my horse is learning the alphabet

Last night during our lesson at Iron Horse, I was merrily loping along - when something felt odd. I glanced over my right (inside) shoulder and saw my horses hip sticking out more then the usual. I looked forward, my horses head was straight - we were going straight, huh? I stopped. 

Trainer Patty asked "What's wrong?". " Um, that was weird, what the heck was Koda doing? His hip was sticking out" " Really...which direction?" "To the inside, like this" as I made a shape with my hand - and that's when allll the happiness broke loose! Koda earned huge praise from our Trainer, she was giddy and overcome with joy.  Those who know her well, can relate to the sound of her honest happiness.

Apparently Koda has learned the letter U.

She explained it's a higher level gymnastics move that is hard for them to learn, and even harder to teach. It builds on the foundation of teaching horses to move their body sections separately, for many different types of movements. Pretty exciting, altho I have no idea what I did that got him started spelling - but I'll find out. Until then, my horse knows more of the alphabet then I do!


keep trying, peaceful ride ahead

First, a short follow-up on a previous post. Koda had no additional white spots and no changes this week. You can see the existing spots in proportion in the photo below, the larger one near his withers and the smaller one in the girth area. 

Onto the saddle saga, which continues. The latest revelation came about when we took the bell stirrup's off my old Circle Y, and swapped them out on the new saddle. It helped my leg issues somewhat, as there was clearly more room for my foot and the stirrup was more weighted. However, it didn't take long to realize the bell stirrup didn't solve the problem. My foot was still slipping. All I could think about while riding was the saddle. 

Towards the end of our ride, frustration was getting the best of me. I've been riding in the current saddle for a month, and it's still not right. I've come to love everything else about this saddle. WHY can't it just be right?! For goodness sakes, I've been trying saddle's out since Spring! Add to that - our boys come home in one week. I was at the point of "I can't have a frustrating saddle, and a frustrating horse. One of them has to go, and I'm not getting rid of my horse". Side note; The mentioned horse frustration comes from Koda making me work my butt off - all the time. I need to focus on him. He is still young. Someday this will change to a much lesser degree, but until we progress - it is our reality. I can't imagine what he is thinking, while I am focused on the saddle. Whatever it is, he was still a good boy.

I've come this far in my saddle search, I can't just give up. Setting frustration aside, I have to keep trying. For comparison's sake, Brad and I swapped saddles. I didn't get half way around the arena, and my legs were killing me - his saddle really is too wide for me. That was an "aha" moment. Furthermore, the stirrups are identical - you can see underneath feet in his saddle stirrups too. Discussion continued and concluded with, if it's not the stirrups it has to be the fenders. Sigh. Now that we've eliminated another thing, our saddle fitter will do more work on the saddle and loosen things up underneath the tree. I am hoping this last (?) adjustment makes it 100% right (she won't sell it to me until it's 100%) before Koda & Nemo come home. Time will tell.

We got a second ride in again this week, on a beautiful early Fall morning - just Koda & I and Brad & Nemo. I opted to ride in the new saddle. Brad pulled hard on the fenders, which made it a little better. My foot still slipped, but I knew what to expect and why. It was okay. I am hopeful, once the saddle get's more work done on it, the fenders will move with my leg.

After outdoor arena fun, we ended our morning with a short trail ride around the field. I am really going to miss riding in a huge outdoor arena.

The boys picked up some tiny seeds, or something, on their legs.

Our sunny Saturday ride was sooo peaceful. It made me feel better about the whole saddle thing. I can't think of a better way to spend my day, then with my boys.


Sunday Stills ~ First Signs of Fall

One of my favorite signs of early Fall are Sedums. I ran out between rain showers this morning to capture a few raindrop shots of them...




...yesterday was a beeeautiful sunny early Fall morning. By afternoon the weather was changing, as it often does. I was glad I got outside before the rain started, to take a few shots of the fields surrounding our property...




View more Sunday Stills early signs of Fall.


'tis the season, for white hairs

No, not mine. The white hair's showing up this season are Koda's, in patches, and in area's I've never seen before. It's a bit concerning, but I was reassured they were old hair follicles growing out while a new winter coat grows in. I too can see the two-toned hair, darker closer to the body and white closer to the tip. What is odd is there are new patches of white hair that I've never seen before....however, the hair growth is similar and looks like this:


Koda had one spotty patch on the left side of his withers, which disappeared. Now he has a larger & denser matching set on either side. Saturday I noticed a new, old looking, patch the size of a quarter in the girth area. Must be a rough spot in one of the girths used. The pads and girth are, and have been, neoprene. I love them, but maybe that too needs to be adjusted.

