Saturday, February 28, 2009

CMESC Awards

Tonight was the awards banquet for CMESC and Lilly and I came away with 2 beautiful ribbons of merit! We got a 5th place RoM in the Stock Type Division and a 4th place RoM in the Adult Division. I was surprised to learn that I would be getting any awards at all because we really only showed at one show. I left the second show before the riding classes because of tack issues, and the third show was right before Christmas and I was heading to Michigan. The circuit was brand new in 2008 so hopefully participation for them increases this year.

The banquet was a lot of fun. It's always nice seeing people without their helmets and hats on and hearing their names. I'm trying to get to know a few more people in the horse industry!

I'm so proud of Lilly! She did better in 2008 than I ever thought she would!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pivot Practice

Wow, what a whirlwind week for me! I got layed off from my job Monday morning and as of today I've been rehired by a wonderful company! I was certainly worried, but things are looking up! My new job doesn't start until April so I have a whole month off to ride and play! Wait until I tell Lilly! She'll be so excited!

I went riding today and worked on being elastic with my hands, especially at the canter. It'll take me a while to get the hang of it, but I can certainly see how it benefits Lilly. I also worked on clucking to trot and kissing to canter. She doesn't need any encouragement when I ask her to canter, but I'm hoping it'll eventually help teach her to only canter when I kiss. Any other time is unacceptable. I made her canter a lot too. Usually we canter a couple times around and that's it, but today I had her go around 4 or 5 times and I did more rail work than circles to switch it up a bit. I also pushed her at the trot before asking her to canter and she still took off quickly, but her head didn't come up and she didn't jump around like usual.

I am also pleased, surprised, proud, and happy to announce that my sweet girl did a pivot on her RIGHT foot today!! She was confused as hell and even tried to pivot around on both feet, but we eventually got it! I don't think she knew what I was asking her to do, so I'll have to practice it every day and reinforce that right is good and left is wrong. I can certainly see the difference between the two pivots now too. When I pivot her around on her left foot, I'm essentially pushing her backwards and around, and when she pivots on her right foot, she's doing more of a forward turn.

APHA here we come!

Saturday, February 21, 2009


It was not nearly as warm today as the weather guy said it was going to be! He even said the high would be about 56 and we'd peak around 4pm. LIAR! It was windy and cold, and was probably the coldest around 4pm. With 3 layers of long sleeve shirts, though, the weather was tolerable. Occasionally the wind would quit blowing and I'd bask in the warmth or go sit in the truck and warm up. The wind was quite cold! I sure hope it's warmer next month for the show.

I blanketed Lilly last night but when I got to the barn this morning she was laying down sleeping. I distinctly remember telling her to stay out of the dirt, but she didn't listen! And she didn't even try to hide the fact that she was laying right in it! :) So needless to say, her legs were filthy. It was about 28 degrees this morning so hosing them off just seemed cruel. So brush, brush, brush, and spray, spray, spray (hehehe... love that chalk in a can stuff!). I had fleeting thoughts of banding her mane but I manged to get there at the perfect time to avoid waiting around for hours for my first class, so I didn't have time to band. Perhaps it was better that way... her stained brown legs matched her flyaway and stick-upy mane. By the time I was done with her, she looked pretty good, though. I got rid of the obvious stains and the blanket helped smooth her coat. I polished up her hooves and we were good to go!

First up was halter. Even though it was stock type at halter, I decided to show in my english clothes and bridle. There were only 2 classes between the halter class and my english showmanship class and I thought better of trying to change clothes and headstalls in such a short amount of time. Lilly was a good girl and we managed a 7th out of 10 horses. Halter is kind of hit or miss for us. Sometimes we place pretty high, and sometimes we don't place at all. I usually just enter for fun and to get Lilly in the arena before showmanship. Every now and then we get lucky.

Next up was english showmanship. Mike agreed to get a video with my camera as I've never actually seen myself doing showmanship, so here it is! There were 7 horses in the class and this was the first time Lilly and I did showmanship in english attire. I practiced the pattern before the class and figured she'd do just fine in the bridle, especially since I didn't have any trouble with her in the halter class. As you can see in the video, walk from cone a to cone b, trot from cone b to the judge, set up for inspection, pivot a 270 and walk away. Lilly did a great job. I think of all the patterns, though, I hate the ones with corners the most. Trotting from cone b to the judge on a corner like that is tough... at least I think. I'm never quite sure exactly when I should start trotting. One of the girls picked up the trot right when she got to cone b and did the corner at a trot. I opted to take the corner first and then trot. Lilly was a little lazy going in to the trot. "Lah lah lah... doo de doo... Oh, trot?"

And here is the result! We won first place! Considering her mane wasn't banded, she wasn't bathed, and her legs were dirty, I had my doubts that we would win even if the judge liked our pattern best. Lilly was the only tobiano at the show. Lucky dogs with their solid colored horses! I was so excited and proud of Lilly, and because there were 7 horses in the class, this ribbon is worth 2 PAC points! And I think this is just the cutest picture... Lilly actually put her ears up long enough to take a picture.

Well, it was a good thing the judge like our showmanship pattern because that was all she seemed to like about us. Right after my hunt seat w/t open class (with 23 horses) I could tell what the judge liked. Tall, lanky, TB looking english horses. Of the 3 riding classes I had, I only placed once, and that was 7th out of 8. :)

Lilly didn't work anything like she does at home. She was really against putting her head down and I had a hard time getting her to move out at the trot. I had horses passing me for once! I just couldn't get her to stretch down and pick up speed. She's always antsy in this ring too. We usually have to walk in and find a place on the rail while the line up for the other class exits. Lilly doesn't like standing on the rail and will do her "I'm impatient" dance by picking up one hoof, stomping it down, and then doing the same thing with her other hoof until we start moving. It's bizarre because she stands fine in the middle of the ring, just not on the rail. It's really annoying... So because of that, I decided to scratch the equitation pattern class.

I think she did good considering it was the first show of the year. It was also windy and cold, but now I'm just making excuses for her. Not being able to get her to move out is a first, but I was looking forward to her doing as well today as she has been doing at home. She wasn't bad, and I thought she did really well, I was just hoping for more.

Western showmanship was our last class of the day. The pattern was the same as the english showmanship and Mike got a video of that too. It looks exactly like the english one, except Lilly and I are dressed in western. :) Lilly did a little bit better picking up her trot around the cone but then our line to the judge was a bit crooked when we were trotting. That's my bad... but she moved her darn foot after I had set her up when we were being inspected. It was a good pattern, though. She's so much fun to do showmanship with. There were 9 horses in the class this time and we got 2nd place! With 9 horses, a second place gets me 2 more PAC points!

The girl who beat me had a really nice pattern. It was quick, precise, and snappy. She did a lot of kissing and clicking, especially during the pivot, which I thought was pretty much a no-no. At least it was back home in Michigan when I showed. I don't need to do either of those things with Lilly, I was just surprised to see it was ok. Things are a lot different here, that's for sure. That's why I really want to go to a Paint show and at least watch to see how things are done at a higher level. Is kissing ok during a pivot there too?

All in all, a great start to 2009! Lilly was a gem as always. She really is a great horse!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Odds and Ends

This evening when I was hopelessly trying to make my dingy, dirty, white horse white again, or at least presentable for the show tomorrow, I noticed that she was shedding. SHEDDING! It's February 20th! I know I'm in North Carolina, but we haven't had more than a couple days of warm weather. Although, I did see some blooming daffodils the other day. Anyone else's horses shedding?

But the best part was that my horse's butt cheeks were clean and DRY! They were dry!! When I clipped her yesterday she had manure on her ankles that I cleaned off and he cheeks were wet with runny manure. Even if her legs are clean, her cheeks are always wet... Today it was as if she was a normal horse without diarrhea. I am so excited!! She hasn't been like that in many, many months!

I was too excited not to share! I know, it's sad... but when you've been dealing with this as long as I have, the first day of clean cheeks and legs is like a celebration!

Not Much New

It's been busy busy around here, that's for sure, but there hasn't been much riding. My lesson got rained out on Wednesday and we had gail force winds last night so I just clipped Lilly instead of riding.

I'm trying to get ready for the first show of the season (that somehow crept up on me from out of nowhere!) and I have a lot to do. My trailer is still winterized, and it looks like it will stay that way for this weekend, and I still need to pack everything. Luckily, all my show clothes are washed and ready to go! Too bad my tack isn't! Well, my bridle and girth are clean, but since I switched to riding in my show saddle for work and it is now a multi-purpose saddle, I'll have to clean it up a bit before tomorrow. My very white horse is very dirty, but it's too cold for a bath. I'll blanket her tonight and clean her up the best I can for tomorrow. Her hind end and legs will be the hardest part.

JCHSS decided this year to issue each rider a number that they can use all year long. I love that! Now I can print up numbers on cardstock and have some spares to pin to my western saddle pad and they'll be computerized instead of hand drawn with a marker! So my number for the year is 222. That's pretty easy to remember!

My boyfriend is going with me to the show tomorrow. He agreed after I told him I was only showing hunt seat and not western. He knew that meant 'short day' and jumped at the chance to fill half his quota of two shows per year! He thinks he's sneaky! Anyway, I should have some pictures as a result, so I'll post them as soon as I can. Maybe he can get another video or two.

Let's all hope for warm weather!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pictures and a Video!

I convinced my boyfriend to go barning with me on Sunday to take some pictures. He did a wonderful job as always, so here are some pictures of me and Lilly. As always, you can click on the picture for an EXTREME close up!

Some of the pictures are a little grainy because he had to use the zoom on the camera to get a close up shot of us. My $140 Olympus does a pretty good job, though! Here we are warming up. She looks so relaxed!

Here we are doing some bending at the trot. We can't really do circles yet unless I push her out with my inside leg. They end up looking more like rectangles and she really has a hard time picking up the canter if we aren't bending. One thing I noticed about myself from looking through all the pictures is I'm always looking down! I suppose I need to remember to look up and ahead once in a while instead of being so focused on her all the time. I'm sure it would help me sit up and keep my shoulders back.

Here we are at the canter! I think she looks really good in this shot considering... She's trying to round up a bit and it looks to me like she's actually engaging her hindquarters. I do sit up slightly when we canter because I'm trying to stay off her back as much as possible right now to encourage her to round up. We're past the two point stuff, but I am still staying out of the saddle for the most part. When we're doing good I'll sit for a few strides, get up out of the saddle, sit a few strides, etc.

Here's Lilly getting in a nice stretch... notice who is looking down, AGAIN. Ugh... I love that she's stretching all on her own even with loose reins. She really is getting much better about stretching out, especially after the canter.

And finally, last but not least, a video! A real, live video! It was taken with my super fabulous camera and not an actual video camera, but I think it turned out pretty good.
Before we canter, I always do a sitting trot to prepare and set us both up. You can see how she anticipates the canter transition at the end of the arena while I'm sitting, but she hops right into it when I finally ask her. She gets a little pat for her transition and then we're off! She's so much more calm at the canter than she used to be! I'm really looking forward to any observations and criticisms so we can improve even more.

Our first JCHSS show is on Saturday and I'm really excited to see how she does!

Lilly Was So Good!

I rode Lilly on Friday after giving her a break Thursday because of the tough lesson we had.

I put her through the paces and she did everything really well. I've noticed she's starting to stretch her neck down a lot more so we're getting more of the level carriage rather than the more arched dressage carriage. I think she just remembers Wednesday and decided she'd rather carry her head long and low instead! I was also giving her a little scratch on the withers every time she stretched her neck out to encourage her to do that more often.

One thing I haven't really talked about much, but that I really love is how consistent she has become in her gaits, especially the trot. When I look back through my blog entries and see how she used to trot from a walk whenever she wanted and how she used to fly around the arena, I realize how far we've come in less than a year. I can put her into a trot, give her some rein, and she will stay at a nice speed. She doesn't speed up and slow down all the time... she's very consistent. She also walks nicely on a loose rein now after we canter, where she used to walk really fast and break into a trot all the time. Things that used to be huge issues for us are now long gone. She has really come a long way!

We had a really great ride on Friday. She did everything I asked without sass and it was really a lot of fun. She just gets better and better every time I ride.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

New Book!

I bought a new book the other night from Amazon. I was looking for something with basic dressage techniques that I could use to teach Lilly no matter what discipline we're working on. It got great reviews on Amazon, so hopefully I'll be able to use some of what's in it.

I cracked it open yesterday but haven't really had a chance to really read anything in detail. Luckily it has a lot of pictures! I love being able to see what it should look like rather than just reading about what it should look like.

Anyone else read this one?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday Night Workout

I'm finally getting back to my lessons. It's been about two months since the last one, but I should be able to stick to them pretty consistently now.

We only did a half hour lesson, but I think we were either trotting or cantering the entire time. By the time we were done I was pooped! I'm sure Lilly was quite tired as well. We were working on getting Lilly to stretch down and round up rather than trotting around like a pogo pony. So when her head came up I'd flex her to the right and then to the left and then to the right and then to the left until she gave to me and brought her head back down. We did that mostly at the trot because Lilly tends to keep her head pretty level at the canter, but I think she was also getting the hang of rounding by the time we got to the canter transitions. She did really well at the canter last night.

Apparently I need to be more aggressive. I heard numerous times last night that Lilly giving to me "is not a multiple choice question." I ask and she does. There's no discussion. Lilly and I usually discuss it first, but I need to start telling her to do it rather than asking her to do it.

