Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hoof Update

It has been a long time since I posted pictures of Halo's feet, and it's time to see how they've changed in the past 6-9 months or so. The newer pictures are taken mid-trim cycle. She toes out slightly in front, and tends to flare on the outside part of her front hooves, and it is visible in these pictures.





I think her front heels look more contracted than they used to. Comments? Thoughts?

Front Right

Front Left

Hind feet side view

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wet Feet

Casi got a new iPod nano with video capability for Christmas, and I had her take a few silly videos at the barn to try it out. Here you can witness the epic battle over puddle crossing! She goes well the first time, just getting her feet damp, but insists on taking a flying leap over the deeper part. Silly pony! I'm hoping to get Casi out to take more videos to add another dimension to how I'm tracking my progress.

I rode last Sunday, but it was very gusty out, so it wasn't the best ride. I longed, spent some time working with Halo on steering with the bit, and then got on with the bit in her mouth for the first time. She's still learning how to deal with the bit, but since we were in the round pen there wasn't far for her to go.

I realized that it is absolutely imperative that I start RIDING and not just meandering around on Halo. I was hoping it would stay dry so that this coming weekend I could spend some time in the outdoor arena doing some serious trot work, and maybe even considering loping, but it's supposed to rain again for the next few days. I am so sick of rain! I know we needed it because of the drought, but it sure is screwing up my riding plans.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Disappointment and Progress

Well, my holiday weekend didn't go quite as planned. Sunday was a beautiful day, and I planned to ride out with other people at the barn. I got out there, warmed Halo up, got her tacked up . . . and wimped out.

I was very disappointed in myself. I still rode her up and down the driveway and all around the property, but I couldn't quite bring myself to go back out on the road yet. It was a combination of Halo being a little on the spooky side since I hadn't ridden her in a couple of weeks, and me being nervous that all it would take was one more fall on the cement to do me in.

Still, I felt like crap most of the afternoon, like I failed myself and Halo. Today I feel somewhat better; I know I shouldn't punish myself for listening to my instincts and taking it easy after having an accident. I just don't ever want to be one of those riders who becomes too fearful to do what needs to be done to further the horse's training.

Monday was a little bit better. I didn't plan to ride out, because I didn't know if anyone would even be at the barn. As it turned out, there were a lot of people at the barn - the barn owner was having a kids' camp. The little girls always love Halo, and spoil her to death with treats and petting. Of course they always want to ride her, too, and I get to explain that she's just a baby and not actually trained yet.

Now that's a begging face!

I did ride her on Monday, but once again just around the barn. But since I wasn't hung up on my own inadequacies, we focused on actually doing something productive while wandering over the property. We practiced walking, stopping, backing up, and turning. Halo is getting very good about turning, and I think trail riding has helped that quite a bit. She does occasionally run through one of my legs, but she's starting to understand that pressure from one leg means she needs to move away from the pressure.

The main problem I had yesterday was that she is very responsive to nose pressure from side to side, but not so much straight back. (I'm still riding in a sidepull). She can flex clear around to either of my feet when asked, and she bends well through her turns. However, when I ask her to stop or back up, she tosses her head and is cranky about pressure directly on her nose. What is strange to me about that is that she yields well to nose pressure from the ground, either in the halter or sidepull, so that's not the problem. It has to be something I am doing. So that's something to think about for the next week or so.

I did have one funny moment with her - I was asking her to back up, and she was tossing her head and fussing, and I was beginning to get a little bit perplexed as to why she wouldn't listen. So I decided to start over and use Mugwump's technique of first giving the subtle cue (the one you want the horse to respond to), then escalating to a stronger cue, and then making her do it. Of course when I calmed down and gave the subtle cue, she backed up immediately. Ha! It was a good lesson to me that I don't have to expect her to be oblivious to cues. I should ALWAYS start with the subtle cue, and work from there, especially when something isn't going right.

The only other thing I have to report is that it appears Miss Halo may no longer be pony sized. She's going through another awkward growth phase and looking leggier and less round than a couple of months ago. I taped her at 14.2, maybe a little over that. I can't believe it! She's grown over SIX inches since July 2008.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pictures From a Ride

These pictures are from our third trail ride sometime in mid-December (pre-accident).

Halo has filled out a lot over the winter, and I can't wait to see what she looks like under all the winter fuzz. She's standing a little funny in this picture, but you can see what a nice strong hip she's developed.

Here we are out on the trail, or in the middle of a field, rather. This is the thrilled poneh expression you get when you take a filly away from her food.

Nom nom nom

Sadly my head didn't quite make it into this shot...

Halo and Salty are watching some falconers out in one of the hayfields. Salty and his owner are wonderful to ride with, as Salty is a quiet older horse who is very seasoned on the trails. He is not bothered at all by Halo's occasional goofy antics.

My view from Halo's back as she watches the falcon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Planning for 2010

Now, I have to admit that I'm a bit of an organizatrix (term borrowed from a fabulous friend of mine), but planning for Halo's 2010 year has me tearing out my hair. I feel pulled in way too many directions, and only one or two are going to be financially feasible.

Any long-time blog readers still lurking might remember that my original plan was to show Halo in Halter and Showmanship last summer so that she would have some show exposure before I attempted any riding classes. Well, that didn't work out due to wedding conflicts and vet bills.

Now it's 2010 and time to think about whether she might be ready to ride in a walk/trot class this summer on the local open AQHA circuit we have here. I need the following show items before I can consider showing:

  • Dark oil show lead with chain
  • Showmanship jacket
  • Showmanship pants or nice show jeans
  • Cowboy boots
  • Cowboy hat

Western W/T
  • Rail shirt
  • Show pants or jeans
  • Chaps (maybe not for an open show?? not sure)
  • Cowboy boots
  • Cowboy hat
  • Western saddle
  • Western bridle

English W/T
  • Show helmet
  • Show shirt
  • Jacket
  • Breeches
I need the most stuff to show Western, which unfortunately happens to be what my pony should probably be showing in. Some of it will cross over, though, if I purchase anything for Halter/Showmanship. I know I can show her as Hunter-in-Hand instead, but I fear getting laughed out of the ring with my tiny 14.1 pony when proper HiH horses are big thoroughbred-type horses with legs a mile long. Maybe I will just have to suck it up and look stupid. The real disadvantage is for Halo, though...while I want her to be good at a little of everything, it would be nice for her to have a "career" so that I can target a specific market when and if I decide to sell her.

The first horse show opportunity is on January 23rd in a couple of weeks. I don't think there's any way I can put together enough stuff to show her anything but Hunter in Hand...and she looks so fuzzy right now I would be too embarrassed. I may consider seeing if the barn owner can trailer me over there just to walk her around the showgrounds, though. I'm just not sure she'll have the time free since this is short notice.

The other shows usually begin in June, so I have more time to think about those. I'm just not sure what to do, or what is best for my pony. I'm focusing on paying off some credit card bills this year, so I don't want to compromise my finances just to have some fun. But, at the same time, I do have a little bit of disposable income I can put toward showing.

The other option is to give up all hope of showing and stick to trail riding and maybe doing some team penning. I know nothing about it, but the team penning nights our barn goes to sound casual and like a good place to learn. But again...I probably need a western saddle.

What to do?!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Feet on the Ground

Well, I'm happy to report that I'm feeling much better as the week wears on. I can finally lift my arms above my head again, and the body soreness has subsided quite a bit. However, I'm quite aware that I am not fully healed. My neck is still stiff, and I can't tilt my chin up very far without quite a bit of pain. I also seem to have an on and off nagging headache, and a few bruises still haven't surfaced.

I haven't been back to the barn since my accident last Sunday, but I'm planning to get out there maybe tomorrow, and definitely over the weekend. In the meantime, my mind is on what to do with Halo while I can't ride.

I noticed on our walk back to the barn after my fall that she's gotten a little bargey on the ground. Meaning, she doesn't always keep her head at my shoulder - she pushes in front of me and it makes it hard to rate her while she's being led. It is a behavior that I don't like, and would like to correct. Now is the perfect time to review some of the showmanship and ground manners work we focused on about a year ago.

Also, I'd like to get her familiarized with the bit so that I can begin doing arena work in it. I longed her with the snaffle on for the first time in the round pen last Saturday. I can continue to do that, and maybe move out to the big arena on the longe line if the weather permits. I can also do the steering exercises from the ground that I did with her initially with the sidepull. I found that work to be extremely effective in setting her up for success under saddle, so I think it should translate to work with the bit as well.

It's time to start thinking about 2010 shows! I'll aim to have a post up on that sometime before the end of January, outlining what our plans are and how I hope to get there.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Tale of Two SUVs

It was our first trail ride of the new year, and our fourth trail ride total. We'd already conquered a 4 1/2 foot long rattlesnake (our second ride), and a scary giant flag at the subdivision behind the barn (our third ride). Nearly all my fear at riding a green horse off the property had evaporated. I was confident in my filly, and I knew a few spooks here and there would be no problem at all. Little did I realize what was in store for us today.

We left the barn at around 1:30 in the afternoon, ambling down the driveway to the front gate. I rode with C and J, two other women from the barn. C's Paso Fino gaited excitedly ahead of us, with J's placid older horse plodding along behind. Halo and I walked briskly in the middle, alert, and happy to be heading out.

We went down the road, the horses occasionally stopping to ogle a horse-eating fence post or drainage pipe. We crossed by the house in front of which was the rattlesnake's former abode (the barn owner shot it the week after we first saw it). We moved aside for cars and talked amiably as we passed by the subdivision and scary flag, occasionally calling to the barn dog that had followed us to get his furry butt out of the street.

Before long we were already near the end of the road where it Ts into a busier street. It was almost time to turn around and head back home. As we paused to turn around, I noticed two red SUVs turning onto the road.

