Hijacked!

Hi everyone, it’s Ike.  I have hijacked Mom’s blog for the day, so that I can get a few words out there for everyone to read.  Mom tells me all the time that she is so very happy that I am part of the family.  I think she means it, especially after what Cigar tells me what he used to do to her.  I really do try to listen and do what she wants.

The trip from Florida to Virginia last year took two days, but I had a traveling companion who was headed to New Jersey to keep me company.  We traveled at night because it was August and it was hot during the day.  We stopped in North Carolina to stretch our legs and get some rest before the final leg to my new home.  My home is a very nice farm in rural Virginia.  Besides my best buddy Lady and brother Cigar, there are 5 other horses that live with me.  Most of them are nice enough, but this one chestnut mare makes mean faces at me every time I walk by her stall.  Don’t know what I did to make her dislike me so much!!

I’m still not sure I like the cold winters in Virginia.  That funny white stuff on the ground was certainly odd.  I tried to run fast and hover above the stuff, but as soon as I’d stop, it would touch my feet again.  Everyone tells me that I should see what it is like with a lot of the white stuff on the ground.  No thanks.  I will make Mom take me back to Florida for the winter if that is the case.  After all, I do have a cool new trailer to ride in now and hopefully by next winter Mom will know how to park the truck so she doesn’t tear the side mirror off.  Ha ha.  I’m still not telling what the nice gentleman whispered in my ear that got me over my fear of the trailer.

Ms. C and Mr. D take good care of me.  I always get extra goodies in my feed bucket and a pat or neck rub when they come to the barn.  They have the most delicious hay; Ms. C is very particular about what she buys.  I think it is because she likes me so much that she only wants the best for me and the others.

Mom tells me that we are leaving the farm again this weekend to go to another dressage show.  The last one was fine.  The horses in the barn area made me very nervous with all their neighing.  Thank goodness Ms. C was there to help me since Mom was too nervous.  Mom likes the ribbons we received.  I’m not so impressed since I can’t eat them.  The coolest part was that I had my very own cheering section telling me what a good job I did.  I hope they come see me again.

I was a good boy under saddle today.  Got over my weekend funk.  I’m entitled to a bad day every now and then right?  I really like to canter, but Mom made me work on my trot today.  She says we are going for an 8 for our trot work.  Don’t know what that means except that I won’t be cantering.  Bummer.

Cigar tells me that the dogs have a pending lawsuit against her for crimes against canines (something to do with not enough treats being dispensed and the fact that they are expected to sleep on dog beds rather than her bed) and that they are waiting for the SPCA or The Humane Society to help their cause.  I have to say that I’m pretty happy with my life in Virginia, and at this point, do not see the need to put my name on any legal paperwork….yet.

I’ll borrow the computer again soon.   Ike

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Time-Efficient Braiding

What great weather day to end the month – can’t believe 5 months of 2012 are already behind us.  Ike and I are quickly closing in on our first anniversary.  Time flies when you are having fun, and isn’t that what riding is supposed to be about?  Fun?!  Looks to be a nice weekend as well for all horse related activities – high 70’s and lower humidity.  Going to the Strawberry Hill races at Colonial Downs Racetrack (http://www.colonialdowns.com/) to tailgate and bet on the ponies on Saturday.  The dressage schooling show is on Sunday at a nice farm 30 minutes from the farm.  Probably, no certainly, I am glad that it is just a schooling show which means I don’t have to braid if I don’t want to or if I don’t have the time.

And I must come clean, my braiding skills are not the best.  Yes I can take three pieces and plait them together and stick a rubber band on the end, but as for sewing in braids.  Forget about it.  Yes, I know there are purists out there who swear they can braid a mane in 20 minutes using traditional methods.  I have never been one of them.  I tried and failed miserably.   I am now well known for my “cheater braids” as my friend Amy dubbed them years ago.  I call it being efficient with my time, after all, I am not competing at Devon or Gladstone.  I promise that if we ever qualify for the Region 1 GAIGs or the BLMs, I will pay someone to braid Ike’s mane for the championship class (Girl Scouts’ honor).  For now, I will continue my time-efficient method.  Would you like to know my secret?  I call it Hairdini for Horses, but Dressage Extensions sells them as Easyplait Braiders.  (http://www.dressageextensions.com/ProductDetail.asp?KEY=14985)  They don’t actually require any braiding for them to work – there is a hole in the middle of the “velvet” covered wire.  You stick the mane through the hole, squeeze, and roll it up like you are putting in a curler.  You then bend one end over the other and TA-DA!  A button braid!  The photo below is Ike showing off our “braids” the day before the April show…we did a test run with the braids and bridle number.

 And here we are at the show…

Just squint a bit and you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Since you have made it this far in the post, here is my helpful hint that helps the Easyplaits stay in place better – spray a section of mane with Quick Braid, braid the mane and rubber band it with two rubber bands.  I usually do this step the day before the show and leave them in overnight.  The next morning at the butt crack of dawn, all you need do is stick the end of the braid through the holdein the Easyplait and roll it up.   You are now ready to head down centerline!

Back in the saddle tomorrow.

