Sunday, November 28, 2010

He's a good boy, he is

On my other blog, I posted our annual Christmas picture for people to choose. This year, we actually got more than one useable shot. If you haven't voted, travel on over there and help me select a good picture to go with the Christmas letter.

In and around the good photos, we had a bunch of hmm, not so useable pix. Usually these are because Snoopy has had enough posing and wants to sniff the cat or eat Marcus' hair or something. I'm posting these outtakes to show you it's not always his fault.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Training day

Forgive me for not posting in awhile, but there hasn't been much to post about. Snoopy is as right as rain these days, thanks to monthly visits from the horsey chiropractor. Yes, we have chiropractors for our horses, as well as acupuncturists, and possibly even aromatherapists.

"Take a deep breath, Mr. Investment. The apple-carrot-molasses mixture should bring a feeling of - Mr. Investment! Please stop eating the potpourri!"

My trainers, Niki and Tina, have been riding him, although it's been mostly Niki. Tina is the owner of the ranch, and not only is she up to her ears in the daily ranch upkeep AND the dog boarding/training business she runs to help pay the mortgage, her grandson is struggling with aplastic anemia and she has to dash to the hospital, or pick up his older brother, at a moment's notice. She's not a praying woman, but I don't think she minds if you want to toss a request God's way to get little Grant back to good health. His blood transfusions are not holding. I get the impression that the next thing on the list is to go for the bone marrow transplant. He's only four, for Pete's sake. He needs a break.

But I digress...

So Niki's been riding Snoopy and everyone is asking me when I'm going to get back into regular training, and I keep saying, "Next week, I hope." Except when Next Week arrives, it's too hot out or too rainy or I'm too exhausted and I don't get on him.

And then there's this other 'thing'. When Snoopy started to get better, I had this mental picture of getting on him, practicing over a few trail poles and wham! going off to the horse show. That's not what happened.

When I got back on him to train, things had changed. I used to walk him into a box (four poles on the ground, laid perpendicular, to make a box), stop, then turn him around and walk out. Nowadays, you walk your horse into the box and KEEP WALKING as he turns around. This turns out to be a lot harder than it sounds, and it already sounds pretty hard.

I also have to hold my reins differently, looser, with my thumb up instead of down.

Oh, and I have to close my spurs** on him to stop, instead of just saying, "Ho." (No, we don't say Whoa. Try it. "Whoa" is more lip movement. "Ho" just slides outa your mouth.) And then there's the spur backup. I keep my spurs on him to back him up, instead of raising my reins and saying, "Back."

Suddenly, I didn't know how to ride anymore. Suddenly, he wasn't even my horse anymore. He had all these cues that I didn't know. It made me frustrated, upset, and even angry. I wanted to hit something, but I didn't.

I had a meltdown. I told Niki how much I hated it all. I told her I didn't want to ride him anymore. I even said I'd rather sell him than try to back him off my spurs again. There were a few tears.

Niki calmly replied that she didn't want me to be upset about all this. She had me accompany her to the arena, where she got on Snoopy and explained what she was doing and why. Using the spurs was to keep Snoopy's head from lifting, which is what happens when you use the reins. I could still say "Ho". I didn't have to push him hard with the spurs, just turn my toes out and press him lightly. He still moves forward off the spurs if he's already moving forward; he just backs if he's stopped. She showed me how it all worked. She tried to make me feel better.

I was skeptical, but not as upset.

This week, I had two lessons on Snoop. I tried out what she said about the spurs, and added a vocal command of "clucking" to the back, which made me feel better. The first lesson went really well. We didn't do a lot of poles, but we did circles, stopping, backing, jogging and loping. He was very responsive and I had a great ride. There were no tears, either.

I thought, since I had a great first lesson, my second lesson would go badly. It didn't. I did a lot more poles this time. Niki showed me how to push him across the pole at the jog, which kept my tush in the saddle. I learned to kiss to him as he loped poles and felt his response. It was another great ride, another good lesson.

It's now looking more possible to me that I'll be able to show him one day soon. When I do, there'll be PLENTY of pictures to post.

**A note about spurs: If you don't ride horses, spurs sound like big, pointy instruments of torture. None of our spurs are sharply pointed. We would never use anything on our horses that would harm them. Some of our horses are very ticklish; put your leg on them and they go. Other horses are not ticklish at all; put your leg on them and they just don't feel you. A spur at this point is like taking a finger and poking them. Snoopy is one of those horses.