Sunday, March 21, 2010

First Day of Spring, First Trail Ride of the Season 2010

What an incredible day!  The high hit 74 which meant poor G was quite sweaty by the time we got back.  But since it was our first trail ride of the season, we kept it to a walk, flat walk, and I did allow him to pace a little (just a little).  It just felt incredible, the whole ride.

Prior to heading out I asked if either horse liked to cross the bridge and they both responded that they'd get down and walk across.  I thought okay I can always let G follow them over.  But we were leading down the trail and when the cement bridge came into view G didn't hesitate and just kept on walking.  Meantime, both riders had dismounted.  Good boy G!!!  He got to hear that a lot yesterday, as he really was a good boy.  

Lots of spots are still under water due to how high the river is, so we stuck to the high roads/trails.  I didn't say the words out loud as I was afraid I would jinx us, but we didn't see one ATV or motorcycle.  It made for a really peaceful ride.   

It just felt so good to be back in the trail saddle and out in the woods again.  I know we were both getting tired of arena riding.   I thought I'd be sore today as its been awhile since I've ridden and hour and 45 five minutes, but I feel pretty good today.  Maybe its the smile that's still plastered on my face, lol.  

Since I didn't get a picture of us under saddle to share, I decided to take a little video of us b-bopping down the trail.  Enjoy the ride ~ I sure did! 

(in case the embedded video doesn't buffer right here's a direct link:  Spring Trail Ride - You Tube Video

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dressage Lesson 3/17/10

Another thing that I will miss when we move is working with our trainer Debbie.  She has been such a trooper learning about gaited horses and she is the most positive person I've ever worked with.  Unfortunately she only travels if there are 2 or more students at the barn.  Since the new barn owner also teaches dressage, there is no way for Debbie to pick up a new student there (not fair to the barn owner).  My hopes are that Val is as good and positive as Debbie. 

Our lessons have just gotten better and better.  G is finally holding a shoulder in for more than 4-5 strides, which means I'm getting more consistent with my aids; while he's getting stronger.  I finally feel like I'm holding my position better and I can feel the difference it makes in G's performance ~ especially at the canter.  We had the best upward and downward transitions and G really worked hard mentally and physically.  He proved to me once again that when I ride with total purpose, he delivers everything he has to offer.  My horse has heart and I feel blessed that he has turned it over to me along with his mind, and now his body (thanks Liz).

The old English Proverb "SHOW ME YOUR HORSE AND I'LL TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE" is so dead on accurate.  Your horse is a reflection of you.  When you are out of balance, so is your horse.  When you are braced, so is your horse.  When you are scared of something, so is your horse.  So if you work toward ~ balance.....when you are in balance and centered, so is your horse ~ relaxed.....when you are relaxed, so is your horse ~ confident.....when you are confident, so is your horse.  As I've watched myself progress with G, so much of what I've read has been proven to me first hand.  The book "There Are No Problem Horses, Just Problem Riders" by Mary Twelveponies was one of my favorites.  Although I don't agree with all her training methods, her core philosophies mirror mine....Problem Horses are in the vast majority of cases the results of incorrect handling by humans.  Not necessarily done on purpose, but simply by humans not knowing or caring enough to learn.  Not stepping back and seeing the horse for who he/she is and asking the question "what can I do differently to help my horse find the right answer". 

My journey started 6.5 years ago with a horse that many felt was way too much horse; too uptight; too flighty; too crazy.  He made me step back and ask myself the question "what can I do differently to help my horse find the right answer?" and then I had the patience to work out the answer.  When I read first time horse buyer books that state:  "it can take up to a year for a horse to bond with its owner" I cringe.  Because it can take much longer ~ each horse is so very different.  But if you take the time upfront during the buying process to get an understanding of the core personality of the horse you're interested in bringing home, the odds get better that you'll have a chance at working out the relationship.

A relationship between human and horse is so very much like a marriage ~ you have to bring as much to the relationship as the other party, and you have to be willing to work it out when things aren't so rosie.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring and God is going to deliver another sunny 70 degree day, which is such a blessing in the Northeast this time of year.  We've got our first trail ride of the season planned to leave the barn at noon tomorrow ~ can't wait.  Happy Spring everyone!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Barn...New Life for G

So the real reason for asking about a horse going from a solitary paddock life to a herd life is exposed!  On April 16th G will be moving to a new barn about a half hour from home. 

