Monday, September 22, 2008

On to Saturday

Ok, so I drove home at 4 am and crashed for a couple hours, then woke up and headed to my lesson. Except it wasn't my usual lesson; Hardy's mom is in town from Germany so I took a groundwork lesson with the barn owner instead. She does Dennis Reis stuff.

Yall have figured out that I'm a pretty sweet redneck but I am in fact a redneck. I kinda roll my eyes when I see "natural horsemanship" stuff, not because I fundamentally disagree with it but because many natural horsemanship devotees are, uh, total wusses who let their horses walk all over them and never ride. Well, I will say that most NH stuff coddles horses a bit more than I do, so to a certain extent I fundamentally disagree.

Anyway. It's not like I want to compete at dressage, but I'm learning a hell of a lot from those lessons. I definitely know I'm far from perfect with horses, and I'm sure there's something I can learn from Dennis Reis. So I woke up, only slightly drunk, and went to a NH groundwork lesson.

The first mini-lightbulb thing I learned was how to ask a horse to change sides politely. I just normally ask my horses to stand still, and I walk behind them or under their necks to get from side to side to do whatever - brush, trim feet, cinch up saddle. Dennis Reis makes the horse move while you stand still. It's kinda cool.

You're standing next to your horse at liberty (in the round pen, obvs, cause it's NH). You put an arm under the horse's neck and gently move his head to the other side of your body. The horse just kinda lifts his neck up and back like you're a fence post and he's responsible for getting around your body. I like this idea, because psychologically the horse should be moving for the owner. It shouldn't be my place to scurry around the horse unless I want to - the horse should be moving for me cause I'm the one in charge.

The second mini-lightbulb was the psychological impact of roundpenning. We did role playing. I know! It's so dumb! But it worked.

We split up into pairs - there were three students and the instructor. Each "horse" picked a circle and wouldn't go outside of it. Each "human" walked just barely behind the horse's shoulder, in a tiny circle in the center. May I stress again just how DUMB this felt?

I started walking in a large circle. The instructor started walking in a very small one. I felt like a retard for half a circle, then I realized she was following me. No matter how fast I walked, I couldn't get away from her. She stepped slightly ahead of me, and I understood, viscerally, why horses slow or turn when you get ahead of them in the round pen.

Look, I know that whole explanation sounded dumb. It FELT dumb. But it really hit home on a gut level. I understand how and why roundpenning works so much better now.

... I still can't take the man seriously with that crazy handlebar mustache. More tomorrow!

Woah, is it Monday already?

I had an action-packed weekend and I really need to start posting before I start forgetting!

Ok, Friday. I woke up and I was all "yippee I'm a lawyer!" so of course I had to go for a ride.

I got out there pretty early and found my Champ and saddled him up. We went on a looong ride, like 2.5 hours, exploring all the trails on the property. Champ found one particular kind of greenery that he really likes. It's not grass, it's some little green groundcover that looks almost like thyme. I tried to tell him that he is a horse and supposed to be a grazer, but he just flipped an ear back at me and kept browsing his new favorite forb. Uppity horse.

We saw a wild hen turkey! We came around a bend in the trail and she was about 25 feet away. She took off and flew away and Champ tried to convince me we'd just seen a Terror Bird, but I was having none of it.

After my ride, I went back home and chilled out for a while. Then my friends called and I ate dinner with them, then we went over to another friend's house and played cards til 4 am and drank a lot of beer. It was a ton of fun.

More later.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Verdict is in

I am an official Mississippi lawyer. Woohoo!

They didn't post the results last night, which made for a very long night. Or this morning, or at lunch, but it's ok cause they're up now.

Kinda in shock. Law. Yer. For reals.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A lesson, a lightbulb, and a deer.

My dad's pretty cool. Generally, he supports whatever I want to do - from "let me actually physically help you with this" to "I don't understand it, but I'm right behind ya!" Horses are definitely in the latter category. They're big, he doesn't understand their behavior, they're expensive, and they're dangerous. He'll ask about them, but it's more out of bemused politeness than any real desire to hear the answer.

And he really doesn't understand the whole lesson thing. It's not snobbiness about dressage, it's just that he plain doesn't understand what else I could possibly have to learn. I don't fall off (much), the horses do (roughly) what I want, end of story. About every ten days he asks if I'm through with my lessons yet. I keep telling him it's something you can keep learning your entire life, but he has no frame of reference and you can tell whatever I say doesn't really sink in. Ahh, well.

I'm certainly not "through" taking lessons. I was thinking about it Sunday - not in a "am I really getting my money's worth out of this" sense, but more of a "I wonder what I am learning" sense. Then I had my lesson, and I learned two things.

The first thing we did - the VERY FIRST THING after I got on Clipper - was a turn to the left at a walk around Hardy, the instructor. I'm always odd and clumsy when I first start a lesson, and I muddled up the first turn. I activated my left rein, looked to the left, and asked for a walk. My right rein was flappin in space, probably so loose it was banging Clipper's neck. Clipper started wobbing off in a strange oval, Hardy said "pick up your outside rein!," I picked up my outside rein, and KA-BLAM!, Clipper started bending perfectly.

It was a lightbulb moment. More like a lightning bolt moment, really. It was exactly what I've been reading about for what, two years now? The outside rein contains the energy of the horse and supports the bend. The outside rein supports the bend. I can't tell you how many times I've read that, or something like it, and puzzled over it and mentally shrugged my shoulders. There's a thousand more little lightbulbs waiting for me - reading dressage without ever doing it is like reading fiction - but there's one down. Too cool.

Then we walked and trotted in a bunch of circles in one half of the arena. I still make mostly wobbly circles, or lose my impulsion, or my legs start flapping around like a barrel rider, but I'm improving. And again, since I was noticing it, I could tell that when I got it all together and asked for a bend with my reins and legs just so we'd bend, me and Clipper, smoothly. I can even kind of almost feel when my outside leg is right, how it helps contain his butt. Yay!

We were working in half the arena because a kid on a pony was having a lesson in the other half. The pony in question doesn't like other horses and apparently will kick any horse that comes near her. Anyway, the kid's lesson finished a little before mine and Hardy wanted me to trot around the entire arena and do voltes in the corners or something. So off we went!

I swear to god I didn't ask for a canter depart. I just squeezed no harder than I'd been doing all morning and asked for a TROT. Clipper, for whatever reason known only to horses, took off like greased lightning. As soon as we hit the first turn, he settled down into a canter, but I was trying to grab reins and sit down and not lose stirrups or fall off or whatnot and it took two laps before I could even hear what the instructors were saying. "Sit DOWN" was the gist of it, but then we were on the long side and Hardy yelled "outside rein!" and I just barely pulled the outside rein and we skidded to a halt.

I scratched Clipper's neck and apologized for whatever I'd said to him that made him decide to do THAT and we turned and walked quite sedately to the middle of the arena, where all the instructors were standing trying not to turn white or purple or green. I just kinda laughed and said "told you I don't fall off much!" and we started trying to figure out what brought that on. Hardy didn't think I'd done anything wrong, per se. He thinks maybe it was just suddenly having the whole arena, plus that we were pointing towards the gate and going past some trees. I privately suspect that Clipper just wanted to see if I'd fall off or get the lesson over with any faster, cause that's how horses roll.

Anyway, my calves aren't perfect but they're getting there. My hips are still waaay too stiff and thus the bouncing. Bouncing is no good. "Must quit bouncing" is the second thing I learned in my lesson. Obviously I still haven't gotten off my ass and done any yoga. Swear to god, tonight I will.

After all that excitement, I went over to the field and grabbed Champ and we went on a nice sedate trail ride. Found some more trails leading off to a different pond. It's SO pretty back there - next time I'll bring my camera and take more pictures. On our way back out, we flushed a good sized doe. She went bouncing off while we sedately admired her. Cersei smelled her trail and thought it was pretty exciting but came right back when she realized Champ and I weren't going to chase the deer with her. She's a wonderful dog.

And Champ's a wonderful horse. He gave me some "what the hell are you doing that for, woman?" ears when I practiced riding with my calves wrapped around him, but he quickly realized I wasn't expecting anything different from him. I think it is easier to post with more leg contact.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Really hard to win, part 2

After the debacle with Poppy I was still feeling perky so I decided to ride Dixie. She was easy to catch and totally fine with the saddle and bridle, but she refused. to. stand. still. Pretty frustrating to have that horrible habit back again.

I tricked her into standing, actually. She was standing near the truck, wondering about the bits of alfalfa pellets that Poppy had left. I eased her over near the tailgate, climbed on my bumper, and slipped on her back from the off side. She bolted. Oh great, we're back to bolting too.

I rode it out for a while. She wasn't steering at all, so we were playing chicken with large trees. (She does have a lot more sense than Poppy, and I made sure we weren't near any clotheslining-height trees.) If we were pointing in a direction she didn't want to go, she would grudglingly halt for a few seconds before she'd try to spin. If we were pointing in a direction she did want to go, i.e. towards the other horses, she just walked / running walked / racked / galloped towards them. All I could do was gallop her in a circle til she was facing away from the others, then ask for a halt and I'd get at least a slow down or maybe even a momentary halt. Through all of this, her ears never swiveled back to "see" me.

I wasn't worried, for whatever that's worth. My seat was awesome. I never felt off-balance or nervous (except for one time when I really thought she'd run into the house rather than stop, but I refused to back down and she did, in fact, stop.)

Once I realized she wasn't just blowing off steam - that she was, in fact, not going to turn or stop or do much of anything for me - I got off. I lunged her, exactly the same as Poppy. Afterwards, she was completely calm - until I moved from in front of her head to near the stirrup. Argh.

I tricked her the exact same way, with the alfalfa in the truck bed, and climbed on again. We bolted some more. I thought dark thoughts about how horrible I am with horses. Why do I bust my ass to feed these guys when obviously I can't teach them anything at all? I have nightmares about their health. I take lessons. I buy books. I read everything I can find. But despite it all, I am a horrible horse rider.

We screeched to a halt by the truck again. I got off and sulked for a while. Obviously none of my trying mattered. Best to give up now.

Dixie stared at me. She obviously was trying to use her horse telepathy to tell me to please sell her. I sulked some more. She kept staring.

But she wasn't actually trying to freak out and run off. Maybe she didn't hate me?

She started pawing. Not trying to yank the reins out of my hands and run away, just standing stock still and pawing. Like she was pissed that we were still here, by the truck, being boring.

I'm pretty dense but eventually I can figure things out. I fished Champ's bridle, with the nice mild curb bit, out of the back seat. Took the other bridle off of Dixie, scratched her sweaty itchy face for a minute, and slipped Champ's bridle on. She dropped her head and opened her mouth for the bit. I got the straps adjusted (three holes smaller for her than for him) and flipped the reins over her head.

Stepped back near the stirrup. She shifted her weight. I picked up the reins and said "Ho." She stood still. I swung up. She stood still. I got my right foot in the stirrups. She flicked an ear back at me. Touched her sides and we were off. Picked up the reins and pulled back, gently, and we stopped.

She wasn't perfect, by any means - she still really thought we should go ride in circles around her friends - but she was about 700% better than before. We rode til the sun had gone completely down and the last light was fading. She was FINE. Giving me ears occasionally, to let me know she knew I was up there. Steering mainly off of legs, with just a bit of rein pressure to remind her that I meant something. Stopping when I picked up the reins and made contact.

I finally took us back to the truck and got all the tack off of her. She hung out while I rubbed her itchy face. Stayed while I loaded the truck. Followed me to the round pen where I picked up my lead rope. I kept telling her to shoo, to go find Champ and Poppy, but she just followed me around like a friendly stray dog. Finally, when it was clear that I was getting in the truck to leave, she wandered off and started grazing.

It was a pretty awesome end to a pretty horrible horse day.

