Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bits and Bitting

Yesterday at the end of the TTC there was a bit and bitting talk. The folks who did the talk were very knowledgeable and commented that horses who ride in hackamores were typically very tense and anxious. I ride Liberty in a s Hack and it's worked better than anything else I have ever used, but he isn't very relaxed and it's something I'd like to fix.  So, I grabbed the last unused bit and put it on a bridle for Liberty.It's a Myler short shanked comfort snaffle. It has the roller in the middle and doesn't collapse. It's a basic bit that I have seen horses use a million times. It took me a couple tries to adjust it properly but he was very patient with me. I got on him in spite of his nashing and gnawing at the bit and we walked around. I gave him all the rein he wanted, which was to take his nose to the ground (trying to drag the bit out of his mouth, silly horse)  I did like how round he was if I picked up a rein, but when I asked him to trot he was not regular at all and asking him to stop was frightening, even with a one rein stop.  So, I went back to the trailer, took it off and put his s hack back on.  He was immediately the horse I knew. He was steady in the bridle, light, responsive and didn't pull on me.  I then got Fiera and ponied her for 30 minutes. We averaged 6 mph, cantered, trotted, etc for almost 3 miles. Unfortunately it was all in circles in the pasture, so kind of boring, but I was impressed how good he was. We did some footwork after it and he did good turns on haunch and fore. I do wish he were more relaxed and I wish he could wear a bit, but I'm not sure how to force the issue. Maybe I need to try a bit with more tongue relief. It occurs to me that might be his objection...but at $100 a pop I'm not sure I will be trying another bit any time soon.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Decision time

I headed to the Texas Trail Challenge Friday as a judge so that Maggie could compete on her mare, Dixie.  Dixie is older than we had originally thought she was (This seems to happen to Maggie a lot, as her first pony was supposed to have been 15 and was 25) and she is suffering from ulcers, so we have decided to give her a break.  Maggie has decided to compete in TTC this year instead of NATRC, which is longer and faster and harder on Dixie at this stage of her life.  To this particular ride I had to bring a horse to get to my judging spots and I chose Fiera for this activity because I figured that she would stand quieter and be better riding out alone. Liberty will ride out alone, but if Dixie is there he wants to be with her and Dixie isn't as good either. Dixie is a siren to our other horses. 

To back up a moment, I rode Fiera in her first NATRC ride last weekend. While we placed last (which I had assumed would be the case) She behaved very well and did a good job for a baby on her first outing. She even handled being left behind when he buddy had to leave her beautifully. I have often been told I should ride her alone more and after my success last weekend felt comfortable doing so. 

I headed out of camp with minimal difficulty. Fiera didn't want to leave her friends but she did it anyway with only a few discussion. we had trouble getting through the gate, but it's a bad gate, so I wasn't all that worried.  We rode out with some other people and then rode on. We passed several people on the way out to wear we were supposed to be and she was relaxed and happy. I was singing You are my Sunshine and All Creatures of our God and King....and then it happened.  She "spooked" and the next thing I know was running off to the right...without me. I landed hard and she was running fast.  Several people came back on the scene quickly. I lay still for a long time because I hurt so bad. I wasn't sure I was going to be able get back to camp on my own, walking, but I did. Fiera made it back to the fence where Maggie was riding around. She brought her back to me and we walked back together. I then tied her up and promptly ignored her the rest of the weekend. Of course, I fed and watered her, but no love, no pats, no affection. I was pretty pissed and not sure I wasn't done (still not sure).

So, the contemplation began...

Her mother used to do this to me. She'd be solid as a rock and then she would spook and run away for no apparent reason.  But, Fiera is just a young horse, not even six, perhaps she really was afraid...but it felt like she "upped her game" on me. We had a series of smaller things we'd been working through and I was finally over being afraid of that stuff and we were becoming a good working pair. then, when something scared her, she totally forgot I existed and ran off, as I feared. I have Liberty to compare her to and he doesn't run off even when I fall, so she has a lot to live up to. 

What have I done wrong in the relationship? I can really think of anything, though I have always felt a lack of connection to her.  I try to work with her, but have the distinct impression that is in it "for herself"  She makes no effort to take care of her rider in any way. It's all about her. No one matters to her when she is afraid or angry. Maybe I have pushed her too fast. One friend says that maybe I'm expecting too much too soon. She's an Arab and they don't mature quickly. She's not yet six. Maybe mentally she's not ready.  Maybe I need more training on her? I can't really afford this.

Could a better ride have stuck it? Maybe, but she was really scared (apparently) and/or really determined to run away. If I had stuck it out, would I have come off worse later in a worse spot. I was lucky I fell out in the open instead of in the woods or up against a fence or something. I have ridden out a runaway and it's so not fun.

A couple of friends say to ride alone more. One has given me a good, safe way to ride "alone" mostly meaning to not take any of her buddies with me. Not so much that I ride alone with no one there, but to ride alone with none of her stablemates for her to lean on or run back to, making me her herd.  Another friend says I just need to go and ride alone. But I now don't feel safe riding alone. I have the big what if I had been riding alone...really alone...and this had happened.  I would have been horseless and alone and that's not a great plan. I see the positives in riding alone and I can't say I'm actually afraid the riding. It's the falling off that hurts.

Another good friend knows these horses really well and suggests that I give her more time because she is young and that she will likely mature into a really nice horse if I give her a couple more years.  My thinking on this is twofold.  My friend is probably right and she probably will become a solid citizen in the next couple years...but it's going to take a lot of work.  I'm not sure I have it in me to do this for another 2 years.  I will be on guard every time I ride. Of course, that may be what I need to do. People had suggested that I was spooking her because I was tense. I think I can lay that to rest now. I was calm and cool and not at all worried.  I actually suspect that she spooked because I wasn't as "on" as I should be.  So, in the future I have to stay more "on" and less relaxed which makes her more relaxed and makes no sense to me.

So, Maggie was going to ride her in the clinic in the hill country next weekend, but then changed her mind. I was able to talk her into it with a couple of modifications. We are going to take only Fiera, no friends for her, just Fiera. And if she does anything stupid in the next 6 months like she did to me, I agreed to list her for sale.  I think that we will take it one ride at a time and start to build on the relationship.  I also think that she will be a fantastic horse for someone, though maybe not for us.  I may list her for sale for a decent price and see what happens. She is good, just young and inexperienced.  In the mean time, Dixie can rest and I can ride Liberty, who is my first love.  I also find myself thinking about something Dave Ramsey tells people when making money decisions. If you didn't own it, would you buy it. I can't say I'd buy her if I hadn't bred her.  But I also know that because I bred her I have responsibility to do by her the best I can.

We will see what  the next week brings. And hope for the best.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fiera's first ride

This weekend was the highly anticipated Louisiana purchase Natrc ride. It was Fiera's debut to distance riding and I will call it a mild success.

The good parts were:
1.  I did not fall off even when she had a rodeo moment.
2. We did not get held at any p&r.
3. She is an excellent camper and slept and ate well at the trailer.
4. She did not create enemies at the p&r hollering for other horses (and in fact is not a hollering horse most days anyway)
5. Spent the weekend with my best friends!
6. Very calm and reasonable for the most part with o my 1 scary moment on the first day.
7. Smooth, comfortable gaits.

The parts that need work (not necessarily in order)
1. I didn't get to ride with my friends as much as I wanted because Fiera is evidently kind of slow.
2. Sore back and girth, either BC of tack or not enough conditioning.
3. Higher than desirable pulse Rate on p&r.
4. Needs a lot more conditioning!
5. Nonexistent obstacle skills. 

I admit that I missed Liberty most of the weekend even though Fiera was great. Its hard to start a new horse when you have a beloved rock star in the pasture.

In two weeks we do the comfy clinic but I'm thinking of taking Liberty to Pole Canyon. I think Fiera needs more riding before I want to try again.

The ride itself was great. We didn't have to time out till 8 on Saturday and it was nice to sleep late. The start was near disastrous as a lot if fresh horses came charging down the hill. Annette's reins broke and there was a lot of nerves exchanged between  first time horses Tally and Fiera. I ended up near the back with Maddie Martin and Christa, though Christa left us soon To go faster. We had a rodeo moment when a stick stabbed her in the flank but i rode it out and she went to be just fine.  Maddie and I rode the day alternately pushing and pulling the other along when both horses got tired. Knox did the obstacles perfectly and Fiera did the natural ones pretty well but blew anything the judges set. We had a great time and barely made it back in time. She was tired with a slightly sore back and girth. Not NAD enough to not rude,but I planned to baby her the rest of the weekend  

Sunday we timed out much early and due to Sharon Martin-Holmes horses setting a quick pace we made much better time. Then Maddie had to pull due to a gall and Sharon rode with me till she couldn't go my pace anymore. With many apologies she left me with the safety rider and went on to catch Annette and Christa. It was time for us to be grown ups and Fiera rose to the occasion. She continued at a slow but steady pace Into the  p&r and beyond where she bumped into her trailer mate and they finished together.

She needs a better walk to be more but really did a great job of moving out. We cantered some and she was always in control. I would really like to be able to ride with my friends in the future. Riding with Sharon was good for Ber because I don't tho k she realized she could go that fast.

All in all a good first ride.