Posted tagged ‘learning to ride’

Riding in March

March 20, 2016

Ah, Spring. Even with the abnormally mild winter, the joy of Spring is real.  Of course there is snow predicted for tomorrow, but March snow doesn’t last and only serves to underscore the delight of sun and warmth.

Saturday was the first off property ride of the year! More to come, I hope. We rode with 10 friends, the largest group we have ever gone out with! The horses were all excited but remained in control. Jigs even wanted to go and we got the BIG trot going.

Jigs and ap 3-19-16

Douglas State Forest March Ride

Yes, my calves are sore, but out again we went today, this time alone. I chattered to Jigs the whole way. One of his ears flipped back to catch my words.  We were two old friends catching up.


Old friends

The warmth and  light have returned!

Snow Bowl

February 10, 2015

Yes, I did watch the Super Bowl and loved the outcome. Dad was probably doing backflips in heaven. Deflated balls seem silly now.

The past week has been full of snow and cold- the trail head is plowed in.  Riding has been limited to a few bareback circles in the snow filled ring.

jigs versatility in snow 2015

Snow Ring

Below is the 5’ fence in my Mom’s back yard.  I don’t ever remember that much snow- even in the Blizzard of ’78!

Snow of 2015

More snow is one the way.

But like all things in this mortal life, the snow won’t last forever.  Spring is coming….

Of Horses, Competition, and Deflate-Gate

January 24, 2015

This year I have made the decision not to “compete” with Jigs and focus on having fun.  I expect if all goes to plan, there will be lots of trails and general fun messing around.

2010 Dec 31_Winter Fun Dec 2010_0259

It’s easy to get sucked into competition, even at the backyard level where Jigs and I live.  I woke up this morning thinking about it because, of all things, the New England Patriots.

First, I need to explain that I love football and the Patriots have been my favorite team since I can remember. I didn’t have a choice.  Dad was an avid fan even before they were in the NFL.  He took a great deal of grief from his brother-in-laws for it.  In those days the Patriots were the bottom of pro sports.

Then came 2001.  Dad and I had great fights about Brady versus Bledsoe. I was still innocent enough to be excited about the romance of a young man from nowhere beating out the star veteran for the starting spot. He said Brady was a “one hit wonder.”

I had a few years to rub in how wrong he was.  Then he got sick. In the last few years of his life, Dad wasn’t interest in football, the Patriots or much else.

Mom and I still watch NFL games every Sunday during the season.  For me, it’s a way to stay close to the father I miss so much.  A Patriot flag flies over his grave.

Back in March I was convinced this was the year the Patriots would get to the Super Bowl again.  Brady is getting older and frankly, the game is changing.  His style of play is a bit outdated. Mom and I still feel the sting of two losses to the Giants. This may be our last chance to see the Patriots and Brady win another one.

My belief in them was strong, even when they were beaten badly by Kansas City.  Mom will refute this, but only because I expressed my fears to her and kept my sureness they would figure it out secret so not to jinx them.  Isn’t funny how fans think they can change the outcome?

I went to bed last Sunday night elated my confidence in them was justified.  I was planning a Super Bowl party for my grandsons, two of whom, play football themselves. They were going to see history being made and perhaps the best Quarterback of all time play in his sixth Super Bowl. Then the next morning I heard the report of deflated balls on the local sport station.

It made no sense to me.  The Colts were no threat to them.  Why would they cheat? Yes, there was Spy-gate, but it is common knowledge all the teams do that. One of the teams this year is being investigated for using camera phones on the sidelines.

And there was Brady. He has always projected the clean cut, boy next store aura.  He wouldn’t cheat in football or on Gisele. It felt wrong.


But as the week progressed, my faith waned with every new report.

It still makes no sense.  He played better in the second half when the balls were properly inflated.

Did he do it?

I doubt we’ll ever really know what happened.

I don’t even want to watch the Super Bowl now.

There is cheating in all sports.  Lance Armstrong. Steroids in Major League Baseball. Soring of Tennessee Walkers. Suspended race horse trainers. Hyper flexion and rollkur in Dressage. Even an endurance rider who switched horses in a race.

Everyone tries to find the edge. Some go over it to win at all cost.

There is a line between doing things to be better, like getting a good trainer, better equipment, practicing every day, and crossing the cheat line.  Some don’t care.  The Win is everything.  Ribbons and Millions are at stake. But rules are there to make an even playing field.  And in the horse world, more importantly, to protect the horse, who easily can become victim to the human will to win.

And what does the horse think? Does he enjoy competition?  I think some do, especially those who are bred for it.  Cutters cut cows naturally.  Race horses love to run and will continue even when injured. Remember Charismatic?


But it is up to us humans to protect them- and to listen to what they like too. Not every cutter bred wants to cut.  Not every descendant of Seattle Slew wants to race.

Jigs enjoys versatility.  We may do a few this year but not to compete- just for fun.  And he LOVES trails.  We will do lots of trails this year. The goal is for both of us to have fun.


As to whether or not I will watch the Super Bowl and cheer for the Patriots…. I don’t know. It was a small and petty cheat. Still makes no sense to me.  And I suspect all Quarterbacks try to gain similar advantages.  Aaron Rodgers already stated he tries to get away with over inflation. But it does not make it right.  If they did it; it was wrong.


I still have the secret hope they will find a non-cheat reason for the deflated balls.  And deep down inside, I harbor the hope of one more Super Bowl win.

What would Dad say about deflate gate?  He’d say they did it, watch the game and root for the win.

Regarding Grade Horses

July 27, 2014

Yesterday Jigs and I took 2nd place at a ACTHA Competitive Trail Ride!  We’ve been doing these rides off and on for a few years.  The first one we did we got 0 points for almost all obstacles.

scores for first ride

We’ve  come a long way.  Here are yesterday’s scores:

Scores for last ride

Yestdays ride

No, it isn’t first place, but I am so proud of what we have accomplished in the past few years.

Not bad for a grade pony!

I constantly stumble across posts and blogs putting grade horses down.  Facebook posters are especially opinionated about them.  “Grade horses should not be bred…you can’t show them…. buy a registered horse…”  I get it, you need the papers  to show. And there are too many unwanted horses.  But I have been around  “registered” horses with  serious problems that made them “unwanted.”

Of course, there is the issue of genetic defects. My beloved Pepper was  a good example this this.  A percentage of appaloosas go blind like he did, a result of uveitis. Other breeds have other risks.  You need to know the pedigree to avoid passing on unwanted traits.

Still, I wouldn’t trade my grade guy for anything!  He solid and sensible. Am I curious about his background?  Yes.  But in the end, it doesn’t matter.  He is who he is and that is enough.



Another Vacation Post

June 27, 2014

It’s that time again- the last day of vacation. There is still the weekend, but that doesn’t count.  It’s back to work on Monday.

Of course I had sensible plans for the week-pressure wash the house, give my room a good scrub, mow the lawn, send hoof boots off to have studs added, sort though my tack at the barn and in the cellar, ride my horse… BUT, not much of it got done.

I did send the hoof boots.


And I rode in my Brand NEW Saddle!   So far we have logged over 20 miles in it!



The house will get pressure washed in a few weeks.  The rest will get done too.  But for now, off to ride!



May 24, 2014

I never liked chestnut horses.  They are too common. Uninteresting.  Was never a fan of Secretariat because he was a chestnut. It didn’t matter that he was a perfect specimen and ran faster than the wind; he was the wrong color.

Like many horse fanatics of my age, I grew up reading The Black Stallion and Misty of Chincoteague series. No chestnuts for me.

When it came time to get my first own horse, I wanted a bay. And then we got to the dealer’s barn and I saw him: a black and white appaloosa.


Freedom – 1977

He was beautiful. The bay barely registered.  Freedom and I spent the next years together exploring and learning. It was perfect until college came along and I had to let him go.

I was hooked on appaloosas, fascinated by their colors and versatility: horses of a different color.

I was in my 40s when I was finally able to afford another horse. I wanted an appaloosa.

Knowing my limitations, I found one on a hack line at a local riding stable.  He rode quiet and had a snowflake pattern like Freedom, only he was a chestnut roan instead of black. Suffice it to say, Pepper was nothing like Freedom.  He rode well, but on the ground, was dangerous.  And I quickly gained firsthand knowledge about the connection between uveitus and appaloosas.



Pepper taught me more about horsemanship than any other horse. For that, I am grateful. I still miss him.

When the time came to get another horse I decided in order-

1) no appaloosas

2) no chestnuts

Then I met Jigs.  His personality is bigger than chestnut.  It was the first thing I saw about him as I walked around the barn to meet him. He looked at me with a “here I am” stance.  “Aren’t I handsome?”

