Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Journey Takes Another Direction

Due to the injury I got as a result of getting bucked off, I don't feel I have what I need to get back in the saddle and be 100% ready for what ever comes next. My chest and back are much better, almost normal but every now and then if I move a certain way, I'll get the twinge and I know I'm not ready yet.

I worked on the lunge with him Monday and Tuesday as well. And I'm noticing issues popping up all of a sudden. He will pay attention and then just as I'm about to end the session, something happens that blows it all away. For instance, I lunged him Tuesday. He was really trying and doing well at just the walk and trot. I had him keeping to the circle and forward even on his less willing side. We were at it for 20 minutes and I was about to "whoa" him and turn him to me and quit when he heard a horse down in the lower barn give one of those snort/whistle sounds and I lost him. His tail went up, he got all puffed up and stupid and I had to work like crazy to keep him out of my space. Damn it! I don't need to get crowded by a big doofus and I'll admit he rattled me again.

I got him to stop and stand facing me, Then shortened up on the lunge line and began hand walking him slowly in small, 10 meter circles over ground poles and talking to him. I was watching his body language the whole time. As soon as his head began to lower and he seemed more relaxed. I halted him, stroked his neck and walked him into the barn to end the session.

Last night I opted to just groom and really study his body language and expression. He was very good about it all and then we hit another stubborn roadblock. I've been working on having him move over and give me the most space in the aisle when grooming. Today was no different and as I worked on each side and switched, I would give a firm but gentle push against his side with my hand and say,"Over". And he'd move.

Then we got to about the 3rd time I needed him to move off the left side and he stubbornly planted himself. I pushed harder and said it a little more firmly. And he leaned into me! I gave him a bigger push and firmer command and he lifted his hip at me! At that point I growled at him, the foot went down and he moved slightly but not what I wanted from him.

Then I walked to his head and asked him to step forward. He took two steps with me, I went back to the side and pushed again and asked for,"over". He didn't move as far as I wanted but he did move away more willingly and I stroked his neck and went right back to grooming.

And after that nothing else, he gave me his hooves when asked so I could clean them. Then I decided before returning him to the stall to just walk him on the lead up and down the aisle. So we did. He was willing until one of the horses pinned it's ears and banged the bars as he was walking by. And then he wanted to stop at that horse and not stay walking with me. I quickly got his head forward and urged him to walk with me, at first he balked but he was focused on me. I could see the confusion in his reaction, "do I stay and find out what the why the horse in the stall did that to me or do I just go with her?" And then he put his head down and followed me. With that I led him into the stall and gave him a good face rub and ended our session.

What I am trying to understand is why we have gone downhill so fast. Did I miss something? All seemed to be moving forward and well. If you read back a few posts, this was the horse I plucked a plastic bag out of a tree with while on his back and he had almost no reaction. Now we're back to the very beginning. I have tried to analyze the bucking incident and where it came from. I'm trying to figure out where this reluctance is coming from to trust me. And I'm not sure I have the right answers. He has so much good, but I need to understand more and we need to fix this now. I want to want to ride him again but I want to do it knowing we're a team, not that one of us is tolerating the other.

I've ridden and worked with horses for almost 40 years and never hit a wall like this with any of the horses I've been involved with. Except maybe for one. There was one young horse years ago that I was schooling for the owners of the barn I was at and was doing really well with until another, less skilled rider took him to a show to try him and overfaced him at the jumps. He dumped that rider into a few fences at that show and was never a willing jumper again. After that, even with me, he was hitting the brakes in front of jumps all over the place.

I tried everything with that horse. I went from jumping 3'6" courses with no stopping all the way back to trying to build his confidence over ground poles. As soon as the jumps went to about 2 feet, he would stop and quit all over. He's the horse who dumped me into a jump at a show without any inclination and after that I told the barn owners it wasn't worth it, I didn't want to risk getting hurt on a horse I didn't even own. I actually felt bad that he couldn't even trust me again after he was so rattled by that other fool's attempt to jump him like I had done. He was sold after that as a trail horse with clear instructions not to attempt jumping him.

