Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trail Lesson #2

Yesterday, Guinness and I participated in our second Trail Obstacle group lesson at a friend's natural horsemanship barn (non-PNH). I believe that there were 10 or so horses in attendance.

There were many obstacles set-up including: cowboy curtain (carwash), tarp, backing around barrels, bridge, pedestal, sidepass rail to pick up jacket, ground poles, drag, and gates.

We took turns doing the following tasks while everyone else watched: cantering up a hill on the right lead, backing around barrels, sidepassing to the jacket, and trot-emergency dismount- trot in hand - remount.

Guinness did great with everything except backing around the barrels. He did it - but I had to support my reins & body cues by tapping his chest with my stick. (This was NOT a fear issue since he had done it quite willingly online earlier in the evening.)

Also during the evening, we practiced mounted turns on the HQ, yielding the FH, and sidepassing. He improved greatly! He was tacked up with a halter and bareback pad (to aid in communication). Plus, for the first time in years, I wore my prince-of-wales spurs (see photo). I'm sure that Guinness knows how to play porcupine from the girth area, but he was either choosing to ignore my cues or my leg cues weren't focused enough for him to understand. I am also very conscious of how I use my legs and never "kick to go." So applying these little metal nubs was a perfectly appropriate phase 4. I anticipate phasing them out as he begins to respond appropriately at lower phases.

This morning, the vet came out to pull out the root of his broken front baby tooth. (See The Ball and Tooth & Gap Tooth Grinning posts.) His permanent tooth was coming in out of position behind it. It popped right out. I'm supposed to apply thumb pressure a couple of times per day to the permanent tooth to encourage it to shift forward a little.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Here is a little video of me & Guinness:

Gotan Liberté by Clémence Faivre from Franck Semonin on Vimeo.

I wish!!! This is some of the best liberty and riding that I've ever seen..

Here is a link to more about this lady and her horses:


Our First ACTHA Ride!

Last Saturday, several friends and I participated in our first American Competitive Trail Horse Association (ACTHA) ride. It was held on the grounds of the amazing Virginia Horse Center in Lexington, Va.

Alyssa and I decided to travel together and to use my truck to pull her Brenderup trailer, since it has dividers installed (I've removed mine). We met up on Friday morning at the barn where she boards, and swapped trailers and packed in our stuff. We arrived at the horse center by around 2:00 pm.

When we got there, we were assigned stalls in the barn reserved for ACTHA riders. The coolest thing about this barn was the small, lighted covered arena in the middle of it! We got the horses settled in and took a look around. Five other friends arrived later.

Also on the grounds that weekend were a Morgan show, the Virginia Gaited Jubilee show (more on that in another post), and a dressage show. And the facilities weren't even full..

Later that evening, we played with and rode our horses around the grounds to get them used to things. The only thing that disturbed Guinness was the sight of the Morgan horses, both under saddle and in harness. The Morgans must have looked so bizarre in their padded shoes and were so distressed that Guinness seemed torn between rushing in to help them and running away! He stared and jumped and stared some more. The odd thing was that the other horses that we were with weren't bothered at all..

Alyssa and I both spent Friday night on cots in the back of separate Brenderup trailers. :-)

The next morning, we attended a rider briefing and then went back to get our horses tacked up. Four of us signed up to ride in a group - Diane, Alyssa, Shannon & me. All of us, except Alyssa, were riding "green" horses, but they all did GREAT.

We rode 7 miles and we tackled the following judged obstacles: a downhill/uphill slope with logs, a gate, moving a slicker, a mailbox, trot-dismount-mount, and a bridge. Unjudged obstacles that we encountered included: crossing a road (with assistance), a small river, and eating popsicles while riding.

We ended the ride hot and tired, then untacked to trot a final soundness vet check. Afterward, we hosed off our horses and ourselves, then ate lunch. Then we went back to the pavilion for the award ceremony where we learned that Alyssa had won 6th in the Pleasure division!

We left the Horse Center around 5:00 pm and headed home. On the way, we visited the Pink Cadillac Diner and had a little picnic in the shade of the trailer while the horses dozed.

Guinness was a champ through out the entire adventure. He "gaited" for me much of the ride and cantered with me at least 3 times. Nothing phased him. He even did well in his stall.

There is another ride planned for September and we plan to be there. But next time we will be competing!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Busy Day

Today, Guinness & I met a L3/4 friend and her mare at the stable where she boards.

We both started off playing at liberty in the arena. Guinness took the opportunity to run around like a spaz while my friend protected her herd of two. Once he rejoined me, he was much more settled and focused!

After that, we played online. He could do about 3 laps at a walk on the 22' before succumbing to the gravitational pull that my body seems to have on him.. But it is improving!

We also played with sideways using a very strong focus on a distant object and doing what I needed to do to correct him without taking my eyes from the object or leaving my straight line. He was truly confused at first, but then seemed to get it. Afterward, he wasn't licked or chewing, but did seem to be holding his breath, so my friend suggested that I squat down. As soon as I did, he let out a big sigh and licked like mad. Wow, that would have been easy for me to have blown past..

Next, I rode him using the bareback pad and carrot stick. We played with me having a strong focus and it really helped our steering. I need to practice this much more when riding alone at home.

As if this wasn't enough, we decided to hook up my friend's Brenderup trailer to my truck to test drive before hauling to the ACTHA ride this weekend. Then, since we were ready to roll, we decided to haul the horses over to the local national forest area to trail ride. She'd never been there before, so it was a treat.

We made it back to her barn seven hours after I arrived this morning. Whew! I switched trailers and hauled Guinness home (along with a fresh roundbale in the bed of the pickup). He had 4 trailer trips just today! This was his first straight-load outing with another horse on board and they both did great. I think that we are all set for Friday's trip.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Missing Pieces

I've just returned from my first "trail obstacle" group lesson at a friend's natural horsemanship (non PNH) training stable.

Guinness and I had a good time, even though it was pretty hot. There were LOTS of different obstacles and we didn't have a chance to try them all.

Here are my thoughts about the evening:
  • Guinness is unflappable and will pick up *anything* if he thinks that there may be a reward for it - even rubber snakes and bags of "trash."
  • His mounted HQ yields and sideways need work. Going to the left is better than the right.
  • He backed nicely mounted many times, but when he was "on stage" he froze. Perhaps because I felt on the spot and got direct-line with him? I know that I was sure pulling on his face a lot.
  • He worked many gates successfully, but not very efficiently. This relates to our sideways and backing issues, I'm sure.
  • He managed to stand with all 4 feet on a pedestal for the first time! And he went down on both front knees (bowing) for the first time.
  • He jumped a 2' pole jump several times with almost no prompting, and he did a good Figure 8 pattern on a 12' line.
  • He was much more willing to offer an intermediate gait (both "gaiting" and trotting) while mounted but it really isn't consistent so it was difficult to ride gracefully.. I need some pointers with this!
Tomorrow morning, Guinness and I are going to meet a friend where she boards her horses. We are going to try to get some of her levels taping done. Plus, I've talked her into participating in this weekend's ACTHA ride, so we'd like to practice.

My goals for tomorrow will be to have her watch me ride Guinness at something faster than a walk & perhaps video it for critique. I'd also like her to help me with sideways and backing with a soft feel. And G. and I need to practice plain old trotting 4-5 laps on the 22'!

We are getting there. I just have to remember that he has only really been ridden since the beginning of April - only about 3 months ago. It sure feels longer. :-)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Down By the River

Today, Guinness and I caught a ride to the river with Sierra and her mom, and their dog.

We walked along the trail next to the river for about 3 miles. I'd guess that I rode about 5 of the 6 miles. Then we returned and had a little picnic.

After that, Sierra and I spent about an hour wallowing in the river with our horses. What fun!

Guinness was more sceptical than Gandalf and balked once the water reached his belly. Gandalf really enjoyed himself and ultimately swam three or so laps around Sierra.

Guinness and I have a busy week ahead of us. Tomorrow evening, we have a trail obstacle group lesson at a friend's natural horsemanship barn. Then Friday, we travel to Broadview Ranch for a trail ride, and then onto the Lexington Horse Center on Saturday for our first American Competitive Trail Horse Association ride.

I love summer!

Friday, June 18, 2010

If I won the lottery..

I'd develop a dream property like the one that I visited today, owned by a L4 student!

Lanier is an older fellow that I met at the Carol Coppinger clinic, along with his wife and a neighbor, Jennifer. Both Jennifer and Lanier are PNH students, and they happen to live in the town next to mine. (Too bad that it takes about an hour to get there pulling a horse trailer due to the windy mountain roads!)

This morning, Guinness and I met up with Lanier and his mule mare (Josey?) and Jennifer and her QH gelding, Trouble. After following Jennifer around the property, we wound up at his large western-style arena (tall fence & deep footing) with toys! Adjacent to it were a round pen and a PNH play area.

Jennifer and I took our time tacking up while Lanier rode, and then we joined him in the arena. I took the opportunity to practice riding with one stick and no reins, and was really pleased with how Guinness did (we haven't tried this since the Carol C. clinic). Then we successfully opened and closed (almost!) a gate while mounted.

After that, we played a bit on the playground. We left to offer the horses a drink from the creek and then hit the trails. It was a lovely and relaxed ride.

When we pooped out, we stopped at the campground on the property (utilized by a local glider club) to have lunch in the picnic shelter while we turned the horses out in a small paddock. Instead of leading the horses back to the trailers, we decided to walk to get the trailers and drive them back to pick up the critters.

They loaded right up and we headed home. What a fun day!

PS - This is a photo of my cochin hen, Feathers, and her adopted Guinea keet, Cue Ball. This is the first baby that she has brooded and raised!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Spinning! (Me, not Guinness)

OK, I'm going to sneak in another blog post. I just can't resist.

While visiting Michelle in NY last week, we made a point of pampering ourselves with "horsey fitness camp." We ate delicious meals while staying within our Weight Watchers points, worked out by doing fitness videos & walking outdoors, reviewed PNH materials, and played with her ponies. During the week, I managed to lose 3+ lbs!

This morning, my son & I attended our second "spinning" class at the gym. A spinning class involves riding a stationary bike with a group of other folks. In our class, the leader does a guided visualization as she coaches riders to adjust their bikes to imaginary terrain and instructs us to do different exercises to music.

It turns out that I really enjoy this! I get to turn the responsibility for my workout over to someone else, and yet I can work at my own fitness level. Plus, I love sitting in near-darkness (lit with Christmas lights) and listening to music. ;-)

During the workout, it occurred to me how bike riding will help my horse riding. It is teaching me how to move rhythmically, smoothly, and symmetrically. I also have to work to keep my core & kegels tight, and to shift my weight up and out of the seat gracefully. And it is loosening my hip flexors.

I'm sure that Guinness would thank me if he could.

Thanks for the inspiration, Michelle!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Neckid in the Yard

I have returned home from my trek to visit Michelle (a.k.a. "Arabhorselover1") and her husband and their furry family way up in the North Country of New York state! Between the 13 hour drive and all of the emotional excitement of the trip, I am POOPED.

I've been preventing myself from blogging about our adventures in an effort to force myself to first catch up on office work. However, I can't resist a little post about this evening.

I'd been planning all day to go out to play horsey after dinner - perhaps to ride Guinness across our pasture, out the gate, and down our driveway to our grassy septic field (the grass is always greener there, right?). I figured that this would be an extended point-to-point game. And he should be ok with leaving the grass to return back to the barn, so he'd be happy both ways.

However, when I finished eating, I realized that it was 8:15 pm and just about to get dark.. As I ran outside, I reformulated my plan: instead of riding down to the septic field, I would sit on Guinness bareback as he grazed the front lawn!

I was inspired by a recent post from Regina to play "human curry comb" and to slide all over Guinness bare back giving him scratches. (Boy is he still a bony baby.) I'm pleased to report that with his nose in the grass, he didn't even flinch as I scratched his chest and tail while mounted, and slid off over his rump a couple of times.

Surely nothing feels as soft as sitting on a horse bareback while wearing shorts. :-)