Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Road Trip Lesson # 2

I did it again!  I hitched up my horse trailer, got my horse on it (with some help this time), and had a FABULOUS lesson!

Ollie wasn't as cooperative about getting on the trailer this time as he was last time.   One of the boarders at the barn mentioned that he probably realized it wasn't so great last time so he wasn't going to be as cooperative about getting on.  This friend (the other boarder) is a fantastic and insightful horseman so I valued her input.  I think she is exactly on the mark.   I needed help getting him on the trailer after my lesson too!  That surprised me because I figured he'd be all about going home.  Just when you think you have them figured out, you realize you don't...

At any rate, despite the delay in loading, he was very good everywhere else!  He wasn't nearly as nervous at my instructors farm.  We could actually work on things.  He settled down fairly quickly and easily.  We worked on varying the gaits.  So I had him in a slow trot and would increase it and bring it back down.  He was very good about it.  Ollie is very sensitive and it really takes very little to get him to respond to my aids.  It's so much fun to ride! 

Ollie did get bugged eyed at things once in awhile but he doesn't bolt, he just bends his body the opposite way of the offensive object.  But he still goes by it because I'm asking him to.  It's just not with a pretty and correct bend.  I'll take it. 

When Ollie was working his best he was hitting it out of the ball park.  Julie, my instructor, told me that he's like a sports car.  He can turn on a dime, he's well balanced, he's very sensitive.  When he relaxed into the bit,  relaxed his back and swung his legs freely underneath,  Julie shouted out "Now there is your FANCY horse!"  I know I'm biased but I have to say that Ollie is a very beautiful mover.  There is nothing like it when we are both on it!  Julie repeatedly tells me to bend my legs.  As soon as I do, my seat become much better and Ollie will be the first to tell me it's better.  He will swing his legs better and is more rhythmic and easy tempo.  I get so thrilled with those moments!  I want more of them and it keeps me working on my riding! 

Ollie was being such a good boy, and listening to me so well that we decided on doing some canter work.   We worked on our transitions.  They still need a lot of work but I did get it down to some 30 steps before we relaxed to about 10.  That's improvement and I'll take it!  The one thing I noticed and got chills about was at the moment I sat back...  I immediately freed up his shoulders and what do you think happened?  The energy in his canter went from pulling forward from the front end to becoming circular and rocking in action.  His canter slowed down a ton and his shoulders came up.  So his forward energy actually seemed to go up and around rather than flat and pulling.  It was so cool!   Ollie has all the right moves if only I could keep out of his way! 

Needless to say, I'm very excited about our progress.  In our lesson, I learned that he will settle down, and we can do some really great stuff.  My goal is to get to some small dressage shows at the Kentucky Horse Park this winter.  They are called their Snowbird series.  I believe there is a show about once a month through the winter.  I think this is a very attainable goal and a good introduction for me and Ollie.  So I have finally set a show goal!  YIKES!  But I'm excited!

In the meantime, Ollie is going to learn how to load himself into a horse trailer so he won't make me late again...  John Lyons training here we go

Friday, September 16, 2011

I'm A Big Girl Now

I'm seriously feeling like a "big girl" now.  

Ollie and I had our lesson on Tuesday with Julie Congleton at her Heronwood Farm in Midway, KY.  I hitched up my gooseneck trailer with only a little bit of help from another boarder, loaded up the truck, loaded up my horse and away we went! 

To get to Midway from the boys home is simply the most beautiful drive in all of Kentucky.  I am NOT exaggerating.  We travel down a road called Pisgah Pike.   If any of you saw the movie Secretariat, the funeral scene took place at historic Pisgah Church on (you guessed it) Pisgah Pike.  There are many famous racing farms along the road as well.  The most impressive is WinStar Farm.    You can see their training track from the road as well as many of the historic registered buildings.  If you ever get to Lexington, just drive down Pisgah Pike.  I guarantee your jaw will be on the ground with the beauty of the area. 

