Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mare Detox

Long time, no post - I know.  It has been a crazy couple of weeks, but that's not really anything new.  Between April coming back into work and Robyn being at the beach for a few days, it got a little hectic but I feel like we are starting to get back into a normal rhythm - finally.

April and I started hitting the regular schedule again about two weeks ago.  She was finally sound enough to go back into work, and we squeezed in a couple of lessons before Kelsey left for Europe for two weeks.  We were able to get in three lessons, and it was a roller coaster.  We went from a fantastic flat school, to a really rough jump school, and then the last lesson was a fantastic session over fences again.  Our rides on our own were following a similar pattern - no consistency, very up and down, and a lot of temper fits.  Robyn and I got to talking through it last night, and I decided to try a little experiment.  When I rode that night, I noticed how strongly she wanted to go after Linkin every time he was in sight.  Then I started taking into account all the different mareish behaviors I had been seeing lately, as well as how often she had been in heat that I could recall.

The verdict?  My mare is a whore.  To make matters worse, the gelding pastured beside her is a man-whore.  So, needless to say...not a good combination.  So Saturday began what I am fondly referring to as "Mare Detox" - aka, complete separation from the wee-wee, wang, whatever it is you like to call it. 

The first few days we flipped turnout for her, and she stayed in at night and went out with Rosie during the day.  Robyn and I also decided to mix up our schedules and ride separately, rather than together.  For one, April needs more sessions on the flat; whereas Linkin benefits from more hacking.  Secondly, April tends to obsess over Linkin whatever we are doing, so this was just one more method of splitting them up.

In the back of my mind, I really thought that Tuesday's ride was a fluke.  Then we saddled up for another school on the flat, and it was even better than the night before.  She is so much more focused and willing when she isn't going nuts over whatever boys are around.  Her attitude is improving TREMENDOUSLY.

I also have a confession to make.  I think I'm finally learning how to put a horse together.  Sad, huh?  As long as I have been riding, I have never really "gotten" it.  I could see that my horses were muscled up incorrectly, I could tell that it wasn't quite right, but I just couldn't get there, no matter how hard I tried.

Then I had a lesson the other week that somehow clicked.  I have spent hours obsessively going over every little detail, and this time, for some reason, it is starting to make sense.  I'm starting to feel when April starts to use herself correctly.  Not always, and it's definitely a work in progress, but I feel like we really got somewhere big while working on it alone this week.  I was venting not too long ago about the fact that I can't seem to do things by myself, and how frustrating it was.  I could go into a lesson and do fine, but without an instructor holding my hand, it fell apart.  Two days in a row now, I feel like that might be changing.  And it is a huge step in the right direction, and I hope to continue it by leaps and bounds.

And now, to leave you with another dose of humor - I'm throwing in a picture of my gelding.  As a matter of fact, this was shot last week, after a horrible ride on April - the same night that I was venting about not being able to ride.  No sooner did I get it out of my mouth, and Samson, the comedienne extraordinaire, starts scratching his butt on the gate.  (Of course I had to go help him....)  Ahhh, a little humor can fix anything. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Getting Back in the Groove

Early last week was my first lesson back on April.  I never got a chance to write about it, and by this point we have two more lessons under our belt since that first one!  Getting back to work has been a little bit of a rollercoaster, but I think we are starting to get back into the groove now.  It just takes time to get back into the routine after a month-long break!

For starters, she was SUPER exuberant to get back to work.  We started out with a few hack days, just to get her mind back into work-mode without pushing too hard.  Then we had our first lesson on the flat at our farm with Kelsey.  It was FANTASTIC.  We spent a LOT of time at the walk, really pushing for her to completely relax the underside of her neck and start carrying herself from her topline.  Once we got it though, she was a dream to ride.  So soft and supple, and super relaxed.  We are still working on getting a more consistent connection, because she does tend to bob her head around here and there, so that is a big goal in our flatwork in the near future.

