Monday, May 31, 2010

Breed Review: Fjord

This is a breed of horse that has always held my interest. Being Norwegian myself, I wonder if some where in my past is a farmer who worked the fjords of Norway with a team of these beautiful horses. That might be a bit romantic of me, but one never knows. My grandfather, who came over as a child, never liked to talk about his life in Norway.

The Norwegian Fjord is one of the oldest, if not the oldest breed of horse. They are very primitive in looks, resembling the horses depicted in cave paintings. Often they are compared to the Przewalski, although the Fjord horse has been selectively breed for over 2000 years. Fjords come in five colors, all various of a dun. 90% of Fjord Horses are brown dun. The remaining 10% is made up of red, white, gray, or yellow duns. The yellow dun is the most rare. Below is a brown dun on the left and a red on the right.

Steady on feet and steady in the mind, Norwegian Fjords have been shaped by their homeland. Norway is full of fjords, the geological structure, not the horse. These make farming difficult at best. While farming along these fjords this sturdy pony, standing between 13-15 hh, may have to pull for hours up steep and rocky terrain. Compared to goats in the ability to move up and down the steep hill, this is a sure footed horse. Fjord horses are big boned and can almost live on air, also due to the terrain that they lived in for so long. Farmers had to cross the fjords in small row boats, and they took their livestock with them. Between the row boats, narrow paths up the hills, and the general rough terrain the Norwegian Fjord had to have a calm disposition or it would not be around long enough to pass on their good looks.

Obviously Fjord Horses were used to pull: farm equipment, wagons, and carriages. They are, at heart, draft animals. That doesn't dimish what they can do under saddle though. This is a plucky little horse that can do most anything. Really, they can hunker down to do a nice spin for reining or stretch out to make those beautiful extended trots for dressage. Although I am not about to claim that a Fjord is going to be the next US dressage star or hold the world title for reining, they can be competitive enough for the average rider. They are a perfect horse for the person that wants to do a little driving and a little riding and just wants a nice sturdy pony.

Okay they are not without any flaws. The Norwegian Fjord can be stubborn. He's Norwegian, what can you expect? They are also VERY easy keepers. They can live off of very poor forage and still do a lot of work. In today's horse world it can be difficult to keep them at a good weight. When they do gain weight they tend to looks a bit more like a hippo than a horse. Probably the biggest draw back to a person like me us that these are not cheap horses to purchase. Still relatively a novelty, they can be pricey.

If you noticed I have called the Norwegian Fjord a horse and a pony. In its homeland, there was no word for pony, hence it is a Fjord horse in straight translation. Here in America any horse below 14.2 is a pony, and most Fjords do fall below that height. In Britain, a pony has a slightly different definition. Part of the definition is height, but also that they are better able than horses to survive and procreate without the intervention of humans. They are stronger, larger boned, and have more efficient digestive tracts to utilize poor forage than their horse counter parts. Fjords meet all of these requirements.

The Fjord horse meet all my requirements for a new mount too. Hummm. No there isn't one in the barn yet, and I promise that I have not put a down payment on one either.

Equine World
The Scandinavian Horse
Norsk Wood Works
Big Pony, Little Horse

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

What a wonderful sucky day

Oh I am smiling as I write that, but at the same time my heart is breaking.

I had Abby in the round pen yesterday. She walked, trotted, cantered for me. She stopped, did inside turns in and in general just did everything I asked. Then I took her into the arena and again, followed me around, turned on the fore hand, turned on her hind quarters, back and followed me. She just did everything I asked. She was wonderful.

Damn it!

It makes it hard to keep her up for sale, but as I tried to gazed over her back, loved on her and almost got my foot stepped on, I know she it too big for me. Yet I really want to ride her. Maybe one last time? Am I crazy to want to try and ride the horse that is associated with the only broken bone in my entire family?

Today I had an asthma attack when I went out so I didn't do as much. I got the video. I also got a really low offer on Abby. Trade for a saddle. I honestly would like a western saddle. I honestly am not sure I want trade Abby for one. I think she is worth much more than that, but at the same time the woman sounded like a good match for Abby and the longer I keep her the longer I have to pay board on her.

* * *
Well all make mistakes, and there is a price to pay for those mistakes. Mine is more ground work. Now don't get me wrong, I know how important ground work is. I am just getting sick to death of doing ground work, I have been doing it for years. Now that I am getting so much more confident I want to ride and I want to drive.

I messed Ike up. I had him try to pull too much weight too soon and now he is getting balky. So it is back to almost square one. We we'll call it square two. He is pulling the empty sled. I started adding light things to it as I walked around the yard, but not the barrel that he used to pull. Which means that when I get the shafts it may still be awhile before I actually get to drive while sitting in it.

We also are working on driving by scary things, like the blue recycling bin and the little flags in the yard to mark where we have phone lines. Ya know those things from Diggers Hotline. Well we were getting pretty good at the bin and Ike figure out how to handle the flags, he bit them and pulled them out. I guess that works.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Riding Lesson #6: a milestone

Another mile stone! I wanted to move my lesson a back an hour so it would not be as warm. I knew that I might have to get started on my own. Toby the dog was the only one in the driveway when I got there. He barked, looked and the house, and looked at me. It was obvious that he knew his dad should be around.

I greeted the black lab and headed to the barn. Now when you work with haffies, they tend to looks a lot alike. Drew is unique that he is a roan. I was pretty sure that I could pick him out if there were not too many in the barn. Mostly horses in training stay in the barn so along with a paint, a gray welsh pony, a big chestnut were two haflingers. Between the two one was roan and a gelding and the other was not.

