Friday, August 31, 2012

Chores and Memories

Yesterday I had a few things I wanted to check off my list. First was getting a half ton of beautiful Eastern Washington Grass hay from Sarah, followed by a lesson with her on Wesley. Since I was on that end of the county, and am not often nowadays, I met up with my god old friend and her new son Warren. She wanted to show me the foal she plans to get from LF. You long readers must remember the story of how I got into horses, The Arabians, the Quarter Horses, and the Journey. So I went with her to see the little foal, whom she calls Buck now, and he sure looks a lot like her old horse, Fawn.

Buck shares the same stud that Fawn did, making them not only visually similar but half-siblings. He sure is a cutie. And his dad, Joey still looked the same, although some years older now. It was rather strange to be back on LF's property and seeing a few of the same horses again after some years. Many things remained the same however, and lucky for me she was out of town so I didnt need to further stir up any memories.

Buck sleeping, and the grey is is Mom
I saw Maggie too, one of the horses LF has had for some time. She still bore the scars of an old injury I remembered her getting. Maggie looked so much the same, just older, of course, and with a swayback. It was nice to see the sweet mare again.

After we visited with Buck and the other horses, we had plans to visit J and his wife! I had periodically seen them when at work, and I knew I needed to get out to their farm before they went back to California for the winter. I was really excited to get out to their farm, see which horses were there rather then their other home in Cali, and to of course, catch up.

The farm looked much the same as five years ago when Milo and I moved.

The farm coming up the driveway
There, the black one, is Amadaan, and towards the back is the covered arena, behind that their seven stalls. It really as nice to see the horses again, five of them travel from California to Washington every year. Rocky, Vilya, Amadaan, Taffy, and Mackie were all there. Mackie I had never actually met and J told me about how they bred him, sold him later, found out he was half starved to death, and bought him back a few years ago. He is awful cute and sweet.

Time was running out, however, and I still had a half ton of hay in my truck and a hungry Milo at home. We said good-bye to J and his wife, and I headed out to Milo.

The old red Ford can still get the job done!! Although it would be a lie to say it wasnt working hard...

Before unloading, the hay stall needed some cleaning up...

I piled all the loose hay and loose bedding on the ground into a huge heap. Then rearranged my remaining ten or so bales so we can finish that up first. By the end of it all I myself probably moved about a full ton. But look how nice and organized it all is now!

It sure seemed a shame to toss out all that loose hay, but it really had gotten dusty and dirty from the bedding too. And it was rather old now anyways (there was still hay on the floor from the BO's old hay in there).

And now, this morning, I sit icing my back. :P

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to the Counter Canter

Funny how things come up right at the time you need them, huh?

The last week or so I have been thinking about going back to some counter canter work, this time though with the intention to strengthen the lope rather then focusing on the benefits of helping the lead change. Wouldn't you know there would be an article in Horse & Rider magazine that was all on counter canter.

Now, I have worked on the counter canter with Sarah many times as an aid to strengthen and build the lead change. But what struck out to me in the article was the mention on using the counter canter to open the shoulder. I'm sure Sarah has worked with me on this before too, but I always seemed to associate the counter canter with the hip. I have always used it as an exercise to gain control over the hip, to counter arc the body, and get a lead change. I had never focused on it in terms of opening the shoulder. But it makes sense as I too clearly still hear Sarah saying, "You've got the hip all day", I need the shoulder.

The shoulders are what are sticking me in a lot of our reining maneuvers too. I've got the hip all day, but the shoulder are what is stuck in turnarounds, rollbacks, freer stops, and in circles too. Why, look at that - shoulders are a part of everything!

So I went into my ride today with the goal of finding how the counter canter helped open the shoulder. The article described how he uses the inside (outside on the arc) rein as the wall (of course) to hold the shoulder, and the outside rein (inside arc) to keep the proper bend.

I started the ride at the walk and trot, naturally, but also to solidify my "walls" and body control before going into the counter canter. Outfitted in the snaffle, Milo was doing well and I was nicely in my body today. I tried something new: normally I work the counter canter from the regular canter, then cross the arena into the counter. I guess I use the first lope work to get Milo in mind for the lope. But today I decided I would send him right into the counter canter. I sure had to think about which rein was actually going to be my outside rein, haha.

The first few strides in the counter canter were a little sloppy, but after a few circles, Milo found his rhythm and I figured out what the feel was that I was shooting for, and how to hold my body in a way that would allow for it. When I felt the correct slight arc and the farther reach in the shoulder, I either released my drive, or went onto the rail as a break/reward. When he felt really correct and straight, lead change, lope a few circles on the correct lead, and give him a break.

As always, I not only found the opening of the shoulder I was looking for, but the counter canter work sure helped clean up the regular lope, if only for a few strides before we would lose the shoulder again. But at least it is fresh in my mind again the kind of lope we are shooting for. And I wonder again, why is it that I dont utilize this tool more often then just a once-in-a-while thing, or for cleaning the lead change?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Day at the County Fair

Its been four years since I aged out of 4H and competing at the County Fair. What changes have happened in my life since then. I miss the days of fair, but at the same time, I enjoy where my life is headed now as well. Milo and I are so much farther along then we were back then.

Obviously, its the week of the Kitsap County Fair and Stampede. Which brings up a lot of memories. Bet you havent seen this photo before...

The year I tried out for the Fair and Stampede Queen. Got runner up! Boy were my dreams different back then...
Haha, the borrowed hunter green leather dress. And Boyfriend. He's not borrowed though :)
Anyway, I was going to show you some photos of Milo and I at the fair, not like you havent seen some before, but I got a little sidetracked. Here's a couple of our last year:

What a little baby!

Anyway, I've proven my nostalgia now over the fair. *Wipes tear* but back to the point of this post.

Yesterday was my only day off during the week of fair, and my BO asked if I could help volunteer with the mini horses. He has been working fervently all year long to get the mini horses back to the fair along with their own class lists. And guess who he brought? Thats right, our favorite white mini stud, Spanky! :)

So I volunteered my day to help with "barn duty", but to really play with the 28(!) minis brought to the fair. Although, truth be told, I spent most of my time with Spanky, of course.

I cleaned mini poop, brushed mini horses, (not with mini brushes though), filled mini water buckets (haha, I'm getting carried away with myself now). But did talk to people about mini's, help show of Spanky, and almost took credit of his ownership when I was asked out long I's owned him. Don't worry, I stayed honest!

We later took Spanky out to the mini arena (hehe) and I lunged him for the crowd and he did his thang. Then we took him out for the jumps and my BO put him over a few. I was eager to see because he described his jumping as "leapfrog" because Spanky doesnt run up to the jump, he just leaps over it at a standstill (for the crowd's pleasure, I'm sure haha). Anyway, heres a few of Spanky's moves:

Aww, the little stud. :)
I might not have been a 4H exhibitor, but it sure was a blast to help with the mini's and to see Spanky out pleasing a crowd. The mini classes are held on Saturday and Sunday, but I'll be working and wont be able to watch (stupid work...). At any rate it was fun to see Spanky out even it was only for practice. I would invite you all to go visit him but seeing as most are out of state... :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Come for a Trail Ride with Us?

I thought I would show you one of our favorite loops on the trail. Its a nicer, short one with a few good spots to trot and lope. This route takes about 45 minutes, which in a hot day, is just perfect.

We met up with one of the goaties along the way. Never before has one followed us down the trail! Too cute. And when we make it to the ditch, I was proud of Milo for going into it from the "steep side", something I hadnt asked him to do just yet.

You'll see I tend to go into the more difficult trail areas - more overgrown, more things to walk over. I just like to keep it a little off "the beaten path" :) Come ride with me!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Trail Stuff

Nothing super exciting happening over here. I am in between shows, and this Friday had been eagerly planning on attending an extreme trail clinic and competition, but the plans with my ride fell through, disappointingly. I was really looking forward to going.

But I have been going on the trail a lot with some girlfriends, enjoying the weather and my horse. Last week Milo was really acting up on the trail - being herdbound to Middy, and not paying attention to simple cues. I could tell it had been coming though on the last trail ride, so after this one I decided I needed to go out alone a few times and set some things straight. Thats not to imply that I dont correct behavior when riding with others, oh I do, but some of it just doesnt seem to get through to Milo - like he gets so fretted that he stops thinking. And its usually fretting over Middy not being right by his side.

