Thursday, April 23, 2015

Becoming routine

No matter how awful I feel, a good ride always makes everything better and last night I got just the ride I needed. I made some important life decisions recently and while I'm 100% sure with the choice I made, it doesn't mean it was totally devoid of emotion. As a result I haven't been feeling quite myself but riding, once again, has proven to be my tether to sanity and normalcy.

 The goal was to do more bitless riding but I wanted to get a workout in first and make sure I had a listening mareface. Lunged, tacked up, we got in a nice ride with our normal tack set up with plenty of stretchy forward trot and a little cantering. I made a point to work a lot on my sitting trot, which I haven't done in a long time. My core burned fire at the end of the night but steady improvement noted. I can keep my seat pretty well during the jog, still some rough moments at the full working trot but I’ll get there.

Self-subjected torture complete, I hopped off and switched to the bitless bridle. It was our second time using it since I made it last year. Our first jaunt was a short 5 minute walk so this would be our first real ride. I tested for brakes first then off we went. As expected it was NBD, walk and trot just fine. She did have a couple stiff neck moments so I need to troubleshoot and see what is causing the issue. Other than that, awesome mare was awesome.

I had an interesting conversation with someone a few weeks ago who pointed out that riding and going to the barn for him is like a some special thing to do while for me, it's day-to-day commonplace and routine. It made me wonder if this life would ever become totally "routine" for me. When I took the horsemanship lessons at camp, being at the barn and getting to hang out with horses for the first time was pretty exciting. After spending years dreaming about learning how to ride, finally being able to take lessons as an adult and going on trail rides was certainly a novelty. A year and a half later, I'm not as new to things but I can honestly say I'm still excited. Though I admit it's a different kind of excitement- one where I am reminded of how lucky I am to have the ability to afford my own horse and how lucky I was to find her in the first place.

Maybe the act will be day-to-day, but I don't think that feeling will ever become routine.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring weekends

I think it's safe to say that spring is finally and really here.

I saddled up on Saturday and then rode bareback on Sunday. In addition to rides, our very close encounter with an ATV last week has inspired me redouble efforts to do spend more time doing basic desensitizing obstacles on the ground. We did a ton of groundwork stuff when I first bought the mareface last year but that fell to the wayside when trails and riding goals looked more "exciting". Not the right mindset to have! But it's really all too easy to get swept up with fun and neglect to review the basics.

Fortunately for us, Quest was supermare and didn't lose her mind completely despite how scary things got. There's always room for improvement though so my barn friends and I have been finding everyday items to fool around with at the barn. We're also making plans to build some obstacle courses so that should be something to look forward to.

The horses got round 2 of spring shots yesterday so I didn't plan on riding. I had rode Quest lightly a couple weeks ago after round 1 and she was cranky and sore. It wasn't fun for either of us so I have made a note to give her shot days off from riding to just do groundwork and lunge. It had been pouring rain all day yesterday meaning no turn out so when A and I got to the barn, both Smokey and Quest were ready to stretch their legs.

Aww moment. Picture taken by A

Random side note(s), I am pleased to report that my DIY paracord reins have been holding up great after riding with them exclusively for over a month so I'll be posting up a tutorial and review on that soon. I didn't want to tell people how to make them just to have them to break on first use...that would be pretty awful. I also have another DIY horse project in the works that I designed to craft and test out, so keep a weather eye!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Lesson Pony

My heart is literally bursting with happiness over my saint of a mare.

My sister, who currently lives/works in NYC, decided to come home this weekend. She was actually the MORE horse-obsessed one while we were growing up with all the books, calendars, movies, etc. As the years passed, the obsession was obviously tempered down but I could see that she was still interested in horses and asked to come out to the barn with me for a ride on Quest. This incited my parents to come along as well so after a quick breakfast we all piled into the car and I drove us out. Family trip! Quest, as usual, was a muddy mess when I fetched her from turnout. I was glad for my sister’s extra hand and we made quick work of grooming. I tacked Quest up and we headed into the dustbowl to lunge and review groundwork. My parents stood outside the fence watching while I worked with her commented that Quest had a lot more muscle and wasn’t as skinny thin when they first met her back in December. Riding through the winter months has not been in vain *fist pump*

Knowing it usually takes around 10 minutes to warm up for Quest listening and ready to work, I hopped on first to check that I had a sane horse. To my absolute amazement, mareface was on her game from the moment I swung up into the saddle. Walk, trot, canter. She was nothing but perfect.

