Friday, April 16, 2010

Yea for slow appy's!

The pic above is from last week riding outside. It was very windy and the campra caught us in an awkward position, but I guess any picture is better than none.

Just as the title implies, my little jumping speed demon is really starting to slooooooow down and look more like a hunter than a jumper. We have had a couple of very good rides in the outdoor arena which totally makes me happy. Our outdoor is not completely flat, it has a a noticeable downhill grade from top to bottom. My horse is also built downhill, so down-hill plus down-hill equals running around on the forehand. Well he has been staying more collected and listening to my aids and in the lines he is listening to my half halts and really sitting back on those high haunches of his to maintain a consistent and rhythmical pace. He has been so good that our schooling rides have become much shorter, around 40 minutes or so. When he gets something right consistently, I move on and don't dwell on it so that he knows that he did a good job. He has also been rally listening to me in terms of changes of direction. Possum is notorious for charging down lines and not being prepared for tight rollbacks or broken lines. Well that has also changed. I was really challenging him and myself the other day with doind some seemingly impossible tight turns and broken lines. He was soft and responsive and did not buldge and run through his shoulder, and was even turning almost in mid air to prepare for the turn that I was looking towards. I was pleasantly suprised and was praying that this was not just some fluke, but it seems to be consistent as of lately. One of the things that I have changed about myself is to relax more. I try not to be so tense or workman like, because that gets him keyed up and ready for anything. There is a fine balance in jumping of being too tight or too loosey goosey. Legs are always tight, calf and thigh, back is always straight with head up, so finding a relaxation zone in all of that can be hard. But I think I'm mastering it and it's filtering through to my horse. I have also had so much confidence in my horse lately that I have switched him out of the rubber mouth pelham and put him back in the D-ring which in the past he has just blown through. He is going comfortable and respecting this bit so I will keep it until things change down the line. Plus I really likes the D-ring and it is the "in" bit in the hunter ring, sad I know.

So with all that being said I'm really just enjoying my horse lately. Our jumping sessions are relaxed and fun and easy. Three words I didn't think I would ever say in conjunction with Possum jumping. I'm anxious to show off all the work we have done throughout the winter in some summer shows. Unfortunately with my financial situation it will only be a couple, but still it will be nice to go out there and show with the big dogs. I have also been hanging out with a new boy. Not going to jinx it or anything because it is still very very new, but he is a county comissioner and also the director of a non profit organization that manages one of the largest rivers in Maine and the surrounding watersheds. he is 29, no kids, never been married and he's kinda cute. He is however, very busy and may be kind of a player, still trying to establish that. But we get along well and have a good time together, so who knows what this will bring, but not holding my breath. At the very least I made a new good friend.

Rain is in the forecast for literally the next week! Possum has spring shots this afternoon so I'm flying over to the barn after I get out of work early to hold him for the vet and help out with other horses. Because of the nasty weather he may get a few days off which won't hurt him at all, I'm sure he will be very content eating from his roundbale outside all day and going under his shelter. He has such a rough life now! Well have a great weekend. I have a 3 day weekend because here in New England we have a holiday on Monday, Patriots Day yippeee

Friday, April 9, 2010

Plugging Away

Well just as soon as I posted about summer temps here in Maine, things have cooled down considerably and it is now a steady drizzle outside. But before it started raining and was just overcast, I got in a pretty good ride last night on Possum. The barn was pretty quiet since I didn't get there until after five and I quickly went and got Possum before they fed his paddock. He wasn't really happy with me, but I gave him a couple carrots to tide him over. He was flithy! Because it had been so warm out lately he has been naked and got completely covered in dirt and mud. It took me a good thirty minutes of grooming to get him as clean as I could. For some reason he seemed taller to me last night, like I couldn't even look over his wither on my tip toes. I asked my friend who was also there if he seemed taller today or if it was just me, she said that he looked big too. I thought maybe it was the mud caked in his shoes before I picked them out, but not really. Just one of those weird things, or maybe I was shrinking, who knows.

I tacked him up and decided that we would try and have a semi serious ride. We went about our normal warm-up. He was very stretchy for some reason, he kept stretching his head and neck down and stretching out his back. Ofcourse thing is a good thing, but it was odd how much he was really enjoying it last night. Even as we were cantering he would blow out his nose and stretch down and low. It was nice to have him so relaxed and feeling good. We then hopped over a few jumps at the trot in both directions and then cantered some low fences. None of the jumps were over 2'6" which was fine with me because I was going to work on shortening stride and lots of changes of direction. As we were cantering some simple lines I felt the bored Possum come out. He's smart in teh fact that he ahs this gamem figured out, but when he has something figured out, it usually means that he charges to the next obstacle with complete disregard for the rider. If he could talk he would be saying; "Just leave me alone, I know what I'm doing!" So that's when I really started asking for crazy turns and broken lines and such. I wanted to keep him on his toes and not anticipating where he was going. We did manage to execute some pretty tight roll backs and I was impressed that he stayed with it and didn't fight me too much. Then because he was still a little quick for my liking I asked for a halt in some lines, so that he would really listen to my aids and focus on me qand not always on the next jump. Then I would randomly let him canter down the line, but ask for a half halt to collect himself and he was listening much better, so much so that he sat right back on his haunches and was rpeparing for a halt when I gave him the gas to keep going, but in a smaller frame. That was when I knew it was working. I love it when things work out like I want them too.

After a good 30 minutes of working steady I let him end on a good note. He did knock one of the fences down from getting in a little too deep to it, which I had asked him to do, so that was no fault of his own. I would rather have him listening to me and hit the fence then ignore me and fly over it. He was fairly sweaty and so was I, so I walked him for a bit. He seemed pleased with himself. He had a spring in his step and a swing in his belly as his head was bobbing up and down (not in a lame way). So I brought him back in the barn and untacked him and brushed him and then gave him his grain for dinner which he was more than eager to eat. As he was eating, I just stood back and examined him. I'm kinda anal like that. I am always looking him over and feeling him for bumps or scrapes or anything new. His topline was nice and strong. His neck was developing nicely and his hind end had some good definition. When he was finished I put a rain sheet on, for the expected rain storm and threw him out and hayed them. When I left he was happily munching on a huge pile of hay, life is good!

As for the guy side of this blog, which I have not talked much about, nothing really big is going on. I still talk to Steve from R5 Sons Alaska as much as he is online. Our schedules can never seem to coincide for a visit, but I havn't crossed it off the list yet, just trying not to push things. I think it will happen, but not sure when yet. Bacisally I've just been doing my own thing lately. I've been really happy with myself and not "needing" a guy around. I feel like I'm really starting to come into my own and be comfortable with myself. That's not to say that some days I get kinda down about it, but the majority of the time, things are good in that department. The dogs are wonderful and as always are the best companions. Possum is going well and is healthy and we have such a great relationship. My job is going well and I'm happy with the progress that is being made this year. I am also participating in The Vagina Monologues at out local theater to help raise money for our center and I really believe in the project. If any of you are familiar with The Vagina Monologues, I am performing in the "My Vagina Was My Village" The story of a Bosnian girl who was raped repeatedly by military personel in the 90's It's a pretty powerful monologue. In my heart I really wanted to do "The Angry Vagina" but there must be a reason they choose me for the other one, so I'm going to do my best. The performance will be April 24th and 25th. Well I think that's about all. I also really want to work Aragon this weekend, the TB astud at the barn. He has had the entire winter off and everytime I see him I promise him that it will be soon that he goes back to work. His first few rides should be interesting since he can be quite a character and a studly boy at times, but I love him. Well have a great weekend everyone and hopefully I will have some more pics soon.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Did I miss spring??

This past weekend and the week days following have seemed more like summer than spring for sure, especially since this is Maine! I wore shorts on Easter and it reached 80 degrees. Saturday it was in the mid seventies and Friday was also in the 70's. It has been an incredible "spring" so far. It seems that we have skipped "mud season" all together which is usually a messy and yucky season here in Maine for when the snow melts and the ground is frozen and therefore the melting snow has no where to go but mix with mud and stuff. It is not a fun time of the year. But since we have relatively small snow totals this winter, thing have dried up nicely.

On Saturday I took Possum out and he was already slightly sweaty just standing in his paddock. He is slowely but surely shedding out his winter coat, but it doesn't seem like it's happening fast enough. So because he as naked he was flithy from laying in the mud and such. Three quarters of his paddock has been fenced off so that the grass can gross and the rest of the paddock can completely dry and not get all tracked up by the horses. So it's pretty muddy in their little section. I spent over half an hr grooming him and using the shedding blade and making him as pretty as he can be this time of the year. I tacked him up and headed down the road since it was my mission to go out on the trail on such a beautifuul day. Both of us were happy to be outside and moving in the breeze. We did our warm-up and trotted for a bit and then walked since it was so warm, and then we started cantering. It was so nice in a light seat just cantering along and we worked on our flying changes. We cantered for probably a good four minutes before I pulled him up and we walked the rest of the way to out next dirt road. I made myself look around at the pretty scenery and take big breaths of the fresh air and just soak it all in. Listening to his hoofs hitting the ground, feeling the swing of his belly and watching his ears pricked twitching in one direction or the other listening to the sounds of the outdoors.

He definately knew where he was and swung onto the other dirt road. A road that we are famous for galloping up. It goes gradually up hill the entire way and is about a mile long with sweeping turns and grades. I made him trot for a bit and then canter. He was grabbing at the bit telling me he wanted to just go. I was nervous because we hadn't been on this road since the late fall and I havn't inspected it for soft ground or added rocks and such. So I let him out, but kept a firm contact on him. His strides ate up the ground and his hindquarters powered him up the hills. Just to feel such power is amazing, it takes your breath away. The trees were whipping by and with each bob of his head it seemed like we were going faster and faster. I kept a sharp look out on the road for rocks and soft spots and piloted him around the hazards. Pretty soon the road was coming to an end so I pulled him up and let him trot a few before finally walking. He was pretty wet and breathing hard. I let out the reins and let himm walk out until the dirt road ended. The trail then becomes pretty steep and very rocky and was especially wet this trip. I let him pick his way around the rocks and take his time while he also caught his breath. When we got to eh top and the barn was in sight across a large field I let him trop a bit before the ground got too wet and soggy and I made him walk. We walked the rest of the way home and he was thoroughly soaked fromt eh heat and his still long coat. I stripped him down and decided that since it was stilla round 75 out that he would get his first official bath with soap and everything today. I tied him to the wash rack, dug out my horse shampoo and a bucket and sponge and a curry and got to work. He put up minimal protest so I think it felt good for him. When I was done I scraped the water off as much as I could and let him loose in the sun to eat scraps of hay and dry out.

I watched poeple riding for about an hour and then caught him and put him back in his paddock. It was just so nice to be outside in the warm air, with no bugs yet and enjoy my horse. SO Sunday I didn't ride since it was Easter and I had laundry to wash and family members to visit. Yesteday I didn't get to the barn and not sure if Iwill tonight since it's kinda rainy. But I might go up just to clean him up again since he's still naked since the weather has been so mild. But that's about it for rides lately. All the other rides have just been mediocre rides in the ring outside with nothing really exciting to post about. have a great day everyone, and hopefully i'll have more exciting thigngs to post about and hepefully some more pics as well.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Wow, what a weekend!

Casey (the roomies horse) and Possum

Just have to share that Possum and I had one of the most amazing weekends in terms of schooling that I think we have ever had. Let me start from the beginning. Last week my roomate and I have been taking videos of some of your rides, just lines and approaches and stuff. One of the biggest things that stuck out at me was how busy I was about 4 strides from the jump or line. We would have a nice even canter going in and then all of a sudden I would micro manage everything, tweak things that didn't need to be messed with. I would use pulsing half halts with my reins, and sitting back. It's one thing to ride it with a million things on your mind, but it's another to be able to see it and critiqu and put everything into slow motion. SO I made the decision that I need to do LESS. Yup, you heard it right folks, I'm doing too much! I need to maintain that steady rhythmn and ride it to the base of the jumps. From looking at it ont he video, Possum has such a nice and rhythmical canter, almost rocking horse like, so why inthe hell am I trying to make it more than what it is???

So my next ride schooling I tried to simply do nothing, I know it sounds so weird to even say it, never mind do it. But it worked like magic. My horse didn't get keyed up cause I was fixing so much and we had nice smooth collected and perfect approach to jumps. It was like the lightbulb turned on in my head. Sometimes instead of always thinking I need to do more, I really need to do less. I need to rely on my horses training and ability and not think I need to do everything for him, not micro manage! His canter was easy and manageable, I could shorten and lengthen without any drastic measures, he was less hyper and took my relaxation as a cue for him to relax as well.

So yesterday the roomate and I decided to do some schooling in the indoor. Possum right from the start was soft and supple and relaxed, he felt like butter in my hands. There was no leaning on my hands, no gaping of the mouth, which is very typical of him at any kinds of annoyance, physical or mental. I actually even got compliments from people stopping to watch for a few minutes. I might also add that my roomates horse was incredibly well behaved that day as well and both equines seemed totally in tune with us riders. First we did the usual flat warm-up. Possum and I also briefly worked on some flying changes, but he was great and I didn't want him to get bored. Then we trotted some small fences and turned them into roll backs at the trot. Then we progressed to the canter and so on. By the time we were nearing the end of our ride we had worked up to full courses with some funky striding to really keep us on our toes. He was WONDERFUL and I have videos to prove it. Nothing was really over 2'6" except for a middle diagonal jump, but he was soft, had great rhythmn, was responsive and listening and the whole thing looked like a round of figure skating; graceful, smooth and easy, just like a hunter or eq round should look. I decided not to press him anymore and ended the ride with that. I wanted him to know that he did great and that just drilling him more would sour him to the whole process. I have to admit that I had a smile on my face the rest of the day and woke up with one this morning despite the heavy rains we're getting currently. I will post videos when I can figure out how haha, but until then your stuck with some goofy pics from the other day. We were taking turns riding the course so we were hanging out int he middle of the arena just fooling around. The one of Possum's ears is because he kept putting his ears back everytime we wanted a picture so I mad him put his ears forward lol. He's so good to put with with my nonsense.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

just some flatting pics

Please excuse the gaping mouth. Possum has a busy mouth and always has. He also just had his teeth floated two days prior.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

