Friday, January 27, 2012

Big Bad Arabian Stallion

I'm a little behind, since this actually happened last weekend, and I've kept meaning to go down to the barn and get pictures.  Work/life has had other ideas this week.  So you get the pictureless version.

Last weekend, I had the chance to ride the barn owner's Arabian stallion.  Like, properly ride.  I've hopped on him before for a few minutes, with too-long stirrups, and briefly experienced his Western Pleasure jog.  This time, it was with properly adjsuted stirrups, all three gaits, around the arena for a good 20 minutes.

Awesome horse to ride.  He's 25 years old, and with the exception of his locking stifles after about an hour of work, doesn't look or act his age at all.  He's really well trained -- Western focus, but with enough cross-training in English to know how to stretch out and offer a gorgeous trot.  If he were 10 years younger, I'd be offering to campaign him on the endurance circuit.

It's been a while since I've ridden that well-trained of a horse (besides my own, who, depending on the day, may or may not remember that she is, in theory, that well-trained) and it was sheer joy.  It took me back to my riding origins and dropped me right back into my show-ring boots.  Old habits die hard and are deeply ingrained, I guess, since I went right back to all of my OCD, show-ring micromanaging.

(Somewhere in the distance, Mimi grumbles, "And I had just gotten that all trained out of her, too...")

But it's kind of a different story when the horse likes being micromanaged and told what to do.  Exhausting for 50 miles, but fun for short-term circles around the arena.

But just a little more wouldn't know this guy is a stallion.  He's so well-mannered and polite, and one of the sweetest horses in the barn.  He truly loves people and is very affectionate about it.  So yeah, despite the post title (and the typical stallion stereotype), this boy isn't bad at all.  (Or big...maybe 14.2.  But he's got presence and acts a lot bigger.)

Will get pics this weekend and post them of this gorgeous guy.

(And Mimi actually approves of him, since she didn't get all crabby and pissy that I had the nerve to ride another horse.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Job!

I've been offered -- and have accepted -- a new job, official as of today: I'm going to be working for Lander Industries Inc., makers of the Renegade Hoof Boots!!!

Details to follow as I figure out exactly everything I'll be doing, but most of it will probably be computer-based, working from home.

I am so, SO excited about this opportunity!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

On Trail Again!

"...she's probably waiting in the wings for you to come along, let her ride again..."
- "Let's Take A Drive", Christian Kane

Okay, so I co-opted those lyrics for something slightly different than their original intended purpose, but it actually works...can't sum up the spirit of today's ride much better than that.

Yes, you read that right.  After an embarrassing long hiatus in which we've done a few stints wandering around the neighborhood and a lot of arena circles, we got to go out on trail again today.  Mimi was soooo happy to be out again.  She does the arena thing because it's what Good Trained Ponies do, and because it's some form of exercise and beats sitting around the stall or pasture.  It's not because she loves it.  But she loves trail.

It was a small group ride today -- our boarding barn owner, another boarder, and one of barn owner's friends.  One other experienced horse and two greenies.  It ended up being a really good group because the two greenies are youngsters that Mimi has been around for the past seven years, and because they're younger and submissive to her, she considers them her "keep" and takes great care to look out for them.

She's everyone's favorite babysitter.

Sometimes when we're riding in a group, I end up going to the back because Mimi hates being crowded (only to think about my own negative reactions to crowded situation with too many people...wonder where she learned it???) and we can hang back and not get too hung up in the herd.  Only problem with that is she is very competitive and doesn't like being last.

So today we compromised.  Spent some time in the middle, some time in the back, and then some time up front...or near to it.  The front horse for the day has a ridiculously fast walk that no one can keep up with (at 15.3 hands, it's understandable...), so keeping up with him was enough to keep Mimi from getting too hung up on the fact that she wasn't. actually. in. front.

We went to the San Tans...our old, familiar stomping grounds that Mimi and I know probably every inch of.

Seeing this view again is like being greeted by an old friend.
And I hate to admit it, but it was probably a good thing we had two soft, out-of-shape youngsters in the group, because Mimi and I both had to dig pretty far down to find our fitness levels.  Five miles, mostly walking, with a bit of trotting (and cantering, if you're an exuberant pony that's stuck behind everyone and just wants to GO!!!), and we were all feeling it by the end.  Fuzzy pony was definitely sweaty (in her defense, she has 2" of hair and it was 70*...) and I remembered some leg muscles that had been all but forgotten.

But we had So. Much. Fun!!!

