Friday, October 31, 2014

First day of ownership

So last night I met with Elk's owner.  The plan was for me to put down a deposit--she was allowing me a while to pay off the full purchase price, since she'd initially said I could lease her for six months.  But I decided to just pull the trigger and pay the full amount.  So we still have to get the paperwork finalized, but she's MINE.

I'm also going to rename her Arya.  I think it fits a little better than Elk, plus it's easier to holler across a pasture.  :-)

So tonight I went out to Shar's.  There had been a plan to ride tonight, at Skull Hollow--appropriate, right?  But due to weather, the ride got called off.  The weather at Shar's was such that we probably COULD have ridden, but I was cool with just doing groundwork.  Sound like we're going to get a LOT of miles (for me) tomorrow.

So I got Elk out, and finally measured her for a blanket (for the coldest/windiest of nights--I'm not going to clip her, and she's a mustang, so she'll be fine most nights.  We also eyeballed her height using a tape, so VERY inaccurate, but it seems like she might be closer to 15.2 than to 16 hands.  Whatever.  She's certainly BIG--she's 80 inches from stem to stern (you measure mid-point of chest to mid-point of rump around the side of the horse when measuring for a blanket).  She also weighs approximately 1,200 pounds, according to the tape (also not very accurate--you simply run the tape around their body, and the tape reads out in pounds, so of course it can vary from what the tape says.  Maybe someday we'll have to put her on the truck scale at work...

Anyway, then Shar got Goodwin out and we took them to the arena.  We attempted to both work with our individual horses separately, but Elk/Arya was VERY flirty.  Yeah, she's in heat.  So she'd sidle up to Goodwin and sniff his rear end then squirt and flirt.  Goodwin wasn't very impressed.  But it was distracting for both horses.  Shar and I were working on "clicker" training--teaching the horses to touch a specific target.

Then we took both their halters off to free lunge them a bit.  Goodwin has more energy and is a lot more graceful than Arya, but they seemed to enjoy getting the wiggles out.

I tried to work with Arya on picking up (and HOLDING up!) her feet.  Meanwhile, Shar took Goodwin to put him away and feed all the critters.  Whenever I'd make a move toward her feet, Elk would start to meander off.  So rather than let her just walk away when I was clearing working toward a purpose, I MADE her go away, at a trot.  Not far, and not for long, but then I'd invite her back to me, she'd come, and I'd go for her feet again.  A couple times of that, and she let me pick up one of her front feet.  Then she got a treat for not trying to slam it down.  Then I went for the other one, and she walked off again.  So I sent her away again.  This time, she bucked and KICKED, and hadn't gotten far enough away from me for that to be allowed--her hoof made contact with my hand.  Luckily, it wasn't a more immovable part of my body, so no damage done, but that is absolutely NOT ALLOWED.

I tore after her like she was in big trouble, because she was.  I made her run and run and run.  Then, when I invited her back to me again, she was a little more contrite and cooperative.  I successfully picked up both back feet (for a few seconds, not long enough to actually pick them clean) and called it a day.

I took her back to her pasture.  Shar had already put her hay into her feed bin, so for the first time, she wasn't content to just stand around while I un-haltered her, and wait around to ask for some face rubs before meandering off.  No, now she had motivation to get away from me ASAP, and she started to plow into me (I was between her and the food).  So once again, I had to remind her about boundaries--I whapped her face as she plowed it into me.  She stood pretty nicely while I finished unhaltering her, and I let her go.

Sheesh--you buy a horse and all of a sudden she thinks she can walk all over you.

Tomorrow--likely our longest (and most strenuous) trail ride together, but nothing she hasn't done before.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Another Night Ride

First, I forgot to mention in my last post about the trail ride on Sunday about the bikes we encountered.  I wasn't sure if she'd encountered bikes (bicycles, not dirt bikes; I'm not sure whether she's encountered those, either, but we didn't encounter them on the trail ride, so this isn't about that).

Anyway, so even though horses have the right of way over every other type of trail user, when we saw some mountain bikers on the trail, we went ahead and got off the trail for them.  I think we were already stopped, so it was no biggie for us to just step off the trail a couple feet and let them ride by.

The first time, Elk spooked a bit, mainly just trying to crawl into Flash's lap so he'd protect her.  The second time, she was VERY looky, but stayed where I'd put her.  The third and fourth time (one of which we kept walking past the bikes that had pulled off the trail, and the other we got off the trail for them), she MAYBE turned an ear their way, but otherwise ignored them.

