Friday, April 29, 2011

Clicking our way to happy horse

Finally was able to start clicking with Pippi last night. My goal was to make her understand that the "click" meant treat, and that she connected her behavior to the reward. We achieved that I think.

I started out having her put on muzzle on her jolly ball. I knew she would touch it if I held it, and she did. I clicked and we were up and running. I tried to give her time to think about what just happened, but she just about immediatly looked for the jolly ball. At one point I placed the ball all the way on the ground and she bent down to muzzle it, click and treat.

Knowing this will be a helpful way to to train her is great, but you know what it is just plain FUN!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Digger - from Welfare to Royal life!

Digger, the horse who grew up joins the Army. Digger, a six-year-old Clydesdale from a Scottish equine rescue centre, has been offered a top job as a drum horse in the Queen’s Household Cavalry. The gelding, who stands 19 hands high at the withers (76 inches), is one of the tallest horses in Britain.
As a youngster, Digger’s joints struggled to cope with his rapid growth, and he came to the World Horse Welfare charity's centre in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, two years ago requiring surgery and months of rehabilitation.
Now, because of his great height and his gentle nature, he has been chosen to train as a potential drum horse by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. If he makes the grade he will carry a rider and two solid silver drums and lead the parades on state and ceremonial occasions.
Eileen Gillen, centre manager at World Horse Welfare's Belwade Farm in Aboyne, has cared for Digger since he arrived in January 2008. She described him as the biggest animal the international horse charity had ever cared for.
She said: "When Digger first arrived I was shocked as I had never seen a horse so big, but he epitomises the term gentle giant. His enormous size and the fact that he was only young and still growing so rapidly were causing problems with the joints in both his hind legs — a condition called osteochondrosis.
"It took surgery at the Royal Dick Veterinary Hospital in Edinburgh and many months of rehabilitation before he was well enough to start work.
"I always had high hopes for him but never in my wildest dreams did I think he'd have a Royal calling.
"The requirements for the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment are that they must be a Clydesdale-type and a striking, eye-catching colour, which his roan coat truly is. They also like the hairy, feathered legs, that stand out." Digger left his Aberdeenshire home yesterday, travelling south in an extra large horse box for a two year training programme with the Army.

Miss Gillen said: ""He is a fantastic example of the work that World Horse Welfare does to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome horses. Our aim is to rehome all of the horses that we take in, so to find Digger a home with the Household Cavalry really is a perfect ending."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Click Click - Who's there? Trained horse. Trained Horse Who? Pippi!

What a super lame joke. Seriously, if my jokes are that bad I should not even post them.

I have decided to start Clicker Training with Pippi. Years ago I had a great little dog that I trained to do amazing feats with the help of clicker training. So I started thinking about that, and since they had mentioned that at a clinic I went to, and a came across a great blog about it; why not? I am lucky enough to have a working knowledge of it, with dogs, so I am going to do it.
Went to pet store, bought two dog clickers, probably the same thing, right? And tonight we are getting started. I was at the barn yesterday, and had trouble communicating my wishes to Pippi. I could tell she was trying to get it, but I was not clear enough. Wish us luck.

Here is a link to the great blog I found about it:

Thursday, April 21, 2011


I was told today that another Adult Newbie Rider was going to compete at our local show next month after seeing me doing it this month. That sure means a lot. Sometimes the really experienced riders can be a bit intimidating, so I totally understand the hesitation to undertake competing.
Not even sure that I am at the level myself, where I really should be entering any show arena, but why not?

So you go, Michael, Go with your bad self! :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

(part 2) Show Time - Say what? Continued

So I signed us up for classes while Daughter tacked up Pippi. There were quite a few horses around, and a lot of familiar faces.
I removed my sons sweatpants; it was the only thing I could think of that would fit over my breeches. I changed into my boots, and show shirt, and show jacket, so now I looked the part of a seasoned equestrian. "Fake it 'till you make it" is my mantra.
After the "in hand classes,'' of which there were few, Daughter schooled Pippi, and then it was my turn. Pippi seemed calm, and not too bothered by the new surroundings. She became a bit jumpy near one jump, and hopped a bit, which for some reason just calmed me down. Her reaction to "arena ghosts" gave me something to deal with, so my nerves were gone. (I have never "dealt" with it before, so it was a new experience.)

