Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rode in the Rain

Since I have only a few limited, precious hours in any given week to ride (well, really...doesn't everyone?) I wasn't about to let the rain stop me last night!

I guess in full disclosure, I almost DID let it stop me, until I tried on my floppy hat underneath my helmet. If it hadn't fit under there, it wasn't going to happen - my glasses don't have windshield wipers! I really am quite excited about getting in for my LASIK early 2012 - hope I'm still a candidate!!

But it was an actual rain. Not a mist, not a sprinkle - but a real rain. Thankfully it was a warm 48 degrees, and not windy.

Arabee was looking at me strange when I started brushing her muddy wet back, and seemed slightly displeased about the saddle going on. But she was perfect on the longe line, and a good girl for the ride. I mounted by the garage, rode the 1/10th of a mile to the road at an easy trot, and kept it up until we met the first truck. Arabee agreeably stepped off into the ditch and waited patiently for it to pass, when we calmly walked back onto the road and regained our easy trot. We met 4 more trucks in pretty much the same way. It was actually probably a little bit too dark and too rainy to be REALLY safe enough - but all the drivers were very polite and slowed down to pass.

We mostly trotted the entire 2 mile ride in 20 minutes, which kept me plenty warm, even though I'd begun to get pretty soggy in the rain. Arabee was a good girl, rating well. I worked at keeping her trot the same nice, easy trot the whole time, and even though she kept wanting to go faster, she was easy to bring back to the slower trot. I'll also mention here that I have lengthened the sliding sidereins quite a bit - they're long enough that Arabee can reach down to grab some grass (not that she's talented enough to actually EAT the grass with the bit in her mouth.)

It was a fun ride!

Anybody out there suffering from the "winter blahs" - I highly suggest forcing yourself to ride your horse for 20 minutes, no matter the weather. If you're like me, it will put a smile on your face and joy in your heart.

Friday, December 9, 2011


December is Here!

Well, since I last posted in my little series about retraining Arabee using dressage principles - things in real life got busy!! Specifically, corn and soybean harvest happened on our farm. Which meant that my pretty mare got a nice rest in the pasture.....again. Never fear of Arabee getting overworked!!

The next steps in my little "retraining" program involved longing over cavaletti, longing on a slope, and then beginning under saddle work with large circles to establish a good trot rhythm. All of which have not happened, and I'm good with that. The longe work was fun, because I was able to watch my GORGEOUS horse move about....but that was about it.

I got another dressage book from the library that was geared toward beginners like me who already have a horse and ride it, but want to start doing dressage (if anyone really wants to know what it is, I'll look up name and author - I had to return it already).

In that book, it pretty much said to do the preliminary longe work, similar to what I described, then set out riding to develop an independant seat in the rider before doing any "real" dressage stuff through the use of fancy exercises with arms, legs, etc.

So the day the book was due back at the library, I took some notes about all the different recommended exercises. The problem is that a lot of them require knotting the reins on your horse's neck, DROPPING THE REINS, and then raising your arms in various figures and motions about your body. Which I feel is not such a hot idea when riding on the county road!!

Anyway, I've been riding! Between Thanksgiving and the end of November, I rode I think 3 times: the first time about not quite 10 minutes, the second time a little over 10 minutes, and the third time nearly 20 minutes of riding! I tried riding with my reins clipped to the bit with the sliding sidereins still on - which Arabee hated. So I'm sticking with my reins on some sort of bitless device for a while until I can educate my hands enough to get along with my mare. I tried a few different arrangements - but so far really like what I've got now.

My current set-up is a loose ring snaffle hanging from a bit hanger, with the Dr. Cook's on top. My reins are attached to the bitless bridle, and the sliding sidereins are hooked up to the bit. Arabee goes really well in this - and while I realize it's totally a crutch - it boosts my confidence because when she gets super alert (such as when we rode past a place where two chainsaws were running, one of them is felling trees, all while two cars drove by) the sliding sidereins are there to remind her to keep her neck low - which is calming. Don't get me wrong - she still gets high headed, really she has nearly full range of motion with her neck - but the sliding reins through the bit remind her of her job. My reins on the bitless bridle guide her, without pain in her mouth because apparantly I have a lot of work to do in training my hands. Anyway, it works well now, with the short rides I'm doing. It would NOT work on a "real" trail ride - because she can't quite reach down to grab grass or water. I'm working on ways to get away from the sidereins, eventually - as I get my "exercises" worked on, I'll gradually lengthen them until I can ditch 'em. But seeing as I'm terribly sore-legged after my 20 minutes of walk and trot rides - we're a LOOOOONG ways away from an actual, haul-out-to-a-park and ride sort of trail ride.

So, I'm participating in the Big Bad Bloggers' Distance Ride - a virtual ride where you keep track of your riding miles from December 1st 2011 - November 30, 2012. So far I've ridden three times in December - for a grand total of: 3.25 miles!! My in-the-saddle time was 51 minutes, so my pace was about 3.8 mph. It may be turtle-slow, but I do not care because I have been having SO.MUCH.FUN!!! My last ride on Tuesday was the shortest, but I cantered my mare two times (on purpose!) and that was thrilling. She is such a good horse!

Thus far, my rides have been pretty much like this: catch Arabee, let her eat grass while I scrape the dried mud off her tack areas, bring her up for tacking up, then 5 minutes longing each direction, then clip on reins, check girth and ride the day's planned route, hop off, untack, allow her to graze more, then done. Short and sweet - but it's enough to put joy in my heart. :-)

Also, unless circumstances change drastically - the plan is to ride again tonight: from home, to the stop sign, and back (not quite 2 miles- I'll have to measure it before I can report it for the BBBDR) - which will be my longest ride yet for this season! I may throw in a few laps of the barn lot to make it an even 2.

And now my blog is up-to-date on what's actually been going on with my horse.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Step Two: Longe Line Work

(FIRST, I feel it's important to mention that I am not qualified to give anyone advice on training their own horses. I'm writing these posts primarily so I can have a record of what I have done with Arabee. If you read my blog, and decide you want to try what I'm doing for yourself - just realize that I ain't no horse trainer!)

So, my horse already knows how to walk, trot, canter, and whoa on the longe line. She'll do it in a mannerly fashion without snorting, bucking, and farting like a wild thing, too. So, start with that as a goal with just a halter.

From there, it's time to tack up: saddle, snaffle bridle with flash or dropped noseband to support the bit, sliding side reins, and in Arabee's case, a crupper. I started with the longe line clipped to the halter. Later I moved to running the longe line through the bit, over the crown, then clip to the offside of the bit.