That's basically how she's handled every "spooky" think we've encountered.  Barking dogs, heavy equipment, etc.  The first time, she might do a little spook (which for her basically means planting her feet, occasionally darting a TINY bit sideways, but she hasn't lost me yet and I have NO balance, so we're talking very tiny), but by the second time, she's like "yep, I remember this, and it didn't kill me, so it'll be fine," and by the third time, she must be saying, "oh, this again."

So anyway, last night I went up to Shar's straight after work and we got our respective horses out and ready.  I was running a little ahead of her, which is perfect because I like to round pen Elk a bit before hopping on.  So by the time I was mounted up and ready to go, she was ready, too.  Luckily, it was still light, as I'd been hoping to have some daylight in order to try some cantering.

We headed out at a walk, of course.  Elk was a bit looky, which I'm pretty sure is more about just being excited to be out there and needing something to occupy her mind at a boring old walk or something, because it's the "home stretch" that we ride past EVERY time we ride out of Shar's, but whatever.  She also roots and mouths at the bit for the first part of a ride, but almost always settles in after 10 minutes or so.

Anyway, once we'd warmed up a bit, we did some trotting, which she did great at, motoring right past the annoying barking dogs without even a twitch.  (Her ears were already flopped out to both sides, and they stayed relaxed.)

Next straight stretch, Shar asked if I was ready to canter.  Ready as I'll ever be, so canter we did.  She did great!  The next stretch of cantering took us around a corner, and there was a gate and some other potentially "scary" things, so I kind of held her back a bit so we'd both be a little more prepared if she spooked a bit.  But she didn't spook.  However, now we were more than a few yards behind Shar and Flash, so she wanted to speed up on the straight stretch.  I let her.  Good to know her speed is controllable.  Such a good girl.  Both those canters had been on the right lead (I just cued her faster, not for a specific lead), so the next time, I tried to cue for a left lead, and she did it.  Woo!  She didn't spook at any of the mailboxes we passed, either.  So check that off the list and she did great!

Then it started getting darker and our ride got a little tamer, though we did trot some more even in the dark.  I'm getting more comfortable with riding in the dark, though our only stretch of trail after dark was lit by Shar's phone's flashlight app--we couldn't find where the trail branched off from the road, so she used the light to find it, then figured we (and the horses) were night blind enough we should keep using it until we got back to the road.

Elk's so funny--Flash walks slower than she does, so sometimes she powers ahead and leads the way.  She's on high alert, ears forward, watching for anything spooky, but she motors on ahead.  Then she spies something that makes her a bit nervous--a mailbox or sign, usually--and STOPS.  She waits for Flash to pass her, then dives right behind his butt, where she feels safer, and motors on past it in his wake.  So.  Not the bravest pony, but hey, she knows how to mitigate that.  Obviously she'll need to get more brave (and/or trusting of me) before we set out alone, but then I'm not super-confident, either, so she's probably right not to trust me quite yet.  We'll get there, and riding with Flash to protect us in the meantime will help.  :-)

No photos this time.  Just picture blackness, with crazy patches of reflectiveness when a car was pointed at us.  :-)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Long day of horse-riding

Yesterday, I was out of my house for thirteen hours, for a two-and-a-half-hour trail ride.  But I'm not complaining--it was a horse-filled day.

I got up at 6:30, left the house at 7:45, and got to Shar's house at 8:30.  We were planning to leave at 9, and I needed to get Elk out, groom her, move her tack to the truck, etc.  And feed her breakfast--she gets grain and her vitamins in the morning, and it was my first time watching her wolf them down.  Here's her "feed mustache":

Thanks, Mom!  nom nom nom nom nom...

We hit the road at 9:00, as planned.  First stop was for gas, second stop was at J's house.  She has an AWESOME property and is working on getting an equine therapy program started.  We put her horse into the trailer behind Flash and Elk.  Elk had figured that the trailer stopping meant she got to get OUT, so she was not happy when it actually meant that another horse, and a strange (to her, she's actually very sweet) mare was getting crammed IN next to her.  But Shar reminded her of her manners, and we hit the road.  The cab of the truck was crammed full with Shar and me, Noelle (Shar's dog), and "my" saddle, so J had to drive behind us.

After one wrong turn and turning the truck and trailer around, we got to R's house right about when we planned to.  She, too, has an awesome horse property.  R does barefoot trimming and was going to trim J's horse and give a demo to Shar and me.  Flash has shoes all the way around, so he was not going to be a part of the lesson, so Shar turned him around in a pasture R wasn't currently using.  Elk is barefoot, and while we've only recently been working on even picking up her feet and I have no idea how patient she'd be for trimming, we kept her tied up nearby in case we got around to her.

