Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gabe says...

So I was out in the pasture with my buds, having a good ole time...

Rolling in the mud, swishing at flies, chomping on green grass. Then, mom came out and said it was time to go to work.

She called me a filthy pig! Can you believe it? I get a little mud on me and she calls me names. So mean. She brushed and brushed and brushed and got most of the mud off then said I looked like a ragamuffin, an unwanted street urchin. Humpf. So maybe I need a haircut. So what?

Then she broke out the dumb hat. She says it makes me looks handsome. I think it makes me look like a dork. Or an Arab. I can't decide which is worse. Plus it keeps those horrible, painful deer flies off me. I like that part.

But Calypso and Chief snicker from the paddock and taunt me: "Your momma dresses you funny!"
They are not nice.

I mean, come on, mom, purple fringe and BEADS? Really? I'm a BOY!

Sooo embarassed. I can't even tell you.

We went for a ride and mom said I was GREAT! I was too mortified by the hat to call any attention to myself so I just did as I was told. Figured she was using the purple bead hat as some sort of cruel and unusual punishment for that last time I jumped around, acted like a yearling and tried to put her butt on the ground.

Apparently she wasn't kidding when she called me a filthy pig. I got the bubble bath treatment and everything. My tail is white again. But baths? Really? They are for the birds. No thanks!

At least she didn't make me get a haircut.

This time.

The best thing about working hard and bubble baths? Mom always lets me munch on the good clover-y grass after she's done fussing over me. Don't tell anyone, but I kinda like it. The fussing part, that is. I always like grass. Always!

She says I'm too fat. I prefer to think of myself as comfortably plump. That grass is goooood stuff!

She even trusts me enough now that she lets me wander around the yard while she puts all our stuff away. I'm a good boy that way. Besides, the grass and clover is best here.

And I know she has at least one more peppermint waiting for me in her pocket.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spins...sans saddle

I'm a wee bit sore today.

Okay, maybe more than a wee bit. My inner thighs and my (ahem) girly bits are killin' me! I'll bet you're just dying to know why!

I rode Calypso bareback. Yes, yes I did. She was great, but she's bouncy and round like a barrel and damn, that spine, I swear it's constructed from a sheet of corrugated steel. OW! And to imagine I used to ride bareback all the time. Saddles were for wusses, bareback was where it was at. It was actually quite fun to be aboard bareback again, and apparently, judging from the soreness in my inner thighs, I need to do it more often.

Anyway, the mare was fabulous. Aside from the head-in-the-air thing that I'm slowly working on correcting, she was good. When she relaxes, slows the trot and rocks back just a tad onto her hindquarters, the head naturally comes down and the ride gets smoother. Little bit by little bit she's understanding that it IS more comfortable for her (and me!) to stretch that neck long and low and let her back relax so it's sproingy and rounded rather than horribly rigid and hollow. We'll get there, I'm in no hurry and forcing her into it isn't going to fix the overall "bad" way she carries herself at the trot.

She is so, so sensitive that sometimes she over-reacts when I ask for something from her. I was polishing up her neck reining response since I've been riding her with a direct (English) rein for several years.

Seems she didn't need much of a tune-up at all in that respect. I pressed the rein to her neck, nudged her with the outside leg and she sat back and practically did a 180. I'm pretty sure mane flew she turned so fast. Of course, being bareback and entirely unprepared for such a quick response I very nearly ended up on the ground, as it was, I ended up clinging to her side and grabbing mane! How very humiliating. I'm glad no one was watching.

Lesson learned...light touches with the rein for gentle, easy turns and NO leg, just a little seat. Of course, once I figured out how responsive she was feeling I played with it a little bit. But that's just me. Half-halt, outside leg nudge...SPINN!!!! WHEE! Half-halt, outside leg nudge...SPIIINNN!!!! WOOO HOOO!!! She's fun. And I didn't go sliding off the side when I was prepared for it. Hehehe! We spin in slo-mo at the moment as she isn't muscled and fit enough to do anything really fast, but we'll get there. Her lateral movement is right on, her halts are beautiful. She responds very, very well to voice commands, which is always a bonus. The louder you say "whoa!" the faster she stops.

I like to play when the horses have fun "buttons" on 'em. Chief's fun "button" is an almost piaffe. He's not perfect at it, but he can do it if asked nicely, and he can canter so, so slow there is very little forward movement. It's a ton of fun to ride.

Gabe doesn't have a fun "button" quite yet, but I'll figure one out. Maybe the Spanish Walk, just for the heck of it? I dunno yet. He already lifts those front legs pretty well if I tap the top fronts of them and he seems to have fun with it. It's a game to him. We'll start with it in hand, then, if he seems to enjoy it, maybe we'll try it in the saddle...later. We have the basics to perfect first.

Friday, June 24, 2011

1...2...3...4...5.......good boy!

I'm always looking for new or different ways to train that are a little different than the methods I currently employ. I do a lot of reading and talking to trainers and friends about many, many different issues and I'm always willing to give a new way a try if I think it has merit.

The thing is, there is more than one way to train a horse, more than one method to get from point A to point B. Sometimes you have to go around the block a few times before you find the path that works best for your particular situation.

Not all horses learn the same way and a good trainer adjusts her methods to achieve the same outcome.

I've been having one heck of a time getting Gabe to understand lateral movement. He kinda gets it, but not really. Sometimes it clicks and he makes a wee effort to move sideways. Sort of. It's more like a snake trying to tie itself in a knot than actual correct lateral movement. Other times I just get his ears flicking back at me like he's asking "what the hell? Quit wiggling around up there," while he continues to march forward in a workmanlike effort.

Last night I tried something new with him and I admit I was not very convinced it would be successful.

Imagine my surprise, an utter delight, when it didn't take long at all for him to have his light bulb "AH HA! I GET IT!" moment.

I didn't change the way I ask. I didn't change what I expected from him.

I merely counted to ten.

Yup. I counted. That's it.

I'd ask for the movement, he'd give an effort in the correct direction and I'd halt him and count to ten, praise, walk on.

It only took four times in each direction of asking, counting, praising and walking on before he was practically flinging his body sideways CORRECTLY when I asked, every time.

Some horses just need that moment of reflection to connect the dots in their brains. Gabe appears to be one of those who needs some time for quiet reflection before they make the connection between what I'm asking and how to respond. And I'm perfectly okay with that. If he needs time to think about it, I'll give him the time he needs. The less confusion on his part, the happier he'll be and the more willingly he will give an honest effort to try new things.

We worked on the lateral movement for probably 20 minutes then I called it done and we moved on to canter departs on the correct lead. I'm pleased to say he was absolutely wonderful. We had a few silly moments of his typical head-tossing, squealing and trying to play, but other than that, I couldn't have planned a better ride.

We did a short trail ride to cool down, the wind was blowing through the knee-high corn, rattling it, and he didn't even flick an ear towards it. Last year, he blew up at the rattling corn and gave it the evil eye like he was waiting for it to devour him whole. Last night a small covey of quail flew up under his nose from the tall grass and they startled him but didn't cause a frenzied reaction like they would have last year. I think they startled me more than they bothered him.

My big baby is growing up. I'm so proud!

Monday, June 20, 2011

On beatings, bruises and blackwater blues

Funny how sometimes it seems the world conspires against you when all you want to do is ride.

I didn't get to take Gabe out this weekend: Torrential downpours have most of the region under water and Gabe, unfortunately, was in no condition for any kind of riding.

Calypso went on a tear...again...and beat the holy hell out of him. She did this around this time last year too — gets him cornered and just lays into him without mercy. He was body sore, big time, cuts and abrasions on both sides of his body, bumps and contusions from neck to rump. I couldn't run my hand over him without him flinching. Everything got checked, cleaned and medicated and he spent the next couple of days on bute to alleviate some of the pain and inflammation.

That mare, while sweet and loveable to people, can be such a bitch to the geldings. She beats Chief up from time to time, but never as badly as she pounds on Gabe. I think it's probably because while Chief will take a bit of it, he does fight back when she crosses his line. Gabe does not, ever. Instead of raising a hoof to her he tries to get away. He does not like conflict, period, and is perfectly content with just staying out of her way to avoid her wrath, but when she corners him and he can't get away, she is heartless.

Again, as I did last year, I am considering separating the geldings from the mare during turnout and see how those two do together. Every time Chief lays into Gabe it seems that Calypso was the cause, one way or another...two boys fighting over a girl is basically what it amounts to. High school drama drama drama.

So, no riding Gabe this weekend. Some of the contusions were situated right where the saddle would be or where my legs would bump his sides.

Sunday rolls around and I thought, well, I'll just take Calypso out instead, apparently she needs a few soaking wet saddle pads any way. Nothing like a good workout for a solid attitude adjustment.

Again, torrential downpours over night which added to an already saturated and flooded region. It poured enough that my basement flooded and muddy water overflowed into the sparkling clean swimming pool. That's a lot of freaking rain. *sigh* Once again, no riding for me. The day was spent cleaning the basement then mowing the yard that had, in a week's time, grown at least 8 inches. Welcome to the jungle, baby! The hot, humid, wet, everything-is-molding or mildewed jungle. My poor, poor tack is growing green fuzz and I can't keep up with the growth rate! Is there anything out there that inhibits mold/mildew growth on leather? I can use some suggestions!

On the bright side the pastures are verdant and thick and absolutely beautiful...too bad the horses can't enjoy the lushness because the fields are FREAKING SWAMPS!!!! I'm thinking rice paddies might be a good investment.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Got guns?

I rode Gabe last night and he was his wonderful self: No soreness and wonderfully forward, obedient and eager to please. What a pleasant, pleasant ride. We worked on spiraling in and spiraling out on a circle and he finally GETS IT! YAY! Of course, he goes stiffer tracking to the right than the left, but I expected that and worked him on it.

The people who own the land next door to mine were out doing some target shooting and making all kinds of noise walking through the woods, talking and shooting.

And it didn't phase him one bit. He was unusually focused on me for this ride which was a good thing.

The shooting doesn't phase any of the horses a bit. The shotgun or rifle can be fired near their pastures and none of them flinch. They just don't care.

Some of you may remember back in early spring when I was hem-hawing about whether to sell Calypso and my daughter said she wanted to ride her so I decided to keep the mare and give the kid the chance to ride her.

Well, she hasn't been riding much at all. The weather hasn't exactly been fabulous and I haven't been riding a whole lot either for the same reason. However, the times I have had the chance to ride and asked her to come along, she's declined about half the time.

So, Calypso needs a new job. She's young, she's dead quiet, she's level-headed, willing, obedient, brave and easily trainable. I've determined she'll just never make a very good English horse. She can jump, but not well, her gaits aren't the prettiest to watch, but she gets the job done. She has cutting QH breeding and you can really see that aspect of her athleticism come out when she's out in the pasture just playing around. That little mare can MOVE and when she's moves, she moves fast, low and powerfully with everything she has loaded into that back end and that front end free to do some serious maneuvering.

I really don't want to sell her. She's a nice, nice mare. No, not show quality, but a really level-headed horse that I can put anyone on and trust her.

When I started riding as a young'un I rode my pony Western. Well, I started riding her bareback because we didn't have a saddle right away. Then my first saddle was a western one and we did speed events, trail classes, pleasure classes and some showmanship. The speed events were a BLAST!

I've been tossing around in my head what I could do with this mare that would be fun, maybe a little different from what I usually do and right up her alley. I've been to a couple of Cowboy Mounted Shooting events in St. Louis and every time I've gone I've thought "WOW! That would be an absolute BLAST! Too bad I don't have a horse quiet and sane enough to do it." One of the bailiffs I used to work with at the courthouse did the competitions and he absolutely loved it, we talked about mounted shooting and horses and training them for mounted shooting every time we got the chance.

Okay, so maybe that's a lot more than a "little different" from what I usually do, but dangit, I want to try it and I will. If I hate it, I hate it, but at least I can say I tried.

I think Calypso would be a darn fine mounted shooting horse. Don't worry, I'm not going to run out and start shooting off her tomorrow or next week...I'm going to step back her training and take all the English aspects out of what I do with her. Tune up and fine tune her neck reining, work on that too fast trot and start some slow speed work around poles and barrels with her (slow speed work...that's an oxymoron!) to work on her handiness and responsiveness and build the necessary muscles. I guess I need to start visiting some tack auctions and find a decent western saddle. I'm going to take the bit out of her face and try her in a hackamore...she has always seemed happiest when I just ride her with a halter and rope anyway, she might do fabulous in a hackamore...we'll see. At this point, I'm game for just about anything with her, and as long as she's having fun, that's all that matters.

When I'm ready to start the mounted shooting part I'll find someone locally who does it (or tap the knowledge of my bailiff friend) to glean some advice/tips and help.

A little more about Cowboy Mounted Shooting. How fun does that look/sound? Tell me you're not intrigued!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Teen Me vs. Grown-up Responsible Me

My kid is going to be gone for the next few weeks, of course, it's during a time when the mud is finally drying up and the weather is decent again. We have been planning for months to take Chief and Gabe out to a nearby horse campground/park/trails and spend an entire day and evening riding, grilling lunch and just having a good day.

This weekend would have been perfect except for one thing: She's going to be at her dad's. I still want to go and take advantage of this lovely weather but I have a conundrum: I'm a wee bit wary of taking Gabe to a brand new place out in the middle of nowhere alone.

The teenage horse fanatic in me says "Screw it! Just go and have a blast!" because that's the kind of fearless, care-free, give-a-damn rider I was in my teen years and early 20s.

However, the more mature, responsible me is saying "Well, I don't know if that's a very wise thing to do. It could be dangerous. What if you get dumped? What if he's horrible, ditches your ass and runs away? What if...what if...what if...?"

Ugh. I've had next-to-impossible luck with trying to arrange having friends go riding with me (horse friends). Everyone always seems to be busy on the best days to ride and don't want to go or can't go.

I just don't know what to do. Go? Stay? Ride at home instead? That big guy needs more miles under his girth, miles that are far away from home with all kinds of new views, new sounds, new surroundings.

I guess I'll just have to make that decision Saturday when I get up in the morning and see how brave/foolish/carefree I'm feeling.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stand there and take it, you big chicken

After last week's peacock incident with the Big Man I decided a bit of peacock de-sensitizing was in order.

Gabe was none to pleased with me at first. He was pretty darn sure I was the one who had lost my ever-loving mind when I forced him to stand nicely while Mr. 1,000 Eyes Horse-Eater was in full strut and screaming for his girlfriends less than 20 feet away.

At first I was horrible and terrible and wicked mean for making him stand and just watch that peacock get closer and closer. I was even more horrible when I encouraged him to take a few steps towards the peacock as Mr. Peacock has his back towards us and was strutting away. He jumped sideways, blew hard at him, showed him the whites of his eyes the tried to climb into my pocket.

I told him what a nut he is for being terrified of a stinkin' BIRD. A BIRD! He didn't believe me and tried to push me to the front so I'd be the first one devoured and he'd have time to haul ass away.

So we stood and watched the peacock strut around and scream and I fed Gabe treats every time he'd stand nicely without wiggle-worming around trying to make the mind-blowing experience as pleasant as possible. Of course, I talked to him and called him many names: Moron, Goof-ball, Chickenshit, Pansy, Nutcase, Half-Wit, Goober and Peabrain...all in my sweetest most comforting voice possible.

Half an hour or so later the peacock was No Big Thing any more. Gabe gave him a bit of an OH MY GOD! glance when the bird lowered his massive plumage and jumped up onto the fence fairly close to him, but he didn't move, just looked.

Progress! Yay!

I groomed him, tacked him and took him out for a ride. And the poor guy is SORE. Not dead limping lame, but sore enough that I just walked him around for about 15 mins., worked on leg yielding a bit and called it done. The only thing I can imagine that would have made him sore was his ill-conceived leap sideways over the fence. He may have pulled or twisted something just enough to be ouchie. I could find no heat, no swelling, I palpated and got no OUCH! reactions, so, who knows.

Two bute and call me in the morning. I'll give him a couple of days to rest up and see if he's still sore. If he is, guess there will be a vet bill in my future.

The personality differences and braveness levels in my horses constantly amuse me.

Calypso, that fiesty little mare, has no fear of the peacock. Actually, I think she's pretty fed up with that bird roosting on HER run-in and violating her sensitive ears with his high-pitched screams.

So, what's a good lead mare do?

Attack the peacock of course and run him off. She has gone after my chickens from time to time when she decides she's had enough of their food-stealing ways. She's kicked a couple of them. Last night she went after that peacock, neck snaked, ears flat, teeth bared and tried to stomp him. She chased him through two paddocks and wasn't happy until he was well out of her paddock and on his merry way. I'm not quite sure what she would have done if the peacock had turned around and popped that plumage on her. Run the other way most likely!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Grand Prix jumper he is not

Imagine for a moment you are a prey animal and you know you are made of sweet, tasty meat. You are constantly surveying your surroundings, aware of anything that might consider you a filling meal. Your legs are made for running and your mind is quickly overtaken by the flight instinct when you feel threatened.

Your house is your refuge, your safe place, the place where you hang out and eat and chill.

One day a small, seemingly harmless monster moves in and decides to take up residence in your safety zone. You give the monster the hairy eyeball but decide it probably doesn't like your brand of sweet flesh so you move on and leave it be.

The next day something horrible happens — the seemingly harmless monster suddenly and without warning grows to five times it's normal size and sprouts thousands of eyes that stare hungrily at you. Then it starts screaming like a harpy, stamping and grunting around your house. You're pretty sure you see blood from previous hapless victims dripping from its gaping maw, perhaps you spot gobbets of rotting flesh stuck between it's razor-like talons.

Like any prey animal without a death wish you do what you must — You lose your everloving mind and freak the hell out in your mad dash attempt to escape the thousand hungry eyes and flesh ripping monster.

This morning Gabe was absolutely convinced the peacock, who has decided to hang out around Gabe's run-in, was going to devour him whole every time he puffed up into his full, glorious 5-foot plus plumage and started yelling for his girls.

I didn't realize how terrified he actually is of that peacock (only with the tail feathers up and fluffed) until he decided to try to escape from that bird by going over the paddock fence.

He didn't quite make it.

I'm a bit of a safety freak about my fencing, which is electric rope. When I moved to the farm it was all fenced in four strands of barbed wire which just would not do. I spent an entire summer tearing it all down and replacing it. I use the thick electric rope, not the skinny stuff because I determined the skinny stuff could be too dangerous for horses (who happen to be walking time bombs when it comes to mysterious injuries). I keep it all in good repair, have all the T-posts capped and check it regularly. One thing I really like about this type of fencing is that the insulators break at about 200 pounds of pressure, which is perfect. As soon as the insulators break, the fence sags harmlessly out of the way. I've never had a horse tangle up in the fence, the rope does not wrap very easily at all and really, they'd have to try pretty hard to get tangled in it. I like it very much and wouldn't change to anything else even if I had an endless checking account.

Gabe took down the top rope because he tried to jump the damn thing sideways instead of straight on. I have a feeling he would have cleared it if he'd come at it straight on.

He hit that top strand and the insulators popped free, the fence sagged and away he went, tail flagging, sweat dripping, the whites of his eyes showing and fear quivering his whole body.

But, all is good, he injured nothing more than his pride but he's still convinced the peacock is going to have him for lunch. Silly boy.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mother Nature is menopausal...we're having a hot flash

From fall-like temperatures to heat-warning highs in less than a week. Ahh, Mother Nature, I have a bone to pick with you. Why did you keep spring away from us this year? We've been sweltering in 100-degree heat indexes since Saturday with very little relief and quite frankly, I'm over it. The humidity is insane and the wind nearly non-existent so all the horses can do is stand around and sweat. And sweat. And sweat. Poor babies.

There isn't a whole lot I can do to make them more comfortable in this heat. When they come in sweaty and hot at night I try to hose them off and re-apply the fly spray. At this point, fly spray is probably the best thing I can do for them. The less they have to worry about, flick and stomp biting bugs the more comfortable they are in the heat. I have mixed feelings about the hosings...sometimes I think they get some relief, other times I get the feeling it makes them feel stickier and hotter, especially in this humidity.

If I had actual stalls I could lock them in during the day instead of just open run-in sheds, I'd keep them in all day and turn fans on them then turn them out during the cooler (and buggier!) night hours.

But, I don't, so I do what I can. I have three pastures that I rotate them through every few weeks. Two pastures have woods, the third does not. I use the third during the early spring and late fall when the heat isn't so bad that they need the trees for shade. It takes some planning to be sure the other two pastures can support grazing during the hottest part of the season without stressing the grass. I probably rotate and mow more often than absolutely necessary, but, I tell you what, my pastures, they are GORGEOUS and chock full of yummy, thick, green grasses.

When it stays hot like this for days on end I like to make sure they have fairly cool water to drink. The water in the tanks tends to become hot and nasty fast under this unforgiving sun. I can't imagine that being very refreshing at all! So, I dump about half the tank and refill it so they can at least have cool drinks in the evening. Salt is essential when they are sweating constantly so salt/mineral blocks are checked daily. When it stays hot, hot, hot I add electrolytes to their evening feed and mix it with a cool mash of beet pulp to encourage consumption. Some horse owners like to add it to water, but I don't. Mine are just picky enough about their water that I don't want to risk them not drinking enough because they don't like the electrolytes. Missing an evening meal because of the electrolytes won't hurt them, not drinking will. None of my horses will suffer from missing a meal, that's for sure!

Obviously, when the heat warning goes on for days I don't ride. I could, but really, why? I'd be hot and miserable and my horse would be hot and miserable. I do hose them or groom them, but no riding for me when the heat indexes hit 100 degrees. I have tried to get up before the sun to beat the heat, but so far, that plan has not yet come to fruition. I'm far too fond of the snooze button for that to happen. But it will, some time...I hope. Soon...maybe. When I was younger these days would be spent on the horses in the creek or river, diving from their backs, just hanging out with friends and all of us staying nice and cool.

