Spooking Ep. 2

Maybe its the cold weather.

Scarlet is getting more and more liable to spin away from something that scares him and try to take off. Its mostly this one corner of the arena. Its honestly getting very frustrating. We’ve been at this barn for a couple of months now and all the stuff that is in that corner of the arena has been there. Nothing has changed.

I’ve tried pushing him slowly into the corner with each lap we take. Somewhat like slowly inching into cold water. I’ve tried bringing him into that corner while I’m on the ground. I give him treats while we are standing there, hoping to associate good things with the corner.

No luck with either of those. I did that for the first few months that we have been at this barn. At first I was trying to be patient, let him get several rides with the stuff and me pushing him into the corner. It takes a while for his brain to connect the dots sometimes. Then I blamed it on the fact that my riding has gotten less consistent. I’m not out there very often with enough light/time to ride. I usually give him a grooming and some grain but that’s the most I can manage some days.

Now its getting annoying. He is getting worse each time. I know that its not him getting more scared. I know this horse very well. He gets spooked easily by simple things but stationary things he tends to get over. I’m convinced that he is bored and wants things to be entertaining.

I’ve even told him that I’m tired of it and he is acting like a three year old. Doesn’t seem to have gotten through to him. Too bad he has never learned to speak English.

My current plan is ride him in that corner until he gives up. He is ignoring all my aids whenever we go through the corner and for the side leading to and heading away from. That’s not acceptable. I really need to be able to rely on him moving when I ask him to. So I’ve ridden circle after circle in that corner. Its really boring but it seems to be working better. After the last ride, he was focusing and moving away from my legs when I asked him to. He was still trying to look at the stuff but was no longer tried to dance sideways or move into my leg instead of away from it. I’m planning on heading to that corner first thing when I hop and and doing most of my warm up there. I’ll do this for rides until we can get on and walk by there with only looking. Looking is fine. Ignoring me is not.

We are moving to a new house this weekend so I’m hoping that I will be able to squeeze some riding in between moving boxes.

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Late Xmas Post

Late post! Christmas is really a chaotic time for everyone isn’t it? I traveled down south to see my mother-in-law and some close friends which was really fun.

Horse related, since I was out of town I really didn’t get to ride. I did get a pair of breeches from the hubby and a vest for riding from my parents and sister.

I will definitely be able to ride some this week so look forward to a longer post on Wednesday!

Riding!

Yay! Finally got a day riding! After over a week of not riding, I got to go out and ride Scarlet. I hadn’t been able to ride since last Monday since it was raining and I got sick. I got out this Monday to give Scarlet some attention but that was it.

It was nice to go out there though. My husband came with me which I think is the third time he has been around Scarlet since I bought him. Not that he doesn’t like horses. He just gives me my space to do my thing when I go ride. He knows that riding is important and I’m still taking my time getting to know Scarlet again.

He said he wanted to go with me to give him a cookie since “Instead of him thinking of me as the guy that hands around you sometimes, this way,  he will think of me as that guy that gives me cookies and hangs around you sometimes.” It was kinda sweet.

Today we got let go from work early which was awesome. This usually happens before holidays but we got let out earlier than normal. I had packed my riding clothes and boots in my car just to be prepared if we did get let off. So I was prepared when they let us go three hours early.

I was so excited. I gave Scarlet some of the new horse cookies I had gotten as a gift. You know your best friend really understands you when she gives you horse cookies, a gift card to the tack store and a horse book for Christmas. (He loved the cookies, obviously.)

It was really windy today so he was super reactive to all noises. There was a piece of the metal covering for the arena fence that was rattling like nuts when a breeze came but he did fairly well with that. He did fairly well overall for a super windy day. Only a few spooks at the normal corner and one huge spook when cooling out.

I was trying to work on our connection and his transitions from walk-halt. I want him to be more sensitive to my aid since he has been blowing through my legs quite often in the recent past. We did okay working today but its really hard to get his attention when he is focusing on everything being scary. Hopefully we can get our next ride during a day when its not extremely windy.

Have a safe and happy holidays everyone!

Takin’ Sick Days

Being sick really really sucks. Especially when you are sick enough that you can’t ride. But when I’m sick enough that I take days off of work, I really probably shouldn’t be outside in 40-50 degree weather riding my horse.

So, unfortunately, I haven’t ridden since Monday. Scarlet did get shod on Wednesday and I did go out and see him on Friday to give him some grain but that’s about it.

Shoeing went well. I’m not sure if Scarlet has ever had hot shoeing done. He kinda freaked out at the smoke that was generated. He kept looking behind him to try and figure out where it was coming from. Overall, his feet are good. The farrier said his back feet will be fine to be bare until I get the time to come out and ride more consistently. He also gave me something to use on the thrush in his back feet. It a paste used for wounds on cow udders called Tomorrow. Its a very popular thrush treatment. He said a clinic he attended put on by a farrier who taught at Cornell suggested it. So I plan to buy a few tubes and combat the thrush as best I can.

