September 30, 2010

September 8, 2008
I've been gone for a couple weeks (trip to Newfoundland), but I'm back and ready to make my boy work!

I've been dying to get back on Nova and go for another ride (I'm really excited to ride him because he's just so awesome). So tonight we went out again. He stood great as always to be tacked up and mounted.

We started off, and he did try to trot up the hill, but he settled down after I asked him to walk. Past the arena Nova eyeballed a garbage can, but walked right up to it on his own. Found it wasn't all that interesting and we turned and continued on down the road. We then met Stewie the mini donkey, and Nova was quite interested in him! He was sniffing him all over and quite curious, but was good when I asked him to continue on down the road.

When we got to the end of the dirt road we decided to go across the range road and into spring hills for the first time. We crossed the road fine, but he got a tiny bit nervous when he heard the cars pass behind us when we got to the other side. He just tried to jog ahead a couple times, but settled down no problem and we continued on. We went until we heard a horse call out, and Nova perked up a lot, so we decided to turn around (because ahead would have been a couple horses who would probably run up to the fence, possibly a dog in a kennel right beside the road, and then two mini's that would probably come up to the fence to say 'hi' - a bit too much stimulation for Nova... Or me, actually.) On the way back we heard someone leaving their yard in a car, so we stopped on the road to wait for them to leave - and they took longer than we thought, but Nova stood quite literally perfectly still. What's nice about him is that so far once he stops he stands very still and isn't antsy or fussy. We crossed back across the range road without a fuss, though there were no cars this time.

We then decided to go past the office instead of past Stewie. This turned out to be more exciting than we figured. The house just before the office has a dog that usually doesn't come up to the fence, but today decided to make a beeline straight down the driveway towards us. Thankfully they have a gate across the driveway. We heard him coming, so I stopped Nova and turned him to look at the dog, but even then he was still nervous of the dog. He didn't do anything other than freeze and take a step back onto the road (and thankfully the car at the stop sign waited until we continued on before coming). Then where ugly dog used to live is the young replacement dog, who of course today had to bark at us and come out to the end of the cable (but thankfully not fast). We went passed him without hassle, and Nova even stopped and turned his head to look at the dog after we made it passed safely.

One thing I know we're going to have to work on is Nova not throwing his head up when he decides to resist the bit and what I'm asking him to do. Part of that is definitely his green-ness and will go away with time, but I also don't want to let it become a habit. Diane will definitely help us with that.

But all in all, he was great! He's super willing to be ahead of the other horse when we're walking down the road - he's not nervous at all. And I can spend a lot of the ride on a relatively loose rein and let him just walk along (which probably isn't the 'best' thing, but it is working for us so far).

September 15, 2008
Woohoo! Another fantastic lesson today. Since it was in the afternoon, I had to take Nova down by himself. At first I thought I might try and ride him down, but it was windy today and once I had him ready to go he seemed a bit 'looky', so I decided to just lead him down. It was a bit stop and go until we got past our neighbours driveway and then he walked down willingly. He was happy to see our neigbour 's mare already at the arena when we got there.

After chatting for a few minutes with Diane when she arrived I hopped on - of course, he stood perfectly still! We walked around while Diane was helping Helga with some things, and he was listening pretty good. Diane had us riding in about a third of the arena today, partly because of the wind, and partly because it's nice to work in a smaller area sometimes. We then started trotting and along one side Nova was really veering off the rail and cutting the corner so we worked on trying to keep him as close to the rail as possible. We also started on doing large circles (but more medium considering the size of the area we were in) in each corner. The first few were a bit iffy, we'd come off the rail nicely but when we got to the mid point of the circle he'd start to veer out towards Tika who would be on the other side of the arena. After being firm with my leg and rein on his neck he shortly figured out what I wanted and was quite good. I'd say we had a few circles that were almost perfectly circular! It was amazing to feel him figure it out and start to come around nicely. (We of course did the trotting around, and the circles in both directions.)

I'm aware that some (okay, probably a lot) will not agree with what we did next, but that said, I do trust my trainer immensely. Because Nova was starting the habit of putting his head up in the air whenever he was asked to do something he was less than thrilled about - turning, whoaing, etc. Diane loves his look and wants him to keep a long and low topline (and not build the dreaded underneck muscle). So, we put draw reins on him today. We started with them quite loose so he could figure it out (head up=bad, head down=good), then started working at the trot again and very slowly started to shorten them a bit. It took awhile of doing that before he started to clue in - Diane kept commenting on how she could tell he was really thinking about what I wanted him to do. By the end of the lesson he was really getting it, he was starting to come down and hold it for a few strides. He was great at the walk - but he's usually quite good at the walk on his own about keeping his neck level.