I entered the arena again for my class.
At the shows last year, the announcers would always say "Judge, that is your class. You are now being judged at the walk." So I expected to hear that, so I would know the class had started. Of course, I had only heard that from the sideline, but was just so sure that is how it would go. I was riding along at a walk, when Karen spotted me as she sat close to the arena. She had seen Pippi, and assumed Daughter was competing she later told me, her jaw dropped and she exclaimed "oh my God," which made me laugh. Right then the announcer says "Trot, trot you horses." What? Huh? The class has started? Oh Crap!!
Pippi went into a nice trot with hardly a cue from me, and I watched my diagonals. I was off, bounced twice, and found my rhythm. Head up, pleasing expression, slight smile, check me out! yes!!!
 "I am a GREAT rider, Riding a GREAT horse," I say to myself over and over.

"Walk, walk your horses." Nice transition, no more than two strides.
"Halt, Halt your horses." Can do!
"Reverse, and continue at a walk." Nice tight turn, check reins, okay.
"Trot, Trot your horses." No Worries, I got this!

We are now heading down the long side of the arena, and I am totally feeling great. And that is when it happened: SCREAACH< SCRATCH< WHINE< SCRATCH< Screeeeeeeech! SCURRY!
The speaker which was at this point right next to me, let out a loud screeching, popping, scratching sound for about 5 seconds. Pippi did not like it. Not at all. She hopped, small rearing hops, and was clearly agitated. I steered her toward the center a yard or two, away from the speaker, and any horse that may be near, sent her forward, and pointed her right toward the nearest Standard. (the fences had been removed to facilitate the flat class) She moved forward, still hopping, and spotted the Standard, which then commanded her attention. It is not as though she would want to walk into it. I steered her around it, all the while at the Trot, and we were off. And I thought; "I DID IT!" No matter what happened the rest of they day, I had in my mind made it. No Ribbon would match the pride I felt in having handled that moment like I did. I knew what I was doing, I knew how to get her attention back, and we were okay. Pippi and I had WON!

"Walk, Walk your Horses." Transitioned nicely, but could have been shorter.
"Halt, halt your Horses."  Okay. No problem, Pippi even squared up.
"Back up Five steps." Now I was a  little nervous about that, Pippi tends to hate it, but she complied.
"Line up in the center of the ring." Wow, done already?

The horse next to me was quite agitated, and Pippi picked up the agitation virus right away. She  was hard to keep standing, but the judge came over and told me that I was on the wrong diagonal once. Thank you I said, and smiled. I figured she was letting me know why I placed last. I counted the horses, and there were six in the class. They were announcing the placings, as Pippi was being bumped a bit by the agitated horse, I decided to leave the arena quickly. All of a sudden I heard my name. What? They had only said a couple of names, what? I exited and Daughter was smiling from ear to ear; "You got third Mom. Third!" My friends were clapping, and I was astounded! THIRD? YAY! Hi Fives all around!
Here is a Picture of us waiting for the placings: (agitated horse is off camera)

That was the "under saddle" class, I also placed Third in the "equitation" class later that morning.

Since this was my first show, I was more than pleased and proud of myself. Mostly because I felt comfortable, and I think all the theory and thinking about what one should do, and could do, paid off. I have read a lot, watched a lot of lessons, and paid attention to what other riders do right, and wrong, and I handled the class well. Ray, a seasoned rider, told me he was proud of me for the way I handled Pippi's freak out, he stated "you did that just right." It was my favorite part of the day.

I hung my ribbons in the kitchen nook. Not done looking at them yet.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Show time - say what?

This winter, after deciding to give up my part time (and unpaid) job as a Horse Show Volunteer after two seasons, I made the goal of actually competing myself. It is our third season with Pippi, and Pippi's third season competing, and I optimistically decided that I should compete with her as well.
For the last two years, I have occasionally sat in the saddle, and allowed Pippi to carry me around the arena willy nilly. That was really the extent of my riding capabilities. I knew a lot about taking care of a horse, but next to nothing about how to really ride one. Luckily for me there is a really great rider, in my opinion, living in our house; my daughter. So, I set the goal, and two months ago started to ride seriously (or at least trying.)

