Monday, February 1, 2016

Grandpa Bill's Turn

Bill has been on Skeeter before - last year when we were just getting her used to having weight on her back - but no one has ridden Skeeter other than me since she came back from Jessica's.

Mom really wanted to ride, but she's having trouble with one of her hips and decided to wait until after she sees the orthopod on Thursday.

When I dismounted, Skeeter was still doing so well, I asked Bill if he wanted to ride and he jumped at the chance.

I was so proud of her!

Sunday, January 31, 2016


The weather was gorgeous on Friday - 58*F, sun, and no wind! I had to get in the pen and work with Skeeter. The constant sun/cold/sun/cold had made sheets of ice outside of the pen, so surprisingly the pen had the best footing.

I hadn't been up on Skeeter in a while - about a month. It's been a long time. I had intended to ride her the day we fell apart, and that had been a couple of weeks since our previous ride. I was absolutely determined to get up, even if was only to flex her each way. Things on the ground went so well that I hopped up and we rode around the pen for a little bit. She's quieter with the combo bit than with the snaffle and much more responsive to it. When I dismounted, I was on cloud nine! It was by far the best work day we'd had in a very long time.

Saturday was supposed to be our last nice day for a while, so Mom planned on coming down. After only one day of riding in the pen I knew I'd get bored in no time, so I spent Friday night plotting ways to make it more interesting.

We have a big pallet that we'd been planning on using for a bridge, so I knew I'd pull that out to walk over. Then I started thinking about the scraps we have around the house and came up with some PVC pipes. They aren't very long, but I could pound them into the ground and have 'poles' to work on turning. I was starting to get excited.

When Mom and Bill got to our place on Saturday, I remembered we had some wood things that could be used to hold trot poles, but I didn't have any poles. But we do still have the long 2x4s that we used to extend the pens to 6' tall.

In no time, between Mom, Bill, Jay and I, we'd constructed a make-shift obstacle course. I caught Skeeter and walked her through it.

(She looks cresty, but it's her mane growing back. She rubbed chunks of her mane off on the feeder while at Jessica's.)

She did pretty good, so it was time to mount up and RIDE! :)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Doing It My Way, Part II

I had realized the night before that I was trying to be someone I wasn't and that was killing my confidence. I was constantly second-guessing myself, wondering if I was doing it "right".

I woke up excited to work Skeeter. We didn't have a lot of time, but I was going to work her by my rules.

Holy cow, what a difference a day (and a change in attitude) makes. My confidence came flooding back and Skeeter snapped right to.

Julie always says to use the amount of pressure that motivates change. I was trying to be nice and quiet, with very subtle cues, but that wasn't cutting it. Once I went back to what I know I felt so much better.

I asked, expected her to do what I asked and if she didn't, I immediately escalated. For example, she's a bitch about backing. She would evade the correction by just raising her head without moving her feet. However, once I changed my attitude she didn't even think about evading. I gave the lead rope a slight wiggle to ask her to back and she didn't, so I immediately escalated and told her to move with a big, scary correction. After the first correction, it took just a wiggle of the rope to get her to back up. After that, all I had to do was wiggle my finger without moving the rope.

We did circling work (again, I don't think we'll ever be done with that), lots of change of direction, backing, and standing ground tied. She's by no means perfect after one session with the "new" me, but leaps and bounds better than with the "faux" me.

It was a much shorter session than the day before, but when we ended both of us were in a much better place mentally. I'm actually looking forward to working with her again. I hadn't realized that I was dreading working with her before, but now I realize how much my lack of confidence was weighing on me.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Doing It My Way, Part I

I started the New Year determined to make headway with Skeeter. That sounds weird, because she's green broke, but she's still got so much to learn (as do I).

We had a break in the weather on January 2nd and we got to work. It was awful. Not a damn thing went correctly. There are two things I despise in horses: pushiness and being food driven. Skeeter was both on the 2nd.

I tried to work through her pushiness and keep her head out of the dead grass. For God's sake, she has a 1,200# round bale all to herself, she does not need to graze. I tried to stay calm, keep my cues clear and work through it, all the while seething. Eventually, through a lot of ground work, I got her paying attention to me and decided to bridle her and go for a ride.

On New Year's Eve I had changed out her bit and bridle to Estes' old bridle and Skeeter's new Myler combo bit. She had done beautifully with it - I worked her over the withers and she gave to pressure beautifully. The bit sat nicely in her mouth and she was much quieter with it than she was with the snaffle.

She doesn't look so thrilled, but she's a mare.
Since she had handled her new bridle so well, I didn't anticipate the fit she threw about having it put back on. It's not like she threw a huge fit, but Jessica has her so well trained that I was surprised she tried to toss her head up. She thought she might get away with it, but her mommy has bridled some of the worst horses around, so she lost and had to wear her pretty bridle.