It was determined last Spring the white hairs were caused by pressure, resulting in restricted blood flow that damaged the hair follicles. That sent us on a long journey of reassessing, that has been ongoing since the discovery and rider launching, last Spring. As you may know the saddle/pad fitting continues, and apparently so do the white hair patches. Since then Koda has had massages, been checked out and refitted numerous times, among other things. His body appears to be changing once again this year, he's a growing boy.

The white hair reappearance brings a renewed focus, and realization that he is once again tight in his withers. The white hairs were one of several signs (and things) that are keeping us guessing. The latest suggestion is to call a Chiropractor/Vet, just to be sure nothing is being overlooked. Must be hard(er) with a white or light colored horse. It seems to never end...

Have you experienced similar, seasonal white hair? Did you do anything other then the above to resolve it?


self help for your fears

I just received the October issue of Horse & Rider, and read "Self Help for your Fears" written by Melinda Folse. It had some really good points, and suggestions, for what seems to be a very common struggle.

Early in the article it gives a stat from The American Horse Council, that out of 9.2 million horses in the US, 75% are owned by women over the age of 40. Wow! That got my attention. Most likely because I fall into that category, and share in the common fear struggle.

The article talks about putting fear in it's place, the right perspective, and gives six proactive exercises. The information is adapted from the author's recently released book  "The Smart Women's Guide to Midlife Horses" . The book appears to be pitched towards new midlife horses owners, but the article isn't - it is relevant to anyone.

I found the explanation and exercises the author shared from talking with Dr. Johnson to be interesting, and real. I can see how the exercises would help one sort out emotions, with a pro-active thought process.

The exercises are written and based on these six areas of thought: Why do I ride? What are my goals? What can I do, and how well can I do it? What am I afraid of? Visualize success, and the last exercise is to Create an action plan of small, accomplishable steps. There are thought provoking questions and guidance that accompany each exercise.

If you've read the article, or the book, let me know what you think - and if the exercises helped. I would like to try them, after our boys come home.


ride when you can

Altho we had spent the first part of the weekend traveling over an hour to sporting events both Friday evening and Saturday morning, we decided we need to ride while we can. The boys will be coming home soon. We headed back on the road Saturday afternoon, to enjoy a quiet early Fall ride at Iron Horse.

Our humans are here
I was curious to ride in the new saddle again. It got oiled, billet's cut and stirrups re-turned. The second time I arena rode in it, I was having trouble with my legs. My feet (especially my left) constantly slip through the stirrup. Being preoccupied and trying to reset them, instead of concentrating on my riding, was frustrating. We tried shortening, lengthening and made sure nothing was caught up underneath. 

In addition, something has been wrong all along when I lope. It feels like I am lifting out of the saddle, and unbalanced. Nothing I've ever felt before in any saddle, or on any horse. I had three people watching, reassuring it wasn't me. I've never ridden in a saddle where there was such an obvious "sweet spot"...

The oiling & turning did help to get my legs under, and consequently my lope - but the stirrup thing is not resolved. My lope still feels a bit awkward. I think my smart hubby figured out what may be wrong with the stirrup. He said he can see under my foot, as in the stirrup is not flat/wide enough. A new discussion to have, thank goodness our saddle fitter is patient. I never knew saddle buying would be so hard. Much to my chagrin, I am still undecided on the saddle. I really really like it, but need to get the stirrup thing figured out - which will hopefully finish resolving the lope thing.

On the brighter side, we had great weather to ride in the outdoor. It was just us, and very peaceful. After grooming and warming up, we practiced our gaits, some poles, turns, side passes, L-backs, slow spins (Note to self, I need to work on these with our trainer. They are getting worse, instead of better) rope gate, and rock bucket etc. There is so much more to do in the large outdoor, then indoor. We ended with a short trail ride around the field. Pretty much covers everything I love doing, with my beautiful boy...


Sunday Stills ~ On the Road

I was surprised to find this weeks challenge, challenging. One would think with so many country roads to choose from, how could it possibly be hard? This is how; with the main challenge being traffic, lines and road are easily cockeyed, it takes a long time to drive and find interesting locations, signs and telephone poles were my nemesis. My nice husband drove around enjoying the sites with me, helping me not get splattered and suggesting potential captures. Our views on the road:

Old Church Road

Winding Country Road

Heading Back Home
On Our Road

Travel down other Sunday Still roads


unexpected obstacles

We went on our first ACTHA Ride for the Mustangs at Ukarydee yesterday. We rode as buddies of our trainers client/friend, and loved it!! Our trainer Patty was suppose to come with us. She so wanted to do the ride herself, just as much as she wanted us to do the ride. However, unexpected serious family matters came up. Just as we were pulling off the interstate headed to her place in the wee hours, we got the call from her.

