Saturday, February 11, 2012

Welcome to: Coos Its Rayn N Gems

It's been 2 1/2 months since I've blogged last: reason being I had very little time to even SEE the horses over Christmas, let alone accomplish anything with anyone (!) and since then I have only been home one other time (and... hence this blog!). Christmas and New Years, despite my lack of time spent with the horses, was actually quite enjoyable in that we spent almost the entire time at our new farm in Saskatchewan. It was exciting spending time in our new home and dreaming up what is to come. Over January I was home almost two weeks and - between everything that is life - fit in some really good sessions with the horses. This also managed to include, as the title infers, a purchase. Of Rayne. Continue reading for the explanation!

Link - 8yo Thoroughbred gelding
I feel compelled to commence this blog with my dinky Thoroughbred boy given how much progress we made in albeit only a few sessions last I was home. With a solid foundation, I have been really working hard to push him to the next level - and the fruits of our labour is paying off! Our first session was incredible - I really pushed him from behind into my hand and used all our usual exercises to encourage such, while really being on top of him as it pertains to his sometimes lazy haunches. The result? He came over his back - a sort of "popping" sensation whereby suddenly his back just PUSHED upward (!!) - in a way he never had before. On the straightaway! It left such an impact, I can still envision exactly where in the arena it occurred. Words cannot describe how good it felt, I was elated!! Of course we lost it after a few moments but just as with anything else, the more we (correctly, classically) work toward that goal achieved (if even for a brief moment), the more we will get it, to the point where one day it becomes the norm. This is so incredibly exciting! It can be SO frustrating to be so limited in time to work with your horse and as a result to see such slow progress when you know you are both capable of more. It can be a de-motivator. That first ride really provided me the incentive, the reward, the motivation that I needed. Link lost quite a bit of muscle in his topline and especially his neck at the start of this winter; I am EXCITED to see that weight put back on and to be able to get him REALLY fit this summer. Of course I am also intimidated by the prospect of his being so fit and the monster I might create (haha), however a higher level of fitness brings with it a progress toward our training goals as he has the strength and power to do more and do better. But back to our regular programming! Our second and third rides consisted of a lesson whereby I experienced a few epiphanies and my instructor drove home some lessons I had not been applying. It was fulfilling to find we continue to be on the right track however, that I have been pushing him in the right ways and in the right direction, to obtain the results I have been getting (such as that FULLY lifted back). Both lessons included education in both dressage and jumping (to about 2'6-2'9). The first lesson my instructor taught me a couple ways I can really ask Link to lift the base of his neck (something he does everything possible to avoid). Another related lesson was that when Link lugs on that left rein tracking left, I need to RELEASE that inside (left) rein and simply use my leg (and back-up that leg with my dressage whip, as I have been doing). *smacks forehead* D'oh!! I KNOW this, but you think I would APPLY it? This also led me to the realization that I need to just let Link go and accept that I am intimidated by his power - and let go anyway. This realization came about when I noticed I was holding Link back from picking up speed and powering up like a freight train - obviously I cannot or will not release that left rein if I am at the same time trying to hold him back. It was a bit of a release myself to just relax and TRUST in Link and let go. Deeeeep breath. This horse hasn't killed me yet, today probably won't be the day either. Link responded by engaging from behind better, softening, and lightening. At which point I could then mould what we had, including his speed. Our next lessons learnt concerned our schooling over jumps. First time or two were a little rocky - my instructor pointed out where I was correcting Link and screwing up his takeoff point, without ever realizing it. On a related note, I obtained glasses recently and wore them for lesson #2 - there seemed to be a difference! My eyes are not bad but the glasses upgrade my world from 'normal' to 'HD'. The (seeming) result was that I did not do these minute corrections I was not even aware of making, second lesson over jumps. Instead I developed that rhythmic canter and let Link do his work - and he did. There were even a couple times Link had the opportunity to refuse (the first lesson particularly - there was once or twice I gave him EVERY reason in the book to refuse!) yet instead he picked up the reins to save my @ss. His acting like a PARTNER really helps my confidence and trust in him over fences. We had some very successful rides and now have some homework to work on. Plan is to set up a bunch of individual jumps (then maybe one combination) in the arena and practise maintaining our rhythm before and after the jump. We also have our dressage/flatwork to continue to improve on of course! Our instructor also left us with a really good exercise to stretch out Link's shoulders, which will be added to our warm-up. Don't underestimate the importance of your warm-up!! So long as I can fit it in to our busy moving schedule, I am hoping to attend the Red Deer Mane Event again this year with Link. I will be applying for the Green Hunter clinic under Scott Hofstetter. I am VERY excited about the potential opportunity to work with what seems to be a very successful and highly regarded trainer! I've filled out the application form, I just need to video us under-saddle and over fences and send everything in. If I am accepted, we'll go from there to make a final decision.

Soraya - 5yo CWB mare
Everyone is a year older this year, myself included! I am a little behind in regards to Soraya's training but hope that being able to keep the horses at our farm this year will really enable me to get Soraya on track this year. This year will include only very limited showing - maybe a show at the end of March and (fingers crossed) a clinic at the end of April. After that my focus will be limited to everything farm and I will have to hold off on showing until next year. I did ride Soraya several times while home last however - every time I rode Link I also brought her in and rode her too. We have been furthering our groundwork though I need to quit procrastinating (something I have been doing due to a shortage in time!) and take her into the roundpen to work with her at liberty and develop more of a connection with her. So far however she is doing most excellent, including trotting under-saddle and over small x-rails and cavelleti. She's very light and responsive to leg for TOF and TOH and is easily learning to sidepass and leg yield. Not much phases this mare and with strong structure and guidance she really looks to my leadership (willingly). I was proud of her one night recently when she was given an opportunity to spook right over top of me - I was obliviously and stupidly standing in the wrong spot at the wrong time - but she thought through the situation and respected my space instead (!!). What spooked her should have pushed her over top of me but instead she shuffled back a couple steps, toward what had spooked her, so she would have an opening to bolt without smushing me. By the time she had stepped backward she had thought through the situation and had ultimately decided not to spook (lol). I was proud of my girl however, she's really applying what she's learning, well. She has become so much more sociable now, too, and is showing a lot of talent over fences on the ground.

Phoenix - 10yo Thoroughbred gelding
The chiropractor was out to check in on Phoenix while I was home - and was astonished to find him in AWESOME condition!! The flexibility in his hips and back was better than she had ever anticipated it would be. He has also put on a lot of weight the past couple of months and is looking so much better. Of course, along with this comes his acting like a fool :-D I longed him the day prior to the chiropractor coming out, including over some toys in the arena (ie, a mattress, etc). Not only does he gallop around like his tail is on fire, he also leaps through the air and acts like the silly idiot he should be acting like. Yes! Hopefully we get to take him out for a ride when I am home later next week. I'll take some new photos when I am home and post them.

Rayne - 8yo APHA mare
So... we bought the silly critter! I went out to work her once before Christmas and finally broke down and made the deal with her owner. The day of, I went out to ride Rayne: it was a cold and WINDY day - the wind was TERRIBLE!!! As I was grumbling to myself about walking to the back of Rayne's pasture (Murphy's Law the horses just HAD to be at the far end of the pasture!), where the horses were grazing, I get to the second gate to hear a loud throaty whinny. Who should come GALLOPING up to me but the painted girl herself! She ran directly up to me to be haltered and put to work. That was the day I finally agreed to buy her (lol), and last I was home we signed the papers. Rayne's previous owner very graciously took some photos of Rayne and I working in amongst the shelter of the trees (above) that day. Last I was home I only managed to ride Rayne once... that one ride she was pretty distracted and as a result, fairly resistant. Very in front of my leg (for her at least), just resistant to relaxation. All in all it was still a good ride though and I look forward to the next one! I'd like to take her for a ride down the road next I have a little spare time on my hands. Unfortunately we have not been able to work any cattle since that last time - first the woman organizing the events was sick and lately they have not had any cattle available to work with. Fingers crossed that cow works are not cancelled week after next! If not, I should be able to take Rayne. Her former owner is very okay with taking her there for me (something I am very grateful of!) as she would like to see Rayne work and progress. Fingers crossed!!

Bella (4yo QH mare) and Skittles (yearling QH filly)
Both continue to do well, individually, in their sessions. Skittles is learning to be very respectful and almost seems to be really turning a new leaf *knock on wood!* Bella is fantastic under-saddle with the right structure and guidance. Her owner however has unfortunately decided to sell - I will continue working with her to help her prepare Bella for her new home. Her owner is very talented and a natural but lacks the skill and confidence yet to be working with a young horse who is forward and requires structure yet. She is hoping to instead purchase a horse who is more laid back and quiet so she can continue to learn, with confidence. It's always sad when any owner and horse part company but sometimes it is the best situation for both involved! Ultimately, it is always up to the owner - what they are comfortable with, what they find does and does not work for them, etc. I know Bella's owner will find her the best home and that she will find a lot of success herself on a perhaps better suited horse.

Koolaid - 12yo DWB x Quarab gelding
Unfortunately (for me) I have also decided to sell Koolaid. I want nothing more to keep him around - he is the only real solid horse, laid back horse I have. I have a history with him - giving him up will be one of the hardest things I have done. That said, I have to be a realist and even though we are moving our horses onto our farm, we still need to limit the number of horses we own. If I sell Koolaid and return Silver to my parents this summer, we will be down to Link, Soraya, and Phoenix. This allows me more time to devote to Link and Soraya, who will further my career and are an investment (well, Soraya is); Phoenix is primarily my SO's horse and requires only little conditioning. It doesn't make sense to sell Link or Soraya of course, and it would be difficult to find a good home for Phoenix given his maintenance and soundness issues. Downsizing will also allow me more time to focus on project horses such as Rayne and PA Lady Daringer; I would like to always have a few project horses around and to focus on selling a certain number of horses per year, in addition to bringing along my own horses. Tough decisions!