Saturday, August 30, 2008

Getting to the fun part

Starting a young horse is a looooong process. I went from riding awesome Aron, the schoolmaster, to riding Willow, a barely-backed four-year-old who didn't stop or steer, and who bucked me off regularly when I was putting the canter in. I also spent a good eighteen months convincing Willow she was able to carry her head somewhat higher than knee level. This past winter I was starting to despair that Willow would ever carry herself in canter, or shorten her canter stride.

This past month, though, we are finally getting to the good stuff! It's so much fun! Today I ran Willow through everything she can do, and I realized the list is getting long! Walk-canter-walk is coming right along. Shoulder-in and travers are confirmed at trot. She's able to maintain a few strides of haunches-in in canter. I can get a respectable half-pass in trot in both directions, although I usually just ask for three or four strides and straighten. Turn on the haunches is not bad. I can get a ten-meter canter circle every so often. Collected canter left is awesome; to the right it's starting to come.

And she felt so good today, I officially started asking for flying changes coming off the diagonal into the corner. I didn't get any today, but I was pleased with how quiet Willow stayed, and I could feel her thinking about the question I was posing. Twice she dropped to trot for two steps and picked up the new lead, so she's got the idea.

On another topic, it's blackberry season. Blackberries are a menace in Oregon. They grow wild and are invasive. I don't actually have any blackberry bushes in my backyard, but my next-door neighbor seems to have an entire backyard full of them, and they've gotten so big they're cascading over the fence into my yard. I went out and picked blackberries for fifteen minutes last weekend so my brother's family and I could have blackberry shortcake for our picnic. Here was my haul, and I wasn't even trying:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Obama's speech

I'm back from attending a party at a local market, where we watched Obama's nomination acceptance speech. There was a competing party at the community center, so the get-together I attended was just a handful of people, but we were boisterous and patriotic. Two people brought their dogs, and one lady bought her pet rat, which perched on her shoulder the whole time. It was a fun group.

My dog Sam's lameness turns out to be a strained ligament, so yay, no surgery required. The vet says it may take six weeks to fully heal, and I'm to limit Sam's activity in the meantime. Sam is a German shorthair, so the vet's orders are fairly amusing.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Stable Scoop Radio Show

The Stable Scoop Radio Show has posted its 2nd episode. Stable Scoop is a horse related podcast that I think you will enjoy. You can listen on their site at, subscribe through iTunes or listen right here by clicking the Listen Now button below. Enjoy!

The Stable Scoop Logo

Stable Scoop Radio Show Episode 2: Poop Eating Worms and Other Olympic News:

Equine Olympic coverage is the theme for this week's show, with a few twists thrown in. A couple of fun guests assist us in taking a look at the Olympic results and don't forget those poop eating worms! A couple of the things discussed in this week's episode:

  • Olympic poop eating worms

  • The Olympic results

  • Blog of the Week interview

  • A chat with a Canadian friend about Ian Miller and other goodies

  • This week's news headlines, Stable Scoop style

  • Cool facts about the Budweiser Clydesdales

  • And so much More

Listen or Subscribe to The Stable Scoop Radio Show:

Download to your Computer: Stable Scoop Episode 2 (Right Click and Hit "save target as")

Subscribe in iTunes:

Play Now: (Opens in your default music player):

Friday, August 22, 2008

Back in the snaffle

Willow is spoiling me with all her excellent behavior. We're back in the snaffle, and everything feels spectacular. She's both more elevated and softer. Walk-canter-walk is really starting to come together. Collected canter is now maintainable once around the arena. Ten meter canter circles are happening every so often. And she just feels so content with the work right now, which is the best sign of all.

Tomorrow morning I'm taking Sam the coneflower-eating dog to the vet to have his left shoulder looked at. He's been gimping around on and off for about a week now. He's about nine, so maybe he's getting some arthritis, or maybe he's got the same problem my vizsla had a couple years ago, and has a piece of cartilage broken off and floating in the joint. Oy. It's an expensive surgery, but very effective.

My brother and his family arrive tonight for ten days of fun in the Willamette Valley. They've managed to miss both the heat wave and the chilly rain. Lucky them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Willow + double = bliss

I didn't make it to the barn last night, but I got out tonight. I popped Willow in the cross ties first thing and reminded her that me touching her ears is a good thing, with many carrot pieces involved. She settled down very quickly. When it came time to put the double on, she accepted it with only the slightest eye roll. SO much better than Sunday. I'm just going to make it a habit to perform carrot therapy before every ride.

I just adore how Willow feels in the double. I was even able to have a little tension on the curb rein this evening from time to time. No big deal. The most noticeable improvement has been in the canter. I can go from collection to extension to collection, and she doesn't lean. Awesome. I also love how still I can keep my hands; just the slightest flexion of my wrist reminds Willow to keep giving at the poll.

It's back to the snaffle for a week starting tomorrow. Will this new-found softness remain? Stay tuned.

My friend Ted in Texas forwarded me this YouTube clip. I imagine y'all can guess what's going to happen, but it's still funny.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

We have liftoff

Success! The double bridle introduction went just fine. Actually, the worst part of it was putting it on. For some reason, Willow's ear phobia reared its ugly head again tonight. I got the bridle over one ear, but it took some convincing to get it over the second ear. Time to do some remedial carrot therapy.

Once it was on, things went swimmingly. I rode for about twenty minutes with just the bridoon reins, and that went so well I went ahead and picked up the curb reins, leaving a big loop. Even with a loop in the reins, I could tell that Willow could feel something different, but she didn't object too much. I was pleased to find that she felt softer, even in a higher frame. She was highly attentive to my half halts. All in all, she felt just super. And my fingers remembered how to manage the reins. We didn't do anything fancy -- just lots of biggish circles and transitions.

I'm going to work her in the double again tomorrow and Tuesday, and then go back to the snaffle for a week.

In other news, I bought three echinacea plants on clearance yesterday. I left the containers on the driveway because it was too hot for digging. A couple hours later, I found that my German shorthair Sam had pretty much eaten all the leaves off them. Perhaps he felt a cold coming on.

We are a go for launch

I'm going to ride Willow in the double this evening. She can voice some pretty serious objections to anything new, so there's a good chance I won't even touch the curb rein for a few rides.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Really, really hot

That'll teach me to complain about the heat in Nebraska. Now it's crazy hot here, too. I think it was over 100 yesterday, and it must have been near 100 today, too. Not the best riding weather!

In spite of the heat, Willow was rambunctious tonight. I usually warm up in walk and trot, but she was just being jiggy and explosive, so I finally sent her into canter to let off some steam. We cantered about 57 times around to the left (OK, kidding, not that many) and a similar amount to the right. As we went round and round, I actually had time to reflect that a year ago, Willow could never have maintained a first-level canter for anywhere near that long. I also thought to myself that I should experiment with warming up in canter in the future. Willow is half TB, after all. I once read that if your horse likes to warm up in canter it's a good thing to do, because canter is the hardest gait for the horse to maintain tension and blockages in.

After that marathon of a warmup, we had a very nice schooling session. We did collected trot to half steps to collected trot and finished with lots and lots of quick trot-canter-trot transitions.

If tomorrow's ride goes well, on Sunday I'm going to introduce the double bridle.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A week off? No problem!

I'm back from Nebraska, where it was 102 with 50% humidity. I used to not mind the heat so much, but Oregon has made me soft.

The week off really agreed with Willow. I've had two super rides since I got back. Now that we've got the counter canter confirmed I'm backing off counter canter, because my friend Jenny in Nebraska, who has been showing second level this summer, told me they've taken most of the counter canter out of second level. That'll teach me to check the tests when they change. Now we're going to focus on walk-canter-walk.

I can feel flying changes simmering right below the surface, too.

If the next couple of rides continue to go so well, I'm going to try the double bridle later this week. My baby is growing up!