September 30, 2010

May 2, 2010
This wasn't one of our best lessons, but we still ended on a good note. I can't totally blame him though, as we were trying out a new saddle (which I did purchase), and the weather was windy and threatening to rain the entire time.

We started off with some canter work, because not surprisingly Nova was being a bit of a turd. He was just not feeling super cooperative, so he was going around with his head way up, trying to fall to the inside, and then trying to stall out on me. (I had considered that the saddle was causing part of the issues, but I've ridden in it since then and he's been very well behaved.) As well, I had forgotten my running martingale, and I think that between having a bad day and it not being on, he used that to his advantage. The running martingale is not set too low to force him to keep his head down, but I think it does remind him that putting his head into my lap is not so fun.

Diane then had me work on getting him to accept contact. One of my bad habits is to ride with a relatively loose rein - it's improved a lot since we first started working with her, but I still don't typically like taking a big 'feel' of him. (I think this comes from doing so much trail riding where the horses pretty much get their heads unless we need to direct them. The other part is that I don't want to be bouncing around on his mouth with my hands, as I know my hands aren't as steady as they could be.) Anyway, we worked on a small circle, first at the walk then we moved up to the trot. As he typically walks with his head nice and level on his own, he accepted the contact 'easily'. When we moved up to the trot he of course was not happy and was not consistent at all. Towards the end he did start dropping into the contact and lifting his back. As everyone knows, it's such a change when they do that!

Once we were finished that, we moved on to working through the same grid that Diane had set up before. This time though, my jumps were down so we actually had two parallel grids. While he had been a bit of a brat the last time we did this, he was much more willing to listen and go nicely for me. After walking, trotting, and cantering over the poles numerous times Diane put up one small vertical at the end of the one grid, then moved it up to two verticals. Nova did well, considering this is new to both of us! We did have one run-out, but that was my fault, and we went around and did it again and we were much improved.

I actually have video of the jumping portion of the lesson!

May 7, 2010
I had been planning to go to a hunter/jumper show on the 9th, so I asked to squeak in one more lesson before the show. (I ended up not going, as the forecast was iffy, I was exhausted and just felt that being so tired would not be fair to Nova. I have committed to the June show though - no excuses!)

Anyway, today was a great lesson! It was sunny, warmer, and NOT WINDY! Perfect weather for me! Right off the bat Nova was a lot more relaxed about things. I did have my draw reins on him, and basically just left them loose the whole time (after last lesson's head-in-the-sky attitude I thought he might like a reminder) and he went well. Since he was being so cooperative, Diane and I really worked on the trot and circles and bending. Let me just say it is really difficult to bend your horse to his stiff side, and keep him going on a decent circle without falling in. Diane kept having to remind me to keep my hands low, and to keep shortening the inside rein. To the point that the inside rein was inches shorter than the outside. It was tough, but he really started to come around (pun intended). We then did the same thing at the canter, and worked on transitions up and down from the trot and canter. Oh, as he did I think in our first lesson this year, he really started to come down and reach forward! It was so nice! This wasn't because of the draw reins, as they were still pretty loose. I could just feel him start to lift, come under himself and really start working.

We then took the draw reins off and moved on to jumping a bit of a course. While the video we took on Sunday was ok, I really wish someone had been able to video us today! He was even better! We worked on pushing him forward (I'm not afraid of speed, trust me, but because I'm green about jumping that it sometimes feels 'too fast' to be going to the jumps at that pace. Thankfully Diane is there to keep me going and assuring me that we aren't going kami-kazi down the lines!) Diane had set a line of two jumps down both long sides of the arena, and then one diagonal in the middle for me to work on. We started with the diagonal, then with two jumps on the diagonal, then working on two jumps, the diagonal, then back down the other two jumps. Again, he was very good and very honest about going over them nicely. Some felt less than fantastic, but there were a few that felt just right. Like everything clicked for those couple moments. I'm hopeful that those moments will start happening more often!

I was very pleased with how well he did. He reminded me that he can indeed be a good boy! Haha. I am also very much liking my (our) new saddle. It is a Santa Cruz Centauro, and is very comfortable!

May 9, 2010
Since I passed on the show, Mom and I decided to head down to the arena and play around a bit this afternoon. I was happy with how Nova did in the probably only 20 minutes we were there. But first - I was proud of him for another reason. We had just gotten to the arena, when Mom's cousin drove past on the road and missed seeing us, so we turned around to head home to catch her. And Nova walked calmly the whole way back home!!! After his bratty-ness the last while on the way home I was very happy.

Of course then, we rode back down, and he stood very nicely for me while I literally hung off the side of him and fiddled, banged and shook the lock and chain around the gate to get the lock to come off. About halfway through all of that, I had the thought about how good he is and how lucky I am he doesn't take offense to things like that! We then worked the trot, first to the left and then to the right where I worked again on taking the short inside rein and making him bend. He was a lot better today than even the other day. He was much easier to bring around, so I think with consistant work like that we'll get him to even out. (I will also have to remember to ask him to stretch that side from the ground.) I also asked him to canter, and he gave me the right lead both times! I'm so excited that we seem to have gotten past the real inconsistent lead departures. I mean, we sometimes get the wrong one, but they are much fewer and futher between.

After working in that end of the arena we went to the other end to watch Mom for a minute. Then Nova and I did some large circles in the inside of the arena and Mom cantered around the outside - I was pleased that he was not concerned at all when she would pass us. I then cantered some circles, then did a half-seat (2-point) and let him 'go big' around the whole arena. Now that I have an english saddle to ride in it's nice to be able to practice some of these things - it's not very easy to half-seat in a western saddle!

After Mom got bored riding around, we left and decided to go down the trail past the lake and into the new subdivision and home. I was happy with how nicely he walked the entire way! Even when it started to rain/tiny hail on us!! I think he was more pouty about that than anything ("I'm getting wet!" ) I'm just very thankful that we managed to get them back in the pasture (blanketed) before it really, really, really started to come down.

I'm glad that Nova seems to be settling down now that he's getting worked more consistently - it's a big relief! I'm looking forward to the schooling show at the end of the month.

May 15, 2010
Busy day today! I was in a first aid course all day, then raced home and literally jumped into my riding clothes and threw the saddle on Nova and off we went to the arena. (I’m always so happy that he’s pretty ‘okey dokey’ about most things, seeing as I was dashing around him like a crazy woman trying to get him all tacked up. Especially when Mom and I were both fighting with his new girth.)

It was pretty warm day today, so I was a bit surprised when he decided that he should be cantering instead of doing a nice trot. Gaaaaah. So, we cantered, and cantered, and cantered. We did a lot of circles, working yet again on making sure my outside rein is there to support him. Then after Nova did the ‘throttle back’ that lets me know that running around isn’t quite as much fun anymore, Diane had me work on some square turns. Very much like we did on our first lesson this year. He was very good with those.

After that lovely, and lengthy warm-up Diane said we were going to work on some transitions, and being off the rail. Overall, Nova and I have never had a problem working on the quarter lines - he never wants to drift back to the rail. So, we started at the walk, worked on keeping him straight, then did the trot, really working the half-halts to keep him straight, and when he wanted to get to rushy. So we did a lot of transitions back and forth that way, both directions. Then Diane had us work the canter a bit doing the same stuff, and again he was pretty good. I should say, that when we were doing our corners we made them square corners. Some were just awesome, I could really feel him rock back and bring his front end around. But overall, he’s very good at those and they make a big difference on getting him to bring himself around.

May 16, 2010
Tonight we just went for a nice relaxing (mostly) ride around the Village.

Started off well, we went through Spring Lake Ranch a bit until we turned off to walk to the edge of the lake. Nova started off well, but then he had to stop to poop and got just a bit behind, so of course he started to jig a bit. I realize that I haven’t updated about what we’re doing to correct this now. Mom is being very understanding, so every time he breaks into a jig/jog I immediately pull him into a tight circle and then we continue on. The first night we did this, I sometimes had to do basically three or more circles basically in a row to get the point across, but thankfully he seems to be a quick learner. Anyway, back to tonight – he did a couple steps of jigging, but only after he had extended his walk and was motoring along, and it really just seemed like he couldn’t help himself from breaking. Did a couple circles and by then Mom had stopped to wait for us, and we walked up to her nicely. We then found this nice little trail that follows along the lakeshore for a little ways. Nova got to practice his off-roading for a few minutes. There were quite a few little dips in the trail – you know the kind that they often like to hop over because they are small enough to do so? I was very proud of him that he stepped over, or down and then up on each of them. Yay! Mom even complimented us on how nice he looked with his head down just truckin’ down the trail – like the Nova that I’ve had the past two years and not the one that showed up this spring.

We went down the lakefront a bit, and he was fine. And he was even fine on our trip past the office and the loop home. The only problem was when there was one dog barking at us from one side of the road, and three barking from the other side of the road, he got a bit jiggy (but I let it go because we had Soka with us, and were trying to get past all of this with her not going over to investigate). He did stand, basically right in the middle of that when I had to give some people directions to the lake. And, once we were past all of that he was nice and relaxed the whole way home. I was very happy – great weather, and a great ride!

May 17, 2010
Helga wanted to go to the arena and ride, so I agreed to go with her. Unfortunately we decided to go in the early afternoon, which meant it was very hot and sunny out!

I should have known that Helga would not be on time, but I didn’t, and Nova got to practice some patience while we waited. He didn’t want to stand all that well while we were waiting, but overall was ok. I finally gave up waiting and went down to the arena myself. (Of course, Helga comes walking down not 1 minute after I got there.) I warmed Nova up doing some square turned at the walk and trot, and again, he was good. When I moved into the trot I was pleased that he was content to trot for me without trying to canter at every other opportunity. I tried working on getting him to bring his head down a bit, but he wasn’t really having any of that, so I did give up – I did get a few strides before quitting. When I say that I was trying to bring his head down, I mean I was holding firm on the reins and pushing with my legs (and seat) to encourage him to come down, of course softening when he would attempt to give me something.

After that, I started working on the canter. Something we haven’t done much of this year are simple changes across the diagonal – so I decided to work on that. Instead of doing changes at X, I ride him until we are almost at the other side, the come down to the trot and then back up on the other lead. (Thinking about it now, I might try doing some in the centre of the arena next time.) I was very happy with how well he did! He stayed straight on the lines across the arena, and he only blew his lead once. And that was because I rushed him, and after doing a small circle and coming back to the rail, he picked up the correct one. (Knock on wood, but I’m really happy to say that our lead departures are at probably 95% now! I am sooooooo happy about this, as all I’ve ever wanted was a horse that was consistent about picking up his leads. It seems that I always end up selling them or moving on to another horse when they get to this point, so I’m like I said, very happy!)

After we did the canter work, he was pretty warm and so was I, so we just walked around while Helga was still working Tika. I also found out this super cool thing! You know how it is always said that you are supposed to ride basically only from your seat and legs? Well, I will be the first to admit that I am not that great at doing that – yet. Anyway, while I was letting Nova walk around on the buckle I started to work on turning him. Holy moly! It was fantastic. All I had to do was turn my head, my hips, and add just a touch of outside leg (even just my thigh, not even my calf per se) and we were easily turning both directions, and doing everything from turning to doing full circles. All with my hand on the buckle and resting on his mane. And the best part? He did this all with his head nice and low and didn’t get the least bit upset about it at all. (I’m still used to riding my dad’s gelding, where any sort of leg means throw your head up and go faster. So this was a nice change.) I can’t tell you how excited I was about this! It’s sure a start!

After we got home I decided to hose him off as he was pretty sweaty. I expected a battle, but was pleasantly surprised when he stood completely still and let me hose him all off. He was NOT happy about it, but he apparently learned his lesson about not moving! Good boy! He got to enjoy some grass on the lawn as a reward.

May 18, 2010
Another lesson today – thank goodness it was in the morning!

Diane was a bit late arriving, so I started to warm Nova up on a nice loose rein. Something I haven’t done (or really, been able to do because of his canter, canter, canter mindset) this year yet. He felt good, and even offered to drop his head a couple of times. Once Diane arrived we did some more trotting, and I picked up the reins. Ohhh boy… He was really not feeling that today – but as usual, he did work himself out of that somewhat. I worked a lot of circles, as he has a lot harder time throwing his head way up and resisting when I do that. He is forced to bend and that automatically makes him think about lowering his head. We did a little canter work today, and Diane had me ride off the rail and work on square turns. He was very good! He had what felt like a very nice canter – so much so that Diane even said that it was a nice canter for him. She had me work the canter until he started to bring his head down a little, which he did finally.

After a quick break while Helga finished up some work on Tika, Diane set up a jump for Nova and I. It was set on the diagonal, and there were ground poles set on both sides of it one stride out. She had me work on really making him wait for it and not launch himself at the jump. I was actually proud of how hot he didn’t get over it all – he got a bit fussy with his trot a couple times, but a few circles and we worked out of that. Anyway, it was hard for me to keep in my mind to keep him trotting a decent trot (not pogo-stick), keep him straight, make him wait, and then make sure not to get in his way. I am very happy to say that we had MANY more good jumps than iffy ones! It felt great. One thing I have to remind myself is to talk to him – I found when we were doing our grid work the last time if I remembered to say ‘easy’ to him he would slow down that fraction and not be so rushy. Same thing today, when I remembered to say ‘easy’ he was more inclined to wait for me and go right to the pole before going over the jump. It was a good thing to work on, as we both need the work on being calm and steady. This is something that I will have to practice between lessons – and at least it won’t be that hard to set up!

We ended on that great note, and I was very happy with him! He really seems to like jumping, and I can’t remember how many times I’ve said this, but I’m also so happy that we have reached this point in our training! Things are starting to come together. Bring on the June Killerney show!

May 24, 2010
We hauled Nova and Rhythm over to Auntie’s today for a trail ride. A friend of my aunt’s had some company over from Germany, and they ride horses there and were looking forward to riding here in Canada. Of course, we were happy to oblige. I was very happy with how well Nova stood tied to the trailer (of course, we had them all tied up and they were all very relaxed) – but it was a good start to the day.

I honestly expected Nova to get quite excited (jiggy) when we started out – he hasn’t been ridden since Thursday, it was very ugly all weekend, and well, it was someplace exciting. Needless to say I was so pleasantly surprised when he was a superstar for the entire ride. He only got a little bit jiggy twice, and only for like 30 seconds. We led, we followed, and we got passed by cars. We also crossed over a set of train tracks, and he didn’t even blink at them. I was also so proud when a truck pulling a very loud horse trailer went past, and he only danced slightly in place but didn’t freak out. I pretty much went the whole ride thinking, “OMG! He’s being so good, but I shouldn’t think about it because I might jinx it.”
I might get some pictures from the day later on, but as of now, there aren’t any. But even without them it was such a great day!

May 25, 2010
Today I tried out a bit I was lent over the weekend, it was a Happy Mouth, mullen mouth. It was a bit too big for him, but still worked well enough for me to use it on him today. I’m not sure if he was tired from yesterday, or was just feeling mellow, or if the bit made that much of a difference, but he was soooooooo good today.
We started off walking a big circle around Diane on a loose rein while we chatted about what to expect at the show on Saturday (should it not be pouring rain as currently forecasted). After a few minutes of that and switching directions we picked up the trot. Diane then talked about when I ask him to trot how he typically likes to put his head up and do a short, choppy trot to start out with – well today I was all prepared for that, and ready to push him forward, but I didn’t need to today! He picked up the trot and didn’t even throw his head up! He wasn’t tracking up (he typically doesn’t), so we did push him up a bit and got him almost completely tracking up. And the whole time he didn’t get fussy or anything, just calmly and nicely went around the circle, even as we made it bigger and smaller. We then left the circle and went out to about half the arena (my guesstimate of how big the ring at the show will be) and picked up the canter. Oh my, it was such a nice canter! Really steady, not rushy, and very smooth. We practiced some passing, like I would do at the show, and then we started working on asking him to bring his head down a bit. He has a hard time with that, but did give me some in the end. Most importantly, he stayed nice and relaxed the entire time. We paused to talk for a minute, then went out to the right and did pretty much the same thing. Diane got me thinking too much about the canter transition, so we did blow it the first time, but I brought him back and smoothly picked up the correct lead the second time. He was more rushy this way as Diane allowed us to use the entire arena, but he also was listening to my half halts and also started to bring his head down. He was so good that we called it a day after that. Diane said that we could harp on working on his head a bit more, but what’s the point? He was so good that if he’s anywhere near that good on Saturday I will be beyond happy. Anyway, he was so good today with the mullen mouth bit, I'm looking to buy a smaller one in the next day or so. I'd like to try it at the show (will take his 'usual' bit as well, just in case).

I have a picture from today – not a riding one, but an interesting one nonetheless. I had him on the lawn grazing because he was such a good boy, and he was doing a great job trimming around the garden. As he got closer to the flag I thought for sure he’d move around it or suddenly notice it and spook a bit. Nope. I guess the grass was too darn good, and the flag not nearly as scary as I thought. (Now, any bets on whether or not it would be scary if I rode up to it?)

May 29, 2010
Show day!! Dawned nice and… cloudy. And it started to rain a tiny bit before we left… Not a good omen.

Nova loaded well, and hauled well, got along well with my friend’s gelding Apollo when he loaded in beside him, and was pretty relaxed when we unloaded at the show. Of course he was a bit looky, but he didn’t look much further than his haybag once I attached it to the trailer. Since I wasn’t showing in halter or showmanship I took my time getting him ready, and actually saddled him up after a few of our ‘group’ left to go to the ring for their classes. As I was hoping, as long as he can see/knows other horses are there he is quite relaxed. The wind came up and wasn’t very nice just after I got on as I was trying to warm up in the field where we parked the trailers. (Being hilly and with lots of rocks didn’t help much either.) Riley, who I warmed up with suggested we head over to the outdoor ring (halter/showmanship classes were being held inside) and warm up there – I’m very glad we did, as he was much better to warm up in there. Well… Once we got past the BIG SCARY ROCKS that were outside the arena. He walked past the plastic pink tape that they had used to fence off part off the arena that was wet – and this tape was definitely moving in the wind (I considered it potentially scary). He walked past it, then stopped dead and backed up about ten steps with his eyes bugging out of his head, and I had to look to see what he was spooking at. Of course it was a large rock located on the outside of the arena… I think a bit of Rhythm is rubbing off on him! So of course we went up to the fence to look over it to see that the rock won’t actually kill us… and he noticed the second big rock. Oh deary. We went to go see that one, and after that he did scoot past them the next couple times past, but then settled down and ignored them. They had worked the footing a bit, but it was still pretty hard and since he just had his feet trimmed yesterday he was just a smidge ouchy on them. We walked, trotted, and cantered both ways and he was good. Got all of our leads!

Riley and I decided to head back to the trailer to hang out for a bit, and by the time we got there (after a quick visit with some friends) it had started to rain. Not just a sprinkle, it was a full out rain. I threw a cooler over my saddle on Nova to keep him a little warm. We actually loaded Apollo and Nova back into the trailer and hung out in there with them so we all stayed a bit drier and stayed out of the wind. Pam wanted to at least do one under saddle class, so she tacked up Apollo in the rain and we headed over to the indoor arena. I was a bit unsure of how Nova would react to being in the arena, as he’s only ever been in one other indoor in his life (ok, two, but the first was when he was a yearling). He was very relaxed in there (probably just happy to be out of the rain!), and so I pulled his sheet off and got on to warm up. There was a short break for people to tack up their horses for the under-saddle classes. Right from the first lap around he was very relaxed. He actually only eyeballed the muck bucket on the side of the ring. For a very small and crowded ring he listened well and we did a nice walk and slow trot around a few times. Finally I felt him getting just a smidge worked up (going one way at the walk he wanted to get jiggy), so after a few laps working on that I pulled him off to the one end to hang out. In typical Nova fashion he quite nicely just hung out while we waited for our class.

The class we did end up doing was Walk/Trot 18 and Over. I was feeling pretty confident going in that he would be fine, I just wasn’t sure if we’d end up with a ribbon. We first lined up along one side of the arena to wait for the previous class to have their ribbons handed out, and Nova was very chill. We walked about a lap around, and he did get a tiny bit jiggy going down that one long side, but I managed it well using my outside rein to ask him to keep walking, and he probably only got a couple of steps in. We then trotted and he picked it up easily and went around very smoothly. I had to weave and dodge a few people, of course, but he stayed nice and relaxed for me and listened well. Broke back to the walk when asked very nicely and we reversed and went the other way. He did the exact same to the right, and luckily I don’t think the judge noticed when the horse in front of us decided to go straight sideways towards the inside of the arena. He broke, which I don’t blame him for, but readily picked it back up when I asked again (and did so like nothing happened). They then had us walk and go into the lineup. He stood well while we waited when they handed out the ‘luck of the draw’ prizes (my friend won a bag of cubes that she donated to us since she won’t need them as she boards). They weren’t doing 1st – 6th ribbons, they were just doing the ‘top six’… Well, Nova and I won a ribbon!! I was so excited!! (And just for the record, there were definitely more than six of us in the class!) I had entered into the walk/trot/canter class as well, but decided to end on that great note and leave it alone. He was a tiny bit ouchy again in the hard packed arena, and I figured between that, a ton of horses in that class, and such a small arena it might be asking quite a bit of him. I just didn’t see the point of potentially getting him all hot and worked up and maybe having a less than great experience, when he went above and beyond what I hoped for today.

I am so proud of him. He was just a great horse all day, didn’t get upset about much of anything. (In fact, I was so pleasantly surprised when he only called out twice the whole day, considering it seems like there is non-stop calling by a ton of horses.) Also, I purchased a mullen-mouth for him on Thursday, and didn’t get to try it on him before the show, but he went really well in it. I think he’ll be staying in this bit for awhile! He was just awesome, and I couldn’t have asked for a better horse today. Like I said above , he went above and beyond today, especially considering the very crappy weather. I love my pony.
April 16, 2010
After a rather dismal, and frustrating, ride last night I was really hoping Nova would behave himself today. And in the end, he more than redeemed himself for his unacceptable behaviour last night.

I arrived at the arena before Diane, so I started to warm up. As per Nova's now normal fashion, we spent half the time trotting and half the time trying to canter. At the time I was thinking that it might be a very 'fun' lesson.

