Monthly Archives: September 2009

A rare triple play day

It’s not often I have time (or energy!) to ride all three of my horses in a single day. But today was one of those rare days. Fling was a little grumpy about getting saddled immediately after breakfast this morning. Because she’d been standing in her stall overnight, I made a point to spend a lot of time walking first. I took her out in our ten acre field and planned to ride her out there. It’s good to get out of the arena sometimes, plus it was a good place to work on our ‘forward’ canter. Fling is very levelheaded and she doesn’t even get excited when Faeryn and Faxx come zooming across the pasture right toward us. She just ignores them with, I swear, a longsuffering sigh and a thought bubble over her head that would read “Knock it off, you guys.” Sometimes it’s hard being the oldest sibling! She was very good today, and I was able to take what Marta told us Thursday and put it into action. When i pushed her more from behind, her self carriage at the canter actually got better and I didn’t feel the need to half halt as much as I had been doing before. She also got softer in the bridle. Marta also told me she needs to be fitter at the canter. She is very fit at the trot, but the canter requires a different sort of fitness. I have heard horsemen say that ‘trot builds muscle and canter builds wind.” I can see that at work in my own experience with Fling. She is very ‘muscle’ fit, but she needs to build ‘wind’ fitness. A friend saw the very ‘baroque’ picutre of Fling I sent her and she responded by saying that Fling hadn’t missed any groceries. Actually, Fling is very ‘buff’ and there’s not an ounce of fat on her – it’s all muscle. Now I need to spend more time working on the canter. Here’s what it looks like now:

I rode Faeryn next and she needs more canter work for a completely different reason. She’s simply a bit ‘behind the curve’ on her canter work – for two reasons – one, the canter is always the last gait to develop, and secondly, I rode her at trot for probably six months when I started her under saddle before I ever cantered her. And, I think that, like most people, I tend to focus on the trot more than the canter. Her canter is going very well and now it’s time to work on developingher canter to it ‘matches’ her trot. Often, I just do canter once each direction and call it a day. I’m working on trot 75% of the time and canter 25%. It’s time to reverse that ration for awhile. Her canter has improved a lot lately. I think the jumping we did preparing for the Oldenburg NA Mare Performance Test helped a lot. I took a cue from what Marta taught me about Fling and pushed her more forward in the canter. I need to resist theimage to try and ‘collect’ her canter too much, too soon. Especially when I neglect to push her from behind. Faeryn needs more ‘help’ at the canter than Faxx does, but she needs less ‘help’ at the trot. It’s good to have three very different horses to ride. Faeryn rides very much like her mom did – except that I am a much better rider now than when I rode her mom.  IN addition to working more on the canter, I’m starting to ‘up the ante’ at the trot by asking her to do short little ‘forward and back’ exercises that are the stepping stones toward collection.

Here’s Faeryn working in trot:

And canter:

Faxx got ridden late this evening. Faxx is the trickiest. He is a good boy and laid back, but he is a bit of a worrier, and also fussy in his contact with the bit. I have to be very diplomatic and steady with my hands to encourage him to stay connected. He is getting better, and I am able to keep him connected and do sitting trot now. I alternated between posting and sitting and tried to think about keeping my back/waist soft and supple when I sat, and not bracde against him. I also have to sit up very straight and not collapse in my core.  And I also tried to think about pushing him into contact instead of pulling him into it. He has a tendancy to be a little slow with his hind legs sometimes – and that makes his connection unsteady. I’ve learned when I feel that, to ask him to be more active with his hind legs and it makes a big difference. Tonight I had some of the best sitting trot work to date – when he felt good at the sitting trot in a circle, I pushed him forward just a bit more with my legs, and his back came up a tad more, and got softer and more supple, and we danced! A glimpse of what the future will bring!!

A picture is worth 1,000 words

My “almost third level” horse, Fling, has been off the entire summer. I started riding her again in August and wanted to get her ‘up to speed’ before I spent money taking lessons on her.

The last real video I have seen of ourselves together is from show videos of Second Level tests I rode in 2007. Since then, I’ve caught infrequent glimpses of ourselves in the mirrors at a friend’s arena when I would occasionally haul over there to ride, and I could tell we were on the right path.

My trainer comes once a week, and I take two lessons, alternating between my three horses. The last two weeks I’ve ridden Fling. Marta took video on my digital camera last week. The last two lessons have consisted of working on the canter, since she’s really solid in her trot work. The canter is always the last to develop, it seems, and the canter is also what lost the most in terms of strength and collection during her ‘forced sabbatical.’

I have a tendancy to worry more about collection than forward in the canter. And, I found, what I _thought_ I was feeling wasn’t at all what it seemed.

