Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fire on the back burner

It appears that I am better. At least I feel better today. Good enough that I could go to work, so you know what that means - I'm going to the barn. I probably won't ride all four horses, but I'll try to at least ride two.

Yes, I now have four horses to ride. And I have no idea how I'm going to fit them all in. Here is what happened.

There was a gal who had her young arab gelding with my trainer. She had him in training for one month and my trainer took him to a show and got as high as a 67% at Training Level. Then he went back home for a year, then back to my trainer's for two months, then back home again. Now he's for sale, and his owner wants to try and get him qualified to go to Sport Horse Nationals. Rather, she wants me to do it. And there is a show coming up in 6 weeks that I was planning on going to.

Now, I know my trainer had this horse for a month and did fantastic with him at a show, but I'm not my trainer! I told the owner this, and she said she understands and really doesn't expect anything. Which is good because I can't make any promises beyond riding her horse for her. In this case she just might get what she pays for, because I'm not charging her for riding him. The rules say that I can't accept money if I want to stay an amateur, and since I don't' want to become professional this won't be a money making deal for me.

In return for riding and showing him, since I can't accept payment, the owner is going to let Susan and I use her trailer to get our horses to shows! That solves a big problem that we had. Now I just need to find time for him. Since I've agreed to do this, the new horse, Skyy, will have to take priority over Fire.

Fire's owner has no plans to show or sell him, and I was just riding him because he's really cool. I'm going to still try and ride him if I have time, but so far Fire's owner hasn't been able to come out and help groom. Skyy's owner has committed to coming out at least once, probably twice a week to help me out. Since I've been sick I haven't been able to ride him yet, so today will be the first day. Right after she moved him to our barn I got sick, so she's been lunging him. He's really out of shape, so today should be interesting.

I still have to figure out where I'm going to get the energy to show three horses at one show. Showing two horses at the last show nearly did me in. I'd better eat my Wheaties!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bad day, but good things coming

I have exciting things happening right now, but I can't really get started on them because I'm sick right now. I don't know if I've got a virus or if I ate something bad (turkey sandwich from the work cafeteria on Friday is suspicious) but I've got diarrhea pretty badly. I hope it's a food thing cause this would SUCK if either of the girls got it.

So when I get back to normal I'll reveal details. Right now I need to get better and get some strength back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The light bulb goes on

On Sunday I rode Kaswyn after riding Fire, and I was marveling at how both Fire and Albert just go forward with no leg and that I'm always pushing Kaswyn. Then it hit me - my trainer had told me during my last lesson that if Kaswyn is ignoring my left leg that I need to take it off of him so he doesn't become numb to it. I realized that I've made my horse behind my legs by always pushing him and keeping my legs on. Now he doesn't go unless I'm squeezing him forward all the time. This is not how it should be. He needs to willingly go forward without me pushing all the time.

Kaswyn didn't used to be this way. I used to have to be very careful about how much leg I used, very similar to Fire and Albert. But somewhere along the way I kept increasing my legs and Kaswyn just got used to them being there.

So, to fix this, I took my legs off and used my voice and little whip taps to get Kaswyn moving. At first he would slow down as soon as I stopped clucking or tapping, waiting for my leg to come on. But he's a smart boy and soon figured out that I wanted him to go even with my leg off. By the end of the ride I had my legs mostly off and was riding very lightly with my seat. It was wonderful, and I'm excited to work on this again.

However, I'm only going to be able to ride once this week. All three boys got their teeth done yesterday, and Kaswyn and Albert will be getting their feet done on Friday, so Thursday is my only ride day. My plan is to ride Saturday and Sunday to try and make up for it.

Oh, and I think Kaswyn and Albert will be going to one more show this summer before Nationals. I need scores for Albert, but I figure if I'm going to be at the show already that I should just take Kaswyn too. I need to practice the new Fourth Level Test 3 test at a show. I read it over and it looks like a bit of a bear. I just have to ask for a Friday off to go to the show. Fridays are not a good day to ask to take off, so I'll have to see what my boss says. And I have to get the money together for the show. That's never the fun part!

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I think someone I know is getting beaten by her husband.

This is not someone I know well, but we are acquaintances. I have seen her with extensive facial bruising three times now, and the second time was also accompanied by a broken wrist. It seems like every time she heals from the last set of bruises she as another "accident". The second one made me say "Hmmmm..", but this last one spurred me into asking someone else. Maybe I was just being paranoid.

