New Years!

I never do these stupid resolution things, because my life is bizarre and unpredictable and I don’t plan ahead real well. I think I’ll try a few simple ones this year though.

I want to show Dixie, at least a couple of times. I don’t have high hopes of winning, and I don’t really care if we do or don’t. I just want her to have some positive experiences in the show ring, learn to stay calm in terrifying situations with me around, that kind of thing.

She’s been shown before – she was padded and shown locally before she was two, then when she washed out as a padded horse, she was shown in heavy shoes locally as a three year old. Somehow I don’t think she had much fun at those shows. She’ll be five this spring, and dammit, we’re going to go and have a good ride. Ignore the bad, reward the good.

I want to jump, on purpose, this year. That just means I need to get a better seat, which I’m working on. I have plenty of experience jumping poorly and on accident. It’d be nice to learn to do it correctly and on purpose!

I want to finish exploring the subdivisions around my field. I’d kinda like to be able to do a big loop through the neighborhood whenever I feel like it… but what’s the point of going on a big ride without my dog? It’s really just not as much fun without Cersei, and I don’t want to risk her getting smushed by a car. I think I’ll try to work out some way to leash her to Champ. Field triallers somehow manage to handle a hound on a long line tied to a horse, and if they can do it I can do it. Champ is the obvious choice for this plan. He’d get offended if (when) Cersei tangled the lead around him, but he wouldn’t come unglued.

Hell, while we’re at it – I want to go to a field trial. I know a guy who goes regularly, and I’ve been working on getting him to take me. I bet I can try one out this year. Sounds like fun.

Schoolin’ Dixie

Today was Dixie’s turn again. I took T and Goblin and we went out into the fallow soybean field so I could, uh, pretend to school my mare. (I feel like a bit of a fraud.) Exciting wildlife alert: we saw 9 (!!!) turkeys and a big doe. Oh, and a dead box turtle. The turtle was odd – he was on his back, but I could see that his upper shell had been broken. I’d think that if a dog/coyote/fox had gotten him, the carnivore would’ve gotten in through the bottom shell, the plastron. So I wonder if a redtailed hawk had snagged the turtle from a nearby lake and dropped it in the field to break it open? Do hawks DO that? Anyway, that’s my working theory.

Horse stuff: The double reins were slightly easier to handle, yay! I kept working mainly on following her head as she walked, and helping her bend her whole body into the circles we made.

Her head nod is immense, really it is. I have to move my arms about six inches to follow her when she’s just walking around slowly. The head nod decreases as she gaits faster; I think it’s a function of that pseudo-collection that gaited horses do to gait.

We had a couple of really nice curves a few times. I can’t really do round circles yet – I’m not good at “seeing” the circle in my mind, it’s a big field with no frame of reference, and her “sun” is back toward her field. It’s funny how dressage articles always talk as if a horse is just floating around the arena, when every real horse I’ve ever been on has been attracted more to one area/direction. It’s like they drift toward the gate, or drift toward home, or drift away from that menacing tree/shadow/horse-eating-monster. This was the first time Dixie had been in that field, so she was naturally attracted to the direction of her home.

Anyway, I worked a bit on keeping the same bend and speed when we were headed toward home and away from it, and I did a few spirals in and out. I’m trying to show her what leg aids are and that they’re not out to get her. She used to come completely unglued at any leg at all, and she’s still inclined to panic about leg, but she’s getting better.

After we headed back to her field, I reintroduced her to a whip. She was astonishingly headshy when I first got her; I’m almost positive the persons who broke her to ride got her to gait by spurring her to speed up and whacking her on the head with a whip if she trotted or cantered. It worked, I suppose, but it left her with just a few issues. I got T to hand me the dressage whip verrry slowly, then I cautiously held it away from Dixie’s butt and asked her to walk off.

Then I accidentally let the whip flop a bit and the very tip of it touched her butt so we racked in circles for a while. Sigh.

Once I got her listening to me again I started gently running the whip all over her neck and butt, both sides. After I got off, I kept meddling with her with the whip. She was more intrigued than frightened – she kept stretching out to stare at it and smell it.

Pretty successful ride, all together. I do feel like a fraud, because I know how very little I know. :( But I’m gonna keep plugging on with this, because I don’t have the money or the desire to send her away to a high-end gaited trainer and I just haven’t found anybody local who is both classically-oriented and familiar with gaited horses. I don’t know what I want from her; maybe I don’t want anything in particular from her. I think I just want to unlock that awesome mare that’s hiding inside the scared one.

Post-Christmas rides

So I’ve had a pretty good weekend. Lots of riding, of course!

Friday I rode Champ back out to the shack and took some more pictures. He was remarkably good-natured about the whole thing. I fussed with my leg position for a long time then got frustrated and rode home without stirrups. Stupid things are definitely hung too far forward. I’m still trying to decide what to do, in the long term, about that.

Saturday I went to Frayser and rode with James. I got to ride Rascal, James’ incredibly fast racking horse, and James rode Surprise, who is still a psycho. A bucking psycho at that. Anyway, I took a bunch of pictures of the trails because I swear to god yall wouldn’t believe them otherwise.

This is pretty blurry, but it’s representative.
Sludge

More mud and ruts!
Mud

Here’s the train bridge. The space under the bridge is just high enough that riding underneath on a tall horse, you can reach up and brush the bridge with your fingertips.
Tracks again

It feels very postapocalyptic back there. Junk, trees, four wheelers, and horses. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine zombies too.

There’s quite a few long smooth straightaways too. Gas pipeline access roads and open fields. It’s a nice mix of places where you can really stretch a horse out in his fast gait versus horrible soupy slippy mudholes where the horse has to pick his way along. A good ride with good company.

Cersei came with us, of course. We rode for nearly two hours, and she had a blast. James and I laughed, thinking about her first few trail rides as a puppy. We’d all start out together, me and James on our horses with puppy-Cersei gamely following. After a quarter mile or so, she’d be worn out so she’d run in front of us, sit down, and start barking. James would get off, grab her, and pass her up to me. I’d stick her in a messenger bag and off we’d go again. After a mile or so she’d squirm and holler so I’d let her down. She’d run like hell for another quarter mile before we started the whole thing over again. I guess it was annoying, but they’re not puppies for very long. :)

Sunday I had another frustrating lesson. Things are still slowly coming together, I think. When I read Daun’s year in review post, I got all depressed. Seven dressage lessons at the start of ’08? Aaaarrrgh why do I suck so ba- wait. She’s been riding correctly, with instruction, for like 5x longer than I’ve been bouncing around in blissful ignorance. I’m probably doing fine.

After the lesson, I went and tried Dixie with double reins. JME had suggested it, in the comments on her post about bitless bridles, and it worked quite well. I had the curb for when she got panicked about the strange feel of the snaffle rein, and the snaffle rein actually did encourage her to bend her body instead of scrambling through a turn only using her feet.

I only rode her for about 30 minutes. Dixie needs to build up stamina, but I think it’s important to not fall into a pattern of working her hard every time I ride. Whenever I’m out there, she follows me around like a very large and very nervous puppy. I don’t want to squash her interest in me.

Oh crap

I knew I forgot something. I was supposed to tag other people for the six things! (Yall can make these things as goofy and trivial as you’d like, of course!)

Humans:
DP
Stacey
Sara

Horses:
Roxie
Tuffy

Crazy lawyers:
Paige (Haha, she’s never going to be able to come up with six things she hasn’t already said!)

Go write something then tag other people.

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Six things

I owe White Horse Pilgrim the six things you may not know about me. It’s supposed to be six random things, but how am I supposed to pick “random” things? Make a giant list of all things which are known about me and pick six random numbers? Anyway. Six things.

  1. I went to college when I was 14. Skipped right past high school, which I’ve never once felt like I missed, and went to Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia. There were, oh, 15 or 20 of us young’uns starting each year, so I wasn’t all alone or anything.
  2. I love to cook, especially baking. I really enjoy learning the chemistry behind the recipes, and I love getting in the kitchen and whipping out stupidly intricate desserts. Puff pastry and croissants, stuff like that. Oddly, I enjoy cooking more than eating.
  3. I have a huge weakness for fantasy / sci fi novels, although my standards have greatly improved over the years. Yes, when I was 12 I wanted a Companion, but I’m more than content with a real horse these days!
  4. I have never broken a bone! (Yet!)
  5. I’ve been married twice, divorced once. I’m still friends with my ex, who is a goofy nerd. We don’t have a clue why we got married, really.
  6. I am fairly good at Nethack – I’ve ascended two Valkyries and a Wizard, and got damn close on a Rogue once. It’s my fallback game. If there’s nothing else to do and no internet, there’s always Nethack!
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