Introduction

I started this blog mainly as a personal journal, a place for me to make notes about a return to horse ownership after a long hiatus, and at an age when most folks are settling back collecting Social Security. It will be about the journey my husband and I make with our equine partners.

I AM NOT A HORSE TRAINER, other than the work I do with our own horses. This blog is about the many ups and downs, newly discovered insights, and training breakthroughs that happen along that path to good horsemanship. Most of all, it is about the joy—but also the frustrations—of horse ownership.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Regular Update as of 8-06-2015

Okay, this is how I intend to make these entries, if they are just regular routine updates for my own records. If something more interesting/complicated comes up, I will go into more detail.


GIRLS

Delight
She just keeps getting better and better at the mountain trail obstacles. Still hates mounted archery. Still rushes down the lane faster than I like, and gets all wound up over it. Still not sure why MA is such a big deal with her, and will keep analysing the situation to see if there is something that I'm doing that sets her off. Does much better at the RMA lane in Eagle Point, than she does here at home.

Tauriel
The strangle abscesses are almost gone...what I can see, anyway. She is no longer coughing, no longer has a runny nose and eyes. Her appetite is huge. I feed her double what the others get, and she snarfs it up. Has finally decided grain is tasty, if I mix it with alfalfa flakes. She didn't know what to do with it at first. Picking up her feet is going fine. Still head shy...will need a lot of work on that. Any sudden move startles her, but she doesn't bolt off. Last night, while Robert held the lead line, I started on the job of detangling her tail. It is a mess. Like a long, black loofah sponge with guard hairs. As I worked, I found small sticks, foxtails, bits of dried mud...a real treasure hunt. She stood politely while I worked, so that was nice. It is going to take two or three sessions to get it all worked out, but at least it was a start.

BOYS

Apollo
He is enjoying retirement. Getting more unstable in his hind end. We were going to put him out in a bigger turnout, but the ground is uneven, especially up by the entry gate. Robert saw Apollo stumble more than once out there, so we pulled him out. Everything is sagging, and even though he eats a ton of food, gets vitamins, and joint supplements, he is showing ribs. But his heart and mind are still just fine.

Strider
He and Robert are becoming more and more a team. Strider is getting more confident, and is willing to try more things. It's almost as if he suddenly reached a point where he said, "Oh, wow, um, I think I can really do this stuff." He doesn't freak out at fly spray anymore, bathes without wing-nutting all over the place, and picks up his feet without dogging you. He is also very respectful of our personal space, which he had no clue about when we got him. Bull in the China shop would be a perfect description of him for the first six to eight month after his arrival. But he's a big boy, and needs reminding once and a while.

NOTES

Really miss our round pen. With Tauriel in quarantine for longer than we anticipated, due to the strangles, getting the all-weather footing will be delayed at least another month. Also, we need to make her future turnout a little smaller, until I can be sure of catching her. I don't want to have to chase her all over a large turnout, so Robert will be putting up temporary hot wire to close in a smaller area...much like we did with Delight when she pulled her check ligament and had to be confined.

PHOTOS

A few of me working Tauriel, and a few of the "playground" where Robert has built, and is still building, trail obstacles.







The three hanging bags we call the Dementors, since they float and swing in the breeze in a ghostly, sinister kind of way. Horse and rider must go between them. The crisscross lines are riding trails that go around and through the playground, and then head out to the back ten acres.

All of these obstacles are based on ones we have seen at the Oregon Horse Center (Eugene, OR) mountain trail competitions and clinics...with a few innovations of our own. There are more to come, as Robert never seems to run out of ideas.



The PVC thing is a backup shoot. The top rails fall off if the horse or rider touches them as they back through. Straps are attached so they won't fall all the way to the ground. The following photos are of various stepovers, chaos poles, backup challenges, side pass poles, and the troll bridge.




This last one is looking down our mounted archery lane.



A lot of work done. A lot of work still to do. It's turning out to be a busy, exciting summer.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Slight Set Back

Unfortunately, it now appears that Tauriel has strangles. The upper respiratory infection, runny nose, cough, and the fever were pretty good indicators, but there didn't seem to be any abscesses. Well, what I thought were just swollen lymph glands under her jaw, were in fact abscesses, one of which has ruptured. There are two others that still need to blow. This isn't the end of the world, but it is a lot more serious than just a URI. The need for quarantine escalated to DEFCON 5. Strangles is horrendously contagious. Basically, we are now treating her as if she were radioactive. Everything we use on or near her....EVERYTHING....gets kept separate. We work with the other horses first, before we ever go near the round pen where she is stalled up. Which also means we will be without a round pen for two months instead of one.