When we started the lesson, he was doing the same thing (along with his pogo-stick trot), so Diane said the next time he broke into his left lead, to just let him canter. So that's what I did, and we ended up cantering for... Oh jeez, I don't even know - a long while. Basically we decided to canter until he didn't think it was such a fun idea anymore. Diane really got after me about using my right rein to keep his shoulders straight. HOLY COW! That made a HUGE difference!! He felt a lot more 'under' me, and I could feel him rocking back a bit on our smaller circles. Diane then had us do 'Stop signs' - as in cantering a couple strides, then angling, cantering a couple more strides, etc. (I think my 'stop signs' had 8 sides, but that's beside the point.) It was such a great feeling to feel him make the slight turn each time I asked.

After we walked for a minute and changed directions Diane had me pick up the trot and really take a feel of his right side (as he doesn't bend well this direction) and lowering my hands to the front of the saddle. Holy man my legs got a workout trying to keep him out on a decent circle. But after a few minutes he did seem to get the idea and it was easier to push him out. We then cantered with the same idea - keeping my hands low and the right one shorter to make him keep the bend. He actually didn't fuss as much about it as I thought he would. After a few minutes Diane let me bring my hands forward and we went around the entire arena doing circles on each end and one in the middle. Again, he was turning really nicely - on such small circles that I didn't think he could actually do them so nicely. We also did the 'stop sign' exercise again this way, and again, he was very nice about it.

When Diane asked me to trot, she wanted to keep a working pace and keep my hands low and even. Oh man! Again, probably the nicest trot I've ever gotten out of him. He went along with his head nice and level, not fussing and striding out nicely. As Diane said, he was learning to carry himself - which is fantastic! And I could really feel the difference in him.

We finished up with a couple changes across the diagonal, and he was very nice about them.

So short story - he was awesome!! I think for the first lesson of the year it was beyond amazing, and I'm very hopeful for our riding season this year. Hopefully I will get a call back from the saddle-fitter soon so we can get starting on finding us a saddle!

April 18, 2010
I got sprung from work early today (hurrah), so I immediately came home and tacked Nova up for a ride in the arena. I was very excited to get out and spend some time in the gorgeous weather.

I kept Diane's instructions from Friday in the back of my mind, and I think we did well. I asked him to warm up at the trot, and was expecting him to get all fussy and want to canter - but perhaps he remembered what happened on Friday, and he was content to trot. His head was up and he was a bit short strided, but that's very typical of him at the start. I did work him a bit and he was starting to come down a bit more and stretch. Nothing fantastic, but there was a bit of a difference.

As we were going along I asked him for the canter, and we moved nicely into it. I started off doing some larger circles before moving into the smaller ones, and eventually doing the stop sign exercise again. After I figured we'd cantered enough one way I asked him to come down to the trot to try and work on that again, but he was apparently just getting warmed up and while he wasn't really breaking at every chance he was fighting be more than working with me, so off we went cantering the other direction.

I actually spent a lot more time cantering than I thought I would, but he just wouldn't settle down and give me a nice trot afterwards, so we just kept cantering. And then there was a point when he got very rushy at the canter. So, true to what we just worked on, every time he'd speed up I'd just do a small circle. Smaller than I was doing in the lesson! And he still felt pretty balanced and kept a nice true canter throughout. I'm still impressed that my looooong pony can do these things!

So after cantering quite a few small circles, he finally gave me a decently nice trot, so I called it a day. Oh man, Nova was one sweaty pony! He still has some of his winter coat, and it was 24 degrees out. I figured for sure he would have played out a lot sooner than he did, but he was quite a bit of stamina. I'm in so much trouble when he gets fit!

Afterwards Mom wanted to work with Soka and a distraction - Nova and I playing the part of the distraction. Soka did well! And Nova was pretty good about walking, trotting, and then doing a minute of canter work around them while she was working Soka. I figure it was good for both of them. Once we were done I got off and decided to lead Nova home and let him cool off - thankfully there was a breeze, so he dried off (and thus, I would guess cooled off) relatively quickly.

April 27, 2010
Lesson day! It was super windy today, which made trying to hear Diane a bit of a hassle, but I think I managed to get most of it.

Diane brought her saddle for me to use today, which was very nice. It felt good to be back in an english saddle! I could tell I wasn't totally steady (almost lost my stirrups a couple times), but I wasn't too terrible either.

He started off more relaxed than our previous lesson - when we started to warm up at the trot he was less insistent about attempting to canter. He did try to break a couple times, and then the third time I just let him canter on and we did a few circles and I brought him back down and he settled down nicely. We went both ways and really worked on my right rein - using it to keep his shoulders straight when going to the left, and using to to keep an inside bend when going to the right. He felt good, and definitely felt good when I actually remembered to use my rein! Old habits are hard to break.

After we warmed up Diane had me do some half seat/two-point work. OMG. I really hope I get a saddle soon so I can practice, because that needs some serious work. After only a couple of minutes my legs start to scream at me, and I don't like not being so steady up there. So I will definitely be practicing.

She then had us do some grid work. About 5 poles placed about one canter stride apart. We started by trotting through it, and well... That wasn't so pretty. Since there is nothing visual to keep him straight and honest it is a lot of work for me to keep him there. I failed the first couple of times, but did get better as I made a point of keeping him where I wanted him. (Sometimes I kind of forget, or I suppose just wish he was point and shoot, but we're not there yet. Sometimes he's great, and other times he's the wiggly baby that he actually is - which is fine. I just can't stop 'riding' sometimes!) After a few times through we cantered through it both ways. I was impressed! At the Mane Event on the weekend I caught two of the jumping clinics and saw a similar grid set up (it had more poles though), and how some of the more experienced horses flailed through it (would try to jump the first pole, then do a half jumpy-trot-canter thing through the rest of it). Whereas Nova seemed to go very smoothly through it for me. Of course, we started on the centre and ended up off one of the ends of the poles - so we're a work in progress. I am hoping to get my standards down at the arena before our next lesson, as I think the visual of them being there will help both of us.

After going both ways through it at the canter, Diane decided to put the barrels down and make half of an x-rail at the end. I did have to do some canter work with Nova on a circle to get him forward as when we came off the rail to go down the line he would literally stall out at the canter and go pogo-stick on me. And to push him forward would make him pogo-stick more - so we did a lot of circles really pushing him over with my right rein and leg and getting a big forward canter. Because of this, and me basically just thinking, "go straight, go straight" as we went down the line we basically flew down it pretty quickly. He still did the strides very smoothly, and definitely overjumped the x-rail at the end. (I do know it's supposed to be 'go over the pole/jump, sit up, half halt to set them up and then let them go again' - I was just working on keeping him straight this time, but next time I will definitely spend time working on settling him down.)

Diane then put the jump up to a vertical (she says 2ft) and had me do it twice more. Again, I had to work on going forward, then we went down the line, again very quickly and did a HUGE jump over the vertical! Huge. We did it once more, and I think he jumped even bigger. (I was and wasn't prepared for that - I knew he was going to jump big with the speed we had going into it, so I knew it was coming, but I have never ridden such huge jumps, so I did my best to stay off his back and off his face, and I don't think I caught him. But I am sure it was not very pretty looking.)

Diane was very excited about how round he was and how he tucked his feet up all nice - said he will probably end up being a jumper, and that this year while we'll stick with hunters we will have to challenge him a bit. She was also happy that he really didn't want to touch the jump, because last year he was content to smack them and then trip, haha. (I do have jumper boots for him now, but didn't put them on as I didn't think we'd be doing any jumping today. I think those will also help because those poles will hurt a bit more than they do with the Pro Choice boots.)

Obviously we won't be letting him have a 'free for all' like we did today once I get my jumps down there, but it was kind of fun. He really perks up and I do think he enjoys doing something different. I just really want to get a handle on his pogo-stick-ing, as he was doing today what he does on the trail - so I'm crossing my fingers that working on it in the arena will help him learn that he doesn't need to do that.

I'm nervous and very excited to be at this point with him - it seems that with all my other horses that I get them to this point and then end up having to sell them for one reason or another. So while I've wanted to jump for years, I haven't had much opportunity. I think this year will be a big learning curve for the two of us. And hopefully full of lots of excitement and great rides!
March 17, 2010
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Since today was supposed to be the last nice day for a little while I decided to take advantage of it (thankfully the clouds cleared, too bad the wind hung around). So I saddled up the brat and we headed down to the arena for a bit of work and to check out the snow situation there. (Results: Very wet and still a lot of snow - not great for any serious work.)

Funny story though, before I get talking about the ride. As I was putting on Nova's back boots (he was munching on cubes to keep him amused), Soka decided to trot right underneath him to see what I was doing, and he didn't even flinch. Just made me thankful that he's pretty bombproof to stuff like that, because it would have been me to get it if he'd decided to take offense. He's so good, and that just proved it.

As per usual, Nova walked down there like a dream, pretty much on a loose rein except for when I had to steer him out of the snow in the ditch and back onto the road. I was very happy with him when I managed on the second pass to stop him right by the lock for the gate and then lean over, put the key in, and open it while he stood completely still. And he didn't even try to take my knees off on the gate posts when we went in, even though there was a puddle right at the entrance. Pretty good start!

We walked, then trotted (or rather, splooshed around) while we waited for Mom to come down with the camera. He was pretty forward, and wasn't as consistent in his gait - which is very understandable given the wet footing. We cantered both ways, twice, and he was very good about his leads. We cantered right first, then I cut across the arena and he picked up his left perfectly - good boy! He did give me the usual hassle with his right leads, but I made a point of picking up my inside rein and shoving his butt over with my inside leg, then asking - worked like a charm. Perhaps that's my new move for him, and if it works, I'm totally all for it. (I do know that I should be doing that already, but I just never made a point of doing it consistently.)

All in all, I was pretty happy with him, and can't wait to ride him in an arena with good footing! I found it kind of funny that last time I talked to my trainer she made the comment that we'd probably be cantering "within a week" (if I boarded him out), well... I'd say we're ready to canter now! Nova's such a good boy that her typical reservations don't really apply.

On the way home he was okay. Was excited and jiggy, so I was working on getting him to walk. Then one of our neighbours was coming home pulling his work trailer, so I decided that given Nova's current mood to bail off and hold him (to save myself the spook into the bushes most likely). Of course, now that I wasn't on him, he stood and watched the trailer like, "Ohhhh, it's a trailer...." Gah, silly horse. I then lead him to our neighbour's driveway before I mounted again, and he walked nicely down the hill to our driveway on a loose rein, only to get hyped up when we got into our driveway. (Let the crazy horse canter up it once, and he never forgets apparently!) He did well though even when Soka ran up and around him just as we got to the top of the driveway.

For only our third ride of the year, he was pretty good! (I seemed to have forgotten to write about our solo trail-ride a couple weeks ago. Shoot.)

March 27, 2010
The weather was just so nice today that we didn't have any choice but to go for a ride! I also thought my friend was going to come riding with us on Sunday, so I wanted to make sure Nova had been out and about and perhaps just a wee bit tired for that. As it turns out, she's sick and had to postpone.

We decided to head over and ride through Spring Hills. Nova was good and bad throughout the ride. He got himself worked right up when we started off - pretty much when we turned towards the arena (even though we weren't going there) - I swear, he really wants to be an arena pony! He also got a bit excited for various times during the ride, but just as fast as he went 'mental' he'd calm down again and plug along like nothing happened. For example, his jump/buck/kick move that he did for no apparent reason - poor Rhythm who was right beside us when he did that. Of course, we did have a discussion about that! Moves like that are not good for Christine's heart! Crazy beast.

The funniest part of the ride was when the two mini's that reside over in Spring Hills came running up to the fence to say 'hi'! Oh dear... Rhythm is at least half petrified of these two guys, and so she immediately went into arab-mode with her tail flagged and let out a loud snort. So, guess what Nova did? Totally copied her! It was pretty funny - and I totally had a big ol' snorty saddlebred underneath me! (Stereotyping, I know.) He wanted to go up and meet them though, so I let him walk over and greet them. I wish we'd had a camera, because I'm pretty sure Nova's neck has never been as arched as it was then. It amuses me how every time we go past there and the mini's come visiting the horses are just beside themselves.

I was also very proud of how well he handled all of the cars! He's been very brutal the last however many times he's been out about freaking when they go past. So Mom was super nice and cooperative and stopped with us so he could watch all the cars go past. When we came out of Spring Hills I decided to hop off of him and walk him down the ditch back to our entrance instead of riding. I think it was a good decision because a handful of vehicles went past (including two motorbikes) and all he did was stop and watch them. Then I mounted again and we stood and watched a few more before crossing the road and heading home.

He also got to say 'hi' to a great dane on our way home. The one house we pass has three of them, plus a rotti and two small foo-foo dogs. The horses aren't sure what to make of these pony-sized dogs. The people are very nice and the one lady came out right away to tell the dogs to be quiet, and we started chatting a bit. So Nova took it upon himself to go say meet these dogs. Walked right down the ditch and right up to the fence - two of the dogs did NOT like that and started barking again, but the one was calm and sniffed his nose - and I think gave him a little kiss. My horse is such an attention-hog, methinks.

Overall I was happy with how he went - I only muttered "dogfood" a couple of times. And I can't blame him, he's been cooped up in the pasture since September, so everything is fresh and exciting and he just wants to GO! Once I can start lessons (soon!) I think he'll chill out a bit more and he that good boy I know he is.

March 28, 2010
Two days in a row! No way!

Today was a big day - not only was a different friend coming to ride with us (she was going to help out for when my other friend was bringing her gelding over, but since that was cancelled she still decided to come ride), but my father decided to come too! (No joke, this might be the only time he gets on his horse this year.)

I figured this is a good experience for Nova to go out with more than just Rhythm, but he would either be totally cool about it, or be an excited jerk about it. He was both, haha.

Started off calm and leading nicely down the road, but once we got onto the lakefront and we started spreading out and (how dare they) passing him, he got himself worked right up. He did attempt his 'mini rearing' thing a few times, and that just got him in trouble. When we turned to ride back he was still so agitated that I put him right behind Mom on Kaila. Kaila is old and walks slow, so he had no choice but to calm down a bit - Kaila was also giving him a lot of dirty looks because he was being stupid. That seemed to work because after a few minutes he settled down and I allowed him to remove his nose from Kaila's butt and pass her. He stayed very calm for the rest of the ride! I was verrrrrry relieved!

We went from the lakefront onto the path that comes out into Spring Lake Ranch, then down that road onto the next range road, then through a subdivision over there, then back across the range road into Willow Peak and home. Again, he was very well behaved with the cars. As we were crossing the range road I heard some motorcycles coming (loud ones), so we moved through the ditch and up onto a rise and I bailed off to hold him. I'm glad I did, because they were pretty loud and there was about five of them, and he did jump a bit when they went past - I think if I'd been on him he would have been a lot more nervous. (Instead, I just gave him a treat as they went past, so they can't be *that* bad.) After they were gone I mounted back up and away we went.

The rest of the ride was very uneventful, which is exactly how I like them! He went on the buckle and motored along like a champ.

He's getting his teeth floated on Wednesday, and I'm very excited about that.
February 21, 2010
Spring is going to be upon us soon, and I can't wait!! In fact, the weather was so nice today I decided to get a head start on some riding. I decided to take Nova down to the arena for a romp and hopefully some riding.

He walked down nice and calm (as in, he wasn't trying to outwalk me), which was a hopeful sign. I turned him loose once we were there and when I 'shoo'd him away he trotted ten steps, then dropped and had a nice roll, got up and walked back to me. Well, so much for running and bucking. I bridled him, lined him up with the fence, and hopped on. The snow is still pretty deep, so I found a spot in the middle and started on a circle. He was listening pretty well, though I think he found plowing through the snow on a circle kind of boring. After going both directions at the walk, I asked him to pick up a trot - it went okay. Kinda bouncy because he wanted to go fast, and had to pick his feet up, but he listened relatively well and we went both ways. So, feeling brave and figuring that landing in the snow wouldn't hurt much if something happened, I decided to canter. We went to the left first, and he was very good! That's his good lead, so he picked it up very nicely and we went around the circle a couple times. Again, not the easiest canter because of the snow (even though we did have the circle beat in pretty well), but he listened well and I didn't fall off!! He got lots of pets and a cookie for being so good. Then, pushing my luck, I decided to try and go right. It took probably almost a handful of tries (where I'd get myself organized and ask, and he'd pick up the left for about a stride, then drop back down on his own - like he knew it was wrong) - but in the end he did give me my right lead, and we did a couple circles!! I was sooooooo happy!! Not too shabby for having not been ridden since November!

Of course though, I had to push my luck and ride him home. He was so calm and great in the arena I didn't think there'd be much of a problem. Boy... I was wrong. Once I got back on from locking the arena gate, he seemed to loose his ever-lovin' mind. Tried to take off a bit through the snow back to the road, got to the road and he got himself into such a tizzy. He was wanting to jig instead of walk, and while I was calm and trying to nicely ask him to come down to a walk he got himself worked up enough to the point where he's jigging in one place, throwing his head up and trying to do a mini rear (I did not have contact on the reins at all through this). If I'd had a saddle it wouldn't have been an issue, but being bareback and having some self-preservation, I got him to stand and bailed off. Walked his excited butt home, tied him up, went to clean the snot off my glasses, then came back out and after a few moments decided to saddle him up and go back to the arena and ride home again.

My mom and our friend returned home from tobogganing and said they wanted to go for a bareback ride just as I finished tacking up. I decided to head back to the arena and would meet them on my way back. Nova walked nicely (albeit slowly) down to the arena, just like a good pony. We paused by the arena fence, then turned back and headed home. He wasn't quite as good as I was hoping, but he wasn't as bad as before - and with the saddle I knew I could deal with his antics.

We made it home just in time to meet Mom and Julie coming down the driveway. We decided to head out down the escape road, through the subdivision, down the range road and back through the new road that comes out at what used to be the dead end by our house (basically a loop). When we all started off again he lost his mind and we did some very tight circles with some thumping to get the point across that even thinking about rearing is a BIG NO! Once we got onto the escape road I let him trot ahead a bit to settle him down, and that seemed to do the trick as he seemed to calm down. Even when Mom and Julie caught up with us and would even pass, he was much better behaved. In fact, I was happy with how he was for the rest of the ride, as even when Julie on Skye got ahead of us by a ways he stayed relaxed and calm (which is good, because he doesn't go out for rides with Skye regularly). We ended the ride on a good note, and I was back to loving him again and not threatening to sell him for dogfood.

All in all, I can't completely blame the young horse who hadn't been ridden in almost four months for his behaviour. But I've already warned him that his year is bootcamp year for us - no more getting to use the 'he's a baby' excuse for things. (Example, we're going to deal with his fear of cars once the snow is gone, he won't be able to get away with having a hissy fit because he's second or last horse in line, nor can he get so upset when someone walks too far ahead out of his bubble, and probably a few other things that will come up.)

I am looking forward to starting lessons again and getting him going, as this should be a big year for us! Now, just to get an english saddle that fits him... Gotta find someone to buy the one I have.
October 25, 2009
Now, while this wasn't a lesson, I'm PRETTY DARN PROUD of my baby! I have barely seen him, let alone ride him since our lesson last month, so he's been having a good vacation.

I wanted to take him and Rhythm down to the arena for a romp and then hop on him bareback for a bit. So that's exactly what I did. The two of them had some fun running around the arena, and I've just decided my horse runs funny because I get more goofy/ugly pictures of him running than I do good ones. But that's okay, he's still cute.

So after we got them all riled up, and then probably a bit tired out, I caught him and bridled him (he was great!). Mom boosted me up and like usual, he was totally cool with that. And we walked around a bit to get the feel of each other again - and you know, reinforce that I can be bareback and he still has to go where I tell him. Of course, he was really chill about that.

So, I decided to try trotting on him for the first time bareback. It wasn't so much him that I was worried about - it was more I was afraid I would go 'sit, sit, bounce, BOUNCE, splat'. But, oh my goodness my horse is so smooth!! I knew he was smooth, but man, he's really smooth. My butt hardly moved at all at the trot. Thankfully though, he was going pretty slow and didn't seem to want to go too fast (even though my boney butt was digging into his boney back).

We trotted one way, then stopped and trotted the other way a couple of times. Each time he got quicker on the transition as we both got more comfortable with it. So, after a break for cuteness (him, not me)...

I decided, what the heck, I'll canter! This is where I wasn't sure what he might do - if he got fast and I 'clamped' my legs on him to stay on, we could have some fun. Though I didn't expect him to do anything bad, other than possibly kicking his butt up a bit on the depart. Anyway, it went quite nicely - he broke smoothly and kept a nice slow canter for me - and well, you guessed it, he's got a smooth canter too!

I stopped, praised liberally, cheered that I didn't fall off, and then tried it the other way. Of course, this was his bad lead, and in the end I never got a right lead out of him even with multiple attempts. So, here's us going on the wrong lead.

But, I didn't want to get too insistent, because I definitely could come off if he got bratty about it, so I just decided to let it go this once, and go back to the left one last time. Holy moly, the last transition was PERFECT! We had a nice jog going, I asked, and he slid right into the canter. I was like, "OMG, I love you!", haha.

So, I love my horse. He's super, super awesome. I jokingly asked my Mom if I could keep him, because man, he's a keeper for sure! He's definitely the horse I've been waiting for.

But before that, I'll post some pictures over the last few months. I haven't been out on him since November (which was just a quick ride), so he's been having quite the winter vacation - it's over soon though as long as the weather cooperates!

First, a couple pictures of Nova's dam, Savannah (was called Pavane). I was very happy to meet her in person, and she's just gorgeous! Maybe one day we can get the two of them together for some pictures, I think it would be pretty neat.
September 2009
So, I totally didn't update this when we had our mid-September lesson... Whoops!

There's not much that I can remember about it to comment on, other than it definitely wasn't our best lesson ever but he sure looked cute in his new saddle pad! I guess I'll just let the video speak for itself.
August 3, 2009
I've been really busy lately and haven't posted about the last few lessons (they have gone well!), so to make up for it I have have pictures and will have a video clip up soon!

