September 30, 2010

October 1, 2008
Whew, three days in a row for poor Nova!

Tonight we went out with Mom and Helga for a trail ride. Things started off great, Nova was all relaxed and walking along nicely. Right after we passed Stewie (I feel so bad for that poor lil' guy) I made a comment to Mom (once that could be considered mean, in a joking manner) and she gave me a look and started to trot after me. So, off Nova and I went at a trot, but he actually decided to break into a canter, so I let him continue that way. We didn't go very far before I pulled him up and waited for Mom and Helga to catch up. Then for whatever reason about a minute after that, he got all snotty with me and didn't want to walk... But of course he picks a bad spot to do that in. But, he didn't get away with it, we did a circle or two, and continued on. Once we crossed the range road he was still a bit 'up', but was doing okay (heh, just walking on Rhythm's heels) when I think Helga and Tika came trotting down into the ditch behind us, and Nova tried to kick. It wasn't a big kick, and yes he got into trouble... But I don't blame him all that much. Helga has a habit of letting Tika trot up behind horses (and Tika is the one who's known to kick and gets very witchy when she's near other horses). So while kicking is unexceptable, perhaps trying to kick Tika isn't nearly as bad...

So Mom, being my saviour, let us out in front, and Nova settled right down again. When we got to the mini's, we turned right and continued on partway through Spring Hills. There's a small field you can ride through that is just off the road that takes you back into the larger hay/grain fields behind (all have been cut already), so we decided to do that. Nova and I were last coming off the road into this small field, when all of a sudden he leaps ahead and has quite a large spook. Turn around, and here's the freakin' dog from across the road (who I had looked for, but didn't see) running up behind us. So, it was definitely a legitimate spook, and he handled it quite well. Meanwhile, I'm ready to about kill that dog (sorry, I love dogs, but this one in particular has caused more than a number of spooks from our horses - mostly because it doesn't stay in the yard all the time). Anyway, so we turn around and continue along, only to have Nova go about six feet sideways as he spooks from something else! Ahhhhhh! I think it was a cat in the trees. Once we're out in the field(s) he settles down and we walk along very nicely.

When we get out into the field we normally ride in, we decide to ride up the field, and back through the path in the trees. The entrance to the path from the far end starts with a decent downhill, so I made sure that Nova walked down it. He's not fond of downs, the poor guy. And we led for the entire path, and there are a lot of spooky things on this path! An old car in the bushes, fences, lots and lots of logs on the side of the path, the pond in the back with geese on it, etc. He was super brave!! Only stopped to eye a couple things, but mostly kept on moving. Maybe not super fast (because Rhythm was right up our butt - though, we know if she was first, she'd be doing way more start/stop than Nova was), but we were keeping a steady pace. I was very happy with how well he did! Not surprised of course, because he really is one brave guy, but still quite proud.

He was good the rest of the way back home, so nothing to really report.

He's getting Thursday off because we're supposed to be having a lesson on Friday, so he gets one day to recoup!

October 18, 2008
So, why the break in updates? Because Mr. Nova decided a couple weeks ago to make his hind leg swell right up! He chose to do this on the Thursday before our Friday lesson. How nice. So he got some time off, and by Monday the swelling was gone, but I chose to give him that day off as well just to be safe. And since then I've missed all the riding lessons and the weather has been a bit miserable to ride in.

But today we rode! And we were not without some excitement.

I could tell when I went to catch Nova and Rhythm that they were both feeling spunky today. Perhaps I should have lunged him, but that really wasn't the reason why he was the way he was today. Tacked up, rode off down the driveway, and he was feeling a bit frisky. We started off okay, but about halfway down to the arena he started trying to get joggy again. So I was 'riding' him and trying to get him to settle down. At one point he literally slammed on the breaks and threw his head in the air... And I wasn't asking him to do anything. Brat. Well, we make it to the arena without further incident, and while we were waiting for Diane I was riding him around. Helga was lunging Tika, and Mom was in the far end trotting Rhythm around. He was doing okay, but still was looking for something to spook from (like walking away from the side of the arena with some trees, he figured perhaps he should scoot away because something might come to eat him...).