Cut to April 17th, 2011: Woke early to go feed Pippi, and waited there for our friends to come with Truck and Trailer to pick us up. They ended up coming a few minutes late, which gave me time to think how great it would be if they overslept and we were unable to go. No such luck!
The ride to the show was about 45 minutes, long enough to really question ones sanity and come up with few answers. I was determined however, and when we arrived I signed up for two classes; walk/trot equitation and walk/trot under saddle. Yeah - I am not insane enough to try anything more than that.
I had two goals: 1) stay in the saddle until it was time to dismount
                         2) project that I was a GREAT rider riding the BEST horse anyone has ever seen.

More to come......

Friday, April 15, 2011

Show Time!

This winter I set my goal, and it seemed so simple back then: participate in the horse show!

This weekend is it. And I can't believe how nervous I am. My goal is to participate, not to get a ribbon or anything. The show is in an indoor arena, with very low (less than 2 ft) fencing, and with people milling about right by the fences. Pippi has never been there, so we are unsure as to how she will like it.
She has a history of becoming "locked" at shows, but that was before she spent as much time outdoors as she does now. So due to the move to the new barn, last fall, she has become much more accustomed to other horses and the great big world out there. I think she will do better due to that, and the fact that this is her third season competing, so she is a year older and wiser. (right?)

Anyway; I plan on doing the Adult Walk/Trot flat classes, and then perhaps later in the season trying the Hunter Hack class. No reason to push myself too far right off. Daughter will compete in the 2ft, and the 2ft6 classes later in the day. So it is important to keep Pippi's comfort in mind, and keep her rested for the afternoon. My classes will just serve as a nice warm up essentially.

But wowser...........I am SO nervous. Kind of wish we were going somewhere with only strangers, but instead we are going to a club that I helped start and  run last year. So we will know everyone! Which has its good point, it will be nice to see friendly faces, but also it's downside; I don't want helpful hints while I compete. It will be hard enough to keep myself calm, and collected, without people yelling "helpful" things at me. I have a trainer, my daughter, and will only take cues from her. I asked her to stand away from the fence, and shake her head if I am on the wrong diagonal, but to otherwise leave me alone. Feel like this first time out I just need to get used to the whole thing you know?

I am forty years old,  and have been riding and trying for the last few months. Previous to that I was just a passenger, and Pippi mostly walked and did what she wanted with me. I was just along for the ride. Now I am learning to sit right, post and steer. It is a lot to take in, a lot to maneuver my body correctly, but I am getting there.

Wish me Luck!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Frustrated by the Frailty of Humans

Lately I have increasingly become frustrated by human beings, maybe it comes from being around horses so much? The complications that humans create for themselves are mind boggling to me, and I am constantly annoyed by the copouts that people engage in.

Life is hard, and closing your eyes from problems will only create issues to crop up again. Is it just me or is it hard to find people that are truly seeing their lives and their choices for what it truly is? Do most people drive through their lives with blinders keeping them from seeing their own reality?

And I am sick of the Bravado talk. People say all the things they think make them look good, with no intention of actually making the actions that are necessary. Maybe if I put blinders on too, things would simpler to me.

Done Bitchin' for now.

Monday, April 11, 2011

2011 Equine Affaire

We, daughter and I, had the opportunity to go to Equine Affaire this last weekend. She had been before, but it as my first time, and the first time for both of us to see Pfizer Fantasia. What a wonderful day.
Seeing all the Breeds was a thrill, and just being surrounded by horses and people celebrating the horse was amazing. The booths where filled with all kinds of great buys, and we saw items we never would have seen other places. Daughter ordered a sweatshirt from "Sophisticated Equestrian Expressions," who is making her a purple one with lime green embroidery and mailing it to us.What service Their designs were so sleek and pretty, and the embroidery so well done !

We also met "Othello."

 I spoke to a representative of the "Friesans of Majesty" Stables, and started dreaming right away about what a great horse Pippi would have with Othello as her BabyDaddy. They do Crossbreed, and so I was off......
 I googled, and kept dreaming:
So All I need now is $1500, and the willingness to go through with it. What unbelievable horses. Just their presence and quite strength blew me away.

I will post pics soon from the Fantasia Show.