What do you do to keep your horses comfortable and healthy when the heat becomes unbearable?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Early morning visitors

We had a visitor on the farm this morning...the gorgeous guy came visiting with his two girlfriends.

He even raised that plumage to show off for a bit.

The horses, while appropriately impressed with his dance and that gigantic tail, got riled up and I'm sure they just knew he was a horse eating monster. All three of them were flagging tails, snorting and prancing around the pasture, but they sure were interested in him.

As long as he kept his distance, of course.

Friday, June 3, 2011

1,100 pounds of beast, tamed

I think Gabe missed me. I really do. Life has been so very hectic lately that just about the only time I've had to see him is during feeding time and their nightly fly-spraying. Wednesday he was kind of moping around a bit and I kept a closer than usual eye on him thinking maybe he was trying to colic on me.

Thursday he was a little more chipper, but just not his normal perky self. But as soon as he saw me heading out to the pasture with the halter, the ears pricked up and he came trotting hard and strong towards me, neck arched, tail high and draped over his rump like a crazy Arab.

He pushed his head into my chest and asked for scratches and I complied. I picked handful of ticks off his face and scratched deep into his ears (his favorite spot) and he groaned and lost his balance more than once. I think his eyes rolled so far back in his head he saw his brain. The ticks are HORRIBLE this year. I've never picked ticks off my horses before, but this year, I'm pulling at least 10 each off faces during the nightly fly-spray down. It's disgusting.

Gabe has never been very patient when it comes to just standing still for grooming or waiting or anything. Last night, he stood like a rock while I groomed and tacked. He walked without flinching over a tarp (pool cover) tossed on the ground and walked quietly past the new chicken run without giving it the stink eye.

He was on his very best behavior, I don't know if it was because he missed our time together or he just didn't want to put forth the effort to be a turd.

The ride can only be described in one word: Incredible.

The last time I rode we worked on his response to my cues to trot and canter. He's sticky off the cues and often dribbles down to Western pleasure horse paces if I don't keep on him. A lot of the last lesson stuck and I only had to remind him a couple of times to keep going at the pace I set.

Our canters were wonderful....springy, forward, fluid and he carried himself rounded, which is so delightful to ride. I could ride that canter all day long.

It was so very nice to be in the saddle again, I truly missed it and could tell by my deteriorating attitude towards the world that I needed my horse time.

I got it, and life once again is fabulous!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The first rides

One of my favorite things to do (other than riding, of course) is to give beginner rider lessons. I've never done it as a major source of income but the time I did spend giving lessons regularly I loved it. I prefer teaching the young kids, the ones who are just learning and are so very excited to just be on a horse. I get to form the basics, the building blocks and the confidence that they will build on for the rest of their riding lives.

I've recently been giving occasional lessons to a friend's five-year-old daughter and it is so much fun. I'm remembering how much fun I had teaching a small group of kids (all under 10) weekly and I'm kind of missing it a bit.

She is riding Chief (the Saint) and she has been just thrilled to death with the half hour or so of horse time. She doesn't care if we just walk around, walk over cavaletti or stand there talking about horses and riding. Her enthusiasm is infectious and I absolutely love seeing the light bulbs go off in her head when she figures out something new then works to master one task at a time. I'm a huge proponent of making games out of the lessons at this age and not just teaching riding, but horse care, grooming, tacking, safety, handling, parts of the horse and care of equipment. With the heat of summer fast upon us, our next lesson may be in horse bathing.

At this age everything about the horses should be fun, not a tedious chore that must be done, and she sure is having fun and building confidence as we go. She's still on the lead line at this point but I think in the next lesson or two I'll let her take control and see how that goes. It's the first time off the line that is the most thrilling and telling: Will she take to her new leadership role with confidence or will she be timid and let him do what he wants? It's that first time off the line that often gives a pretty clear picture about what a rider will most likely be like as she grows and learns: A leader? A follower? Confident or timid?

When my daughter first went off the line I knew immediately what kind of person and rider she'd be and she has so far fulfilled every expectation I formed during that first lead-free ride: She's a leader who tends to be very confident, a daredevil willing to try anything once, but a compassionate and caring rider who won't ask more from her horse than she thinks he can do.

Tonight I hope to ride Gabe...between the rain and trying to keep up with school, work and farmwork, my riding has been getting pushed to the back burner. It's been nearly a month since I last rode, and that just won't do. Not at all.