Sunday, January 31, 2010

Moving Day

I decided that since I can't have Calico in my backyard, I'd try to find a place to board her closer to home. Last week, I found a place that is six miles, one way, from my house instead of the fifteen I've been driving everyday for the past year. I'll start paying board, but that means no more cleaning stalls seven days a week. Today, we will drive Calico from the edge of one mountain range across the valley to the other. I hope this will be a good move for us, and will give me more time to work with her. Our last two training sessions were very successful in helping me to build my confidence, riding her in the arena with other horses. I'm really going to have to spend this month getting my muscles conditioned for the ride. It's the most trotting I've done in more than three years, since I found out I was pregnant with Philip. My body remembers what to do, but I get fatigued quickly. It's just a matter of time in the saddle, which is exactly the best preparation for our first big ride.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Twenty Mule Team Ride

It's settled. Robin and I are planning to enter the 35 mile limited distance ride in Ridgecrest, CA on February 27! This should be a perfect beginner ride for Cali and me. I have a lot of preparations to make, I'm excited to get started. Knowing that I won't be doing it alone certainly makes it easier. We are approaching the entire weekend as a training session, so there's no pressure. It's more of an introduction to the sights and sounds of endurance for Cali. I think the biggest challenge for her will be coping with the distraction of a large group of horses while I'm asking her to focus on my cues. The herd instinct is so strong; it can be hard to keep a horse under control especially at the start of the ride. Maybe because she'll have a buddy, she'll be able to stay relaxed.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday's Session

I spent a little less time in the round-pen today. The weather has been lovely here, not even cold enough to wear a sweater. I timed myself more carefully today to make sure that I spent a full thirty minutes riding. We still just walked, but Calico stood very still as I mounted today. She was relaxed, but still wants to decide which direction we go. It doesn't take to much to convince her that I'm the one giving directions, but she always says, "okay, just checking". I think I mentioned before that there is an ATV parked in the arena with a mechanical roping calf behind it. The first time I took Cali near it she about had a heart attack. She wanted to hide behind me and sniffed and snorted. I kept her off me of course, and we went back and forth past it several times. We were on the outside of the arena that day. Yesterday, when I rode her in there, I led her past it a few more times, so she could see it well. Today, we rode past it, many times and it didn't phase her a bit. That's cool! I think what surprises me most is the amount of anxiety I still feel after falling off. That was months ago! I feel like we've worked through so many issues, yet it seems the only cure is to ride without falling. Stephan thinks I should just practice falling off over and over. He said, "Ya know, bronc riders can't be afraid of falling, they fall nearly every time they ride. They're just good at falling" He might have a point there, but I'd still like to have a nice, well-mannered horse, not a bronc. I like having my ribs intact. I'm really looking forward to my next session with Robin. We'll be riding together soon.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pre-ride preparations

Each time I take Calico out, I go through a series of excercises to warm-up and prepare for riding. Today Stephan came out with our boy Philip. He was able to get a few new pictures for the blog. I know that as we forge ahead in our journey, the prep times will be shorter and the rides will be longer. Today, I spent about 45 minutes warming up and about 20 in the saddle. The big news is that we moved back to the arena for the first time since my fall. We really had to work on standing still while I mount up. She was much more responsive to the bit yesterday in the round pen, but I think overall we did well. Watch the transformation from wild bronc to relaxed pleasure horse. I have to admit, as I was walking her around I felt nervous and wondered how I was ever going to be ready to get out on the trail. We will do it just like we've done everything else, slow and steady.
This is just before our round penning session. Fresh and Fun.

She is really having fun with the dogs. I think she'd like to kill them.

Here we're doing some basic round-penning. I put a feed bag on the ground in her path that she had to manuever without coming in toward me.

In the last clip, you can see we moved to the arena. Stephan was busy with Philip, so he only got the last few moments of our ride, but I really did have a good time with her today.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Confidence Building

Yesterday, I was on my own. I went through all my excercises on the ground with Calico. When I'm not with the trainer, I have to use the small roundpen at the place where Cali is boarded. It's very cramped and it's hard for her to get a real workout. Even though it's small, it still works to prepare her mentally because I can visibly see her mind settle and then she's ready to focus on what I'm asking. I was just about to get on her when the landscaper arrived with the weed-whacker and leaf blower. She was distracted, so I did a few more minutes on the ground with her to see if she would react to the noise, then I mounted up. We just walked today. I feel like a baby, taking baby steps, but each time we end on a good note, I can push a little farther. I was suppose to spend at least thirty minutes in the saddle, I think I spent about 12. I dismounted and remounted again. She did fine and it felt good to be on her again. Next time I think I'll ride in the arena instead of the round pen. She responds to the lightest pressure on the rein and she seems very relaxed. If we just do lots of circles, and serpentines and walk-trot transitions, I think we'll be fine.
I'm thinking about the Twenty Mule Team ride in Ridgecrest, CA. That's near Death Valley not too far from here. It's on February 27th, so I better get to work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back in the saddle

Okay, quick review. On Sept. 1st, I got dumped on my tailbone pretty hard, and decided to get some professional help. Calico and I worked together with our trainer Robin to fill in the holes in my training. Cali was a quick learner, but we definitely had some respect issues to hammer out. Over the holidays, I found myself making excuses to just clean stalls and rush home. Nearly a month went by between training sessions and I was wondering if this was ever going to be fun again or if fear would always be there nagging me. I'm sure Robin picked up on my hesitation. She nudged me a little, then dangled some joy in front of me.

Cali saw the horse trailer pull up, and got excited. I put her in the little round pen next to her stall, and she went wild, bucking and kicking up a dust storm. After she settled down a bit I led her out to the street; she jumped right in the trailer. She was ready to work. Robin said, since it had been a while since our last session, she wanted me to work with her first to see if Calico tried any tricks. Her energy was a little high, and a little pissy, but she got right into the old routine quickly, and soon we were waltzing around like Fred and Ginger. After a while, Robin put on Calico's tack and mounted up. She was walking and trotting, bending and stopping. Then it was my turn. I hadn't trotted on her since before my fall. It was so relaxed, loose rein, easy downward transitions to a walk. Robin said, " You plan when you want to do your first limited distance (25 mile) ride and I'll go with you." I'm so excited. I promised I would ride her at least two days a week, and then we're going to start doing some little trail rides around the neighborhood and local trails. Robin has done so much more than train my horse, she's help me to regain my confidence. That's huge. I'm back.....I'm back in the saddle again!