Just wanted to add that he was quite good when we were going the opposite way from Helga and she didn't move Tika off the rail very much (and Tika was having a cranky day), so he's automatically move himself right off the track and onto the grass right beside the rail to avoid her. And only once did that cause him to break to a walk. Also, Helga was cantering around while we were trotting and it didn't even phase him! That's perfect, because the sooner he figures out that it doesn't matter what other horses are doing, the better.

The only downside was that towards the end he started to get a bit distracted and started to call for the horses left at home. There was a couple of times he slammed on the breaks to call, but usually he would go again with some encouragement. The one time I got really after him (thumping quite heavily with my legs) and he wasn't moving forward, so he got the saddle tie to the rump which got us back in motion! After that, we were fine. And hey, I didn't need my dressage whip at all, so that's a nice change.

I was very proud of him today. He had a lot to focus on and did very well!

September 16, 2008
Trail ride day. Diane mentioned that she wouldn't mind if I got out and rode Nova between our lessons (I figure just because the more undersaddle time he has, the better). So we went again last night. Silly horse still ran right up to the gate to get caught!

For the first time ever he tried to move off when I went to mount him, but did stand after I got him stopped. Definitely will be stopping that little habit right away! We started off quite bravely, as always. Even pushed past Rhythm when she stopped halfway down the driveway to reconsider this idea of a ride (she has sore feet). So because of Rhythm's tender toes we decided to go down the lakefront again.

We bravely led down the path that held the scary monster man last time, and he only paused right when we came out of the trees on to the lakefront to survey the situation before continuing. I felt he was more relaxed out there this time - still a bit gawky at the lake, but not nervous like last time. He did try to jog a bit, but soon settled down. So we did some big circles in each direction on our way along, and he was good. Didn't try to resist or pretend he forgot how to do them. We even went around a gazebo for a circle while Mom went to a circle the other way - it's great he's not clingy! She also trotted past us and Nova wasn't upset at all (that would have been a different story if she'd gone a lot further ahead, of course). He did spook once when some ducks took off from the water just behind us, but as usual, settled right back down again. On our way back we trotted (while Mom stayed back and walked), and actually did one large circle at the trot each way - and he was good! Have to say it's the biggest trot I've gotten out of him yet! We then went back down the path and across the road, past the arena then home. I turned Nova to go towards the road and he did decide to throw his rump in the air a bit for some fun, so we did some really fun head-to-my-knee circles and then continued on. He wasn't being bad (well, yes he was, but not in a mean way) as much as having fun, so I didn't get very big and grumpy at him. If he tries it again I definitely won't be so nice!

I do want to say though that I noticed a difference on not only his steering, but about the head-flinging too. All the whoa's I asked him to do were not greeted with his nose straight up and out, but instead with his head more down. And a few times I'm pretty sure I felt him reaching down for contact - which is awesome!!! I can honestly say I don't think he threw his head up once last night. He of course, did bring his neck and head up for the trot, but that I don't mind for now.

What'ta good boy!!

September 18, 2008
Of course, another fantastic trail ride tonight!

We decided to take Nova someplace new tonight, and of course, he was wonderful. We went past the arena, and Stewie the mini donkey, then across the range road (we crossed and then had to wait for Mom because Rhythm was walking pretty slow) then into Spring Hills. He did spook a tiny bit when a truck passed us, but it was just a scoot ahead - he will need some work on vehicles passing, but that will come later. We went further than we had the other time, and thankfully no horses ran up to the fence, and the dog wasn't in his pen so there was nothing scary to pass. We did stop to talk to the people who own the mini horses (they weren't out tonight) and he was a little impatient (especially when their pretty mare came over to the fence) but wasn't too bad.

