Dancing at the gate

Teaching my horse how to maneuver a gate is an exercise in patience. This is the first time I teach it from the first steps. Clearly we needed to have a solid sidepass, turn on the haunches/forehand, straight back and forward, baby steps, neck rein, and ability to stop while I lean over to grab the gate, before we could even begin.

Its taken me 3 years to get to that point. Lets just say I took the long road. 🤣

Having done this work before I now know that I must proceed very slowly, otherwise the horse starts anticipating and rushing (and the gate falls down, and all the cows run away). And since Q is sensitive with lots of try, I needed to take this even more slowly. Like molasses-dripped-on-a-brutally-cold-winter-day slow. And maybe even slower.

So I took advantage of being stuck in the arena while the trails are icy to begin practice. Two jump standards to be the posts. No gate.

Gates are a very specific dance move. The standard process with reins in your right hand and gate on th…

Goldilocks and Bits

My quest for a good enough bit is still ongoing. I had a great d-ring copper thin snaffle that worked great for 3 years from our early saddle starts to our summer trails of 2019. But then I noticed lip rubs this summer and realized that Q had outgrown his bit.

I switched to a hackamore while his lips healed, and then I borrowed BOs eggbutt stainless steel snaffle in a slightly bigger style. Q was ok with it, but he had become quite mouthy, often fussing with it. My guess is that his small sensitive mouth does not handle this thickish snaffle very well.

So then I borrowed a myler comfort snaffle. It was ok on trail, and ok in the arena. But he was still fussing when the contact started. And more importantly he stopped wanting to take the bit when I bridled him. Which was outrageous because Q has now learned how to bridle himself and will usually grab the bit on his own. Now, he was spitting it out. I took it as a sign.

So we tried a smaller copper snaffle and Q liked that one quite a b…

The scary backdoor

The footing outside is frightful, so we all huddled inside for our last drill practice of the year. The start was rough with horses bolting, bucking, rearing ... and much of the culprit was the half open backdoor.

My Q was one of the more composed of the eight horses but still had his tense “giraffe-neck” moments every time we passed the backdoor, or whenever one of the other horses would have a bolting fit. It was a tense warm-up.

One of the horses, an OTTB-turned-jumper, was particularly anxious that morning. He was literally frazzled by our antics and his sweet rider was terribly tense at being such a bother. So our fearless rider placed her attention on her with some one-on-one coaching and then she barked at the seven of us to get into formation and start trotting while following our formation leader through serpentines, circles, changes in direction on the diagonal and through the center.

Within 2 minutes all seven horses (and riders) settled and we passed by that scary backdoor…

Bitting Issues

We had a mild sunny day yesterday and it was just enough to melt some of the ice and make for a lovely ride. It was a slow roll but a lovely break in the monotony of arena work.

I have been worrying about my newest bit lately as Q seems to detest it (constantly mouthing) and Im working in more contact. As those things do not go well together, I was able to borrow another bit from a fellow boarder and it was quickly adopted by Q. It is the Myler comfort snaffle.
We did not work with the bit yet, just went for a quiet walking trail on the buckle. But I am looking forward to our Saturday drill practice to see if Q still likes it with contact. He has such a small sensitive mouth with delicate bars and it’s hard to know which type of bit will give him the right relief, me the right brakes, and keep us connected on those few times I ask him to take the contact. Copper, loose ring, thickness, double or triple jointed. Too many choices.

Fingers crossed the myler works well in the arena. And t…

Target Practice

It’s been rough on the trails these last few days, so after our slippery defeat on Saturday where Q for the first time decided we best turn back and go home we have been shut-ins. The good news is that it was the motivation I needed to show up for the weekly drill practice and tidy up my transitions and lines.

I have missed drill practice for a few months now, either preferring sleep, breakfast with my husband, or trail rides with my buddy B. So the core group of ladies haven gotten really good since last I joined them. I stayed at the back of the line and followed everyones cue. Easy enough as I am directionally talented, and Q is both a quick study and a precise sensitive partner. But boy did he try to bully everyone around him with his flattened ears and tight expression. He finally settled in to work after 20 minutes without all the opinions.

On top of practicing open and closed formations at a walk and trot, we also practiced simultaneous teardrop turns, thread the needle, and pa…

Cold Sunshine

Its that funny time of year where the ground is frozen hard, ice has formed on the trail, and we don’t have enough snow cover to keep our barefoot partners safe. But I was itching to enjoy the fresh air and took my surefooted Q out on trail albeit tentatively.

It was lovely. I was happier walking cautiously for half an hour on the trails than any canter circles I could do in the arena. Sometimes you just need a little sunshine, even if its cold.

This week concluded the fall term. I still have to grade final exams, and tie up loose ends with my consulting projects ... but it’s the beginning of the end of the year.

As many bloggers do, I will also work on my end-of-year recap as it has been pretty epic. Much travels, first full year running my own business, bareback riding, and lots of solo adventures with my buddy Q.

Right now Im looking forward to two weeks in a hammock on the beach in Costa Rica, and hopefully getting lost in a new romance novel every day. Until then I hope to spend …

Infinity Loops

The beautiful figure eights in the ring were executed a few days ago by a lovely mare who was euthanized this morning. She was 21 years old and seemed to have suffered some stroke in the middle of the night as she was unable to move this morning when feeding time began. As she had been suffering from some unusual and chronic conditions for some time, the vet recommended she be euthanized. Her owner had only recently started riding her again and we all thought she was on the mend.

She is gone and has left us with a beautiful and brief reminder of her talent.

These days are signalling much in-betweens. As I entered the trails the ground was peaking through the snow. What kind of footing will we have today? Is it autumn or winter? Which trail shall we take, and does it matter?

This is the last week of the fall semester and my holiday break will soon begin. It will be a few weeks of riding and then its off to sunny Costa Rica for some light reading and hammock napping. Hopefully I will ge…