Here's a pic of Blondie and me at the Ludington show (thank you, junior photog, Brooke!). I think I'm really starting to get the hang of driving! I just need to get her cranked back a little more, and I think we'll be good to go! And, yes, I really am that pale....
The weather was rather ominous, and as we were under a severe thunderstorm warning, I decided to postpone a visit to the barn until tomorrow. Now that the rain is coming down hard and heavy, I think I made a good decision. I didn't want a repeat of last Friday's lesson, and I don't think Blondie would be able to handle the thunder with the same indifference as Jimmy. Plus, with the lights flickering, I would have been totally screwed if the power went out at the barn. Pray that it doesn't go out here!
Here's a pic from the Ludington show. This Friesian stud was being naughty, and had just stood up, striking his handler. She didn't seem too badly hurt by his kick, but I bet she had one heck of a bruise. He was a beautiful horse, in spite of his rude manners.
Harley in hunter mode
The Morgan people are heading off to a show this week, so us Saddlebred people are on our own. I made arrangements to ride Harley yesterday, and when I arrived at the barn, M was still there. They were supposed to leave at 4, but D had a tire blow out on the trailer, so he was off getting a replacement. M was scurrying around taking care of last minute preparations.
I got Harley tacked up and headed out to the outdoor arena. It was a lovely evening, and I've only ridden outside a few times this year, so I thought it would be a nice change of pace. M warned me to give Harley a coating a fly spray, and to be careful in case the ground was still wet.
Harley is rather tall, and I am rather short, so for a moment I was afraid I would have to go back to the barn and grab a mounting block. There's always one out there when I'm going to grab one of the lesson horses from the pasture, but when I needed one, it was mysteriously absent. I dropped the stirrup to the very last hole, which D added to the leather for the times he had to use my saddle to warm up Blondie. It was still a struggle hauling myself up onto his back, but I made it, and I didn't drop the riding whip!
I haven't ridden Harley in a while, and once again I was grateful for Blondie's smooth stride. Harley has a hitch in his giddy-up, and rides on him are a little rough. While he warmed up I posted with no stirrups, and then tried to two point around the arena with no stirrups. It's a long way around and I didn't quite make it. Appears that I need to warm up, too. Then we moved to a sitting trot, and then a posting trot.
The ground was a little mushy by one end of the ring, and the middle was like a mini swamp. I was a little leery about going around the one end, and was careful not to steer him right through the damp spots. When I asked him to canter, he started out nice and slow, and all of a sudden he just took off! He's never done that before, and after I stopped him, I wondered what had set him off. It could have been a pesky fly (they're the size of frisbees), or maybe he thought he saw a terrifying line. He's deathly afraid of lines, the silly horse.
I decided to move into the indoor, because the footing would be better, and in case it was the flies pestering him. D happened to walking by the ring, so I asked he could open the gate. He seemed a little amazed that I was able to get on Harley by myself. I was still surprised, too.
In the indoor, I worked on trotting, then more no stirrup exercises. It was stuffier inside, and I didn't want to get Harley too hot, so I only cantered him a few rounds in each direction. Then I walked him out, because it was almost 6:30, and I had told Dean to send help if I didn't call him by 7. The thought of riding alone is a little unnerving for me, so I made sure he knew that I was at the barn, and when I thought I'd be done. I didn't know that there would still be people milling about loading horses onto the trailers, so my fears were ungrounded.
After getting Harley put to bed, I noticed that ribbons from the last horse show had been removed from the trailer, so I gathered mine up and headed for home. When I arrived at the house, I saw a large, battered package on the porch. It was the saddle, which I was going to cancel because they couldn't give me an ETA for it. It was delivered in 3 days! The box didn't look encouraging, and as soon as I can find the manufacturer's contact information, I'm going to send them a letter expressing my dissatisfaction with their packing methods. The skirt was bent, but Dean pointed out that it's flexible, so that was to be expected. Now I have to wait until Monday to see if it fits Blondie, because I have no clue how western saddles are supposed to fit. And I don't have a girth, because they were sold out of the one that I had ordered, so I guess I'll have to drag Dean to another tack store this weekend. Poor guy.
Summer during the Freedom Class
After a week of unrelenting rain, today dawned bright and clear. You couldn't ask for a more perfect day. Temps were very pleasant 70's, down from the muggy 90's we had been suffering through. The horses even seemed to be in better moods, and they weren't drenched with sweat before they even had their saddles on!
Sara brushed Blondie for me, and then I happily started getting her tacked up. Why happily, you might ask. Because I dragged Dean to the only tack store in the area that carries saddleseat tack, and went on a little shopping spree. Not only was I delighted that I finally have my own gear, but I am now convinced of Dean's undying love and devotion. Though he remained in the car while I picked over the bridles and reins, he didn't complain once when I got back to the car with my purchases.
I am very happy with Blondie's new tack. Even though it cost twice as much as the junk that I returned last week, the quality is at least ten times better. I'm not exaggerating, either. The leather is so much better, as are the fittings. I picked up a running martingale, and a bridle with two sets of reins. I also bought an extra braided rein, and a bottle of fly spray. That stuff is expensive! I'm going to have to keep my eye out for season close-outs and buy a big jug for next year.
I was having a bit of trouble getting the bridle adjusted correctly, but D saw that I was having difficulty, and he came over and showed me how it was supposed to fit. The first thing he did was take everything apart, and then he kept the caveson and the headstall separate. As he was refitting everything, he commented, "No snaps, I see." Yeah, that's the only thing I didn't want - once I buy a bit, it won't even matter than I opted not to purchase those surprisingly dangerous quick change bridles.
Out in the arena, Blondie was being a dingbat every time we approached the far door going the first way of the ring. I don't know why she started spooking away from the door again, but I just tried to keep her from cutting her corners and scooting into the middle of the ring. I wasn't having much luck! Once we changed directions, the door didn't even faze her. She's such a spaz.
M had me bring Blondie into the middle so she could adjust the bridle again. She didn't like where the caveson was sitting on her nose. Then we headed out on the rail again, and Blondie kept her head back and didn't give me much trouble with her head dropping. M complimented me on having soft hands today, and keeping Blondie up in her bridle. I think Blondie was so happy to have her own tack that she was showing off for everyone.
We cantered the second way first, and Blondie just stepped into it. She didn't race off like she normally does, and she had a nice cadence. When we switched directions, she was stronger going the other way, but I think it was because of the scary door. She did try to quit at the other end of the ring, but I got after her right away and she kept cantering.
While I was walking her out, M told me that I had a really good ride. I said that Blondie was getting better, but she said that Blondie is the smart, I'm the one getting better. Personally, I don't think it's so much that I'm getting better, but that I'm more comfortable riding her. I can hardly wait until she's on turnout and I can get started working on a lot of my weaknesses with her.
M & D are off with the Morgans to Jubilee tomorrow, and they'll be gone until next Sunday. I asked if I could ride Harley while they were gone, because I don't feel comfortable riding Blondie by myself. M told me that I could, so I'm going to try to work with no stirrups, and I want to try the steering around the cone with one hand exercise again. Harley neck-reins, so it should be easier with him.
Last night, M asked if I wanted to ride Blondie, or have a jumping lesson on Jimmy. It was a difficult choice, but I ended up picking the jumping lesson. I trudged out to the pasture for the second time to get Jimmy, having just taken Doc out so M could get started with Brooke's lesson. With all of the rain that we have had, the paddock was a mushy, muddy mess. This is one thing that I am not looking forward to when Blondie is out on pasture board.
Jimmy was also a muddy mess, but most of his filth was dried and caked onto his coat. After brushing him off, I started to get his tack together, having to pause and ask M questions about what to use. I don't usually ride huntseat, so I didn't know what to use. I finally took him out to the arena, only to discover that I had put the bit on the bridle upside down. Oops, don't think I'll make that mistake again. I didn't realize there was an upside down - Blondie's only has a backward to worry about; no upside down.
