Riding 29 year old Sandy in 1997

Sunday, October 7, 2012

It once was lost, but now is found....

I found myself with no returns I could actually work on today so did a little project in my laundry room (putting up doors across the washer/dryer cubby and using my new Lint Lizard to get you wouldn't believe how much lint out of the area beyond the lint filter) and then decided to go ride Dawn.

My riding buddies were all gone for the day so I decided to ride her in my own arena and MAKE HER CANTER.  I put the treeless western saddle on (you almost have to throw yourself out of this saddle to fall off) and her usual bridle that I ride on loose rein (not the dressage bridle) and took her to the arena instead of the round pen.

I cleared a path so I had the full circumference of the arena -- there are logs and barrels and other obstacles for trail training out there -- and did some ground work, mostly emphasizing the voice commands I've been teaching her.  When I had her going from trot to canter and back to trot on voice command pretty well, I got on her.

I had the "buck stopper" on her, which is a rope that goes under her upper lip and over her head with a rope attaching the whole thing to the saddle horn. If you've read my book, this is similar to what I used to keep Sandar from putting his head down to roll.  What it does is punish her if she tries to throw her head down to buck.  I've used it on her for her recent cantering sessions to ensure she wouldn't be able to buck like a rodeo horse.

I started out trotting around the arena (which is about 100 feet in each direction) and when I had her settled and going well, I asked her to canter.  She swished her tail and pinned her ears but launched into the canter and I felt her hind end go up but her head never went down.  This told me the buck stopper had done its job the times before when I had used it and I didn't need to worry about her actually throwing a bucking fit so I pushed her on through it and made her keep going.  I did this several times, asking her to canter in the same place in the arena and making her go on past the point where she kicked out (because by now I knew she was just kicking out, not bucking, and it was not unseating me in the slightest, and she was not escalating into any other undesirable behavior).  A couple times after she had been snarky, I doubled her and made her turn tight circles as punishment, then asked her to move out again with no break.

Every time I asked her to canter in a circle to the left she kicked out but eventually I got her to where she would go almost all the way around before I would ask her to stop.  And, boy, can she stop!  She'll be doing slide stops before too long.

When I asked her to canter to the right, however, she did not kick out at all and would keep going until I asked her to stop.  I know she needs to be adjusted and I thought maybe something was pinching her when I asked her to circle to the left.  After doing a full circle to the right, I thought I would test that theory and turned her to the left again.  

So much for that theory.  She took the canter without protest and went the full circle.  I told her what a good girl she was and got off.  

I'm still going to get her adjusted, but either the cantering and tight circles popped something in place, she  learned to canter through the discomfort, or she really was just being snarky all along. 

Anyway, this was a real milestone for both of us.  After all those years trying to overcome the damage Dutch had done to my nerve . . . I have found it again.  Because with all the kicking out she did, it never made me afraid, never made me want to get off her or stop -- it made me determined to make her do it.  And that's how I used to be, way back in my youth and early adulthood.  I always sought out the difficult horses and never got off them when they acted up, and if they got me off anyway, I always got back on, more determined than ever.

And it feels so good to have found again what I thought was lost for good.

I still credit my dressage lessons for improving my riding enough to enable me to do this.

At the end of the session, Dawn was sweaty and I was tired, but I had had FUN, even though she had swished her tail and pinned her ears and kicked out and not wanted to do it -- I had made her do it anyway, and it was fun.  And I look forward to our next session, maybe tomorrow if I'm lucky.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

The End is in Sight

No, not THAT end, just the end of tax season.

The Suburban Cowgirl in real life is a tax preparer and the past month has been spent cranking out tax returns for the clients who requested extension for the 2011 tax return.  The corporate deadline was September 15, and the deadline for personal returns is 8 days from now, October 15.  And then I will get my life back until it all starts again on January 1.

This has been the busiest and most hectic year I think I've ever lived through in my life.  But it hasn't been all work; I've had eight months of weekly dressage lessons, never missing a single week since I started.  And that's a good thing because it is making me a better rider and has restored my confidence in my riding and got me past my nervousness about riding Dawn when she wasn't in a 100% compliant mood.

These last few weeks on Dawn have been interesting.  She's had her fourth dressage lesson and is still doing well, although we've had a couple of tense moments when a particularly sexy gelding caught her eye in mid-lesson and I had to do some circling to get her attention back on me.  But there hasn't been a bolt or a crowhop even once, just a bit of tension and animation a couple of times.  

I'm looking forward to the end of tax season, and the cooler fall weather that has just begun, so I can start riding her every morning and working on cantering and teaching her to collect.  But she's getting better at yielding to the bit even with just being ridden once a week for the last couple of weeks, at the lessons, and not in between.  She generally does best if she is ridden several days in a row so I'm looking forward to seeing how much progress she can make once my time is my own again.

My boarder, Vanessa, wants to ride today so I'll take a break from the taxes later on and we'll go out.  Her horse has been ailing lately and is finally released for work again, so we plan to ride out on Dash and Dawn and pony Dakota off Dawn. Hopefully that will work out.  Dawn usually gets along with everyone, whereas I think if we tried to pony him from Dash, she would likely kick at him, since she is the Queen and he is one of her subjects and she is adamant about keeping her subjects in their place.

Dawn doesn't think she's superior to anyone so she shouldn't care if he's walking alongside or behind her.  They've shared a corral fence since April so she knows him better than Dash does.

The weather should be nice for this ride, highs in the low 80's, blue sky with a few clouds, no wind to speak of.  And it will be a short ride since Dakota has been idle for a couple of months while she sorted out his problem.  But it will get me away from the computer for an hour or so.

And at some point I need to light the pilot in the heater and fill up the woodbox and get a chimney sweep log to burn in the woodstove and get the ashes from last April out of there and get ready for winter.  It was 35 overnight and I wore a jacket to feed the horses for the first time this morning.

It's just such a shame that the nice weather goes with ever-shortening days.  It would be lovely to be able to ride till 8 when the temps are in the 70's, but the temps are in the 90's when the days are long and the 70 degree days go with a 6:30 p.m. sundown, reducing to 5 p.m. (and 50 degree days) by the winter solstice.

My hay is bought; I shouldn't need to buy more until next June.  I pray the prices will be down next year. These last two years of droughts and fires and floods and heavy monsoons have kept the price at an all-time high, more than double the "normal" price.  If this keeps up, it will be horrible for the horse industry because soon only the 1% will be able to afford horses at all.  I'm barely outside the 47% and can barely feed the two I have left after leasing Dottie out.  If this economy doesn't pick up soon (Obama hasn't done anything for us, maybe Romney can -- at least his wife has horses) I suspect a lot of horses will be taking that one-way trip to Mexico after being sold at an auction for ten cents a pound.  And the sad fact is that once people get out of horses, they rarely get back into it.  Ranches, once subdivided, will never be turned back into pasture again.

So pray for good growing conditions next year and a stronger dollar to keep so much of our hay from going overseas so people can continue to own and enjoy these wonderful creatures that give us so much pleasure.

And now . . . back to the tax returns.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.