Friday, July 24, 2009


Since Star's been ill (some virus thing...) I have been creative about what to do with Mercy. On Tuesday, I took Mercy out on her second 'alone' trail ride. I once again let her pick the path and she ended up taking me to the creek trail. She REALLY wanted to go down the the creek on this trail, but the slopes down there are sudden and once she gets into the creek, the brush makes it hard to turn around. We finally broke onto the service rode where we met a couple with their beagle. We see them on the trail all the time, so it was a quick hello and then into the creek! Mercy wasn't as interested in the water as she usually is, so we headed on back... I didn't want to stress Star out too much and get her even more sick. Mercy wanted to move out quite fast, but she slowed when I asked.
Then on Wednesday I went over to my friend's place to ride. We had a blast! Again we worked on loping mainly and that alone has improved so much! I am able to get her loping to the left on a loose rein and to the right after a little shoulder control exercises. We ended the hot evening by setting up some ground poles (well, actually they were PVC poles which she usually used for pole bending practice) and jogged over those. The first time over she blew right over them, landing on every single one. I changed plans by backing her through and side passing instead, to increase her awareness of them. It seemed to work! The next time over she stepped over each one beautifully!
Staring at the weeds in the nice dust free sand:
Once we got home, we let the girls out back to enjoy the evening:

The next day, I rode Mercy at home. Before I could even get on Mercy, Star pulled back on her leadrope pretty hard. I have been tying her to the barn to stand while I ride and usually she moves around and frets for a little bit, but nothing bad. This day she had something up her booty. I should have tied her and then asked her to move around to feel the end of the lead like I usually do, but I have done this many times now...I thought we had something going. Thank goodness the bolt held. How I love lifelong pullbackers! >:( NOT! Once I saddled up, I started out just asking Mercy to collect at the walk and follow my reins, legs, and seat while turning either sharply or gradually. We did have one issue come up, which I have actually ignored until now. Mercy dives into our circle (only at home, of course) so I applied Mugwump's 'Follow your nose' lesson to our ride. When she cut in many feet, I would haul her around and back onto our path. It only took 3 times for her to get the point. From their I worked on her stop and haunch turns. Waiting for her to give to the pressure cues:
Resting after a nice collected jog:
I really didn't want to lope her at our place yesterday. It is just so rocky and her feet get really banged up if we ride too much. So I pulled out my XXX-soft rope. I have been exposing Mercy to the rope every now and then for quite a while. On Tuesday, I stood next to her, on her right side, and practiced throwing the rope away from us. She didn't flinch once. I even pulled out a cone and roped it. I then walked backwards, Mercy followed at my shoulder, and we dragged it toward us! She looked at me with a bored expression when we were done moving. So, when I was riding yesterday I grabbed my rope again. She, again, could care less. Sweet.

I walked her around while slapping the rope on my thigh to make sure I could steer, neck rein, and hold onto the rope (which is too long for my small hands. Do you know how long a real roper's rope is?). Once I knew I could drop the rope in an emergency, I lined Mercy up to face one of my barrels with a cone on it. I swung the rope over us and let it loose. I got the cone!!!!! I couldn't believe it! I practice, but I am not confident enough to actually hit it on the first swing, lol! I asked Mercy to move around so she could feel the taught rope hit her shoulders and nose. Then I asked her to back. We pulled the cone off the barrel and the rope slid off, just what I wanted it to do. btw, I never wrapped the rope on the horn, I just held it against my leg to simulate it. That's where we stopped for the evening. I wish I was more skilled with the rope because I truly believe roping could be Mercy's specialty. Of course, no pictures, but I won't forget next time.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mercy's First Ever 'Hair Cut'

Well, I've gone n done it again. I am not often very spontaneous, but on Wednesday I had had enough of Mercy's mane. I shaved a short bridle path (since her ears are so long I decided not to do the 'lay the ear back to mark how long to cut it' thing) and cleaned up her muzzle. I always have a hell of a time getting her bottom lip. It is just so sensitive. She has gotten really good at either sucking in her lips or pursing her lower lip and chin together so that I can not get the hairs in the groove created. *sigh* Oh well, I'm not showing her, yet...

She stood awesome for me to shave the bridle path. I knew she would, but you never really know how they will act once they feel the vibrations on their head. What a good girl! Next mane adventure- banding! ;)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Riding Galore!

Mercy really needs to be ridden daily so we can work out some issues. So far this week we have ridden everyday. My sister and I started off the week (Tuesday, lol!) by trailering the girls over to the Landsburg trails. My sister and I use to ride these trails when we (and Star) were younger. It was great to be back. We picked up some Subway for lunch and headed out. I grabbed my old saddle bags that attach to the back of the saddle. Star's saddle doesn't have any strings or D-rings, so it was Mercy's time to shine. I have not attached anything to the back of her saddle before, but she handled it like she had done it forever.

We hit the trail and not too soon after we left we heard an animal crashing through the woods up the hill in front of us. Mercy and Star stood and stared that way for a while, but it didn't take long to refocus. After an hour into our ride we stopped for our lunch. Once we were done, we loped up the hill to the next trail system. I was so proud that Mercy wasn't fazed by the large saddle bags banging on her sides as we made our way up the trail. What a good girl!

Then, on Wednesday, my sister and I headed out back on our trails for a quick ride to the lake. Mercy and I followed Star and Kimberly down the trail quiet and relaxed. This was great because Mercy really doesn't like to bring up the rear. Scary things follow her, I guess?!

Thursday morning we headed out again out back, but this time we did the 'big loop,' riding on the old train tracks and wandering back through the woods. Everything started out great. We got over to the tracks and loped a little before heading into the woods. After a few switchbacks we headed down to the creek on our way home. Unfortunately, that's where the fun ended.

Star went down to her knees for reasons we still don't know. Kimberly stayed up, but I don't know how. Star was able to right herself once she got her hind feet under herself, a tough achievement when on flat ground and harder even yet when facing downhill on a gravel service road. We jumped off to address the situation. Both of her already arthritic knees were bleeding, as well as her fetlocks. I grabbed the vetwrap and a tissue out of her saddle bag and wrapped up the worst of her bleeding wounds, her left fetlock. I offered for Kimberly to jump on Mercy, but she insisted on walking with Star back to the house. Luckily, we weren't more than 20 minutes away.

After getting back, we washed her legs and applied some swat. Star's no good at keeping bandages on her joints, so we just apply a fly barrier. Poor girl. We just don't know what do think about all of this. Her toes were a little long, but not bad at all. And she has arthritis, but generally it only bothers her in the winter when it's cold and we don't ride as much. The only other thing I can think of is that her back was sore from all of the riding we had been doing. This really doesn't make sense to me though because I palpated her back for soreness before that ride, only to find nothing at all. IDK...

Since Star was not going to be ridden for quite a few days, I took Mercy over to a friends place instead of trail riding yesterday. I rode her for a little over an hour practicing rail work. We worked on a nice collected jog, leg yields, and eventually we got to loping. I usually ask her to take the lead she has problems with first, so that we end on the easy lead. This time I wanted to shake things up and start with her left lead. This is the one we that we rarely have problems getting. Not so. Mercy decided the right lead was her idea of fun. After catching the wrong lead she immediately went into a series of weak crow hops. *Sigh*

I quickly brought her back to a walk and tried again. This time we got it and were much happier about it. That whole series of event was quite interesting. I remember thinking, once we were loping on the correct lead, how at the last show Mercy kept taking the right lead, even though we had circled to the left and practiced all of our maneuvers to the left. Weird, but whatever. Now was the time to fix it. I brought her down to the jog several times and again asked for the correct lead. Once I has satisfied, we switched directions. Of course she preferred this lead, now, and took it each time I asked.

After a short break, we practiced some pivots and side passing. Then we headed back to the rail. We jogged out and when we came to the straightaway, we rounded a barrel that was in the middle of the arena. I visualized my pocket and guided Mercy with my hand on our new reins. She needed a little more guidance lifting her shoulder, but overall I was really pleased. We did this on and off for another half an hour. Then it was cooling down time so I jumped off and walked her around for a while until she found some weeds to munch on. What a great way to prepare for our next gaming show... hopefully tomorrow!
btw, this was too cute to not put up. The wildlife around here is as lively as ever. Here is one of the new twins- s/he was trying to reach the water. It eventually did, with the help of a rock to stand on! The tree and violet-green swallow babies have left the nesting boxes. Only the barn swallow babies need to take permanent flight now. However, they are flying, just not leaving the nest! LOL!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Skywatch Friday No. 51

See more beautiful and dramatic skies from all over the world at Skywatch Friday!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sunday Gaming

Mercy and I ventured into the great unknown this weekend. Kinda. Sorta. We went gaming by ourselves! My dad did tag along in the morning until I got registered, but then he headed back home to finish other chores. We loaded up and headed out early so that Mercy would have plenty of time to get warmed up. Good thing we did because she was a handful. She loped nicely enough when I was in the warm arena. Once I got into the main arena, however, she could barely walk. There were too many distractions: horses zooming past, or stopping mid stride right in front of us and completing a rollback, the tractor moving the dirt around, and guys setting up the first course of the day. I finally got her to walk calmly when the called for the arena to be cleared.
Waiting for me to sign up for the day
Keyhole was first, so while waiting for our turn we practiced stopping and rollbacks. Things were going well and when our number was called we headed over to the course. I asked Mercy for her left lead while making a circle and the little bugger picked up her right lead! I didn't have enough room to correct her, as we had already crossed the timer line, so we changed plans. Unsuccessfully unfortunately. Once we got into the chalk outline Mercy didn't stop. Yup, we got our first No Time ever! Grrrr....

Eating the 'good stuff' at the bottom of the bag during a break

Even though we NTed and didn't place, we did make up some good time. This was the case for all of my other classes. Figure 8, Cal Stake, Flags, Barrels, ans Key Race were all run on the right lead, even though every time I had asked for and had practiced on the left. It worked out for barrels since that is the one event we go right first, but it sure was a pain. I knew I needed to correct her, but I just didn't want a fight yet. We are finally loping. I am alright with that. I know she can pick up the correct lead, but for now I let it go. Next time I will be more demanding. That should be fun, lol!!!

My dad came out again to drop off some Subway sandwiches and check on things. I really appreciate him doing this for me. It sure makes things easier. And other than the loose pony (who was "caught" by Mercy) and the loud, earthshaking, scary diesel trucks and motor homes driving by (which she got over with by the time we left) things went smoothly riding solo at the show.

Watching the scary motor home that had just passed
Anyway, here are our times for this latest show:

Keyhole~ 15.742 NT
Figure 8~ 18.007
Cal Stake~ 13.076
Flags~ 23.871
Barrels~ 22.136
Key Race~ 15.691

Overall, it was a great day! We bettered or equaled out run times since the last show and no one got hurt. I'd can that a day gone right! ;)

Mercy peeking around that corner to see where I had gone... to find shade