Adjust the sliding sidereins so that with the horse standing still, the sidereins are gently taut, not tight. Send the horse out at a trot, looking to establish a good gait rhythm, and so that the pair of rear legs, and pair of front legs, go apart about the same distance - then you know both fore and hind end are exerting about the same amount. (this may not make sense, probably not a good way to describe it w/out pictures)

Once you've achieved the first goal of establishing a good trotting rhythm with both front and back of the horse working equally - the next goal is to get the horse to reach for the bit. As I've read, this may happen nearly simultaneosly. Verbally praise the horse whenever they've even *thought* about doing what you want. If they've made a particularly grand effort, praise enthusiastically and gently ask for a walk - a good reward for a job well done.

Keep in mind your horse's fitness level - if you find those nostrils flaring - look for a chance to ask for a walk. "They" also say to change directions every 5 minutes to avoid fatiguing one side over the other.

In my experience, the first session or two I thought "wow, this is a waste of time my horse is NOT getting it at ALL!" but by the third longing session I saw some serious breathtakingly beautiful moments of improvement. Apparantly, this type of work is quite difficult for a fat pasture-potato, so it's best (per the books) to keep the first several sessions around 15 minutes in length, and not to expect the horse to be able to maintain the long-and-low, reaching-for-the-bit, engaging-the-hindquarters frame for more than a few strides at a time.

Gradually, Arabee has been able to go from a few strides of just long and low, to half a lap, to now nearly two full laps. And it's not just a simple long-and-low frame - it's difficult to describe, but quite lovely: all 4 legs, her back, belly, hindquarters, neck, and poll are all working energetically forward in a rounded, lovely Arabian fashion. But the very nice thing about using the sliding sidereins adjusted like I described above is that the action of the bit is gentle and encourages Arabee to stretch toward the bit, but yet she can absolutely raise and lower her head without punishing her mouth like she would have in fixed sidereins (even with a rubber donut). It allows her to build the correct muscles, but lets her take a break when she needs to due to fatigue.

This post is long enough. There's more to this initial longe work, but I'll save it for the next post.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Step One: Assemble Proper Equipment

Ok, so here's what I'm using:

Snaffle bit. Mine is a loose ring snaffle, and has a very very thick mouthpiece, which I think in fact is thicker than Arabee would prefer. But "they" say a thicker mouthpiece is kinder to the horse. It measures 4 3/4" from ring to ring.

Bridle with a flash noseband. The Mary Twelveponies book called for a dropped noseband. I have another book about driven dressage (Carriage Driving: A Logical Approach through Dressage Training by Heike Bean and Sarah Blanchard) that details very carefully why a flash noseband is easier to adjust properly to suit the horse. This noseband is NOT used to keep my horse's mouth shut - but the way I understand it, the purpose of the flash is to offer support to the snaffle bit, which keeps it in a more steady position in the mouth.

Sliding sidereins. Here again I slightly differ from the Twelveponies book, in favor of my driven dressage book's recommendation. Rather than standard sidereins for lunging, I'm using sliding sidereins. I'll try to get a picture of my longing set-up in action, but in the meantime, they're sort of a cross between sidereins and draw reins. The sliding sidereins allow Arabee to go all "long and low" if she chooses, and in fact allow her to raise her head way up high and hollow if she chooses - but in general, these auxiliary reins encourage her to drop down and round up her back.

Good-fitting saddle. I think anyone reading this will recognize just exactly HOW elusive this item can be!!!! Or for the initial portion, a surcingle can be used. My no-withered mare requires also a crupper to keep anything back in place.

Longe line and whip. Mine has a rubber donut on the end, which I like - kind of insurance against getting pulled out of my hand. Along with this - GLOVES!!! I never, ever longe a horse without wearing gloves. No matter how well-behaved they *typically* are.

The Mary Twelveponies' book also recommends a dressage whip. My horse is QUITE forward enough at this point, thankyouverymuch - I don't anticipate her requiring a whip unless I'm in an arena in the heat of the summer day having consistent work. However, she did need one in the early stages of her training 10 years ago - she did not fully comprehend that leg=go forward - so a gentle tap with the whip was a good aid to have. I do have a lovely fly whisk that I've started carrying - I suppose I could use it as a whip if the need ever arose.

So that's it. Nothing fancy. In fact, I had everything I needed in my possession EXCEPT for the sliding sidereins, which I made myself for less than $10.

One of these days I will get a picture up, and I badly need to talk about what I've done with my saddling. I'm really wanting to wait though until I get the courage up (and the consistent attention of my mare enough) to canter. I feel I won't have a fair assessment until I've done that, really. And really, a longer trail ride (like 2 or more hours).

Next up: the longing part of dressage-y-re-training.

Just Quiet, trying some things, slowly

Well, I haven't posted much. Again.

But I have been off and on working with Arabee.

For 2 nights in a row I've longed her, then rode for a few minutes.

Anyone ever read any of Mary Twelveponies books? I recently read Everyday Training: Backyard Dressage, which I requested via my local library system. I very much enjoyed it - it talks about how dressage training is essentially the basis (or can be) of all other riding. That, if you start with basic dressage principles, you can end up with a all-around, good, well-trained horse that you can go in nearly any direction with (of course, depending on its natural abilities) - jumping, western events, trail riding, whatever.

Also from the library, at the same time, I checked out Equine Fitness: A Conditioning Program of Exercises & Routines for your Horse by Jec Aristotle Ballou. Also a good, informative read - describing how to safely and progressively bring a horse along from unfit to fit, describing different tools and exercises to use depending on the horse's maturity as well as current level of exercise. One of the main things the book stressed was that even if you were going through the motions of the exercises in the proper order, for the right amounts of time, you would not be benefitting the horse UNLESS it was travelling in the proper posture. It essentially stated that if your horse was not moving properly (back up, haunches down) you could not expect to achieve fitness, just a sore, unhappy animal. (I originally stumbled upon this book when I searched info on building stronger stifles)

Okay, well, how to get my horse moving properly? I don't want a "headset" (which unfortunately is what I suckered myself into getting when I started Arabee when she was 4 years old). My goal is a horse who is engaging it's rear-end, light on the forehand, using it's back and neck in a fluid, supple way. You know, on the bit.


But.....don't I (and Arabee, too) want to ride bitless?

Yep. Hmm...

So back when I posted about the cousins riding, I had both girls riding in my rope halter that has a place on each side to clip reins. Arabee actually yielded to rein pressure very very nicely. It was beautiful to watch her engage for those girls, and she did very very well. BUT, in order to achieve that posture/frame, Arabee had constant (still gentle, but constant) pressure on her nose. I'm really not describing the details of why very effectively - but to me it was clear that for riding work in which I'm looking for a specific frame/body position from Arabee, that riding in that rope riding halter isn't ideal.

