Posts Tagged ‘training’

Awesome Day :-)

Today’s Tip: There’s always a reason for a problem. Take the time to figure it, out and the problem may actually be fixed, not just masked.

Today was a great day.

People say things like this all the time. Other people. Not me. Not to say that good things don’t happen to me, but it’s not often that I look back and just feel everything went my way for a whole day. I’m a fan!

It was a gray, cloudy Monday, but I can get over that. I walked into the office this morning to the smell of freshly toasted homemade English muffins. Great smell!

I got our work email working again after almost two weeks without it working at all. Though the problem’s not entirely fixed, it’s functional and it’s a huge load off my shoulders.

I got a work project done more or less on time when it has been a week or more late every month for the last several months.

Then I got home! As I said, it was kind of dreary, but it was nice enough to spend some quality time outside. I finally got the Christmas wreath and tree into the compost pile. The wreath had been sitting, turning fried and brown for months and I just never got around to it! The tree, a real one, got stuck in a snowbank after Christmas. It was too dry (and too Christmasy!) to leave in the house long after Christmas, but it was still pretty great. For a while it looked quite nice in its snowbank, but lately the snowbank has run off to the river, but the tree, in all its brown and crispy glory, was left laying in the mud. Those things just make me feel great!

I also am starting to figure out Pretty’s problems. I’m actually embarrassed and ashamed to admit the biggest one. The other day I mentioned that she wasn’t right and there were a number of possible physical explanations. Teeth was one of them. Last night I noticed she had whole oats in her manure. That’s not like her. I’m pretty sure her teeth are not right. The part that makes me ashamed is that I have owned her for three years and never had her teeth checked. I never asked, but assumed they had been when she had her spring vet appointment. Then I just forgot to have them checked the last two years. Today I semi-confirmed my suspicion. We went for a short ride, but just bareback and with some clip-on reins attached to a rope halter. She had a little bit of head tossing, but it seemed like it was related to the, “What is this strange get-up she’s riding me in?” than pain. She just didn’t know how to react to it as well as her bridle. Not a bad lesson!

Another one of Pretty’s problems, I think, is that her gait is messed up because she’s trying to prance through the puddles! I think she’s afraid if she steps normally she’ll get too wet, so she’s short stepping and messing up her gait. It’s silly, but it’s not worth worrying about! Just another reason to hope the mud dries up – but not too dry – soon 🙂

I’m also about to sit down to a “real” dinner – meatloaf, sweet potatoes, and green beans – for the first time in a while. It may be almost 10 p.m. by the time I eat, but I cooked, my husband’s home for dinner, and I actually accomplished something besides deleting something from the DVR today!

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Pretty/Ugly

Today’s Tip: Do your best to determine the source of the behavior rather than simply try to correct it.

I should have known that today wasn’t destined for the greatness I had hoped when it started with being awakened by a phone call from my boss. I don’t get calls at home for work related things often, so it’s not something I expect, nor do I mind much since it doesn’t happen often. Turned out it was a question about email. We’ve been down now for 12 days thanks to changing web hosts and moving our Google Apps account. HUGE headache, we’re totally at a loss for solving it…yadayadayada… (BTW if you know someone on Google Apps support please let me know.)

Anyway, it was a glorious day out. Sunshine. Moderately warm temps preceded by below-freezing temps at night (I like that, it seems to temper the melting/muck a little and I can keep my horses out since I don’t like them standing in muck 24/7). I also had more energy than I have on a Saturday in a while.

After breakfast, the dog and I went for a walk. She was thrilled. And muddy. I tried to decompress from work stress.

Then it was pony time! This weekend its Pretty’s extreme makeover weekend. We didn’t get too far today (that’s planned for tomorrow), but I did get the terrible tangles out of her mane and brushed her up a little. She still looks like a woolly mammoth in a manure swamp, but we’ll get there…eventually. They’ll probably all be inside tomorrow since it’s supposed to rain (40’s & rain don’t mix), so she’ll get deep-cleaned and body clipped then!

Once she was de-scuzified, we went for a ride. I was so excited because all the snow and ice is gone from the road and it’s no longer sloppy-mucky. We were going to go down the road and just have a lovely afternoon. We did some groundwork in the driveway and some stretches. That’s real progress for me! I kind of lack patience for that kind of stuff…it’s a problem. With the saddle pad I’m using right now, it’s supposed to warm up a little before you can fully tighten the girth (some gel stuff that has to conform), so it’s a good way to “force” myself to do it. Then we got on and she stood well. It was going to be a good ride.

