Friday, March 22, 2013


A few weeks ago I posted about the struggle I have in finding time to ride.  Readers had some great ideas about how to find the time -- one of the best was that I need to put it on my calendar and make it a priority.   If the time was set aside and marked as riding, the rest of the calendar appointments would find time around the riding appointment.  For a few weeks it has been working fairly well.  I have been able to ride for the most part at least twice a week.

This is a major accomplishment for someone with a full time job, three kids with their own commitments, various volunteer commitments and the struggle of finding daylight in late winter.

But sometimes you just have to stop and put aside not just the riding but all the other commitments in your life for what is really important.  For me that is my family and today it was more obvious than ever how important that was and how riding and everything else needs to take a back seat.

My father in law passed away this morning and everything else just stopped.   Spending time with my husband and my family was most important and everything else just didn't matter.  Work appointments and any other plans I had for the day that seemed so important yesterday just weren't important anymore.

My father in law was a man who always put his family first.   Nothing made him happier than spending time with his family and they always were first in his list of priorities.  He coached each of his kid's baseball teams, mentored many other children, and umpired baseball long past the time when his body was telling him that he needed to quit and rest.  When my middle son was a baby, we were living with him and I can hardly remember ever putting my son to bed because Paw Paw loved to snuggle with him in the evening until they both passed out.   Even in his last days when he struggled to find the strength to talk, images of his grandchildren brought life back to his eyes.   Family was always first for him.

The best gift he ever gave me was raising a son who is a wonderful husband to me and a giving father to my children.  For that I will always be grateful.  Thanks Paw Paw.

So priorities... sure my horses are important to me and I love to ride and I will continue to try to make them a priority.  But on a day like today...   it reminds me of what the real priorities will and always be... and how blessed I am to have such a great family.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring is Coming! Trail Ride in the Woods

What a beautiful day!   Temperatures were above 60 today which is a wonderful treat for late winter in Maryland.   Makes you think that Spring is here but of course we all know that winter may still have some surprises for us so it was nice to get out and enjoy the day.

The whole group before we headed into the woods.
Since I took the picture, only Golly's ear is showing
but he wanted to be included!
Through the years I have collected quite a few horse friends.  Some I have met through horse clubs.  Some have been friends for so long I can't remember how we first became friends.  Some I have met via Facebook.   Some I met because I parked next to them and asked if I could ride with them.   I started an email list that I use to let them know when I am going to be riding to see if they would like to join me.   Sometimes I have one or two show up - today seven wonderful friends and their horse partners joined me!

I am a bit of a time fanatic.  When I say I will be ready at 1:00 pm, I am ready at 1:00 pm and expect other people who ride with me to be ready too.   When I send out the emails letting people know I will be riding I give them a "butt in the saddle" time so they can plan accordingly based on how long it takes them to tack up and get their horse ready.
I have such a limited time to ride because of work and family commitments that if my three hour time frame to ride is eaten up waiting for folks I get a bit annoyed.    Some might call it bitchy but its just how I am.  On the flip side I also respect other peoples time and am VERY rarely late.

Today was one of those times.

I had it all planned out.  I would get a load of hay from a neighboring farm and be able to leave so I would arrive at the park a half hour before the designated time.   Didn't work out that way.  I had reserved  hay to last us until the first cutting of the year but when I got up into the loft, the only bales left were the ones that were nearly broke or already broke open.   Not the easiest to load so by the time we got them in the truck, I was covered in hay and unloading them back at our barn took much longer than I anticipated since we needed to use wheelbarrows.  (On another note... I need to find some hay to last us until June ... but I digress.)

So by the time I got to the park it was three minutes before the designated time.   Luckily I had a sheet on Golly so the only in depth grooming required was his neck and head.   With some quick grooming I was ready just 2 minutes late and honestly I am not sure anyone noticed I was late except for me.

The ride itself was great.  A nice mix of people who got to know one another and their horses and I think some will ride together again even without my invite.

Golly acting as a hitching post on the trail
for his good friend Shiloh
I love when people look out for eachother on the trail and this group was wonderful.   When one rider needed to dismount, another one hopped off his horse to help the remount process.   Riders moved their horses around to help out riders whose horses needed to be in certain positions.     Riders waited for the laggers to get across the streams and bridges before heading up hills.   Just great courtesy and a pleasure to ride with these folks.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Drop that Inside Rein

I had my lesson on Wednesday and had the time to ride again today.  Typically the first ride after a lesson I try to replicate the lesson to some extent to see how much my horse and I retained.

Wednesday's lesson spent a lot of time using the outside rein to get flexibility, bend and length of the neck while letting the inside rein be passive, even loose.   I tried it again today and the results were sporadic and it proved to be more difficult without my instructor's guidance.

The basic concept is this (and I apologize to my instructor if I am getting this wrong... I am working through this one in my head and I may not have it all correct yet.  Can I put a disclaimer here that the writings here are the opinions of the writer only and do not necessary reflect the guidance of my instructor?!)....    You keep a connection on the outside rein and the inside remains loose.  With the outside rein you ask for the lowering of the poll by opening the rein while continuing to keep the connection.  During my lesson it worked great.   Open the hand... lowered poll... lovely flexion on the inside of the neck.... just right.

Today not so much.  

When I opened the rein Golly bent his neck to the outside rather than lowering the poll.  The outside rein became loose.   I thought I maybe needed to push him into the rein so gave him a kick to do so.   I got some connection then and the poll lowered so it partially worked.  What was missing was the inside bend and flexibility of the neck.  I wanted to use my inside rein to get it but I know during my lesson I didn't need the inside rein so wanted to figure this out.   I gave him a tickle on the inside back leg and there it was!

Golly cleaning the pony's stall
Great... so I knew I needed to open the outside rein while keeping the connection by keeping the impulsion pushing into the rein but I also needed to make sure the inside hing leg was the one doing most of the pushing.  That works great if you have a whip on the inside to give the tickle but what happens when you switch directions?  For today I just switched the whip to the other side but during a test that will be a bit awkward looking.   Hopefully after a bit more practice at this, it won't require the tickle each time.

Honestly I am not even sure I have the cues correct on this so I'm looking forward to my next lesson so we can practice this a bit more with some guidance.

One fun thing happened during our ride that has nothing to do with inside rein or flexion.   A great song came on my iphone while I was riding and I started literally dancing in the saddle.  Golly flicked a few ears back trying to figure out what the heck THIS new cue was.  Then he moved from walk to trotting to the beat.   Wasn't what I was planning but I thought it was a great response!   What a fun it is to play with my friend Golly!

After our ride, I let Golly loose and he wandered around the barn checking out his barn mates' stalls to see what they had left behind.  He's such a funny boy -- he could run out the door and down the road if he wanted to but he prefers to hang out in the barn with me while I clean up.  More like a dog than a horse.

By the way, for those of you that read this blog on a regular basis I had no anxiety at all today when I rode.   Even when he shied and trotted off at the sound of some boogey man in the woods, I just sat the trot and moved on.  The confidence is coming back.