We've Come A Long Way Baby

Some pics that my friend at the barn took from this Friday. My roomie decided to set up a spread to work on her horses jumping form and I decided to take a stab at it. I was more than thrilled with Possum's jumping effort and form over this 4 and a half foot spread. I also think I don't look half bad myself, my lower leg looks a little weak and ofcourse my left leg is the weaker of the two, but it was nice to see some pictures on what I need to work on. Possum was a star and I was able to see my spots every single jumping effort. For those who may be new to my blog and not know the whole history of Possum, he was a rescue case that I acquired for the price of meat 6 years ago. He was starved, abused and was an unbroke 8yo when I got him. Due to finances I am not able to take regular lessons, in fact I have had only a handful since I graduated college over 5 years ago. All of the training has been on my own for the most part and it's been a long uphill battle with not having a regular trainer and help; other than the occasional person I can use for a pair of eyes on the ground. Sometimes it's nice to take a step back and see all that we have accomplished instead of always looking ahead and on what we havn't done yet. The progress has been slow with lots of steps backwards in the past 6 years, but there has been improvement. I'm really proud of my throw away appy that no one wanted to take a chance on other than to have him wind up on a plate at a fancy restaurant in Europe or Asia. He's my buddy and best friend and I wouldn't trade him for the world. Enjoy the pics!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Getting Back To The Basics Bareback Style

Since I was kinda feeling down about our past poor performances undersaddle lately so I decided to take the saddle off and just have fun with my horse and see what happened. It was earlier last week that I didn't feel like getting all tacked up and decided to ride bareback in the indoor. Did our normal warm-up routine and my thighs were screaming at me. If there is one thing I hate about my horse it's his trot. It is teeth jarring and bouncy, a sure sign of a shoulder with a straight shoulder, curses to whoever decided to make him. But I bit the bullet and pushed on. There was a lesson going on so basically I was just putzing along. We moved up to the canter and my body was thankful for the nice big sweeping motion as opposed to the yucky trot. Then we set up a small 2ft vertical and trotted over it a few times. I was able to take it in stride and it felt great. After doing it a few times in both directions I upped it to about 2'6" and cantered from both directions. It was amazing how easy it was and how our timing and rhythmn were right on, much different from the past ride. I was feeling brave and upped it over 3ft and again no big deal. I was seriously consiering riding my next show bareback, that's how easy it felt and how comfortable it was. He didn't try and rush, his rhythmn was great and I could feel more of what was going on without the saddle. So I called it a day.

This week I decided to ride bareback again after a few flat rides under saddle. Basically I was kinda in a hurry and wanted to get down to the arena and ride with everyone else who were already in there. We did our warm-up the same and then cantered around and laughed and joked. Then we started popping over some small jumps and a one stride line. When we started cantering them Possum was great again. No rushing, and took each one in stride an even in the one stride he really half halted on the landing and made it a nice one stride. It was so warm in there that the horses were sweating already. My roomie decided to put one diagonal fence to about a 3'6" vertical. I have to admit that I kinda gulped hard but decided to go for it. How am I going to get any better if I'm not going to try new challenges. To mu suprise, I saw my spot about 4 strides out and we took the jump in style and it seemed almost effortless. I think everyone watching was a little suprised how easy it looked. SO I did it a couple more times with the same results. Then I decided to really challenge up and take it from the long approach, an approach that Possum is infamous for rushing. Because I was sucking back I made his canter stride too small and we didn't have enough impulsion and ended up getting a close spot and going up and over, not terrible by any means, but not that "perfect" take off. So I did it again and made myself relax more and trust myself to let his stride out. He was perfect and took it in stride. I was so proud of him, but it also made me really sit back and evaluate our rushing problems under saddle, will have to look more into that for sure.

Riding and jumping bareback did increase my confidence after a few lack luster performances which was good. I need to remember that not everyone can canter a 3'6" fence bareback and make it look so easy and also keep a good position, and give myself credit when credit is due. So tomorrow I will put the saddle back on, but try and have the same mind set and feeling as I did bareback and shoot for the same results. Wish I had some pics to show you, because it did look really nice and my position felt really strong as well, maybe next time.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Checking In

Hi all. Things have been going pretty good lately. I've been riding Possum on a consistent basis of about 3 days a week. We have almost no snow left up here in Maine which is just crazy, and the temps have been in the 40's!! It's like a heat wave for the end of February and the beginning of March so far. But this also means long periods of cooling out due to the horses sweating in the warmer air in their winter coats. I opted not to trace clip Possum this year because I didn't want to play the whole blanket guessing game,with a different blanket for different temps and also wanted to save a little money. But I've been second guessing that decision as I'm sitting in the barn for over 2 hrs after a ride to wait for him to dry off to throw him back out. Welcome to the early days of spring, but I'm not complaining.
Mine and Possum's progress has taken a slight step back. It's not horrible or anything, but had a pretty yucky ride the other afternoon when I set a jump to about 3'3" and he raced towards it with the speed and determination of a freight train. Every time we got to about 4 strides away he would throw his head up to avoid contact and hollow out his back and race pell mell towards the large vertical. He would clear it with no issue, but the fact that he wasn't listening to my half halts and just charged forward with no resregard for his rider was frustrating to say the least. SO I did what everyone tells you not to do, I halted before the jump. I felt like there was nothing else I could do to get his attention. I needed him to listen to me and I wanted to keep him guessing of what was going to happen next and not just take the reins, literally and charge forward. There is also no chance of Possum refusing, since he basically loves to attack the jumps. After halting a few times, and nearly crashing into it a couple times I felt him start to lighten and listen. So then I gulped back my fear and decided to trot the 3'3" vertical. If there's one thing I hate doing it's trotting large fences. I have a terrible time with my take off and timing with trotting fences and so doesn't my horse so it makes for an interestering round. But Possum was good and trotted right to the base of it and then pushed off nice and even and hopped right over the jump with snappy knees and a rounded back over the crest. But once again we would have a nice and even light canter coming to the jump where he was on the aids and rounding and light as a feather, and then he would get the jump locked in his sights and just charge forward. I decided the best I could hope for was a mediocre jump. So after a few more times we finally got one that was almost in stride so I decided to call it a day. He was razor sharp and keyed up and we were both sweating and wide eyed. I figured that was the best we could get for the day and resume later on in the week. So this weekend I want to go back to that 3'3" vertical with the long approach and take it in stride, we'll see what happens.
However, Possum is getting really fit, with only 3 rides a week. His topline is nice a strong and he's moving with more quality to his gaits (as best as can be expected for this appy). We've been working a lot on flat work, striding, lengthening, shortening, becoming sharper and more responsive to the aids and especially downward transitions. Possum loves to dump on his front end and lean his whole weight on my hands, and I have somehow been sucked into this little game without knowing it. So my job on the downwardsm especially canter walk or halts is to keep a strong core, chin up, elbows bent but keep contact with my legs and just pulse the reins so as not to give him something to brace against. It's really hard because he is built downhill to keep him lifted through the front and rocking back onto his hind end. It actually takes a lot of leg in the downwards to keep that motor going in his butt but only in reverse and not become stiff legged through the transitions. As always it's a work in progress, but it's coming along.
Now onto the guy side of thing :) Alaska is not going to happen right off. Because Steve and I hemmed and hawed our way through February he is not busy with Iditarod, Ulstraport and and Iron Dog through the middle of March, and the end of March is far too busy for me with work right now, so I'm thinking maybe April will be the next chance I get to go out there. I'm not really holding my breath or anything, but it still would be nice to take a vacation to such a beautiful state and meet a really great guy. Stay tuned.
Well I think that's about all that is going on lately. Just lots of work, and riding Possum and wishing I was in Alaska ;) Like I said the weather is getting nice and inviting and I want to spend as much time outside as I can.
On a side note, I realize that the picture that I posted above again has me helmetless. Again, I will say that I am an adult and make my own decisions and am fully aware of the risks of riding horses. So please refrain from commenting on that subject if you can. I posted it because I like how I'm getting stronger and my position is pretty good here. I realize it looks like I'm jumping slightly ahead, but it's also a weird spot in the jump, he is still on his way up so therefore it was right before I fold my hips at the apex of the arc. Anyways, I thought it was pretty good.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Horse Filled Long Weekend

Well, Happy late Valentines day. I did nothing romantic or even with a boy on Valentines Day. That night my mom called me up and asked if I wanted to go out to dinner with her and my dad. Since I obviously had no plans or a hot date I went. I then came home,watched TV and played on the computer and went to bed. I made sure to give each of my doggies a big hug and kiss and told them how much I love them, that is how I spent my Valentines Day.

Onto the good stuff... I had a totally horse filled weekend and it was awesome. My roomie and I scheduled a lesson with the barn owner. It will be my first official lesson in about 5 years, since I graduated college. I figured it was about time and since I had a little extra cash it was a perfect way to spend it. So Friday in preparation I wanted to give Possum just a tune up and get his muscles working again since he had about 5 days off since our last ride. I thought he might be a little hyper, but I was totally wrong. He was sluggish to start, was behind my leg which I HATE and rather pissy. By the end of the ride he had warmed up out of it, but what was going to be a 30 min ride turned into a 90 min ride, with jumping and turns and flying changes and circles etc... Since he is not clipped it took a couple hours for him to cool out to put his blankets on and throw him back outside. After taking care of our horses the roomie and I went to the movies to see Crazy heart. Really liked the movie, and want to buy the soundtrack, I liked almost all of the songs. It's a slower movie, no big action or anything, but I'm not a big action movie fan anyways, I like movies that make me think and feel, and this was a good one for that.

So Saturday I ate a big late breakfast and got dressed in breeches and tall boots and wore a vest that would match my saddle pad. I know it sounds crazy, but when I was taking lessons in school it was a serious business. You had to dress like you were showing, minus the jacket and shirt. Your boots and britches had to be clean and everything had to be perfect down to the horses grooming and leg protection. No joke, the riders and horses were both "inspected" when our trainer arrived to make sure everything was correct, and if it was not right you could be kicked out of the lesson for the morning or told to completely untack the horse and start over. Ypu didn't mess with the trainer, and since were were ridig horses who were worth more than us, we did what we were told, so that has just been ingrained in my head.