Well, now I'm at an impasse again. I have called a trainer in Natural Horsemanship who's results I have seen on 3 of my friend's horses. I think I need a different direction and a new outlook and from what I have seen and heard, maybe he can give me some tools to work with that I haven't tried before. So, the journey takes a another direction.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

I just received the Kreativ Blogger Award from War Pony at PhoenixDown Farm Thanks so very much to War Pony for thinking of me!

From reading past winners it seems the tradition is to list 7 of your favorite things and then pass the award to seven blogs who you think deserve it. This isn't an obligation but it's always fun to read about others in the blogosphere.

So here goes:

These are a few of my favorite things (in no particular order)!

1. My Family!

2. My horse, (although lately we're having issues!)

3. Diet Coke

4. Taking my kids to the beach

5. Watching movies

6. Doing needlework

7. Shopping

And now, to give the award away!

1. Mugwump ChroniclesI can't say enough great things about Mugwump's blog. I love reading her stories and her training advice is well written and sound. She's a good source of information and her blog has been one I've gone back to especially now with this big, green horse.

2. The Eventing Percheron The name says it all. I enjoy reading about Brego's adventures. I hope my horse has adventures like that some day.

3. Oh Horse Feathers! Because Mrs. Mom just - rocks!

4. A Year With Horses Kate is a great blogger and always has good input in return!

5. Horses of Follywood Jean is also a great blogger and has good input to share!

6. Ellie and Werther I guess I have a soft spot for Wesley and always read Ellie's blog to check in that he's doing okay.

7. A Horse and a Half Always entertaining, On The Bit is a fun blog friend to have!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back to square one

I'm still sore. My sternum is still hurting when I inhale deeply and my arms still have that "pulled muscle" ache. Advil and I have become very close friends these last few days. But I'm up, around and taking another approach with the beast.

I've been treating him very well. I've always been generous with treats and snuggles. However, I decided that I need to step up my dominance factor with him. Not by being abusive, but in a "Boss Mare" kind of way. No more goodies without working for them, and he's going to have to work to win me over, not the other way around.

Little things need to be addressed from the ground, like when grooming, he likes to move his butt into you on his right side until you are very close to the wall. Not to mush you into the wall, but almost to see if he can just put himself there because he wants to. Usually I give a half hearted push and say, "Over" and after a second he'll move away from the pressure a step and give me room. Last night when he did it, it was a firmer command of, "Over" and a strong pressure against his side with my hand until he was on the other side of the aisle and I had all the room and he was against the wall. Then I kindly said, "Good boy" and continued my brushing like nothing happened.

He's very aware that the goodies have all but ceased and I can see he's puzzled. He's looking for rewards that I'm not offering without getting something from him first. And the reward he gets is a scratching on his forehead or a rub of the muzzle. No food goodies.

I was going to lunge him yesterday at mid-day, and it was a HOT day. I figured I'd use the heat to my advantage for 15 minutes on the lunge but then decided why broil myself at the same time? I went with husband and the kids to the beach instead and enjoyed watching my boys dig and play in the sand and collect shells.

I went to the barn at 7:00PM when it was cooler and more comfortable. My intent now is to give him variety in the routine and keep him guessing so he's going to have to trust me as I present him with different scenarios. I need him to rely on me, and not be so concerned what the other horses are doing at any given time. I took him out to the polo arena to work on the lunge. It's the first time he's been out there in the evening by himself. If he was going to be a jerk, I was ready for it. I've seen horses lose it out there when they know all the other horses are in their stalls for the night.

He was saddled and bridled. I had the lunge line clipped to the bit on the outside and over his poll through the inside ring of the bit. No side reins as I'm not sure he's used to them. All I wanted was for him to walk and trot a little like a gentleman and if he had any issues with the tack, to buck it out so I could get a feel if something was wrong with the fit. And he was a subdued little baby. No fireworks, no bucking. He tried to bulge through the turn as he circled by the gate but I waggled the lunge whip and asked him to "walk on" and he kept going. We did 15 minutes of walking and trotting in both directions and I was surprised, he didn't even whinny for any of the horses in the barn during the whole time.