Since I’m not riding, I’ve been reading about riding and watching past Grand Prix classes on YouTube. It definitely makes me yearn to do that. I know that Scarlet will never be the horse to do that. One, he is 18 almost 19 years old and hasn’t done more than jump for fun in his lifetime. Two, he is only 15 hands. A bit difficult to get over fences. And three, I’m not very experience. I could probably figure it out to a certain point. But reading about techniques and such can only do me so good. I really need to figure out how to get lessons to happen occasionally. I definitely need someone to correct me and tell me if I’m getting what I want. You can only tell so much from feel when you have limited experience. If all I ever wanted to do was ride for pleasure, I’m a very experienced rider. If I every hope to compete and do well, I need some help. I’ll have to figure out a way to get that help. Sure I wont do much, if any, competing with Scarlet but I’m going to have more horses in my future. I want to try with them.

One ride

I got one weekday ride in on Monday. Better than nothing. Scarlet was actually quite good for the ride as well, considering that hay was being thrown to the horses while we were riding. He gave a pathetic quiet half neigh at that while we were riding but was still paying attention to me, more or less. We didn’t do more than jog around in a circle. I did do a bit of backing. Like I said, I plan on working on the backing up straight. I’ve noticed that Scarlet always swings his hips out to the left at the beginning of backing so I’m going to try my best to block that. I also am going to focus on my cues to make sure that I’m not causing him to swing out.

Tuesday I did not ride since I was kept back in work for an extra two hours. Its probably better that I did not since it feels like I’m getting sick. I did want to at least go out there and give him some grain but by the time I got out of work, it was late and I was ravenous. So I didn’t get out yesterday.

Today Scarlet is going to be getting shod. I’m going back and forth on putting hind shoes on him. On one hand, his feet haven’t cracked badly or anything and it is winter so the chances of pulling a shoe is higher. On the other, his heels look like they are getting a little low and his rear left hoof looks like it is winging out when growing. I’m going to talk to the farrier to get his opinion on everything. Hopefully we can make a good decision that will help Scarlet keep sound. The last thing I want is for him to go lame. Its a lot harder to come back from injury when you are older.

Spooking

Finally the weekend! I’m going to be even more in love with weekends than normal for a while. They are really going to be the only time I can ride until the sun starts staying up a bit later.

Saturday was the first ride we had in a while. I had given Scarlet a brief lunging on Thursday and Friday. He hadn’t been out at all for over a week until then. I was hoping to ride but it got dark too fast. I had maybe 20 minutes of light after I arrived at the barn. That was enough for a 10 minute grooming session and a 10 minute lunging. If I had put his saddle on, I would have hopped on for around 5 minutes and gotten back off. The lunging is good though. Its good for him to get some exercise without me on his back occasionally.

Saturday I just focused on taking it slow and doing a good warm up before riding. We did do some backing up at the end of the ride. I was able to get a few steps that were mostly straight. That’s going to always be out bane.

Along with being straight, I was trying to use the correct signals for backing. I’ve always just pulled on the reins and leaned backwards. I know that’s 100% not the right way but I had never been told off about it. I didn’t even thing about it being wrong until I started reading more riding books. So now that I know, I’m trying to do it right. Its not easy. Riding for most of my life, almost all of what I do while riding is subconscious. It takes a lot of concentration to focus on doing something specific. Not that I can’t, I just normally don’t. There was a little bit of confusion from Scarlet when I tried to lean slightly forward, press my legs to his side and vibrate the reins to ask him to back. He just dropped his chin into his chest for the most part. Things started to work a bit better when I used a bit more rein and said back out loud. I’ll keep working on it and hopefully we will slowly switch to being correct in all of our cues.

Riding on today was a whole ‘nother beast entirely. Something about today just set Scarlet off. EVERYTHING was scary. The corner he normally spooks at? Yeah, lets just walk sideways by that. I allowed it for the walking laps. I generally let him get his spooky out at first and just gradually nudge him closer to the thing that spooks him. Which normally works well. And we did just fine at the walk. Then trotting he spooked again, trying to plant and spin. I got annoyed at him for that. The stuff in that corner has not changed for six or so weeks. Get over it horse! So I rode him in circles in the corner until he stopped ignoring my leg and moved over to use the full corner. We did it both directions at the trot and I thought we were good.

I was wrong. Canter, here we go again. Plant and spin, pogo stick canter stride. I had to choke up on the reins in order to get control of him enough to circle and circle in the corner. Whenever Scarlet gets really scared, he sticks his nose in the clouds and I have a hell of a time using my normal light contact length of reins. We got the corner under control eventually at the canter but then someone two fields away started moving dirt around with a tractor. Now that was a scary monster. (Seriously horse its like a quarter of a mile away. You can barely even hear it…)

Its getting really frustrating to have to deal with spooking all the time. I haven’t been wearing spurs because I’m a firm believer of not wearing them if you do not have a perfectly independent seat and you have enough leg strength so that your legs will not swing around. I don’t feel like I am back to that point yet. I’m going to need to try to remember to ride with a crop more often so that I can get on Scarlet when he is ignoring my legs. That is not okay and will end up causing issues if it continues.

Despite the spooking, it wasn’t an awful ride today. I think I’m getting to ride so infrequently that any ride is a good ride. Lets hope that I’m able to get at least a ride in during the week this week.

Massages and Backing

Since we are going to be dealing with limited light for a few more months and limited time, specifically this month, I wanted to find some other things I could do with Scarlet to bond and spend time with him. I love riding and I know he likes moving out and going fast, even when it means leaving buddies and food. I have to admit, I’m limited in my knowledge of what I can do with my horse besides riding. I used to just sit on him and let him graze when I had him in my backyard but that’s not as easy when you board him at a barn.

I started looking into massages for horses to see if I could figure that out. I’ve watched a couple of videos of the Masterson Method but the ones I saw looked more like relieving tension by stretching. This is important but I was looking more for massaging. I’m not sure if I want to try and find a book on massaging or look into DVDs. I’d really like to find a clinic to teach me as I feel this is something that is better learned through hands on but clinics usually aren’t cheap. I just started looking into this though so I haven’t decided on anything.

One thing I’ve decided to work on in riding with Scarlet is backing. We’ve always had issues with it. Scarlet is fairly reluctant to back up and I have had to really haul on his head to get him to do so. Now that I’m older and more experienced, I realize that this is a really bad thing. So I’m going to work on faster responses to correct cues. And we have never been able to back up straight. Scarlet has always scooted out to one side or the other. I’m going to work on taking a step at a time and going as straight as possible. Its a good exercise because it will really build up his muscles. Backing is hard work.

Oops

So, Sunday update didn’t happen. Its going to take a while for me to get back into the swing of updating twice weekly I guess. In my defense, I was driving for five hours yesterday.

Either way, I didn’t get to ride this weekend since I was out of town. It really sucks when I go for several days without riding. I get so antsy and grumpy. As every horse person knows, our moods are directly tied to how much riding time we get.

I did do a bit of reading about riding. I’ve been enjoying going on horse forums more. I want to immerse myself into the horse community again after staying away for a while. Its a bit hard to do at my current barn. There are only a couple of people that ride regularly at my barn and even they are not out very often since it gets dark soon. So I’m looking online for that community feel.

Its quite effective. I love reading all the different advice and problems that people encounter. I may not have their issue currently nor may I ever in the future but I’m absorbing the knowledge like a sponge.

My current research project for myself is to try and figure out what I’m doing that may be causing rough downward transitions. I really want to smooth those out. Scarlet’s upward transitions are pretty good as long as I make sure we are completely warmed up and stretched out. Our downward has always been awful. And since my transitions on other horses are bad too, I’m pretty sure its me. I’ve been reading a bit about blocking/asking too much with the reins. I don’t know if this is what I am doing but it may be. I want to practice these during our rides. I feel this is something constructive I can do when the light is not good and this is still a good skill to work on.

Once I get the transitions or it gets a bit lighter, whatever comes first, I want to try working on lengthenings and counter canter. I know that this can be all done at once, but I don’t have a lot of riding time so unless I’m doing a long ride on the weekends I feel like one skill will be better for me.

I’m planning on riding today so I’m going to work really hard on focusing on my position and what I am doing during transitions. Hopefully I can figure out my flaws. If not, I may need to get some outside help. If only it stayed light enough to really consider a lesson.

Back from delay!

I’m now going to be back to writing on Wednesday and Sunday! I finished NaNoWriMo (as a winner!) and now no longer have things clogging up my time, I can continue focusing on writing this blog and riding!

I did ride Scarlet some during my last week and a half mad dash to the finish line. I set up some jumps and we went over them a few times. That was quite fun. They were only about nine inches off the ground but Scarlet always sees them as larger. We went over them at a trot and canter a couple of times. On each lead we didn’t get over them very well. We chipped in short on the right lead and had a very upwards jump over the itty bitty jumps. On the left lead, Scarlet decided that he wanted to launch himself from really far away. That was not great. I was not prepared for that and ended up yanking on his face when we landed. Each jump after both of those fails went well but it was kinda funny how rusty we both are.

I’ve been trying to do more riding during the week days. I’ve been riding until it gets darker and then cooling off after it gets dark. Its been going well honestly. Scarlet hasn’t been spooky which is what I was worried about. I’ve gotten a few rides in here and there.

Its been pretty cold but his blanket seems to be holding up to the task. Obviously we don’t get snow or super cold here but its still chilly. I’m hoping that I get a vest for Christmas so that I can wear it while riding! 🙂

The last couple of days that I’ve ridden, the barn owner and her daughter have been out riding. They are trying to get her barrel racing horses back into shape I think. Its interesting having people riding with me more often. I’m so used to riding on my own. Its not bad, just different. Its less lonely for sure. I think Scarlet likes the company too. Hopefully I get out more so that he gets more rides!