Sure that I had the right horse, I pulled Drew out. 9:00 I groomed him and picked out his feet. Except for a brief fight about his feet, it was quick work. 9:07. Finding the saddle and pad took a bit of doing, as I have not gotten all this together before. Plus I kept dragging my feet. 9:10. Saddling, getting the bridle, and finally Drew was ready. 9:15. Well, I was not going to just stand there with a saddled horse so we headed to the arena. That was rather nerve racking walk.

When I got out there I mounted, Drew started to back. What the! Not a normal thing for him. I took stock of myself and realized that I was a little nervous. But we settled in and started walking around the ring. I walked and halted, my new feel good maneuver. If I feel nervous, I practice halting. Once I have the horse halting nicely I feel much better about life in general. A lot of walking and trotting, a few new things to spook at. When R got there he just got a training horse and came on out. We had a really good ride. I mean it was so normal! A perfectly normal thing. I wish I could ride more than once a week though.


After my lesson I came home and waited. And waited. And watched Abby outside in the paddock for perhaps the last time. R showed up with a trailer to take her back to his farm. He is going to work with her for the next week or two so that if anyone wants to test ride her, they can. I am not sure if I will be able to ride her or not. After the training, I will work with her and hopefully find a really great home for her if she has not found one by then. So Abby may never come back to this property and that makes me a little sad.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Getting things figured out

Awhile back I wrote down that I had some things to decide. I had figured out that I like to drive. Also that I do want to ride and yet I did not have any horses that would further that goal to start riding. That went hand in hand with, I have too many horses. I wanted to really start working with all of them, but that was too much. I was stuck at that point for quite awhile. I really didn't know what to do. I knew that I was going to have to spend some money and bring in a professional.

At that point my weight loss and fitness goals sort of stood still too. Spending money and the frustrations with too little time and not having horses that were ridable was really getting to me. Bumps in the road. Those little frustrations that make me want to just say, "oh forget it!"

It was the best decisions I made, to sell Kinsy. Knowing that that egg wasn't going to hatch sent me made me reevaluate again. I am finding that I am doing that a lot on this journey. Keeping an eye on what I want, and then adjusting my journey to continue on towards that goal. What else can I do? I'm not giving up, and I am not going to stand still either. Not this time. Keep moving forward.

In a previous comment, Breathe from HorseCentric, mentioned about this being a journey of self discovery. I am finding that so true. With each stumbling block I have to really think about what is important to me. Getting back in the saddle is very multifaceted. Weight, fitness, riding skills, driving, etc. I find that as one part might get a bit stuck it effects the others too. Sometimes I looks focus. that is when a support system is so nice. Just a gentle nudge in the right directions. Sometimes it is as little as a reminder of where I am going.

This blog, friends, family, a trainer, and other sources all keep me moving in the right directions. Minor detours, like Kinsey, are to be expected. Those bumps often so me off track that I don't know how to start again. I really think I am on the right path again though.

Few things I have to do now:
* Sell Abby . . I have to sell her before I get a new horse.
* Continue on the weight loss and fitness path . . . I actually have a number I want to be below.
* Get Ike driving . . . he is ready once I get the shafts
* Continue on with lessons, riding in particular.

THEN I will start looking for a new horse to ride. I am really going to try to stick to this before getting a new horse. I don't want to be lamenting that I have too many horses again or that I can ride them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Video Review: Riding in Your Minds Eye dvd1

How often have we heard that practice makes perfect. It doesn't. If you practice something wrong, you will just learn to do it wrong. No magic there.

Perfect practice makes perfect.

That is the premise of this video. If you practice something perfectly, you will make improvements in your riding. Of course it is easier to do things correctly in our minds. Studies have actually shown that visualizing doing something correctly does actually improve your ability to do something better.

The steps Jane suggests you follow are:
1) Know the mechanics before visualization. Know how the aids should be used to get the horse do the movement.
2) Visualize before you ride, this dvd suggest you watch this dvd. In her books Jane suggest that you just watch good riders. Then as your ride keep those image in your "minds eye."
3) After you are able to watch the horse and rider on the screen, try to imagine it is you and your horse.

Covered in this dvd:
*Alternating between rising and sitting trot
*Upper transitions
*Downward trasitions
*Circles (its a dressage tape, it has to have circles!)
*Shallow loop
*Change of direction
*Medium walk to free walk

The dvd is laid out so that you learn the mechanics and then have a silent period to put the correct image into your mind's eye.

Of course I love this dvd. This is one that I think I will get. As a dressage rider I love to just analyze the process of riding. The video is perfect for actually analyzing how to ride these seemingly simple movements. Study dressage for long and you will learn two things: nothing is simple and if the horse does it wrong it is all your fault. You can use a good video of the disciple of your choice to get that perfect image for minds eye, but this video has really good footage of each movement.

Another pro is it provides a way to "ride" when you just can not get out to the barn. I really wish I had ordered this one when I was in a cast this winter. Now that I am only riding twice a month, I still think that this is going to be a very beneficial video. I think I will be keeping this video for at least a few weeks.

Now if you are not that into dressage, this video maybe a bit much and too simple at the same time. It tells exactly what aides to use and how to use them to make each of the movements. It is based on classic dressage and although I can not image a rider that would not improve after watching and trying the techniques it is very much an English rider's video.