My sister who only wanted a quick pony ride instead got a 45-minute riding lesson.We both did the summer camp lessons together when we were in middle school so she knew a little bit about riding but was still very much a beginner like I was a year and a half ago. Quest behaved like a seasoned lesson pony the whole time, no jigging, no spooking, nothing. She quietly packed my sister around the windy arena as I coached her on the basics of position, seat, leg cues, posting, two-point. Most of the lesson was done on a lead line and lunging circles but at the very end I let them off lead for my sister to practice steering on her own. Quest was an absolute saint and infinitely patient as my sister learned. 

I hopped back on afterwards for a quick ride to finish the day, my heart just about ready to burst with pride. My mare really took such good care of my sister and almost as if she knew she had to be on her best behavior, there were no antics, no fights, just quiet cooperation. My sister had a great experience and is looking forward to more lessons. Sounds like I might have rekindled some old interests!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easter Photoshoot

I'm very lucky to have talented friends who know photography. T gifted me with a photoshoot for Christmas last year and it finally got nice enough to actually do pictures last week. Things are still really dead looking here but at least there's no snow on the ground, right?

Much wind. So Arab.
It was my first time free lunging Quest in the upper arena so I was like oh boy, see you never mare. But she was listening and T got a ton of lovely pictures at various gaits, and she came right to me at the end. Quest surprised us both with some jumping on her own and went over the logs several times. She looked like she was having fun and enjoyed it, which bodes well for us and our spring project.
No more secrets, mareface. Now the world knows you can jump.

And of course we got pictures together as well, though I wasn't exactly dressed for a photoshoot since I rushed out from work and changed into whatever I normally wear to the barn.
Happy mare, happy me <3

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Neighborhood Walkabout

This little mare just continues to impress. 

Quest and I went out for our first walk ever around the neighborhood and she was fantastic. Cars went by approached from behind and in front, all non-events. For the most part, drivers slowed down for us and I waved an appreciative thank you. One lady stood on her front steps and waved hello as we went by, commenting how pretty Quest looked. I smiled and said thank you but was grinning on the inside since my very mud-coated pony was definitely not very pretty. 

And note she's leading on her off-side!

Unless there is a sidewalk, pedestrians in NJ should walk facing oncoming traffic. In this case, it would put a horse being lead normally closer to traffic. Not ideal. So the past couple of weeks have included groundwork sessions working on off-side leading; Quest was a bit confused at first but figured it out quickly and was just fine on the streets. Good mare.

We would have walked further but decided to turn around when we encountered a mother walking a golden retriever with her kid on a tricycle approaching on the other side of the street. Quest is usually fine with dogs so I wasn't hugely concerned but the dog got very agitated and was giving the woman a hard time. I could tell she was getting flustered and I didn't want to make it worse.

"She's in training too, we'll turn around." I called out to her. Discretion was the better part of valor.

Dusk was starting to fall so we ran a little on the trail home- it was good practice for when we get down to REAL running business. I used that time to test brakes and back ups as we walked the last bit of distance home. When we got to the yard, M and her friend were in the barn tacking up Caly. M asked if I was going to ride. I hadn't quite thought about what I wanted to do for the next 30-45 minutes but "...Sure!" Groomed and tacked in record time and we got in a great arena ride to finish the night. 

Anyone recall October's meltdown? What a huge difference compared to things now...I can't believe how far we've come in that time. I can take her out for a walk on the trail and the streets, come home AND tack up for a nice ride in the arena- all in the same night with time to spare. What an awesome mare.