Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lesson Time

Had a lesson today on Arya.  Not my first, by a long stretch and not really her first, but our first together.  And she hasn't spent much time in an arena, so I was concerned with how it would go.  But other than not wanting to trot, and not loving standing still (though she got much better at it by the end), she did great.

It was 2 1/2 hours total, with the first half focused on groundwork, so she wore the saddle, but no bridle:

We worked on leading nicely, stopping when I stop, and backing up when I back up.  The last one was the hardest for her--she knows how to back up, but when you're walking well ahead of her, asking her to keep a "bubble" of space between us, and then expect her to back up just because you do, she doesn't get it.  She figures I'm just backing up to come back to be next to her so I can rub on her and pet her or something.  So it involved a bit of "hazing" with the rope to get her to understand.  She did okay.  We also did a bit of lateral work, like moving her haunches over.  It was good work.

Then we mounted up.  First we had to just stand there while the instructor talked, which Arya was NOT a fan of.  Getting on means getting moving, usually.  So it was good for her to learn this lesson.  Then we all walked and practiced one-rein stops (use contact with just one rein to turn horse until they come to a stop).  Arya is a champ at this--clearly her previous owner worked hard with her on this.  And she's lazy, which helps.  Shar and Flash had a harder time with this exercise, because he's more athletic and amped up--he just spun in littler and littler circles, without actually stopping his feet.  :-)

Then most of us stood while one person at a time went through a course the instructor set out.  We had to trot through four trot poles, make a circle, then return to the walk.  Uh oh, here goes.  Not sure whether Arya's dealt with trot poles (though I hand-walked her through them during the groundwork portion, and she has been WELL broke to deal with stuff on, around, and under her feet).  And she doesn't love trotting in an arena.

For the first go, I just trotted her beside the trot poles, attempted to keep her at the trot through the circle, was complimented on my use of just one rein in the circle, and then gave up when she started walking halfway around the circle  But she did better than I expected, honestly!

The second time, I walked her across the poles, and she did great.

The third time, I attempted to trot her over the poles, and she had a rough time finding the right spots to put her feet, came to a halt, and we walked the rest of the way through.  Oops.

But really, not too bad for a horse that hasn't spent much time in an arena, especially lately.

We then worked on some lateral work and two-point (I couldn't get Arya to trot more than a couple strides, so that was pretty much a bust.

The instructor has a thing with her lessons where the riders are supposed to back their horses up the hill out of the arena (from the ground, not riding)--it's good for their backs, plus probably helps the attitude that leaving the arena is great fun.  :-)  So that was an interesting exercise, then it was back to the trailer, blankets back on the ponies, and home again.

It was a nice ride on a nice day!  Shar and I both hope to go back again soon, her with both Flash and her greenie, Goodwin, and both of us might potentially take lunge line lessons (you ride without reins while the instructor controls the horse on a lunge line).  She'd take them on Flash, but I'm not sure Arya's consistent enough for that, so I'd probably ride one of the instructor's horses.  It's really good to focus on your own riding (including balance) without worrying about controlling the horse.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Back on the Horse

So, I fell off (well, she bucked but a better rider coulda stuck it, so I don't really like saying I was bucked off) two weeks and one day ago, and am just NOW getting back on the horse.  Yes, I got back on her again that same day, but this is the first ride after having a chance to process it, and as Shar and I discussed today, both first rides are difficult in their own way.

The first ride RIGHT after falling off is tough because you might be physically sore, you'll definitely be shaken mentally, and emotionally, you're probably either pissed or scared.  You've told yourself a few versions of why/how it happened, attempted to mitigate them however you can, and now you're getting back on, which is a test of those theories and remedies.

However, the first ride after you've been away from the horse for a while, whether it's the same horse or a different horse, and whether it's the next day or weeks, months, or even years later, though, is hard in other ways.  You've told yourself why the fall happened, but now it's distant enough that you're doubting your rationalizations.  And now it's a whole new day (/week/month/year/horse) so you can also worry that something entirely different might happen.  Is this the same horse you fell off and you only have to worry about what triggered that fall, or maybe she's in a whole different mood now, or you're getting onto a whole different horse and you don't even know what might set it off...

(Or is this all just me and I'm a worrywart?)

So anyway, Shar texted me today to ask if I wanted to ride tonight.  I had the gear I'd need with me, and it was a really nice day--partly cloudy, unseasonably "warm," full-ish moon...  So sure, I was in.  I showed up at her house, though, and it sure seemed dark.  I had to halter Arya by braille and lead her to and into the very dark barn.  But then we were in the barn with lights blazing and I got her cleaned up and tacked up.  Then we headed to the round pen, which was out of any beams of light from the barn, so leaving the bright barn and heading to the round pen left BOTH of us night blind--I couldn't see the round pen until we were right on it, and Arya misjudged the entrance when I led her through the gate after opening it--she caught the stirrup on it and startled herself.

I got my keychain out and used my little LED flashlight to find the lunge whip and start her off.  She seemed confused, since she couldn't see my body language, but our eyes adjusted (and the LED light helped), and we got some good lunging in.  First I just had her trot in only one direction to watch for any bucking that might be attributable to the tack, but she didn't buck at all.  Then I did our usual direction changes, both trotting and walking, just to get her paying attention to me and following my directions.  She did perfect, considering the conditions (dark plus still a bit slippery), so it was time to mount up.

But it was SO dark and I was SO nervous.  I was really tempted to just tell Shar I didn't want to do it.  But I couldn't wuss out, and while it would be nice if it was light for it, I was gonna have to get back on at some point.  So why not now, right?

However, after her difficulties finding the opening to the round pen before, I decided not to mount in the round pen and ride out of it, so I hauled Arya and the mounting block back into the light from the barn.

That's when R got home from work and pointed out that one of the bolts on my stirrups (I'd just changed from the ones that came with the saddle to the caged stirrups I already owned) was really loose.  Good catch, R!  I might have lost a stirrup in the dark at the very least, or possibly fallen off if she'd spooked (or even trotted, with my balance, especially in the dark) while I was riding home with one stirrup.

So, with that fixed and Shar ready to go, too, it was time to get on.

Deep breath.  Mount up.  She was fine.  I was rather nervous, though.  The cinch seemed a little loose, so once again, R came to my rescue and tightened it up for me.  I only tighten it enough to keep the saddle from falling off when I lunge, but I'd tightened it before futzing around with stuff.  Apparently not enough!  With that taken care off, we were off like a herd of turtles (as Shar often says).

Arya did fine leaving the property and following Flash down the road.  We were even going a different direction than we usually do, on a route she's only seen once, and from the other direction.  Her eyes and ears turned to the side every once in a while to check something out, but for the most part her ears were forward and she was striding out down the trail, even passing up Flash and taking the lead.  I was still rather nervous, but some deep breathing and attempts to sit deep in the saddle (and lean back a bit rather than curling forward as is my instinct).  Then we turned and headed down a road she'd never been on, and she still did fine.  I was chatting with Shar and trying to keep breathing.  Everything was going fine.

Then Arya spooked at something.  We think it was Shar's dog, Noelle, coming into her vision suddenly after being behind her, but who knows.  Luckily, she didn't go sideways, so I didn't lose my balance.  She took a couple of canter strides.  I instictively panicked a moment--cantering doesn't feel much different than bucking when your brain isn't really thinking, but then she slowed and my brain kicked in at about the same time, and we were fine, though my heart was racing a bit.  But I was more okay than I would've thought a few moments earlier, and we kept on going.  We got down to the house with Christmas lights we were heading for, and there was also a horse (or pony?) nearby, who whinnied at us.  Between my nervousness, the funky lights, and the presence of another horse nearby, Arya was a little on edge.  I was a LOT on edge.  It didn't seem like it'd be getting any brighter, and it didn't seem like I'd be getting any less nervous, so I asked if we could just retrace our steps and head home rather than taking a longer route home or doing anything more adventurous.

Shar is such a good mentor--she agreed to that, and told me she was proud of me, and didn't push me any further outside my comfort zone than I already was.  I really appreciate that!  She encourages me without sounding patronizing me.  She encourages me to push my comfort a little bit without being pushy, and of course by allowing me to board at her house, she's very supportive with her actions and not just words.

We made it home totally safely, including when a driver came toward us, saw our funky reflective gear and wondered what he was even looking at, so he slowed down and chatted with us (well, with Shar--Arya and I were further off the shoulder and she was eating and/or scratching her face).

After arriving home, I untacked, and Arya was SWEATY!  Not all over, and not under the saddle, just on her chest and neck.  We ONLY walked.  Guess between my nervous energy and her own, she got a bit of a workout anyway, somehow.

We went a whopping 2-ish miles (my tracker says just under, Shar's says just over) in 40-ish minutes.  Woo.  ;-)

I didn't take any pictures, but here's what it would look like if I had:

We discussed when our next ride should be, and I just don't think I'm up for another night ride before getting in a nice daylight ride, so most likely won't ride until the weekend.  :-)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Pretty Ponies on Parade

My friend Shar asked if I (and a few other friends) wanted to participate in the Christmas parade put on by her little community (smaller than a small town, bigger than a neighborhood).  The theme of the parade is Toyland, so we were originally each going to go as toys--her as Raggedy Ann, and me as Gumby (Arya's a pretty good twin to Pokey).  But then she suggested bedecking our horses as My Little Ponies, which sounded like too much fun, so we shopped at dollar stores and Joann's, and got together with plenty of time before the parade to get the horses ready.

