :)

Today we had a minor disagreement while I was grooming her before tacking up. Dixie thought her chest had been brushed enough, so she did that "quit touching me!" super-slow-exaggerated air-bite right above my skin. I thought that was completely out of line, so I screamed like an Ebola monkey and took a swing at her as she backed up. Then I threw both brushes at her, one at a time, and nailed her both times. Screamed the whole time too. Then I turned away from her, got completely calmed down, went and picked up my brushes, and groomed her entire body over again. She was a complete angel.

That's only, I think, the fourth time one of my horses has tried to bite me, and that's exactly how I handle it every time it happens. Champ tried once, Poppy tried twice (lunkhead!), and now Dixie's tried once. Screaming and acting like I'm going to kill the biting horse, then completely dropping the matter, usually fixes things permanently.

Anyway, once I finally rode, we did some not unrecognizable serpentines, some good speeding / slowing from my seat, and some actual straight lines down the scary side of the arena. Yay!

We're not perfect, and I miss my Champ, but we're muddling through things ok.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

At least she's not pregnant!

This is the best thing I can say whenever Dixie comes into heat - "at least somebody's stud didn't jump the fence and knock up my mare!" She is SO silly when she's in heat.

Yesterday we went OUTDOORS, even though she was in heat. I was rather concerned that she'd crash right through a fence or flip out about an invisible monster, so I rode her in the curb. That illusion of extra control gave me the courage to go outside with her. I have no doubt it is an illusion!

It was nice, though. Really reinforced in my mind all the things I like about the snaffle. I didn't really realize how nicely she was bending til I rode her in the curb again. Today I'm definitely going back to the snaffle.

Anyway. We rode in the outdoor arena, which is a square. I should try to count fence rails and estimate its size. It's not very big as far as speed arenas go, but definitely big enough to ride in. Dixie had the attention span of a very angry butterfly. When I brought her in from the pasture to brush her off, she came unglued with loneliness and screamed her head off. When we went back outside, she wanted to stop and pee and flirt with all the geldings on the other side of the fence. She wanted to eat grass. She didn't want to walk in the 1" deep totally translucent puddle. She did not want to go in the corner with the Invisible Mountain Lion. She did not want to listen to any aids at all under any circumstances.

Sadly for Dixie, she didn't get her way on most of these points. I insisted that she ride NEAR the Invisible Mountain Lion. She had to get her front feet WET, ugh. She got to graze for a long time at the end of our ride, but not before. When she'd ignore my aids and bolt for her buddies, I'd pull her around into a circle and make her run AWAY from them. She even had to rack for a while. Please, everyone take a moment and pity my poor mistreated princess.

When we were done, it was only about 30 minutes before evening feed, so I left her in her stall. One less horse for the BO to bring in! Dixie could not believe her misfortune. She love/hates the palomino next to her, and she started squealing and cow-kicking the wall to get his attention. He ignored her (because he was outside!) and she got furious and double-barreled the back wall of her stall. Argh. Please don't hurt yourself, mare. I hung out long enough to be sure she was just acting pissy, not actually having a meltdown, and I left her to sulk.

I hope she has forgotten her mistreatment yesterday. I hope she's coming out of heat already. We probably won't go back outside today; there's rain coming in. We're definitely riding in the indoor if we can't go out though!

Also, I'm sorry I haven't been posting all that regularly and responding to comments like I usually do. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

More lovely rides

Rode Friday and today - she was quite nice both times! It was a "better" ride Friday but I was quite pleased today too.

Friday I really started to understand the "riding back to front" concept. If I ride her with my legs and seat and save the reins to reinforce what I want, she's fine. She let me have the tiniest bit of contact too!

Yesterday I did a bunch of other stuff - farmer's market, haircut, dog park, exercising.

Today we really weren't feeling it, neither one of us. I couldn't really get her to pay attention and bend, and she wasn't trying very hard. Can't win them all. But! A horse cow-kicked the back of his stall, with adjoins the part of the arena we were riding in, and she tensed up just a bit and jumped forward one whole step and calmed right down when I said "Easy." Huge yay!

As long as it's not actually raining when I get out there tomorrow, I'm going to ride her in the outdoor and see how she does. If she flips out we'll go inside but I bet she'll stay with me. :)