So yesterday I headed out with Milo and my dog Angie. I picked a nice loop on the trail that would offer some good spots to trot and lope, a little shade cover, and some obstacles. When we first came around the corner to the head of the trail, I heard bells clinging on the other side. Angie shot ahead and the noise increased until two goats ran right out in front of us and barrel down the driveway away. Milo stared at them, but we had seen these goats before. They seem to be able to just wander around the area as they please. Angie was onto something else now, and as we came around the corner saw two sweet little kids (goat kids) watching us, then taking off at Angie's advances. I called her back but they kept running up the road. Milo and I got to the beginning of the trail head when the other two "parent" goats came back out, bleating to their kids. It was awful cute.

We headed down the trail and got into a nice trot. Milo trotted confidently, just as I knew he was capable without a trail mate. When we got to a nice long stretch we lope up it, increasing to a faster lope, then coming back to a slow one at a hum, a couple of times. We walked down through a usual spot where in the wet months water accumulates at one point giving us a nice small water jump. But with it being dry, Milo simply stepped through it. Around to another favorite spot we hadnt gone up in a while was a steep short incline through some brush on the side. It really looks like an animal trail, but it brings you to the top of a hill with a nice lookout, and still loops back to another trail head. We began the hill at a trot, but Milo stepped into a needed canter to charge his way up it.

Not going up this way in a while, once at top it was quite overgrown. Milo took the opportunity to grab at some greens that were mouth-high for him. I still encouraged him not to go it, although it was rather hard with his efforts made so easy. When we can to the end of the hilltop flat, back to where we could now enter another trail head, I decided to loop our way back. But first, there was a log down. One that had been down all the while, but with such a nice cleared path around it, the path we usually take. I decided I might as well try this obstacle. After all, if I couldnt go to an extreme trail clinic, I would find those extreme trail obstacles right on the trail. So I walked him over the log a few times, and he did well.

Then I walked him down a long gradual hill, once we frequently lope up. To get to the trailhead I the ignored, you could either go up the steep incline like Milo and I did, or take this longer hill to it as well. Essentially, everything all loops together. I walked him down the hill, looking for more things to call trail obstacles. Nothing here, but we did walk by a long line of mailboxes, but that is common now. We looped back to the spot where the water usually is, and there are a few stumps sticking out and such. We always have to walk around one to get by, which Milo has gotten used to (its a narrow spot), but this time I wondered if I could walk Milo through the small ditch where the water usually flows. About two and a half feet wide, it was certainly tight, but wide enough. About the same depth deep too, but since it was dry it should be easy for Milo to walk along.

Initially getting him to step into the ditch was harder, but where we usually walk over is super shallow, and it gets deeper as we follow it (but no deeper then about two and a half feet). Once Milo put his front feet into the ditch and not the sides, it clicked to him that all was ok, and he confidently walked along the path of the ditch for a short ways. Once past the large stump we usually walk around, there was a perfect spot to get back out of the ditch, so we did, then trotted up a short hill. Once at top, there were a few large boulders and man-made pipes and a water hydrant. Never giving them a thought before, but this time I decided we could weave through and around them. It was a good exercise to keep Milo between my reins. A few narrow spots I needed to control his hip independently from his shoulder, and at one point he nearly stood directly over the hydrant, which sort of freaked me out, but we got around it well.

We continued along the trail and there was a perfectly sized downed log, with clear and good footing around it. So I used it to sidepass over each way. More good practice! We finally made it back to the road though, and calmly walked our way back home, no more obstacles to find. But then we came around the corner and two new goats were out, ones that werent wearing bells. They spooked when seeing them, and Milo just raised his head but kept walking towards them. Then they ran a little towards us, to get to their driveway, which made Milo start a side-stepping spook, but I kept him going forward fine and he got over it. As soon as the goats left down their drive, Milo was quiet and we walked back home in the shade.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Got the Photos!

Finally got the photos from the last two horse shows....they are all jumbled together...I dont really know which were from what shows. But who cares! :)

Looking like a Halter baby!! Makes a Momma proud. :)

Totally "horse-show" haha

My favorite, actually :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Well That Didnt Go As Planned...(Added Photo)

I was really excited about this final show for Olympic Peninsula Zone in Port Angeles. I felt that it was finally my time to get a first place ribbon in the Novice Reiner class - I knew Milo had it in him. We left on another early morning trip up North, and as usual, we got there with enough time to spare and get Milo and I ready. Forms had already been pre-mailed to the show secretary, so all I had to do was get myself and Milo prepared.

Boyfriend suggested working Milo down pretty well today. I wasnt so sure that was a good idea. It was already hot and expected to reach the mid-eighties, and we were going into three reining classes. From experience, I didnt want Milo dragging too bad on the final run. But, Boyfriend had a good point though, because when I tried to load Milo up earlier that morning, he stopped cold and took a few efforts of coaxing to get in the trailer (even did the same thing on the way back home). When we arrived at the showgrounds, Milo seemed complacent; not in a bad mood, but not really in a very trying mood either. Maybe getting him to think about actually working was a good strategy this time.

So I prepared him faster then normal, although still in a calm manner (I really hate feeling rushed), and brought him into the arena with all the other reiners. He warmed up really well, was working nicely, I wasnt quite as soft in my seat as I could have been, but after noticing this was able to make a more conscious effort to be. I needed to get a couple lead changes in before being comfortable with getting off. Right after the last show I took the shim off of my saddle, which when K was out watching me ride, she suggested my doing so as it had been over a year of constantly using it. She thought it may have become a crutch in my riding and I needed to allow my left seatbone to become level with my right one, I had to agree. But since taking it off, I think I only did about four lead changes at home. I asked for a couple here now at the show, and boy were those first few sloppy. I had enough impulsion from Milo, but the change from left to right was still rough because I wasnt getting on my left seatbone well enough. I focused on it and remembered to sit back in my saddle without leaning forward. Then I got a couple of nice ones so I got off before Milo got too hot.

The first class was the same I had been doing all summer - Dave Reaume Memorial Novice Reiner, Pattern 12. I briefly glanced at the pattern, but I knew it! I had been doing it all summer long. I was first draw, can you guess what happened? I went to the wrong left. I got a quarter of the way around the first circle and thought, "well crap". Coming to center I joked to the judge, "I guess I'm schooling this now". She laughed. I couldnt believe I had made such a dumb mistake. This was the "easy class" - no lead changes, only one rollback, and it was novice friendly. I blew my chance at my first place ribbon today and blew my contention for Year End Awards. Oh well. The pattern was still ok, and it was good to get some things out of the way - like Milo's anticipated lead change, his anticipation to lope off when we needed to do two turnarounds, and it got me to practice a few stops and realize I needed to really roll my pelvis. She still scored each maneuver, and I think we would have had a 66 1/2. After looking at all the scores that day, she judged pretty rough. This class took -1/2 on left circles, -1 on left spins, -1/2 on right circles, -1/2 on right spins, -1/2 on right rollback, and -1/2 on stop and back.  I had a lot of questions by the end of the day on the judging...can someone point out what I have been doing awful wrong? For the circles the pattern doesnt call for a speed change or size, so I have been shooting for consistency, which still seems to get me minus points...I guess the scoring in reining still sort of gets me.

The next class was Reining 1st/2nd Year, and I briefly went over the pattern. Seemed pretty self-explanatory. Once I got in the arena though, I blanked after my first set of spins. Was it three circles to the left, or right? As it turned out, I went the right way, but did the order of the circles wrong. It was one large, one slow, one large, change lead, wash, repeat. I guess I really needed to READ what the pattern said and not just look at the picture. Oh well, Milo did well, I thought, I was happy with his run, although he still didnt come back to be very well for the small slow like I knew he could. We would have scored a 64 1/2, with a -1 1/2 on the left spins, -1 on right spins, 0 on right circles, -1 on left circles, -1 on left rollback, -1/2 on right rollback, and -1/2 on stop and back. How the heck did I get a -1 1/2 on the first spins? I know they were kinda rough, but that bad?

The last class was Open Reining, and after going off pattern a SECOND time, I read over the last pattern carefully, even chatted with one of the other reiners about it. I KNEW what this pattern was. Initially I was concerned because it was another run-in pattern, but I hoped for the best being first draw again, and decided I would walk Milo in and not stop, but lope right off, hopefully avoiding a charge-y take off. He loped off really nicely, stopped ok, but once we backed to center I completely blanked on which way to spin. So I hoped for the best, which was wrong. Wait, which way were we circling first? I headed to the left, and did my circles, Milo slowed down at a hum beautifully, lead change was nice, repeated. Rollbacks felt awesome, and I felt pretty good about the pattern. The judge got up at the end to check bits, and I asked her if I did the spins wrong. She said she felt sorry to tell me this, but the spins were wrong AND my circles were wrong. I was dumbfounded, I read that pattern carefully! How was the circles wrong? Apparently, it was slow then two fast, not two fast one slow. Freaking A, how on earth did I do EVERY pattern wrong?? I exited the arena feeling pretty stupid and defeated. Then I noticed that Boyfriend didnt record that one (of course, since it was the best one). "I thought you only had two" he said. "Then I saw you in the arena a third time" ... and... you didnt get out of the truck..? Oh well. The scores would have been -1/2 on run in, stop, back, -1/2 right spin, -1 left spin, 0 left circle, 0 right circle, 1/2 right rollback, 0 left rollback, 0 stop, total of 67 I think. 

I did get a lot of compliments on Milo though from some of the really nice Open Reiners. They mentioned how in just the last month of coming up to the shows he has greatly improved. Everyone recommended he needs slide plates on, and I agree. I'm still wondering why my trainer keeps saying no when he's really trying to bring his hind end underneath him. Im concerned that hes going to start hurting if we keep stopping without them, and cause him to not try and stop anymore. 

All in all, it was a good show, Milo did really well, I didnt seem to have my brain on, but it was still good to get out and compete. I think part of the problem with the patterns was that I normally write down all my patterns about two days before the show. It gives me time to read them over carefully and really get them committed to mind. I also think that drawing them out on paper really helps me visualize the pattern being ridden, and I can clearly differentiate between the circles. My next reining show is at the end of September, by then, who knows, we may have slide plates on, and I will have had a long time to figure out the pattern!

A gal at the show who took photos last time and this time is finishing up my CD, which I am eagerly looking forward to! But look what she just sent me! :D

Friday, August 3, 2012

Weekend Plans

We have another horse show this Saturday up in Port Angeles; the last for their summer series. I haven had a whole lot of time to devote on working towards it, just regular rides when I can. But in the middle of show season, theres not a whole lot you can add in for schooling.

I did, however, get a tip from one of the reiners at the last show for our fast to slow, and that is to teach them to slow at a hum. I got a tip from NRHA's Inside Reining DVDs to practice it from a large fast, to a stop or walk, then lope a couple slow smalls. It worked, initially, but that and the fact that one of our patterns this season has consisted of stopping between the two circles each time, he has begun to think about stopping, rather then just slowing down.

I worked on the hum cue briefly in the arena, and he was beginning to figure it out. Then last week we were out on the trail and I figured it would be a perfect time to work on it. We ended up just getting into a fight (well, really Milo just didnt slow down his pace, although I'm not sure he truly knew what I was asking), but in reality I was just getting frustrated, expecting perfection when I hadnt solidly taught him the cue. So after I slowed it down to a trot to jog with a hum cue, I called it good that day.

The next time I rode was a whole three days later (AND it was my Birthday weekend too - totally not fair I didnt get to see him! Darned work...) and it was hot and after a cart shift so I was tired. I tossed ole faithful pink bareback pad on and settled aboard.

I had a great ride. Not only did I reinforce the hum cue, but more importantly my horse felt so dead broke. I mean literally, he loped along consistently, sped up when I wanted, slowed down when asked, trotted nicely, did everything I asked without hesitation or complaint. It just was a great ride. And it made me appreciate my horse even more. All this hard work is paying off and I am starting to feel like my horse and I are really working together towards my goals. His strength is there and his mind is solid.

So this show coming up. I agreed to an extra couple of hours today, night before we haul out. From getting off at 315 and having a whole afternoon to get ready, now Im getting off at 845. I stressed for a moment on how I was going to bathe, band, and ride Milo before the next show. I figured I can bathe him this morning, and band him after work. Maybe give him a lunge too. Who needs to ride? Milo knows his job. Lets just hope I can be the rider he needs that day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Photo Teaser

There was a gal at the last show taking photos. Here's one she sent me, to tie me over I guess until I get the rest, lol. Enjoy!

I wish I knew what was going on with my hand...but this is the first pick I have of us really pushing up some dirt!

And I was just sent this, we are in the paper! ...barely... haha