Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cross country, appendages, & a ribbon.

I went to go watch the cross country part of the David Acord clinic at Deep Creek today. It was awesome, of course, and made me want to go ride. He is very nice, friendly, and got on a greenie more than once when her rider was having trouble. Smooth, quiet rider- made it look so easy with her.

I was very surprised that two of the riders were using my saddle- an Ansur treeless jumping saddle. I got it years ago when I couldn't find anything that came remotely close to fitting Alexandre. I mentioned to David that I had that saddle but was concerned it might not be good for cross country, and he said he didn't see why not. So that's a load off! I mean sure, if we ever get to high level eventing things might change but for now it's all good.

My favorite jump of the day was on top of a steep hill- one gal got to do it. Cantered up the hill and jumped over a jump at the top, landing downhill on the other side and cantering/sliding down. Her horse refused the first time but went sailing over it the second. She was all smiles after that and said that her life was complete. She pretty much stayed on a high for the rest of the clinic.

On another note I go into see the hand specialist tomorrow about my fractured finger. As long as all the ligaments are still attached it's all good, no surgery. Then it's just 6 weeks for the bone to heal. If everything is good tomorrow I'm going to see if riding is at all do-able on Tues., and if so am going to plan on the derby this weekend. I'll have to figure out how to hold the reins with no ring finger.

Can you tell which one it is?

OH, and guess what came in the mail? A THIRD PLACE RIBBON! From our dressage test. Baby got third! His first ribbon. Hangin' on the wall.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

broken finger

Jasper's fraid of tarps.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Alexandre turns 17 today!

I had returned from my overseas teaching job, my mare Mindy was happily being a show horse with Pam and her daughter Jackie, and I was living below minimum wage substitute teaching. One day Pam called me up and said she'd bought a horse for herself, a 7-year-old half Friesian (back when no one knew what Friesians were) half Standardbred gelding advertised as a second-level dressage horse. She had gone out to look at him and found him skinny (along with all their other horses) but looked like he had potential, and for $2,000 the saddle and bridle came with. The elderly couple that had him wanted to use him for driving, but he scared them. Did I want to come with her to pick him up?

He was gigantic. He hopped right into the trailer no problem. We got him back to her house and he pulled us along the driveway, thankfully towards the round pen.

Would I like to work with him? Well sure I would. Second level dressage my ass. He was scared of being saddled. Wouldn't let you bridle him. He knew how to trot as fast as he could... no brakes or steering. He was (and still is) like riding a tank. A wet-noodle tank. He could trot in a straight line with his head pulled to your knee.

This picture makes me sad- it's like he had no soul.

He was a bit of a handful on the ground. After he ran Pam over when she was feeding him and she cut her head open, she decided to sell him. By this time I liked him, he was challenging. He really had no personality. I wanted to find out who he was. I boarded him at a place with an indoor arena for a month. He trotted as fast as he could around the arena. Would walk sometimes. Flat out refused to canter. Learned how to turn a little better, stopping still needed a lot of work. He was food aggressive and bent a steel panel in half when another horse looked at him while he was eating.

I found an ad in the newspaper that was advertising pasture boarding for $85/month. It was what I could afford, and Alexandre got moved to Elk, Washington. When given a choice, he was terrified of people. Herb and Julie would go out with a bucket of grain and sit on an old tire. Al would slowly advance, grab a mouthfull of grain, and quickly retreat. He didn't have confidence in people or himself. He also refused to canter in the pasture. When all of his herdmates took off galloping, he would get further and further behind trotting for all he was worth. It was like his mom (Standardbred ex-race horse) told him to trot fast, but never, never, never canter.

I started trail riding. A lot. Almost every day even though it was a long drive out there. There was no arenas or round pens and it seemed like a good option. Sometimes we'd be gone for 7 hours at a time. He worried a lot lot lot but wasn't a spooker. Had the endurance of an Arab, I swear he NEVER got tired or slowed down. To this day I don't think he's gotten worn out. He's never been barn sour, after a 7 hour ride he'd happily turn around and go right back out. He started getting a personality. I would arrive at the farm, he would see me and run to the far corner of the 50 acre pasture. I would walk all the way across towards him. When I got within 20 feet he walked right up to me, happy as can be. He did this for weeks. He thought he was sooooooo funny.

The farm was good for him, look at the difference...

Trail riding with my friend Kara

Top of a mountain

I decided maybe lessons might be a good idea, since other than the trails I really didn't have much control. My instructor agreed. My lessons were her hanging on for all she was worth to the end of the lunge line and me riding and trying to slow down. We figured between the two of us we should be able to control either his speed or direction. I would always try to go for a reallllly long trail ride the day before our lessons. It really didn't seem to make any difference. I tried to talk her into a stronger bit, maybe with some leverage. Nope.

