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.

Riding at Home

This mod has been rough; my work schedule has been brutal and I've been feeling really guilty about not working with Skeets, but I'm up and off to work by 7:30 am and get home from work about 9:30 pm. One day, I decided that I was going to take a few hours off in the middle of the afternoon and work with her. Except that my boss scheduled a meeting right in the middle of the time I planned to be gone. I was *determined* to get some time working with Skeeter, so the second the meeting was over, I was out the door headed home.

I got home at 3:15 pm, jumped into some jeans and had Skeeter out of the pen by 3:30. I was feeling the time crunch since it gets dark so early right now.

I rushed her through her longing, only spending fifteen minutes or so before deciding to get on. She had just barely started paying attention to me on the longe line, but I said "good enough" and bridled her up.

I should have spend more time on the longe line. We had to spend quite a bit of time remembering how to line up at the stump for me to mount. Then we had to spend more time remembering how to flex and give to the rein.

Once she was sort of soft on the rein we started "riding" around the back yard. She's so heavy and unresponsive sometimes it's like riding an old plow horse. We rode serpentines and circles. Turning to the right is still something she's resistant to, so we spent a lot of time moving to the right.

I tried not to be frustrated, but I know I need hours to work with her, not just a few minutes here and there. I wasn't frustrated with her, but with work because I had thought I would have a minimum of three hours to work with Skeeter, which we both need. Instead I barely had an hour.

We ended our ride on a good note, just as she was starting to soften and pay attention, but I was cussing a blue streak because I know I need more time. I had wanted to get out on the farm road and start getting some miles on her.

Since she's an only horse right now, she always wants to be outside of the pen and asks daily if we're going to work. I'm feeling some serious "horse mommy guilt".

This past weekend was Baking Weekend, so I was up at Mom and Bill's from Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, but I needed some Skeeter time. I knew we wouldn't have time to ride, but by the time I got home, I had about half an hour before sunset, so I grabbed her out of the pen and we walked over for a visit at our neighbor's. It was the first time I've had her off our property since she came home and I took her over to a place with 11 other horses.  She did very well. There were a couple of times she forgot her manners, but getting set to doing circles worked pretty well at reminding her of them.

Since my neighbor's horses are all been-there, done-that lesson horses, I knew they would be just fine with a stranger visiting. Their laid-back attitude helped, I'm sure. Skeeter got a little high-headed when she smelled the other horses coming up their driveway, but settled right down.

Despite my "horse mommy guilt", I was very proud of how well she did and am looking forward to the day when I can ride her over to the neighbors.

Visiting the neighbor's was hungry work.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Jay's 2nd Lesson

Between Jay's crazy work schedule and his lingering creeping crud, it's been a while since he was able to hook up with Jessica for another lesson with Copper.

Cops is coming a long way, and still has a way to go. He's such a laid-back horse, but wants things done his way (you might have noticed he wears his stubborn pants proudly).

Wondering what Jay's going to ask of him.
Only his second time in the "big boy" saddle. He'd worn a little, lightweight one previously.
He's looking really good with the near daily exercise and is learning new things. He might learn them faster if he'd take off those stubborn pants once in a while, but overall he's doing great. Already, he's much quieter with the bit than Skeeter is. She constantly wants to play with it; Copper just settles it in his mouth and carries it like a gentleman.

Jessica's plan is to start the hang-all-the-crap-on-the-saddle training in the next couple of days and hopes to be up on him by the end of the weekend.

Copper is also very left-sided, so much so that Jessica has taken to handling him primarily from the right-hand side. She turned his halter inside out and now catches and halters him from the right. He prefers to approach people with his left eye and wants to keep people on his left side, so she showed Jay a trick she learned to force him to use his right eye. Unfortunately, I was freezing and didn't get it on video.

Basically, Jay just flashes his fingers (open-close-open-close-wiggle-wiggle) at Copper's left eye until it becomes annoying and Copper gives him his right side. I'm certain it's not a vision problem - Copper does not at all appear to be blind in his right eye, he just wants everyone on his left side.