Okay. So I tried my Dr. Cook's bitless bridle again. Well, same thing - she went very well in it, and did yield pretty well - but I'd quit riding in it a loooong time ago - for the reason that there was no release from pressure - once the cross-under straps got tight, they stayed tight.

I have an S-hack, too. So I rode in it a few times again, hoping that I'd be able to achieve a light feel in the proper frame. Well, I could get a sort of high-headed, probably false "collection" - but anything resembling steering was out the window - and it seemed that Arabee just could not relax and get long and low in it, no matter how loose the rein.

So that left me out of bitless options to try. None of them seemed appropriate for the type of work I was wanting to do - retraining my horse using dressage principles, to achieve correct body carriage, to be able to properly work through some of the fitness and conditioning exercises laid out in the Equine Fitness book, in order to gradually and in a "makes-sense" sort of way bring my pasture potato to whole-body fitness - able to do long trail rides away from home without getting exhausted and sore.

So, I guess, what I'm really trying to say here....is that...I'm working on retraining my 14 year old mare to a snaffle bit again. Something that if I'd have just taken the time to do it right the first time (rather than look solely to head and neck carriage for a "headset") I could be done with all that and just be enjoying my super well-trained, all-around good horse.

In future posts, I intend to lay out details of exactly how I aim to go about doing this, what I'm doing, what my goal is with doing just that - progress, etc. It will very likely take a LONG time, due to my on-again, off-again riding schedule. But you know what - I'm having fun doing it, and Arabee still whinnies when she sees me, so I guess she's not tooooo perturbed about the whole bit thing.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Rode Today!!!

In my NEW ARENA!!!

Okay...so maybe it doesn't have special, manicured footing (although my dear husband DID mow it short for me in a perfect 20x40 meter rectangle) and maybe there are no dressage letters (but it DOES have tiny, orange surveying flags marking the corners and well....okay....I guess there isn't a fence, or any boundary at all, actually, aside from the visual of short grass vs. tall grass.

But really, for me, it was extremely helpful to have a boundary line on a specific riding area. Helped me firmly guide Arabee where I wanted her, and where I didn't, and it helped me make my circles more or less round.

It was definitely a lot of fun - even if I had to rush because I only had an hour from the time Matt said "well, do you want to go ahead and ride, even though there isn't much time?" and when he had to leave to go back into work again. Hurry - take off my boots, peel off the sweaty jeans, and try to pour myself into my breeches, put the boots back on, catch Arabee, get the saddle area clean, tack up, pick hooves, re-adjust the stirrups, realize that my helmet was back in the house (and also needed re-adjusting), and mount up....with less than 20 minutes left to actually ride, really more like 15, because I still had to untack and rinse my horse off (who, even though it was such a short ride, had ACTUALLY sweated enough to warrant needing hosed off).

Anyway...it was a fun ride, short as it was :-)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Last Week

In preparation for the "big cousins weekend," where all the in and out-of-state cousins come in to the farm for a big reunion/get-together 3-day weekend - Matt told me that he thought I should be sure to ride Arabee so that she won't be too fresh for when the kids ride. The fact that my husband actually WANTED me to ride really made me grin.

So last Monday I saddled up and we "herded" the goats around the pasture - the one with a steep hill down to a creek bed, back up a steep hill, then around the pond. She was sore going uphill on the abscessed hoof, though on the flat or downhill she was good. I kept it short, and to a walk for the most part - it was definitely more of a mental workout - turning, stopping, walking with the goats to keep them moving in the way we wanted them to. Very fun. I keep saying one of these days we'll move on to cows.

So, I turned her back out to hopefully get stronger on her hoof, crossing my fingers that she'd be 100% by the time the girls came out to ride. And thankfully, she was! Well, on grass, anyway - still ouchy on gravel, but true and strong on grass. So, we kept to riding on the grass and all was well.

My husband's cousin's daughter (2nd cousin?) C is 13 years old, and had been taking lessons for a year and a half near their home in another state. Her family stayed at our house, and they came Wednesday evening, and she had asked ahead of time if she could ride Arabee. I agreed - and I am so glad I did - C did great, and so did Arabee, and it was fun. It was also so fun to get to watch someone else ride my horse - I got to see for myself what her gaits look like, and so on. C rode Thursday and Friday morning, and other cousins, L and C, who'd been taking lessons for a little longer though at a different part of the country rode on Saturday. It was fun to see their different experiences and personalities come out - I started each of them on the longe line, asked them to prove to me that they could get her to walk, whoa, trot, walk, whoa, change directions, then told them when they felt ready that I'd unclip them. I had to reserve the right to stay clipped on the youngest - she had been used to a more steady horse than Arabee. When they trotted, Arabee kept thinking she was wanting her to go faster by the way she was using her lower legs to hang on - so in the interest of safety she stayed on the longe line - but I hope she still had fun - I sure did! All three girls were a pleasure to work with, and I think showed quite a bit of potential for being excellent horsewomen!

So to recap, Arabee had to lug big ol' me around the pasture, and chase after goats on Monday, then got 21 days off.

On Thursday C rode on the grass in circles at the walk and trot. She tried canter but unfortunately the grassy area didn't allow for a large enough circle for Arabee to really feel balanced enough to canter more than a half-circle.

On Friday, C rode again - we started in the same area as she rode on Thursday, then we headed across the road to "trail ride" in the pasture, then went back to do more trot-work.

On Saturday, L rode for about a half an hour at the walk and trot, then it was her sister C's turn for a half hour.

Arabee got Sunday off - and I'm trying to figure out how I can build off of this good momentum of workouts and try to keep up a 3-4 rides/week schedule, starting with tonight. Maybe after the kids go to bed around 8:30?? It will still be light, but the mosquitos will be out....we'll have to see.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

So this is what I think I've got:

Weak, unconditioned stifles, that have become aggravated by fly-season stamping, and further weakened by decreasing turnout on hilly pasture from 24/7 to more like 8/7 (in the name of keeping her legs dew-free). Occasionally, her stifles will lock up, which is painful, it seems. Otherwise, if the stifles do NOT lock up, she is sound and comfortable. The left side locked up more often than the right - which would coincide with the fact that she prefers the left lead, prefers to have me not post on that diagonal.

Okay. Sound unless stifles lock. If they lock, it hurts, and causes her to be cautious about the next several steps, then she walks sound again. Everything I've found about locking stifles indicates that it's a problem caused either in growing horses (under 4) or where the muscles are lacking condition.

So, cautiously, I've begun riding with an emphasis on building strength in the hindquarters, especially. She's done VERY well, in the 3 times I rode probably only locked up twice.

