So I want to start off with a muck rake advertisement: it’s not just for mucking.
Amber nickers at me now when I’m finishing up mucking poop because she desperately wants her scratches. You know, because I don’t ever curry her any other day and buy TTT things for her itchiness…. I’m torn between laughing that she nickers and thinking it’s the cutest thing.
I got tons of media this weekend! It was also very very fun.
Even though I had my stirrups shorter, it was good to see where our dressage is headed. It still needs a lot of work, but now we’re getting 5-7 really nice strides of good trot like this:
But most of the time our trot work looks something like this (with me looking horrible):
Our good stuff probably still looks like hunters, or perhaps our new term of huntssage, but I think we’re doing okay for us at the moment. We’ll keep plugging away at it and hopefully nab a few lessons before the year is out (because really, I need it way more than she does).
I undid her forelock on Saturday… Guys, it was HILARIOUS. I couldn’t stop laughing. Seriously.
I tried to tame it. Still looked hilarious. She did not appreciate me laughing at her.
All in all, Saturday was a blast. She looked and felt okay, so I went ahead with my plan to raise up one pole. We’ve been cantering over poles just fine for the past few weeks, but slow is many times better with Amber. If I just let her figure it out at a slower pace, once she does she’s usually on it every single time. She’s a super trier.
So we trotted over it every single time. And while MY position was certainly atrocious most of the time, it was so much fun. So many laughs. Especially this first time over it:
She’d gone over cavaletti at this height, so I was thinking she’d just trot over it…. Yeah, she surprised me. My mom and I had a good laugh though because she’s just so cute and you can see the wheels in her brain turning as she tries. And while I certainly need to continue getting stronger, this is better than the last time I popped over a crossrail to test out a saddle 6 months ago…. But here’s a closeup of her over-exaggeration.
I have to say that I think she looks pretty darn cute. But, because she over-jumped the first one, my body went into hunter mode for the next try, and I was definitely the one over-exaggerating a lot more that time.
After that, though, true thinker that she is realized she didn’t have to give it so much clearance. And mostly that was all Saturday was, really. I just wanted her to get acquainted with something higher, figure it out, and also for me to (try to) stay out of her way and let her figure out what was needed. She only got a little wobbly once, and I only had to encourage her once (after the first pop over). Otherwise she felt focused on the task at hand. This one was my favorite:
I love how expressive her ears are, and to me it’s a good sign she’s not racing off afterwards. She tends to get like that if she gets worried about things, so I was really pleased to see and feel her calmly hopping over by the end of 5-6 tries like it was nbd. It was also good to see that there’s still hope for me and my position – no over-exaggeration, and no hands freezing on her neck that time! (Though don’t get me wrong – plenty to work on for me!)
My new ice boots had finally come in, so I got to try them out! It’s not the best working with ice cubes but I didn’t have anything else yet, so I’m going to DIY some gel packs and see how those fair. Or ones from Walmart. Whichever works better. But her legs felt great afterwards, and she stood in them like she’s always worn them. Good girl!
But she was really really super on Saturday. I’m so pleased that it really didn’t seem to phase her!
I think I’m going to try cutting her days off to only 1 a week. It’s difficult for me to ride on my two 7-5 days, but I’ll probably just try to make one of those days another hack. Brain wise she’s really good in that if you give her a day or two off after you’ve had a difficult or not-so-successful ride she is absolutely on it with a vengeance your next ride. But I think body and muscle wise as we’re venturing into a land of new things, it’ll really help her to have another nice long ride that’s just a good, marching walk outside the arena.
Saturday though was overall super fun. She did look a little short at times, and I’m thinking perhaps it’s because her feet might be a little long. She seemed just a touch sore in that right hip, so I’ve been doing a few more stretches and exercises with her to hopefully help her stay looser.
Sunday was our usual hack and I think she is beginning to understand even the difference between breastcollar and no breastcollar. As soon as I started putting it all together with the girth she started getting antsy, touching me with her nose and glaring at me like “let’s get on with it, ma!”. Seems like she knows those are the fun days! She’s also learning that if we mount up outside that means we’re going for a hack, and she’s very excited about that too.
