Spring 2010 is less than a week away now and the weather is noticeably warmer. While buying feed the other day, I saw another sure sign of spring – a local horse show event schedule. I’ve been saying for a while “this is going to be my year!” but this year I’m serious about it. We have beautiful horses and relative youth on our side but none of us is getting any younger. Sure, we love to ride trails but I’d like to push our horses and ourselves a little more and learn something new. So we’ve asked a gaited horse trainer to help get us all into shape. Now we’re not talking about big fancy horse shows, though those can be fun. We are talking about local shows where you don’t have to show up with a $50,000 horse trailer and flawless fur. It’s in local shows you don’t have to worry about being the newbie, you just need to worry about having some fun. Plus, our two Tennessee Walking Horses, Cash and Valentine, have very nice natural walking horse gaits.
Our first official lesson was supposed to be yesterday but as frequently happens in east Tennessee, we were rained out. At least Cash was groomed. So instead, we spent some time learning about the different show classes, what’s expected and how we can prepare for them. For example, some exercises like butt lifts (lying down and lifting your legs and rear into the air for a few seconds) help prepare your back muscles. Also, balance improvement by riding bareback in the ring. I feel like I have good balance on a horse but I’m winter-green and could always use some improvement. Our trainer also suggested riding in a round pen with our arms out and heads back (it’s safer having some help guiding the horse). Apparently it’s harder than it sounds and we expect to find out on a clear day this week.
We’re looking at the following gaited classes: Open Gaited Pleasure, Go As You Please Gaited, Novice All Age Walk Pleasure and possibly Open Gaited Trail & Pattern but maybe later in the year, as we’ll need to practice a bit more for that class. Additionally, I’m still planning to run Romeo in the barrels, Mikki will run Cash in exhibition poles and we’re considering the Costume Class for Romeo or Cash. Fun!
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Mikki and I got our first pole bending lessons last night and we even got the Kid back on a horse, briefly. Horse friends invited us over to try pole bending and it’s something Mikki has been wanting to try on Cash anyway. Even though Cash is a gaited horse (Tennessee Walking Horse), we think he might be good in the poles, especially since we’re sticking to small local events. If we win something, great, but we like to have fun, too. Trying to hel the Kid get over his fear of horses, we saddled him up on our most trained and calm horse, Romeo and made sure the stirrups were at the right height and headed out. I used a bit and reins so he could practice holding the reins while balancing on a saddle but I walked Romeo using a lead rope. The Kid was a nervous wreck since his last ride ended with him on the ground.
Mikki rode Cash, who seemed easy to spook tonight. That’s unusual for him because he’s normally very calm and sure. At first he didn’t like the poles and then something in the woods made him nervous. Eventually he settled down and did pretty well walking the poles. Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere! I hopped on Romeo and did the same. Romeo is an old pro at the poles so it wasn’t hard, though he was distracted by a hot little mare named River who was also trying the poles last night. And since I forgot my spurs, we ended up not going very fast. Romeo needs a little encouragement from at least bumper spurs. We ended up staying late and riding home in the dark, which was thankfully uneventful.
I can’t wait to try it again! Any of you guys run the poles?
We once again have fine east Tennessee Moonshine at our farm. This evening we went over to ride her and get Lance’s final evaluation before bringing her home. The report? Well, not so great. We observed Moonshine hunching up her back at canter and this is after she had been longed. After some demonstration and instruction from Lance, I hopped on and rode her around the ring a few times. She was tense and it was obvious to me she simply didn’t want to move. And I was on high alert and nervous as can be, given her odd performance last week. I walked her and she gave me no trouble doing it except I really had to push her just to walk. I wasn’t ready for anything more than that. Lance reiterated his advice that we should get rid of her and find another horse. I’m still not completely convinced of that but at the same time I realize the insanity of keeping a horse you’re too afraid to ride. I might be more open to it if I knew she would have a good home but who wants a horse you can’t easily ride? I’m afraid she’d be treated with a heavy hand and have a miserable and possibly short life. Uggg. I guess if I can’t work with her I’ll have a 20-year pasture ornament. I love this stupid horse, darn it. I almost wish she was mean to me so I could more easily send her to auction.
Lance brought her back tonight and the boys (Sinbad and Valentine) were quite attentive. We put Moonshine in a stall so the horses could sniff and nicker at each other for a while. Then we let her loose into our pasture so she could re-assert her authority. It was less dramatic than we expected but still funny. I shot a short little video of it (below).
But just so you know, we haven’t totally given up on her. We’re going to explore horse chiropractics and look into marbling (someone mentioned it in comments). In the meantime, it’s good to have a backup horse (Sinbad).
Even though she’s trouble, we’re glad to have our sweet Moonshine back.
It’s been 2 weeks since Moonshine left on a “training vacation.” Saturday we headed to the training farm to see how she’s doing. She seemed happy to see us and as if to receive some comfort from it, buried her face in Mikki’s chest. Sure, she’s a sweetie on the ground but riding has been a different story, which is why she’s off to be trained. Lance, our horse trainer, rode her around his pasture for us and I managed to snap photo proof (albeit blurry) that she’s not always willing to go for a ride. Lance informed us she doesn’t seem to want to buck if he longes her first but he wants her to be ridable straight from the barn. We want that, too.
It’s funny to watch but not so fun when you’re sitting on her back while she’s doing it. She doesn’t buck much and Lance thinks that’s because her previous owners probably jumped off when she started and didn’t get back on. Part of this training exercise is also to train me as her rider how to deal with bucking, such as paying attention to her body language and pulling her head to one side if she does it. Next week we plan on taking a trail ride. I’ll be sure to wear a helmet!
Interestingly, she only wants to buck on canter. She walks, trots and runs just fine. She just doesn’t seem to want to canter. So basically I have a faulty transmission: first, second and fourth gear work but watch out for third!
I miss having her up at the barn and look forward to her returning. Obviously I’m going to need to make a time commitment to work with her and ride her regularly from now on and I should look into some more training for myself, as well.
I’m not sure how much we’ve shared about Moonshine, but to make a long story short, she hasn’t been fit for us to ride since we got her. Our horse friend, Shari, says she’s “green-broke” – she got only so far in her training, and then somebody stopped training her. Not far enough for someone who’s a green rider to feel safe on her. We have Sinbad for Bill to ride now, but he won’t be with us forever, given that he’s (1) not ours and (2) 26 years old. We’ve been going back and forth about getting another horse – namely Champ, the neighbor horse – but Shari is pretty adamant that we should not invest in another old horse who may , in addition, be arthritic. So she came up with an alternate plan.
Shari knows that even if we can never ride Moonshine, we can’t bear to get rid of her, so we’ll have a horse we have to pay to keep for no reason. She suggested that we take the money we were going to use to buy Champ and invest it in training Moonshine. She knows a trainer, Lance, who she highly recommends – he’s going to train her filly too. So Lance came over last Wednesday and worked with Moonshine for an hour. He suggested that it might be best for her to stay at his farm where he can ride her every day. We agreed, so today Moonshine left for boarding school for a month. We’ll miss her, but Lance has high hopes that after a month of intensive training she’ll be a fine horse.
So wish our Moonshine good luck! We hope she studies hard and comes back a new horse – one that doesn’t want to dump Bill off every time he gets in the saddle.