I spent a solid 30 minutes picking those little boogers out muttering under my breath the entire time.
And since I am so out of practice, I'll probably make the same rookie mistake next year!
Oh, how quickly they forget, and when I say "they" I mean me. Endurance riders learn early on that all tack and gear must serve a very real purpose. Nothing is worn simply because it looks good. The distances traveled - 50 to 100 miles in a single day, are just too long to have unnecessary tack or gear weighing you down.
Last weekend, I did an hour and a half trail ride with a group of friends. As I was packing my gear into the trailer, I grabbed everything that I normally use: saddle, pad, girth, bridle, helmet, gloves, and leg boots. And that's where I made my mistake.
When I untacked Speedy at the end of the ride, I groaned. His fleece boots were completely covered with embedded foxtails. That's when I remembered that endurance riders don't use fleece below the belly; no fleece on bell boots and no fleece on leg boots.
I spent a solid 30 minutes picking those little boogers out muttering under my breath the entire time.
And since I am so out of practice, I'll probably make the same rookie mistake next year!
Speedy doesn't get to do much trail work anymore, neither does Izzy for that matter, so I was particularly glad to hear that Summerlane Farm was hosting their annual trail ride and potluck lunch this past Sunday.
Summerlane Farm is about a 35 minute drive from the ranch. It's situated in the middle of rolling hills covered with citrus groves, blueberry bushes, pistachio orchards, and more. There isn't a paved road for miles. It's a great place for trail riding, especially for groups.
Summerlane Farm's trail ride has been known to have as many as 20 riders or more, but this year's event was more cosy than crowded. There were seven of us on Sunday. Summerlane Farm used to breed Arabians, but they now breed and show Borzoi dogs. Even so, six of us were still on Arabs.
Speedy was his regular good boy self for most of the ride. He stood patiently at the trailer and ate and drank with gusto. About halfway through the ride he kind of lost his marbles though; his trailer buddy was ahead of us, and he didn't want to get left behind. I think he was worried that we'd have to walk home!
We had a few come to Jesus moments, but for the most part, I took advantage of his willingness to be in front of my leg. We cantered in place, did some passage, schooled our canter to walk transitions, and leg yielded back and forth down the road.
While he was a bit of a stinker the last 20 minutes or so, it was fun to be out in the open with friends. I know he enjoyed himself.
I don't make enough time to do fun and easy stuff with my boys. I should; we all should. When you work full time, and you're a perpetual under achieving over-achiever, there's simply no time for taking it easy. I don't know who makes those rules, but I broke one of them on Friday.
A new friend, KM, sent me a text asking if I had Saturday open for a ride. She rode with me a month or so back, and I had told her to call when she up for round two. I had a Chemaine Hurtado Clinic to put on on Saturday, but I told her that my Friday was free. As luck would have it, so was hers.
My selection of trails is quite small. If you want to get an hour ride in, there's basically one loop. You can ride it clockwise or counter clockwise. We have a single paved road with a good shoulder and no traffic that circles around the neighborhood which is comprised of two to ten acre properties. There's also a small section that winds through some nice trees and then down along the river. The ranch itself has a nice circle, but even if you tie it all together, that's all there is.
Fortunately, KM is not picky. She had seen it all before, but she was more than happy to do it all again. She's a lady after my own heart. Four sound legs, a long swinging neck, and a piece of leather under her bum were all she needed to be happy.
We spent some time grooming and tacking up and then walked up to the arena for some get re-acquainted time. After that, we spent a lovely hour just enjoying the nice weather and the musical sound of eight hooves beating out their rhythm.
On the way back to the ranch, we discovered that the sandy beach along the river had been smoothed out and cleaned up so we walked the horses down to the water and let them put their toes in. KM had been sharing how she was looking forward to an upcoming beach ride with her husband and friends. The Kern River is not quite the Pacific Ocean, but it was a beach ride.
After we had cleaned up the horses and given them some treats, we spent some time chatting. I learned that KM is quite an accomplished artist, like people would buy her stuff kind of good. She especially likes to paint animals.
Oh, boy ... I've got a couple she can paint!
This must be the season for baring it all. A few weeks ago, I shared that post about my fear of being a hack, this week, another let it all hang out.
I've been doing this dressage thing for quite a while now. I did my first show back in the summer of 2010. Holy Moly, has it been that long? Since I'd never shown before, and since Speedy had only ever done endurance, we started at the very first step - Introductory Level A.
We had great fun, but I wanted to move up a level. You've heard this story a thousand times. Making it to Training Level was my all encompassing goal. Once we hit Training Level, I wanted to get to First Level. That's where I thought you became a legitimate Dressage Rider. Making it to Second Level wasn't even on my RADAR.
From my lowly perspective, Second Level riders had to be amazing. You could only get there if you had a fantastic horse and you yourself had an amazing seat. HAHAHAHAHA. Boy, was I ever stupid!
I guess what I am trying to say is that if I can make it to Second Level, YOU can make it to Second Level. I am living proof that the riders at Second Level don't have to have an amazing seat, although I am sure it would help, and an average, plucky horse can get the job done. He doesn't have to be a fancy warmblood.
All of this occurred to me on Saturday while I was riding Speedy bareback with just a halter. We were hacking out around the neighborhood after a week off. It had rained nearly all week, and I thought some time off after our debut at Second was warranted. Since I can just hop on him bareback with a halter after a week off, that means that he is amazing. Just saying.
So there we were tootling around with the lead rope draped loosely when my plucky and amazing Second Level horse launched forward. I said he was amazing, not perfect. I grabbed wildly for my rope and managed to bring him back to a walk, but I was unbalanced and knew I was coming off. Cringing, because I knew it was going to hurt, I dug deep and tried to stay on anyway.
Instead of hitting the dirt, I landed on my feet with Speedy's lead rope in hand. I had to laugh. There I was, proof yet again that Second Level riders are no better than that endurance rider giving Intro Level A a try.
Oh, Third Level, where are yoooou!
Saturdays are nearly always my crank it out, bust our butts, hammer it home riding day. It's the day I don't have to be anywhere else, and it's not going to get dark before I finish what needs to be done. I take my Saturdays seriously.
Not this Saturday. I got a text from a new friend, KM, asking if Saturday would be a good day to come out and meet my boys. For a split second, I remembered how much work needs to get done on Speedy before our first show of the year and thought about saying no. But then I realized that taking it easy for one day might actually do Speedy some good.
KM's husband is a local publisher. My husband and I met him a few times because of the magazine, and the next thing we knew the four of us were having dinner together. It didn't take long for the topic of horses to come up. KM rode as a girl and has lately been trying to reconnect with that particular passion. I invited her to give me a call when she had a free weekend.
People never take me up on that offer, so I was a bit surprised to hear from her this past week. She had mentioned that she'd taken a few lessons at Los Angeles Equestrian Center and that she occasionally rides with a friends up in Bear Valley. I hate to offend, so when people say they can "ride," I always nod politely and act like they've been to the Olympics.
People who spend a lot of time in the saddle have a way of communicating their riding ability without needing to say much. We jump 2'6", I show at Second, we've completed a couple of 100 milers, we just did a 14 second barrel run over the weekend ... In just a few short words, you know those people can handle just about any well trained horse on a 45 minute trail ride. Outside of that, it can be kind of risky if your horse is only well trained and not dead broke.
When I mentioned the ride to the ranch owner, she graciously offered to let me borrow Archie, her senior citizen who happily packs anyone no matter their skill set. Unlike Speedy, who has buttons installed all over the place, Archie's buttons are hard to hit accidentally. In fact, you have to press his buttons quite authoritatively before he'll believe you did it with intent. I texted KM the night before with her riding options.
KM's a pretty smart lady, and she's honest about her riding ability. I don't often find that. As we rode, she was glad that she had opted for the less reactive horse. Even though I was able to ride him on the buckle for most of the ride, Speedy did get a bit excited as we passed the Haner Family Farm. Archie barely looked at the grunting pigs and the honking geese.
We had started the ride in the arena so that KM could get a feel for Archie before heading out, so when we got back to the ranch I asked if she wanted to pick up a trot or canter back in the arena. She declined, but she did say yes to hopping up on Speedy.
As they followed the fence toward the far end of the arena, she quickly called out that he was too much for her and that she thought she should get off. He had coiled himself up and was getting quite tense. I hate to see someone get off out of fear, so I quickly led Archie down to Speedy and had her head back toward the gate.
I encouraged her to ride a small circle around me and Archie, but I gave her a few small directions. I showed her how to bend him to the inside and sponge the inside rein. Once Speedy had some bend, I instructed her to use her outside rein to slow down his run-away walk. He was simply unbalanced and tense because of it.
Almost immediately, he relaxed, and his walk got much prettier. KM felt it, and the tension left her body as well. After walking both directions, she felt confident enough to pick up a rising trot. She was able to change her posting diagonal and keep Speedy on the circle.
By then, KM had been in the saddle for an hour and a half and was ready to be done; Speedy, too. KM thanked me for not letting her get off while she was scared. I was really impressed with her ability to be honest about how she felt, and because of her honesty, I think she added a bit more knowledge to her riding toolbox.
I hope she comes back to ride with us again; even if it's a Saturday.
I am not sure I've mentioned this yet or not, but I've been on winter break for a week. Today starts week two. After being so sick for so long, I put last week to very good use. While I may be on break, Izzy is most definitely not. I've worked his not-so-little caboose every single day. I've worked him so much that he's actually gotten tired, and that's just the way I like him!
Given how sluggish he was on Wednesday, I decided to ride him around the neighborhood on Thursday. I couldn't remember the last time we'd done that. He hadn't even been off the property since early August.
I knew he'd have cause to be spooky, but I decided that a trail ride was the perfect way to reinforce the no looking around no matter what strategy. It's not like he hasn't been around our neighborhood plenty of times, and on top of that, it's a horse friendly area with plenty of other horses around to offer confidence.
As we headed out the front gate, he was pretty timid which showed up in the slowest walk ever. I just kept banging him with my legs, and when he threatened to balk for even a moment, out came the whip with a loud thwack to remind him that shenanigans would not be tolerated.
He was actually pretty willing until we got to the Haner Family Farm which abounds with turkeys, hogs, geese, and other farm animals. They're housed very near to the road, and when we walk by, they are always busy honking and grunting. It's a scary spot. I didn't care. I made him march past with his head mostly down and his haunches behind his shoulders.
From there, he was tense and bouncy. I cut him zero slack though and insisted he march forward in a relatively straight line. When we finally got to the old golf course, I decided our quiet walk was done. If he had enough energy to piaffe his way home, he was going to work.
The first few trot steps were a bit zoomy, but he quickly remembered that no bullshit was to be tolerated and got to work. We picked up an easy right lead canter, and I grinned. All was well until I started working to the left. Suddenly, he forgot what the left lead was.
I tried every trick I know: haunches in, counter bend, stay on the incorrect lead until he switches. Nothing worked. When I did get a left lead canter, he would doing a flying change the instant I tried to get some inside bend. The more he picked up the right lead going left, the hotter he got. I finally brought him back to a walk, took a deep breath, and tried to figure out where I was losing him.
Within moments I realized that the whole thing was about the outside right shoulder. I firmed up the right rein and thought about straightness. When he picked up the left lead, I sponged the inside rein for flexion, but I didn't let the outside shoulder go for even a moment. And that was it. He held a left lead canter. After several laps around, I brought him back to a walk with a lot of praise and pats.
As we walked home, I once again insisted on a head and neck that weren't looking around. When we got back to the arena, the ranch owner and neighbor were just getting ready to ride, so I stopped to chat. Within a moment, Izzy relaxed.
While he wasn't perfectly behaved on our trail ride, he was very rideable, and he stayed focused on me. He's getting broker by the minute!
Speedy and I spent all summer busting our butts at First Level. We made it to six shows and several out of town lessons. And when I wasn't riding him, I was working with the big brown horse. We did zero trail riding this summer.
The week following our last show was wicked hot, so I didn't even bother trying to ride. Saturday was just as hot, so rather than even pretend that I was going to get any kind of schooling done, I asked my ranch owner if she and the neighbor wanted to hit the trail.
To my delight, both ladies were in! Speedy couldn't have been happier. He and Willi live together, so getting out at the same time was a real treat for both boys.
It wasn't like we did anything wildly difficult or long. In fact, we were only out a half an hour, but the horses seemed to really enjoy themselves. But even in that time frame, Speedy worked up a damp sweat, and he never sweats!
It was the first time that the three of us have gone out together, but I hope it won't be the last. Sometimes, it's nice to take a break from the intensity of schooling and showing. I know Speedy enjoyed getting out of the routine as much as I did.
It got really hot again this week. We had 28 days of triple digit high temperatures in July and at least 15 in June, so it's not like it hasn't been hot. It's just that it suddenly got hotter. We're driving to the Ventura area for lessons with Chemaine Hurtado today even though they're poised for record heat too. Knowing that today was going to be a long one, I opted to hop on Speedy bareback yesterday with just a halter.
As I was hunting for his riding halter, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I'd ridden him bareback. It must have been at least six months. He's always such a good boy, but I wondered how good he'd be this time.
I shouldn't have even given it a second thought. As I hopped up, a big smile hit my face. I had forgotten how broad and sturdy his back is. I settled in and enjoyed the feeling of his muscles rippling around beneath my seat.
I also realized that my bareback seat could use some work. I thought about doing some trotting and cantering out in the nearby field, but doubted my security. It wasn't that long ago that I felt comfortable popping over small logs bareback.
Once I go back to work in the next week or so, I'll be forced to ride in the hot afternoons again. Those are perfect bareback days. I am sure I'll be popping over those logs in no time!
The thing about Izzy is that he truly can be a lovely horse. I also appreciate that he's fairly honest and consistent. It's not like he's an ass one day and brilliant the next. He's the same day after day. Once he learns something, he seems to get it.
Last year at this time, he didn't know how to canter with a rider on his back. If we got a canter, it was almost always accidental and on the incorrect lead. It was also rather wild and wooly. We can now get the correct lead, and he knows what I am asking for. The issue isn't getting a canter departure, it's getting a soft canter departure. There's a difference.