The first two times we walked and trotted in the yard, and worked on the hill by the driveway at the walk. The third time (yesterday) I took her across the road into the woods pasture and went "trail riding."

Stayed at a walk the entire time, going up and down gradual hills, over ditches, over logs, carefully picking paths over tree roots - all that lifting of the legs over things is supposed to be excellent for building muscle strength. She did not lock up once the entire time. Yay!

And, on a somewhat related note, as I was picking her feet, on her left hind hoof, I found a tiny hole at her inside quarter on the white line - evidence of an abscess!! Which, I believe, totally explains her extreme reactions (even though they were inconsistent) walking over gravel. Tonight I will examine it carefully and try to see what I've got - if it needs further treatment or if it's healed enough on it's own for a trim to open the hole so that dirt/manure doesn't get packed in.

I have a good, willing-to-please horse. Hope I can keep her sound!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Well, I've ordered some stuff. Some of it has come, some hasn't. Some won't for several weeks. It's not exactly what I posted about, either. I may or may not blog about it (though I probably will) but for now I'll wait a bit until I get everything and try out and see how I like them.

But....I've got another problem.

The first weekend in July I had made plans to ride with Jacke and try out a saddle to see how it worked, and I was very much looking forward to that - I love riding with her and it's been too long!

I went and picked up my breastcollar on Wednesday (it had been loaned out to someone else with a no-withers horse) and on Thursday went to fit it to Arabee again. I finally got it all adjusted the way I wanted and led Arabee out to get on, then proceeded to ride her around a bit, up and down hill, to make sure I had the crupper and breastcollar adjusted just right. Occassionally, and only on the gravel driveway, she would take a few super lame, hobbling steps, and then as soon as we were on grass again, walk normal. Sometimes she could walk on gravel just fine, for several strides, walk lame for a bit, then walk normal. It was very strange, and totally intermittent. Shoot! Well, I untacked, and decided to wait until the next day to diagnose any lameness - maybe she just stepped on a rock funny. Well, in the morning I went out and made Arabee walk around the pasture so I could watch, and it was no better, in fact, less intermittent and more consistently off - so I had to call and cancel the Saturday trail ride :-((((

Well, I kind of thought that she was dealing with an abscess. So I trimmed her hooves all nice and pretty, and poked around to try to find the sensitive spot. I thought that perhaps she was sore in her heels, from being out in dewy grass....so I started bringing her into the dry lot at night, and not turning her out until the sun burned off all the dew. Well, it improved the look of her hooves quite a lot, but it didn't stop her from continuing to be lame.

Now she's started to walk VERY short strided - it's her left hind leg - and every now and then it will "catch" and she won't be able to unlock her joint at the stifle or put any weight on that leg at all until it "un-catches." So now she has taken to full-time just reaching way far underneath herself with the left rear leg, and never allowing it to extend back, which is when it seems to catch.

Yet, she'll still gallop around the pasture.

I've done a lot of googling about this, and it seems that this may have been caused by weak muscles and that I'll need to strengthen those muscles - using exercises like uphill walking, ground poles, and collection exercises. I've also read that body-work, massage, and chiropractor adjustment can help with this, as well. I'm just not sure where to start - vet? equine chiropractor? exercises at home?

Arghhh! It seems that every time I get something 'fixed' - get better fitting tack, get the abscess healed, get this or that cut healed, get more time....seems like everytime I think I'm finally going to be able to just get out and ride SOMETHING else happens! I just want my mare to be comfortable, and both of us to be safe, and BOTH of us to ENJOY riding together! Even if it is just short, infrequent rides. Can it happen?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Here's What I'm thinking:

For the next year or 2, my horse time is going to be had probably 0-3 times per week, about an hour of saddle time max at a time. I might get an occasional chance to haul out for a short trail ride - but this would be the rare exception, rather than the rule.

My goals will include working with Arabee on "scary" things - working through Rick Pelicano's book "Bombproof Your Horse" (in quotations because I can't figure out how to get it underlined.....) getting her used to dragging things from the saddle, me putting a coat on and off in the saddle, getting used to traffic and tractors and 4-wheelers from the saddle, walking on/through/over weird things......you know, things that would make her a safe, enjoyable pleasure horse! We're going to get really good at turns on forehand and hindquarters, and sidepassing. I want to be able to open a gate from her back and check the mailbox. I'm also going to continue working with Cora (I haven't posted yet that I put her on Arabee last weekend - she was sooo cute! And Arabee was an angel, too!) and teaching her basics - steering, walking, stopping.....on a leadline for the foreseeable future.

Ok - so...you know - all that is pretty low-intensity, easy stuff - at least physically, compared to legging up for endurance competitions in the hills! The things I have in mind are more mental exercises. But still, I will need a good-fitting saddle, or at least one that won't hurt her back.

My thorowgood broadback dressage saddle worked well in the past, but now is making a muscle-ridge, tightness thing right behind her withers that I notice when I take her saddle off. Massaging the area makes her relax again and smooth out - this is a sure sign of poor fit. If I don't have her wear her crupper, the saddle slips forward while longing. Also not a good sign of good fit. She doesn't really care to walk downhill when I'm riding in the saddle, and when we trot, she gives all-over body shakes, repeatedly. Yes, Arabee.....I hear you!

What I reallllly want is one of the endurance saddles that you can adjust to fit. The two I've been looking lately at are Specialized ($$) and Reactor Panel ($$). Yeesh! I'll have to work on saving up for a good treed saddle that I can adjust for varying fitness levels - maybe there are other brands out there I haven't discovered yet. Right now I'm not looking at putting too many miles or hours in the saddle, and really can't justify laying out that kind of cash right now. I've got a year or 2 before I'll realistically get to do any endurance competition (but I do think I'll REALLY enjoy 50's!! I've DEFINITELY been dreaming about doing Michigan's Shore-to-Shore ride, and have sorta kinda maybe thought about the Old Dominion 100. Maybe...heck, I haven't even *started* an LD yet....but a girl can dream!) Anyway, the point is, serious competition requires a really good fit.....but tooling around on CTC style obstacles on short pleasure rides just requires a good fit. I think my budget right now can get us good fit.....really good fit is going to have to wait.

For quite some time I've been eyeing the Little Joe Saddles - I've seen nothing but good reviews for them. Probably not as secure as a saddle - but they say you can mount from the ground with stirrups and they won't slip - and I know my riding will improve from riding a bareback-style saddle.

They recommend using breakaway stirrups - I'll probably go with the Side Step stirrups. Not particularly "traditional" looking - but who cares? They sound really comfy, and look like they'd be safer than my caged endurance stirrups (which are also not particularly "traditional" looking).

Now....to get synthetic, western-style fenders, or biothane stirrup straps? I'm leaning toward the fenders - but would love to hear from others why they'd choose straps over fenders. I'm thinking it may be just a personal preference sort of thing...but there may be more to it than I am aware of.

So that's what I'm thinking of starting with. And we'll see how that goes - I anticipate some problems cropping up though - so on the just-in-case shopping list (but I won't actually buy until the need presents itself is:

A sheepskin seat cushion. Not sure if this one will be perfect for the Little Joe/Western Fender combo......but it looks like a close fit to me. I'm a little worried that the top of the fenders will rub my leg - so if this cushion will extend far enough down to cover the fender top, then this should solve that problem (if it even becomes a problem....it may not bother me).

A spine-relief saddle pad. Leaning towards a Skito Treeless Half pad/Interpad with Dryback. Tell me if I'm wrong - but I'm having a hard time seeing why I couldn't use a treeless half pad under a treed saddle some day if I needed to? I know with a half pad I'd have to use some kind of thin pad as well - but those are cheap and easy to come by, and I think the pad that comes with the Little Joe would work. I like the idea of the dryback, too. BUT....if Arabee doesn't show any signs of discomfort with the Little Joe saddle and the pad it comes with - I'll leave well-enough alone and keep my $135+ in my pocket!! So this would be another wait-and-see item.

So...that's where I stand now. But we'll wait until after the 4th of July to do any ordering. Would love to hear any input on what I've just written about, positive or negative. None of it's ordered yet - I can still change my mind!! :-)

Looking forward to this weekend!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One of these things is not like the other

Took some pictures today. Arabee and her pasture-mates.

One day, maybe, I will take a photography class and learn how to take actual, real-good pictures. For now, I will have to settle for pitiful substitutes of the real thing. There is SO much beauty in this world, broken as it is. I was just awestruck this evening standing out in the yard, watching the clouds, puffing white, yet rainbow-colored at the same time. Amazing. I don't know if a camera even COULD catch that level of prettiness.

Pictures are nice, but they just don't match the real thing. I love having pictures, but something about looking through a lens at the world really distorts actually experiencing life. Kind of ironic that I'd post pictures on a day I talk about this, eh?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hey, Guess What?

I was wrong! I said I wasn't going to get to ride on Monday....well, turns out my volunteering was canceled, so now Monday evening was free. Not only was Monday evening free, but the arena down the road was open for use, as well!

So, I fixed up supper: chopped onions, sauteed in olive oil, browned deer burger, added a jar of tomato sauce, almost a pint of salsa, 2 cans of beans (kidney and black) and minced some garlic in my cast iron dutch oven. Put the lid on, stuck it in the oven at 250* and voila - supper would be ready when I got back home!

Then as soon as Matt got home he hitched up the truck to the trailer for me, while I caught up Arabee and brushed the mud off and saddled her up. It's only 1 mile to the arena, so I thought I'd try hauling her with the saddle on this time. It went fine - no issues, but I would not likely do it for longer distances. Pulled up, unloaded, and put her in the arena and tied her up while I shut all the gates. It was 4:52pm.

It took her about 20 minutes of walking around and seeing all the sights and free-longing in the arena before I felt like I had her attention even somewhat enough. So I girthed up and got on, started walking around but I felt like a fly on her back - she was paying me no mind! So.....I got back off and free-longed some MORE (next time I will bring my longe line!!). She looked absolutely GORGEOUS - sleek coat, lovely arched neck, ears at attention, tail up, smart gaits....just b.e.a.u.t.i.ful! I kept her moving until I got an ear.....which took a very long time (it seemed like). Part of the problem was (I think) that she'd not seen another equine animal in....well, a very long time - not since I took her to the vet last fall. And also someone had come to bring some of the horses into their stalls for the night, which she thought required super-high alert. Ha.

So finally I got back on, and she just was "up" still....so I tried using seat, hands, legs, voice to get her mind on me. No luck. Darn! I was thinking my arena session hadn't turned out quite the way I wanted it to! Well, I thought - this just isn't safe - I was riding a stick of dynamite with a short fuse, which was making me scared, and tense, which in turn was making her even more nervous (you know how that goes...). So I got off again, and went to go get something to work her brain.

This place is wonderful, they have barrels, a mailbox, a basketball goal, poles - many different obstacles which are used for the therapeutic riding program. I chose barrels, as they are much less tippy. So I lead Arabee up to the barrels, and pushed one over on it's side (she nearly left the county!) and started to roll it (kick it) to the middle of the arena. I encourage her to touch it w/ her nose, and push it with her feet. Repeat this process 3 more times, only with less jumping back and snorty behavior. Apparantly, she'd misunderstood my request, because at one point she made a flying leap from a standstill over the barrel! I was very impressed - she went from stock still to cleanly flying right over the barrel - I was equally glad that I was standing out of the way at the time, as well!

Anyway, I got 4 barrels out, and set them up in the center of the arena in a square. I used them to bend around, to walk circles, and figure 8's and a variety of patterns around. It worked well in getting her brain focused on something other than ogling all around. Once she was focused, I worked in trotting the diagonals, and trotting in a circle around all the barrels, but my square was too small to do that successfully. So I hopped off and moved them out to make a larger rectangle, and we did the same thing as before only at a walk and a trot.

She gave me some really nice sitting trots, but anytime we'd get out farther than 15-20 ft from our barrels she'd quit focusing on me and start watching the arena walls. At one point, at the trot, she tossed her head, and the rein flipped over her ear (she really doesn't care for having her ears touched) which got me thinking uh-oh...but it turned out just fine.

It was a good evening. Started off sorta rocky, but I was able to get her focus on me, and she performed really well after that. My biggest concern/frustration right now.....is.....does her saddle fit!?! I honestly don't think it does....at all...visually it seems like a nice match along the front, width-wise, but there is NOT enough wither clearance. She's been giving all-over body shakes a lot, too - which could be caused by fly-season...OR poor saddle fit. When we rode on Saturday she was extremely hesitant/reluctant to go downhill, even a slight downhill, and when I take the saddle off there's an awkward bump (it is swelling, or is it muscle tightness?) just in front of the saddle by her withers. I need to try to check saddle fit without the pad - I have an extremely thick coolback pad - it doesn't leave much room. So anyway....I'm just hoping things are not what they seem - a better-fitting saddle is not even remotely in the budget right now, but if her saddle fits her as poorly as it seems to, I'm either looking at keeping to a walk on perfectly flat ground for extremely short periods of time, or....riding bareback. Neither of which are particularly appealing! So we'll see - I won't ignore my horse's well-being..........but for right now I've got my eyes squeezed shut, fingers in my ears...pretending I don't see what is right in front of me......

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rode on Saturday

I rode on Saturday again.

When I went to catch Arabee, boots and breeches and helmet (on this time, didn't leave it out of sight when I went out to catch her with the halter) she stood waaaaay in the back of the pasture. Head up, ears up, standing at attention in the middle of the cows, calves, and right next to the bull! Just stood there, watching me walk up......and when I got about 20 feet away, she bolted straightaway to the gate where I had begun calling her from! A few calves began to go with her, but turned away when they saw me coming.

She stood in the paddock area waiting for me while I trudged back the gentle uphill where I had hoped she'd come to me in the first place. I shut the gate so she'd have no opportunity to run away again, then haltered and saddled her. I wasn't mad....but I HAD decided that if she felt like running, she could do some on the longe line so I put on my gloves (I NEVER longe without gloves!!) hooked her up, and we took a few laps at the trot and canter - maybe 3-4 in each direction. She was responsive, calm, and it actually took quite a bit of effort on my part to get a canter out of her.

I clipped on the reins, unclipped the longe line, and mounted up. We walked circles around the barn lot driveway, while my husband and children fed calves and ran here and there in the Ford diesel pickup. Arabee's not too thrilled with the wrench rattlin' sound that thing makes, and when I could hear him driving in, I asked for a trot back to her familiar tacking up area, and we waited as they drove past to the house, no drama.

Oh my, it felt so good to trot my horse! Shoot, it felt great just walking around. She was moving so freely beneath me, calm and on a loose rein, and I was even pushing her comfort levels a bit (I took her down the road a bit, off property....she was not comfortable with that on our ride on Wednesday, but was really good about it this time). I have no clue how long we were out, but it was beautiful, wonderful, perfect....a better buzz than any drink! How is it that riding a horse can put a silly smile on a grown woman's face and leave it there for days? I'm not complaining, but I sure don't understand it!

After the ride, I had planned a quick touch-up on her hooves, I got a few surprise visitors - Luke and Cora had wandered up to the barn, so I opened up the back of the Jeep that was parked in the shed and told them to stay inside the jeep, while I rasped Arabee's hooves. That worked out pretty well. They got bored pretty quickly, and started climbing all around the inside of the jeep, but it didn't seem to bother Arabee.

I doubt I get the opportunity to ride tonight, and definitely not Tuesday....but I think both myself and my husband will try to push to find more opportunities for me. I think we'd both forgotten how pleasant I am on horses.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I rode Yesterday

Got the kids to bed early, they were T.I.R.E.D. from our camping trip that we'd taken, I left the house at 7:34pm in breeches and boots and helmet in hand.

Whistled for Arabee, and she came galloping in with the goats.

Got her out, looked her over, tacked up, thankfully noticed that the buckle on the rein was not all the way in, fixed that, reviewed that stirrups are not scary (no big deal, for her this time) then got up.

Just walked, stopped, turned, doing my best to stay in both of our comfort zones. I don't want a rodeo. Just want a calm, quiet, safe ride. And I hadn't ridden my horse in a LONG time, and didn't longe her first, either.

It was fun. By the end my legs were trembling like jello, it was plainly time to stop for the night, though I still had plenty of daylight.

When I got in the house, I was surprised to see the clock read 8:34!! I'd only been out an hour!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summertime Mare

You know what - I'm really not sure why I post these boring posts.....but I really love writing - helps me get my thoughts together. Now, why I feel like it's worth posting to blogger vs. just typing up and deleting? Or just staying in a file on my computer? Eh...I don't know. I guess it's fun to share your thoughts, even if they are one-sided.

Arabee's been 24/7 pastured. Not sure how I feel about that. On one hand - it's super easy - turn her out, she has plenty of roughage (good for horses) access to fresh water and a shelter. She's around other animals (goats, and cow/calf pairs). Actually, she's been really sticking around the cows, and I REALLY hope she picks up on their calm demeanor. I've seen Quarter Horses who live with Arabians begin to act very arab-like....you know, more reactive, higher-headed, trot more floaty, do the tail over the back thing - it's quite comical, really to see how hard they try to be like their friends. Peer pressure, I guess? lol

But, anyway....the drawback for her to being out on pasture 24/7 is that I have seen her scratches begin to come back, and she's bug-bitten. Though, her feet look beautiful!

She looks soooo pretty and sleek! I really desperately crave spending more time with her, and riding her. And it's mutual. The other day, I walked out from the house and called out to her, and she walked eagerly up to me. I offered her a scratch, then started walking for the barn - she came along as if I had haltered her and had a lead rope. She didn't want to leave when I turned her back out, either.

But - and I'm not complaining here, honest!!! I am so amazingly blessed: garden is coming up BEAUTIFULLY (though it takes work to keep it that way), my flower beds around the house are really coming together, my children are growing in amazing ways: Cora can write her name (mostly...she has some trouble with the 'R'....she's 3.5 years), Luke is running, walking, climbing, learning new words to say all the time - he's 1.5 years. I feel like I can never keep the house clean enough to be comfortable - though thank God we have one - I can't stop thinking about Joplin, or parts of Alabama where the tornadoes destroyed so many homes.....completely DESTROYED them....Anyway, and I gotta feed my family - though I really enjoy cooking - it's become a fun creative outlet for me. So all these commitments require my presence. (it's so nice to be NEEDED!) :-) My husband is so hard-working, working full-time off-farm, and during the summer months nearly full-time on-farm. It's just, and I think some parents are different, but....I just can't see letting my kids run around while I groom Arabee, especially not during fly season! And that's just grooming, not to mention actually tacking up and going for a ride! So, I need to have my husband available to watch the kids if I want horse-time. And right now, in this season....that AIN'T happenin'!!

I keep wracking my brain to try to think of a way to make things work out so I can work with (play with) Arabee, because I firmly believe "If you really want to do something, you'll find a way to make it happen" but I think I am just in a season of life right now as a stay at home mom of two young children who's married to a part-time farmer (and believe me, I am incredibly, amazingly blessed to be that woman!!!!) that I can't truly let horse-time be a priority, no matter how much I may want to. It's getting closer to where Matt will be able to take both kids along with him when he's farming - Cora's ready, but Luke just....we'll - he's 1.5!! Kids do foolish things, and need supervision to keep them safe around farms and horses. Things Luke thinks are fun: climbing on the tractor and pulling all the levers, poking the dog in the eye, standing in mud-holes that go partway up his shins (and let's be honest....when you're on a farm....mud isn't always just pure mud....more of a mud/manure mix!) - anyway.....the point is that the boy must always be within sight to prevent him from incurring bodily injury right now. And that's ok! He's a little boy and he won't stay little long. I'm working hard to remind myself of this - my children are so precious, and won't stay small and innocent for long, it would be foolish of me to resent their need for supervision, rather, I need to cherish this time with them. I have the rest of my life to pursue horse things, and in the mean-time, if I get a spare hour or so, sure I can run out and try some horse-time, and I can cherish that time, too, if it comes. But I don't need to force it.