R has a nice tying area with eye bolts screwed into nice solid trees.  Unfortunately, Elk managed to get her halter through the carabiner, which trapped her face RIGHT next to the tree, which of course she was not thrilled about.  Luckily, she's pretty smart, so she didn't panic big time--she freaked a bit, then realized that holding still hurt less than fighting it.  I went over to release her, and JUST as I got the halter ALMOST to the point of being able to remove it from the carabiner, she pulled back again.  I got my fingers out of the way, and she pulled back hard enough that she straightened the eye of the bolt.  Oops.  I owe R an eye bolt.  So I tied her to the trailer instead, and the lesson commenced.

R showed us trimming by hand with a rasp, then with a grinder.  Who knew?  The demo horse, Willow, had experienced the grinder before, so she was great.  Shar got to give it a try (with the rasp, not the grinder), and then we realized it was almost noon, which is when J had a plan to go look at a potential new horse.  So R did her thing and finished Willow's feet quickly while Shar and I went potty and added Elk to the pasture with Flash.  They currently live in neighboring pastures, but haven't been turned loose together, but it worked fine.  Flash pretty much ignored Elk in favor of the grazing.

We all piled into J's car and went just down the block to where the potential new horse's owner lives, and met her old gelding before traipsing a little FURTHER down the road to where the potential new horse was being boarded.  He was an adorable buckskin quarter horse, and both the current owner and J have some things to think over before deciding if he will be J's (non-potential) new horse.

It was probably 2:00-ish when we got back to R's house and started tacking up, and we probably hit the trail at 2:30-ish.  In addition to the great property, she also has wonderful trail access.  First, you head down a gravel road past a couple of houses.  At this point, a dog or horse or something on one of those properties spooked R's horse (who was VERY wound up), and Elk spooked a bit, too.  I have to admit, my heart skipped a beat or three.  But she settled back down right away, and my heart rate followed a minute or three later.

Then we came to a road along a canal (currently empty now that they've shut off the water), and then a wooden bridge over the canal.  I wasn't sure how Elk would do, of course, but everyone else led the way, and she kind of arched her neck and looked at the surface as if to ask, "Are you sure?" but then she marched right over it.

The trail wound through forest then out into the desert.  I didn't get my phone out very often, but here are a few photos:

Willow and J, and some gorgeous scenery

Aptly-named Horse Butte

J and Willow - aren't they adorable?
 As you can see in the photos, there were some ominous-looking clouds.  What you can't see in the photos is that they were headed towards us.  R kept assuring us that the trail we were on would circle back around toward her place.  I was pretty sure we just kept heading farther and farther away.  Which wasn't a problem at first, but eventually we were just getting colder and colder and more worried about the weather.  I checked the tracker on my phone, and yep, just heading farther and farther away, with no sign of circling back.  So we ended up bushwhacking toward a road then taking that road back to R's.  Luckily, the bad weather somehow skipped over us or went around us or something, so all we experienced was some wind.

During the ride, Elk got to follow (working on keeping distance between her and the horse in front of her), lead (both walking and trotting), and we also cantered for a tiny bit.  She was a GOOD girl.  I'm so happy with her!

Our ride was 2 1/2 hours and somewhere between 8.5 and 9.9 miles, depending on whose tracker you believe (same app, different phones--crazy how different they are!), my longest distance so far.  I could barely MOVE when I got off, and my lower back was really sore after, but now (24+ hours later), I'm actually not that sore.  My body's getting used to this crazy horseback riding thing.  Woo!

Anyway, Shar and I stopped for food on the way home, then ate it while watching TV, then still needed to feed all the other critters and put my tack away and such, so I got home at 8:45.  Long, but awesome day

Friday, October 24, 2014

Just Groundwork

[In my post about the night ride, I forgot to mention that when we started trotting, it was really cool to see Flash's shoes sparking on the gravel.]

Tonight, Shar wasn't home plus it was cold, foggy, and threatening to rain, so I just did some groundwork with Elk.  I got her out and took her straight to the round pen.  First I ran her around a bit, changing directions, etc.

Then I brushed her, reinforcing that I'm a nice human to be around.

I wanted to take some photos of her, and needed to step away a bit, but she kept following me.  So we worked on "stay."  What?  Can't that command work for a horse?  What do horse people usually use other than "ho"?  I would tell her to stay, and start backing away.  As soon as she leaned to step toward me, I'd make myself big and say "Ho."  Then, "Stay."  Then back away again.  Eventually, she got it.  Sort of.  I had a hard time getting her to stay sideways to me--she'd always turn toward me.  But she did at least say in that spot after turning:

She looks pretty relaxed, wouldn't you say?

Then I remembered I wanted to have treats on hand as rewards when working on getting her to pick up her hind feet.  So I went to get them, and in the two minutes I was gone, the silly girl rolled.  When I got back, she was filthy (I'd just brushed her, remember) and there was a packed down spot where she'd rolled, but she was all, "What?  I was this dirty when you left.  I didn't do anything.  Don't look at me like that!"

So we worked on feet.  First, I did her fronts.  I praised her verbally, then rubbed and scratched her neck after she let me pick them without pulling them away from me.  Her hind feet are a lot more troublesome.  At first, just me moving toward her hind end resulted in her pivoting and pivoting and pivoting on her front end.  She must've known that after the front feet comes the hinds.  :-)  But I just followed her hind end around and around, with my hand gently on her side or rump until she stopped moving.  I petted and scratched her to reward her for stopping, then ran my hand down her leg.  Of course she didn't even relax it.  So our first goal would be just for her to take her weight off the leg and relax it.  When she did, she got a [baby] carrot.  It took a couple of wrong tries (moving her feet) for her to get what I was asking for and earn another carrot.  Then it clicked and she did it again right away.  Good girl.  Carrot.  Now to increase what I was asking of her.  Now she had to actually let me pick up her foot, then instantly put it back down, withOUT yanking it out of my hand.  Again, once she got a treat it took a couple more wrong tries, then she was like, "Oh, THAT's what gets me a carrot?  Well then here you go!"  Next step, letting me hold onto it for a second.  You know what?  She let me actually pick it out!  Good GIRL!  Have a whole handful of carrots!

Then to the other side, the hind foot she's even more reluctant to give up.  Went through the steps again.  This time, she gave me a little more trouble about hanging onto it and yanked her foot out of my hand and started turning around.  No biggie, she didn't get a treat that time, and I just "chased" her around and asked her to pick it up again.  This time, she held it long enough for me to pick it out.  Woo!  She got the whole rest of the bag of carrots and we were done for the day.  I'll work with her on it again tomorrow.  But I'll have to pick up more carrots first.  :-)

So I figured she'd been penned up in the round pen long enough, but wasn't wanted to do a solo night ride, so took her to the arena and let her run.

All four off the ground at the trot ...

... and galloping
She did a few quick gallops along the diagonal, trotted beautifully, and then came up to me huffing and snorting, telling me she was done.  She was a bit sweaty, so she got a little love and rubs and hand grazing before I put her back in her pasture and fed her her dinner.  (A fleece cooler is on order.)

What a good girl!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Night Ride!

So, some of my friends are crazy enough to ride at night.  Back when I first heard of this practice, I thought it sounded interesting.  I've done some night hiking when I was a teenager, so it's not a completely foreign concept, but I'd never really thought about the practicalities of it.  And now that I have a horse to ride but it's nearly winter and Daylight Savings Time is about to end, I realized it's more a matter of being able to RIDE than just a novelty.  If I want to be able to ride on weekdays, I'll HAVE to ride in the dark.

I'd recently bought a couple of reflective armbands for me to wear when running in the evenings, but with a horse in my life, I also bought some other reflective gear.  Here, let's take a look:

Leg bands for all four.  I was afraid they wouldn't fit her and I'd have to outfit just two legs, but they fit!  (and they're stretchy, so they accommodate movement as well)

And a tail wrap, too.  You can also see Shar's gorgeous but highly visible jacket on the left, and Flash's front leg wraps.

We should probably have something more for the front (nose/brow bands, breastcollar or something), and it might not hurt for me to have something more reflective than just the armbands on my person, but as long as drivers are paying attention, they can't say we weren't visible, even with our current gear.

Anyway, so as you can see in the photos, it was pretty much full daylight as we were tacking up.  I did do some roundpen work--mostly changing directions and working on focusing on me, sometimes trotting, sometimes walking.  Definitely NOT trying to wear her out, just focus.  I mounted up without incident, and we headed off.