It wasn’t. We got halfway down the driveway and she spun and kind of cantered/rocked/bucked back to the end of the driveway by the barn. This went on for about 20 minutes. And I hated it all the more because I wasn’t really sure of the cause. Pretty does have an attitude. If she doesn’t want to, she doesn’t. However, I did find some white hairs all along one side where a saddle panel would be, so something didn’t fit her well last year. I don’t THINK it was the saddle I was using, but it could have been or it could have aggravated something that was already sore. The bridle I had on her doesn’t fit her all that well, but I thought I adjusted everything so that it wouldn’t pinch her poor little ears. And I tucked her abnormally fluffy forelock out of the way (she doesn’t like it hitting her ears). I have only ridden her on gravel this year and been lax about picking feet (they’re always muddy…eeeewww!), so she could have had sore feet. I also mean to have the vet check teeth in a couple of weeks, so she could have a problem in there. I have no reason to rule out any kind of pain.

The general rule of thumb is to check all physical possibilities before blaming the horse. I do plan to work to rule things out. However, the fact still remains that I believe she was acting out of attitude. Evee, she’s my drama queen. She’ll convince you she has a broken leg and she’ll be legitimately acting out of pain. Over-acting, but she really does hurt. If Pretty hurt, she was just using it as an excuse to get out of what she didn’t want to do, not the instinctive reaction of pain. I’m fairly certain of this partly from a “vibe” (which isn’t a good indicator, but I believe it!) and because if we were near the barn, she didn’t react the same way. She was still kind of agitated, but not acting like a crazy horse.

We did spend about 40 minutes riding. This was not the kind of behavior she could be put away on, even if it was pain. But I did my best to minimize what I asked of her so as to not cause more pain (if that was a player in this game of rodeo horse).

My dreams of a casual spring ride down the road were trampled in the slushy snow drift that remains on the side of the driveway, but we still accomplished a goal for the day. The goal was to just get out the driveway without stopping and freaking out, turn on my terms, and return at a relatively relaxed walk. We did that and we called it a day. Here’s hoping the next ride has nothing to do with today’s attitude…

Spring and All It’s Glory

Today’s Tip: Look for the silver lining, even in the muck!

I’ve fully committed to spring now. Today was beautiful. Sunny. 42ish degrees. And mucky. I’m really not a fan of this time of spring other than that I look forward to “real” spring, which doesn’t come until mid to late spring.

I FINALLY got on a horse again. A work project completely hijacked my life for most of the last 3-4 weeks. Normally I have a great job that doesn’t require 24/7 devotion, so I didn’t mind it too much this time, but I did miss the rest of my life.

Come on Mom! Can't we PLEASE go for a walk today?

After getting home from work and a 10 minute stint on the couch decompressing, it was time to get out and enjoy the day and the extra sunshine this whole daylight savings time thing gives us. The dog and I went for a walk because she hasn’t gotten on a good walk really since last fall. Then we hurried home for some pony time.

 

I was running out of daylight, so I did the easy way out and jumped on bareback and just went up and down the driveway. If I could have gone down the road, the saddle would have come out, but I get a little nervous about the time of day when the sun is low and blinds anyone driving west.

Pretty was still being goofy, like she was a few weeks ago. She’s a pretty level-headed horse, but she can still doubt that my ideas about where to go are good ideas. So we spent a lot of time forward and back, up and down the driveway. I took the opportunity to work on our leg pressure cues. She came to me with what I call “point and go” training. Leg pressure, other than “go,” go was pretty foreign to her. It’s a driveway, so not a lot of room for wide turns, so we did a lot of turns on the haunches. Now before you think this is a great idea and try it yourself, don’t forget that they go much better when you’re turning toward “home” (or in this case, friends). So we would sometimes only turn 90 degrees and then turn back. Sometimes we’d turn back away after turning toward home. She obviously didn’t get it as well as it seemed when we’d turn around at the end of the driveway, but she’s getting it. I believe that even those times where it’s mostly her idea, the leg cue will register in her brain. Next time she feels it, she’ll remember she was rewarded for turning. Sure, it’s nice if it’s just my idea, but she’ll catch on, no matter whose idea it was in the beginning.

I’m looking for the silver lining in the muck that this is what causes spring plants to come, and of course it means the snow is disappearing. I also noticed the silver lining in Pretty being goofy – it “forces” me to spend some time on the basics, which is what we should be doing!

Spring Is Coming!

Today’s Tip: Distance isn’t everything. Lessons in patience can be good for both horse and rider.

Want to hear something funny? The week when I actually started spending time with the horses was the week I totally failed at blog life! I wish I could say it was because I’ve been riding miles and miles, but it’s just been general craziness.

I DID however, have some great pony-time. Last Sunday – the 13th, so over a week ago – was the day spring hit. It was 55* when I left where I was visiting for the weekend. It was glorious. The entire 3 hour drive home I was just itching to get outside. I finally got home, changed into Muck boots and barn clothes and got my ride on! Pretty and I went for a quick jaunt down the road. We only got about 1/4 a mile down the road. The road, though melting, was a mix of mush and slick. We also headed out with a bit of an attitude on our hands. It was great exercise for both of us in patience.

Our plan for the day, since it wasn’t destined to be a ride for distance, the plan was to work on calmly walking away from the barn and calmly walking back. We went until we were nearly to the safe part of the road (before we reached a corner that was snowpacked and icy) and then a little farther until we were walking calmly and without any apparent indication of spinning around to head home. Then we’d stop, wait, turn, stop, wait, and proceed forward. As soon as we’d start getting antsy, we’d turn around and try it all over again. We started with counting to 5 at our “waits” and then moved up to 10 or more if I felt she was standing but not really patient. Every time she’d start to paw, look over her shoulder, dance, or do anything else that suggested impatience, we’d start all over again. It was tedious, but kind of calming because we could just stand and enjoy the sunshine.

And then there was the mailbox. I wasn’t sure if my husband had gotten the mail the day before, so I thought, “Why not check it?” Isn’t that why they put mailboxes in trail classes? We walked right up near it, but heaven forbid we actually get withing reach of it. Granted, there are low hanging branches that her ears were kind of tangled in, but she didn’t seem to care. She also wasn’t afraid of the mailbox. She somehow just didn’t get that the leg pressure meant move closer so she did the opposite and/or just moved wherever she could to express her annoyance. At one point I wondered, “Do you get the appropriate points in the trail class if the horse is the one who opens and closes the mailbox?” Not 2 seconds later, she opened it! It was an accident of course, but a humorous tension breaker nonetheless. The fight was far from over. It took 10-15 minutes to get the stupid thing shut! After much patience, little requests, reminders (when away from the mailbox) of what leg pressure meant, and a lot of sitting and thinking, we finally got it shut and called it a night.

Other spring activities have included attempting to remind the fjords that sometimes they have a job to do and starting to tackle the mounds of manure that built up over the winter. And then yesterday came. We had our (hopefully only) spring blizzard yesterday and today, so we’re back to deep winter again for another week or so.

The hope, though, is that we have had a taste of spring. We have been reminded that it does, in fact, arrive. It will be here soon!

Finding Direction

Today’s Tip: Life takes work. It’s helpful to know what kind of work you want to do. I’m not sure I do.

This recent heat spell must be getting to me. I’ve had a serious lack of motivation, enthusiasm, and even happiness over the last week or so. It’s been mid-80s to mid-90s most days with 75% or higher humidity. And our house doesn’t have air conditioning. Normally I don’t complain about that, but you can’t keep the humidity out. At all.

Oddly enough, I think the most enjoyable time for me was at the horse show I was at yesterday. Yes, I was having the most fun wearing a three-piece polyester suit, hat, black boots, and gloves and putting in extra effort to get my horses to try to maintain some semblance of consistency in the 4″ deep muck that was the ring (it had poured there overnight).

Today I’m trying to get some work done in the office. I’m desperately behind, but really not as bad as usual. I’m not sure if the weather and my overload of work are all that are dragging me down or not. I say “all” because those things are changeable. Ok, not the weather, but it WILL change. Having to go to work every day really isn’t going to change, at least not any time in the foreseeable future.

So my question for myself today is, “Would I be happier doing something else?” Am I annoyed sitting in this office because it’s not where am meant to be? Or maybe I’m just crabby?

Some days I think I want to be a trainer. Lessons are not my thing, I want to actually work with horses. However, I fear that my frequent lapses in motivation would lead me to fail at that. Sometimes, though, I think that it would be more fun and I would be able to “force” myself to stay dedicated.

I guess I don’t really have any inspiring insight, but just wanted to vent today! If you by chance do have some brilliant idea of where I can get the money for a training facility, let me know. Maybe I’ll consider it fate and explore other options 🙂

Trying to Overcome Excuses

Today’s Tip: There’s a fine line between self-care and overindulgence. Sometimes it’s good to make yourself do something you don’t want to do.

I’m a flip-flopper. Not the shoes (well, those too sometimes!), but my life approach. I’ll go really hard for a little while – sometimes several days, sometimes just a few hours, and then I’ll realize that it’s not worth killing myself over and give myself time to relax. I’m afraid over the last few months, year, or maybe even as many as three years, I’ve leaned more toward the self-indulgent side in the overall scheme of things. There is so much in life that I want to do that television, computer games, and naps don’t accomplish! Yet at the same time, I don’t want to be too burned out to enjoy them.

Today I was looking forward to a nice relaxing, yet productive, evening at home. Then I remembered the farrier was coming. It was a relatively quick visit (Pretty got redone a couple of weeks ago and Evee just got a trim so the longest thing was Classy’s trim and fronts reset), but I still didn’t want to just start to ride at 8:00 p.m. On the other hand, I thought of this morning’s post and thought it would be a little hypocritical to bail after just preaching about the need to keep working at it.

My solution came to me as I remembered how I started off the riding season, back when I was refreshed and ambitious. I had been working on some groundwork with Pretty to improve her concept of giving to pressure, especially leg pressure. Also, as I mentioned recently, I want her to have a canter sooner rather than later. My hope for that has been to be able to build up her muscle memory for it through lunging. Free lunging in a round pen worked wonders for Evee. Unfortunately I don’t have a round pen here, but I do have a lunge line. So my work for tonight included some ground work and lunging for Pretty.

There weren’t amazing leaps and bounds, but I did see huge improvement from the last time I had worked on those things. She was giving to pressure much better than when we first began those exercises. Her right lead canter, which should be her better one, wasn’t great, but she was doing better than expected on the left. I even saw her trot some! Ok, for those who don’t really know, Tennessee Walking Horses aren’t generally encouraged to trot. However, Pretty is very pacey (leans more toward the lateral than the diagonal). So if she’s trotting, that means she’s using opposite muscles, and it’s more similar to the canter than the pace is. A horse that both trots and paces would probably end up with a more even gait in the end than one that ONLY trotted or ONLY paced.

I’m working really hard on not coming up with excuses, or at least trying to shorten the amount of time I spend on self-indulgent activities. I’d love any support, encouragement, or even tips that anyone has to share on the subject! Now I’m off to write an article I’ve been procrastinating on…

Time to Drop the Excuses!

Today’s Tip: It’s easy to complain about what our horses do wrong, but if we just dig in and get to work on figuring out a solution, it really is possible to make quick progress. Read on to learn more about today’s epiphanies!

Classy and I had a great ride today, but we almost didn’t. I had some errands to run this morning, came home for lunch and (a little selfishly) a brief nap, and then decided to watch the Kentucky Derby and do homework. It was also very windy. Have I mentioned that I hate the wind? I was using that as part of my excuse to do other things rather than ride. The forecast told me that it was going to stay windy until after it got dark. I was feeling tempted to just skip it for the day. By the time the Derby was over, though, the wind had calmed down to a strong breeze and I forced myself off the couch and into the real world.

It was definitely worth it! Sure, he was a little goofy to start, but he soon realized the trees weren’t going to blow on top of him and he settled down a little. There were a couple of things that I really focused on today. One was that I have realized I mess around with my rein length…a lot. We’ll be going along and one of us adjusts something and I adjust my reins. Before we canter, I always shorten my reins. Obviously if I’m messing around with my reins that much, he can’t possibly be staying in a consistent frame. So today I tried to stop making excuses for adjusting my reins and started to work with what I had. I found a length I liked and then worked to keep in in the same frame. Most of the time it worked really well. It might take some adjusting to figure out exactly the right place that will work for both a regular walk, a flat walk, and a canter (we’re not really focusing much on the running walk right now). The canter in particular was a different frame than we’re used to, a little longer and lower than usual. The walk work, though, did feel much more consistent. I knew when he got too strung out, I knew when he was overflexed, and I also knew when he was right where he was supposed to be. We did have a moment of spooking over the turkeys where I did shorten my reins way up again, but as soon as his head came out of the sky and he settled back into his work, they went right back.

The other thing I focused on and stopped making excuses for why I couldn’t fix it was his tendency to rush downhill. Where I ride isn’t very flat and he hasn’t been balancing himself as well as I’d like, which causes him to rush. Today instead of “yelling” at him through my reins, I worked to see what I do to really fix the problem. During the steepest parts of the downhill slope and whenever he’d start to rush, I’d do a series of half halts and figured out a good sense of timing for where they needed to happen. I also had to be very strong with my inside leg, really to the point of doing a shoulder in. Getting him off-center and getting a real feel for what is going on with him was all that needed to happen. As soon as I stopped making excuses, it happened!