Help! My horse and I are restricted to walking only!
Do not despair! There is so much that you and your horse can work on at the walk. Try to see this period of time as an opportunity to revisit the basic building blocks and you will find yourself & your horse the better for it!
Be sure not to drill your horse with any one thing. Keep yourself tuned in to prevent your horse from getting bored or frustrated. Mix up the exercises to keep working towards a horse who is supple, straight, forward & through. This is a chance for you to work through the fluency of your aids. Take the time for effective, smooth and, eventually, subtle aids, and don’t forget the walk is a good time to practice correct geometry!
First off, have you been thoughtful about mounting & dismounting? Does your horse “pick you up & drop you off”? Take a few extra minutes at the beginning and end of each ride to make sure that your horse stands square, straight & balanced, as well as parallel to whatever you mount from/dismount on to. And while you are at it, can you adjust your stirrups by feel (no peeking) without removing your feet?
Next up, lets continue to work on square halts, remembering that the number one requirement of a halt is immobility. You may have to start with standing for just a few seconds and then build to longer periods of time. Be conscientious. Halting doesn’t mean that you check out. Try to maintain a state of readiness.
While working on those halts, you will also be working on transitions. The options for transitions are endless, but to begin with focus on halt to walk/walk to halt and halt to back/back to halt. Then you can work on walk/halt/back/halt/walk or vis versa and eventually to walk/back/walk/back/walk.
Start working to improve your horse’s turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches. As those progress, you can introduce a fun exercise of serpentines while executing 90 degrees turns of either TOF or TOH. Think zig-zags with quarter turns in the corners moving only the front or hind legs. You can do this with a halt at the corners and work up to walking turns.
Of course, you can work on all of the lateral work, and the walk is a great time to practice transitioning from one lateral exercise to another, such as leg yield to shoulder in or shoulder in to travers.
Additionally, all horses benefit from working through their collected, medium, extended and free walks, as well as hill work. Try riding from collected to medium to collected again or medium to free to medium again. Hills can help develop your horses balance and pushing power.
As for the rider, you can utilize this time to improve the clarity & consistency of your aids and leadership & your ability to ride adhesively and integrated. Some questions to ask yourself as you ride might be:
Do I know which foot is in the air or which is pushing right now?
Am I sitting in the middle of my horse? Can I feel both of my seat bones?
Am I using my reins instead of my seat?
How softly can I ask?
If you find yourself getting stuck in a rut, try this game:
Create a set of index cards that include all of the gaits, shapes, movements you and your horse are currently working on and those you are ready to introduce. Then draw cards to create an exercise for yourself. For example, you might draw a spiral in at medium walk in shoulder in, or shallow loop in free walk. Keep it simple and always take it down a notch if you feel yourself or your horse getting frustrated, but look for ways to tie one exercise into another, building flow into your work.
Most of all, get in the saddle and have FUN with your horse!
This is the WORD in the HERD!
Last year Jazz surprised us by foaling at 324 days on April Fool's Day. That is apparently when her prank started.
After 5 weeks of camping at the barn and trying to convince everyone that I am not actually crazy, Jazz foaled at 355 days. Not a long pregnancy for a horse, whose "normal" range is 320-370, but long enough for me! I swear that mare laughed at me every night.
One boarder even brought up that my neighbors must be speculating that Horse Show Husband and I were calling it quits. Of course, he finished up three grueling months of tax season, including many late nights and weekends at the office, the same weekend that I went on foal watch and was only home for a few hours every couple of days.
I learned a few things during my tour of duty. The number one thing I learned is that I do NOT want chickens. I always thought it would be nice. I'd wear an apron and throw feed from it. They'd eat all the nasty bugs. Ah, perfect! Well, roosters crow and crow and crow. Once one rooster crows, they all crow down the line and once you think they'll stop, the first one pipes up again. It's like the midnight bark from 101 Dalmations, but way more annoying and without puppies.
I also learned that I am really, REALLY, REALLY bad about returning phone calls, even worse than my emails. Voicemail is like mayo, no one should have created it, no one should use, and its really gross at the bottom of the sink. BUT, I promise to be more responsive and in a more timely manner. In line with that, I am trying to make my new app YAP work. It is supposed to transfer evil voicemails into text messages. Its brilliant if it works.
I also learned that something really amazing about Jazz. A lot of moms talk about how when they lay down, the baby wakes up and starts grooving. Well, that happens for horses as well. And just like the humans I know who talk to their unborn children, so does Jazz. Almost every time Jazz laid down in the last month of her pregnancy she would nicker to her foal who was prancing around in her belly. It was the lowest, sweetest nicker I've ever heard Jazz make. This nightly ritual was so private and intimate that I felt like an intruder.
The last thing I learned what that regular wash rack showers are no fun
Luckily, I am home again, home again, jiggity, jig. Gran Jefe and Jazz are both doing very well and I am getting back to my regularly scheduled life.