As we walked back to the barn, instead of taking him the usual way, right through the front of the barn, I walked him around the barn and went in the side door, a place he's never gone before. He was a little nervous about it but I kept up a soft voiced urging and firmly led him around the front of the barn and into the side door, through the side barn aisle and back to his spot on crossties in front of his stall. I could sense his relief when he realized where I led him to. And I rewarded him with a forehead rub for trusting me and following me into the barn through this strange new place.

I'm learning he's a horse who is very safe with his routines and if you vary things, it might bring out his less than compliant side. Typical toddler, if his routine is changed, he has a meltdown. That's why I'm going to keep up small changes to get him to rely on my judgement and trust my guidance. Back to square one as it were until I can get back in the tack and lots of lunging under saddle.

When I untacked him, groomed him again and picked his hooves, I walked him into the stall and closed the door behind me. He had his face up to the bars of the stall, waiting. Waiting for a treat, or a kind word. He got nothing. I ignored him and went to putting my tack away. Each time I returned from the locker room to collect more tack (I am hurting too much to carry it all in one trip) I walked by and he was still standing there, watching me. When I finished putting my stuff away, I went to check on my friend's horse's water further down the aisle in the barn. I walked past Rugby and he was still standing there by the door, waiting. A soon as I was out of view but he could hear my footsteps, I heard this behind me,


It was Rugby. By now I'm guessing he figured he was not number one on my list. I finished checking on my friend's horse, then called her on the cel phone. The whole time I was chatting with her on the phone I heard an occasional whinny from him. When I finished I walked back to his stall. He watched me the whole way and when I stopped and looked at him he pawed his hoof against the door and banged on it. I sharply said, "NO" and opened the door slowly. He put his nose forward at me and I again said, "No, back up!" He went to paw again and I stomped my foot and butted his chest with my shoulder and said, "No, back UP!". He took a step back in surprise and stood there looking at me. Then I turned slightly away and waited without looking at him. In a second, he slowly walked up and put his nose in my hand. I rubbed his nose and walked out, closing the door behind me.

He decided to give up after that. He went to eating his hay and figured I was done with him. That's when I took the 3 horse cookies I had with me, reached quietly through the bars and placed them softly in his feed bucket. He didn't notice at first what I did but was surprised to find them when he raised his head up from eating to look at me when I closed the lights and said, "Good night, Rugby".

Big baby. And a very smart one, too. He's a bit more clever than he looks.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The bigger they are, the harder you fall.

Yep. Yesterday I hit the dirt.

Hottest day of the year so far. The night before he was a gentleman in the arena behind the barn. I'm figuring on a nice quiet ride. What do I get? I mount up, start to walk off and he pulls his bronc moves on me. I rode out the first two bucks then he saw his friend, Sparky being brought in from turn out. He bucked up, humping his back, knocked me loose and over his shoulder I went. I grabbed his neck on the way down to slow the fall but I still hit the dirt. My left elbow is bruised and my sternum also feels pretty bruised. Broke my reins, too. There was a big dust spot on my helmet where my head hit the ground. Why anyone would ride without one is beyond me...

He trotted over to the arena wall and just stood watching Sparky. I was already on my feet walking over to get him when people came running to see if I was alright. I don't know if I was more pissed or hurt. And for the first time, actually a little hesitant about what I knew I had to do next, get my @$$ back up in the saddle.

Sparky's owner wanted to know if I wanted her to bring Sparky out for the lesson or go in the smaller arena. I said to bring him out. If he needed his equine "blanky" for me to get back on and do what I had to do, so be it. No use getting dumped twice.

I waited until they brought Sparky out to the arena, then got back on and rode for 40 minutes. And all was good and calm. No more bucking, no nonsense. But I was pretty taut for the whole ride. And I don't mean scared up and tight, just very, very much on guard up there.

Today, I think I'm too sore to ride and have my left arm and shoulder working if he tried anything again. I figure lunging under tack is a better way to go. I knew eventually I'd have to come off. It will happen but somehow I didn't think it would happen THIS quickly. Glad to have the first time over with but not looking for it to happen again anytime soon. I'm hoping this isn't something he pulls often.

And I had just gotten past the "new horse" jitters. I was really cautious riding him in the very beginning and was just starting to feel I had it together. Back to square one. Oh, green horses...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Naming a Horse

I don't know about you, but naming a horse has not come easy for me. Oh sure, as a kid, naming every Breyer horse in your collection was a piece of cake. And they all had grand, fancy names like, "Wicked Mountain Lightning" (because when you are 7 years old, 3 big words together is a super impressive name!). Then you actually are priveleged to own a real, live horse and suddenly the name takes on a new level of importance.

My first horse came with his name, "Tally Ho". He was a lesson horse I fell in love with as a kid and my unsuspecting parents bought for me (figuring if I actually had to care for a horse and see how much work it was I'd quit. Nope, I'm no quitter!). His name was cute, English and just suited him, so we left it.

The second horse was my dad's horse. He had no name when we bought him. His coat was a deep coffee brown with a flaxen mane and tail. His personality was very, very laid back. Somehow, "decaffeinated" was a good word to describe him. We named him, "Sanka". I think my mom named him, (she had just switched to decaf back then!)

My mare, "Alta", came with her name. Her Jockey Club papered name was "Alto Speranze". In Italian it translates to, "High Hope". With her high-and-mighty attitude, that name just fit her. Several Italian friends commented on the mixing of gender since the name was in the masculine and my horse was a mare (wishful thinking on the part of the breeder?). So I changed the vowels when I registered her with the AHSA (now the USEF) to "Alta Speranza". I kept her name since several people in the local horse show world also knew her from the track since she was a NY-bred thoroughbred. With a name like that, I knew if they heard it over the loudspeaker at the shows, they'd know it was her. What I didn't foresee was how the name was often mispronounced by announcers at the shows! Alpo(No, NOT a good thing to hear your horse called!!!), Aldo, Spranza, Seperanza were some of the typos that were read to my disappointment.

So when Monty came along, I knew I wanted a simple name. One that had a low risk of being mispronounced, misspelled, and misunderstood. It was harder than I thought. I came up with names based on his color, the time of year, etc. and hated all of them. Then, sometime into the 2 weeks I was trying him it came to me, "Solitaire". A game you play by yourself. A single diamond. That kind of summed up the circumstances in his case and it was elegant and easy. Somehow at the same time, we just started calling him, "Monty" as his barn name and it stuck. It suited him.

And now I have,"Rugby". That's not the name he had before I chose him. In the truck, on the way home from the lady's house after we went to see him, my husband and I were talking and I turned to him and said, "You know, if he's the one, I already have a name picked out."
My husband was surprised, "Really? But he has a name."
"I'm going to call him, Rugby" I said.
"Hey, I like that!" mused my husband, "Where did that come from?"
"I don't know, it just came to me and it suits him." I replied.

I know where it came from. My husband loves Ralph Lauren clothes. He's especially fond of their "Rugby" collection, which in it's early days featured several pieces with a really cool skull and crossbones motif on a black background. This big, burly black and white horse made me think of that and it's a name that sounds cute when you say it but the sport is in reality a rough and tough game. My husband is kind of cute but also kind of a rough and tumble guy.

My husband is the one who pushed me to go look at this horse, he just liked him the moment he saw pictures of him and told me he had a good feeling about this animal. He felt my pain and everything I went through when I lost Monty. He loves animals and has a good eye for a good animal. I joked with him I was going to let him choose this horse since at this point I'm kinda picky. And this horse has turned out to be so wonderful for me.

So it's a little sappy but, the name came to me in a connection between husband and horse. My husband is my best friend, I guess I wanted that good karma with a new horse, too.

So, there are my horse naming stories. I'd be curious to hear from readers if they have any horse naming stories to share. If you have a blog and already have written about naming your horse, post the link and we'll catch up to everyone's story!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Best Ride Yet!