Before we could suggest turning around, she said "take my truck & trailer, I'll call my friend and let her know you are on your way". Wow...talk about obstacles...take away the comfort of a trainer, put yourself in a truck you've never driven, in a larger horse trailer then you're used to hauling, without your trailer stuff, taking young horses to their first large group ride, to a competition you've never done, with people you've never met, to test a brand new saddle. All I can say is, we are very honored to have our trainers full trust in more then one way.

Nemo & Koda upon arrival, pretty unconcerned with their new surroundings.
We were greeted with a very warm welcome. Have I mentioned lately, I can't believe how friendly horse people are? We met new friends, let our horses settle in, and listened to the rider/obstacle intro before heading out on the trail. Both hubby & I agree ACTHA is a very friendly welcoming group, who's focus is on enjoyment and safety. Buddy Riders are not judged, but are allowed to do the obstacles as long as competitors are not waiting - a great way to find out if this type of competition is for you, and if your horse is ready. We had previously done a pleasure ride at Ukarydee, it was our first traveling trail ride ever with our boys a little over a year ago.

We were the first group to head out, down the road we went. The obstacles were challenging, but a lot easier then expected. Our young horses were more then ready to overcome unexpected obstacles, and apparently so were we. The first obstacle was a rope "gate" that we would have liked to have tried, but alas rider's were behind us. Koda backed up to meet the new horse from the group that was suddenly inches from his butt, with raised ears. He could have listened to my never mind/forward cue sooner, but I can't entirely blame my curious boy. Most riders would not have approached so closely... We continued on and found out, the approaching group was not part of the ACTHA ride. Who knew? We moved on, enjoyed the scenery and tried other upcoming fun obstacles.

Our ride included a combination of grassy area's & woods.
Brad & Nemo are ahead, along with Peggy & Chris on their respective mounts.
...we rode through pines...
...through open grassy area's...leading to trail obstacles...
...Chris and her Palomino just completed the mounting obstacle...
Brad & Nemo looking up at the hat on a stick.
They completed the hat obstacle, in a super fast 5 seconds!

We were all successful! Koda & I only took 10 seconds (35 was the max).
...Koda thinking, it's sooo hard to wait our turn...

The ride was not without it's challenges. We ran into the aforementioned group at another key point, where Chris's Palomino wound up to kick the very same horse that Koda had looked wonky at...weird...97% of the ride was calm and very enjoyable. Considering the large number of horses at this event, we didn't run into a lot of other riders. 

Being the experienced rider that Chris is, she spun her horse around and avoided confrontation (aka kick). The strangest part is, at the very end of our ride while heading back on the road "to camp" these folks were upon us once again. They rode up on the other side of the road. Let it be known they were very nice, but as soon as that same horse & rider approached, Koda began to act up. He started to do "the jig & hunch" I asked "what are you doing" he stopped, but hunched again, with a little rear lift this time, to which I replied "knock it off" and then, he gave a larger hunch with a pony kick/lil buck ~ and I dismounted. It could have been a bug biting him, or his youthful self not knowing what to do with whatever energy/dislike the approaching horse brought. So odd...over the hours we were approached by other horse & riders, with nothing more then a glance from any of our four horses.

I found out after the fact the approaching horse had been doing circles (Brad & Nemo were watching) no doubt creating/dispersing energy. It may be unrelated, but it was odd the only trouble we had involved that horse. No excuse for silly behavior. That guy was a concerned rider, that stopped to ask if we were okay. I was, I had chosen to dismount. It caught Koda by surprise, he backed up a few steps and stopped. I've seen that face before. I let him know it was okay, not praise, but nothing to fear. We defused for a short while and I hopped back on, to end our ride on a good note. 

I will be curious to hear what our trainer says about our ride in general, and specifically about the last part...my instinct was "she's not going to be happy with either of us, I should have stayed on, Koda can't do that" but both Peggy & Chris said "Really? we think Patty would be proud of you". I think they are right. Regardless, I did what I had to do to feel right - and honestly, I was fine. They made me feel better, joking I did an obstacle and they didn't even get to watch. Gotta love it :)

Altho we missed sharing this ride "of firsts" with our Frainer (trainer/friend) Patty, we really had fun! Koda & I tried all the obstacles, with the exception of the rope gate. Too bad, that was one we had practiced. Peggy & Chris were great, we are thankful to have had the opportunity to be their buddies and look forward to future rides with these great gals! We plan on joining ACTHA in 2012, for more fun on the trail!!

Sunday Stills ~ Shiny Things

From my garden: A couple metal (obvious) shiny things...



..and something less obvious (everything shines when wet) ~ isn't he a cute lil' guy?!!




