Monday, September 15, 2008

Happy Feet

Today was trimming day for the ponies. And we got to experiment with Power Tools today! Patrick (the farrier) got a new grinder that attaches to the top of a regular, battery-poweed drill, and was using that to round and bevel their walls and put the final, finishing touches on their feet. Pretty pony pedicures! Is it wrong that my pony has prettier feet than I do right now? (A summer of wearing flip-flops takes its toll.)

Prior to Patrick arriving, I spent about 15 minutes doing some ground work with Beamer. That horse has the laziest walk, both in hand and under saddle, and I aim to improve it. The best place to start (or easiest for me, since it doesn't involve lugging saddles back and forth) is from the ground up...quite literally. We worked on immediate response time, actually maintaining a nice, forward stride, and not slowing to a crawl after ten strides.

We also worked on pivoting and actually using that lovely, strong rear end. For as well-conformed of a horse as Beamer is, he sure is lazy about putting that conformation to work. *sigh* Put Mimi's mental abilities together with his physical attributes, and you'd have the textbook endurance horse.

I hope to actually hop on him mid-week in the arena and give him a tune-up. He does know how to do a lot of this stuff (he'd better...I taught him much of this when we first got him!) but he's gotten lax and lazy about it...and allowed to get away with it.

Training Project #2: Train Dad to reenforce Beamer's training and not let him get away with crawling along, head inverted and back hollowed, doing his best pogo-stick impression. But it helps to get on the horse first and know exactly what it is he's doing and know what I have to do to counter it before trying to explain it to Dad.

Is it really still only Monday? I feel like I've put a whole week in already!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crazy pony...

Well, somebody is feeling better after her hock injections last week. We made it six months since the last injection on the right hock, and almost a year since the left hock! And the vet thinks her right hock, which is the really bad one, is starting to fuse already, because he had a really hard time finding a gap to stick the needle in between the bones.

That was Wednesday, and after being jailed in her stall for two days as a consequence, Mimi was more than ready to ride on Saturday. And so much for our theory that she kicks the trailer because her hocks hurt. No, she kicks the trailer because she's ansty and impatient and pissed-off at Beamer. However, I hung what started off life as an extra rump rug I was making (large chunk of lime green fleece) from the bottom of the divider between their heads. Theoretically, if either puts their head down, they can't see the other now, and maybe she won't get so mad. In practice, well, it kinda worked.

Both days were really good rides. Beamer was a little bit up on Saturday, but he was nowhere near as bad as last week. We actually got some good forward motion and trotting going. He wa a bit spooky, especially when a large Harris Hawk took flight from atop a cactus we were trotting under. The bird took off, his shadow came over the ground right in front of us, and both ponies sort of veered/stopped.

Coming back, there is an area where park personnel are (once again) trying to convince us they know better than we do about how to put in a Proper Trail (they don't) and have flags up marking what will become an alternate route. Mimi saw these flags and veered off the trail. It was a generally clear, safe area, so I let her go to see what she would do. She followed the flags is what she did! She would zero in on one, walk at it, look around for the next one, go at it, look for the next, and so on and so forth until she got us down the hill. Good girl!!! She was so proud of herself at the bottom. It felt like she had grown another couple inches. And this is on top of finding an alternate game trail around a very steep in-and-0ut ravine earlier in the ride. So she was a happy girl, having done all of this off-trail exploring and trail blazing.

Sunday was Beamer's day. He voluntarily chose a trail the headed away from home, and into a rougher area we don't ride a whole ton. We again had to trailblaze, as rains had washed away most traces of a trail we've been working on putting in. It might not have been obvious to us, but the ponies knew where they were going, and got quite disgusted if we tried to (mis)direct them.

Well, this trail he took us on is one that has some good climing involved, to the saddle of one of the mountain passes around the park. Normally, we run this trail the opposite direction, because there is a very short, very steep section that is easier to go up than down. Well, I was glad we did the opposite today. The trail we normally take down the side of the mountain was very washed out and rocky, and obviously hadn't been traversed since the last rains. It was much better going up, and even that involved a bit of scrambling and darting around rocks.

The other side of the moutain was much better, and the ponies did beautifully on the steep section. They both planted their haunches and inches down with their front feet. I was so proud of both of them. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as that feeling you get on a safe, sane trail horse that has just negotiated a potentially dangerous obstacle.

