Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Horse is a horse...Part Three -- Blue

Blue (Yes. They really called her Blue.) was a 15.1 hand, nine year old, blue roan quarterhorse mare. She only had western training, but was supposedly well trained and kept in shape by the stables hired exercise riders. The seller thought that she might do well for lower level dressage and jumping and wouldn't be that hard to re-train for English riding. She also looked decently conformed in the ad pictures. Her lack of English training meant that I wasn't willing to drive very far to see her, however, she was only 30 minutes away, so I figured I'd give her a try.

Picture from ad

When we got there, she was actually a very nice looking horse. The pictures I took don't really do her justice. And she behaved pretty well for her regular exercise rider, especially considering that her rider kept yanking on the reins to try and make her do a sliding stop from the canter. It made me wince and want to yell at the rider every time she did it. Blue did have significant trouble picking up her right-lead canter, but I'm not sure how much of that was the horse and how much the rider. Her gaits were a bit on the fast side and she seemed like she might be a little hot. However, when Foxfire got on her, she was hard to even get to walk. She'd just stand there or sidle sideways. Finally, Foxfire got her to walk and then to trot, but she was very gate sour and difficult for him to steer. However, she was definitely NOT going to run off with anyone. So even though I knew from watching how she behaved with Foxfire that I wasn't going to buy her, I hopped up on her to see how she behaved with me.

It was even harder for me to get her to move. She just stood there no matter how firmly I kicked, squeezed, "kissed" and said "walk". I finally used a wide rein to pull her head all the way over until I felt her give, and at that moment, I'd kick her, and she'd start to walk in a circle. Then I could straighten her out and get her to walk around the arena. Even then it was hard to keep her walking, especially past the gate, and I had to "re-start" her several times. Surprisingly, it was not difficult to get her to trot. One firm kick and she went into a trot. She tended to ignore your direction cues, but at least she was trotting. Of course, going past the gate was still a challenge. Strangely enough, I was actually sort of enjoying riding her, and so I kept at it until she was obeying me somewhat well. Or at least better than she had when I first got on her. However, there was no way that I was going to buy her. You can see the few halfway decent pictures that I got of her on my Blue Roan Mare album.

Foxfire riding Blue

A Horse is a horse...Part Two -- Hoss

Hoss is a five year old, 15.1 hand, blue roan quarterhorse gelding. He was listed as very friendly with some western training, but more suitable for dressage. (Though he didn't have any dressage training yet.) He was also listed as 16 hands high, and his pictures showed that he had pretty decent conformation.

Photo from ad

I first decided to try him out simply because he was in the same town and I wouldn't have to drive very far. It turns out he was right down the street, literally. When I called, the owner was on her way to ride him and told me to just come on down. So I did. As soon as I saw him, I knew he wasn't 16 hands tall, but even so, I sort of fell in love with him at first sight. He had the cutest face.

Photo from ad

And when I got on him to ride, I felt perfectly safe and happy even in a big uncomfortable western saddle. Unfortunately, his western training hadn't been very good at all. He was basically just green broke, even though he was VERY calm. Combined with his complete lack of english training and the unbalanced disaster that was his canter, it simply made him unsuitable for me. So even though I really, REALLY liked his personality, I decided that I would have to pass on him.

However, that is not the end of the story. I had made calls to several trainers that I'd either found online or that I had met while looking for Foxfire's horse asking if they had any horses for sale that might suit me. About two weeks after passing on Hoss, one of the trainers that I'd called, called me back saying that she had a horse that she thought I might like. She described him a bit and I thought that he sounded nice, then she mentioned his name. Hoss. It was the same horse. The people selling him had decided to bring him to this trainer (who was recommended by an olympic level dressage rider they knew) to start training him in dressage in hopes of being able to sell him for more money. I told her that I'd already seen the horse and really liked him, but that he just was too green for me, but that I'd be willing to come out and look at him again after she'd worked with him for a week or two.

Well, when we went to see him, he had improved noticeably. His canter actually looked fairly decent and he was more responsive to cues, but for some reason, his personality didn't seem as nice. Maybe he was still adjusting to his new surroundings and training, but I just didn't feel the emotional attraction to him that I felt the first time. (Maybe I was just imagining it the first time. Who knows.) Anyway... even though he had improved fairly significantly for just having a week of training, he was still just too green for me. And I'd begun to think that he was always going to be a bit lazy. I don't want a hot horse, but I do want one that enjoys going faster than a walk. Also, the seller was still asking way too much for what he was, and I simply wasn't willing to spend that on a halfway trained horse. We took some nice pictures which can be seen in my Hoss album in my photobucket account.

Foxfire riding Hoss

A horse is a horse, of course...NOT!

Searching for your first horse(or second or third, I imagine) can be a very frustrating process. First of all you have to weed through all the myriad horse search engines and local Craigslist ads and newspaper ads to find prospects worth a phone call or email. This is very time consuming and frustrating when the ad does not even have basic information such as the horse's breed, age, height and skills. And of course you have to try and weed out the ads placed by dealers whose every horse is child-safe, beginner friendly and perfectly suited for everything from western pleasure to three-day eventing. Just this morning I found a listing for a Friesian mare described as suitable for endurance riding,western pleasure and jumping with an asking price of $2000. Now perhaps this Friesian is VERY unusual for her breed and might actually make an endurance, western pleasure and/or jumping horse. Or possibly some idiot who knows nothing about evaluating a horse's potential simply listed these as being the most marketable things to say. More likely, it's some sort of scam. An obvious one. Some of them aren't so obvious. You can't even trust what you see in videos. Who knows what they've done to that horse to make him behave in that video. Worn him down beforehand, drugged him,...? Just weeding through the ads is frustrating.

And of course, there are those people who aren't intentionally lying about the horse, they are simply ignorant or "barn blind" and think their horse really is "all that". Let me pass on an email I got in response to an ad I queried. The ad read that,"This horse probably already is trained up to the 2nd level." I thought maybe the current owner had bought a previously trained dressage horse that didn't work out for the trail riding and play days that her kids wanted to do and therefore was selling it. So I asked if she had been told that he was trained to second level or was that her opinion based on her knowledge of dressage. Her response was,"I bought him to basically ride/train for my pleasure and exercise. I ride him in a dressage saddle. We work on seat and leg commands at the walk, trot, and canter. I have not been formally trained in dressage, but I have seen some magazines and videos. That is why I think Max fits somewhere at the 2nd level." Uh... yeah...

So anyway, after weeding through the dealers and idiots, and after all the research and talking on the phone and looking at the pictures and watching the videos repeatedly to make sure the horse seems like one that you would want to buy, you decide to make the drive (usually several hours) to go and check the horse out in person. And he/she is so very NOT what you were looking for. Of course sometimes the horse really isn't that bad, but he/she just isn't right for for one reason or another. It feels so hopeless sometimes.

Anyway, I'll be posting summaries of some of the horses that I've looked at recently.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Bucket of Chicken

Well, Foxfire caught her in the act. The chicken that's been laying her eggs in Ziggy's feed bucket.

A bucket of chicken!

He managed to get a couple of pictures before Ziggy scared her out of the bucket by sticking his nose in his bucket to see what's going on.

Watcha doin' in my feed bucket?

Just leaving...

Apparently even getting photographed and chased out of the bucket by an inquisitive horse did not deter this intrepid chicken. Later in the day, I checked in the feed bucket and sure enough...

Another egg.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fourth lesson with Christine

My fourth lesson with Christine was last night and hopefully, I can remember it well enough to describe it. I'm suffering a little from what I think might be a dehydration headache this morning. I really need to remember to drink during my lesson and drink even more afterwards. Anyway...

Foxfire came with me to my lesson last night, which was really nice. He also took pictures of me riding. I'll post some of them once he's downloaded them to my computer. (I really should learn how to do that myself.) I rode Meshack again since Christine let me choose. I suppose as I get more comfortable riding, I should ride Will occasionally, simply to get the experience of riding another horse.

Anyway, we started out walking as usual, but didn't go very far before we went into posting trot. I think we did a few downward transitions at this point, but I don't really remember. Maybe I'm getting familiar enough with them, that I don't really think about them any more. Hopefully, that's a good thing. Then we did some sitting trot. I think I'm finally getting the hang of the sitting trot. Oh I still have a long ways to go, but at least I don't feel like I'm just bouncing around on the horse's back anymore. I actually feel like I'm moving with him... most of the time. I still get out of sync and bounce occasionally. And I'm sure that as I practice it more, I can get even smoother movement with the horse, but I'm pretty happy with the progress that I've made. Of course, Meshack doesn't exactly have a huge trot, so we'll have to wait and see what happens the first time I try to sit a trot on a bigger, bouncier horse. I'm afraid it will be very "interesting". We did some downward transitions from the sitting trot which, as usual, didn't work as well as from the posting trot. I think I'm making some progress, but it's not terribly obvious.