She was really great – didn’t call once and kept up a really nice marching walk. But this was a direction we’d gone before, so I had a feeling she felt more comfortable due to the familiarity. Most of the time she walked very forward, but I am starting to read when she’s just about had enough. Especially since we’re not doing anything of great brain-thinking importance, she gets done with trail rides very quickly.
But we were actually gone for about 45 minutes, which was a really good stretch of walk. I did have to start some steering when she seemed a bit racey towards home, but then she settled and was absolutely fine. It was also a really great opportunity for me to drill my dressage position because many times I focus on her and not both of us. I could feel when it was right, so it’s just a matter of making that a habit now.
All in all, it was a great, fun weekend, and hopefully, I’ll get better so I can better help her out, poor thing. She’s so forgiving of me. Which I need it because a lot of things need a lot of work. Which comes with the territory of starting 3 new things at once, but I’m just really grateful that Amber really is so forgiving and puts up with all my mistakes and still loves me. On to dressage days!
Yesterday morning’s ride was really good. It wasn’t really much different from Tuesday or Wednesday with the exception that Amber was absolutely ready to go. Literally. She walked away from her food as soon as I got her grooming bucket out and waited for me in her empty stall like she couldn’t wait to get out and work. At 6 in the morning.
At least one of us got enough sleep. And food.
I could only get in a short ride since I worked earlier than Wednesday, but we walked out there and she was ready – no lost focus or being careless about where her body was. Her focus would leave every now and then, but when I picked up the reins she was ready and waiting for what I’d ask. Good, sweet girl.
She was still a little labored in the trot work, but I had to work less to get a little more out of her, so I counted that as a win. Her good, flowing stride is hit or miss at the moment, but we hit it more often than not yesterday, and she was a lot more relaxed and willing to move into the contact. And of course, since she was being so good, I was a flop. I didn’t have the proper grip with my legs, kept tilting forward, my lower right leg was wobbly this time, a few chicken wings came back…you know, all great stuff. I did lower my stirrups for this ride, but the lower stirrups overall just seemed to help my upper body into better position (even though I sucked at it) and it also kept me from pushing into my stirrups too much and therefore driving my lower leg forward (which I still do because apparently my lower legs have minds of their own). But our canter is by far getting to be our best gait, so I’m excited for that.
She was superb to the left – great transition and just felt so so soft through her body. Her right lead was a little tougher yesterday than previous days, but she still tried. It wasn’t where I wanted to end the ride, but I had to go and she did try and it did get better so that’s fine. I was mostly just happy her attitude was more focused. Slowly but surely we make progress!
I haven’t noticed any more stumbling, so I may still try to do a raised pole or two this weekend. I’d really like to start doing a few things higher than poles. She shows confidence with them, and a desire to do things correctly, so I’d like to keep that going. I haven’t felt any heat or change in her legs even with her stumble last week, and she’s got some tendons of steel, so I think we’ll be okay to start trying higher things. We’ll play it by ear!
…..in it’s sunshiny ass. I think I picked super apt socks for the day because it felt like I got a lot done.
But I was up early, and took the Nugget for a walk since it was really nice and cool. Even the old, sleepy doxie needs exercise! And you have to admit the doxie shuffle is adorableness.
I didn’t have to be at work yesterday until 9, so I took that opportunity for another ride. The walk served another purpose – waking up my sleepy ass. My muscles got nice and warmed up so it wasn’t a neither-of-us-are-awake-yet morning. Our ride was pretty much the same as Tuesday – I really had to work to get her out of her fast-step and into her uphill stride I’d found recently. I did have my stirrups up a hole from the last time I did dressage, which is only 2 holes down from my jump legs, but the length felt better yet still weird.
I may go back to one hole down again and see if I just had a really bad day last time or if the longer length is better/achievable as well now that I am working more on position and getting stronger. I’ll mess around with it and see as I keep watching the Master Dressage videos.
Amber’s focus was just not there. It wasn’t there Tuesday, but yesterday it was worse. Perhaps it was that the ride was so early and she was still asleep? She just really didn’t want to accept the contact and work into it – which I totally think is because after western week she realized this was totally harder. But after a couple softening exercises she finally began to switch to what we were doing and to push herself into work a bit better.