Another potential con of the video is that is meant to be watched over and over again. If you rent it, such I am, then the benefits are not going to be as long reaching. On that note, if anyone has this video and would like to part with it please let me know.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kinsey Sold

Well it is both with sadness and relief that I report that Kinsey has a new home. She will be leaving in the next few days to go to Illinois to start her new life. One where it looks like she will be used and well liked. I am excited for her, sounds like she is going to be doing a lot of trail riding.

I promised R that I had learned my lesson. What lesson? I think it can all be summed up with phrase: "Buy the horse you can ride now."

Buying a horse is exciting and exhausting. We often feel many things when looking for a horse. Grandiose daydreams of riding down the trails on a big black horse (ehem). Pressure from a trainer or friend to buy this or that type of horse. Thinking that we will "grow into" a horse. Plus just general antsyness to get a new horse.

Abby is an eye catching, a big black Percheron. She has a sweet temperament and I admit, I get romantic thoughts of knights of the round table when I ride her. Or rather when I have ridden her. She is HUGE though, and has grown since I got her. I figured if I had problems my old trainer could help me. WRONG, she turned out to be pycho, the trainer not Abby. So I have a big horse that I can't ride.

* I could only barely ride her when I got her.
* I fell in love with the idea of riding her.
* I didn't make sure that she would do what I wanted her to: ride outside and trail ride.
* I was depending too much on help from an outside source.

Kinsey was not as appealing to me. I know that is horrible to say, but I just never did click with her. For the first few months I didn't even feel like she was mine. I sort of felt trapped in to buying, not only her, but a horse. I didn't think I would find someone to let me ride their horses because of my size. She was smaller and I was told that she rode well, so I thought it would be a good match. I thought that I could ride her by spring. Guess what? Not so much.

* I didn't think for myself and I didn't heed my gut feeling.
* I thought she would be a great horse for me in a few months.
* I was antsy to get a new horse.
* I didn't see her ridden, although I did afterwards and it went well for awhile.
* I was just not ready for a horse yet, I still had my own issues.
* I didn't wait until I saved up enough money to be able to look at a reasonable price range.
* I didn't have clear focus of what my next horse should be like.

So in short, I could not ride either of these horses when I got them. HEED MY MISTAKES. Really I do hope that this post helps someone, keep your logical mind in the forefront when choosing your next riding partner. Although as my trainer told me today, "Some people just have to learn the hard way." Yup, some of us do.

So am I looking for another horse? Only half heartedly. I think *sniff, sniff* as much as I love her, Abby needs to go too. We are going to see if we can get her to R's so I can work with her. I love her something awful, but she is just too big. She is about 17hh now I am really want something around 14hh. She is an expensive pasture pet and I really think she needs to do something. She is still young and very healthy. Why just let her sit around.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ickle Pickle

Where do we come up with the nick names for our horses?

Fike's Angle Fire was called Fire when I got him. . . ick! I was not going to call my gelding Angel, so that was out of the question. I was left with Fike. . ehh, shorted it to Ike. How I started calling him Pickle, I have NO idea. LOL. Ickle Pickle has stuck though, poor guy!

I am so excited that I set off the check to Sugar Rock Farm, the makers of my cart. I should get the new shafts in a few weeks! I am so anxious to drive him now. I am so much more confident to drive him. I just want to drive up and down my street and start to actually work a horse from some place other than the ground. Have goals for the horse and not just myself.

When I first got Ike he was 3. He bought him from a video. I ordered a little easy entry cart and my little harness and away we went. I drove him some and let him sit some because I was basically clueless. I think I have told this story before but one day I was driving him, nervous all the time about it too because I didn't know if I was doing it right or not, and Ike took off. I could steer but that was about it. As I am tooling around I am thinking, gee, I can't do a one rein stop. Then I headed him toward a fence. Nope, didn't look like we were going to stop. So we went out to the road, a quiet road. He ran, I was pulling but I was afraid of pulling his jaw off, so we ran. I took him to a grassy area and ran. Eventually he slowed and I got control back. It was a trip and I realized I needed to learn a few things.

It took me all this time to actually find a trainer to teach me to drive. Already I know that I could have brought him back under control by making a big circle. Also once he was under control I should have kicked him back up into a canter, made him work. I have learned so much more and I know the next time I step in that cart behind him I will be so much more prepared.

And so will Ike. We have been working around the yard with a "stone boat" (in quotes because it is really a plastic sled but works for a mini). I haul a barrel around. We also take out the garbage and bring in the cans. We are learning to stand, to pull, to gee, and haw.

Yea, I am a gee and haw person. Just a farm girl at heart. I even want a little wagon and a team of minis. I want to drive to town and get the groceries. Wagons have lots of advantages over those beautiful little carts.

When those shafts come, R is going to come out and help me make sure that I have it all together right. Get Ike hitched up and maybe we'll even go for a trail drive. Woo Hoo. I had hardly wait. Seriously, I am going to be watching for the UPS man like a hawk now!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Trusting the horse

Muddy K made a very interesting comment about my management vs labor post.

Which comes first, having the confidence to trust the horse or trusting the horse to build confidence. My thought is a resounding both! I did ponder this idea for a bit. I thought back to my own journey and depending where I was at on my journey has made a huge difference in who I trusted: my trainer, the horse, or me.

It really depends on where one is on the journey to overcome fear. Both time that I decided to get back to riding and had success, I found a trainer I felt comfortable with. The first time, I was nervous to get on, but not as scared as I was this spring. Both trainers had horses that were up to the task of taking around a Nervous Nelly. I think that is the key, having a trustworthy horse.

I was looking for something specific when I found those trainers and horses. My first trip down this rode was several years ago. I am not going to talk about that time right now. This spring, I wanted to drive. I felt that was something I could do. I did have confidence that I could handle a horse on the ground. My experiences with R and Bill, helped my confidence in both of them and my skills grow. Everything kind of grows together.

When I decided that I wanted to ride, I already has some confidence in Bill. It was a bit of a leap of faith to get on his back, but I did have a good foundation started. Then I move on to Drew, it was again, confidence that R would not put me on an unsafe horse and my own new confidence in myself. Then after a few rides on Drew, I felt very comfortable with him. My confidence grew in him, that he was not going to just take off and he would stop when I asked.

Now I am past the fear of sitting on, walking, and trotting a horse. I actually feel really good about that. I was not really riding then I was just a passenger. So now I am actually riding. So when I am on Drew, I do have confidence that if I put my left leg on him, he will move off of it. But if he doesn't, I have confidence in myself that I get after him and make him.

So I am far from my journey being over yet. The worse thing I could do for myself now would be to go out and try to ride Kinsey or Abby. I do think that a person overcoming fear is going to have to look for those more trustworthy horses. Drew is not angel. He will spook, but he is not looking to dismount you. I don't think Abby would either, but we have some steering and stopping issues. Kinsey would try to dismount you.

So I guess more than trusting your horse, you need a horse that deserves your trust. From there you can build confidence in your horse and in yourself.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Driving Lesson #9

MuddyK asked a wonderful question in a comment on my Management and Labor post. I promise I will answer that question. I have a post started but I have not finished it yet.

Today was a lesson day and I had a blast. R. just got a pony for his granddaughter and I got to drive it. Cute little thing and very well behaved. I felt amazing confident. None of the nervousness that comes from any other equestrian sport. I know a lot of that has to do with the size of the equine. Just trotting around the arena, figure 8's, circles, and whatever. It was great to feel confident in myself. Not worried about a run off, I probably would have laughed if I had one. I am just not fearful of driving the little guys at all.

R. has these blue barrels in his arena. They are used for various reasons. They make great obstacles. We were sure what would happen if the pony hit one of these, which can happen when a youngster is learning to drive. So I started to hit them. The pony spook a little at the first one, but just took it all in stride after that. It was actually a lot of fun, and a lot more challenging that one might think. Then we worked on backing. Poor little pony didn't have a clue. So we did that a bit and called it a day. It was fun and good experience for working with my own little guy.

Again it was so nice to be involved in an equestrian activity that didn't leave me on edge. It is fun, just pure and simple. I want to ride and I want to drive the bigger horses, but for an hour I felt confident and had a lot a fun.

After that we talked about Kinsey.

Okay if you don't like sad stories, you might want to skip this part. Kinsey had her first ride yesterday, finally. Monday did not work out at all. She was really spooky about the stirrups, a known irritations of hers. So they had to work through that issue. Yesterday they actually got on. Apparently Kinsey took the bit in her mouth and just took off. Something she started to do on her last ride, at least the last ride I know about.

So many questions have been raised in my head. I have paid for another week of training. I have no idea how to go from here, I can't afford to keep her in training. I'll just have to wait to see how she is then.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More on Labor vs Management

I mowed the lawn the other day. I have such a hard time doing jobs like that. My mind goes in as many circles as the mower. I just don't know how to quiet it down, so I think a lot. I started thinking about the whole labor and management idea.

Often we are told, as riders, that we need to be in control. Slave and owner has been image in my mind. I hate that. This whole management/ labor idea does hold some promise for me. Although I grew up very pro union with the idea that management is the enemy, I see promise in this analogy.

A manger is just that, someone who manages. Managers come in all shapes and sizes. Some really suck! Just thinking about some of a- holes I have worked for get my blood to boil again. Everything from the manager that really doesn't give a rip what I do as long as my job gets done and I looks miserable doing it to ones that don't even know what my job is but still think that they can do it better. Micro managers that don't trust me drive me insane. Even worse are the ones that give no direction. Teach me to do my job and then just let me do it.

Wait. . . Did I hit on something there?

No seriously, it is not really a new concept to me. A new awakening? Viewing the concept form a new angle? I think I just had a slight shift of understanding. Teach the horse what you want them to do, then trust that they are going to do it. Of course it doesn't stop there. A good manager watches over her laborers. Supports them, makes sure they are doing their job, praises when they do a good job and corrects them when they make mistakes.

Maybe as I reenter the world of working with horses and not just keeping them as pets I have to reevaluate what I believe and what I know.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dairyland Driving Club Trail Drive

I recently joined the Dairyland Driving Club. They had a trail drive on Sunday that was combined with a safety talk. After the talk those of use that were new got to tag along with the mentor drivers and pick up some tips. It was really a lot of fun.

The drive was at Blackhawk Ridge near Sauk City. Just a beautiful part of the state. Actually I love Wisconsin, I love all parts but this area is one that was hit by the glaciers and is really hilly because of it. It is also the site of a horrible part of our history with the Native Americans. Here is a plaque that describes the event.

First thing we did was listen to a talk about trail safety. It was a really interesting talk and I picked up a few pointers, always a good thing. One little gem passed on through our speaker but was originally from Jeff Morse. He describes the relationship between horse and driver as labor and management.

I really wish that I was able to hear the talk he gave because it was sure the talk of the drive. The gist of his message was seems to be that we are the management and the horses are our labor. Management makes the decisions and labor does it. Simple as that. If we let our horses make small decisions, then they will continue until they are making big decisions. The example was from our speaker experience. She was describing some difficulties to Jeff that she was having with her driving horse. Jeff asked her how the horse was when she was harnessing. She admitted that the horse moved around a little but nothing really bad. His response was that the horse was being allowed to make decisions that he should not have been making. It made a lot of sense, and seems to be a message that I am getting through a lot of different sources. Something to think about.

I got to drive in a marathon cart, let me tell you I have a new item for my wish list. That was just fun. Spider, a pinto arab, was pulling the cart. Spider epitomizes the expression, 20 years young. He was not like any 20 year old horse I know, more like 20 going on 4. Super horse, the kind you never see for sale because they are just that good.

Our driver shared a little more wisdom from Jeff. His tidbit was, you don't stop a horse with his mouth, you stop him with his mind. Another great little idea to think about for awhile. Nothing really earth shattering, but still something to think about. I think that is something that if you pick up just about any book on riding you find out fairly quickly. We get our horses working off our leg and seat aides, but gaging from the number of horsemen, trainers, etc that have a "bit addition" that is exactly what we try to do.

I met a lot of really neat people. Everyone sharing the same love of driving, and those of use that are really interested in getting involved in it. The were miniatures up to Frisians, and two very lovely Fjords that if I could have I would have squeezed into my Blazer! Everyone was really friendly. I hope to go to a few other events this year.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Review: 101 Longeing & Long Ling Exercises

Sure we all love to ride right? But I have spend a great deal of time lately not able to get in the saddle. And I really don't think that I will ever be riding Ike or Madison, My legs would drag on the ground. Even for Abby though, I have done a lot of ground work. And longeing, around and around and around. It gets boring for the both of us. That is where this book has come in handy.

101 Longeing & Long Lining Exercises: English and Western is a staple in my library lately. Longeing can be a great way to work your horse when you can't ride, but so many people don't have a clue what to do other than endless circles. Longeing can be so much more than that. Once you get into long lining too, the world opens up to so much more. In addition to just adding another tool to your tool box, it helps with under saddle work, and it is an introduction to driving.

I highly recommend this book to be used along with Longeing & Long Lining English and Western Horse, its companion book. This book gives more detail on the how to do longe and long line. Long lining is just another term for ground driving. If you don't have any clue how to longe, round pen, or long line, this book would be the place to start. It covers how to prepare your horse, what equipment to use, and generally all the other stuff you need to know. I really like that Cherry Hill is not a classical dressage rider or a pure western. She shows both an English and western approach.

Once you now how the longe then 101 Longeing & Long Lining Exercises teaches you what to do with those skills. It is broken into 5 parts, in hand, free longeing (round penning), line longeing (longeing on a longe line), side reins longeing, and long lining (ground driving). Free longeing requires a round pen but the rest can be done just about any where. I think Cherry Hills cheats a little. Exercise 1 is "fancy footwork" and exercise 2 is "whip works." neither of which requires a horse. The next few don't really require a horse either. After that though there are some good ideas. Not it just a circle either. These exercises have straight lines, spirals, and other figures other than just traditional stand in the middle and have the horse run around you.

If you have no interest in this type of training, by pass these books. If on the other hand you want to add a new dimension to your tool box pick them up. A library card works great for Longeing & Long Lining English and Western Horse, since it just gives the general how to, once you have that done you don't need the book. Although I have to admit I do pick it up and reread different sections from time to time. 101 Longeing & Long Lining Exercises: English and Western is just as its subtitle says, is a ringside guide. Keep it near by.

Sunday Stills~ Flowers

This Sunday Stills was really a lot of fun. I took some pictures from around the yard and then headed to the local garden shop. I have SO many pictures it was hard to pick!
Okay not technically a flower but May Flowers sure is blooming! And she now a week old!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bye Dominique

I'll miss you!

I got a call this morning for Dominique. One of those, can we come by in an hour types. I was taken off guard because I could not remember where I put it an ad. I had and this couple have been looking for a donkey but didn't want to drive all over the country.

If you don't remember Dominique is the son of Sophie. I got Sophie for my mom and when we went to pick her up the conditions were really bad. Sophie was tied with a horse rope halter to a trampoline. She hid when ever the owner came near. There was loaves of bread all over the ground and when I got home Sophie's bag was really full. Dominique was only 3 months old I figured out. So the next day I went back to get him. Of course over night the price had changed. It was never my intention to actually keep Dom.

So I was actually really happy that I finally found him a home. Even better because the people who bought him live just up the road and I can drive by and see him at any time! Isn't that just perfect. I actually drove by this afternoon to see how he was. He looked very happy. His compamny hasn't changed much. He used to live with goats and now it sheep. The people raise quarter horses and in addition to riding they drive. They are hoping to drive Dom in the future.

Even sweeter when I asked the guy if had trained donkeys before he admitted that he had not but wanted to try. I was thinking of Sophie because I want to do something with her. I am really hoping that my mom can drive her. Dom's new owner said he'd charge me next to nothing to train Sophie to drive. Sure it will be his first time with a donkey, but they have had mules in the family and train horses for a living so it might really be a good deal. I don't know anyone else local that trains donkeys.

Poor Sophie has been looking for Dominique this afternoon. She even tried to go into the goat pen. Poor dear, she really was a very good mother.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Selling Horses

Selling horses sucks!

Flashy red dun mare. . . blah blah blah.

Photos just so~ That I can never do very well alone. And always the left side. I don't know why. I love taking photos but I hate to get that perfect conformation shot. One foot is always off, or I didn't get down low enough. Or she looks just pissed off.

Wording what she does do, not much. Putting a positive tilt on everything, but not hiding the problem. Even harder when her biggest problem is me! "It's not her, it's me" doesn't go over any better in an ad than it does when ending a relationship.

