Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another dressage day

Isn't she gorgeous? Miss Spirit was a little saucy for our dressage lesson this evening, but we still managed to make some great progress on our connection with the outside rein and our up transitions to the canter.

Monday, July 25, 2011

St. Jude Charity Trail Ride

This past Saturday Spirit and I had the pleasure of riding in the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital charity trail ride put together by the Greater LA Paint Horse Club and very kindly hosted by R&R Ranch in Moorpark, CA.

If you're interested in learning more about St. Jude, click here.

It was a very special day, for a few reasons.

Firstly, Spirit got to meet her dam for the first time after getting weaned. Kathy and Bob, Spirit's owners, came and rode their horses, Lucy (Spirit's dam) and Bud. We made sure Lucy and Spirit wore matching colors, and of course we took photos of mamma and daughter. A part of me wanted Lucy and Spirit to be instantly friends. I didn't expect them to know that they were related, but I guess I was hoping they'd have some inexplicable (to them) connection of souls. They didn't. They treated each other as they would any other horse - Lucy was clingy to her best friend Bud, and Spirit was just friendly with everybody. Oh well, we humans knew and got a kick out of it.
Lucy on the left, Spirit on the right

Spirit on the left, Lucy on the right

Secondly, it was the first time the six of us went out as a horsey family: Kathy on Lucy, Bob on Bud, and myself on Spirit - all together and having fun. It was really nice to hang out together. The trail ride itself was very nice. It was a hot day but with a refreshing breeze wafting up smells of dust and sage and wildflowers. The horses all loaded well, stood tied to the trailer in the hot sun very nicely, drank water when presented to them, and overall just behaved like solid troopers. Meanwhile us three humans got to hang out and have some great conversation, good BBQ, and a fun raffle for charity (Kathy had the audaciously good luck to win practically half the raffle prizes! And was kind to share some of her winnings with me).

Thirdly, this was our first time trailering out for an event that wasn't a competition (or emergency evacuation) and Spirit just blew me away with her behavior. In a good way. Again. I didn't have any particular expectations about her behavior, and certainly no concerns; I took it for granted that she'd be fine. And yet she wowed me. She was perfect loading. Perfect standing next to the trailer (sans hay bag) for getting tacked up. Perfect meeting all sorts of strange horses and new humans. She was incredible on the trail. There was a part at the beginning and end of the trail that involved fairly steep slopes filled with rocks, on a narrow path on the side of a hill. I told Spirit I wanted her to carry herself up and stay at a walk rather than able up and down the hill - this forced her to use her hind end and be a careful mount. She did not put up one iota of resistance, though this was quite a lot of physical exertion to ask of her. During the flat parts (most of the ride), she was patient and listened well, wasn't spooky in the least even when we saw a coyote (okay, maybe she didn't notice it), she even dropped her head down and I felt her entire body just relax - somehow she knew that that was the point of the ride, and I think she really enjoyed herself. She was able to walk, trot, and canter on the trail very nicely. And she was neither herd-bound nor barn-sour, even when we made a U-turn on the trail. When we got back, she stood nicely, drank water whenever I presented it to her, was calm and easygoing when we explored the facility to find a washrack, and then stood nicely at the trailer while we humans went and had a BBQ. Simply put, she could not have been any more perfect. I am so blessed to have this wonderful, mature young horse!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shepherd Photos

Jump 4. My right leather broke on the landing of this jump.

Right iron is now gone. I am deciding whether to continue or to stop.

Jump 5. Sans right iron. We had refused this at schooling, so I was sure to RIDE this one.
Jump 6. Love us soaring over this ditch. You can see my right boot hanging down where it shouldn't be. Isn't my horse awesome?

Bareback - round 2

I had another bareback halter ride on Spirit last night, and we both had a wonderful time. I still used the trusty polo wrap around her neck. We did a lot more trot work this time - I think it helps me with my dressage sitting trot since I need to soften my back and move more rhythmically with Spirit's motion. Of course, we did plenty of canter and worked on neck-reigning, slowing and speeding up and the canter (going on and getting off the forehand), and maintaining a slow, even trot for extended periods of time. Spirit likes to TROT, so we worked on trot. Its getting lovely.

I was surprised to find myself looking over at the jumps and daydream about taking a (very) small crossrail. The rational part of my brain says I need a few more than 2 bareback rides before I attempt it though. And maybe I should actually wear my helmet and safety vest. We trotted over poles and worked on side passes to get my mind off it.

I have a lesson on Thursday which I am looking forward to. I look forward to every lesson, actually. Such a nice feeling. :)  And this weekend we have the St. Jude's Trail Ride with our Paint Club. However, we still haven't gotten trailering 100% worked out so we'll see. We also have the option to school at Twin Rivers with my barn, but I already committed to St. Jude's so I don't know quite yet.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Perfect horse

I know that everyone in the world thinks that their horse is something special and perfect and no other could possibly compare. Well, in my case, its true! Spirit is just blowing me away, week after week.

Since my last post, we've been up to quite a bit. Firstly, we did a small hunter jumper show down in Newhall/Valencia area. We did a "blue/red schooling" class - in fact, we did it twice at two levels: 4 classes total. Even though it was a schooling class, it was judged (as a hunter class, I gather) and depending on if your score falls within the highest points level range, you get a blue ribbon, or the second highest points level range, a red ribbon. Or you can score below and get neither. I walked away with a red ribbon and felt rather pleased. Especially since we're not hunters. I don't really even know what the judging criterea area. In any case, we certainly did what we set out to do: jump boldly over new courses first time presented.

1'6" class
2'6" class

2'6" class

Additionally, we've done great at our lessons. I'm feeling more secure in my position, and Spirit is just as willing as can be. :) Love my perfect horse.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bareback in a halter

In a heretofore unattempted feat, I have ridden Spirit bareback in a halter - walk, trot, and canter. It was successful - ie, I didn't fall off and I think Spirit had a good time. I had turned her out while I was cleaning up and putting away show gear, then decided I was too lazy to do a "real" ride. I knew that I'd be off balance and I didn't want to lean on her mouth for support, so I decided to ride with a halter and lead instead of bridle. I was smart enough to tie a polo wrap around her neck though - it did come in handy!

We started off walking. Nice and easy. Went over some ground poles and told her what a good girl she was. I'd only ridden her this way taking her from her stall to the tie racks, so I wanted to make sure she was relaxed and comfortable. We moved up into a slow jog of a trot. Instantly it became a canter. I blame the fact that I was finding my seat plus Spirit's willful interpretation of my jostling around. The canter was lovely and soft and uphill and slow (and comfortable), so I figured "Eh, we'll do trot later". We cantered around and around. Spirit was amenable to neck-reigning, which made the ride much more relaxed. Finally we did some trot work and that is where the polo wrap came in. Posting without a saddle is a great workout no matter how often you ride! I have a feeling that the people at the barn maybe thought I was crazy. Well, okay, I did have one beer before I rode. ;)

We have gotten another lesson in - this time jumping. Spirit was fantastic. She just launched herself over every jump, came back to me nicely as soon as I asked, move forward when I told her to - just excellent. We even set up a faux ditch jump: 2 ground poles with a floor mat in between. We make it more challenging by changing the color of the mat partway through the ride. Another intriguing element is that our trainer had us trot a jump in the middle of our course - that was so difficult! I wouldn't have expected it to be, but taking Spirit down to a trot without letting her break to canter for the jump was actually a challenge. I'm gonna work on that.

This weekend we've signed up for a small hunter jumper show fairly close to home. I view it as a good schooling opportunity to get exposure to colorful jumps. The idea is that I will get practice riding more supportively so that we go over the new jumps first time presented.