Monday, August 31, 2009

Position, position, position

I had my first dressage lesson in 4 years today- yay! I need to record a tape that says over and over, "left hand UP, left shoulder UP". And to shorten my left rein. How did this happen? I suppose when you're just riding by feel rather than... correctly things happen you don't notice. When my left hand was in the correct position it felt really wrong which tells you how bad it was.

Denise said Jasper's ready to have more contact. Once I get him supple over the back and truly connected then we will work on long and low. He had some very good moments (fleeting moments but moments). He was trying hard to figure out what to do with himself... put my head up? No. Put my head down? No. Put my chin way back here? No. Slow down and go sideways? No. Forward forward forward. Straight straight straight. Supple Supple. She said it was okay for baby green horses to go behind the vertical for a second as long as they are in front of the aids. I don't take up the extra rein this creates, just stay still and squeeze forward. I got scolded for not putting him on the lunge line with side or draw reins for the first part of his training. I don't know. It might mean that he's further along than he is now, but I'm still not so sure I'm a fan of lunging.

Jasper was a very very good boy. Other than the trailering and standing tied to the trailer. He was great in the big indoor arena and went right by the open doors, mirrors, and windows. We got complimented on being able to do good circles. Heh. Denise really liked him and asked if he could jump (she used to event). I told her I have yet find out but that he jumped out of his 4'7 pen. She said I should bring him up and freejump him sometime- wouldn't THAT be a hoot!! She said that his neck comes out of his shoulder very nicely for a TB. She agreed that he has a good mind and told me he's "a keeper".

Karlin and Porsche had a great lesson too. That little palomino mare has an amazing mind. Her 3rd time off ranch and 1st time in an indoor arena. She walked, trotted, and cantered around like she'd done it her whole life. Denise commented on what a nice mover she is (especially for a QH) and couldn't believe how brave and willing she was.

We're signed up for the Hunter/Jumper show this Sunday...! I'm doing an 18" class and the 2' division. I'm planning on trotting him into everything and letting him canter the combinations (if he will). It will be the first time he's ever seen a full stadium course... the first time for panels, flowers, colors, etc. I will be ready to grab mane. If he overjumps these jumps as much as the grounpoles we're going into orbit. Karlin and Porsche are coming too- they're going to do the trot pole division. Fun!

Monday, August 24, 2009

3...2...1... OMG he's standing STILL

I got to the ranch today and we moved hay. Then one of the boys asked if we could go for an off-ranch trail ride. I mean, we just got back from our camping trip on Thursday... but why not? The boys only have 3 days until school starts so we might as well take advantage of it.

Karlin (who's been training our young QH mare Porsche) was up for bringing her baby. One of the boys agreed to give my Alexandre a try- the first time a kid has taken him on a long trail ride. Now that I'm riding Jasper so much Al gets left out. He does pretty well with beginners as long as we put a big thick saddle pad on with a western or aussie saddle and his rider lets the reins out and rides on the buckle. He is naturally a little nervous and high strung and gets very worried when he can 'feel' people off balance. The more saddle/pad thickness between the rider and him the better. The other boy agreed to ride Rooster for the first time since his horse has cinch sores and the other horse he likes to ride threw a shoe. Rooster is a ginormous 16.2h Appendix gelding that is as wide as he is tall. The boy is 12 and weighs about as much as a wet blanket.

The horses loaded up well. I should say- Porsche and Jasper loaded up well. (The other 2 always load up well). Not much hesitation at all.

We got there and low and behold, I managed to park in almost exactly the same spot as last time. Jasper's hole-to-China that he had dug tied to the trailer was still there. Should I mention here that the last time we were there was a month or two ago? I sighed and hooked him up to his Tie Blocker ring. Then I went to the other side of the trailer to help the boys. But wait... where were the pawing sounds? Where were the sounds of a horse pacing pacing pacing back and forth? The sounds of the Tie Blocker clanking against the trailer?

I snuck to the corner and peeked around. He was STANDING. Alert, but standing. I held my breath, afraid that if I moved the spell would be broken. He saw me. He shifted position. And settled down again.

He likes to stand with his left hind touching the trailer. Then he gets mad beacuse something is touching his leg. He pins his ears back and lifts his leg up. Puts it back down. Repeat. I can see how this could end up being a very bad thing.

The ride was great. The highlights were seeing a hawk and a MOOSE!!! It was HUGE! Luckily it was way across the pond/lake and the horses didn't even notice. I had no idea moose lived anywhere near here.

Jasper got aggravated about halfway through the ride and started kicking out with his right hind. That lasted on and off for most of the rest of the ride which was kind of annoying. There was nothing wrong with his leg as far as I could tell. He also started flipping his head and neck up and down which was also annoying. I'm chalking it up to baby-ness.

Oh, the best part! There was a downed tree on the side of the trail. It was "hanging"... propped up on both ends. I'd say it was between 2'3-2'6. Definitely the highest thing we've ever jumped. Jumping doesn't seem to be a problem for him, trotted slowly up to it and hopped over. On the way back I took the same trail so we could do it on the way back too.