At first, Elk was very "looky," making sure there was nothing lurking in the bushes or culverts, so I was a little nervous about how she'd act when it got darker and darker, but she settled right in behind Flash (she'd put her chin on his butt if I'd let her) and let him lead the way.  We headed down a dirt road, across a paved road (including the dreaded WHITE LINE that doesn't often give you a place to go around it, so you have to go OVER it, horror of horrors!), on the shoulder of a paved road (and sometimes along the road itself), back across a paved road, and onto gravel roads for the majority of the rest of the ride, though we did more shoulder riding along a paved road, and also a couple pieces of trail.

It is pretty weird to ride in the dark!  Luckily, we eased into it, starting out in daylight, but by the end of the ride, I could pretty much only see the silhouette of Elk's ears against the slightly lighter road, and the difference between the road and slightly lighter ditch/shoulder, and that's about it.  At one point, we were looking for the trail home and knew it came after a certain fence ended.  I could only make out the white tips of the T-posts one or two at a time--I couldn't see any further ahead than that.

But it was totally amazing to be out there with just Elk, Shar, Flash, and Noelle, and the big starry sky.  

What was weird was that while you can get used to walking along at a steady pace on the predictable surface of the gravel road, riding on the trail was a totally different experience.  Because the horse is stepping over and around things, you can't get used to any certain rhythm.  So you just have to stay loose and go with the motion as much as you can.  I can see how people say they get nauseated riding in the dark (though that's usually on 100-mile endurance rides, which brings in a whole lot of other factors like exhaustion, dehydration, and hunger, etc.).  Plus they're usually trotting.

Speaking of trotting, Shar asked if I wanted to try trotting while we were on a nice straight, flat dirt road.  I said I was game to try, but might want to stop right away.  We did it!  We trotted!  And even kept going.  I was mildly concerned about Elk tripping (or less likely but still possibly darting sideways if something spooked her), plus my thighs are so weak that I held onto the horn most of the time, but we trotted for a minute or two.  Woo!  And only stopped because of my thighs, not because I didn't like it.  :-)  Though as I said at the time, it was exhilarating in a "close your eyes while you're driving" sort of way.  :-)

It was funny--Elk had been wanting to stay right behind Flash the whole way.  Until we did our stint of trotting, when I pulled her up even with him and we went side-by-side.  It's like that broke her out of her shell or something--she pulled ahead of him at the trot, and even when we slowed to a walk, was ready to be the leader for a while.  So we went alongside the aforementioned T-post fenceline, looking for the trail, and Elk definitely knew when she found it--she made a sharp left and hit the trail, even though she'd only been there once before.  And we motored right up the hill in the dark.  So cool.

I didn't take any pictures in the dark, of course, but here's what it might've looked like if I was an awesome photographer and my horse stood perfectly still:

I'll need to get some warmer riding pants and find my gloves before the weather cools down TOO much more, but how awesome to know we can go riding even after work when it's dark before I even leave the office.

Other near-future goals of mine with Elk while we're still in the trial period:

Cantering on the trail (I don't have any hopes of this going well in the arena)
Trailering somewhere (doing this on Sunday!)
Riding alone (I also just need to see how she does riding out ahead of the "group" (or one other horse), staying behind when the "group" takes off, etc.)

But you know what?  This horse is AWESOME.  She is perfect for me in every way.  Seriously.  I couldn't be happier with her so far.  I can't believe how lucky I am.

And you know what else?  The very first day, when Alanna brought her out to Shar's property, and I eventually got on her and rode her for three minutes in the round pen was ALREADY more success than I ever had with Trigger.  And still, I've only had her for 10 days and we've had so much success.  Yay yay yay!!  Can you tell I'm thrilled?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Another successful trail ride on Elk

Wow, I'm sore.  I don't think I've ridden a horse three consecutive days since I was a kid, and I also had a 4-mile walk/jog thrown in there.  Thankfully, my seat bones aren't as sore as they could be--Alanna's saddle is really comfy!  But my thighs are screaming "stick a fork in us; we're DONE!"  Ah well.

So today, my friend Julie (formerly a co-worker AND friend, until we were both laid off when our company closed the local location, and she's the one whose horse I'd been riding for the past little while since selling Trigger) came out to Shar's house, and we did another trail (and gravel road and shoulder of paved road) ride from there.  A bigger loop this time--we went a little over seven miles.  Not very quickly, though--our average speed, even though we had a few bouts of trotting, was only 3.1 mph.  I "wog" faster than that!

Photo I took of her while grooming & tacking

Anyway, every other ride so far, I've worked her in the round pen a bit.  Not to tire her out, just to get her paying attention to me and doing what I ask instead of whatever she wants.  I'll continue to do that most of the time, but was curious how she'd do without it.  So I tacked her up, led her NEAR the round pen, where I'd brought the mounting block to, and circled her around me a few times with the lead rope.  Then I checked her cinch (forgot to set my Endomondo tracker), and stepped into the near stirrup.  And she moved a bit, away from the mounting block, so I tried to abort.  My right foot couldn't find the mounting block, so I tried to get my left foot out of the stirrup before my right foot hit the ground (she is TALL, and that's actually how her owner hurt her leg and needed surgery), but it was stuck.  My toe hit her belly, of course, as my right leg went down down down, seeking ground (she's TALL!), and she started to back/side step away from the poke.  I was really worried we were going to have a problem, but my foot came free AND she stopped moving right at the same time.

Deep breath.  Back to the mounting block.  Deep breath.  Successful mounting.  Yay!  A couple little circles waiting for everyone to be ready, and we were off.

A lot of the ride was on gravel roads.  Elk alternated between preferring to walk on the shoulder or edge of people's property, where there was softer dirt, and the actual gravel road.  I let her pick--she has tough feet, but maybe they get tired of gravel after a while.  Who knows.  What drove me nuts, though, was that she was constantly tossing her head, rooting her head, and trying to itch her face.  It seemed at times like all she cared about was itching her face, yet when I would stop and allow it, she didn't want to anymore.  Other times, it just seemed like she was trying to get the reins out of my hand.  Uh, nope, not gonna happen.  I don't know if she was just testing me, or if something was truly bothering her, but she was kind of a stinker like that for about half the ride.  Spoiler:  She settled in and was a total angel in that regard for the last half of the ride.

Similarly, when we got onto the first stretch of actual trail (instead of gravel road), she acted like every rock and log was a potential danger, staring at them and trying to give them a REALLY wide berth.  But it was funny--as soon as we had a bit of an uphill climb, she put her mind (and body) to work, and dug in and DID that thing.  She is a MONSTER at uphills, in a good way.  She gets right to work, and is single-minded about it.  Plus, something in the way she uses her body to get up the hills makes her walk smooth out--instead of a normal walk where her back sways side to side and front to back, and you have to sway yours similarly to stay with her motion, she turns into a gaited horse and has just the smoothest walk when she's working her way up an incline.  (Downhill, though, it's the opposite, and all the swaying is much more exaggerated.)  So that was awesome, and we led the way up the hill, charging all the way.  Then at the top, we were rewarded with some nice views:

No matter WHAT the view, it always looks better from a horse!
We threw in a few trotting sessions, which my legs weren't too thrilled with but hey, the best way to get them used to it is just to DO it, right?

We got back to the barn an hour or so before sunset, and R took this photo of the three of us and our trusty steeds:

The three amigas; yours truly on the giant beast in the middle

Julie hung out with us for a bit, then she headed home.  Meanwhile, Elk got a bit of time in the nice green grass in front of the house, then I turned her loose, fully expecting her to roll, but she was too obsessed with the new feed tub that had appeared in her pasture by magic, and with the potential of food arriving in said tub (or wherever), and actually didn't roll.  Crazy!  She still hadn't when I left--maybe I'll show up to a sweat-stained but otherwise cleanish horse next time!

Anyway, Shar got Goodwin (her youngster/greenie) out for some round pen and arena time, then BOTH her boys got to graze, loose.  Goodwin still hasn't quite mastered the nonchalant releasing of the pressure when he steps on his own rope (though he's pretty good about it, and apparently much better than he was), but he'll get there.  They also wandered over next to the house and he was VERY enchanted with the handsome horse inside peering right back out at him, and even nuzzled noses with him a time or two.

Flash's butt up close, Goodwin's further away

All in all, a great ride on a great day.  Next ride:  Tuesday night we'll start before dark and ride into dusk, just on the gravel roads around the neighborhood.  Working our way up to full-on moonlit rides once the time change hits.  :-(

Saturday, October 18, 2014

First Trail Ride on Elk!

A friend of Shar's trailered to her place for us to ride out from there.  She has a gorgeous rose grey Arab.  She was already there and tacking up when I pulled in, and my horse was still in the pasture, so I was a bit behind.  Oops!  Headed straight for the pasture to get Elk, and she practically put her nose into the halter for me.  Quickly groomed and tacked her up, and I headed to the round pen.  Alanna (her owner) recommended lunging her before every ride--not to tire her out, but just to get her to focus on me.  So we did some circles each direction, working on walking and trotting politely, and turning when asked.  She did great, so I opened the gate (so I wouldn't have to do it from horseback) and got on.  She, of course, wanted to head out the open gate, so we did a few circles of the round pen before heading out to the driveway.  Turns out Shar wasn't ready yet (she was rigging something up with her tack), so all that rushing was for nothing, but it was fine.

Our little party of three horses, three women, and two dogs (apparently I'm not cool--I was the only one without a dog--think my cats would like trail rides?) headed out the driveway and headed down the gravel roads toward the trails.

Elk did AWESOME.  She spooked a tiny bit at a house with some REALLY obnoxious dogs, but spooked in place then got over it.  There were a few other spots where she was really checking out what was going on, but no other spooks.  On the gravel roads, we kind of bunched up and rode abreast.  On the singletrack trails, Elk led a lot of the way since she can really move and seemed to enjoy being in the lead.  But she was a good follower, too.  We marched right up a rather steep and rocky trail, and it didn't even seem like my (significant) weight affected her at all.

We trotted, and while she's VERY reluctant to trot even a couple strides in the arena, she was ready to move out on the dirt road and on the trail.  But when I asked her to slow down, she did without a complaint.  Perfect!!  Such a great ride!

Pic by Shar

Pic by Shar

Always gotta get an ears photo, right?

The two geldings are quite enamored with each other.

When we got back, the horses got a chance to graze on the front lawn.

Happy Horsie!

She wasn't too tired, but WAS sweaty!

A good roll feels SO good when you're all sweaty!

So, Elk is totally funny with how much she grunts.  She grunts and groans when she eats, and periodically during our walk, and ESPECIALLY when she rolls.  Check it out:

After I put Elk away, Shar got her youngster, Goodwin, out to play in the roundpen.  I wish I'd gotten video after they moved to the bigger arena--he was tearing it up!  But here's a bit of video of Goodwin:

All in all, it was a good day for all the equines and their people.

Elk, Meet Arena

So, because I didn't want Nathan to roam the streets of Redmond for eight hours while I was at work, but yet I wanted him to meet Elk, and not on a weekend when I wanted to take a trail ride off the property, I had to leave work in Redmond, drive home to Bend, then drive back THROUGH Redmond to get to Shar's house, about as far from my work as my house is but in the complete opposite direction.  Oh well.  Probably won't do that too many times.

Anyway, so I'd told him we were going to the pumpkin patch, but he didn't even notice me pass the turnoff and continue on to Crooked River Ranch.  He only questioned it when I pulled into Shar's house.  I introduced him to Elk and told him I would most likely be buying her, and he said, "Oh."  A man of few words, that one.

I lunged her as usual, then got on her in the round pen.  That got boring fast, so we headed to the arena, with Shar's help and encouragement.  Elk was NOT a fan of the green metal fence panels leaning against the outside of the arena.  So it became a "game" of getting her to go a little closer to the panels on each time around the arena (which also had plenty of other "interesting" areas in her brain, so of course my nerves were on edge), then stopping near them and asking for another step closer, etc.  She was fairly brave, and I sort of calmed down a bit, too.  :-)  She also didn't like Nathan lurking near the arena, but did pretty well, considering all the new-ness, the fact she's not a fan of confinement when riding, AND that it was dusk.

We went back to the round pen so Nathan could ride her a bit.  First, I held onto the lead rope, then I "led" without actually holding the rope.  She can be stubborn, so she didn't really go for Nathan unless I was directing the parade.  Oh well.  He won't be riding her much, if ever.

Pretty successful evening, but the real test will be tomorrow--first trail ride!!

Elk, Day 2

So Elk arrived (to Shar's property, not mine--neither the HOA nor the horse would appreciate me keeping a horse in my suburban backyard) on Sunday.  Monday, I went out there after work.  We're at the time of year where there isn't much daylight after work (and soon we'll be at the point where there's none, unfortunately), so I unloaded the feed I'd bought, had a quick chat with Shar, and went out to fetch Elk.  At this point, Shar's boyfriend/partner/notsurehowshereferstohim, R, arrived home and mentioned that Elk had already caused property damage.  We went out to check out the damage to both property and equine, and found that she'd somehow stuck her foot through the wire grid fencing, quite a ways outside the fenceline, and she had a small scrape on her hind leg.  We're not sure whether she stuck a front leg through the fence (makes more sense considering how far through the fence it got) and somehow also cut her back leg, or whether she stuck the back leg through the fence in some feat of agility and flexibility, but neither were majorly or permanently damaged.

(Update:  Shar and R think she actually did it while rolling.  Sounds plausible.)

I got her out, groomed her, checked her leg for any heat or swelling (nope), checked the rest of her limbs and body for any other damage (also nope), so I went ahead and saddled her up.  We went to the round pen and I worked her a bit, first alone then with R watching.  She did beautifully.  So I went ahead and got on, and again, perfect.  Well, not PERFECT.  She's young, relatively green, and HUGE, so she doesn't know much about bending or balancing and therefore doesn't turn on a dime.  She's also reluctant to trot, but this is a pretty small round pen, so I think she'll do much better when we hit the trails, and we have all winter to work on bending and such in the arena when we can't get on the trails.

No photos, but it was a successful second day and second ride.  Unfortunately, due to other commitments (running group, humane society, my kitty needing meds I have to pick up from the vet), I can't make it out there again until Friday.

Speaking of which, I haven't yet mentioned all of this to Nathan yet (which is why I'm delaying posting these blog posts), because I plan to surprise him with a trip out to Shar's on Friday to meet Elk.  If she does well with me riding her (and we'll probably "graduate" to the arena rather than the round pen), I'll probably put Nathan on her, too.  Then I'm hoping to do a trail ride with Shar on her steady Eddy on the weekend.  Woo!

New arrival!

So, maybe it's time for some more horse content on this blog, which I originally started to discuss my horse search.  :-)

I knew when it didn't work out with Trigger that I'd take a break from horses for a while.  Then when I lost my job, I knew I'd need to take a break from horses for a while after THAT, especially when my next job was a bit of a pay cut.  So it's been in the back of my mind, but I knew I needed to get my finances in order first.

Well, it's started to come a little more forward in my mind because I got a little bit of a raise at work, plus once I refinance my house (losing both the PMI and rolling my student loans into it, which will reduce my monthly payments even with the higher-than-current loan balance), I know I'll be able to afford to keep a horse.

A few days ago, I went to a "girls night" with a bunch of horse folks, and my friend Shar asked if I've been riding much lately.  Unfortunately, not very recently, no.  So she started telling everyone at dinner that I needed a horse, and to get in touch with her if they know of any stocky trail horses available for sale or lease.

One person said she might know of one, and I messaged with her on Facebook a bit about the horse that night.  But the next day, Shar texted me that she'd found me a horse!  She'd messaged a few people about wanting to find me a horse, and a friend of hers has a horse that is currently just sitting around that she'd been thinking of selling or leasing.  It's actually her husband's horse, but her husband isn't riding lately, so she'd been exercising her every week, and now that she (the owner) is injured, can't even do that.  So she'd be willing to lease and/or sell her to me.  Win/win/win!  I get a horse to ride and a decently long trial period to decide if I'd like to buy her, the horse gets exercise, and the owner gets her off her hands for a bit, to a place she knows with someone she knows (even if I'm a friend-of-a-friend, the horse will be living at Shar's place).

So last Sunday, she brought Elk out to meet me, and me her.  (Their family has a history of less-than-traditional horse names, especially for mares--they had a mare named Frank.)  She's a mustang (can't see her brand because her mane hangs over it, but it's there), and she's BIG.  Not super-tall, probably 15.3, but BIG bones.  Which is good--she can carry me around.

Isn't she pretty?  She was on a dry lot at her prior place, so even though this is not high-quality grazing, she was still in heaven.  Plus, she's a mustang, so it's actually quite the smorgasbord for her, even if other horses would turn their noses up at it.

Nice butt!

So, I met Elk, petted her, groomed her a bit, and tacked her up.  Then her owner showed me how she likes to round pen her before riding.  We lunged her both directions for a bit, then tied random stuff to a rope and she dragged it around the round pen, not bothered by it at all, even when the rope went between her legs.  Good girl, and good practice for random brush getting dragged around on the trail (catches in their tail, catches in the cinch when walking over it, etc.).  Then it was time for a rider, but I wasn't quite up to being the first one, especially since she hadn't been ridden in a couple of months.  Her owner couldn't ride due to her injury, so Shar volunteered.  She was a perfect angel.  So soon enough, it was my turn, and Shar became photographer.

Could I BE any more happy?  :-)  Yeah, we only walked around in circles in the round pen, and trotted for only a few strides, but so far, I'm a happy camper.  We'll work our way up to a trail ride, which is where Elk will really shine (I hope!), and within a month, I'll make a decision about whether I'll be keeping her or not.  I'll keep you all posted.  But already it's working out better than it did with Trigger.  :-)