Monday, January 21, 2013

The Journey Begins

 So where did I leave off? Oh yeah, Spyder comes to Split Elm...
First day at the farm
His new stall - Day 1
I have notes on some of my very first lessons, and we've come a long way, but I'll start from when he knew just about nothing. It was hard finding a place to start being that I never started a horse rather than a young one. I mean it is what I wanted, but was I ready for this? I was excited and nervous at the same time. Umm, why did I pick this horse? What do you teach a horse that only knows, "OK, there's a rider my my back. Cool, now what?"
Paddock to himself - he's changed so much!
I'd say I taught him something looking back, but mainly because I had direction from my lessons and instructors. I am very glad that I have people that can help guide me in this process of, "What do I do now?" So back to my notes. I believe he came to the farm on my Mom's birthday, July 15 so he had just turned 4. He went out in a ring by himself for at least a week to get used to the new place and figure it all out. I rode him a few times in the round pen as a caution of what could have happened being that he was young and may have been scared? What did I know? I got on him and he didn't care! I took him out in the field to graze for a bit on a lead to bond and what does he spook at? A LOG! A LOG that doesn't move! Oh boy, what did I get into?

Back to lessons - I didn't even get there yet because of my rambling... they start with "steering and going". Wow, embarrassing and beyond what I could teach a horse myself? I have those same comments for 1 lesson each week for 5 weeks. 5 weeks of steering and going, here we go. We did most of this in the pen where he was turned out by himself since he was used to the area on the farm, and then moved to the grass area that has some cross country jumps for looks that was next to this ring. Come September, we worked on moving off of leg to add in a new test. At the end of September, we were able to start to work on developing a canter to see how that would go - not TOO bad. My horse liked to throw in some small bucks in the beginning, but nothing that could get me off. It's weird, but I think they are fun to push through.

His first show - AC 4-H
Come October, we moved to a new area on the track, conquering one area of the farm at a time. We would alternate between his paddock where he was turned out originally, the side field, and the track which made learning more interesting with all kinds of new scenery. This month we got to work on more cantering, and now pacing his trot since he was starting to get the hang of what he was being asked to do. In the middle of the month, we went to an open show at the Atlantic County 4-H fairgrounds which was something new. I wasn't sure how it would go, but we did the "older and bolder" division so we could stick to walk/trot. He was PERFECT! In the ring he threw one fit because another horse cut him off, but I was just happy to have made it out alive, and as Grand Champion might I add. Ok, I know, I know, it's 4-H, but I'm still happy that we did well. It was fun competing with "normal" horses on a pacer because people wouldn't have known the difference if his big head didn't give it away! We even did the cross rail class which was just 2 jumps because we were having so much fun. I never jumped him, but he tried his best (and threw in some exciting pace steps between the two jumps)! We summed up this month with cantering a bit more. What a beginning!

November was a bit colder and somewhat muddy so we would go over to the indoor one night a week for practice in the trailer (yeah, like standardbreds need practice with that) and for something different. This month, December, and January were spent mainly in the indoor where we got to work on a little bit of jumping, ground poles, more cantering, pacing the trot, and transitions. It was fun knowing that a horse with a standardbred trot could collect and slow it down a bit. Man, they have HUGE gaits! We did get outside a few times this winter - on the track was one of those days where we got to practice with puddles. Water is such a scary thing to trot through, but we got through it.

In February, we got to work in the dressage ring in the big field since we worked on our circles and speeds to practice a test. Flat work was never my thing, but I was so proud to see that I was becoming a better rider from it, and I did all of this along with my horse that became a better ride. February began moving off of leg which has helped our flat work and bending out quite a bit! I never thought I would do so many quarter lines, but they went from omg, my leg is killing me because you won't move over to just closing my leg and having him move out... such a great feeling! Spyder hurt himself in the field like any playful 4 year old would (knee injury/cut and was swollen) so we had a week off which I'm sure he loved! He managed to do this while I was 6 hours away one weekend skiing in Vermont - thank goodness for farm owners that live on property!

Late February, March, and April brought more scenery between the indoor, dressage ring, track, round pen, and field. Circling objects became a huge accomplishment being that our steering wasn't all that great, but I knew it was getting there. Going round became a new feat which was fun, but also added confusion to the mix being that I was not always focused which confused my poor horse. I had to think about too many things - move forward, keep trotting, go this way, now go round, now keep going this way, ok, now turn, ugh, no, go round again... whoo, this was work! I'm so happy that I have a horse that puts up with me and is so patient, kind, and forgiving... if only I could obtain those qualities.

April - the first of us going round!

At the end of April, I had a hard time with Spyder after attending an open 4-H show. We signed up for the older and bolder classes again, but he was not very happy to be there. Maybe it was my nerves because he was so fresh, but it was not fun. Spyder never really does anything THAT bad. He might grunt or kick out because he's frustrated, but this was I hate you, I don't want to be here, I'm going to do a tiny rear thing and turn how I want to turn and do what I want to do. My nerves and frustration led to pacing which was 1) not fun 2) super fast and 3) not what you do at an open english show? I didn't make it to our jumping classes because we were both frustrated with each other, and I knew something was up.

May came and I rode on my own, without lessons to try to figure out our issues. Why did my horse trot and trot and trot and now decide to pace? What happened at the show? What did I do wrong? Did I push too hard? I needed to decide what to do, how to get help, and who to ask questions to. It was almost a year of moving forward but something had to push us back - what was it?