During my lesson, Marta kept telling me to ride her faster and more forward at the canter. It _felt_ like we were careening around the arena out of control, and I kept half halting because it really felt to me that she was above the bit. Fling has a shorter neck than my other two horses, so she feels quite different. The entire lesson, Marta kept telling me Fling needed to push more from behind at the canter, and I needed to let her ‘go’ in front more, and also push her forward. I could feel that the canter felt better, doing what Marta directed me to do, but I really felt it was not at all through or connected.

And then I watched the video.

I don’t think I’ve ever had such a big disconnect between what I thought I felt and what I subsequently saw on video.

Fling is round and very collected. I need to quit worrying about trying to collect the front by half halting and ride her hind legs forward more.

Which is why I am an amateur and Marta is a pro. 😉  

Faxx goes to a show

Faxx competed at a recognized show last weekend. He got the second qualifying score he needed to qualify for our regional USDF Championships the end of October, but royally messed up our USDF median in the process. Oh well, he’s just 4. He had scores that ranged from 62.8 – 67.5 at Training Level. His median HAD been a 68.2. Here’s a small clip.

Faeryn’s Story

NOTE: Sometimes, to really appreciate where you’re going, it’s helpful to look back at where you’ve been. Following are some journal entries I made when I was just starting Faeryn under saddle.

  
Faeryn is a 2005 Oldenburg cross homebred. I owned her mother, Sonnys Mona Lisa+/, a Half Arab pinto for nearly 18 years. I bought Lisa as a yearling, for $800, and she went on to become a very competitive dressage horse for me, competing mostly in the open circuit, but also the Arabian shows. She earned her Legion of Supreme Honor, mostly from placings in open, recognized shows, back when you only earned points for placing in your class, not from scores like it is now. And granted, while Lisa had superior character and won more championships than you would ever expect from an $800 horse, she was not what one would shop for if one was shopping for a sporthorse broodmare.

 But she had a huge heart and she scored 7s on gaits pretty regularly. The German inspectors hated her when I took she and Flying Colorz (Fling), her 2000 foal, to the inspection. although she did score high enough to be entered into the mare book. Just barely. In fact, the inspector told the onlookers, “See what a really good stallion (Frohwind) can do.” Which was his way of saying “Well, the mare is obviously crap, but the foal is not too bad, thanks to the lovely German stallion.” I did not care. I bred Lisa because I loved her, because I knew Frohwind crossed well with Arabians, and whatever the outcome, I would keep it and love it. And I did. Fling is the reason I bred Lisa back to Frohwind in 2004. Fling turned out to be a super dressage partner. Not the fanciest horse, that’s for sure, but a work ethic that won’t stop and an absolute joy in her work that makes her so much fun to ride. At 15.1 she has forward to spare and is like a little sports car, she is so balanced and rideable. She is way too smart and opinionated on the ground, but under saddle she is all business. She’s also earned USDF All Breed Awards from the ISR/Oldenburg every year she’s competed.

The risk of breeding for a full sibling is that you have certain expectations. Fling is a pinto, and although I really wanted another one, I got my second choice in Faeryn – bay with four white socks. While Lisa was gestating with Faeryn, I kept telling myself that full siblings could be very different. (Duh – I am 5 feet tall and have to diet constantly and my brother was 6 feet tall and flunked out of the draft because he was underweight.) It is hard not to compare them and wonder if you are going to be disappointed. Fling never had a gawky or ugly day – she looked like a smaller, perfectly proportioned version of herself almost from the day she was born. For a long time, Faeryn looked like a horse assembled by committee – and perhaps a blind committee at that. But despite any misgivings I might have had about her conformation, her movement and her temperament were always without question. I mean, how many foals could go to their inspection at five weeks of age and exhibit perfect behavior and be totally unfazed by everything? When Faeryn was two months old, we had to evacuate from hurricane Rita, spent too many hours on the road, and then stayed at a strange place for four days where she was cooped up in a stall with her mother. Faeryn thought it was a huge adventure we had planned just for her benefit. She is what I call an “old soul.” Her mother was the same way. At 2 1/2, she was more mentally mature than some five year olds I’ve had. Through every step of her baby horse education, Faeryn has reacted to every new thing with the same calm, “ho hum” attitude. And so, at 51 years old – having had at least 7 young horses over the years – for the first time, _I_ was the first one to climb on one’s back. I didn’t just wake up one day and say to myself “I’m going to start Faeryn myself.” One thing led to another and it just sort of happened. (The same way a lot of people get pregnant. )

 Faeryn met the saddle when she was about two. Nothing big, and I did not work with her very often, but it was a total non-event. I would work her for ten minutes every few weeks. I saw no real reason to ‘drill’ her on anything – when she was doing well with one thing, I would move on to the next thing. The bit and the bridle were no biggie, and before I knew it, she was longlining like a pro, even though we only did it a few times.

 And so one day I decided since she was so quiet, I would just lie over her back as a precursor to sending her off to someone to walk/trot/canter for 30 days like I’ve done with all my kids. I enlisted my husband’s help to hold her, donned my helmet and tested the waters standing on the mounting block next to her and patting the saddle, patting her all over and talking to her. I put my foot in the stirrup (I am so short, even with the mounting block I could not just lie over her without using the stirrup) and she didn’t care…so draped myself over her and patted her all over her sides, etc. I think she thought I was an idiot. “Get on, already,” she seemed to be saying. So I slowly sat up on her….and absolutely nothing happened. Feeling brave, I told my husband to just lead us around the round pen. The incredible thing was, Faeryn did not feel like a wobbly green horse underneath me. She walked along confidently and with a walk that felt like a 9 to me!  Five minutes and we were done, and I was feeling pretty smug and darn proud of Faeryn.

 So, about a month after that outing, with some time on my hands, we went for another “walk” in the round pen. The only thing she was having trouble with was “go.” She kept stopping and of course had no idea what the leg meant. I did not want to use a lot of leg and make her dead to it, so I carried my whip and lightly tapped her with it to go when she would get “stuck.” At one point when I tapped her she broke into a little trot and, while I tried to stay out of her way, I started laughing like an idiot, saying “We’re trotting! We’re trotting!” I had a grin on my face probably exactly like the one I had the very first time I ever rode a horse. Bolstered by the fact that Faeryn just cheerfully trotted off so easily with me under saddle that first time, with no fear, or threat of bucking or any other naughty behavior, I decided to see if that little episode was a fluke, or if it really _could_ be this ‘easy’ to back your own horse. So, I bribed my husband to come out and be on stand-by (or to call 911) and saddled up Faeryn, got on her, and rode her again in the round pen (our round pen is the size of a 20M circle) and this time I asked her to trot – on purpose. Same reaction. A calm little trot…with some bouts of running out of steam and walking. I carried a whip just to tap her with when she lost her forward. I “worked” her for about 15 minutes with lots of steering exercises at the walk, a few laps of trot around the round pen and quit, very happy.

 It was at this point I started thinking I might really be able to do this myself. My last six youngsters only had about 30 days under saddle with an outside trainer before I took them over. Plus, my super trainer of the last 4.5 years had taken a job at private farm in December and was now a 2 hour drive away. She came occasionally for clinics, but I hadn’t found a new trainer yet, and anyone I did find wasn’t likely to be close, or accessible on a weekly basis. I am very picky about where I send my horses, and I didn’t really know of anyone locally to send her. So, when VTO Saddlery had their 25% off sale after Christmas, I bought myself a Tipperary vest and a shiny new helmet. I was now committed (take that any way you want!) to the project. So, some time elapsed, and I’d ridden Faeryn 7 times now. Six times in the round pen, and the only remarkable thing is she spooked once when the neighbor behind us revved his old clunker of a truck. Since I had my reins long trying to stay out of her mouth, she got all the way to the other side of the round pen before I could reel them in, and she pretty much stopped of her own accord before I did. Didn’t unseat me – I just “went” with her and amazingly, did not scare me or cause me to go into cardiac arrest. The last time I rode her was in a ‘mini’ lesson with my trainer. The only reason I rode her was my other horse was nursing a slight lameness, and my trainer was coming for her twice-monthly clinics from two hours away and I didn’t want to back out on her. Plus, I wanted to get some pointers and some advice so I would be less likely to screw this thing up. We started in the round pen and almost as soon as I’d made a lap, she started practically jumping up and down. “Where’s your camera? You HAVE to see this.” So I sent her inside for my video camera and of course the battery was dead, so she had to settle for the digital camera. She was really excited to see what Faeryn looked like under saddle. We did about ten minutes in there and then moved to the big arena for the first time. plastic chain. She was super – no spooking or anything. The improvemenht from ride one to ride seven was nothing short of amazing. On ride sesven, she was already reaching to the bit, and I took a light contact with the outside rein and she actually was going into it. And her trot had totally lost the tentative quality and was very regular. Wow. Just wow. And when I saw the pics – just wow. My ugly duckling has turned into a swan. Not an Olympic caliber swan, you understand. But a swan in my eyes nonetheless.

 So, last month I found out that the Houston Dressage Society was hosting Ida Anderson (S dressage judge) for a longlining/riding clinc this month. I have longlined most of my young horses, but I am totally self taught, and have never felt confident enough to do it except on a circle. I longlined Faeryn, and I also have a half brother to her who’s two months older, and so I signed each of them up for a session. (Her brother is Faxx, and he is light years behind Faeryn in maturity – and I will send him off to someone to start. He is not a bad boy, but much more sensitive than Faeryn.)

 So, the clinic was this weekend. Faeryn went Saturday. Faeryn has not been many places in her life, but I was pretty confident she would handle it well. It was at a lovely facility. Faeryn was the youngest horse participating in the clinic and all the other horses were already working under saddle. Ms. Anderson took the reins first and I was happy to see how calm, willing and confident Faeryn was with a total stranger. She lives on our farm and has not been handled by many different people in her short life.

 Ms. Anderson drove her all over the arena up the long side, over across the middle, down centerline, up the other side. She only walked her I was fine with that. Then came my turn to take the reins. I was feeling pretty smug when we went to the left, because I had the outside rein in my right hand and things went very well. No trouble steering at all. What a surprise when we reversed and I had to take the outside rein (the most important rein, just like in riding) in my LEFT hand. Oops. Poor Faeryn thought she had a drunk driver, I think. She was very forgiving and SO calm. Ms. Anderson told the auditors that Faeryn was very smart, extremely trainable, quite elastic, and she would give her a 10 for temperament!! So, the plan for Faeryn is to start ground driving her in the big arena (I ordered some leather long lines because after using the ones Ms. Anderson brought, they are so much better than the web ones I have) and I will continue to ride her maybe once every few weeks, for about ten -fifteen minutes, until June when she is three. And then I will probably ride her once or twice a week for very short periods. The goal is to go to a local schooling show by the end of the year and do walk-trot just for mileage. My trainer thinks she could do that next week. But we won’t. Ride #8

 So, it’s been two weeks since Ride #7, my husband is out of town next weekend, so today is the day. It’s been raining almost nonstop here – it only quits for a day or two, it seems. Not long enough to dry up, especially when it’s overcast. I did not want to go in the big arena – probably still too wet. My round pen dries out faster as it has a better base. So I longlined her a short time just at the walk, working on steering and using a lot of outside rein to ‘stabilize’ her and gentle inside for turning. We were able to successfully do ‘squares’ inside the round pen. So I dragged husband out and got on her, without even lunging her at the trot first. I questioned my wisdom, but I was short on time. I needn’t have worried. For the first time, I did not have my husband hold her when I got on, and no biggie – she stood perfectly still. I also forgot my whip, but really did not need it to get her moving or keep her moving. Did more ‘square turns’ at walk,
 working on keeping outside contact steady, just like I did on the ground. Trot was no big deal. I successfully ‘steered’ her and keep her about two feet off the rail, so I could be sure it was her steering that was keeping her where she was, and not just the rail. Did some of the ‘squares’ inside the circle at trot, too, and quit after about 10 minutes.

 Next weekend I am taking her to a friend’s and will ride her there just for something different to do.

 And I am also thinking about when we are going to canter. Many people walk/trot/canter in the very first session – from what I gather, these tend to be ‘western’ colt starters. I watched every ride that my trainer put on Fling, Faeryn’s full sister. I think she rode her 10-12 times before she cantered. I do know it was no big deal when she did. Fling never bucked, and Faeryn so far doesn’t show any inclination to do so. Of course, everyone tells you, “well, if they’re going to do anything, that’s when they’ll do it.” Um, yea, I sort of know that. Thanks. As I was quitting today and I said to husband “Well, that was ride #8” he said “soon you’ll be up to 30.” Referring to the fact that I ‘took over’ all my horses after 30 days training in the past. Which, realistically, isn’t really 30 rides – more like 20 or so rides since few trainers ride them 7 days a week. So we’re almost halfway there. And husband also said, as I put her on the crossties to untack her, “I really like her.” So do I, I said. So do I.

Ride #9 – Away from Home!

 Faeryn had a big adventure today. I hauled her to a friend’s place to ride her. My husband is out of town on an endurance ride and since I did not want to ride her at home by myself, I decided to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and ride her, AND take her somewhere new to test the waters. Her last ride was about two weeks ago – she is so easy and so fun I am really having to _make_ myself not ride her more often until she is 3 in June. So, my friend was riding in the arena when I got there and Faeryn was just a tad big ‘ga ga’ at the new place and strange horse in the arena. Remember, she lives on our farm with five other horses, so she has not had the benefit of living at a busy boarding barn, where a lot of activity would be all in a day’s work. She also has not ever worked in the arena with another horse. I tacked her up and decided to lunge her first since she was pretty looky. After I lunged her about 3 minutes, she was settled enough to do a bit of long lining, so I did that, then took her back out to the trailer to get her ready to ride – and to don my eventer vest (I wore my helmet even while lunging her.) My friend thinks I am “very brave” doing this, but really, it does not take a lot of bravery on my part. I think it helps a lot that I have owned Faeryn’s mom for 18 years – have ridden her for 16 of those years and she has NEVER dumped me. And Faeryn’s big sister, Fling, is coming 8 and I have been riding her for almost 5 years and SHE has never dumped me. So there’s a little history there. I got on and walked her around and she was good – she still falls in very badly but I am trying not to ‘micromanage’ that at this point – just forward, forward, forward is my mantra for now. I walked a few laps both ways and then trotted her a few times each direction and called it a day. A very good day. My friend was very impressed with Faeryn because not only was she perfectly behaved, a cat ran out almost underneath her at one point and she did not miss a beat, her trot is very rhythmical and even tho the neighbors were mowing and buzzing around, she remained focused on the task at hand. In that respect she is exactly like her big sister and her mom. It was interesting to get another person’s perspective. My friend has seen me show Fling, her big sister, many, many times. Her ‘take’ on the differences and similarities between them is pretty what I think, too. Faeryn is freer in her shoulders and moves very lightly across the ground. A bit more
 effortless than her big sis, who moves just a bit more ‘huntery.’ But she gets 7s for gaits most of the time, nonetheless, if her _rider_ does her job. I also agree with her observation that Faeryn is a bit leggier than Fling. I have thought that almost from the moment Faeryn was born.

Fast Forward to Ride #24…

 Wow, time flies when you’re having fun! In the past 6 months, I’ve ridden Faeryn 24 times now – about once a week for 15-20 minutes. It’s been blissfully boring. The only thing worth mentioning was that once she spooked. I didn’t even come unseated. There is just something very satisfying viewing the world from between the ears of a horse you knew when it was only a nose and feet emerging from mom. And actually, when Faeryn was born, her mom had a tough time, and I thought she was dead already since she was not breathing, and her tongue was blue. (Her full sister’s little nostrils were working overtime before her shoulders were even cleared and that was my only experience as a midwife prior to Faeryn being born.) Her mom, my sainted mare Sonnys Mona Lisa, kept jamming herself butt up against the stall and I kept having to move her and finally she just stopped even trying. It was taking a long time and nothing was happening. So, my vet, who’d I’d been in phone contact with (Lisa politely foaled at 6 p.m.) said to pull the foal. Frankly, at this point I was convinced I was delivering a dead foal. Imagine my elation and relief when Faeryn started breathing once she was clear of mom and was a healthy, perfectly normal baby. And sitting on her now, looking at the world through those ears, that are so very much like her mom’s, seems even more of a miracle. So, even with minimum riding, Faeryn has made progress. She’s steering pretty well, she is much more forward than she was when we started and now I am wondering just how much and how soon I should ‘up the ante.’ It has been five years since I have had a green horse and I’ve forgotten a lot. Sunday I made my husband come out and take some tiny video clips with our digital camera. It was the first time I had seen myself riding her and I was pleasantly surprised. I am not trying to put Faeryn on the bit and am riding her with very long reins, but with light contact on the outside rein. If she gets too far above the bit, I can squeeze her and put my hands forward and she will lower her head and seek contact. Her circles are almost not-squares now, and in the fall I’ll take her to some dressage schooling shows to do Intro just for mileage. We haven’t cantered yet, and I’m really not in a hurry.

And so, here is Faeryn, at ride #23:

 
 11/07/08 

 Cantering Trouble!

Faeryn is now 3.5 and has had very light work for the past six months. Maybe 1-2x a week, 20-30 minutes or so. Since she turned 3.5, an occasional lesson with my trainer. I trotted her for months before I asked for canter. No big resistances or problems there. Just had to work on establishing go and forward. During this time, she was being lunged regularly, at w/t/c and was fine. Lunged with sidereins, too. I first cantered her u/s about a month ago and it was pretty uneventful – a little humping up, but no big deal. Since then, I canter once or twice every time I ride her. Now I am having big resistance about cantering u/s and I don’t know if she is being willful or if it is something I am doing. I will ask for canter and eventually get it and can canter around the arena. Second time I ask for canter, I get major balking, sucking back behind the leg, pinning ears and threatening to buck. I almost CAN’T get her to canter, no matter what I do. I have several ideas as to how to proceed, but not sure which, or all, to do.  Here are the options I’ve considered: 1. Forget cantering for now, and just keep working on trot. It’s not like there’s not a lot to do there. She is just starting to seek contact on her own… I am not trying to ‘make’ her come on the bit, or even half-halting much at this point. 2. Get in the round pen where we don’t have to worry about steering and canter until she ‘gets over it.’ 3. Put on eventing vest (I always wear a helmet), my big girl panties, get her out in the arena and have a come to jesus meeting with her. 4. Get her out of the arena and ride in the field to see if that helps. 4. Send her to my very-good young horse starter, who, unfortunately, is $1100 a month. But worth every penny. I’ve never had a youngster really ‘test’ me…pretty much however they were to begin with, was how they stayed. I hve been very lucky – this is the most resistance I’ve ever had from one of my kids. The other 3 year old I have, by same sire, just came back from my colt starter last week and he is doing fabulously well…and she was too before the cantering issue. I pretty much keep my horses their entire lives – or always plan to – and I bred this one TO keep.

11/08/08

 The bucking at canter is only at or right after the depart…once she gets going, she is fine and actually has a nice balanced, uphill canter. And she hasn’t really actually BUCKED much – it’s mostly the suck back, get WAAYYYY behind the leg and totally non-forward, refuse to canter. So, I have been thinking about this issue, and thought maybe I am using too much leg at depart. She seems a tad lazy and like a lot of mares, resents a lot of leg – at this point anyway. So today I lunged her in the round pen and started making ‘kissing’ noises only when I wanted her to canter…to give her a totally unique cue for canter depart that did not involve leg or whip. She got the idea very quickly and was cantering willingly from just the ‘kiss’ and no lunge whip. So I moved to arena, got on her and trotted for a bit and tried the ‘kiss’ method, while keeping my legs off her and only using whip if i needed it. Success. Pretty decent depart – so I did one circle, quit and gave her big pats, good girls and a sugar. To the right was messier and she was pissier and she let loose with three bucks the first three canter strides. They were tiny bucks and did not unseat me (love that fake suede Wintec) and I immediately brought her to stop, did tight
 circle and gave her a smack with the whip, also growling at her. Trotted a little bit more, and asked again to the right and got a prompt, lovely, non-buck depart – did a circle and quit for the day with more pats and a cookie when I dismounted (for her, not me.) 😉 This was actually the most she has actually bucked – before, it was like a threat, but mostly just refusing to go forward. So maybe I have figured out the problem. I’ll let her ‘think about it’ for a day or two and try again.

11/09/08

 I trotted first and concentrated on really establishing ‘forward’ and she was willing and moved freely forward….we did 20m circles, and changes across the diagonal and she is starting to be steady on the outside rein and come round for longer peiods of time, and the bending is getting more consistent. She was so good, I was able to sit her trot for short periods of time. Actually, she felt a lot easier to ride sitting than posting. I never thought I would say this, but I really prefer to sit the trot these days. I will be glad when she’s far enough along to sit more than post. She did so well today and yesterday, I am thinking abou taking her to a local schooling show next month to show in Intro. Obviously we are not ready to canter in public yet! 😉 . So, I asked her to canter and really tried to think about leaning slightly back, taking my legs completely off her, ‘kissing’ to get her to go, and just trying to stay out of her way…took a few strides, but she cantered without bucking. I let her canter a circle, came back to trot, and decided to ask again. This time the depart was quicker and better…also no bucking. So I then trotted her a bit, and changed rein and went to the right, which is the ‘hard’ side. It was eaiser today than yesterday….again, cantered a short distance, trotted a little bit and asked for another upward, and got an almost instantaneous, smooth canter depart. She got lots of praise for each non-bucking depart, and after the last really good depart, I stopped, gave her a sugar, and quit for the day. So, I think several different factors were at work in her ‘stalling out’ and sometimes bucking. I think I was getting in her way and the longer it took her to pick up the canter, the more I flailed away….I was using way too much leg, which was shutting her down, and I think I was leaning forward a bit. I think maybe the too thick saddle pad may have had something to do with it, too. It occured to me, it takes a whole different set of skills to ride totally green horses than even semi-trained ones. 😉 It has been five years since I had a green horse, and even then, my trainer who started her rode her once a week, then twice a week, and then I took over after about 4 months -so she was already picking up canter very easily when I started riding her. Years ago a friend’s husband, who also trained race horses part time, started all my young horses. I would get them broke to bridle/saddle, get them lunging wiht side reins, etc, send them to him, and in 30 days he’d send them back doing walk/trot/canter and I merrily went down the road with them. He retired from breaking horses about 10 years ago. Nowadays it seems like it takes trainers 3 months to get done what this guy did in a month. I really took him for granted, and I told him that recently. 😉 It’s supposed to rain for the next few days, so Faeryn has some time to think about things. And so do I! 🙂

11/15/08

 Update on cantering problem

 We had 11 inches of rain so I couldn’t do any cantering during the week. Today was the first time I could canter her since last weekend, where I had moderate success with getting her to canter without sucking back or threatening to buck. So this morning I got on her, got some great trot work and asked for canter and got a super prompt, forward, ‘happy’ canter and she maintained the canter with very little effort from me. And that was on the ‘hard’ side… so I reversed, did a bit more trot and then asked for left lead canter…with same results. So, as usual, the horse’s ‘problem’ was really _MY_ problem! 😉

11/16/08

An update on the update!