The last couple lessons we've been working Nova in draw reins to help him work on keeping his head down. They have been working well - as in he's keeping his head down and not leaning down on them and instead working on carrying himself. We started off this lesson the same way. The warm up was pretty much the usual - laps around the entire arena, then circles in both ways in the ends. We also added in trotting over some poles as well. Then of course, came the canter. We went left first and he picked it up well and moved nicely for me, listening well. I then asked him from the walk a couple of times, and he did well. A couple of trot strides before picking up the lead nicely. Diane then had me go out and trot him around for awhile because he gets himself so worked up about cantering the other direction right away that he basically goes pogo-stick (more up and down trot than nice forward rhythm) and stops listening. So, I worked him in both directions until he settled down. Diane then had me ask him to canter from the posting trot, and it worked like a charm and he gave me the right lead beautifully. He did well, though he's not quite as balanced as he is to the left. But he's definitely come a looooooooooong way in his canter since we first started!

Then after a quick break, we started to work over the jumps. (We of course took the draw reins off for this.) I can honestly say he was much better this time than the last time we worked this. The other time he was just too wound up to listen and was trying to ditch out on the jump if he was even given the slightest opportunity. This time he felt a LOT more relaxed and was listening to me. It was a great feeling. We started off trotting some x-rails, and he went over those well. He was even picking his feet up over them. We worked on singles, and going over poles on one jump and then over the x-rail on the next. Diane then started to make the x-rails into 18" verticals. Again he was listening. We only had one refusal, and Diane said that I sort of dropped him before the jump (I didn't feel like I did, but she's the expert!). I have found that I really do have to ride him right up to the base of the jump and not give him too much release or he will stop/duck out. We did have two really good lines though, and I'm proud of us for that! I did a terrible job explaining what we did, but I do have a video clip that I will put up that will do a much better job.

August 12, 2009
It was a good lesson today. (So have the other ones I've been too busy to post about.)

We didn't jump today, but have been the last couple times. Diane even had us doing an entire course, and it went well. I just have to remember to 'make him wait' for the jump, because if I just let him go, he will go long and fast. Other than that, Diane is very pleased with our progress and so am I.

Anyway, today we put the draw reins back on him - just to help him work better. (We haven't been using them since the last lesson I posted about.) At first he was not pleased, and did his pogo-stick trot for me during the warm-up. I really wished I'd brought my whip down to back up my leg with him because he wasn't listening to it as well as he could have been - as a 'go forward you dork' cue. But, we worked it out and he started to move nicely. He still lifts his head anytime I ask for a right bend, so he's not completely comfortable with that yet, though he will give me a nice one after he bring his head back down. (I have been doing some carrot (crunchie) stretches to the right, and he does those just fine, but I'll keep working with them. Maybe see about a chiro visit this fall/winter sometime.)

We then moved on to the canter, and canter we did! I was very happy about this because he never missed his right lead (did his left twice - but he gave me a right lead, so I can't complain too badly), and by the end, we were cantering 20-30 ft circles that actually looked like circles, were balanced, and his canter was sooooo nice! Diane wanted us working off the rail today and sort of picking up the leads away from a corner. We went to the right first, and he definitely didn't completely settle down into it like he did later on, but he was listening and kept a nice steady pace as we went around the arena. Got excited, as I expected about cantering to the left, but it wasn't as bad as it's been before, and we cantered left nicely as well.

Then Diane had us come in and ride circles off of the wall. Nova did really well at this, even though he's never 'really' been asked to do this. Like I said above, he was good at getting his leads (and fantastic transitions), and we got a really nice canter out of him both ways. It feels sooooo good when he gets it right! I'm also starting to ask him more to go from a canter to a walk, not just to a trot. I was doing that before because I didn't want to haul on his face too much, and he really listens to a verbal 'annnnd trot' and comes down on his own nicely. So now I'm upping the anty so to speak and starting to ask him to take only a couple trot strides before walking. I'm sure he'll get it no problem shortly.

Very good morning, all in all. I am very happy that I've been able to take 2-3 lessons on him almost every week - it's definitely been a big help! And he's really going to enjoy his vacation that starts in another week.

August 12, 2009
It was a good lesson today. (So have the other ones I've been too busy to post about.)

We didn't jump today, but have been the last couple times. Diane even had us doing an entire course, and it went well. I just have to remember to 'make him wait' for the jump, because if I just let him go, he will go long and fast. Other than that, Diane is very pleased with our progress and so am I.

Anyway, today we put the draw reins back on him - just to help him work better. (We haven't been using them since the last lesson I posted about.) At first he was not pleased, and did his pogo-stick trot for me during the warm-up. I really wished I'd brought my whip down to back up my leg with him because he wasn't listening to it as well as he could have been - as a 'go forward you dork' cue. But, we worked it out and he started to move nicely. He still lifts his head anytime I ask for a right bend, so he's not completely comfortable with that yet, though he will give me a nice one after he bring his head back down. (I have been doing some carrot (crunchie) stretches to the right, and he does those just fine, but I'll keep working with them. Maybe see about a chiro visit this fall/winter sometime.)

We then moved on to the canter, and canter we did! I was very happy about this because he never missed his right lead (did his left twice - but he gave me a right lead, so I can't complain too badly), and by the end, we were cantering 20-30 ft circles that actually looked like circles, were balanced, and his canter was sooooo nice! Diane wanted us working off the rail today and sort of picking up the leads away from a corner. We went to the right first, and he definitely didn't completely settle down into it like he did later on, but he was listening and kept a nice steady pace as we went around the arena. Got excited, as I expected about cantering to the left, but it wasn't as bad as it's been before, and we cantered left nicely as well.

Then Diane had us come in and ride circles off of the wall. Nova did really well at this, even though he's never 'really' been asked to do this. Like I said above, he was good at getting his leads (and fantastic transitions), and we got a really nice canter out of him both ways. It feels sooooo good when he gets it right! I'm also starting to ask him more to go from a canter to a walk, not just to a trot. I was doing that before because I didn't want to haul on his face too much, and he really listens to a verbal 'annnnd trot' and comes down on his own nicely. So now I'm upping the anty so to speak and starting to ask him to take only a couple trot strides before walking. I'm sure he'll get it no problem shortly.

Very good morning, all in all. I am very happy that I've been able to take 2-3 lessons on him almost every week - it's definitely been a big help! And he's really going to enjoy his vacation that starts in another week.

I think he looks very dashing in yellow.

Anyway, Nova is now on semi-permenant holidays for the next while because I'm going to be away for my practicum. There is a show in October I might see if I can come down for and literally drag him out of the pasture and take him to. I might be able to take him out a few more times before the snow flies, but they don't really count too much. I think he's going to enjoy this break, and I certainly know he really earned it this summer! I've very proud with what we've managed to accomplish, and as I've said before - he's a keeper!

August 29, 2009
Yes, yes - Nova is on vacation... Mostly. He got pulled out of the pasture for a trail ride today though! Poor guy, making him sweat on his holidays.

So I got the call on Friday that Mom and Julie were heading out to Drayton Valley for some riding on Saturday - of course I wanted to go, so I ended up getting home at 10pm!

Nova loaded well, travelled well, and unloaded, looked around, and was like, "Huh." about the whole thing. He's so seasoned now, haha! Though he had to give me the hairy eyeball about the saddlepad. He's been starting to do that of late, so I will be sacking him out with it sometime soon-ish. But, he stood nicely after that. I mounted up first, and he stayed nice and relaxed... Which lasted until we were about 20 feet down the trail. He was leading, and was alert but not nervous... Until Rhythm who was behind us decided that the scary picnic table at the side of the trail was 'horse-eating' and tried to make a new path through the bush! He got a bit jumpy and was super alert after that! But, we kept going and he was pretty okay and settled down.

We came to one of numerous bridges we were going to have to cross, and we let Julie and Trapper go first - and he didn't even blink at it, so that helped Nova go across right behind him a lot nicer. Actually, by the third bridge he walked right over it without blinking! I have pictures of the bridges, and I will say that I'm pretty impressed.

There were areas where there was quite a lot of mud/wet ground. Of course, Nova was not very impressed, but he went through it like he did in the mountains. If he has no choice, he goes through it without any fuss.

Before lunch the horses were all settled down, and Nova was in the middle with quite a big gap between himself and Trapper, and he didn't even get upset. I think I might have figured out part of his issue with that - Rhythm was a little ways behind us at that point, and he was fine. But he got upset when Rhythm would come up close behind us, and would throw a little hissy fit. Hmmm... Something to ponder.

He was good after lunch, and was leading for a ways until we got to the river. That was not so fun. He absolutely refused to go down the bank towards the river (this river was nothing compared to what he did in the mountains). He got very lucky though because Rhythm ended up accidently going first (Mom didn't encourage it), so he got to not be first. I was pretty ticked at that, but oh well. He didn't want to lead across the river either, so I just let him follow Trapper across, and he was totally fine with that.

We went back to leading, and unfortunately not long after that there was a part of the path with two muddy spots on them. (They were small, and he shouldn't have even blinked at them considering what he'd done that morning already.) Well, he stopped dead and there was no blinkin' way he was going to go forward first. So, because he got away with it at the river, there was no way he was going to get away with it here. I won't go into details, but I had to get pretty serious about it before he decided that he could go first.

Thankfully the rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, and we ended on a good note - he didn't pull anything else for the rest of the ride. So true to form, he was really good and really bad, but overall it was a pretty nice day.
July 3, 2009
Soooo... Nova's had a whole week off from work... Though I'm sure he doesn't mind that! But it was back into the thick of it with a lesson today.

As before, I led him down so I can use Diane's saddle. I'd love to ride him down but between trying to pony Rhythm while bareback and then having a very dirty tush after, I just walk down.

Diane was a bit late arriving, and Helga had to leave early for a hair appointment, so I got to warm up pretty much on my own while Diane focused on Helga. It was nice - I felt all professional, haha. He was going really nicely for me. It was a nice trot steady trot - and he only felt like he wanted to break into a canter a couple times. Yay! I worked on doing circles on each end, then going across the diagonal, and even attempted some leg yielding (on my own because he was feeling that good). I think he was doing pretty good at it, considering I think we've only ever asked him to do it once before. After taking a break while Diane finished up with Helga, we went out again and did some more of what I had done. He was definitely warmed up! This second time I was asking him to work on dropping his head, and he was doing so nicely. I think in general his head is coming down a lot without asking at the trot, so I was just encouraging him to go a bit further.

After a change across the diagonal Diane asked me to pick up the canter in the corner, and bam! Got it! It was a much, much faster transition than the previous lesson - so he must be getting used to the feel of the english saddle. If was to the left, so of course he got the right lead. And wow, it was an amazing canter. He felt slow and relaxed! The thought that ran through my head was, "Holy moly, this is the kind of canter that show horses do!" I was so proud of him. He did break once, but I think it was hard for him to keep a the slow canter going. I asked him to pick it up again and he did so nicely, and we went across the diagonal. He was pretty straight going across. Just before we reached the rail, I asked him to come down, set him up, and he picked up the right lead!! First try! He wasn't as slow and relaxed going this way, but he was still doing quite well. We did some circles and went along the rail. We then got another break while Diane worked with Rhythm.