The lesson went really well. We worked on some lengthening and shortening of strides on a 20 m circle with poles set out, trying to get 4 strides, 5 strides and the 3 strides. We actually managed to get he 4 and 5 strides relatively easy but the 3 was a little crazy. I kept trying to throw him away and losing the contact and he would just speed up more and not necessarily lengthen his stride. I thinkn the exercise was a lot harder on a circle then it would have been like on the long side of the arena. It was a good lesson for both of us. I also worked on not throwing the contact away while jumping a fence. I tend to give him too much rein, and now that we are more advanced I need to use a following hand more often to keep the contact so that on the landing of the jumps he comes back to me sooner and that leaves more time to prepare for the next jump or turn. Lastly we worked on rhythmn and pace in a sinple 2'6' line working on my position and the overall picture. We ended the lesson on a good note and both Possum and I were puffing. It took a long time to cool him out since he had worked up such a good sweat, after walking our horses out and covering them with a cooler, we left them int eh barn with some hay while we went and grabbed dinner and by the time we got back they had cooled out, gave them a good curry and then threw them back out.

Sunday I managed to go to the barn again. I spent an extra long time on warm-up since I figured he would be pretty sore, but again he suprised me and wasbasically bouncing along to the indoor. He was full of energy and was really using his body during the short ride. I didn't want to do too much jumping since we had a hard ride the day before so we worked on lengthening and shortening trot and canter, and just the quality of the gaits. He was soft and responsive and I left the ride feeling really good.

Yesterday I had off from work due to the holiday so I wanted to have a "fun" ride on Possum. We went down in the indoor to warm-up. A bunch of people were riding so we did our usual flat and then hopped over some smaller jumps. Then I took Possum down the road to have a good gallop. The conditions were perfect, the temps were above freezing and that made the dirt road soft and slightly wet. As soon as I got up in my half seat he shot forward. I stayed as still as I could while his legs worked like pistons. His ears were pinned and his head kept reaching for more, like the finish lie was going to approach at any minute. I love that feeling of going so fact that it takes your breath away. Before I knew it we were running out of running room and I started to ease him up. I let him trot out for a bit and he snorted and blew through his nose. I think he was happy too to get out and stretch his legs, it has been a long time since we had a full out gallop. We walked the rest of the way home to cool out and just enjoy the scenery. When we got back I rubbed him down and then threw him back outside. I left the barn to go to my friends barn were we ended up going on a sunset trail ride. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend. The sky was so red and pink right before dark, and the air was still and cold with the only sounds being the crunching of the horses in the snow and their tense breaths. It was one of those riedes that you breath deep and am thankful just to be alive and enjoy this greatness. For a split second it made me forget that I didn't have a guy to share it with and was totally content in just being in the moment.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Opposite of Sidetracked

Things are going along smoothly I have to report. Had some bumpy patches and stressful times, but it looks like the skies are clear and ready for sailing. Possum has just been great lately, and I'm not the only one who is noticing it. Since it's in the heart of winter up here I usually only ride about 2-3 times a week, just enough to keep us in shape and keep Possum relatively conditioned and working part time. Possum has been really responding to the work we're been doing in terms of our flat work and jumping. He is more contistently keeping a steady rhythm during course work, and in the flat we have been working on more self carriage, something that he always hates due to is build. Have also been working on really engaging that hind end and lifting the shoulders to create a more balanced and powerful stride, be that walk, trot or canter. Because my little appy gelding is not build like a dressage star this has always been tough for him to perform, but he is trying his heart out and progress is being made which I am more than thrilled with.

I think having some time off from showing and just the stress from showing is really helping us to get back to the basics and keep us focused on not just improving, but enjoying being with each other. I have a horse for a reason, and it's not to take me to the big hunter or equitation finals, it's because I love riding and being with him and just getting into adventures that we so often fall into. I have gotten some really good feedback from other riders at the barn that have noticed our progress, I have to admit that it makes me feel really good, cause both Possum and I have worked hard at this.
Onto the boy side of this blog. I can say with about 99% certainty that I WILL BE GOING TO ALASKA!!! Both Steve and I got the green light and the plans are being put into motion. I will be either going about the 21st of this month, yikes! or the middle of March. I am beyond excited. I am so happy to finally meet him and talk horses, and the outdoors and just to see day to day life out there on their rustic lodge. I am also happy for a vacation and a break in the day to day norms. I havn't had an official vacation since I was about 18 and it is looooong overdue. I have to admit that I'm a little nervous, but the feeling of excitement is far outweighing that. This news couldn't have come at a better time. Everything also seems to be falling into place, I have some extra $ from my income tax return to get out there, I have my parents and G to watch the dogs, so they will be more than taken care of, and Possum will not mind having about 10 days off, a little vacation for him too so to speak. Anyways, as usualy I will keep you all updated on my plans and ofcourse if I go I will take pics and see the horses at the lodge. I am basically jumping up and down just thinking of it.
Below and above are some pics, semi horse related hahaha that the roomie and I took one night before going out. We were just being silly and had not had even a drop of acohol, this was all sober folks! Enjoy and laugh, cause we sure did.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some pics

My blog posts seem to get further and further apart, but I can assure you that I am still here and plugging along. I'm busy with work and yes, believe it or not a semi-social life haha. The weather here in the state of Maine has been off and on, first we will have sub zero temps and snow, and just this week it got up to 40 degrees and we got 2 inches of rain almost melting all of the snow we had on the ground, it's very weird. Possum and all the other animals have been doing great. Possum continues to get better with every ride we do, his pace is much slower and he is listening much better. Now I just need to work on my equitation which has been lacking as of late. Everyone is happy and healthy which is all you can ask for.
I have had some questions about MN guy. Due to his situation we have started to talk less and less, I just think that it is better for me. If and when his situation changes things may be different, but I can't out myself in a place to be set up for failure. However, on a good note I have just started casually chatting with someone from ALASKA, I know I'm crazy, I can almost see everyone's eyes roll. It's actually all quite innocent and we have really hit it off. The other crazy part to this story is that he and his family have a TV show!!! I know, it's crazy. They have a neat show on RFD-TV called R5 Sons Alaska. It's about a lodge they they run for tourists and hunters and such and they also have 17 horses out there. The only way to get to the lodge is by bush plane usually from Anchorage. I enjoy the show very much, and the one I am talking to is Steve, the oldest son. He seems so sweet, he's my age, he loves the outdoors and horses and dogs and has no kids and never been married :) We are actually in the process of figuring out a time and place to meet sometime, I would love to go and check out Alaska, but we'll see how that goes. I have been heisitant in telling people that we talk cause it sounds a little corny and all, but we have been talking for over 2 months now and we're still not sick of each other which is a plus. Anyways, check out the show R5 Sons Alaska, they have a website for the show and they also have a fan page on Facebook, their a great family and I like supporting their show.

Here are a few pics that someone at the barn took of Possum and I jumping the other day. We don't look that great but we were jumping around 3'6" and he was doing great so that's all that matters. And yes, I was not wearing a helmet, it was my choice.

Monday, January 11, 2010

We actually got a compliment!!

Despite the fridgid temps and my car about to fall apart and being stressed about getting the money to fix it, I managed to get my bum to the barn yesterday and ride my pony. Ofcourse it was only about 15 degrees and the wind was whipping. Luckily it was about 10 degrees warmer in the indoor with no wind. I went about my usual routine. Since Possum's paddock is on the side of the driveway, I pull over and park and whistle to him and he comes over to the fence. I open the gate and let him out loose and then get back in my car and drive to the parking lot. This gives my horse time to pick up loose scraps of hay around the outside of the paddock while I go and set up the brushes, maybe visit with some people and then grab his halter and go get him. I always like to give him a few minutes of free time before I go and get him to ride, I think it just makes him happier, or maybe just me, who knows.

So I groomed and tacked him up in record time in the main barn since it was soooo cold. So e made our way to the indoor and refuge from the wind. I hopped right on and away we went at a walk. When I first get on my horse is the time of when I asess how he's feeling and his energy level, I can tell at once how the ride is going to be based on those factors. He had a spring in is step and was well in front of my leg so I was happy that this looked to be a promising ride. After our normal warm-up routine, walking for 10 min or so and then trotting in both directions for another 10 min and then cantering both directions for another 10 min or so. During the warm-up I worked on some shoulder in and leg yielding just to get his body warmed up and more pliable, as much as possum can be. We then trotted a few crossrails and went right into the meat of our work out. I asked him to trot some fences that were around 2'9 or 3ft, asking him to get in deep to them and really making an effort to snap his knees up and using his neck and back for a nice clean jump. Only once did he knock it down and I really think he just misjudged the height of the fence and knocked it a good one so much so that he tripped on the landing. No need to reprimand him on that one because I think he got the hint and the next time we jumped it he made sure to clear it by a large margin.

As were were cantering some fences and putting mini courses together, a boarder at our barn was riding her QH mare at the same time. On a walk break both Possum and I were puffing and the woman made the comment that it looked like I wasn't having to work as hard keeping him at a normal pace and put together. My eyes about bugged out of my head when she said that. You have no idea how much that means even for one person to say that. Possum is not an easy horse to ride and make it look pretty. He's hard to keep packaged together and moving in a balanced manner. I usually use the analogy that he's like driving a dump truck on a highway of sleek moving Mercedes and Audi's. Hearing that comment was nice because it meant that all the hard work we'er been putting in lately is starting to pay off, even if one person notices it, it's working. We finished up by jumping a small course of about 6 jumps and then cooled out. After a few walk laps around the arena I had the bright idea of walking around outside along the paddocks and making a loop back to the main barn to untack. Big mistake, when we made it back to the barn my feet were frozen, I couldn't feel my ears and my face was wind burnt. I untacked Possum and gave him a few treats for a job well done and then bundled him back up in his blankets and threw him outside.

So to's rare that Possum and I get compliments of any kind, but when it happens around a specific area that I have been working so hard on, it feels like I just won the lottery. Even though this year it looks like we will be doing very few shows because of finances, it's nice to know that we are still working towards a goal and slowly taking small bites towards that goal. It was like a breath of fresh air blew on us and filled our tanks of otivation so that we can keep going in our education.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Snow and Horses = More Work= Less Ambition

So I don't if any of you follow the weather here in Maine, but we are digging out from a fairly decent size snow storm that lasted for 3 days. We didn't get as much snow as they first predicted, but we got a fair amount. Basically the whole state was in a panic that it was going to be some huge super storm with feet upon feet of snow, and I have to say that the hysteria was a little contagious. Thursday which was New Year's Eve was great. The roomie and I went to a friends house to stay for the night since were were indulging in adult beverages. We left the doggies at home and promised them that no metter how much snow we got over night, we would be back in the morning to let them out, we kept our promise. But back to that night; I have never laughed so hard in my life, sure I was a little intoxicated but we were playing Mad Libs. That ame we have all played as kids on long car rides or rainy days. But oh my goodness when you put an adult spin on things, it gets downright hilarious!!! I was almost peeing in my pants.

So when we woke up early Friday morning it was snowing at a good clip and we rished to get home to let the dogs out. We also had all intentions of going to the barn that afternoon, but we were both so tired that we went back to bed and didn't wake up until it was nearly dark out and by then our motivation was shot. But my roomie did manage to sneak in my room when I had passed out and caught a pic of me spooning my dog Abby. I was out like a light.

So the roomie and I lounged around the house for most of the weekend expecting enormous amounts of snow which did not come, but it kept snowing so it scared us into staying home. Yesterday I woke up and was determined to make it to the barn. I look out my window and finally the blizzard has arrived! SO I pick the snowiest day to go to the barn. I got dressed in snow pants and jacket and mittens and hat and herded the dogs into the car. Away we went, down the road at a snails pace. We arrived at the barn a half hour later when it's usually a 15 min drive. It was snowing and blowing so hard that it was coming down sideways and pelting my face. I grabbed Possum's halter and headed for his paddock. It took about 10 minutes of digging out his gate so that I could open it enough for him to squeeze through. We were both squinting our eyes against the driving snow. I'm pretty sure both of us were happy to finally make it to the barn. I stripped off his blankets and gave him a good grooming, one to get the dirt out and two, to stimulate some blood flow in both of us. I tacked him up and we headed for the arena. I could tell he had some pent up enrgy since it had been just a eek since i ride him last, i felt like a bad horse mom.

We took a while warming up since it was cold and snowy and both of us were kinda stiff. He was moving nicely off my leg and I didn't even have spurs on. I worked a lot on stretching. Getting him to reach down and out and stretch his neck and back. Possum is a pretty stiff horse generally so it always takes a little to get him to stretch, but he was actually doing well. After we had warmed up in both directions at the walk, trot and canter I decided to refresh us by doing some flying changes across the diagonal. As usual, his good side was a piece of cake, but to my suprise his "bad" side was also really good. He didn't rush or twist his body and he did nice clean changes both front and back in unison each time. I was so happy!

We just fiddled around with jumping. There were some pretty big holes and soft sport in tne arena from having some slightly frozen ground and being chewed up. So my plan was to warm-up and then just put one jump up to around 2'9" or 3ft and just keep working over that one jump focusing on my position, rhythmn, pace and straightness. I noticed that going to the right he has a tendency to drft towards the rail over the jump, since the jmp was set about 8 ft off the rail. So we worked a lot on keeping him between my legs and straight and even. I also had to work on not leaning in on the corners especially in my "bad" direction which happens to be to the right. All in all it was a good work out and I think we were both happy with it. I cooled him out and brought him back to the barn. I kicked myelf in the ass for forgetting a whole bag of carrots that I has bought special just for him the last time I went shopping. I gave him his grain for dinner and then we made the long trek back to his paddock where I had to do some more digging to get the gate so that I could squeeze him through. I was all out of breath afterwards and my ears no longer had any feeling. I really don't mind the snow, it's actually very peaceful looking and sounding, but snow just makes everything 10 times harder to do. Harder to push a wheelbarrow, harder to drive, harder to ride at fast speeds etc... But the good news is that the snow has stopped and I'm waiting for the sun to shine. I hope to get out and ride my horse more this week, but again that depends on the temps and the weather. Unfortunately I don't get put of work until after 4 and it's waaay dark when I get to the barn so the temps have dropped a lot. Ohwell, suck it up, I live in Maine and I should be used to this by now.