Make plans to come see our new addition before one of his adoring fans decides to make him their own!
One of the hardest parts of business is self promotion. I have been working on writing for my website, this blog and Examiner.com. I've had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to say "I am great! You definitely want me to be your riding instructor, horse trainer, source of all info equine, not to mention, minor deity!" without sounded pompous and egotistic. I have found walking this line to be difficult, but maybe that's because I'm pigeon-toed.
Central Texas is in the throws of an Artic front. Today the high temp looks to be 38 degrees, but it feels even chillier in the wind.
I bought blankets at the end of last years winter season before my foals were born. Since blankets were on clearance, I saved a ton on them. Only down side was the pony blankets came in pink only. I’d much prefer blue or brown or green. Anything dark hued.
See, most horses tend to be a bit of a bigamist. If you’ve ever turned a grey, paint or appy horse out in a solid horse herd, you know what I mean. Horses don’t trust the weird and individuality will only get you eaten in the wild. Don’t even get them started on miniature horses! Mini’s tend to blow the average horse mind when they are introduced for the first time.
So, Sonnheim and Gambol were outfitted on Saturday in their new duds. Matching bright pink blankets. Since I bought pony sized blankets, they hang almost to the ponies’ knees. They look like little kids dressed up in daddy’s t-shirts. Very cute to my eyes, at least. Sonnheim is thoroughly appalled to not only wear pink, but to be matchy matchy with Gambol.
Once I was fairly sure that they weren’t going to freak themselves out over their new clothes, it was time to turn them back out with their herd. This herd is a great group for my little darlings. The herd consists of a bossy broodmare, two three year olds, a two year old and one other weanling, all warmbloods. Plenty of playmates and disciplinarians, perfect really even if they seem like giants next to Sonnheim and Gambol.
Envision if you will, there I am watching my beloved foal crop prance back out to their friends. The herd as a group came to full alert staring at Sonnheim and Gambol. Then they came at a full gallop to chase the intruders away. Sonnheim and Gambol were devastated! Of course, galloping is fun, so the herd ran around for a bit and then decided that the ponies were worth investigating. After that, the herdmates realized they knew the ponies and that, while something horrible had obviously happened to them, they were okay to have around. Soon everyone resumed eating and I could heave a sign of relief, even if I had small hopes for the blankets staying in good shape.
The next day, I was shocked to find the blankets whole and still in place. I did witness the two year old pick Sonnheim’s rear end up by biting his blanket. Literally, his back feet were off the ground! Today, the blankets are still looking good, although I am taking bets on them lasting the season.
Luckily, horse prejudice is not long lived when it comes to other equines. If it trots like and neighs like, it must be a horse.
In my attempt to procrastinate, I looked at the RPSI website and time wasting paid off! I found that RPSI posted the scores from this year's inspections.
Sonnheim PSH was the top scoring pony colt and tied for 6th in the overall colt scoring. I knew he was awesome, but the recognition from the judges was very gratifying.
Breeding is hard. There is a lot of joy and fun, a lot of cash going out the barn door, and there is a lot of worry, anxiety and sadness. I bred three mares for 2010 foals. We lost one the night she was born and then the mare two weeks later. The other two mares had their babies and looked at me like, "So what? Didn't you know this would happen after all those sonograms? I got this."
In the end, I have two amazing foals to show for the year and they are giving me the satisfaction of being right. I picked the right stallion for the right mares, kind of like arranged marriages. My nieces and nephew should be wary!
As my second foal crop was weaned this month I realize again how ill prepared I am for this to happen to me. I feel pretty confident about my abilities to raise well behaved, productive members of the horse society. I can't imagine the mess I'd make with a human child.
I mean seriously, no herd to help with safety and discipline, no one to show up at 6 months and say "Good job Laura! I'll take it from here!" Kids aren't supposed to answer "YES!" when asked if they were raised in a barn. And I'm pretty sure other moms think it's weird to round pen your children. Although, it's not a bad idea...
Well, no worries! Jazz is due in May 2011 and that is suffice for now. The people out there who are highly concerned about my lack of offspring and looming 30's are welcome to meet my herd anytime. Horse Show Husband hopes you'll buy one. Try that with a plain ol' regular baby!
And Laura said Let there be blog and there was blog. And Laura saw the blog and it was good.
I am not sure that anyone will want to hear my ramblings and musings about horses, riding, teaching, training, breeding, and just trying to make it in this crazy business, but I've never let what other people think stop me before. So, for anyone out there who's curious enough to read I am starting "The Word in The Herd!"
Horse Show Husband actually came up with the name a few years ago when I considered a newsletter. So there is his duly noted credit.
I am deep in end of the year contemplation and full of anxiety for 2011. I hope to give you something interesting to peruse, but first I need a glass of wine!