Now R's assistant (DH) will be riding her for the next two weeks but that isn't going to do much. I need to find someone who will keep riding her and show her for me. Or at least let me video tape her riding Kinsey because I don't think I will be getting on her. Unfortunately that makes Kinsey looks bad too. (Again it's not her it's me.)

Then the tire kickers. I already got a response. I think that it was a scam. I got a response about Dom too, but get this. She called while I was at work. I called her back within a few hour and left a message. She works at a local home and garden place so I dropped by today, I wanted some plants anyway. Meet her and introduce myself. She already found two other donkeys because I "didn't get back to her." It had not even been 24 hours!

I did manage to get some video. Not the best, my first attempt at video:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Riding Lesson # 5 & Bad News

First of all I had a wonderful ride on Drew. He was a bit of a dink, but overall I am feeling so much more comfortable. I am taking more control of Drew, not letting him get away with as much. I was thinking of the rhythm and obedience a lot and although it was not perfect, in part because I am still getting my "sea legs" back.

The bad new came later. We took Kinsey out for awhile and I think I got the first honest opinion of her. She was not horrible, but she is just as I have been saying. Sensitive, very forward, and not as calm as I would like a horse to be. D.H., R's assistant, said that she acts like she just has not had a lot of handling. Just had a saddle thrown on her and gone. When she is asked to do things she has a bit of a temper tantrum and is just unhappy camper. They are going to start riding her on Monday.

After R and I talked. What kind of horse do I want? And the fact of the matter, Kinsey is not a good horse for me. I have worked really hard to get my confidence back. I have been riding a horse that is sensible, but not perfect. Drew spooks, but he just gives things the eye, not head for the hills. As the question was posed to me, do I really want to lose all that confidence with one big spook from Kinsey? No, I don't.

I know that there is a lot of talk floating around how we shouldn't sell a horse. That once we buy it it is ours for life. I think I own it to Kinsey to find her a good home, the best home I can. I don't think I would do her any service of keeping her around, not willing to ride her because I am afraid what what she will do.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Video Review: About Saddle Fit

Another Giddyupflix rental, I don't get paid by them but it is a really nice rental place. Much better than buying all these videos. Especially one like About Saddle Fit: What Everyone Needs to Know About Saddle Fitting, chocked full of practical information, but one that I am not going to be watching over and over again.

This video discusses the basics of how a saddle is put together, what it is supposed to do, how tell if your saddle fits your horse, and a few hints of what to do if the saddle doesn't fit. I admit that it is pretty basic, but there was a lot that I didn't know. For example, do you know why you should use a back cinch? That the fore cinch and back cinch should be equally tight? Or how to properly use only one cinch on a western saddle?

Not only does the narrator, a master saddle maker who's name escapes me, tell you all this information, but also shows you why. He has all the parts of the saddle and shows how it all goes together. He show why many of the common measurement we use to describe a saddle aren't that accurate and what you really should look for. Just basic information that, as the title says, everyone should know.

This is a well made video that is very informative. The narrator is knowledgeable and easy to understand. You won't be a master saddle fitter or builder after watching this video but you will be able to choose a saddle much more wisely and have a better understanding of how the saddle works.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I've Got Rhythm

Now that I am back in the saddle again, so to speak, I want to do something and not just walk and trot around in circles. So I went back the basics of dressage the training scale/ pyramid.
If you are a dressage rider this pyramid no doubt looks familiar. I actually copied it from The Art of Classical Riding, if you are unfamiliar with the training pyramid that site does an great job of explaining it. I highly suggest you head over there and take a look. It is good thing to keep in mind as we are working with our horses, even if you don't do dressage.

A Gymnastic Riding System using Mind, Body, and Spirit, shows a unique way to apply the pyramid. Yes, I know, I have an issue with books. I love them. I have way too many. Anyway, the training pyramid is handled differently in this book. Not only do they have rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness, and collect, but Betsy Steiner broke each level down into mind, body, and oh yes, spirit. She also calls them intellectual element, athletic element, and psychological element. Then she tells how to apply this to both human and horse.

Of course it is always best to start at the bottom, rhythm. Rhythm is the regular, even, steady, cadence of the paces. Using Betsy's book we can expand on that. Rhythm for the rider is knowing the tempo and footfalls of the horse, having the strength to ride all three gaits, and the patience to work with the horse. For the horse this means moving forward off of leg pressure, having the strength to carry the rider at all three gaits, and being obedient and having a good work ethic.

The book gives a check list for horse and rider for each element. I am having fun working through the rider sections. For example under the strength section she teaches about Pilates. She is a big Pilates believer and includes some how to on that. I am going to add some Pilates to what I already do. I have a video I picked up at one time I never actually used. I am not sure how much I can do with Drew, as he is not my horse and I am not riding him more than 2x a month, but we will work on obedience and leg aids tomorrow.

I didn't mark this as a book review because this is more of an ongoing process with this book. Her suggestion is to keep a riding journal. Set goals that can be met in a month for mind, body, and spirit for both horse and rider.

A Special Surprise from New Mexico!

Today I am taking a deep breath before the day starts. Saturday was quite a day. Waves of happiness mixed with swells of sadness. Excitement and angst swirled together. Sunday was a mass of activity. Here and there and baking for Mom. Monday will be back to the grind. Volunteering at the humane society and work.

On Saturday, R picked up Kinsey will no incident, but I hate my horses not being in my control. I have taken care of my own horses since I was 16. Every time I board I just get a little worried. Not that I don't trust the people who are caring for my horses, but I have had a lot of bad experiences boarding. I know that Kinsey is safe and she will be happy with R but I think part of this angst is wondering if I will be selling this mare or making a partner. I drove over behind R so I could take her off the trailer. The great thing about R is his attitude was, "What every makes you happy." Honestly I just wanted to make sure she didn't think she was sold.

When I got home I drove my mother down to IL to pick up something she ordered. Not much to say other than it was a long drive. When we got back a special package from Lisa (Laughing Orca Ranch) was in my mail box. Some of you may remember a while back Lisa had a contest to give a caption to a completely hilarious picture of a hunt rider on a dachshund on her blog Laughing Orca Ranch. She chose me as the "weinner."

Let me tell you it really brightened my day! First of all she enclose a book I have really been wanting to read Michael Korda's Horse People: Scenes from the Riding Life. A key chain that says: New Mexico, just in time to replace my broken key chain and I will think of her every time I see it. Finally seeds. . . . ohhhh . . tomatoes, winter squash, and swiss chard. And these aren't just any seeds, no these are survival seeds from These are seeds that are 100% non-hybrid, 100% non-GMO. Unlike the hybrid seeds that we often get from seed companies, I can save these seeds from year to year and they will grow true. Woo Hoo! You can learn more about these seeds on my other blog: Straw Bale Garden.

Later I found April in the beginning of kidding. Since I have had such bad luck with kidding this year, the moment I thought it was taking too long I took her to the vets. It turns out everything was find and she had the little darling that you have previously seen posted. It was sweet though. I was sitting in a stall at the vets office and talking to the vet on call. I was planning on going home for a few hours and maybe coming back later. April laid down next to me and started having contractions. She pushed and out came the little legs, nose, and finally all of May.

Sunday I just ran, from going to visit Kinsey to making sure May was nursing almost every hour, to making breakfast, cake, and dinner for my mom, it was a rush. I had a great shot on my camera of Kinsey touching plastic bags. . . you read that right. But I was fiddling with the camera and deleted the shots on accident. So you will have to take my word for it that Kinsey, on her own, walked up and touched a while plastic bag!

Today should just be darn relaxing compared to the past two!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Stills~ Happy Mother's Day

Sunday Stills this week is brought to by the letter "B"
B is for blue barrel:Bark from a tree:B is for blaze:
And also for baby!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

NHR: Announcing May Flowers

I have had a horrible kidding year and will probably not have kids next year. Earlier today I rushed April Showers to the vets. It was a little premature but I lost a doe and her kid by waiting too long. So I erred on the side of caution.
Here is May Flowers. . .

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rain Rain. . . comes our way.

I have to be honest. I have not been working with the horses this week. I have been cleaning the house. Then today when I could work the horses, it has been raining all day. It comes back to this balance thing. Sometimes my personal life has issues I have to deal with and sometimes its the horses. I would love to have the resources to devote to the horses all the time, but like most people, I don't.

Since I am being honest, I will be a little more. I was in a bad place for a few years, a really bad place. I was very depressed. My life got very out of whack. My career, my emotional and physical health, all took a hit. I had no control and just felt so alone. I know that I am not alone feeling alone. A lot of us feel that way. Isn't that sad? So many of use all feeling alone? Anyway. . .

I am still getting back on my feet, but the one thing I realized about 3 years ago is that horses are my therapy; they are my antidepressant. Unfortunately they are expensive therapy and are not covered by insurance.

I tried to do things the cheapest way possible. One of the things I did was "ride the horse you have." I really shouldn't have. When I fell off Abby, I fell so hard. Not just physically either. I was trying to make a positive change and landed flat on . . . well my wrist! It was good though, all I could think about was how to get back in the saddle. It really showed me where I was and what was important to me. Horses are the thing that give me bliss and allows the rest of my life to made sense.

I look forward to the days I get to ride or drive with such a longing. Then I return home and look at a pasture of horses. None of which can be used for one reason or another. Kinsey needs a saddle and maybe some training. I would like to drive Abby but that is another harness and wagon, besides the training she would need. I need a safe environment to ride either of this horse as of right now and I don't have that either. My cart needs shafts. Madison needs a harness that would fit her and training. Ike really needs a new harness, one that has breeching. Sophie need training, she may need a harness or she may be able to use Ike's.

"Inch by inch, life is a cinch. Yard by yard it is very hard." Sometime when I try to focus on all of these things and get great grandiose plans I need to remember this. Focus on a few small things and then I can move on.

Thanks to a very special person, I am getting support to get things in a little more order. Kinsey leaves tomorrow to go to R. I am really looking forward to just seeing what he says. She maybe my next riding horse or she may be on the market. She is a good horse either way. I just want her to to be used and not sit through her prime. Thanks to R I am not as self conscious about my weigh, so Ike is just waiting until I get shafts. I ordered them this week, my reward for slaving away getting 1/3 of the house in order. Then I will have a horse that I can do something with finally. I think I can make his harness work for now, I just can't go very far because of the breeching problem and the terrain around here.

So as the rain comes, it makes the earth muddy. From that mud grows beautiful flowers, wholesome food, and life. I'll wait to see what will grow from this rain.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Video Review: Earning Your Horse's Trust

Earning Your Horse's Trust with Gawani Pony Boy is a basic video that deals with round penning. Almost any video on round penning is going to cover the same material. How to move your horse around, getting an inside and outside turn, and getting the horse to follow you. It is not a bad video if these are new concepts to you. I found it to be a tad slow, but the material was not new to me.

On the plus side he works with two horses that are new to round penning. Both reacted a little differently so you get an idea of how respond to different problems. He does a good job of explaining what he is doing, which is nice because I find many personalities who do these videos are not very good at communication. The information is sound and easy to follow.

Again, this is just the basics and if you have any round penning experience, it is nothing new. There are some hokey spots where we hear the horses thoughts on the process. It is done in real time so it moves a little slow. My copy lost audio half way through. I rented it from Giddy Up Flix and that happens from time to time. I didn't think I really missed anything. I was actually expecting much more out of this video so to me it was a bit of a disappointment.

Over all I give this an Okay. Not spectacular but if you have never done any round pen work you might get something out of it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Driving lesson #8

Lesson is a day early this week. I have an appointment with someone at the house tomorrow and had to take my lesson a day early. That appointment is also why I have not been blogging. I have to make the main level of the house look presentable. I hate cleaning. I really do. So I have been setting aside time every day to clean. I clean an area and then read a chapter in book, my reward. Then clean the next area, and read. I actually get a lot more done that way. Anyway, I digress.

I drove Corrie single again. Corrie is on the larger size for a haflinger, she is on the wide side too. That wide load sign we have on the back of the cart really fits. Now I am not picking on Corrie, she is a good driving horse. I like her personality, albeit she is a bit marish, but like me Corrie enjoys her food a tad bit too much. R actually said he thought that overall Corrie would be a better match for me than Drew. She actually does ride too, Drew is not fond of driving. During my next riding lesson R said he would ride Corrie. I guess she is steady under saddle, but doesn't know a whole lot.

We went out "driving fences". I like to do practical thing when I am working with my horses. I don't know, maybe I am just more of a farmer at heart or what, but I love to haul logs, check the fences, and spread hay instead of just practice maneuvers. As we rode along the hot fence we looked for places it might be shorting out. R would hop out while Corrie and I waited. R mentioned that I seemed a lot more relaxed now.

I guess I have hit a good place. I was not really worried about Corrie running off, I would have freaked if she had, but at the same time I know I can handle it now. I have lost that feeling that at any second my horse is going to spook and run off. I am starting to really have confidence in both myself and my horse. Reason one to get a horse you can have confidence in.

When I first started taking lesson with R he said that he probably has a 100 run offs a day. At least I think he said 100, doesn't really matter. What he meant was how we prepare and react to the horse is more important that if the horse is ready to spook or not. He does not actually have that many run offs, just that he is prepared and stops the run off before it is even in the horses mind to do it. Stopping that run off might mean not even getting on that horse, or hitching that horse to today and working on ground manners. It might mean taking a tighter rein to reassure the horse that you are there as soon as his ears start flicking this way or that. With Corrie it means keeping her focused on her job as she tends to like to sight see. I understood the concept before, but now I am starting to really understand how I can apply that.

I thought back to the last time I saw Kinsey ridden and she spooked. The young lady didn't react fast enough and we had a runaway. At the time I blamed Kinsey. She didn't react the way I want my horse to. Now I my thinking is that I put too much blame on Kinsey. I am not going to hash out all my feelings about why that runaway occurred, just to say that there was more than just Kinsey to blame. Myself, as her owner, included. And is really could have been prevented. So I am prepared for her next spook now.

Kinsey leaves on Saturday. I will go over with her. See that she gets settled in and generally make a pest of myself. I think I have said before that truly believe horses really need some time to settle in to a new environement. Working with them too quickly just adds additional stress to the already stressful move. R was really pleased that I wanted her to have some time to get used to the place too, really makes me feel, again, that this is going to be a good experience for her. So she is going to just be boarded out there for the first week. Now that she knows me and is starting to trust me I am going to handle her and play with her a little during that week. There is a round pen I am really itching to get her in. Then R will work with her for two weeks and we will see how things go from there.

Oh course, I am hoping that he says she is great and I will be fine with her. So that is what we shooting for. But if she isn't, well it is better to know that now.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Rewards. . .

For yourself. Hey this is a tough road some of us are on. Some of us are not only dealing with the issues with the horse, but also weight, emotional, self esteem, and other personal issues. I sometimes think that the horse is just the symptom. We need to actually take time to acknowledge when we have done well. Something that we really don't do enough as adults is reward ourselves.

Trotting was a major accomplishment for me. I have not really ridden in 4 years. Before this year, Jan. or so, I have not even been on a horse in 2.5 years. I had a short stint, maybe 6 months, that I was riding then. Before that it has been 2 or 3 years. So getting up there after that fall and starting to really ride again was a big accomplishment.

So tonight I made a special dinner of hamburgers, spinch soufflé, and an apple dumpling. Now that is not an every day meal. I bought apple dumplings off of a student for a school fund raiser and Stoffer's spinch soufflé is one of my favorites. I thought it was the perfect time to fix them. It is was so good and I am so proud of myself that I really deserved it. This was a big triumph for me.

Rewards don't always have to be a meal. A new pair of breeches, a video or book you have really been wanting, a new bridle, or even halter. Heck even an extra 15 or 20 min with your horse works. Just something that is going to make you happy. They can be as little as a gold star in your planner, hey adults like to get gold stars. In Weight Watchers you get a star sticker for every 5 pounds. Just match it to the goal you accomplishment. Little rewards for little accomplishment and big rewards for big triumphs.

Ideally you should have a reward in mind for every goal. I'll have to think about that. If it turns out that I am able to get on Kinsey, I think I will get myself a new pair of breeches. I don't have a pair of summer breeches.