Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weekend 2 Weeks From the Thirty

The weekend after our "perfect trail ride," I got moving to get to the tack shop with my future and fellow hunter pace team members. One needed a new show shirt, and it was a great day for me to check out the trail riding gear since the ride was in 2 weeks. (yea, I'm slacking - grad school is screwing me up). I was looking for a pad with pockets and something that could attach to the saddle to carry water. Everything they had was expensive, cheaply made, or wouldn't work with an english saddle, but I did score Spyder some treats and leather cleaner wipes (my new FAVORITE leather cleaning product - no more paper towels and rags and hours of cleaning/conditioning). The wipes have a lot of conditioner on them, and I didn't think they would be as good as they are. Lexol will be getting a lot more of my money.

When we were through with the tack shop, the girls came to ride at farm the farm with me. I was even able to score (borrow/was given) a pad with pockets that the one never uses to use for my upcoming ride (which is no longer happening, we'll get to that). Spyder would NOT listen! He had a rearing fit before they got there and wouldn't back down. We warmed up by the barn since the wind was making all of the horses crazy. Once they got there, we rode out to the big ring to have more space to work. Spyder was OK out here as far as spooking goes, but he was not liking the fact that I'd ask him to work while the other horses were standing there. He REFUSED to walk away from them, and something was off with his trot. He did get his feet trimmed nice and short for out upcoming ride, but it was days since it had gotten done. I took it easy since he was temperamental.

Sunbathing Saturday
We went out on the track because we were bored in the ring and he kept bulging at my leg. He would turn his body all sideways and literally side pass into the woods in the middle of the track. He was aggravating me so bad that I jabbed him with my spur, he kicked out, then he got over it. He was better for the rest of the ride, but certainly not perfect. They rode back to the trailer, and I decided to try to make him move. Yeah, "try" is the key word there. He kept bulging and would not walk on the track because he knew he'd be put to more work. I got to the point where I got his two feet on the sand, then he moved the other two. After we got to that pitiful moment, we walked around the barn and trotted around the area to end on that "good note." Ha, yeah right. I put his cooler on to see how it fit, and his mane was really getting out of control so I started to pull it and make him look less homeless.

Tried it on for the ride.
Worked on that mane because it was awful!
Sunday was trailer fixing day to get that situated for the following week/weekend so I could practice with it prior to my ride. It seemed to be one issue after another with the wiring, but that got figured our, and it got put back together with the new tires. It looked so great and was getting me excited for what the next two weeks would bring leading up to my ride. I talked to a few people about meeting up to trail ride the following weekend, and I was also getting nervous for my 30 miles! AHH! I headed out for a ride late in the day and had a decent ride with no fuss. We did about 6 miles with no arguing so I took it easy with his cooperation. If his feet were an issue, I didn't want to hurt him for the ride in two weeks. He needed a mental break from the day before, and taking it easy makes him easier to deal with. I worked to straighten out his mane a little more, but I still have a lot to do with it. Yikes! They always have their ups and downs, and I'm into that thought process to help me to look ahead and ride each ride like the one before was decent (even if it wasn't).

I'll get to the trailer in my next post...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Perfect Trail Ride

I've been a blogging slacker - training for that ride was getting me moving (but now we're out... more to come).

Back to the trail ride... OK, maybe it wasn't so perfect as I had a near death experience (sort of), but it was SO much fun! It was a hot day, and we decided to go to Batsto which is a part of Wharton State Forest. I'd always seen trailers parked there, but I haven't been able to get out with a horse. There are SO many trails and great mile markers along the way so you know how far you've gone. There are also a lot of spots where you can go in the water, and Spyder was playing in it splashing like it was the most fun experience.


We went just over 10 miles with walk, trot, water, and CANTER! Yes, cantering straight...Cantering straight for a while and on my horse's neck... OOPS! We were fine with little spooking (even in water and past a truck with a canoe). It wasn't until the way back when we decided to pick up a crazy canter because Spyder decided he just had to keep up and put his head down to "sniff" the deeper/whiter sand when we got up to it. When he put his head down, he pulled me forward, and we were full speed ahead. He kept going and going and going, and I decided to make a noise so the rider in front of my would hear to slow down so I could get myself back together. We caught up, and I managed to somehow push myself back up off of his neck and keep riding like nothing ever happened. IT WAS SO FUN! Spyder can canter, but he'll act like he can't in the ring.

Towards the end of the ride, and during a cantering frenzy, we caught up to a man on a horse. It was actually a cowboy on a horse that claimed he knew we must have been english riders when he saw the mounting block/stepping stool back at the truck. The cowboy was riding a beautiful chestnut quarter horse and gave us tips on where to go in the next couple trips. He had his 3 dogs with him which Spyder was not fond of. There were 2 cattle dogs and some type of retriever that follow the man's horse and play and explore along the way. Spyder was getting followed by the two cattle dogs when one decided to nip at his feet. He was looking and putting his ears back the whole time we were walking, but he decided to let out a loud squeal and kick out at the dog. The one that kept to the back of us was the older one which was 14. The cowboy assured me that if Spyder kicked the dog, it would just go in the woods and die. WOW... that made me feel better. I just kept Spyder in check and gave him things to do to keep his mind off of them, and I'm not sure it's a good idea to get dogs too close to his hind end. He's got a quirk I didn't know about.
Cowboy dude
The nipper

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Putting in the Miles

New gear
Saturday, my goal was for 2 hours of riding and 12 miles which wound up being perfectly met. I know I could have ridden longer, for further distance, and for better time, but I didn't want to push things since the most I've ridden on the trails is about an hour and a half at any amount of speed. Spyder was UP because the track was getting leveled out, and he wasn't paying attention to me from the very start. We started in a small warm up circle to make sure he was listening to me, and everything was SO SCARY! He was spooking at birds flying from the bushes, jumps that didn't move, and his own shadow. I didn't let it stop me, and I kept pushing until he'd get over things.

His ginger snap face.
About that pushing... Spyder was not focused when another horse came out in the area to graze with his owner, and the kids from the barn next door came over to get in the trails around the track. Spyder forgot where his feet were because he was too busy paying attention to everything else. We were going up a very small incline, and he wanted to stop because the horses were out of his sight. I pushed him to keep moving and he fell flat on his face - face plant! I managed to stay on with him coming down on his knees, and I really don't know how, but it was awesome. Awesome? Is that the right word? It was awesome that I stayed on, that is. We walked it off and kept on keeping on like nothing happened.

Spyder was getting bored of the trot and it was HIS idea to canter. I let it happen and didn't push for fear of more tripping, but he did a great job. We moved out on a larger circle to try the "going straight" thing, but he would get off balance and come back to a trot. Good horse, he did it on his own! We cooled out around the barn and I decided to hose him since it was "warm" at 50-60 for a change. I put him in his stall to eat so he could dry off before I put him back out because it is still very cold at night. He was happy to have his food, and I was happy to have him trot in hand after all of those miles! Ginger snaps > Being Lazy.

I rode while my husband took his enduro out in the woods by his brother's house. The woods connects from his town to ours, and the trails are ENDLESS. In a car, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour, so you can imagine how big it is. 115,000 acres of FUN (and over 500 miles of paved roads)! ... and there are many more woods and trails attached to them from other parks that are easy to get to (and sort of attached). The picture is for reference of the size, and for the size of the state, it's a lot of open space. While they were in the woods, they found a rider that said she does endurance rides. I posted in the NJ Trail Ride Association group to see if anyone would know who this was, and it ended up being a rider that was in the group! She friended me, and the owner of the horse did, as well. I plan on trying to ride with them soon, and it turns out, the horse belongs to a member of the equestrian club that I knew from Stockton. It's such a small world!

The red is the area we live by (from above) to compare to the size of the state, and the blue is where the endurance ride is.
Is this a bad idea?

Sunday, I did a 45 minute quick ride with w/t/c. I wanted to make sure that Spyder was listening to my leg since the day before, I just let him trot along without asking for much else. I pushed him off of my leg around a circle and had him go round to really round out our turns and get him focused. The canter was collected and I was able to sit way back in the saddle, but pushing straight was an issue. I tried to open up the circle, but he would lose his balance and begin to trot. The good news is, each time he broke, I would ask him to canter again and he would pick it right back up. He got off easy since I pushed so hard the day before, and I went home to help Chris work on my horse trailer (sort of, but not really, he did all of the work). It's ALMOST there!

Worked him more than usual. Furry, sweaty mess.
Tired after pushing for 12 miles!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Training - I Think? x2

Sunday my friend and Sassy came to ride again. We went out to the ring to switch it up, and did a whole bunch of trotting and cantering. Cantering only because Spyder was ready to go! He didn't want to trot, and I guess that's proof that he has the ability to push harder. I thought I was pushing a bit just because of distance and not so much speed the day before, but he needs more. After doing a bunch of jumps and trotting the perimeter (and trotting HUGE, moving out REALLY REALLY BIG), we headed out to the cross country jumps for Sassy. Spyder and I trotted behind, and Sassy went over all that she was asked until the ditch. She refused it, and Spyder thought she spooked so he had a head tossing fit. Sassy went around to do it again and "popped out of the woods" so Spyder freaked out again, but it didn't stop Sassy from jumping. I am proud of the way that I handled it, and we continued to follow until Spyder pulled me out in front of her. He was a feisty thing and wanted to be in front!

We went to the xc jumps that are along the edge of the woods, and these are ones that Spyder always looks at while coming around the track. There was a black pipe, a white pvc fence rail (which he huffed at, but went over), and a log that we skipped since he was worked up. We followed Sassy at a trot into the woods and let her go over some larger logs while we trotted around them. Wait, let me rephrase that, bucked, reared, and head tossed passed the jump down a hill in the woods. That was fun... not! I handled it well and he got over it to continue on.

We decided to head back out to the track since they were feeding off of each others spooky attitudes. We trotted around the track 2-3 times, and by that time, I realized it was close to when I had to leave to meet my sister and mom for lunch before the snow. We were 1/2 cooled out when we realized this so we decided to call it a ride. It ended up being 7.15 miles of handling some not so great situations, but getting in a ton of trotting and cantering. Back at the barn, I saw the cat soaking up the sun in a weird spot (or hunting because she's always getting birds).
Sweaty mess

Spyder and I trotted out before the ride with a crop that I took to the paddock, and we worked on it after the ride with a lunge whip. He didn't get it the first try, but the second, a light bulb turned on. We trotted up and back twice, and we ended it on the PERFECT note. I'm going to keep practicing, but I was so happy with his progress that I gave him all the treats he could want... OK, OK, 4! haha.

I contacted the farrier to get a trim in before the ride, and he's going to come 2 weeks out. He's clicking a bit from his overreach so I need to get his back toes trimmed shorter. I bumped up his grain a little bit since we've been working harder, and I hope he keeps his weight for this upcoming adventure. With spring, the grass should be getting better so I know that will help if this snow ever melts! I'm SO annoyed we got 6-8 more inches Sunday into Monday, but the 40 degree weekend was nice. Let's hope it melts before next weekend. I'm also battling this finger hurting, but I do know I am sacrificing healing each time I get on to ride. It'll heal slower than it should, but it is getting better.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Training - I Think?

So I decided that since I am leaning towards this limited distance ride, I should try out some more distance. My goal for this weekend was to see how we both felt after putting in the miles. I knew going to the farm that I needed to work on "trotting out" since Spyder's not so willing on the ground. I taught him to be nice and quiet while on the lead, and now I have to take it back? OK, maybe not take it back, but adding in a new level of complexity (well, knowledge) would be tough. I started by grabbing him in the field with just a lead (added crop the next day). We walked out of the gate, and I asked him to trot towards the barn. He hesitated, but he went, and so we went back and forth by the barn to practice. Not bad for the first try. For this ride, we have a vet check where we have to trot on a loose lead to and from the vet for a soundness test. The level of his trot before, mid, and after the ride will determine part of the score we get if we finish.

I've adjusted it since this. He's just thrilled.
I tacked up with a new breast plate and tried out my non-slip pad I've had for quite some time. It looked sharp, and more like he was ready to event - not partake in an endurance ride, but whatever. It's what I've got to work with to determine if I like it. My friend texted me about riding on Sunday, but I replied, "how about now?" She didn't have boots with her (or so she thought), but she put the pony on the trailer and headed over. She had boots in her car and low cut socks on, but she managed to get out of the ride without any blisters. Just as I was getting on, the woman I rode with the prior weekend was getting tacked up. Horsey fun! For the first time in quite some time, I wasn't having to ride alone.

You can see the pad we tried, sort of.
My friend and I headed out to the track and went on the short loop of a trail by the killer guinea hens. We turned before we got to the farm behind where I board and headed back to the track (and saw deer, but it was good - PLUS Spyder led!).  Heading back to the barn, the other woman was ready to go, and so we started by going on the same loop again. We went down the street to the other property the farm owns and did the trails over there before heading back to send my friend off. I decided to stay on with the other rider, and we did a bit of trotting on the track before going on more trails I had never been on. We could only get so far before large puddles were frozen so it was safer to turn around.

We rode the area by the bank and ditch jump to work on the hills again. The gray mare decided to trot/canter down a hill so Spyder followed suit. He decided to race up to her in which case she bucked, and Spyder finally realized we weren't racing (or she wasn't spooking), and he calmed down. Boy, I wish horses didn't feed off of each other so much. I'm glad this ride is going to have a ton of experienced horses, but I'm not sure we'll keep up to be around their better behavior. We headed back into the trails in the middle of the track which ended up being 8.78 miles total! Although much was walking, I was VERY happy with our progress and his attitude. All of the deer he saw called for a racing heart, a hop, and quickly calming back down. It was a great day, and ibuprofen gave me the rest of the night to relax and get started on my next graduate coursework. Perfect timing for great riding weather (who am I kidding - we just got 6" of snow today).

Barn kitty always runs you when she wants food. "Miminski"
After the two hour ride, I decided to try trotting on the lead again. After those miles, it was a great test. I tried with the crop, but it wasn't working so I had the woman from the barn chase Spyder in to a trot while I clucked for him to go. He wasn't all that willing, but I think he was confused. Since he trotted, I gave him a ton of pats, "good boy," and treats. Since this post is getting long, I'll keep Sunday's ride to it's own. I am so very proud of our progress and my questioning in gearing up for this ride. I still have to get some work done to the trailer and the truck, but I will have no choice but to put in the time to practice with it during the week. Daylight Savings is less than a week away! I have SO much more time to be happy and do fun things after work. WHOO!