Monday, July 21, 2014


Here's a quick recap of my exciting weekend!

I did a short ride Saturday.  More English, working on my position and keeping my legs glued where they're supposed to be.  More no stirrups, which I still love.  I did my no stirrups posting trot almost right off the bat, and the rest of my ride felt awesome.  A friend and fellow boarder had set up a couple of things in the arena that she said I was welcome to play with, so I had some fun with those as well.

The Labyrinth
This friend has some background with the Tellington-Jones method (TTouch), and so had set up the labyrinth with ground poles.  I did some walking and trotting over the middle of the poles and also did some work bending around through the middle in an S-pattern.  I'm not sure how much I've talked about my lesson work pre-groundwork re-start, but our main problem was that Jazz was straight as a board.  We spent months slowly working on getting her to bend and respond to legs that meant things besides forwards.  So, imagine my delight when I took her through this tight serpentine and she bent, like, all the way around it.  I mean, I really didn't set her up the best for the second turn, so it wasn't perfect, but she was so bendy I could have died of happiness.  There was also a teeny tiny cavaletti cross rail that was maybe nine inches off the ground in the middle that we walked over a couple times.  

like the one in the corner only seven times tinier
I'm very convinced Jazz has aspirations to become a jumper, because if I wasn't vigilant about steering and staying on the rail, she was drifting right to those ground poles and that cavaletti.  I'm hoping that's something we could do somewhere down the road.  

Now, as fun as that all was, here comes the real excitement.

Oops, it followed us home! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Finally a great ride to brag and beam about!  Today was lesson day and it was AWESOME! But first, a brief explanation of yesterday.  

Wooo! Back in the saddle again!
Between working and playing around with bareback, I hadn't ridden with a saddle for about two weeks.  So, I tacked up, and hopped on.  Considering what I've seen lately (namely perfect ground manners and manners ranging anywhere from perfect to atrocious under saddle), I decided to skip my standard groundwork check-in and hop right on.  Jazz was pretty darn good.  I mean, it wasn't like I was doing high-pressure stuff that's really hard for either of us, but she was awesome.  We did trot poles, and she was so happy.  She would keep trying to convince me to come back around to them whenever we were doing a breather lap or approaching from a different turn, and she went at them ears pricked straight forwards and excited.  Future jumper? Maybe.  

So, today was my lesson.  The weather was beautiful (hot, at over 30 degrees, but beautiful), and I went with my English tack again.  I by no means am giving up on western riding, but I just think I'll see more improvement in my riding overall if I stick with trying to get better in the English saddle for a while.  Either way, we started off doing 20m circles at the far end of the arena, and moved into posting trot.  My instructor had me working on a lot of little things to improve my overall form, keeping my heels down, keeping my leg on, and keeping my hands really low and quiet.  I was having a lot of trouble keeping my irons where they were supposed to be, especially my right foot.  My heels kept creeping up, making the irons come back towards my heel, and making it much harder to keep my heels down.  My hands were also pretty good, but still moving around a bit, so my trainer had me grabbing mane to help stabilize them and get an idea of how far down I should be holding them, and it was a huge help.  

I am a firm believer in trying not to judge something too quickly.  I always like to give both people and experiences a chance before deciding whether or not I don't like them.  So, based on what I've read and heard from English riders in the past, I seem to be in possession of an unpopular opinion.  What I'm trying to say is that the next thing I did in my lesson was ride without stirrups for the first time and I LOVED IT.  I crossed my stirrups over Jazz's neck and did posting trot and suddenly every single thing my instructor had been saying that i'd been trying to translate to proper position made complete sense.  She'd been explaining how to glue my legs and just work from my core to post and as soon as I didn't have stirrups I was doing it! My instructor explained that I should hold my legs in what would be the ideal position if I still had my stirrups and still post just with my upper body, and I felt a hundred times more secure and balanced.   After a couple minutes of that, I took up my stirrups again, and it was going way better. Still a little sliding around in my stirrups, but significantly better.  

Finally, we moved to trying out my new super-glued legs at the canter. We were tracking left, so I worked on left lead first.  It took a few tries to get a good transition, but she took off eventually, and my legs stayed in place pretty well for it.  Jazz has always struggled with her canterwork, and has never been very balanced.  All we've really worked on is transitions into and out of it a little, and a fair amount of work on asking for correct leads going whole arena.  So, Jazz's 20m circles were more like 20m weird ovals that need work. She's just always found it easier to drop her shoulder and careen around unbalanced than to actually engage and collect enough to be capable of turning.  Needless to say dressage tests with canter are not in our near future.  That being said, we moved to the right lead, which is my bad side but Jazz's good lead, and it went decently well.  Again with the weird circles, but it sounded like that's something my trainer wants to work on sometime soon, so that'll come soon enough.  

After my lesson, I did a little pampering.  Jazz is not a hose fan, so I did a little introductory work.  She's still not really comfortable, but she was investigating it a little, though spraying even her legs wasn't really in the question for today.  The wash area isn't really much of one, its just dirt and a hose with no nozzle, so if I mess around too long, it gets muddy.  Also, the water is just a sort of constant trickle, which isn't the most helpful to introducing the hose.  Oh well, add it to the list of things to work on more regularly (along with the flag and figuring out what I want to do with her mane and tail because they're starting to get scraggly).  I also braided her mane because the other day she was all sweaty underneath it so I wanted it off her neck to keep her cool. Naturally several pictures were taken.  

It's hot. I'm sleepy

So snoozy...


Okay that's enough pictures


Okay fine. 

Just get my good side
 She was also super itchy, and I just love her funny faces.

So itchy

Yeah that's the spot

Oh hi! 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blog Hop: Stalker

This week's blog hop from Viva Carlos was just perfect, because it's a topic I've been meaning to touch on for a while now.  

What Equestrian Blogger out there do you really want to meet? (If you have more then 1 I will allow you to list up to 5!)

As a relative newbie to the whole equestrian scene, I really don't quite know what interests me in terms of what I want to do.  Because of this, I follow blogs that cover a pretty broad spectrum of disciplines, interests, and events.  So, without further ado, here's my top five.   

5.) Lauren at She moved to Texas

Lauren's was one of those blogs that I heard about everywhere.  As a newcomer to blogging, I would always look at most of the links on the blogrolls of blogs I liked, and She moved to Texas was on very nearly every one.  She chronicles her journey in the hunter jumper world with her horse Simon, as well as many other interesting and current topics relevant to the equestrian world as a whole.  Lauren writes a lot of awesome, funny posts about all the ups and downs of the horse world, and I'm never bored with reading what she has to say.

4.)Karen at Bakersfield Dressage 

Karen writes about training and working with her two horses, Sydney and Speedy G.  Her main focus is on dressage, and she writes some excellent educational pieces as well as plenty of progress reports and dissecting the contents of her riding lessons.  I love to read Karen's blog because it feels like I know both her horses even though she lives in California.  I think Karen says it well in her blog's about me, "I write honestly about my journey: sometimes we do well, sometimes we struggle, but we always have fun. "

3.)Paola at The Aspiring Equestrian (formerly Paola's Horse Blog)

Paola writes about a large variety of topics.  I like reading about her thoughts as a young equestrian, and it's really awesome to read about her lessons and how she's progressing and gaining confidence and skills. Since I've been reading, she started leasing a horse named Chester who is just plain adorable.  Paola also has a lot of interest in thoroughbreds, and I've learned a lot about racehorses in general from her blog.  In her about me, she says she wants to retrain OTTB's when she's older, and I wish her all the best in all her equestrian dreams!

2.) Saiph at Wait for the Jump

Saiph was, if I'm remembering correctly, my very first blog follower.  She has two horses, Lily, and the more recent addition, Gracie.  Saiph does a lot of trail riding and conditioning, and some endurance.  I love to read Saiph's posts and her writing about her horses always has a funny, upbeat tone to it that makes me smile.  If I ever were to meet her, I'd have a few questions on where she gets the discipline to sit down and write the excellent, detailed, long posts I love to read on her blog.  

1.) Andrea at The Reeling: An Unexpected Mareventure

Andrea's was probably the first blog I read all the way through when I first discovered it.  I love her style, and I am always amazed when she talks about the problems she has with her horses that she always seems to magically find the perfect answer, solution, or approach to.  I hope to someday have half the horse-related knowledge Andrea just sprinkles casually into her posts.  I really like the approach she takes, and she has a lot of great information, especially about equine nutrition and going barefoot.  Andrea is honestly the only one of my top five I've ever really interacted with besides blog comments, and that was just one email I sent to ask her advice on some troubles I was having, but she gave an incredibly helpful, considerate, and comprehensive response.  I cannot say enough great things about Andrea's blog.  

Honorable mention: Jen/Braymere at Braymere Custom Saddlery

Alright, I admit it.  I harbor a lot of interest/curiosity into model horse showing, and I cannot recommend Braymere Custom Saddlery enough.  Daily posts filled with beautiful pictures, and a great introduction to watch the world of model horse showing from a distance.

Unfortunately, I live VERY far from all of these people, and I seem to be very short on more local bloggers, so I'd love some suggestions on good horse blogs based in Canada.


Monday, July 14, 2014


Jazz is not so much a horse as a deceptively simple puzzle.  What I'm trying to say, is that I have recently come to believe that somewhere in her unregistered grade horse ancestry, there was a Rubik's cube in there.  It seems easy, and there's certainly lots of people out there that could have her lined up and working beautifully with a few twists, spins, and algorithms that look so simple when they do it. I know I've not hesitated to ask a few experienced horse people to help sort her and me (mostly me) out in the past, with great results.

Pictured above: Jazz when someone who knows what they're doing has a look at her.

 Also, continuing my rubik's cube analogy, nearly any idiot can solve one side of a Rubik's cube.  You can make it look real nice from one angle, but try to do anything but that one thing you do well, or try to make multiple sides match up, and it gets not so nice and pretty pretty fast.  Again, much like Jazz.  Nearly anything and everything an amateur like me can ask Jazz to do on a loose rein, she can do like gangbusters, but try to do those same things with a little contact, and suddenly all the wheels fall off and she won't listen to anything and none of those buttons you installed on a loose rein work properly anymore.

Pictured above: Jazz on the average day before I ask her to do something she considers work.
A brief break from the hypotheticals here to do a little catch up on recent events.  July 1st I got on a horse that could accurately be described with phrases like "wound up" or "not quite listening" or "completely crazytown bananapants get off her now before someone dies or gets flattened".  Looking at all the factors, I decided that there were WAY too many factors to have even a clue where to start finding solutions.  On a hunch, I took a little bit of a risk and decided to subtract as much of the complication as possible.  So, naturally, two days after jumping off of my horse trying not to A) tremble B) fear for my life and C) take it out on the horse instead of correcting properly, I decided to hop on bareback in just a rope halter with the lead line tied around for reins (I never claimed to be bright).

My suspicions were confirmed when I got on a totally chill horse who, granted, has gotten a bit dull on leg aids (so many things to do), but was very reasonable.  I did a very gradual warmup, with minimal leg and both hands on the reins, but also sitting on her neck.  Totally chill.  I did some turning and circling and worked on the scary side of the arena a little (the side where the back yard of the farm house is.  Jazz hates the dogs and I've seen them really spook her a few times).  Totally chill.  I took a little contact on my rope reins.  Totally chill.  I did the exact bending exercise to the best of my ability that I had done in our recent off the rails lesson .  Chill, chill, chill.

The. Exact. Same. Exercise. 

So chill. 

Chill chill chill.  

I rode again mid-week when I had a couple hours off from work (aka the one time in the week I had a couple hours off from work).  I started much the same, bareback with the halter, nice slow introduction.  I decided to test her out adding the bridle after our halter warmup.  She was totally fine.  I did some contact and more of the bending exercise from the lesson with no major issue.

I was almost convinced she was 100% fine, and as long as I could sort myself out in terms of what I was asking, we'd be moving back along like gangbusters again. Almost.

I had the same intentions today, but because I'd brought it home to punch holes, forgot my bridle.  No problem.  I didn't have big goals today anyway, just another short bareback, and the halter would do for that.  So, I did my groundwork warmup.

Pictured above: Jazz after a groundwork warmup
I tied up my rope reins and hopped on.  I had some slightly unfortunate timing in that a pasture mate of Jazz's (her pasture is about five meters away from the arena at its closest point) was being let go, and she was whinnying at her, which worked her up a little, but nothing unmanageable.

I had some really unfortunate timing in that the barn cat had come in and was wandering around in the far side of the arena, or, as the cat must see it, her giant sandy litter box.  The cat itself wouldn't be a problem, but there are some truly horrid magpies at my farm.

No picture exists where magpies don't look like they're plotting to steal candy from babies, because magpies are evil, and they look evil 100% of the time.  
The cat must have been threatening the nest or something, because the freaking magpies would NOT shut up.  Jazz totally lost it and did a weird crow hop (oh the irony), wherein I was totally convinced I would be having a bareback bronc ride for the next however long it would take Jazz to buck me off (aka not long).  Luckily, she did not buck me off.  Unluckily, she took off.  The rocket horse that was threatening to rear its ugly head not so long ago took this opportunity to blast off.  I wound up trotting mach 8 along the rail with a horse completely blind to aids of any kind.  She headed directly for C, who was sitting on the mounting block in the corner of the arena.  I blurted out an eloquent "stop her, stop her, Stop Her, STOP HER!", as my breaks continued to fail and Jazz kept on heading for C.  Luckily, she did stop once she reached her, and I hopped off to lunge her a little and get her mind down from the level 10 AB-SOLUTELY THIS IS GONNA BE HOW I DIE threat level she was at down to something rational.  C went over to see what she could do about shutting up or chasing off the magpie.  I did eventually get her brain back (but only after the crazy magpie was gone), and she did some really lovely work with ground poles with me on the ground.  Sigh.  Maybe I should just make her a halter horse and be done with it.

Pictured above: Jazz today. 

Of course, I'm not being serious when I say that.  We'll have to find a way.  I haven't the faintest clue what that will be, but come what may, we will find a way.

At least I finally remembered to take a picture of her dapples.  

Her newest nickname is dapple bum. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rocket horse

Another quick update post today, as I seem to be at a sort of roadblock. Jazz has the most perfectly perfect groundwork you can possibly imagine.  I mean, this horse has manners so long as you speak her language (and I have been fluent in Jazzpanese for a while now, especially after our re-start).  I can ground tie her to groom outside when it's nice and she will stand like a rock (sometimes she does get distracted but nothing major and nothing that doesn't go away when I bring her attention back).  Even for tacking up she is an angel almost every single time (compared to how she used to wiggle and try to wander around).  Once she's tacked, I always do some groundwork to check in and gain her focus as much as possible before checking my cinch and mounting up.

I thought it might help to try to go back to something a little familiar, since there were so many new things in our last lesson (the one where ALL the wheels fell off).  In an attempt to return to normalcy, I used the western saddle.  So, as I said, Jazz has immaculate ground manners, and after testing those in the outdoor arena, I got on on Tuesday.  I did lateral flexion, the way I always do, and started off.  The first long side of the arena was good, the first corner was okay, and the second corner was passable.  About two strides down the second long side, she bubbled waaaay off the rail and halfway to the center line, listening to me in no way whatsoever.  From that point on, she was totally gone.  I couldn't get her back under control enough to do anything but stop for me to get off.  It felt like I was on a rocket horse that was liable to take off suddenly and unexpectedly at any moment.  I tried to ride it out for about a minute, but even during a one rein stop she felt about two wrong moves from completely exploding.  I just couldn't do it, and I hopped off after executing the only cue she'd responded to properly for practically the entire ride, a stop in the center of the arena.

So, she got a little groundwork workout.  Just because I can't both ride and feel reasonably safe at the same time, doesn't mean she doesn't have to work.  I did the usual round of exercises with some refreshers, and then a little something for Canada Day.

Shhh stop being patriotic there's a camera


Don't.  Move.  Cameras sense movement. 
Wait what's this thing?
I dug out the long forgotten Canada flag.  Having done a decent amount of her de-spooking (though nowhere near all of it), I can safely say I have never seen her avoid something quite so much as she does the flag.  She would happily watch it wave in front of her face for hours, trying to sniff it, but failing whenever the wind catches it, but put that thing anywhere near her body, and she can not move away fast enough. Clearly working up to the flag needs to go onto our regular rotation.

Also, you know, being able to ride.  That should probably happen at some point.  

Quick note: I have a job that requires all of the time for the next week or so, so it will probably be a bit quiet around here.  Sorry.

Also, I got my 1000th pageview yesterday! Woo!