I did short spurts, and when I focused on my position, again – magically came together. Of course. But those short spurts help me remember the feeling, and for her to remember it as well. She absolutely showed up for her canter. I kept trying to remember what I’d learned on Tuesday – I was literally talking out loud to myself “long thigh long thigh long thigh.” But it worked! I was able to sit a little taller, hold it a little longer, and her canter felt really nice. Even her right lead was really good, and her transition was stellar! Probably one of the best transitions I’ve ever felt with her. It felt uphill, pushing off of her butt and she was ready in the contact from the first stride.
While the beginning wasn’t really there, all that matters is how it ends. And I’d say it ended great! A very successful ride. My thighs, however, will be killing me.
On another good note, it’s really great to see Amber’s tone and weight changing. I’ve been taking photos from the right a lot recently since I always thought she looked super weird on that side (twisted hip) and now that it’s worked out I think she’s looking much better. Still has a hay belly, but I think she’s looking less fat a little more toned. She’s now even gone from a 30″ monoflap girth to a 28″. Sweet. And yet, still a fat pony hunter right now haha.
It’s actually fascinating for me that I’m delving into dressage and jumping and then I go back to western as well and ride that in between. It’s just a real eye-opener with how much dressage and cross training helps any horse across any discipline. Because yesterday, Amber was horribly downhill.
Yup. She’s usually really light on my hands, and she’s just been feeling fabulous in our short dressage rides through the week. After our western week….Eek. I could just feel her shoulders plummeting forward in the trot work, and she was back to her shorten-neck-and-give-you-super-fast-itty-bitty-strides. And she’s not heavy in my hands at all but yesterday she was just leaning and her shoulders were a bit all over the place.
Cue lesson for western: don’t let that happen next time.
She was also back to being less focused. Her mind was just a bit over the place, and she kept looking for Whisper. Although it could’ve been because Whisper thought we were out places and weren’t and didn’t even know we were in the arena.
But the funny thing was her canter was great. I mean, really great. She loped up into it like we’d been working on that for a while and she felt a little less wobbly. So in terms of me letting her rediscover her balance and letting her sore muscles work themselves out in western, it ended up working out for the canter. Go figure. But we focused more on trotting and just re-achieving that long, flowing, suspended stride. Well, long, flowing and suspended for her. It feels a bit like a hunter trot I suppose, but I can really feel her pushing and beginning to round into the bridle with a slight uphill in her shoulders.
It was a short ride, and not one of our best, but hey, work in progress right? I’m not disappointed – it’s giving me really great information to take with me when I start preparing for the all around shows these next 3 months. I also watched the first episode of Master Dressage, and tried to implement that. Well, when I was finally able to get the position right, Amber felt really great. Especially at the canter. She just rounded up for me beautifully. So of course, I’m not going to be able to hold it a long while, but I can feel when it works, so yay! Still a good ride!
Also, don’t judge my mishmash of colors. My matchy-matchy princess is already cringing.
Hellomylivia had a blog hop yesterday off of Oh Gingersnap!’s original blog hop, and since I’ve never done a blog hop before, I thought it’d be fun to try my hand at this. Plus, I thought the question was a good one.
Question: Have you at some point moved on to a different horse, trainer, stable, etc with the purpose of advancing your progress? What made you realize the time was right for a change? Or did you opt to adjust your goals in order to stay with what you know is working? How did either choice work out in the long run?
Most of the time, my moves to different horses, trainers and stables have revolved around the fact that after 3 years our family was moving to relocate somewhere else. But there are a few times when I was fully aware that I wanted something different.
Of course when I was younger I graduated ponies – from Lacey to Tina and finally Tony, who I loved. I got to ride Cochise, an old paint lesson horse that I liked, too as I grew with my abilities. It was easy back then, because I just wasn’t very old and wanted to ride all the ponies, of course. I wasn’t necessarily paying attention to goals, just that I’d work to be a better rider to ride the other horses, too.
When I trained horses in Texas, my goal and dream was to be a trainer. And I suppose I should have known that shows came along pretty often, but I’m not really a show person. But to get your name out there, you need to go to shows. And shows are always nerve-wracking for me, but with the stakes at these shows pretty high, I was pretty sure I’d fall off the horse at some point – example of the human losing their brain instead of the horse.
But it was a long road of realization for me. It was little things – that I’d dread riding the super talented but pretty quirky and can-buck-you-off-in-a-second-of-inattention horses. I’d dread riding the ones that had baggage from someone else, but I always wanted to try to help them trust again. I loved the simpler horses, the ones that had expectations of me as I did of them but were also forgiving. I was riding all sorts of horses. Then one day around sunrise, on one of my favorite 2 yr olds, I felt that if I stayed this path, I’d be stuck in a rut and never able to do anything else.
So my goals changed. Those many horses taught me that I didn’t want to be a trainer – at least not making a job of it. They opened the door to the realization that my goals had changed, and I left Texas with Amber in tow back to Vegas. The change was extremely daunting at the time because I changed a lot of my life at that point, but now I’m so glad I did. Because of that I’ve decided to jump into a new discipline, and I am beyond excited to try eventing. I want to take lessons again and grow in something different.
However, even now that I am getting my feet wet with eventing, Amber might not be up to it for too long, and I am okay with that. I know that I will formulate my goals to match her because there’s no way she’s leaving me. But that is why I chose to name this blog the Everything Pony. Because she does do a bit of everything. And if we can’t event for a long time, then great – let’s go learn something new. Probably with cows because we haven’t done cows yet.
But it’s not the end of the world. If I don’t want to quit eventing and she can’t do it anymore, I’ll look for a secondary partner that can. Probably one that is young and that I can bring up and train since I’m having a lot of fun going through all of this with Amber. As of yet though, I am so glad those horses taught me what I liked to ride, and helped me with my change. It’s been great and I can’t wait for it to continue!
Not too much happening here in Amber Land. I also didn’t get many pictures of this weekend, so yeah sorry about that. I kept the western tack on for the weekend, thinking it would help reset her mind, and it did indeed help.
She definitely knows when she has different tack on – such a smart girl! But this was also a really good weekend and time in our training to step back and really objectively assess our progess in English when we had to do a different discipline with different expectations. It also helped me get a good idea of the potential of doing both English and western at the upcoming shows. I don’t want too much confusion for the poor pony.
But again, going western has alerted me to things that she is really starting to understand. Like the fact that she is no longer pushing her neck down when I take contact on her. I unfortunately realized what she did after I told her to lower her neck (of course), but then I just tried to come up with a new plan. Also that when I give her free rein, she’s totally faking her lift and her butt under her. I had to work a bit at the jog to remind her that loose rein does not mean let’s get heavy on the forehand. She was also straighter on Saturday, which was great, and that doing all of these different things (needing to turn quickly for “jumps”, needing to lift and be soft for dressage) has really helped her western. It’s helped with her steering and overall balance, too. I really love cross training. I think it’s so important for every discipline.
I wore my English spurs since my lower left leg is prone to flop like a mofo when I ride western, and I didn’t want to accidentally poke her with her western spurs. She likes her new rounded spurs just fine with western, too, so yay. But we finally cantered after giving her an easy week, and I think it really helped her that I just left her alone. I tried a bit to just remind her we didn’t have to go so fast and to lift, and she really tried to come right back when I asked and then I’d let go and let her keep going.
We did some reining things, like a mild spin and a few “rollbacks”, and she was definitely tuned in to me for that. Sweet thing even tried to slide for me, which if she’d had sliders on would have actually been a pretty okay stop. But, I don’t want to her slide on account of her hocks, and also she tries so much to do it for me but I can tell she’s not that fond of it. So I just worked with her on a nice use-your-butt-but-it’s-okay-to-keep-all-4-feet-moving kind of stop that she aced to the left but still tried to slide a bit to the right.
It’s really funny to be on top for both disciplines because looking at her when I’m English is so different than when I look at her from above western. Her head feels a little low English, but then when I look down western it’s too high. So I just let her lope on Saturday without interfering much, and I was just chuckling at myself that her neck looked so different based on the different discipline I rode. Again though, it was nice to see that we’re on the right track of her not lowering her neck when the contact comes. It really feels like she tries to go up to meet the contact which is very promising to me. And again since I’m not going to campaign hard for the western buckle, I’m not going to mess with different head positions. Just so long as she’s forward and pushing from her butt, I’m happy.