DId it!

Did it!

He was.

“Jigsy” rode okay, but was pushy. “He doesn’t understand that natural horsemanship stuff, you can teach him easy enough,” the horse agent said.  Natural horsemanship, I thought?  He was plain in your face rude.

Nevertheless there was just something about him. I’m not even sure I realized he was chestnut.  Or that he had a split ear. I took him on trial. Both my barn manager and  trainer thought I was nuts.

Over the years Jigs has become my partner, my friend.  We’ve done so much together and we have more to do. I rarely think about his color; it is immaterial. To quote one of my favorite author/trainers, Mark Rashid, “a good horse is never a bad color.”

Last Clinic Day

April 13, 2014

Yesterday was the last versatility clinic.  We skipped the week before and opted for the makeup session so we could attend a local competition.  The clinic has helped- Jigs and I had 3 clean runs with times good enough for 5th place.  Angel took 2nd!

It was a beautiful day yesterday and we trained in the outside ring next to a major highway with lots of motorcycles and trucks rushing by.  Oh, yeah, and behind the farm is a parachuting school.  You could see the jumpers floating down through the trees.  In short, there were a lot of potential distractions that did not seem to bother Jigs. (And  yes, we loped both directions!)

What did freak him out were the horses cantering around the ring with the flag.  Who knew? So we worked it.  He definitely was freaked when Angel’s head disappeared beneath the flag. After a few minutes he was comfortable with the flag hitting him all over.  It’s amazing how the little things can be approached with patience and a calm voice.

Jigs is a steady horse though. Not much fazes him.  We were fooling around with the obstacle that has the wet noodles coming up from the ground.  One of them got caught in the rear cinch and came away with us.  I didn’t notice it because Jigs never complained. The only clue that I had something was off were the folks on the sidelines laughing at us.

But the reason for attending the clinic was to learn to side pass left and do the gate.  We are still weak on the left but have made improvement and we have new tools.  To the right we are stronger. Yesterday we learned a new way- back through the gate.  We did it,  not gracefully, but we did it twice.  Again, we have another tool to apply.

trying the gate

The dreaded gate

In June the clinician is running a versatility.  Angel was already entered.  She really is a good competitor, but I am not. Yesterday I was talked into entering the novice division. Speed will only be one factor unlike the local competitions we normally attend. In this event correctness is more important.

It’s a tall order for us, but we have a few months to improve!

A Tale of Two Weekends

January 19, 2014

Versatility back to back weekends were, pardon the cliché, a tale of two cities- one covered with mud; the other with snow.

Last weekend I pulled my trailer with my new car for the first time. Lights worked great. The backup camera made hook up quick and easy. BUT the yard was soggy from hard rain the night before and the trailer’s front break locked.  I literally dragged the empty trailer though the mud and down the street until it released by backing up in a parking lot.

The yard is still scraped and rutted from the fiasco- quite the mess. Both trailer and new car (less than 1300 miles on it) were mud caked.  (Trailer still is.)  When the weather clears I have a lot of work to do….

But I did make it to the barn to get Jigs. The new car pulled like a dream.

There were a lot of excellent riders at last weekend’s event. The course was challenging, but it was possible to get though it quickly. Jigs and I got a descent time, 100% 1:50 seconds, but not good enough against riders and horses that compete regularly at speed events and national level shows. We are just back yard buddies fooling around having fun.

Today Carolyn, Helen, and I traveled to New Hampshire for another Versatility. Rather than rain the day before, this time it was snow.  Carolyn drove. (Thank you, can’t say that enough.) The roads in Massachusetts were clear but once we got to the New Hampshire line, not so much.  And it was lightly snowing.

GPSs are great tools but sometimes they send you to odd places. And there are a lot of odd, almost roads in New Hampshire.  We ended up down the wrong end of the road where the event was but it was not passable due to deep ruts and washout.  I must say Carolyn is the world’s greatest backer upper! Kudos.

We finally reached the barn manager for directions and thought we were all set.  Not quite… There was still an unsanded, unplowed hill between us and the venue.  The barn staff was waiting for us at the bottom of the street. They already had called the sand truck and wanted us to wait until it had passed.

We gladly obliged. Once sanded, the hill was a non-event.

What a nice bunch of folks! The staff and owners were gracious and welcoming. The indoor was small and the course well laid out.  I don’t think it would have been possible to yahoo through it and do well.  Times were slower than last weekend but Carolyn and Angel got 1st place, Jigs and me 2nd, and Helen and Violet 6th!  A big day for the girls at Bearfoot.

I like doing the obstacles, but I’ve come to realize I will never be a competitor in speed events. I am not strong or brave enough to win. I do want to become more confident and a better rider but I have no desire to go  too FAST.

This year I want to participate in more judged rides, the ones that are not races. This means learning to be technically correct.  Speed may break a tie, but if you do the obstacle correctly, your score will reflect it.

Here’s this year’s to do list for me (and yes, Jigs, for you too)

1)      Make sure Jigs has a saddle that fits him correctly (Still a problem I’m afraid, even with saddle #5)

3)      Side pass to the left

4)      Open and close a gate correctly

5)      Improve our lope

6)      Finish teaching Jigs to hand me things that I drop

If we do these things, we will accomplish a lot.

Jan 14 Versatility Mason NH Angel 1st Place Jigs 2nd Place

Jan 14 Versatility Mason NH
Angel 1st Place
Jigs 2nd Place

Of Troll Bridges and Poison Apples

October 28, 2013

Sunday Jigs and I competed in our second ACTHA ride of the year. It was well worth the 4:30 am wake up and long drive to Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire. (Thanks Carolyn for driving.)

Jigs was antsy when we arrived, spooking at nothing and breaking Angel’s lead rope.  Not a good start to the day.  I gave up the idea of riding in costume, even though we’d ridden in costume the weekend before.  I’m too old to play dress up anyway.

The troll bridge was obstacle one. You had to walk calmly to the middle of the bridge, which was over running water, stop, pause 5 seconds, and then calmly walk off.

Carolyn and Angel performed perfectly.

“Walk on Jigs… WALK, not trot… Whoa.”

Jigs, “What rimes with whoa? NO, not stopping.”

“WHOA,” I spun him around mid bridge and we stop stopped.

Sheepishly I smiled at the judge, “didn’t say which direction we needed to stop.”

Jigs and I scrambled off the bridge.

Obstacle two was a Halloween version of the Cowboy Curtain.  No issues.

The Poison Apple was the third obstacle. Jig did not get the Poison part.

The challenge was to accept the POISON apple from the Judge’s assistant, and drop it in a cauldron filled with water – a variant of the Frog Pond. You had 45 seconds to complete the challenge.

Jigs decided he wanted to EAT the POISON apple, nearly biting the assistant in the process. She told him no.

Disappointed, he noticed the small pumpkin marking the start line. A slightly larger POISON apple?  He tried to eat it.  A vision of him picking it up and dropping it in the cauldron floated in front of my eyes with the thought we would be disqualified.  Might have been worth it to see the Judge’s assistance reaction.

“It’s not an apple Jigs.”

We walked to the cauldron and I dropped the apple into it.  Jigs sighed. Lost opportunity.

“It was poison anyway Jigs,” I consoled him.

The rest of the ride went well.  It was a trick or treat ride with treats for horse and rider after each obstacle.  Jigs liked that part, though he thought he should get my treat as well. Jigs discovered it’s fun to pull a skeleton behind us… weighs less than a Christmas tree.

We did good enough for 4th place. Not bad although we didn’t score as well as the Spring ride (when we didn’t ribbon).  We have some stuff to work on…. especially stopping in the middle of bridges over running water.  Perhaps a trip to Douglas State Forest is in the near future…

Or maybe there really was a troll under the bridge and Jigs knew it.

Here he is enjoying lunch:

Jigs eating Lunch

“I’m starving…”


February 18, 2013

I’ve been avoiding writing lately. Writing requires thinking. Thinking takes energy- something I seem to be lacking of late.

I wonder if this is how bears feel upon waking from their long sleep?  I just want to pull the blanket over my eyes, roll over, and go back to the warmth of dreams.

Still February. Still Cold. Still snow. Lots of Wind.

While I have suffered from ennui, the horses are READY to GO….. even Jigs. He’s got the Yahoo bug just like all his herd mates.

I’m too old for Yahooing.

The trails are snow covered, but the footing is not too bad.

Poor Jigs.  He’s had to walk through the snow with only short periods of slow trotting. He thinks it would be more fun to GALLOP.

Such an indignity for the split eared sorrel.

Snow trail