We've got four weeks until Man Against Horse. I need to send entries in. I need money first. And I need to buy two new pairs of Rengades. And board is due this week. Um, ouch? I think my pony is bound and determined that I will not have money in my bank account. Blast, she heard me say I wanted to take a trip out to San Diego after the ride...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

Well, let's see...Saturday was my birthday, so it was rather odd actually getting to do something fun, like ride my pony, on my birthday versus what I typically do - school. I'll admit, getting up at 3AM on my birthday might not be the most enjoyable idea ever, but getting up that early is actually worth it, even moreso than getting up at 4 or 4:30. If I'm up at 3, we can be out of the house by 3:30 (I'm finally getting Dad going on this idea of "pack the truck the night before and eat breakfast on the go") and leaving the barn, ponies in tow, by 4:20, and at the trailhead by about 4:45. We're actually ready to ride by 6, so we're still catching about an hour of really pleasant weather before it starts really warming up.

It's very weird being down at the San Tans that early. We're the only ones there at that time, and it's still pitch-black out. There was no moon this weekend, either, so it was even darker. Driving down to the park, we saw two owls! One had just swooped down to grab something on the side of the road, and the other was flying above the truck on the road leading into the park. That was so cool seeing that.

The ponies were both really good on Saturday, especially because it was super windy. It was really still about 4AM, but as the sun started coming up, the breeze picked up, and by the time we were on the trail, there was a good wind blowing. However, it felt really good because of the humidity in the air, and the ponies were feeling really good. Mimi was in Arabian Junior mode, making me really practice my "long leg, deep seat" riding.

We even took them in the Big Scary Sandwash that they hate - really deep sand and a lot of wildlife and birds that like to fly out of bushes as you go past - and it was lovely. The wind was even reaching down into the wash, so it was pleasant enough to just walk along. I took Dad to the south end of the park to show him the new construction they're doing, putting in a secondary trailhead and a small parking lot and another stepover gate. Way to *finally* listen to us about what we need, park people.

On the way back, we saw a Very Large Rattlesnake. Actually, Mimi did. I was half-turned in the saddle, talking to Dad behind me, when she slowed down, then stopped in the middle of the wash. I turned, looked fdown, and about ten feet away was a huge rattlesnake, very softly rattling his tail, but fortunately moving away from us. She watched him Very Carefully until he disappeared into the bushes under a tree, then we continued on. He was about 5 feet long, and probably a good 4 or 5 inches in diameter, with a rather large chunk of rattles on him. Lovely.

Truthfully? I don't mind seeing them, especially in that kind of setting - a lot of space to move, and with the snake streched out, moving away from us. But this was turning out to be quite the wildlife encounters day. And this makes two weekends in a row that we've seen snakes. We saw a king snake or something like it the previous Saturday.

The rest of my birthday my nice and relaxing...came home, took a short nap, my parents took me out to dinner, then I came home and watched several episodes of "Burn Notice," my new favorite TV show, and did a little bit of writing.

The ponies got the day off Sunday, and I spent most of the day catching up on laundry.

Monday was Labor Day, aka no school for me, and the business was closed for Dad, so the ponies got out again. Beamer was very displeased with this idea...he's gotten way too used to, "ride two days, then get the week off." So he expressed this by being an absolute bundle of nerves, spooking at everything, refusing to move out, bucking if he was in the back and Mimi got too far ahead...*sigh*

Mimi started out slightly grumpy (I think I woke her up) but she got better, and by the time I was on her back, she was a regular handful. Forget Junior today, we were in full Arabian mode. Lots of long leg, deep seat, tigher rein. The plus side to this? She's wonderfully collected and forward and light, ready at a second's notice to do what I ask. The downside? She's even more reactive, so I have to be prepared for sudden, violent sideways spooks and shies.

Unfortunately, I couldn't really capitalize on this because Beamer was being such a pain. So we walked. A lot. My butt was numb, and knees were seizing up, and I finally got off and walked the last quarter mile in because at that point, falling off would have been more comfortable. Just about the time I think Beamer is finally commited to moving forwards instead of taking steps backwards, he pulls a stunt like this. What made it even worse was the weather was ickier yesterday - humid, with very little breeze, and hot, so walking was not what I wanted to do.

Well, he's got all week to stew now, and maybe he'll be better next weekend. I really hope so, and I'm not even the one that has to ride him, I just have to deal with his antics peripherally, which is annoying enough.

Good thing Man Against Horse is only a month away...I really need new Renegades.