See other shiny things at Sunday Stills


trying new things

I'm pretty jazzed up with all the new things to try this week! It started with the arrival of another long awaited saddle to try, a reiner that has been customized. I like 90% of this saddle, fit's Koda well and is comfortable to ride in. I just need to decide if I can get used to a different cantle that is lower then I prefer/am used to. There is some other stuff I would change, but all minor.

We had a good Monday morning Labor Day ride, where I got to try the saddle at leisure. The arena's at Iron Horse had been watered, outside by Mother Nature and inside by hose - so we rode in the pasture. Pasture riding is much different then soft level arena sand, made for a pretty good test. I was happy with our ride, especially towards the end when it was just Koda & I.

Two rides, two days in a row, that's new for this year. Tuesday night was gorgeous weather. We tried new trail stuff that included a bucket of rocks, mailbox, slicker etc. I got thumbs up from our saddle fitter & trainer, who saw me ride in the saddle for the first time.

I'll be testing the saddle again, when we Ride for the Mustangs ~ and try even more new things!


had a ball

This is the season we ideally would be heading out on the trail, but it's best we stay out of the woods for a couple weeks to let Nemo's allergy situation simmer. Instead, we enjoyed a second arena weekend ride. We were flying solo (or duo in our case) at Iron Horse, it was a good day to bring our equine ball to fun it up. Our boys haven't seen it since they were introduced to it as two year olds at our place.

We put the ball in the middle of the arena, rode around and worked our way over to it. There was just enough of a breeze the ball didn't stay put very long. After riding past it, close and closer, it was time to play. Brad & Nemo tried first. Nemo wasn't a fan of the ball when he was younger, and still isn't. He acknowledges it, but that's about it. Koda on the other hand took one cue from me, and the ball was off and rolling. Some things never change.

Koda & I playing ball.

Funny how little the ball looks in the picture, it's not. Trainer Patty came home and watched us play for a while. She laughed at how Koda lit up, as we trotted after the ball. We would just get going and run it into poles or whatever, ball handling proved to be challenging. 

The real game stopper was when the ball would roll into the corner. First time I dismounted to get it, and the playing continued. Second time I was bound and determined to get the ball out of the corner while mounted. Probably not the brightest idea, since I was wrangling tree branches at the same time. I saw the pokey end of a cable, and thought "what if it pops and spooks Koda"? After all that work we were doing trying to position ourselves to get the ball out of the corner, I convinced myself the ball would roll the other way. It didn't. WHY don't I listen to myself?? 

The ball didn't pop, it just deflated - that was a brief sad moment for my playful boy. I made sure Koda knew he didn't do anything wrong, in fact he did everything I asked. I am going to try to fix the ball, but I'm pretty sure it's time to buy a new one - with a protective cover. It was a fun ride regardless, that ended with something Koda loves more then playing ball...

Cooling off with a snack

I see evidence of spots :)

...I love the last part of our rides too, so relaxing and enjoyable!


Sunday Stills ~ Potluck

It's potluck time, a photographers choice. Enjoy a sample of what I captured when my local photography group took a trip to Capitol Sand & Gravel last weekend. Beautiful sites were photographed, and good times shared.

The owner took a couple of us lucky photographers out on the peaceful water.

Dredge reflections

Pier reflections

Overlooking Capitol Sand & Gravel, the water is turquoise (from minerals)

Sunset begins, with reflections across the lake


View more of my photos from this outing/see other potluck photo's this week at Sunday Stills.


competitive trail riding

Watching the Ultimate Horse Challenge at Horse Days sparked a conversation with Trainer Patty that had more or less been "put to bed". She knows us pretty well and thinks we would really enjoy Competitive Trail Riding, and so would our horses. A very different level then the Ultimate Horse Challenge, altho both include trail-type obstacles.

We've been entertaining the idea of Competitive Trail Riding, or Ranch Horse shows, since last spring but just haven't felt ready - especially since my confidence got derailed in May. However the summer passed, and we've continued progressing. We have agreed to try a Competitive Trail Ride this month as a "buddy" of one of Trainer Patty's clients that competes in them. It never stops amazing me how nice horse people are.

Here are some photos of the two obstacles that competitors had the most difficulty with at the Ultimate Horse Challenge:

The Weighted Ring Pulley
Riders need to hook a ring attached to a rope.

Pulling waaay back

successful ring catch

Water Crossing
Riders need to cross the tricky water obstacle.
Our daughter filled it, and said it was plywood with holes in it so water would splash up.


successful crossing

We are pretty excited to try something new! My only goal is to simply do the ride. I can pass on any scary obstacles, or ones where I know I am doomed - like water crossing. We read-up on some potential obstacles and most sound do-able. Neither Brad nor I have ever jumped our horses, so we gave that a shot at our last lesson. It went pretty well, altho I chickened out on the higher of the two jumps. Maybe next time? We'll get two more practice rides in before the event. Should be fun!!