Friday, October 29, 2010

Trail Super Star

Out on the trails today with M on one of her Friesians. Cici has never been out with him before, this was their first date. As we left the barn and went up the trail I noticed she was actively looking about. She was attentive and had her head up and ears were dancing. After about three or four minutes she relaxed and went into following mode. I realized she had been acting like she was out on the trail alone! Lead horse who has to stay alert! Guess it took a little while before she was willing to believe the Friesian knew what he was doing.

We decided to do one of the new trails in the opposite direction from the way we have, and when we came to the trail head saw it was posted with a No Trespassing sign. There wasn't one at the other end, hmmm how interesting. So off the trail we went. Bushwhacking! With the Bulldozer (the Friesian)!

No creature has been through these woods of downed trees and saplings growing up inches from each other. The Bulldozer leads the way and Cici closes her eyes and just walks through anything and everything. She even cuts her own trails when she thinks he is going the wrong way. She doesn't even bother to go around some of the saplings, just walks over them. Well she gets caught. Two saplings conspire to basically trap her left front leg in a V. She can't go forward, she can't back, "Time to get off Mom". She is calm. Not paniced, just stands and waits for me to fix it.

There are more trees right to her left and the saplings are bent that way, only clear side is on the right. Glad I've done all that practicing of mounting and unmounting from both sides as I don't give it a second thought but hop off the right side. I give it a second thought afterwards.

Well these two saplings where really tight up against her chest and armpit. I wrestle the smaller on to the ground and step on it to hold it down. Now I'm trying to figure out how to get the larger one which has a trunk of maybe 1-1/2". Have to bend it away from her and then step on it with my other foot to hold it down. They are both too green to break. And now I ask Cici to walk forward, over the trunks of the saplings. Feels like I'm caught a strange game of Twister LOL!!!!

She calmly walks out of the puzzle and now I am on the ground and we all continue our bushwhacking. The area is so dense there is no room for me to mount back up. We continue clambering over downed trees, thick underbrush and finally connect up with the trail. Mount back up.

I think back to how Cici just stood there. Calm with complete confidence that I would extract her. What a Super Star!

Monday, October 25, 2010


Time time time. Taking the time it takes, put the relationship first. Ah, today I feel like a failure. I put my wants - I want to trail ride - ahead of my relationship. And the worst thing about it was that I was totally aware of what was happening.

Monday morning, should be working, but wanted to go out on the trails this morning with V. Got up late, delayed and then when I finally was organized and ready to play with Cici we only had half an hour before the "agreed upon" time to go out. I always get to the barn with about an hour to play before going out. So today felt I "had" to do my pre ride check quickly.

Cici was not in the mood to do anything really. Wanted to eat her hay and maybe take a walk. But I had her out on the circle and I was micromanaging and demanding. Trot, trot now, trot, now canter. Don't stop and come in, stay out on the circle and lets just get through this walk trot canter checklist. When I finally asked her to come in she walked in and stood at an angle AWAY from me with her head firmly looking away. No head to my chest. No looking at me. Looking away!!!!! This is neither an oh boy or a how interesting moment. This is a moment of my shame.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Playing in the big field

I took Cici across the street yesterday to play in a large grass field. A neighbor has this field fenced in and uses it as a jumping course for her daughter. Fortunately it was cleared of jumps. I gathered up my ropes and carrot stick and even dug out the 45' line. Finally I could use it!

Cici walked quietly next to me down the driveway, gently snorting. Hmmm, rereading that sentence I wish to clarify, she walked quietly, but she was certainly making noise! Nostrils get a little tight as she goes RBI. And the snorts - I use them as an indicator of how RB she is. When we are riding on a new trail she will snort. Turn onto one she has been before, snorts stop.

Walked down the driveway, across the street, down neighbor's driveway onto their lawn. Cici stops for a snack. Thinking about Linda's Zero brace whenever Cici drops her head to eat I wiggle the rope to ask her to raise her head and walk with me.

We enter the fenced field and I close the gate. Know there is a possibility of dropping the rope and want to set up this first experience for success. Not lose my horse.

Now we have ridden over here, but gone on the trails, not come into this field. Cici has her head up, well up when it is not down eating grass. She is thinking that this is a wonderful field to graze in. I switch the 12' lead to the 22' and walk her around. Since she has her life up I trot off and she is with me. As we walk and trot around it is head up aware to head down eat. Walk a couple of steps and drop head to eat. Trot together. Stop and head down to eat. I ask her for backing from zone 5 and she eats as she back up! Amazing!

When she is eating I try wiggling the rope to get her head up. Trying not to just pull on the rope. Ask for some back up - and then circling. I've played a couple of time recently in the indoor with transitions online and she decides to practice. So walk, transition to eat, trot, then downward transition to eat. Each time she is staying on the circle. Maintaining gait is not going well.

I am laughing and enjoying playing in the field and the sun and the wonderful Fall day. Appreciate her creativeness. How she takes a concept and makes it her own. LBI. I also know that the line between her LB and RB behavior is very fine. So when I ask for her to go forward on the circle I try and be soft. Work on my phases carefully. Perhaps I am too careful? too cautious?

She is trotting nicely, and stops to grab a bite of grass when she is behind me, then back to trot. I don't do anything but she spooks and does her quarter horse gather and push off and I just let the line go. Not going to hold her! She runs off a ways, the line behind her, she turns and the line now bounces and wraps around her front foot. I am standing still watching what is happening.

By the time the rope is wrapped around her front foot, she has turned and is facing me and stops and eats the grass. I walk toward her, taking off my jacket as the sun is getting warmer. Think about the fact that I am now flapping my jacket while walking towards her but she has the grass and just eats and stands still. I drop my jacket on my pile of ropes and finally walk up to her. She has lifted her head to touch my hand.

I loosen the loop around her leg and ask her to back and step out of the loop. Then we walk back to area where we were playing. Do some walking circles. Wow, great to have the space to do this as she is at the end of the 22'. Thinking it will be a while before I am comfortable enough to pull out the 45 and play with that. But that is a new goal.

As Cici goes around and stops to eat and I wiggle the rope through the phases to ask her to stay at gait she takes off again. This time she is staying on the circle! but slips on the grass. She skids and her back end slids out from under her and she sits down on her left hind. Then jumps back up and continues the circle.

It is clear to me that she is fine, but I am worried about the divots in the grass. This is the first time we are playing in the field and I don't know if the owner will be upset. And I want to come back! So I stomp the divots back and walk Cici around to make sure she is fine and gather up my bag and jacket. Walk back up the hill to home.

I can't wait to come back and play again here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Yesterday I only had a little time to be at the barn. Felt I needed to spend the time cleaning the paddock, so with fork and wheel barrel I entered. Cici and Casey came right over to me. Nuzzles and treat begging. I scratched favorite places and then went off to pick up poop. Well they followed me. Stopped and waited for me to finish one place before the three of us walked over to the next pile! Very calm and quiet. A bit difficult sometimes to handle the muck rake LOL. Both took turns at chewing on the handles of the wheelbarrel. And Cici stood right next to it and then lifted her front foot up and over the handle! And back. Felt like the wheelbarrel and I were amusement for the day.

Today played with transitions on the circle. She kept offering canter, even though I was not asking, so had a great reason to ask for trot. And then to ask for walk. Then back up to trot and walk and trot and canter. I had worried that I would not be able to keep her on the circle. But that wasn't a problem. And all the transitions caused her to focus more and more on me. Whoohooo!!!

After our play session went out for a trail ride with M. Wanted to check out some old trails we have not been able to access for a couple of years. Bushwacking! Amazing how quickly the woods fill in. We walked through dense underbrush, over downed trees (okay that is old hat), squeezed between trees, ducked under branches, clambered over rocks.

Cici was a champ (or to borrow from Kim - a rock star!!) through all of this. At one point we were waiting for M to clear some branches and Cici's left front foot slowly sank into the ground. She stood quietly as her foot sunk - it felt like a flat tire - and then quietly walked forward.

For me to be doing all this on a loose rein shows me how far we have come. Amazing. Awesome.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Columbus Day

Went for a trail ride today with V and G. And pulled my phone out of my pocket to take a little video clip of the woods. Okay of G's butt! Be sure to turn off the volume, didn't realize it was recording my inanities. Clearly I need to work on my filming techniques. I've been watching other posts and they have these beautiful thru their horse's ears clips of mile after mile.

Cici took advantage of my inattention to grab a bite to eat as we were walking along. And since she has such a delightful Western pleasure head set when I held up the phone I was focusing way over her head and ears. Once I got the hang of it realized I needed to focus down a bit to include her in the picture. But hey this is a first. Holding on to loose rein with one hand and looking through the phone/camera with the other!

We are walking along "The Cart Path" in Pine and Beech woods that are now green and golden. We are on the bottom of the ridge, along a small brook off to the left. Lots of ferns along the side that are dying off for the coming winter, but have turned golden and russet. It is a steep decent to this trail, but its a lovely long relatively flat trail as opposed to most of the other trails we ride in these woods. The way back offers lots of different ways to clamber back up to the top of the ridge, including stepping over downed trees, crossing a stream, bushwacking and navigating rock outcrops. Cici is a trooper, she willingly walks through and over it all.