Arya in back, Jill holding Goodwin's tail while Shar looked for her zip ties.

Willow in back, and Jaxon in front.  Both have a ways to go before they're ready for the parade!

Turns out Goodwin looks great in gold!

And Arya's beautiful in purple!

Arya wasn't too sure about having curly gift ribbons dangling from her forelock, but after a little shaking to see if she could get them loose, she figured they weren't too bad and was fine with them the rest of the day.  The mane and tail ribbons never bothered her at all.  Pretty sure this is her first time being decorated, so she did great!!

Jill still has a ways to go on Willow

But Romina's getting Jaxon quite well decorated!  She has red and yellow tack, so took that color scheme a ways further, like I did with Arya and purple.

Goodwin doesn't look very amused...

But Shar loves it!

We went down to the staging area and got into place for the parade.  We were number three--after the grand marshal and before a "hot wheels" car.  Shar chose this spot instead of one directly in front of the fire engines (that do turn on their sirens, honk their horns, and flash their lights, so good choice!).

The float in front of us held quite a cast of toys and nursery rhyme characters.  There are some toy soldiers, Jack and Jill and their cute kiddo dressed as a puppy or bear or something, Mother Goose, and some other characters...they all had awesome costumes.

And, of course, Santa!

Color guard at the very front of the parade

When the float in front of us turned their music on, Goodwin got VERY interested

When we started off, Arya (who had been uber calm up to this point) got very animated.  Not sure whether it was the hubbub or taking her away from her grazing break, but she was prancing around and trying to push me off the road (like she was trying to get to food, but who knows).  I tried circling her, and she didn't respect my space very much the first time or two, but luckily the car behind us did and she settled in just before we got to the spectators.  We got a few oohs and aahs from spectators, and I let a couple little girls pet Arya, and she was an angel.  We got some after-parade photos of our pretty ponies:

Goodwin and Shar, and our ribbon for first place in the category Pets and Horses (I'm pretty sure we were the only entry, but hey, it's a ribbon!)

Jaxon and Romina

Arya and me (too bad her eyes were closed)

Willow and Jill.  That hat/scarf/gloves multi-purpose and multi-function garment was awesome!

We all had a great time, the weather wasn't too cold (and the parade route had thawed, even though Shar's house was still frozen solid), and the horses were well-behaved.  First parade for all of them, I believe!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fall Down, Go Boom

Or *splat,* rather.  I fell off Arya today, for the first time, and likely not the last, but hopefully the last for a long time.  Here's the saga:

Since we'd had such a nice ride yesterday, and since the round pen was so sloppy, I decided not to lunge Arya first.  I got her out, tacked her up, and made her do a few circles around me at the end of the rein, then hopped on.  Shar and I headed out to meet up with K somewhere between their two houses.

She was a little looky at the gate, like she always is.  She hasn't learned it's not going to eat her yet, apparently.  And then on the road, her back felt tense and her tail was swishing.  I commented on it to Shar, but didn't know why, and figured she'd settle in eventually.  In retrospect, it's possible the back cinch was too tight--there's a hole that seems too loose, and one that seems a little tight, and I chose the tighter one.

Then we caught site of K on her mare.  Arya's head went straight up in the air, and she started walking faster.  I tried to hold her back, and she tossed her head a bit.  K came up near us, and we all stood.  Flash was between Arya and the other mare, and she was on high alert but doing okay.  K went around behind the little group of Flash and Arya to come up to her other side for introductions, and kind of side-stepped her, so out of the corner of my eye, it looked like the other mare's butt was heading for us.  If I thought that, it's possible Arya did, too.  In any case, she took a hard sideways step and I lost my balance a bit, but then regained it.

At that point, she started bucking.  It could have been because I was off-balance (her former owner is much lighter than me and a much better rider), it could have been the cinch, it could have been the new saddle, bridle, and bit.  It could have been the footing (we left the road and went onto softer dirt with snow on top).  I stayed on for one buck, maybe two, but it was inevitable...I fell off over her left shoulder.  Luckily, I missed the rocks in the area, so I quickly realized I wasn't hurt, at least as long as she didn't kick or step on me.  Luckily (again), she was bucking off away from me.  She stopped a few yards away, which is good--glad to know she didn't plan to run off, even though home was RIGHT there.  I stood up, and realized nothing really hurt except a couple of fingers--one from rope burn (though a couple more are also a little abraded) and one from getting tweaked.  That one is NOT happy this evening:

I walked over to her, easily "caught" her (she didn't move), and we all traipsed back to the round pen to do what I apparently should have done before getting on.  She was a perfect angel, even with the other mare standing right next to the round pen.  So I took a deep breath, got on, took a few more deep breaths, rode her in a circle while taking more deep breaths, then rode her out the gate of the round pen and Shar and I followed behind K and her mare a ways, while I kept taking deep breaths.

She was definitely more relaxed and not swishing her tail.  She did put her head up in the air when we passed a mini donkey (on K's property, coincidentally), which made me nervous, but Shar helped talk me off the ledge, and we both got past it.  The rest of the ride went totally uneventfully, with trotting, road crossing/riding, and more horses to looky-loo at.  Even some llamas, which she was very interested in keeping an eye on, but didn't misbehave at all..

She's a good girl, we just had a freak set of circumstances that resulted in me on the ground with a couple of sore fingers afterward.  Luckily, the rest of me seems completely unhurt, even hours later.  got off pretty unscathed, considering how tall she is!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Snow Ride!

Well, more like slush ride.  It's just that the snow was so deep, and Shar didn't have appropriate footwear for Flash (it's okay to ride in snow when the horse is barefoot, though they might still build up a bit of a ball of snow, but the natural flex of the hoof plus the fact that there isn't a lot of hollow space on a bare hoof, keeps it from getting too bad, but when a horse has shoes on but nothing to prevent snow balls, they can build up quite bit in a shot hoof and as you can imagine, horses don't do well in what amounts to slippery high heels).  So I haven't even ridden since the solo ride, which was pretty brief, and of course that means Arya hasn't really been out since then, except a couple of trips to the barn for a once-over and to get her feet trimmed the other day.

(Which I hear went pretty well--the farrier had to tell her that YES, she can lift up and keep up her feet, and then she decided that it was easier to do so than fight him about it.)

So.  First time riding in the snow (for us together--I'm sure Arya has, and I've done it a time or two), a fresh horse, a new saddle...sounds like a good time to try a new, milder, bit, right?  Eh, she'll be fine.

I tacked her up and took her to the round pen, which was still filled with about 4 inches of VERY wet, sloppy snow.  I didn't want her slipping or sliding, so even though none of my sessions in the round pen are intended to wear her out, just get her focused, this session was DEFINITELY not for speed.  I cued her to walk, and she did.  I cued her to turn around and head the other direction, and she took a stride or two of canter, as she often does.  Before I had much of a chance to try to get her to slow down, she started bucking.  Well, more like hopping, straight up and down like a bunny, with all four feet.  This is only her second time in this saddle, and the back cinch WAS a little tight (but the next looser hole was too loose).  It's her first time in this particular bit, at least in a long time, but I doubt that'd be enough to make her buck.  So I chalked it up to feeling fresh, and either enjoying the snow or hating the sloppy snow in the round pen, and kept working her, watching her attitude.  She did just fine, changing direction, stopping, and starting on command.  So I attached the reins, hung the crop from the horn, put my jacket on, and got on.  Somehow the crop fell on the ground, and I was too lazy to get back off and get it (oops--I just realized it's still there!), so I hoped having spurs on (they're mild, though) would be enough.  Mostly it's just for when she gets antsy to itch her face on her front leg--I pop her with the crop to get her moving again.

Anyway, so I was on board, did a little circle in the round pen, and headed out to find Shar.  She was just about ready to go, too, so off we went.

No one had driven this far down this road since the snow fell.  Pretty!

She was pretty darn good!  She didn't fiddle with the bit nearly as much as she did the old one (though I think this bit was a little low in her mouth, but unfortunately that bridle doesn't adjust any smaller).  There was a point where she got kind of antsy to get moving, and kept tossing her head when I tried to hold her back.  And toward the end of the ride, she got a little speed-y a time or two, especially when other horses came up to their pasture fence near us.  But overall, she did great.  It was fun to get out in the snow, but it was even more fun to trot a little on the dirt roads that were nice and bare.  Looking forward to another ride soon, hopefully tomorrow.

I'm also preparing a costume for a parade in the near future...stay tuned!!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tiring of Arya Stories?

Here's a non-horse-related post.

My tires have been getting less and less grippy lately, even though they're well within their warrantied number of miles.  And I'm going to be driving a few hundred miles on them over at least one, if not more, of the upcoming holidays.  So it was time to get new tires.  Coincidentally, the day I finally had enough information and decided where to buy them from and what set to buy was also the day of the first snowstorm.  I called the place, and even though I wasn't one of the masses getting their summer tires changed out for snow tires, they could fit me in.  My boss kindly offered me a ride from the tire place back to work, then back to the tire place after my car was done.