I officially signed up for a dressage lesson next Monday with a great trainer in Post Falls, Idaho. It will be my first lesson on Jasper and my first lesson since before I started working at the ranch over 3.5 years ago. I'm also considering taking him to a H/J schooling show the weekend after that. We can do the 18" classes, or the 2'. Or maybe even the 2'3? Maybe the 2'. He's never seen a full course before. And THEN, the next weekend, there are jumping clinics at Tulip Springs Eventing in Kennewick, WA- about a 3 hour drive. Saturday is a showjumping clinic, Sun. is a H/J schooling show with baby classes, and on Monday there is a Cross Country jumping clinic with an Olympian. Seriously thinking about that one. Too much fun!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I ride horses. My brother does this...

And we thought EVENTING was nuts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(He's looking for a sponsor)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Didn't need that shovel after all...

No one got whacked on the back of the head or buried with a shovel over the last 4 days, so our 2009 Farragut camping trip was a success. All 6 boys had attitudes ranging from adequate to excellent, and all had better behavior than they do at the ranch. One little guy in particular just seems to melt into nature. He's at one in the forest and is a fish in the lake- gets in and doesn't get out until we leave. Nature therapy at it's finest.

The Horse Hilton:

The four corrals at Thimbleberry group camp site, each horse got their own. You have to haul water to them. We just brought a hose and filled up buckets while they were in back of the truck and drove the buckets to the corrals. This ended up being one of the favorite chores as sometimes the boys were allowed to drive the truck. Sometimes we had to make quite a few trips when the brakes were hit aggressively and all the water sloshed out of the buckets.

The horses were all very good as well. Their behavior was not better than at the ranch- they were a little hyped up being away from home and had a few issues with being patient. But then again, they carried beginner riders for miles and miles and hours and hours up and down hills, walking, trotting, and cantering... so I can't complain. I think they're exhausted and are happy to be home relaxing.

This was Jaspers's expression for... oh pretty much the first three days.

One of the boys finds the Snotty Pony's itchy spot.

Farragut State Park is a great place to ride. You're either in open fields or in forest. Some of the forest the deep, dark woods- it's really cool to come out of a hot dry rocky meadow and enter the deep dark woods where the temperature drops 15 degrees and the dirt is moist under the horse's feet. There are some really nice long sections of trail that are hard packed dirt and perfect for a nice canter. I was really lucky to have 3 advanced beginners with me on this trip- so we were able to trot and canter a lot! FUN!!!

I would take 3 boys horseback riding while Anke took 3 boys mountain bike riding. We would wait for the other group at intersections on the trail, and in this case at the top of hills. I believe I'm telling the boys to get their bikes off of the trail as the horses behind me are cantering up it...

Jasper was stellar. He walked on the buckle. (He walked fast, mind you- usually in front and usually quite a bit ahead of everyone else. But walking). I believe that on trails if you horse is walking on the buckle you let them walk as fast as they want. If you need to circle to let others catch up, fine- but I don't try to rate the speed of the walk. He also trotted in front and behind another horse. In front he had a very nice medium trot he did all on his own, and behind another horse I was able to rate his speed with a very light touch. He got a little stronger at the canter, but again was easily rate-able, and hey- this is a baby horse! He's just learning how to do all this stuff!

There's a great big field in the middle of camp. On our first day Jasper was still so revved up after the trail ride we cantered loops around the field just to blow off some steam.

Having said that, he was a complete spazz when we needed to stop. Backed into trees, sidepassed off ravines, threw baby tantrums. I know what we need to work on before we go out in a group again. It wasn't just riding though, he never stopped moving when tied to the trailer and danced in circles when being lead.

This trip really reinforced that I made a good decision to let Ellie go. (She was a neurotic mare I was working with, convinced I could "fix" her, and then realized no matter how much she improved she would never lose the neurotic-ness and would never be happy doing something like eventing). I had her on this trip last year. She was 6. She was nuts and absolutely terrified of everything. Ride every stride. Prepare for a giant spook at every step. Jasper, at barely 4, was amazing compared to her. He was... well... fun!

After riding/riding in the morning, we'd have lunch and head down to the lake for the afternoon.

Lake Pend Oreille. (Pon-duh-ray). It's so deep they do submarine testing here.

Then we'd come back to camp and go for another trail ride and do an obstacle course in the field. The boys set it up this year- it consisted of going over a stick on 2 buckets with a towel over it, then around 2 inner tubes, over a log, serpentine 3 stumps, through a narrow "bridge" of 2 branches, and do a 360 in a box of tree branches.

Karlin, our volunteer who is training our young QH mare came up for the first 2 days and took Jasper around the obstacle course. Here is the first obstacle. Not sure how he got in this pose even though I watched it.

Jasper and the obstacle course.

Rooster and the obstacle course.