After that we went through the path into the field behind Spring Hills. And Nova led!! I was so proud of him, because he has never been on this path, and from what I found prior to riding him was that he wasn't fond of the bush. He was pretty alert, but not really spooky. Just before we went through the tall brush into the field, he stopped and was looking, and at first I thought it was because he could see the large field behind the bush, but in fact it was one of our neighbours riding! So we turned around and let her come through and he got to hang out while we chatted for a few minutes. He stood much better this time. After that we went out into the field, and after eyeballing the canola (I think) that was cut and laying in the field he walked along the edge with no problems! Wasn't concerned that there was this wide open field on one side and solid brush on the other. He doesn't have much power for going up hills yet, but I hope that will come in time! He also did good when we turned around to come back and walked down the slight hills.

Nothing exciting happened on the way back, as he was great. I have noticed that he walks a lot slower when he's behind than he does when he's leading (exactly like Rhythm does!). He was quite relaxed that I rode a lot of the way home on the buckle and let him amble along the side of the road.

I can really see the improvement in his steering and stopping even from just last week! He's much more responsive to turning and even just moving out onto the road to avoid a tree branch and then back onto the grass. We should probably work on our stops, as he's not 'quick' about that, but I'm happy he does stop and doesn't fling his head in the air anymore!

Supposed to be having a lesson tomorrow - we'll see if I get out of my hair appointment in time!

September 19, 2008

Yes, that is how excited I am, and how much I love Nova!

Because of my hair appointment I was running late (but not running late, because I was still ahead of when Diane was expecting me) so I wasted no time once I got home brushing and tacking up Nova. But then, because I wasn't really late, I decided today would be a good day (as he was pretty relaxed looking) to try and ride him down to the arena! I kind of thought we'd get to our neighbour's driveway and then he'd freeze, call, and generally decide this was not a good idea. That didn't happen though! We didn't break any speed records, but we walked quietly the whole way down to the arena. He didn't even stop once to give me any hassle!!! We're not ready for a solo trail ride just yet, but I think I can start riding him down to our lessons by myself.

Because of forgotten keys, we had to 'break into' the arena today, and Nova willingly walked over the board on the bottom of the fence into the arena. We walked around a bit while Diane was working with Helga, but soon started to trot. He seemed a bit lazy today - he could honestly be tired and a bit sore since he was ridden three times already this week - so we weren't moving around very fast. He got a bit stubborn about turning right at the beginning, sort of an "I'm tired and would rather not turn, thanks anyway" but after a couple corrections and more prepared riding on my part we got going. I do swear though that he knew I didn't bring the dressage whip with me! (I haven't used it in the last couple weeks at all, but I think he knew anyway!) Thankfully there were straps on the back of the saddle which can be used in a pinch if he's being stubborn.

Anyway, as we were going around Diane suggested that we try to get him to lope/canter, so I went another round, then asked him to canter and he actually got it! And on the correct (right) lead too! The first time we did about 5+ strides and I asked him to trot (with tons of praise), but the second time I got it we continued it around for about two laps (we were in a third of the arena again) and he was great! Did try to break once or twice but a kiss and a squeeze kept him going. I was soooooooooo proud of him!! After a puff break, which was more for me than it was for him, we turned and went left. I think this will be his more sticky side (or could be because he was that much more tired) because it took a few times around to get it. But when we did, he got the correct lead again and we did about 3/4 of a lap before he quit. So, we did it once more and he got the lead again, and we did an entire lap before I asked him to come back to a trot. He was SO GOOD!! He wasn't racing around like a lunatic, and he went around and was listening to my aids (as in he continued around the circle and didn't bulge or resist).

So we got to hang out for a bit while Diane hopped on Tika, and I just kept telling him how good he was! After Diane was done with Tika, I asked if she wanted to hop up on Nova (it helps for her to see what I'm dealing with). So she put the draw reins on and hopped up. It was so cool to watch him go around! Especially when he started to figure out to drop his head and lift his back. I kept thinking, "THERE'S my english baby!" After Diane worked with him, and by the end he was walking really nicely on just the snaffle rein, I hopped up and tried not to ruin what she'd just worked on. It was so cool to feel him come down and start to search around for the contact.

After this fantastic day, he's definitely going to get the weekend off!! I think he deserves it!

September 26, 2008
So, no riding lessons this week. Monday we thought we had one, but Diane cancelled and we didn't get the message. I took Nova down but only lunged him because it was quite brisk and VERY windy out. He had some fun running and bucking on the lungeline though. He probably would have been okay because he was calm on the way down and while we were there (except for when I was lunging), but I chickened out on actually getting up on him.

So instead of a lesson, we went for a family ride. *GASP* This never ever, ever happens! It is probably the second time (maybe) Dad has been on his horse all year. Okay, anyway, it wasn't too cold out, but still a little breezy and definitely a little cool... Which everyone knows is the perfect recipe for fresh horses... And Nova was no exception! Now, before you think that he was a total lunatic... He was far from that! He just, for the first time, decided he wanted to jog! Ugh! There were a few factors that could have caused this: the weather, Skye and Dad joining us for the first time, Rhythm and Skye not being sore and therefore walking much faster than previous times, the fact that he hasn't been ridden in a week, and mostly what I think it was - we were covering the same ground he's been on a few times before. Not that the other things didn't come into play...

But I noticed when we reached Spring Hills and turned and went a new way his pace dropped off, him wanting to jog/trot pretty much stopped, and he settled down. He got a bit nervous when there was a dog in a pen that was hidden by the trees barking at us, mostly because we'd gotten behind Skye and Rhythm so he got a bit scared and broke into a trot. This time I let him trot to catch up because he was a bit nervous and I didn't need him to get really scared. No harm done I feel, because it was a nice controlled trot.

He was very good for the entire new part of the ride. He spooked a tiny bit when this big while dog ran over the hill in his yard and down into the ditch on the other side of the road (one of the silent and deadly types). But it's okay, because Rhythm spooked first! I decided we shouldn't attempt riding back along the range road because that might get him more upset than necessary, so we came back through the Village. Dad wanted to see if he'd spook if I held out my arms and put a baseball hat in them and flopped it around. So I took his and did just that on both sides... Nova could have cared less (until I made it make noise when I was flopping it around, he wasn't fond of that - so I'll work on that another day).

I laughed at the switch that happened the minute we joined up with the road he already knows, because he went from relaxed and calm to more 'up' again. Maybe because he recognized that road as the road to go home on... I don't know. Mom wanted to detour over on the path along the lake to go spy on the new house being built in Spring Lake Ranch, so off we went. Nova was good, and we officially stepped over our first real log! Okay, so it was laying on the ground, and not really all that impressive... But still! We ended up leading on the way back through the trail and he was really motoring along!

I'd like to think that Dad was a little impressed with how well he was - and he saw him on a 'bad day'... Which was really only walking really fast and trying to jog. If those are Nova's bad days, I think I'll really get along well with him!

September 29, 2008
I had another lesson with Diane today (and it was so warm out we were back to t-shirts!) which was very successful, I think.

Nova stood great for mounting, so I'm hopeful that his 'walk away' thing was just a very short phase! I then rode him down to the arena, and we meandered down there like old pro's!

After walking around the arena for a few minutes, we started to trot, and Diane had me try to get Nova to have a bit more 'umph' in his trot. He wasn't even tracking up (which is something I know he can do) and just sort of putzing along. But of course, that meant more work for me than it did for him. I really wish I was riding him english, because it's easier for me to post, keep my leg on, and generally just ride! But that said, I don't blame him for being a bit lazy since it was so warm out, and he's already working in his winter woolies. We did a change across the diagonal, and I think we were pretty straight through the whole thing! We're also starting to work on getting him to bend in the direction of travel (ie. NOT gawk to the outside of the arena as we're going around). His stiff direction is do the right as he definitely tries to look to the outside when we're going around.

After a short break, we went out to canter! He appeared to be a bit more resistent this time, and I honestly think it was because of the heat. But we still did get some canter out of him. He did pick up the wrong lead twice going to the right - but because he's very consistent on the lungeline, it's probably me that's throwing him onto the wrong lead. Diane let us out of the part of the arena we've been working in so we could use the whole arena (we did this for the trot too since Nova was so under control... [to which I had a bit of a chuckle, because I think he could handle the whole arena if he can handle the trail riding we've been doing]). To the right we got almost all the way around before he broke, which was okay. And to the left after we got him going we made it all the way around until I asked him to stop (and I'd lost a stirrup, but that almost made it easier for me).

After that we got a bit of a puff break again before Diane put the draw reins on - since his muscles were warmed up. She then went to help Helga with some turns on the forehand, and Nova and I were left to walk around. It's really neat to ride him with the draw reins on because they're so long, so you're not cranking his head in, but rather telling him to lower it and stretch out his topline. He does pretty good in them now, and we even moved up into a sitting trot and jogged (and I mean really jogged - it was perfect to sit to!) around the small area working on keeping his head low, and bending in the right direction. Helga complimented us on how well we looked going around which felt so nice because it felt fantastic to me!