  It is an absolutely beautiful day here – cool, sunny and breezy. I blanketed my horses for the first time this season last night… Faeryn was a little superstar today! Wonderful progress in the trot work…she is learning to move away from leg and I am able to use inside leg to outside rein and she understands what she is to do. She is taking nice soft, steady contact on the outside rein and is nicely accepting the bit and most of the time is on the bit. I even sat the trot for a few circles and she stayed nice and round and soft. Actually, I think she is _better_ when I sit the trot, but she is too young/undeveloped to do it yet, except for short periods of time. She has really good self-carriage for a young horse and is not on her forehand at all. No bucking/sucking back at the canter, but we did have a little ‘spin out’ in one canter attempt – just typical young, untrained horse stuff. I did multiple departs each way, and experimented with trying to use a classic aid to get the canter – in typical young horse fashion, so far we’ve just had to sort of ‘run’ into the canter because she just doesn’t know any other way yet. I tried both outside leg and inside leg to ask for canter and had far greater success with inside leg – which is my preferred method, but it just depends on the horse. I would like to eventually dabble in some very low level eventing with her. When she’s a little older I’ll see how she likes jumping. I think it would be fun.

11/21/08 Where Faeryn gets ridden by my trainer

 It’s been more than a month since my trainer has seen Faeryn in a lesson. I took her Tuesday and my trainer actually rode her. It’s the first time Faeryn has had someone other than me on her back. She was very good and my trainer was impressed with the progress Faeryn has made since she saw her last. It was a treat to be able to watch Faeryn from the ground with a good rider. My trainer, Marta, had no problem with the canter departs, and when I got on her, she worked very well, including canter. I am having more trouble getting her to canter going to the left, most likely because she wants to go out the shoulder that direction, but fall to the inside. Just baby horse stuff. Marta is from Spain and sometimes does not know the English words for horse-related things, which makes for some interesting translations. Marta calls Faeryn my ‘baby mare.’ Faeryn is accepting light contact and going round much of the time – at least at the trot. She understands lateral work and can do leg yields at the walk, and is starting to ‘get’ the inside leg to outside rein concept. The canter is obviously still very much a work in progress. I rode her tonight and actually got one prompt, correct canter depart, with the traditional cue, to the right. To the left, well, that’s going to take awhile. But I am happy that it seems the ‘bucking’ problem at the canter has been solved. As she matures, she is looking more like her mother, at least in the face. More and more, I can see her mom in Faeryn’s eyes, and so I have a special connection with her, as well as with her older full sister, Fling. But Faeryn is much more her mother’s daughter. My husband was really not happy with me when I informed him I was breeding my mare, Lisa, to Frohwind again, in 2004 and that I had, in fact, already bought the breeding. But I am so very glad I did. Lisa’s oldest daughter, Fling, has turned out to be my ‘heart’ horse – but in a different way than her mom was. How lucky I am to have two lovely daughters to remember Lisa by – or maybe even carry on her legacy one day. 

  

The cast of characters

Faxx_walk_cornerFaeryntrotupFling_big_knee9_09

All of my horses are sired by the Oldenburg stallion, Frohwind. Flying Colorz (aka Fling) is the pinto and was born in 2000. Faeryn, her full sister, is the bay with four tiny socks and a tiny star. She was born in 2005. I bred both of them, and their mother was a half Arabian pinto I owned and loved for 18 years, Sonnys Mona Lisa+/. I paid $800 for Lisa as a yearling in 1989 and she took me on an amazing journey. She never knew she only cost $800 and was very competitive in open, all breed competition, as well as the Arabian shows. She earned almost all of her points for her AHA Legion of Supreme Honor competing against warmbloods.

Faxxsimile++, who is the one with the big blaze and 3 stockings, was also born in 2005, and also by Frohwind. Faxx is double registered Half Arabian and is also registered and branded Oldenburg. I bought Faxx from his breeder when he was just 8 months old. Faxx is definitely the best moverof the three, but he is also the toughest to ride, as he is the least willing to take steady contact with the bit. But he’s getting much better – and has scored 70%+ at recognized shows. He is a sweet, obedient, laid back guy and he’ll get there – just may take a bit longer. Boy horses are much like human boys – much slower to mature than the girls!

Fling is working third level and I’ve shown her at one schooling show, getting scores in the mid-60s. I hope to earn my USDF Bronze medal on her in 2010.