More than just Walk, Trot, and Canter

When shopping for a horse, we all spend time looking at the quality of the horse’s gaits.  Does the walk have a clear four beat rhythm?  Does the horse track up at the trot?  Is there range in each of the gaits?  Can I ride each of the gaits including sitting the trot?  (I could not even find a decent rising trot on one horse I rode when looking…I knew I’d never be able to sit that trot.)  Ike has rideable gaits and I’m finding that the trot is very comfortable to sit now that he has the beginnings of a topline.  But, I have discovered that there are additional movements within each of the gaits that are like finding an extra prize in the cereal box.  Ike’s gaits also include:

Crab Walk – Usually seen on centerline when we are supposed to be absolutely straight.  The body is held in a crescent shape as we attempt to stay on centerline.  Ike’s brother perfected this walk and added the tail swish and boot biting options for extra flair.  Advanced horses will also perform this at the trot while biting the rider’s boot (note: judges are not impressed.)

Hunchback Walk – a stilted walk with the back held very tightly, the croup high and tail raised.  This walk typically precedes a 20 pound poo.

Stiff as a Board Walk – not to be confused with the preteen sleepover game of Light as a feather, Stiff as a board.  This walk comes out when Ike decides he does not want to work and listen to my leg, seat, hands, or voice.  Usually accompanied by jerking of the reins from my hands.

Scooby Doo Scramble – can be performed at the trot or canter.  Legs are swiftly moving, but there is no forward motion.

Race Horse Jig – a rudimentary attempt at a collected trot.  To date only seen at the one horse show Ike’s attended.

Giraffe Trot – Fairly rhythmic trot, but neck is stretched long and tall, and attention is given to something invisible on the horizon.

Eventer Gallop – never experienced under saddle, but the boy can cover his paddock in about three strides…talk about a lengthening.

Great Dane Canter – All four legs are moving in an attempt at a three beat motion, but there is no communication between the legs that splay in any and all directions.  Not sure what the usefulness of this canter is except in auditioning for the role of Marmaduke’s big brother.

I doubt any of these gaits will make it into any textbook, but I know they are real.  Productive ride today.  Ike was back to his normal, willing self,  Practiced Intro B and Intro C for Sunday (reminder!!!  Intro C, final halt at G.  I’d better not mess that up again.)  Ike was a star with the trailer…let us hope Sunday goes as well.

Redemption

So the big man redeemed himself today after his day of crankiness yesterday.  He was definitely more pleasant to groom and to tack.  No ear pinning or tail swatting.  He even stood peacefully for the dousing with fly spray…the green heads made an early appearance this morning.  Ms. C and I did an extra lesson so that Ike would really have to work and she would be there to help me through any residual crabby ‘tude.  Was he perfect – heck no, but he put forth a better effort.

If you look at my arms, you can see me straining.  He was very heavy in my hands today and it took all my strength to put the lankiness into a presentable frame.  We spent most of the hour trotting, and I spent most of the ride half halting to keep his attention.  Straight lines, big circles, little circles, centerline turns all at the trot.  Maintain that rhythm and tempo.  Don’t let Ike flatten out.  Half Halt, again, and again.  I even had to give him a couple of swift kicks when he tried to suck back.  That got his attention!  He tried to sneak into a canter, but I shut that down.  Today was about re-establishing our trot and listening to Mom.

Since Ike is still not 100% through, he sometimes gets a bit of a head waggle at the trot.  I put my knuckles down on his withers, squeeze my fingers, and try my best to get more thrust from behind.  Once he is honest, the waggle ceases.  I’ve found that as he gets stronger, I don’t see it happening as often.  Sigh, the responsibility falls to me to keep him working over his topline.  The hard work is paying off as I think I see his topline starting to fill out.  Hard work it is.  It was already in the mid-80’s this morning and I was dripping wet when we were done.  I think this counts as both a cardio and strength workout, right?

Enjoy the rest of your Memorial Day.  Remember to thank those that have served and are currently serving so that we may have the freedom to enjoy our leisure time.

Crabby Patty

We all deserve to have an off day every now and then and today was Ike’s day.  Can’t blame it on the heat because it was still in the 70s when I rode.  Can’t blame it on the green heads since they had not yet made a Sunday morning appearance.  Either Ike woke up on the wrong side of the stall or it was a heck of an equine Memorial Day party at the barn last night.  In either case, I had to try and work through the crankiness to call the day a success.  Even when I captured his attention in the photo below, I can see that he is just not himself, “Just take the picture and let’s get this done” it seems to say to me. There was ear pinning while I tightened the girth, hoof stomping as I applied fly spray, and then it was time to mount His Royal Cranky Pants.  When I’d pick up contact with the reins, Ike would quickly raise his nose and push with the lower neck muscles.  No, Ike, that is NOT an acceptable response, please try again.  Brace, yank, push, ear pinning.  Sigh, growing pains.  A four-year-old tantrum from the 1200 pound child.  Fun.  I never did achieve a true over-the-back connection today.  I recorded the first part of my ride (the camera shut itself off after about 8 minutes…I guess it couldn’t stand to record any more of the battle.)  From the video, things don’t look too awful, but boy did it feel awful while aboard HR Cranky Pants.  Once I edit the video, I will post so you can be part of the fun.  Lots of one rein flexes today and quick transitions in hopes of shutting down the yuck to get to a happy place.  Never really found it.

