This is the story of my horsemanship journey. This is the place where I chronicle my quest to find common ground with the horse, the animal that has spurred more personal growth within me than any person I've ever known. I owe it to the horse, I think, to learn to speak its language and to give it what it needs and deserves, and I would love to share it with you.
hoofprints

Oh…I have 52 followers now. 

This makes me feel like the world’s biggest flake because I never post anymore. Hopefully, though, that’ll change, especially considering that my course load for this semester is lighter than it was previously. 

I guess to recap the last couple of months I’ll just say that Wisconsin has become the new Antarctica. With windchills dropping as low as -45 degrees fahrenheit, it’s safe to say that outside at the barn is the last place I want to be on most days. Canyon hasn’t worn a blanket during the almost five years I’ve owned her, but when this cold snap came in I borrowed another boarder’s old one just to be safe. She only gets it put on if the temperatures drop below -5ish, and while she probably would have been fine without one, the intense winds we’ve had make me glad that she has at least a little bit of extra protection. 

However, there is a downside to the whole blanket thing. I was out about three weeks ago and played with her fully tacked. She was doing great, stretching and blowing out, so I got on, but the second I mounted up something was wrong. She stood completely still, which is wonderful, but it isn’t how she normally is. When I asked her to go forward there was a ton of hesitation, and within a minute of walking she was swishing her tail and swinging her head back towards me, clearly uncomfortable. I got on and off about three times, checking her saddle and pad and even trying some stretching maneuvers under saddle to make sure she wasn’t just being a mare (which she never does anyway), and in the end I had one of the managers take a look. She said that she was sore for sure and that the blanket was probably to blame; it’s akin to humans getting stiff and sore when they’re bundled up and subjected to cold temperatures. It wasn’t anything serious, but she did say that I should red-light her and ride bareback for a while so that she could work out those kinks. So I used the red light on her twice that week, and then school started and I was away for two weeks, during which time we were plunged into another “polar vortex.”  

I went to see her yesterday because, knock on wood, it appears to be getting warmer. She’s just as woolly as ever and a little rounder than I’d like, but that’s what happens when it’s freezing and she spends most of her time standing around. She was a doll to catch, but do you want to know something interesting? She’s afraid of the waterers. I’m sure she drinks when she’s with the rest of the herd, but because it’s been so cold the water/waterers are heated, and when they’re heated they steam. She is not about that. At all. The automatic waterer must be down because now there is a regular watering tub with a heater in it, and that was the obstacle we had to tackle yesterday. She was all snorts and balks about it when we got within ten feet of it, so we played for about fifteen minutes with approach and retreat. We quit when she touched it with her nose, at which point we went down to the arena and I gave her a really thorough grooming. Her hooves were so packed with ice that I had to hack at it with the hoof pick for about five minutes on each foot, and even then I was unable to get all of it out. I got rid of the concave ice balls, though, and I think she was appreciative. Then we had a super short on-line session, playing with transitions on the circle from walk to halt to back-up to walk to trot to walk and so on. Her trot was slower than it usually is (she might have been a little stiff), but she was stretching like a pro. I’ve found that when I ask her for an upward transition from the walk to the trot, I have be mindful about which part of her body speeds up first. If I just spring the cue on her, her forehand starts trotting before her hindquarters and she’s hollow. But, if I make sure her hindquarters start trotting before her forehand, it’s much easier for her to find the stretch/sweet spot, and that’s where we ended. 

I will most likely be out again today to do basically the same thing, so send me your warming thoughts! I’m sick of winter!

…Canyon got a festive hat for Christmas. 

WHOA, snowy!Canyon has 27 notes! I think that’s the most I’ve ever gotten! <3

MOM
IT IS SNOWING I THINK

Opinions?

The last few sessions I’ve had with Canyon have been a little bit rough. On the ground she’s a dream and when I get on and walk off she’s fine, but the minute we move up into the trot her ‘go’ button won’t come unstuck. Take Sunday’s ride, for example. I got on and started her off on a circle around a cone. I was using two reins because that’s what I’ve been doing lately to ease her into the finesse mindset; at first we had a little brace, but she settled into it pretty quickly. When I asked for the trot, though, she whizzed forward and completely lost her pattern. Her brain was not in the game, because when I tried to implement the bullseye pattern and put her on a smaller circle she just used my pressure on the inside rein to pop up into the canter. This became a habit throughout our ride, and I think what happened was that she was so sure that the canter was the answer that when I made it clear that I didn’t want the canter (bent her back to a trot), she panicked. Generally she is a tiny bit busy in her mouth whenever we ride with a bit, but she produced quite a bit of foam during this ride and it was just really uncomfortable for both of us. I won’t lie - I did get frustrated and annoyed and I’m sure she felt that.

I will follow this up by saying that after adjusting myself emotionally and physically and leaving the circle pattern to include more changes of direction, she blew out and realized that the trot was all I wanted. We left the arena and ended with a nice little trail ride around the property, and all in all it ended up being a decent session.

However, in the time since, my RBI brain has been mulling it over constantly, and I’ve devised a strategy for our next session. I think what I’ll do is go back to using steady rein for a session or two and focus on maintaining gait and relaxation at the trot. When I went to the Parelli Horse and Soul Tour in St. Paul two summers ago, I talked to Linda about how to achieve relaxation and engagement in my RBE without making her feel trapped, and steady rein was the answer she gave me. I just figure that “reviewing” that will be useful for both of us.

Parelli people? What do you think?  

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I’m sorry guys, I know it’s been over a month since I’ve given an update on Canyon, but my life…it’s insane. I’m finally delving into the classes required for my major and it’s taking its toll on me. Sometimes I wonder if I’m really smart enough to be a veterinarian or a veterinary technician, but luckily all of this uncertainty hasn’t affected my relationship with Canyon. It’s true that it has been considerably harder to get out to see her on a weekly basis, but I recently acquired a bit more free time, so I should be out to see her regularly from now on. Just this past weekend I went out twice; the first time was our first play day in about two weeks, so we just focused on letting off some steam and regaining responsiveness on-line. LBE Canyon, ever elusive, made an appearance…I have a bit of rope burn between my fingers to prove it, haha! Then I went out the following day to ride her (providing she was in the right frame of mind, which isn’t too hard to achieve anymore). Last week I finally got around to watching the newest Savvy Club dvd, and I was particularly intrigued by Linda’s teaching session. I’ve mentioned before how detrimental the bullseye pattern is for Canyon on-line and under saddle, but I never really considered using it to even out her canter. Well, I’ve considered it, but I think I always thought of it as “too advanced” for us, which is completely untrue. Given our recent strides in trail riding and things of the like, Canyon and I have both blossomed in terms of confidence, so when I got on I decided to give it a shot. 

It worked! Even more impressive was that after evening out her trot and getting her all stretchy with my fluid rein, transitioning into the canter was smoother than it has ever been. A lot of times when I ask for the canter, Canyon will explode forward and pin her ears a bit, especially going to the right, but this time both directions were pretty smooth. I was absolutely glowing. So after that little workout we went for a mini trail ride and she was perfect. Surprise, surprise. Perfect Canyon is perfect and I’m getting there. 

Level 3 On-Line Audition Status: NAILED IT!

Yep, that’s right! Canyon and I filmed our Level 3 on-line audition and did everything right. I’m not sure when it’ll be sent in or even when I’ll be able to see it (my trainer has it on her camera), but it feels amazing to finally have it done. I never would’ve imagined that I’d be doing this with my horse, but if there is one thing Canyon has taught me, it is that anything can be achieved with love and patience. We will be filming our Level 3 liberty audition next week, at which point I’ll be over halfway to reaching my goal of passing Level 3! Wish us luck.

Focused on “got to” versus “get to” today on the ground, and we achieved calm and connected Stick-To-Me at the walk, trot, AND canter.

Level 3 auditions, here we come.