I worked a bit more on ground work and then decided to mount up. I still can't find my damn stump so off to the trailer we went. And then her brain fell out her butt again and she forgot how to line up at the trailer. I continued to try to channel Jessica and stay calm with clear cues. Didn't work. I got frustrated because I figured I was doing something wrong and decided to walk her over to a pile of pallets, intending to use them as my mounting block.

Skeeter lined up beautifully, so I shortened her left rein a bit to tip her head toward me as I mounted. Just as I put my left foot in the stirrup, she decided that by tipping her nose to the left I must have wanted her up on the pallets with me, so up she came.

I'm not even kidding. I went from, "I'm really trying hard not to be pissed as hell at you" to laughing my ass off in about half a second. I backed her down from the pallets and lined her up again, chastising her to behave herself so I could mount up. Again, just as I got my foot in the stirrup, she stepped up on the pallets. It was not so funny the second time and my frustration meter skyrocketed.

I decided someone was trying to tell me that riding wasn't going to happen, so I backed her back down off of the pallets and we did more groundwork until I could find a decent stopping point.

When I turned her back out into her pen, she seemed as frustrated and relieved as I was that we were done.

I stomped into the house, absolutely livid with both of us. It took a while for me to calm down, but once I did, I realized I was trying to be someone I wasn't.

Skeeter knows what to do - she's fully trained. Green, but trained.

I mulled it over throughout the day and realized that I'm not Jessica, I can't be her and the harder I tried the more frustrated I got.

Eventually it dawned on me that I just have to do me. Me is a bit more abrasive than Jessica, a bit more impatient, but I like to think I'm still fair. I never get after a horse just because - I ask them once, give them a chance to respond, and then tell them.

By the time I went to bed, I was feeling much better and much more confident.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Colorado Mustang Days

Jay and I might have lost our minds. You know, even more than usual. Last year during the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo, we spent a great deal of time watching the Mustangs compete in Colorado Mustang Days (CMD). We decided it was a good goal to strive for this year.

We both entered in three classes as amateurs: Pleasure, Mustang Race (similar to extreme trail), and Freestyle.

Skeeter spent 45 days or so at Jessica's getting green broke, but I haven't had as much time to work with her as I had hoped. If I'm lucky, we work twice a week and I've ridden even less. Copper is still at Jessica's for training - his 60 days is definitely getting stretched out because of the weather. When Copper comes home, Jay will have approximately four weeks to work with him before we head out to CMD in Denver. I feel like Jay's going to have an advantage because Copper will be fresh from training, while Skeeter has been sitting more than working.

Needless to say, I'm a bit nervous and a whole lot terrified. I've never shown at all, in any way, shape, or form, in my entire life (and neither has Jay). I know that we'll be fine and that should anything happen, we'll work our way through it and that this is supposed to be a learning experience.

Jay is handling it like he always does - nice and calm. Talk about someone who is unflappable. He and Copper are mirror images of each other.

Skeeter and I are mirror images of each other, too, and that might not be a good thing. I tend to be more high-strung and prone to blow-ups. The good thing is after a blow-up, I'm calm, so there's that.

If you happen to be in the Denver area in March, swing by - we'd love the support.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Off Property!

I'm very late in posting this. Believe it or not, I was too excited to post after it actually happened, which is kind of weird. Skeeter asks daily if we can go work. I'm not kidding. Daily. I would love to be able to do it, but between weather and work, it's just not happening for us.

On Dec 22, I finally had enough time to spend hours with Skeeter. It was a balmy 45* and no wind, so off we went to work.

I wasn't rushed at all, so I tacked her up and we spent time working on the longe line. When I was sure she had gotten her "woohoos" out (as Jessica calls them), I bitted her up and changed from the longe line to my lead line and worked on some small circles. Since she hates flexing to the right, we worked on some turn-arounds in which I loop the lead rope from her halter, behind her butt, and pull from the opposite side. If I want her to turn to the right, the lead goes along her right side, and behind her butt. I stand on her left and pull on the end of the lead rope. This is an exercise Jessica has done with her, but it had been a while, so it took her a few seconds to remember how to relieve the pressure. When I got a couple of good, soft turn-around in both directions, I decided it was time to climb up.

I set out four small, orange cones in what was supposed to be a square, but was more a trapezoid, as "targets". I get bored just wandering around, so I thought that if I had the cones out I'd be able to amuse myself and keep her engaged as well.

I couldn't find the stump I normally use to mount up with - it seems to have disappeared in the snow - so off to the trailer we went. It took a bit to get her lined up with the trailer's running board, but we managed and I finally stopped futzing around and mounted up. I don't know why I always get a sudden attack of the butterflies before I step up, but I do. She's never once - ever - given me anything to worry about, not even our very first sit, but I still have to dig deep as I swing my leg over. Once my butt hits the saddle, though, the butterflies disappear, because my body knows what it's doing. Muscle memory, at least in my seat, takes over.

Skeeter willingly went over to the cones and we started trying to ride patterns through/around them. She's still so very resistant to the right - I'm certain she's not in pain or has any physical issues, she just hates it. Mare. We made some very ugly turns around the cones in both directions and then she stopped, pointing southeast. It took me a second to figure out what had her attention, but soon enough it became clear that there was a little plane headed our way. I let her stand there and watch it, rubbing her neck and telling her it was okay. We watch the plane get closer and closer and Skeeter was fine, fine, fine until it passed right over us and suddenly she was not fine.

Luckily, her "spook" amounted to a bit of quick-feet and a mini-rear before she settled down. As soon as the plane passed, she was fine again and then I realized that my cell phone was vibrating in my pocket. When we ride in the mountains, we don't have cell service, so I've never actually talked on the phone while one my horse. At first, I thought about ignoring it, but it was Mom, so I took it as a teachable moment and answered. Skeeter did just fine standing there while I talked to Mom for a few minutes, but in the short period of time I talked to Mom, Skeets got "stuck". Her feet grew roots and she was going nowhere.

It always feels like forever when you're kicking a stuck horse's sides, but once you start the cue you can't stop it until you get the correct result. Let's just say I got a lot of flutter kicks in that day.

We worked on some more ugly circles and flexing before I felt like we had to leave the backyard. I was getting bored, even with the cones, and at some point it needed to be done. Skeeter was not perfect, but she was listening well, and by God we were going on the farm road.

I quickly texted L.E. to let her know we were headed up the road for a bit and we'd be back shortly.

I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of freedom once we stepped foot off the property and onto the farm road. I was elated and started to feel like a real rider again. Skeeter busted through the snow nicely and managed to keep her feet even when we slipped a touch in the mud.

We didn't get far, because once she realized we were headed away from home she started getting really up. Not in a bad, "I'm afraid to be away from home way", but in a "woohoo, I'm free!" way. Part of me wanted to just go with it and ride until she was tired, but another part of me (probably the smarter (or more cowardly) part) decided we'd gone far enough. She gave me a nice two-reined stop (nicer than any stop I'd ever gotten from Queen Estes), and turned nicely to the right to head back home. We walked calmly back the 100 yards or so and saw L.E. watching us, so I decided to by-pass the trailer and walk on to talk to L.E.

Just crossing back over the property line.
Skeeter walked on nicely until we got near the alleyway to her pen and then did another spooky-quick-feet-mini-rear thing. Don't know what it was about, because as soon as she was done, she kept moving forward. Crazy mare.

We talked for a few minutes and then I got down. Skeeter always groans when I dismount. I know I'm overweight, but she doesn't have to point it out at every ride!

Despite the two spooks, we had a good ride. I had a full week off of work, and thought I was going to get to work with her every day, but that didn't happen. Holidays and procrastination, don'tcha know. Now the weather has gone from cold to frigid and won't warm up again for a few days. Looks like Friday or Saturday will be the next time I'll have a chance to take her out.

She really is a good girl who tries hard.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Snow Day

Yesterday was an unexpected snow day for us! I was so excited to have the whole day off of work and had dreams of being able to take Skeets for a long walk on the farm roads in the fresh snow.

Riding in snow is one of my all-time favorite things to do. There is something so calm about riding a good horse in fresh snow - it's very peaceful for my soul.

I didn't dare to hope that I'd get to ride yesterday, but I did hope for a nice, long walk.

I made Skeeter some warm beet pulp and took it out to her, thinking we'd work after she had some breakfast.

She was pretty thankful for her cereal. Since she's been back from Jessica's, I haven't been giving her beet pulp because she came home at such a great weight and had a whole round bale to herself. Once I got a good look at her, I was glad I'd taken the beet pulp out to her.

She was a bit chilly and wet, so I spent some time roughing up her coat with my gloves to get some airflow. The snow on her back was good, but the wetness on her sides wasn't. Roughing up her coat helped her dry pretty quickly.

I still had plans on taking her for a walk at least, but those plans went right out the window when I realized how spooky she was. She was careful not to run me over, but several times, she spooked and bolted. I suspect the storm brought out the chupacabra and she was smelling it on the wind.

Whatever critter was out there had her watchful and on edge most of the day. We'll have to try again for another work day. Maybe Friday we can have some work time.

I know that one day I'll be able to go out with a bridle and hop on Skeeter bareback and go for a ride in the freshly fallen snow, but that one day is pretty far off, which had me missing Queen Estes fiercely yesterday.