A few days later we had our first jump lesson in about five weeks - oy vey.  It, to say the least.  April was extremely forward, and extremely excited to be jumping again, and I rode like an absolute idget.  I let her get away with way too much in the warmup instead of really regulating her rhythm and tempo, and then it carried over into our work over fences.  Poor Kelsey, she's so patient.  I'm sure she wanted to pound me in the head with a brick when she kept having to tell me not to HOLD with my hands all the way to the fence.  All the old habits of holding her too much were creeping back in, so Kelsey was really trying to get me to relax and let the mare jump up into my hand.  It's a vicious cycle, because I tend to plant and hold with my hand when I feel the slightest bit insecure; which only makes April run harder and faster at a fence, so I try to hold get the picture.  It can spin into ugliness quickly.  We made what progress we could that day, but sometimes it just isn't your day.  When I finally let my hand relax and let her come up to me, we quit on a good note.

Then came another jump lesson last night - it's been a busy week of lessons because I wanted to squeeze in an extra one before Kelsey leaves for Europe for two weeks.  It was dramatically different from the last ride.  I had really worked on my homework, and focused on keeping a super soft hand.  Each lesson I have really walked away and reflected on every piece of advice, no matter how big or small, and tried to implement it into the next ride so I don't forget anything.  From the very first fence last night, Kelsey commented on what a dramatic difference I had made with my hands.  It really showed up in our work too - April was much more relaxed and jumped so much better.  She will still come off of the bigger fences fairly hard, but it's not like she's running away with me - it's more excitement than anything.  And the less I hold, the less she tends to "run" after the fence.  Every little piece keeps coming together little by little, and I know we will get there soon enough!!

The most exciting part of last night - we schooled 3'3"!!!!  It was super exciting to know that I was jumping that kind of height with SO much more organization than the last time we hopped it, just for fun.  I think that was shortly after I had gotten April, and we definitely weren't ready for it - it was just a little playing around.  But to know that we have worked our way up to that in a lesson is exhilarating, and I feel like we are making a little bit of progress!  Not only was the fence 3'3", it was the "out" fence in a one stride grid, with a pretty tight stride in between.  April jumped it BIG too, but I didn't feel the slightest bit intimidated.  I cannot BELIEVE how much fear has vanished in my over fences work. 

Samson is doing well, and there isn't much in the way of updates.  I started a Samson fund, and the second I put it together the brakes in my car went out.  ***Sigh***  I got a phone call from a sweet friend who suggested putting together some kind of donation page, but I told her I really feel strange about that kind of thing.  After the phone call, she texted me for my address so she could send me a little bit to help out.  She is the second person - who I really haven't known that long or that well - who has made such a generous and selfless gesture.  I am so touched that people have such a big place in their hearts for an animal who has made such a difference in my life.  I think of each of these people every morning, when his rumbling nicker reverberates around the barn at feeding time.  I am touched and blessed to have each of them in my life, and hope to never take it for granted.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Samson - The Popular Pony!

Well, it would appear there is quite a bit of interest in Samson the wonder pony!  I happened to stumble over to my blog stats, and the post about his condition has already received 68 hits!  It turns out that his case is interesting to more than just myself!

There isn't much in the way of updates to report.  I did receive an incredibly touching phone call the day after I posted about him, from a woman who knows him from a former barn.  This amazing person is rallying together a tack sale to help raise funds, which will be donated directly to Samson.  I had tears rolling down my cheeks at the amazing generousity of someone I really don't even know that well - but wants to assist my big red horse, who managed to touch her life at one point as well.  It is times like these that I am overwhelmed with the goodness of people.  There are many days where we are hounded with how much bad there is in the world we live in, but on days like this, I am assured that much good still remains.

I am posting two photos that we snapped at the barn yesterday.  We walked into the barn on the way to start a fencing project, and I immediately noticed the usual head sticking out of the first stall on the left.  I crept up and found him curled up in his stall having a midday snooze.  As I curled up beside him, I started scratching his face, and he made the most endearing little groaning noises...I don't think I have ever heard a comparable sound come out of another horse.  I have heard quite a few ponies make their usual grunts and relaxed groans, but this was priceless - it sounded like a horse's version of a cat purring.  I will never in my life forget that moment, him burying his head in my lap to get the deepest scratch possible, all the while groaning in pure relaxation.  Pony heaven, I'm sure.

Here's to you, Samson.  We are going to "fix" you to the best of our ability.  I will do everything in my power to get every penny together and take a little gamble that just might work.  I don't even care if I never get to streak around a foxhunt with you.  I will be content to have you curl your head up in my lap, and just be the biggest pet I've ever owned.