I started to warm Jimmy up as Brooke took Harley back to his stall. Then we started walking, then trotting through a square made of ground poles. M was explaining basic hunter concepts when it started to thunder, quite loudly. She told me that I probably didn't have to worry about Jimmy spooking at the incoming storm, but if he did have a shaky moment to just sit back and hang on. The rain started to pour down, which made a nice, damp breeze blow through the arena, but also caused M worry about the ring flooding. She closed on door, and then moved the ground poles so we could work on something else.
She made two rows of poles, and then had me first walk in and halt in the middle, and then trot in and halt in the middle. We worked on transitions in the chute she had made, trotting in, stopping, and trotting out, then trotting in, stopping and cantering out. I tried to turn Jimmy the wrong way when he was cantering, causing him to trip, and making me think that I need to work on canter leads again.
Riding in the hunt saddle was a little weird, and it took me a while to get used to sitting in one again. It's been about a year since I've ridden hunt seat, and at first I was feeling a little insecure. I was also holding my hands too high, and had to keep forcing myself to keep them down closer to the horse's neck.
M moved the poles again, setting two in a line, and then she had me walk over them, then trot over them. Then she had me two point over them. We did this two times when the tornado sirens went off. She had me walk Jimmy, while she called Tina to ask were the tornado shelter was, just in case we needed it. She had me jump off of Jimmy, and take him back to the aisle. While I was untacking him, Tina ran into the barn and had me close the back door, as rain was getting sucked into the monster fan that was on. Then we just stood around and waited, peering occasionally out of the doors. M turned on the radio, and we heard that there had been a tornado spotted in Lapeer, but nothing near us. So far, so good.
I waited until the rain died down a little, and then darted out to my car. If I couldn't ride, I might as well head over to Meijer to get my grocery shopping out of the way. There was hardly anyone at the store, so I was in and out quickly, and back home by 8. Though the worst of the storm had blown over, it rained all night long.
Yesterday was so hot and muggy! After the fall-like weather for the previous few days, summer returned with a vengeance! It was so humid, everything felt damp and sticky. Yuck! Including my horse! She still had her blanket on, and when I took it off, she was just drenched with sweat. I started feeling bad expecting her to take me for a ride.
After getting her tacked up, we went to the arena and I just hand walked her until everyone else from the group lesson arrived. Blondie had dried off a little by then, but I knew that won't last for very long; she sweats. A lot.
M didn't have us work the horses very hard. Instead, we worked on precision exercises and balance exercises. She had us take the reins in one hand and swing the other arm in circles at a sitting trot. I couldn't do this at first, as Blondie started speeding up, which caused me to lose my balance. By the end of the lesson, I was much better!
We then had to steer the horse around three cones, again with the reins in one hand. This was a disaster! Blondie would bend to the left, but I could not get her to turn to the right without cheating and using the other hand. This is another exercise we can work on over the winter. There's no reason why we couldn't do this, other than we haven't practiced it enough.
We cantered both ways, but not for very long. I really concentrated on smoothly getting Blondie angled and cueing, because I didn't want her to have to keep cantering! She picked it up both ways, very nicely, within 2 or 3 strides. It's the best canter transition we've ever had! She did break the first way, but I backed up a few steps and then asked her again.
I did get a little stern with her when she kept dropping her head and pulling on the bridle. I smacked her smartly with the whip, and she would stop, at least for a little while. I just hate when she does that.
After cantering, M had us go to the outdoor arena to walk the horses out. It wasn't really much cooler than inside, but there was a tiny hint of a breeze. Gio started acting like a tard after a while (I think the flies were bothering him), so we headed back to the barn. M suggested that I sponge Blondie down, and if she wasn't hot, to just turn her out in her stall.
This was a good lesson. I have plenty of things to work at improving, and I'm looking forward to just getting to work with Blondie more. I feel that I am becoming more confident riding her, too, and I think that been the biggest stumbling block to our progress.
Monday dawned, dim and rainy. Another fall-like day sandwiched in the middle of summer. It rained all day, setting a record for accumulation in Metro Detroit, and causing flooding and power outages throughout the area. Not mine, for change.
I sloshed through the mud into the barn, and M asked me what I wanted to do. Since I wanted to ride my pony, she told me to get her ready. Kim was getting her beast prepped as well, and her lesson was half over by the time I had Blondie ready to enter the arena.
