Posted tagged ‘aging’

Another Line off the Bucket List

September 10, 2022

Ranch horse class scratched off the bucket list. Okay, only walk trot, but the first real ring show I have been in since 4-H in my teens- almost 50 years ago!

We took 5th places in Ranch Equitation and Pattern at the Blandford Fair.  The latter because there were 5 entries. I am proud of Equitation. It was a larger class; we were not last. We ribboned despite Jigs picking up the canter twice. Not sure if the judge saw it.

Ranch Equitation – 5th Place

We were last in Halter (HATED IT) and Pleasure. Jigs does not have a slow jog and is too quick for quarter horse type classes.

There were 70 plus classes on the day. It was a long wait for 4 classes- less than 45 minutes in the ring.

Will I do another ring show? Not likely, although I did like the pattern class. At my age it is hard to remember required transitions, let alone get the red pony to slow down and extend his trot.

The ribbons were pretty. Our 360s in both directions were perfect! And I know what we must work on- speed control, halt, staying in gait.  Fixing these will improve our ability to be competitive in Mountain Trail Challenges.

We hit the trails yesterday for the first time in over a month. I had a relaxed pony and worked on trot/halt transitions. We did not canter. Still not 100% comfortable with speed on the trails- especially when I am alone, which is 100% of the time.

Our plan was cow sorting tonight, but the event was canceled. Really bummed. Jigs loves chasing cows. Trying to find things he likes so he doesn’t get sour. Next week is another Mountain Trail Challenge! He does seem to like them. Now if we can just get the 180 turn on an obstacle. That is our goal this year!

Camping at Miles Standish

June 29, 2022

Not glamping but camping- my horse trailer is several steps above tenting.

Not quite the Ritz

Wonderful sandy trails.

Look, no rocks!

Cranberry bogs that may or may not be actively farmed.

Bogs

Fireflies and campfire conversation.

Breakfast

Ponies breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Trails!

Mountain Trail Clinic

May 28, 2022

Jigs and I attended a mountain trail clinic last weekend at Salmon River Horse Park in upstate New York. Cathy Drumm is a wonderful clinician. We attended a few western dressage/working equitation clinics with her already where she showed me about slowing down and being softer- something I need to do beyond horses. Funny how that works.

Normally I’m impatient doing groundwork but I surprised myself by gaining new techniques that filled holes in my knowledge and will translate to riding.

Texas Two Step

Over the years Jigs and I competed in versatility where fastest time through the obstacles wins. Horsemanship was not considered which led to bad habits. We completed courses but it was not pretty. In mountain trail challenges, you are judged on horsemanship and obstacles. Time may be a factor but only a small portion of the overall scores.

Swinging Bridge

Getting Jigs over the obstacles is not an issue, it is the how we go over and the maneuver. Halt, turn, backup and straightness trip us up and deny good scores. Slowing down, keeping my hands from pulling on the turns is difficult for me which makes it hard for him. I want to do better for us both.

Water Box

It was a fun weekend full of confidence building accomplishments. It is the first time we cantered in the water! We didn’t look pretty but we did it!  At the end of the clinic, there was a mock challenge with a judge who gave us scores and feedback. The first thing she told me was I was biting my lip coming into the course. I should relax and smile. Really good advice. Another was hip before hands! Brain knows but the body is still learning. We came away with new tools and a lot to work on!

Adult Lessons

May 12, 2022

I have not posted in a while. Lessons and clinics consume my weekends, work my weekdays, several contain a commute. 

Lessons are focused on breaking through the barrier of insecurity and fear. Trail riding is a rare event as I work to become a better rider for my 19-year-old pony. I know it’s silly to anthropomorphize horse behavior, but Jigs truly seems to enjoy the first half hour of our lessons- especially the cantering part. Beyond that, not so much.  

Working Equitation Clinic

Fun moments are strung between frustrating ones.  I’m relearning to balance both trot and canter. Proper riding is critical for elder fitness.