I have been showing Faeryn in schooling shows in 2009, and she was the Reserve Training Level Amateur Champion at the HDS Schooling Show Championships, with a 65% under two S judges. She will make her recognized show debut in January, 2010. Faeryn is the simplest of my horses to ride. I say she read the Dressage 101 manual in utero. 😉

A so-so day

Just when I felt confident Faxx’s ‘fussy contact’ problems were resolved, here they come again. I have to remember, though, that 8 months ago, ‘unwilling to take contact’ meant he would throw his head in the air so high I’d be in danger of tasting his ears. Now, ‘fussy contact’ means he is mouthing the bit and momentarily resistant. I even stopped part-way through the ride and got off and adjusted the bit and cheekpieces. That seemed to help. What helps most is to not “panic” and just think methodical, methodical, methodical. And, with Faxx, half halts are measured in millimeters, not inches. He is definitely making me learn to be super quiet and steady with my hands. Also, it helps a lot if he does not feel ‘trapped.’ If I have him on the outside rein, I have to make sure the inside rein is soft and inactive except for when I really need it. And to ‘give’ about twice as much as I ‘take.’ And to sit up and be a’column’ on top of him, keep my eyes up and soft and breathe. Not a lot to remember all at once. 😉 We did have much better canter departs today. I just have to remember to soften my aids and really just think about sitting down and forward with my inside seatbone – if my timing is right, I’ll get a nice, quiet, forward canter depart just from that. Nexst week we go to a schooling show as a ‘prep’ for a recognized show Sept. 19-20. We are trying to get the second score we need to compete in our Regional USDF Champs the end of October, and maybe to improve our 68.2 USDF median. Of course, we could also make it worse. 😉 No guts, no glory! 

Faeryn felt soft, soft, soft today. The resistance to the right rein of last month has gone away since I got her a Sprenger that’s a cross between a loose ring and an eggbut bit, with a 3-part mouthpiece with a ‘bean’ in the middle. We’ve been working on strengthening her right hind in the canter and she’s _almost_ 100% now. Her canter, and canter departs to the left are very good – she stays round and really comes up into the depart. To the right, she is still anticipating that it is going to hurt, or be hard, and she wants to drop her shoulder, counterflex and run into it – but she is getting much better and I had two almost ‘normal’ departs to the right. I need to start challenging her more — doing more of the little ‘forward and back’ exercises that build muscle and are the beginnings of collected work. She is very fun to ride, and her back is really supple. She needs a lot of mileage since she has not been off the farm much and is VERY excitable in new places yet. She is going to a schooling show the last weekend of September and several before the end of the year. She is qualified for the first-ever Houston Dressage Society championships Dec. 13 and that’s what we’re working toward. I am going to take her to as many schooling shows as I can this fall, and next year I’ll have to pick a ‘sacrifice’ recognized show to take her to for her first ‘overnight’ show.

 Fling banged her knee Thursday and it was huge when I went to ride her. I iced her and hosed her several times a day the past few days. It’s still a bit swollen but there’s no heat and she’s just a little off. So she’s had the whole Labor Day weekend off…

Where we are now…

Fling is working third level and the goal for this year WAS to finally get my USDF Bronze medal…but Fling’s had other ideas. Every time I’ve entered a show, she’s done SOMETHING to herself….the last “something” was a fractured coffin bone, which turned out to be not as bad as it sounds. She’s sound now, but is rusty after 8 weeks off and now I’ve got to focus on qualifying Faxx for the Regional Championships. So it looks like next year for our recognized show Third level debut…Fling loves her job, despite her apparent reluctance to “go for the Bronze” and is a joy to ride every day.

I started Faeryn under saddle myself and she’s been easy and uncomplicated. Her only issue now is a ‘sticky’ stifle that was worsened by a pasture incident, which made her cross canter to the right for awhile. We’ve been working on strengthening her right stifle for the past few months and the canter has improved a lot – so much that she went to the ISR/Oldenburg inspection last week and got a 72% (premium score) on the Mare Performance Test. She is schooling most of First level but has only been to two schooling shows this year and shown Training Level. She turned four June 26. The plan for her for the rest of the year is more schooling shows – she really needs show mileage since she’s very excitable in new places – she just hasn’t been off the farm enough, and she is just inherently a bit ‘hotter’ than either Fling or Faxx. But she is probably the easiest and most uncomplicated of the three to ride.

Faxx, who is half Arab and half Oldenburg, but double registered both (mom was an Arabian approved and accepted into the Oldenburg Main Mare book) is probably the most talented of the three, but his huge movement has taken awhile for me to learn to ride. When it all comes together, he easily scores in the 70s at recognized shows. Taking steady contact was a big issue when he was first started under saddle, but I switched him to a Sprenger aurigan “turnado’ bit and that’s made a HUGE difference in his willingness to take steady contact. He has one score toward qualifying for our Regional USDF Championships and the end of this month we’ll try for the second one. He has already earned his Legion of Merit (++) from the Arabian Horse Association, based on points earned in Arabian Sport Horse competition in hand, under saddle and dressage. So, technically, his ‘proper’ name these days is Faxxsimile++. He is one laid back guy and a real joy to take to shows.