I also need to work on being more elastic and not letting my reins go slack so that I lose contact with her. At least not yet... eventually for western I'll have to give her that slack, but western pleasure seems far far away.

I haven't been working on her head much when I ride, but rather trying to get her more consistent in the trot and canter so we can maintain a better rhythm. I've also been working on a lot of basic stuff too, like the transitions and the poles. I'm just trying to put some miles on her rather than working on really specific things. But I've been instructed to make Lilly stay round and keep her head flexed pretty much the whole time we're working, except when I'm giving her a break on a loose rein. It does feel a lot better when she's round, and it's easier to rate her speed that way, and I know it will teach her to use her hindquarters more, but I think it's asking a lot of her to hold that frame for a long period of time. Shouldn't we work up to it and let her build up some muscle gradually? I know it's easier for her to do the things I'm asking of her when she's using her back and doing it properly, but when I let her cool off on a loose rein last night, she was pretty much dragging her nose in the dirt. I could tell she was tired.

I also got in trouble for "hacking her mane off". :-) I can't stand a long mane and I don't have the heart to pull it, so I cut it with scissors in an upward direction to thin it out and also shorten it. I think it looks pretty good. I've done it this way for 9 years. It's just really thick because of her winter coat at the moment and doesn't exactly lay flat. I'll throw some bands in there for the show and we'll be good to go.

Monday, February 9, 2009

AJ's Turn

Lilly has a shoe loose. No, not a screw loose, a shoe loose! One whole side of her right front shoe is nail-less. My farrier should be out tonight to tack it back on. He's not due to come out for another two weeks, so we certainly can't wait that long! So all this gorgeous weather (sunny and in the 70's this past weekend) and I couldn't ride Lilly. It also meant no show on Saturday...

Since I do have two horses I decided to ride AJ instead. It was a lot of fun for both of us, I think. He enjoys hanging out and being pampered and even seems to enjoy being ridden. I usually use his bridle (with mullen bit) and the saddle when I ride outside of the arena because he's such a handful but I decided to just use the d-ring snaffle and go bareback down the road. So after strapping on my helmet, I hopped on. Usually when I first get on he throws his head all over the place trying to get going but he just stood there and waited for me to get situated. He is 16 hands and Lilly is about 14.3... it's fun to sit up there on a tall horse for a change. His neck is so much longer, his legs are longer, and his stride is so much smoother.

So we set off on our road riding adventure. He was really calm... I couldn't believe how calm he was. I guess he's usually tense because I'm usually tense anticipating his antics. Without the saddle and with the snaffle, he might have been more relaxed. I also tried to make sure I was relaxed... and we had a really great ride. He didn't spook at anything and even walked down the road in a straight line. Most times he's all over the place like he's drunk! There was even a really inconsiderate blue truck that went flying past us and AJ never even flinched. He's always been really good with traffic, just not with mailboxes. :)

He was very alert as always. Always has his head up and his ears pricked forward. He's such a beauty... even at 23 years young. He even has muscle tone... his neck is lovely. It's just natural for him, I guess. Thanks Impressive! I always wonder what things would have been like for us if he hadn't developed arthritis so early in life. He had such potential.

I hope to get some great pictures of him this summer once he sheds out. Maybe I'll have a photographer come out and get some shots of both my horses.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Something's Not Quite Right

Lilly saw a chiropractor twice last year. She was having a few issues with her leads and I really just wanted to have her checked out for peace of mind. The first time the Dr. came out, she adjusted Lilly's pelvis on the left side and then the second time she only had to adjust her TMJ. All in all, there really wasn't anything wrong with her. Flexion tests were normal and nothing seemed terribly out of the ordinary. I didn't really have a chance to test the success of the adjustments, though, because of the hundred other things that went wrong with Lilly shortly after the first adjustment. It was fun couple of months.

Fast forward to today... well, to yesterday when I rode. Lilly was good again (which I'm very happy about!) so I'm thinking the circles really are helping. But she just seems * - *... I don't know what the word is, but something just seems off. It's almost like she's too springy in her gaits. Could it be that she's just learning how to trot and canter properly and is using muscles she wasn't using before... maybe? It's hard to describe but she feels different. She doesn't seem to be lame or sore, just different. Maybe she just feels different because we're learning to go slower.

She has also started the strange cantering breaks again, which is one of the main reasons I called the chiro last year. She's fine in the circle, but if I take her out to the rail, sometimes she'll switch leads behind (or at least that's what it feels like) and then breaks abruptly to the trot after only a stride or two. It's definitely noticeable when the switch happens and I can tell she's uncomfortable cantering that way. She has done it in both directions too. With all the ground poles, raised poles, and extra cantering, I know those stifles are getting worked.

I usually ride alone and don't have anyone to watch and see exactly what happens. I'm thinking that when I have my lesson next Wednesday my trainer can watch and try to figure things out. She has recommended a chiro that she loves, so I may have her out to get a second opinion on what the issue might be. I still wonder if it has to do with her yearling injury... and the more she has to work those muscles, the more difficult it gets.

There is a local show on Saturday that I hope to attend. Lilly is dirty, hairy, and not very pretty at the moment, but it'll be fun! The weather is supposed to bless us with sun and 65 degree temperatures, so it should be a good day!

Monday, February 2, 2009

3, 2, 1, Contact!

Could she look more scruffy? And look at how dingy that white is! I started working on that mane today and it's going to take a while. It gets so thick in the winter! It's quite thick in the summer actually, but gets unruly when her winter hair comes in. I need to get it back to show ring length!

Take notice at how clean her back leg is, though! That's pre-brushing! ;-)

Doesn't she have the cutest nose!? I love how her stripe is so irregular and then makes that cute shape on her muzzle. Perfect for kissing!

Today's ride was fantastic. Lilly was her usual sweet self and we had a really great ride. I've really been concentrating on the circles to rate her speed and it's making a huge difference! The stinky thing is, I've been cantering her in circles ever since we started working on cantering, but I was still doing half halts like crazy in the circle to keep her from going too fast. Now I just make the circle smaller and she has to slow down. When she slows down, I make the circle bigger and eventually take her to the rail.

Cantering was wonderful today. She actually felt like a rocking horse for the first time ever. Usually her canter feels like a 12 beat gait because she has no idea where to put her feet and she just flails all over the place. I could actually feel her pushing from behind instead of pulling herself along. It was like she knew where her feet were supposed to go!

She was even relaxed at the trot. We trotted over two different sections of three ground poles and worked on serpentines. It really helps her relax, slow down, and carry her head at a lower level.

It was just a great ride! I'm anxious for my trainer to see the progress we've made since our last lesson. The transitions are getting better and Lilly is going along so much nicer.

I am a bit torn on the whole 'contact' thing, though. I find it difficult to use just the right amount of contact without restricting, but also allowing Lilly to have the release needed to teach her. Maybe it's a finesse thing that I just have to learn to master as I go along, but how loose is too loose for the reins? What is the correct amount of contact? Tonight I rode with the reins pretty slack, even at the canter, just because I was so impressed that Lilly would actually maintain the speed I asked without me pulling on her for once. There wasn't really any contact at all except for what I needed to help keep her in the circle. She seemed to enjoy the freedom that gave her and cantered happily around the circle instead of barreling around at top speed.

I also have been told I need to 'support' her because she's still so green and keeping contact is the best way to help show her the way I want her to travel. From what I understand (and it isn't much because all this contact and collection stuff is so new to me) Lilly should seek contact. She should want to have a hold of the bit (hence the whole 'on the bit' stuff). Sometimes she leans on contact, though... so should she be rewarded by getting more rein or should I keep the contact I had? I never know if she's trying to tell me I've got too much contact or if she's just trying to get her way. And when do I stop 'supporting' her? Or will she always need that support to stay in 'frame'?

Trail riding was so much easier!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

One of Those Days

Lilly was in rare form today... she was pissy, she was hyper, she was impatient, and she was impossible to work. Every canter transition started out with a buck, her head was sky high, and she was wringing her tail at every request. My personal favorite, though, is how she refused to stand still. Instead, she steadily traded front legs to pick up and stomp. She's such a princess...

I guess we all have those kinds of days... she just was NOT in the mood for work today. It's a shame too because it was 60 degrees outside today. Perfect for riding.

I managed to get her to canter nice and relaxed in a circle for about 6 strides and then she tried to break into a trot. I pushed her back into the canter, she bucked, wrung her tail, and sped around like a crazy horse. I've been holding off on the half halts and instead doing the circles to slow her down. I think she may be getting the hang of it, but it's too early to tell.

On the plus side, though, her tail is squeaky clean and she was pretty much poop free. I noticed after our ride that she was still a bit runny. As I was walking her around letting her eat grass she was dripping a bit on her ankles, but it was a really light brown color instead of that super dark cola colored drips.

After I got her all cleaned up and white as she could be, I turned her out and watched her roll in the dirt. Good times!