Loosen up…

I left for vacation on Friday, so Thursday night I wanted a quick, relaxing ride before I left for a week. Relaxing isn’t usually the best way to describe riding Heidi. It may be relaxing for a little while, but nearly every ride has some sort of drama, usually in the form of Heidi throwing a temper tantrum about where she doesn’t want to go. She’s gotten better for sure, but she isn’t Ms. Reliable by any stretch of the imagination. 

Heidi surprised me by being pleasant and actually giving me a low key, relaxing ride. All we did was walk around the pasture, but she wasn’t horribly barn sour like she used to be. We rode all over, and other than one corner she got funny about, she was great. When I got her, she was so barn sour that she wouldn’t even walk away from the gate by the barn without a major rearing, bucking meltdown. Now I’m hopping on and zipping around the pasture with very little trouble. 

I have to admit, it is supremely satisfying to make progress with her because every victory is hard won. 

Trying on her easy boots 

One valuable thing I have learned from her is not to be handsy with the reins. If she starts acting up, my first instinct is to tighten up my reins to gain control. I think most beginner and even intermediate riders would feel the same way. It takes a lot of practice not to over-use the reins. Obviously riding off seat and legs is best but, let’s be honest, when shit gets scary most of us tighten up those reins! 
 With Heidi, typically what happens is I want to go one way and she tries to turn around and head for home. The more I tighten the reins, the more pissed she gets. What works is letting the reins slide through my fingers when she starts tossing her head, while simultaneously using my leg to move her hind quarters and turn her around. When her head goes up and she doesn’t hit the bit, she calms down a little. When she realizes her head is free and I’m not going to fight with her, it helps her brain start functioning again. If I start pulling on her head, she goes into beast mode. 

She’s not a bolter, thank God. She’s never run off with me, so I feel comfortable easing up on the reins and using my seat and legs to get her turned around. A few years ago I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I would have felt totally out of control having to rely on seat and legs because I didn’t have the skill to do it, quite frankly. 

So even though she’s a giant pain in the ass and I don’t want another horse with that level of problems, she has made me a better rider. I’m not saying we should all go out and buy nutty horses to improve our riding; I’m just saying I’ve learned a thing or two from being forced to ride one. I could not have sold her in good conscience before at least trying to fix some of her issues, so that’s what I’ve tried to do. In the process I’ve come to really like her and I’ve decided that her positives outweigh her negatives. There’s a good horse under all that sass. 


Heidi won a prize! 

I took my little foster pony to an obstacle challenge today and at the last minute I decided to take Heidi along. I figured it would be good for her to be out and about with other horses and we could use the obstacle course as a training opportunity. I’ve been practicing a ton with Stanley, the foster pony, but I haven’t worked on that stuff with Heidi all winter. Here is the sucky part… I have no pictures of Heidi on course because my daughter didn’t take any. So you can see Stanley the rescue pony instead. 

Stanley rocked it and I knew I had to be placed near the top because he was that great. When I went in with Heidi, I thought I would see what she could do but not stress about it. With Stanley I was competing to win; with Heidi I was using it  as training. We went to one obstacle course last fall and came in last out of 11. 

But Heidi surprised me today! She was super chill and willing! She crosses obstacles with no problem, like a tarp or a log, but in the past it was hard to get her to step up onto anything. Today I got her up on the pedestal and a little bridge. Any cooperation from her thrills me to pieces because she can be so incredibly resistant. 

When they announced winners, Stanley got 2nd place out of 12. I didn’t stick around to hear the rest because it was blazing hot and my daughter was bored and ready to head home. On my way out of the event, a lady stopped me and said, “Did you get your other prize?” I didn’t know what she meant and she said, “Your other horse won 5th place!”

Heidi got 5th place out of 12! I was stunned! They did prizes instead of ribbons and I got a set of reins and a hay bag. I can’t tell you how stoked I am that she won something. It’s been a hard road with her and the fact that we’re trailering off, trying new things and doing them well just tickles me pink! 

Mother’s Day Trail Ride 

My friend has 40 acres that used to be a golf course. It’s big and flat and perfect for riding. The creek on the property is an added bonus! 

On the road again

We had a big barbecue out there on Mother’s Day, and I brought the horses up early so my trail riding buddy and I could get in a ride. I have no idea how far we rode because I forgot to turn on my app, but we rode for an hour and a half at a decent speed. 

One of my favorite pictures ever! That’s my dog, Molly.

This little excursion was perfect practice for the ponies and they both behaved themselves. Baron, the horse I’ve had for 8 years, is almost always perfect, but Heidi is a toss up. You just never know with her. But even she pulled her life together and did well. But it’s horses, so shit went wrong. 

This is Heidi being sweet.

First, we pulled them off the trailer and I thought they would start grazing as per usual. But nooooo, they looked around at 40 acres of flat grass and took off galloping across the field. They wanted to run! That’s very odd for Heidi. She is generally the laziest animal alive.  Before long they started grazing and we caught them no problem, but I totally get the “loose horse” panic thing. 

Then we tacked up at the trailer and started the ride. The ride actually went really well. Heidi had one little moment where she was a turd, but I was able to ride through it. Her thing she does is try to turn around and go back to wherever she decides is “home.” It gets increasingly hard to deal with her and she tosses her head and eventually she will rear if I try and force her. If I stay quiet with my energy and sit deep and don’t get too tuggy on her mouth, she calms down. It’s no fun at all, but what used to be a total meltdown temper tantrum hissy fit is now more of a moment of irritation and then back under control. Not perfect by any means, but better. 

This is Heidi being an asshole.

After the ride, we took the horses down to the creek to let them swim. Both horses love the water and both were hot and sweaty enough to dive right in. 