To all you high school girls who are horse-crazy, consider this carefully: Before you decide to buy the horse of your dreams while you're in high school, try really hard to get your horse time some other way. There are many out there who aren't being ridden that you could probably borrow. I know, true - there's nothing quite the same as having your own horse that you can bond with. Believe me, I know! And it is a special, special thing. But honey - you're in high school - no actual responsibilities (I know, easy to say looking back...but it really is a different ballgame when it's you not your parents doing the house payment, the grocery shopping, the meal prep, the car maintenance....Thank you, Mom and Dad!!!) sure you have time for horses now! But you're life is about to change beyond what you can imagine. College of some sort, whether it's beauty school, or a 4-year degree, or whatever, then choosing and securing a career, maybe getting married, maybe having children.....who knows. I sure had no clue! And horses live a very long time, and are very EXPENSIVE to keep. Just, just think about it long and hard - will you be fair to yourself and your horse if you buy one in high school? You can buy a lot of riding lessons with the money it takes to buy a horse, and maintain one.

Here's a brief re-cap of Arabee's history: Born in 1997. Purchased by me in 2000. Shown in 4-H and Class A Arabian shows after I broke her to saddle myself - we had a blast! In Fall of 2003 I went to college, went on a trail ride with Arabee where I was unseated and got a compression fracture in my spine, and got my confidence shaken, besides that I only saw my horse on the weekends, occasionally. Pretty mare was rarely ridden for 3 years. In 2005 I was married and we moved the horses to the farm, where she again, was rarely ridden until the fall of 2008, when I started riding again after my daughter was almost a year old. Started training for an LD in 2009, when that was siderailed for my pregnancy and her injury to the hoof/coronet. Started training again in winter 2009, for an LD IN 2010, when that was sidetracked by the reality of life with toddlers and a farm. Here we are, 2011. Mare in the pasture, me only dreaming of riding. I think I've just described a somewhat common scenario, different in the details - but basically a horse that while it is well cared for, it doesn't have a job. Wrong, no. Ideal? I don't think so. I think horses like to have a job. I also think they like to eat grass and get fat, although they make a mighty expensive pet.

You know, I'm not saying that it was a mistake for me to have Arabee. I'm glad I do! I just wonder how things would be different now. Maybe I wouldn't feel so guilty: When-I-Ride, because I'm not taking care of my family, and When-I-Don't-Ride, because I'm not taking care of my horse. How does a horse-crazy momma choose?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Little Bit by Little Bit

Well, I did end up washing Arabee last week - it went well. It loosened up a lot of her winter coat, which she's missing now as I type this because it turned off chilly again this week - in the 40s-50's at night. But she still has a lot of fuzz around her muzzle and on the tender skin around her legs - she'll slick up very soon when the weather heats back up!

After I bathed her, I worked M-T-G in her dock, and in the crest of her mane, and put sunscreen on that itchy patch where her neck meets her chest where the bugs bite but she can't reach them.

I also went ahead and started on her hooves, rasping a good rollover on the toe of both front hooves.

She stayed in the dry lot overnight, then stayed in the pasture all day Friday, then back to the lot Friday night. Saturday afternoon I haltered her, finished rasping her front hooves, groomed her, then carefully checked her tail and crest for ticks - I found 5! Ick....

It misted rain all day on Sunday, so she stayed in the lot all day, then I pulled her out for a little bit of hand grazing and I did a roll on the toes of her hind feet. I scratched her itchy spots, mane and tail included, but didn't comb her over for tick since she hadn't been in the pasture at all that day. I went ahead and stalled her overnight, because I am wanting to try to keep her legs dry to prevent scratches from coming back this summer.

She wasn't bad about it this morning when I went to let her out of her stall - didn't try to run me over at all when I opened the door. But she was very glad that I opened the gate to the pasture. I hope to be able to finish rasping her hind hooves later this evening, but I may not get a chance until Tuesday.

Is there anyone who makes a product that will keep ticks off of horses? We use Frontline on the dogs, and it works great - what do others do to keep their horses pest-free??

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Finally had enough! On Tuesday I said to my husband - I AM going to groom my horse. I had to. Even if I never find time to actually ride, I have to at least care for her physical needs. So I groomed her really well all over on Tuesday afternoon, then turned her back out.

Happily, her frogs are in great shape! She does need a trim, and I will find time for that over the weekend. And the scratches on her lower legs are gone! She has become a roly-poly fat thing after getting green grass turnout - and I think what I'll do, both to prevent the scratches from returning, and to keep her from getting even fatter yet, is stall her at night when the grass is wet - that way she can't eat, and her legs and feet will stay dry. Maybe I can teach her to pee on command, too - after she gets out of her stall in the morning? We'll see!

She's still got some bug bite marks where she's been rubbing to scratch itches, and those need some care. Tonight I am going to bathe her, and really give her a thorough cleansing scrub from poll to tailbone. One of the benefits of being married to a farmer is having a big water tank - Matt filled it with water last night, so it won't be as cold as it would have been had it been straight from the hose! It's getting hot, but not hot enough yet that we need ground temperature water! So anyway, after the bath I'll apply some sort of lotion to help those rubbed patches heal.

It may not be riding, but it's a step toward horsey-time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Still fuzzy.....but on grass, now!

It's been raining here for days and days and days. We've had so many inches of rain I don't even want to wager a guess - but it's soggy.

I haven't ridden since the last time I posted (probably no surprise there, since I'd only just started back to riding since the wet spell) but Arabee has been getting her heart's desire - pasture turnout with tall, green, spring grass!

She's been getting ticks, too.....poor mare - I've never seen her have so many all up and down her mane. I think it's because she's the sole horse - she and Jack always used to groom each other, which probably helped remove ticks from the crest of the mane. I really need to commit to at least getting her out and grooming her daily - if not riding regularly.

It's just...well, May, and I'm married to a farmer who also has a full-time off-farm job, and I have 3.5 year old and 1.5 year old children. Which means spare time for riding = essentially non-existant. But I am a firm believer in that a person MAKES time for what's really important.

So do I make time for the horse right now, or do I find a 'free to a good home' pasture mate who can tooth-scratch Arabee's itchy mane for her? That is the question. However, I don't see either one being a realistic option given the circumstances.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Mare

Rode yesterday afternoon. It was sunny and WARM (high 70's) but very windy. Very.

I tied Arabee with the blocker tie ring, started grooming the mud and loose hairs off - her summer coat wants very much to come out! She was jumpy - the windy gusts making "monsters" bang around. I thought 'this could be interesting' and proceeded to saddle up, pick feet, attach one end of the reins to the lead rope spot of our riding halter.

I'd planned on riding in the winter lot by the barn where she lives right now (until April 15 - our turn-everything-out-on-pasture day) so I led her in and, oops, she rubbed a stirrup on the post by the gate, and rushed past me, accidentally knocking my ankle with the wall of one of her hooves. Ouch, but not too bad, really.

So after that and the stirrup freak-out episode of the last ride, I felt it prudent to go ahead and review the stirrup thing. So I flopped the stirrups all around, and took off the rein and sent her around me in the lot - walking and trotting - but it was such an extreme effort for me to get her out of a walk and she was handling the presence of flopping stirrups so well that it was obviously time to just get on and ride already.

So, I did. All we did was walk around on a loose rein, turning, whoa-ing and practicing on sublety - after a little while she was doing a fabulous job of just walking where I would look - it was great. Eventually, we both got a little bored with the walking/turning thing and started to "herd" the goats - if they were standing outside of the barn, I'd try to turn them (sort of pretending they were calves). It was silly, but fun. Maybe if I get brave this summer I'll try her on actual calves, although they're bigger and much faster.

Anyway, it was fun, I achieved my goal of riding a relaxed ride with no point aside from having fun and getting my legs tired (which I achieved in the short 20 minute ride time...sad)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Adventures on a String!

So maybe the title sets this up as more exciting than it really was...

Did chores, filled up a hay bag for Arabee, then tied with the blocker tie ring II (got that last fall, really like it!) and groomed and saddled her while she ate her hay.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out for my mom to do the longing - so my husband offered (very hesitantly) to do it instead. You see, the man loves me, but he does not love horses, but he recognizes how much happiness I gain from being around them, so he tries to be supportive of it all the while being nervous that I'm going to be injured, which unfortunately makes me (because I love him and don't want him to be nervous) feel bad about riding because it makes him uncomfortable. And anyway, a nervous guy holding a longe line really doesn't impart much confidence to a large prey animal.

So we started out with me longing her, just walking around to get both her and Matt used to the idea of longing quietly but she was high headed and jumpy (see above paragraph). So I go ahead and decide maybe she needs a little workout first, so I urge her into a trot, which is going fine except she's really unsure of the sound of the stirrups flopping against the saddle, which makes her trot cockeyed with short, choppy steps, which made the stirrups flop even more, which made her break gait into a fast canter, which flopped the stirrups louder and harder, which made her bolt around as fast as she could on the longe. Great. Just the little confidence-building exercise I had hoped for! (not)

So Matt walks away to go work on the corn planter while I work on Arabee and getting her accustomed to the sounds and sensations of stirrups (how could we have missed this previously?!? or perhaps she'd forgotten). Which was quite dizzying - her whirling around me while I clung tight to the longe line in one hand and flopped the stirrups with the other. Finally she calmed down and was willing to stand still with her head held high and ears back while I flopped the stirrups, and so we went back out on the longe again, me certain that she would calmly trot about, aware of the stirrup-flopping but not too concerned over it. HaHa...we had more bolting, so we tried more flopping, then she did finally become accepting of it to the point where I considered her "safe".

Keep in mind....all I had wanted to do with her this day was to walk around in slow circles on the longe line while I worked MY butt off (or inner thighs, rather...) working to get those horseback riding muscles back in shape. It was not supposed to be a workout for the horse, at all. Well, I guess you work with what you've got.

She was warm and sort of sweaty at this point - not lathered, though, and I had my helmet and riding clothes on and everything, so I called Matt back over and it all went downhill again (see paragraph on "nervousness") I told him to take like 5 deep breaths, and see, she's doing just fine, exactly what I want her to, and worked on coaching someone, who in all fairness, had never in his life ever pictured himself holding the end of a rope attached to a 900 lb flight animal (who in his estimation is ridiculously flighty) with his dearly loved wife sitting on top. He and she got better, and calmer, and I ended up working on two-point, and keeping good lower-body position in the saddle. I still had to steer, since our circle was more Easter-egg shaped than round, but still it was good for my muscles, which again - that was the whole point of the exercise for me. I didn't get to do the trunk twists, or both arms out, but I did do one arm at a time.

And it was good. I got to do what I wanted to do (pretty much), and I got a good dose of reality when it came down to working with an Arabian mare who'd been out of regular work for almost an entire year. And hopefully, if I keep doing things this way - the slow way is the fast way - the way where you do stupid, beginner-rider things like riding on a longe line, or just doing practice turns in a small, confined area, hopefully, if I do things this slow way, I'll be able to convince both myself and my husband that riding horses isn't as recklessly dangerous of an activity after all.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Out of shape!

I believe I can say now that I have finally shaken off the last of the soreness from my ride on Monday. Early this morning I could still feel a slight ouchiness in my inner leg muscles.


I had only ridden for 15 minutes!! That is sad.

But what's very exciting is that my parents are coming down to visit tonight, and I have asked my mom if she'd be willing to hold a longe line for me so I can work on balance and strength building exercises without having to worry about steering. She said yes, and since I was sore so long after a short 15 minute ride, I think we'll keep this one to about 30 minutes, tops, so I think we'll have time to squeeze it in. I bet if I ask her she'll tell me when I'm leaning forward too much, or if my legs are in the wrong position, too.

I think I'll go ahead and ride with stirrups. Haven't decided for sure if I'll use reins or not, since she'll be on the longe line. I've been volunteering for a therapeutic riding center, and I'll do some of the warm up exercises used there: airplane wings (arms straight out to the sides), arms straight up, and trunk twists (hands on your hips, twist and twist!). Maybe I'll practice riding in two-point, maybe I'll swing my arms in circles, maybe I'll ride with one arm pointing forward and one arm pointing backward, then switch. I know these things are going to be helpful in getting my core strength and balance in the saddle closer to where they should be.

I just hope it doesn't rain!

Anyone else have any favorite exercises that they like to use?

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Rode Today

So, I rode today! First time since last April.

It was fun, it was short (only about 15 minutes saddle time) we walked and trotted and turned and whoa-ed and it was all rusty and awkward but right at the same time.

My little mare has really calmed down a lot. Today is Monday, and I'd only just groomed her a few times in the last week - no longing or handwalking yet we still had a nice quiet first ride back. Felt good.