Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Zen



I went to my first yoga class in what feels like, and is realistically probably close to, 6 months last night. My love for yoga is pretty sporadic, and is often limited by time. Ie. If i'm not at school, i'm working. If i'm not working, I should be riding. If i'm not riding, I should be studying. If i'm not riding OR studying, I'm feeling guilty and moping around and being lazy. However, my flabby stomach, and my utter lack of respect for my body by pumping it with as many carbs as humanely possible lately, has reminded me that maybe I should start being a litttttle healthier, okay a lot healthier. I'm trying. That's all that matters.

Anyways, I managed to make it to Yoga, and our instructor was getting us to start deep breathing/inward thinking/all that yoga jazz. I am a mental drifter, and so my mind was drifting around my life when I heard her voice say, "What do you think about when your given nothing to think about?".... well, what do you guys think I think about? Horses. Namely - one big pissy-pants Paint horse.

My only reason for getting my butt into that class was the fact my back feels like one big ball of tension - mainly in my right shoulder blade. I'd been doing so much physiotherapy in the spring and fall that once my physio ended, I think my back felt a little stranded and tightened waaaay up. The class was a flow class, so, we would practice certain movements, she would ask us to isolate certain muscle groups, "open" up others, etc. Then, you put it all together and move through the positions in a flow.

I was doing my thing, you know... sweating buckets and probably looking like a semi-drowned Moose clambering onto shore. The class was close to over when she had us on our backs doing some easy stretching. We were doing some pose probably called "Praying Eagle eats Grasshopper" or something, so one leg was propped up, with the other leg over top, and you were suppose to pull your legs toward your chest - easy. I thought.

She came over and reminded me to arch my back a bit more - so I did. She told me I was arching my chest, and asked me again - to arch my back. I tried. I failed. She put her hand on my chest and her other hand poked my back in an attempt to get me to isolate it. I tried. It kinda worked but not really. She asked me to "draw down my pelvis" - Yoga instructors always say things like this that make you want to throw something at them - how the heck does one "draw down their pelvis"? I attempted, my back caved. She poked my back again and asked me if I knew how to isolate my back? Well, apparently I do not. In the end I kind of figured out the pose... but it wasn't great, and it wasn't easy.

As I was being poked and prodded my mind drifted to Jingle, and suddenly - I realized that I had switched roles with my horse. Someone was basically lightly encouraging me with small pokes (spurring), and although she knew what she was asking of me - I just couldn't get it. All through the class I had been asked to isolate certain muscle groups, work in ways that didn't entirely feel natural, and then put it all together and just "flow". More often than not my flow wasn't as beautiful and ethereal as I had wanted it to be.

So, it's an interesting lesson in patience, in asking for certain things one must remain patient. I often have the tendancy to completely release pressure when he does something really well - exactly how I want it done, but I often forget to give him that bit of a release when he achieves the steps towards the greater goal.

It is also a lesson in listening, there was many poses in that class that other people struggled with that I found easy-peasy, and then there were some, like my aforementioned stretch, that should have been a cake walk, and suddenly I found myself really struggling with. That's because before, I was cheating the pose, afterwards, I was doing it correctly - but it was hard. Hard enough that it didn't feel natural, and so why would I continue practicing it? Oh right - because my Yoga instrcutor was there to be confident, and tell me it was okay, and that it was good for me. Sound familiar? So often, we as riders, and our horses "cheat". You see this a lot with fake collection/poor headsets, but I think "cheating" appears all throughout riding, and often - it's not obvious your "cheating" when you are.

So, maybe this new found "Zen" mindset will help remind me of patient, and clear confident communication in my rides from now on? Now, if only I could figure out how to harness Jingle's pissed off energy for good and not evil.... ;)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Story Time: Never Stare a Guard-Goat in the Eye

I haven't had a good enough story to top the one time I deer-napped an infant deer, but, lo-and-behold, the other week, I found myself in a pretty good story-line indeed.

I was heading to Vegas the next day (Friday) and went out to the barn to see Jingle. We had a nice little ride, I gave him an extra long groom and some extra lovin', and then headed home. I was pretty happy with myself, I am notoriously late to arrive to events after being at the barn, but on this particular day it seemed I had the entire evening at my disposal. I was heading to Vegas with my mom, and we were going to get our nails and feet done beforehand. My plan was to head home, pack (I am a highly efficient packer), and then meet my mom for a little manicure/pedicure action, and then we were going for a nice birthday dinner with my stepdad.

I was zoning out, driving the old familiar stretch of highway home, when I saw a little speck on the side of the road. My vision isn't the best at times, even with glasses, through my squinted eyes I thought perhaps it was a bunny, or some other small creature. I instinctively slowed down, and watched as a small Jack Russel Terrier bounced down the shoulder lane of the highway - he was all white with just the smallest brown splotch on his hip. It was one of those moments where you wonder if you've been dreaming - I certainly was thinking something along those lines when I saw two more dogs, slightly more in the ditch than the adventurous terrier, at the bottom of the hill I was currently headed down. My bleeding heart took over the wheel before my brain could intervene and I pulled over.

I will preface the rest of this story with who I am as an animal person - I am a bleeding heart, a complete and utter sucker, and can be a bit stupid at times. When I was in grade 5, at the ripe old age of 10, I staged a revolt among my classmates during recess. A dog catcher was attempting to catch a loose dog, and I labelled him as evil, and we screamed and chanted at him to let the dog go. I'm not going to say whether or not we ran into the road and attempted to stop him from driving off with the dog... but... you get the gist. My parents, my teachers, and my Principal were not pleased with my antics.

However, instead of fast-tracking myself into the open arms of PETA, I learned a bit of logic, but continued to harbor the idea of saving animals in need. Which is why I pulled over, jumped out, and called to the two dogs in the ditch. They both came jogging up to me, tails wagging. One was a brown and white collie, pretty harmless looking, and the other was a bit of an odd mix, his head was massive - Bull Mastiff massive, and his body was more Boxer/Pit Bull, and he was drooling... heavily.

People began to pull over, each asked me if I needed help with my dogs, and each time I replied "Oh, they aren't mine!" I was quickly left in the dust as cars zoomed off... thanks people.

Bubba, and Collie, all tucked under my dash, in the background.