I'm left wondering why the hell I want to ride her in a snaffle? I mean, I know the big deal about snaffles - I totally understand now how little lateral control you have with a curb - but why do I care so much about riding her in a snaffle? I don't understand why she so obviously prefers a curb, but she sure as hell doesn't even know I'm on her back with the snaffle. Horses! Argh!

Some days it's really hard to win, part 1

I was going to say "some days I just can't win," but you know, I did snatch a minor victory from the jaws of defeat at the last moment.

First, Poppy.

Poppy treed me. Like a total fucking noob I let him sidestep close to a tree and then he just charged right the fuck under it and I had to grab branches and slide off. ARRRRGH!

But let's start at the beginning. I found my horses, slipped a halter on Poppy, and walked him over to my truck. He was not enthused at the get-go and kept trying to lock up on me and refuse to move. I was undeterred and insisted he come with me. Got him to the truck, tied him loosely to a cleat on the side of the truck, gave him some alfalfa pellets, and got the tack out. Went to toss the blanket on his back and he EXPLODED like I was attacking him with a wolverine. Somehow he charged around me, STEPPED ON MY SADDLE, and ended up on the other side of me rolling his eyes and snorting. I cussed him, moved the saddle way the hell out of the way where it should've been to begin with, let him smell the blanket, and eased it toward his back again. Another exploding snorting dancing crazy act. I'm kind of stupid so I tried AGAIN and you know what? He did it again.

It was obviously an act and he just didn't want to work. He was oozing resistance out of every pore of his body. Just as fake as when he pretends to switch his brains off and acts like he doesn't know what leg pressure means anymore.

I thought about it for a minute. Untied my horse (at least he didn't break the truck, thank god) and walked him over to the round pen. Picked up all my tack and took it over there. Lunged the big bastard.

I don't think that you have to lunge a horse til it's tired or even til you "took the edge off." I think lunging is really about showing the horse that you are in fact the lead mare and you can and will make him move his feet. My lunge whip (or lead rope, or big stick, whatever I have) is just an extension of my "teeth," and my arms and body language are my "ears." I'm showing the horse that I control his feet, so I don't do a lot of lunging or even a lot of full circles. I do more half-circles than anything else, mostly trotting but sometimes I'll try to tone down my energy and get a walk. If the horse kicks at me while turning he gets to canter for a while. Poppy didn't have to canter much. He kept one ear on me the whole time, and as soon as his turns got really snappy and he started licking and chewing a bit I let him come in to me. I snapped the lead rope on, picked up the saddle pad right there in the middle of the arena, and pitched it right on his back. He didn't even TWITCH. The saddle went on just as easy. Then I picked up the bridle and he tossed his head straight (about 8') up in the air, so he got to go trot around a little more. Called him back in, offered the bridle again, and he left his head at the right height and opened his teeth for me. He's not actually stupid, just lazy.

Then we walked very calmly out of the round pen, over to the chair, I climbed on board, and off we went.

Unsurprisingly, Poppy was pretty responsive. We'd already gotten most of the fightin' out of the way. I had to whop him once with the whip, but it was more like a dance than an actual conflict. We were walking in a direction he didn't particularly want to go, and he stopped. I squeezed, he flopped an ear at me. I thumped, he ignored me. I reached back and gently whacked him with the whip - didn't even use my wrist and flip it so it stung, just kinda whacked him like I was holding a stick. He swiveled his ears at me and took off at a fast walk.

Then we wandered down by the pond so Cersei could jump in and get a drink of water. The other horse were on the far shore. Cersei had just jumped in, and I wanted Poppy to stand still facing the lake for maybe 15 seconds. He hollered for his friends (which should've been my first warning) then spun around and I squeezed the reins and reminded him to woah. He stood still for a second, sidestepped two steps to the left (that was my HUGE RED FLAG) and then started walking. Straight towards the tree. I tried to haul him off to the right but he sensed victory and ignored me for the two crucial steps he needed. I grabbed a handful of branches and swung (gracefully, believe it or not) down to the ground. Even landed on my feet. But Poppy was 10 feet away, hollering for his herd and trotting into the trees.