But this is where it gets interesting. You can see from the pictures that there’s a big cliff. Heidi was playing in the water and I let go of the lead rope so I didn’t get any wetter than I already was. Heidi decided to mosey on over to the other side of the creek. Then she decided she didn’t like the ledge she had just climbed up and she didn’t want to go back down that way.

So my brilliant horse tried to CLIMB over the top of the ledge. I was sure she was going to flip over backward, roll down the hill and kill herself. 

This is my horse trying to get herself killed.

By that time, Baron had followed her up and I was sure she was going to take him out with her. Heidi was seriously trying to get her front legs over that ledge. 

Still trying to die.

So we start yelling Nooooooooo!” and calling her back down toward us. Baron came first because he’s like a giant dog who trusts me to guide him to safety. Meanwhile, Heidi is still trying to climb the ledge. 

Miraculously, Heidi listened when we called her! She came back down, I was able to grab the lead rope and help her back into the water, and that was that. Seriously though, talk about giving me a heart attack on Mother’s Day! 

Be still my heart.

The horses did get some good experience though. They stood tied to the trailer eating hay during the picnic and didn’t make a fuss. There were kids going by on 4 wheelers and the horses didn’t care at all. Then we set up a target and shot off some pistols not terribly far away from the horses. On the first shot they did the mini spook where they sort of crouch for a second, but then they went back to eating. After that, they had no problem with it at all. They were more interested in the hay.

After the picnic, we loaded up and headed home. Both ponies rolled almost immediately! A good day was had by all!

Heidi did big things! 

This week I hauled up to my friend’s barn to ride in her arena. I have a makeshift grass arena, and I’m thankful for it, but there’s something to be said for that perfectly level arena footing. 

Checking out the other mares

I had two goals for the trip; first, to expose Heidi to something different and build our partnership, and secondly to see if she was any better away from home than she is in our little arena. (Remember, when I got her she was basically unrideable in an arena setting, but fine on trails.)

Well. She completely exceeded my expectations! My friend has two alpha type mares. She rode one in the arena with me and Heidi while the other ran along the fence line and acted like a gangster, bucking and sorting and daring Heidi to come closer. Heidi was both curious and appropriately terrified. I had zero trouble keeping her away from Scary Mare. My friend’s mare that she was riding was also not interested in being friends, although Heidi really, really wanted to talk about boys and braid each other’s manes. We kept them on opposite sides of the arena and my friend’s mare pinned her ears if Heidi so much as looked in her direction. 

This was my first time taking Heidi out to ride with new horses and it was encouraging. She was curious but not so distracted that she tuned me out. An  endurance ride has a shit ton of horses all out together so hopefully she remembers her manners there too. 

Second, I wanted to see how she would behave in the arena, the place that in the past sent her into hysterics. In her sale video in an arena she had her nose in the air and wouldn’t budge, so I knew what I was getting into. Turns out she bucked and reared too, but by the time I figured that out, it was too late. In my little arena at home she’s been improving, but still gets “sticky” sometimes and still hates being asked to trot. Pins her ears and swishes her tail every time. I’ve had people tell me it’s saddle fit, teeth, ulcers, pain, etc… but she ONLY acts like that in the arena. She trots just fine on the trail. And in from the pasture at dinner time. And toward a treat. So I know it’s mental resistance and not physical pain, and this trip proved me right. 

Heidi. Was. Awesome. Other than a little impatient head tossing and some minor steering issues, she was freaking amazing. We walked. We trotted. We hopped over a pole on the ground. We did things that normal people do with their horses, with no attitude or craziness or feelings of depressed defeat on my part at the end. I finally had the horse I’ve been working on getting for 11 months now. I was ecstatic! 

A giraffe moment. Yuck.

With that said, we are nowhere near show ring ready. But I have a horse I can do things with and not worry about dying! I told Heidi I would let her be a trail horse if that’s what she enjoys, and I intend to keep that promise, but I want a versatile horse that I can ride anywhere with no issue. After 11 months of patience and determination, I’m getting that horse!

She had a snack after the ride to practice eating by the trailer with distractions. No problems there! But she didn’t want to drink much, so that’s something I’ll have to watch. Overall though, a fantastic day! 

The Heidi Monster…

Heidi is a good trail horse  (hence the interest in endurance), but she has issues in the arena. I don’t mean quirks. I mean ISSUES.

See the pinned ears and the swishy tail? Very unhappy horsey.

When I got her, she would not go forward in an arena. She would buck or rear. I restarted her completely and did everything in baby steps, teeny tiny increments, so that she could get completely used to each new thing before moving on. 

At the walk she’s happy as can be. 

Now I can ride her with no problem in the arena, but only at the walk. Now we’re moving on to trotting. Before you suggest pain or saddle fit, let me assure you, all of that has been checked. She trots like a dream on the trail. Her first response in the arena to anything new is NO, and I’m working on rewiring her brain to say, ‘Okay, we can try that.’ 

She’s learning that trotting will not cause her to spontaneously combust. 

Slowly but surely, we’re making progress. She used to pin her ears and get pissy every time I asked for the trot. She would trot a couple steps and quit. At first I rewarded those two steps. That was her version of a try. You have to reward the try if you want to keep getting it! 

Now we’re getting halfway around our little arena at the trot, and the ear pinning is getting less pronounced. She’s becoming more willing to try. I spent all winter getting her in shape. She looks great and I can tell she feels better. But man, that mental component is tough. It takes a lot of patience to work through that stuff! 

I got a truck! 

I have wanted a truck for damn near 5 years. Self care board is hard without a truck. You can’t haul a round bale in an SUV!

Yesterday I finally got my truck and I am tickled pink. It’s not new and it’s not fancy, but it’s got a big engine, a quad cab, and a tow package, and that’s all I need! Let the adventures begin!