Saturday was another lesson with the Master. And what a gorgeous spring day! It hit 70 degrees! Rugby did remember all we started with and we worked again on getting him to understand to move off the pressure of the bit and carry himself. Just through the walk and a little at the trot he was asked to carry himself and stay balanced without leaning into my hands for support. And he was getting it! Those moments when he would get light and carry his big self were heaven!

Just as we were nearing the end of our half hour, Rugby noticed a little chestnut horse being jogged for soundness outside the vet clinic. And he lost it. He must have thought it was his stable buddy, Sparky. He started whinnying, and trying to turn his head to look at what the other horse was doing. Then he started balking and wanting to go to that side of the fence instead of stay on our circle. The Master chuckled and said, "Awww, we were almost in second grade and now we went back to kindergarten." I chuckled, too and rode it out until he gave up and went back to walking our circle. The Master sent us back to the trot for another minute or two then back to the walk and quit. But we finished the lesson with his full attention and on a positive note.

Yesterday, I went to ride about the time when all the other lessons get started. I wanted to ride in the polo arena and like to do it when the ring gets busy since my horse is happier in company. We rode in the midst of 2 lessons and some boarders exercising their horses. We had our best ride yet! Rugby was attentive, trying very much to be soft in the bridle and was quite balanced through the turns. He didn't try his balking and bulging as we passed the gate and kept a steady trot on the large circle.

Today the weather is supposed to become rainy and lousy. It's a much chillier morning. Looks like he'll get his turn out time this morning and be snug in his stall when that cold rain starts a little later today. He deserves the day off for being such a good boy.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pre-purchase Exam Done

Yesterday was Rugby's pre-purchase exam. Not bad. Some things that I'm glad I'm aware of but no deal breakers as far as the vet seems concerned. I'm going to take the plunge and buy him. So as of tomorrow, I go to the bank and send the balance in a certified check!

I checked my training calendar (I have a calendar hanging in my locker. On it, I write in how long he's ridden or worked with and what was done) and he's now got 10 rides on him. In those 10 rides there has been noticeable improvement on:

- walking up to the mounting block and standing still while mounted
- standing still after I am in the tack and settled, then only walking on after I ask.
- walking and trotting past the gate or barn door without as much resistance
- staying straighter at walk and trot down the long sides of the arena
- trotting for longer periods of time without trying to break to the walk.

He's shown me even in this short time that he has a good capacity for learning and keeping what he's taught. That is great if my schedule keeps me away from riding for a few days because it's nice to get on and pick up where we left off instead of having to do a "refresher" each time. That was one of Monty's strongest traits and I love that Rugby seems to have it, too.

The night before last, I went to ride after dinner. By now, Rugby has no problem riding under the lights in the arena behind the barn. So I mount up, get settled and ask him to walk on, we start along the rail when I see a white plastic shopping bag stuck in one of the short trees on the long side of the riding ring. Looked like the wind had blown it around and it got snagged on the branches. It was just above the horses' eye level and Rugby hadn't noticed it yet. As we approached and walked by, I figured, "okay, let's just see what he does" so I reached over and plucked it out of the tree!

He felt me twist, then felt the tug and heard the bag rattle. He just hopped one step to the side and planted himself still! Then he turned his head around to nuzzle my boot and look at me as if to say, "ok, what was that? is it safe? sounds like a bag - are there treats I should know about?" I crumpled the bag and stuffed it into my pocket and rewarded him like crazy for being so calm! That's a personality worth a million to me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring is Here?

Wow! So busy between work, Rugby, Kids off from school and the holidays. First of I hope everyone had nice holidays. Our family had a quiet Easter- well as quiet as it can be with the boyz! They have been off from school and they got bored after the first couple of days. Bored kids plus a basket of Easter candy is a recipe for a long trip to the playground to blow off energy. Especially after being housebound due to the rainy days before our sunny Easter.

The rain dampened my riding a bit but I managed to get in the 3 days through the weekend. Friday was my riding lesson with the Master. It's the first lesson I've had with him in over 2 years. He came to see Rugby and give me some things to work on with him.

Of course I was eagerly awaiting his opinion of the big moose. He walked in as I was finishing up grooming Rugby. We exchanged hellos and he walked around my horse to the side and the back. And his comment was, "Wow, that's one big moose!". Ah, we agree on something!

So I tacked up and we went out to the polo arena. I'm happy to say that the mounting block issue of not standing still seems to be all but gone. He'll walk up now and as soon as he hears me tell him, "Ho!" he stops and stands. I can get on, get settled and he stands like a stone until I ask him to walk on. Nice!

I hoped we'd get to canter in the lesson but the Master felt strongly that Rugby needs more work on balance and straightness before we go there. He wants him to be able to hold himself better at the slower gaits before we move up a notch. His opinion is that Rugby is a good boy with an even temper to learn but he's more green than any of the horses I've had before. He told me since this is the most blank slate I've ever been given, that we should progress slowly and really let him learn how to do everything right under tack the first time. I can't argue with that.

He helped me with some different ways to help work on straightness. He told me to ride the quarter tracks and circle in the center of the polo arena as often as possible. Don't ride him much along the wall, he needs to be straight without the crutch of the wall and if we work with the slower gaits to do this, he'll be better by being straight and balanced before the canter when we progress.

I think he likes Rugby. The Master is not one to mince words with me. We've trained together for a very long time and if I was showing him a less than encouraging prospect I know he'd rip me for it. And I would expect no less from him. He explained that Rugby is not as nice a mover as Monty was but I know that and said so. His take on the big guy is he's attractive, sturdy, has a good demeanor and is willing. We will take it slow and see just what kind of an athlete the big fella expresses himself to be. I will be happy if he turns out to be a trail horse and can pack my kids around. If he is trained right, I think he will surprise all of us!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Whacked Out and Wiggy

Amy Winehouse on a horse with the reins around her neck.

It's just scary.

More on the story can be found here at dlisted. It's one of those snarky celebrity gossip sites and the language can be spicy, so be warned.

Then there's this, Horses Wearing Wigs.

More from dlisted but much funnier. I like the black horse wearing the beaded wig!

Monday, April 6, 2009


Balance. This is one of the key elements in horsemanship. The rider must stay balanced in order to not interfere with the horses' balance.

In riding my new, green horse, I have become reaquainted just how important this principle is. Where an older, trained schoolmaster may be more forgiving of a rider's unbalanced moments, A young horse who is still finding his own balance and now having to cope with a rider on it's back will be in trouble if the rider also has not developed a feel for their own balance. This is one of the many reasons why many horsemen will say a green horse with a green rider is a recipe for trouble, hence the old saying, "Green + Green = Black and Blue".

Rugby has moments where it all falls into place, where you feel that he's carrying himself and I in balance and when that happens I become quiet with my aids and softly ride until the moment passes. Then you begin to ask again for him to find that same feel. At this stage, he is not fit, he will get tired and I'm sure the muscles will hurt when he starts to use them to hold himself correctly. That is why I am proceeding slowly, with mostly walk/trot work. Short intervals of trotting with much walking to encourage softness to the hand as he begins to build muscle. I am enjoying working with a horse who is just beginning to learn this, to feel those moments when it is correct and to be rewarded as he can hold the "moment" for longer periods each time.

And it's all being done with the most basic of equipment. An all-purpose saddle. A plain english bridle with a basic cavesson noseband and a D cheeked bit with a John Patterson comfort mouth.

Nowadays, there is much talk amongst horsemen of things being done to "speed up" a process that in classical horsemastership would take several years. There are riding methods such as the hotly-debated Rollkur or hyperflexion of the neck. There are the artificial aids such as martingales, draw reins, side reins, etc. to restrain the horse into what seems like a correct position. There are also items used to try and fix the rider's position and balance such as the "Shoulders Back" and "Unisit". Though I have never used either of these and do not wish to, there is a wonderful review article for both of these at this link: Sit Up Straight

I think this quote from the Unisit website's home page is a good guideline when considering a supplemental training device, "Though Unisit is not intended to replace hard work and traditional teaching methods, the system assists trainers and instructors to supplement the development of proper rider position and feel." And after reading about each of these items, none of the principles of basic horsemanship are conflicted in their use.

