December 2, 2012

We're Back!

We're back!  With lots of photos.
How do you like our $29 clearance sheet?

With my heavy travel schedule and Thanksgiving the last two weeks, Connor has gotten some time off, with just a bareback ride a week ago, and a real ride today, and no lessons.  I wasn't sure if we were at a place where a vacation would help, hurt, or be neutral after our muscle building late last summer and then our big breakthrough and subsequent good rides over the past month.

About the time I finished with stalls today and went to pull Connor out of his field, the redneck neighbors that live immediately behind the facility (This is the Midwestern US, after all, we ALL have redneck neighbors.) were having target practice with their rifles and shotguns, and the horses were terrified.   As someone married to a weekly league target competition shooter at the local gun club, I would describe it as irresponsibly loud and constant target practice given how hard the horses were panicking (the shooting was taking place 20 feet beyond our fence line).  It continued even after I grabbed Connor and started riding in the indoor, and he was tense, up, and spooking at things he doesn't normally spook at, trying to decide whether the noise could be coming from the pile of jump standards in the middle of the ring:

He gave these the evil eye the entire lesson, every time there was a shot.

Or the poles and flowers in the corner:
Terrifying, I know.

Since we most often show at the Hoosier Horse Park, which is next door to Camp Atterbury, this does also fall under the "I wouldn't scratch for this at a show, therefore I will train in it" rule.  Try riding your Dressage test when they're practicing with the heavy artillery and Blackhawk helicopters are flying low enough for you to wave at the army guys hanging out of it!  I decided to work him at the walk only to allow his brain to process everything until I got him soft, round and listening at the walk, and that my litmus test for his submission would be a quiet halt off of my seat, like we normally get.

It took quite a while, but I got it, and only after I got it did I ask for the trot.  To my amazement, he never missed a beat from where we were before the break, and may have been even better, though he's always better when he's nervous.  Does the lovely, forward 'suspension bridge' hind-end drive trot ever get old?  People with mature/"finished" horses, does their ability to not only retain what you've taught them but also learn new things ever get old?  Connor's green enough that consistency and retention from week to week is still amazing to me, especially so after a break.

Once I had him soft, supple and listening, I trotted him through this exercise someone had left out in the indoor:
All photos taken while on horseback, I apologize for the blur.  Standing is not one of Connor's strong qualities.

And after he went through it several times without hitting it (didn't hit it once, actually!) and with the same long but connected trot my trainer asked us for in our last lesson, I cooled him out and called it a day.  At 63 degrees on the second day of December, it was way too hot to ask anyone that isn't sporting a full clip to go too hard.  Just the walking and trotting that we did left Connor sweatier than he's been all winter.  How ARE you supposed to manage clipped horses when the weather has 40 degree temperature swings for two straight weeks?

It's good to be back!


  1. I hate the Redneck shooter thing! I must say I lucked out though and Charlie doesn't seem to care but it totally destroys the lovely afternoon ride. Grrrr....

    I'm with you on the temp swing thing - I feel ridiculous complaining about it but honestly, so frustrating! Only other horse people understand the frustrations...;)

  2. Glad you are back! Being from the midwest myself, Shy seems quite comfortable around gun shots. There were some kids who always shot behind my old barn, and my new barn is near hunting areas. I always get worried that there is going to be a stray bullet. Scary!

  3. Thats horrible about the shooter thing.

    I live in the uk and the temperature at the minute is all over the place but we've just got round to clipping my lesson horse Gatsby.

    I love your blog (im new to it) and look forward to ur next post :)

  4. Ha, ha I guess he won't be a calvary horse either. Comrade does not like shooting, but those tend to be fun rides because he moves great when spooky.Good for you working it through.
    All the Cobs and my Arabs have great retention skills. Plus the Cobs seem to come back with a better understanding as if they studied during the break.
    And no, it never gets old. Enjoy

  5. The temperature has been horrible. Houston is fully clipped minus legs and even then I was worried he would get hot with a sheet on here.

    I hate shooting. Luckily Houston seems to have gotten over it (when it is from afar) for the most part. I am very glad it never happens that close to us.

  6. I've often found my horses are improved after a break, and no they don't forget what they've learned - they're better than humans that way! Over time they might become too stiff to reproduce a movement fluidly, but they still understand what you're asking.
    Hunting season here is a pain in the butt, there are dogs with clanging bells and bright orange hunters toting guns traipsing through all the woods around us. I feel your pain!

  7. I agree about schooling thru if you might encounter the same at a show! Good for you!

    I had Riva clipped mid-Oct and will have to have done again in Jan. Can not believe this weird weather.