Falling into Place!

The past month in Texas has been brutally hot. There were nights where the temperature was holding into the mid-nineties at 10:00 pm! Most of my training occurs at night due to having a day job, not being a morning person, and the Texas heat. When it doesn’t even begin to cool down by 10:00 pm just about all outdoor activity on the GHLHF comes to a screeching halt. We would make the rounds checking and feeding all of the livestock at night, but I wasn’t about to put any of our animals, myself included, through the torture of training. Since my best friend’s wedding meant that I would be missing the one summer show on my calendar, there really wasn’t any pressing need to train.

More than three days without equine activity makes me a little stir crazy, and well, a month of virtually no riding or driving just about sent me to the nut house. I did my best to channel my energies in positive, constructive ways. I managed to read seven books, attempted to make my first ever quilt (king sized, Halloween themed), and then my second ever quilt (twin sized, Disney Car themed). I made a fall duvet cover for a king size down comforter, and had Halloween fabric scraps left over. So, I made a pillow case to match the first quilt. I decorated the interior of the house for Halloween/Fall, and began collecting/creating my exterior Halloween decorations. If you can’t tell, Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I was trying to manifest cooler weather by focusing on fall. If you decorate for it, it will come!

I should have put my indoor time to use on my blog, but really my new “granny” sewing hobby isn’t all that interesting to read about. Also, after three weeks of different sewing projects, I’m not sure I ever want to use my sewing machine again. At the end of the duvet project, there were several moments when I considered hurling said machine through a wall due to some minor mechanical malfunctions. The sewing machine, Darling Husband, and I were saved from the insanity last weekend though.

Temperatures finally began to dip in the evenings. Friday evening was cool with a nice breeze. Saturday morning was glorious. Sunday and Monday were tolerable. So Odessa, Comanche, Moonshine, and AppleJack all found themselves tacked up and back in work. There were a few touch and go moments on Friday night with Odessa and Comanche. My two “chestnut” blanket appaloosas definitely had some spunk with the temperature dropping into the low eighties (20 degrees cooler than previous nights). If you have horses/ponies, I don’t have to tell you what a 20 degree drop in temperature and a light breeze will do to them. I don’t really believe in lunging horses. Groundwork for respect and focus, is a yes in my book, but lunging a horse to work the energy out of them before I mount up is not really my thing. What can I say? I like to live dangerously. Both Odessa and Comanche were super charged, so I lowered my expectations for that first night back in the saddle. I spent both rides working on extended everything…extended walk, trot, and canter. Collection work was thrown out the window. So I focused on the horses using their body correctly at bigger/faster paces.

By the second ride of the weekend, both Odessa and Comanche were mentally prepared to settle into work. Now that Comanche is moving better, softening (instead of pulling like a freight train), and collecting (kind of) I decided it was time to work on our halts. This is a stretch activity for a horse that does not like to downshift, but we made progress this weekend. We also had an awesome jump session Saturday morning. He did not do his classic pause and duck before taking the vertical. It’s funny how doing less can often lead to more progress. Despite getting less training over the past few months, Comanche is improving significantly.

I’m determined that Odessa will graduate from the walk/trot division this year, and so her workouts are focused solely on developing her “show” lope. We’re still doing lots of walk and trot exercises, but we are working on her using her body more effectively in order to get a balanced, rhythmic lope. We have two shows lined out on the calendar this fall, and hopefully we will be in a position to move up to the W/T/L classes. The competition is stiffer in these classes, because there are older, more experienced, and bred to show western pleasure animals in these classes. My rescue girl may never have the movement they have, but we’ll have more fun even if we don’t bring the ribbons.

Also, Odessa is doing a lot of work over ground poles, because in the trail class, ground poles are her weakest point. Turns, gates, side passes, backing through “L’s”, serpentines, are all easy for her, but walking over a single ground pole with out clicking it with all 4 hooves seems to be a struggle. Sometimes I think she just likes listening to the click, click, click, click as she goes over it. I’ve personally witnessed this horse step over a push lawn-mower, cart shafts, multiple buckets, and random lumber laying in our barn when she discovered the door was open to Darling Husband’s work space without so much as touching a single item in a quest for grain. She looked like Catherine Zeta Jones in entrapment bending around invisible lazer beams. Asking her to repeat the performance over 4 simple ground poles in a wide open arena is apparently not challenging enough and not worth her time.

The ponies, unlike the big horses behaved like little angels from the start this weekend. Both Moonshine and Apple Jack were untrained when they came to the farm and are still relatively green. I may have driven Moonshine a total of fifteen times, and Apple Jack has only been driving since January. One could forgive the ponies for being difficult after more than a month out of work, but surprisingly they were the opposite. Apple Jack gave me a solid little workout with the Hyperbike. She softened to the bit from the very beginning of the workout. Earlier in the summer, AppleJack had developed a habit of bracing on the bit, and even though it was mostly corrected before her vacation from work, I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t resurface after her break. I’m introducing her slowly to the canter with “The Bike,” and downward transitions aren’t very pretty right now, but she’s getting there.

Moonshine was a rock star. She has a tendency to be spooky. We work on lots of desensitization, but what she will tolerate one day, she freaks out at the next. I haven’t developed the intuition for when or what will be an issue with her yet. Moonshine started out her first drive after vacation high strung, without much confidence. She would jump at the slightest unexpected noise but by the end she was relaxed, soft and could be encouraged to stretch down into the bridle. I did figure out that she is not comfortable with unexpected bumps/noises when the cart encounters road imperfections. I now focus on finding every rut, pothole, or shoulder drop off and driving over it. Rhythm beads and my blue tooth speaker are helping to calm Moonshine too. With constant background noise from the beads and my southern rock playlist, she is less likely to pick out any one noise. I’m hoping to introduce Moonshine to the HyperBike soon.

It was a successful weekend. Even though I was forced by circumstances outside my control to take a break from training, all of the horses/ponies were better for having the break. Four weeks of doing nothing and getting loads of treats for simply existing has made everyone eager to play with the humans again! While Odessa’s only in it for the treats, Comanche does really like to work, and it was obvious he had missed the mental stimulation. The ponies are always eager for attention and I think they enjoyed getting out and about this weekend as well. They enjoy the change of scenery, and it never ceases to amaze me what little powerhouses they can be.

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