Posted tagged ‘horse training’

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

2020

February 15, 2020

My January 1st ritual every year is to remove Jigs’ ribbons above his stall. It is how I refocus on new goals, new challenges.   It is mid-February and they are still up. 2019 was a tough year. I lost my mother. The ribbons are a reminder there were positive moments.  I really need to take them down.

Last Sunday was The Bay State Trail Riders Association’s annual meeting and banquet. I’d almost forgotten Jigs and I had won the Judged Pleasure Ride and qualified for a year end award.  To my delight, the award was a beautiful riding skirt that matches my saddle! 

I was so excited; I drove from the banquet right to the barn to try it out!

Rding Skirt

Riding Skirt

It is perfect.

I don’t know what 2020 will bring, maybe a few more ribbons, maybe myriad meandering trail rides. And when the weather is wet and cold, I will be wearing a lovely turquoise riding skirt! 

Cuteness Revisited

December 8, 2019

Quite a few of the folks who meet Jigs tells me he is “cute.” I guess it is his size and his quiet, confident demeanor that get him that label.

He would be insulted if he knew what cute meant (assuming he doesn’t).

Jigs’ smaller stature does not stop him from bossing around his herd mates, even though he is the smallest in the pasture.

Louie the ex-racehorse is the exception. Jigs steers clear and always defers to him. Louie is a goofy love bug. He’s also the tallest horse at the barn. His tongue hangs out to the side in the way of ex-racehorses. I suspect Louis prefers humans to other horses. Jigs avoids him for the most part, although I have seen them graze together.

As for the rest of the herd, Jigs reorders them around the round bale, pushes them off the water trough, enforces the order of who goes when- Louis is first, then Jigs. It is the way of the universe.

For example, yesterday Jigs had a session with the chiropractor. Sore around lower thoracic and upper lumbar, he was not comfortable with the work being done on him. At one point, he grabbed my thumb. Biting is something he never does. He let go as soon as he realized he had my thumb, but it was an indication of how sore he was. As the session went on, he relaxed, and I could see improvement.

When I turned Jigs back out to the herd, Baron was standing at the fence. Jigs pinned his ears and drove him away, giving a joyful kick in Baron’s direction.  Jigs was letting his buddy know he was back and to listen up.

So, when someone tells me Jigs is a cute horse, I smile to myself.  Cute is not the word I would use for him, but who am I to correct them?

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

Second Place

September 27, 2019

I think the best feature of my phone is the ability to put Jig’s photo on the home page. I glance at it throughout the day and smile. It doesn’t get changed often, but a few weeks ago I uploaded a photo of him with his second place ribbon at the Marshfield Fair.

I know second place is not winning, but it is the best placing we have ever had at Marshfield. Two of our three runs where clean and the last one was fluid. It felt right. I met my goal of cantering between obstacles and stopping correctly. Although the course was simple and there were not as many participants as past years, I accepted the placing proudly.

marshfield 2019

Second Place Marshfield Fair 2019

My riding and confidence has improved thanks to lessons. After a few weeks of decent practices and solid lessons, I felt ready to compete in the skilled division at last week’s versatility.

I was wrong.

The courses had jumps that the skilled division was required to canter over. Jumping is one of my fears. When I first got Jigs, I told him, “no jumping.” He seems okay with that arrangement.

Frankly, the jumps on the course were low enough for us to pop over at a trot. We’ve never cantered over one before. Our jumping to that point has been limited to trotting over logs on the trail or a small cavaletti or two in the ring.

My first instinct was to drop down a division, but that didn’t feel right. The year before we won at the lower level. It felt like cheating. And it was likely too late.

I decided to try.

The thing about me is my brain gets in the way of my body. We did the first obstacle, a garrocha pole, fine. After putting the pole back, I hesitantly asked for a canter. Jigs sensed my ambivalence and launched into an awkward pop over the jump. He landed at the canter and overshot the next obstacle, a side pass. We knocked the first and all the subsequent poles loose.

It got worse as the course went on. At some point, I managed to get my hands tangled in the reins.

While I didn’t get us DQ’d, the judge didn’t award many points.

I deleted the video my friend made from the sideline before looking at it.

Resting After Our Loss

Resting After Our Loss

I rode a little better in the next class, but not enough to beat anyone in my division. I was hesitant and did not receive points for jumping the balance beam because I did it at the trot, not the canter.

I sulked for a couple days, feebly riding in the ring not accomplishing anything.

You know how thoughts goes round and round like a marble dropped in a bowl? Noisy, and wobbly?

If I wanted to jump, wouldn’t I be at a different show? Why did the judged class have two jumps? One of the reasons I like local versatility is the lack of jumps.

What right did I have trying to compete at my age, at my riding skill level? Why bother?

The Marshfield buzz was gone.

I signed up for a trail ride. That was something we could do. Maybe it is all Jigs and I should do. Maybe we should skip the next competitions. After all we are both getting older.

Wednesday was lesson night. I had no intention of telling my instructor what happened, but she found out anyway.

Immediately she set up a cross rail for us. It was about the same height of the first jump on the course. We trotted over it hesitantly. Again, again, and again. She had me stop after each jump.

And then she commanded, “canter. I asked Jigs weakly. Nope. He trotted faster.

“Again” she said. This time he cantered over the cross rails without actually jumping, his back hooves hitting them.

“Again.”

This went on for a bit and then it happened, Jigs jumped and stopped.

“See, you can do it,” my instructor said.

It was the right place to end the lesson.

While I’m looking forward to the trail ride this weekend, I’m also looking forward to the competitions the following weekend. I know we won’t win our classes, but with patience and a calm mind, we just might do okay. That red ribbon on my phone’s home page is a good reminder of what we can do.

Summer Blahs

August 15, 2019

Summer is burning to a slow end. It is mid-August.

Jigs and I have not done much other than lessons. It’s been a season of canceled events, the most recent due to the heat and humidity July threw at us. Too hot to move. Not safe for the horses.

Lessons have continued. Slight progress has been made, but it seems the more I learn, the more I am aware of my shortcomings. I’m not an athlete. I mix up left and right. My cues are awkward. I am not quiet and talk to much to Jigs with hands, legs, and voice. A hot mess.  I’ve given up on ever showing or competing seriously in versatility.

On the plus side, Jigs looks fantastic. He is lean and muscled as never before. Consistency is good for him. This summer I commissioned a painting of him that now hangs in my living room.

jig painting

I am looking forward to fall and the cooler weather when we can trailer out to a few organized rides. Perhaps then my usual optimism will return.

My Mother’s Birthday

July 3, 2019
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Jigs on a trail ride

I’ve always been that bizarre little girl who obsesses about horses. I am convinced it is genetic.

It’s weird because the horse stories in my family are not positive. My mother used to tell me about my grandmother, Concepcion Morales Martin. She grew up in the Cuban mountains near the city of Cienfuegos. When she was a young girl, her father would bring produce to the local city. One time, the colt of the horse that pulled the cart kicked her. She was in a coma for days. When my great grandfather returned from his trip, he made a pledge to the virgin in the local church- his daughter’s life for a gold hat.

My grandmother woke from her coma. The hat was presented to the Virgin.

My grandmother once told me she was upset because while she was “sleeping,” her sisters got first pick of the parasols that her father brought back from the city. She said she was left with the “ugly one.”

My mother heard the story and was terrified of horses.

And then there was me.

It was an obsession. I remember riding the spring horse aggressively in the spare bedroom. I just knew, even at the age of 3, I belonged on a horse.

I grew up pretending I was one. Summers were spent at my grandmother’s. I would run in the woods- a wild horse. When I found The Black Stallion books, I was hooked. Margarite Henry was another favorite. My first ride was on a pony owned by a friend of my parents. I stayed on as we crossed the lawn. Past the driveway, I fell off. I wanted to get back on but was told “no”.

My mother was afraid. My father was afraid. Eventually I got to play with a neighbor’s pony. I fell off Princess more than I stayed on; I hid my falls from my parents. I got a lesson at a local stable, but when the barn sour horse ran home with me, my father said no more.

One Summer the plan was to send me to horse camp. My parents decided to install an inground pool instead. They said they could not afford both. I never recovered from the disappointment.

After a detour down the wrong path, my parent finally allowed me to get my own horse at 15- a yearling. I know, green rider, green horse, bad idea, but for Freedom and me, it worked.

I never should have agree to sell him to attend college. Selling Freedom is my one regret in life.

In my 60’s, I am still that obsessed child. This time I have Jigs. He is all I could have wanted. He keeps me sane.

For years. I blamed my mother for not sending me to horse camp. I never learned proper riding techniques. Shortly before her death, she admitted to me that the pool was a ruse. My father was afraid I would be hurt at horse camp. She wanted me to go.

The death of my mother this April has been hard. I am a loner, but for Jigs. He grounds me. He keeps me connected to my barn friends. He is my life saver.

Funny thing is, not once did my mother touch him.

helen and joe annvsty-1

Joe and Helen Paul 25th Wedding Anniversary

Photo Shoot

April 14, 2019

I have never been comfortable with having my photo taken but when a friend, who is a talented photographer and fellow barn rat, offered to take some photos of Jigs, I thought, it might be fun, so why not?

The pictures are stunning. Bethani captured quiet moments between Jigs and me.

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And as you can see, Jig’s is a bit of a ham!

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I highly recommend Pictorial Tales By Bethani.

Birthday

January 13, 2019

My family doesn’t celebrate adult birthdays. I can’t tell you the last time I had a cake. Not that I care.

Today is my birthday. I am officially over 60.

I chose today to scan my fading photos of Freedom. The old Kodak and Polaroid snapshots don’t age as well as me. Going through them has made me a little sad and a lot grateful for the life I was given.

I try not to regret anything. It’s wasted time. That doesn’t mean we cannot learn from our failures, our mistakes. In some ways, they can be a gift if we don’t rip them open carelessly.

But there is one regret I have been unable to leave behind. It is Freedom. The hurt of having to sell him to go to college is as fresh at 61 as it was at 18. My regret is that I did not fight hard enough to convince my parents to let me keep him.

Saying Goodbye August 1976

Saying Goodbye 1976

I do believe if I had not sold him, my life would be different.

Freedom was purchased by a woman who promised she would give us first right of refusal. I did visit him once, about a year after he left me.  I tried to contact her again, but the number was disconnected.

last visit

Last Visit with an Old Friend

I found out years later that she had gone through a nasty divorce. Freedom and her other horse, went to auction.

He was a good-looking appaloosa, well bred, so there is a chance he landed safely. I did reach out to the Appaloosa Horse Club to try to find his new owner, but I was still listed. The paperwork was never transferred.

I don’t know what that means. I hope he found a family to cherish him the way I did.  I think about him every day. He lives in my heart.

2019 Prospective

December 30, 2018

End of December is the time for retrospectives of the year. A lot of the bloggers I follow have posted theirs already. One stated that blogs are old school and announced she is moving to other venues, pod casts, on line classrooms, for a fee. The free blog will remain, but I wonder for how long. Everyone must make a living. I get that.

Rather than looking back, I am looking toward 2019. Disclaimer-despite my fondness for Tarot, I am not clairvoyant. Expectations may or may not be realized. There will be hardships. There will be moments of joy. My hope is joy will out weight hardships.

And what are my expectations?

I expect to laugh and cry with those I love. I expect to continue preparing for retirement. I expect to ride Jigs down new trails. I expect to attend horse events, lessons, cow sorting, versatility, maybe a show if I get brave. I expect to win a few ribbons. Maybe.

Missing are my wished-for things: economic stability, a truck, Jigs at home with me, a finished book of poetry, 40 years in the making.

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On January first, I will take down the ribbons Jigs won in 2018 and put away the memories of our successes, near successes, and yes, failures.

The space above his stall will be empty- a proverbial blank slate- a space for realized possibilities that will become 2019.

Happy New Year’s!