Tuesday, January 30, 2007

...and then we practiced our musical freestyle

Yesterday I braved the cold and went to the barn after work. I actually have to go every day after work to feed George. My barn is kind of a self-service place…you get a stall but you clean it yourself and buy your own shavings. If your horse needs grain, you must feed him yourself. It is good in the sense that it MAKES you get out there and spend time with your horse. Especially if your horse is, say, high maintenance. Ahem.

Anyway, yesterday George was kept inside all day because the temps were in the teens and he does not have much of a winter coat. I had actually found a quilted winter coat to put on him so he can go out in this weather so my plan was to fit the coat in addition to giving him a good run in the indoor arena. Good plan!

As so often is the case, my plan did not go as planned. As I was leading George to the arena, he got very excited about the prospect of running. So excited in fact, he began hopping and bucking while still on the lead rope. After a few Hey!’s and Woah!’s, I was able to get his halter off and set him free. As this is the first time any horse, much less my own halter-trained horse, has done this while I have been leading, I was rather startled and, quite frankly, afraid. I hollered for a fellow boarder, Ned, who just happened to have stopped by the barn to feed his horse. As Ned came to my rescue, I did what every good horseperson does. I started to cry.

How is it that I can want something so bad (a horse of my very own) and be so afraid and un-confident at times (like when said horse is leaping up and down at the end of his lead rope)? It is a maddening addiction, I have decided.

In my constant effort to scrutinize and dissect what exactly happened, I know that George was just being a horse. A horse that had been inside on a brisk, bright day with no buddies to play with and no friends to run with. Ok. Logical enough. George is also still getting used to his herd and the whole pecking order that presents so he is acting out as a result of his confusion and frustration as to where he is. Ok. Logical enough. It is ok to be afraid at times during the learning curve…that’s how you learn. RescueSquadNed assured me last evening that I am doing everything right. I am mixing groundwork with my riding, I am giving George days off, I am correcting his behavior when needed. George is a tough cookie and soon enough he will settle into this barn and environment and new rider thing. I have to be patient and consistent and ask for help when I need it and that is ok.

What I don’t need to do is fall apart when things don’t go quite as planned. Don’t be so damned emotional. Easier said than done…we’ll see what this evening brings.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

His ears were burning

George must have known I was going to post about him. Either his ears were burning or he has high-speed internet in his stall. Whatever it was, he was a perfect angel yesterday. The nippy, pushy, un-listening horse I had all week had been replaced with a sweetnaturedbrushmeifyouwantIwilllistentoyourlegandstandverystillfortheclippers Quarter Horse. Things that make you say Hmmmmm.

I was at the barn all alone with him. It was so wonderful to relax and brush him and talk with him...one of those days where you get sucked into the *Barn Vortex* and you don't realize 3 hours have passed and you haven't yet grocery shopped or done laundry.

But you spent time with your very own horse.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Horsekeeping 101

Ok, so it's been 2 months with George. How is it going, you ask? Have we bonded with a sensual woman/horse relationship as one would see in those Practical Horseman Magazine? Are we schooling flying changes, extended trot, and piaffe well on our way to USDF competitions?


Not really.

It hasn't been all bad, of course, but I am learning George slowly. Slower than I had hoped, I guess. In our defense, let's just say that buying a horse at the onset of winter in the Midwest is probably not the best timing as far as really being able to spend time with and get-to-know each other. It is either freezing, raining, snowing, or all three at the same time. Oh ya, and dark. Ok, I will stop complaining. George is a rather tough nut to crack, I am finding. We are making big progress; however, he is not a horse that gives freely. I am having to work for every little progression. In the long run, it will be good for us. Really good. I must remember that when I get frustrated and feel alone in doing it. What is the problem, you ask? Hmmmm...let's make a list:

1) George was, with his former owner, allowed to be mouthy. No, he doesn't let loose a string of obscenities or backtalk! Well then again, maybe that's what it is. He just always needs to have something in his mouth...be it my jacket, the leadrope, the brush, whatever is handy for him to grab. It makes him very nippy, which makes grooming and doing things with him quite difficult at times. At one point, he grabbed the boob of a woman at the barn who stopped to pet him. Ouch. Although I did not expect to have to groom my horse with a crop in-hand, it has come to that at times.

2) George refuses to bend. I am working with a trainer (the Trainer from Chicago! - see previous post) who agrees I am going to have to work for every inch I get from him. I'll admit, I was riding some pretty sweet horses at my old barn where I took lessons. Sweet in the sense that they were trained 2nd or 3rd level and knew to listen to my leg even when it wasn't the most educated or experienced leg. George's reaction, for the most part, is "Leg?"..."What leg?". So we turn like a board.

3) George is a pansy. He hates mud, rain, snow, cold, hard surfaces, work, and probably me. He gets his ass kicked on a regular basis by the other horses he is turned-out with. It is such a disappointment! Unfortunately, the barn where I board (the only one I can afford around here!) has a large pasture with probably 8 other horses. When I drive up in the afternoon, ALL of the other horses are usually eating hay from the big hayrack in the field. Except George. 90% of the time, George is standing off by himself or waiting by the gate for me to let him in. If he tries to venture near the hay, all of the ears go flat and a few kicks fly and he moves away. I had his shoes pulled for the winter on the advice of the previous owner. His feet are very sensitive so I have to ride in Easy Boots...otherwise he is all ouchie. I was going to re-shoe him but winter is over in a month or so...so I'll just keep Easy-Booting him til March. Argh.

I would say these 3 issues are the most challenging/upsetting to me at this point. I would also say they are probably all related as far as his attitude. If he is not getting to eat outside he is unhappy and hungry so he will try to bite me when I am grooming him...you get the picture. The folks at the barn are nice enough; however, they have all had their horses forever and don't seem to understand the struggle I am having. I do not need to be told to "Just get after him" for the biting. I KNOW that and I AM getting after him! I was used to, at the old barn, a bit more comradarie (sp?) and a bit less judgement. However, the old barn where I took lessons for years and felt so comfortable and made so much progress as far as learning horses is closed...so I am here at this barn which is very close to home and very affordable. And I am trying to make do. And I am trying to get to know my horse. And I am trying to have fun with all of it even when I am cold and frustrated and grooming my pansy-assed horse while holding a dressage whip to fend off his playful nipping and mouthing.

It's going well.