Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | December 22, 2013

Lessons Learned

My riding lesson with Tracey last weekend was rescheduled for this weekend due to cold temps. I had to feed at Main Stay this morning, but I decided to reorganize my day so that I could get out to the barn early. I wanted to watch my friends’ lessons with Tracey, and be sure to walk Cloud for quite some time before my lesson since the horses have been kept in due to icy paddocks. My long day at the barn turned out to teach me more than just one lesson….

Today I had a big eye-opener/reminder that I need to get back to my groundwork, because it is so so so so valuable. The first thing I did when I got to the barn was groom Cloud so that I could go watch lessons, and be able to tack him quickly when I was ready to ride. It was a busy barn morning since the weather was pretty nice, and all the grooming stalls were filled in the West Barn. I volunteered to give up the crossties/groom stall and ground tied Cloud in the middle of the aisle. It has been a while since we’ve even practiced our ground tying. When Cloud hurt his foot, I started using cross ties to keep him from moving around when I was wrapping his foot. Since his injury, I just got back in the habit of using cross ties. Which is a nasty habit. I’m not a fan of cross ties. Despite being a while since we’ve ground tied, Cloud was a rockstar! He only tried to exit back to his stall once, but it’s always a good reinforcement/opportunity to correct, I used the porcupine game to put him back where we started. This was part 1 of the “Importance of Parelli” lesson today.

So then I went up to watch Nancy’s lesson with George. It was nice because I really took in a lot of good information. George and Cloud are pretty different horses, but it’s interesting to learn about Tracey’s ideas for a horse that does different things than Cloud. Exactly what I was looking for by showing up to observe the other lessons.

I my second reminder of the importance of natural horsemanship towards the end of Nancy’s lesson…..another girl was riding her horse getting him warmed up for her jumping lesson. She is a nice girl who trailers her horse in for her lessons and works at the farm as an intern. I had noticed before that she rode in Parelli reins like I have, and I’d seen her do some of Parelli’s games. And today, I am very glad that her horse has been trained in natural horsemanship! Her horse suddenly spooked or bolted and leapt sideways, which would have been alright, but her saddle slipped sideways and she had no choice but to bail. Things got pretty hairy as the horse took off at a gallop. Poor Nancy had to jump off George, who held it together as best he could. The horse galloped around, positively freaked by his saddle, which shifted to under his belly. The flaps were making a loud noise, and the stirrups were smacking his sides, until they released from the saddle. This poor horse was so terrified…but after a few laps, he came towards me and responded when I told him to whoa, but then realized I was not his mom and took off again, but found her and ran to her. He was shaking head to toe, but she was able to grab his reins and remove the saddle. I shudder to think of how the episode would have ended if she hadn’t clearly done her work with him in groundwork and established such a good relationship with her horse. It was very obvious once he was able to start using his left brain that he knew to go to her to save him. And then beyond that, once the saddle was off, she right away started playing the friendly game and even the touch it game to calm him down. And she was able to have a great lesson after the whole thing, mostly thanks to her being able to settle him back down. This was a big eye opener to me to not let my Parelli training with Cloud get rusty. It really is important! …And I was going to get ANOTHER reminder….

After Nancy’s lesson I went to get Cloud and walked him around for about 40 minutes before my lesson. He really needed to stretch his legs. When it was my turn for a lesson, we were able to get right into it. I was very excited to show Tracey how much we’ve been working on our tension problems! And it paid off! We started with trotting and cantering a warm up. The canter had him feeling very fresh, but Tracey was impressed by my ability to relax and ask him to slow. Once he was warmed up, we started doing three loop serpentines. Those were easy, so she made them harder by having my canter short bursts in the pattern. He got pretty jazzed over it, but every time he started to rush or anticipate and canter, I was able to settle him. Especially with a few pointers from Tracey. She reminded me that if he doesn’t slow himself that I need to be more specific and make it happen, but without getting tense!! At the end of our lesson Tracey told me that she had never seen Cloud so relaxed. Our hard work has paid off!

On our way out of the arena, I stopped to put on Cloud’s cooler. Cloud went to rub his face, which I always discourage when he has his bridle on because I’m afraid he will step on or step through his reins. I usually give him a soft “kick” (usually it’s more the action than physical contact, and I do not hurt my horse in doing this) to make him lift his head back up. Today I did that, and as he lifted his head back up, my foot tangled in the reins. There was a time in Cloud’s life that he really overreacted to things like stepping on his lead rope, he used to rear up and cause a big scene whenever he would feel the pressure pulling him down. But Parelli teaches horses to give in to pressure. If you push them, they move away, if you pull them they move towards you. So when Cloud felt my leg pulling him downwards, he stood still with his head down while I released my foot. If he reared and reacted the way he used to, it could have been a very scary situation! Tracey said if my horse didn’t love me so much I could have easily broken my leg, or worse. 

And so as 2013 winds down and I start thinking of my horsey resolutions, I already know that regular Parelli sessions is on the list! 

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Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | December 13, 2013

Amazing Things

Well Cloud’s heel is all healed up, faster than any of us imagined. Kara, the barn manager who first cleaned up the injury, said it definitely made the top 5 of the worst horse injuries she has seen. Way to go Cloudy Boy! A week and a half ago, I had Joe come out to cut off the hoof flap, which managed to hang on. I thought it’d have more healing to do once the flap was gone, but by some miracle the hoof was completely healed-over under the flap! I really think that having that flap of hoof still on helped the healing process.

I’ve been back riding for about 2 weeks. Time to get him back into shape. We have our first lesson post-injury this Sunday. I am excited! We are just doing a half hour, because we are both still getting back into riding shape.

I feel like breaks I’ve had in riding have allowed me to come back better than before. Before I was trying to change the muscle memory my body already had for riding. Taking an extended break this fall, and then by accident post-injury, I am coming back to riding and putting my body in the right position, and keeping the tension out of it. It actually worked out perfectly. It’s much easier to start out fresh than to battle the muscle memory.

I rode tonight. It was in the single digits again, but luckily the arenas are heated, and kept at a nice 40*. It’s warm enough for me, but cool enough that Cloud won’t get too warm. I do not miss the cold while riding! And the best part is that the ground is not frozen, which was terrible for Cloud’s joints.

My ride tonight was amazing. I am a different rider through and through. I am keeping my body straighter and looser (no tension). Before, when Cloud was not following my body’s steering, I would get even more crooked…to the point that Cloud was learning to wait for me to get super crooked, and learning entirely the opposite of what I was after. Now if he’s not following my lead, I concentrate on not letting my body go crooked, and backing up my message with my leg. I am barely using the reins to steer, and he is getting so soft and supple. I remember not too long ago when he would get HEAVY in my hands, so much that my shoulders would ache…and my response to that was to get heavier right back, and tense. Now if I feel him getting heavy, I give him slack in the reins and we work back to the right position.

Sometimes, especially when he’s feeling frisky, Cloud will rush down the long sides of the arena, especially when he is heading towards the barn door. Again, this used to prompt me to tense up my body and get heavy with my hands. Tonight he started to rush down the long side, and instead of getting tense I told myself to do the opposite, I gave him slack in the inside rein and stroked his neck, an action which made me keep my body relaxed. Just that motion of giving slack and giving him a reassuring pet, he relaxed his body and stretched his neck, so then I could sit back and slow my post and put his energy to good use.

I am making tremendous personal break throughs. I don’t care if we are able to perform a dressage test, or ready to go before a judge…I care about our connection and being partners with Cloud. I am more connected to him than ever in the saddle. And he is so relaxed, which anyone who has known Cloud for a long time knows that he is not a relaxed horse. I don’t mean that he is spooky or uncontrollable, but we were a tense mess before, and now we are so flexible and smooth and harmonious.

I am gushing. It’s just a cool feeling to know that what I am doing now is making me a completely different and better rider. It’s almost like going back and starting all over again. And this time, I have a new focus, and one that counts.

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | November 26, 2013

Healing/HEELing.

I’ve let time pass again. Basically as summer went on I struggled to get in a rhythm of riding while balancing having a new puppy. Having a puppy is a lot of work, and Rob worked a lot of hours so most of the puppy responsibilities fell on me. I made it out to see Cloudy Boy, but wasn’t riding consistently. Then fall hit, with work being super busy as the new school year getting underway, and my marathon training taking up a lot of time….Cloudy Boy got to be a little lazy. I hate when my riding schedule gets out of whack, but it is good to know that he is so happy at his barn and can enjoy being a horse. At my previous barn, I would have had a major guilt trip over not riding so much, because Cloud wasn’t able to graze and wasn’t out with good friends like he is at Cliffwood. So all’s well that ends well.

Once my marathon passed, it was time to get Cloudy Boy, and myself, back into riding shape! Bonus was that Rob’s work schedule changed as the weather turned colder, which set me up for a lot of barn time with him home with Lambeau. We worked our way slowly up to get back into shape. My first lesson of our comeback was on November 9.

It was a very interesting lesson! Cathy had ridden her lesson right before mine outside, so I figured I’d just take Cloud outside too. It was one of those crazy warm November days that we had gotten. I hadn’t ridden outside since summer, but Cloudy’s a good boy so I knew we’d be good. And good he was. It was incredibly windy and jump standards were falling all around us! And as if that weren’t crazy enough, a horse got loose on the property, too! He impressed Tracey, and Cathy and Nancy who were watching our lesson, with his cool. I love that horse so much 🙂 And the lesson was awesome too, considering we only had 2-3 weeks of work under our belts!

Things were progressing after that nicely. Cloud was really coming off of his break feeling great. One night I even took him around a course of jumps in the big indoor! They were up, and I remembered how much Cloud loved jumping so we went for it! The first jump he sailed over…a bit too high and I ended up on his neck lol. But after that it was smooth sailing and we had a blast.

And then…..

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This happened one day in turnout. Cloud tore of his bell boot, a shoe, and his heel bulb. This actually happened when I was downtown in Chicago for a convention. Time for another shameless plug for the amazingness of Cliffwood Farm. The farmhands alerted Kara, the barn manager, to the wound. She came to look at it, called me, cleaned it out, called my farrier, held Cloud for the farrier, cleaned it out again, treated it, wrapped him up, and gave him bute….and then cleaned/treated it again the next day because I was still downtown. And then later in the week when I was at school and the vet came out, she unwrapped it, held him while she looked at it, and rewrapped it. I’m 100% sure that my last barn would not have called me. And let me tell you, untreated hoof wounds can get infected and become pretty serious if left untreated!!

But since it was caught early and kept clean and dry…it has continued to heal. This is it 5 days after it happened, now it’s been about 2 weeks but I don’t have an updated pic.

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So it still has that hoof flap over it, but it looks really good underneath. My vet recommended leaving the flap until it develops its own protective layer, so I texted Joe tonight to see if he’d come out and clip the flap. I’d rather not do it myself, and I know Joe will come out and do it for me because he cares so much about Cloud and I! Joe told me he is going out of town Wednesday through Sunday and offered to come out tomorrow, but I decided to just wait till next Monday. I don’t really think the flap is doing any harm or limiting the healing process.

So obviously, our riding has been halted again. But now he is not showing any sensitivity towards his hoof, so I think Wednesday (when I’m off of work) I will wrap his foot up and ride him. Will do a lot of walking and give trotting a little try. But I don’t want to over-do it. I just want to get started getting back into our riding schedule as soon as possible. I know that walking won’t hurt his foot, so a little trotting should be fine.

I will try to get on and update more! I promise!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | July 15, 2013

A pedestal, poles, and a puppy!

So much has been going on, but I just haven’t had much time at the computer! Whoa!

I realized as summer began that I hadn’t done much groundwork/playing lately, so I took a few days to mix in Parelli into my routine. I dragged out my pedestal, which I hadn’t played with in MONTHS, and surprise!! The first day back to the pedestal, was the first day Cloud went onto it with both front legs!

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After that, it was super easy! He went up down, even walked his hind end over it. He just was so cute on his pedestal! I need to continue to make time for our ground stuff, beyond what we do with ground tying/liberty around the barn.

Cloud and I have had a couple of really good lessons with Tracey in the last few weeks. She has us doing some exercises with ground poles, which are really helping Cloud remember to use his hind end, and really helping me work on specific timing of my aides, as we use the poles for transitions a lot.

In fact, we had an AWESOME lesson today with Tracey. We rode in the large indoor, because the sun was just too hot outside. The barn had the big fans on in the big indoor, and the big door open at the opposite end, which created a nice breeze through the arena, and the temps were actually not that bad.

Tracey had set up a simple ground pole at one end of the arena, and 2 small diagonal poles (one end raised) down one long side. After a warmup, we started using her poles to do ‘tasks’. The first task was just to trot down the long side over the diagonal poles, turn around, and come back over them the other direction. This was a nice way to get Cloud and I used to the diagonal poles and work on control of his pace (no rushing) before getting too complicated. We troubleshooted some pacing issues, specifically how my rein aides were causing him to run through the poles.

We broke up the exercise using a 20 meter circle with the simple ground pole to keep Cloud’s focus. We would take ‘breaks’ and do circles, then go back to the diagonal poles. After quite a bit of practice, I had Cloud doing the exercise with control, which translated to an amazing trot and those super-easy, practically mind-controlled 90* turns. Love!!

Cloud earned himself a break at that point and Tracey and I gushed on how good our practice turned out for the exercise, and how happy Cloud was with himself. The poles and the tasks give him a challenge, and you could tell he really enjoyed the exercise. Tracey said it’s so important to find ways to get what we want that are fun for our horses. Cloud really likes exercises, patterns, and poles! And in return for doing something fun for him, we got an awesome trot out of him, and easy steering!

The next task was to trot into the diagonal pole line, then canter out. I had to keep the relaxation that I had learned from the first exercise, even though the exercise was tougher. The first run through I leaned forward on the transition, causing Cloud to jump the diagonal and run into the canter. I got the transition and my lead, but it was not smooth and Cloud took off practically at a hand-gallop. Weeeee! It was okay though, because it was good practice for me to relax my body even though he was tense.

Settled him down, got a nice trot back, and ran through the exercise again, in the same direction. This time I sat back through the transition, but my ask was a hair too late and Cloud picked up the wrong lead, which I solved with an easy flying change a stride later 🙂 The good thing was that this time we had a nice settled canter, which I brought down into the trot.

We took a break at that point to do a few trot circles over the ground pole, and then some trot/halt and trot/walk transitions with the ground pole because I could feel Cloud anticipating the pattern and wanting to canter at the pole. Once he was focused on me again, we ran through the diagonals for a third time in the same direction…and this time was PERFECT!!! I trotted in and held him nice and smooth through the first pole, and he was quiet and listening as we approached the second pole and I got the timing perfectly, we eased into a nice left lead canter that just felt amazing!! We cantered a full lap, then circled over the ground pole before letting him completely walk on a loose rein.

After a break we went to the right, and got the exercise correct on try. Because it went so well, we cantered a full lap, and went through the diagonal line. It was challenging to keep a smooth nice canter as we went through the line, but we were so connected and it worked! I had to be thinking and controlling every stride, but we made it through perfectly. It was awesome.

We spent the last 10-15 minutes doing circles at the far end of the arena, which tends to give us trouble. Cloud likes the ‘turn for home’, aka the turn down the longside that leads to the gate out of the arena, so when I try to have him do 20 meter circles at that end it can get a bit hairy. Adding to our problems, of course, is the fact that I anticipate that he’s not going to listen to my turns, so I let my body get all tense and crooked. Really throughout the whole lesson we were so connected that we didn’t have our usual troubles, but it was good to practice those circles anyways. We ended when he was really listening and turning off my seat for the circles. I finished my ride with a nice mini-trail ride!

I loved our lesson so much today, and so did Tracey. She said it’s the best she’s ever seen me ride. She has said that before, but it’s just proof that we are getting better and better. Specifically, I am getting so much better with my body and tension. I can feel myself becoming a better rider, more than I have ever felt with any previous trainer. It seems like my past lessons were all about the small picture….the jumps, the dressage tests, the show, and Tracey is about the big picture…becoming a better rider so that we can do whatever we want to do. I don’t feel like we are just focused on a single exercise, or a single goal, but that everything we do reinforces the same thing…becoming connected with my horse by sending clear, consistent messages with my body. It’s mind boggling!

So that is where I am at with Cloud….and now onto the other big news! My boyfriend and I adopted a puppy!!!!!

If you have been a reader for long, you may remember the super-sad post about losing my 5 year old Westie, Winnie, to a grand mal seizure episode following her yearly shots. Winnie was my first dog, and she was very special to me. I grew up as a dog-lover in a cat-loving household. I had cats growing up, and although I loved them, I always wanted a dog. Specifically, I grew up wanting a border collie! I loved the breed from the second I met my first border collie. They are smart, athletic, energetic, and willing to please. It’s funny how much thoroughbreds and border collies seem similar to me 🙂

When I graduated from EIU with my undergrad, my parents gave me a puppy for graduation. I was going to get my Masters at Marquette, and could use the company as I was moving to the city by myself. I knew right away, however, that the time was not right for a border collie. I was moving to a small one-bedroom apartment, but more importantly I knew that I would be too busy to meet the energy needs of a border collie. I decided to get a small dog, because it just seemed to fit my apartment. I did want a breed that had enough energy to play and go for walks, though. I did research and decided on a Westie, which is why I got Winnie! I am so grateful for her. She was not the border collie I had dreamed of growing up, but she was exactly what I needed at that point in my life. She played and went for walks when I wanted to play or go for a walk, but she napped and cuddled if that was what I wanted to do. She didn’t seem to have a play/exercise requirement for a day, or a sleep/rest requirement. She was game for whatever I wanted to do. She was the best company, and was my whole world in grad school. It was my first time living truly alone, and she was all I had (other than Cloud, of course, but I couldn’t keep him in my apartment!). I will never ever forget how important she was to me at that point in my life.

When I lost her, it was devastating. It seemed way too early. 5 was way too young, I never dreamed I would lose her so soon. Luckily I was able to comfort myself because I knew I had never taken her for granted. We spent so much time together and had fun together every day. When I was home, I was spending time with her. I took her for daily walks, and I played with her constantly. If I was watching tv, I was sitting on the floor playing with her. She and I packed a lot into our five years together.

I knew that I was ready for a new dog, but I thought about Winnie a lot in the process of finding a new puppy. I knew right away when I started to get the itch for a new puppy, that it was going to be my border collie! Of course, since I moved in with Rob, I had to sell him on the breed….which turned out to be easy 🙂 I taught him a little bit about the breed, and showed him pictures and videos. He got very excited about the idea of having a dog that can fetch tennis balls and frisbees, and possibly do agility for fun, too! We were ready!

Lambeau did not come into our lives as planned…we were looking for a rescue and were just waiting for the right puppy to come along…which he did, but not through a rescue! Once we saw him, there was no turning back and he became ours in a whirlwind!

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Having a puppy is fun, but exhausting! It really is a lot of work, and because of his bladder and attention needs, it’s complicating my riding schedule, but I am figuring it out. We have enrolled him in puppy classes at a center that trains agility…so that we can follow their methods through everything. I want so much from him, because he is the dog I always wanted to have. I am hopeful that he will be well trained, capable of being off leash, be my running partner, be an agility dog for fun, and be able to come to the barn with me!

Anyways, just wanted to share my puppy news with my readers, especially since sharing my story about Winnie. Losing Winnie was hard, but I know now that it meant I got to love another dog, too!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | May 27, 2013

Feeling more natural

Boy oh boy it has been too long!!! To put it in perspective, this upcoming week is my last week of school for the year…and I last posted during my spring break! Yipes! Spring really is the busiest time of my work year…I refer to it as “IEP Season”, because many kiddos’ IEP due dates fall in the spring, plus many initial evaluations are completed in the spring. So I’ve been super mega busy with work, and just not on my computer all that often.

Unfortunately, my work was also getting in the way of my Cloud time a bit and I went through a slight slump. I’d go out to see him, but mostly I ended up grooming and playing and not riding. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t feel great about it. But I didn’t feel right about riding without keeping up with it either, so Cloud had a few light weeks. But he still knew I loved him and wanted to be with him 🙂

Last weekend I went to Iowa for another Parelli Tour Stop. Since this is my third in about a year’s time, I decided to volunteer at the tour stop. Volunteers get a $250 gift card for Parelli equipment/educational materials/merchandise, and I got to watch a lot of the show because when the show was going on, retail was quiet. It was perfect 🙂 I used my voucher to get “The Game of Contact” dads “Success Series: Lead Changes”, and a few other small things. I’m pretty excited about my DVDs….now if I could only find time to watch them!!

Coming home from the Tour Stop I really missed Cloud. Granted, I had been seeing him regularly, I missed spending my usual time with him…so this past week I got right back to it! Pretty good timing, too, with Memorial Day weekend pretty much to myself!

So I’ve been playing with Cloud and riding him gradually…lots of walk breaks, short stints of trotting, minimal cantering, and no contact/collection. Just building up fitness. It’s been fun because I’ve been doing a lot of patterns to keep us from getting too bored, and doing patterns has let me work on steering with my seat. For having taken a small break from riding, I’m pretty excited to see how natural riding naturally is coming to me 😛 I don’t have to think about where my hands, hips, shoulders, weight need to be, just think about where I want US to be, and we go there. Today I did some centerlines and riding off the rail, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of how DIFFICULT taking a sharp right turn off of the rail used to be, and how freaking SIMPLE it is now. It feels like ESP…I think where we’re going, and we go. No tension, no fuss, no swinging wide or cutting corners. Just so simple!

I am looking forward to summer, but I’m also anxious to see what my schedule/availability is for playing/riding. I have a lot on my plate this summer! Rob and I are moving in less than 2 weeks!!! We’re moving to Lakemoor, which is not far from where I am now…but unfortunately it is going away from Cloud instead of towards him. Rob is going to be commuting to Northbrook for work, and I am very happy that it was his decision to keep me closer to Main Stay (and subsequently Cliffwood), instead of finding somewhere in the middle of our works. So I will be driving about a half hour to Cloud, maybe a little less than that. At least he’s still so close to Main Stay, that does make things easier. I’ve toyed with the idea of looking at a couple of stables that are closer to Lakemoor, but I’m really not that motivated about it…I’ve tried to tell myself ‘it doesn’t hurt to look’, but I love Cliffwood and really don’t see me leaving there. We’ve officially been there over a year now, and I am so thrilled with how healthy and happy Cloud is. So for now I’m not even going to bother looking at other stables haha!

I guess that’s about it. I had a great holiday weekend with Cloud. We had some nice relaxing rides. Yesterday was pretty fun…6 planes were practicing an aerial routine right over the barn! Other horses maybe have been worried about it, but not Cloudy Boy! We rode in the large outdoor, and I couldn’t resist tipping my head to the sky and watching the ‘private show’! Boy was Cloud confused when I would do that…he couldn’t figure out what I was doing up there, which just goes to show you how sensitive horses are to what their riders are doing!

It’s about time to head over and give Cloudy Boy his evening beet pulp, and feed the Main Stay ponies! Will write again more soon!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | March 26, 2013

Spring Cleaning

Okay, so it looks/feels nothing like spring, but it’s my spring break…and I had cleaning to do, so we’re making it work!!

It started with laundry…I wanted to wash my saddle pads and polos. But then I realized I couldn’t do all my barn laundry, only to put it on a dirty horse! So Cloud got a bath today. I was planning on bathing him later in the week, but the sun came out this morning…of course the second I got going the weather turned cloudy and cold again. But I had already gotten started, so I went ahead with it. I kept Cloud in after his bath, and his barn is warm enough that he wouldn’t get a chill. 

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Well of course, you can’t put a dirty halter on a clean horse…or dirty tack on clean saddle pads. So out came the leather cleaner and conditioner. While all this was going on, I was also soaking my brushes…because, well, obviously you can’t use dirty brushes on a clean horse that will be wearing clean saddle pads and clean tack! It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve cleaned my brushes, so I was thrilled when they came out of the bucket looking like new! 

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So basically I am thrilled to get a good start to my spring break. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing left to clean at the barn…so now I can spend the rest of my week playing and riding! I can’t believe I accomplished my entire spring cleaning to-do list in one day….but it was a domino effect! If I only cleaned one thing (the horse, the grooming tools, the saddle pads, the tack), it would just get dirty again!!

Spending all of this time cleaning, however, made me want to set up a routine/schedule for staying on top of these things. Especially my brushes. I really need to keep those clean. If I kept on top of things more, I wouldn’t feel like everything was SO dirty that it all had to be done in one day, lest one dirty thing ruin the clean stuff! So I think I’m going to try to make a list of things that need to be cleaned, how often they need to be done…and somehow make it into a routine. Haha we’ll see…it sounds like a good idea…but in practice….

Anyways, yesterday I had a lesson with Tracey…but for once, it wasn’t our best. It was interesting though. I warmed up Cloud..and he was running around like a mad man. I wasn’t surprised, I had been busy the week before and he had 4 days off. When Tracey came in, we went to work, and the running around went away, but our steering wasn’t great. So the lesson was spent working on steering from my seat, which was totally review for us, but totally fell apart for whatever reason yesterday. It was a good lesson, revisiting steering was good review for me, but not too much exciting to report. I blame me for that one, not Cloudy Boy.

I am looking forward to a good solid week of playing and riding. Life’s been busy for me lately, and I really need to get back into good riding/playing habits with Cloudy Boy. This always seems to happen to me right before spring break….mostly because work is always busy right before spring break. But the past is the past, we are ready for a great spring break together…certainly starting with a *clean* slate!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | March 11, 2013

Rocky Balboa

Saturday morning I went out for a ride on Cloud, hoping to have another great ride to prep us for my lesson today. When I got to the barn, a friend who is starting natural horsemanship with her horse was heading into the arena to play, so I decided to go with her and have a play date! We were having a lot of fun, Cloud was playing with his pedestal and new big green ball. When I was playing the yo-yo game, I noticed that Cloud had a funny expression on his face….he had a droopy bottom lip, but only one side. I drew him back to me…and noticed that half of his bottom lip was swelled up, like he had been punched (more likely kicked or bumped) in the mouth.

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So we called it quits on our play date, and I took him back into the barn. I’m surprised I didn’t noticed his lip when I was grooming him. I took a picture and sent it to the vet, but really I figured it was just some random thing…either an allergic reaction or he had gotten kicked or bumped in the mouth playing in the pasture. I prodded around to make sure that he didn’t have like a stalk of hay jabbed in his lip, but Cloud was pretty hesitant about me touching it so I didn’t get a good look. I took his temperature, which was normal, and tucked him back in his stall. It was then that I noticed he really hadn’t eaten much of his hay that day. Poor guy! It probably hurt! I watched him a while, and he was eating, but very slowly. You could tell he was uncomfortable. So I gave him his beet pulp, which he scarfed down, and prepared him a second helping for later, with some hay pellets added in. I wet down his hay in his stall, and asked the guys to soak his hay until his lip goes down. He had no trouble eating his grain, which is good.

There certainly was a time in our lives where I would cancel my riding lesson for today. Although it was his bottom lip, and a bit probably wouldn’t hurt…I certainly wouldn’t want to risk hurting him/irritating his lip when I’m trying to get it to deflate. But nowadays, we have a LOT more going for us. I haven’t ridden Cloud bitless all winter, because of his energy, but I definitely wasn’t scared to give it a go…and I was excited to see what Tracey would have us doing in a lesson without a bit! So I texted her to make sure it was okay, which of course it was!

So this morning I tacked up Cloudy Boy, sans bridle, and led him up to the arena. Cathy was finishing up her lesson as I tied up Cloud’s rope and hopped on. “Do you need a bridle?” Cathy asked. LOL She thought I had broken my bridle or forgot it at home or something. As she finished up her lesson, I tested out our steering and our brakes without a bit. Everything was feeling great!

When my lesson started I told Tracey that I was bummed I couldn’t show her how much work we had done with the bit, but excited to see what we could do without. She commented that she could see a difference in my posture and keeping my outside shoulder down and back, and in my tension, which is great!

Tracey’s plan for our bitless lesson was downward transitions. When she told me that I thought (out loud!!) “OH. MY. GOD.” Tracey laughed, and said that she figured I’d have that reaction. But really, brakes are pretty important when you are riding a hot OTTB without a bit.

We started simple…walk-trot-walk transitions. Tracey wanted me to be very specific, because it would be to simple to get the transition in multiple strides. The instructions were to walk 4 strides, trot 4, walk 4. Well, that was the plan, of course, but it took me a little longer initially. But I was pretty surprised we were getting transitions! I’m talking completely from my seat, not even touching my ‘reins’ to use the halter to stop him. And this is Cloud, for heaven’s sake!!

After we were having success with walk/trot, we tried walk/halt, which was really hard. I could get the world’s slowest walk out of Cloud with just my seat, but to get him to halt without the reins was difficult. Tracey said that she expected halts to be hard for him, so instead of walking around at a snail’s pace and asking over and over, I was to ask, and then use reins to back up my message and teach him. A few times of that, and he learned what I was trying to get at. The most important part for walk to halt was to *not follow Cloud’s motion*…which is so hard!! I had to stay deep in the saddle, and literally stop my hips from rocking with his motion, but I also couldn’t get tense or squeeze his sides to stop my hips from moving. OMG, did you get all that? Seriously, halting was so complex without reins!

Would you even believe that we did some trot-canter-trot transitions? Boy, those weren’t smooth haha. But some tries were much much better than others. Tracey would tell me how many strides I was allowed to get the transitions…and I actually met her demands a few times. But then after doing several canter transitions, we had to break it up because Cloud was starting to anticipate the canter, and wasn’t listening to my seat, which was the entire goal of the exercise. So we had to go back to walk-trot-walk and walk-halt-walk transitions. We got a little discombobulated for a while, I had forgotten the feel from before the canter, and had picked up some tension as well. So we spent the end of our lesson getting back to our good halt/walk/trot transitions.

Today’s lesson sure was a lot of good learning for me, and Tracey was excited too! She actually suggested that riding in a halter once a week would be really good for me to get my seat working harder and my hands working less. Through all the work that we were doing, I didn’t have any trouble at all steering from my seat…I didn’t even realize that until the end of our ride. It just goes to show you all that I have learned with Tracey!!

By the way, Cloud’s lip was looking smaller today. Not back to normal, but probably half of the size it was yesterday. I kept him on bute through tomorrow morning…so I will see tomorrow evening if we need to keep going with the bute. We’ll see if I’ll be riding in a bit or not tomorrow 🙂 Either way, we will get so much done!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | March 9, 2013

There’s Something About Cloud

Last Sunday I had a great lesson with Tracey, and I am looking forward to another lesson tomorrow. She typically comes every other week, but had to miss a week so now I am excited for 2 weeks in a row! Our lesson last week focused on my tension. Cloud has had an enormous supply of get-up-and-go this winter. He is a good boy, and is not out to blow up and toss me off, but he is taking the bit and running with it. My tension, I believe, comes from not wanting to get ‘left behind’ the motion. But my tension is feeding into Cloud’s excitement, which just makes us go faster. During my lesson, Tracey would call out from the center of the ring to ‘wiggle’. Yes, wiggle. And that meant that I needed to literally shake out the tension from my body. Tracey has diagnosed that I have a lot of tension in my forearms, which is directly connected to Cloud’s mouth. When I ‘wiggled’ and let the tension out of my body, the tension left Cloud, and there was a lovely transition from a tense, hot, rushing motion to a smooth gait. The second half of my lesson, I was able to keep my body relaxed, and our ride was going great!

Then, Tracey wanted to do an exercise that was going to unravel all of that. What?? Haha! She told me that once we had some nice solid front to back motion, it was time to loosen up our side to side motion. When she put it that way, it all made sense! Especially thinking back to my old dressage lessons, when I would take my super-forward Cloud into lateral work, and just make things worse. His front to back motion had to be loosened up without any tension before we could expect sideways to become loose and free. So, we spent the last 15-20 minutes of our lesson doing an exercise from the quarterline to just off of the wall. We did it in baby steps, and our best go at it was only a few really good steps, but it was our first time trying the task, and I really needed to work at not letting tension creep back in once we were working side to side, and spoil our front to back, if that makes sense. I have had a few really good, tension-free (or less tension lol) rides since our lesson, so I am looking forward to having more time for sideways in tomorrow’s lesson.

One other comment that Tracey made that I wanted to be sure to log for my memory was about riding off of the rail. Certainly, this is not a concept that is new to me…a lot of past trainers have emphasized riding off the rail, but I liked the way Tracey talked about it. Tracey starts a lot of young horses, and re-starts a lot of thoroughbreds off of the track. She told me that she rides every one of them off of the rail…100% of the time. While many of my past trainers have said that riding off the rail is important, I have also noticed that all of them spend an awful lot of their ride time on the rail. Tracey told me that she begins training all of her horses by steering with her seat, not her hands, and riding off of the rail so that they never know when she is going to turn them. So that, by the time she picks up the reins to steer, they are listening to her entire body, and they know not to turn until she says to. It was a great bit of information to take in, and I am trying to break myself of the rail-habit. She told me that although Cloud is 20, it is never too late to change the way we ride. Amen!!

Now to share what my Thursday night Facebook spoiler-status was all about!! Thursday night, I went out in the evening to ride Cloud. I groomed him all up and tacked him up for a ride, then led him into the big indoor arena. Cathy was riding, and two young teen lesson girls that I have only seen a few times around the barn and hadn’t introduced myself to yet. They might be new to the barn, I’m not sure. Anyways, as I led Cloud in, the girls met eyes and I heard a quiet squeal (yes, a squeal) from one of them. “Is that Cloud??” one of the girls asked. I replied, “yes”, and the girl replied… “Oh my God! He is my dream horse!”

I have gotten a lot of compliments about Cloud in my day, and every one of them is so special to me. I take compliments about my horse more to heart than compliments about myself. But this one, really really was special to me. I replied to the girl, “Thank you, he’s my dream horse too”. I could tell walking in that they were finishing up their rides, but they appeared to linger in the arena to watch Cloudy Boy. I mounted up and walked him around, and the two girls halted their horses in the center of the ring and were talking, but sneaking glances at Cloud. As I picked up the trot to get him warmed up, I heard a muffled, “He’s trotting!” from the center of the ring. Cathy finished up her ride, and was exiting the ring and asked the girls if they wanted her to leave the gate open for them. Somewhat reluctantly, the girls left, and I proceeded to have a wonderful ride on MY dream horse.

As I led Cloud back down through the main barn to head out to the West Barn, I passed the girls again. I’m not kidding, I felt like I was hanging out with a celebrity because these young girls were so enamored with Cloudy Boy. I headed over to the West Barn, and walked past a woman sitting in a mini van outside of our barn. As I walked in the barn, she got out of her van and followed me in. As I situated Cloud back in the groom stall, she approached and asked, “Is that Cloud??” Wondering what the heck was going on in the world, I replied “Yes”, and she told me how beautiful he is, and that she had been taking pictures of him the night before.

It turns out that the woman is one of the girls’ moms. But I still was just blown away by the love for my horse! As I said, I get quite a few compliments about Cloudy Boy. I think a lot of owners of the less-common colored variety get their horses noticed. But I was just very touched by the ‘dream horse’ compliment. It reminded me of how I felt when I first met Cloud. I had seen dozens of tall, beautiful, grey thoroughbreds before I met Cloud, but only one was my ‘dream horse’ from the second I saw him. He stood out to me, and I was in love at first sight of him. That ‘dream horse’ feeling has never worn off for me. He IS my dream horse, and I was touched to hear that someone else felt for him something like what I felt that first day that I saw Cloud.

As I explained how I felt to Rob, I realized that it goes deeper than just feeling good about a compliment on my horse. The best analogy I came up with is that it’s like cars….you can spend $100k on a really flashy car, and you expect to get compliments. But if you bought a car that looked like a hunk of junk, and put all the time and energy into it to restore it and make it something great….all along knowing the potential for the car to be something nice, and then when all is said and done and you hear someone compliment the car….it means so much more, right? Than if you had just shelled out the money for a nice car?

When Cloud came off of the track, I feel that he was a horse that, at that time in his life, no one wanted. He had done his time at the track, and wound up placed with a rescue organization, who although I’m sure they hoped for the best for him, didn’t really actively jump into selling him. They placed him in a foster home, and didn’t even bother advertising for him until a year later. Yes, his coat was pretty, but he was track-skinny, and was going through a bit of an awkward change from dapple grey to flea-bitten. He had legs that screamed racetrack, and he was ‘old’ for a horse to be coming off the track. No one looked past what was on paper, until I, as a horse-crazy teen, fell in love.

I think it’s funny how much compliments on my horse affect me so much more than personal compliments 🙂 I know that Cloud has caught many an eye in the time that I have owned him…I remember the summer before last when I was showing, how much I enjoyed sitting outside Cloud’s stall and fielding questions, and taking in compliments over my pretty boy. But I do feel that since coming to Cliffwood that he is better than ever in his appearance…the riding that I have been doing, the care that he is getting, and the amount of time that I am able to put into things like grooming.

It is amazing to me, that Cloud is getting so much attention when he is really a senior citizen in the horse world. I love feeling like he is in his prime, when his age says he probably shouldn’t be! It certainly makes me hopeful that we have many more happy years together 😀

I want to thank Cloudy Boy’s admirers for their sweet compliments about my horse. They mean the world to me, and I love the thought of someone else standing outside of my horse’s stall and considering him their ‘dream horse’. Once upon a time, I would go to the barn to admire him, and dream of what it would be like for him to be mine.

Okay, gushing complete!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | February 16, 2013

The Bully and the Boss Mare

I have a nice 4-day weekend, so I planned a Parelli lesson for myself and Rob this morning. I figured that I could work with Gigi for half the lesson, then Rob could have the other half. Rob is really interested in Parelli – he likes coming out and playing with Cloud more than he likes riding! But any time you have a plan with horses, you usually get a reality check ☺

I had prepped Gigi for our lesson by texting her some things I wanted her help with. The first was tips/suggestions for submitting my Level 1 Online Audition, and then for our lesson I wanted her to check out our sideways and squeeze games and help us improve those. I’m glad I talked to her about my auditions, because she wants me to audition for Level 3 online, because you can audition for 3 and be awarded the lower levels if you pass higher. You just can’t audition for more than one Savvy (online, freestyle, etc). I might go for Level 2 first, just because I want my submission to be really good, but we’ll see.

Okay so on to the actual lesson. I have mentioned in my blog that Cloud has been really hot this winter. Tracey has definitely helped me with some tools for riding through the heat, and today it was Gigi’s turn.

We were alone in the big indoor, and Cloud was acting door-obsessed. His attention was on the door, not on me or what we were doing. Any time he was aimed to the door, he was trying to blow through me to get there. Cloudy Boy has such good ground manners, especially around his barn and in the grooming stalls, but boy, he forgets himself when he’s door obsessed.

We began the lesson working on the sideways game. Anytime we got to the far end of the arena, he was tossing his head and dancing around and just being all kinds of distracted. It was a bummer because I didn’t feel like we were actually getting the help we needed with the sideways game because of his distractibility – he wasn’t showing Gigi where we are actually at with the game.

The more I pushed him to pay attention to me and forget the door, the more insistent he was getting, and started to swing his butt to me and strike out with his fronts and, as Gigi put it, was being pretty rude.

So let me take this time to bring you back a bit, to my blog post about our horsenality and humanality matchup. Cloud and I are both extroverts (fast-moving, expressive), and we are both right-brain/left-brain cuspers. Right-brain versus left-brain is all about confidence, leadership, and emotion. Left-brain is confident, and can be pushy/bossy, right-brain is not confident, and can be a push-over.

Today Cloud’s behavior was extremely left-brained. He was not scared, worried, or upset, he was pushy and bossy and wanted to run me over and get back to his barn, or go outside. And the more left-brained he got, the more right-brained I got. He was taking over as the leader, and I was backing down. Literally. When his butt came swinging and he started rearing and giving me his bad-ass attitude, I was cowering, and backing away. Yes, some of it was putting safety first, but this wasn’t him trying to kill me, this was him taking control for the day. I had to get my big girl pants on.

Big girl pants meant getting particular about where I wanted Cloud to be and what I wanted him to be doing, and to a) not back down when he came in to run me over or swung his butt towards me and b) using my tools to strike and kick at him, just as he was doing to me. It sounds icky, I know, but Gigi put it well today when she said that “We don’t give the horses the benefit of our lower phases when it’s about safety”. AKA, if he’s coming at me striking or kicking, I get to strike first. She also made an interesting comment when she said, “When horses start acting like horses, non-natural horse-people think we’re doing it wrong”. What she meant was that when Cloud was getting ‘big’ and rearing and carrying on, it was because we were having a conversation…he didn’t want to pay attention and follow my leadership, so he was acting like a horse challenging another horse, so my job was to be a horse too, and the Parelli tools are designed to help me act like a horse. The reason they give you a carrot stick is to lengthen your body, like a horse has.

It made me feel better, not only about my horse carrying on in our lesson, but about what has been going on this winter and how I need to fix it. I have been blaming Cloud’s actions on his energy, but never realized that although he has a lot of energy, he doesn’t need to be pushy and door-obsessed, he could be putting that energy to good use. I never realized that it was a leadership issue, and that he isn’t just full of energy – he’s been naughty and pushy!

Although the lesson didn’t go as planned, I am now motivated to work through the pushy/bossy behavior and re-establish my role as a leader in our partnership. He can have all the energy in the world, but he and I are partners, and I will be a strong leader for him.

And how to go about doing that? I have homework…and it is pretty extreme. If you think naturally about how a boss mare teaches lessons and earns respect in a herd, it’s about proximity. A horse that is being punished is sent out away from the herd, and isn’t let back in until time has been served. Gigi told me to be Cloud’s boss mare for the next 7 barn days….Cloud is not allowed to be within a carrot stick length of me, unless I approach him. Essentially, he is to give me a nice large bubble of personal space. I can groom him and pet him and such, but I am not to hover.

I can see how this homework assignment has the potential to earn me respect from Cloud. Gigi said that Cloud and I have excellent rapport, which sometimes means that the lines of respect are blurry. Although Cloud is not always as pushy as he was during my lesson today, I know that he doesn’t respect my personal space. He is ‘snuggly’ haha. I am interested to see how this homework goes, and I will report back. It is a pretty extreme change, but it’s not forever. We just need to find a happy medium between snuggling and pushing.

I guess that’s about it. I did get some tips with the sideways and squeeze games through our lesson, but mostly it was an eye-opener about what happens when our ‘cusp’ horsenality/personality turns into Cloud being a bully and me being a wuss. I’m glad that I got some clarity on our arena issues this winter and will hopefully make some positive changes and enjoy our arena time more!

Poor Rob didn’t get much of a lesson today, because Cloud and I really had to keep going with what we were doing. Maybe Rob will start first next time! But he does want to have a play date with Cloud and I again soon. And he said that he found our lesson really interesting, which is good. I’m glad that Cloud’s display didn’t scare him off!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | February 10, 2013

Slow down

A while has passed again since I’ve had a lesson with Tracey, but we had another good one this morning. In our last lesson, she had given me an exercise using ground poles to help me with his winter energy/tendency to not listen and just want to run around like a crazy OTTB. The exercise did help, but it wasn’t enough – it didn’t last us very long because after a while Cloud caught on to my game and wasn’t all that keen on listening anymore. I think the key to his energy this winter is that his brain needs to be worked otherwise he has time to think of more fun things to do (run around!).

So when Tracey asked how things have been going I was honest and told her that things were mostly as they were when we had our last lesson, but in my warm up today Cloud was pretty relaxed and listening…which is quite a miracle in itself because the snow was sliding off the arena roof today! So, we just got to work. As we worked on getting him and myself in the correct position, he started to show his energy and run off a bit, particularly when we were tracking to the right. He has always had a tendency to hang on my inside rein as we track to the right, so Tracey put the kabosh on that real quick. She first had me straighten my body by pulling my outside shoulder and hip down and back. I had a good feel of Cloud on the outside rein, and then I was allowed to tickle the inside rein and then RELEASE, and I wasn’t allowed to open the rein either. Instead, when I tickled the inside rein, Tracey told me to hold it close to my outside hand, even almost so much to cross the wither. And I was never never never to pull on the inside rein, only tickle it and release. Boy is it hard to break old habits, and I sure learned that I hang on the inside rein to the right just as much as Cloud does 🙂

Another key in keeping his speed in check is my posting and tension in my body. I needed to relax my forearms, without letting the reins slip. Tracey explained that even when Cloud is stretching into the contact, if I let the reins slide then he is just going to get confused about where he his supposed to hold himself and where he is supposed to work. On the other hand, she does want me to play with my rein length to show him that he can be adjustable, but on my terms, and he doesn’t have to speed up just because something changes! Tracey also encouraged me to talk to Cloud to get him to slow down, by asking him to ‘ho’ at the top of my post. Tracey is very big on timing my aides with the appropriate leg, she is very specific! And it works!

As far as exercises today, we did some squares with ground poles, but we also did a lot of 3 loop serpentines using the whole arena, especially at the end when we get him (and me, too) really relaxed and maintaining a nice gait. For some reason when I change directions I tend to get tense, and he tends to get tense, which makes us rush. I liked the end of our lesson because we had worked really hard on keeping a nice steady controlled trot and relaxing my body and his body, so we did a few serpentines in both directions and it was perfect! No rushing, no tension, good communication!

The lesson seemed to really fly by today, and I know this blog post doesn’t really cover all that we covered, but it took quite a bit of time to put all the little details and pieces of the puzzle together to create the nice trot and canter that we ended the lesson with. Tracey is so good at picking me apart and finding what is creating the tension and/or problems in our communication. I hope that when I go to ride tomorrow that I can recreate the feel that we had at the end of our ride today! My homework from Tracey is to work on controlling our pace in all three gaits, which is a major undertaking when it comes to Cloud and I! In our cooldown we talked about energy and how Cloud and I match in energy, which is why it is so hard for me to keep a controlled gait, instead of letting Cloud lean on the accelerator! But I really feel like I soaked up a lot of good stuff in our lesson today, so we’ll see how it goes!

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