I think we did a couple of trot circles (my memory of last night's lesson really isn't as clear as it ought to be, sorry), and then Christine asked if I wanted to try and canter a bit. She offered to let me do it in the arena, but I think she saw the fear in my eyes, and so she suggested that we do it in the round pen. Once in the round pen, we worked on getting a fast trot from Meshack and then asked him to canter. It was a little difficult to get him to canter, but not too bad. And in this case, it is probably completely my fault since I really don't know how to ask for a canter and sit it properly yet, and so I'm probably confusing Meshack with mixed signals. Anyway, he finally went into canter and it was actually a lot easier to ride than his fast trot. When Christine told me to slow him down, I really didn't want to. I was actually enjoying cantering. I probably wasn't doing it very well, but I wasn't scared. But I listened to Christine and slowed him back to trot and then we changed directions in order to canter on the other lead. At this point, the lesson started to go downhill.

Admittedly, this second direction was Meshack's weaker lead, but I think most, if not all, of the problem was mine. I just couldn't get Meshack to go into canter and when I finally got a canter, it felt like he was going to run me into the fence so I got a little scared. This time when Christine told me to slow to trot, I was relieved. We switched directions again to go back to Meshack's better side. But now I was having just as much trouble on this side as I had had on the other. I did get another canter, but it was awkward and felt subtly wrong to me. At this point, Christine figured that both Meshack and I had had enough of cantering so we went back into the arena and worked on trot circles again.

I guess I was tired or dehydrated or over-heated or something, but I was having a lot of trouble just getting Meshack to go where I wanted him to go at the speed I wanted him to go. Christine suggested "clucking" to Meshack rather than just kicking him harder (Sorry Meshack). But despite trying to "cluck", "kiss" and make other encouraging noises, I couldn't seem to make quite the right sound. I finally just started saying, "trot" and that worked. But it made me feel bad to have to resort to vocal cues. And my steering was off as well. My trot circles were even less circular than the first time I tried them. Also, Christine said that I needed to work on keeping my hands more stable at the trot. They were moving up and down too much. On a more positive note, my downward transitions were working better than usual. (I think Meshack was tired as well.) I finally got one decent circle and Christine decided that was a good place to end the lesson. I agreed.

It WAS hot that evening. The thermometer in Ryan's car read 104 on the way to the lesson and 103 on the way home. So I suppose I could blame my problems near the end of the ride on the heat. But it was probably just me getting tired and being careless about keeping hydrated. I still feel like I learned a lot. And sometimes you learn more from when things don't work out right than when everything goes the way it's supposed to. Though, at the time, it can be rather frustrating. I do wonder if part of my problem with remembering the lesson may relate to being dehydrated or overheated during the lesson. When the body is stressed, the mind doesn't work as well.

However, there was a fairly amusing addendum to the lesson. On the way home, Foxfire told me that when I was having trouble getting Meshack to trot, Christina had leaned over to him and told him,"Teach your wife how to cluck." So as we were driving, Foxfire was trying to teach me to "cluck". For some reason, I just couldn't seem to make the right sound, and things degenerated into us just making silly noises at each other. After a significant amount of rampant silliness, I finally did figure out how to "cluck" properly. So hopefully, the next time I need to "cluck" at a horse, I'll be able to do it properly. :-)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why did the chicken cross the barn?

To lay her eggs in the horse's feed bucket apparently. About a week ago, one of our hens decided to start laying her eggs in Ziggy's feed bucket. She's been doing it consistently despite the fact that the bucket is about 3 1/2 feet above the ground attached to the stall's wall. It's not exactly an easy place for a hen to get into and I imagine it's even harder to get out of. Nevertheless, whenever we go to feed Ziggy, we have to de-egg his bucket first. The hens have perfectly decent nest boxes on the other side of the barn. The other hens have no problem using them. So why is this one hen (I'm assuming it's the same hen every day) laying her eggs in Ziggy's feed bucket. I don't know. If you have any ideas. Let me know.

In other news, I had my fourth lesson with Christine earlier tonight. But I must admit I'm a bit too tired to write it up tonight. I'll do it tomorrow during the day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Third lesson with Christine (and a mild scare with Ziggy)

Well, tonight was my third lesson with Christine. I had been having sort of a bad day and was tense and nervous. I warned Christine that I might not do very well that night. She said that we all have off days, but that she was sure I'd do fine. She let me choose which lesson horse to ride, so I chose Meshack since I seem to have a better connection with him. I mounted up, then took a few seconds to do some deep breathing to try and relax before starting the lesson.

We started with some walk/halt transitions to re-enforce that all important ability to stop your horse with your seat and not just with the reins. I seem to be doing a bit better than previously, but still need to work on being clearer with my "stop" cue. While we were still walking, Christine had me do something that seemed a bit unusual to me, but that I'm sure has a purpose. (I really should learn to actually ASK QUESTIONS during my lesson.) Christine had me state, "now" every time Meshack's inside hind foot hit the ground. Then she had me do it for his inside front foot, outside hind foot and outside front foot. Surprisingly, I got it right every time. It's the first thing about riding that I've actually gotten right, right away. I wish I knew what it was for.

After that, we did some posting trot with downward transitions to walk. That went pretty well, though again, I still need to work on it. Finally we did some sitting trot to both practice my sitting trot and to practice downward transitions from the sitting trot. I have a lot harder time slowing him with my seat at the sitting trot. I think that from posting trot it's very obvious to the horse when I stop posting and ask for a downward transition. But when I'm sitting the trot, my cue just isn't very clear. He did slow down, but it took a lot longer and wasn't as clean. Hopefully, as I get better at sitting the trot, my cues from the sitting trot will get clearer.

As for the sitting trot itself, I think I am improving. I'm still bouncing around a bit, but at one point, for about 10 strides, I seemed to get it right. I felt like I was moving with the horse and didn't feel like I was bouncing around. Of course, it didn't last. I fell out of sync and went back to bouncing. but at least, I think, I got a feel for what it should be like.

After that, we did some 20 meter circles at the posting trot and then at the sitting trot. My first circle was too small. Apparently, her arena is 20 meters wide and I should have made it big enough to go all the way to the other side. After that, I was making my circles big enough, but I'm pretty sure my circles weren't very circular. However, Christine didn't say anything, and considering that it was my first time doing trot circles, I was pretty pleased. I did have a slight problem with Meshack pulling on the reins, but Christine told me to just give a little tug on the reins and bump him with my inside leg and he'd give, and sure enough he did. He tried to pull on the reins a couple of times more, but I just gave a tug and a bump and he'd quit. And after about the third time, he didn't do it anymore. Once we finished doing circles, we took a few minutes break to let me and Meshack rest a bit, then we moved on to doing trot poles.

Now I've done trot poles a couple of times before on different horses and although their movement did change, it didn't change that much. With Meshack, it was completely different. Not only did his rhythm change drastically, his trot became much bigger and bouncier. It wasn't that apparent the first time we went over, because he tripped over the first poles, fell out of trot and we just walked over the later poles. The second time we went over, his change in rhythm and size of trot took me completely by surprise, and I'm afraid I completely lost rhythm and balance and just bounced around on his back. I was rather embarrassed. But Christine just told me to keep my hands down (they'd flown up when I lost my balance) and to try it again. The third time I went over the trot poles, I wasn't taken by surprise, but I still couldn't adjust to Meshack's change in rhythm and size of trot very well. I didn't lose my balance as badly as previously and my hands only came up a little, but it was still pretty awkward. The forth time I went over, I had begun to get a feel for how his trot would change and did better. I didn't lose my balance and my hands stayed down, but my rhythm was still off. However, Christine apparently thought I had made enough progress (or maybe we were just out of time) and she told me to just walk Meshack cool and that was the end of our lesson.

She told me that she couldn't tell that I was having a bad day because I had actually had a good lesson. She also said that I was making noticeable improvement in each lesson, which made me feel really good. And, actually, I did feel much more relaxed after the lesson than I had before it. We set up another lesson for next Thursday at 7pm. Meanwhile, I had noticed a big handsome gray gelding in the round pen next to the arena and asked her about him. She told me that he had just been brought to her for a tune up and that he would probably be a good horse for me(I perked up), but unfortunately, he wasn't for sale(I un-perked). So we talked briefly about finding the right horse for me. She agreed with The Oracle that age and experience weren't as important as personality and willingness. She said that she did know of a 6 year old, 16.2 hand quarterhorse mare that might suit me, but she hadn't actually tried her out yet. She was going to try her out, and if she liked her, she'd arrange for me to try her out. We'll have to wait and see what happens.

I have been looking at horses the past few months. Most don't make it past the phone call stage, but a couple sounded good enough and were close enough to go check out. The first was a blue roan gelding that I really, REALLY liked, but he was just too green for me. I also went to try out a really beautiful blue roan mare. (I swear I'm not looking for blue roans, two just showed up nearby.) Unfortunately, although she was nice to look at, with really good conformation, a pretty coat color and a long thick mane and tail, she was a very stubborn and difficult horse for anyone except her usual exercise rider to actually ride. Someday, I may get around to writing a post about those horses with some of the pictures I took.

Anyway, that's it for now. It's late, I'm tired, and my husband's horse, Ziggy, is either having a mild colic or his stomach ulcers are acting up, so I'm having to run out and check on him every twenty minutes. Yes, we called the vet, and she said to just keep an eye on him and as long as he didn't go down and thrash around that he would probably be okay. Since he's still up and walking around, and he has both pooped and drunk some water, we're not going to do anything but watch him for now. The last couple of times I checked on him, he still looked a bit uncomfortable, but wasn't showing significant distress, so hopefully, everything will be fine. You can get more information about what happened on my husband's post, "Damn. It." Well... gotta go.

UPDATE ON ZIGGY: This last time that I went to check on him, he was eating hay, and as I watched, he wandered over the the trough, drank a bit, then wandered back to the hay to eat some more. I think whatever the problem was, it's over now. I'll continue to check on him, but I'm relieved that he seems to be doing better.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Second Lesson with Christine

My second lesson with Christine was a longe lesson on Will, her 16 hand bay appendix. We mainly worked on the sitting trot and repeated some of our work on downward transitions using just your seat. Near the end, we also did a tiny bit of canter. I still need a lot of work on cantering before I'm ready to do it off of the longe line.

She also worked on correcting my basic form on the horse. She kept telling me to look up. Keep my head up. I have a tendency to stare at my horse's ears as if the instructions were written there. It's a fairly common problem. But I really need to keep my head up to keep everything in balanced alignment over my stirrups. Your head is pretty heavy and if it's not kept in proper balance over your neck and body, it can pull the rest of your body off balance. Another thing she told me is that I need to wrap my legs lightly around the horse, like a wet towel would drape around him, rather than letting my legs just hang away from his body. And, of course, there were the occasional statements to,"keep your heels down."

She also talked about how the horse I was riding would let his outside shoulder fall out when we were going counter clockwise and told me to press a little with my outside leg and turn my head and shoulders towards the inside more. I did what she said, and she said,"there, see, he's got it right now" or something like that. But honestly, I couldn't tell any difference. I should have asked her to explain what falling out was and how exactly I fixed it, but I was sort of embarrassed to do so.

Later, when I was talking with JJ about the lesson, she explained what falling out was and that helped me to understand how what I did fixed the problem. Falling out (sometimes called popping out) is basically when the horse's head and neck are turning with the rein, but his body is still going straight. It's probably a bit more complicated than that, but that's how I understood it. And by using your outside leg and turning your head and shoulders in the direction you want his body to turn, you make his body flex in the direction that you're turning rather than remaining straight. JJ also mentioned keeping a firm outside rein, which Christine didn't talk about. Probably because it was a longe lesson and I wasn't really using the reins.

Overall, I believe the lesson went well. I think I made some improvement on my sitting trot and downward transitions. I got at least a taste of the canter. I worked on my basic form, and I was prompted to learn what "falling out" means. I'm really glad that I found Christine (and that I have JJ as a friend), and I'm looking forward to my next lesson.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Trip to Pine Hill & Blueberry Picking

Friday evening, immediately after my first lesson with Christine, JJ, Foxfire and I loaded up and headed out to Pine Hill, an eventing facility in Bellville, TX. (They really need to spruce up their website.) JJ's two dogs Elias and Reba came with us because JJ's usual dog-sitter wasn't available. Fortunately, both dogs are VERY well behaved. In fact, Reba is actually in training to be a service dog. After a fortunately uneventful 2 & 1/2 hour drive, we arrived at Pine Hill. We unloaded the horses, set up their stalls, put the horses in their stalls, plugged in JJ's pickup bed camper and crashed for the night.

Early the next morning, we got up, ate a quick breakfast and got ready for JJ and Foxfire's lesson. Basically, JJ and Foxfire tacked up and I stood around with the camera bag over my shoulder waiting to take pictures. Since I wasn't riding (I'm not even close to being able to jump yet), I had volunteered to take pictures. As JJ and Foxfire were getting ready, the trainer, Toni, showed up and introduced herself. Once everyone was tacked up, she suggested a warm up in the stadium jumping arena. I checked the direction of the sun and took a few pictures of JJ and Foxfire warming up on the flat.

JJ at the trot.

Foxfire at the canter.

After a brief warm up in the arena, Toni led Foxfire and JJ out onto the cross country course. I did my best to follow and get good pictures. Now, I'm not a real photographer. I've never had any training or anything. But I've picked up a few things about lighting and angles just from watching other photographers and a bit of my own experience. So as I followed them around, I tried to guess which jump they were going over (because I was trying to get good angles on the jumps, I wasn't always close enough to hear what the trainer was saying) and tried to make sure that the sun was behind me and not behind the horse. I didn't always succeed. Sometimes because they were going over a different jump than I thought that they were going over. Sometimes because, even if I knew which jump they were aiming for, they were moving a lot faster than I and I simply couldn't get to the best angle in time and simply had to take whatever shot I could get from wherever I was when they approached the jump. And some jumps simply didn't have any place that you could take a good picture from(my husband's favorite jump into the woods). Anyway, it was a fun experience, and I think I got some good shots. You can see most of the decent pictures in my Pine Hill May 2009 album, but here are a few of my favorites.

JJ and Saga in a massive jump over a little coop.

Foxfire and Ziggy going over a rolltop.

JJ and Saga at the top of the beginner novice bank up.

Saga almost ran me over immediately after I took this shot. He'd always come out of his jumps straight before, so I wasn't expecting him to swerve to his right. Fortunately, I darted left, and JJ straightened him out before he got too close to me. But it makes for a nice shot with Saga looking almost directly into the camera.

JJ and Saga going up the novice bank up.

JJ liked this picture so much, she asked me to make it into the title pic for her blog, The Saga Chronicles. I must admit that it made me feel really good that she liked my picture that much.

Foxfire and Ziggy taking the beginner novice bank up.

Foxfire and Ziggy finishing the beginner novice bank up.

JJ and Saga cantering through the water.

Foxfire washing Ziggy off. (Ziggy's smiling for the camera. :-) )

JJ cooling Saga off.

I feel sort of bad that I got more really good shots of JJ than I did of my husband. But I suppose that's just the way it goes sometimes.

After we got the horses cooled down, we put them in their stalls, and we went to pick blueberries at Chmielewski's Blueberry Farm in Hockley. Neither Foxfire nor I had ever been blueberry picking (or any kind of picking) before, so it was a new experience for us. Even though the bushes had already been pretty well picked over, we managed to find a fair amount of berries and had a really good time. Afterwards we went to a great little diner aptly called Must Be Heaven. JJ and I each had a fabulous french dip sandwich. Foxfire had a succulent salmon sandwich, and we all had a slice of REAL key lime pie. JJ also bought a slice of sawdust pie to go. We waddled out of the diner, drove back to Pine Hill, packed up everything, loaded the horses and headed home.

All in all, it was a fantastically fun day, and I look forward to doing it again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

My First Lesson with Christine

Well... Due to my other activities this weekend, it's been several days since my lesson, so I'll start out by saying that I'm not entirely sure how much I'm going to remember or how accurately. But I'll do my best.

I arrived a little early for my lesson, and Christine was finishing up a training session with a young mare. She said that she would just be a few more minutes. I watched for a while, then went over to the fence where her lesson horses were kept and petted Meshack(sp?) through the fence. He's the little gray arab I mentioned in the previous post. And I mean LITTLE. He's only 14.1 hands. She told me that I could go ahead and get him out. So I did. I brought him over to where she was leading the mare to be untacked, and she untacked while I started grooming Meshack. She did his feet since I'm still rather scared of dealing with horse's feet and I'd only just met Meshack. (When I was in junior high, a friend of mine was killed by being kicked in the head by a horse.) However, Christine told me that as I became familiar with her horses that I would have to do it myself. No real surprise there. I know that it's something that I need to deal with. Meshack's regular saddle is a 17" Wintec Isabell which is rather fortunate for me. I would be a bit more comfortable in a 17.5", but it's still a saddle that I really like.

Once Meshack was tacked up, I led him over to the mounting block and mounted. After adjusting the stirrups a little longer, she grabbed my legs and PUT them where they are supposed to go. I found it a little disconcerting when she did it. But after getting over my initial surprise, I appreciated knowing exactly where my legs were supposed to be, and having the physical sensation of them being there to help me remember where to hold them in the future. Then she spent about 5 - 10 minutes talking to me about proper positioning and how we really should be controlling our horse's basic movements with our seat and legs. That the reins are more useful if you can save them to give more varied and subtle commands. This made a lot of sense to me. And I was glad that I was going to be learning more about directing the horse with my seat. It was something that I'd been wanting to work more on ever since my friend, JJ, had explained some of it to me. Meshack was very patient and stood quietly through all of this talk.

After, she finished the lecture part of the lesson, Christine told me to bring Mesack into the arena and just walk in circles around her. She told me to get him to move in circles by turning my shoulders in the direction that I wanted to go and by putting more weight in my inside stirrup. It worked like a charm. I didn't have to use my reins at all to direct him. And he was very responsive to the amount of weight that I would put in my inside stirrup. The more weight, the tighter the turn. We worked on spiraling into a smaller circle, then spiraling back out to a larger circle for a while. I would occasionally have trouble with where my shoulders were facing. I kept wanting to keep them straight rather than turning them in when I was spiraling in. Spiraling out was easier because I really wasn't turning them out, more just straightening them to allow the circle to become bigger.

Then we worked on halting using just our seat. I'd worked on this before with The Oracle, the trainer who comes up from Mexico every few months, but I still needed work on it. Christine explained it a little differently than The Oracle had. (Don't ask me for exactly how her explanation was different, I'm afraid I don't remember.) I seemed to understand Christine's explanation a little better because I was able to stop Meshack with my seat fairly consistently.

Christine then asked me to do some circles in a "rising trot". I'd never heard of a "rising trot", so I asked if a "rising trot" was the same as a "posting trot". And apparently they are just different terms for the same thing. So I did a couple of circles at the posting trot and worked on asking for a downward transition into a walk using just my seat. We only did this maybe twice and she didn't say much. So either I was getting it right, or I was so awful that she just couldn't think of anything to say. Meshack was dropping into a walk when I asked, so I hope that I was getting it right.

She then asked me to do circles at sitting trot. Now I had worked on sitting trot a few times before, back when I was still riding Cash. But I had never really gotten the hang of it back then, and I haven't worked on it since. But I gave it a try. Fortunately, Meshack's trot isn't huge, so although I felt like I was bouncing around all over the place, Christine didn't mention anything about my ability to sit the trot, she just had me working on asking for a downward transition with my seat. This time, Meshack wasn't immediately dropping into a walk when I asked. Probably because I was too busy bouncing around to ask properly. He would transition down, but it took some time. At this point, Christine said that I was "whispering" the cue to slow down, rather than clearly stating it. So even though Meshack was willing to listen to my "whisper", I still need to work on being firmer and/or clearer when giving that cue. I tried several times more to get it right. Then, out of frustration, I finally asked how keep from bouncing around so much when sitting the trot. Christine was surprised that I didn't already know how to sit the trot. Then said that I had actually been doing well at it for not knowing how to do it. We immediately stopped working at downward transitions from the sitting trot and went back to stopping from the walk. We did that for a little longer, then it was the end of the lesson.

Christine said that my next lesson will probably be a longe lesson where we will work on the sitting trot. Not much of a surprise. And that we will use her other lesson horse (whose name I can't remember) because he is better at giving longe lessons than Meshack. I'm actually looking forward to my next lesson.

BTW, for those of you who don't already know, I suffer from a fairly extreme anxiety disorder with depression on the side. (Foxfire actually left work early so that he could be at my first lesson to give me moral support. He's such a GOOD husband!) I'd told Christine about it and she wasn't bothered by it. I don't know if she treated me any differently than she treats her other students, but although I was extremely nervous when we first started the lesson(I actually tried to put my half chaps on the wrong legs), I was considerably calmer by the time we finished. So the fact that I'm actually looking forward to taking another lesson is a real testament to her ability to work with me and all of my emotional problems. I am very glad that I found her and that she is willing to teach me. I hope to take many more lessons from her.