Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Random Happenings

Crazy Chai showing off in the grass
Tiki trees a squirrel
Java pounces on his leash
Young buck ruminates in the front yard
Mercy eats some tall grass by the lake

Mercy's gear at the gaming show (more on this later!)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Stills: Wings

Technically, yet to fly....I had to take that pic at a really weird angle, so it's blurry, oh well. I know there are at least three, maybe four chicks!

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's Coming Together

Mercy and I are finally starting to click. As you should know by now, loping wasn't coming easy for either of us. Mercy was rushed and nervous, while I, knowing her bucking history, want to take things slow so I have a little more control of most situations. Over the past two weeks I have hauled out to a friend's arena to conquer our loping issues. I didn't expect perfection. I just want a nice, easy-going, controlled, loose reined lope. Preferably on the correct lead.

After pondering many of Mugwump's ideas on starting colts, I felt more prepared to deal with Mercy. And myself. I had skipped over the initial walk/trot/canter on a loose rein, and without steering; letting the horse get comfortable carrying and balancing you without asking much of him/her for the first ride. Knowing Mercy was a bucker, I felt more at ease at a walk or trot. Plus I didn't have a round pen or arena. Yeah, I had an enclosed pasture, but with her tripping tendencies and random trees and poles (from the pole barn) I did not feel safe just hanging on.

Well, last Thursday I had had enough with excuses. I needed to lope Mercy. My friend Addi stopped by my house with her trailer and we loaded Mercy up. This was only her second time in a new trailer with a horse she had only met a time or two. I was surprised when she jumped in and remained settled. Neat! When we got to the arena, we tacked up and headed in. We spent a lot of time working on circles and bending, as well as yielding her shoulder and ribs.

When it was time to lope, Addi moved her horse into the middle of the arena so I could use as much space as was necessary. When I asked Mercy for her right lead (her worst) she picked it up immediately! Of course it was at a million miles an hour. I took hold of the reins and released the pressure when she slowed down to a nice lope. I wasn't prepared to let her blast off loose reined in this arena. The rails are 10" rusty steel beams and it only takes one time hitting those with your knee before you know how to avoid them! *blush*

We loped many laps until she offered to trot, at which point I encouraged her to keep going. We did a few more laps and when I asked her to stop, it took only one stride to do so. Sweet! Of course she wasn't breathing hard at all, but I, however, had been holding my breath (dang it!!!), so I had to air up. After watching Addi work with her horse, I jumped back on the rail and asked Mercy for a lope to the left. She got that one immediately and slowed to a nice lope much quicker than going to the right. At that point I worked on having her pick up her shoulder, as it was leaning in so much I thought we would fall over. She caught on quickly and it only took a little rein pressure to keep her up when I asked. After we stopped, we called it a day and headed home.

Then, on Tuesday, I loaded both Mercy and Starlett up to head back out to the arena. This was another gigantic achievement for us. This was the first time I have ever loaded both horses up and hauled them out by myself! And we had no issues what so ever! Tee hee. When I got there, my friend Kay took Star and worked her while I rode Mercy. We did the exact same routine as the time before. It took a few tries for Mercy to get the right lead, but once she got it, she got it.

After such a good couple of rides at the arena, I decided yesterday was the day to try our routine at home. I saddled up both horses, Mercy in her reining saddle and Star in her English saddle, and headed to the barn. I tied Star up so she could 'work it out' while I rode Mercy. I could tell Mercy was really responsive right when I got on because she was super sensitive to my leg, bending right around with very little pressure. She was following her nose, finally!

I started out just walking in the circle I decided I wanted to follow for the whole workout. Once we got a few hoof marks in the ground to designate my circle, we picked up a trot. She moved out quite quickly, which I didn't discourage. I blocked her only when she tried to move up into a lope. We weren't ready and that's not what I had asked for. We trotted this circle for a good 25 minutes before she 'asked' to slow down. I sped her up, then asked her to slow to a nice jog, in which she offered collection. That's where we stopped and aired up. Once I switched direction on my circle, she not once tried to lope, only trotted out. Good deal.

I switched directions again and asked for a lope (while most likely holding my breath... rgggh) to the right. She missed the first lead so we came back to the walk and tried again. I used a little more leg to move her hips over and once I asked her to lope, she got it. I let her lope out as fast as she wanted to, I just sat deep in the saddle and steered her back on course with our circle if she strayed. After a few laps, we were on a completely loose rein and she was loping like a not so green horse. We broke to a trot and I asked her again to lope off. This time she got it. It was finally coming together.

When we switched to the left, she loped off on the correct lead. She needed a little more direction to keep her on our circle, but she kept a nice rhythm and speed the entire time. When I asked her to stop she planted her butt and I jumped off and loosened her cinch. What a thrill! We were finally understanding each other. That was the best ride I have EVER had on Mercy since I have owned her. I tried to stay off her face and out of her way as much as I could, and she seemed to understand what my cues meant. I can't wait to put it to use at our gaming shows this year. And hey, maybe we will make a reining show this year, lol!

(btw, Star had calmed down by the time we got back to her. For a crazy, old, stallion mare, she did great tied up while I rode. I need to do that more often!)

Skywatch Friday No. 50

While I was waiting for my 4H kids to start working their horses last week at the Enumclaw Expo Center, I took this shot, hoping for a real break in the clouds.

See more beautiful pictures like this one from all across the world at Skywatch Friday!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Darlings

This evening we had a surprise guest stop by...

...and help eat our herb garden...

...and whatever else she could before we shooed her away.

*Sigh* Oh well. Probably needed a pruning anyway.

On our last trail ride, TrailRidinRN and I came across a nest of Golden Eagle chicks! One of the parents was feeding them, so they were really noisy and animated in the nest. I tried to get a good pic of them, but by the time Mercy would stand still they were quiet again. The nest is in the top left corner:
Zoomed in:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Stills: Tri-color

I love these plants! They never fail to change colors all throughout the year.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bucks and Gains

Last Sunday was Mercy and my second gaming show. The morning was moving slowly from the start. I got up around 6:30AM and was ready to leave by 7:00, but we didn't even go out to the barn to get Mercy until 7:45. She loaded fairly well and we were on our way. I drove the trailer down the main highway to the saddle club putting on the show. What I didn't realize is that they were doing road work and instead of leaving signs up warning drivers about the 5-6" drops they ground out of the pavement up ahead, we simple fell into them without notice or time to slow down on our way down the road. Thanks pavers, my already not-so-easy-to-keep-happy-while-trailering horse is now even more nervous, thanks....

Anyway, we get to the show and pull in under a giant tree. That would have come in handy if the sun had ever broke, which honestly I am glad it never did. Gaming in extreme heat is not fun or me or my horses. I unload Mercy and tie her up, then head over to the show office to sign up. Once again, the morning is crawling along. The office was running really slow and it took quite a while to get out. By the time I left, the first event was set up and the riders were finishing their warm-ups. I quickly tacked up Mercy and headed over to the now abandoned warm-up arena.

She was ready to go and responsive. I usually trot quite a bit and don't bother loping her. This day she was having a little trouble circling to the right, which is not unusual for her. I continued to circle her until she loosened up a little and became more responsive. Then I turned her to the left and loped her out with ease. Her willingness led me to believe she was ready to join the others.

I rode her over into the arena and found a spot to relax until our turn. Mercy and I are only qualified to ride in the 'D' class, so we had to wait until 'C' was over with for keyhole. When our number was called I pointed her out and asked her to trot a circle. We trotted to the left and then I pointed her straight. She suddenly decided, as we passed through the timers, that it was more fun hanging out with friends than working or running. So, she picked up a lope on the left lead (the one she usually bucks on) and started to buck a little more than she even has with me before! Thank goodness a great 'arena mom' was yelling at me to sit which broke my disbelief that this was happening. I needed to act, not daydream!

Once I had control again, we backed and backed until she relaxed her head and broke at the poll. I wanted to finish the run, but I couldn't remember if I had gone through the timers. Once I got my answer I continued down and back, finishing keyhole. After a run I usually reward my horses by heading back to the trailer for a snack. Nope. Not this time. I took her straight to the warm-up and worked her butt. We did serpentine, transitions, lots of circles to the left, and leg yields. Anything to keep her busy. Once she offered a super smooth 'whoa,' I jumped off and walked her back to the trailer.

Figure 8 was next. I decided not to warm up too much because we were going to trot this run. I also didn't let her just hang out while waiting. I kept her moving around, zigzagging around horses and stopping at random. Our number was called and we headed out. I circled her twice this time and trotted her out. She kept trying to pop up into a lope, but I kept her calm and trotted the course, got off, and returned to the trailer.

From then on, things went much better. Cal stake was quick because it's not only a down and back type event, but I also let Mercy lope. She was finally figuring it out! Flags was next and my grandma had come out with my dad to watch us. Flags is easy when your horse is use to them, but I have not had to experience riding a horse that still needed direct reining while carrying a flag. Mercy did great! I grabbed the first flag with my right hand and bunched the reins in my left hand. She got a little confused when she tried to cross the course, but once she figured out this wasn't Figure 8, we made some good time.

Barrels was going to be our last event for the day. I was getting a little sore and didn't want to wait around at the end of the day to pay up, with everyone else. This event takes a long time because you can only have one person go at a time, instead of running two events at time. We had a long wait before my turn, so I unsaddled Mercy and let her graze under the tree while we all watched the other riders. Some mischievous boys came along at some point and were playing on the tree, throwing stuff and yelling off war chants. Or something...

I got Mercy saddled up and headed out. I wasn't expecting much spectacular, so we quickly warmed up and headed out. When it was our turn, I let her loose. She loped out like pro. I don't know on which lead, but when we got to the first barrel she rounded it on the correct lead. After making it around we headed to the next one. She momentarily got confused and tried to go around the wrong side, but she was easy to correct and we continued on. Over to the third barrel and we were loping home! Loping! Woot!

She did very well and with the help of the arena moms, we got a great time for our first barrel run ever! Here is the break down of our times:

Keyhole- 31.970
Figure 8- 25.069
Cal Stake- 14.559
Flags- 19.328
Barrels- 23.847

To see how we have (or have not, lol!) progressed, look back a few posts to find our previous times. We had a break this weekend and I will be not going this coming weekend, but expect us back out there on the 27th or 28th! Can't wait to do it again! ;)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Catching up...again

Wow, what a week! It started out with me washing and waxing the trailer. This only happens once a year and since we don’t have a cover for it, of any kind, I try my best to get it looking real good during that time. Of course, Chai helped for a while…

until she found a better spot to sleep… *sigh*

I am unable to remove the mats at this time (the previous owner glued them down when they replaced the floor right before we bought it) so I crawled under the trailer and checked them that way. It took two days, but I got the trailer washed and waxed. Of course it took another day or two to replace the tack! I didn’t want to use it! Tee Hee!

Mercy, Star, and I went on some pretty nice trail rides this past week too. On our first ride, I rode Star and ponied Mercy. Star was moving right out and Mercy was enjoying the opportunity to eat everything along the trail. We headed over to the lake and once again there was a couple fishing, so we detoured around them. After stopping for a quick snack, we continued on our way. We started home after a while and stopped by the creek. Star reluctantly went in, while Mercy literally dove in! She went right for the deepest part of the creek and I thought she was going to roll, but I think Star’s pawing distracted her…and then she forgot. She splashed around for a while until she put her head into the water too deep.

On one of the freakin’ HOT days we had this past week, my sister, Kimberly, helped me bathe the horses. I had bought Mercy a new Medicated shampoo for her itchies… I still don’t know what’s causing this, neither does the vet. I’m thinking fir tar, bug bites, or sweat. Until I figure it out, I will continue to do my best to help relieve Mercy of her aggravating and destructive itchies.

Star's obligatory "You can't get my mane wet, even from the other side!!!" I won...

Java got a bath too… and then found a nice resting spot…

Then I rode Mercy a ponied Star the next day. Mercy walks so fast that Star basically trots the whole time. It’s good for her. I thought she would try eating like Mercy does when she’s ponied, but she didn’t. What a good girl! Once again, we did a few looper trails, but it was so hot already at 10:30AM, so I pointed them back home. We stopped by the creek for a quick drink, them not me, and this time Star dove in! That’s pretty brave for her. She will never refuse to go into water, but she doesn’t love it. I was quite impressed.

The next evening, I saddled up Mercy and practiced some barrel racing on my front pasture. I didn’t work her hard or fast because 1) she’s not ready 2) the ground is rocky and 3) I needed to work on her impatience issues. The camera wasn’t set on the correct setting so ya... I even crawled on Star bareback for old time’s sake... not a good idea. She is very high withered and I had flashbacks about why I didn't win many bareback classes in 4H!

Mercy and I went to our second gaming show yesterday. We had one big bad moment and a couple of really big good moments. I will update you all on that later! ;)