So, I figured the best thing to do was to put the dogs inside my truck, and try to go get that Jack Russell. Both dogs jumped in my truck, the big black one that I affectionately named "Bubba" into the back, and the Collie hopped into the front. However, he was clearly pretty rattled and huddled under my centre console as we turned around to go retrieve their third musketeer.

The Jack Russell was not to be caught, in fact he thought it would be fun to play chicken with all manner of vehicles, including a semi-truck while I plaintively called for him to come - he never did, and by this time I knew that I was causing more danger to myself, and probably the dog, by trying to catch him. I got back into my truck, pulled haphazardly over on yet another highway shoulder and watched the Jack Russell blend in, and disappear into the snow covered ditch.

So what to do now? I was literally right in-between Calgary, and Bragg Creek - both have vets, and I was at Priddis - doesn't have a vet clinic. I decided to call my trainer, and after some himming and hawing she told me that perhaps I should go down to the general store and post office, and see if anyone knew the dogs.

Collie... looking worried

I decided to knock on some doors around the area I had found them in. Multiple times I found myself ringing doorbells where people were clearly home, but hiding from me. This is a small ass town, are there actually solicitors bothering you people?! The only lady that did answer the door gruffly told me she didn't know the dogs, and when I went to ask her if she recognized them as any of her neighbors dogs, she basically slammed the door in my face. OOOOokaayyy.... General Store it is.

The General Store was a whole other matter of weird. The lady behind the desk was seemingly fixated on small details that really had no place of importance in what I was telling her. She seemed confused I didn't live in the area, and repeatedly questioned where I was from. Then, she went to look at the dogs, and said she kinda-sorta-maybe recognized the Collie, but Bubba... nope. I had mentioned that I thought Bubba was a Bull Mastiff - Well, let me tell you something - this lady knew her Mastiff's and she told me he certainly was not one - FOR 15 MINUTES.

"He is a pitbull! Definitely a pitbull!"
"Oh, okay, yeah, maybe... he's pretty big. Anyways, so you don't recognize him?"
"Sweetie, he is not a Mastiff, Mastiff's are absolutely massive, he is definitely pitty, yep, definitely."
"Yeah, maybe, so... where should I take them?"
"Have you ever seen a Mastiff? My daughter has one - let me show you a photo. See how big this boy is - he's only one ya know, that thing in your truck, definitely a pitty, way too short to be a Mastiff."

By this time, I was getting a little annoyed with Mastiff Breed Fan of the Century. I finally shut down the whole breed debate side of our conversation, and asked her what I should do. She said that she thought she knew who owned the sneaky Jack Russell, her name was Kelly, and perhaps she'd know the other two as well. She called Kelly, and promptly got ahold of her, told her the situation, and told me she'd be coming down. She was helpful in the end, she called a couple people around the small town, but seemingly no-one was home (or perhaps all ignoring their phones too!) on a Thursday afternoon.

Kelly arrived, she was young, a bit older than me, and was driving a work truck, it looked to me like she did Junk removal, or something along those lines. She promptly asked me where her dog was. I kind of sputtered up my coffee, and instantly felt bad, "I don't have him, just two others - I couldn't catch him." She sort of laughed and informed me he's really hard to catch. She kind of shrugged her shoulders and replied, "Only me and my friend Dan can ever get him, I'll have to finish up my shift and go find him - he runs away all the time, I bet you he found those other two dogs and suckered them into coming with him. He's like that." So her Jack Russell was a sneaky bastard... I, however, was a bit shocked, "Well, you know that he's running right on the highway right?" She just stared at me, I continued, "At one point he was literally weaving in and out of incoming and oncoming cars and trucks!" She laughed, "Ya, he'll be fine, I gotta go back to work - Thanks!"

She was about to turn in her muck-booted heels when I half-yelled, "Hey! Do you know these dogs or not?!" She poked her head into my truck, closed the door, said "Nope", and walked away. Thanks Kelly, you were a big help, and a stellar pet owner.

I trudged back into the general store and asked Bull Mastiff #1 fan what to do, she consulted with another lady who was hanging out there, and replied that I should probably just take them to a field and drop them off - they'd find their way home. She gave me convoluted directions to a ranch "oh about 4 - 6 km up the road" and told me to drop them there. I thanked her, and got back in my truck.

The Collie was shaking, Bubba was drooling, and my stomach was twisted in knots. I started to softly pet the Collie and he calmed down quite a bit and looked up at me with these big, sad, scared eyes. Was it wrong to pick them up off the side of the highway? Maybe... I don't know the rules and etiquette surrounding farm dogs. However, my two new friends were very clean, and looked well looked after, although neither had collars or tags. My dog is a "farm-dog" type looking dog, but is a family member, and if he got loose and someone just dropped him off in a random field hoping he'd find his way home, I wouldn't be too please. So, I went with my gut, and decided against it.

I figured I should try one last place...

to be continued.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Riding Diary: 41

Well this is exciting! When I wrote my "Resolutions" I talked about how I really, really want to get into cutting this year. I've tried, time and time again to find someone to coach me. Although I've worked a flag a couple times (only once with a well-trained cutter), and took a lesson with a trainer (he didn't have an indoor arena, and they were so busy that regular lessons were a no-go), i've never been able to find someone to coach me regularly.

Well! I found a guy :) I was searching the Kijiji horse ads (as I do on a daily basis to keep an eye on whats going on in the market) and saw an ad for someone who wanted to exchange stall cleaning for free board/cutting lessons. I replied that I couldn't work for them, but I was looking for lessons, and did they have "lessons horses". They sure do! Excellent. So, I set up a time, and Tuesday night I headed out to meet with him. He's been down in Texas for the last 20 years, and is back in Canada, and is still in the process of moving all his horses/home up here.
His horses are to dieeeee for, their bloodlines are disgusting (in a good way) - absolutely loaded with the big names. He has a stud out of dual rey that is the most beautiful, shimmering red roan i've ever seen. I was smitten.

Anyways, he originally put me on a horse named "Bandit", who he said was his most bombproof, turn-back style horse. Wellllllllll... Bandit was a little excited, meanwhile he told me to be holding my reins one handed, with the slack on one side of his neck, so I was just getting used to that and Bandit is flinging around, all freaked out about the (totally not moving) flag. He was pretty shocked, and apologized profusely, but I didn't mind. Also, I think it gave him a bit of insight into the fact I can actually ride, which was nice.

So then we moved on too....

