A week of firsts for Carson

First, thank you to everyone who’s chimed in with advice and opinions on the wedding posts! It’s helpful to have so many perspectives!

Onto the fun stuff:

Tuesday, I was itching for something to do, so I headed out to Richal’s barn and immediately set up $900 Facebook Pony‘s zigzag jumping exercise. I set the two end jumps as small crossrails, the middle two jumps as ~2’3 verticals, and had some barrels as standalone jumps off to the sides of the zigzag.

I tacked up Carson, who was much more motivated to move forward in the outdoor arena. He’s a big, heavy boned, warmblood-type Thoroughbred and is a much different ride from nimble, speedy Moe or dainty Gina. Carson feels powerful. His turning radius is approximately equivalent to that of a Mack truck, so the rollbacks were difficult for us. However, he was very eager and willing to go- that’s never a bad quality!

I convinced his owner to get on him and pop him over some fences- she is a dressage rider for sure, but she’s a good sport (and good rider) and put Carson through the exercise with very little trouble. After she’d gotten him through a few times, I raised one of the verticals to a solid 3′. I told her if she kept her leg on and kept him straight, he’d sail over it without a problem. On the first approach, Carson ducked out to the left, but his owner admitted she hadn’t been very committed to going over. On her next approach, she was much more confident in where she was going, and he stepped over it like an old pro!

Just jumping like a good event horse should.

I was absolutely tickled that he had zero qualms about going over, as he’d never been asked to jump anything bigger than about 2′ until a month ago.

Yesterday, Richal invited me to go on a trail ride at a nearby lake with her, Carson’s owner, and a couple of her eventing friends. We arrived at the lake just after noon, ate a quick lunch, and headed out on the trail around 1 PM.

I was on Carson, who’d never been on a trail in his life. He was curious without being spooky and fearlessly led the way for the first half mile or so. I was relaxed and had him on a loose rein while I turned around and chatted with one of the eventers about foxhunting. All of a sudden, he gave a mighty snort, leaped straight up, and somehow teleported sideways. I fell off in total surprise while Carson trotted down the trail. He was eventually chased down (apparently, he just kept trotting along as if he had some destination in mind), but not before he destroyed his reins. One of the eventers offered her curb rein, so I was back in action before long. 
The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful- Carson got belly-deep in the lake (on his first time encountering water!), he didn’t mind when the other horses crowded around him, he was content to trot along the trail when everyone else was trotting, and he plodded over rocks, fallen trees, and plowed through branches, sticks, and vines.
Bringing up the rear on the road.

Riding along the lakeshore.

Playing in the water with his pals Diamante and Andy.
Left to right: new friends Linda & Rio, me & Carson, Richal & Diamante,
Audrey (Carson’s owner) & Andy
Map of the ride from the GPS tracker app.

It was definitely a fun time and I was happy to meet some more eventers! (I was beginning to think they didn’t exist here.) I’m proud of Carson- from jumping big jumps to handling the trail, he was a superstar this week. Onto cross country next week (hopefully)!

Trail Ride of Trouble

For the first time all week, I was able to get out to the barn and ride yesterday. We’ve had a parade of insurance claims adjusters, plumbers, and, of course, our water damage restoration specialists in and out of the house all week long.

Drywall removed so studs/insulation can dry.
Hallway flooring removed.
Woody has given up.
Buttons copes with the noise by going outside.

I jumped at the chance to leave the house for a few hours when our water damage restoration guy was gone by noon yesterday. My first stop was at Tulsa Shoe Rebuilders, where I dropped off one of my zippered tall boots nearly two months ago. They’d fixed the zipper for me last year when it broke; when it appeared to have broken again, they offered to replace it at no charge. I was beginning to get nervous they’d lost my boot (you seriously have to see the interior of this place to understand- boots everywhere in no discernible order). Happily, they knew exactly which boot was mine and advised me that the zipper wasn’t broken- just dirty. I was given a tiny, stiff little brush to clean the zipper and told to rub a crayon or any other waxy item on the zipper about once a week to keep it lubricated. Who knew?

When I finally made it to the barn, the horses were all way, way off in the most remote corner of the pasture. I caught Moe and trekked back to the barn to brush him off and tack him up. I decided to head out for a ride in the pasture; since no one had made a fuss when Moe was led off from the herd, I thought they’d be content to stay in their corner while we explored the pond area. 
Moe was relaxed and happy. He’s such a nice change from Gina sometimes; he will happily hack out alone, while she can get anxious when separated from her pals. We headed over to the pond, where all that stood between us and the levee was a small drainage channel. It was muddy on both sides and rocky in the middle, but I figured Moe would either scramble or hop across. He balked a little, but after a firm kick, he scooted through the mud and onto the levee. 
And that’s when the trouble started. Just as we were strolling along the levee, someone whistled. Moe and I  glanced back toward the barn, where I saw a woman standing near the fence. She whistled again and yelled something that I assumed was her horse’s name. She was calling her horses in for dinner. 
Now, it was about 4:00 PM, so I can’t blame her for wanting to feed. What I don’t understand is why she didn’t walk out to catch her horses, instead of whistling and yelling. Her horses came galloping in toward the barn with the rest of the herd hot on their heels. Moe was understandably antsy to see what the fuss was about; several very firm half-halts later, he was still jigging and fussy, but no longer in danger of falling into the pond.
We continued our walk on the levee. When we encountered another drainage channel, Moe clambered through it gamely. There’s a big flat area on the far side of the pond; Moe was convinced this was the best place to work on his piaffe. I pushed him into a real trot, which he was not happy about. When he zoomed around, I pushed him into a canter. He seemed to settle into a happy rhythm for about ten strides; then he let out three bucks in a row. 
At this point, I’d had enough of his hijinks; he is 19 years old, has had enough experience that he shouldn’t be a raging lunatic just because his horse friends go zooming by a hundred yards away from him. So I did what any sensible person would do: I ran his ass into the pond.
Suddenly being in cold water up to his knees was apparently a big enough shock to get him to stop being an idiot. He took a couple tentative steps toward the other side, but the footing was slippery. I turned him around to get back to land. He nearly slipped and fell, but recovered and we got back out without any harm. 
I thought his silliness had passed, but I was wrong. Five minutes onto dry land and Moe was back to jigging. Exasperated, I let him trot back toward the levee. He put in a good jump over the drainage channel, cantered very reasonably along the levee, and leaped over the next drainage channel and was now galloping strongly.
Toward this:
We were approaching from the other side.
Moe is a cross-country machine. Other than our very first cross-country schooling show together (where he refused one fence), we’ve never had a jumping or time fault (on an XC course, at least). He’s jumped picnic tables, tarps, the hood of a car. If I point him at something, no matter how badly I ride it or what ugly distance we get, Moe will go over it.
So you can imagine my mild panic as my horse landed from a ditch and started looking for the next jump. I sat up, looked anywhere but the 4′ fallen tree, and prayed Moe wouldn’t think that’s where he was supposed to be headed. I’m sure nothing good can happen when a fat, out of shape, 19-year old Thoroughbred and his fat, out of shape rider attempt to launch over a very large obstacle.
Fortunately, I convinced Moe that our next jump was off to the right; he happily galloped right on and jumped over a tiny log. Now satisfied that we’d completed whatever competition we were in, he dropped to a walk and behaved himself while I cooled him out. Except for a few whinnies, he wasn’t even concerned where his friends had gone.
Moe was only barely sweaty and seemed entirely content to munch treats while I untacked and groomed him. When I turned him back out, he trotted off only to get bitten on the butt by Gina. 
I guess I should start conditioning him (and myself) for a three-day this fall. Sigh.

In Which Moe Is Not Brave

Yesterday was beautiful. Sunny, cloudless, 45 degrees. After more than a week of snow, ice, freezing rain, and highs in the teens, I was super ready to hit the barn.

The ponies were sprawled in the sun, dead-horse style. Moe perked up when he noticed me; Gina continued to ignore me until Moe was completely up and eating cookies. Brat.
I saddled and decided to take a stroll in the big pasture. It’s about 22 acres, has a large pond, and is home to 9 horses and a donkey. Moe and Gina have met these horses before, and the barn manager assured me that people ride in the pasture frequently with no trouble from its residents. Moe is an utterly reliable creature and totally submissive. I figured that even if a horse or two wandered our way, Moe would be so nonthreatening that they’d lose interest quickly.
Moe was much happier to be out in a field hacking around than being forced endure yet another walk-trot dressage school. Until we saw THE DISH OF DEATH: a fallen DirecTV dish close to the fenceline. (It had been mounted on the PVC fencing for reasons I don’t full understand.) Moe lost. his. damn. mind. He snorted, danced away from it, stopped to stare at it, etc. etc. The horse that sails over any obstacle, including a jump with lighted sparklers and the hood of a car, was balking at a relatively small hunk of plastic on the ground. What? 
While he isn’t brave, he is (mostly) obedient; shaking and rolling his eyes, he marched past the horrifying dish after a couple of jabs from my heels. The dish of death forgotten, we continued our walk. I spied an appealingly placed fallen tree branch, so, of  course, I walked my horse up to it. Of course, he gave a little hop over it. Of course, he cantered away. Of course, this alerted every horse in the pasture to our presence. 
Our jig was up. The donkey led the charge, which terrified Moe more than the satellite dish. Nine horses followed at paces varying from “lazy trot” to “working walk”. Moe tried to flee in terror and nearly fell into the still-frozen pond. I grimly hung on, clutching mane and yanking him into the tiniest circle imaginable. Rather than fall over, he stopped, and stared in utter fear at the herd of mildly interested horses headed our way. 
The horses lost interest pretty quickly and ambled back over to their round bales or went back to dozing in the sun. Moe, however, was out of his mind for the day. We spent the next 15 minutes working on figure-eights and serpentines, none of which refocused the poor horse. We ended on the best note we could, walking calmly for approximately 3 strides on a loose rein. 
When I turned him out into the field, he was bitten on the butt, retreated to a round bale, and hid behind Gina. 

Sigh. So much for a quiet, relaxing ride.

Trail Ride Extravaganza!

It’s exactly 20 days until the glorious 19th of May- also known as Spring Hunter Pace Day! Kyla and I have been working Cal and Gina regularly to get them fit for the ride. Our third team member, Levi, tells us he’s been working his horse Bubba, too. We’re all pretty excited- after all, Kyla and I have our third-place finish to defend!

Levi’s trailering us to the event, but wasn’t sure if all three horses would fit into his stock trailer. He assured me that it fits six calves, but since we weren’t sure what the ratio of calves to horses is, we decided to load everyone up and take them on the trails at the local lake. 
Kyla and I hit the trails a few weeks ago with our friend Will and his horse Misty. The horses were good then, so we were really looking forward getting out again. The horses loaded up in Levi’s trailer without too much fuss and fit totally fine. Once we arrived at the lake, we tacked up our guys and got ready to set off. 
Gina was totally fine until we set off toward the trail. She immediately zoomed backwards at maximum speed, shaking her head and flailing around. I jumped off, removed her flash noseband, and got back on. She was quieter. We headed down the trail, with Cal and Bubba in front of us. About 100 feet into the narrow, slippery trail, a plastic bag lay. Gina was not having the plastic bag. She reared. I clung to her neck. She spun. I ducked to avoid tree branches. She galloped out of the dense wooded trail and back into the parking area. I stopped her. After that, we decided to take an alternate, slightly wider and less tree-filled route. 
Kyla and baby Cal
Gina calmed down after that and we ended up having a great ride. We let the horses gallop on a long, flat stretch. Bubba, who’s a sturdy little Quarter Horse used for ranch work, smoked both Cal and Gina (two race-bred TBs!). We’re planning a rematch, though, since Cal wasn’t feeling his best and was recovering from an abscess. 
Me (left) and Levi (right) after galloping.
We spent about 2.5 hours riding and traveled about 8 miles. We wove through forests, across streams, over rocks, and ended up right on top of the lake. I suggested we swim across the lake to make for home, but somehow, no one was with me on that suggestion. It would have ruined my tack anyway…
This was the least-dense area we rode through. The lake is beyond the trees.

The horses were tired and soaked with sweat when we got back to the trailer, and we (and our tack) were covered in mud, sweat, and bug bites. No pain, no gain, though, right? We’re definitely ready to smoke the competition at the hunter pace!