The one good note for the day:  Ike walked right on the trailer without hesitation.  Yes, it was the only good note.

Tomorrow is another day…

Cantering Fools

Was able to catch two rides in the past two days with one of them being a lesson. Don’t know what lit the fire under the big boy’s bottom, but he has been a cantering fool the past two rides even when not asked to canter. It is hard to complain too much because it is really becoming a balanced canter with a nice rocking horse motion. Ike is learning to use his back, engage the hind end, and lift the withers with each stride. Instead of four independently moving legs with a body and head attached, we have a cohesive unit with parts working together.  It has been months since my knee has been in danger of meeting the fence.

Ms. C noticed that his canter is better at the start of the lesson. She said that he still doesn’t have the strength and stamina of an older horse, so we work with him to get the most from what he can offer at this point in his development. We work on our canter transitions, circles, and stamina towards the beginning of the lesson and then move on to our stretch down trot work. It is evident that Ike doesn’t completely understand what I’m asking for in the stretch down trot. When I offered my hands forward, he snatched the reins, dropped his head and picked up speed. Half halt! Half halt! And he is still motoring along. HALF HALT! Oh, you were talking to me? Yes Ike, I was. And let me just say again that the people who wrote the dressage tests are evil geniuses. It used to be that the stretch down trot did not appear until Test 3…now, there it is looming in Test 1…and Test 2…and Test 3. Can’t escape it, so we will half halt our way around the circle and hope for the best until Ike develops a better understanding. My crystal ball predicts a 5 for our first attempt. I will let you know on June 17th what the actual score turns out to be. Hoping that the canter will be stronger than it was in April so that we don’t take the hit for the wrong lead, a wobbly circle, an unbalanced down transition, and in our collective submission score. Sheesh, one little bobble can really add up.

I’m also attempting to fix my position while cantering.  Yes, I know I need to sit back and I say it over and over in my head as I’m riding.  I also have the tendency to let the reins get a tad too long which probably contributes to our unbalanced down transitions because Ike has no support from me.  You can almost hear Ike asking, “Where are you to help me?”  I’m too busy sitting tall with a relaxed seat and watching for the fence while trying to maintain a proper 20 meter circle.  Thank goodness he is forgiving.

We did one practice load today.  Last time we practiced was Wednesday.  Ike was again a superstar and walked right into the trailer.  Fingers crossed that it will be as easy on June 3rd.

Hot weekend ahead – high 80s predicted, so we will ride early to beat the heat.  Hoping that the greenheaded flies decide to sleep in so we can avoid them as well.

Good Vs. Evil

Good versus evil is one of those classic themes that appears again and again in movies, television, books, and life in general.  In the movies, good and evil are often portrayed as an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.  People of a certain age will remember the scene in Animal House when the freshman must decide what to do at the toga party with the help of his personal angel and devil.  Well, today Ike’s angel and imp both made appearances.  I have not seen the devilish side of Ike, but it is obviously in there laying dormant.

Started with the trailer.  Ike had yesterday off, so this was the next hurdle to overcome.  Would he remember his Red Revelle lesson and load up on command after a break?  He did!  His shoulder angel must have told him, “Yes, be a good boy and walk on that trailer.”  There was not a moment’s hesitation and no tap from the whip was necessary.  I didn’t even have to hold the whip.

Next came the farrier.  Mr. P is awesome and does wonders with Ike’s less than perfect hooves.  One of Ike’s front hooves toes out, but Mr. P makes sure that he breaks over the middle of the shoe.  Ike is narrow behind and if we are not careful, he will interfere and cut himself on his inside right hind.  Not a problem for Mr. P.  Ike was a bit mouthy today – his lips kept playing with the lead rope, my hand, my arm, Mr. P’s ear, Mr. P’s belt loops, whatever they could get close to.  Well, Ike got a bit TOO mouthy and decided to bite Mr. P on the shoulder.  Let’s just say that that did not go over well and Ike got a thwack on the mouth. and some stern words. “The devil made me do it, ” Ike retorted.  There is that dormant imp making an appearance.  After that, he behaved for the rest of the shoeing.  Naughty pony.

I was able to get a 20 minute ride in after Ike’s shoeing.  He must have felt repentant about his devilish behavior because he was a complete angel under saddle.  I’m glad that the angel usually prevails – it makes my rides so much more pleasurable.  His canter continues to improve; it is more rhythmic and balanced.  Ike gets the correct lead almost every try.  It will soon be time to put the canter to the test with some Training Level tests.  Opted for Intro B and Intro C for our June 3rd outting to a dressage schooling show in Stafford.  Figured Ike has done them successfully and it would give him confidence at his second show.  Two weeks later, we are headed back to Commonwealth and will attempt Intro B, Intro C, and Opportunity Training Level Test 1. (I still don’t have Ike registered with USEF and USDF, so these are the tests at the recognized show that we can do without horse numbers….all in due time.)