Needing a summer job, I applied to lead trail rides with Mule Shoe Outfitters at Glacier National Park. I could take Alexandre with me, and food and board was included in our whopping $600/mo salary.

Alexandre sees the bear, do you?

Alexandre and I at Glacier

We lead strings of 20+ horses over this bridge every day.

The all-day ride to Cracker Lake. Right after I snapped this shot Al realized he was free took off down the shoreline. Luckily he didn't run the 3 hours back home.

Glacier was good for us in a way. We spent a lot of time together. The people that own Mule Shoe are horrible people and treat their staff like complete idiots. Plus we worked from 4:30am to 7pm 6 days a week. I was really thankful I got the experience to live in this amazing place. I was seriously done by the end of the season and knew I'd never go back.

Alexandre moved back to the farm in Elk and we continued lessons. Here I took him to a little schooling show where we did a walk-trot dressage test and a course of cross rails. It was a complete success as he stayed in the dressage arena the whole time. Dressage judges love him and forgive a lot of mistakes due to his extreme forwardness. :)

'Jumping' was of no concern. He'd go over anything in front of him. Logs on trails, anything. He scizzor kicked in the front, and then scizzor kicked in the rear to get over the low stuff. Even my mom could tell he jumped 'funny'. Anything under 2' and it had a 50/50 chance of staying upright.

A summer job opportunity came up in Eugene, Oregon. I could mow baseball fields for a friend of mine. Alexandre and I moved that spring, and he lived in a barn at the base of Mt. Pisgah. We ended up staying there for over a year.
This is where I met my friend Terri and her horse Lucky. My friend Brian on one of the barn's horses, Terri on Lucky, and me on Alexandre on our way to the top of Mt. Pisgah in the fall.

Quite a view from the top.

Terri crossing the river.

Terri and I ogranized a play day at the barn. A baggie of horse cookies were the first place prizes. We thought 4 or 5 people would show up. Then the horse tailers started rolling in... We're the 2 nerds in the back with our arms in the air. Alexandre, all on his own, did FLYING LEAD CHANGES down the pole bending poles and we got 3rd place! Terri was yelling "HE'S DOING FLYING CHANGES! HE'S DOING FLYING CHANGES!" the whole time. This from a horse that couldn't keep a balanced canter down the long side.

Terri and I went to watch the Inavale Horse Trials in Philomath. It was the first sanctioned event I'd ever been to. We were completely, totally hooked. We came home and lunged our horses over barrels.

Started jumping higher. Alexandre never refused a jump. Just point him and he'd go.

There was a mini-cross country course at the barn.

Terri found a young, scraggly chestnut OTTB named Jeddidiah. He had eventing potential and is now gorgeous. Terri was able to follow our eventing dreams and Jed is going Novice/Training. She has competed at Inavale, a lifetime goal of mine.

Alexandre and Jed at Christmas

Alexandre went lame. Like dead lame. The vet couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong, but he was stall rested for 30 days, then walked... and eventually he got better. We built up very gradually to riding 5 minutes a day, then 10, then 15...

Alexandre on the Oregon coast. This was one of my favorite days.

Eventually he was back to 100% and we continued our jumping training. Then he went lame again. Same mysterious lameness, the X-rays and ultrasounds didn't show anything. More rest, more walking...

And then in pure financial desperation I moved back closer to home. I couldn't find a job for the year I was in Eugene after the mowing job ended, and subbing was not paying the bills. Al got moved to the prestigious Post Falls Equestrian Center, and I lived in the trailer on the property. I cleaned stalls, fed, and did horse massage to pay board and housing, and substitute taught to buy gas, food, and lessons for myself.

Al was doing great, we were jumping 2'6 courses with ease and competed in a couple of shows. He went lame again. It was the jumping. I think it's in his shoulder, and that's why it never showed up anywhere. He was rested again, and eventually came back. He'll never be asked to jump again. He's got the heart for it, but not the build. I think it hurts him. I was crushed, but didn't want him to know. He became (and still is) my trail horse extrordinaire.

Who's da bomb?

Fast forward many years, and he is with me at the boy's ranch where I now work. Sometimes we go to a schooling show or two, but what he really loves is being out on the trails.

Even though he is sentitive and a worrier, I completely trust him. I can hop on bareback and ride through the fields with a halter and lead rope. He will always go, no matter what, no matter where, if I'm riding him. If I open the gate to the saddling area, he's the first one in.

Sometimes I look at him in awe. He's just a gorgeous, magical, amazing animal. He is the horse in my avatar and the eye picture at the top of this page. I bet I've been asked at least a gazillion times what kind of horse he is. Yet he doesn't like to be called pretty, or beautiful, or handsome. He wants to be known as smart. Intelligent.

So, Alexandre, my incredibly smart and intelligent partner, Happy Birthday! I love you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

video- Jasper's first jumps!

I sent my entry in for the Deep Creek Derby on June 6th in Medical Lake. We're doing the Rockhopper division, which consists of USDF Intro Test A, and a course of 12" jumps on the cross country course including water. I get to have a lead rider. :)

Today I set up some cross rails to see what he would do. Here he is:

He was forward and willing, but didn't rush. He didn't seem to worried about it. I didn't do anything but stay still and grab mane in case he leaped. Um... this was pretty fun.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Dressage Test- Video

I was sooo lucky to have one of the boys from the ranch come with us to this show. He helped out a lot, took all the pictures, and this video. It's not high quality but it's still fun! I think he looks *quite* elegant. 6's and 7's on everything, he did better going to the right. 5 on the non-existent free walk.

ETA: We got our test and a THIRD PLACE RIBBON in the mail!!!!!!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009


64%! Woot woot!

Warming up

Baby Jasper's first show today. It was a beautiful, sunny day and he did a beautiful, flowing test. We free lunged in the round pen. We rode in the outdoor warmup. We rode in the indoor warmup. We rode all around the grounds- he was much much better if he was moving. When it was our turn to enter the arena, he walked right by the judge's trailer and at the other end of the arena only gave the mares and babies a second look. Intro test B, all 6's and 7's, and a 5 for the free walk. He was so good in the warm-up, I would have been happy to load him up and go home. The test was the cherry on top.

Oh it wasn't all perfect. He got off the trailer and couldn't stand still. He trotted circles around me on the end of his lead rope for 10 minutes or more. BUT he wasn't crazy-lost-my-brain-trying-to-pull-the-rope-out-of-your-hands, he just trotted and trotted. I walked him for about 40 minutes. We walked everywhere. He walked on top of me and got in trouble. Often. When it was time to get saddled I tied him to the trailer. He can buck in place. He leaps up and kicks out behind. While tied. And he paws. Pawing-bucking-pawing-bucking. He hated being tied to the trailer. He pulled back so hard he stretched out my nice leather halter so bad it no longer fits him. He pulled back again so hard he stretched the metal ring the rope was tied to. The third time the knot was so tight I thought I was going to have to leave it there and cut it off when we got home. There were a few riding "baby" moments. I thought he was going to explode once, but he didn't.

Once we got moving- once I got on and we got to go somewhere- he settled right in. He listened, didn't spook too much, didn't rush, didn't pull. He was trying really hard.

*Snort* Who is that boy with the camera sitting in the grass?

First time in an indoor arena. No sweat!

When I got off after my test, he stood still for the first time. I quickly took advantage and started pulling his braids out while also trying to watch my friend Janaira's ride, which was right after mine (it was beatiful- she's got quite the young dressage horse there). And then when we went back to the trailer he wanted to eat grass for the first time. The little guy finally got worn out. My skinny chewed-up not-even-4-year-old-yet OTTB that I've had for 6 weeks wearing a crappy old Wintec all-purpose saddle was a rock star. Janaira's filly was awesome. Krystle is officially a member of WSU's dressage team, she got off the trailer and settled right in with their horses.

We left before the class was placed, but I'm pretty sure we're not in the ribbons. There were 8-10 people in the class, they place to 5th, and I'm sure at least half of them got over 64%.

I'm tired, but not drained. I'm tired, but not frustrated. I'm tired, but don't feel like I went through a battle today. This showing thing might turn out to actually be fun...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ride Times

I just got my ride time for Saturday's dressage show and got really nervous. All those "what ifs" coming to the surface, along with all the second guessings (I've only had him 6 weeks! He's not even 4-years-old yet, not until June 4th! He's an OTTB! Am I pushing it?)

We're going into Intro B at 11:42.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Poker Ride

Fishtrap Lake is about 30 miles west of Spokane, and every year the Inland Empire Back Country Horsemen put on a Poker Ride. Today was my second time doing it. It's made up of 2 loops, on the first loop (which is 3-4 hours long) you get off your horse at stations and "play" games to earn cards towards your poker hand. The second loop is optional, and we did it- it's another 2 hours or so but you get to go by (in!) a lake and by a waterfall. The second loop is less rocky and there are some really nice places to trot and canter. Whoever has the best (and worst) hands at the end wins. There are hundreds of people on this ride, but I think I may be in the running for worst hand.

Hershey/Alexandre and Junior/Rooster

Junior bringing up the rear.

I rode my horse Alexandre, and Anke (another staff member at the ranch) rode her favorite horse Hershey. We brought the 2 boys from the ranch who have ridden the most this year. 3 of the horses we brought are huge- 16.2h and over... and then we brought the snotty pony Junior. We called ourselves "Team Lowrider".

Technically everything went pretty well. At lunch one of the boys let his horse step on and break a rein that was a pretty easy fix. Hershey's saddle kept slipping sideways when Anke got on and he got away from her once, bucking across the parking lot as her lunch flew out of the saddlebags. Everyone stayed on.

One of the boys did OK. The other absolutely loved every minute of it and said it was the best day of his life. We are all sunburned, tired, and sore sore sore. My numb knees are just starting to get the feeling back in them. I love the ride but it is a bit stressful for me as I'm ultimately responsible for everyone, plus all the other horses/riders that we come within a short distance of. The boys can stay on but are still very much beginners, and a few lessons in trail etiquette were learned today.

End of the trail.

Friday, May 8, 2009

*Gulp* Sent the entry in for our first show...

I sent the entry in today, Jasper and I are going to a little dressage show next Saturday! Not so much to be competitive, I'm pretty sure you have to be able to *turn* to be competitive, (even at Intro level) but for the experience. It's a very nice place that has an indoor arena to warm up in. He's never been in an indoor. Plus I'm picking up my friend and her filly- it's their first show too, which will be fun and will probably include some drama.

We had a great ride today! Jasper is quite balanced for a horse that's not even 4 yet. Practiced circles and serpentines and... dun dun dun... trot poles! It took a while for him to get the hang of it, but after some swerving and halting and confusion it clicked and he trotted over 4 in a row.

Then we went on a second ride later on, a trail ride behind another horse, and went through the swampy area. He wanted to refuse to go in it, but by the time he realized there was water under all the grass he was already standing in it. My legs were clamped on, one hand grabbing mane waiting for the bolt or swerve or... and he pretty much just walked through it to the other side.

On another note I'm taking Alexandre (my big guy) to a Poker Ride tomorrow. One of the other staff members at the ranch is coming, and we're taking 2 boys. The boys have been warned to be on their best behavior as there are hundreds of people on this ride. They are not allowed to have the usual middle-school conversations about butts and farting. They are both very excited and helped me hook up the trailer and load up all the stuff. At 7:30am we'll load up the horses and head out to Fishtrap Lake, which is about 30 miles west of Spokane. There are 2 loops, the first loop is where you get all of your poker cards. I think it takes 3 or 4 hours. There is an optional second loop which includes a lake and waterfalls, but it makes it a realllllly long ride, we'll see how everyone's bums and knees are doing after the first loop. Will post some pictures!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The first solo ride

First of all I've gotta say that all the sudden Jasper is giving to pressure on the bit. Not steadily, he still sticks his head up and braces, but eventually comes back down. We've really been working on outside rein as steering him is like trying to steer a wet noodle. Today for some reason he stayed on the bit nicely, and we even had 2 walk-trot transitions where he didn't throw his head up. I was floored. They were better transitions than my 16-year-old has ever done. So floored that I rode all of 10 minutes in the arena and decided to end on a good note.

The 100+ acre hay field was calling. He's been out in it once last week with an old campaigner, a buddy, and did great. He had to cross a narrow ditch with running water, so I got off and led him over it right behind the other horse. He eventually went, leaping over and landing on me.

Today there were no other horses. After the stellar time in the arena, I took a deep breath and we headed out. I don't know what he does if he "freaks out".

His little tail was swishing back and forth about as fast as it could, but he walked. It's a long gradual downhill from the arena to the ditch, then a gradual uphill on the other side. We got to the ditch with the rushing water in it and he got nervous. I never even kicked. Just kept his head pointed at it and he worked himself up, which was walking up and down it and at one point he grunted, stomped the ground, swished his tail, and shook his head. I didn't want to get in a battle over this. I want him to think ditches are no big deal, especially when they're part of a cross country course. I got off and led him over. Again and again and again, until he was just stepping over it and not leaping. I got back on on the other side, made a small loop, and asked him to walk over it headed back towards the barn. I was leaning forward and had a death grip on the saddle horn as he calmly stepped over it and continued walking.

He was pretty excited to be headed home, but listened nicely when I asked him to walk and not trot. We went back in the arena just so he knows going home doesn't mean the work is over. Worked on moving to leg pressure and got 2 somewhat decent half-turns on the forehand.

I am really happy to be working with this horse.