Clusterbrained

There is an infinite amount of information flowing through my head at the current moment in time. I’m sitting at school with one of my final economics tests in 40 minutes so of course that sounds like a wonderful time to type up a blog entry about my horse life. Why not! 

It amazes me that we are on month four of 2013. Where is all my precious time going? There is so much fluttering through my brain that needs to get done and so little time or energy to do it. So I do the best I can and scuttle through what I am capable of completing. 

… That always includes riding Sarge, of course! Jobs and homework are not near as important as my silly little pony. (; What has been going on with wittle ol’ Sarge, you ask? Well, he scared the bejeebies out of me a week after I went to visit my summer internship opportunity. He came up lame. You have to understand, that horse has never been lame a day in his life so my mind went straight to the worst possible scenario. Three days of pondering whether I should call the vet or not and he comes back perfectly sound… stupid horse. 

Minus that little hiccup, we’re doing pretty well. I’ve been playing around with different techniques on getting him relaxed. I tried a thicker bit which he seemed to ignore at first, but was far less reactionary so I have been using it to see if it will make any difference. He’d probably be better off with something in the middle of the two bits I have, but unfortunately I am a college student with very little money so we’ll have to make due. The bit doesn’t mask the main problem anyways, his tenseness. We’re making strides in the correct direction, however. He mainly tenses during transitions and when I pick up my reins after warm up. So I’m working on teaching him that there is no reason for him to tense up during these transitions. I’m trying to be as light as I possibly can, not really react, and let him fight with himself until he realizes that it’s much easier to just stay relaxed. We’ll get there eventually. 

I’m extremely excited about my internship opportunity and what it will do for myself and for Sarge.  She is a lovely riding and believes in exactly the type of riding I am trying to portray. She hardly uses her hands at all and emphasizes using mainly body and leg. She will not force a horse to do something out of it’s comfort zone, and she spoils her babies. I love it. It will be incredibly exciting to, once again, have some guidance and someone on the ground to whip me into shape. (:

Okay, I really do have to get ready for class unfortunately. I am incredibly excited about my life and where I am headed. It all seems to be falling into place nicely (for the most part! haha). Do what you love, and love what you do! 

Lightbulb!

I had a lightbulb moment today! I thought it would be appropriate to take note of this with a fresh new blog post.

First, I must say it is incredibly frustrating when all I want to do is ride and improve, and I do not have the resources, time, or weather to do so at the moment. However, I make do with what I’ve got, and that’s all that I can ask, ay? Soon enough, I’ll have all that and more! I can not wait to immerse myself in the world of horses once again. I can’t even imagine how wonderful that will be. (:

Anyhow, the temperature this week has been around 60 degrees! Needless to say, I am in heaven. Pony even got his first bath of the year yesterday!

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He’s super happy about it.

And today we had a productive ride! I must say, being without a trainer has pushed me to go beyond and actually read and educate myself and PAY ATTENTION to the fine details rather than just going through the motions. In the past, I would simply do the same thing over and over again. This was actually a huge point I learned at my short internship in Indiana: change things up. Our horses need to be on their toes and listening to us all the time. If they get into this rhythem and they know the routine, why should they listen to you? Switch things up. I have also learned to pay attention to what my horse is telling me and what his body language is telling me. Honestly, as terrible as it sounds, I never really knew what was going on below me. I just didn’t pay attention. Now that I’ve awaken from this idiocy, I am finally feeling things I’ve never noticed before.

Like tension. Sarge gets tense in his back. This inhibits forward motion and makes it impossible for him to be round. I never payed attention to this before, and it amazes me how tense my horse is sometimes. So what did I do? I read up on horses who frequently get tense in the back. I learned that cantering them more in warmup will allow them to loosen up and release tension in these kinds of horses. So I tried it… and it worked. We still had our yucky moments of course but it was a vast improvement over our previous rides.

After warming up a good bit I decided to work on his walk/trot transitions and vice versa. I really paid attention to his body language. When I asked for the downward transition he would brace against me and tense up. So I got this brilliant idea (okay, a common sense idea that my body has forgotten about…); I decided to ask him only with my body… and what do you know, he was relaxed through the transition. Amazing how that works.

Don’t get me wrong, we are still far from perfect. I am still FAR from perfect (and quite out of shape), but we’re going to work on it piece by piece and keep learning. The key is to keep moving forward, pay attention, and THINK. And remember, there is always more to learn no matter what level rider you are. The moment you think you know everything is the moment you deprive yourself of ever being better.

Multi-tasking.

I have a huge problem with managing everything that has to get done. For instance, right now I should be writing an essay on the Epic of Gilgamesh and here I am updating a blog I haven’t written in for months.  As each week passes, I seem to strive in one area and then the rest falls to the wayside. Each week I do well in a different area of my life. I want to do well in ALL of my life, ALL the time. That’s easier said than done, however.

Good news! I got into my dream college, Virginia Intermont! It’s absolutely exciting and terrifying at the same time. I love this college and their equine program is so well-balanced. I feel like it will really help me move forward in my career and broaden my knowledge in all aspects of the horse world. However, figuring out the financial aspect, as well as my living accommodations and my horse’s living accommodations is frightening. I started off with a 9000 dollar transfer scholarship so that’s a huge step in the right direction, and I think if I really push myself and apply for as many scholarships as humanly, possible I should be able to pay for a large chunk through that.

So there’s that… I’m using a lot of my time during the week finding and applying for scholarships.

Then this summer my plan is to quit my job, and find a wonderful barn where I can intern and ride as many horses as I can. I really want to get myself back in the swing of things… horsie things, that is. I haven’t been able to ride consistently for the past 2 years because my life has been a roller coaster ride! Of course, I also can’t afford training so this is my way of getting free training. I’m am beyond excited for this. So far, I have one prospect: a dressage barn about 45 minutes from my home. It’s not exactly what I am looking for but it’s a start and a back up plan if anything.

Part of my time is spent searching for, emailing, and calling barns for internships.

Then of course there is my school work. I am taking three incredibly boring but necessary classes: World Literature, Religions of the World, and Macro Economics. These are the last three classes I will need to knock out my core classes at VIC.

Oh hey, I have three jobs now! I still work at PetSmart which is my absolute least favorite job in the world. Bleh, cashiering. I am still exercising horses at Faux Farms, and I picked up another job down the road where I am just doing barn chores (which I thoroughly enjoy getting to do once again!).

A huge goal of mine this year is to get back in shape and lose that extra 20 pounds (and then some). So I’ve been working out and eating better and I’ve managed to lose 7 pounds so far! Success! My main motivator is the internship this summer. How can I expect my horses to be fit if I don’t put in the same commitment, right?

Then of course, there is my little Sarge. He is about as fat and out of shape as his momma. He’s being leased out to a little girl named Ella now (they are totally adorable together), but she only rides about 3 days a week, if that. So the rest of the week, it’s up to me to work and get his butt back in working shape! I plan on taking him to my internship this summer so this is a biggy!

I also am thinking of adding more to my schedule. My Saturday is pretty much wide open so I want to start volunteering at the local animal shelter. It’s fun plus it looks nice on my resume. (; I also got a call from a lady asking if I’d like to exercise her green horse for her. At first I was hesitant because it wasn’t for pay, but then I thought about it… that’s more ride time. So I might toss that in there as well.

So let me see… here’s my game plan.

Monday:

Stalls: 9-11

Faux Farms: 11-2

-30 minute drive home, eat lunch-

Exercise horse: 3-4

Sarge: 4:15-6

-REST-

Workout

Tuesday:

Repeat Monday

Wednesday:

Petsmart: 9-5

Class: 6:30-9:20

Thursday:

PetSmart: 9-2

Class: 3:30-4:45

-Relax/Homework-

Friday:

Repeat Monday

Saturday (times undetermined):

Sarge/exercise horse/puppy shelter

Homework

Workout

Sunday:

Work: anywhere between 10-8

Homework

(then whenever there is time: scholarships/internship search… oh and boyfriend/friend time whenever I can fit time hahaha)

 

Here’s to the New Year, aye?? I’m excited! (:

 

Details, details, details.

My horse continues to impress me day after day. I’m almost afraid I’m going to do something horribly wrong and break this amazing streak. It’s THAT good. Monday did not go as planned so I did not get riding photos unfortunately. It decided to rain most of the day so pony just got lunged in side reins (am I the only one that finds pleasure in watching my horse in side reins? I love it. baha.) However, I spent about 4 hours of my day yesterday with horses. Even though it was quite chilly out, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. I do believe, after months of being in a “riding rut”, I have been bitten by the horse bug again. (:

What did I work on yesterday? Well, I reinforced what I have been doing the past few days. I worked with him on transitions and keeping him relaxed and listening. I was inspired yesterday morning by an article on My Virtual Eventing Coach on canter transitions. It basically said if you are pushing your horse into the canter transition everytime you ask there is no way he is going to listen to a light cue. In the back of my mind, I know this but reading the article really brought it to the front of my brain and made me realize this is something that needed work. So that’s what I did. The first time I asked him to canter, I used an incredibly light aid. The result? He ignored it, of course. So I made the correction, brought him back down to the trot, and ask again with the same light aid. After about 3 times, it clicked with him. The same thing occured on the other lead, except more exaggerated. At that point, he was starting to get it. So it took me about 2 times to get the desired affect and boy was it instantaneous. I lightly put my leg back and asked and BAM straight into the canter. Amazing what happens when you pay attention to the small details and make it a priority to get results. That was my major success for the day.

I am absolutely amazed at what I difference I see in him though. I could go on and on. I really think working on lateral movements with him has gotten him to understand what that leg really means. Not only does he move off of it when I am coming back onto the rail, but his bend just feels… more correct, I guess? Not only that, but he is just amazingly round! His transitions are really coming together, and he’s keeping his frame more consistantly through them. It’s astonishing.

Okay, my proud momma moment is done. Now let me share with you a few photos from yesterday. (:

My sweet nosie. (:

 

I decided to take a “before” picture, so I can compare it to when I get him back in shape.

 

Now here’s a couple of my friend and her adorable pony, Adonia. (:

 

 

They’re pretty adorable.

 

This is the precious baby at her barn. (:

Enjoy? (;

I’m starting to wonder how many days I should be riding the pony. Is two days off a week enough for a fat pony? I don’t want to burn him out by any means. Decisions, decisions. Have a nice day, y’all!

 

 

Patience and transitions!!

Hello folks! I have a splendid breakthrough to report!

So first of all, my life has been absolutely insane since this semester of school began, and my riding life has been fairly nonexistent. That being said, I’ve gotten to ride quite a few times in the past week, and it feels so amazing! My motivation to ride has come back in full force, and with a game plan to boot!

Let me start my post off with a few pictures I took yesterday, because pictures are always better than words in my opinion. (:

Not my horse, but the oh so adorable barn labradoodle, Sherlock!

Okay, so he’s fat. But he’s still adorable, right?

Yep. Stud. (;

This is what Sarge thinks of my recent riding motivation.

Don’t you love those moments in riding where you just think, “duh, why didn’t I realize this before??” Yep, I had one of those, and boy is it paying off! I started my ride off on Friday exactly the same way I always do… which was my biggest mistake. I saw this quote today which pretty much covers it:

Riding is like a marriage between the horse and rider. Don’t let the familiarity trick you into doing the same thing over and over.

I’ve been stuck in this riding rut with no idea how to get out of it and no trainer to guide me. All I needed to do was slow my brain down and realize that I needed to go back to the beginning and do some things differently. I have a problem with expecting things out of him that I shouldn’t and then getting frustrated when I can’t get it correct. So I’ve been working on the same things that frustrated me over and over again without realizing that I needed to have the basics down before I could move on.

That’s exactly what I decided to do; start fresh, no expectations, with patience. I’ve been spending a majority of my ride at the walk just doing lots of direction changes and getting him soft and listening. I’ve made a point to always be soft with my hands and never fight with him. If he fusses I simply steady and push him on until he gives. When I’m ready, I push him on into the trot. I’ve been sitting the trot as well and I feel like it helps me transition better and give him more of a chance to stay connected through the transition. Then I begin the endless transitions between endless direction changes. The results I have gotten from doing this are truly mind-blowing. I have never felt this horse become more round and soft. It truly makes me shine to know that we’re making improvements, and I am finally making strides in the correct direction! I’m not doing a lot of canter at the moment but I work that in there between the walk/trot transitions. I only canter him for a short distance and let bring him back down as soon as I get the desired canter. He gets all peppy and excited when I canter him and I have to get him listening again. He’s also a lot more strung out and the canter transitions definitely need work… but we’ll get to that in time. (;

It just astounds me that I was so impatient, that I completely didn’t realize I needed to work on the simple things before I could move on. We’ve improved drastically, and it makes me incredibly pleased. I finally am getting out of that mentality that I have to force my horse into submission that was previously engraved into my brain. I’m realizing that only if my horse trusts me can I get the desired effect. I’m also applying knowledge I learned during my short internship in Indiana. One huge thing I learned from Indy is that I never did enough transitions, and I must constantly change up the way I ride in order to keep my horse on his toes. It’s finally sunk in apparently, and boy is it helping. I couldn’t be happier. (:

Better yet! I plan on getting pictures of this glorious feat tomorrow! Get excited!

Trick Pony.

I recently stumbled upon this girl’s youtube: AlwaysHorseLove. Many people in the horse world may think it’s silly to train your horse to do tricks… heck, I did too until I saw these videos. I think it’s truly amazing what she has taught these horses, and she does it by merely rewarding correct behavior with treats and positive reinforcement. My favorite part is the bond she has with these horses. While she is indeed training them, it’s more like playing. Just watch this!

So as a result of my obsession with her videos, I have begun my own “trick training” with Sarge. Honestly, it’s nothing crazy like she is doing. I don’t even know where to begin in order to get him to do dressage on the ground with no restraints (although how freaking cool would that be!)! It has basically given me something to do with my horse when I don’t really have time to tack him up and go to the ring for a ride. All I’m really doing is playing with him and asking him to back, come, trot beside me, lift his legs, and simple things like that. I absolutely love it though. I have a blast playing with him and it makes him listen to me. Just a random food for thought! I’m always looking for new things to do with him and this is a fun way to really bond with your horse. (:

My horse life has been fairly non existent lately, unfortunately, however I do have some good news on a couple of fronts!

First of all, I have a new life game plan. I have decided that, instead of getting my associates here, I am going to get only the classes I need in order to transfer to my dream school, Virginia Intermont! This will put me there next Fall because I only have three measly classes left to take next semester! After I have completed that, I plan on finding a place to intern for the summer in my general area (or surrounding states). I feel like my horse education has come to a complete halt. I can’t afford a trainer and I don’t have time to ride on my own really either. So my solution is go live somewhere for the summer where I can live and breathe it and LEARN. (; There’s only so much I can do on my own. So I need to start searching for barns to intern at and decide which is the best fit. preferably somewhere that I can live on site and it would be a plus to bring my horse with me! If anyone knows of such a place in or around Virginia let me know! Eventing or dressage would be best. (;

Second, I may have someone to lease my main man, Sarge! It honestly feels like a perfect match. She is a fit 60-year-old retired veterinarian who just misses being around horses and mostly wants to trail ride. Basically, she’ll pay me and my horse will get super spoiled and loved. (: She’s coming out on Saturday! Wish me luck that this works out for me!

The last thing I wanted to report was my proud progress at Faux Farms! With school and my other job, I can only get out there once a week but my main project is coming along nicely regardless! If you forgot, her name is Caramel and she’s a stubborn little girl who kicks and squeals when she doesn’t want to go forward:

Basically, I’ve been doing tons of groundwork with her and getting her to respect me. Before, if I were to ask her to move over she would lean into my hand and kick out if I asked more aggressively. Well, it took one training session to get that out of her and now I can make her move over just by looking and pointing. (: Not only this, but her lunge line work has vastly improved! Our last session, I had her instantly responding to my vocal cues! Right now I am just working her at a trot and walk because she was formerly a carriage pony and was never taught to canter. My big goal is to get her to canter under saddle but that will be a HUGE goal to reach. For right now, I am completely satisfied with her progress. I’m not quite ready to get back on her but we’re going in the right direction at least. I won’t lie; she’s really growing on me. (;

 

Click!

Ahhh, I am such a happy horse momma right now! Don’t you just love the feeling you get after a great, productive ride? It definitely ranks up there with the best feelings in the world.

So we’ve been working on learning lateral work for at least a month off and on. It’s been really difficult, because we are both learning this together. I have never taught a horse to leg yield before, and honestly I really don’t have a lot of experience doing lateral work on experienced horses either. I’m pretty much just going off of what I read and trial and error (LOTS of trial and error). A huge amount of error is obviously my inability to communicate the message to him with my body language. I constantly forget what my body’s doing; I have to remind myself to sit up straight and keep my weight more on the side we’re yielding towards. I also have a problem with just leaning my leg against him rather than tapping. I’ve been working to correct these behaviors and in the process I’m really starting to understand how to properly ask him to leg yield and get him to respond in the correct manner!

He’s a horse that likes to leave his hind end hanging behind him and just move his front over so I had to figure out how to counteract this. I finally figured out that if I check the rein that we’re yielding into, it not only keeps him from rushing his front end, but it prevents him from getting overbent! Eureka! With this new found knowledge and a little help from my dressage whip tapping his butt (giving him a reminder that, yes, this part has to move too) we can successfully get a few correct steps of leg yield in both the walk and trot! There is still a lot of fumbling and incorrect moments but when everything clicks into place it’s such a fabulous feeling. And lordy! I never knew he could feel so supple! The best part is that he actually understands what these cues mean now and I can work them into our everyday routine here and there and try new things. All kinds of doors are opening up!

Busy!

Just a little update on horse life and it will be very quick because I need to be leaving in a bit.

I found a girl who is interested in half leasing Sarge! This is immense because my Fall semester is going to be absolutely insane and I will have little time for my horse, unfortunately. It will also help in saving money for my car. (; Anyhow, she sounded very sweet over the phone. It sounds like she doesn’t have a ton of experience, but enough to get him going. All I ask is for someone to keep him exercised and loved on. I’m really hoping it works out and I’ll keep you updated! (:

I really need to get on my blogging A game, but you know how life is. I set aside Saturdays as a day off from everything so maybe I could post something every Saturday. I would love to start researching topics and put together a little piece on horsie topics. It just depends on school! I have been wanting for a long time to post a piece on  horse racing since that really interests me and I have done school papers and presentations on it already. Stay tuned for a hopefully more motivated Emily!

Adios!

Racehawses.

How is my horse life? Magnificient! Thanks for asking!

Horse camp has finally ended for me. Our last group was an awesome group to end on. It was three 15 year olds and they all rode quite well so we got to play around with them a little more. While the experience was great, I’m glad it’s over. It was fun; however, I’m much happier riding than I am teaching. Now that camp is over, my friend, Willow, and I get to work with the horses (specifically the trouble/green) all winter! My main challenge for the winter is named Caramel. She is by far the most stubborn and spunky horse I’ve met. My big goal with her is to get her to canter under saddle and get her in front of my leg at all times with no kicking out! We also have little Siesta to work with who is fairly green but a total sweetheart. We basically just need to start her back under saddle and get her desensitized so that we might be able to use her for camp next summer.

I’ve finally gotten back to riding my own horse, Sarge. There was a long gap of unmotivated, uninspired non riding. What got me going again was this website!

http://www.myvirtualeventingcoach.com/

I would highly recommend this website for anyone who is currently without a trainer… or even with a trainer and just looking for different opinions! There are so many good exercises to use and the explanations are so easy to get. You can also post questions and videos or pictures to be critiqued. The first two weeks is free and then it’s $20 a month. I didn’t think I’d keep it going but honestly it’s helped me so much so far that I’m going to keep it!

I also stumbled across something that I found extremely interesting. It’s a program located in Kentucky that retrains off the track Thoroughbreds. I’ve always had a personal liking for these horses so my interest was peaked. I then realized they offer an internship program, so I am strongly considering doing an internship next summer if everything goes my way. Check it out!

http://secretariatcenter.org/

Toodles, y’all! (: