Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Weekend

I hope everyone had a good holiday! I enjoyed staying home (for once) and over indulging in tasty holiday food (a holiday requirement).

We have a ton of stockings, and none of them match. A couple weeks ago, Husband and I bought new stockings at Walmart, along with a way to label them all. Husband's sister has stockings with everyone's first letter (2 humans, 3 cats) and they looked so nice that we wanted to do something similar.

Here's what I opted to make: different color stockings with charms and bells and wood beads with the animal's name (the humans got big stockings with the first letter of our name)

Matching stockings!

And then I stuck them up on the fireplace with the other holiday decorations. We can't wait to redo our fireplace- change the painted white brick and hearth to stone and then since we don't have an actual mantle, put up a distressed wood mantle. And get a more modern/rustic looking screen that doesn't need Plexiglas behind it in order to keep the cats out.

Our mixed religion fireplace. Menorah and stockings!
I was a bad Jew- I totally missed the last night of Hanukkah lights so I opted to light the last set after we fully decorated for Christmas so that I would have an extra pretty picture.

Penn is settling well into his new herd. Fiction is his new BFF and security blanket (sorry Hawk!). Whenever I've come out during the day, they're usually next to or near each other.

Must sniff noses and stand next to each other.

My rides on Saturday and Sunday mostly revolved around me trying to fix my position (what we worked on in last lesson- tuck butt, pelvis tilts up, shoulders up and back). When I ride properly like that, Penn gets instantly lighter, frees up his shoulder, and his steps get big and suspended feeling in trot, and he's able to get more jump in the canter. I found that feeling last week and I asked for some trot lengthenings down the long sides and holy crap, the extended gaits are going to be big gaits to sit!

Hi Mom! I'm feeling better today!

Anyway, Saturday we rode outside and I decided to mess with haunches in a bit. Not my brightest idea. He's just not strong enough to work it more than a couple times, and I overdid it and made him nervous. I spent the rest of the ride working on finding quiet forward (he kept getting jumpy in the contact and irregular in rhythm). Once I found our happy place again, I stuck to things we can do: 15-20m circles.

In canter, a large factor in how good your canter ends up is based on how good the trot was before the canter. To the right, he was fairly good, not spectacular, so the right lead was quiet and flat. We were having bend right issues that day. To the left, I made the trot super and then asked for canter and I ended up with several very strong left lead canters. They were quiet and purposeful, on the hairy edge of flat so that's no good, but I liked quiet and purposeful. Penn has a tendency to go into turbo mode to the left, so I'll take quiet first and then add the jump back.

At the end of our canter work, I brought him back to trot and let him stretch. He's quite an impressive stretcher- he put his nose on the ground without pulling the reins out of my hand and without losing any contact. It was incredible! On the forehand a little, but I like the stretch anyway.

Displeased to have been put back outside in the rain on Sunday.

Sunday it was pouring down rain, so we rode in the indoor (indoor arenas, for the win!).

Penn finally didn't have diarrhea in the crossties when I was tacking him up to ride! So of course I panicked that he was going to colic. Nah, he's fine. Barn Owner had said the day before that the poop in his stall was looking pretty normal again. She also mentioned that he might be a good candidate for field board (based on how much he churns and stall walks). I have a feeling that he's never really been stabled- his breeder sent him for training then he lived in a field for 6 weeks after he came home. I bet he's always lived outside. Doesn't mean I want him living outside 24/7 though. It's an option at winter barn, but not at Trainer's. I know some horses do super well on it, but with how cold, wet, and windy our winters get and how the summer is hot and buggy, I don't want him out at night in the winter and during the day in the summer. I just don't. I know he'd be fine because I have all the clothes for him to be out in extreme weather. I'm not sold that he'd be happy outside in his small herd when every other horse on the farm goes in for stretches of the day. He wants to be where the other horses are.

Anyway, Fiction had already come in, and it was raining, so I think Penn was good with leaving the other horses in the field and his routine. Between how clingy he got with the other horses I rode with on Saturday and this chill day in the cross ties, I think he's just insecure about the world around him. When he came home in August, he didn't have as extreme reactions to things. He pooped a lot in crossties out of nerves, but I never had him in the barn alone or riding alone (I always made arrangements to ride with his turnout buddy or another person because I was afraid of getting dumped by my new green baby horse and being alone when it happened). I don't like that he's clingy now, but I'm willing to let him be clingy because he is a baby and he doesn't understand yet that everything is going to be OK. That and his clingy doesn't come with any really bad behavior (he just gets worried when he gets left behind).

The horses congregating at the shelter. You can kind of see Penn's white star.

Sunday we did more of the same work, but I started my trot work in posting trot with 2 trot poles to keep it interesting (I forced myself to post since I normally sit so I can better regulate our tempo). The trot poles are coming along, but he doesn't quite get how to adjust his stride before the poles so he doesn't hit a long spot. He tends to just keep trotting on the same stride without making an adjustment for the pole. He started to get better about that, so he just needs more practice!

The biggest improvement was the left lead canter- it felt very much like the right lead and I was able to pick at it a little bit for some more jump!

I also tried a simple change through trot. I've tried them before where I let him trot 5-6 steps in between and it all just goes to hell when I ask for the new lead. This time, I found my jumpy canter to the left, went across the diagonal, half halted and asked for trot, then swapped my leg (I need to work on swapping my seat!) and asked for the new lead after a step of trot (before he could fall on his face). At first, I felt him go to pick up the left lead again, but then he made a huge effort to change his mind when he realized what I wanted and he really came up with his shoulders and jumped into the right lead. He got lots of praise and was done for the day. I know it's not much, but it was complicated work for him! I was very pleased. I think the flying changes will come easier to him than they did to Mikey, and I think they're going to be nice and expressive!

*facepalm* Apparently even though Penn is fitting in well now, he's still not allowed under the shelter. At least he's got a hood and blanket on, and his head was under the overhang, and the way the wind was blowing the rain meant it was blowing against the back of the shelter.

I'll be going back out tonight to ride. Or maybe I'll teach him to long line. Trainer taught Mikey, then me, but after teaching demon mare (who was ready to flip over or break her neck instead of go forward or turn right) back in August to long line, I think I can teach Penn. He's very willing. I think he'll catch on quickly, but hopefully there's someone out there tonight so I can have a helper stand up by his head to get him moving forward and then I can take over. I want to make sure it's a quiet, positive experience.

I am terrified to long line him, but I really need to for myself. I have a complex about it since Mikey died while working on the lines. I know it was a freak thing, but I'm still uncomfortable. I long lined demon mare after Mikey's death, so it won't be the first time, but I'm terrified something bad will happen again, especially since Penn had a rearing problem and the lines can sometimes make green horses feel trapped and then they rear and flip over. Long lining is a useful skill that I really want Penn to learn so we can work on finding more jump in the canter and eventually do cavaletti exercises so he has to work his footwork out for himself without me in the way.

We will see what I do... I have my car packed with my long lining stuff (I never brought it back to the barn after taking it home to wash) and my riding stuff (tall boots) so I can do either.


  1. I love long lining. Did it for a full year with my last baby when he wasn't rideable (the terrible 2s haha). I wish I was going to be there tonight - I would totally help you out. Maybe BO's daughter will be around?

    1. My plan for this winter (pre-Penn) if I bought an unbroke something was to long line it all winter and then Trainer would sit on it in the spring. But Penn is around instead (yay!) and I know it's a skill he could really use! I think one of the ladies we rode with Saturday is coming out tonight. Hopefully she is and she can help! BO's daughter might be around too- that's a good option!

  2. It's the little things that build into the big things. Personally I think it is pretty awesome that you did the simple lead change!

    1. It is the little things that build to the big things! Sometimes I'm riding and I'm like, Penn, you've gotta be so much better than this if we're going to get to the top! And then I have to remind myself that it's the little steps that build into big steps. They all have to start out working on the basics, and I'm sure the basics never go away! I am so pleased with the simple lead change! It was a big step for him.

  3. Oooh, a simple change! Go Penn!

  4. He's coming along so nicely! I'm excited to see you guys progress this year. Good luck with the long lining, hopefully it all goes smoothly.

    1. Thank you! I'm so pumped for next year! And I'm crossing my fingers for long lining tonight.

  5. hopefully his clingy-ness is just a phase and as he becomes more confident in his home and work it'll pass completely! (just in time to move back to the other farm lol). seriously tho, glad he's doing so well!