So, that was that.  I got new, grippier tiers.  Of course, the employee who helped me assumed I was there for snow tires, but I said nope, just bad timing deciding to get new all-season tires.  A few hours later, my car was ready, I paid for the tires (great price!), and went back to work.  I noticed that they had put two tires in my backseat (and later saw that the other two were in the trunk), but figured they were so busy they hadn't asked me to approve the disposal fee, and just decided to give them back to me instead.  Whatever.  The tires did, indeed, feel grippier on the snow, but of course I didn't take any chances.

Then there was freezing rain overnight, and my boss called a snow day, so I didn't drive anywhere for Friday or Saturday.  Sunday night, I drove a couple miles to get Nathan's hair cut and go to dinner, entirely on packed snow and ice.  Again, the tires seemed grippier, but not surprising considering the non-grippiness of the old tires.  I tried demonstrating to Nathan how dangerous in can be to slam on your brakes in those conditions, but my anti-lock brakes kicked in and I came to a safe stop.  Similarly, hitting the accelerator didn't result in much action either.  Whatever.

Today, I headed to work.  After driving on packed snow and ice on the surface streets, I was relieved to see that the highway was clear, so I made good time to work.  As I started accelerating to highway speeds, it felt and sounded like my car was revving harder than it should be, like I'd put the shifter in second, instead of drive.  But nope, it was in drive, and the tachometer only read 2,000 RPM.  Hm.  The vibrations and sound really felt like the engine was working harder than it was, but I chalked it up to the new tires being nubbier and grippier than the old ones, and figured I'd get used to it.  Then tonight, I went to Shar's house to check on Arya (oops--I said this wouldn't be horse-related; but basically, I hadn't seen her in almost a week, so I went to say hi to her and to Shar), and again, once I got off of the snowy and icy side streets, and onto the bare pavement on the highway, the sound annoyed me and made it seem like the car was stuck in a lower gear than it should have been.  Maybe it would take more than a couple drives to get used to the sound and feel of the new tires?

I went to Shar's parked in the (plowed and packed down from driving) street rather than venturing up her not-plowed driveway.  Messed with Arya, went inside for some hot cocoa, and Shar's "husband," R, came home.  I told them both about my new tires, how nice and grippy they were, but the road noise sure was annoying.  R said that was totally weird--new tires should have LESS road noise, if anything.  Shar had had an interesting adventure with new tires this weekend, and agreed that the new tires had been quieter than the old ones.  Weird.  R suggested that maybe I call the tire place tomorrow and see whether they were installed backward, or not balanced after the installation, or something...  Hm, makes sense, okay.

R disappeared for a few minutes.  I barely even noticed, figured he'd gone to the bathroom or something.  He came back in and said "I know why your tires are noisier now--they're studded snow tires!"  WHAT???  That explains everything actually, they're grippier (on packed snow) but I did still slide once in them (on bare hard ice), and they hum annoyingly on bare pavement at high speeds.  I haven't driven at low speeds on bare pavement with them, because all the side streets and parking lots are covered in snow, so I hadn't noticed the telltale crunching grinding nails-on-a-chalkboard sound of studs on pavement at slowish speeds.

I HATE studded tires.  Mostly because of the annoying sound they make, partly because they're no better than regular tires in all but very specific conditions, and slightly because they tear up the roads and make those awful ruts.  I don't want to drive in them for those reasons, and don't want to deal with them long-term, because I don't want to have to be one of those people that has to get them swapped out twice a year.  What a hassle.  Which is exactly why I'd requested all-season tires and joked about my bad timing.

Guess I have to call them tomorrow.  It is slightly tempting to go to a different tire store to get the tires I want, and then sell these, since they did only charge me for the regular tires I wanted (on sale!), but I'm too honest to do that.  What is NOT tempting is keeping them on for the rest of the winter, though it is slightly tempting to keep them on until this packed snow melts, as they ARE rather grippy.  :-)

Not my actual tires--just did an image search

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Big Mouth Pays Off!

Finally, my habit of blabbering on and telling people more than they need to know pays off.

Yesterday, the Humane Society e-mailed to ask if I would be bringing the foster kittens back soon.  I said yes, I was hoping to bring them back tonight (last night), but I had a lot of errands to run and it might take me until at least 6 to get there (they close at 5:30), because I had to go home (north end of town) first, then to Bend Pet Express on the west side of town because my finicky cat won't eat anything except ONE brand of food, in one of TWO flavors, that is ONLY available at that one store in all of Central Oregon.  Then I'd be able to head to the far southeast side of town to the shelter, so if they were willing to wait, I'd bring the kittens in at that point.

The Animal Care Coordinator e-mailed me back to ask if I'd be willing to do them a "big" favor (her word, not mine).  They had a dog being groomed literally right next door to the pet store I had to go to--would I be willing to pick him up and bring him to the shelter?

Um, let me think about it...I will be literally 20 feet away from this dog, and will have to drive it exactly where I was driving anyway, and take it exactly where I'm taking the kittens anyway...what a big favor to ask.  Of course I would be willing to do that!

Funnily enough, another errand I had to do (but could do after these, as they're open later) was returning a giant printer to Costco, and since it wouldn't fit in my trunk or through the openings to the back seat, it was occupying the front passenger seat.  So we had me and the printer in the front, and Nathan holding the kittens in their carrier on one side of the back seat, and the dog with his large-ish carrier on the other side of the back seat.  The dog carried on quite the conversation with himself (okay, and with me--I talk to animals all the time) the whole ride, so the kittens were a bit traumatized, but everyone survived the ride in close quarters.

Unrelated to the rest of this story, but on Saturday at the shelter I petted the SOFTEST cat I have ever petted (seriously--softer than a bunny, nearly as soft as a chinchilla; she got adopted while I was there), and last night at the groomers, a customer/friend of one of the employees came in with his four month old puppy (looked like an Australian Shepherd, but I suck at dog breed identification) who was the softest dog I've ever petted.  What a week, huh?  ;-)

Just in case you're curious (I know you are!), my whole evening of errands went:

  • Home, to get the kittens and their paperwork
  • Pet store, to get Sera's food
  • Groomer next door to pet store, to pick up shelter dog
  • Shelter, to drop off dog and kittens, plus I still had to fill out the kittens' foster cards
  • Costco, to return printer, plus bought some stuff I needed and some stuff I didn't
  • Office Max, for Nathan to buy pens
  • PetCo, to socialize (aka pet) the shelter cats there, also bought a couple cat beds to put in front of the fireplace for our kitties
  • Sonic, because after the rest of those errands, I was not gonna cook
  • Finally home again, at like 8:30
(not my kitten, just a cute kitten)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Tale About Craigslist

A friend of mine pointed me toward a post on Craigslist where someone was selling a bunch of tack, including a bit exactly like the one I tried on Arya the other day (just standing around--haven't ridden her in it yet) and she seemed to like.

I contacted the seller, and the bit was still available, so we arranged to meet.

At just part dark, I drove down a long and winding dirt road, then a long and not as winding driveway.  I knocked on the door.  The seller greeted me, and told me the bit was in the barn.  I followed.  The barn even darker than it had been outside.  And of course, the seller told me that the light switch was on the far side of the dark interior.

And then...she turned the light on, gave me the bit, I gave her money, we shot the breeze for a little bit, and I left safe and sound.  The end.

(Turns out she recognized my name from my e-mail I sent her, and asked if I used to ride at Flyspur Ranch, which I did, and she had a brief stint as a wrangler there.  I didn't really remember her (I'm terrible at remembering people), but also googled her name and she's a local vet tech, and a woman, so I felt okay meeting her at her house, even though it was after dark.  All's well that ends well, but every other time I've met someone from Craigslist has been in public, I promise.)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Flying Solo

Shar still wasn't feeling 100% today, and didn't want the jostling that horseback riding entails, so if I was going to ride, it was going to have to be alone.  But I've been wanting to see how she does alone, so it seemed as good a time as any.  First, I groomed her, and she did GREAT with her feet!  The practice is paying off!

Then we tried both the new saddles on Arya.  The leather one I bought on Craigslist (but can theoretically return to the seller) fit pretty well through most of the saddle, but sat pretty low on her withers.  Shar has a cutback pad, though (with a cutout for the withers), so we tried the saddle with the pad, and it actually brought it up far enough that it seemed to fit her quite well.  We tried the Cordura saddle (synthetic fabric--pretty durable, plus very lightweight, compared to leather) that I bought at the garage sale, and it fit pretty well too, including sitting a bit higher over the withers than the leather saddle.  The leather saddle had front and back cinch (plus a breastcollar) already attached, plus I needed to let the seller know whether I'd keep that saddle, whereas the Cordura saddle is mine regardless, so I decided to ride in the leather saddle today.

I got that saddle done up, and decided to go to the bathroom before lunging her and setting off on our ride together.  When I got back outside, Shar showed me her horse trailer--it had pivoted about three feet, with the hitch coming off the blocks and dragging through the gravel.  Arya had managed to get her halter caught on the carabiner just under where I'd tied her, and panicked and pulled back (again), dragging the back end of the trailer with her.  Shar got her unhooked safely (had to take her halter off, though!) before I even got outside.

So.  We headed to the round pen, and I lunged her a bit.  There were a couple times that she would NOT turn and go the opposite direction, so I really had to nag her and harass her to get her to turn, with Shar's encouragement.  (I'm too nice, and am likely to just give up, but you really do need to make the horse do what you asked, or they just learn that being stubborn gets them out of work.)  But eventually, and even with the neighbor dogs coming onto Shar's property and making a ruckus, she eventually did a lot better.  So it was time for me to get on.

I was nervous all over again, knowing that I'd be going solo, and in a new saddle to boot (I have new bits and bridles to try, but wasn't going to introduce THAT for this ride!).  But after one more adjustment to the stirrups, I got up and on her.  Rode in the round pen for a minute, at a walk and trying some lateral work, then headed out onto the property.  Did one turn around the circular drive, and headed for the driveway.  And then Arya locked onto a rock or something alongside the driveway and stopped and planted her feet.  With Shar yelling encouragement, I prompted her forward.  My legs were SORE from having to kick and prod her forward.  She'd take a step, then stop.  Then balk sideways.  Then take another step.  Of course I was nervous, but she doesn't do anything very stupid, so I trusted her.  And eventually she trusted me that neither the rock, the gate, nor the garbage cans were going to kill her, and she kind of squirted out the driveway, giving the garbage cans a wide berth.

Whew!  We'd made it out to the road.  To the stretch of road that even when we're with Shar and Flash, Arya seems to have a vivid imagination about, imagining all sorts of terrors in the mailboxes and culverts.  She always settles in after a bit, but seems most on edge about that stretch of road, even though it's the stretch she's spent the most time on.  Silly girl.

But she actually did fairly well.  She gave the side-eye to a couple rocks, the culvert (as usual), and a flag.  But once I had her trot, she had something more to focus on and did pretty well.  By the time we got to the yard with barking dogs, she barely even looked at them.  She got a little looky again on the stretch of road we'd never been on, especially the yard with some large abstract art made of what looks like a piece from an electrical substation, plus a yard with a big stump.  A STUMP!!

Anyway, we alternated walking and trotting, and she did great, especially considering how windy it was.  Then when we got nearly back to the driveway again (we just went around the large country block, a mile and a half), she stopped dead in her tracks.  I thought it was because of the trash cans again, but nope, she just had to poop.  When she finished, she headed right down the driveway without issue.  Yay!  Add another training project to the list, though--pooping while walking (and trotting).

Back in the yard, Shar and I checked how the saddle seemed to have fit her (fine), and played around with bridles and a bit.  My old bridle from Trigger (adjusted as small as it could go for him) fits Arya (adjusted as large as it can go), and at least at a standstill, she seems to like the snaffle bit her old owner loaned me to try.  Next ride, we'll try the new bridle and bit (or maybe at least the next ride from the property--if it's a ride we trailer to, maybe I'd bring the new one and switch after she's well settled in or something).

When I scoffed about how short our ride today was, Shar reminded me that it's more minutes or miles than I ever put on Trigger.  Good point!  Arya's a great horse and it's working out really well between us.

Here's a photo from our triumphant return:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Another Groundwork-Only Day

Poor Shar has been sick.  We were supposed to ride Wednesday, but she was feeling sick.  We were supposed to go to a play day (a "show" that's much more about fun than winning; in this case, focusing on trail obstacles) a friend put on today, but unfortunately Shar wasn't feeling up for it.  And the sucky part of being dependent on someone else for a ride (for Arya in this case--she doesn't fit in my Camry) is that when your ride can't make it, neither can you.  Lucikly, this friend plans to put on more play days in the future.

So, with my Saturday freed up at the last minute, I made arrangements to meet Arya's former owner at her house in Culver to buy a blanket from her and pick up some bits to try.

I was nearly to her house, on a rural road in Culver, when I saw a small dog on the road.  It was a toy breed of some kind, long-haired, black with brown points (color like a rottweiler, but otherwise not at all similar).  I stopped my car and got out, and the dog ran over to me, happy to see me.  No collar (or tag, of course).  Well, I guess I can take a little time out of my day to see if I can find this dog's family.  And if that fails, take it to the shelter to scan for a chip...

I pulled in to the nearest house, and four dogs woke up and bounded off the porch.  "My" dog barked and barked, and not in the "I'm so happy to see you" sort of way.  I sat in the car in the driveway for a few minutes to see if the ruckus (the resident dogs were barking too, of course) would bring the residents out, but nope.  So I figured the dog likely didn't live there, and went to another house, across the road.

There was a guy out in the driveway, working on his car.  There was also a dog, and once again, both the dog in the car and the dog outside were barking at each other in a way that made me figure they weren't acquaintances.  However, as soon as he heard "my" dog barking, he had a pretty good hunch that it belonged to the neighbors behind him--he's heard that bark a lot.

So I went down the long driveway to that house, and sure enough, they had a yard FULL of small dogs.  A pug or two, a chihuahua or two, and a pug puppy.  I hollered, but no one came out, so I had to go in through a well-blockaded (for small dogs) gate and knock on the door.  A kid came to the door, took a look at the dog, and said it was theirs.  They had a lot of dogs, and apparently had a hard time containing them, but the dogs were well fed.  Chubby even.  I cuddled the pug puppy a second, helped the kid corral all the dogs so I could drive off without crunching any of them, and headed out.

I met up with Arya's former owner, and got a blanket and some bits and bridles to try out.  Then I headed to Shar's house.  She wasn't there, so I didn't feel comfortable riding, but I tried Arya's blanket on her (and kind of sacked her out with it, since she was apprehensive at first.  I'd bought a saddle on Craigslist yesterday (the gal says she'll refund me if I return it) and tried it on Arya.  It seems to fit her fairly well, but I want Shar's opinion, plus I'll want to ride in the saddle before making a final decision.

I groomed her a while, including thoroughly picking her feet (she did great--she's catching on!) and brushing out her mane and tail.  Then I took her to the round pen and we played some clicker training games.  First, just touching the handle of my crop.  Then I poked her with the crop to teach her to turn on the forehand.  (Move her butt around while her front end stays relatively still.)  As with the clicker training to teach her to touch her nose to the crop, she picked up quickly, and was soon making multiple steps, crossing her legs over, etc.  I want to cue her for the same movement from the saddle before working on sidepassing or turning on the haunches, so once we'd had a good lesson on that, I wanted to move along to something else, but she still seemed to be in a good mood for learning (she was so mellow today, not that she's usually anything BUT mellow, just even more mellow than usual).  So, with the goal of getting her to stand nicely for the farrier, I wanted to teach her that it wouldn't be horrible to stand with her foot elevated on something, like a hoof stand.  So I worked toward getting her to put her foot on the mounting block.  First, I manually lifted her foot and pulled it forward until it banged into the hollow plastic mounting block.  Click, treat.  I was hoping she'd start spontaneously nudging it herself, but if anything, she was backing away from it.  So I just kept lifting her foot, until I was lifting it and placing it on the bottom step of the mounting block.  She got better about letting me pick it up and holding it there without fidgeting, but didn't live it on her own, and then she started being disinterested in learning any more.  So I just sat on the mounting block catching up on Facebook on my phone while she relaxed near me.  She, of course, sniffed me all over for carrots, but I'd given her all that I had in my hand.  So then she wandered off to sniff the bag of carrots on the ground, so I figured it was time for me to put them away.  I prepped her feed for the next couple weeks

Then I walked the fenceline for the hot wire fence, first starting with the geldings' pasture because it's where the wire goes first.  They pretty much ignored me, preferring their hay.  Then I figured I'd grab Arya from the round pen before checking her pasture, since I needed to grab my sunglasses from nearby anyway, plus figured she'd rather be in the pasture than in the boring round pen.

I walked the entire perimeter of the fence, with Arya as my shadow.  Repaired a couple spots, but when I went to plug the unit back in, it didn't come on.  Hope Shar and/or R were able to fix it easily!

Anyway, it was still going to be a while before they got home, and I didn't want to ride solo without them there, so I left, and headed for the humane society.  It's been a while since I've gone, since I've been so busy with Arya!

I was nearly there when Shar called and said she was at a garage sale where a lady had a bunch of saddles for sale.  I wasn't too far away, so I asked for the address and met her there.  And bought a saddle.  It may or may not work out, but it's really light weight, and didn't cost much, so hopefully I'd be able to sell it for what paid paid, or close to it, if it didn't work out.  We'll see--I'm hoping to ride tomorrow, and have the chance to try out whichever saddle seems to fit best.  (It's imperative that it fit Arya, but I don't want to ride in a saddle that doesn't fit me very well, either, since I'm hoping to be riding 25+ miles by spring.)

Anyway, I headed off to the humane society, where I got to shadow two kitten adoptions.  One was the SOFTEST kitty I've ever petted--she was seriously as soft as a rabbit, if not softer.  And she got to home home with a lovely couple.  Another goes home with a 15-year-old and her mom.  Both will be QUITE spoiled, I'm sure.  :-)

Then I finally made it to Worthy Brewing before they had a wait list 300 people long, then home.

Tomorrow, hopefully a ride in one of my "new" saddles...we'll see!

I swear I took a bunch of photos of her and the geldings "talking" over the fence, but they're not on my phone.  Weird.  I did get this video of her rolling (and grunting), though: