Saturday, October 30, 2010

You Betta Think....

Could it be I'm actually learning lessons and retaining information as I work with Miles? I would never call myself a horse trainer in a million years, but I might just be competent enough to train one horse in particular.

*Note to Universe-the previous statements and all statements to follow should in no way imply that I know what I'm doing at all; in fact I still need your good karma on my side. Still very humble, just so we're clear. Thanks a bunch.*

So, today was a really nice fall day-sunny, about 55 degrees, with some wind. Now, this "wind" is nothing at all like we've had this past week, but it certainly was enough to make Miles a bit fresh and me a bit wary. I especially loved it when the air was very quiet and then a 40 mile an hour gust came rushing up out of nowhere, usually when we were in the skeeery side of the outdoor arena. But I digress.

I was determined to ride outside no matter what today, so of course that meant out came the lunge line. There was a little fun show at our barn last Saturday, and naturally to make things more interesting a bunch of poles, jump standards and barrels were stacked in one corner of the skeeery side of the arena. No matter, I figured, we shall lunge past it until he realizes this is no big whoop (his eyes were just glued to that corner as soon as we walked into the arena, which was my tip off he was going to have issues).

I started off lunging him in the "safe" side of the arena, which also has SO much better footing-I have no idea why, but the other side is very deep, like we're going to be having reining competitions down there or something. Anyway, Miles starts off fine, but of course as we move closer and closer to the other end of the arena and the Jumping Equipment of Death, he gets more and more agitated. He starts dropping his inside shoulder as he gets near the equipment and doing his infamous bolt and buck-not every time he passed it, but enough.

Fine, I say. Miles, I shall walk you up to the corner of doom my own self, like you're a wee baby. He snorted a bit, but he sniffed everything and stood placidly after he realized these inanimate objects were not, in fact, going to attack him. Super, I think, let's do a couple small lunge circles in each direction down here and we will be good to go. this point I think Miles was just enjoying his "drop-shoulder -run-away" hot move when he got to that corner, so that's exactly what he did, again.

Can I just say how happy I am that I have other tools in my arsenal for times like these? I learned the "sending exercise" from Clinton Anderson....basically I point with one hand, indicating Miles to move in a certain direction, and urge him on with my other hand holding the whip. After he has been "sent" past the corner, I say "whoa", yield his hindquarters, and repeat in the other direction.

I know, it sounds simple, right? Maybe I'm just slow, but before I learned this exercise, I would have NEVER thought to do something like this. I might have either continued the fruitless lunging (and Miles is naturally lazy for the most part, so that might have worked eventually), or I might have led him back and forth past the corner myself multiple times. The problem with that is I'm right there with him; I can lead that horse pretty much anywhere and he will follow me. It's when he has to go somewhere on his own that things can get sticky.

Anyway, he immediately relaxed after the first couple "sends". And what do you know, after that I certainly could lunge him past the corner with no shoulder dropping or rushing at all. I don't know exactly what it is about that exercise (maybe the yielding the hindquarters bit?), but it was just what we needed. I also backed him up quite a bit prior to starting the exercise, which I think helps all horses when they're feeling silly.

The best part was this was all done at the walk, and there wasn't a drop of sweat on Miles...his behavior change was not due to fatigue. I also didn't feel irritated or frustrated with him once, even before we started the sending exercise.

What do you know? Brains win! We went on to have a great ride, and a great day. Say what you want about Clinton Anderson or some Natural Horsemanship, but after riding for 20 plus years under many different instructors, I never was taught anything like this to get a horse past something he's scared of. That's not a knock against any of my instructors, just some praise for CA, and the fact that as riders we CAN work things out on our long as we stop and think.

Sweet Miles, teaching me not to be so dumb for over a year now.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gulp...Here Goes Nothing

Miles is boarded at a barn with some of the nicest horse people around. No joke.

I was finishing our ride tonight (our mojo from Saturday carried over, for the most part-Good Miles!), and Amanda (go visit her blog and say hey!) walked in with her camera and offered to take some photos of us, since we have exactly Zero of me riding. What could I say? I've been dying to get some, if for no other reason than I need to critique my own equitation and have a gauge as to where we both are, position wise.

Of course, today we were again in the indoor ring, which has not the best lighting, Miles was dusty as all hell from the rush grooming job I gave him (to be fair, he was COVERED in mud from the rain we had last night), and we were both a wee sweaty and tired. The cherry on top? My gray Tractor Supply Company t-shirt, in size XXL, which doesn't billow about me and make me look like a Stay-Puff marshmallow AT ALL. Ah well. I'm still thrilled to have any pictures of us, and it was so, so sweet of her to offer.

Unfortunately, apparently most she took of us, particularly at the trot, were too blurry. These 2, however, I'm not totally embarrassed to post (the others are for my eyes only, because of me, not her picture taking:). Obviously I'm not the slim, legs-that-go-on-forever ideal type of rider. My butt, hips and thighs have always been, ahem, ample, no matter what I weigh. Still, I think we fit each other fairly well. Miles is happy in our work. And I hope this is just a starting point for both of us:)

I know, this doesn't show much. Still, I like his expression here. Toes in, Sarah!

Relaxing...again, not much to say. Still, here you have it...photographic proof I ride an OTTB!! If you had told me I'd be doing this 2 years ago I would have laughed in your face.

Now that I have the first scary pictures out of the way, I might even try to get either Amanda or someone else out at a planned date and time to take some photos for critique, or at least for fun. We will bravery about this sort of thing waxes and wanes. Want a picture of my horse? SURE, anytime, anywhere! Pictures of me, either with my horse, husband, dogs, or hanging out with friends? You got it! Pictures of me riding?!?! Hmmmm....

Anyway, here we are! I hope it inspires any of you out there struggling with the same thing. It's actually quite liberating!

Also, Miles makes me look good (or passable, anyway). All you really need is a handsome steed:)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wheeeee! Short Post, Great Ride

Wow, what a nice ride today. We worked in the indoor ring for the first time in quite awhile (first time ever with the hackamore, I believe). The weather was spitting rain, and I wanted to listen to the MSU/Northwestern game while I rode (the Spartans nearly gave me a heart attack, but they're still unbeaten!). Anyway....

Miles was forward, focused and balanced. His mouth was still-the contact I had in my hands was perfect. I felt strong in the saddle. We rode with rhythm and purpose. We did circles, serpentines, transitions, leg yields...we were just on together.

There's not much else to say; that's the funny thing about great rides, isn't it? I want to hold on to the feeling I had as I rode, and remember how things looked, smelled, hopes, of course, that we can recreate today many, many times to come this winter.

I swear Miles knew how great it was as well. He was extra cute afterwards, snuffling my hair and turning up his already considerable charm to "high".

Maybe pictures tomorrow. I was too busy today grinning like an idiot and flirting with my pony to drop everything and get the camera.

Thanks Bubs. Good rides may not make for exciting reading, but they make for happy, happy mommies.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

yay. fall.

This time last year, I was taking my first rides on Miles. He was finally settling into his environment, behaving himself in the barn and lunging well in the arena. We were also working on Clinton Anderson exercises, mostly lots of desensitizing, the sending exercise, lunging for respect, backing up and yielding the fore and hindquarters. All that groundwork helped me take the leap of faith to get on his back, which of course was pretty much a non event, thankfully.

I found out how truly relaxed and lazy he could be in the spring and summer. Now that the weather is turning brisk, though, I'm finding I may own a spirited thoroughbred after all...he's not done anything naughty, but I feel like it's just there, below the surface. That "sitting on a powder keg" feeling is there more often then not these past couple weeks. Miles has also been tested by other things lately, besides the weather...giant farm machinery appearing at random times, dogs running amok (Ugh, this is getting old I've got to say. And I love dogs!), busier than usual arenas with horses cantering endless circles feet away from Miles and me. LOTS of new horses at the barn. In short, it's not just the weather. And deer season is right around the corner. Joy!

It's also not all bad. Of course I don't expect our environment to always be serene and perfect. Both of us must learn to relax and deal with distractions and new stimuli. So I guess that's good:)

Still, must it all happen while we are also riding in 50 degree temperatures with random ridiculously strong wind gusts? Tonight we faced almost everything I mentioned, plus it was cold. Miles was unfocused, but kept himself together, though at times I could feel he was just barely able to check himself. I gave him lots of praise and support throughout our ride for being so good (his self control under saddle has really been great), but we also didn't get much done. We worked on lots of direction changes and trot/walk transitions, but no cantering. He would probably have been fine, but I just didn't want to risk it. The final straw was when yet another horse came into the ring and did a small rear as we were halted 10 feet away. Miles is a good boy, not an angel.

It's a little frustrating to be limited by our environment right now, but that's OK...again, it's good for us in the long run. I just miss our big canters around the arena, that's all. Maybe we go to the indoor arena next ride...we will be getting very familiar with those fluorescent lights again soon enough anyway:)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Happy 10th Birthday, Sweet Miles

My baby turned 1o years old today.

I don't know what's gotten into me, but I've been looking forward to his birthday for weeks, and planning what to make him and wondering if he will freak out if I put a party hat on him. Maybe it's because he's the first horse (or animal for that matter) I've owned, whose official birthday I know for sure. Today we had a little hack around the farm, and he received more treatings and pettings than were necessary and appropriate, I'm sure. Anyway, behold my craziness...and feel sorry for my horse (but not too sorry).

Miles Super Special Pony Cookies. Admittedly, they look more like burger patties than cookies, but Miles LOVED them, and at least one other horse at the barn did too. I found the recipe randomly online and made a couple improvisations. If you're interested, here it is:

2 cups EACH grated carrots, grated apples, oats
1 cup flour

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup molasses

2 teaspoons salt

1 Tablespoon brown sugar *I used a little less

In a large bowl, mix carrots, apples, oil and molasses. Then fold in salt, brown sugar, oats and flour
Make sure cookie sheet is non stick, or spray it b/c these will stick otherwise. Make little balls and squish into cookie size you want. Bake at 350 for...I dunno, I think I baked them for about 10 minutes, flipped them, and baked for another 5 or 10 minutes. Just keep an eye on them and you should be fine.

NOM NOM NOM! Miles digs weird hamburger patty horse treaty!

Also, because I was feeling all homemaker-ish, I made brownies. The old fashioned, Betty Crocker way.

I have to say, they were delish. Also, sprinkles!

Before we get into Miles humiliation, behold his BeefCaky-ness!

Not a rib in sight! I will take it.

Totally random picture...I just thought it was super cute how his mouth is just barely open. He does often seem like he wants to say something so bad!

Oh God....

Do you see what she's done? She was serious about the hat.

Now she's parading me around the farm so everyone can laugh at me. Why Why Why....

Still, I AM kinda cute. Wait, what am I saying?

Screw this. Off to eat weird cookie patties sent from heaven.

This food coma brought to you by pony cookies, beet pulp and 2nd cutting hay. Not a bad day, all in all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mah Baybee Grows Up

Miles was Aces tonight. I started by lunging him in the end of the arena where he had his mini freak out on Saturday. After one tantrum where he tried his whirly-stop-run-the-other-way (very poorly and lazily, I might add), he settled down and lunged like a champ. I got on, and because I'd lost my crop (recovered!) and Miles wasn't the only one feeling a little lazy, we worked on trot-walk transitions and bending in small circles. We worked all over the arena-he was a leetle dead to my leg but we worked it out and he was listening by the end. It was warm outside, but he was just barely, and certainly not sweaty.

Enter Ashley, a recent grad of Michigan State's Veterinary Program and a great rider; she's ridden horses I'd never dream of throwing a leg over and does 3 day eventing. She was there to teach a lesson and they got into the ring as Miles and I were finishing up. She remarked she wanted to see Miles move and was sorry she got there when we were done, so I said..."Do you want to ride him?". I have NO idea why, it just sort of popped out! I'd seen her ride lots of other peoples' horses at the barn and I knew she was a good rider, so I had no qualms about that. Still, it's MAH BAYBEE...I might be just a wee bit protective of him and my uber-sophisticated training techniques that I've instilled in him lo these many months (ha ha). I hadn't seen anyone else ride him since before I adopted yeah, I was curious. I told her I had just a little time, and she grabbed her helmet and hopped on.

You guys, I was SUCH a proud mama. He was adorable at first-I wish I had a picture (OK, any picture at ALL of him being ridden. Next time!) of his sweet, confused face when she mounted up and I was still standing on the rail...he definitely knew something was up. He wasn't perfect, and he did test her a bit, but the worst thing he did is break into a couple canter strides when he got anxious or really tense (usually when her dog was running amok around him). Then, however, he'd relax and try to do what she asked. He's so game:) She did a LOT with him in 10 minutes, including a canter in both directions. She's a good rider, as I said, but she's...firm, and he wasn't getting any of the many walk breaks he's used to with her. Her contact with the reins was shorter than I ride with, though she didn't pull back inappropriately or anything. I ride with less contact because he does have that hackamore on, but he only seemed bothered by it a few times. Also, her strong leg was ON, always, which is good riding, especially when he was trying to avoid bending, but he wasn't getting away with ANYTHING with her (not that he can when I ride him, but you know what I mean). Anyway, Miles did great, and she said after she was done, "He's nice Sarah! Good catch!". Who doesn't like to hear that their pride and joy is a good boy after all?