Horse: Yogi!
- super cute, CD Lights gelding, 5 years old (man cutters are trained early and bombproof young - always shocks me)

Bit: I honestly didn't even notice, obviously a shank bit. haha

Time: 2 hrs

Ride: I guess I'll call the cutting trainer my "coach", as obviously my trainer is my trainer haha. Coach told me he prefers to long-trot his horses to warm them up instead of loping them, as most cutting trainers do. So I most have trotted bandit for like... 30-40 minutes haha. I was tired and so was he. Due to his behaviour Coach got on Yogi first and kind of tested him out, then got me to ride him. He said he was a lot more intuned to my body, and that I really needed to relax and only pick up my hand if absolutely neccesary. Otherwise my hand should always stay on his neck, even turning the warm-up.

He also got me to sit "more like a cutter", but my body was having none of it. I think it's something I'll have to really get used to. He wanted me to have my legs on at all time (which you should anyways, but i've gotten in the habit of "hovering" my legs on Jingle's side because he speeds up the second he feels legs - something to work on), he also wanted me legs loose and more fluid, and my body more relaxed. I hate to call it slumping, or bad posture, because my Coach certainly didn't look like he was riding with bad posture, but it's definitely not as much as an upright position than I am use to. I had to really roll my sitbones back, and sit down, and very deep, and then relax my upper body so I could have a more fluid motion.

I'm rambling, and maybe Crystal can help me out here - how are you suppose to sit?! haha.

He told me we sit like this so that when the horse is performing cutting maneuvers they have an even momentum and your aiding in their energy flow from the front to back, and not disrupting it. Your aborsbing their movement, rather than hindering them.

Once I was getting my relaxed cutter position on (haha) he said we could work the flag. I thought I was "relaxed" in a saddle, but I guess i'm a lot more rigid than I thought. You know what's funny? I bet this guy would have found me a lot more relaxed 3 years ago, with a much worse seat.. what's better? I'm still not sure.

Yogi was awesome!!! To remind myself to keep my hand down and still I kind of pressed into his neck with my hand (something Coach told me to do) and it helped as a reminder that my hand was there, and should stay there - unless he needed correction.

Coach also noticed that he wasn't landed as straight and that my right leg wasn't working as effectively as my left seemingly was. So he had me bumping him with my spur on my right leg to remind him to track the flag and to straighten out a bit more. Towards the end he made the flag go back and forth a little more rapidly so I could actually feel that almost jumping back and forth motion cutters do. So wicked.

I honestly have no idea how long we worked the flag for - for me it felt like not even a minute had passed by the time we quit. I was pretty quiet afterwards, I really love working a flag. I forgot how fricken awesome it is, how amazing it feels, how cool it is that there is a sport based purely around a horse and a cow working against each other, a human and a horse perfectly in-sync. (Even if the sport sometimes diverges from it's roots). I really like how the Coach teaches - he's very nice, and softspoken, and was very encouraging. He told me I was doing the great the whole time, and was good at explaining how to fix my position/legs/what have you when I needed too.

After that we just cooled off the horses and he chatted a bit more about cutting and the theory behind it. He is headed back to Texas for about 10 days to pick up some more of his horses, but hopefully once he's back I can start doing regular lessons with him. He's not exactly cheap, but I really like it, so what the hell.

For Next Time: Focus on being more relaxed throughout my seat and legs, and work on being more straight and correct while working the flag.

Also Sidenote: Holy Hanna I am sore the day after! My arms feel like they took an absolute beating, and they were just sitting there holding the horn and the horses neck, and my legs are pretty gooey. My body, especially my arms, haven't felt like this after a ride in a long time haha.

Riding Diary: 40

Time: 1 hr

Ride: I rode Friday and had a wicked ride on ponyboy, and then I got deathly sick (I have now had norovirus (read: severe stomach flu) two times in like three weeks... lady luck is nowhere to be found when it comes to my health lately). So, by Monday I was feeling a bit better, but still a little out of it.

Ponyboy, out of nowhere, has figured out his warmup trot. It's wicked. Nice, slow, easy, still has forward impulsion, but isn't attempting to murder me. Life is good. We should just trot forever now. Yeah... my trainer had other ideas. I trotted the barrel pattern a couple times - have to remember to really assist him through the turn, as he tends to want to jump out of it at the last minute. Then we loped our right lead - weeeeeeee watch how fast weeeee can lopeeeee - haha, my trainer said a couple weeks ago that now that my seat is so much better than when I first started riding for her, I don't notice how fast i'm going when we're loping. Well folks, let me tell ya, I noticed on monday. Although I feel safe, and I don't feel out of control, and nor does he, I still feel like we're attempting to match mach speed. No thanks. Lots of checking, alternating circles, to the rail, and back again, later and he kinda sorta slowed down haha. But! He is starting to consistently pick up his right lead now - what whaaat.

From there, we loped and worked on some transitions - my trainer commented that at this stage when Jingle breaks down from a lope, for whatever reason, I shouldn't try to just rush him back into a lope because that allows him to just pick up whatever lead he wants. Especially when we're loping his right lead. For now, and because we need to work on transitions anyway, when he breaks down I should break him down to a jog, focus on some cadence, and then ask again when we're both working together.

Then my trainer said something that totally surprised me, "we're going to try draw reins". I know what draw reins are, and I trust my trainer, but I know a lot of people absolutely hate draw reins, and are vehemetly against them. Readers - what are your thoughts on draw reins, do you use them in your own programs, do you agree with them, disagree, don't care? So how do I feel about the draw rein situation?

Well.. I feel as if it's a lot of reins in my hands honestly, haha, and that took awhile to get used too. From there it took awhile to get used to how much contact I should have, where to put my hands, etc. etc. After him and I both got the feel at the walk, we jogged, and I really liked how he was jogging in the draw reins. He was much more even-tempo'd then he's been lately (i've commented in previous posts that we've found our trot, but lost our jog somewhere in the muddle), and I could tell he was really using his hindend because he wasn't breaking down on me like he usually does, and I could just feel that impulsion. So, in that respect, I think the draw reins worked as a tool to remind him to work from his hindend. At the lope, you could tell he was confused about the effect of the draw reins, and so he basically stopped and was like "No Mahm, I am not a pulley system, I refuse to move", so that took a bit of backing up, and moving forward before he'd lope again. We only loped a bit, did a bit more jogging and quit.

So the verdict? I'm okay with this tool for now, I definitely wouldn't use draw reins every ride because I don't want Jingle to learn a false headset and false collection, however, they did seem to aid in reminding him to actually use his hindquarters, and become lighter on the forehand, all good things in our training regime!

For Next Time: Slooooow dowwwwwwn bullet train.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Riding Diary: 39

Pre-cursor in which I ramble at you guys: I spent four days in Sin City for my birthday, and although I had fun, I was glad to be home. I arrived home Monday at 3 am, and Monday night I was out at the barn after a long day of sleeping, ready to ride in my lesson. I got there early, and got talking to the lady that works at the barn, and Jingle put his head out of his stall and rested it on my shoulder as I talked to her. Awwwh.. ponyboy, did you miss me? It was pretty cute.

When I was grooming him, he was acting pretty chill and relaxed. I took his braids out and went to spray him with mane detangler. Jingle doesn't exactly love spray bottles, but lately I've been spraying him and he's been fine - just gives the bottle one big eyed look, and then is done. He was much the same, until I went to brush out his forelock... he took a couple big steps back and I thought for sure he was about to pull. My heart must of stopped. My trainer yelled for me to get behind him, because I was going to motion him forward from his head, and she told me that if he came forward he could come on top of me. Well... you guys know that I know that all too well, since he has come on top of me before. However, he also is known to pull so big and hard, and unrelenting, that there was no way in hell I was getting behind him. So I was a bit in shock, and then, all of a sudden, he took a step forward, I gave him a scratch on the face, and I resumed brushing - he was totally fine. He's a goof, i'm sure he was thinking about the spray bottle when all of a sudden the brush appeared and spooked him, but... he didn't pull. This is the first time in months he's even offered to pull, and the fact that he started and then decided against it, shows a lot about how much he's really grown and matured this last year.

Time: 1.5 hr.

Ride: Our lesson was really good! I've been focusing on my position at a posting trot, trying to stay a lot quieter, and attempting to slow down my posting, and it's really seeming to work on also slowing zoom-master J down aswell. The only thing is that lately his trot is becoming so much more fluid and relaxed, but it's almost as if he traded that in for his once-really nice, slow jog, which has all but dissapeared. The whole "focus on your body language" thing is really working for me and the big boy.

Our warm-up was honestly, stunningly beautiful, I kept thinking "holy crap, where is demonpony hiding, and when is he going to start breathing fire?" My trainer was even in shock at how relaxed and fluid he was, she told me that perhaps I should always go on vacation, and also joked that she had given Jingle a slight labatomy while I was away. Hahaha, poor Jingle-horse, he always gets subjected to these types of jokes.

We moved into the lope and Jingle was doing really well, now that he has the stamina and the strength to lope his leads, and is moving off my leg way more effectively, I've started to really check him back and get him to slow down and not zoom around as much. I have to really read him, and check accordingly, every once and awhile i'll ask him for too much and he'll transition down into a walk, and so it's a push and pull game to get him to slow down, but not stop, on me. He's also starting to to be able to lope the rail like a sane horse, and not a crazy-adrenaline filled "MAHM LOOK HOW FAR AND FAST I CAN GO IN A STRAIGHT LINE", good boy ponyboy.

He also is starting to nail his right lead and my trainer told me she's confident I can work on his right lead now by myself as well. Awesome.

Finally, she set up a little cavaletti, and had us trotting the rail and then calmly going over the cavaletti and continuing at a posting trot. Jingle wanted to drift from the rail, and speed up once he landed, so she told me to really hold him with the inside rein, keep my leg on him and just tell him "Jog" over the cavaletti. After a couple time he popped over it, nice and straight, and landed and jogged off nice and calm.

Overall, really good lesson. People keep asking me how he's doing, and I almost fear i'll jinx it by gushing over how awesome he's been the last three times i've taken a lesson, but it's true - he's doing so well, and he's maturing and figuring things out so rapidly it hurts MY brain to watch his brain at work. I'm very proud of ponyboy.

For Next Time: Where did our jog go? It's somewhere... we just gotta find it again.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Resolutions 2013



So, although the "Year in Review" post was a pain in the bum (holy heck, I am long-winded sometimes, why don't you guys tell me to shut up already?) I'm glad I went back and really looked through those posts to see where I was, to where I've come.

& what a year it has been - my mind spins just thinking about it. I've probably never had one single year that had so many milestones, and I think, with years of such big change, you never really notice that you decided to take the road less travelled, or turned left at the fork, until you look back down the road you've travelled on for awhile. When I started this blog I wanted to make a concrete change - I wanted my life to become more centered around the one thing that I've found true passion, happiness, strength, humility, commitment, weakness, and a host of other factors in - horses. So, I think last year I firmly began walking down the "horse centered life" road, and hope to continue in my journey.

Philosophical posts and a new year seem to go hand in hand, and what would a new year be like without some little goal-setting and resolutions, hey?

A friend and I have joked that since everyone starts resolutions right out of the gate January 1st, and so why not sit back, and wait to start a month in - February. So, writing out my goals January 22 seems pretty appropriate for our "February Resolutions" plan.

For 2013, I would like too....

1. Compete.
- This has been a goal for awhile now, and, like many things in my horse-life, it never became possible because I didn't own a horse. Well, now, I own a horse. He may not be going to World's in Western Pleasure, or down to Fort Worth to cut, but he's mine, and god knows I love him. So, I'd like to do some sort of show with him this year - no matter how small. No goals or hopes of ribbons, just show - in something, somewhere. Leaving this one pretty open-ended.

2. Cut.
- It's been a longstanding dream of mind to try cutting, so this year, I would like to dip my toes in this sport, and see if it's the one I actually want to dive into.