I struggle with turns on the forehand, turns on the haunches. Last lesson my instructor put a whip through my elbows and behind my back to retrain my hands – like a kid learning the basics. But I understand this is needed to get clean turns.  Years of structureless riding built up bad habits of hands, body, and mind. Retraining is hard but then there are the moments when it comes together, and we get a neat turn or canter to a clean stop between poles. There is a glimmer of what can be.

Days are longer, Summer, nearly here. There will be more lessons, clinics, and maybe even a few competitions. Balancing the canter is not unlike life, it’s about slowing down, sometimes even stopping to gather yourself and try again.

Partners

November 4, 2021

Rain drained most of the trees of their fall color, but some persist, flickering with flames of yellow, orange, and red.

My friend and I marked marked the annual pumpkin ride in the rain. It wasn’t too bad but by the time we finished 9 miles, we were drenched with both rain and laughter.

Autumn

I stress about trail marking and over mark so as not to lose anyone one in the forest. Getting lost in Upton State Forest is not likely. There are two main “roads” that circle it. Trails weave through and around them. Both go directly back to parking. 

We marked trails seldom used off Loop Road. They were a bit wet from this year’s constant rain, but passable with good stretches to move out.

October was not as busy as I hoped. Jigs and I competed again in a Mountain Trail Competition. The few lessons helped, we finished first in novice, but our scores were about the same in level one.  The mistakes were mine.

I’m surprised at how much I did learn in three lessons. We worked on hands and leg placement. Our turns are much better.

Unfortunately, lessons stopped due to the instructor’s schedule. Or maybe that was a polite excuse. Working with an older riding pair and a especially a “quarter horse” is not every dressage instructor’s dream. Best to have younger athletic riders and horses to work with, I suspect.  Too bad, I believe I could learn a lot from him.

Cross Buck

I signed up for a working equitation and western dressage clinic later this month. The clinician is popular in the area. Maybe she will give me a few more things to work on. I’m curious about both disciplines.

Next year I want to try different things. Jigs will be 19; our time together is flying by. He is the best horse I have owned and the most forgiving. I am so grateful for his friendship and all he has given me.

2/21/21 – Or Aging Not So Gracefully

February 21, 2021

3 twos and 2 ones- patterns everywhere.

Into the Woods

February’s pattern is snow and more snow with a few warmish (in the upper 20s low 30s) days between. Footing on the trails is decent. We know where water pools into ice beneath it and are careful- maybe too careful.

Last weekend Jigs and I even managed some extended loping behind my friend and her wonderful mustang. Loping is rare for me on these trails. Without the snow they are rocky and uneven with tree roots.

At 3 plus 60, I have become a cautious rider, almost fearful. I do not canter unless sure of the footing. I no longer ride on the road when alone.

Today Jigs was full of exuberance. He wanted to run when I wanted to jog. My hesitation was a buzz kill. It nearly came to a rare argument.

I feel bad.

Feel bad that I did not give him a chance to stretch out.

Feel bad that I slowed my friend down.

Feel bad not to be that little girl who could fly without consequence.

There is no cure for aging. We shrink. Our bodies lose flexibility. Our bones get brittle. We no longer bounce, even with snow on the ground.

Hacking Out in the Pandemic

May 9, 2020

Weeks into lock down.

The only places, other than the grocery store, I go is to the barn and the local trails. My horse is boarded close to an awesome conservation area. I am blessed to be able to ride. Other owners are not as lucky and are unable to visit their horses, let alone ride. I cannot imagine how heartbreaking that is.

I would be a mess without this respite. Uncertainty can be crippling.

This Spring was supposed to be crowded with organized rides and maybe a show or two. Weekends are empty of events.  So, we hack out.

Small Brook

In the fifteen plus years I have been riding these trails, I have never seen them so crowded with families and bikers. It is wonderful, but I worry it could negatively impact equine access. While many are thrilled to encounter a “real horse,” others complain horses are “ruining” the trails and pose a safety risk.