When the red flag went up, I should've immediately distracted him by asking him to move off, either straight ahead, to the right, or spinning to the left. Anything to take his mind off of "oh god my herd" and get him thinking about me again. At least that's my postgame analysis. Anybody disagree?

Anyway, as soon as my feet hit the ground I thought "god dammit he's gonna step on the reins and hurt his mouth." Then, "aaaaand he's gonna break my reins!" Oh well, that's why I have leather reins, I'd rather the reins break than the horse. So I sighed and followed Poppy back over to the other horses. I took the long (i.e. not forested) way, and when I got there he was back near Dixie. With a loop of reins running between his legs and back up to the saddle. Poor guy.

I called him over and untangled him. (At least they didn't break!) Then I looked at his mouth, but it wasn't cut, but I wasn't sure if it was hurt. I was torn - do I get back on, so he doesn't think rides are supposed to end that way? Or do I call it quits, rather than getting back on and yanking on his (possibly? probably?) bruised mouth? In the end I erred on the side of caution - he almost certainly stepped on the reins for them to end up between his legs like that, and I really don't want to HURT him.

Any thoughts on today?

I feel like this post is a giant wall of text already, so I'm gonna make it a two-parter. Stay tuned for part two, which details how my spotted mare makes me want to give up horses entirely... until I switch bits again.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I love Mississippi

I went and got the ball rolling on the new apartment in Olive Branch today. Then, since I HAPPENED to be out there I went to the horses.

I needed some horse time. I don't usually bitch about "real life" here and I don't really intend to.. but this waiting-on-bar-results looking-for-job stuff totally sucks and is stressing me out majorly.

So it was Champ day. I get along so well with him. He is an annoying horse in many ways, very opinionated, but he also calms me down. I can get on him pretty upset, ride for a while, and get off feeling great. The other horses I hesitate to ride when I'm upset, because I don't want to "ride angry," but Champ always mellows me out.

I brought the camera and took some pictures. Mississippi for all its problems is a wonderful place. It's September, and I have with any luck two more months of really pleasant riding. At least a month, probably two, before the first frost and the grass thinks about maybe going dormant. It won't snow til January, if it snows at all, and the ground will only be frozen for maybe two months. I feel sorry for yall up there in the frozen north!

So it's a picture post. Here we go - lovely new (very short) trails! This is the "trailhead," right behind the horse pasture.


Here's one of the ponds.

The ripples are Cersei. She's swimming around somewhere.

This one's a little blurry because Champ was jigging around. He is also giving me the "WTF?! Why have we stopped!" ear. Obviously I am stupid and he is just trying to protect me from the wolves in the forest.


These next few pictures are on the way back. The part of the property near the road has a double fence - barbed wire near the road, about 12' of mowed grass, and hot wire for the interior fence. I love the setup - hotwire works and all, but Poppy is like a force of nature and if he ever decides to lumber on thru that one puny hotwire, he'll probably pull up at the big tall barbed wire fence. Anyway, Champ and I were in the alley between the two fences, looking left.

A little further down the road:

The rest of the herd had come up to us on the right, inside the hotwire.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dressage is hard, yall

Back to this morning and my dressage lesson. Chrissy is fighting with her husband about whether or not they spend the money on lessons for her or something for him. I suspect she will win and end up taking lessons again, but this week I was on my own. I was back on Clipper the Arab, who is just such a sweet fellow.
I am beginning to understand the value of a schoolmaster horse. He knows what he should be doing, and if I halfway manage to cue him right he'll do it. Some of the stuff I'm learning, I just couldn't do if I had to argue with the horse about it.

I got to canter today, wheee! Cantering properly is hard. Or maybe it's just the horse I'm on - I'm not entirely sure yet.

I think anybody who teaches herself to ride ends up with some odd habits. I've told yall that I had a hard time learning to take up any contact at all, that I prefer to just throw the reins away and neckrein. Well, I'm getting the hang of light contact, but now I have to learn to use my legs too. The horses I ride all (well, aside from Poppy, who is just a very large tabula rasa) have very soft sides. The way you get a walking horse to walk is to just barely squeeze its sides. The way you get it to gait faster is to use a little more leg. If you actually wrap your legs around a walking horse, you are going to get its fastest running walk or rack. So I'm used to balancing with my stirrups and my thighs, but never ever letting my calves touch the horse unless I want more speed.

We worked on actually cueing walk/trot for a while today. Keeping my legs on the horse's sides and doing that tiny gentle squeeze for every step is WEIRD. Clipper is tiny, and it's hard for me to get my calves "on" him. You'd think it would be easier to wrap my legs around a smaller horse, but it's actually harder. Champ has an enormous barrel chest, Poppy is a small furry elephant, and even Dixie has a big barrel. I'm used to riding big horses.

I'm not really making excuses - it's new stuff, it's hard for me to get my brain and body to cooperate, and I'm ok with that. But it is definitely weird new muscle movements to get my calves where they need to be on such a small horse. I know I can stay balanced on Champ pretty well. Clipper? Well, the first time we cantered I bounced like the saddle had springs, but the second time was slightly better.

Stuff I need to work on this week:
  • More posting. I had some good trot sessions on Champ last week, and I feel like I"m getting my groove back, but I'm still not where I want to be. It's surprisingly hard to steer, keep the impulsion up, AND keep my legs in the right place. Two outta three ain't bad... but I can do better.
  • Wrap calves around horse while cantering. This is a lightbulb idea for me. I have only ever seen barrel racers run their horses, and it involves a lot of flapping legs.
  • Yoga. Dammit. I am so lazy. My horses deserve a better rider and really if I'd just sit down and do 10 minutes of yoga a night my joints would loosen up so nicely. Must fight the lazy.


Lots of stuff to post today, but we'll start with Poppy.

So after my dressage lesson, I went to TSC. I tried to be good, really I did, but the most direct route to the horse stuff took me past the $5 clearance summer clothes. Thank god there wasn't much left in my size and I only bought a (warning: I am a redneck) John Deere girlie t-shirt. It has sequins! And a purple dressage whip, and a bone for Cersei who was patiently waiting in the truck. Total damage was under $20.

Then out to the field! I took a bunch of pictures - I'll link them in a post later, but the set is here for those of you who are curious about horses in a house.

Poppy was not thrilled about being ridden again. He was somewhat confused, actually, that we were doing the silly thing where I sit on him yet again! But he's a sweetheart so he went along with it. Stood nicely while I got mounted, stood nicely til I asked him to walk, and walked off like a gentleman. We went over near the house, then I asked him to walk away and he was all "what no way." I asked him again, thumping him a little harder with my heels. Then I smacked him with the dressage whip and his ears swiveled straight back to me like "HOLY SHIT" and he trotted off in the direction I wanted him to go. I wasn't asking for a trot, but I didn't correct him for it.

We circled around down by the pond, then walked back to the house and stood for a minute. Then I asked and squeezed and he ignored me. I asked and thumped and he ignored me. I asked and whacked and he got really pissy and bucked away from the house.

Poppy bucking is pretty hysterical. He never bucks more than two or three inches off the ground, and he never bucks with his front legs too - just little kicks with the rear legs. Bucking scares the piss out of me, but I just keep telling myself that if I get bucked off of Poppy I really don't have any business riding at all. I have ridden more jarring trots than his bucks.

Anyway, Poppy was clearly very annoyed that I was telling him what to do and he bucked away from the house. When he quit bucking I told him to keep walking and squeezed and he kept walking.

We made a bunch of little circles around trees and stuff near the house. I just wanted to work on "go where I want you to go, when I tell you to do it." He has that amazing green-horse ability to walk or trot in the direction he wants to go regardless of where his neck is pointed, but I persevered. He bucked once more, but I only had to whack him the first two times. He's not stupid and he obviously figured out that I only ask nicely twice before I whack. After I got two nice circles going where I wanted him to go, I called it quits.

I'm pretty sure it was the right point to quit. I was all jazzed up that he was figuring it out and started thinking of a nice clearing a couple hundred yards away we could go ride in and then I thought "why push it?" and decided to stop. He had done well and I think as long as I keep riding, I can't take it too slow. Ignoring him is taking it too slow, and doing nothing but groundwork is taking it too slow, but if I'm actually riding him, we'll get where we need to be eventually. So I quit while we were ahead.

Poppy huffed off as soon as I took off his tack, but within 5 minutes he'd forgiven me and was back in my face begging for attention. I scrithed him for a bit and told him I'd be back later and took off.

I'm still very interested to hear yall's comments about him. Am I doing right? What do I do to fix the gumby-neck trotting sideways thing? Just ignore it? Sara, what does Leeandra think?

Anyway, there is an equine chiro coming tonight and I'm going to get him to look at Dixie. There's nothing obviously wrong with her, but I would be surprised if she's not a little messed up from all the bad riding she's endured and the pads she wore for a year. So I'm headed back out to the field later this evening.

Friday, September 5, 2008


I rode Poppy and did not even come CLOSE to dying.

Poppy's new bit came and it fits, BARELY. It's a 6" hanging cheek french link. (Can't remember if I said that last week or not.) If his stupid head gets any bigger he is going to need a 6.5", ugh. His lips barely touch the edges of the rings. I will probably get him some bit guards to make sure the rings don't start pinching him. He has a lovely soft mouth and I don't want to mess that up.

And I started riding him in my western-ish saddle. I rode him a couple times last year in that saddle, then I decided he was getting too big so I started riding him in a draft-sized Aussie. You know what? I HATE THAT SADDLE. That saddle is the source of a lot of my fear about riding Poppy. Stupid fucking Aussie.

The Aussie has like 4" of padding, which means Poppy is effectively a hand taller when I'm riding him in it. And the Aussie has a slick seat - a really deep bear-trappy slick seat, but a VERY slick seat nonetheless. And the Aussie is extremely wide and makes Poppy feel a lot broader than he really is.

So I've been looking really closely at Poppy and Champ. Poppy's back is slightly broader than Champ's, but not too bad. I threw the usual saddle on Poppy last week and it fits ok - not perfect, but good enough to walk/trot around in.

So. Normal saddle, bit and bridle that fits. I dragged a chair over to him and climbed aboard. We did a little bending - very soft responsive mouth. We did a little ambling - so far so good. We made one calm circuit around the run-in-house and ambled back over to the other horses. Then we stopped.

Here's the "HELP??" part of the post. Where the hell is the gas pedal? How do you motivate a horse to go?

Poppy has always been the opposite of my other horses. I don't know whether it's just him or if it's a drafty trait, but he just plants his feet and will not move sometimes. He's UNSPOOKY. Incredibly UNSPOOKY. Nothing I can do on his back will startle him into movement if he's decided to stop. He won't even lunge right unless I have the lunge whip in my hand and I'm close enough to him to pop him with it.

I worked around this in the past by getting him out on the trail with one other horse to follow. Even Poppy doesn't like to get left alone on the trail. But there's nobody to ride with me here - my only choices are to work it out in the pasture with the other horses or lead him to the trails and work it out there.

But how do I work it out? I don't want to fuck this up and end up with dead-sided horse, or a horse that's scared of me. And I don't want to keep letting HIM decide when to stop. I've got the tack I need, and I think I've got my mind ready, but I'm not sure what to DO now. Any suggestions?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Picture time

Oh, first, before I forget - I de-wormed everything today. Cats, dog, horses. Ivermectin for the horses.

Here's some Poppy Pictures. He's starting to grow in his winter coat, so he's an odd brindle - burned yellowish-brown summer hairs mingled with jet-black winter hairs. He doesn't fade quite as dramatically as Brego, but he definitely looks more bay than black by August.


I got out the tape. He's a shorty - 16 hands, give or take an inch. But he sure is broad! I am really surprised that he hasn't gotten taller. Well, it's probably for the best - he is plenty large.


Look at that pretty face!