We knew going in that unexpected things might/would crop up. Considering the way a kill yard is run, it is no surprise that Tauriel has strangles. The vet is due back out today, later in the afternoon, so we will have a better idea of what still needs to be done after he looks at her. From all I have read (Saturday I did a lot of research on strangles, when I saw that ruptured abscess), we are on the downside of the problem, and it just needs to run its course. The vet may do a nose swab or a swab of the abscess for testing to make sure but, at this point, I don't think it is necessary. All of her symptoms when judged as a whole, are pretty classic indicators for strangles. So, we wait it out, while keeping a close eye on our other horses so we can jump on it if they show any signs of fever or go off their food.

As for the other horses, Apollo is loving his retirement, Strider is getting better and better and much braver, and Delight is really enjoying all the new mountain trail obstacles Robert has built in the "playground." She still hates mounted archery, and since we haven't been doing much of it lately, she has gone back to bolting down the lane, so that needs more work. Now that this whole horse adoption is over, other than vet care and training time, and my family reunion, which took place this weekend, is over, life can go back to our normal routine. Which means Strider and Delight go back to work, and Tauriel gets longer sessions so I can see just what I am dealing with. For her, it will be focusing on getting her over the head shyness, and picking up her feet so that the farrier can give her a trim when he comes out next month.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I'm Back...With a Wonderful New Project.

Yes, I have decided to fire this old blog site back up. This first post will be a long one. After this, I will keep it much shorter.

The main reason has a lot to do with an Andalusian filly that my husband and I just rescued from a kill yard in Washington. Saving a horse from a kill yard is something I had been thinking of for a very long time. I also have a love of Andalusians, since I was lucky enough to be able to ride one back in the 80s. When one of the rescue sites I monitor showed three Andalusian mares between two and eight years old waiting for adoption before being shipped to a slaughter house in Canada, I felt I had to act. I bought the one they were guessing was between two and three years old. Buying from a kill yard is like buying a pig-in-a-poke. We only saw photos, since the horse was 400 miles north of where we live. You pay through PayPal, which is your only proof of purchase. You get no bill of sale. It's basically, you show up at the yard, they load your horse, and you leave. It doesn't matter if you take one look at the horse and think you've made the biggest mistake in your life. From the moment you transfer that money, that horse belongs to you, no matter what condition it is in when you arrive. All very scary, and a huge risk. One I was sure that at my age of 66, most people would think I was crazy or going senile to take. As it turned out, that has not been the case, and everyone has been very positive, which was a huge relief to me.

Robert and I left our place in Southern Oregon at around 9 am, and headed north, deciding to take hwy 99 to 97 through Bend and then Madras, Or, connecting with hwy 82 in Washington. To our dismay, once we left Madras, we discovered you drive through 100 miles of nothing. No towns, no gas stations, no trees, no rest areas. Just miles and miles of rolling brown hills, some planted with grain, but mostly  bare or strewn with volcanic rock. Which made perfect sense, since we could see three volcanos off to the west as we traveled along.

However, when we got closer to the Columbia river, which is the border between Oregon and Washington, we did travel through this strange, alien, and rather menacing forest of white trees. It went on for miles and miles, as far as the eye could see. We didn't linger, since we didn't wish to antagonize them.





 Once we escaped the strange white trees, we finally reached the border and crossed the Columbia river into Washington. Here are two photos I took looking back toward Oregon. The whole bluff was dark volcanic basalt.




After a little over eight hours on the road we arrived, after getting lost a few times due to Washington's totally crappy road sign system, in Sunnyside, where the kill yard was located. After another frustrating drive trying to find S. Outlook Road, which was not connected to the main road by that name, but was a spur of it on the opposite side of the freeway (again, Washington, your road signs, or lack thereof, are terrible), we found the place. It was closed and locked up, with lots of very threatening signs telling everyone to KEEP OUT. TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT!  We couldn't see the filly we'd come to get, which was disappointing. We left the kill yard and got a cheap motel room in Sunnyside, and had a dinner of pretty good Mexican food from a restaurant sharing the parking lot with the motel.

Next morning we ate the continental breakfast—hardboiled egg, and half a blueberry muffin and two cups of tea for me, because my stomach was in a knot from nerves, and the possibility of impending disaster. We could have just driven 400 miles to pick up a horse we might wish we'd never purchased.

These are the photos I took Saturday morning, before the owner of the yard showed up. As kill yards go, it wasn't horrendous. The pens were cleaned of poops, the horses had fresh water, and good quality feed (to fatten them up). However, every horse at the place had a snotty nose and runny eyes. Some were coughing, or pathetically thin, and all were dirty and scared up from the fights horses get into when confined in a small space with others they don't know, trying to establish a pecking order.




When the yard owner showed up, he was younger than I had expected, maybe late thirties, very nice (he didn't create the problem of excess horses, his place is just where they end up), and moved the horses around calmly...no yelling, cussing, or whacking them with a whip. There was another family there to pick up a horse, but our filly was loaded first, as we had the longest ride home. When I finally got to see her, I fell in love, but when I saw her trot off a little, I was astounded at how beautifully she moved. I couldn't take any photos then, as I didn't think the owner would like that, and we were busy helping get her separated from the others. To her credit, our little girl loaded quietly, which was a huge relief. It was also the first little sign that this filly had a good mind.

We hit the road for home, and had decided the night before that there was NO way we were going to go back the way we had come. No way we were going to drive for 100 miles with a live animal in the trailer, when if something broke down, there would be no one to help, and would take anyone coming to our rescue hours and hours to find us...assuming there was even cell phone ability. We took 97 to the border, missed the crossing we needed (thank you again, Washington), so ended up on 82 West going along the river on the Washington side until we could get to the next crossing. Well, at least we were going in the right direction. We finally made it to the 84 on the Oregon side, headed West, connected to the 205 South (a HUGE thank you to Oregon for impeccable road signs, and even road times it would take you to reach your connection!). From the 205 we connected to I-5 heading south. From there it was a straight shot to our place. Whew.

The filly was so quiet in the trailer you would have thought the trailer was empty. She never pawed, called out, fussed or banged around. When we stopped for fuel, and a quickie lunch at Taco Bell, she stood quietly in the trailer, just looking around. After eight hours, we finally made it home around 6:30 pm. At first she didn't want to leave the trailer. Just peered out, wondering where the heck she was. I got the lead rope, and slowly coaxed her along. She stepped out nicely, I led her over to the water and food we had set up before we left, and she was polite as could be.

These are the first photos, taken maybe five minutes after we unloaded her. The moment she stepped into our round pen, safe and relatively sound, we gave her the name Tauriel.




She started eating and drinking right away, which was a VERY good sign. She had a really snotty nose, gunk in her eyes, and mud from the knees down and on her belly, from a broken water pipe at the kill yard. What other health issues she had, other than being between 70-100 lbs underweight, we wouldn't know until our vet could check her out. She arrived at our place on Saturday, July 18th. We declared that her birthday, deciding to go with three years old, but treat her as possibly younger.

Sunday morning I walked out to the round pen and slowly approached her. She didn't bolt off, but kept me just outside her comfort zone. I did about fifteen minutes of "hooking on", keeping it slow and at the walk. Eventually she let me approach and start to pet her. I didn't clip the lead rope in, just let her stand quietly while I talked to her, rubbed her, and kinda checked out if she had any places she was touchy about. I touched her under her belly, and between her front legs, with no reaction by her at all. Good sign. I kept it a short session, mainly because she is sick with a cold, and because I didn't want to overwhelm her on her first day.

Rose White, our trainer, came out to look at her Sunday afternoon. I had sent her the kill yard photos posted on the internet, and had asked her which horse she liked the best of the three. She picked the rose gray, which made me very happy, because that's the one I really wanted. Rose thought Tauriel was beautiful, and looked better in person than she did in the photos. She did a bit of analyzing her conformation, and couldn't find much to criticize. This was a HUGE relief to me, because I would have felt terrible if Rose thought the horse a waste of money. When I asked Rose, "Did I do good?" She grinned back and said, "Yes, you did VERY good!" Told me to call her when I got the vet report, and said I could call her whenever I felt I needed some advice on what to do next, or if a problem came up with Tauriel that I couldn't figure out.

That evening I did another short session of basically the same thing. This time I did clip in the lead rope, but kept it loose the whole time. More stroking, more talking, more touching. She's a little head shy, but that's an easy fix. I did ask her to back up a few steps and she did that nicely. She will also lead, if I go slow and keep talking to her. She is timid and gun-shy. Totally understandable, considering what she has been through.

Monday morning she needed a little more hooking on work before she would let me get close. I took it very slow, still at the walk, and she eventually let me approach and clip the lead rope in. I led her into the shade, then went back to stroking, talking, touching. I asked her to pick up a front foot, and she did. A little rusty, but didn't try to yank the food away. I also asked her to yield her hind end a step or two, on both sides, and she did with no fuss.  I led her over to the other side of the round pen where I had put some brushes, a curry comb, and a mane brush—to be kept separate from all of our other tack—and started to carefully brush her and get some of the mud off. That's when we discovered that under the mud on her right hind leg was a short white sock. She seemed to really like being groomed. I could see her relax. At one point she kinda sidled up to me for security, as if to say, "Um. I need a hug." I gave her one, then asked her politely to back up a few steps. I also tried to wipe some of the gunk off of her eyes, and clean her nose up a little. She didn't mind the cloth around her eyes so much, but didn't really want me messing with her nose. I got some of the junk off, but not as much as I would have liked.

I also called the vet that day, to have her checked out. He couldn't come until Tuesday afternoon, but that was okay with me. It would give me one more morning session with her, since I had no idea how she would handle being vetted.

Note: Since I'd had more time to check her out, I thought her right eyeball looked distended and bulged out more than the left, and both looked very glassy. It was a VERY real concern, and could be something seriously wrong. Of all the things she had, that eye situation bothered me the most.


As it turned out, because we have an awesome vet, it went way better than I expected. He was quiet with her, didn't man-handle her, gave her a mild sedative so he could take her temperature and give her a mega, long-lasting antibiotic shot—which was the equivalent of pushing vanilla pudding through a darning needle. Let's just say the stuff was thick! He couldn't give her a full dose of sedative, since she has an upper respiratory cold, which already impairs her breathing. He has to come back in a week to give her a follow-up antibiotic shot, and might be able to give her a little more sedative so he can draw blood. She wasn't too happy about that first sedative shot, so the next time the vet shows up, she may not be quite as cooperative as she was that day.

He examined her eyes and didn't think there was a problem, although when he comes back he will come in the evening when there is less sunlight and he can see into her eyes better. He didn't think one eye was enlarged, but only looked that way because her face is so gaunt. Also, she had a fever of 103, which is pretty hot, and probably accounted for their glassy appearance.

So, as of today, Wednesday, she is still eating and pooping just fine. I gave her the morning off so she could relax, and hopefully give some time for the antibiotics to kick in. I will do a session with her tonight, of pretty much the same things I have been doing since she got here —slow hooking on at the walk, talking, touching, stroking, asking her to back up a few steps, to walk with me on the lead, and I will start working more on her head shyness.

I suspect, once she gains some weight, and gets over this respiratory issue, I may see a totally different horse. A feisty youngster, rather than a sedate little girl with a fever and cold. I am totally prepared for that, and expect it. But until then, I can keep working with her to establish a bond, and some trust, and some respect for my space before she recovers, and I see her true personality. I look forward to that.

These are photos I took this morning. In some you'd think she wasn't all that bad off. In others, with a different angle, it is pretty obvious that she is showing signs of starvation. But when she has gained her weight back, had her coat brushed more (right now it feels like stiff cardboard), and had her hooves trimmed up, she will be stunning!






So that's our new project. To bring this little girl back to health, work with her to reestablish what little training she has had, and work on what she needs for the future. Currently she is in quarantine in our round pen, which is 60+ yards away from the other horses, for thirty days. All equipment, tack, and even our clothing, stays separate from our other horses. We also cleaned out the trailer, sprayed the inside with a strong water and bleach mix, then hosed it out again.

Lastly, I would like to thank my husband, Robert, for going along with this crazy idea. He is a saint, and totally understood why I wanted to do this, and never once tried to talk me out of it.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Decision.

I have decided, for the time being anyway, to discontinue posting in this blog. It has become a bit tedious to keep two blog sites going, and this one gets neglected the most, so I'm going to incorporate my horse activities into my main blog site, "Found in the Ruins."

A big thank you to the few people who followed my ramblings here, and I hope you will pop over and check things out on my other site.

Best wishes,

Sharon





Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Speed, Fear, and Letting the Universe Right Itself

I've made no secret of the fact that going fast on a horse scares me. Part of that is because even though I loved horses from cradlehood, I wasn't able to get my first one until I was thirty-four. He was only five months old at the time, so I didn't actually get to ride him for another four years. We stuck to low level dressage, or the SCA mounted games...done at the trot. There were no wild and crazy rides in my youth. Yes, I periodically rode the mounts of friends, and right before my gelding was ready to ride, I started taking lessons, but I totally missed that fearless period of riding when young, which prepares you for riding a bit safer when older, but without fear of going fast, falling off, and breaking every bone in your body.

Which makes learning mounted archery at my ripe old age of sixty-four a pretty wild decision. Mounted archery is all about being able to shoot off a horse going a minimum fourteen seconds in ninety meters. Preferably faster. That's pretty damned fast. It's pretty damned scary. But it is a hell of a lot of fun. So, how do you deal with a fear of speed? I guess the age-old answer to dealing with any kind of fear is, "You face it."

To do mounted archery at speed, without fear, you need to be able to do three things: Shoot well from the ground first, ride well, and then shoot well from a horse you trust—a horse going very fast. And then you have to let the universe right itself, which is when all of those elements finally come together and you are riding and shooting like a true warrior — fierce and unafraid. 

I had experience with shooting from the ground, but hadn't done it in over 30 years. To my surprise, that skill came back quicker than I thought it would. The riding well part took a lot longer, and is still a work in progress. I hadn't ridden in about fifteen years, so getting back into that has taken a long time for muscles to readjust, balance to be regained, and confidence to be rebuilt.

My first attempts at mounted archery were done at the walk. I had no quiver (still don't) and could only hold two arrows in my bow hand. I was lucky if the arrow got even close to the hay bale target. At about the time I was brave enough to try it at the trot, my mare pulled a check ligament and was off for a whole summer. No more mounted archery. No riding at all for five months. So this summer it was like starting over. Yes, I had kept up the ground archery, but when Delight was ready to ride again I had to keep things slow so as not to stress her leg out too soon. We did a lot of archery at the walk. The number of arrows I could hold in my bow hand went up to three. After a few months I could get three shots off at the trot, and actually hit the targets.

Then I asked for the canter, and all hell broke loose.

Delight has had a long-standing issue with canter. So when I asked for it on the archery lane, she bolted. Big time. Fortunately, I had always made her halt at the end of the lane, so she never took off and ran away with me, she just flew down the lane at 100 mph and then came to a screeching halt at the end. Very unnerving, and impossible to shoot from, but at least I didn't fall off. My adrenaline level was probably spiking off the chart. Good thing I have no history of heart attacks in my family, or the first time Delight rocketed down the lane at 13 seconds, I would have had one.

This is where conquering my fear helped Delight conquer hers. We did a lot of pacing on the lane to get both her and me in the groove. That groove is still a bit wonky, we still do a lot of pacing work, but Delight is improving. She still has her off days, when she jumps into canter unasked. But since I no longer freak out, she doesn't either. Her canters have been steady at about 14 seconds or a bit faster, which is perfect for me. As for shooting at that speed...well, let's just say my universe has yet to right itself. Shooting at a fast canter is hard, I blunder around trying to get the arrow nocked, and I mostly miss the targets. But I keep trying.

And that is what I mean by letting the universe right itself. I have had to learn all of these elements separately, and then try and fit them together as my skill level slowly improves, and I get braver. I know it will work out eventually. It is part of the learning process. It can be frustrating, as I watch women thirty or forty years younger than me jump on a horse, fly down the lane, and shoot like pros practically from the get-go. They start out fearless. But I remind myself that I am lucky just to be able to do what I can, and I know I will get better and better as time goes on. I know my horse will get better and better, because she has already shown that she can improve. We will eventually be a competitive team, which is the end goal. Not on any international level, but on a level that I thought impossible three years ago, when I first saw someone doing mounted archery, and at the time, didn't even own a horse. 

So yes, my mounted archery universe will eventually right itself. I will shoot at a fast canter and actually hit the targets. My horse will be trustworthy.

I will be fierce and unafraid.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Beach, The Wildfire, and A Progress Report

It's been an interesting month. And in one case, a lot more interesting than I like. But first, the fun bit.

Along with Rose, Bobbie, Cindy, and Alaina from the Bar W, Robert and I took the horses to the beach for a day. After about a two and a half hour drive south, we ended up at a place along the dunes just above Crescent City, CA. It is a great place to ride, as all the trails are mostly sand or soft dirt, so Apollo, who is very tender footed, had no problems at all. Delight did her usual "I need to be first" thing, and the others went along with that for most of the morning, just to let her get it out of her system. We got to the beach and all the horses kinda did a stop and stare, but no one lost their brain. I was thinking at the time, how does a horse comprehend the ocean? You can't tell them it's just water rushing in and out. I suspect to them it looks like water trying to catch them and pull them into the depths. Also, the water foaming at the edge hisses like a snake. So why in the world would they want to go anywhere near it? But they do. After about fifteen minutes of slowly introducing her to the water, Delight did walk in the tide. Not deep, as I didn't want this first experience to frighten her, but just so the water was over her pasterns. Apollo also, after a bit of introductory work, walked in the water.



All of us rode down the beach until we found the paved road back to where we had left the trailers. We got off, and walked that short distance, broke for lunch, then saddled up again for an afternoon ride before heading home. During that ride, I kept Delight behind Apollo to teach her that she can't always be first. On the morning ride, at one point, we got behind Alaina on Harmony and Delight got way to close to Harmony's rear end, and Harmony kicked out...twice. So I put Delight behind Apollo because I knew he wouldn't kick her, even if she deserved it. We had a nice ride through the pine forests and ended up on a bluff where there is an Indian cemetery. That was our turnaround point. Delight did fine behind Apollo and I was able to ride with a lose rein most of the way, which was a breakthrough.

We got back to the trailers a little after five o'clock, loaded up and drove home, stopping at the Dairy Queen in Cave Junction, OR for ice cream. Got home after dark, tired but happy to have been with friends for a fun day of riding.

Oh, and once again, Robert had the camera, so didn't end up in any of the pictures we took. Bobby did get some good ones of him, though, so at least he has proof that he was really there.






Within a week things weren't so fun. In fact, they were downright scary!

There was a lightning storm, with no rain. Lightning strikes started dozens of fires all around our area. Many small fires combined to make several really big ones. The one they ended up calling the Brimstone Fire, was only about five or six miles from our house and burning out of control. As the smoke got worse, and the news got grimmer, we decided not to wait for an evacuation notice from the forestry, and moved boxes of valuables to my Mom's, put all the antique furniture in our storage unit, and had the horse trailer all set up and ready to go. We even put boxes of spare clothes in each truck, just inc case the worst should happen. In the meantime, the smoke got really bad, and ash was falling on our house. Robert took two days off from work, as he didn't want to be hundreds of miles away if I got the notice we had to leave. We lived with this stress for over three weeks, not riding for days because the smoke was so bad, and people in town were going around wearing surgical masks.







The horses, trying to figure out where the smoke is coming from, even though this was taken on a day when the smoke wasn't quite as bad. The fly masks also kept the ashes out of their eyes and ears.



Then the fire fighting coordinators, Sheriff's Dept., and the public health services held a community meeting to explain what was happening, how long it was going to last, and what we could do. The Brimstone fire was only about 15% contained, but holding. We talked to the man in charge of that one, and he assured us that the fire would not be a danger to our place, and that if any sparks jumped the fire line, there were hundreds of firefighters up there, who would attack anything within moments. At that point we felt comfortable about bringing some of our things back to the house.

But the other fires, in areas barely accessible to the fire fighters, burn on. Smoke is still a problem, on some days so bad we don't ride, and do indoor projects instead. People in town are still wearing surgical masks. And at the meeting, the fire officials told everyone that this was going to be the situation all summer. That the bigger fires wouldn't be burned out until the first rains in the fall. So, this is our summer of smoke, but at least we didn't lose our house, and so far, no one else has either. Those firefighters are real heroes!

Lastly is a short progress report on Delight's canter issue. It's getting better and better. With the work Rose is doing with us on the longe line, and the ground work in side-reins that I do with her at home, Delight is learning to canter in balance and not bolt. Proof of that was shown last Saturday when we went to Darran and Roberta's for some mounted archery. Delight gave me solid, controlled 14 second canters at 90 meters, which is the slowest you can go without being penalized. She didn't bolt, didn't get wound up, and always stopped at the end of the lane. If some of the canters weren't ones I had asked for (I wanted trot), I let her take them, so long as she stayed sane. She did. However, I am getting braver, and I am not freaking out that she is going fast. I think that is a big factor in why she is keeping her head...it's because I am keeping mine as well. Last night I did discover that she likes cantering the straight line of the archery lane much better than she does the 15 meter circle in our small arena area. When asked to do that, I got laid back ears, flat head, and stink eye. I know working a circle is harder for her, but she's just going to have to accept that she can't always run the straight and narrow. She also has to work that circle!

So that's it. A dip in the ocean, a trial by fire, and an improvement in Delight's canter. But between you and me, I could have done without the trial by fire, and I'm getting really tired of smoke.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Change of Plans

There are times when you have to make decisions about your progress, or lack thereof, which cause plans you had set in motion to be cancelled. That's the situation I was in with Delight, and the prospect of eight days at Bow Camp, an intense mounted archery clinic. A regime, I decided, for which neither she, nor I, were prepared.

The issue is speed. Uncontrolled speed. Asked to canter, she bolted down the lane at Darran and Roberta's. She bolted down the lane at our place. After she did that, I couldn't even get her to trot the lane without bolting back into the canter. It was pretty much a mess, all stemming from the on-going issue I have had with Delight and the canter from the get-go. To say I was frustrated is a mild understatement. I decided to have a serious talk with Rose about it, and find out why, after all this time, nothing seemed to be working.

Rose decided to put both me and Delight back on the longe line. Delight would be wearing side-reins, on the loosest setting, to help her understand how to stay round, even with a rider. I was given the opportunity to concentrate on my balance without worrying about steering or speed control. We have had two such hour-long sessions, and I can already tell the difference, both in myself and in Delight. When I said as much to Rose, she just smiled and said, "That is why the Spanish Riding School makes riders do this for at least a year." Well, I thought, if it's good enough for them, then it sure is good enough for me and my mare.

For the time being, this would be the only place Delight would be asked to canter with me on her. At home, I work her on the longe line, in side reins adjusted a little tighter (nothing even close to below the vertical, however), and we practice walk, trot, canter transitions, keeping everything calm. I have also discovered that adjusting my tone of voice has made a difference in how she responds. Not that I was yelling or shouting at her before, but in watching Rose longe Delight, I noticed she used a very soft, low voice to ask for the transitions, and that those transitions got slowly more relaxed. I'm no dummy. Even though I had always thought my tone of voice was non-threatening, it apparently wasn't coming off that way to Delight. By using a lower tone of voice, both on the ground and under saddle, to ask for transitions, they have become much smoother.

After that first session, I kept Delight off the archery lane for two weeks, hoping the hiatus would wipe the bolting experience from her memory banks, and we could at least trot the lane without problems. That proved to be successful. She can now walk and trot the lane relaxed, and I can still practice shooting from horseback.

Also, after that first session at the Bar W with the new, intense, approach, I asked Rose if the mounted archery was going to interfere with what we were trying to do. She hesitated a moment, I suspect because she didn't want to disappoint me, but her recommendation was to keep Delight at no faster than the trot down the lane until we could get her canter problem solved.  I thought about that for two days. Did I want to trot all the way through Bow Camp? Did I want to get there, attempt to canter, and have Delight bolt in front of all those professional mounted archers? Could I even shoot off of her when she ran that fast? Did I want to put myself in the position of going to Bow Camp, and within two or three days wishing I had stayed home, because my mare and I were having so hard a time? The answer to all of the above was, no. So with regret, I cancelled our Bow Camp reservations, since Robert wouldn't go without me, and he totally understood my reasons for cancelling.

It was a hard decision to make, as I was really looking forward to the opportunity to learn from so many expert archers, some coming from as far away as Australia and Japan. There were many riders with whom I interact on the internet, and was looking forward to meeting them in person. I was looking forward to the comradarie that such a camp would create. But in my heart-of-hearts, I knew it just wasn't the right time. I had to think of my mare, and how it would adversely affect her over the long term.

My goal is to have both me and Delight, as a team, cantering down that lane under control, and both of us enjoying the thrill of shooting, so that next year we can go to Bow Camp and be proud of what we can do, and of what we will be capable of learning. In the meantime, we keep riding that lane, and even if the fastest we go is a trot, it's still fun, and better than not riding that lane at all.



Flying down the lane so fast, even the cameraman (Robert) could barely keep up with us. I don't mind speed, but it has to be under control. On this run, we weren't...at all. It was this last canter run, and my talk with Rose, that changed my mind about bow camp.