Happy Pony got to Ride Again

Thursday, January 12, 2012

it's cloudy and grey but we're still gonna play

Turns out winter's not quite done with us yet here in the sunny Southwest.  The supposed forecast was 70* and sunny.  What we got was slightly different.  But I'm not complaining.  I'm rather fond of our brand of winter out here, and wasn't quite ready to face up to spring-like conditions.

Besides, cooler weather makes for cheerful ponies.
"Act your age" need not apply.  She'll be 19 this year, and she
still can't leave well enough alone and stay out of other people's
 Cross-dressing for the horse world.
Blue jeans, cowboy boots.  Helmet, English saddle.
The pony wasn't feeling particularly photogenic or cooperative today.  In order to get this:

We had to go through several rounds of this:

Drama, drama, drama.
And it's not spring fever.  It's just Pony.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Today, I embraced the one superstition that I follow -- that whatever you do on New Year's Day is what you'll spend the rest of the year doing.  So I  listened to my favorite music while driving (which is pretty much an everyday given as it is, but whatever...), curled up with a good book, blogged, and of course...

Rode. My. Pony. 

One of the popular clinicians has a game/technique/training tool/exercise called "Cruising" that can be best summed up as putting the horse on auto-pilot.  As in, drop the reins, hang on, and let the horse go.  Only rule is that the horse has to keep going.  No reins, no controlling where they go.  Just hang on for the ride.

For a Type A control freak such as myself, doing this is akin to torture.  Not only that, but I spent my first formative year of horseback riding in a huntseat English environment, which is all about lots and lots of contact, especially rein, with the horse, and that losing that contact is a fast way for your butt and the dirt to get really familiar with each other.

Spending the last 15 years riding a pony that is not only very forward, but has also perfected the art of the "drop-n-spin" (damn Quarter Horse blood), has taught me to ride with pretty constant rein contact, so I have maybe half a second warning before she pulls a fast one.  (The theory being that where the head goes, the body follows...It hasn't always worked...)

So to challenge myself, Mimi and I went Cruising for part of our workout.  On one hand, it was kind of easy.  Mimi has extensive arena training, and would be considered to be a push-button rail pony: get her going and she just tracks along the rail, making circle after circle.  It was easy to get into a rhythm and just hang on while she motored around.  Exhilarating, actually.  Liberating.  One hand on the saddle (let's not be too daring here...'member that spin-n-drop?) one hand free.

(Watching the NFR [National Finals Rodeo] last month might also have shamed me into trying this, if the bareback and saddle bronc riders can stay on a bucking horse with one hand while the horse goes its own way.  Never mind that it's only for 8 seconds and a good many of them don't stay on...minor detail...)

On the other hand: Mimi's a pony.  Which means right about the time I start getting a bit complacent, her new favorite I-want-to-hang-out-at-the-gate-and-not-work attitude wakes up, she realizes that she can go wherever she wants to, and half a second later, she's made a sharp turn and a beeline for the gate.  Yeah, glad I was still holding onto the saddle at the point.  It didn't get her anywhere, since the only rule is that they can't stop.  We looked like a pinball machine for a bit there, bouncing around in the corner by the gate until the pony resigned herself to the fact that her antics weren't getting her anywhere.

And then I had to take up the reins again because I can only give up that kind of control for so long.  But for the remainder of the time, I was much more conscious about how much I was using the reins, and made a concerted effort to focus on lighter contact.

I've always had fairly soft, quiet hands when I ride...they're just controlling and reluctant to give up that release.  (This is another good reason to ride in a hackamore.)  I sort of hate to admit just how much I rely on my reins for control, balance and staying on...but I've had too many instances happen of where I lost my reins and then was totally sunk to be comfortable without that early-warning system that comes with constant contact.

Some days, hands-free lunge line school doesn't sound like a bad idea.

But hey, knowing a problem/weakness/area to work on is half the battle, right?

Caveat/Disclaimer/Et Cetera: I did this in a controlled environment -- a 180' x 75' sand arena surrounded by 3-rail pipe fence and closed gates.  I did this on a trustworthy, reliable, sane horse that I am familiar with.  I kept the exercise to a walk/trot for now.  It's a good trust-building exercise, and great fun for the horse.  But I would be very reluctant to try this on a young horse who isn't ready for this kind of freedom, especially at anything faster than a walk.  It could go to their heads and get them a little overexcited and overwhelmed.  No way I would try this in an open environment.  Just use common sense and good judgment when deciding whether or not you and your horse are ready to try this.

New Year

May 2012 bring in lots of smiles for all!
Happy New Year!!!