The last day. Hershey gets a pat and a kind word as he waits for the Snotty Pony, who was being ridden bareback because he got girth sores on the marathon 3.5 hour ride the day before. The boy who was riding the Snotty Pony wasn't excited about trotting to keep up, which is what the Snotty Pony has to do pretty much constantly with the gigantic 16.2h+ horses he was with.

We headed out early as it got HOT today and I didn't want the horses to be in the trailer for an hour and a half in blazing heat. The big pile of camping junk in the middle of my floor is giving off an odor of campfire smoke, which is kind of nice. And an excuse to just leave it there for ...a while, right?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Horse camping with teenage boys...

Tomorrow I pack up bicycles, camping gear and enough food for 8 people for 4 days, 4 horses, 7 saddles (some boys like to ride western and some english), hay, supplements, 6 teenage boys, and a shovel in case I have to bury somebody.

Baby Jasper is going on his first overnight camping trip and he is sooooooooooo excited.

We're going to Farragut State Park which is on Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho. There are miles and miles of trails to ride on, corrals for the horses, and a huge camping area for the boys next to no one. This is my 4th year making this trip with Anke (another staff member) and we're both pretty excited to go. We've got the basic routine down. Our goal is to keep the boys active all day so they're completely exhausted at night. They're either riding horses or bikes, or swimming, or playing ball, or...

This weekend I have been fighting off the flu. I have taken every natural immune boosting supplement known to mankind. I can still feel it in my skin, but it's not full-blown yet. Wish me luck.

Pictures when we get back, of the horses and the park anyway!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bits... damn bits! part 2

HA! Had the camera ready today. I switched back to the Myler because I don't know if I'm going to keep the $130 bit. I took off the drop noseband just to see what would happen. I'm taking boys from where I work horse camping next week and I don't want Jasper to have to have his mouth tied shut while we're out on the trails for hours.

He actually went around the same as he does with the noseband. He felt the same, anyway- who knows what his tongue was doing out of my sight. Our session was cut a bit short as Junior the Snotty Pony fake-spooked and crowhopped and the boy riding him fell off.

THIS is what I'm dealing with:

(Where does he put it all?)

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO, the bit is not hanging 2" below where it should be. He's just such a contortionist with his mouth it can do amazing things. See?

And handsome Alexandre gets a bath.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Bits... damn bits!

So I've been having bit issues with Jasper since I got him in early April. Mainly that he sticks his tongue over the bit and leaves it there. He has a small mouth, very low, flat palate and a huge tongue. When I put a bit in his mouth and get him to stick his tongue under it, his tongue is so thick and his palate is so low the bit sits crammed into his palate by his tongue. He either sticks his tongue on top of it or sucks his tongue back so only the very tip is under the bit.

I've tried regular snaffles (bad), a regular KK (really bad, not sure why other than I think it was waaaaaay too think), 3-piece bits and, well, finally bought a Myler Loose Ring Comfort Snaffle because it was the thinnest bit I could find. That one has been the least bad so far but it's not great. " The Comfort Snaffle features allows the rider to isolate one side of the bit for bending, balancing, and lifting a shoulder. With a special "no-pinch" barrel and curved mouthpiece that applies firm pressure—not pain—on the tongue"
He seems to go OK in it other than his tongue is over it the whole time and every now and then he has these 'freak out' moments where he throws his head down and violently shakes it. It's like he gets pinched or something, although I can't figure out how this bit could possibly pinch. His tongue really does jam it into the roof of his mouth though (when I force it under) and the middle piece looks like it pokes him, especially on the corners.

At Rebecca Farms a great dressage trainer suggested the Sprenger Dynamic RS Loose Ring Snaffle:
It's the newest version of the Sprenger KK. The 'bean' in the middle is turned 45 degrees and the bars are arched. It's supposed to form to the shape of the horse's mouth relieving pressure points and sitting nicely on the tongue. She said she had a horse with the same mouth problems as Jasper and this bit was a miracle. And the cost? $117 plus shipping, of course. Gaaaak!!!

I bought it with some money I earned working overtime. I tried it today. He seemed to go just fine in it, he's had a week off so I didn't push real hard, but he seemed pretty soft. I was excited and got off to see what was going on inside his mouth... and that darn tongue was sitting on top of it as usual.

I've decided I need to teach him how to hold his tongue under the bit. Right? Don't I? I tried the rubber bit port:
This is wrapped around the center of the bit and the depressor is supposed to hold the tongue down. Jasper got his tongue over it, shoved it to the side of his mouth, and chewed it up.

I can try tying his tongue down which I'm a little nervous to do. I've never seen it done and I would hate to do it wrong, or get it too tight.

My other options (as far as I can tell) are these 2 bits, the Tongue Bit:
Or the Spoon Bit:

I like them because they're 3 pieces. I'm not crazy about either of them just because they are pretty thick in comparison to what I've been using. Plus they're not legal for dressage... but my goal would be to teach him to go with his tongue under the bit and then switch back to the Sprenger Ultra.

My last choice is to start riding in a hackamore...

Any suggestions?