July 2006

July 4, 2006

I rode my Blue horse yesterday!!!! (You should see my big smile.)

He has been in training for a long time now. Leslie has been riding him for a while, but she had him, literally, months before she did. She found he had lots of explosive triggers and was determined, rightly, to work through those before riding. She did, and he's a completely different horse now -- but his sense of humor is still intact.

The fall I took off of him in February really shook my confidence. I finally got up the nerve to take lessons again in April. Those were a godsend. Gryphon is the perfect school horse for an insecure rider. Still, despite my renewed confidence on Gryphon, I was afraid to ride Blue. When I tried to visualize riding him in his trainer's arena, I would see him panic and throw me.

I was afraid that I was going to have to sell him, essentially wasting all the money I'd put into him. (On the plus side, he'd have gone to a clicker home -- his trainer! Leslie is in love with him. She said he's her favorite student of all time, and she would have loved to have kept him.)

But yesterday, Jay and I went down to Olympia. We played with Blue on the ground for a while, and then Leslie rode him. I'd seen her ride him once before, a couple of weeks ago. That time he was new under saddle, and still very disorganized. This time, he was so much more together. She has much to teach him, yes, but he had come so far.

After a while, she asked if I wanted to ride him. (Last time I was there, she'd had me ride one of her horses so she could judge my riding ability. Although she certainly couldn't stop me from riding my own horse, she also is quite frank about what "should* happen. She is, for example, very blunt about me being too heavy for him. For Guin, no. For her Morgan/mustang cross, no. But too heavy for Blue.)

Anyway, this day she asked if I wanted to ride him, and I said yes. I was excited, but nervous at the mounting block. Once I got on though, it was awesome. I was relaxed (more or less), and he didn't feel at all squirrelly. We just walked and practiced doing patterns through some barrels, and I practiced the mechanics of a one rein stop.

The ride was short and sweet and perfect. A couple of times my cueing confused him, and he started to speed up, but I stayed relaxed and regrouped him, and he settled and focused again. What a love.

He comes home at the end of this month. I'm going to try to go up each weekend this month to ride him again, so I'll be more comfortable with him when he comes home. Leslie has already been getting him out on trails (and says he's very sane out there), so hopefully I'll even get to trail ride him.

Life is good.

July 16, 2006

What a fun day today! My friend Brandy suggested that a group of us go out on a big trail ride next month. I loved the idea, and suggested that we go to the trail head near my house. I'm hoping to ride Blue, and Brandy is hoping to ride her horse Mac, but it's possible that one of us will need to ride Guin. Since I haven't ridden her in a year though, Brandy volunteered to come over and help me give her a "tune up." We decided to give Princess her first ride at the same time.

Brandy, Tanja, and Bettina -- everyone who is going on the trail ride except Lesley -- came over around 12:30. Lovely day -- bright and sunny -- but on the edge of being too hot. We didn't have a covered place to ride, and standing in the direct sun was a bit too intense.

We decided to start with sweet Princess. The first task was to put her new hoof boots on. I had already fitted them with pads and had tried to put them on earlier, but just couldn't get them over the hoof. Princess stood patiently then and for me and the ladies. It took two of us to get the boots on the first time. I think it'll be easier from now on.

Princess is such a doll. Beyond sweet. She stood so patiently while we fit Brandy's tack to her and got her saddled. She looked very smart all tacked up too!! We lunged her a bit, in case she was too excited, but she was fine. We learned something though -- she's gaited!! That's really cool to me. I have no clue what breed she is -- possibly a mix. I'd love to find out.

Tanja was to be her rider since we had no clue what she was like under saddle. She led her beside the mounting block, and Brandy stood at her head and held her bridle. Princess didn't bat her eye when Tanja mounted. So Brandy led her around a bit. Princess actually seemed irritated by this, probably wondering what the heck these crazy people were doing!

Finally Tanja took over and just rode her around the little arena a bit. Princess has had some excellent training. She cues almost entirely off leg pressure and is very sensitive. She prefers no interference from the reins, but didn't seem to neck rein. (I'm still betting she was Western trained though.)

She had quite a bit more pep under a rider than she ever showed on the ground. Tanja's opinion was that she's probably not a horse for a beginning rider. She guessed that if someone got on her who wasn't up to her tricks that she would take full advantage. I didn't ride her. I'm kind of hoping that Leslie can be here when I do for the first time. Just for moral support.

Next we rode Miss Guin. There is something about her that relaxes a person. Brandy is trying to get over residual fear after a bad fall a few months ago. But she had no problem riding Guin, even though Guin is actually pretty darn close to untrained. Guin is just so darn good natured. You just get the idea that if she disagrees the worst she'd do is stamp her foot. Tanja actually rode her first, and she didn't even go slow in mounting -- she just threw herself on. Then Brandy rode, and then I rode. We all love Guin. She's really just too much fun.

After we rode, we drove down to the trail head and walked just a short ways to get a look at the trail. We didn't see much, but we figured out where we were going, and we got a look at the trail itself -- narrow, in the woods, soft dirt footing. Lovely. I can't wait for the trail ride!!

(I'm watching the first Harry Potter movie. My goodness those kids were young. They look like babies.)

July 18, 2006

I made the trek down to Olympia again, and Leslie and I went on a trail ride. I got to ride my Blue horse, of course. He was really, really calm today. "Calm" isn't really the right word. Lethargic. Almost like he didn't feel good, but Leslie couldn't find anything wrong. She guessed it was just the heat.

His lethargy made me a little leary. I've found that horses that are unnaturally lethatrgic have a tendency to suddenly go to the other extreme. So when Leslie said we were going on a trail ride, I wasn't sure I was ready to do it. In the end, I did though, and I was glad. He did great! I was really impressed with how focused and willing and calm he is on the trail.

There were two highlights. First was "introducing" him to water at a shallow pond. Leslie warned that I shouldn't force him and should be prepared in case he was scared. Hee! Not quite. He walked right in and started pawing and splashing. He loved it!!

The second highlight came when we were walking, leading the horses, down a very narrow singletrack path. We were walking down a hill -- I was third in line -- when I slipped on a rock and went right to my butt. I squawked, and said, "Blue, don't you dare walk on me." Leslie told me to click Blue when I got up, because he not only didn't step on me, but was quite startled and didn't run. She said he was eyeing me like, "What got her?! Took her right off at the legs!"

Leslie joked that she thought a bear got me when I squawked. I told her if it was a bear, she'd have first heard, "Oh, how cute. Want a treat?" Then I'd squawk.

The low point of the day was realizing just how much Blue struggles under my weight. He is too small for me, and try as he will, he isn't ever going to be comfortable carrying me at this weight. I need to either get off my ass and do something about my weight, or I need to rehome him.

On that topic, Leslie is really sad to let him go. I asked her if she falls this hard for all the horses she trains, and she said she bonds with them all, but this is the only one she has ever wanted to keep.

July 21, 2006

My beautiful gelding, Blue, has been in training with a clicker trainer (and dear friend) since the end of February. She has done an amazing job with him, and he will be coming home at the end of this month. There is just one problem:

I'm too heavy for him.

Blue is a small horse. He's not only short... he's small boned. He's simply not built for a heavy-weight rider. Even with slow conditioning, he will never be *comfortable* carrying me at this weight. 200 lbs is probably the absolutely highest weight he should carry -- and that assumes a fit, skilled rider. I'm well over that.

I was talking with my friend Brandy about it, and she said if I sold him, she would sell me her 1/2 Perch, 1/2 Thoroughbred gelding, Sid, for half whatever price I got for Blue. There's a couple of problems with that. First, I love my Blue horse dearly, and it would break my heart to sell him. But second, from a more objective point of view, Sid is untrained.