So I asked someone who knows her better. All I had to say was "Hey, about Alanna (not her real name, obviously) ... do you think.." and before I could finish my sentence she said "Yes." We chatted a bit about it, and the more she told me the more I think we are right, although she has not had confirmation from Alanna.

So, why should I care? Two reasons. First, one of my very good friends in high school was beaten by her father often. I saw her come to school with bruises that she tried to hide. She was honest with me about where she got them, so it's not like it was a mystery for me. But I never did anything about it. In fact it never occurred to me to do anything. I just listened to her and tried to have fun with her. Which is probably a good thing because it would have almost certainly made her situation worse at home if I had said anything.

Reason number two is, of course, Blair. Many of us knew that her ex had been violent with her, and had a wicked temper. However, nobody did anything about it. But really, what could we have done? We all told her not to go to his house that night, and to meet him at the restaurant. She didn't and now she is gone. Could any one of us have done something to prevent that? Not that it would have helped anything, but I'm still kicking myself for not returning her call that night.

So, I have regrets about not taking action in the past. But what could I possibly do that could make this better? Involving anyone of authority could lead to pissing her husband off, and lord knows we don't want that. And I don't really know her well enough to be able to talk with her about this, which is really none of my business. But how am I going to feel if I do nothing, pretend not to see her bruises, and she ends up severely injured, or worse?

My stomach hurts.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

More parents, less pony

My parents will be visiting for a week, which means I will not have time to ride after work. I will be able to get out and just lunge Kaswyn, but if I were to spend hours riding my parents would have a fit. Also it's nice to spend time with them and the girlies.

Since I'm only able to work Kaswyn, I asked Susan if she could lunge the other two. Unfortunately she's having a busy week at work, and said she might be able to lunge Albert. So then I asked about Fire's owner coming out to lunge him, and Susan said "I don't think she knows how to lunge."


I guess her horses have always been with a trainer and she's been an owner in the strictest sense. Not a rider or caretaker, just an owner. This will have to change. It's time for her to get involved, because I need the help and she has the time. Well, she doesn't have unlimited time but she has more free time than I do (I think) . Anyway, I don't mind teaching her how to groom, wrap legs, lunge, tack up, cool down, all that stuff, so she can help me. I imagine that she'll enjoy it. Susan said that nobody has ever taken the time to teach her, and I get the feeling that the trainer didn't want her involved.

Hopefully we can meet sometime next week and discuss the plan. If she agrees, then I'll get the help I need, she'll get to learn something, and her horse will get ridden. Everybody wins!

Friday, April 03, 2009


So I was catching up on blogs I like to read, and I came across this post over at Rising Rainbow.

Full disclosure here - I didn't watch the video, and I don't think I'm going to. From what I've read it's a very scary video of a cart wreck at an Arabian show. Apparently there are comments about the video which trash Arabian horses, saying they are poorly trained or crazy or something. I don't think I will read the comments either because that will just piss me off.

Let's get one thing straight - horses, ALL BREEDS INCLUDED, are prey animals. Their best and usually only defense are their legs (horses will bite if cornered, but even then they are more apt to kick if they can). So, when they are very scared, they run. I do not care how old, how trained, how level headed, or what breed your horse is. If you scare them badly enough, they will follow their instinct run away. It's just a question of encountering that scary thing.

Arabian horses are extremely smart. Since all horses will spook, if an Arabian horse is punished for spooking they will start being afraid to be afraid. Think about this for just a second. It happens ALL THE TIME. The horse spooks at a noise, and the rider whips them or shouts. Maybe other breeds can just shrug this kind of behavior off, but Arabian horses want to please you. They try very, very hard, and they are thinking horses. So they begin to connect being fearful with being beaten. They become afraid of everything, and that is what makes people think they are crazy.

It is people who make them scared of life. If treated with understanding and allowed to build confidence, Arabian horses will be calm, enthusiastic partners who will work themselves into the ground if you ask them to. But if you beat them for being scared, beat them excessively, or otherwise punish inappropriately, 99% of them will have problems. There are very few Arabians who will turn on you and can be labeled as evil.

