Hunter Pace

riding in the woods

If you’re wondering why I put up posts at a snail’s pace, it’s because I have a new job. It’s a pretty awesome job, but I end up having very little free time. When I get home, I either want to fall asleep, or just become comatose.

Dave, understanding my exhaustion, has been offering to take care of the horses at night. I thought that was pretty great until he said his true purpose: I don’t post enough, and with him taking care of the horses, I should spend the time making a post. I guess that’s still great, it just means I have to use my brain (slightly) instead of going into hibernation mode. I do have some catching up to do, let’s see how fast I can get this all out.

First, we will backtrack into October. I did a hunter pace with D’Arcy. She rode Vintage, and I rode Berry.

Berry sometimes leans on Vintage for emotional support.
Berry sometimes leans on Vintage for emotional support.

My horses have not been ridden regularly in a few weeks, so I was anticipating a slow pace. When we first got there, Vintage was her normal self, but Berry decided the grass field filled with trucks and trailers was the most exciting thing she had ever seen in her life. I mounted up as quickly as I could, and while I was waiting for D’Arcy (Vintage was doing the mounting dance where she takes two steps up, and then when asked to back, goes back 5 steps) Berry actually started doing little rears and prancing. The little snot!

But the good thing about Berry is that she really doesn’t have that much juice. She was a bit hyper while we walked down, but after warming up and waiting to go, she ran out of batteries. Then she was mostly interested in eyeing up her competition (likely wondering if they could be friends), and rubbing her entire head on Vintage’s body. Surprisingly, Vintage did not seem to mind this, although D’Arcy didn’t appreciate a horse head smashing into her leg every three minutes or so.

The reason I have been waiting to post this is because I really wanted to post one of the official photographer photos. At the very start of the race, there was a small split rail fence. I think it was around 2’3″. This was the shot the photographer was going for. I wasn’t going to do the jump because I hadn’t jumped Berry in forever, and if there’s one thing I am, it’s cowardly. But D’Arcy is not, so she was going to do it.

When they called for us to go, D’Arcy aimed for it, and as she approached, Berry spooked at a truck, because that’s what Berry does. Vintage refused the jump. D’Arcy immediately got her going at it again, and Vintage decided it worked so well the first time, she was going to do it again. She refused. This time she rightfully got a spanking, and D’Arcy went at it again.

That time, she took a huuuuge leap over it. The crowd nearby gave an “Oooooo!” It was magical. And that is the picture we are hoping the photographer got. Who knows if it will surface though…

But, we continued on. The route was about 5 miles, and we probably weren’t as fast as we could have been. Like I said, out of shape horses. But we had some good galloping streaks in.

hayfield
This was a good field for speed.

There were a bunch of jumps that looked like they would have been fun, but again, coward here. I hate that I said this last year too, but maybe next year I will jump them…maybe…

We treked through onward through the woods, where we saw the group behind us was catching up. That encouraged our forward motion.

One of us anyway...the other still moved at a leisurely pace.
One of us anyway…the other still moved at a leisurely pace.

In all seriousness though, despite Berry being the world’s slowest thoroughbred, she is out slowed by Vintage at a walk. Vintage can beat her at a gallop, but Berry wins the walking race. Just stick to your strong gait, Berry.

Turns out the team that was passing us was a jumping team, so they gained a lead. But when one of their horses wouldn’t go over a stone wall we gained a small lead, for about a minute. Then they got over the jump and breezed by our couch potato animals. Somehow, I don’t think Berry and Vintage cared. They don’t have the competitive edge.

We eventually ambled our way to the finish line, and decided we really wanted a good finish photo, so we took up a gallop. The world’s slowest thoroughbred was quickly left behind, so likely our finish photo will actually be two finish photos. Maybe they can be photoshopped together so we look like a team.

Hopefully, I will have the energy to get this blog up to date, and also be able to catch up on you guy’s blogs!

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TTouch Evaluation: Berry

This is the second try to determine if the TTouch characteristic evaluations can accurately determine a horse’s personality. Vintage was the first try, and did not leave me convinced. Just like the psychics you can call, the information given was vague, with a few accurate bits, and that’s just not good enough.

Subject: Berry, 7 year old thoroughbred mare.

I’ve owned her since she was 2. She raced once, but showed no talent at it, at all. For the last year and a half, she’s been doing hunters. She’s my main horse, and I take her to shows, trail rides, and any other fun thing I can think of.

berryprofile

Profile

Boringly enough, Berry has the same profile as Vintage, just more prominent: Moose nose.

moosenose

TTouch say: Bulge on the lower part of the nose and usually indicates a horse with a strong character, frequently a herd leader. Berry is not the herd leader, she’s right smack dab in the middle, and with her previous buddy, she was the low one. She does have a strong character though.

The Jowls

 They look huge to me, basing this on they seem to take up the majority of her face, so I’m going to call this “Large and round”.

largejowl

TTouch says: Horse tends to be intelligent and cooperative. I totally agree! She is super cooperative, and I think she’s intelligence, despite what Dave thinks about her…and the weird things she sometimes does. I think that’s just a further show of how intelligence she is though. She’s experimenting with the world.

The Muzzle

I took a few minutes to debate this, because her nose doesn’t really look like any of the noses in the book. I cannot decide between “Sloping muzzle with moose nose”, or “Square muzzle.” She doesn’t look sloping enough to have a sloping muzzle, but her lips seem to protrude too much to make it a square muzzle. Maybe she’s such a bizarre looking horse that no one is sure what her muzzle indicates?!

Here’s both descriptions:

slopingmuzzlewithmoosenose

TTouch says: Sloping muzzle with moose nose – a dominant character. I really don’t think she’s dominant. She’s not passive either, but she’s more go with the flow, “Sure, whatever you want to do sounds great!” personality.

squaremuzzle

TTouch says: Square muzzle – Tends to signify a stable, uncomplicated nature. If we were choosing muzzles based on personality, this would be her. Except for when she goes into a raging heat, she’s as dependable as a 7 year old thoroughbred could be.

The Mouth

In this photo, her mouth looks very short, but I don’t recall it being so short usually. I think it’s more of a medium, like Vintage’s. But, since this I’m going to base off this photo, let’s go with short.

shortmouth

TTouch says: This can signal inflexibility and a horse who is slow to learn. It’s hard to fit such horses with a comfortable bit, and generally they do better without one, i.e., with a type of hackamore. My immediate reaction to this is to say no, she’s not inflexible, nor is she slow to learn. But it did take her a long time to figure out she has to lift up her legs to go over a jump, and not just crash through it. But, I’m still thinking that’s not enough to say she’s a slow learner.

berryfront

The Lips

Not complicated, she’s got a flat upper lip.
flatlip

TTouch says: Generally signifies a horse who tends to be quite independent and single-minded and who tends to mind his own business. She can be pretty independent, like she has no issues going out riding by herself, on the farm, and off, but in the pasture she likes to at least watch whatever is going on. She’ll wander off to graze alone, but she likes following me, or the other horses, so she’s not 100% independent. I’m also not sure how a horse can be fully independent, as they are herd animals. What degree of independence makes a herd animal considered independent?

The Nostrils

She has average sized nostrils.

averagesizenostrils

TTouch says: As wide at the base as at the top; signals average intelligence. Sounds pretty neutral, but I’ll accept it.

The Chin

It looks like Berry has a “double chin”.

doublechin

TTouch says: Horses with this type of chin are usually clever. That does sound like her. I think she’s very clever!

The Eyes

They look medium to me.

mediumeye

TTouch says: Average intelligence. Another average intelligence indicator. Seems too neutral to argue for, or against.

The Ears

I looked through a few pictures to be sure this one wasn’t just a weird moment, but I have confirmed that Berry’s ear points are wider out than the base of the ear.

widerears

TTouch says: Indicates steadiness and a tendency to be uncomplicated. Completely right.

Swirl

Once again, I have a horse with a single, long swirl.

singlelongswirl

TTouch says: Indicates a horse who is friendly and particularly enjoys relating to people. This sounds right for Berry. She’s a very friendly horse, and loves interaction.

Overall, I think this was much more accurate for Berry. She’s mostly uncomplicated, steady, and friendly, which is basically what the results showed. But I feel like it is almost too easy to say that. It’s too vague and broad. I’m not convinced this is legit yet. We’ll see how Pony’s reading goes.

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The Spooky, Sweltering Hot, Indoor Show

I took Berry to Frying Pan Park on Saturday for an open 4-H show. I took my very first riding lessons at Frying Pan Park when I was six years old, and I grew up coming to watch the shows there, always wanting to be the rider on the horse.

'Twas in this very arena, although I believe the fencing was black back then...
‘Twas in this very arena, although I believe the fencing was black back then…

I finally fulfilled that childhood dream, although mostly in a half-fulfilled kind of way.

I arrived there nice and early, because my friend was scheduled to have her dressage test at 8am sharp. However, her show horse threw a shoe, which meant she had to pull out her runner up, who was not quite show ready. She arrived at the show, and asked if she could push back her time so she could have a beauty montage to morph her horse from wild mustang mode into civilized equine citizen form. The show organizer was perfectly happy to allow this.

She cleaned her up, and we got on to warm up. Berry was being suspiciously quiet. She was looking around, but her energy level hadn’t shot up into untrained horse territory. She was perfectly pleasant to walk, trot and canter around, even with tons of tented vendors, huge machinery, and goats. Because I am completely oblivious, I hadn’t noticed that this horse show coincided with a carnival.

carnival

The carnival meant there were tons of spectators. Full families, with grandparents, wailing babies, and dogs on leashes all swarmed the barns and arena. It was kind of exciting to have that many spectators. I have never been so watched before.

My friend and I warmed up, and then we waited. We checked in with the steward, and the show was going to be starting late. At some point, I ended up separated from her, and I just wandered around with Berry. The western classes were still going, and I had no idea when my first class, Showmanship, would start. Eventually, I spotted my friend in the far arena getting ready to do her dressage test. Since they hadn’t given her a new time yet, she took it upon herself to walk up to the dressage judge and ask when she could go. The judge told her, “Now,” and off she went.

After her test, we hurried off to Showmanship, and while we waited, I tried to teach Berry how to back up. She does not like it, or cannot understand the concept. I eventually got her to very hesitantly move each foot back in slow motion, but it was pretty obvious Showmanship wasn’t going to be her strong point.

When we finally went in, she did a very obedient performance, doing the exact slow motion backing up we had just practiced. She trotted quietly up to her cone, but as soon as she halted, she suddenly realized we were in the most terrifying indoor she’d ever seen.

Indoor, as modeled by my friend.
Indoor, as modeled by my friend.

It is huge, with panels marking off the arena. There’s space on all sides of the arena for storage, spectators, bleachers, bathrooms, judges stand, etc. Berry’s head went straight up, and her eyes bugged, which worked well for the judge’s inspection, because she didn’t move a single muscle while the judge circled. When we moved off again, she decided it wasn’t a big deal, and everything was fine again. We ended up placing 5th, which seems right because I think there were five people in the class.

Then came more waiting. They announced they had to have a break for the official opening of the carnival. I know this isn’t the show’s fault at all, but it was frustrating. The show had only been going for about 30 minutes, and then we had to have an hour break. There was another hour break scheduled as hour after that, too. To make it horrible, it was started to heat up, and Virginia’s famous horrible humidity showed up.

It was at that moment I decided to get a stall for the day. The stalls were free, we just had to supply bedding/water/food. Berry has never had the experience of being left in an unfamiliar stall, and as I walked away from her, her little desperate eyes staring at me through the bars, I felt like I was abandoning my child. When I came back later though, she was perfectly happy, munching away at hay, so it likely wasn’t that traumatic.

Once the break was finally over, it was time for the flat classes. My friend went first, winning both her classes (lucky her, being the one one in the class!), but I didn’t get to fully watch as I had to hurry up and mount up. And that’s where the trouble with socks started.

nobleoutfitters

The zipper on my boot snagged the sock. I don’t know if it was the socks fault, or the boots fault, but this has never happened to me before. It ended up messing up the zipper on the boot, and I had a brief moment where I thought I completely killed my tall boots, moments before entering the ring. I ended up in the middle of the warmup ring, sitting on Berry, with one foot up on her neck, pulling off my sock and putting the boot on with no sock. I ended up with a huge nasty blister afterward, but it worked for the time I was in the ring.

After baking in the sun for ages (probably 10 minutes), they called us into the indoor. It was briefly a relief to get out of the sun, but it turned out the indoor was still super hot. It was an enormous oven.

The indoor was now packed with people. There were families pressed up against the rails, and crying babies everywhere. I don’t think Berry has ever encountered the mystical crying baby before, and she started doing the biggest, pranciest trot, while curled to the outside, her bug eyes fixed on these elusive creatures. Suddenly, everything in there, even things that were in there that she saw before, like the stored jumps, was a monster out to get her.

She was listening about 60% of the time. The other times, like when we were right in front of the judges’ booth, she suddenly became a bomb, and threw out some bucks, or did some sideways moves. We didn’t place in the first class.

I was so sweaty from the heat, and the effort needed to control her, I think I could have passed out while sitting in that line up. It was that moment I decided the next class was it, and I was done.

The next class she was mostly good (she doesn’t have the stamina for extended naughtiness), but she picked up the wrong lead, and when I switched it, she had a bucking fit, right in front of the judge’s booth. Shockingly, we still got a fifth.

Now I have two more pink ribbons to add to my collection of pink ribbons. One day, I’ll move past the pink… one day….

As I was sweltering hot, I was ready to go. Berry surprisingly seemed okay, but I made the executive decision for her. We went back to the barn, and she got a nice hosing.

Did I mention all the people there from the carnival? Because there were tons of people in the barn. There had been an announcement over the loudspeakers inviting people into the barns, and everyone was happy to come in. I think this is when Berry decided she wanted to be a celebrity horse.

She got hosed off in front of audience of about 40 people. Everyone thought she was hilarious as she mouthed the hose, and tried her tricks of getting me soaking wet. We went back to the stall, and a line formed of people who wanted to pet her. The children would creep forward timidly, she would put her big dipping wet face right into them, and they would squeal with laughter. She would rest her nose against them, and everyone stroked her face. I think she was in heaven.

It was really fun to share her with everyone. The kids were so cute, and the parents were so nice. Only one time did I get annoyed – There was a western saddle in my barn aisle, owned by my stall neighbor, and some parents walked up with their son, “Do you want to sit in the saddle?” I intervened and told them not to do that. It was expensive, and it also was not a toy. It’s mind boggling to me that someone would just walk up to someone else’s property and think it’s okay to play with it. I don’t walk up to your house and lay down in your bed!

It took me about 45 minutes to fully clean out my stall, all the time, thinking about how nice it would be to get out of the heat. (In my defense, it took so long because I brought no tools to clean up a stall). In my final moments, I put on Berry’s shipping boots, let out a sigh of relief, walked out of the barn…and discovered that the heat was dying off. It was cooler now, and they had just started up the classes again.

It was that moment that I really regretting packing up to leave, but I’d gone too far now. I was already committed to leaving.

So I missed out on my last two classes, which were both going to be my try at jumpers. But I did check out the course before I left, and it was basically a hunter course, but timed. So I don’t feel quite as bad. But I do feel sort of bad, because all I had to do was sit it out a little bit longer. Darn it, why am I such a weenie!?!

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4-H Show Prep

In case you are wondering, no, I am not in 4-H, as I am a full grown adult that cannot pass for a teenager. But, this 4-H show is catering to non-member apparently, and full grown adults can show at it.

4-H brings back such feelings of nostalgia. In my youthful, carefree days, I was a member of 4-h, and I was always disappointed I didn’t go to more shows. That was in the pre-horse ownership days, and the horse I rode was owned by a loon who apparently hated shows, and possibly hated horses. So naturally, when I saw I could go to a 4-H show as an adult, I was all over that, and trying to convince everyone I knew to go with me.

The tire still hasn’t been fixed. But, luckily, I have parents who understand my desperation, and they lent me their truck to use on Saturday for what I had already signed up for. It isn’t the full weekend like I hoped, but I’m not going to be greedy. At least I won’t abandon my friend who signed up fully expecting me to be there with her, but I won’t be able to do hilarious games like barrels, or egg and spoon. I really feel like Berry had potential to be a champion Egg and Spoon horse.

Having a show goal, no matter how small, makes me ride better. I’m kind of lazy most of the time when I ride. When no one’s judgmental eyes are upon me, do I really need to not have a hunchback?   I know, I know, I’m terrible. But when I’m prepping for a show, I’m thinking, I better sit straight up, or put Berry in a better frame, because I don’t want to look like I don’t know what I’m doing (you know, as much as I possibly can while still not knowing what I’m doing).

berrytail

Additionally, it makes me realize that I forgot to teach Berry things. I better not ever encounter any gates ever, because I will not be able to open it mounted. Sure, I’ve been practicing lead changes for seemingly for months, but when I might actually use it, I realize I actually have not practiced in months, and I probably should have… I mean, it’s been months, jeez.

On the plus side, she neck reins now, a bit in a turning battleship type way. At least my enthusiasm for polo paid off. And she trots super slow. I’m not sure if that will be at all useful though. Too bad I didn’t sign up for any western classes!

My friend, isn’t a big show person, so this is new to her. I went over to see her ride, and explain the subtle nuances of 4-H, such as showmanship. She really took, “Be proud of your horse,” to heart, so I think she’s going to do well!

I, however, while always mostly proud of Berry, am slightly embarrassed because she continues to rip out her tail. Every time I stall her, I come out to find more tail attached to her water bucket than the the stub of a tail bone. It’s pretty sad when my appaloosa, a breed known for having a scraggly tail, has a way better tail than my thoroughbred.

Glamorous!
Glamorous!

I’m not getting a fake tail, she’s just going to have a wisp of a tail. Maybe she’ll think twice about putting her tail in her water (probably not).

I also entered in my very first jumper class. I figure if I am really feeling intimidated, I’ll just trot the whole thing. But, I’m feeling about 87% confident that I will be just fine. Hopefully it’s not that much different from hunters…maybe it will even be more fun! We shall see…!

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Cross Country Action

I met up with Shelby a few days ago for a trek through Middleburg/Piedmont hunt territory. It could possibly be the most beautiful horse country in the world (although I am biased).

This does not adequately show how beautiful Virginia is.
This does not adequately show how beautiful Virginia is, but I forgot to take picture for most of the ride.

Shelby knows the area very well, and took us on a little tour. Unfortunately, there was a storm cloud just south of us, no doubt destroying downtown Middleburg again, so we had to pick our route carefully. Although we wouldn’t have minded a little bit of rain, getting hit by lightning was very low on our bucket list, so we did end up turning back from one route. Luckily, the rain stayed away, and the clouds parted, and we had a beautiful ride.

Shelby, bad-ass eventing rider, likes to jump things out on the trail. We came across a log, and Shelby jumped it. It looked like too much fun! I’ve never jumped Berry outside of a ring, but Shelby inspires confidence, so I did it. Although I asked her to stay close because I am a huge baby. On my first attempt, I don’t think Berry realized I was heading for the log until the very last second, but she jumped it. The second time, she realized it.

For the first time on this blog, here is a video of me jumping a log.

That was a monumental moment for me.

We moved on with our trail ride, and found even more jumps! There was a bunch of coops, and sticks to jump. Shelby makes a course out of it, looping around to all the different jumps. I started with stepping on/over some sticks, and then moved on to this coop, where Berry decided to show that she actually can jump, and all those times she’s crashed through jumps/broken jumps were flukes. Or maybe this jump is a fluke, and I’ll be back to Crashin’ Berry soon.

Don’t watch it on repeat, my laugh will corrode your brain.

Continuing to leech off of Shelby’s confidence, I took on a little line, in true hunter fashion.

Shelby also took on a giant coop that was at least 2’9″, but I wasn’t quite that brave. We’ll have to have at least one more session of cross country before I’m ready for that step. Having successfully jumped some stuff, we went off on our way.

We rode over hill and dale, and at one point came to a tiny creek that was barely a trickle. Berry decided this was unacceptable and attempted to turn around and hurry off down the trail. I actually had to get off her, and prod her over the creek with a suspiciously long branch that just happened to be lying next to the creek bed. In true Berry fashion, she took a flying leap over the tiny trickle of water. But it seems like she learned her lesson, because we crossed several more creeks and she didn’t indicate any sort of issue at all. Although, she did have brave Justin to follow.

I am fairly sure that Justin and Berry were conspiring to get poop on my knee, because Justin stopped three times to poop, and Berry kept walking right into him (She was very personal with the horse she just met), and she angled my knee in exactly the right position. I’m pleased to say despite their efforts, my knee remained mostly clean, and was only soiled by general farm dirt and/or hay.

It was an amazing ride, with great company in such a beautiful area! I can’t wait to go again!

But, I have a new problem.

tire

This is my flat truck tire, minus the lug nuts. A few days after I got home, I discovered it was flat. Well, that’s annoying, I thought. But I can change a flat!

I got too cocky. We set up everything to get this tire off, but the tire has fussed itself to the other piece of metal (I don’t know cars.) It is not coming off. We even pounded it with a sledgehammer. It will not come off. It has decided it will remain on the truck for the rest of it’s life. But much like training a horse, you don’t let truck tires get away with doing what they want. We’re going to take the truck into a shop and get them to remove the tire.

Until this happens, it puts a severe damper on my trailering life. No trail rides, no shows, no putting the horse in the trailer and going for a spin through town.

I did have a show coming up…but now I don’t know if I will be able to make it. I guess we will see how fast it takes for tires to be shipped here and installed. Hopefully less than three days. Fingers crossed!

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Confidence Riding Alone

Due to a few expensive bills, I’ve had to cut back on my lessons. I find it ironic that I had to buy stone dust to practice in my arena, and since I bought stone dust, I can’t afford to ride at lessons. I blew my horsing budget with only two bills. Let this be a warning to everyone considering buying a farm.

Now I’ve taken a more laid back approach to riding. I won’t be doing any fancy shows this year, but I can still work on myself, and maybe go to some smaller events by myself. This means I actually need to be able to ride when my trainer isn’t around.

Oh sure, I can do flat stuff okay with a trainer. I’m feeling pretty secure there. But what I really want to do is jump. I’m not going to wait around until I can resume lessons to jump again. I want to jump noooooow.

When I jump with my trainer, she says, “Jump this,” and I nod, and go jump it, regardless of what it is. She does the thinking for this team. If she says I can do it, I believe her, and off I go to jump the gymnastic with the 2’9″ jump, or the 2’6″ line, or whatever. There are no questions asked. The jumps even look small, and I don’t even notice/care about them.

I balked at doing a show more than 18 inches, but she said, "It goes up, OR ELSE." So I did 2'3".
I balked at doing a show more than 18 inches, but she said, “It goes up, OR ELSE.” So I did 2’3″.

But when she’s not around…

This jump was about 6 inches high, and we still messed it up.
This jump was about 6 inches high, and we still messed it up.

I’m going to make myself a little bit vulnerable here, and say that I have severe doubts riding alone, and I freeze up more than just a little bit. I like someone monitoring my every move and telling me I’m doing okay.

18 inch vertical, or HORSE DEATH TRAP?!
18 inch vertical, or HORSE DEATH TRAP?!

I blame my lack of confidence on other things. Maybe if I had a huge fenced in arena with nice footing, I would be more confident. There’s definitely a bit of unease because Berry has random moments where she explodes for really random reasons. Not often, but usually when she’s feeling a bit fresh she likes to play.

"OH MY GAWD, A HORSE IS ROLLING OVER THERE!! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!"
“OH MY GAWD, A HORSE IS ROLLING OVER THERE!! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!” Kudos to D’Arcy, she basically told Berry, “Nope, knock it off, there’s a jump and you’re doing it.”

But she’s not a bad horse, and her fits are usually nothing to write home about. Except when I have hilarious pictures of Berry looking like a camel. (My favorite photos of my horses are when they look ridiculous.)

Last night I was riding her, and she kept exploding over a jump facing the barn. Naughty girl! But I was actually feeling okay about it, because I made a decision. I’m want to ride, and I’m going to work through this. I’ve made excuses before as to why I couldn’t ride… it used to be because I didn’t have an arena. Then I built an arena. Then the arena wasn’t level enough, and there was no fence, and it wasn’t big enough, and I could only ride at my trainers. I’m full of excuses as to why I can’t do this.

But I can’t just ride when everything is perfect. I have to be able to adjust to conditions, or to the horse. Riding isn’t just being a passive passenger (related words?!), it’s being the active commander of the vessel! (Horses can be a type of vessel, I’ve decided).

So she’d do a little bolt after the jump, and in the tiniest part of the arena, I’d bring her back, and make her canter in circles until she calmed down, and then we’d go right back and do the jump again. And whatdaknow, I got her popping calmly over it. You won’t get the best of me horse!

Also, part of my strategy is knowing that in the right/confident hands, Berry can perform:

Berry has an obsession with the long spot, but otherwise, the right hands prove you are capable, horse! You can't fool me!
Berry has an obsession with the long spot, but otherwise, the right hands prove you are capable, horse! You can’t fool me!

Part of the reason I have trouble at home is because I literally do not know what to do. Basically, I have to use my own brain to figure out exactly what to do. I like to use my trainer’s brain, it’s so much easier. She sets up the courses, she has a lesson plan, she knows what the next step is. She’ll give me homework exercises, and she knows if I didn’t do them. When I don’t have her guidance, I basically flop about.

"Let's see... I could trot some more... or maybe walk around some more... a spin move would really liven things up."
“Let’s see… I could trot some more… or maybe walk around some more… a spin move would really liven things up.”

It’s time for self motivation. I’m planning to go to a super cheap, little open show in August by myself. I signed up for basically everything that said “Open”, minus the western, so now I need to prep for it. There’s nothing like signing up accidentally for a 2’9″ hunter class to boost your motivation. (I’m nearly positive I will be scratching that, although… she’s jumping an oxer that size above!(except the pesky long spot)) But it really does boost the motivation. I already know what I need to work on, I was just kind of putting it off. No more of that! Time to comfirm those lead changes, get her closer to the base, stop dropping her at the base (How many times until I learn dropping her will encourage her to take the long spot!?), practice and hold that 2-point, limber up, get her fitness level up…etc…

I’m feeling pretty motivated right now. Other than just working on our own selves, since I won’t have a trainer to give me insight on the course, I’ll be doing my own research in what to look for, and how to walk a course. Things I should probably already know anyway.

I’ll also be throwing in a lesson, and hopefully will impress my trainer with all my practice! (impressing trainers should always be of high importance!)

Anyone else prepping/motivating on their own?

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Pony’s First Trail Ride

Pony is a coward. The times he’s gone off the property he has been fearful, and scared. When he was out at training, his trainer would purposely take him for walks around the barn, where he would spook at the same things he saw everyday in his daily life, the sawdust pile, the hay bales, the dog, definitely that goat.

goat5
He will haunt his dreams forever.

The only solution to this is to get him out and about. It’s time for him to get out on the trails.

I asked Olivia if she wanted to do some trail riding, and she wasn’t opposed. We set out for James Long Park, where we actually met for the first time just over a year ago (our anniversary ride?!)! Except this time, poor Vintage was left behind, pumped full of tranquilizer to keep her from trying anything crazy, and we took Berry and Pony.

Even though it was the holiday weekend, we surprisingly had the park almost completely to ourselves. We set up some jumps (or more accurately, Olivia did the hard thinking of positioning, striding, and actually setting up the jump, and I just brought some jump stuff over), and hopped right on.

I really thought Pony would be super spooky, mental breakdown horrible. But he just looked, carefully avoided getting too close to anything the first trip around the arena, and bizarrely, was afraid of a man walking down the street. But I set him to work, and he quickly forgot about much of anything, except probably how horrible I was for making him move his tiny little legs.

He also thought the footing was the most amazing thing he'd ever seen.
He also thought the footing was the most amazing thing he’d ever seen.

Meanwhile, Olivia did some stuff with Berry, and it’s always a joy to see her ride, as she’s just so dang good.

berry1

Berry does not feel the need to actually jump.
Berry does not feel the need to actually jump.
She did decide to jump this. Sorry about the too much zoom, I'm still trying to figure out how to use a camera.
She did decide to jump this. Sorry about the too much zoom, I’m still trying to figure out how to use a camera. It’s been like 20 years, but I’ll get it one of these days.

For anyone curious, Berry keeps ripping her tail out on her water buckets. It’s gotten worse since these pictures! :'(

Pony watched all this with great interest.

"Soon, my pet, we shall unleash whatever farm animal of war."
“Soon, my pet, we shall unleash whatever farm animal of war…in the form of jumping.”

Once the humidity got to us, we decided to head on out on the trails. To my surprise, Pony actually moved up to take the lead. He bravely went into the woods, but he was stumped at a ditch. Ditches are terrifying eaters of ponies, and he knows this. I ended up getting off, and pulling/pushing him until he finally made a leap over the ditch. But then Berry decided ditches eat horses, and didn’t want to go over it. We decided not to make a big deal of the ditch, so Pony and I went back over the ditch, although I just stepped over it, while he took another huge flying leap. Then, I conveniently got right back on him from the ground, because he’s so tiny and it’s super easy. No more looking around for logs and fences for me!

We headed back onto the trail with Pony leading again. Although, this basically meant that Pony’s short strides made Olivia have to stop every few steps to avoid running him over. When we came to another ditch that Pony didn’t want to cross, Olivia and Berry made their move and scooted right around him to take over the lead. They continued on, with no more stop-and-go traffic. And Pony started to drift way behind.

"Later, losers!"
“Later, losers!”

While Pony was super brave when he was leader, he was happy to now follow behind Berry on the journey. He looked around, but didn’t spook at a single thing, or hesitate about anything. He plugged along, happy with this new adventure.

We did have to continually trot to catch up.

Back together!
Back together!

Only to almost immediately fall back behind. At least once, Pony found a particularly interesting leaf or tree he wanted to examine, and Olivia had to stop and wait.

berrywoods

Eventually, we made it all through the trails, and back to the trailer. We did it, Pony survived, and he was so happy and calm about the entire experience. Although he was definitely tired, poor little guy.

We have successfully completed a small trail. Success!
We have successfully completed a small trail. Victory!

And, obviously, I cooed over how adorable my sweet little angel is.

Awwwwww, Berry loves her!
Awwwwww, Berry loves her!

And just to make sure there were no hard feelings, we visited with Vintage when we got back.

Vintage didn't seem to care. Berry found this interesting though!
Vintage didn’t seem to care. Berry found this interesting though!

I am so thrilled with how good Pony was. Underneath that scared Pony exterior lies a confident, brave Pony, ready to take on the world. He just needs to get out and see that world.

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Horse Birthdays

Berry’s birthday was yesterday. She is now 7 years old.

berryandpony

Pony was a bit disgruntled, possibly because I completely forgot about his birthday. His birthday was exactly one week ago. He just turned 5. Sorry Pony. I’ll do something for you at a later time.

Not that he would appreciate it, of course. It was surprisingly difficult to get these horses laid. Vintage was honking and was very upset at the thought of it going over her head. She also found Berry’s new horn slightly terrifying.

vintage

Pony was being such a snot, he was actually rearing up trying to get away from me. I will give him credit for rearing up, and turning from me, and not punching me with his tiny hooves like my other former horse. But still, he forgets that he’s a tiny pony, and I can knock him over. Also, I found it quite rude. It’s an essential part of horse training for them to tolerate getting a lei put on them. I’m pretty sure I heard that from one of those big name trainers. You know, the one that’s really big and trains horses.

pony wearing lei
He now wears his lei with dignity. I’m a little jealous of how photogenic my pony is…

He was also very confused by Berry’s hat.

ponyhat

In fact, it seemed like the only one very pleased with her hat was, of course, Berry herself.

Berry stands on Vintage's lead rope, and then starts playing with it. Vintage becomes increasingly upset by the hat in her face. I laughed for like 10 minutes.
Berry stands on Vintage’s lead rope, and then starts playing with it. Vintage becomes increasingly upset by the hat in her face. I laughed for like 10 minutes.

And then afterward, Berry was sad it was over. Or possibly she was sad it even took place.

She's a sad clown.
She’s a sad clown.

And then Vintage got the lei stuck on her head, and I laughed once more. She was pretty upset, but she seemed to handle it well.

vintagelei

I feel like I must be a terrible owner, because all I do is laugh at my horses in peril. Oh well…

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Still Talking About Flying Lead Changes

The above picture cracks me up. It just looks so casual, like I’m not even moving, just relaxing – “Oh hey guys, what you are up to? I’m just sitting on this horse here, I’ll probably be finished about noon.”

I feel like I’ll never shut up about these dang lead changes. I still don’t have confirmed changes, although I am getting better. But this time, I have a video of me failing a lead change. My trainer wanted me to fully understand what I was doing wrong, so she took my phone from me, and recorded my sad attempt at a change. My phone takes some very dark images, sorry about the quality.

The exercise was going over a jump, and then change lead over a pole just before the rail.

Just landed off a jump, approaching the pole.
Just landed off a jump, approaching the pole.
Doing some kind of weird hula move.
Doing some kind of weird hula move.

Apparently this is not the way to do a lead change. My trainer showed me, and told me stop leaning in. STOP LEANING IN!! It was repeated a few times.

With that in mind, I stopped leaning in. It was hard to get the body control, but I brought my shoulders back and to the outside. Wouldn’t you know it, Berry did the lead change, both over this pole, and the second jump/pole combo going the other way.

But jeez, I feel like such a jerk asking for the change. It feels like I’m trying to knock her off over. I’m hoping it will be a more subtle movement once we both know what we are doing.

My trainer had me do the little course several times, and I managed to do the changes. Although that really means almost nothing because as of this moment, I feel very unsure of it. I’m kind of hoping this will be one of those times where Berry is way smarter than me, and figures it out so I can just kind of give up. Thanks in advance, Berry, you’re a real team player.

On the very good side of things, all this focus on things other than the jump is making me actually think the jumps really don’t look so big anymore. When my trainer dropped the top pole, I was thinking, well, you didn’t have to do that, I could have jumped it still. So, it’s finally happened. My fear of jumping is just sliding right away. And April 2015 was when I started taking lessons with my trainer, so it took about a year, although I did go a few weeks/months where I skipped out on lessons. I definitely learned I progress much, much faster when I actually stick to my lesson schedule.

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TWA Hunter Show

I went to another show! Yet another reason I’m so glad I have my trailer back. To make this show especially great, it was located about 15 minutes from my house. No more hour and a half trips for me (for now)!

It was cold. Way colder than it should be in May. Berry had also been in the last 16 hours in an attempt to keep her clean. This was a bad combination. Berry was super fresh, and high as a kite.

I got there early, and it was nice to just watch the ponies go for a while.

Warrenton Horse Show Grounds
Warm up ring

My trainer ran home to take care of her new born filly, so I was by myself for a while. I decided that I should just go ahead and warm up Berry, knowing that she was going to be a crazy animal. Which she was. I predicted that correctly.

I got her off the trailer, tacked her up with Dave’s help, and headed down to the warm up arena, where she stared at everything as though it was about to murder her.

I walked her around the warm-up ring for a while, trotted her around, cantered her around, and after a few head shake and tosses, magically, she began to calm down. Success!

Even though it was cold, it was enough of a work-out that I was overheating afterward.
Even though it was cold, it was enough of a work-out that I was overheating afterward.

Then it was hang out time for a while. Schooling was supposed to be at 12. We didn’t get in to school until 2. I’ve come to accept that this is how it always will be.

twa

Eventually, schooling did happen. At first, Berry was nervous about the hedge, the grand stand, and just being in a new area. Then she calmed down, and was ready for some jumps. But, jumping with about 15 other people is kind of terrifying, and I don’t know that I will ever be able to do it. I almost had a head on collision twice, and had to yank Berry sideways to avoid it. Turns out, Berry holds a grudge, and she was not pleased about being treated this way. She started rushing the jumps, tossing her head, and having little fits. Once again, I just stood in the arena by my trainer, and waited for some people to leave. As the ring cleared, I managed to jump everything decently, and then we headed on out. My trainer said that Berry was still too fresh, and I needed to keep her moving. Luckily, I had four flat classes to do next. This is what happens when my trainer lets me pick my classes.

I have no media of this because Dave left the show grounds for a while.

It started with Equitation on the Flat. I picked Berry up, had her moving nicely, and she seemed quite pleased by this class. We got third.

Next, was pleasure w/t. We got fourth. Then pleasure w/t/GAYP. We got third. Then pleasure w/t/c, and we got fourth. There seemed to be a theme going.

 

A discussion with my trainer about everything that went wrong. Also, time for a refreshing Brisk.
A discussion with my trainer about everything that went wrong. Also, time for a refreshing Brisk.

It was now time to go school in the warm up ring to get the jumping under control. It was pretty quiet and uneventful.

warmup

Finally, time for the over fences classes. My trainer made me do the slightly higher division, at 2’3″. I begged to go back in the maiden hunter division, but my trainer rubbed her hands together in glee and laughed.

Both classes went almost exactly the same. They started out fine, but at the far end of the arena, at the grandstand, Berry would throw a hissy fit.

"I'M SO ANGRY!!"
“I’M SO ANGRY!!”
"I FIND THIS COURSE UNACCEPTABLE!!"
“I FIND THIS COURSE UNACCEPTABLE!!”

Once she realized we were heading down an outside line, she’d try to rush it. It felt like it was suddenly a race, and she’s flatten out, and just zoom forward. It was a little bit crazy.

"Ah yes, a single is so easy to do."
“Ah yes, a single is so easy to do.”
"Wait, this is a line?! TO THE END, AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE!"
“Wait, this is a line?! TO THE END, AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE!”

I was thinking she had PTSD from the warm-up, but my trainer told me it’s because I keep dropping my hands and leaning forward.

I figured we wouldn’t place. And I was right. But that’s okay, it was still the highest we’ve competed, and she didn’t knock down any rails, even if she did tap one. I’m also not feeling intimidated, which is especially good. I still feel confident I could go back there, and try it again.

Next up was the undersaddle class for the division. Berry clearly knows the difference between fences and flat classes, because she had no problem calming down and being level headed. What the heck, horse.

"I'm walking on sunshine... WOOOAHHH!"
“I’m walking on sunshine… WOOOAHHH!”
"Yes, trotting around is perfectly acceptable."
“Yes, trotting around is perfectly acceptable.”
"Yes, I enjoy cantering, this is perfectly acceptable."
“Yes, I enjoy cantering, this is perfectly acceptable.”

We all lined up in the center, and since they were taking forever to figure out the winners, I started chatting with my buddy next to me. Apparently we were being way too loud, because our trainers started yelling at us, telling us we were still being judged, and also that I was slouching and to sit up straight. They never let us have any fun.

But, it turns out that talking and slouching did the trick, because I won the class! Wooooo, our first blue together!!

Proudly presenting, our first blue ribbon!
Proudly presenting, our first blue ribbon!

It was a nice change after doing so awful in the over fences classes. We definitely have the hang of trotting and cantering in a straight line down… now just to work on it with a bunch of speed bumps tossed in the way.

Overall, this was my favorite show yet, and I really want to finish out their series!

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