Suffice it to say: if you have wondered about going..........GO!!!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dotty - the heroine

You can read all about Dotty, and how she saved her sheep friend from a vicious dog attack, by clicking on the post name. Amazing story

Animals are feeling, caring creatures. Humans tend to like to think of ourselves as quite superior, but stories like these should prove to us that the animals we share the planet with have their own emotional lives and ties with each other and us.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Trail riding fool

I am a trail riding fool, and loving it.
A fellow boarder allowed me to use her Giant warmblood, seems giant for a someone used to a 15.2 hand mare, on a trail ride. There were three of us, and two of us were good riders, I was the third one.
 Pippi is a careful horse, who watches out for her and her riders safety. There are good things about that, (i.e. she will not carry you off a cliff), and bad things about that (i.e. she could stop and refuse further movement due to a squirrel). Yesterdays trail horse was not a careful horse, and was described by his human as "obedient" and "fearless." All good things for an eventer, but potentially sketchy for a newbie like myself.

Now I really like this horse, he is sweet, calm and "wherever you point him he will go." Truer words have never been spoken. We rode around the arena for a while, until I was used to his swinging motion. Compared to Pippi, who takes small bumpy steps, he was like riding a sailboat. I tried out his trot, in case we did that, just so I would be prepared, and it felt great. So smooth.
Off we went. I was excited. Both ladies are great riders, and their horses great trail horses. I have never gone on a trail ride at the new barn, and was not prepared for the steep climbs or the sheer drops. Remember the part where this horse will go where you point him? Holy crap. When he started to trot up a very steep incline, it was all I could do to grab mane, and hang on. Forget the steering part! I was fortunate in that he chose the follow the lead horse, because we could have gone anywhere at that point. We did steer off course going up one hill, and that is when I realized that I better ride, 'cause this fella was gonna go anywhere. EEEK!
 The view from the top was great, and I was rather proud of having gotten there. But the thing is we were going to have to go back down again. Screwing up my courage............... actually I was not really worried, which kind of worries me now, what am I an IDIOT? I was enjoying myself immensely, really loving it. Down we went, and we did great, Giant and I. We got to a section with a fairly sharp decline with a small creek at the bottom, which we would have to traverse. Giant's human warned me that he would jump it, but we had jumped a ditch earlier, so it was fine with me. I was last in the pack. The horse in front of us went down, and we followed, until the other horse decided to sidestep. Giant leaped over the creek prematurely, and I lost my balance. Hanging on for dear life, and therefore not steering at all, Giant went straight forward into small trees and brush. Bounce bounce, lost stirrups, squeezing legs to stay on, grabbing handfulls of mane, I was able to straighten up, steer back onto trail, and come to an uneasy stop.
To some this may seem as a complete failure. I choose not to see it that way, because I stayed in the saddle ,dang it, and stopped after only a few strides and before a sharp drop into a ravine. And I loved it. Oh, it could easily have gone horribly awry, but it didn't, and I made it back to the barn on the back of Giant. Not sure Giant's human wants me to ride him again, but I would love to. Guess that's what makes me a crazy horsegal huh?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sharing is caring!

Having a horse is a luxury and a gift; a gift that I like to share with others. Not everyone can, or quite frankly, should have a horse. If cared for properly they take up a lot of your time, most of your money, and the work is often dirty, cold and hard. But the rewards are tremendous!
One of my most favorite things about having a horse, is to share her with others. Pippi loves kids, and they love her. A lot of people have dreamt of riding, and if Pippi and I can make that dream happen we are all about it.
Yesterday a college friend, and her 7 year old daughter, Chloe, came out to the barn to ride. They have met Pippi before, at shows that they have come to watch. Seeing Pippi at a show is a very different experience than what they saw yesterday. Where was the gleaming shining Pippi? In its place was a horse so filthy that she was no longer bay, but instead a dull brown. I has brushed her for almost and hour, and ingested an unbelievable amount of dust, yet she was still filthy. Pippi normally does not like to roll, but she must have found a new love of it, and decided to revel in it yesterday. It was way too cold for a wash, so I brushed and brushed. To little avail.
Well, Chloe is dreaming of having a horse and here was a bit of reality. Show clean takes work, and dedication, and your horse is not working with you on that.
They both  rode, and Pippi behaved wonderfully. Let's face it she loves all the petting, stroking and all the compliments. It was great.
But the best part of the day was when we were using the pick to clean out Pippi's hooves. When I lifted her rear right leg I told Chloe that Pippi would fart, which of course made the little girl giggle. A few seconds later, Pippi lifted her tail and let it rip. Chloe laughed and commented about how stinky it was. Another lesson; horses are big lovely beautiful intelligent stinky filthy creatures.