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November 2, 2011

Today was a beautiful November day - it was almost 60 degrees and sunny. I think these kinds of days are fading fast, unfortunately. Tango was pretty wound up today. I turned him out while I cleaned stalls, then it was work time. He was a little jumpy with the saddle on, and when I longed him with the stirrups down he actually hopped around a little bit. the arena was freshly dug and was a bit deep so he had to work hard to get through it. I think this made his gait a little 'bouncier' than normal, which in turn made the stirrups flop around a bit more. This really bugged him, and he alternated between scooting his tail and running, and hopping up and down in his canter. I let him work through his frustrations for a bit, and when he settled I started ground driving him. I worked today on more steering - doing circles and changes of direction at the walk. We did some trotting on the rail and he seemed a lot quieter. Since I had the driving lines run through the stirrups they didn't bounce around as much when he trotted. Today I introduced the back. It only took two tries before he was stopping and backing with very little pressure.

One thing I did notice while teaching him to back is that he is very very very light in the face. When I put pressure on the sidepull noseband with the driving reins, he bent his head downward in a U-shape. Most horses first push against the pressure by raising their head, but he bent his nose to his chest with the slight pressure I was using. I have a feeling this will be a new and unique problem to deal with once I start his under-saddle training. I think he might be the type that will get behind the vertical a lot. I don't think I have ever dealt with this problem (although his mother Taylor was also very light in the face and could be ridding on a fingertip). I am trying to release the instant I get a response. Time to do a little research on this issue so I can nip it in the bud.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Today Tango was really bothered by the stirrups bouncing on his side. He was so distracted by them it was difficult to get him to follow my cues on the longe line. he kept twisting his head and dropping his nose down as of trying to bite at them or look at them. I think he wore himself out - he was constantly popping into a canter (and I think he discovered that the stirrups didn't bounce much at all when he cantered but they did when he trotted). He was pretty tired by the time I ground drove him, so he kept wanting to stop. No biggie...this will all sort out with experience.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tango was still bothered by the stirrups. he was being very disobedient on the longe line, I had to get after him a bit to start listening to me. I didn't let him go on as long, and he had a bit more energy for the ground driving today. We did a lot of figure 8's at the walk and trot. he is steering with just the touch of a fingertip, and he backs with the lightest touch. I love that, that is SO Taylor!

Corky was pretty sore in the hock on Friday, looked good on the longe line Saturday, but today was pretty sore again. I have a vet appointment for her tomorrow afternoon. I suspect her left hock needs injected. We shall see!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I hauled Corky to the vet this afternoon. He did some typical flex tests on her joints, she was very obviously off on her left hock and slightly off on her right hock, everything else flexed fine (whew!). We went ahead and took some x-rays of the left hock so I have something to compare to in the future. Corky stood like a statue for the injections. She didn't even need to be tranqed. What a good girl. As I stood there holding her for all of this I couldn't help but think to myself how I had forgotten just how much I enjoy being in her company. She is such a quiet, pleasant, patient horse! I forgot what it was like to handle a horse that wasn't constantly mouthing you or the rope or acting completely ADD.

For the next month or so I think I will make Corky my #1 priority. Of course, she can't be ridden until Friday, but after that I will work on getting her back in shape and into the work frame of mind. I think it will be a while before I can actually start getting in the saddle with tango since he is so weak and scrawny. He will probably have to wait until closer to spring to start the actual breaking process. In the meanwhile I will ground drive him and work around and over some obstacles to liven things up a bit. /p>

Speaking of Tango, I really sat down tonight and studied the longe line score sheets from Congress. Man oh man, the judges' scores were ALL over the place! No one put the same horses on top! It's really rather fascinating to watch the video of each go and look at the judges' sheets and see how different people viewed things in a completely different way. The human factor in this judging really shows. What also shows is how some judges went back through their sheets and added random half points here and there (and scribbled over their original total) to raise horses up. I think it would be a great educational tool if I posted the video of the entire class from Congress and the scores. It might be good for people to learn how incredibly subjective the judging is, and how the scores can be at complete polar opposites in between judges. It will be FUN to look up these horses in 2 years and see who has made it under saddle and who hasn't. Hopefully tango will be on the "made it" list!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011...Patience, Grasshopper!

Today was a gorgeous and frustrating day. This was probably the warmest day for the rest of the year - it neared 70 today and the sun was out for most of the day. Corky is still on rest, so it was all Tango tonight. I am so frustrated. I shouldn't be, but things with him have gone so well for so long that this little training bump in the road has me floored. He is being very belligerent about the stirrups bouncing on his side while I longe him in the saddle. I thought he would get better with time, but instead he has gotten worse! Today for the first time ever he did some actual in-the-air bucks when I first started longeing him, and he has never bucked on the longe line before. I know, I know...bucking on the longe line is not cause for a meltdown! It is just odd to see the normally happy-go-lucky willing Tango show his irritation. Also tonight for the first time he showed some irritation with the stirrups when I was ground driving him.

I changed things up a bit and walked him over a wooden trail bridge, and then gro0und drove him over the bridge and some poles. He certainly didn't have any problem walking on the bridge, though when I ground drove him it was a bit trickier to keep him straight and moving forward over the bridge. I like that he tackles new things with no trepidation.

I think maybe tomorrow I will skip the ground driving and put my old junker saddle on him with the wheelbarrow tires so they can bang around on his sides. That worked well for Corky when she gets her over-sensitive moods. Maybe if he feels those big rubber things bounce around for a while, the little stirrups won't seem so bad?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tango got introduced to the tires today! This is a training tip I learned from Darla and used with Corky occasionally when she would get into her "over-reactive" moods. I expected him to go nuts, to buck and fuss over the tires bouncing on his sides. Of course Tango decided to surprise me and do exactly the opposite that I expected. He hardly noticed them! I free-longed him and made him trot. He did notice when they bounced on his sides, but he wasn't nearly as belligerent as he was yesterday. Don't get me wrong - I am not disappointed! I like it when I expect the worst and get the best. Living life as a pessimist is not really how I want to do things, but sometimes I fall into that habit. Oh well, either way today was a better day than expected.

I didn't do much with Tango other than turning him out with the saddle and tires on. I let him wander around the arena with Corky while I cleaned stalls (keeping a close eye on him). Corky is disgusting in heat today, so she is being unusually friendly to Tango (and he is taking great advantage of her sudden niceness by attempting to chew all over her). Although Corky isn't to be ridden until Friday, I did see her trot across the arena a couple times and she looks a LOT better in her hocks. Whew!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tango got another session of tire therapy today. He hardly paid any attention to them at all. We did have a significant discipline episode in dealing with his mouth...he decided he would put his mouth on my arm and halfheartedly grab at it not once, but twice. I made it very clear to him that this was unacceptable!

After he was turned out for about 30 minutes with the tires, I went ahead and ground drove him. He did great! I only did a short session - maybe 5 minutes. I need to remember to keep our sessions to a minimum. Short and often...that's our motto this fall.

Corky looked like a million bucks trotting around the arena today. She was feeling VERY good when I got her out of her stall. I am looking forward to riding her tomorrow. Hopefully the worst of her heat cycle will have passed. Ick, she is so gross!

Friday, November 11, 2011 - 11-11-11!

It's FRIDAY and that means I finally get to ride Corky again! I free-longed her first, she looked pretty good! Under saddle she was a little balky at first (to be expected, I guess), but soon was moving out freely. She felt really weird underneath, very stiff in the back end. I had a friend watch her go and she said she looked OK without any real noticeable short-striding on either leg. I rode for about 15-20 minutes, doing lots of longe trotting and a little cantering. Her cantering felt pretty good. She will get tomorrow off since I have yet another football game, and then we will ride again on Sunday and see how things are.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I could tell Corky was in a great mood today! No, I am not being sarcastic! I fee-longed her and Tango, and she went around the arena evenly and calmly without trying to dodge out or quit. I tied Tango up on the wall (more patience training for him today!) and saddled Corky. Another sign that she was in a good mood - actually NO reaction from her when I tightened the girth (she hates that part). Sure enough, I had a marvelous, fantastic, awesome, glorious ride! She was soft in the face, flowing, and went around with her ears up and happy. Her canters were awesome - smooth and long and she let me guide her in circles and off the rail and went along willingly. I could have ridden her ALL day, too bad I had to head to the new property and work for the rest of the day> I left the barn on a high...decided that 2012 might very well end up being out "comeback year"! I feel good things happening for us, and I can't wait!

After Tango's patience time, I led him around and did a few pivots with him (1/4 turn). He was nailing his quarter turns. I didn't push for more since I want to keep things easy and slow for him (hey, he is a guy after all, you know how that is!). Don't get me wrong - I don't think he will ever become a stellar showmanship horse, or even an adequate one. I do think the elements of showmanship are very valuable to teach since they are all about respecting the handler's space (and boy oh boy Tango needs that lesson!).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Monday Monday!It was amazingly warm for mid-November, it was in the mid-60's. We also had some amazingly strong thunderstorms all day and all evening. I love that my horses don't seem to even notice when hail is slamming against the metal arena roof. It's deafening!

I wondered if I would have as good a ride today on Corky as I did yesterday. I tend to look at the glass half-empty when it comes to her, because just when I think I hit a breakthrough, she reverts back and I feel like I have accomplished nothing. Today she was still very good. Maybe not as dreamy-good as yesterday, but it was still a darn good ride. She felt a little stiffer today - all over body stiffness. I don't know if it is because she got ridden yesterday and used muscles she hadn't been using, or if it was just the weather and random stiffness. I shouldn't try to over-analyze it. yeah, bad habit of mine!

The ride was good, her canters felt great. I was pleased with her attitude, and I was riding in just a vest...life is good! I got Tango out and decided to longe him with the saddle and tires. My negative side came bubbling up and I assumed he would be the spoiler that ruined my good mood. Not so! He longed great, took no notice of the tires and went around like a champ. Hmmm...I am starting to analyze his mind. Before when I first longed in the saddle with the stirrups down he didn't notice, then the more I worked him (each day) the more he noticed and acted out with annoyance. Maybe the key to him is not to work it every day, but just every few days? My theory was to work every day for a very short (15 minute) period a day. maybe instead I should work a bit longer (maybe 30 minutes?) and space the work days out with days off in between. Hey, it's a thought! Every horse trains up so differently. I always said that one needs a degree in equine psychology to be a successful trainer. If I was a trainer to the public, I'd need a degree in human psychology also. I think people are nuttier than horses for the most part!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I winterized Corky's stall today - boarded up the back door to keep the snow and wind out. Yep...the snow will be coming, no avoiding it! Depressing! Corky and Tango got wormed with Exodus...Corky pouted afterwards. What a diva. Today I was swamped with work, so I didn't get a chance to work anyone. Nothing like working 6 days a week and then having to go home and work all evening. *sigh*. Yes, I am frustrated. Work work work, barely have time to clean stalls and then head home to work work work some more, I feel fried.

I measured Tango, I swore I wouldn't until the first of the year but I did anyways. 15"'1" at the withers, 15'3" at the hip. Why won't he grow? It seems weird to have him be almost the same height for so many months.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Well Tango's body might not have grown, but his head sure has! He has been wearing a full size horse halter since early summer. Today I noticed two rub spots on either side of his cheek from the halter. I had to loosen the halter to the very last hole in order to fit him correctly. Ye gads...what's next? Do I have to start buying draft horse halters?

Today was farrier day. Corky still needs the 2 degree wedge shoes to keep her at a 58 degree angle in the front. It doesn't appear that she is growing enough heel to get that angle naturally. She has a dead spot in one of her front feet right near the front. It is about the size of a half of a quarter, it is right at the bottom of her hoof and it has flaked off to have almost a hole there. We thought most of that would trim off, but after trimming we discovered that dead spot goes even higher up into her foot. I have no idea what this is from. My farrier and I decided that we would wait until the next trim, and if it is still there he would have to dig it out and investigate to see if it was some sort of bacterial infection. She doesn't seem to be bothered by it, but it is a weakness in her hoof wall. My farrier did say that her white line and laminae look very healthy, so that rules out white line disease or thrush.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I am trying very hard to hold myself back from a full out rant on this diary. I had to get up early this morning to go out and get my stalls cleaned because once again I have to be at work this afternoon to head to another football game...the never-ending season. I had just enough time to get the stalls cleaned and then head home. I am feeling very resentful right now. I have been working 6 days a week for the past month, and I have another couple weeks of it coming up...all for no extra pay. My horses are being neglected, my housework is falling off, I am working as many hours at home as I do at work. I know...I am thankful that I have a job! I just feel squashed by it right now and have a great desire to b*tch and moan about it.

Hopefully tomorrow will be MY time, for me and my horses.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

MY time? Yeah, RIGHT. I am beginning to believe there is no such thing. After a morning and afternoon of stress and insanity, I broke free and headed to the barn. Stall cleaning was therapeutic, riding Corky was even more so! The ground was really hard and I know that bothered her feet a bit (especially since she just had her feet trimmed on Friday), but she rode fantabulistic for me! Her canter was so soft and quiet and I had to do nothing but sit there. I wonder how the heck did she know that this was exactly what I needed today?

I saddled Tango with the tires and longed him. At first he was TERRIBLE - he pulled on the line and would NOT listen to me. I immediately grabbed the longe line with the chain and put it over his nose. It was like flipping a switch on him, he immediately stopped pulling and started listening and did everything I asked. It was weird because not once did I even make contact with the chain...he knew it was there and respected it without having to be disciplined with it. Yep...he is going to be one of those horses - give him an inch and he takes 10 miles.

After a short longeing session we did a little ground driving. He was great. I quit while I was ahead...and quit so I could go home and enjoy the glow from having two good horses today. Back home, back to reality...*sigh*. Some days I think I would be happier just camping out in a horse's stall, you know?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Who are you and what have you done with my horse???

LOL, Corky was great again today! I noticed that when I go to saddle her, she stands without any attitude - normally she hates the girth tightening and lays her ears back when I do that, but this past week she has had almost no reaction to the saddling process. I did have to do a slight bit of desensitization of my legs - she was pretty reactive to them so I did some sitting trot with my legs flapping on her sides, and then when I went back into the posting trot she was okey-dokey. Our canters were smooth and quiet, the whole ride was almost issue-free. This is getting very strange. Have I entered an alternate universe where everything is upside-down and backwards? Or is it just the fact that her hocks are lubed and she feels good after a nice long vacation without any pressure? I wish I knew, it's almost tempting to hire an animal communicator to find out what the deal is. Whatever the reason, I LOVE it!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What a melancholy day! I was going through my computer and found a video I had made of Taylor right after she died. I watched it, and believe it or not it made me cry again! I really do miss her, just watching those clips made me remember how much FUN she was to ride. She was just so beautiful, everyone noticed her wherever we went. I will probably never own a horse as kind and as beautiful as her again, she was truly a once-in-a-lifetime horse. Here is the video, from birth to death....

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I have been very lax in keeping up with my journaling this week. I have ridden Corky several times this week, including this morning. The rides have been such a joy, I look forward to saddling up every day! I really need to get her out into a new place to see how she does, preferably a place with some long sides so I can do more straight line work. As I am sitting at home typing this, my life has suddenly gotten a whole lot easier because our football team lost tonight in the state semi-finals, so marching band season is officially over! This means I gain my weekends back...at least until basketball season starts. I think I will send Darla a message and see if I can schedule a lesson next week. That would be awesome...time to start making improvements and building on our work!!!!

I longed and drove Tango a few days ago and he was doing really well. Today I just longed him. I am keeping his work time to a minimum. There really isn't much more I can do with him until he grows...wish he would start doing that SOON!

Sunday, November 28, 2011

Rain rain rain, but it was still in the 50's so I won't complain! Looks like our weather is going to hit reality later this week...sadly. Today's ride on Corky was good, I feel like we are accomplishing things. She still is perfect with no reaction when I saddle her, she does take a little convincing occasionally under saddle when I am doing things that require either significant leg pressure or lateral movements. I haven't been riding her with spurs at all the past few weeks, but decided to put on my little knob spurs today. She has been ignoring my leg occasionally when I am asking her to do harder stuff (like two-tracking or side-passing). We have been doing lots of circles and changes of directions. Today I put out the trail bridge and walked her over it a few times. I did it by hand first, and then under saddle. No problem! She does like to go crooked off of the bridge, but she gets no and off very quietly so I will take that today. I texted Darla when I was done riding and we are going to do a lesson next Saturday - my first open weekend without football since mid-August!!!! I am looking forward to it. It's time to improve myself. I feel like I have been stagnating!!!!

I walked Tango over the bridge a few times, then I longed him. You know how I am with his movement - it's a love-hate relationship! The past few days I have been hating how he looks. He is so awkward-looking. I would blame it on a growth spurt, but he hasn't grown! Some days he comes out and goes flat and steady like a million bucks, and other days he comes out and is climby and giraffe-necked and all over the place. This week has been one of those weeks. Trying not to get discouraged...but you know how I am! I am dying/blue> to start riding him but he is way too small and weak and I fear he may not be ready for weight in the saddle until summer. Patience, grasshopper!

Another fun moment of the day - I got my plastic gloves, cleanser, and a bucket of warm water and cleaned Tango's sheath. I do like that he stood like a rock for it all (even though I could tell he was not comfortable with it). So many geldings require sedation, but he stood there for 20+ minutes and let me clean him. Ick. I forgot how icky that is...mares are so much easier!

Monday, November 28, 2011

I need to have someone video me riding Corky. She just feels odd at times underneath. I don't know whether it is her feeling sore, or the footing that is rock hard and uneven. It's so hard to tell. Hopefully the weather stays decent and I can haul in to my lesson on Saturday and will know for sure. She's still riding good, though today she wasn't as "cheerful" as she has been in the past. I have been working on a lot of lateral movements and pivots with her. Not sure why, but she sure hates turns on the forehand. Probably because they are more difficult for her, but she is a bit resistant when I do those. That means I just need to do more of them every day! I rode without spurs again today (forgot to put them on...oops!). She was pretty responsive without them. I love that I have been riding her the past few weeks in just a plain French ring snaffle - the lightest, gentlest bit I own - and she has stayed really light in the bridle for me. That's really good! Lots of god signs here - her good attitude, her responsiveness and lightness, I just need to keep up my own positive attitude and things will be awesome next year.

I longed Tango with the saddle and tires today for about 10 minutes. he is not noticing the tires at all anymore. I think it might be time to switch back to my regular saddle and see how he is with the metal stirrups banging on his sides. I am running out of things to do with him. He gets bored if I do the same thing too often, and I think he is bored with the saddling, longeing, and ground-driving. I've tried to work a little showmanship with him, so maybe that should be more of my focus the next month. I don't want to turn him out and ignore him completely because I think it's important for him to keep learning and taking direction from me. Any ideas?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I rode Corky for about 10 minutes today. The arena footing was just too hard to do anything more than that. I don't want to risk her feet, that hard footing is so bad for her. I knew she was uncomfortable as I rode, but she rode really really well with a great attitude. I love that. I am excited - going to head to Darla's on Saturday for a lesson. I can't wait to see if her good attitude and performance holds true at Darla's place.

It amazes me how fast the role reversal between Corky and Tango has happened. Tango now chases Corky around, picks on her, bites her, and has become the boss man of their herd of two. How disappointing, because Corky needs to be the boss of someone! It helped her confidence when she was able to push Tango around. Tango is still a LOT smaller than her, but he has come into his own and thinks he is a total bad ass again. I need to find a horse to turn him out with that will take charge and put him in his place, but not hurt him. He is becoming rather big for his britches lately!

Friday,December 2, 2011

Today was Tango's work day. I free-longed both horses, then Corky got to stand at the wall while I worked with Tango. I put my regular saddle on him (without the tires) and let the metal stirrups bump him on his sides as I longed him. He was NOT happy about this. He got used to the tires, but the metal stirrups really bothered him. Looks like that will be something I will need to work on with him. After longeing, we did some ground driving. I hate that he is so balky. He just randomly decides to slam on his brakes and I have to get very forceful with him to get him moving again. I imagine he will be a horse that needs spurs.

Corky is flaming in heat today. She will be an easy horse to breed someday since I don't think she ever stops going into heat during the winter. I hate that I caught Tango several times trying to chew on her tail, and she was so gross she didn't even try and stop him. THAT worries me, I am very protective of her tail!!! Being in heat will make an interesting lesson with Darla tomorrow :-0

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What a great day! I hauled Corky to Darla's for my first lesson in months (possibly could have been as long as a year, I can't remember). My friend came along to watch, and it made a nice drive with lots of good conversation.

I was really pleased with Corky today. She felt great (so that answers one question - her funky-feeling underneath is probably due to the hard footing at home and not any underlying lameness!) and really behaved well. Darla reminded me of a very valuable training thought. These past weeks Corky has been riding so good, I just have been keeping the status quo without really pushing her into doing things she hates. Yes, I have done some turns on the forehands and such, but nothing that physically taxes her and makes her work extra hard. It's time to get back to doing that - work on the things that I will need in the show pen and deal with the training issues now at home. Our key is dealing with her adrenaline when she gets upset or rattled (or angry). That has been our number one problem at shows - when something happens to rattle her or she just doesn't like the atmosphere (or the moon is in a certain phase, etc., etc.) then she will get upset, her adrenaline will start flowing, and there is no bringing her back down and our classes are toast. Darla said I need to find a way to work with this issue at home - find a key to make her work through her adrenaline rush and concentrate on something else and let her actually learn to bring herself down if this should happen at a show (and it will, believe me!). One idea is to gallop her - just get into two-point position and keep a hold of her (so she stays in control) and gallop her...and when she decides she is tired and calms down I am to keep galloping her a bit longer to take control of the situation. Another idea is doing something like two-tracking or other exercises that lets me take control of her body parts. That is the key - controlling her body parts. /p>

So I am to push the issue at home. Work on the things that I know will rattle her (like her spur slow and counter-cantering) and then keep control but gallop her through it...hopefully each time we have to resort to this it will take a shorter and shorter amount of time for her to quash her adrenaline rush and settle down. We shall see...

Darla had me doing an exercise to get Corky to lift her shoulders better at the canter (another example of controlling individual body parts). Basically the exercise starts off at a sitting trot, I trot down the diagonal in the center, asking for her to move her shoulders to the outside (the direction we are angling) while making sure I can see her inside eye (the eye on the side we were moving away from). Once reaching the wall in the opposite corner, I canter off, canter around the corners and when I reach the straight side again I break to a sitting trot, push her shoulders to the outside and look for her "inside eye" and go diagonal across the arena, pick up the other canter lead in the opposite corner and do it all over again. I am not very good at explaining, I wish I had this on video. I am a visual learner anyways, so in a few weeks/months when I want to go back to review this lesson I will probably read this entry and scratch my head in confusion. Heck, I am scratching my head now! I hope to go back next weekend for another lesson, and hopefully this will cement these lessons in my brain.

Darla had me try a new bit on Corky - here is a picture:

It's called a Pessoa Magic bit. It's a fat, gentle ring snaffle with big copper rollers that tole on the bars of the mouth smoothly. The neatest thing about this bit is that the center joint does not break over completely. When regular snaffle bits break over when you apply pressure, often there is a nutcracker effect that ends up poking the roof of the mouth and pinching the sides of the face. not so with this bit, as it only really beds one way - the opposite way from when you pull on it. Nifty! Corky liked this bit - it's fat and soft and I was able to take a hold of her and lift her and manipulate her without any over-reaction. I want one!. Too bad it's over $100. I am so dirt poor that this is not even in the realm of possibility right now (and since we aren't doing Christmas here, no chance of a cool surprise Christmas gift!). Maybe I will try to set some braiding money aside next year to get this. Or maybe someone will come up with a cheap knockoff I can afford. Till then I will continue on with my fat French ring snaffle, and we will keep plugging away!

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's been raining solid for 2 straight days. That means I don my snorkel gear and swim the wheelbarrow out to the manure pile! Hey, I am not going to complain too hard. It is rain instead of snow, and that's a plus in my book!

I was really eager to try out some of the new stuff I did in my lesson on Saturday. Today was a good day to try it since there was a lot of commotion in the barn with two new horses being brought in, and Corky was extremely distracted and looky (the big temperature drop and howling winds helped on that front also). When she started acting up and not listening, I put her into a gallop. Yeah, that two-point position really hurt after my 3 1/2 mile elliptical workout yesterday...ouch. Good thing it didn't take Corky long to want to come down off of her "high". I galloped her a little more, and then brought her back down. After that we were good to go! I couldn't do a whole lot of work as the arena was super hard, and Corky was cantering a bit gingerly because of the footing. I did more of the exercise in lifting her shoulders that I did on Saturday - cantering around the ends of the arena and then trotting diagonally across the middle with her shoulders lifted. It was hard to know if I was getting anywhere, as I think she was more concerned about landing her feet on the hard ground. Looks like she will get some time of this week until the arena gets worked.

I had Tango tied to the wall when all the commotion started happening. One of the horses kicked the side of the stall really loud and it spooked him, causing him to pull back. That heavy rubber bungee tie held!!!! It's stretched thin in one place so I will have to buy a new one. I was glad to see it do it's job. tango finally tested his tie, and he didn't manage to pull loose. Good lesson!

Gah, all the forums are full of breeding talk right now. It's eating me alive because I hate not being in the breeding business anymore. Even if I had a broodmare, I'd have no place to keep her. No more stalls at the place I board. Someone needs to smack me. I need to focus on the two I have right now! Both have a lot of work ahead of them this winter (as I rub my hands in glee....I love having a plan!)./p>

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Corky is STILL in heat! It's been almost a full week of strong heat. She shows no signs of going out. I hope her hormones aren't all out of whack. Between her hormonal squealing and peeing and Tango's growing arrogance, I am ready to put both of their butts to work hard arena or no hard arena! Tango definitely needs to get on a regular job program. He is getting arrogant with Corky (who suddenly has taken the low spot on the totem pole and she lets that little yearling pick on her!) and he is getting arrogant with ME and that ain't cool.

The picture to the left shows what I did today! Ok, I did work...we unloaded the semi truck of band fundraiser fruit today, sorted the boxes, and played baseball with the rotten fruit. We call it our "Annual FruitBat Game". There is nothing quite like smashing an orange with a bat over your head.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tango was a nut in his stall today, and a bully when I went to turn him out. I let Corky and him play in the indoor while I cleaned stalls, then I free-longed them a bit. After that, Corky hung out at the wall while I saddled and longed Tango with the stirrups down. He was mad mad MAD! He hates those stirrups. He was a brat. Not surprised, but I was hoping that maybe he would get over his little snit by now.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I turned Tango out with a new "friend" - the barn's big bully. I was hoping this bully would knock him down a peg and make him act respectful. The bully did chase him round and round and round and round for the longest time! Then they both finally quit and stood there nibbling each other. So much for that experiment! Tango has yet to find a companion that can dominate him. Hard to believe he is only a yearling. Though I will say, he looked huge compared to the little pleasure horse gelding that chased him.

I saddled Tango again, and he was being stupid about the stirrups when I longed him. I started thinking...figuring out what I could do to just get him over this. I decided maybe the key would be to give him something else to think about rather than those bouncing stirrups. I laid a bunch of poles on the ground, and put Tango back out on the longe line. He had to think about every stride because there were poles in several spots that he had to go over. It seemed to do the trick! He stopped fussing over the stirrups and instead focused on where he needed to put his feet at the trot and canter. YES!!! This little idea worked like a charm. Maybe that's the key with him - always give him something different to think about. I wonder if he gets bored (he is really smart, which makes things difficult sometimes) and then obsesses over stuff that annoys him?

I am running out of things to do with him. He is too young and small to actually start getting in the saddle, but without a regular "job" he becomes way too full of himself. He needs a regular work program. I have been longeing, saddling, ground driving, going over ground poles, walking over the trail bridge...not sure what else to do with him this winter. One thing I do know - he needs to keep busy!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I had a whopping one weekend off from sports, but today it is back to work with basketball season starting. I headed out to the barn in the morning (what has become my usual Saturday morning routine before games!). I longed Tango for a little bit without saddle, just to let him longe normally. The ground was too hard to do much of anything else, so he and Corky were turned out for the day.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The ground was great today, freshly dug up, so despite my intense back pain, I saddled Corky for a ride. Normally I don't have back problems, but unloading a truck full of fruit plus a whole week of pushing the wheelbarrow of manure through heavy mud did something to my back. It's been pretty sore since Wednesday and every day I wake up and it's a little worse. I lasted about 5 minutes on Corky before getting off. No sense in doing something serious to my back right now. I have been SO lucky, I have never had serious back issues. I sure don't want to start now! Having to do all the labor by myself with my horses means I have no one else to go to if I run into a physical problem. Gotta stay healthy!

Tango got longed today with the saddle and stirrups. You know, he wasn't too bad today! He actually was very well-behaved overall - didn't chew on my when I led him, actually was very good. He longed pretty well, was a tiny bit annoyed but overall was a huge improvement over Friday.

I do so love getting messages from people reading this diary. I received a very good note form someone a couple days ago in regards to getting frustrated with my lack of progress with Tango. She relayed a comment she read in a book recently:

"A dressage lady feels she's not progressing and her trainer asks her this: Do you mow your lawn? Yes. The next day, can you see it grow? No. Do you have to mow your lawn again in three weeks? Yes."

YES! This is very very true. You don't always see your progress every day, but it is happening! It's kind of a wake-up call...that was the WHOLE reason for starting this training diary online back at the end of 2004. I had run across an old notebook in my truck...my "low tech" training diary from around 1997-1998 when I was training Scream. I wrote that one because I was convinced I was getting NOTHING accomplished. I was despondent about my lack of progress. The diary helped me by giving me a place to look back a few weeks, a few months, and see where I was back then and that I did make a little progress. I need to stay more positive about this whole training process.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My back feels a lot better today, thank goodness. Back pain really scares me. I felt good enough to give Corky a very good riding session. We did a ton of stuff - circles and serpentines, pivots on the fore and hind, and the shoulder-up exercise that I did at Darla's last weekend. Corky was feeling pretty good today, her energy level was just right - no balking or sluggishness but not so "up" that I had to constantly ask her to come back.

I tried another experiment - turned Tango out with the old broodmare. Finally there is a horse that is dominant over him. She didn't hurt him, never even touched him, but he knew that she was boss mare and all she had to do was look at him with a grumpy expression and he took off running. Eventually he ended up just staying on the other side of the arena from her. I turned Corky out with them, and Corky and the old broodmare stood and groomed each other. It was kind of funny to see Tango being the "odd man out" for once. He had no one to pick on!

I think I will try to alternate days with Corky and Tango on the evenings when time is crunched. Tomorrow will be Tango's day...unless I get the craving to ride (which could very well happen!). I am hoping to haul to Darla's for a lesson either this weekend or on my day off next week. She has some young prospects for me to ride, which will be fun. I love riding other horses (especially young huntseaters). It always helps me improve my feel when I get to experience how other horses move and respond. I'll post a video here if I do get to go.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Good day! Yes! I free-longed Tango and Corky for a little bit just to loosen them up, then Corky got "wall time" while it was Tango's turn for training. He actually seemed in a somewhat patient and willing mood today. It didn't start off that way, though. He was leaping in his stall when I came out to the barn and was a brat when I went to halter him - he wanted OUT and did not want to wait to have his halter put on. I had to give him a "disciplinary moment", then he was wearing his halter and off he went. He must have gotten his orneriness out of his system because saddling was a breeze.

He was will a bit irritated by the stirrups (mostly at the trot, not so much at the canter) when I longed him, but it was passable. It's funny, I was having him trot round and round (I walk with him and use the entire arena so he isn't doing a small circle) and my mind was wandering, thinking about other things. Here I had pretty much ignored his antics and just kept him trotting in the arena, and he actually gave up on being bratty (biting at the stirrups and trying to trot sideways) and went along smoothly. Maybe the trick is that I need to just push him along and let him work it out of his system himself. Remove myself from the equation (easier said than done!).

After longeing, I did some ground driving. I haven't driven him in several weeks. He was excellent! I didn't have to constantly tap on him to keep him trotting. It was a very good session - we walked and trotted around the arena, did circles and changes of directions. I quit while things were going great and he was still behaving. He got a hug and a red delicious apple from me. Yeah, no big deal, he gets that from me every single day! I love watching him snarf down those huge red apples when I put one in his feed bin.

It was time for Corky and I to take a new self-portrait. Yeah, I tried to do this with Tango yesterday but he was NOT going to stand still for it. He either tried to eat me or eat the camera. Corky is always good for a photo. I think she likes the attention. I think she feels she deserves the attention!

Ok, it was time to do the picture EVERYONE takes at least once...you know - the magnified eye portrait? Horses' eyes are so cool looking. Corky's is so full of kindness, I love it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Woo-hoo, it was 50 degrees today! I worked at the barn in just a vest. Can't say I've done that very often in mid-December!

Today was Corky's day. As usual, I did a little free-longeing and then it was saddle time,. Corky was great! She was a bit grumpy with my leg at the beginning, but like always I worked her through it by doing a lot of circles off my leg, and two-tracking at the trot. After I worked her canter a bit, it got very nice and round. I did a little bit of the shoulders up exercise, mixed it in with some circles, pivots, and whatnot. I even did some posting without stirrups...OUCH. I have been very very bad this year since I hardly rode all summer. Normally it is a regular part of my riding routine. I need to get back into doing a little bit every time I ride. I sat there thinking tonight about me, my age, and upcoming physical limitations. As I found out with mounting without a stool, at my age once I stop doing an activity or take a long break from it I can very well completely lose the skill or ability to physically do it any more. That scares me because I never ever want to have physical limitations to my riding. I don't ever want to use age as an excuse. If the 20 year olds can post without stirrups all day long, then so should I! Being as my 80 year old dad still plays walleyball once a week with a bunch of 30 year olds, I am hopeful I received his awesome physical longevity gene.

I gave in to temptation and measured Tango even though I swore I would stop obsessing and not measure him until January 1. Well, he did grow a whopping half inch so now he is about 15'1 1/2" at the withers and 15'3 1/2" at the hip (gee, for once could he JUST grow in the winters and let his body even out a little bit?). I was bummed since he's been around this height since mid-summer. My friend keeps insisting he is going to be tall. He did the string test on Tango for me and it came out to 16'3". Then he did the leg measurement and it came out to 17 hands. I breathed a little easier after that, even if he is off by a bit that is still bigger than 16 hands (and I have been fearing he wouldn't even reach 16!). We both agreed that he is going to be a very slow grower (kind of like Taylor was).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Once again Tango tested the waters by getting mouthy with me. I had to discipline him hard, but then he behaved the rest of the evening without pushing the issue. I hate having to do that with him, but it seems he loses respect for me very quickly when I am overly nice to him. I have even noticed that when I pet him and rub on him a bunch, he immediately tries to take advantage by grabbing on me or shifting his body and crowding me in my space. If I just go about things with him in a businesslike manner, he tends to respect my space more. I guess I have to remember that all horses are unique and different and require different handling. He may just be a horse that I can't love all over...at least not right now.

Our longeing with the saddle was pretty good today. He looked awesome at the trot, but he is still trotting with his neck extremely upright. He lowers it for the canter. I have seen him lower it to level at the trot so I know he can do it, and if I longe in side reins he drops down and doesn't fight the pressure, but I don't really want to longe him with side reins quiet yet. I thin he is too young. I just don't like the muscle he seems to be building on the underside of his neck. It will make it awkward for riding once we get started. Hmmm...what to do, what to do?

I think my goal is to sit in the saddle on February 1st (or thereabouts). He's getting a lot stronger, and I know it won't hurt him to just have my weight on his back and eventually do a little walking. We will walk for at least a month before going to the next gear, and that will be determined by his strength and how comfortable he is carrying my weight. Fun times! Hopefully I can find a friend to come out and help me break him, because it's impossible to do alone.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I loaded up and headed to Darla's in the morning for a lesson. The lesson went very well! Darla could actually see improvement in Corky because of the exercises I had done consistently the past two weeks in getting her to lift her shoulders and hold herself up. She shot a little video of me doing the exercise that she prescribed for me, so that everyone who was questioning it can see what it looks like. Bear with me, because I am experimenting on video stuff and played around with it a bit :-]:

That is hard work for Corky - she doesn't really love the exercise, but she does it and responds to it when I ask it. I appreciate that...doing her job with a bit of a frown but doing it nonetheless. She felt really good under saddle today. Darla said we look ready for the show pen...that's a BIG compliment! Now to keep it up for the next few months and keep improving - that's my goal. Oh, forgot to mention I rode today in that Pessoa bit of Darla's that I posted about earlier. I hate to say it but I LOVE it. I am considering spending my Congress winnings I earned with Tango and buying myself one. I break out into a sweat thinking of spending that much money on a bit (especially when I have a bin of bits in my trailer!). I might try riding in it another time at Darla's before taking the plunge.

Darla let me ride a 2yo huntseater she has that she is training to sell. He is by These Irons Are Hot. He is pretty cool! Here is a short video clip of me riding him. Please don't judge him by my crappy riding! It's been a while since I rode a green 2yo!!!

You you can get a better feel for what he really looks like under saddle, here is Darla riding him:

I think he would be a fun project, he was pretty easy to ride, and he is for sale at a decent price. Wish I had the money and space, I'd love to own him!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Corky had a lot of good energy today. She had a lot of "push" to her trot when I rode her. I did my usual shoulders exercise for a bit, and our canters felt really good. She is also getting better on her turns on the forehand and hind since I've been incorporating that into our daily routine. I've also been touching on bits and pieces of showmanship and she is getting very automatic. For fun, next time someone is out I am going to attempt shankless showmanship with her and have someone shoot a video. I think we can do it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last day of school before Christmas break! I got out at 1:30 and headed to the barn. It was in the upper 40's - positively balmy! First task was saddling Tango. I bought some heavy irons and cheap leathers, put them on my cheapie saddle, and turned him out with it. I turned Corky out with him. He didn't move around much, so I went out and free-longed both of them. Little stinker - he never paid ANY attention to the stirrups bouncing when he was being free-longed. He was more interested in bullying Corky.

It was too nice of a day to pass up riding Corky. I remember something Darla talked about at my lesson last weekend. We were discussing bits, and she is a fan of changing things up with bits and not staying on the same one day after day. She made a comment - something about how we are constantly lightening our horses up and then dulling them - a back and forth process to find that perfect spot to be at right at show time. Well, I saw first hand how it can work for me. I have been riding Corky in just that plain French ring snaffle - very fat and easy on her mouth. Today I switched to the twist ring snaffle just for a different feel, and wowzee - it was incredible! Between that and all the shoulder exercises I had done with her, her canter was spot-on tonight. She held herself up and rounded the corners with her shoulders up and her back end underneath, and I was riding with my fingertips.

I noticed that when Corky is light in the face, she is also very light to my seat and leg pressure. I mean light in a good way, not an over-reactive way. Today I was able to do a lot of circles and changes of direction using mainly my seat and legs. It felt like I had power steering, cruise control, and 4 brand new hotrod tires. I know those exercises in lifting her shoulders helped a LOT. I feel very pumped. So few times do things work out exactly as they are supposed to, you know? I actually feel like I am not a completely poopy crappy rider. I feel like finally finally FINALLY I accomplished something in my endless training.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I rode Corky in the same getup as yesterday. Once again she was very light and responsive...but slow!. I started doing that shoulder exercise, and she got so slow at the trot that it was practically a western jog. I had to really get after her, as in get MAD!. Stupid me - I didn't have my spurs on, and I was literally thumping her sides with my feet and she was just jogging along as slow as can be. Yeah, she's responsive alright, only responsive when she feels like being responsive! I am scratching my head trying to think where I put my spurs. Anyhow, I got frustrated, she got frustrated, we both got mad, and then I hand-galloped her until we both got it out of our system. After that the trot was back to normal. I trotted her for a while and used her as my equitation dummy - doing up-up-sit drills and trotting in 2-point position. We finished with a little showmanship, and called it a night. This will probably be my last riding session for almost a week - Christmas is this weekend and the Kevin and I are heading for a quick 2-night getaway to relax before the next grind settles in.

Friday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas to ME...got the dreaded e-mail this morning that Corky was lame. Sure enough, she has a big puff on her left hind ankle and it is swollen half the way up the cannon bone. She does not want to put any weight on it, just stands there with her toe resting. I didn't feel a ton of heat, maybe just a little. Ugh, I swear, this must be her yearly Christmas present to me. I gave her some bute and left her in her stall for the day. Of course, I am leaving town tomorrow for 4 days...doesn't it just figure? Now I can stress and worry about her while on my little getaway. Gee, thanks. I really hope this was just a little something and she is all better when I get back. I SO wanted to haul to another lesson while I had days off!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Well, I am finally back from all of my holiday sojourns. On Christmas day we left my parents' place in Cleveland and headed to Wheeling Island, WV for a few days of relaxation and greyhound racing! I managed to start with only $4 and after two days of racing I ended up taking home $40...good entertainment and a little cash to boot! It was a nice getaway for us.

The best thing was coming home and finding today that Corky looks almost 100%! I free-longed her and I saw maybe a hitch or two a few times in that left hind, but otherwise she looked pretty good. What a relief! I am hoping the ground gets worked a bit today so I can try riding her a bit tomorrow. Tango needs some work also. I longed him today just to get a feel for things - no saddle or anything. He was great, I am sure he needs more saddle time though.

I read a really cool article on showmanship today. It gets me fired up to really do some serious work on our showmanship skills this winter. Maybe that can be a goal for 2012? I shudder to look at my 2011 goals that I posted a year ago...I just know that I have achieved very little this year. Another year down the drain...*sigh*.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Corky looked great today, so I saddled her up. She rode really well (albeit a little cranky!). The ground was way too hard to do much work, so I just did a little trotting and cantering to make sure everything was good and then got off. I am tempted to call Darla to see if I can come out and ride with her, not even bothering her for a lesson but just come ride so I can ride in their nice big arena with great footing.

Tomorrow I hope to ride again (fingers crossed the footing is better!), and tomorrow Tango also needs to get worked a bit with the saddle. I love having this week off so I am not rushed - I can spend some quality time with the "kids" during the daytime.

Friday, December 30, 2011

It actually was a semi-warm day today. 40 degrees at the end of December...LOVE it! Tango was longed today with the saddle. I went ahead and attached the wheelbarrow tires to the stirrups so they would bounce around a bit more. WOW was he mad! It was kind of funny - he attempted to buck and kick out at the same time while he was running. He tried two or three times and kept losing his balance, so he gave up and just trotted and cantered REALLY big around the arena. I like that he's not coordinated enough to buck and move forward at the same time. I hope he stays that way while I break him under saddle. That would be convenient! Eventually he did settle down and deal with the tires. I actually like his movement when he is revved up about the stirrups - he really drives hard and throws those shoulders forward. When he is relaxed, he is lazy with his legs and doesn't look as good. Something to keep in mind in the future - he will need to have very fresh legs to look his best. Hopefully his mind can handle having fresh legs!

I bought two terribly ugly halters a few weeks ago. They are really nice quality with the adjustable nose and baked black hardware. They were only $5...because they were a gawdawful color - green with orange overlay! GAG!!! Hey, I needed new halters for the two of them and these were cheap! I'd love to get matching halters with their names stitched on, maybe in a purple with black overlay and white stitching (see, I already have it all planned out!) but those are a bit too expensive for me right now. Maybe in the spring...but for now both Tango and Corky get to suffer with the orange and green halters (is there possibly a worse color combination???). The funny thing is I used a Sharpie marker to put their names on the cheek so I could keep track of which halter was adjusted for which horse, and I accidentally wrote Tango's upside down! How fitting.

I rode Corky after I was finished with Tango. Man, I love this horse! What a great ride. I swear, I love riding, I love riding this horse, I just love the whole experience of riding. How lucky am I to have a horse like her? I always thought Taylor was a once-in-a-lifetime horse...Corky is one also. OK, so that makes them twice-in-a-lifetime horses, right? I don't know, all I know is I am lucky lucky lucky to be able to have such a great horse, and thankful that I am healthy and strong enough to keep riding at the level I aspire.

That being said, it's time to look at my official 2011 goals and determine how successful (or NOT) I was. Here are my goals as they were posted a year ago, and the results:

2011 GOALS
Short Term Goals 2011
  • Win a showmanship class with Corky and earn at least a half point - Nope, didn't even show Corky in showmanship this year :-[
  • Show one of my yearlings in longe line to a great placing - OK, not sure what a "great placing" is, but I did get this one done and I was fairly happy with my placings all year
  • Show Corky in equitation at least once - *sigh*, didn't even show Corky this year...*big sigh*
  • Show somewhere brand new I've never been before - I searched my brain but can't think of any show I went to this year with Tango that I hadn't already attended in the past. Dang!
  • Show longe line at Congress - Yep, DID IT!!!
Long Term Goals
  • Win a circuit championship on Corky - Not yet...
  • Earn another Congress top 10 - DID IT with Tango this year!
  • Earn a Congress top 5 - Not yet, but I will keep trying.
  • Show Taylor's baby in longe line - Yes, we did it, and Tango will be my only attempt at this goal since Taylor is gone :-[

So, it was a modestly successful year. I accomplished nothing with Corky, but then the sudden purchase of our new property right at the beginning of the year really changed everything for me in 2011. 2011 was my year of being a responsibly adult and good family member, and a year of putting aside my dreams and desires for the betterment of everyone. That's a good thing, right? So...bring on 2012. I am ready! Goals to be posted on Sunday!!!

Well, you did it! You managed to read your way through another year! The new 2012 training diary begins HERE, so head on over!

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