Thursday, September 27, 2012

Era of Good Feelings

Things have been moving right along since my last post. Actually here's a hint, things are always moving right along... if I could get like three extra hours in my day, I'd use them all easily and probably still have stuff to do! 

Alex had last Friday night off, mostly because I felt like poo and had to leave work early, but also so I could make an appearance at dinner with my brother and sister in law.  After a cold-medicine induced good night's sleep and another morning dose, I was ready to hit the barn.  Of course, like clockwork, when I arrived, they were running the bobcat moving shavings from where they are stored in my barn, to the other barns on the farm.  Usually this elicits terror in Alex, but this time he seemed to mind a little less.  I decided it was probably best to tack him in his stall so that the constant to and fro of the bobcat wouldn't bother him.  This turned out to be a good decision.  Saturday would also be one of the first times (if not the first, I can't remember) that I intended to get on and ride Alex after a day off, without lunging him first.  Wouldn't you know it, he was great, which was good because my brother and sister in law had come out to watch and it really wouldn't do to get bucked off/run away with/insert naughty horse behavior here____ with them watching ":-) 

Sunday, Alex was rewarded with another day off... no, it wasn't really because he was good, it was because I had my sister in law's baby shower to attend and unfortunately it just wouldn't do to arrive late and smelling of horses...

Alex and I had a really good ride on Monday night, again I ditched the lunging and went straight into the saddle.  No mass chaos, a little fussiness in the bridle, but basically a workman light performance.  Lots of stretching and even some bending.  Overall a very pleasing experience, which is, after all what we are aiming for!

Tuesday morning Alex had the joy of getting his teeth floated.  Did I mention that Alex really likes drugs?  Ok, before anyone gets all bent out of shape, my horse is not a habitual drug user, and I am not a habitual drug pusher, but in this instance, he was given a little tranquilizer to make the experience less alarming.  Turns out that Alex has a mild case of "parrot mouth" (an overbite) coupled with not much room in the back of his mouth and he gets big "hooks" on his back teeth... poor guy.  This means (unfortunately for my bank account) that he needs to have his teeth done every 6 months.  I know he's had his teeth done at the track, so it shouldn't be that big a deal, but he really was good, I was proud of my big man.

Fast forward to tonight (Tuesday he was off because he got his teeth done and yesterday he was off because I was having dinner with friends).  A lesson was in full swing in our preferred arena, so I decided we'd work in the indoor.  I was all set to lunge him, since it had been two days since I'd been on him, but then I got lazy and decided to "see what happens."  Wouldn't you know it, two days off, big scary indoor and all he was REALLY good.  The work on his teeth seemed to make a noticeable difference, in that he wasn't fighting the bit nearly as much as he had on Monday night.  We also cantered for the first time in the indoor, which was a big first; the indoor is narrower than the outdoor and so sometimes he has a hard time cantering smaller circles as he's not quite strong enough yet.  Although he was definitely looking around, there was no spooking, hopping, head shaking or bucking, I was amazed and thought to myself... "are we growing a brain?" 

So we have had some really great productive rides over the last few weeks... and those who know their history might recognize the reference in the title to this post, but I thought it was appropriate given the last weeks' occurrences and my general history nerdness... see Alex and I really are made for each other... he's a guy with an overbite and I'm a history nerd... it's a match made in heaven.

I have new pictures of Alex and I in action... I'm going to try and post them this weekend :-)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hard Work = Rewards

So again I've had a lapse in my posts, for which, I apologize.  Hopefully I am not disappointing my one follower :-)  For any you who are reading my posts, but are not yet followers, please feel free to join and make me look a little less pitiful!  At any rate, there's lots to write about since my last post.

Last Friday was a rainy, windy, coldish day, but I was bound and determined to get another ride in before I had to leave for yet another weekend.  When I got Alex tacked and ready to go, the skies opened up into a light rain and I cursed quietly.  Of course there was no rain on the radar (yes I am one of those people with the weather radar on my phone so I can keep endless track of what is happening) so I decided to wait.  I wasn't set up to go into the indoor and hadn't turned on the lights.  After about 10 minutes the rain subsided and I decided we'd better get going.  Of course in true "week of adversity" fashion, literally as soon as I started to get something done, they started turning horses out for the night and Alex lost his concentration.  Fortunately, he did not turn himself inside out despite extreme excitement, wind and a little cold.  After we survived the horses going out all around him, I decided to call it a night.

