June 24, 2011

A New View

This weekend I loaded up Dexter for my long line lesson with Trainer.  To my disappointment she suggested we start with lunging, but I know how to lunge (at least I thought I did.)  She made some good points so I went along with it.  Long lining can be cumbersome and require a lot of walking and some jogging.  And until we know Dexter is going to be obedient on the line and not freak out, its safer to work with the one line rather than 2.  Picturing how Dexter currently likes to buck and throw a fit when I ask him to canter on the line, I agreed.  But I did make her promise to let us start trying the long line if he progresses well on the lunge line.

But I still learned more than I thought I would.  I had been lunging him at home, but don't have a whole lot of training tack so it was mostly to keep him in shape, with no particular frame.  So the first thing trainer pulled out was a surcingle and side reins, the kind you loop through the bit and attache back to the surcingle so there is some play on how low he can hold his head.  She explained this will act as reins so he will always have that constant outside rein to work with.... first light bulb of the lesson.

She started the session out lunging him showing me how to half halt with the line and whip and wouldn't you know it he was in a frame in less that 5 minutes.  She kept saying how good he looked.  Knowing my history of thinking I got it when I actually don't I decided to speak up - "OK what are you looking at specifically, I agree he looks good, but why?".  She explained a little about elevation and muscle movement.  I need more - "OK so what muscles are you looking at, how can I tell if he's in a frame"  So she pointed out his back and ab muscles... OK I think I got it now.  Second light bulb of the lesson. 

She showed me how to use the whip to get him to move his rib cage vs how to use it to get him going more forward.  (BTW when I say "use the whip I don't mean beating my horse with it, just shaking and pointing it at him to get him to move.)  Along with some other tricks to make lunging as close to riding as possible.  All things that seem obvious now.  I think I was just being lazy when I lunged him before.

So now I have some new tools in my belt.  We've had some sessions at home and I think its working, although I'm a little paranoid that I don't actually have it.  I've also decided to switch things up a bit with some free lunging and tricks so he doesn't spend the next 3-6 months on a 20 meter circle.  I'm thinking of teaching him to bow and smile... what do you think? :)

June 17, 2011


Due to being pregnant, weather, and other life events getting in the way I haven't been able to see Dexter nearly as much as I want.  And when I do have time I usually lunge for a while then get on.  I ride until its uncomfortable, which is usually about 10-15 minutes. 

Show season is over for me so I don't have a whole lot of goals to work towards.  We were working on half halts and collection, and due to my useless abs at the moment that's not really happening, so when I do ride I don't really have an objective.

All of this is really affecting my mood.  I feel listless and useless.  It's funny how much of my self worth and self image is ingrained in my riding.  If I'm not riding, who am I?  If I'm not working towards something then what am I doing?  I've found myself lately in just an awful unpleasant mood.  I assumed it was hormones.  But the more I think about it, the last time I felt like this was when I took a 2 year hiatus from riding in college.  As soon as I started back up, I felt better.

Do I have any reason to complain?  No, there are a lot of people out there in worse situations.  Wonderful people who have wonderful horses  and for whatever reason can no longer ride, yet they find joy in just being around their animals. I strive to be like them, but for now, I just want to feel a little sad for my temporary loss.

This weekend I'm taking long line classes with my trainer (last time I tried it on my own and me and Dexter just got horrible tangled).  I'm hoping this will give us more to work on than the lunge line will.  And I can at least keep Dexter progressing if I'm at a stand still.

June 14, 2011

Better Late Than Never...

I know its been a while since the last show, but here are some pictures from it.  Thank my husband.  the prior shows he wasn't taking enough pictures.  I told him the "magic" picture is almost impossible to get, so you just have to keep taking them in hopes one turns out right.  He's such a good listener :) I got to sift through 400+ pictures looking for the magic one.  Let me know what you think :)
Can you tell it was a bit dreary?

Dexter keeping an eye on us from his stall.

It may just look like a walk, but you try to get Dexter to relax in the middle of a test.

Proof that there is at least one moment of magic in every test.

June 11, 2011

Dear Non-Horse People

Do not judge what you do not understand.  This is my life, my decision and my risk to take.  I do not judge you for the decisions you made when you were pregnant, please give me the same courtesy.

So here's the deal, I was thrown a baby shower this weekend (not my thing, let me tell you!), with about 20+ non-horsey people and 3 horsey people.  So 90% of the conversation was all about the baby, was I excited, was I ready, how many do I want (lets see how this one works out first.)  And there was one question I could tell everyone was afraid to ask "Are you still riding?"  I know they wanted to know because every once in a while when the conversation would stray from the pregnancy and horses would get mentioned some brave soul would ask, and everyone around would perk up.

To the non-horsey people my answer was this "I've weened myself off, I still go out and work with him but from the ground."  To the horsey people, they got the truth "I'm still weening myself off.  I don't do a lot but I still ride when I'm feeling OK and he's feeling OK. But it is really really hard to quit hopping on, even if for a short walk."  I hate that I chicken out like that, I just don't want to deal with the opinions and advice.

There was one comment that really got to me and sparked this post.  My mother-in-law was one that got the courage to ask "You're not riding anymore right?" And I gave my non-horsey answer, then another family member announced to the room "OK we can all breath a sigh of relief now!".  You know what??  Screw you!  You think I'm putting my un-born child's life in danger without knowing a thing about it. 

Did I tell you I thought you were an idiot when you let your dad buy your 2 yr old son a miniature horse, knowing none of you knew a thing about horses, or tack or equine safety?  No, I came down when you asked and gave you a lesson on how to put your child on the horse and lead it around safely. Would I ever put my child on a horse that young, not knowing a thing about it, no, but that's not my decision

I think what gets me the most is that horses are still seen as dangerous to the outside observer.  Is there risk involved? yes.  But for those of us who have been around them for years and know their equine partners better than their own family members, the risk is small.  I think I even get a little offended because people assume Dexter is dangerous.  For me that's like saying my child is dangerous.  You've never even met him. 

The reality is, I know the risks.  I'm not in denial, I know there is a chance I could be sitting on Dexter one day, something spooks him and I fall, and God forbid, hurt the child.  But I've wighted the risks and decided its one I'm willing to take.  To not be around and ride Dexter as long as possible is not an option for me.  But you can't tell them that, they don't understand.   "It's just a hobby".

All I can say is I'm glad I have an understanding husband in all of this.  He sticks up for Dexter and knows I won't push my luck.  He's even learning how to pick Dexter's feet for when I'm too big to do it myself.

June 10, 2011

In the Eye of the Beholder

Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, especially when it comes to horses.  I know there isn't one of us that would readily admit we have an "ugly" horse.  But if I were to be totally honest with myself, I know Dexter has big hips, and hocks that turn in a bit.  But he also has great legs, a gorgeous mane and tail and the cutest face Ive ever seen, and because of his personality and gates I thing he's beautiful!  I'm sure to an outsider he's just a lanky bay.

And I also know my L.E. was not the prettiest horse when we got her.  Her chest, face, stomach, mane and tail were all rubbed raw due to some mite or fungus that cause her to itch all the time.  She was slightly U-necked and just a little chestnut quarter horse.  By the time we had to sell her you couldn't tell me she wasn't the cutest horse in her class, it helped that all her hair had grown in. 

Which is why I try to be as mute as possible on the subject when someone insists on going on about how pretty their new purchase is.  A friend of mine is often buying and trading "project" horses that I just don't see the value in, but she knows they are going to be great.  For her it all comes down to the head.  "Doesn't he have a pretty head?!".  (For the record I know she thinks Dexter's head is big and ugly, I love it.)  And all I can think is - Yes, nice head, but the short roached back might be a problem.

Her latest purchase was a "black" 6 yr old Arab stallion.  I put black in quites because I'm gonna guess he's actually a dark bay.  She has been telling me about this horse for a while now, so I know she's super excited to get him.  She wants to ride him and breed him to some of her mares.  And of course  until he showed up I had images of "The Black Stallion" dancing around in my head.  That is not what showed up.... in my eyes I saw a scrawny, scraggly bay pony with a crooked tail.  He does have a cute, be it, tiny head.  But for 6 he's pretty lean and small.... maybe 13.2H.  And I know Arabs are petite but he just looked more like a 2 year old to me.  I know it sounds like I'm picking on this horse, but I'm just trying to illustrate the whole "eye of the beholder" thing.  This is not my dream horse, nor a horse that I would consider buying just because he doesn't fit my image of a dressage horse, that doesn't mean he's any less of a horse.

To my friend, who has been dying for a black stallion forever, he's elegant... "petite" with a pretty head.  And "beautiful movement"  She keeps telling me he moves so beautifully out of the shoulders, which is hard for me to understand since I've spent the last year trying to get my horse off his shoulders and onto his butt.

It is just a reminder that the horse world is so big and everyone is looking for something different.  My dream horse would never work for her and vice verse.  But we both love horses and couldn't live without them.