Frustration

Yesterday the group I ride with got rained out. We decided to head into Ione for a ride under their covered arena… which, once we arrived we discovered that there was a show in progress. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining there and we had miles of trails to head out and work on. This arena is a bit scary for some horses, and sometimes Sue gets sucked into the energy. I don’t know if it’s because it’s covered, or there’s cows, or what, but something just makes them all a little on edge. I was so proud – we warmed up and he was doing great – definitely alert and paying attention to his surroundings, but listening and responding to me. Same thing when we headed out to the trail. He loped when I asked him to and when he got a little crazy (ran a bit faster than I was asking for), responded to my cues to slow down.

We came around a bend on the trail and I spotted a puddle. I thought “we’re having a great day and he’s scared of puddles… since he’s listening, let’s give it a try”. It was about 10 feet long and about 2 feet wide… I went to the short side and asked him to cross.

You would have thought I was asking him to step off the edge of the Grand Canyon.

We fought. My trainer and the rest of the group watched and coached and encouraged me. I got more and more frustrated and I could feel Sue doing the same. We’ve crossed puddles and creeks before and while he’s been nervous, it was never a fight like this. I started to feel like all of our trust was disappearing.

Finally, my trainer asked me to step off so she could work him on it. It took a while, but she got his mind back and he finally did it. At this point, both he and I were covered in sweat and exhausted. I was a little embarrassed that I wasn’t able to master something that was seemingly so simple, especially since we had done so well on what seemed like more advanced stuff earlier in the day. I hopped back on and we spent the remainder of our ride just chilling and reconnecting.

I think the day was more traumatic for me than for him. It reminds me that every time I get comfortable and feel like I’ve got this, something new will pop up. He’s young, I’m new(ish), and it’s all part of the process of learning and growing together. I got so focused on the “bad” part of the ride (which in reality was a really good learning experience) and didn’t focus on all of the really great stuff we did.

We’ll conquer the boogie man in the puddle someday!

A Most Excellent Day

Today is my 34th birthday… I can’t believe how quickly time goes by! Wow, how old does that make me sound?!

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how important spending time with the people I love is… and that’s what my whole day was about. I spent the morning with my awesome hubby getting our old truck sold, then headed out to go riding with my niece Katie. Her birthday was a while back and we’ve been waiting for good weather to go riding (that was our gift). Today was the big day… and it was a blast!

Katie & Missy
Katie & Missy
Katie & I Riding
Katie & I Riding

Finally, I ended the night with my CERT friends… the coordinator team met up for an end of year dinner at Chevy’s. They surprised me with the whole sombrero/singing thing (honestly surprised… the waiter slapped it on my head from behind and scared the crap out of me!) and it was great to just share a meal together.

Tomorrow the festivities continue (I always seem to have more of a birthday week!) with a pizza oven extravaganza, after I ride with my sister (because it’s not a good day if I don’t get to ride!). Life is pretty darned good… here’s to enjoying every minute between now and 35!

An Important Anniversary

One year ago today I took my very first riding lesson. At the time, I had it in the back of my head (as I had since I was little) that it would lead to actually buying a horse. But there was always a bit of doubt… that I wouldn’t have the time, the money, or the patience. The funny thing is that it was running that led me to my horse… I had been training for my second marathon and had run past the stables about a million times. My mom and I were driving around the area checking out places to take lessons and I mentioned we should pop in to the one that I had been running past. I met my trainer who told us to come back later that afternoon for a trail ride… the rest is history!

Little did I know, that first ride on Nike the Appaloosa would lead to my amazing Sue.

Me on Nike
Me on Nike

I’m so thankful that I’ve found my amazing trainer and of the progress that Sue and I have made together over the last nine months. Here’s to a lifetime of riding!!!

A Day In The Life

On Thursday I took the day off work to head over to the stables to work for the day. My trainer had mentioned when I first started riding that if I ever had a day free, I could come learn the ropes. Thursday happened to be perfect as the farrier (the guy who puts the shoes on) was there. He offered to do Sue first so that I could watch, which I gratefully accepted. I asked if I could bother him with questions while he went (I’m sure he regretted his decision over the course of the next 30 minutes) and I learned a ton. I had no idea what a fine art horse shoeing is… it’s one of the most important parts of the horse and it goes way beyond just nailing a shoe on. He also trims the hoof (think if it like trimming your fingernails), but it has to be done at the right angle, often enough, etc. He then has to fit the shoe to the hoof (that’s where the loud metal-on-metal banging happens) and nails it on (nailing it in the wrong place is called “hot nailing” and results in a swift kick!). It was quite the process and was amazing to watch him work!

Shoe Coming Off
Shoe Coming Off
Hoof Trimming
Hoof Trimming

Isn’t that a beautiful horse butt? Sadly, I have no more pictures after the farrier – I was too busy having fun!

After Sue’s shoes were done, my trainer showed me how to muck out stalls. I know it sounds completely unglamorous, but there’s something to be said for taking care of these amazing animals, especially in the morning when they’re quiet and eating. It took me a lot longer than it would her (who knew there’s a fine art to picking up poop?), but I got the job done.

All of that raking and shoveling was exhausting, but then came the best part of the day – the riding. I took a lesson on Sue, with another rider from the barn riding her horse, Strider. My horse is a lot smaller than Strider and has much shorter legs, ergo a shorter gait. I’m constantly working with him to extend his trot and lope. My trainer had a fun idea… for me and Sue to chase Strider. It was so much fun just racing around the arena like little kids.

After lunch we came back to the ranch and I rode a beautiful little Arabian mare. She was much more sensitive than Sue, which forced me to work a little harder on my horsemanship. She had a beautiful lope – it was great experience! When I was done on here, my trainer put me on the ranch’s stallion, Charlie. Let me tell you, it was terrifying. He was all muscle and every time we came around the side of the arena that housed the mares, he would stop and whinny at them… with his whole body. It was sort of this guttural noise and shaking. Thankfully, my trainer was there to talk me through riding him (can’t show him any doubt or hesitation) and I was able to stay in control. He is a beautiful animal that once he knew I was boss was fantastic to ride – all muscle and power!

We ended the day with some more stall cleaning and the evening feeding. It’s fun to be the horses favorite at that point… everyone is happy to see the feed cart! I came home around 7pm Thursday night wanting nothing more than an ice-cold shower, a big dinner, and some time on the sofa. It was an absolutely amazing day!

Hands Free

Yesterday my parents came out for the afternoon to watch my riding lesson and to have dinner. It was quite the lesson… I was in the arena, which to date has been more exhausting than my longer trail rides. I think it’s because of the intense focus. This lesson started out a little tough… I was too focused on the fact that my parents were watching, my saddle was all wrong (we messed with the stirrups a bunch and finally ended up completely switching saddles), and I ended up changing horses. Once I got settled in on Rosie, I was good to go! I hadn’t ridden her before and she was a little more mellow than the other horses I rode, which was good because of the skills I had to practice. I also got to practice wearing spurs!

Rosie Loping In The Arena
Rosie Loping In The Arena

We started with the normal arena work – walking, trotting, and loping. A key thing that I’m working on is anticipating the horse – Rosie wanted to stop at a bale of hay, so I had to practice motivating her past it before she broke pace. After a while of that, my trainer said that we were going to move to the circle arena to practice balance. I had no idea this meant riding without holding on. Not that hanging on to the reins really holds you onto the horse, but in my head it sure does.

Rosie would walk/trot/lope around the arena and Dana would make me do all sorts of fun things with my hands:

Hands Out
Hands Out
Hands Across
Hands Across
Hands On Your Head
Hands On Your Head

While all of this was happening, my trainer was standing in the middle of the arena with a whip. Don’t worry, she doesn’t hit the horse. She would step toward Rosie and flick it, which would make her turn toward the fence and change direction. Keep in mind, we’re loping (which is a run). Rosie is a former cattle cutter, so she can spin on a dime. Dana told me to watch her ears, which didn’t make sense at first, but sure enough, her ears would signal which way she was going to turn and I could shift my weight to stay balanced. It was terrifying and so much fun! I definitely need more practice – my instinct was to grab at the saddle horn. Rosie was awesome… I think I was more exhausted than she was!

Rosie & I
Rosie & I

Arena Work

Last week’s riding lesson was amazing. I’m so glad I grew some patience (seriously a big accomplishment for me) and am taking the time to do this right. Horses are way more work than I thought, but I’m absolutely loving every minute of it. I’m also learning a lot about what I like and dislike in a horse.

This time around I was honored to ride Indy, a beautiful 14.2 hand Quarter Horse. I am really leaning towards the Quarter Horse for my own horse, especially one that’s a little bit smaller. I’ve always thought I wanted a really big horse, but have found the less barrel-chested ones to be more comfortable for my long model legs (for those of you who don’t know me, I’m 5’2″ if I’m standing really tall… clearly I’m not all legs).

I did some arena work this time, which was very different from riding on the trail. The focus was working on my gait changes and getting me comfortable with my position on the horse. Muscle memory, if you will. Miss Indy is a bit of a prima donna and definitely tested me throughout the ride. I was having the time of my life trying to anticipate when she would take the moment to try to slow down or, most of the time, speed up – that girl loves to run!

It was a great lesson! I also wore my new gear – the gloves Mike gave me for Christmas and the helmet that Kati & Nate bought me. 🙂 Safety first!

Riding Helmet & Gloves
Riding Helmet & Gloves

Second Riding Lesson

I had my second riding lesson last weekend and I’m officially obsessed. This time I rode Cinch, a 9-year-old, 15 hand, bay quarter horse. He was a little bit smaller than the horse I rode in my first lesson, but had a little more spunk. He definitely challenged me for the whole ride… and I loved it. I’ve realized that with riding it’s one of the few things that my mind doesn’t wander… for the whole 2 hours I was there I thought of nothing but connecting with the horse. I’m seriously becoming one of those horse crazy girls!

My next lesson should be in the arena… I’ll be riding a couple of different horses and working on the difference paces. I can’t wait!!!