Sunday, January 11, 2015


It's a day exactly like this one where I understand how people like winter.  It is far from my own favourite season, and Jazz seems to feel the same way more often than not.  But today, when it's not too cold at -5, sunny with not a cloud in the sky, and not a breath of wind, I get it.  It was a truly gorgeous day, and a wonderful reminder of how lucky I am to have the horse I have and so many other little things.

Jazz was fairly easy to catch today.  I had her new halter from my recent tack shop stop (review coming soon I just need some pictures), and I noticed the tag on it said full.  I thought that was odd, because I could have sworn I'd bought a cob halter.  It was the same brand as my pastel purple halter (which is cob sized), so I knew it would fit, and I specifically remembered the girl at the tack shop asking to make sure we knew it was cob sized.  So, when I got to the fence, I yelled over to C (who had been with me when I bought it) to see if I was crazy or if the halter was actually supposed to be cob sized.  She recalled that the tag that had said cob had been the sale tag, so it must have been mislabled.  As we were talking over the fence, Jazz started nuzzling my shoulder and giving me little kisses.  It was so sweet, and she's only done that maybe twice before.  I tried to get C to take a picture, but Jazz stopped by the time she got her phone out.  She did get a few cute shots, though.

I love this one.  She almost looks like she's smiling.

As I was walking back from the pasture, I noticed how gorgeous of a day it was, and asked C to take some more pictures.  Two of the barn cats even came out to greet us.  
Just look at that sky! It was really perfect
I picked up one of the cats and put her in my coat, and Jazz happily snuffled her.  She loves the cats, but usually she scares them off.  Today she was just sniffing and snuffling the kitten so gently she didn't even squirm.
We got this adorable but sadly fuzzy picture of it
 Soon the other cat caught her attention, and we captured a couple photos of Jazz's fascination with the cats.

I got a few nice pictures in the sun near the back paddocks (the ones in the far background of the above photos)
One of my absolute favourites
This one turned out really nice of me and the cat
See? Cat and I are cute, pony looks like she's plotting something.
A brief interlude from today's events to summarize our lesson from this past Wednesday that I neglected to blog about.  Something I don't appreciate often enough about my trainer is the confidence I feel when I ride with her. My last ride before my lesson I didn't ride above a walk because I didn't feel safe.  I cantered on Wednesday, because I am confident my trainer knows enough to tell me how best to keep my occasionally frazzled horse (and self) under control, and I also know she will listen when something just isn't working.  In December, a lesson I didn't blog about didn't happen because I got onto a horse I wasn't sure about, and when Jazz felt much closer to rearing than I wanted to touch with a ten foot pole, I told my instructor I wasn't comfortable and hopped off (and she also didn't let me pay her for the lesson I didn't take).  So on Wednesday, I got on to a fussed sort of Jazz that I probably wouldn't have even trotted if I was alone at the barn.  I had bought a standing martingale at the tack shop the previous weekend, but hadn't actually had time to put it on yet.  I asked my trainer if she wanted me to try it, and she helped me put it on and adjust it correctly.  We went quickly back into some trot work, and Jazz bumped herself in the nose a few times.  The difference was immediately obvious to me.  She's head tossed a bit for some time now, but it finally felt like I could ride it out safely again.  We did a lovely canter on her better right lead, and tried her left, but with little success.  She's much duller to the right leg, and she will run sideways on the circle when tracking left sometimes, even stopping sometimes.  It's very difficult for me to try to control, and has been a source of most of my frustration with riding over the last three or four months.  When I had been having no success for a few minutes of working on it, and as I was starting to get frustrated, I did something I'd been meaning to do every time we'd had this problem for the last few months.  I asked my trainer if there was some other way (any other way) we could possibly work this out.  She said a crop was an option, and retrieved one from the whip bucket.  She explained how to use it, and we worked on small circles where she wasn't squirreling off sideways on me.  It took about two sharp pops with the crop behind my leg, and four or five gentle taps before she was much improved (and a million miles an hour, but I wasn't going to pull on her after giving her such a strong foward cue, that would just be confusing).

