Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Solstice & Christmas Eve Rides

I had one one last chance to ride Halo before leaving town for Louisiana last week. It was solstice, and it seemed to get dark before I even left my house to go to the barn. The moon was low in the sky and bright orange!

Here is Halo in the dark, begging for treats at the tie rail. I just got the box in the mail this week with the brand new pad and girth for her, so I'll be trying those out later this week.

Her expression here says it all. "Mooooooom, stop taking stupid pictures!" I wanted to get a good conformation shot, but she wasn't very keen on standing square while I took pictures. Her condition is looking good to me if a little on the tubby side. I'm especially happy with how her neck is looking, given that when I got her everyone said she had a horrible ewe neck. I didn't have the greatest ride on her this night, but it wasn't awful either. Just a day where she was a little more hyped than usual, and a little less focused.

The ride was a good reminder that Halo is a horse who needs an active rider. I probably had my brain halfway on vacation, and she knew it. Yes, some days are easier than others, but for the most part since she is green, I need to be paying attention. One of my riding instructors used to tell me to imagine that riding the horse was like channeling water. You have to hold the channel together to direct the water, and if you don't, the water starts splashing out all over the place and you lose impulsion and/or direction. Halo reminds me of that often.

While I was out of town, I had the opportunity to ride in Louisiana. I got to ride a big palomino paint named Shadow. He had one blue eye and one blue/brown eye.

We rode out in some of the farm fields neighboring the land where the horses are kept. I think the men I was riding with thought I was a little nuts for taking pictures, but this isn't really something you see near Austin. The fields seemed to go on forever! The fields we ride in out behind the barn in Austin are hillier, and most just grow hay.

Here's me and Shadow alongside a ditch. We rode for a couple of hours around the edges of the fields, mostly just walking. I have to say, I loved the saddle I rode in, which surprised me. It was a saddle made in Monroe, Louisiana, not too far from where we were riding. I hope I have the opportunity to ride again next time we visit!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Saddles and Padding and Hooves, Oh My!

I had another great weekend with Halo this week. On Saturday, I was fortunate that my previous hoof trimmer agreed to come out to my current barn to work on my horse and my friend's horse, who is suffering from contracted heels and the beginnings of navicular. I was long past due for an accountability checkup regarding Halo's feet.

The trimmer said I'd been doing a good job with Halo, and her only comments were to make sure to keep her bars shorter (cut them with the nippers instead of the hoof knife), and be slightly more aggressive with the flares on her front feet. She said her hinds look great. I'm happy to hear that I've been doing decent work on my horse's feet, and even happier to have some tips on how to continue to improve my trims.

I only rode Halo briefly (western) after her trim, but she was a very good girl. The next day, I put on the English saddle with some extra padding in front. I've come to the annoying realization that while the saddle fits her, it is not such a good fit for me. The seat tends to tip me forward and put my weight further over her shoulders than I like. Sigh. The saddle odyssey may never end. Anyway, it may be due to growth, because she is going through another lopsided phase, so for the meantime I tried padding up the front of the saddle with a foam riser pad designed to go between her shoulders and the saddle.

I had a GREAT ride that day. I can't emphasize it enough. I don't know if the padding was putting me in a better position, which helped, or if Halo was just in a good mood, but everything went well. She wasn't a dead head by any means, especially since I didn't longe her before riding, but I liked that I didn't have to fight her for forwardness. I had some trot work with which I was extremely pleased where I felt her starting to really round out and step under herself. The feeling is hard to describe, but it's like her trot goes from feeling like riding a choppy pony to riding a big 16.2h horse. Sometimes I have to remind myself to let her go when she's like that. I want her to have the biggest, stretchiest trot she is comfortable doing for now. There is plenty of time to half-halt her later. She isn't ready for any sort of collection yet.

Remembering the idea I picked up during my last blog post, I made sure to stay centered during her canter transitions. It was much, much easier for me with the saddle padded up in front. She picked up the right lead with no hesitation. The left lead was a little stickier as usual. I could feel her thinking about picking up the wrong lead when I first asked, but when I sat deeper and tipped her nose to the inside in response, she picked up the correct lead. It wasn't a pretty transition, because her trot fell apart in the few strides before canter, but I was still thrilled that she got the correct lead without any false starts. We only did about one lap around the big arena each way at the canter. Right now my main goals are to get her to pick up the correct leads, and also to work on getting a nice, low, stretchy walk and trot.

There are currently some ground poles set up out in the big arena. There are four poles, then a ground pole gymnastic (basically a ground pole set up where each jump would be with a stride in between. Halo and I trotted them a few times. I was reading on a forum I frequent that sometimes the best thing you can do for the horse is to get out of the way. That resonated with me, especially in light of our improved canter departures with me keeping off Halo's forehand. So I gave her the opportunity to figure out the poles on her own without rating her strides. She did very well, and surprised me the second time we went over by trotting the rails, and then breaking into a canter and taking little pseudo-jumps over each of the poles. I'm excited to try some more ground pole grids with her. It really seems to help her rhythm, and it is very, very good for my position. I am reminded each time I go over that I need to look up, keep my heels down, and work on my two-point. I don't have the leg strength right now to maintain it for a long time.

I know every ride is not going to be perfect, but right now I am very pleased with how she is coming along! I hope I can get someone out there to take some pictures or video soon so that you lovely readers aren't forced to endure my ramblings on their own.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Good Ride, and Cantering

I tend to post here when Halo and I do an event, or if I'm having training frustrations. We haven't had much of either lately, so it's time now to write about a good ride. I went out to the barn on Wednesday night. It was already dark when I got there, but there was a group jumping lesson going on, so all the lights were on in the outdoor arena. It was unseasonably warm, which was good because I forgot to bring a sweatshirt. I grabbed Halo out of the pasture, tacked up in English tack, and went up to the arena.

I hadn't ridden since last weekend, so I intended to longe. However, it's difficult to longe in the midst of a jumping lesson, so she only got about 5 minutes of longe line warmup before I got on. She was very mellow, and we did a nice warmup under saddle, mostly walking on a loose rein. As we were warming up, I observed some of the jumping lesson. I was watching a girl do a short course of jumps that included multiple lead changes. When her horse made an incomplete flying change (switched in front, not in back), the instructor reminded the girl to sit back when asking for the change. It was a light bulb moment for me.

Obviously Halo and I are not schooling lead changes. We're still working on getting the correct leads each direction on cue. Halo has a harder time getting her left lead, even though it is my good direction (supposedly). When the instructor told the girl to sit back, my light bulb moment was realizing that I have a tendency to lean forward when asking for the canter. My leaning is caused by two things - 1) leaning forward to indicate "go" and 2) nervousness on my part when I was first starting canter work with Halo.

I was nervous when I first started schooling canter work with Halo, and my body is doing what most human bodies do when nervous - curl up into the fetal position, which on a horse manifests itself as leaning forward. I'm not nervous any longer, but the habit managed to form over the past few months and stick with me. When I was teaching beginners, I would always start out explaining why you need to sit tall - because if you get scared and lean forward, most horses think, "go!" So in one way, it was effective, because Halo was picking up the canter and responding to my cue to go. But on the other hand, leaning forward was forcing her onto the forehand, and causing her to fall into the canter instead of making a strong transition from her hind end.

I decided to try out my new theory, that if I sat back and got out of her way, Halo would pick up the correct lead, and also have a stronger canter depart. What do you know - she nailed her leads the first time. Success! I was very glad for that jumping lesson, and happy to have a great ride on Halo. Hopefully our canter work will continue to improve from here.

Also, Halo is just shy of 15h now!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

100 Posts, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Sheesh, it only took me three years to get here...I should blog more! We've been busy this past month, but Halo has still been getting some ride time. She's almost perfect on the longe line now, with all her up and down transitions in place, and even several speeds of trot. She's finally figuring out how to rate her lope a little bit too.

Lately, she's been teaching Casi how to ride!

What surprised me most is that with Casi she is slow, slow, slow, and rather stubborn about it. They've had some epic battles just to get to a trot. This is making me analyze how I'm specifically asking Halo to do things, because there is obviously more to my cue than what I'm describing to Casi as I teach her. What am I doing differently that implies "trot" to Halo more strongly than the leg and voice command? It could be something as subtle as the way I move my seat, or the way I'm changing the length of my reins before asking for the trot.

Halo and I are still working on leads, and she is getting better. I don't think she's quite figured out that outside leg means canter. She is still heavily relying on my voice cue, saying "canter" and giving her a double kiss. I need to start working with her on making the leg my pre-cue, and then ask her to canter with my voice. Hopefully she will begin to associate the pre-cue with cantering and we can go from there.

Fingers crossed--I think I finally have an english saddle that fits! It's a Stubben Edelweiss. It is not as comfortable for me as the last one, but fitting Halo is more important. I think I need to invest in some half-chaps at some point.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Hope you and your ponies are well.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

3 Year Old Conformation and Happy Birthday to Me

It's my birthday, so of course procrastination at work knows no bounds. A week or two ago, I got some new conformation shots of Halo. She's going through yet another butt-high stage. I think she is still somewhere around 14.3, but I need to get a measuring stick instead of a tape to get a truly accurate measurement. I'm very happy with her condition, and I think she looks filled out quite a bit since last year. I think she still has some growing to do, though, especially in width!

For comparison, this is what she looked like last year (a little more than a year ago):

To me, the muscling in her hindquarters looks improved, which makes sense since she is now under saddle. Her heartgirth has a bit more depth, and she's definitely grown into her head a bit more. I had nicknamed her jughead for a while, but I'm not sure that applies any longer!

Interestingly, looking at these pictures I am not as happy with how her hind feet look this year. This is my fault, as I have a hard time rasping her toes back on the hinds. The barn owner said we are probably getting a new hoof stand soon, so that should make things easier.

Here are the front and back shots:

She is pretty straight in front, but I am noticing that her left foreleg seems to rotate slightly outward at the bottom. I should investigate to see if I can compensate for that slightly with my trimming.

Nothing to complain about back here! I hope everyone is having a good fall. I miss the turning leaves up in the NW, and the cooler weather, too. It's been nearly 90 for the past week, and I am truly ready for there to be a chill in the air.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Halo's Second Show, June 26, 2010

Halo's eye is doing much better this week, but it looks like she is going to have some visible scarring on the eye. Luckily it is high enough up that it shouldn't impact her vision. I will try to get some pictures over this coming weekend.

Here is another very belated update. These pictures are from our second show in June. There wasn't a lot of improvement between the first and second shows, but that is because I wasn't riding enough, and also wasn't taking lessons. I'm hoping to take more lessons over the winter so that we have a marked improvement by spring. She was still a very good girl!

Sorry about the blurry pictures - the lighting in there was bad for photography.

Monday, September 20, 2010

So I'm a Slacker...

Poor neglected pony blog!

I doubt anyone is reading this anymore, but if you are, here is the latest news. Halo is doing very well under saddle. Her trot is coming along nicely, and she has a sweet, smooth jog she's starting to give me every so often. The canter is still a bit like riding a jackhammer down a mountain, but it will get there eventually.

Unfortunately, I noticed yesterday that her left eye was bothering her. It was a bit weepy, but just clear discharge. I rode her anyway and had a great ride. If she wasn't seeing fully out of that eye, she didn't act like it. The barn owner got back from a trail ride not long after I untacked Halo. I had her take a look, and she had more success in pulling back the eyelid, and it turns out Halo has a big ulcer in her eye. The eye looks cloudy, and a little bloody, like the injury is also a couple of days old. I hadn't been out in a few days, so nobody had noticed. Argh!

The vet is coming out this morning to take a look and get us some ocular antibiotic ointment. The barn owner had some left over from a different horse's injury, so we dosed her up last night. Poor Halo! I hope that it can be easily treated with ointment and doesn't require anything too complicated to fix. We will do whatever it takes to get her healed up.

Looking at my blog now, I realize that I never posted any pictures of our lake adventures this summer! Shows were all well and good, but we ended up making some of our best summer memories this year at Pace Bend Park. Halo took to the water like a fish.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Is Here

It's hot again, and Halo and I have a lot going on! This Saturday will be our second show in the CAQHA open show series. I think we're still going to stick to walk/trot classes. We've been cantering a little bit every ride, but it's still pretty rough, and the steering is quite as good as in the walk and trot. Also, if we aren't too worn out from the show on Saturday, we may be taking a little field trip out to the lake on Sunday to go swimming! I can't wait!

Also, I have a lesson tonight from another local rider who cleaned up at the last CAQHA show. I think it will be very enlightening to get some coaching from someone who is winning the shows at which I'm hoping to improve my performance. If Casi comes along, I'll definitely try to get some pictures taken. If not, oh well.

There will be more updates later this week, as well as a show report. Casi will be able to attend this time, so hopefully I can get my show results up more quickly since the pictures will be on one camera instead of three.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Show Pictures: CAQHA May 8, 2010

I think the pictures say it all. We had a great day at the show, and at her very worst, Halo was a little fidgety before the first English classes. We had a couple of minor spooks during the hunter under saddle classes, but by the time western rolled around, she was riding like a pro.

Our final placings were:

3rd - Halter Mares 2-4 years old
3rd - Hunter In-Hand 19 & over
3rd - Hunter Under Saddle W/T green horse
7th - Hunter Under Saddle W/T 19 & over
5th - Western Pleasure W/J green horse

We ended up scratching from two of our classes, Western Pleasure W/J 19+ and Trail (green horse). I scratched from trail because they were going to require us to lope over poles. I didn't feel that Halo was ready to canter in the show ring, and loping over poles is not something we have practiced at home. I decided to scratch the second WP class because the indoor arena was VERY dusty and Halo has trouble with the dust. She coughed quite a bit in our second HUS class, and I didn't want to put her through two more classes in there. Fortunately they watered the arena between the English and western classes, which helped a bit.

Anyway, Halo was GREAT! I know we didn't win any blues, but we were there to learn and experience, not to win. By the time we got to her WP class, she was just amazing. She finally stopped thinking things around the arena were scary, and she was more focused. She was nice and soft and even gave me a pretty good jog. To give her complete credit, even in the first English class when she was gawking at everything around the arena, she still did exactly what I asked promptly when I asked her to do it. She had a couple of little spooks, but they were extremely minor, and she carried on afterward without becoming distressed. I was just amazed at her responsiveness and willingness to do what I requested even in such an unfamiliar environment. We never broke gait, and she got better and better with each class.

I was also pretty proud of her 3rd place in Hunter In-Hand. She is a SMALL horse, and the others in the class were big, probably HUS horses. She beat one of them to take the third, which made me really proud of her. She may be a little horse, but she has a big stride and a big heart!

A couple of pictures of us made it up onto the CAQHA website as well. I wish I hadn't been wearing my boot covers in this picture, but that was why the photographer took it!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pre-Show Woes

In my long absence, another thing I failed to mention is that Halo and I have our first show this Saturday! Of course, that's the perfect time for her to develop a mysterious cough. The past two times I've tried to exercise her, it was cut short by intense bouts of coughing in the arena. Now that the rain has stopped, it has become dusty out there. Either she is having a reaction to the arena dust, or she has some sort of other allergy.

I took her temperature yesterday and it was 100.4, so I don't think she's sick. Her lymph nodes under her jaw are slightly swollen, but that is not unusual for her this time of year. Every spring and fall she seems to get some random lymph node swelling. I did have the vet out to look at it once, but he said it was most likely allergies.


Please cross your fingers for me and pray that my horse doesn't have an illness, or even worse, heaves. Heaves is unusual in horses under six, and her breathing didn't look as bad as the youtube videos I checked out on the condition. Today I'm going out to check on her again, and I will take her temperature. If she seems okay otherwise, I'll try working her outside the arena, and see if being away from the dust makes a difference. If worst comes to worst, we'll scratch the show. I would not feel comfortable bringing her to a strange new environment if she's not at 100%.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ranch Ridin'

No posts in over a month! I've been committing the pinnacle of blogger sins with my prolonged silence. I have so many updates on Halo that I barely know where to begin. We've had some very good rides, and some very not-so-good rides, but she has made some amazing progress in the past couple of months.

The first thing I want to catch up on is a ride we went on at the very end of March. Casi and I were supposed to go trail riding at a fun place not too far from town, but an opportunity arose to haul out for an all day ride on a 1,500 acre ranch. How could I say no?

Of course this required us to get up at a very early hour, as evidenced by the semi-darkness and Halo's cranky face.

It was about a two hour drive down to the ranch. Halo did great with the trailering, and was quite content to eat all the way there. It amazes (and pleases) me that she trailers so well. My previous horse had trailer anxiety and would inevitably arrive at any destination covered in sweat.

She was a little hyped when we got there, but I saddled her up and longed her for a couple of minutes to take the edge off. I was still a bit nervous after how the beginning of our 12 mile ride went just a couple of weeks before. The barn owner gave Halo a little bit of Ace to keep her head cool for the morning, and that made things much better. While I generally don't think Aceing your horse is a great solution to problems, it can be a huge help in keeping them calm through a new and potentially scary situation. The Ace ended up wearing off by after lunchtime anyway, which kept things interesting.

Here are a few scenes from the beginning of our ride:

Casi on Louie before her knees started to hurt (still cheerful):

We started out in a big open field, and eventually made our way up into the hills, which were covered with scrubby bushes and trees. Halo was pretty mellow about the whole affair, and stayed in the middle of the group. I like being there because she needs to learn that she can't always blast off to the front. She's a little nervous about having horses behind her, especially unfamiliar horses, so it's good practice for her to get used to that.

The only incident we had on the way to lunch was at a man-made reservoir. The trail leaders decided it would be fun to ride up to the edge of the reservoir, which was in a big built-up hill made out of very soft dirt. The footing was very loose, so the horses had to scramble a little to get up the hill. Halo was fine getting up, but then the path around the edge of the water was very narrow. A fence around the water was on one side, and a lovely steep slope of loose dirt was on the other side. We did fine until about halfway around the pond when we had to take a sharp turn to stay along the fenceline. Halo decided she wasn't going to go that way, and headed off down the hill. It took me by surprise, and I couldn't pull her around because I was afraid of her losing her footing. We did a slip and slide down the hill to the bottom, but made it in one piece. I wasn't about to try and go back up there, so we stayed along the bottom of the reservoir until everyone else came down on the other side. Halo was a bit anxious when she realized she'd separated herself from the other horses, but she listened to me well and we made it back to the group without incident.

I tied her up for lunch, and she took a nap under the trees like she'd been a ranch horse all her life.

After lunch we went through some very beautiful wooded areas. The pictures don't do it justice at all. Everything was incredibly lush and green, and the ground was carpeted in purple and white wildflowers.

When we came out of the woods, the group split up. A few people were ready to get back to the trailers, so they headed out. Casi had a bit of trouble getting Louie to go with the group of unfamiliar horses back to the trailers, so she ended up swapping horses to ride Buddy, who is less herd sour. Halo and I also had a very exciting moment right before the split - our first canter! Brynn, who is 15 years old and gutsy, was more than happy to take her horse out to lead Halo and I in a canter. Domino is a 17h giant, so Halo had to work plenty hard to keep up with him. We did the turbo trot of doom, and finally opened up into a lope. It was an amazing feeling! No bucking at all - just a nice big canter out into the open field. We cantered out and then back to the group. I was so excited I had to let out a whoop on the way back in. I'm a dork.

I felt a lot more confident after the canter, and felt like I had somewhere to direct Halo's abundant post-lunch energy. After a bit more riding in the trees, we finished off the ride with a gallop across a big open field. The wind stung my eyes, reminding me of the time I galloped Smot on the beach years ago. I felt like I was finally home on my horse's back.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Texas Star Rodeo Ride (12 Miles!)

So here's the story on the Saturday before last (March 13).

I got up at five in the morning, far too early for any kind of coherent thought. It was still dark when Casi dropped me off at the barn. Halo was out on the grass, which I figured was a good thing since I wound up not having time to longe her. In retrospect, I should have taken a longe line with me to the ride, but alas, I decided to be brave and assume she wouldn't need it.

We got everything loaded up and hit the road a little later than we meant to at about 7:00 am. I'd been helping load Taz, the horse I leased last summer. When we got to the Manor Ghost Town, Halo was a little amped up, but still behaved pretty well for saddling and all the rest. After we tossed all the tack on the girls, Cavelle (my riding buddy for the day) took her trailer down to the rodeo grounds to catch a shuttle back up to the start of the ride. That left me alone with the horses for about half an hour. We were scheduled to ride out at 8:30.

Here are the girls at the hitching rail, making their crabby morning faces.

Halo was in mid-head shake here, but her coat looks nice in the morning sun!

The Ghost Town is allegedly some sort of tourist attraction. I'm not sure what kind of events they usually have there, but it made for a fun old-west style picture. I wish I'd had time to take a few more, but it was more important to keep an eye on Halo and Contessa.

There were about 20 or 30 horses on the ride in addition to several wagons pulled by mules. When everyone started getting hitched up and moving around, Halo's calm demeanor changed completely. She was on high alert and full of beans, not sure what was going on, but determined that she needed to look every direction at once. This is about when I started wishing I had brought my longe line. I did manage to get on her, but the commotion of the mules and wagons and everything else moving toward the road had her way too amped up to pay any attention to me. We bronced our way across the mounting area, and then someone got on the loudspeaker and said something about "keeping four feet on the ground" that I think was definitely directed at us. Crap. After we almost ran into the horse of an innocent bystander, I decided it was too dangerous to ride out on the road with her skittering around. So I got off. And thus began the most painful 3.7 miles of my life.

Leading Halo as I was, we quickly fell to the back of the ride. There was a rig following us, and the trail boss directing traffic from the rear was our only constant companion. She was nice, and asked repeatedly if I was okay. I was fine, but not happy about walking/running. Horses walk a lot faster than people do, so I was constantly having to jog to catch up. And every so often the trail bosses would crack the verbal whip, insisting that we keep up with the pack and not fall too far behind.

Halo leaned on me a lot while I led her, which was not very much fun for me or my arm. She was still hyped up and all too eager to trot to keep up with the pack. By a mile or so in, I was ready to get on, but there was no way. We weren't stopping, and if I'd tried to stop and get on, she would have become upset that the other horses were going on without her, not to mention that I doubt the trail bosses even would have allowed me to stop and fall any further behind.

I walked/ran until I couldn't go on. I walked/ran until I tore colossal blisters in the backs of both my heels. I walked/ran until I was completely out of breath and felt like a nap in the road would be preferable to taking one more step.

Let it be known that riding boots do NOT make good running shoes.

Just before we got to the first rest stop, I finally couldn't keep up any longer. The trail boss found someone to pony Halo, and I hopped in the truck pulling the water supply and outhouses. Ironically, the person who ended up ponying Halo looked about 11 or 12 years old, which worried me a bit at first since Halo had been so naughty earlier. But she and her mount seemed capable and took good care of things.

At the rest stop, I was committed to getting on. I certainly couldn't walk any longer, and I wasn't going to ruin a kid's ride by making her pony my rotten filly the whole way. Plus, riding would be harder work for Halo, which she obviously needed if she was going to be a turkey.

After our water break, I got on for the second time. It's a good thing she is okay letting me on from the ground now, because I didn't have a choice. She was fine when I first got on, but as the caravan departed, she started crowhopping and bucking again. I wasn't having it. She got to keep moving out whether she wanted to or not. We fell back behind some of our friends; they wanted to ride between mule wagons, and THAT was not going to be a good place for a spazzy, green filly who still had plenty of energy. We stayed in the pack of horses behind the last mule wagon, from which country music was blasting loudly.

Unfortunately, they also started up music from the truck following us, so we were surrounded by music on both sides that was completely deafening. The cacophony was awful, and the trail bosses couldn't even hear their walkie talkies. After riding in that state of torture for about half an hour, they finally turned down the music behind us, and it improved a bit. Halo was still full of energy, but there was no more bucking. Phew. I do not want to fall off on the road again.

Here's Halo about halfway through the ride, sweaty, but still plenty energized.

Anyway, we continued on for the rest of the 12 miles, and things steadily improved for me and Halo. She settled more and more into the rhythm of walking and trotting, and didn't show any signs of fatigue or overexertion. Someone's hat blew off in front of her at one point, and though she stopped, she didn't become upset at all. I was proud of her for not being spooky once she got over her initial antics.