There is a product designed for the western pleasure rider to supposedly improve their balance and center called the Level Rider. I am an English style rider so maybe my thoughts about it are based on that style of riding but the barn I currently ride at has riders of both disciplines. And as I have been told by western riders who teach, the basic principles are the same for both english and western riding. You should sit straight, sit deep into your seat, keep your weight in your heels, have a soft, giving hand and look straight ahead at where you are going. So my first thought on the function of this item was, why is it asking the rider to look down at the device, when by doing so you go against the principles taught to affect balance?

I have a few links below to support what effect the rider's head position has on the horse.

Riding Balance

Horseless Riding

How Your Posture Can Unbalance Your Horse

Balance Seat Horsemanship

And now I leave it to all readers for discussion. Balance, training, natural and artificial aids and devices, your experiences, your thoughts.

The good of the horse befits the good of the rider

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Swap Night Fun

We had a good time at the Swap Night! It is always a fun time to be at an event where all your horse friends are there at the same time. It was busy, lots of table LOADED with stuff to browse through. I didn't think I would sell much but I was pleasently surprised at the things that did go. The only thing I managed to find was a nice, 6 inch eggbutt snaffle for the big guy.

Mostly my husband and I were busy watching my table and keeping track of the boyz as they roamed the rooms. One good thing at this event is so many people know them that there are watchful eyes everywhere. They quickly found my vet's 3 children and were off and running with them in search of tables offering any candy or toys.

I rode Rugby for a short time yesterday before cleaning up to go to Swap Night. Yesterday was a very windy, gusty one here. But I missed 3 days of riding with the rain and wanted to get in some kind of saddle time. He was the best yet about standing for me at the mounting block. But no sooner had I settled into the tack than a white plastic bag went airborne across the arena behind us. Rugby snorted, and scooted forward about 10 yards when I whoa'ed him to a stop. I soothed him and asked him to just walk on and he seemed okay with that. But it was a day when the spook worthy stuff just kept coming! One of the restaurant workers was banging around in the dumpsters on the other side of the fence that separates the restaurant parking lot from our property. Then a delivery truck pulled up in their parking lot and started unloading frozen fish. Out in the polo arena one of the young boys was loping around on his horse. Amidst all the distraction was gusty wind, rattling all sorts of things and making strange noises.

After his initial spook, Rugby was watchful but paying attention to me. We worked at the walk and trot and aside from his still wanting to stop each time we passed the barn door, he was very good and put up with all the distractions. Then came the best one yet. A truck from the phone company pulled up on the road outside the riding ring, the worker climbed into the cherry picker on the truck and raised it up to work in the control box on the phone pole! I'm wondering what this horse is going to think about this and of all the things, this was the one that he didn't bat an eyelash at.

Today has started sunny and warmer. I'm looking forward to spending some time at the barn this afternoon.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

NSHA Swap Night and Memories

This Saturday evening is the Nassau Suffolk Horseman's Association's annual Swap Night. It is a very eagerly awaited and popular horse gear swap meet that sort of unofficially signals the start of spring in our horse community. Every year I get a table to sell stuff and it's fun to go and see everyone and catch up on what they've been up to.

So I have a table again, of course. And I have lots to sell but this time feels different. I'm kind of sad and wistful about it this time. Usually the things I bring to sell are things that didn't work out for my horse, or tack with some wear left to them that were replaced with a newer, better fitting piece. With the impending purchase of Rugby, I'm needing lots of new gear in Oversize to fit him. So, many pieces from a 3 decade collection of horse equipment will have to be sold to help fund the new stuff.

My old mare, Alta's hunter show bridle will never fit him. There are 2 dressage bridles that were bought for her and handed down to use on Monty. Those will never fit him. The Wintec bridle I bought for schooling Monty and the gorgeous, nearly new, flat leather hunting bridle that I found for a steal on Ebay in hopes that one day Monty would go fox hunting will also have to go.

Rugby also wears between a 5.5 and a 6 inch bit. My collection is almost all 5 and 5.25 inch bits. Since steel holds it's value and condition, I'll weed out a few but keep the rest.

My size 50 girths need to go. Thankfully there are two 52 inch girths from Alta and Monty that just manage to fit the big guy, now.

Then, there are all the blankets and sheets. Alta wore a 78. None of her clothes fit Monty, he was much broader and needed an 80-81. So almost all Alta's clothes were sold and new things bought for Monty. Rugby is at least an 82, maybe an 84. So the rest of Alta's and all Monty's clothes will need to be sold. But I can't part with my wool dress sheet from my horse show days, even though it's only an 80. And all the trophy coolers will never fit him either.

Some things I just can't sell, even if they never fit Rugby. My DelGrange saddle will not fit him. I will care for it and store it. I can never replace it. Monty's Beval show bridle will never leave. Nor will the beautiful black turn out blanket my husband bought for him on the first Christmas we were together.

When the ghosts of past horse loves are revisited and in this way are being let go of yet again, it stirs up emotions I thought I'd buried. But I can't hold onto all this tack and not be able to use it. On the bright side, shopping for new gear is always fun!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Third Ride's the Charm

So last night was the third ride for Rugby and I. And it was the best so far.

He needs work learning to stand at the mounting block and I've been enlisting willing souls to help me by giving him a gentle push on the off side. Last night my husband stopped by to help me mount up although I almost could have done it unassisted. It's just one of those things that needs repetition and he'll be fine.

The first time I rode him, he didn't exactly start off on the right hoof. I took him out to the polo arena last Saturday. Everything seemed fine until he realized he was the only horse on the arena. And he started whinnying, and snorting and prancing around. I swear they get even bigger when they get all nervous like that. It didn't help that was the time that they were also switching turn out shifts! And I'm thinking, "how am I going to mount this beast and how long before he quits acting up?"

When all of a sudden, here comes the lady who owns the old school horse, Sparky, leading the old fellow out to the arena. Rugby saw his friend, whinnied at him and started to settle down. She smiled at us and said," I like your horse so much and so does Sparky. We want him to work out for you and for him to stay here. How about I have one of the lesson kids saddle up Sparky and ride with you to keep him quiet?"

Perfect! I thanked her for the great idea and sure enough, as soon as Sparky was in the arena with us, the big galoot settled down. In fact, a few more horses came in as lessons got started and the more horses in the ring, the quieter and happier Rugby is! That's a wonderful thing, especially for my little plan to train him into a field hunter.

He's got a wonderful mouth, he takes the bit with contact but I don't find he hangs in the hand. When you get him together and add leg, all of a sudden he comes right into the bridle and gets soft, but then, when his lack of toning starts to cause him to hurt a bit, he bulges through the shoulder and loses the frame. He's long in the body, so it takes time to get him connected. We are just working the walk and trot now in short sessions but I love how willing he is even with the greenie nonsense.

Sunday's ride had a wild moment. He was better in the arena as there were already other horses there in lessons. Then he saw a horse going out to lunge in the other riding ring that resembled his buddy Sparky. He bellowed to the horse, then snortd, the tail went straight up and he started jumping sideways! I sat low and tight, kept urging him forward and circling him. And in about 15 seconds, (that felt like 15 minutes) he gave up. He kept peeking and whimpering at that horse, and as long as he kept a few brain cells involved with me, I let him be nosy. All we did was walk, stretch, walk over ground poles and work on steering. And he did great.

Last night, I was alone, so I rode in the ring behind the barn. I figured as long as he was close to the barn, he'd be fine. He was. There is a lot to look at in this ring. There's a restaurant on the other side with a busy parking lot and lots of human noise and traffic, a busy road outside the front of the ring, and just all sorts of smells and sounds to distract a young horse. We rode a short 20-25 minute session just at the walk with a little trot and he was a doll. I love this big baby.