Thursday, September 20, 2012

September 2012, We Look Like This

...and we are going well undersaddle.  Lots of 2 to 3 mile walking up/down hills to slowly develop that growth-spurt-bony rear end and safely and gently develop those stifles and hamstrings in balance.  She has gone on the bit, started leg-yeilds, reins back, and I can open/shut the gates from her back.  I have done very little work on brining her into any frame, as she has the kind of sensitive mouth and head and neck that could so easily turn into a habit of behind-the-vertical if we don't built the engine behind first and work back-to-front.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Scarlett Lunging in August

These photos are taken by Mercy today while I lunged Scarlett before riding today.  We are just starting side reins in earnest, which are left very long.  I have not worried about frame at all with this horse, presently working on forward and straight and delighted with long and low and forward.  She has such a tendency to go up and inverted that a nice, relaxed forward with a lowered head has been our goal this far.

Here you will notice that my side reins to not go to the bit--they are attached to the noseband of the Miklem bridle.  Scarlett is so very responsive to the bit, it would be too much at this point to attach something fixed, even with elastic. I'd rather keep the mouth sensitive to following hands.  Plus my experience with putting the hotter, sensitive horse in something that "holds" their mouth has been that they can go up or at least lose "forward."  And of course, I cannot STAND to ride (or even watch) horses that carry their nose behind the vertical.  This horse needs to gallop right to the fences and be able to collect back-to-front while eyes up, ears forward.  I would rather start slow and solid with a long period of long-and-low to avoid the dreaded behind-the-vertical.

 We did ride after the lunging but it began to thunder and my photographer lost interest.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mercy Riding Scarlett--40th Ride

Mercy riding Scarlett in the ring (after her workout) as we get through our 40th ride.  Yes I count every little ride, at least until 100!   Scarlett has gained about 100 pounds here, and starting to develop a topline.  She's very smart and light in the bridle.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Body Condition Change: April to May

Scarlett in mid-April, one month with us:
Scarlett end of May:

An Update, and Before/After Pics.

Long time away from the blog....because I've had my hands full with a certain red-head.  Here is a nutshell before/after kind of comparison:
After 2 months: 

Scarlett has a pretty good quality of life at Arrowhead.  She gets worked-with 5 days a week, special conditioning feed in addition to great quality hay twice a day, and a bucket of mash or soaked beet pulp every workout.  Also, her favorite thing, hand-grazing:

She is now in such good condition that she has decided to come into season and stay in season--she is being quite the floozy.  Raspberry leaves are helping a little but perhaps not enough....hmmmm.

Training-wise she just keeps a smile on my face every day. She lunges like a pro.  She lunges over poles and cavalletti and we have done a little off-line work as well.  We have about 35 rides, including hacking out down the river and crossing water (this was a big, take-20-mintutes-to-step-in deal), riding out in the gallop track arena with its neighbors with flapping tarps and trampolines, and a little over cross poles and cavalletti work here and there.  We are mostly working on freely forward (not asking for contact yet) and straightness and consistent gaits with a long-low headset and moving from the rear.  (That is a fancy way of saying I am working on keeping the horse between my legs and under me.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hanging out under apple trees today.

How fickle the Santa Fe weather can be!  Yesterday blowing snow.  Today we got nice sunny with a cool breeze (but as I'm writing this at dark more snowflakes are falling).  Mercy and Delilah accompanied us on a ride out at the gallop track/front big field.  This time I let go of Scarlett's mouth a lot more, and consequently we did 2.5 miles in rather short order.  (She didn't even get sweaty.)  But she did come down to a walk when asked toward the end.  Very last, I popped her over a ground pole.  To my delight, she jumped the pole, then happily jumped the crossrail that was next, then a curving line to another cross-rail.  SHE'S A JUMPER!  I was so ecstatic I could dance.  We then spent some time just hanging out, hand-grazing under the apple trees at Arrowhead Ranch.  I think Scarlett really likes life right now.  (Photos by Mercy)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

12th Ride! Snow in Santa Fe, April 14

So today I rode a frisky Scarlett in blowing snow.  (Normally you would see the mountains behind us.) Our twelfth time undersaddle.  And she got this pretty polka-dot blanket for the cold upcoming night.  Scarlett is clearly feeling her oats--she has much more energy now.  Quite a handful!  My challenge is to let her move forward forward and not clutch at the reins to feel in control.  I can see I am going to have to learn to let go and let her move out, and hang on, because she is really quick.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ninth ride under saddle.

We are still working on steering.  Focus is entirely on freely going forward, we are not asking going on-contact, much less any particular frame.  I do notice that her head does come down and she begins to work over the back, naturally, as she relaxes.  Sometimes she will reach all the way down to the ground.  When she's uptight and alert, the head comes up like a giraffe, tail comes up, and we get completely inverted.  Not fussing about that at this point, just asking for a little more forward.  I'm of course working acutely on un-weighting the left seatbone.  The only way I have figured out to use to tell my body (successfully) to lighten it is to look over my left shoulder!   Yes, looking over my left shoulder while asking for a bend to the right is odd, but effective.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Crookedness: Flash of Insight

So yesterday (Good Friday) Mercy was kind enough to agree to meet me at the barn after school and saddle up Delilah and ride with Scarlett and I on our first ride outside of the central arena.  I wanted Delilah to lead the way, because Delilah is not afraid of ANYTHING.  And there are so many darn things that are scary on the front end of Arrowhead Ranch.  Like the busy road.  The neighbors have put up a flapping blue tarp on top of a dog kennel.  Neighbor 2 has an RV parked against the fence right by the gallop track, and another flappy tarp covering some kind of old car on a trailer also.  The other neighbors have a trampoline.  And did I mention the busy road?

We had a very successful ride.  By very successful, I mean I kept the horse between my legs.  There were some sketchy moments, but also some nice calm moments.    We saw the sights, heard the road.  Remembered the efficacy of little circles when you don't have brakes.  Mercy commented she saw a lot of Scarlett's private parts from her vantage when Scarlett shot ahead and that flag-like tail went up. But we ended walking back to the barn with a low head and lots of praise.

To end on a good note I took Scarlett into the central arena to stop and back, and then I took off the saddle and bridle and let her roll right there in the middle.  (She loves that.)  I was giving her a little rub on the back where the saddle was, and found a ridge--like a swelling about the side of a finger around and about seven or eight inches long--only on the left-hand side.  It was curved exactly in the shape of the base of my saddle flocking.  Nothing like it on the right.  It didn't seem to be sore and I curried it pretty hard, but it was persistent.  I ride Scarlett in just a baby pad between the saddle and her back (as opposed to the ponies, who both have sheepskin half-pads under the weight-bearing part of the saddle) so it was clearly something pushing down or from outside in on the left side of the saddle.  A lot, to leave a mark like that (on a horse with a body fat score of 1).   I left the barn convinced the saddle (a 40+ year old Crosby Prix de Nations--my favorite saddle for strengthening riders and horses alike) had something wrong with it.  I checked the tree, I ran my hands all over both sides and couldn't feel any difference, but still something was pinching the left seat portion of the horse.

But then I rode the other young horse, Caesar, in a full workout today.  I also ride him in a 40 year old Crosby PDN, although a different one--this one is an extra wide, extra long version, 'cause the ponies are roughly twice the width of Scarlett.  (It was Mercy learning to ride in this saddle, I maintain, that gave her the strong legs and solid seat.  The PDN is basically a hard flat pancake with no knee pads or thigh blocks or anything--the rider does all the work.)  So I was examining how the saddle sits on him and trying to figure out how something could pinch just one side of it and not the other.  We had a long full workout--3.5 miles of trot/canter plus a little tiny bit of jumping, then a long walk--and I played with putting my hand under parts of the saddle to see what it felt like. 

And then it occurred to me--what if the pinching on the left is ME?  See Caesar is perfectly round.  It is nearly impossible to keep a saddle centered on him.  I have to kind of leap to get on without pulling the saddle off the side toward me.  And so during a workout the saddle will shift, a lot, TO THE RIGHT most of time (except when I get on, on the left).  Paying close attention, for the first time, to how I was sitting when I was feeling perfectly balanced at home in the saddle, and I found I was standing on the right leg a lot more than the left. And my left seat bone?  Well it was holding me up on the left.  I barely weight the left stirrup. It turns out when I ride, when I think I am straight and forward and light, I am actually balancing between the ball of my right foot and my left seat bone.  

I am completely bearing weight on my left seat bone and very little on my right. 

I am now sitting at my computer realizing how much I do this, just sitting here.  Also how I like to flop down on the couch and cross my legs just so.  It probably goes back to an old distance running injury in undergraduate school, where I had a stress fracture in the right hip. 

I'm just blown away thinking that I'm this naturally crooked, AND I'VE BEEN RIDING AND TRAINING THREE HORSES LIKE THIS without even knowing it.  No wonder we always have trouble picking up flying leads one direction!  My seat aids must always be "On" on the left no matter what.  How confusing must that be?  Not to mention how uncomfortable.  Those sheepskin pads on the ponies might have kept their backs from pinching, but didn't do a thing about my basic imbalanced seat and one-sided aids.  

As I've been sitting here typing this I've tried very deliberately to weight my right seat bone and lighten my left (and use my left leg instead).  I have been literally tipping over!  I am so far unbalanced I find it difficult to know how to tell my body what to do to correct it.  And I feel like I should go and apologize to the horses over and over again.  

Vetted, teeth floated, feet aligned and trimmed.

Scarlett saw Dr. Meddleton on March 31 and farrier Robert Holt on April 2.  (Teeth floating, here.)

Here is what I wrote to my mom:
I have been riding Scarlett in the ring for just a brief time… just starting slowly.  She doesn't have any steering installed but through lounging we are mastering whoa. She has the light, sensitive arab-like mouth, that every little thing makes her want to toss her head up, which we'll have to fix (no ties downs in jumping).  She is pretty much the opposite of Delilah in very way--light and sensitive, maybe over-sensitive, to the legs and hand. She moves so quickly and effortlessly it is easy to get left behind. She does pull back at the hitching post, but has been getting less and less (doesn't get free, just pulls back once).  She usually pulls back when confronted with the saddle or a spay bottle, so both of those are subject of training.  I've been saddling her, then letting her stand there tied with a little food while I ride Caesar.  She LOVES being curried so I carry a spray bottle of water and spray the curry, just to get her happy with it.  Her feet got successfully trimmed up, her teeth all floated and wolf teeth pulled, and she's getting some weight-on supplements (so the opposite of the ponies, who get at the most the beet pulp left after the sugar is all removed) and is starting to enjoy being a diva at Arrowhead ranch.  I was worried when the snowstorm came that I wouldn't be able to get a blanket on  her--everything seems to be for the first time--but we did, and she seemed to like it. (She and Delilah wear the same sized blanket--Scarlett just wears it several feet higher above the ground!)  She especially likes it when we are the last to use the arena in the evening, and I can get off and take off the saddle in the middle and let her roll.  (Of course that doesn't work when other people are schooling so I tend to work her last.)   So I am treating her like a two year old baby, we are just trying to work with her every day (I've only missed the day it snowed) just a little and keep it happy and low-stress, keep that giraffe head of hers down as much as possible, and make her confident that if I point her at something and say we're going, it is fine to go.  She has already become a member of the team--Mercy and I have the honor at the barn of having 3 horses that whinny and run to greet us when we get out of the car.  :)     

Friday, March 30, 2012


So Mercy was there to help me back Scarlett for the first time today.
I wrote about it to my sister: 