Last year at this time, we couldn't make a turn because he would crab or bolt sideways. He can turn now, and he definitely knows what I want, but now he won't turn softly.
He used to balk when he didn't want to work. So much so that I could whale on his sides with a full-on pony club kick, and he'd just pin his ears. The whip and spurs solved that. Now, he might think about it, but he goes forward.
Izzy is just not an easy horse. He's not submissive, and he doesn't appear to care if he pleases me or not. He wants to do what he wants to do and that's it. If it smacks of work, he's out. He's far more willing to play if he sees things as well, playful. Chew on the back of my t-shirt while I pick out his feet, dude's all over it. Dig a hole right next to me while I fill a previous hole, dude's the master. Trot a 20-meter circle without flinging his head wildly, not so much.
Yesterday, after a quick phone call to Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer of Symphony Dressage Stables, I tried a couple of things she suggested. First, I swapped out his bit for something a bit tougher, and then we hacked around the neighborhood until we got to the old golf course.
The bit is not legal for dressage of course, but I am hoping it will help solve a few problems. This particular model is a Myler that I bought for my endurance mare who loved to run through the bit. This bit uses kimberwick cheek pieces which work as either a direct action bit when the reins are attached to the top hook (loop) or as a leverage bit when the reins are attached to the bottom hook.
The mouth piece is a correctional ported barrel (MB41PB). Myler offers a few different versions of this mouthpiece, but they all serve the same purpose. Myler describes the function of this bit: ... allows the rider to isolate one side of the bit to lift a shoulder and also to reward the horse with a "comfort zone" when relaxed at the poll. A good bit for collection and stopping. Works well for spoiled horses, horses which run through the bit and those which drop a shoulder.
Yep. This is the right bit for now. Izzy does all of those things.
I've seen a lot of Myler demos, so I know how they like to introduce a horse to their bits. I let him just wear it for a few minutes and then I led him over to the grass and offered him a moment to lower his head and graze. When he seemed okay with the bit, I applied gentle pressure to each rein individually until he lowered his head. And that was his introduction.
Without making this too long, he definitely noticed he was in a different bit. He started out by bouncing his head, but I kept my hands low and fairly fixed against my saddle pad. Each time he giraffed his neck, he brought his head back down by himself. For the entire ride, I kept my hands super quiet and rode almost entirely with my seat and legs.
He got very tense and anxious in his regular spots, but the bit grabbing and head flinging were not an issue. When we got to the golf course, we walked for a few minutes and then picked up a lovely trot and rolled right into a happy and relaxed canter.
He was soft in my hands and willing to bend and turn. I am not sure the bit was the magic bullet, but the bit combined with some fun helped give me a pleasant ride. I know the good stuff is in there, I just need to convince Izzy that short, fun rides are much better than hour long rides that do nothing but torture us both.
Chemaine will be here both Saturday and Sunday, so I can't wait to hear what she thinks.
Well why not? We all know how awesome Speedy is. That dude just takes everything in stride. I had a pretty rough day yesterday at work and after an obnoxious ride on Izzy the day before, I was simply not in any kind of mood to deal with his sh ... enanigans again.
When Speedy saw me pull up, he barreled over to the gate and started whinnying his head off. His lameness has improved steadily each day, so I decided that lame or not, he would enjoy toting me around the ranch.
Even though Speedy hasn't been ridden in more than two weeks (thanks to my recent move to a new house and then his lameness), I felt totally comfortable throwing on a halter and nothing else. I didn't even bother to pick out his feet or dust off his coat. I simply walked up to the gate, grabbed him, sidled up next to a horse trailer, and hopped on.
Speedy was so thrilled to be doing something with me that he barely let my butt settle onto his broad back before he stepped off smartly down the road. The dude was on a mission. If he's still lame, it's not at the walk. My plan was to just walk around the ranch, but since he was so perky, I headed out the front gate and tooled around the neighborhood.
When we got to the old golf course, Speedy volunteered a little trot, and when I realized that he felt sound, I gave him the go ahead. We trotted over to the little copse of trees where there are some whoopsie doos.
We trotted up and down with me laughing like a hyena. Even though Speedy has zero jumping skills, I aimed him toward one of the railroad ties scattered around as borders. Without even a moment's hesitation, he popped over it like he was da man! And seriously, he is!
Remember, Speedy was bareback, in a halter, and he hadn't been out in over two weeks. He has zero jump training and neither do I. We nailed that cross tie! Repeatedly!
And lest you think we're a one hit wonder, we jumped both of them, several times! Oh my gosh - most fun I've had in a long time.
Every time I start to think that I should pass Speedy on to a green rider, he shows me how much fun it is to have a totally broke and dependable horse to ride. I get on Izzy and write sale ads every day. I get on Speedy and simply have fun.
Can anyone find a way to squish those two horses together to give me a wonder horse?