In 27 years of riding Arabians, I can say that I have known maybe two who were really nasty. And one of those was a stallion, who turned into a peach once he was gelded (possibly too much testosterone in the poor guys system). So that's really one in 27 years, and he was also a stallion who may or may not have gotten relief from gelding. In the last nine years of being exposed to more dressage-type breeds of horses, I have known two really bad horses, both warmbloods. And both geldings. Of course this is not scientific fact, but it's my opinion that the bad seed in the Arabian breed is few and far in between and less common than in other breeds.

I am dealing with fear issues that Fire has right now. He's coming around, and is certainly not crazy. He's smart, wants to please, but is scared that he will be beaten for being afraid and acting like a horse. Really, it's okay if he spooks. Eventually he will get confidence in both himself and in me and he won't startle at every little noise or weird looking patch on the ground.

So, before you label Arabian horses who are acting up as crazy or stupid, just think that the problem lies not with the horse, but with the insensitive behavior of the people who have handled them.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

My take on it

Marge stopped by to talk to me Tuesday night when I was at the barn. She is very good friends with Fire's owner, and wanted to know my take on the situation.

Her is what we know so far. Basically her friend bought Fire as a young horse and he was pastured until he was eight. Her trainer broke him and then began showing him Country Pleasure. Marge said she wasn't sure but she got the feeling that the trainer had an open slot for a Country Pleasure horse, so Fire was a "30 day wonder", meaning that he was broke and ready to show in 30 days, or there abouts. This implies that his training was a bit rushed, to say the least. When the owner got him from the trainer's barn a few weeks ago she was told that he was an established show horse and was child safe. However, unbeknownst to the owner, the horse had spent the entire winter in his stall, with no work or turnout, no grooming or foot care. She picked up the horse when she learned this, as she thought Fire was being used as a lesson horse like she had been told.

Here is my impression so far. Fire has a lot of fear, but is really a sensible and kind horse. The first day I rode him he was stomped his foot at me and threatened to rear. I believe that this was a defensive move on his part and an attempt to make me get off of him. He wasn't being nasty, because if he'd have wanted me off bad enough I would have been eating dirt. I think he was just thinking that he really couldn't handle being ridden.

How can I put this nicely. Well, there is no nice way to put it, so - I think that Fire was trained with a hard hand. I wouldn't say he was abused exactly, but I think that any misbehavior or mistakes were dealt with swiftly and harshly. He didn't know me, didn't trust me, and was scared to put a foot wrong, lest I punish him. I think he did a little test, and when I didn't cream him he tried to go through with the plan of scaring me off. This is not the only reason why I'd have to dispute the "child safe" label. The fear makes him spooky, and he will bolt but only for two steps or so. Still, it would be easy for anyone to fall off, especially a child. I would never put one of my kids on him.

Since the first ride I've noticed that he is a very very smart boy. For example, the first day when I took off his bridle he wanted to rub his sweaty, itchy face on me. As any horse person knows, this is extremely annoying, not to mention painful (horse's heads are very bony!). I didn't want to yell at him because he seemed scared enough, but I didn't want to be rubbed on either, so I moved back away from his head towards his tail. He just bent his neck and kept trying to reach me to rub on me. I kept moving until he was bent in half with his nose almost to his hip. Then he straightened up and I walked forward, only to have him try to rub again. We've gone through this dance several times every day after our rides. Except Tuesday he stopped doing it. He didn't try to rub on me at all, and instead rubbed his face on his leg. Ah, he can be taught!

Another example is the canter transition. I wrote before how he had been trained to pick up the canter from the walk only. I've been working the verbal canter command on the lunge line and on his back. On Tuesday I tried the canter from the walk, using my leg and the verbal command. He picked it up on the first try.

Tuesday was really a "turn the corner" kind of day for him. I think he's finally started to trust me and is no longer scared of being punished unfairly. We're working trot serpentines and he is as bendy as Gumby (or Pokey, really) but has real problems with balance. He's getting better about the connection and really trying to figure it out. He had a few days where he was bucking at the canter, but I think that was because he got too low in his head and neck, and couldn't figure out how to move the front end up without the use of his neck. I fixed this by no longer allowing him to get that low at the canter, but instead I push him into my hand a little bit and keep the impulsion going.

Anyhow, I think Fire has a lot to offer. He's got some very nice gaits, and the best walk of the three horses. And, thank goodness, he's smart! Who says Arabian horses can't do dressage? I found three of them and I didn't even try.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr