Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Little Nod and Smirk to a Milestone

My lesson last night was quite fun!

Ben started out, surprise surprise, behind the aids. Lazy, sleepy, with his well known "do I have to?" routine.

Trainer had me work on transitions from walk to trot to wake him up, but this time with the added fun of keeping him in my hand. The fun part about Ben is that you KNOW when things go very wrong, or very right - it is quite clear. If he is not on the aids, if he is bracing, when you ask for an up transition he'll want to twirl his head, jump into a pace for a few steps, and then trot. It kinda feels like getting an old jalopy started - spurts, sputters, backfires. However, if you can get him soft - loosen his back, ask for bend, and then apply leg, you'll get a nice unbraced upward transition free of the pace. There really is no grey area with my standardbred!

From there we worked on  even more transitions, circles of various sizes, and then canter.

And then somewhere in there my trainer got me doing transitions from walk to canter, and walk to trot then to canter in a faster sequence. Working on precision, and timing of the aids, keeping him on those aids. Then she had me start counting stides. Ask for canter, down to walk - walk 5, ask for canter, rinse and repeat.

Doesn't seem like a big deal, but this is a big milestone for me. We've moved beyond the "ask when it feels right" stage - which translates to "get your shit together and sometime, in the next century, preferably sometime before A, ask for canter." We're entering the stage where my trainer expects us to stay together for longer than 30 seconds thus allowing us to be a little more accurate in our work. 

 The exercise sounds easy - but its not, especially at this stage. Keeping us together is hard work, nevermind preparing for the next steps, which you need to keep in mind because everything happens so fast. We did it well a few times- but we also sucked a bunch- and it was all on me. Apparently I can't multitask well....yet.

We didn't ride very long at all, but boy were Ben and I a hot sweaty, steamy mess.

During my coolout I had a flashback to a moment in the summer where I was watching my friend school this very same exercise with her gelding. I remember looking on and being completely jealous but also quite certain that it would take Ben and I 2-3 years to get to the point where we'd be capable of doing what she and her horse were doing. Turns out 2-3 years was really 2-3 months  - not too shabby.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gargamel, Where are You?

I has hate for yous rite now
Poor Ben...or not so poor Ben. Yes, I subjected him to wearing a smurfishly blue cooler while waiting for his masseuse to arrive. The poor dear. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Ben had his first body work session today! Our friend Corinne did some work on the young chap. She uses a lot of light touches and gentle releases. It was VERY interesting to see Ben's reaction to this level of work. At first he wanted to scoot away, but soon quieted down, and then got really into it. He looked as if he was falling asleep, but yet had these twitches going on, as if little electrical currents were shooting through his body up to his head and neck.

Corinne was able to do some great stuff on his hind end, but when it came time to address his shoulders and neck, he was less interested in participating. So instead she focused back on relaxing him by addressing the back end again, and then ended the session. Next week we'll try again.

This session was the first of 4 total sessions that will happen on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. From there, we'll see what kind of maintenance schedule is needed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

When Naughty is Nice

Wow, what an interesting lesson last night!

Once again, Ben has changed his game.  I kinda like it! Rather than being sluggish, he's got a lot more pep. Its been much easier for me to relax into the saddle and depend on him to keep going. Previous attempts at stuff like half-halts would bring on a full shut down, but now I can half halt to rebalance and push him- actually getting something somewhat decent.

It could be the cold, the fact that I clipped him, or who knows what. But he's been really fun!

...and naughty.

Last night, after our first break, Ben was a bit of a stinker when I picked him back up and expected him to go back to work. He was posturing, kicking at my left leg, and breaking into canter even though he knew quite well we were trotting. In the canter he was getting bouncy, like he wanted to pop up and down. The key was not to punish him for the forward, but to address his reaction to my leg aid. Trainer had us do trot/halt/trot transitions. They were not crisp at all. Basically, if I wanted us to halt, he wanted to keep going. And if I wanted us to go, he wanted to stay halted. Uhh, work with me here, buddy.

But eventually we got it, and it took his mind of being a cow. Then we went back to canter work and voila- beautiful stuff.

In a way his attempts at naughties were concerning, but I kind of like it in a way- it is easier to ride. In general, it is much easier to ride a moving object than a still one. I can work with energy, regardless of the type.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Otis Lee

Ben got a haircut last night.

I has girlz, but not hairz
The whole time I was laughing to myself, singing this little number in my head:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Are YOU Prepared?

Last night's lesson was brutal - not because of the work we did (which was awesome- our 10m circles are coming along quite well!), but because of the cold! At 7:30 pm, it was 37 degrees.

A couple of months ago, I went into PANIC mode, feeling quite unprepared for the cold wet winter months ahead. And so I went on a bit of a shopping spree.

For me- I purchased 3 different winter breeches. Horze Grand Prix soft shell (at 50% off), Tropical Rider Toasties Lite w/ Clarino, and Kerrits Sit Tight and Warm. I also bought Ariat Bromont winter boots. I didn't stop there. For my hands, I decided to try the Roeckl Winter Chester gloves. I went on a binge at Costco - I bought a box of those hand warmers, merino blend socks, and merino mix under garmets for base layering. For jackets I bought 2 Columbia jackets- an Omni heat soft shell (great for riding), and an Omni Heat winter jacket to wear around the barn while tacking up, etc.

For my horses- a couple new sheets, new fleeces, and quarter sheets.

Overkill, eh? I suspect so. But I absolutely refuse to be cold this winter. You East Coasters will laugh - rarely does it ever dip below 30 - I'd say we get in total about a week or 2 of lower than 30 temps. But that bone chilling rain - man sometimes I think 34 and rain is way worse, even indoors. Everything is damp, and COLD.

I refuse to be cold.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Ben and I went with our friends to an open ride night at a local (very local, 10 min from the barn) fairgrounds. I knew I had to get him out again after his little incident on Saturday- whether it was more for me or him. But, dammit, I was determined to not let his BS happen a second time.

So, donned with Stick Tight breeches, out I went to face the music.

Ben loaded up great, hauled great, but once we got to the fairgrounds, he was nervous. He's only worked off a trailer a couple of times now, and never in the dark, and never with so many horses/trailers parked in one spot. He held it together, and within minutes we were walking down to the arena.

Once in the arena he was a bit frightened. There were a bunch of horses in there, and one gal in particular was running some sort of pattern around the horses, and to be honest, cutting it quite close to the riders. Great for desensitization, but kind of rude all the same. Ben did freak out a couple of times, but sure enough, he got over it. Rather than get on prematurely, I just walked him until I felt him relax. It didn't take more than 15 minutes.

Once on, he started out fresh and spooky. He was pulling at the contact and contorting his body to look at whatever spooky thing it was.  I focused on keeping my focus, and my contact should he decide to pull out his newly tried party-trick.

But it never really came. Yes, he was nervous. Yes, he had a couple of big, sideways spooks. But yes, he got over it and got down to work.

The best part is that at the end of the ride we realized we had people watching us. We got a couple of questions and compliments. People wanted to know what breed he is, of course. One person, in particular said "Young lady, your horse is gorgeous, and you make him go very, very well."

Aw, shucks - thanks, mister!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Party Tricks

Savin' my energies for evils

Ben and I had the opportunity to go to a schooling show this weekend. I'll be honest, with the issues we've been having, and the lack of riding I've been doing, going to a show sounded about as fun as cleaning my house.

Alas, the opportunity to bring my horse to a venue, and even possibly school him in bigger spaces was too big of a draw to turn down. So on Friday evening we packed up our things and headed back down to Donida.

 The trip took over 2 hours in traffic. We got there, unpacked, and quickly tacked up to get a ride in the massive indoor arena. Ben was pretty good. The funniest/scariest part of the evening was walking in the dark...apparently my horse is not so good at that. He was tripping and spooky. I guess that is because he never has to walk in the dark - he's always in his stall during night hours.

We had a quick school. It was kind of warm and he sweats very easily - and I didn't want to hold up the group by waiting for him to cool off for an hour afterwards. So I kept it light. Ben helped a few of the horses get over the spooky end of the arena- he's so good, he just stood still and created a funnel for them to ride through. We called it the "Ben Sandwich"  Good boy.

The next day we spend the morning busily preparing the other horses who were actually showing. My plan was to pull Ben out in the afternoon for another quick outdoor school. All I wanted to do was let him open up for some long trots and canters in the big outdoor space Donida offers.

Great plan, right?

Well, Ben had other ideas.

I walked him down to the arenas, all tacked up, and he was great. I walked him around the grounds a bit, and he had a few minor spooks, but nothing that made me really worry about his mental state.

My friend helped me get on him, as he was a bit fresh for mounting. However, once on, he seemed to chill out and we walked around a bit. After about 10-15 minutes of walking, I figured I'd may as well get on with it and ask for some trot. By this time there was maybe 4 horses out there. It was a bit windy, one horse was being longed in the background, and the others were in various stages of trot/canter work. Nothing we haven't encountered before. But the big wide open space overtook him and after about 5 seconds of nice, calm trotting, my little 4yr old's brain popped. Out came the squeal and the "OH BOY"

Thoughts of evil fun took over. He wanted to buck, run, jump, do high-school moves. He started rearing. He started backing and hopping from front and to back end, like a lipizzaner preparing to levade. I tried to settle him, but he was just too wound up. So I picked a good moment to get the heck off, realizing, light bulb moment here, that I was with my TRAINER :)

She offered to get on him after her upcoming tests. So I took the liberty of walking Ben around for the next 30 minutes. He was fresh in hand, but he started to settle. I had half a mind to climb back on myself, but I decided against it because I didn't want to climb down again if he acted up.

My trainer climbed aboard, and yes, he still had some inklings of fresh, evil 4 yr old antics, but dialed down a few notches from my attempt. She got him past it and off they went, trotting and cantering from one end of Donida to the other, practically.

At least he got what we came for. I didn't really feel like riding him after that, I just wanted to cool him out and put him back. I was done with Ben for the day.