Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The lost adventures

I did a lot of blog worthy things while I was gone, now that I look back.

This time it's about my attempt at bushwhacking on my dressage horse.  My big, not so delicate dressage horse.

Trainer A has been working on expanding our network of trails by exploring and mapping out little loops and connections that haven't been maintained.  Most of what she's found have been human oriented little paths over typical New Hampshire terrain (steep with random boulders and stone walls).  Please note that she does most of this bushwhacking with a cute little German riding pony or her favorite appy pony.  Her usual companion is the newly hired barn manager who also rides a little appy pony.  Not a lot of height or weight going on there.

Typical New Hampshire terrain

Since our main hill for working the booty got closed thanks to rude ATVs trashing everything, I've been looking for new hills.  Trainer A took us out to check out a new loop she found that took us out by the lake and it had some nice hills to climb.

I'll point out that everyone I went out with was on a short, stock bred horse.  One pony, two QHs.  And then there's Theo, a solid hand or more taller and the only one in four shoes.  To check out a newly discovered trail.  Yeah, you can see where this is going.  I was picking pine needles out of my teeth, cobwebs off of my face, and I was covered in scratches from branches that everyone else just ducked under.

At one point I used the 'downtown' command to get Theo's head under a branch so he could pass it to me and I could get underneath safely.  I'm going to start a movement for dressage training the trail horse.  Aside from the height and width issue, Theo's skill set made him a comfortable, easy ride on rough terrain.

More New Hampshire terrain

The trail was a nice combination of challenging and scenic.  There were some steep hills, but dressage pony showed the rest how to sit on the butt and ease down without falling on the face.  It was exactly the kind of trail I want to go out on to work on his brain, his booty, and our trail skills.  We've been working hard on things like carefully stepping around and over fallen trees. I decided that I should go out and conquer the trail on my own.

Remember the bit where the trail was for humans, rough, ungroomed, and explored by ponies?  Ungroomed and pony sized quickly turns into unrecognizable when you're on a big horse that's convinced the last of the gnats are going to kill him.  I got to the top of the steep hill, went to find the descent, and realized it wasn't there.  No path anywhere.  I turned around and there wasn't a clear path behind me, either.  When the heck did I lose the path?  I could have sworn I was on it when I started up the hill!  I started to weave my way down, looking for my trail.  I'd managed to go from rough trail to all out bushwhacking.  I eventually had to get off and lead my horse because it was too difficult to manage him on the steep hill, avoid branches, and find my way back.  By the time I got to the bottom, I had no idea where the path was.

Seriously, why does anyone live in this state?  The camera isn't tilted, that's the angle of the hill we're on.

I was genuinely lost in the woods for about ten very scary minutes.  I couldn't find the path, wasn't sure which direction I was facing, and Theo sure doesn't have Fi's sense of direction.  Sure, if I picked a straight line and walked I'd get to the road eventually, but you can't do a straight line in NH.  Stone wall blocking me from the main trail, gully blocking me from heading straight to the road.  Holy crap, I was actually lost.  If I had to call the barn for a search party, I would never live it down.

We wandered and fought our way through the trees until I happened to spot a serious of snapped branches.  Trainer A's calling card when on the trails!  She always snaps the little branches that hit you in the face.  I wiggled my way through the woods and followed the snapped branches back to civilization (aka the main trail).

Theo stood for me to mount, but was seriously questioning my leadership after that.  It took about ten minutes for him to chill and just walk home like a gentleman.  And my poor saddle, pine needles and foliage and little scratches from ducking under branches with me on foot.  Much scrubbing and apologizing to the leather.  Clearly I need a western saddle for my bushwhacking adventures and should NOT go out in my calf skin jumping saddle.  My poor, precious baby.

We need to mark that loop before I attempt it again.  We need to mark all of these new loops before I try them on my own.  I'm going to order a bunch of blazes and we can go out (with the PONIES) and get the trails marked before the leaves fall and completely hide any path.  There's a reason real cowboys like short, sturdy QHs.  Hulking draft crosses don't really do bushwhacking well.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Let's make a deal

I'm a slow learner.  Repetition helps with that.

Theo was just awesome today.  Awesome-sauce kind of awesome.  Apparently a return to lateral work was what his left lead canter needed because it was much improved.  We started out with some halt walk transitions, getting him to move off a light aid.  Then we did some leg yields off of quarter line, really focusing on him staying balanced.  We had a stubborn moment in the outdoor because mi papi clearly doesn't have to listen to the leg or go forward in the outdoor, but once we pushed through that, we had lovely, very soft work in both directions including that left lead canter.  I'm suspicious his left hip (the stronger one, damn it) was tight and he needed to stretch it out.

Then we went on a trail ride.  A walking on the buckle trail ride.  We did have to spook at the new construction zone, but he touched the big Bobcat attachment with only a little shaking in terror.  Most of our hack went exactly like this.

So why is it suddenly so good?  Why am I not icing my shoulder or crying or panicking?  Partially he's done being dumb for fall.  Partially we've pushed through the wall on the whole flex thing and it's no longer a big deal to him or something he wants to fight me on (at least most of the time).  Partially I'm back out there on a regular schedule, getting him back in his routine with the exercise and attention he demands.

But mostly it's because I decided that this hobby is too expensive and dangerous for it to suck.

I fell into the old trap of forcing him to submit.  I don't like that part of me.  I didn't even recognize that it was happening until I looked back.  I was so frustrated that I couldn't MAKE him behave the way I wanted, the way that was expected of me.

All blinged out and nowhere to go

So, simple rule.

If my shoulders hurt, stop doing whatever the hell we're doing, walk on a long rein, and figure out what the hell has gone wrong (unless we're going cross country, then all bets are off).  In exchange, mi papi doesn't try to kill me.

Let's start with that and see if that's what I need.  The nice part about having a hurt shoulder is that it will make a great barometer.