Helga left then, and the fun began! Diane has been talking about trying Nova over some trot poles and stuff, and today was the day. We only have one long plastic pole in the arena, so we had to do some figuring to make it work. we do have a lot of smaller ones, so we put those together to make trot poles. And tipped the barrels over to use as standards. Oh man, we really need some real stuff! Anyway, Nova was a bit lazy with his feet at first. Clipped the poles the first time or two across. (I was doing a figure-8 type pattern over the poles.) But after that I could feel him pick his feet up. So then Diane put one end of the pole up on the barrel and we went over it again. Yeah... He could have cared less and it showed. So we had a couple of car tires (yeah, I don't know why either), so she ended up stacking them up on the other side to make it look a bit more like a jump. (Diane said it was probably about 18 inches at the end.) Diane then suggested that I pick up the left lead canter and go over it. So I set him up and asked him at the far end, then turned and headed towards it. The first time I could feel him kind of going, "Uhm!!" but he went over it willingly anyway. He did smack it though. The second time he picked up his front feet, but I think touched it with his hind feet. After that, wow, we got it together. I have no idea how we look (I'm guessing a whole lot less than perfect), but I could feel him really wanting to go towards and over the jump. He was easy to keep settled though. It felt great!! We are going to work on getting him to go on the right lead next time - we just went left today because that's where he's most comfortable. I was pretty much expecting him to be completely klutzy, so this was a nice surprise. We're not going to push him, but I think we'll be working a bit at this often over the rest of the summer.

After we were done, Diane was so nice and did Nova's mane for me today! She has a comb-scissor thingy that gives the pulled look without actually having to pull. I think Nova looks fantastic!! I've been waiting for so long to do it. In fact, I took a couple pictures when we got home.

July 20, 2009
I've been terrible lately - I have not written about one trail ride and two lessons!! To all Nova's adoring fans, I apologize. To make it up, I will discuss today's lesson, and provide some pictures!

The lesson started off just fantastic. During our warm up Nova was perfect. We did what seems to be our usual warm up nowadays - two laps around the whole arena, cross the diagonal, two more laps, then doing three large circles as we work our way down the long side, then three back up the other side, cross the diagonal and repeat. As we were going around it felt amazing because I was doing all these circles and going across the diagonal, all by not even having to move my hands hardly (as in I wasn't having to really work to keep him on track). It felt like we were in tune with each other and he was doing exactly what I wanted, and at a very steady pace. I know his head wasn't down, but I wasn't asking him to put it anywhere, and I think overall he's keeping it a lot lower in general these days.

We then went to work on the canter, and we did a lot of canter today! He had to rush into the left lead the first time, but after that he was much better. When we went to the right Diane had us working on a circle and trying to canter half, trot half. Well, Nova did okay the first couple times but then he got a bit too excited and started throwing the wrong lead at me and just getting upset. We have found that if he gets confused he tries really hard and just starts to do things to try and figure it out. So Diane had us go to the left again and I worked that way. Of course though, he was still upset, so I just trotted him around a few laps making sure he was straight and listening, and when I did finally ask him again, his response was instant and correct. I do have to say that I was getting frustrated with him, because I felt that it was something that he could have easily done, but I realize that obviously that's not true. So if I have time to work with him this week before our next lesson, I will practice that.

We then moved on and worked on something we started yesterday at our lesson. He was much better at it yesterday, but again, I think today he was just a bit hyped up by that point. Anyway, it is where we come up the quarter line, then leg yield them towards the rail, turn their shoulders to the outside, and ask for the canter. I'm not sure Diane realizes that we haven't really ever worked the leg yield with Nova, so he's a bit confused about that - but we're still doing a pretty decent job anyway. I will also try to work with him on this as well. Today though he kept giving me the wrong lead, but that's okay as we just came back, I set him up again and asked and then he'd give it to me.

After that, we got to do the fun part. We got to do some jumping again! It's been a week and a half or so since the last time, and he was just as good if not better than last time. We trotted up and over it a few times, to which he's not all that enthusiastic about putting effort into it. But when we started to canter it, he was really trying. We also only worked with the right lead because of where Helga was working on some stuff made it difficult to go to the left. I will say that the couple times I had to ask him for the lead as he lost it cantering up the side, he was not pleased but he did give it to me correctly the first try. So that sort of made up for all the fuss we had earlier on in the lesson.

Now, I'm going to put up some pictures, but you have to just look at Nova and not at me. I know I don't look all that great, and I'm sure Diane will be all over me shortly about that! You will also have to pardon some of the pictures as Dad didn't use the 'continuous shoot' feature. Oops.

So, he was excellent, he was bad, but overall he was still pretty good. I think when I work with him next, or at our next lesson I will suggest to Diane that we work the canter one way, then go and work the trot doing something else then canter the other way in an effort to stop him from getting worked up. I know there will be a time when we will just have to push through and he'll have to deal with cantering not being a big deal, but that can happen later.

July 22, 2009
Tonight was a gorgeous night for a trail ride!

We headed out through the subdivision behind our place - straight into the sun. Ugh. Nova was very well behaved and was quite relaxed. We rode through another couple subdivisions before turning and heading around towards home. There was a small field we went through that had round bales in it - Nova did not like the round bales!! It was pretty funny, really. He has a couple moves when he wants to use them. We then went along the ditch from a relatively busy road. Every time a vehicle was coming up from behind us, we stopped and waited until it went past. He did really well and didn't get nervous/stupid about any of them! (And there were quite a few on that section of road - probably 6-10.)

We then cut across the road and went through yet another subdivision! Then there's a path through the trees that leads to a different subdivision. On the path was a puddle... Well, all the good puddle work we did in the mountains went out the window. I didn't pick a fight about it because it was just too easy for him escape around it. We then climbed a hill and headed towards the road... Coming from the right is a dog that came out of a yard when it spotted the horses, and on the left is a loose horse! Ack! Well, thankfully the horse wandered into another yard and didn't seem to care about us, so we went towards the dog. I pointed Nova at the dog, and he perked right up when the dog turned and ran away from us. I think he could learn to like dog-chasing.

As we were walking through that subdivision he felt awesome. I relaxed and it just felt so good! Like, most of our rides! Nothing exciting really happened the rest of the way home - he was well behaved and all in all it was a great ride.

July 24, 2009

HOT! Oh so very hot out! But we still had a lesson!

Nova had his shoes pulled and his feet trimmed - he was good. And isn't actually very footsore at all. I was running late because the farrier was a bit behind doing the other two horses at my aunt's, but Diane was so nice and I got to have a lesson after Helga had hers.

Since it was so hot out we kept things pretty low-key and worked on bending/flexing. We started off on about a 15m circle and getting him to bend to the inside. Sort of a pick up and bring the rein across (taking his nose), and when he's relax and give I'd put the rein back to the neutral position (giving his nose back). He was quite good both ways, though to the right was obviously his worse side. We then worked on doing the same thing but to the outside. Again, he was really good. Considering I think we've only worked on this stuff once before (on purpose) he was very good. Diane then had me take his nose to the inside, then to the outside, and back and forth. We then moved it up to the trot, and he got a bit chargey about it at first. I think he was thinking "CANTER!", and then he was thinking that I usually do small circles and ask for his head when he's being stupid about the canter. But it only took a couple minutes and he settled right down and was lovely.

Then she had me start to ask him to bring his haunches slightly to the inside, and then worked on pushing them out. He was not nearly as good at this, but he tried hard. I was happy Diane was there to help me by telling me for sure when he did it. Most of the time I could feel him move his butt over just that fraction, but there were a couple times when she said he did, and I must have been concentrating too much on something else. Anyway, Diane was very happy with how hard he was trying and said that he did more than she was expecting. (Good boy!)

We then worked the canter for a few minutes (left first, right second). She had us working on a 20-ish meter circle which was hard for Nova. He didn't like having to come off the rail in the middle of the arena to start the circle, so we worked that and he started to come around better. When we changed directions and went to the right he got all uptight and dare I say, stupid. So we trotted for a minute and after a few tries he gave me the right lead and we were off. He did pretty good even though this isn't his strong side.

All in all, it was nice to step back and work on this basic stuff. He was really good and listened really well!

Oh, and I also hopped on him bareback and rode him home. It was too darn hot out to walk back up that stinkin' hill! It felt so good to just saunter back home on him - it helps he was pretty much on autopilot.
June 1, 2009
Lesson today, finally! But, I don't have much to report.

First, I switched his bit from a single-jointed, pinchless, D-ring to a loose-ring, french-link, pinchless one. I had bought the bit awhile ago but never got around to trying it on him. I think I'm going to ride him in this one for awhile, as he went really well in it. (Seemed to be chewing a bit less on it. I think I will go buy bit guards for it though, just to be safe.)

I rode him down to the arena, and he was great! He wasn't too sure about the recycle bags that were at the end of a couple driveways, so we gave those a wide berth and kept going. He stood nicely by Diane's Pilot while we chatted - I love that he is relaxed (lazy) most of the time and willing to hang out.

We got into the arena, and I started trotting him around to warm up. After a few laps each way Diane had me start to ask him to drop his head like we worked on last time. Well, he thought that was a terrible idea and was putting his head up higher and ignoring me. So, I got my wish, and Diane hopped on him! She rode him around while giving Helga a lesson at the same time. He was pretty resistant about that whole idea at the beginning. But eventually the light blinked on and he started going nicely. Of course he couldn't hold it for very long, but he was trying hard. Then he'd have to throw it up and be stupid, but once she got him going forward again he'd drop and continue on. Since I've been pretty much the only person to ride him - Diane has ridden him twice before for a short time - I never get to see him go. It's different to watch in person vs. a video clip. It was so nice to see him go! Man, he's really filled out and it looking really good, especially when he was putting his head down and using himself correctly. (He was screaming "I want to be an English poneh!" to me!)

At the end I hopped on him and rode him for a couple minutes. Oh, it felt nice to have him lift his back and use himself properly. He was being pretty speedy, but we can work on that. I hope we can get him going well this year, which will make it so much easier in the future.

June 3, 2009
So, everyone already knows that Nova's awesome, but he just proved it again today!

We had a lesson today, so I tacked him up and rode him down. He seemed to be a bit excited today (why, I have no idea, it was pretty darn warm out!). We had to wait for the guy to finish working the arena (first time in like, ever), and he was a bit unhappy about standing still, but nothing too bad. Of course though, when we get in there, he has to eyeball the scary tire-tracks like they are going to eat him. It was pretty funny, actually. So I rode him around and over them and after about a lap he started to ignore them.

We start off with a trot, letting him warm up. Of course, since he's feeling spunky, he breaks into a canter a couple of times and decides to run through my aids (going to the left, on the open part of the circle), but we got that sorted out and he was slowing down/settling, and turning. So after about 6-7 laps each way Diane had me work on getting him to lower his head again. At first he was pretty inconsistant - head up, down for a few strides, pop head back up, put down for a couple strides, etc. But after a few laps, it was amazing!! He'd start to hold it down on his own and actually search a bit for some contact - and do this for half/three quarters of a circle (lap). Oh, it felt so good. We'll work on refining it later, but for right now, he's lifting his back and powering through. So much so that I had to keep asking him to slow down sometimes because he was just motoring around. Let me tell you, he feels like quite a powerhouse underneath me when he does that!

So we got to take a small break while Helga was working with Tika on the canter, and then it was our turn. We blew the right lead a few times, but once I got it... Oh, it was magic. It was amazing how he'd do his best to keep his head down (without my asking) and round up and carry himself. He wasn't totally consistent, but when he got it, ohhhhhhhhhhhh it felt good!! And for the first time I was allowed to canter the entire arena, and poor Nova had NO idea what to do when I asked him to go straight down the rail. We did a big veer and I had to really open my outside hand to keep him even sort of on it. It was kind of cute. I noticed that he really put himself together on the corners, so that was nice. And he even had his head down, and kept it down for the downward transitions.

So after another quick break, we were off to the left. Of course this is his good side, so no problems with the lead. Again we did one circle at the far end of the arena, then we went off down the long side. He was better this direction because I think he figured out how to go straight! He got speedy going down the side, but I was able to collect him up again and slow down a bit on the corners. Again, he was really trying to put his head down and go nicely.

I just have to say this, and it deserves it's own paragraph! Both directions, there was a point when he felt AMAZING! He felt so round underneath me, his head was low, and his canter slowed to a just fantastic pace - almost like he wanted to stall out, but he never did (he must have been really balanced). Holy moly!!! I have never ridden a canter like that before in my life, and it was just great! In fact, I almost cried a little after our last canter. It was just a ton of improvement from our last lesson (and the last time I cantered him last month). Diane was really impressed I think, as she was quite complimentary about it all! (And of course, you couldn't have gotten the grin off my face if you'd tried.)

Helga and I went on a mini-trail ride after (aka, took the long way home through the bush and new subdivision), and of course, he was excellent. He had to learn though that Tika does not like it when he gets too close to her, so he had to settle with a bit of distance, and he did. Helps that it was warm and he was sweaty and tired. But he was so chill about it - walked on a draped rein the whole way.

Again, I love my horse. He's come sooooo far that I can't really believe it sometimes (especially when I think that I've done almost all the work myself). He's just wonderful. I love him.

June 12, 2009
Tonight I decided to try the saddlebags on Nova for the first time. So, tacked him up, led him down, and threw him on the lunge line after I'd put them on. Well, he did exactly what I expected - nothing! He had his ears back listening to them, but didn't seem overly worried about them. I even asked him to canter - because if I'm going to get any reaction, that will be when! Still nothing. So I think it's safe to say he won't have a problem with them.

After that, I quickly bridled him and hopped on so Mom could take some pictures. Well, she snapped off about 212 pictures in the 15 minutes I was riding! Nova was very good. I only worked in half the arena, and just did some trot and canter work. I let him start off with his nose in the air for a few laps, then asked him to bring it down, then cantered, stopped, chatted for a minute, turned and repeated! So, here's a (big) photo sequence of that. (And please don't mind my humped shoulders - I'm terrible for that, and no one was yelling at me to sit up! And my hands are low because that's how Diane has been asking me to ask Nova - so when he gives, I float them forward and ask him to come down and find the contact which he does sometimes.)

All in all, he was really good. He picked up both leads of his canter first shot, so we only did a few rounds and then I stopped. He seemed to be listening to me and felt good. I know we still have lots of work to do, but we're getting there!

June 15, 2009
The weather was super muggy out - cloudy but very hot. Let's just say that I was very warm by the end of the lesson! Nova seemed a bit nervous on our way down - he didn't do anything, but he also didn't feel 100% relaxed. I just figured it was because Rhythm had 'abandoned' him for the back pasture after he left the pasture. I suppose it was just foreshadowing!

We started to trot, and he was good, but then all of a sudden he got really chargey and wasn't listening to me. He thought he should canter (I swear, sometimes that's the worst thing you can ever teach them!), and he was just not listening to my attempts to get him to slow down. I'll admit there were some less than pretty moments, when I really set him back to get his attention on me. Diane had me doing small circles on him and really asking him to bend and give his head to me. He did settle, eventually.

So Diane had us canter. We went left first, and he was good about picking it up. It felt off though, as he was much more up and down on his front end than usual. He was listening okay though, and it was a decent canter. We tried going to the right, but he was being very stubborn about picking it up. So much so, that Diane hopped on and worked with him. A lot at the trot, but she did get two right lead canters out of him. Have to say, he looks good even when he's being bad!

I hopped on him again and rode him around for a couple of minutes and you could tell he had a 'tune up'. I will say that his knee was very slightly swollen that day - from a scratch - but he was sound on it. He could have been having a bad day, or his knee could have been slightly sore. What little swelling was there did go down during the lesson, but I cold hosed it when I got home.

But, I do have to say, even on a real bad day, Nova really isn't that bad! Just acting his age for a change. (Helga was pleased that Nova was having a bad day finally!)

June 17, 2009
First off, his knee looked 100% today, so I was happy to see that. Diane was going to ride Rhythm today, so I had to tack both of them up. But she was also going to bring her english saddle for me to use on Nova. I'm not really sure why, but he ticked me off a bit on the way down - I think it was because he was walking fast, and Rhythm was walking slow, which is very frustrating. But he was also looking like he had a bit 'extra' in him today, so I was also half dreading the ride (thinking of Monday's lesson).

Helga was nice enough to let me borrow her lunge line, and I threw him on it for probably like 2 minutes. Just enough to trot both ways and canter to the right (not the left, because that's his strong side, and I knew we'd be cantering later on)- and find out that he did not have any extra energy. He started off at a nice trot, and he actually felt pretty darn good. Responsive. we did about five circles each way and Nova did well with passing Rhythm (she was going the opposite way with Diane). He did have a couple moments as we moved to the other end of the arena about not wanting to turn left across the arena. So we had a slight discussion about that, and he was much better about it.

We cantered to the right first, and he was good. Got his lead and was listening pretty good. We were using the whole arena, and he got a bit speedy sometimes (of course) but he did settle and it felt pretty good. Ironically though when after our short break I went to ask for the left lead he gave me the right one two/three times! I did get the left lead, actually on the long side after making an effort to bring his front end off the rail and push his butt towards it - it worked and he got it and off we went. He's going to be a real dream once we get the leads all figured out! It's like he gets so happy about cantering that he mostly just tosses a lead out at you, and not neccessarily the correct one. I was pretty happy actually because Diane complimented me on moving him over to get the lead - and how you don't usually do that with babies but it worked.

Diane then suggested that I switch over to the english saddle. So, Nova stood like a rock while I stripped off the western and fiddled around with the english. It's a wide tree, but it seemed to fit him okay today - so I think it will work okay enough until I can sell mine and buy him his very own. Anyway, I felt so odd because I haven't really ridden english in a year. I walked him around for a couple minutes so we could both get the feel of it, and then we started to trot. Whooo boy! He sure wanted to motor around like a crazy horse. Well, for Nova it was! Perhaps he was loving the lighter saddle, haha. He was going really big, and we actually worked on getting him to slow down (you know, so I didn't end up falling off). It took a little while, but I got him down to a really, really nice slow trot (both ways). Like, show ring worthy! And while I wasn't really asking him to put his head down, I was riding with contact and he was lowering his head and it felt really good!

It was definitely a better lesson from Monday, and I'm looking forward to Friday and riding english again. My big english pony finally gets to be the real deal! At least a bit.

June 19, 2009
My boy is totally an english pony!

As I said in the last post, Diane is being very generous and allowing me to borrow her (super comfy) Lynn Palm english saddle for lessons. It felt good to be riding english again, especially on Nova.

I was expecting him to be kind of quick to start off with, because he was yesterday, and then because he has been getting a bit fast and trying to break into a canter during the warm-up. But, he was good. It was a nice pace, not too slow, but not trying to barrel around the arena like an idiot. He also felt good when I had to pick up my inside rein and add leg and move him back over to the rail. We did five circles each way at the end of the arena, and then down the long side to do a circle in each end before walking.

After our warm-up we moved into the canter. This is the year of the canter, according to Diane! We went left first, and he, I have to say, was terrible at picking it up. I do think it's because of the different saddle, and I'm okay with that, but he was so bad compared to what I'm used too. You know, the add leg and get canter instantly. Today we had to do a bit of running into it, but my dad (who came to watch) said he did really well - so it wasn't even that bad I guess. I must be spoiled. Anyway, he did good, and we cantered around the whole arena, and he was staying a lot straighter on the rail and not even getting too chargey. I also felt really secure in the saddle, so that was nice (I wasn't flopping all around at least, haha).

As you can probably guess, he was bad picking up his right lead. Had our normal wrong lead departures, but we did finally get it. He was also good that way. Very similar to the left lead. Diane then had us do some simple changes across the diagonal (ended up doing one each way). We ended up following Tika, so it wasn't quite as smooth as I could have made them because I didn't want him to get too close to her back end. (I realize now I could have done and extra circle to put some distance between us.) But, it was also not a bad thing because when I went to pick up the other lead, he was a bit quicker about it because Tika was ahead of him and already cantering - but I did have to wait until she started before I asked, so we didn't have and problems. I will say that he felt really good going across the diagonal at the canter - he was straight! We might not have been 100%, but again, I was still trying to keep an eye on Tika and not get in her way.

We then got to chill out and watch Diane canter Rhythm before she made us work a bit on bending and getting them to move their hips out. This was a tough one for Nova, especially to the right because that's his bad side. He likes to just lean and fall into the circle. But, I was getting a bit of response from him (baby steps) to the right, and a better response to the left.

It was a good lesson, and I'm really happy to be riding english on him. Diane said we might start some trot poles/small x-rails with him soon and see how he does.

Dad was also nice enough to bring his camera down, so I got some shots from today. I think he's looking pretty good! But, I'm also pretty biased too.

June 20-26, 2009
Day 1
We left Saturday morning for the mountains! Of course, Nova was more interested in eating the yummy lawn grass than wondering who the strange horse calling from the trailer out at the circle. He loaded well, and was in the last stall of the trailer, as that's the way it worked out. As far as I know he travelled well the whole way down. It was cute the couple times we stopped (once to open all the windows, once to gas up/eat) he would call out. He unloaded well, and didn't even get very excited about the new environment of the campground. He wasn't too sure about the tie-stalls at first (he didn't want to walk all the way in), so I sat on the edge of the manger and just waited. He eventually came in and seemed to relax pretty quickly. He was on one end, beside Trapper. We gave them some hay and let them settle in. After supper we took them for a walk down to the river (which is a pretty decent walk), and he was pretty looky and walking pretty quickly! He didn't react as much as I thought about the river. But it did take him a little while before he decided that it was okay to drink from.

Some time before we took them for water, Nova managed to do the impossible. Or, well, not so impossible I guess. He managed to unclip himself (not untie, unclip the clip on his leadrope), turn around, then turn back around and be standing like an angel when we went back down. I'm thinking he must have managed to catch it on something and pull it open... I'm still not sure how he managed that!

Day 2
This was our first day of riding. It was cloudy and cool out, and had rained most of the night before - I was not pleased. Nova was toasty warm under his blanket, so at least one of us was warm! He stood ok being tied to the trailer. Unfortunately, a couple people were leaving right as we were tacking up, so there was some trailers moving, horses being loaded, and just a bit of action going on. He stood ok for me to tack him up, but I could tell he was pretty 'up' when I got on him. We jigged through camp out to the trail head. Of course, having two dogs come running out of their campsite and attack Shauni was not very helpful. He was very jiggy on the first part of the trail (ugh), but he wasn't out of control. The first ride was basically an old road, so once we got out there, and Julie and Mom let us lead, he did settle down. He still tried to jog, but I was able to get through to him that walking was a better option. There was a lot of puddles on the trail which he was definitely not very pleased about. I let him go around most of them to save myself some hassle. I did get tired of getting wet legs from the branches brushing my pants, so he did have to walk through some of them. He was not happy, but after following Trapper/Rhythm through a few of them, he was doing better. We had to cross a bridge (big enough for cars) across the river, and Nova followed Trapper right across (literally plastered to Trap's butt). I think he didn't even know what he was doing until he was across it. The river was very loud right there because of a big of a rock face, so it was pretty scary.

Our lunch stop was short, just because of the cool weather. Nova was trying to get into trouble with Trapper because the two of them were grooming each other's necks, but then he started to try and bite him playfully... So he got moved away to a tree. Unfortunately when we bridled up again, we left right away and back down the same trail. So he got pretty hot and joggy. (If it's one thing I can't stand, it's a horse that jogs - so he managed to pick up the one bad habit that drives me nuts!) Even out front he wasn't settling down, so Mom had to ride first with Rhythm and keep her doing a slightly slower pace so he would settle down. It did work, and he did calm down and walk most of the way back to camp with very little jogging. On the way back across the river he followed Trapper again, but this time he noticed the water underneath him and got bug-eyed about that, but still walked across pretty nicely considering.

Along the trail there were a few very tiny streams for them to walk through, which was a good introduction for Nova to having to cross water that moves. He followed either Trapper or Rhythm across all of them, but that was ok!

I was frustrated with how joggy and excited he got, but in reality, he handled the ups and downs of the road very sanely. (You know, the cardinal rule is we walk up the hills, and down the hills.)

Day 3
This was Nova's first real river crossing day. It also dawned cloudy and cold. I wanted pictures of this big occasion, so our plan was for Julie to cross the river, then take pictures of Mom and I crossing. Well, that didn't work out as planned. Trapper crossed like a champ, but then Rhythm wanted no part of crossing. After a slight 'discussion' Mom got her across, but I couldn't get Nova in right after her, so we ended up hanging out on the one side by ourselves while they were on the other side. Nova was quite happy to stand there and not get wet. Julie was very nice and came back across to rescue me. She ended up coming over, going back halfway, then turning and coming back to try it again. Nova was not willing to even put his feet in the water, so I had to use the ties on my saddle to slap him a bit to encourage him. He did finally decide to go in, and we crossed right behind Trapper. (Poor Julie got a bit wet from Nova's splashing.) He went across well, and didn't scramble or stumble. A few minutes down the trail we had to cross another river, but it was broken up into three different sections. We followed behind Trapper again, and he did a lot better.

The trail then followed along the river. On our way out I spotted a wild horse (yes, literally wild) in the trees off to the side. Nova wasn't very concerned about it at all. We then turned onto a different trail - and well, it went up. Lots and lots of up! I was really proud of how well he did! He just dropped his head low and picked his way up. The trail wasn't bad at all, but there were points where he did have to watch where he put his feet. Just before we stopped for lunch, we did do some downhill and he did well with that.

Again we had a short lunch (this time because it actually started to rain on us), and again, Nova was pretty up when we started out again. Rhythm got to lead us again, and that did seem to help. It was frustrating when he forgot that we walk up the hills and he wanted to jog up them. But he did finally settle down for the most part. He had one bad moment where Rhythm got out of his zone, and he had a slight meltdown because she got too far away. Ohhh, that ticked me off to no end. Trapper was right behind him, and there was no reason for that. Other than that, he walked nicely down and picked his way when he needed to. It's nice to know he doesn't get excited about stuff like that.

In the same open meadow that I'd seen the wild horse on our way out, there were two standing in when we were on our way back. I don't think Nova got excited about them, but he got jiggy when the other two passed us and so I decided to get off and walk him. He did better crossing the river on the way back - he's getting the hang of that water pushing on his legs!

Day 4
This day was a pretty easy day. We were going to ride up the road to a trailhead (to avoid the part of the trail that is nasty - long and a very steep up). As we were going along, Nova was dogging it pretty bad. So we ended up turning back early thinking he was tired and we didn't want to push him too much. We did have to pass a herd of cows that were on the side of the road, and Nova did really well. We were behind Trapper, who could have cared less about the cattle, so I think Nova took his lead from him. He was alert but wasn't tense. (He has been pastured beside cows at my aunt's house, but that's different than riding beside them.)

Not really anything else to say, as it was sort of a 'lazy' day.

Day 5
This was our unexpectedly big day. Friends from Calgary were supposed to haul out and ride with us, but something happened and they were unable to make it. I'm kind of glad about that because I wasn't looking forward to the chaos that two new horses would add to the group. We were originally just going to ride down a different old road to a different 'camp' and then come back. But, due to some 'errors' that I'm not sure were not intentional, we ended up on the trail that we were thinking about taking. Nova had to cross the river a couple of times, and he was doing much better!

(On our way along the road, we actually saw a herd of wild horses come out of the bush onto the trail a short ways infront of us. There were two foals in the group. Once they spotted us they took off down the trail away from us. Nova got a bit excited, but after about a minute of not being able to see them, he settled right back down again and could have cared less.)

Anyway, the trail after we rode along the valley on the road, then crossed a river, went up. Lots and lots and lots of up. I could tell Nova was a bit more tired as he was willingly stopping on his own for 'puff breaks'. The trail wasn't too bad - the footing was good. At one point we stopped for a picture, and Nova did not want to stand still. So much for being tired!!

We stopped for lunch at a really nice spot with a great view. Of course, Nova was being a brat and pawing and moving around the tree, trying to eat grass, etc. Basically acting not the least bit tired, and nothing like he does at home.

As this was a loop, we continued on after lunch. Nova still got excited (the little button-presser), but managed to stay calm enough that I didn't threaten to send him for dogfood. The trail after lunch got very wet and muddy. The ground is good under the mud, so they were only sinking about fetlock deep in most of it - so nothing very bad. I was proud of how Nova did through it all. I know how much he hates mud, but when I directed him to go through the middle of it (or over enough to get around tree branches) he did and didn't fuss about it (nor did he get any more excited). After doing some trail searching for the unmarked shortcut, we climbed a bit more. He wasn't completely settled, but he was doing okay.

After the climb we came to the downhill. Holy moly. We actually didn't even attempt it, and got off and lead the horses down it. It was very, very steep. Nova did well, but he kept wanting to walk faster than me. At least he didn't walk on me. (I don't blame him, because it was a tough down with some loose rocks/ground.) After the worst of it we fixed my saddle and we got on to ride the rest of the way down. It was much better after that. He felt like he wanted to trot down some of it, but with just a light touch of the reins he was walking and going nicely.

At the bottom we had to cross the river again, and this time he went first! I didn't even have to encourage him much at all. It was a nice crossing, and the river wasn't too deep, but I was still pretty proud of him. We then joined back up with the old road, and had a long hot walk back towards camp.

There was one point when I got very upset about him and his jogging. Trapper was ahead of us and got a bit 'far away' and Nova had a meltdown. After some cussing and some circles, and very seriously threatening to send him for dogfood, Julie put Trapper back behind and Nova was okay. I was not happy about that because it didn't solve anything, it just stopped the problem. It was probably for the best, but I really wanted to have it out and solve the issue, because it really does tick me off. (Especially when the other horse is right behind him, so he's not alone at all.) He was good for the rest of the ride back. He wasn't even nervous of the people on bikes that passed us.

When we got back to the camp, Julie took Trapper along the trail while Mom and I stuck to the road through camp. Nova got excited and started to jog, so I decided to keep him jogging and keep pushing him into it. We went slow, and we jogged almost all the way back to the stalls. He wanted to stop a few times, but I kept him going. When I did ask for a walk he gladly walked. Of course, we were ahead of Rhythm and back at camp, but it made me feel good to have made him do something he didn't want to. Haha.

Day 6
After the 'killer' of a day before, and this was our last day to ride, we kept it easy. I've forgot to mention but after the first day we kept things very low-key as we were leaving camp. I would mount up first and walk around and get Nova paying some attention, or we would all walk for a couple minutes down the road and then get on - it worked well. This day we rode out on the same trail we did on the first day - in a much more respectable way! Calm and nice. We went down the same old road again, and this time we played our 'leaf game'. It's a game we created to ease the boredom of the trail sometimes. We take leaves off of the branches along the trail and then throw them at the other person. It may sound like a terrible game, but I think it's actually a good thing for the horses. They get used to us leaning over to grab branches, moving amongst the group, and having things flying through the air around them. Nova's great at this game, and could care less about leaves flying around him/by his head.

It wasn't very far down the road where we turned off on this other trail. Wow. It went way up in a hurry - complete with switch-backs. This was the most rocky trail we'd been on all week. Nova really did have to pay attention to where he was putting his feet. There were a couple steep downs where he had to step over the roots and rocks and again, he didn't get excited about it. We did turn around and come back (the trail was a dead-end trail anyway), and ended up walking them down the last bit because it was pretty steep. Nova did better about walking behind/beside me and was more willing to be slow.

Back on the old road we once again played around with the leaf game, and we actually got all our horses to walk side by side so we could hold hands. I was so proud of Nova as we were in the middle, and I didn't have my hands on the reins, and he didn't even break into a trot or fall behind.

The wind came up pretty badly just as we were almost back. We'd decided to ride in a different way and come through the people camp and then back into our camp. Nova got a bit excited about the wind blowing up his butt - but I don't blame him as it was pretty wicked. Once we were into the other camp and in the trees it was a lot better. We did just beat the mini-storm that blew up just after we got back and unsaddled - whew.

Day 7
Home day. We had pulled the horses out of their stalls for a final cleaning, and I had Nova tied to the hitching rail with Rhythm and Trapper. For some stupid reason he freaked out (I don't know if he got his head under the rope or what), and pulled back. I expected the rail to break, but it didn't. I was screaming at him, and he finally stopped pulling (and thankfully Rhythm only pulled back once and came forward). Of course, he managed to get the back of his halter over his ear and it was pinned down against his head. It was so tight that Mom and Julie had a hard time slipping the throat piece back so the rest would slide back. (The halter wasn't on loose, but obviously it was just loose enough to do that. I did tighten it up to the last hole after that.) He had made it all week without a single pull-back, and I was hopeful, and then this. He is definitely spending a lot of time tied to the hitching rail with the rope halter on now. Not really sure why at 4 he decided that pulling was okay, but he's going to learn at 4 that it's a really stupid idea.

Nothing else much to say, other than Nova loaded well, travelled well, and then when we stopped for lunch somehow managed to destroy his feed manger. No idea how he did it, but he's not getting one again! I can't afford to keep replacing them.

He got a bit excited when we dropped Trapper off and he had to stay in the trailer, but it was more just slightly impatient pawing than anything. He unloaded well at home, and instead of dropping to roll when we turned him loose at home... He ran down to the grass and started to eat. Silly boy!! As if he hasn't spent most of his time the last week stuffing his face with as much hay as he can handle.

It might have sounded that I wasn't very happy with Nova through this trip, but I actually was. He handled everything that we threw at him with his usual level-headed self. Didn't get worked up about the river crossings or the up and down hills, or anything else. He couldn't have behaved any better that way. He just could have not picked up stupid excited jogging!