We finally made it to the end! Here's Taz and his owner at the end of the ride. I must say, they pull off the cowboy image a lot better than I did. I was the only person there wearing a helmet, and I looked extra geeky with Casi's CamelBak on for my water supply. (I should add that the CamelBak saved me while I was doing all that running. I would not have survived without it).

In this last picture you can see the flags marking the rodeo grounds up ahead. We were instructed to ride in two by two, which we mostly did. However, there was a man on a very ill-mannered head-tossing Appaloosa that kept getting dangerously close to me and Halo as we closed in on the rodeo grounds. I finally told him Halo would kick him (not actually that likely) if he didn't back off, but he seemed oblivious. Fortunately he didn't cause a wreck.

I wish I had some pictures of Cavelle and Contessa, because they stayed with us through most of the ride. Cavelle even rode alongside me while I was suffering through the running portion of my day. I'm glad to have good riding friends now - it's important to feel like you aren't alone, especially when things are going wrong.

I don't know that I will go on this ride again. While I feel that it was great experience for Halo, and I'd like a second chance to remedy her behavior, the noise level was a bit unpleasant at times. Also, many people brought alcohol on the ride. I know a lot of people drink and ride, but for me, alcohol and horses don't mix, especially a green horse like mine. It seems especially dangerous out on the roads. We had the sheriff with us at the back of the caravan, and I was surprised they allowed the drinking/riding. People weren't subtle about it at all - they were carrying beer cans in their hands and dancing around to the music on the backs of their horses. Call me a stick-in-the-mud, but it was too easy for me to picture a wreck happening due to drunken antics.

Anyway, the day was definitely not a loss, but could have been a better experience overall. I'm glad I took Halo, and it reminded me that some days are just not going to go as planned. It's all part of the process.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Last weekend was very frustrating with Halo. I'll go into it in more detail once I have the pictures to post with the entry. I have my work cut out for me this Spring/Summer, and it is disheartening to realize how unfit I am. The bad days with Halo make me question whether I am doing the right thing for her, or if I should send her out for a month or two of professional training. It would be hard on my budget, but what's right for her is the more important thing.

Now that it is Spring, the horses are turned out in the big pasture most days. The one that Halo gets to go in has a pond, and according to the barn owner she's in and out of it all the time. She sent me this picture a few days ago.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Texas Independence Day Parade

I am so proud of my little yellow horse. For the first time since my show days as a teenager, I was up at 5:30am to head to the barn. We hauled down to the Texas Department of Transportation parking lot, and got the horses ready there.

Please ignore my weirdly-shaped phone-in-pocket butt. Halo got red glitter hooves, blue stars on her butt, and I was just starting to braid red ribbons into her mane in this picture.

Here we are just before getting on to head to the start of the parade. I wish someone had told me my helmet was crooked!

Mounted up and ready to go! I like how we unintentionally ended up in height order.

As the parade began, they fired off this thing, which some of the horses weren't too thrilled about. Halo and I both jumped out of our skin when it first went off, but by the 8th or 9th blast, she didn't react at all. Fortunately it was several blocks away from us, and we never had to get close to it.

There were some neat costumes worn by people in the parade. Halo wasn't a big fan of one woman's ruffly parasol.

These mules were the cutest thing ever!

We had to ride right under this giant flag that was hoisted up on a crane. I'd say the flag was flapping about five or ten feet above the horses' heads.

This man rode the one horse guaranteed not to spook.

Mexican dancers

Not part of our group, but they had neat costumes, and very calm horses.

Yes, they are carrying sparkly toilet plungers. Don't ask.

We were not too far behind this lawn chair brigade. Who comes up with this stuff??

Here we come! Halo really wanted to keep her nose up the tail of the buckskin dun in front of her. Fortunately he was very amicable and didn't mind the baby trying to hide in his tail and eat his ribbons.

We've now arrived at the capitol building...

I'm so proud of my girl!

Me and the DW posting in front of the State Capitol. I've always wanted a picture of this!

Once we got her home and washed off, Halo reminded us of the real focus of her existence.

The next day I came out to find this.

I'm so lucky to have a horse that puts up with all the crazy stuff I do with her.