So Ollie and I are motoring down Pisgah Pike.  At times I had a tight grip on the wheel because Kentucky roads do not have shoulders.  They are narrow and not quite made for two pick up trucks to pass easily.  One truck has to ease one side of the truck off the road...   As you can imagine, I was a little bit wider with a horse trailer behind me.  But we made it no problem.  I kept telling myself that very large horse trailers (much bigger than me) travel down this road all the time going to the various farms. 

We also drove through the quaint historic town of Midway.  It's super sweet and I recommend it as a stop for anyone visiting the area. 

Eventually, we got to Julie's farm.  Ollie was good and didn't have a nervous sweat at all.  He was a little bit wide eyed but he was always listening to me. 

We tacked up, got on and had our lesson.  He was, as expected, nervous in the new surroundings.  This was what I wanted us to go through with watchful eyes from the ground.  Julie was there helping me with ideas of things to do when I could see he was getting anxious.  He chomped on his bit a lot, whinnied often but otherwise was doing as I asked of him.  We kept him moving and changing directions all the time.  We gave him a nice walk break and after that break he really settled down.  Anytime he started to get anxious again, I would ask him for a leg yield.  We were awesome at it!  He also began to drop his giraffe neck and swing his legs nicely at the trot.  I rode him for about an hour.  He was covered in sweat but otherwise in good order.  It was a warm humid day, so I untacked him and hosed him off.  He was much more comfortable after that.  He loaded right back on the trailer and quietly munched on his hay while looking around.  He seemed very relaxed at this point. 

I picked up all my belongings and loaded my truck up and talked to Julie.  She told me that from Ollie's viewpoint, the trailer meant racing.  He would ship over to a track, get out, race and ship back out.  Ollie raced 61 times for 7 yrs. and that's what he knows.  She said he was, in the scheme of things very good!  He got through the experience and realized we didn't ask much of him except to listen to us.  Julie and I both expect him to improve the more he goes on "field trips." 

I have another lesson next week at Julie's farm.  Julie also recommended to me that I take him out and about.  I have many options.  One of the wonderful things about living in Lexington is the park system.  They have parks for people to take their horses for rides.  One of them has a cross country course on it as well as a riding arena.  We'll have to meet up with a friend over there as another field trip. 

My goal is to get Ollie to a point where we can attend a clinic or two.  Maybe we get to a show.  At least now we are taking big strides toward those goals. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

It Was A Full Day

What a day I had!  It had been raining for several days now and I haven't ridden Ollie in over a week let alone poor Toby.

So I made arrangements for a riding lesson at my instructors farm next week.  That meant two things...1) I had to ride Ollie and practice cantering (we have the world's worst departs) and 2) I had to test Ollie out in my new (used) horse trailer.  I decided to do both today with the help from my husband.   Matt is truly a good guy!

I rode Ollie and I asked Matt to video our horribleness.

This is what I'm proud about in the video - Ollie stands like a rock at the mounting block.  No more "throwing it into reverse" the minute my foot hits the stirrup.  Also, I think I'm sitting up more and I'm slowly getting my legs more underneath me.  Best of all, I can see that Ollie likes me and tries for me.  His ears flick back and forth constantly listening to me and he hardly protests my pathetic seat.  I LOVE THIS HORSE!

What I'm not proud about is that I bounce around on his back like a jumping bean!  Poor Ollie!  Having said that, he's never back sore.   But I bet he's wishing I didn't have that second helping of yummy pasta the other night.  :)

So Ollie and I are practicing and I'm not afraid to show how we're doing.  Our canter departs couldn't be worse but he have to start somewhere.  This is why I take lessons. 

Ollie and I are trying hard and we'll get there! 

After our ride, I hitched up the trailer by myself and loaded up Ollie.  He's a rockstar about loading onto a trailer.  We drove around a country block (several miles) and came back home.  He pooped up a storm and was sweating but otherwise he was no worse for wear.  Toby greeted him loudly and Ollie answered.  Those two are total BFF's.    I figure that Ollie will relax more for the trip the more we do it.  So next week we're off to our trainers farm and our lesson.  I can't wait!