I thought about it, and Blue's well-being is the most important thing to me. So I gave Blue's trainer a call. I offered to give her Blue in exchange for two things. One, that she would give me Josh, her 1/2 Morgan, 1/2 mustang trail horse so I would have a riding horse, and two, that she would train Sid for me. Then I could give Brandy, as payment for Sid, the training money I wasn't giving the trainer. Make sense?

Well, Leslie, bless her heart, turned me down. She said that Jay and I need to lose weight for our health. True, I said, but what if I fail? She laughed and gave me a speech. In the end, though, she said, she wasn't going to let me make any impulsive decisions right now, but if, after I got him home, things didn't work out, she and I would work something out.

(I love her for that, because I know how hard it was for her. She has fallen in love with Blue and is terribly sad to lose him.)

Anyway, I have to do this. I have to. I have to get off my BUTT and DO IT.

Jay, by the way, approved my paying myself to work out. So hopefully that will motivate me to do that. And we've started getting organic fruits and veggies from our local co-op.

July 25, 2006

Took my last official trek to Olympia today -- Blue comes home next Monday. I'm conflicted about that.

The trip today was bittersweet because Leslie has become a dear friend. I'm very much going to miss her. I wish we lived closer together soI could officially intern with her -- she knows soooo much about horses -- but I also want just to hang out together more. She has a good heart, and she's funny, and she's just a great friend.

I was entirely unmotivated to do anything with Blue today. Leslie announced at the beginning that I was to do everything myself, but she would be there to answer questions. That would have been great if I'd wanted to do anything. Poor woman had to use a cattle prod to get me to do anything and everything.

I really wasn't in the mood to ride. I let her talk me into doing it, and I really shouldn't have done that. Riding is too precarious right now for me to do it when my heart and mind aren't completely in the game. We walked around the arena a bit, and then Blue broke into a trot.

It scared me.

There was nothing wrong with it, per se. It was bouncier than I expected, and there's just not much horse underneath me. That felt insecure, and I flashed back to the accident in February. I pushed that image away, and forced myself to remain calm. Asked him to walk again. He did. Breathe. Exhale.

Leslie asked if I wanted to canter today. I asked if she was nuts. Walking was just fine. I did so for maybe five minutes, and then got off -- mentally worse than when I started. But he needed some exercise, so Leslie got on him and rode him, all gaits. Watching her ride made me feel a lot more confident. I saw how he moved and responded. I wish she had ridden him first to begin with. I was tempted to ask to ride him after she rode, but I decided to cut my losses and call it a day.

It's not that I'm afraid of Blue. I'm not. I just shouldn't have gotten on him when I didn't want to -- when my mind wasn't in the game. Lesson learned.

Blue, by the way, has been having a great time with Leslie. She discovered that he loves to chase her llama, and that he can see beautifully in the dark. She also took him to the beach and let him have a good long galloop. He loved the ocean and rolled in the waves four times. I bet that would have been really cool to see. I'm sorry he won't get to do that with me. (No truck or trailer.)

July 28, 2006

It was cool today, so I thought I'd play with Guin a bit. I planned to "300 peck" myself to bareback ride her, but when we got to our little arena, she was convinced there were ghosts in the woods at the far end. She's not normally a spooky horse, so I decided we should walk down there to check things out. Turns out my neighbor was getting some stuff out of her little shack in those woods. When she came out to talk to us, Guin was quite sure she was a wood sprite and not to be trusted.

We talked for a while though, and I treated Guin intermittently for head down. She relaxed a bit. She was no longer scared of Nan, but she was anxious to do something more than stand here. After we talked to Nan, I decided that, instead of riding, I would just take Guin for a walk and let her remember that she'd been out here before. She LOVED it. The other horses, however, were convinced that I was either taking her to slaughter or leaving them to it.

For the last couple of evenings, I've let the girls out into the front part of the property to graze. Their pastures are just horribly overgrazed, even with rotation. We need rain! Tonight I left them out well past dark. They're reasonably amenable about coming in though. Good girls.

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