The fun starts about a minute later. I had asked him to change directions and we were along the side of the arena facing the gate, when suddenly he stops and is looking. I see the lady who's place we take the horses over to so they can graze down her grass coming down the little hill towards the arena. Nova is looking, but doesn't seem too concerned about it... Until all of a sudden we're half rearing and wheeling around, and I'm clinging and trying to get his head turned so he doesn't take off down the arena. It works, and we only go maybe ten feet from where we were in total (fancy dance moves included). From what Mom says, Nova may not have been the first one to react, as she felt Rhythm react sideways, sort of saw Tika and Nova jumping. So perhaps he was thinking about it, and the other horses helped him make his decision. Either way, after it was over we went to the fence, looked at the bike, got a pet from Donna and continued on.

Diane comes and we start our lesson by trotting two whole rounds of the arena, one large circle in each end, changing across the diagonal, two rounds of the outside, and one large circle in each end. The first lap around Nova was fine, but the second one my (idiot) dog followed us around on the outside of the arena. I'm going with the fact that Nova HAD to know Shauni was right there the whole time, so when he did the large spook sideways when Shauni went over some dead leaves was slightly out of line. Stupid beasts. (I was not in the best frame of mind by then. I mean really... Did he have to act like a 3 year old today?? [Joking!]) Shauni got tied up, and off we continued.

We definitely weren't breaking any speed records on our laps, but he was moving at a fairly consistent pace, and wasn't trying to stop on me at all, so that was good. After that we did some big figure-8's using the whole arena, and some serpentines. I worked on asking Nova to keep a bend by keeping my inside rein on his neck and flexing my fingers to ask him to give a bit. Worked out okay and we had one really nice bend during our serpentines.

After that we hung out in the middle of the arena while Helga then Mom cantered around. And then it was our turn! The first time we got the wrong lead because he sped up, I got a bit out of sequence and he ended up bending to the outside and taking that lead. No problem, let him go for a few strides then asked him to trot, went around the circle and asked for it again - got the right one this time. We are working in just the third of the arena for this. Got about halfway around that and Nova decided that he should trot, so I added my leg, to which he took offence of and shot his butt in the air a bit. I got after him by doing a really tight circle, and we trotted off again and picked it up at the corner again. This time I really used my butt to keep him going - and had a breakthrough with myself at the same time. But encouraging with my seat, my legs stayed locked into his sides (not tight, but steady) and I was able to keep him going fairly easily with just my seat. It was amazing! Okay, anyway, we cantered about four or five laps that way before I asked him to stop, to which we had quite a nice downward transition. Turned around and started to go the other way. Got the lead the first time and we went around. Not sure why, but Helga was also going to canter Tika at the same time we were... Well, in one corner she had a bit of an issue with her a couple times, so I had to steer Nova clear of that (making our circles smaller than planned). We did okay, but I wasn't paying enough attention to where I was looking (bad Christine!) so we sort of did the head turned but still travelling straight at the fence until the last second move, a couple of times. After which he broke, so we just collected and picked up the canter again. He was quite quick on getting his leads today (after the first mishap), and I'm very proud of him for that! For only his 3rd or 4th canter, I can't complain.

And as a special treat today, there's a 35 second video montage of our cantering adventures!

Oh, and for the bonus special treat... The video I promised a couple months ago of me riding him bareback? That got uploaded today as well!

October 20, 2008
Had another lesson today. Diane was going to ride Rhythm for Mom, so I ended up just leading both horses to and from the arena - easier than trying to pony one.

Did what appears to be our normal warmup lately - two laps around, two circles, change directions and repeat. Nova felt quite steady going around - although he usually does. No spooks today though! After our warmup, I was breathing harder than he was - but I was nice and warm!

We then went into working on our serpentines again, but instead of three, we did five or six. Nova decided to be really stubborn about turning to the right on the serpentines. Turns to the left were made nicely and smoothly, but to the right he decided he wanted nothing to do with them. So, after a bit of a reminder that we do indeed turn right when asked, we finished up okay. The second round of serpentines we started to make them smaller - aiming for quarterline to quarterline. Ours weren't perfect, but he was listening a bit better and we'd turn when I wanted us to turn, and I actually got a couple nice bends out of him. If I ride in the arena between lessons, I'm definitely going to work on our serpentines.

After that, it was canter time! Diane and Rhythm went first, then Helga and Tika, and then it was our turn - only to the left. We were in the far end of the arena today, and using about the same size area as we do on the other end - about a third. I started our trot on the far side away from the corner I was going to ask him to canter from, so we had a decent trot coming into the corner. Sat down, picked up my inside rein, added my outside leg, kissed and off we went! Dare I say he picks his leads up fater than Rhythm? Yes, I do dare! And he's so smooooooth too. I remembered to use my seat to keep him going, though he did pretty good today about not trying to stop. Diane also wanted me to just go with him, and not try to push him to keep going. We did about four laps or so and that was enough for him. Our downwards transitions were pretty darn good too. Not nearly as rough as Skye tends to be. After watching the other two go to the right, it was our turn. Pretty much a repeat of going to the left. Picked up his lead brilliantly and around we went. He's very consistent with his speed. I did have to try and get him not to lean to the inside by bringing my inside rein across his neck, and that seemed to do the trick. Man, he makes riding him so easy most of the time!

I know I do have to work on keeping my hands dooooown and not shortening my reins too much. Kind of the opposite from these high headed horses I've been riding for so long now. Diane said today that once he becomes more consistent with his canter we'll put him in an english saddle. Can't wait!

October 27, 2008
So, Diane had to cancel our riding lesson for today, but Helga called me up and asked if I wanted to go down anyway. Since it was relatively nice (especially compared to the weekend), I said sure, and went out to tack up. I have to admit that at first I was going to take Rhythm down, but of course, Nova is standing at the gate and Rhythm is on the other side of the pasture. So, okay, I'll take Booger instead.

He's been standing still again for mounting lately, so I hope that trend continues. As we start off down the driveway (like anytime I get on him after a break from riding) I realize how truly filled out and 'horse-like' he really is. We were going along fine until just past Helga's driveway when he kind of thought he didn't want to go much further. He never outright refused, but we had a couple stop/starts. Then of course, there's a board in the ditch that is just terrifying! And a big service truck that has to drive up the road. Nova had to be a bit of an idiot and spook at the truck - but nothing major and we continued on. Got down to the arena, I got off, opened the gate, went in, fixed his pad, remounted again, and we started walking along the outside. I was trying to ride 'properly' and had both hands on the reins - well, ugh! He thought that was terrible and kept fussing with his face and mouth (head up, head down, diving into contact, wiggling his head around, etc.) and kept wanting to trot. Once I spotted Helga walking down with Tika, I stopped and we just waited/watched them walk over to the arena. Figured it was better than fighting with him because he'd definitely be distracted. Then sat and had a bit of a chat with Helga while she prepped Tika for lunging.

I then took Nova to the far side of the arena to do some trot work. HOLY MOLY! I do not know what rocket boosters were put under my horse, but man did we have speed today! He also wanted to canter a bit too - "oh, you added leg! cannnnter!". I worked in the far half of the arena just going around the outside trying to get him to slow down and pay a bit of attention. He really wasn't that bad, he just wanted to go, go, go. I worked on getting a bit of a bend from him, and actually was getting some. To the left is definitely his preferred direction for bending, but I was even getting it to the right as well. And, I think he knows what inside rein and inside leg mean - move the heck to the outside of the circle! After working both ways for what seemed like forever, I brought him back down to a walk and we walked over to the other side to watch Helga lunge Tika while he caught his breath.

Since I'd forgot to bring my draw-reins, and Helga had hers I used them on Nova. Because we haven't been working on it lately I can tell he's getting more in the habit of bringing his head up which isn't what we want. Diane has been focusing on other things (mostly due to time contraints), so I decided to work on this with him today. (I trust myself not to totally ruin him with one unsupervised use.) Helga's are leather, and haven't been used much so they were quite kinked and stiff - it took me a little while to get them figured out. We started off with a fair bit of walking in both directions (on the gate end), getting him to level out his neck and give me some bend. He did pretty good, but of course had to figure out what the heck draw-reins meant again. Once we got it, we moved up into the trot. It was STILL fast! This never happens, as he's typically quite lazy. So after trying a bit to slow him down and settle, I just said 'what the heck' and we went big. He wanted to go big and fast, so that's what we did. Under control of course... Heh, well, under some control. When we walked again he kept trying to put his head waaaay down... Like peanut roller down. That's no good! So I'll mention it do Diane next time and ask for a definite way to fix that.

But the best part? After the little puffbreak we picked up the trot again. It was still quite big, but it felt AWESOME! He had his neck level and was going around with it just like that, not resisting the draw-reins at all, not leaning on them... Just holding himself right there. It was sort of an 'ah-ha' moment and I soooo wish I could have pictures/video of it. I even loosened off the draw-reins and started to ride him off the snaffle rein and he still held himself there! We were sure motoring around, but it felt sooo good! For the first time it was like having a powerhouse under me. (Good thing I've been riding speedy horses my whole life.)

With the draw-reins still loosened off I sat and asked for the canter, and bang, got it. He was still so go, go, go that he kind of didn't want to turn and finish the circle, so we ended up stopping, getting back on track and picking it up again in the corner. Did about three laps in that half of the arena at a quick pace before doing a nice transition back down to a trot then a walk. I then turned and we picked up the trot the other way, and again, no issues picking up the canter in the corner and around again we went, staying on course this time. After a few laps I once again brought him back down and halted him. Gave him big congrats for being so good, hopped off and removed the draw-reins before getting back on to walk around the arena on a loose rein to cool off. He had his head nice and level and walked around very relaxed. It just felt so good.

Because he was so good I got off and led him home - also so I could chat with Helga since she was walking as well. All I can say is that I'm really amazed at him! No idea where all that energy came from, but I'm not complaining!

October 31, 2008
Nova was looking a bit spunky today, so I borrowed Helga's lungeline and lunged him before mounting. He was doing good going around, then decided to be a bit of an idiot and take off away from me. And then pretended he forgot how to lunge. After a discussion and a walk back to our side of the arena we continued on and he was much better.

Mounted, and joined in at the trot. He was pretty well behaved and we worked on some circles and stuff. Worked on getting him to bend (especially to his stiffer side).

Spent a bit of time in the middle watching Diane canter Rhythm and then Helga canter Tika, before it was our turn. I think we did quite well to the left, and I worked on not having him get quite so forward with me. (He's usually not.) I think we got lost in the shuffle, because we never actually went around to the right.

We did work on halting, since I've noticed that they aren't as instant as they could be. It's not a pretty way, but it's effective. (And this is partly because he was running through my rein aids at the canter as well.) It's ask, and if he doesn't stop, immediately and not 'prettily' haul his little butt backwards. It took him a few times, but he did get it. Diane also mentioned to give him a little warning before I ask. So I'm trying to remember to close my fingers on the reins and then tell him whoa. It worked pretty darn good, I think. It's nice knowing my brakes are a bit more reliable. It's my fault for not working on this stuff sooner - it's a bad habit of ours not to work so much on stopping as we do on the rest.

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