So I bought the Irish redhead backyard train wreck hot mess I wrote you about.  I got her in the trailer easy enough by showing her the hay inside but it took about 20 minutes to get her out at Arrowhead Ranch.  So I've been feeding her up, wormed her, trimmed off her beard and trimmed and de-matted the mane and treated the chewed-off tail with MTG to make it grow.  I've been working on her with a shedding blade because her coat is like very bad carpeting--all dull and fried-looking.  Her feet are a mess.  For the first 24 hours she wouldn't go in her stall--I'm not sure she's had that much shelter in her life. But today was day 4 and she now doesn't want to come out of her stall.  It's like she's decided she likes the diva life.   She is basically a big baby--curious and awkward.   I'm treating her as not-really-broke. She pulls back when tied.   We worked on lunging for 3 days and then today it was so warm and she was so head-down and relaxed doing w/t lunging that I actually got on (in the round pen) (with Mercy there with cell phone in hand just in case).  Then I had Mercy take the lunge line for a lap, then took off the lunge line.  She never threw a fit or bucked or anything.  She doesn't have steering installed, and probably also no brakes, but she was just walking around with her head down being all curious as to what Mercy was up to, so we didn't push it.  I stayed on for about 7 minutes of lazy wandering and then called it a day!  And I am sure the sailing will not be this easy once she has some energy and some fitness and I try to ride her on a cold morning and go outside the round pen!  

Now I have to go and read up on how to install power steering and brakes on a baby. I wish I knew what your favorite trainer (the man who trained the zebra) does….

Feel free to send advice!
 Hugs, Trace

Thursday, March 29, 2012

So of course I came home with her...

....before Kevin could change his mind.  Here is a video of her getting off the trailer at Arrowhead Ranch.  My irish redhead trainwreck giraffe. (We have the same color hair! Except she has no gray.) Don't you just want to give her groceries?  (I am!) She sticks at exactly 15.2.  Body conditioning score of scary. Vet will see her March 31 and farrier appointment made for April 2 with Robert Holt.  Here she is meeting Delilah.

Monday, March 26, 2012

So I Went To See a Craigslist Horse....

Well to start at the beginning. Here is what I wrote to my sister:

Hey Ren so what do you think?

So I went to look a a horse listed in a Craigslist ad. I went because of her breeding.  Her sire is a registered irish draught (imported from Ireland)   who was a locally renowned fox hunter and her dam is a straight egyptian arabian (which I know nothing about but the dam was said to be also on site).  The ad had no pictures but was well-worded and made it clear she had sporthorse potential.

Not what I expected.  So she is kind of a backyard mess. They call her Puddles.  She is coming 5 and basically unbroken (but socialized).   She is a little underweight and very narrow--she has lived in a corral and not built up any muscles. She likes to impersonate a giraffe with her head up, tail like a flag, and back inverted.   Haltered easy but she won't cross a tiny rivulet of water and doesn't know how to lunge.   Her feet haven't been cared for in a year. Her tail has been chewed off by a yearling in with her.  She has a scar on her face from a fence mis-hap. She reared a little about leaving the other horses down at the barn.  The guy said he could jump on her with just a halter and lead rope.  So he did, and went to and jump her over something for me, and she did a 4-legged antelope jump and then  bucked 4 times and he came off.  I didn't even ride her, because after that it kinda didn't seem to matter (that, and I didn't bring my helmet, and it seemed to prudent to have a helmet).... She is your basic sorrel color, like every other horse seems to be. They advertised her as 16.1 but she doesn't seem big at all, although she does have a high wither.  She's fuzzy and not shiny even under the fuzz. She is VERY under-developed over her top line, both neck and back.  Really she is under-developed generally. 

She has a big over-track at the walk and a floaty trot. Catchy stifles. She spends a lot of time with her nose in the air like a race horse and tripping over her too-long toes, but when she stretches down I can see the potential for movement there, and her neck and head are (blessedly) very much not like an Irish Draught, but like the fine features of an arab.   I think maybe her mane and tail might be lighter colored (when they grow in) and she might just be a different and killer red when she gets glossy, and she has 3 white socks.  She is not dumb because she learned several things just while I was there. She seems extremely sensitive, a little hot, but not spooky.  Her dam is a maybe 15h flaxen-chestnut typey arabian--the kind with the pretty head and neck and broad flat back.  (She was very pregnant so it was kinda hard to tell more than that.)   The sire in no longer in NM but was classic Irish Draught build:  bulky, long legs, short thick neck.  She is not built like either of them.  She is built a little like a 2 yo TB that inherited the arabian flag tail, nice short back.  I am told the sire was a narrow, light-build at age 4 and later filled out to that, so hopefully she has some filling out to do.  

And of course she needs to be trained like from the start.... 

So what do you think?  My next project?