Coming back to today, we even squeezed in some work after the photoshoot, . I taught C a little basic groundwork, and Jazz was a rockstar.  I groomed her and tacked up with our other purchase from last week's tack shopping, a standing martingale.  I walked her for a bit, and she was listening the best right off the bat she has in months.  She's always been very eager to go when I get on, and I sometimes have issue getting her to stand at the mounting block for me to get my reins and stirrups organized.  Today she stood well, and started off at a good walk, but listening nicely to halts and half halts (another thing that she usually has to warm up to in the winter).  We trotted early on, and I worked on doing ovals tracking left at the trot.  She was actually getting off my outside leg on the open (non-walled) end of our oval, and I didn't need to fetch the crop to get her to listen.  We even cantered a bit on her good right lead.  There were two other horses in the arena trotting and cantering, which made Jazz want to speed up, so we had a fairly zippy but controlled canter.  I just focused on her being quiet and listening, and did a bit of leg yielding on the quarter line intermittently throughout the ride.  I even worked a bit at two pointing at the trot, which made Jazz happily zip around in a fast trot.  I pulled out two ground poles to trot over, and even commented to C that if she did well over the poles, I might pop over a cavaletti.  That goes to show how confident I was feeling in her, because I would never jump outside of a lesson unless I knew Jazz was doing well.

 Unfortunately, just as I was getting ready to start work over the poles, Jazz had a big spook.  She reeled up her head and bumped herself on the martingale, and took off, nearly tripping herself over the pole, and doing a little dolphin buck over it.  I yelled at C to move because I wasn't feeling confident about my steering, and veered right.  She came back to reality quickly, with the whole spook maybe lasting four seconds.  I'm not sure exactly what set her off, but the other people in the arena had dismounted and were doing a little de-spooking with the flag (aka Jazz's number one fear) on the far end of the arena, so that may have factored in.  I've found Jazz isn't usually a horse that will spook at something that startles her unless two or more things happen at once.  For example, she'll sometimes startle at the sound of people rattling the chains on gates just outside the arena walls, or snow falling off the roof, or a car door slamming, but she'll rarely spook at these types of things unless at least two of them are happening at once, or one happens while I'm cueing for an upward transition.  I put the poles away and basically worked on getting her calmed and releasing her tension. 

I especially love her dragon breath in this picture
Once I was off, I took off her bridle and looped the martingale strap through the neck loop so it wouldn't drag.  Just then, two scary sounds at the same time = another spook.  Jazz startled and reeled away from the viewing area (where the halter had been sitting, and I was standing next to the rail) and away about five steps.  She stopped quickly, and I had to laugh at her a little bit.  She couldn't have picked a better time to spook, with her bridle off and no worrying about her catching her bit.  Her girth was still tightened, so her saddle didn't move an inch, and she had respectfully not so much as grazed me.  I did two fast groundwork moves to get her brain back, and untacked for good.  

I've really learned something this week, and I hope it's something I remember next time I'm in a similar situation.  I have had a very natural horsemanship kind of 'upbringing', and I've been committed to a gadgets are bad kind of mentality.  I was first told by my trainer that I should consider a martingale/tie-down in June, and I bought one last Saturday.  The result was an immediate feeling that I had returned to safety upon first use, and a horse who didn't catch herself on the martingale once (with the exception of a spook, of course) the second time she had ever had a martingale. My trainer commented to me when I asked about another method to deal with Jazz running sideways at the trot, that a crop or spurs would help, though she knew I didn't usually like that kind of thing. I've actually had the thought cross my mind a few times that a crop might have been the answer to my outside leg problem when she really isn't listening the way she was.  I've actually used a crop before.  It helped take us from here: 

 "Pleeeeeeease trot? Pretty please?"

to here:

You can actually see the crop in the video too.

So the moral of the story is a piece of advice I've heard from one of my horsey mentors (paraphrased) "You are going to hear a million opinions from horse people.  You can't ever do that, horses should never do this, etc.  The important thing is for you to figure out what feels right to you, and to do that."

So, readers, remember that no matter what, what matters is that you have a horse you can be proud of, and a method that you can feel good about.  


  1. New to your blog so catching up on older posts :) Love the last thing you said. Something that works for everyone else may not work for you, and vice versa.

  2. There are so many opinions out there for sure. Sounds like you did what was best for yourself and your horse. :) Lovely pictures! I might have to get some lovely outdoor winter shots with my herd also.

    1. Maybe sometime we'll have to take some pictures of our horses together ;)

  3. love those pics with Jazz and the cats!!! sounds like your trainer is fab too - i love a trainer who can make me feel safe and confident!

    and i agree - 'gadget' has become a dirty word, but ultimately these are tools that help our horses better understand what we're asking. good luck!!