"Cars!" I shouted ahead to C and J. We all obligingly began to turn our horses over to the side of the road, but something had captivated Halo's attention in the fenced pasture across the street. She was far enough to the side of the road that I didn't press the issue, as I could feel her tensing up beneath me. I looked out into the distance to try to see what she was looking at, and realized that the SUVs approaching us were in no way slowing down despite three horses in full view.

I muttered some colorful phrases under my breath as the first SUV passed, Halo dancing in place. And as it passed, I had the misfortune of finally seeing what had Halo's attention in the pasture. It was a cow. Not your typical cow, standing in the pasture, minding its own business of eating and shitting all day. This was 1,000 lbs of hamburger on hooves, ears forward and galloping in our direction, with the occasional leap over brush and logs. Halo's eyes widened to the size of saucers as she drew her neck up toward my face. The second SUV passed altogether too quickly, and C started yelling at the driver to slow down. Meanwhile, the cow continued its charge in slow motion.

I believe "oh, shit" was my last coherent thought as Halo's filly brain finally fried. She whirled around 180 degrees, scrambling forward on the pavement, attempting to evade the gallumphing hunk of tenderloin behind us. I slipped further to the side as she struggled to regain her footing, finally passing beyond the point of recovery. A split second decision was made, and I let go, dropping onto the concrete.

I landed flat on my back, my head connecting the ground last with a resounding crack. Halo bolted about five strides, skidding to a stop when she remembered there was grass to be eaten on the side of the road. I jumped to my feet, probably more quickly than was advisable.

"I'm okay," I said. Then, realizing the foolishness of that statement, I added, "I think I'm going to sit down for a second." I did body inventory, moving each limb in turn. Amazingly nothing seemed to be broken or even particularly sore. Except my head. I decided not to waste time, so I walked up to Halo and grabbed her reins. I was relieved she hadn't bolted clear back to the barn, and even more relieved that she appeared unhurt from her little slip and slide on the pavement.

We did the walk of shame back to the barn, my head aching more with each length of ground we covered. I got Halo untacked and checked her legs. She looked good, so I put her away and headed home. When I finally took a look at my helmet, this is what I saw:

The crack went almost around the entire left side of the helmet. My mother, from 2,000 miles away, insisted I go to the emergency room to get checked out. So, an emergency room visit and a neck brace later I was diagnosed with bruising and a sprained neck (basically whiplash). Can you imagine what my injuries might have been if I hadn't been wearing that helmet? Although I've spent the past few days extremely body sore and with one of the worst headaches of my life, I am grateful that those are my only complaints.

I'll be back in the saddle soon, but not until I replace my helmet. And I may take Miss Halo by the cow on foot to let her get a better look that won't end up with me flat on my back on the concrete.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Playing Catch Up

Wow, two months, no posts! I apologize for my leave of absence. Halo and I have much to report. She's been doing very well in her training. In December I managed to put three "trail rides" on her. I came to the important realization that while we were making progress in the arena, our progress was also being hindered by the arena.

Because Halo is still young and somewhat unbalanced, asking her to carry me around in circles quickly came to a point where it was doing more harm than good. I don't particularly like that it's tougher on her legs, and it is also harder for her to balance herself. It has been an unusually wet winter, so the outdoor has been a mess and we've mostly been restricted to the small indoor round pen. My ah-ha moment came when I got her out in the big arena and asked for a little bit of trot on the long sides of the arena. She was much more balanced and didn't have any of the head tossing that has been a common problem in the indoor. Granted, we've barely trotted at all, so she's still learning how to balance. I think the head tossing may be a side-effect of her trying to balance my weight while bending on a circle. Solution = trotting straight lines to help her balance.

In light of that discovery, I decided to bite the bullet and get her out on some trail rides. There are several other riders that like to hack out around the barn, and most of them take it easy, especially with how muddy it is. Most of the riding is done on the roads, and sometimes we ride out around the fields when it is less wet.

In a way, it was almost a whim that got me out on Halo the first day. I have some old fear issues surrounding trail riding, especially when mud is involved. Not to mention that I still consider Halo barely started under saddle. . . we've trotted maybe a total of six times, and never cantered. So anyway, this first day I got out there when everyone else was tacking up. I tacked Halo up, and decided to just see how I felt when I got on her. I warmed her up a little in the round pen, then got on, and waited for everyone else to get mounted up. Down to the very last second I was battling in my mind about whether or not to go, but finally I decided to fly with it and just give it a shot. The barn would never be far away if something should happen or we needed to turn back.

I'm proud to say that she was wonderful, or at least as wonderful as a very green filly can be. She only spooked a couple of times, and in each case quickly calmed down and settled back into what she was doing. It actually relaxed me to have her spook the first time, because I'd been waiting for her to do something. When she finally did, and I didn't fall off, I felt reassured that I was capable of dealing with whatever she might dish out.

Halo steers quite well with the sidepull now, and I will soon be transitioning her into a loose-ring snaffle bit. I may continue to use the sidepull for trail riding, though, as it is comfortable for her, and also prevents me from accidentally jerking on her mouth in the case of a stumble or spook.

Here is a picture from our very first trail ride: