060818: Learning Lessons

Yesterday morning started off chilly with a shower and then stepping out into the cool morning. Yeah, I won't do that again. I grabbed cereal for breakfast and then headed up to the loft to write the entry for the day before. Seems like that is how it is going to go with them, and that’s fine by me.

I headed down to see the horses and wandered down in the pasture. They were all hanging out in the hollow at the bottom and were very curious to see me moseying down. Winston was the first to move, and of course they all followed him, he came towards me, and then veered off to the gate leading to the other pasture. He rattled the gate, which I found out from Michelle later was because when she or Ralph go into the pasture it’s often to open the gate and let them into the other side. Roscoe was standing off to the side as usual, being low man on the totem pole and he surprised me being the first horse to head over to me. The others wandered after but I shooed them off when they tried to come visit. I just wanted to love on Roscoe for a while.

Shortly thereafter, something got in my eye and I couldn't get it out. So I had to walk allllll the way back up the hill to the house to wash my hands and take out my contact and then put it back in again. By that time I was huffing and puffing from the altitude, and needed to grab a drink of water. I will be glad when I get past that!

So I finally went down to the pasture a second time, and found the horses in the coral by the gate. I headed in and loved on Roscoe more and in about 15 minutes Ralph arrived back home again. We got ourselves organized to work with the horses in the round pen. We brought them all over to the pasture on that side, and then we started with Roscoe.

I haven't done any round pen work since we just don't really have access to one to use. Ralph started out working with him to show me what he does with Roscoe, and then I got down and started to work. Roscoe is super light with everything and is very quick on his responses. He is just a joy to work with all the way around. I worked on the basic seven games with him, and then we decided to do some work at Liberty. I took off the lead line and he was still very responsive to everything I asked. We did some circling, and I worked on his transitions from walk to trot and then back down again. I am still going to have to work out his language, but we did really well.

After we finished on a really good note, Ralph went to get Junior. It was really fun to watch Junior since he's only 4 and still has lots of exuberance in him. Junior did very well though; he only kicked and bucked a little bit when Ralph was asking him to canter. In the end, he stopped and came all the way in to Ralph while licking and chewing and that was a terrific way to end.

We went and got Angel for last, and Ralph offered me to work with her. Again, she is terrifically light and pleasing. She reminds me a lot of Bonnie from the Graham Center; she pays very good attention to you and tries very hard to do whatever it is that you've asked to the best of her ability. I worked on liberty with her as well, and she was terrific. We were able to do direction changes very easily, and she even cantered very nicely. She got very wound up from cantering, so we worked to slow her down. As she gradually calmed down and dropped to a trot, she started circling closer and closer to me, which was very nice. We stopped it on that good note.

Ralph and I got everything put away again, and left the horses out to graze and headed up to the house for a drink. On a whim, Ralph called the local UPS place to find out where my packages were. We got the surprising news that they were on their way to be delivered today. We then called Michelle to find out what her status was at work and then made plans to meet her in town for lunch. Ralph and I got ready to go, but noticed on the way out that Angel's fly mask was not on to protect her pale eyes from the sun. We stopped and called the horses and they all came up to the gate from the back of the pasture which was really nice. Ralph gave them treats for that.

The drive into town was nice, as always. We ate at a restaurant called Carvers that has a nice little outdoor patio. I had chili in a bread bowl that was really delicious. I ended up drinking 3 raspberry ice teas since I was so thirsty from being outside in the dry weather. It just amazes me how thirsty I get here.

After lunch, Michelle and I headed off to find the UPS place to see if maybe the packages were at the hub and we could pick them up. We finally found it and discovered that they were only open from 3:00 to 6:00 Monday through Friday. Strange.

We headed back home to get ready for our afternoon lesson. I decided to quickly check on the boxes to see what the online tracking said about it. On a whim I checked all three and was delighted to find that the first two were out for delivery. It was then that I discovered that the third one, my carrot sticks, was only listed as billing information received. I called the UPS 800 number, and finally got in touch with a person who was able to explain that it meant that the package was never received by the UPS truck. I called the shop that I sent it from and the guy told me that they would have to check on it and call me back.

I wasn't so worried since it was only the carrot sticks. Had it been one of the bigger boxes with the more important items in it, I would have been very worried. Even if they don't come, I can make arrangements and be just fine.

We were running a bit late at that point, so we hurried down to the horses. We were getting everything together with Dana arrived for the lesson. She was really nice and we chatted while we finished getting tacked up. Poor Winston was left out, since Michelle was riding Angel. He stood at the gate to the arena the whole time we worked.

We headed down to the arena and warmed up really lightly since all three horses had been worked in the morning. We started out with trot work, working on getting the horses to go in a straight line down the center of the arena, and keeping them on the rail. Dana was really helpful in correcting me and letting me know when things weren't working as well as they should. We worked on trotting down the long side, stopping in the middle and then backing the horses up for about 5 steps. The challenge was to make sure that the horse backed straight up. Roscoe and I had a bit of a time with that in the beginning. He wanted to go everywhere but straight back. After practicing for a bit Roscoe stayed squared up much better.

At that point we decided to do some canter work, and Michelle went first on Angel even though she was on bareback. It was quickly discovered that Angel is such a wonderful horse that when Michelle got the slightest bit off balance, Angel would stop cantering. It was a challenge for Michelle, but it’s a wonderful trait to have in a horse. Knowing that the horse is going to take care of you means a lot.

Ralph went next with Junior and that was an adventure as is everything with Junior. I don't really think that Junior wanted to canter because he started crow hopping almost all the way down the length of the arena. Ralph worked with him and got him to go a bit further without stopping before he needed to pull him over and bend him to a stop.

It was my turn after that, and Roscoe and I did pretty well for a beginning. I was having a bit of trouble getting him to pick up the canter without going into the bone jarring trot in between. Dana worked with my carefully to help me separate what I was doing so that I could start putting things back together so that it worked. We discovered very quickly that I was very tense in my upper body and that was leading to trying to hold Roscoe in my hands. I was pretty much able to identify that habit from riding Jet. We also discovered that I was holding the reins with more contact, where Ralph typically rode Roscoe on a much loser rein. So I adjusted both of those things, and the canter settled down a lot. I was also having trouble keeping my inside stirrup which we identified as being an issue from the fact that Roscoe is a leaner around the corners, cutting very hard. I try to keep him to the outside by using my leg, which makes my stirrup flop. We talked about working on straightening up and bending at the waist to turn the horse instead. As I did more and more turns, Roscoe was beginning to anticipate what was happening, so I would start only asking him to trot around the length of the arena, and then pick up a canter on the other side, or ask him to do an extra circle to break up the pattern. It worked pretty well, and it allowed me to ask him to canter when I was ready for it, not when he was jumping the gun. Dana also reminded me that I need to work on my breathing to remember not to tense up and hold my breath or take short breaths.

The discussion turned to bending at that point since Roscoe is rather like a 2"x4". Dana gave us an exercise to walk the horse, and then ask him to bend by pulling the rein back to your hip. When the horse yields softly, then you release the pressure and pick up the pressure on the other rein. I talked to her a lot about Jet and some of the issues that I have with him. This exercise is one that I really want to work on with him when I return. Roscoe and I worked on it and loosened up quite a bit. We were even able to start working on it at a trot with reasonable results.

By that time, the lesson was over and we brought everybody up to the coral and un-tacked and gave them some things to eat. It took us a while to put everything away and get it all organized. While the horses were eating, Michelle used the Red Light on Winston. The red light is a photonic therapy that uses a certain wavelength of light on the acupuncture points. It’s really interesting and can work on horses, people, cats, and dogs too. We finally got ourselves together and headed back up to the house to fix dinner. We had delicious steaks with salad and fresh corn on the cob. After dinner, Ralph had to go do something, so Michelle and I cleaned up and we were getting ready to go upstairs to look at pictures on the computer when I saw lights in their drive. It didn't look like Ralph's truck, and I looked again and lo and behold it was the UPS truck at 8:30 at night. He was here for sure, and it was technically a day early. I was so excited to have my boxes, even if I couldn't have my carrot sticks. That didn't matter at that point. What mattered was that I had all my clothes!

We unpacked the boxes in a hurry so that Michelle could look at my saddle, and I put everything into my room. Edgar the cat came over to investigate everything as I was pulling it out. My saddle was laid on its side and he just crawled up in it and sat down and started washing himself. He was so involved in his washing I was able to get some pictures since I now had my camera as well.

We came up to look at pictures before we finally crashed into bed. My shower felt good on my sore parts, and I slept really well.

Next Page: Saturday, August 18, 2006: Up Hills and Down