Monday, March 30, 2009

The Comfort of the Sandbox

I can hardly believe it's been a week since my last blog attack. Time flies when real life intervenes. B has been a happy, cooperative boy this week and thankfully he does not have any new scratches or dings. Way to go Beamer. 

After our triumphant first show, B was allowed to bask in his genius (he, he) and have a couple days off before his lesson on Wednesday. We longed outside to warm up, but quickly took the opportunity to ride inside when the arena became available. The wind was so bad that my eyes were watering. Not happy 4-year-old riding weather. Wednesday was a day of adjustablity. As we worked on slowing the trot down while maintaining the tempo it was amazing that there was already a passagey feeling developing. As we picked up the canter to the right B had an extra jump in his stride and I found myself laughing and smiling slightly uncontrollably...focus... I often find myself reverting to that little girl who is experiencing her first ride on a pony. Ya, he's seriously that fun. I think the feeling is mutual as my trainer even commented on how happy he looked. We wandered back to the barn where B was allotted his mints, carrots, apples, cookies and supplements before heading back out to his best bud Lance.

The weather was kinder on Friday so B and I were able to enjoy the great outdoors. He was happily swinging along on the longe line so I hopped on board looking forward to a pleasant ride. As we walked around the ring and practiced our diagonals I got the feeling that B was more interested in seeing Lance than dealing with me. Actually, he told me so. As we walked around the corner away from Lance, I asked B for a bit more swing in his walk. He halted and looked around to Lance, who was mocking him as he ate the delicious spring grass. We got through that little sticky point but then came the trot transition. Dun dun dahhhh!!! I asked. B thought about the idea, but ultimately decided it wasn't necessary. Having worked on his responsiveness in the last two lessons I bit the bullet and boxed him with authorittiii (Lisa would be proud). Well my trainer said he may get scared, but "You have to get a reaction." I got a reaction alright, in the form of a "I'm outta here" gallop. Well, he responded, right? He went a few strides, but I was able to bring him back to the trot fairly quickly. I could tell even as we sped across the ring that he was trying to understand what was happening. When he took off, I, of course, pulled back with my reins a bit high for leverage. He has never felt pressure back on his mouth anywhere near that strong. Luckily, he must have been paying attention during the last months of his training where he learned to give to pressure and it releases. Clever, clever boy. He has never had a side rein within 200 feet of him and he is so sensitive that I barely have to take the rein for him to soften. It is pretty remarkable watching young horses learn, even through the not so fun parts. I kept him trotting on the circle then we walked and I gave him a pat for responding. Yee haw, adrenaline rush. As much as my heart was in my throat for those few seconds, it was a good thing. What? Well,  I'd rather have him learn how to react after a spook in the sand box then out on a trail where there are a million other challenging elements. Wait a second. Do I sound like one of those parents that thinks it is better that their teenage kid drink at home with them than out on the street? whoa. Ya, um no. These rules are for the B only.

After his mini episode, B reacted promptly to my leg in each transition. ha ha...nice. Awww youngsters. Sometimes it takes a little shock and awe to got the point across...and by shock and awe I mean to the rider. After his workout we went for a lovely trail ride in the woods. B spooked a tiny bit twice but in his defense, it was one mean lookin bunny rabbit. We stomped through puddles and mini half ditches without a problem and I got my workout ducking under 10 foot high tree branches. 

The rest of the week proved relaxing. B's summer coat is coming in and I can't wait to back in one layer of clothing. 

Monday, March 23, 2009

B Goes to the Horse Show

B's show season debut was yesterday. Well, not officially I guess seeing as he was a non-competing horse. But, for as calm, cool and collected as he was he might as well have been.

First, props must go out to an older, flea-bitten grey horse that was happily grazing when B slowly walked off the ramp of the trailer at Morven. He set the tone for the day. When I opened the trailer door B left out a soft nicker. No screeching, ear piercing screams or stomping around in distress. Can you tell my last horse was a mare? ha ha...

Once B was off the trailer he did his trademark move: stand completely still and, with his head completely out of reach, stare. After a short walk up the driveway and back he was content to munch on the spring grass. I think all the walks and hill work we have been doing paid off as he slowly creeped his way up a mini mountain beside the indoor arena. From here he continued eating and keeping an eye on the competition.

The day consisted of lots of walking and a little entertainment. We were in luck; a group of about 35 hunter kids/adults were using the lower ring for practice. We were just leaving the ring as they entered. B broke out his "I have more suspension in one stride of my trot than you have going over a 3-foot-fence" attitude as we left, but he quickly remembered there was grass under foot and got back munching. I enjoyed the flash back to my past as I watched them line up to jump and and listen to the coach yell at the top of her lungs.  

Later in the day, we had a chance to walk around the actual show ring during a break. Here B discovered flags. He just, you guessed it, stared. He sniffed some letters and almost knocked down a video all in all a productive walk. 

While hand walking in the arena B had the pleasure of meeting his first Friesian. He was thoroughly convinced they were going to be total BFFs when he laid eyes on him. But then it happened. The Friesian cantered. B's ears flickered 90 miles a minutes as he watched his knees almost hit his nose each stride. When B realized that this distinct sound didn't necessarily mean, "Charge!!!" he relaxed.

By mid-afternoon B was supa chilled so I longed him and hopped on. A friend who came to watch kindly me asked at the trailer how do you get on him? Not even thinking I quickly responded, "With a really tall mounting block." Light bulb moment: I wasn't in Kansas anymore, hence no super tall mounting block. Ultimately, the end of wooden bleachers did the trick. Good pony.

My husband was my lead line master for the first circle as we rode in the open bluestone ring at the lower level. As Adam walked back to the bleachers to watch a couple hunter brats (oops did I say that out loud...?) decided it was the perfect time to play a game of soccer. What are you we in freakin Italy? Meh. Thankfully, B barely batted an eyelash as he continued our workout with some walk, trot and canter. 

After a successful ride outside, we ventured to the indoor warm up ring. Dun dun dahh!! Anyone who has ridden with dressage riders, been a dressage rider or has watched a warm up ring at a dressage show knows how brave I as being. As a hard core dressage rider myself I know how merciless we can be. One agenda—your own. There were only two horses in the ring and they were about Second Level types...whew. After getting past the wolf dog that guarded the entrance (don't ask) we ventured in. We walked and trotted while the other horses did about 5000 extended trots and 8000 canter-walk transitions. 

As for Beeburr's general attitude, he tried his best to make friends everywhere he went. You could almost read his face as he tried to follow almost every horse that passed: "Wanna be super good buddies?" By the number of people that came up to pet him cute little face nine feet in the air, I think they received the same message. 

Maybe the next show we'll actually be one of those fancy competing horses. Regardless, I certainly am one proud mommy. :0)

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Well, big surprise B's sudden crankiness had something to do with me. ha. This is why God created trainers. B had reacted the same way during my Tuesday ride as he had on the previous Friday, which only served to make me worry as this is uncharacteristic of him. Then I remembered a similar behavior developed about four months earlier, which was the direct result of using a collecting seat as I asked for the trot. What? It worked on my highly trained Young Riders horse. It's amazing the things your body does without you even knowing it. Snarf. The crankiness slowly gained a life of it's own. Mr.B was basically saying to me, "What in the F are you doing?"I'd respond, "What in the F are you doing?" Yup, and then it progressed to angry faces and wind up bucks. Oops. Once my trainer pointed out that I need to keep my hips swinging and not tighten like I'm intending to break a thigh master, B happily obliged. In my defense, my trainer said that he was a little tight in the back at the canter. So there. Awww the joys of always learning.

B has the day off today as I have a paper due for class tonight. Tomorrow the plan is to do some cold trailering. What? Normally, I ride B first then trailer him. In anticipation of his first show this Sunday (as a non-competing horse thank you very much) we're going to practice trailering first without the initial tiring out session. I'm keep you posted on that....

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Some days we're cranky

This weekend's weather appropriately  reflected Beamer's mood. It was gloomy, cloudy and drizzily. B's longing session in the outdoor ring on Friday was fairly easy and fluid, but it became obvious once I landed on his back that he just wasn't that into least not this day. While simply walking on a loose rein I saw his ears come back and his hind leg strike out. This simple gesture told me that this pony wasn't having it. Sympathetic to fact he had his first set of spring shots the day before, we accomplished a couple laps at the trot interspersed with some transitions and called it a day. Normally a perky and willing partner I wasn't deaf to his opinions. 

Saturday and Sunday we took it easy. Canada mints and a thorough grooming go along way to improving a pony's mood it seems.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Show season is Fast Approaching

Wednesday was lesson day. Enjoying the last day of warm weather for awhile we rode in the outdoor sandbox. B was loose and happy so we were able to quickly get down to work. While further refining our connection we were treated to a full-on distraction test consisting of a golf cart, an excitable mare and a four horse trailer. B kept his cool and focus. By golly gosh I think this 3 year old may be growing up. It was a day of mini-tests as we checked to see where B was in his training. We rode pieces of test patterns and checked his responsiveness in the canter transitions. Other than some drifting in his down transitions B took everything in stride. My trainer laughed as she remarked that everything is perfect here, but when we go into the show ring everything will undoubtedly be brand new and scary. Been there, done that, amazingly willing to go through it again.

The next day, the vet came out for B's annual coggins and his first set of spring shots. He stood perfectly still for the vet. He didn't even flinch. Good munchkin! Since he had his lesson the day before we took it easy and just went for a hand walk in the woods. Memories of the power walkers that passed me during my marathon run  came to mind as I worked to keep up with B's 18+ stride. Soon as we were walking uphill and it all evened out. Muwahahaha!

Tomorrow we'll probably do some practice loading and trailering again after our gym workout. Next Sunday we'll be heading to Morven Park for B's first show. As my trainer says, "Next stop, culture shock." It's all part of growing up.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Enjoying the spring/summer like weather

This past weekend, B and I enjoyed the summer-like weather together. On Friday, we proceeded to the outdoor gym for our daily workout.  After spending the morning at another barn, my four layers had delightfully turned to one as I rode in just a polo shirt and full seats. The workout consisted of a loose, eager trot and canter followed by a walk around the property. 

On Saturday, B had the treat of working out with his best buddy and pasture mate Lance. Being ever the inspiration, Lance decided to encourage B to stick to the man by making a fuss. B successfully fought the urge to be "born free" and played nice. B's baby brain was challenged again as the horses were trotted in from the field to their delicious dinners.We stuck to the program and enjoyed some fluid leg yields and prompt canter departs. With the wind whirling around, we skipped our daily walk. There is definitely something to be said for that whole survival instinct thing.

Sunday made three workouts in a row for Beamer. I knew he was up for more as he trotted toward the gate the minute he heard my voice (that never gets old). In respect for his eagerness, we had a light ride in the ring then proceeded to walk up and down the hills in the nearby fields. He happily obliged, obtaining mints along the way. 

Monday was a day of relaxation. I  hand walked B around the property, which included the "short hills" of Virginia. A thorough grooming and a bucket o' treats concluded the visit. As I walked B backed to his field and gave him a few departing treats he followed me back to the gate as if to say, "That's it?" Lance came over to escort him out to his lush field again.

Stay tuned, tomorrow is lesson time!