3. Work towards Jingle becoming a really nice "All-Around Horse" & maintain patience with him, and myself in this process.
- This is probably the main goal, and the most important. Jingle is on his way to becoming a horse that I can go and "do anything" on, I want to continue on this path and work towards getting him supple, and soft. My goal is to really figure out a cadence and flow with Jingle this year, and as I've learnt, that means I must remain patient, kind, and calm when it comes to him, to me, and to us together. This goal also hints that I'd like to try a bunch of different disciplines, with my wonderful "all-around" horse. ;)

4. Find Work with Horses, or in the Horse Industry
- I'm done University in April (woop woop), and I right now the plan is to take a year off, and then go to an agricultural school in 2015 probably for learning about breeding and bloodlines. However, i'm still not 100% in that, and would like to spend the year learning more about the industry, and the different ways I could go about living with horses, and also being successful in the industry. (Not living on oats myself - haha)

5. Healthier Lifestyle
- I would like to have a healthier lifestyle - right now my eating habits are in the garbage and the word "workout" isn't in my vocabulary - for the year coming up I would really like to stick to a healthier diet, because I think a lot of my lethargy, and issues with winter, come from poor eating habits. I also really need to start working out, and becoming healthier, not just for looks but for my long-term being. This goal is also for Jingle! I'd like to look more into equine nutrition, workout schedules, etc. and figure out how he can be the healthiest he can be!

So, I think those are some pretty solid and (hopefully) easy to achieve goals. Wish me luck!


Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Year in Review: 2012

I have been severley M.I.A from this blog, and it's all THIS POSTS fault, it took me foreveeeeer to read all my long-winded posts and link back to them, but i'm glad I did. So, without further ado, 2012 with horses..

January


From my blog post about Summer 2011, one of my favourite memories was simply, "Jingle".

January started off with some  resolutions "horse goals" - they included "Compete at some Level by September 2012", "Build and Stick to a 5 day a week exercise routine" & "Continue to be at a facility not only where I can takes lessons, but also learn and be happy". Well, the first two horse goals didn't exactly make it... but they are good ones, I may re-hash those bad boys. The third goal was accomplished - but at a new barn, one where I am much happier at. I was working and riding at a barn with a crazy-person as my boss, he was giving me sporadic and crazy lessons (as seen in my riding diaries from the month of January). Then I wrote a post called "Slumpsville, Canada", which didn't say much except that I was bummed out, but in reality... I was having a minor physical and mental breakdown, and it was 100% due to the barn I was working at, and it was about to come to a head. I finally admitted that I was "struggling with the barn I work at, I don't think it's a very good place for me, and that's really disappointing and I don't know what to do about it." and because I was emotional, and sad, I wrote out my favourite memories from the summer of 2011. Then finally, on January 30, I wrote a post about quitting the barn I had been working at, I wrote "I guess you could say I'm a little shaken up at the moment over everything... sigh.. just keep breathing." So clearly, January was a very tough, very emotional month for me, and I struggled with a lot of different aspects of my "horse life" during that time.


"A Sweaty Quiz" after a ride.... just the best mare. She really captured my heart.


February

My first post of February detailed the death of Stacy Westfall's amazing horse Roxy (Whizards Baby Doll), on which she preformed her famed brideless, tackless freestyle at Congress 2006. I then went to a Lunch and Learn with Albert Kley put on by Spruce Meadows, which was very informative. On Valentine's Day, I was warmed with the response of a stranger who I had contacted after seeing a very sad, seemingly lost kijiji post about whether or not she should sell her daughter's horse, which was gifted to them - and was pretty much untrained, which various bad issues. She ended up replying with a very kind, heartfelt response, and wherever that mother is now, I hope things are working out for her family, horses included. Then, I detailed my first ever lesson at my barn with Princess MareFace, aka Quiz! At one point I say this, "realization: I rarely know what my horses legs are doing when I am riding. Square one: Louisa, you don't even know how to freakin' trot properly, focus more on gait. This is the most embarrassing moment to type out on this blog, but now it is over." I also talk about craving consistency with someone - well, checkmark, I have found consistency with my trainer, and I can now trot properly - diagonals included! haha. After my first lesson, I calm down, and it shows - my trainer remarks that i'm doing much better - I do, however, admit to being freaked out by having to ride with a bunch of people doing a bunch of other things in the arena. In "How Many Cows would a Cutter Cut if a Cutter Could Cut Cows?" I lament on the fact that i'm finding it brutally hard to even get a toe in the door of the cutting world - this issue continues into today. sigh. I got to pick up my custom chaps, given to me as a Christmas present from my mother, and they are lovely. I ride Quiz more, and I finish the month with a post entitled "92 days", which is a love-letter to the main horse in my life - ponyboy Jingle. In it, I say, "If anything, distance has made me entirely crazy, but it has also made me love you more.& with all this distance, and planning, and thinking of you, I come to really worry about my plans. I worry in an almost obsessive manner, and it has made me tired. Distance has been very hard indeed, but I don't love you any less than I did the last day I saw you." If January was my month of being in the gutter, February was my month of crawling out of it, and crawling out of it I did indeed - thanks to the wonderful little mare named Quiz, (and of course - her real mother, Caron).


March

Home sweet home - no matter where in life I am.

I began March by detailing my less than stellar spending habits. On March 3, I discovered that my beloved ranch, which was also a kid's horse camp, was going to be put up for sale. I had been attending since I was 8, and worked there from when I was 16, until I was 20. I was devastated. I said, "Today, I am trying to remember to always cherish the people dearest to you, and the time you have at the places you love." Good words to live by. As the month went on I pondered the effects of my attitude, and sad emotional state on my riding and I paid a visit a cardiologist about a non-exsistant heart problem who informed me, in a very snotty matter, that riding did not equal any sort of workout and I was just "sitting on the poor animal who is doing all the work." I continued to grapple with my feelings over the ranch being for sale, and in a post entitled "Home" I talked about my initial feelings and thoughts when I heard the news. This is also the first post I had ever recieved a really mean comment on - from an anonymous person no less! Ugh. I also stood up to what I referred to as the "Big Bad Wolf" which was my terrible ex-boss, who owed me a month and a half worth of pay and was pretending he didn't know about it. (Although I had left him notes, as well as texted him). Finally, at the end of March, I had my first really awful lesson where I fell apart and couldn't pick myself back up - the first of many, however, those are the ones you really remember and learn from, aren't they? So, March.... looking back on it, was a pretty fricken tough month for me. I was an emotional war-zone due to the announcement of the sale, and I was falling apart left right and centre. However, out of this space I managed to pick myself up and demand some respect from someone who had treated me badly.

April

Meg, waiting for a stick, at the Close Lookout on a Spring Ride at the Ranch.

I began April in a much better place aka on the back of a horse, Hobo, at the ranch, and wrote my very first Trail Journal. My trip to the ranch wasn't just for a leisurely ride though - I also asked to buy Jingle, and was told that, come summer, my boy would be mine! Coming off that high, I wrote an ode to my favourite riding jeans, Wranglers, I reviewed a very good documentary called "Horse Boy", and formulated a list of things I thought I "needed" by the time my horse was in fact "mine". Finally, I told the story of the time I brought home a baby deer thinking I was saving it. April was definitely a month of change - and of new things to come!

May



Sigh... well that's just no fun.


I was a busy girl in May - I was trying to work as much as possible, which meant little-to-no time for riding, except for my weekly lesson. My lessons were starting to ramp up and I was starting to work on more advanced drills with Quiz, including simple lead changes, and barrel racing! I soon realized that I was an idiot who didn't know what "left" and "right" means when circling a barrel. On May 17, in "Life Update", I discussed that I was heading out on Saturday to look at a saddle (I ended up buying it), and also that my horse was home, but instead of keeping him in, they kicked him on the back 1200 acres... I was sad, and disappointed, but humoured myself saying i'd see him in 16 days. (Little did I know) I also wrote a very honest post about Jingle's pulling problem, and my own issues over his pulling. I had purchased a Clinton Anderson Pulling Ring hoping it would aid in the situation - I never did a follow up post, because, somewhere in my horses' brain this year he figured out pulling wasn't the solution. He hasn't offered to pull once this year since i've had him, in the summer I rarely tied him, but also every time he attempted to step back, or rush away, I would correct him. I think that quiet steadiness got the whole pulling thing out of his head, and it's awesome - my scary puller days are over!  I went to the Mane Event in Red Deer and was amazed by Dan James and his liberty act. Towards the end of the month I was unfortunately rear-ended, and my GMC Jimmy was written off, which sucked. Finally, I had my first (and unfortunately only) lesson with a cutting trainer, and got to ride an amazing mare named "Cat" out of Just a Sly Cat, out of my most favourite sire of all time - Highbrow Cat!! So Awesome! It was a really good lesson, and I learned a lot - I also really enjoyed his style of teaching. He was pretty hard to pin down after that, and I never did get another chance to ride with him before I left for the summer. Maybe this spring/summer I'll track him down again! March was a busy month, with lots of work, little riding - but good riding when I got the chance, and a set-back in the form of a written off vehicle.


June




June was marked by two things - the first, my undying love for THE princessmareface - Quiz, and second, riding seemingly every horse at the ranch - except for mine. In my second Trail Journal, I rode a mare named Butterfly, and quickly discovered that our main herd of horses was nowhere to be found - this was puzzling indeed. Quiz and I got to spend time in our beloved outdoor arena, and I battled with my nemesis the "ground pole". Alberta went through a rainy spell, which meant my horse hunt stayed above the valley, and in the hills for the most part, I rode Butterfly again, and a horse I didn't trust 100% named Pepper, and yet still, for all those hours, no Jingle. Quiz and I had a few really un lessons where we got to do an obstacle course of sorts. Finally, on the 27, Quiz and I had our last lesson together before I left for the summer - it was a bittersweet moment, with me reflecting on how far i've come, but worrying about what I would do for 2 months without my trainers guidance, and the most perfect 4 year old to ride. Another weekend at the Ranch provided a clue in where my horse was - the answer: not anywhere fricken close. Gates into neighboring property had been left open, and our entire dude string was two quarter sections away - we found them, chased them home, and once the dust settled I realized my horse was not in the bunch. Sarah came out a week later, and the two of us ventured into "Big Coulee" to attempt to find my horse - again, I failed, however I got to go on a pretty spectacular ride with a great friend. So that's June - a heck of a lot of riding, both in and out of the arena, but unfortunately not on the most favourite horse of all - Jingle, the missing pony.

July and August 

First ride in a year!

I will have to push the two summer months together, because, although both months were jam-packed with crazy adventures at my ranch - none were blogged about due to my lack of internet - you were missed blogosphere! I did however do a Summer Recap Series in my favourite photos - Jingle finally came home towards the end of July, it was a very emotional moment seeing him standing in that corral, and one that i'm sure I wont forget soon. I got the wonderful opportunity to ride a safe, sane, and wonderful horse all summer - the ever gorgeous palomino, Cash. I marveled in the most beautiful country - Alberta has got to be God's Country, it is just too perfect to not have been blessed. Finally, I got to spend one last summer at the place that raised me, and it was a pretty good one at that.


Look whose in his shipping boots & coming homeee!

September
I continued my Summer Recap in Photos into September, and then ended the series with a Finale, of sorts. I struggled to find the words to convey all my emotions, but summed it up pretty good with, "Honestly, I still don't like how the words have assembled themselves in this post, i've only scratched the surface, and I can't seem to convey anything deeper than that. I think, in life, there are some things that words will just never be able to explain." &, to not be too sad about the whole thing - I figured I rode over 200 hours in two months - not bad at alll! So, the Summer Series wasn't exactly 100% happy - but one thing sure was - Ponyboy coming home on September 1st! I had my first ever lesson on my boy, I grinned the whole time - even through our messy, non-exsistant stops. I recounted things that made me happy vs. things that made Jingle happy. I witnessed Jingle's first pissy-match ft. a "I WILL NOT LOPE" and me ft. a crop in our second lesson. I showed off photos from a Photoshoot a great friend of me and my boy in the summer. I began to see, more and more, how Jingle's jaw problems were effecting riding him, and I pondered, rather dejectedly, whether I would ever be a good enough rider for him. Finally, I had another dentist come and look at Jingle's big 'ol mouth - the result was that he definitely wasn't 100%. The positive was that Jingle wasn't truly in pain, although there was a slight pressure build up from an overgrown tooth, the root of a lot of his problems stemmed from pain and have become behavioural. I had a sad day, where I just generally felt blue over my poor horse, and myself, and then vowed to just be better and made a plan of attack to counteract some of his issues. These included researching stretches and massage techniques I can do on him (done), moving him inside and putting him on supplements to aid in regeneration of tendon, and muscle relaxation (done), find a massage/chiro (next month!), figure out what works best for him (done - sidepull). So September was a pretty big month in my life - I brought my most wonderful horse home, and began to delve deeper into some of the issues he has.


October

Cooling out in the fall leaves, picture perfect


We began October, at the advice of my dentist, experimenting with bits. Harsh bits, Mild bits, Inbetween bits - all the bits in my horses mouth. I also realized that sooner than later - my horse was going to have to start getting blanketed. On Thanksgiving, I discussed how thankful I was for "forever friends", and "heart horses" - which is still as true as ever today. The discussion over blanketing continued - with me lusting over a crazy expensive Bucas blanket, and pondering the pros and cons. I went on a lovely fall trail ride with some friends at a local dude ranch, but I quickly realized - riding one horse all the time, is so much better than riding different horses all the time. Jingle continued to show me his sassy side in our lessons, but also began to start loping his left lead consistently. I rode my boy bareback for the first time - which was a bit of a trust leap for me, after having broken my wrist on a green horse trying to bareback a couple years previous. I reviewed the customer service at a couple different horse-related store. I hit my 100 posts milestone, Jingle moved into his first-ever stall, and my mother came to watch my ride for the first, and possibly last time - as she froze to pieces in our unheated arena. Finally, to end the month I lusted over Dubarry boots.


November
Figuring out new trails in a sidepull!

Jingle was switched into a sidepull in our first lesson in November, and I switched more control for a better headset, and seemingly more relaxed horse. Some friends came out to see the barn, and visit and ride the big man. I pondered whether or not my horse has Split Pony Personality Disorder and Jingle recieved his first ever cookies from a little girl at the barn = the beginning of a sick addiction. My best friend, Brigitte, brought her horse to the barn - Mac, which was very exciting! Jingle and I began to tackle the ideas of "release" and steering when speed is involved. Jingle's wonderful, beautiful, stall sign came in the mail! As he does, Jingle surprised me with a wonderful first trail ride at our barn, and I discussed the positive implications of him getting to be outside with me, not stuck in the arena. Finally, I write a bit of an "out-there" post about Animal-Communicators, and decided if I ever find a reputable one, i'd definitely have it done - just for the experience!


December
Fuzzy Christmas baby


I began a fun "Equestrian Challenge" in December which has been giving me some excellent, and sometimes tough!, topics to blog about. Jingle & I's lessons remained much of the same - working on the lope, figuring out pressure/release, and hoping and praying Demonpony wouldn't appear and try to kill the kids who ride during my lesson. Jingle's massive overheating, and 2 hour long cool-out time was becoming an annoying issue, and so he was trace clipped for the first time! He was an absolute angel for the first 30 minutes and then he hit his threshold and unleashed a kicking fit on us - a couple big whacks of a crop later and we got it done. During another lesson, my trainer commented that "Jingle was really coming along" which had me beaming from ear to ear, and I discussed how happy it makes me when him and I just seem to fit. Jingle, myself, Brigitte and Mac had a bit of a, absolutely freezing, Christmas Photoshoot before the holiday, and finally, I spent the last day of 2012 at the barn with my boy - who managed to put a smile on my face after a less than stellar phone call. They say how you spend New Years Eve is how you'll spend the rest of your year - well, with my horse, and then, comfortable at home with really good friends, is alright by me!


Wow - what a year it has been, I look back on it and am honestly exhausted thinking about all of it. This Year in Review post exhausted me! Haha From the lows of being at a shitty barn, to coming to the barn i'm at now and getting to ride the amazing Quiz. Grappling with, and figuring out how to deal with, the sale of my beloved ranch. Two months spent with probably over 200 hours in the saddle, many hours worrying, stressing, being angry and questioning my riding ability. Bringing my boy "home", and within 4 months - figuring out what works best for us, what doesn't work for us, how to ride a "pissy" horse, loping our leads, starting on the barrel pattern, figuring out transitions, the list goes on and on!


What a year it has been, reviewing 108 blog posts really solidified what an absolutely crazy year it truly was, definitely a year of change and of learning. 2012 was marked by so many big events, forks in the road, and milestones in my life, and I'll definitely be hard pressed to forget it. 2012 was a learning experience, and I cannot wait to take the things i've learnt and roll them into 2013.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

They see me rollin....

Went out to ride yesterday and was greeted by angelfaceponyboy again.... god I love when that horse appears!

"I can lope the pole pattern in one direction now - I am a monster beast at being awesome!"

We rode with Brigitte and Mac, and Brigitte lets Mac roll after sweaty workouts. I wondered if Jingle would roll too (I've never even seen him roll in his stall or during turn-out), and so I took off his tack and these two videos are the results of what happened... (please pardon how lame I am, these videos also ft. the fact that I "talk" for horses always)


Video 1: Mac showing Jingle how to roll, and Jingle casually following me around like a big scared puppy



Video 2: Jingle kinda sorta figuring out this rolling thing...


Please notice that my horse has yet to figure out how to shake off the arena dirt after he rolls, resulting in dirtiest paint pony of the year award...

Look at that face.... haha, that is a horse that feels accomplished in his rolling and getting dirty abilities. I swear he looked proud yesterday.

It was also Mac's two month anniversary at the barn yesterday, so we had to celebrate that aswell! It's pretty crazy to me that Jingle is coming up to being at the barn for 5 months - time flies.


This girl is excited about 2 months!

As I have noted in my blog, I often use my horse as a couch.... We're in training to be a trick riding show.

Love ya, you big dirty ponyboy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Riding Diary: 37 & 38

I have been super AWOL, but i've been working on this behemoth "year in review" post, and writing these posts in-between, and getting mad at myself for posting other stuff before my resolutions, but then not having time for the behemoth post, yada yada yada, and between all that, life has jumped in my way ft. never-ending car problems, and a birthday trip to Vegas! I will attempt to be a better blogger, soon.
You guys get to hear about two of my lessons today! Woop Woop! My trainer was gone for most of the holidays, meaning no lessons for me. I rode Jingle pretty regularly throughout the holidays, and also tried to do a day of groundwork a week (blogs to follow haha), but towards the end of our trainer/lesson break, things got a little hairy. I rode one night and Jingle was a firey bubble of crazy - he would.not.check, he would not slow down, he just extended trotted his heart out around the arena like a fire breathing dragon. Finally, almost an hour later of jogging and trotting and trying to lope, I got his brain back and we finished the lesson on a decent lope.