We also had a friend volunteer to help us with digging our trench for electric. The ponies cared a couple times, but for the most part they were very chill about the whole thing. Hopefully this week we can get the electric into the barn! The neighbor’s son is absolutely in love with Amber. He’s only in second grade, but he gets so excited to see her. He also loves scratching her, which of course is Amber’s favorite thing ever. As shown in the picture above, she demanded pets of anyone who was nearby.
Sunday we went for another hack, and I desperately wish I could at least trot her around here. We crossed a few logs, but until I can either get easy boots or get in contact with those that have xc courses we’re stuck with walking for a bit. She wasn’t the biggest fan of it yesterday since we went to a different area but was still pretty good about the whole thing. It’s good to see that when she needs to focus on something involving her feet getting over the obstacle, she was super focused, but when we just walk around and there’s nothing challenging for her to think about she’s focusing on where Whisper is.
But it was actually a really nice day that had intermittent cloud cover but with a good breeze so your sweat was actually able to cool you down. Or in this case, my waterlogged sleeves and shirt helped me stay cool. We rocked our PS of Sweden polos again, which seriously I need to trim those things. They’re just so long and she has short legs.
It’s pretty cute though because as my mom pointed out, she looks so different based on the tack she’s wearing. She mentioned that Amber looks like one of those fat but super adorable hunter ponies when she’s English, and like a gorgeous foundation QH with her western on. Of course with the clause that she’s adorable and gorgeous in both, but I totally agree with her. I think she looks a bit like 2 different horses as well!
But she still continues to lose weight which is great. I’ve cut back her food a little while still trying to maintain that she always has food in front of her. She’ll go a few hours sometimes without food in front of her, but I personally think her having food in front of her as much as possible relieves stress. She also hasn’t been bolting her food down anymore, and will eat when she’s hungry. Some days there’s a lot of food around, and others she cleans it up.
Today or tomorrow we’ll go back to English and work on our dressage. It was so beneficial to that last Saturday when we’d worked on it all week before going to poles. She’s been a little stumbly recently, and she’s due for a shoeing. Unfortunately the farrier can’t come out until next week, so while I want to actually raise one or two poles Saturday, it’ll probably have to wait until next weekend. We’re still working on it though!
Yesterday morning we rode western again. I’m a little protective of her at the moment because looking at the way she landed after that little mishap looks like she may have strained the front tendon on her left front. Of course, this is me googling anatomy in the search to not freak myself out since – again – she’s so stoic that I want to make sure she’s feeling okay. Her eyes continue to look alert, though. Looking back at the photos of Tuesday her eyes did look a little lower, so her alert eyes are promising. Since then she still feels a bit tired, but the looseness of her stride is feeling better.
So we westerned again Thursday morning, a quick ride, but I think it was important for the both of us to switch gears a little. This let her get very relaxed and do her favored slow jog. The slow work actually felt like it really really benefited her muscles, too. Her walk felt more fluid after, but it was slower, and I really just wanted to work the stiffness out.
It was also good because it showed a few developing holes that I need to keep track of. With the reins slack I noticed she got pretty wiggly – letting her shoulder fall in then out and then looking at something and her body just goes that way. It’s easier for her to keep her shoulders straight when she has contact and reins on either side outlining the boundaries. But I think it’s important for her to find and also be responsible for her own straightness. So we worked on that a little.
I think in part it’s also a matter of her understanding there’s a job to be done in western as well. She’s gotten into the rhythm and mindset that English tack and contact is work and business, and it was actually a good realization for me. By riding western yesterday, I could tell that her focus was really a bit everywhere, whereas recently with English she’s building a focus-business relationship the more we’ve been working towards a goal with it.
Come September through November I’m actually quite excited to show in our local shows, even if most of those classes are more HUS than what we’re aiming for. It will still be good experience for us both. I’m still very excited about continuing our English progress, but it was good to sit western again. I still want to also show her in the reining and ranch riding classes for a potential buckle at the end of the year, but I don’t think I’ll be campaigning with the determination I thought I would. She’s doing really well with English so far, and I don’t want to confuse her too much!
For now, though, we’ll take stock of each day and see where we are by the time the shows come.