That was the end of the lesson, but Helga and I decided to ride down the lakefront since the weather was so nice. Well, Nova was a little pooped out, so it was a very relaxing ride for the most part! I literally was holding the buckle on the reins the entire time. There is one part I know we're going to have to work on, because he's just being so silly about it. There is a set of tracks running across the lakefront towards the boat lanch, where it is mostly just packed grass, but there are a few dirt patches from where the tires are... This is about the scariest thing ever for Nova! He snorts at it, and eyes it, and really has no desire to cross it. Now, move him two feet over to where the dirt patches aren't, and he's fine. I did get him to more or less cross it (both times) where I wanted him to. But the next time we go down the lakefront, I'm really going to work on getting him to walk across it with no problems - every other horse we have doesn't even blink at it. And it's really kind of amusing when you think about it. And even though we were seriously just meandering along, we were still walking faster than Helga and Tika. I couldn't believe it.

On our way back, just before we enter the bush again to head for the road, three loud bangs (literally sounded like gunshots) went off. The first one, neither horse flinched (I did more than he did), the second, Tika was not happy about and sort of 'took off' a bit and then the third one both horses sort of took off. Not a bolt, because I did easily stop Nova, but he was sure getting the heck out of that place! Those were the only three we heard (thankfully!). The rest of the ride was uneventful, as we went to the arena so Helga could grab her stuff, and then walked home.

September 30, 2008
Another super sunny and hot day out today! And I couldn't not go for a ride, so I called Mom up at work, and by the time she got home Nova and Rhythm were tacked up and ready to roll.

Feeling brave today, I decided we should head out on the trail through the bush that has been punched out between the end of our road and the next range road over. It's not a bad trail, but none of our horses seem overly fond of it. We started off following Rhythm through it, but at about halfway we ended up passing her and led through the rest. The trail is actually between the one developed subdivison, and Spring Lake Ranch, which is going to be developed who-knows-when. It goes through the trees and since it's been bushed out a bit (to actually create the path) there are a lot of logs on the side of the trail. Nova, I've found, is not all that fond of logs along the trail (across the trail would probably be fine, though). We just had a couple stops, eyeballs, snorts, and then walked past them without a problem. After going up one hill, there is the back of someone's property that has fenced right to the end - complete with their two huge Newfie's! Prior to this the dogs couldn't come back as far, so poor Nova is standing there with these dogs in their pen probably about 10 feet off where the path goes. He wasn't too sure about that, but after stopping and looking, we squeezed between the trees and continued on. Of course, not more than 10 steps futher is a lovely junk pile left from someone - old tires, car parts, etc. All piled along the side of the path nicely, but still pretty spooky! So we get past that and go down a hill past a huge culvert that is out of the ground (yes, there's lots of stuff back there that will hopefully be cleaned up sometime), when on the other side comes running a german shepherd in his pen (we knew he was there), but I think between Nova being so alert about everything, and possibly the sun in his eyes he didn't see the dog until it got right to the fence. Both horses did very nice 180s to get the heck outta there, but stopped within a couple strides. After turning and looking at the dog and making sure Nova knew is was just a dog inside his fence, we proceeded up the really steep hill. Now, I've been up some pretty steep stuff, and I'd say this hill is something like you'd find in the mountains. Nova did so well! It felt to me like he was actually using his butt to help push us up the hill (Mom said that from behind it looked like he was indeed using his rump - good boy). There was another dog at the top of the hill in the same fence as the GSD, but he didn't spook the horses. After we topped the hill we came out onto the side road and I could feel Nova almost instantly relax.

I was very proud of him for facing all those really scary things. And he behaved no worse than Rhythm, since she spooked about as badly as Nova did at the dog.

The rest of the ride was pretty relaxing (read: boring) as he just walked along with his head down along the side of the road. We went through a subdivision on the other side of the range road, then crossed back and came through Willow Peak (the one we'd ridden behind on our way out). He did eye the huge metal dragon statues that this guy has built in his yard.

I had a great ride - we had some excitement, but most of it was ridden on a loose rein and just chatting away with Mom. Have I said lately how much I love Nova? Because, I REALLY love him!

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