Alex had the weekend off as I was off helping my mother organize for her move.  Never underestimate how tiring it can be to organize someone else, especially when you have a little over 24 hours to do it... it's exhausting.  On Monday, all I wanted to do all day was go ride my horse, but sadly it was not to be, as the "real world" was calling and I had a late night at work... damn.

Tuesday, Alex and I had a big day and not just because he'd had THREE days off (much to my chagrin).  While I was lunging him and he was doing a little playing, we got some company in the arena and although I was inwardly groaning about all we wouldn't get done since Alex was SURE to turn himself inside out, I was actually happy, because sooner or later he's going to have to get over being around other horses.  When I got in the saddle, there were two other, thankfully quiet, horses in the arena and I was prepared for the worst.  Fortunately, Alex was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated.  He did throw in a few hop/leap/head shakes and get very giraffe like, but he eventually reverted to stretching and seemed to calm a bit.  We didn't try any passing of other horses, as I figured I'd better not push my luck.  For having three days off and it being a cooler, windy (although thankfully not rainy) day he really did amazingly well.  He's always full of surprises :-)

Wednesday, I decided to ditch the lunging and just get on and ride.  Alex started off being quite stiff, but finally relaxed.  I decided we had better start trying to work on our bending.  He was NOT a fan of this... I think partially because he was like "woman, how am I supposed to go forward if you keep making me turn my head!" and also, because I think he needs a good teeth floating (that is hopefully going to happen soon).  Despite his dislike, after some protest he did as I asked.  He also didn't buck at all cantering to the left, which is a first, since I started riding him! 

Tonight is usually the night there is a lesson going on in the big arena, but for whatever reason, there wasn't tonight.  I decided to try Alex in the rubber gag to get a little more leverage and help getting him to bend.  He was fantastic!  After his normal early stiffness, he was stretching and bending, just pretty much happy as a clam :-)  I am so happy with his progress, it has already been so rewarding to be a part of his retraining.  Unfortunately for Alex, he got rewarded with a mane pulling, but in my defense, I had to do it when I had help (he's not so keen on having his mane pulled) which happened to be tonight.  It took a lip chain, but we managed to get it done. 

What a week!  I feel like so much has happened and it has all been fabulicious :-)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Alex and Tequila make me crazy

Ok, so you'll just have to take my word for it on the Tequila, because this post isn't about that :-) 

Alex had Saturday thru Monday off while I was in St. Louis on my girls trip, so on Tuesday I was all set to go back to work, after such a stellar night on Friday.  I got to the barn a little later than normal so there was already a lesson going on in our normal arena.  No biggie I thought, I'll just use the smaller arena.  By the time I got him all tacked and ready to go, someone decided to ride in the small arena too, so we had to wait.  Finally we got into the arena and started working on the lunge.  Alex was a little rambunctious, but nothing that bothered me, so I decided to get on and ride.  Literally, like one minute after I got into the saddle they started turning horses out.  Alex went immediately into giraffe mode and I could feel the explosion coming.  First there was a leap buck.  Then as the mare that had just recently been turned out started running around screaming for her friends that weren't out yet, Alex went into his pièce de résistance, the leap-buck-spin... repeat...repeat. 

Once we hit the ground, I decided this situation wasn't going to get better with me in the saddle (and that I might just leave the saddle if I wasn't careful), so I had better get off and keep lunging him.  Alex has a bad habit of "cutting in" on me (when being lunged in a circle) when he is wound up and/or distracted.  As he did this, I chased him away with the lunge line in my right hand and he kicked out at me with his hind foot clipping me in the wrist.  Thankfully, it's just a slight sprain and and an ugly bruise, because there was definitely a second where I thought "oh shit, I've just broken my wrist."  Not one to be deterred, I continued to lunge him until he calmed himself down.

In the barn, I think Alex realized he was in trouble, because normally he gets kisses and pats and love after a ride... there was none of that, just a bath and a trip to his stall. 

Tonight, after another day off (I had a much needed massage on Wednesday, a must for all riders in my opinion), Alex and I went back to work.  Tonight I hustled to get Alex ready and get into my arena of choice.  Thankfully there was less commotion around the farm tonight.  He was almost lazy on the lunge, so after pushing him a bit to see if I could get the "wild man" to come out, when it didn't, I decided it was time to get back in the saddle.  Of course, in true Alex fashion, the switch had flipped and he was nearly perfect. 

This used to happen with Gryff too... I think I've just kinda forgotten.  Here's my thought for the last couple days... baby TBs are like bi-polar people, on any given day you just never know what horse you're going to get :-) 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Alex likes long and low

Just a quick post tonight, or rather this morning... Alex was wonderful tonight.  I think he is really getting the "long and low" concept, he wanted to do it all the way around the arena at all three gates.  I was even able to push him forward a little more and got to feel more of that nice trot I think he will have.  Only a few baby bucks at the canter to the left tonight, which is a huge improvement over our last few outings.  He was so calm, relaxed and confident, I still can't really believe it.  Tonight was the most confident I have ever felt riding him (so far at least).  I am over the moon. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Alex is full of surprises

Alex has been a very good boy the last two days.  Yesterday we had a lovely ride in the outdoor arena that included lots of stretching and moving very forward.  I think I may have actually felt that trot I think is in there somewhere.  There was less bucking/hopping/screwing around cantering to the left which was nice.  He even managed to "keep his shirt on," although he did go into giraffe mode at first, when someone rode by the arena on another horse while we were trotting.  This is a major improvement over last time when he was bucking, hopping around and squealing.  There was none of that this go round, just highly attentive and curious, and that is OK. 

Tonight we had a major first, which was our very first ride in the oh-so-scary indoor arena.  Our indoor is not your normal indoor... this used to be an Arabian farm and next to the arena is a stage where horses were led across during sales, and where people sat to watch the horses shown in the arena... in one corner hangs a giant red curtain that, I suppose, used to separate the stage from the arena.  Add in the fact that he is an OTTB who has probably never even been in any type of indoor arena and it all makes for a VERY scary situation.  Since we'd had a storm right before I went out to ride and both the outdoor arenas were full of water, I decided maybe it was time to tackle the indoor.  I will admit, I wasn't very hopeful that I'd be able to do more than lunge him.  Of course, as usual, he proved me wrong, but in a GOOD way!  After a few normal baby antics on the lunge, I decided it was time to get on.  Other than being very "alert" and a little nervous around the end with the curtain, he really was VERY good.  We walked and trotted and even did a little stretching.  Alex is really getting into the stretching, and not just as a means to act like a turd.  I hope this means he's beginning to trust me, but either way I'm ecstatic! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Goals

I am totally guilty of neglecting my blog for the last week.  I was really busy!  Why is it that when you're looking forward to a holiday weekend or a vacation it always feels like a marathon to "get ready" for it, but then it flies by? 

Alex and I continue trying to become partners... I really think people underestimate the amount of time it takes to build a relationship with a horse.  But honestly, it takes more than months, it takes years!  I think Alex is slowly starting to trust me, but even in his moments of worry or panic, it takes him a while to actually listen to what I am telling/asking him to do.  Those moments are so important, because it's those and not the quiet perfect moments that build the bond... it's the trials and tribulations you face together and overcome.  Case in point, last Thursday, we were working in the other outdoor arena, when another boarder came riding by out towards to exercise track.  This was the first time I had ever been riding him while someone else was riding another horse less than 20 feet away.  You would have thought the person was galloping by, to see Alex's reaction which was to start hopping around, bucking and making all kinds of fun noises. Of course, I was thinking what fun it will be the first time I have to ride him in a busy warm-up arena :-/  We managed to get through it and he actually reverted to stretching, which was a huge victory, because that is exactly what I want!  I feel like even on the days we might take a step back, we make a little progress.  That's all I can really ask for at this point... I mean, it has only been just short of 3 months since I put him back to work. 

This week I'm hoping to start trotting some poles and get a little further with transitioning the canter/gallop to the canter.  Despite his ADD, he's really starting to get the hang of stretching at the trot and even some circles.  I think now it's time to start asking for a little more bend, for stretch and more forward.  We will see how much of that we're able to accomplish :-)