Baron the School Horse

I let my trainer use Baron for a lesson today with one of her teenage students. They did walk trot canter and he was a prince. (It’s funny how he canters no nicely in the arena and gets kind of spastic out in the open.) I rode him from my barn down the road to my trainer’s barn and then back again after the lesson, so he got a nice workout.

Here are a couple pics from the lesson.

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Cantering…

I figured out how to update my blog from my phone. So convenient!

I rode twice this week, despite the rain and dismal weather. It was warm, just grey and gross. Today was the first time it was dry enough to do more than walk. We cantered up and down the dirt road a few times and Baron was wonderful. He was relaxed and round and I didn’t feel like I was riding an explosive device. He was relaxed enough that I let go of his mane and rode with a loose rein. My canter seat (well, half seat actually) is not the best so I’m careful not to balance on his mouth. At the pace we were going I would have felt comfortable doing some crossrails. I felt totally in control.

Also, I’ve been riding Baron long enough to know his tricks. When he wsnts to be cheeky, he pulls his head down and pulls the reins through my fingers or pulls my upper body forward to throw off my balance. I get discombobulated and he gets a break from working. Lately I haven’t been falling for this trick. I don’t know if it’s more upper body strength or better balance, but I’m not so easily taken advantage of these days. I just hold tight and add leg and he realizes his trick isn’t working. I have to admit it’s very satisfying to notice these small improvements in my riding.

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Me, my 18 month old and Baron.

Long and Low

This is what we looked like... courtesy of Yahoo image search for "long and low."

I managed to ride twice last week despite the abysmal rain and general dreariness of the weather. I actually like rain, but I don’t like the  muddy pastures and soggy arenas that result. We’ve been riding down residential streets and Baron has been a champ about confronting all manner of terrifying spectres, such as dogs and trucks. Satan’s chihuahuas love to bark at us and fling themselves willy nilly at their chain-link fence. It’s amazing how much noise such small dogs can make.

Yesterday Baron was kind of being a butthead and didn’t want to go very far away from the barn. I let him turn around, but I made him work in the arena so he wouldn’t get the idea that he could quit early. We did circles in both directions and then I tried an experiment. At the trot, I held my reins down low by his shoulders and wide apart. I’ve heard that would encourage him to drop his head and go “long and low.”

It worked! He gave me a very nice, even trot and dropped his head down like he was sniffing the arena dirt. He went around with his head low in a nice stretchy trot for several minutes. After a particularly good stretch, I hopped off to reward him.

It’s so fun to be able to influence him with my riding. Instead of being constantly hung up on my leg position or some other position flaw, it’s nice to be in a place where I’m riding well enough to  make changes that influence my horse positively. I still have such a long road ahead to be a competent rider, but it’s rewarding to see progress. And without a proper arena at that!

Horse Slaughter, or why I will never sell my horse.

I came across this horrible article on Madeline Pickens’ Facebook page. (She is the wife of a billionaire Texas oilman and probably the most vocal advocate for wild mustangs in America.) The article brings to life a horse owner’s worst fear- a horse you care about is given to someone who promises to find him a good home only to turn around and sell the horse to slaughter. Worst of all, the a-hole seller laughs at the well-meaning people who gave him the horses.

Every time I read something like this, it reinforces my resolve that I will NEVER sell Baron. I’m too terrified that he will end up broke down and sent to a kill pen. He’s mine for the long haul, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. We’re going to be a “horsey family” for many years to come!

2012 Goals

Going into 2012 I will still have two kids at a babysitter which costs me $250 per week. Yep, that’s a mortgage, people. With that in mind, my goals for 2012 revolve around having fun with my horse without spending piles of money.

1. Improve my leg position. Thanks to comments on this blog about my position, I feel like I finally understand where my lower leg is supposed to be. Now it’s a matter of getting the muscle memory to keep it there.

2. Teach Baron to canter relaxed and in control. He gets excited when I let him canter and he gets a bit strung out and hyper. I want him to learn that cantering is no big deal and that he can slow the pace down from “almost to the finish line” to “pleasant romp in the countryside.” I realize a big part of this is teaching myself to relax.

3. De-sensitize and de-spook even further. Since being back at my current barn, I’ve ridden Baron down a residential street and a gravel road lined with fenced- in but very noisy and very large dogs. He’s been a rock star so far, and I want to continue working on relaxing even when there are many spooky distractions, like German Shepherds and stupid people who honk their horns at horses. I want him to be a go-anywhere, do-anything horse and that only happens by going new places and seeing new things.

4. Continue jumping.  I would love to be cantering courses by the end of 2012, but with my limited lesson budget, that may not be realistic. I want to keep doing crossrails and tons of flat work that will set the stage for going faster and higher.

5. Go to a couple schooling shows. I love showing; I can’t help it! I know it’s expensive, but schooling shows aren’t too bad and they’re low pressure. Life’s too short to miss out on doing what you love!

2011 Year in Review

I am 100% copycatting Amy over at Slow and Steady Smiler by doing this Year in Review. Here are the picture highlights of 2011:

This is one of my favorite pictures of us. He was finally starting to round up and lose the racehorse look. This was in January, about 33 degrees, just warm enough for the snow to melt.

This was at the barn I moved Baron to last winter. This was during the big snowstorm when I braved the icy roads to feed my boy. It snowed several times in Atlanta!?! Wierd, but beautiful.

We moved barns again! I think Baron was happy here, but I didn’t get to see him enough and he kept getting hurt.

Baron got hurt, BAD. He healed up completely within about 2 months, thanks to excellent care from the barn manager.

While Baron was laid up, I rode Roxie in a fun show and won my very first horse show ribbon!

I started learning to jump with John while Baron was healing. It was exhilirating!

When Baron got better, we started training again. He seemed to enjoy the new challenge!

In September we competed in our second show ever and got our first blue ribbon! Oh, how much money and work went into those ribbons!

We moved back to our very first barn and Baron is happy and healthy!

So that was our very eventful 2011. The Goals post for 2012 is coming soon…

What does a $20,000 horse look like?

I came across this ad by someone I follow on facebook. This grey warmblood cross is advertised for sale at $20,000. I am skeptical to say the least. Please educate me if I’m not seeing it, but this horse does not look like it would be able to fetch $20k, especially in the recessed economy. There’s nothing wrong with the horse, but he is not presented very well!

In the picture he is shown at the walk on a loose rein. He’s not on the bit, nor is he showing much of a topline. I don’t get much of a feel for his movement at the walk. Wouldn’t you think you would get a picture at the trot with all four legs extended or a lively canter shot? Even better, maybe a shot over crossrails or a small jump!

He is listed as a warmblood cross, but there’s no reference to his breeding. I guess some people are suckers for a warmblood, but still, $20k seems like a lot! He is listed as a dressage or eventing prospect, and again, $20k is a LOT of money for a horse that doesn’t know how to do anything!