I'm very excited at the prospect, as it will expose us to lots of new things and adventures.  G will be introduced to one of the herds of 4-5 horses.  Currently there are two herds and depending on which lead horse G gets along with will determine which herd he joins.  As if he'll get along with the lead horse, the rest of the herd is a piece of cake.  I'm really impressed with the new barn owner as she really studies and looks into the horse's personality to determine where he/she will fit in.  The first day G will be penned in the outdoor arena across from the paddocks where he can smell, watch and listen to the other horses; and at the same time the new barn owner will observe G.  If he settles in nicely the first day, the second day the owner will choose which lead horse she thinks is best suited to G's personality and turn him out in the outdoor arena with G.  If they work it out, then G will be allowed to join the rest of that particular herd.  I really thought this was a well thought out process.  So many places just throw the horse out in a herd and hope for the best or simply let them work it out on their own.  I really like this ladies approach to horses so far.  And I am so happy that G is going to have the opportunity to live among other horses, the way it was meant to be. 

I'm sure there will be some changes to his relationship with me.  Now he's so happy to see me he pretty much always meets me at the gate.  I'm betting with a new group of friends, he'll be more apt to say "what do you want?" lol.  We'll see.  I may have to resort to cookies in my pockets!

Other great changes:  I love the older barn.  G has a double dutch door on the back of his 12x12 stall with a run out.  In the 3 nice seasons, he'll be able to come and go out of his stall at night.  The interior stall door is a half metal door with a "U" at the top so he can hang his head out and see what's happening in the barn.  I know he is going to love this as now when I walk out of the stall he always wants to peek his head out before I close him in.  I think this feeling of freedom is going to be great for his psyche. 

For us both comes great arena footing.  The indoor 60' x 110'  with just enough give, pretty darn level (one spot frost heaved at the entrance - but a work in progress) and its dragged daily.  I even cantered around it myself to check it out!  AND we have an outdoor lit arena too ~ 110' x 120' so it's huge compared to our current indoor and the footing is incredible.  I cannot wait to ride G in these arenas, as I know he will be a gaiting fool.   The depth, softness and uneveness in the current barn has always posed a problem with G and his performance. 

What else?  Great organic Timothy grass mix from a hay farm in Vermont.  G's hay will now be consistent throughout the year as it is trucked down from this farm 500 bales at a time.   They've cleared another 15 +/- acres at the back of the property to create more pastures for rotational purposes and up the hill (great hill for butt work) leads to hours and hours of trails through tobacco farms, woods, and more woods.  I'm so looking forward to not dealing with the swamps and wetlands from out behind the current farm.  Last year the mosquitoes were relentless and the only way I could ride out there was for me and G to both wear bug nets on our heads.  It was horrible.  And we had such a wet year that the trails were muddy from April through October. 

Once again we will be boarding with our friend & neighbor Trish and her horse Warrior.  They also are doing dressage, so this will definitely be fun.  My new found friend Cora and her horse Georgia are a 10 minute drive from the farm, so she'll be able to trailer over to ride with us. 

We have the Blackstone Valley Dressage & Combined Training Association tack sale on April 3rd.  I'm going to bring KTs Kreationsandkrafts bridle charms and equestrian cards.  As a fall back, I thought I should bring some used tack to sell as well.  One never knows!  The move on April 16th and then we go to Sutton MA the third weekend in April to do an hour lesson with Claudia Coombs.  I'm hoping G will be nicely settled by then, if not I may have to back out. I don't want to throw more than he can handle at once.  Since his impaction in Jan '08 the threat of colic is always on my mind now. 

Weather here is unbelievable this week.  Highs have been low to high 60's.  By Saturday it may hit 70.  A trail ride is definitely on the agenda!

So lots of new and exciting things happening for us this spring!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Question of the Day - Back to the herd?

Will a horse be happy going from having a grass paddock all to itself for five years to being with a herd of 4 horses on a 2 acre grass pasture?  Okay, so maybe not "happy" but more content.  I often think that although he has paddock fence mates all around, that G is isolated as he's not really in a herd.  Any thoughts? 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Signs of Spring

60 degree temps in one sign, but before peepers comes "angel wings".  You know when you use a shedding blade on your horse and the hair comes out in wings rather than individual hairs.  Tonight G was shedding angel wings to beat the band.  I sure wish I had a camera with me as it was a heck of a sight.  I walked down the barn aisle to talk to one of the boarders and she said "look at Mr. G - if he sneezed that would be all over the place".  I turned around and laughed as there he stood with fur and dirt 6" deep all around him.  His new nickname for spring "Pig Pen".  

The last few days have just been spectacular as far as spring weather goes and between being sick and working, there was no opportunity to ride.  Sure would've been nice.  Weekend weather calls for rain from Friday through Monday, which means no trail riding this weekend, and probably not the next due to the mud that will be a result of this weekend :(  grrrr.....hoping we don't have a wet trail riding season like last year.

Other fun stuff from this weekend, hopefully I can find some time to write some more.  Need to get some sleep.  Tax extensions at work are wearing me down!