Then, the next time I rode, his warm up seemed calm, which is generally a really good sign - wrong.  Demonponyboy was back - his left lead that he never, ever, ever misses - gone, buh-bye, can't pick it up to save my life. So, perhaps he'll finally pick up his right lead? Nope. Fuck you Mom, I hate my leads. By this point we were both sweaty and frusterated, so I decided to switch up the ride, try to come back to our happy place and work on some slow stuff. It was going well until I asked for some sidepassing whilst facing the wall. Cue my horses new trick "watch how fast I can run backwards away from this mother-fing wall", no fun. Okay Jingle, you are getting frazzled over the wall - and you are showing me you can sidepass at a fricken run down the wall, so let us attempt a calm sidepass in the middle of the arena - nope. My horse begins to crow-hop when I ask him, then he begins to attempt to rear, then he full out fricken' rears on me! Bad. By this point he was having his head hauled to my foot and the words "QUIT IT" were being growl-yelled at him, It doesn't really surprise me that when he get's frusterated like that his instinct is to go up. I always figured the time would come when he would try a rear, since he's never, ever bucked in his life, but I have seen him rear up before (such as the time he jumped a 7 ft. round-pen to be with his friends - he started that little escapade with strikes and rears at the panels). We finished the ride working on transitions, I just wanted to get his mind back, so we would walk a semi-circle, and either stop, or transition into a jog, and then vice versa. He was okay with that, and we side-passed one more time, no rear, and quit.

So....

37.I went out on a Saturday for a lesson, I had done some groundwork and desensitizing the night before, and was hoping and praying it would help. Jingle was a bit messy, at one point his steering failed me, and he ended up trying to lope on-top of, and over, my trainer. However, overall I felt the lesson was really productive - Jingle is starting to pick up his right lead more and more consistently, and I'm beginning to really not have to even "ask" anymore for his left. With my trainer there she was able to walk me through dealing with his pissy run-away-i hate you behaviour, so that really helped. So although it was a tough lesson, and not the prettiest, I felt like we worked really well together.

38.

Ponyboy got a day off, and then I was out again Monday to ride. Ponyboy was rushing me at the warm up and my trainer reminded me to post slow, and to not rise as much, and just to keep really steady and calm and it helped, and right away I noticed him slowing down and responding to me. In our previous lesson, my trainer commented that Jingle reaaaaally works off of my body language, and so that is something I'm going to really start focusing on during my ride. If I have a horse hyper-sensitive to my body, the second I get tense and frusterated, he's going to do the same. Once Jingle was a bit more calm, we started loping, and opened up our loping to the entire rail-length of the arena, from there, we just really focused on transitions from jog to lope, and picking up his left lead on a straight-away - he did great. His jog-lope transitions are actually coming along so well, like they are beautiful, so smooth and straight - I love it.

From there, we finished up with some sidepassing, no rears this time! and it was super helpful to have my trainer there kind of walking me through what I should and should not do when he starts to get so frazzled and far apart. She had me hold a crop because a couple times he would refuse to move an inch, and reminded me to start small and build - so a little leg, more leg, big leg, little spur, more spur, big spur, and then finally - if he is totally ignorning me - pop him with the crop. He hates the crop, I barely have to even brush his bum with it and he flies away, after one little pop - he was listening much better, and we could side pass really effectively, and he wasn't as frazzled and attempting to avoid whatever I was asking him.

So, all in all, really successful lesson.

Afterwards, a friend, Caron and I got to discussing "Pissy Horses". Her horse, Jager, affectionately known (by myself) as Prince Big Ears, and Jingle are both "pissy horses", but in different ways. I've been thinking a lot about what it means to ride a sometimes pissy horse, and she put it better in words when she said that she has to ride Jager the same, even when he is being a royal pain in the ass. I think that holds true with Jingle, obviously when he is zooming around like a maniac and attempting to run over people, I'm not going to be like "Oh whatever horse, do yo thang", but at the same time the minute i'm like "fuck you, you ass, stop being such an asshole", Jingle generally flips me the middle hoof and keeps on dancin'... sigh. Thus, I generally have to rememeber to ride him the same, i.e. when he is being a big pain in my behind, I have to gently remind him, "hey, remember me, your rider?" and then release, and keep it going until he remembers who I am, and what we came to do.

Things to think about.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Equestrian Challenge: Day 13

Day 13- Most Embarrassing moment
haha... I honestly can't remember a defining "Most Embarassing" moment, i'm sure there's some really bad ones that i've hidden away in my mind, but at the moment - I can't recall them. I can list a couple embarassing things, i'm sure....

1. As i've discussed, I broke my wrist jumping on a green horse bareback for a photo - completely stupid, totally embarassing.

2. I once was given the opportunity to ride with a lady I really admired. She was really rushed, and I felt like I was slowing her down from the get-go. I was brushing the horse and quickly realized his stomach was completely, and utterly, covered in tree-sap - thick, thick tree sap. I brushed and brushed and it was barely coming out, and everyone was staring at me like I was a complete dork who couldn't brush a girth. I picked out a lot of it but couldn't get it all, and we were only going out to gather horses for about 15 minutes. So, against better judgement, I quickly saddled, and the people I was riding with quickly gave sighs of relief that I was finally ready. Well, the lady came over to check my saddle, and found the tree sap and gave me a sharp, stern, and purposely loud enough so everyone could hear, talking to about riding a horse with a dirty girth - she was right, of course, and I was mortified. (She then tried to pick the sap off herself, and couldn't get it either, but by that time the embarassment had sunk in).

3. I was working at a barn with a water treadmill for horses, I was working a horse on an incline when she slipped and then proceeded to flip out, she was thrasing around and I was new on the job (with very, very limited training may I add), and I didn't know what to do, so I threw open the doors and let her out. Well, gallons of water spilled out (expensive salt infused fancy smancy water may I add), and I had this scared horse beside me. My boss was furious with me, and I was so embarassed I ended up crying. It wasn't a good moment in my life. haha.

That's all I can recall for right now - but I'm sufficiently red in the face thinking about these moments, so - it's safe to say they were embarassing enough.



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Equestrian Challenge: Day 12.

Day 12 - Favorite horse color

My brain is so shut-off right now... the holidays have been a serious holidaaaze my friends. (I am so corny, enough of me and my bad jokes). Anyways, if my brain was working I would go into all those amazing, super-rare, genetic-crazy colours, BUT, as I said - my brain is dead. So instead, we'll go with normal... I love paints, (obviously - APHA for life), and I really love Buckskin & Palomino Paints, so here's some pictures of those aforementioned colours that I found via google... haha.

This is a stud that I found on Equinenow...
 "QTsgold Mastercard"





Next, a Palomino Paint, another stud advertised on Equinenow
"Justin Time to Pass"