Last weekend we encountered a woman with a large dog she was struggling to control. She screamed at us to go another way because the trail was “too muddy” for horses. As we do in these situations, we thanked her for the information and complied with her request.

We checked the trail later; it was not muddy. My suspicion is she was afraid she could not handle her aggressive dog.

I wish I could say encounters like this are rare, but they are not. As an ambassador for my sport. I must remain calm and avoid being confrontational. Especially now when everyone is frustrated and, many, afraid.

This pandemic will not last forever.  When the world returns to what will be the “new normal”, I do hope that those who have turned to the trails to escape boredom will continue to use them. Even more, I hope they decide to become active in preserving them.

As for horses sharing trails? There is room enough for all users to enjoy the natural world around us.  Perhaps others will come to understand what we trail riders have always known- trails are a gateway into nature and a bit of heaven on Earth.

Be safe!

Partners

April 18, 2020

Horses saved my life twice, once when I was a rebellious teen and again in middle age. I don’t speak much about the recurring depression that rises out of my insecurities, of my anxiety. The presence of my horse lifts this shadow. My eyes dilate when I gaze on him and I see the world as a more perfect place.  My breath slows to match his. My heart beats with his. Together, we remain in a moment where the past is gone and the future, immaterial.

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The human/equine symbiotic relationship is hard for non-horse lovers to understand. Some humans are born to bond with these magnificent beings. Our souls long for their presence. On their backs, we fly. We walk more confident beside them.

I am grateful for the grace my horse shares with me in these strange times. Perhaps, I am saved again.

Leap Day or Smartest Pony in the World

February 29, 2020

An extra day.  February has always been fickle.  Too windy for me to ride due to memories of a fall from Pepper that ended in a broken ankle, I decided it best to keep my feet on the ground.

Jigs I and took a walk through the woods. We do that occasionally. He seems to enjoy it and I believe it is good for relationship building.

We walked down to the old “pine grove” where we used to ride when boarding at the other barn. The local land trust recently purchased the property, but not before loggers made a mess of the trails. We had to bushwhack through their debris.

I encountered burdock. Placing my mittens on ground, I struggled to remove the annoying stickies from my leggings. Somehow Jigs had avoided them. I let out an exasperated breath.  Jigs lowered his head, grabbed one of my mittens and handed it to me.

Oh, of course, he was expecting a treat. His nose was already at my pocket.

“What about that one?” I asked Jigs pointing to the remaining mitten. He picked up and handed it to me.  Another treat.

I have been working for years on teaching Jigs to ‘fetch’ hats and gloves with the hope that one day, it could be a useful trick if I dropped something from his back.  

In all that time, he has never handed me something without being asked. Today, he just did it- no cue. It was like he anticipated I was going to get the mittens and decided to help out.

“Smart pony,” I said scratching behind his ear. “Maybe you can lead yourself sometime like Olive.”

Olive is the lab who lives with me. When I put her on the leash, she will pick up the end and lead herself to the door.

I was only kidding when I said that to Jigs.

Pleased with my pony’s intelligence, we came out of the woods and walked up the road. It had gotten warmer. I stopped to take off my mittens, inadvertently dropping the lead rope.

Jigs looked at it and then at me. Slowly, he dropped his head, picked up the lead rope and handed it to me.

His look was clear, “where is my cookie?”

#besthorseintheworld  #smartesthorseintheworld

Smartest Pony in the World

Progress

November 5, 2019

Practice and perseverance have paid off (sorry for the cliché). I took Jigs to multiple events over the last month and except for one day of VERY naughty pony, he was fantastic.  We were overall champion in our division at three events!

2019 Champion

What is more exciting is that one included horsemanship at walk, trot, AND CANTER. I feel like we are starting to get it.

I’m sure there will be more good and some bad days, but we will figure it out. I am not the type of rider that pushes. Each step we take is slow, but this year, our progress is visible.  We are learning to dance.

jigs champion of the day