There were cones set across the ring, an indication that the rain had caused a minor flood at the end of the arena. I was told to be careful at that end, and to stay on the other side of the cones. Since Blondie doesn't steer very well, I took this as an opportunity to work on this important skill. After the lesson, I decided we still need a lot of work on it. She only ran over one cone, though.
Again, I worked on keeping her head up, and getting her to listen to my cues. She's getting better at not pulling on the bit, and a couple of times she really had her head up, and was using her ears. She looked so cute from where I was sitting! I wonder what she looked like from the ground.
The canter was a little scary, because M told me I had to keep Blondie balanced, or we'd slip at the wet end of the ring. The first way, she stepped right into the canter, and it was a nice, slow canter at that! She glided around the corners, and I was able to guide her without her getting scrambly and tripping.
The second way wasn't quite so pretty, and we picked up the wrong lead, too! M was having me work on transitioning from the walk to the canter; apparently I lean forward when I cue the canter, which makes Blondie shoot off. This is something else that I'll have to work on over the winter.
I received my shipment from the tack store, and I promptly packed it all up and sent it back. I was so disappointed with the quality, and the two things I needed the most, the saddle pad and the western girth, were back ordered! The saddle is back ordered, too, and I hope that it looks better than the rest of the junk I returned!
Today started out cold and rainy, and it looks like it's going to end like that. What a crappy day. It's only August, so it can't be fall yet, but it certainly seemed like it today.
The morning started out with a little drive with Tuck. While getting him ready, I noticed that he has too much neck skin. It's all wrinkly, and he looks like he needs a little nip and tuck. Sara told me I was being mean, but when I pointed out the massive amount of creases on his neck, she had to agree that maybe I had a point.
Tuck is a blast to drive. First off, he flat walks. He would do it forever, I think, if you'd let him. Next, he's incredibly well behaved. He does tend to surge along the rails, but M said they have been working on that, and he didn't do it very much today. He broke a few times when M shook the bag whip, but when I leaned back on the reins, he dropped back into a trot. She said that he looked really cute today. I'd much rather drive him than ride him.
Next, after helping get a couple of the other horses ready, I tacked up Blondie. I was in the ring with Audie and Abby, and while for the most part M just had me work on keeping Blondie's head up and having her trot straight lines, she did have me participate in some of the exercises she had prepared for the girls. My favorite was cantering in the two point for 10 strides, then sitting for 10 strides and repeating. There's just something exhilarating about crouching over a horse's neck as it canters along.
I stuck around to watch the weanling and Elmer, the yearling, run around the arena. They are both so cute! Elmer is a beautiful bay, and his coat is so shiny. His name just doesn't do him justice. Now there's an Elmer and a Dudley in the barn, and neither one of them looks as dorky as their names.
Friday, M asked what I wanted to do for my lesson. I told her that I wanted to ride my horse! She told me to get her ready and bring her out when I was finished. She then took Brooke and Harley to the arena to start their lesson.
After getting Blondie tacked up, we headed for the ring. M had me trot a rail, walk a rail, trot a rail. When her head was up and she was paying attention to me, she had us go all the way around. She told me to work Blondie in short bursts, and to not try to do anything for too long. When she does something correctly, I need to praise her and move on to something else, or end the ride then, on a good note. She said that now that her shoes are off, I need to take the time to work on me, too.
When I asked her to canter, she wouldn't just step off into a nice canter. She ran into, or racked into it. When I tried to get her to rack in Ludington, she would only trot. Now that her shoes are off, that's what she wants to do half of the time. Argh!
I did learn a lot just by walking her around the arena. Put pressure on my legs, and her head goes up. She wasn't pulling on the bit as much, but I wasn't either. I am trying to have lighter hands and be more confident in the saddle.
Once she's out on pasture board, I'm hoping that I can stop by the barn and ride her on my way home from work. I ordered a western saddle and some tack of my own so I can just goof around with her during the winter. The saddle is back ordered for about four weeks, though. I should receive the rest of the tack that I ordered next week. I'll try to post a pic with her new gear.