I was relieved he had done so well, and hadn't given her any major problems...I wasn't sure how he would handle it. He was warm and a little sweaty when they were done, but it was mostly because he worked the whole time, not because he was tense. The most important thing, to me, was he was in a good mood and I think pretty proud of himself, as he jigged back to the barn for the first time in awhile, his neck arched and ears up, the eternal dorkus:)

We also got his new Schneider's lightweight blanket in the mail, finally! I think he looks like Bat Man in it:)

Super Hero Milez works so HARD. Return him to Bat Cave to administer treatings plz.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Room With A View

Hey! Hello! How is everyone? This is certainly the longest I've gone without posting since I've started Miles on Miles. Kyle and I went to Buffalo for a few days, but really I just haven't had a ton to say lately. Things are good. Old dogs and grandmas are doing amazingly well. So is Miles. Speaking of....

This is the view from one of the windows in the "lounge" area of my's really just the upper level of the main barn, which is really nicely done with a bathroom, pool table, lots of heads of dead things on the wall (ok, not my favorite part, admittedly). Anyway, I usually throw my boots and chaps on in this room, and then strip them off here after a ride. I don't know why, but one of my favorite things to do is to go over to this window, which overlooks Miles' and Lashore's (and sweet Wayne's, too) pastures, and watch Miles graze before our ride or eat big mouthfuls of hay I throw him after we're done. I took this picture today after our ride. I know it's not much, but it makes me happy. I always, always am in the best mood after our rides. This afternoon was no different.

Today was no picnic either. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, ridiculously warm and sunny. I figured I'd have a lazy Thoroughbred on my hands and almost didn't lunge him, even though our ride last Wednesday was our first ride in almost a week. At the last minute though, I grabbed the lunge line and whip and out to the arena we went.

There is no shade in the outdoor ring. It was hot. I planned on lunging 2 to 3 minutes each way and then getting on. Naturally...well, best laid plans and all that. There was a group of boarders out on a trail ride, which he must have heard before I could because he was giraffe-neck-OTTB for the first 5 minutes of our lunge. I was lunging him in the "comfortable" end of the arena (near the barn and his pasture), but he was fixated on looking at the other end. I figured what's the point of lunging if we're playing in his safe zone and he's still tense (though at this point he wasn't doing anything wrong; he was just rigid and looky-loo), so I walked him to the other end and had him start walking a circle around me. Hoo-Whee, the fireworks that ensued!! The trail riders finally emerged (naturally from the trail head on our side of the arena-the skarreee side!), and he was legs akimbo, trotting, cantering, trying to gallop, bucking, farting, you name it. Of course, lots of blowing and pulling on the lunge...poor boy just wanted OUT of that area, back to his safe space.

Did I forget to mention his pasture-mate LaShore and Judy were also working in the arena? Pshaw, it didn't matter. Those horses and riders might as well have been sent from Mordor (Lord of the Rings reference!!). So, they rode up the trail head, almost got to the arena, then turned around and rode back into the woods. Awesome (not awesome). Poor Miles continued his giraffe neck, wide-eyed trot/canter/trot, with the occasional walk thrown in. Keep in mind the whole time I'm talking to him, cooing at him, telling him he's a good boy, la la la. Then, he would do his ridiculous bolt and buck, and I can't have that. I would send him forward for a couple laps and then ask him to come back to me. FINALLY, the trail riders came back for good, Miles got a good look at them and realized they weren't demons from the underworld, and he dropped his head, took a big breath and relaxed.

I know this sounds like a long time, but it was maybe about 20 minutes of actual lunging. Poor boy, he just worked himself up so much...I know he doesn't actually like being scared and tense. I let him walk walk walk, threw his hackamore on and got up. We rode almost exclusively in the scary side of the arena, and he was just fine. Sweet Miles...I suppose he has to have those brain-less moments every once and awhile. I will say he was a perfect gentleman under saddle, though I mostly walked and did a few trot transitions. He had already worked way harder than I wanted him to in the heat anyway.

I think he may be getting a bit full of himself-2 people at the barn, at different times today, told me how beautiful he's been looking in the pasture, with his cobalt coat shining in the sun. I fully intended to take pictures today of him in his gear, sporting his MSU saddle pad (he he, what a game that was today:), but the lunging took it out of both of us today. You know what was cool though? I was laughing at him-every time he would spook or buck or fart, I couldn't help it! I thought he was hilarious. Now, if this was a regular occurrence, I'm sure I would not have been guffawing quite so much. Still, it's not a reaction I would expect from myself in this kind of situation with my horse. Annoyance? Irritation? Maybe a little fear? Sure, been there. Gotta say, though, a sense of humor with OTTB antics is waaay more fun...for both of us.

Anyway, after we were finished, instead of taking all kinds of fun (for who?) pictures, I stripped his tack off, turned the hose on him, and put him out in the pasture to roll like a fool, which is what he loves and is exactly what he did. Hence, these are the only pictures I got for the day...hey, you can't plan everything.

Rowlee Powlee

And...Shake it off!