Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ready to rumble!

Doesn't he look ready to work! He was very eager and willing today. Notice he's standing very happily tied. I've been tying him up regularly, grooming him, and just letting him stand for awhile before I do anything else. He seems to have figured it out. And no, he's not tied to the chain link fence! He'd rip that thing down in half a second if I did. My snubbing post is right next to the chain link.

I dug out a loose ring snaffle Myler bit that I absolutely love, cobbled together a bridle big enough to fit his giant head and put it on him. What a mouthy, mouthy beast he is! He played and played and played with that bit. He sucked it up in his mouth, tried to suck it back to his molars to gnaw on it and wiggled it around quite a bit with his tongue. I left his rope halter on and just worked him off the halter without touching the bit. I want him to get used to having a bit just hanging around in there not doing a thing before I start working him off the bit itself. He had a nice, thick white "lipstick" of foam on his mouth and around the bit by the time we were done. Foam is good!

I love, love, love the Myler bits. They are a tad pricey, but I really like the design of their basic bits. The more "advanced" styles of bits boggle me and I see no use for any of them.

The one I put on him is a Myler Loose Ring Comfort Snaffle, like this one.
The typical loose ring snaffle can have a potentially painful "nutcracker" effect, especially on horses with fairly narrow jaws and low palates. He has both. The Myler bits are curved to follow the contour of the mouth and tongue and add a curved "barrel" where the joint is to eliminate the nutcracker effect. It's a very, very mild bit and most horses I've used it on seem to respond very well to it. It's not entirely a copper mouth, it does have copper inlay, which has a similar effect of a full copper mouth.

The way he responded to the loose ring today I'm rethinking the full cheek snaffle. I may just leave him in this one for awhile and see how it goes. If we need to go to the full cheek, we will. I do, however, need a bridle that fits him, one that's not cobbled together from about four other bridles! He looked like an unkempt street urchin with his oh-so-attractive bridle of various shades of leather, including black AND that really, really light blondish shade. Sad.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gearing up for winter

Robert now calls Gabe my "boyfriend." If he's my boyfriend, I must be his Sugar Mama. That boy is going to be the best dressed horse on the block! A new turnout sheet and a medium weight turnout blanket are on their way to my tackroom for His Highness right now. You know what the coolest thing about gray horses is? They can wear ANY color and look fabulous. All my horses wear purple, but I'm venturing out of purple with him and trying black, charcoal gray and navy. He just looks great in anything. I don't think I'll ever put him in pink, but, you get the drift.

I also ordered a new set of long reins. My old ones just aren't working. I used them so much with Star they developed some wear areas where they go through the rings on the surcingle, and they tend to snag. Not such a good thing when lightness and sensitivity are what I'm aiming for. It just doesn't enhance his experience if he's getting jerky tugs through the reins because they won't slide properly. I also found a decent, inexpensive lunging cavesson to complete the ensemble. I've been using his halter, but we've been having some issues with it sliding into his eye on turns. Not good, not when you want the whole long reining thing to be a pleasant experience, not one that leaves him half-blinded on sharp turns!

It has been so hard for me to not go out there and toss a saddle on him and just go for a ride. I'm LONGING to ride him. But there are a couple of things keeping me in check. I still haven't bitted him up and that's a big one. I have to measure his mouth before I pick up a new bit for him. I have probably 20 different bits in my tack trunk, but none I would use on him at this stage. I'm going to start him in a full-cheek copper-mouth plain snaffle. It's about as mild as you can get and I firmly believe all horses should go easily in a plain snaffle. Why the full-cheek? It's all about moving away from pressure. The full-cheek is designed to put pressure on the outside of his face, not just the outside of his lips and on his gums, all while preventing the bit from moving around in his mouth or sliding through his mouth if he doesn't "get it" right away. Once he figures it out, we'll move up to a D-ring copper mouth snaffle or an eggbutt copper-mouth snaffle. Can you tell I like the copper mouths? Calypso goes in a copper roller D-ring snaffle because she likes something in there to "play with", but Chief does not. He doesn't like the taste of copper at all and because he's a bit hard-mouthed and ridden by a 7-year-old, he goes in a low port Kimberwick.

I will also admit I'm a little bit wary about the first ride. I just don't know how he'll react and 16.2hh is awful high to fall from. I'm more cautious at 35 than I was at 16. I break and bruise easier and don't bounce quite as well as I once did. It's not that I'm afraid of Gabe, I'm worried that my seat won't be quite steady enough for any initial adverse reactions and I won't be able to stick it. I've been putting quite a bit more time in the saddle on Calypso and Chief in an attempt to prepare myself for the first ride on Gabe. I really need to get my butt to the gym, or commit to working out at home again and lose a few extra pounds, then I'll feel even more confident about that first ride.

I do know that once I get over the "first ride" hump, it will all be good. Well, as long as I don't get unceremoniously dumped into the dirt on the first ride of course!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Oooh! Scary!

What happens when you ask your husband to follow you and your big horse around the field popping open and closed a huge rainbow-colored umbrella and dragging a noisy tarp while you are lunging the horse?

Same thing that happens when you ask him to stand on one side of the circle you are lunging your big horse on and asking him to wave, swing, open and close the same huge rainbow-colored umbrella.

Not a thing. Not a spook, snort or white eye to be found.

Gabe looked, raised his head, eye-balled Robert and the Scary Stuff for a minute, made a couple of small, cautious steps sideways then went on his merry way listening to my commands. He even lunged over the noisy tarp and let both of us stand next to him holding the open umbrella over our heads then over his.

He was more worried about whether or not the umbrella and the tarp were edible, rather than whether they would eat HIM. I tossed the tarp up over his back, dragged it up his neck, led him around with the tarp over his body and rubbed it all over his legs and belly. He didn't care.

When he got tired of the tarp being on him, he reached around and casually pulled it off. I have a feeling this horse is going to be really, really tough on blankets this winter.

We continue our forward progression. I'm waiting for a new set of long lines to arrive before we go forward with the long reining. The ones I do have are old and keep getting snagged up in the surcingle rings, and that just won't do.

However, I have run into a bit of snag that I'm not quite sure how to fix.

Gabe walks, trots, canters and reverses on the lunge all by voice commands and body language. He halts, too, but when he halts he turns to look at me and walks in towards me. I can't figure out how to teach him to stand on the outside of the circle on a halt instead of coming in to see me and trying to stand next to my right shoulder as if he's on the lead rope. If I halt him while in close proximity and try to make him stand still while I move back to the center, he follows me. I've tried pushing him back out with the whip, I've tried re-positioning myself when asking for a halt as I'm moving towards his head and shoulder while asking for a halt instead of standing opposite his girth area. Nothing is working. I don't want to punish him for coming in to me to halt because in his mind, he's doing what I'm asking...he's halting. He's just not halting where I want him to halt while on the lunge. He's halting beautifully...if he were on the lead rope!

Any suggestions are much appreciated!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Yes, I'm a dork

Sometimes, I just can't help it. Go ahead, groan, they're bad. But you have to admit, they're funny.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tying, revisited

I didn't get to the ridin' part last night, I got caught up in working Gabe and ran out of daylight. Another big negative about not having a real arena. Tonight will be a riding night. Calypso and I both need the work!

Gabe came out of his paddock full of spit and fire. Not bad, just up and jiggly. He was trying really, really hard to be good but I could tell he just wanted to GO!

I moved him around for awhile, sideways, forwards, backwards, small circles, turns on forehand and haunches, trying to switch gears in his brain so he could focus. He is figuring out that his job, while on the lead, is to keep a bit of slack in the lead rope while paying attention. Pulling back, going sideways or rushing is a great big no-no. Going sideways into me is an even bigger no-no and he gets a quick, sharp elbow in his shoulder and I move him quickly out of my space by forcing him over then backwards a few steps. He was wiggly and took a big jump sideways like he wanted to just dip his head and buck and leap and PLAY. I checked him with a quick,hard pull of the lead then made him back, back, back to refocus.

He grunts when he gets checked or when I growl a "no" or "Whoa" at him. It's kind of funny. He's probably the most vocal horse I've ever been around. He grunts and groans when he rolls and when he stretches, when he pees, when he bucks or rears or tosses his head around. He grunts when I reprimand him. He also makes those weird noises that only geldings make when he trots. He grinds his teeth when he gets frustrated or impatient.

I tied him to the post and he made googly eyes and snot-snorted at the upside-down bucket that wasn't there last time. Oh! The HORRORS! How dare that bucket be there! He sniffed it, I sat on it and moved it around and he got over it. He stood mostly still while I groomed him. Not as still as I like, but I'll take the few steps sideways movement over the flying backwards movement any day of the week. While I groomed his right side he tried to reach around and bite me. This has happened a couple of times previously and I just pushed him away, hoping to get his attention without having to pop him. Last night he got an elbow and the hard side of my body brush in the lips a few times for the teeth. After the third pop on his lips, he quit the biting attempts.

I thought, well, maybe he has a knot or a sore spot somewhere so I massaged and pressed and probed his neck and shoulder and side and couldn't find anywhere that elicted any kind of pain or discomfort response. I can curry him really hard and deep and he loves it, he leans his body into the curry and will actually start swaying against it, like a horse itching on a post or a tree. Yes, he grunts and groans during this part. It's when I get out a softer brush that the biting attempts start. Only on the right side. I don't know. Learned response maybe? Overstimulation? His way of telling me he's not quite done with the curry? I have no idea.

Once the grooming was done I let him stand. I moved a safe distance away and sat. And he stood. He tried to walk away and realized he was tied. He backed, slowly, a step, two steps and realized he was still tied and stepped forward to lessen the pressure. So he stood. And stood. Got bored enough to rest a hind foot and drop his head. He stood quietly. Then started getting impatient and pawed a few times. I growled "no" at him and he stopped pawing. I let him stand there figuring things out. He stood tied, not counting the grooming time, for nearly 45 minutes. Not one attempt to go violently backwards. Yay! Almost post broke!

I rewarded him with an apple, untied him, and took him out for a walk down the driveway and a graze. He was mostly good on the walk, still a bit wiggly with pent-up energy, but good. He is learning, sometimes he still behaves like a rotten teenager, but the rotten teenager moments are fewer and shorter. He is staying at my shoulder instead of barging ahead, and instead of barging ahead when he feels frisky, he tucks his head, arches his neck and takes shorter, quicker steps, all while working really hard to keep the lead rope slack, which is what I absolutely require.

I know some people would say "What a waste of time. Get on that horse!" I enjoy this ground training part, a lot, and I truly believe strong training on the ground leads to better responses and quicker understanding in the saddle. Sure, I want to ride him, but he's not ready for that step quite yet.

I've worked with far, far too many awful mannered show horses who were never taught to behave on the ground. Most of these horses did their job as a show horse very well, but were complete shits to ride and even worse to handle. I've been hurt by some of them and frightened by more than a couple. I've known ones you couldn't lead without a lip chain, groom or tack without a twitch or go into the stall without a whip. I will not own that horse. Ever. Every moment I spend on the ground instilling respect and obedience in Gabe is a better moment in the saddle, for both of us.

Monday, September 15, 2008

When it rains

I love my property. I love all the pastures I have and the space to ride. I can go for hours and hours through fields and along back country roads.

What I don't love is not having an indoor arena. The remnants of Hurricane Ike unloaded on us Sunday and we are wet, muddy and flooded. The creek came up into Gabe's pasture and part of my riding "arena" is under water. I don't have an arena with all-weather footing. I have a turf (that's the hoity-toity word for "grass") arena, which basically turns to mud when it really rains.

I'm not going to get to do much with Gabe today and the only riding I'll be able to do on Calypso is up and down the driveway and down the road. I'll probably use the road riding "opportunity" to work on her transitions within and between gaits. She gets on her forehand and rushes at the trot if she's not ridden perfectly balanced and forward. Since she's Robert's horse, I've been working on trying to get her to stay off her forehand even if the riding isn't perfect. Once she gets on the forehand, her trot is AWFUL. It's short and stiff, head up, back tense. Very much like riding a pogo stick. But when she's balanced, she has a decent trot.

I won't be able to work Gabe in the field at all. This is horse training after all, not muddin'! I will take this forced opportunity to do more work with him standing nicely tied while I groom him and do whatever else to him that he needs to learn to endure. Then maybe I'll take him for a short walk and a graze along the driveway.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Changing sights, new commands

We've moved Gabe's training from the small paddock to what has been dubbed my "jump field." It's out of sight of the other horses, quite a bit bigger and I have jumps set up in there. Robert is in the process of designing/building me more jumps to add to my field! I sent him an email chock full of pictures of what I want: flower boxes, a wall, a coop, a brush box and a roll top, along with several sets of schooling standards. I'm very, very excited to see my field filled with brightly colored schooling jumps.

Anyway, I worked him for the first time in the jump field Wednesday. It's a much bigger space with much more rolling terrain than the paddock. We hadn't worked on cantering on the lunge yet in the paddock so that was one of our goals in the jump field. Yes, it's fenced in. After his shenanigans and fit throwing out in the wide open spaces, I decided I'll work him in enclosed areas for awhile longer.

And I wore my helmet, too. What a difference a helmet makes in my level of confidence! I have some ugly rope burn scars on my hands from earlier this summer, so I always, always wear heavy gloves when I'm working him. I've started wearing them while I'm working the other horses too, not because I'm worried about their shenanigans, but because my hands seem so much softer and less calloused since I've been wearing them.

I lunged him over cross rails a few times and he really, really seemed to enjoy it. Not one time did he say "Nope, I don't think so," and not pop over it. He just looked at it and over he went. He has decent form, considering it was only an 18" jump.

Then, we started the canter work. First to the left, his easiest, most flexible side. We had a few explosive canter take-offs like he was taking off from the gate and he had a really hard time figuring out how to go slowly in a circle. He's never, ever had to canter on a circle before so this was a real challenge for him, both for his balance and for his mind. He figured it out pretty quickly and while not perfectly balanced or or able to keep a regular pace on the circle, he did well.

To the right was an entirely different story. On the track, and in his track training, he was required to canter and gallop always turning to the left around the track. We had many, many explosive canter transitions tracking to the right and he could not figure out how to stay on a circle. Rope halters are my friend. He'd break into a canter and attempt to canter STRAIGHT across the field, instead of on a nice curve. I spent a lot of time following him, pulling him back on track, walk, trot, walk, halt, back, walk, halt, trot, canter. BAM! Gone. I am happy to say he didn't get away from me once. He did haul me across the field a couple of times, but never got away. Love those rope halters!

It probably took 20-25 minutes of working, reworking and refocusing tracking to the right to get him to understand what I was asking. And when he finally got it, he was an unbalanced, wrong lead, high-headed mess making a lumpy oval instead of a nice circle. But, he got it. One thing at a time, right?

I haven't put a bit on him yet, for many reasons. One reason is because I expected to have the cantering confusion and explosions that we had. I don't want to punish his mouth because he doesn't understand what I'm asking. On the track, Thoroughbreds are trained to run FASTER when the pressure of the bit gets stronger, completely opposite of how he will be expected to respond as a pleasure horse. Can you imagine how much worse our cantering training would have been had a bit been in his mouth? Ugh. I don't think I could have kept up with him! Retraining to the bit is going to be a few sessions of focusing on JUST the bit pressure. Another reason is I'm waiting for the dentist to come out and do some work on his mouth. His wolf teeth need pulled/clipped and I know he has some spurs on a few of his molars. The bit should be a comfortable experience, not a painful one. We have ONE equine dentist (that I trust and have used before!) in a four county region. His schedule is quite full at the moment.

Why haven't I gotten on him yet? That's another post entirely, as this one has gotten a lot longer than I intended!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And, he's off!

The horses have been "cooped up" in their dry lots (well, at this point, mud lots) for about a week. They each have about 1/2 to 3/4 an acre of space in their paddocks, so it's not like they are confined to an itty-bitty area. They stretch their legs and have plenty of room to move.

I haven't turned them out on the grass pastures because it's been raining and rain equals mud and horse hooves on mud equals torn up pastures and dead grass. I probably pamper my pastures more than is really necessary, but I will not turn horses out on muddy pastures. I'd like to keep them grassy and green, not big, weedy mud pits.

Anyway, the pastures were dry enough last night that I could turn them out this morning. The way Gabe acted you'd think he's been cooped up in a 10x10 stall for the past week! Sheesh! Snorting and prancing and arching his neck on the walk from his paddock to the pasture. He was bouncing along like he was spring-loaded!

They get turned out around 6 a.m. and at that time, the dew is still heavy on the grass. I'd rather wait to turn them out until after the dew dries, but if I want them to go out, that's when they have to go out, work schedules and whatnot.

After snorting and prancing and wiggling all the way to the pasture, Gabe couldn't wait to be FREE to kick up his heels. He leapt and bucked and snorted and farted around the pasture as soon as I removed his halter. He tore around the corners and did circles around Calypso who was happy to just stand and munch on the nearly knee-high grass while giving the youngster the evil eye.

Do you know what happens when you combine dew-soaked, nearly knee-deep grass with a Thoroughbred doing his impression of the Indy 500 around the pasture?

You get a horse who lands on his side when he thinks he can take that sharp turn at a pace a notch or two higher than he should. Yup. Gabe took a tumble this morning. He wasn't even flustered by it. Up he leapt right back up and continued his crazy, bucking circuit around the pasture.

My heart leapt into my throat and my stomach clenched painfully when I saw him go down. The only thing running through my head was "Oh shit, he's broken a leg. Shit." It's pretty scary to see a horse go down, especially when it's the big goofy Thoroughbred you've completely fallen head over heels in love with.

The big nut. I hoped he learned something about centrifugal force, wet grass and high speeds this morning!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gabe throws a royal fit

He finally did it. He threw a teenage temper tantrum. If he was an actual human teenager he would have rolled his eyes, huffed loudly, stomped through the house to slam the bedroom door while telling me how I'm out to ruin his life FOREVER and that I NEVER let him have any fun at all. He probably would have flung something at the closed door just to make sure I knew he was pissed.

Gabe throwing a temper tantrum is a bit scary. He's HUGE and those hooves and legs have quite the reach on them, especially when you're the 5'2" human holding the end of the rope. He throws noisy tantrums, seriously, it was almost funny the way he was grunting and snorting during the fit throwing shenanigans.

We started with a 15-minute session of grooming with him tied to the post. He was mostly a gentleman. Not too wiggly and no pulling back at all. Still not cured of the pulling, but getting there. How do I know he's not cured? He stands there, but he's not relaxed. He's tense and worried about being tied up, but at least he stood this time.

Aside from the walk I took him on with Calypso not too long ago, all of our work has been in a pasture where he can see the other horses. He's close to them, the pasture is familiar, life is good and he works happily.

I decided it was time to change things up a bit so I took him out for a walk, alone, down our driveway. We have a pretty long driveway, nearly half a mile, and the other horses are out of sight pretty quickly. He was very non-happy about that, but, as long as we were walking and I was keeping his attention with regular halts and turns on the forehand/haunches, he was pretty good. A little nervous, but paying attention.

The driveway curves around the pond and there's a good-sized flat, grassy area between the pond and the driveway. My goal was to get him there, let him graze for a couple of minutes and do some lunge work in a new place. No new commands, just a new place.

So, he can't see the other horses, but he can hear Calypso screaming for him. The weather was changing quickly as a big, noisy thunderstorm was rolling in AND we were in a new place. Apparently, all that was too much for him and he decided he was going to have fits on the end of my line. Bucking and rearing and grunting and trying to run off back to the other horses. I'd get him moving at a walk at the end of the line and he'd lunge and buck and grunt and rear and try to take off, again and again. He can be pretty scary when he's acting like a spoiled brat and I wished, more than once, that I had plunked my hard hat on before I took him out. I guarantee I WILL be wearing the hat next time.

Finally, after dealing with his juvenile tantrums and reprimanding him with lots of backing up and tight, tight turns on the forehand/haunches to refocus him, I got him to walk once, mostly calmly, on a circle around me. Once he accomplished that simple task, we headed back. I decided it was probably not a good day to attempt to continue with our session in the wide open spaces. We headed to a different pasture, one I haven't worked him in, and made his goofy butt work HARD in there. By the end of the session he was quiet and listening and appropriately contrite for acting like a fool.

My new goal is to take him out and work him in strange places much more often. He has to learn that in every situation, in every place, no matter how new or scary, he MUST listen to me and not throw fits. His behavior was absolutely UNACCEPTABLE. Especially with as big as he is. He can get very dangerous very quickly if he decides he's done listening. He has to learn that behaving badly can be MUCH worse for him than whatever scary or nerve-wracking situation he might be in. He has to learn to turn to me in those scary situations. I can't make him not be scared or nervous about things, but I can teach him how to respond appropriately in those situations.

Next time, I'm wearing my hard hat. I don't need a big Gabe hoof making contact with my naked noggin.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The new digs

Gabe and Calypso are digging their new space. Lots of beautiful green,lush grass and new views.

Woo hoo!

Hi there! I love my pasture, but can ya get someone to turn down the heat? Melting over here. And this humidity, it's doing NOTHING for my hair. Seriously.

Don't worry bud, the cold weather is just around the corner. Trust me, you'll be complaining about the chill soon enough. Which reminds need a blankie! And I need two new tank heaters.

I'll stop complaining about the heat and humidity now. An arctic blast from last winter. *shudder*

My toes and nose are cold just thinking about it. *double shudder*

A dream fulfilled

A momentary break from the Gabe files:

The girls and I visited my mom and stepdad in their beautiful California cabin this summer...10 days of pure bliss! We spent four of those days in the mountains, camping with the horses and trail riding. It has always been a dream of mine to ride in the mountains and I can now say it was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Kayleigh had a blast and led a few of our trail rides. I was a little concerned about her on some of the steeper trails as we don't really have many places in the Midwest that make the horses sit on their butts on the way down! I shouldn't have worried...she rode 'em like a pro.
My mom and Kayleigh, leading the way. We were camping near Truckee, Calif., which is pretty near where the infamous Donner party engaged in cannibalism.
Kayleigh absolutely loved being our trail boss. See her new chinks? She LOVES them! While we were out and about in the mountains they got a few scratches from the trees. She came up with a great story to tell back at camp about how a mountain lion jumped out and attacked her, the chinks protected her and Cheyenne (her horse) galloped up the mountain to save her life. She's quite the storyteller.
The views were incredible. My mom kept apologizing for the skies being so smoky from all the wildfires, but they looked pretty darn clear and blue to me. Guess I'm so used to the humidity haze around here those California mountains skies were stunning.
At the top. Amazing, isn't it? Not a soul or a bit of civilization in sight. LOVE IT!
The view I woke to every morning on that camping trip. I could live with a view like that for the rest of my life.

When the best laid plans...

I came into this long holiday weekend with all kinds of grand plans for my riding/training pleasure. I wanted to ride both Calypso and Chief and put some serious long-reining time in with Gabe. I even planned to go out for a nice, long trail ride with Robert, something we haven't done for a couple of months.

It's amazing how all the fun stuff gets shifted to the side when "real" work needs doing. I managed one session with Gabe and we just worked on confirming his understanding of my voice commands: Walk, trot, canter, whoa, easy, back and reverse. The canter and back commands are still iffy, but everything else seems planted fairly firmly in his head. I didn't get the long reins on him like I'd planned.

It was far too hot, and after spending the day toiling around the farm, I knew I just didn't have the energy to really keep up with him during the trot on the long lines. I think real temperatures of 98-degrees with the humidity levels around 88 percent constitute "too freaking hot!" Oppressively, depressingly, maddeningly HOT!

I did get the new pasture fenced and my HUGE veggie garden plot tilled, composted and tilled again. I confess, Robert did a lion's share of the tilling work. I'm sure he loved hearing the words "Honey, could you do this for me? I just can't do it by myself," because God knows he very, very rarely hears me say "Help! I can't do it!" The tiller was just far too big and far too powerful and our ground too much like concrete for me to safely handle that dangerous piece of machinery. I kept losing control of the thing and it would drag me across the yard and I had terrifying visions of slipping beneath those blades and turning my legs into shredded hamburger. *shudder* While he tilled, I hauled about 20 huge wheelbarrows full of compost up to the plot and spread it out. The plot is now ready for next year's bounty. I have room for every veggie and melon I've ever wanted to plant and then some.

Gabe and Calypso are thrilled with the new pasture. When we turned them out in it Saturday morning they both took off like their tails were on fire and bucked and farted and galloped around the whole thing several times. What a sight! Gabe sure can BUCK! I hope he never does that under saddle or I'd be launched to the moon. Have I mentioned Gabe is gorgeous? And that I'm completely in love with him? Thought so. *grin*

My youngest, Kayleigh, had a riding lesson Friday night and a ranking test Saturday morning. She earned her first rank star at the barn where she rides and she's pretty darned pleased with herself. She rides at home with me about three days a week (when it's not blazing hot or arctic cold), but we got to the point several months ago where me trying to give her lessons was pointless. We just ended up arguing about something stupid, so, she now takes lessons once a week with a group of girls her age and the rest of the week, we trail ride.

Once a week I give her a lunge lesson and I try to give her gentle reminders about her heels and posture and seat while she works on balance and posting and two-point. It seems that if someone ELSE tells her to keep her heels down and head up, she does it without question. At first it was frustrating for me to see someone else give her a lesson and tell her EXACTLY the same things I've been telling her, often in exactly the same words, and she listened without question. With me, it was nearly always an argument and it got to the point where riding together was becoming a chore, not a pleasure. Now, she listens to me when I remind her of things from her lesson and she listens instead of arguing.

Riding together is again a great pleasure and we have a lot of heart-to-heart talks just plodding along in the fields. It's the best type of riding there is.