Thursday, 27 June 2013

Figuring it Out

Had a great ride last Tuesday with Koda.  A heat wave has come through up here making temperatures hit 35 Celsius (about 90 F), so I wasn't out doing anything on Sunday, and was playing softball on Monday.  Luckily by Tuesday the heat was slowly breaking, so I went out to ride.  Koda is starting to show his CHUBBY side!  My goodness he is so fat, it's absolutely horrible.  We've also moved on from mosquitoes (yay!) to gnats or no-seeums.  They love to cluster around ears, eyes, heads, etc.  and are an absolutely pain.  Koda will soon be wearing his "war paint" (pink swat) all over his head.  But, forget the flies, on to the riding!

I rode again in the front pasture and it was like I was riding a different horse from last time we rode there.  Last time, Koda trotted out on his own accord for a solid 5-10 minutes to chill out before he would listen to my aids without adding more tension.  Tonight, he was as quiet and relax as can be.  He still of course tried to bow towards the horses in the corral, but there was barely any tension in him.  He stepped out for me, gave me some lengthening (need to pull the poles out to exaggerate that), and our lateral work was absolutely lovely.  When we went into the lateral work, he really got down to business for me and I couldn't have been happier.

The ride started out with some easy loose trot with some very short canters tossed in there.  I cantered early in the ride as an experiment to see what he would be like after the fact.  Last time he tensed up quite a bit and any leg aid ended up being "CANTER?!".  This time, he really listened and I rode more with my body to slow the rhythm of the trot coming out of the canter to stay out of his face which I think he appreciated.  I liked how he came back and got down to business as we went into some big loop serpentines.

Once he was tracking nicely in the serpentines, I went into smaller serpentines with circles, really asking him to bend and use himself.  My goodness are we both EVER so stiff to the left.  I have the habit of dropping my left shoulder and collapsing down on my left hip, so he can easily fall in on the circle snice my left leg isn't supported by my torso at all like that.  I'm so lucky that we have a really good yoga instructor up here who has helped me work on staying even and straight and tall.  As Koda and I were doing our circles, I kept thinking what she taught us "lengthen your side bodies, lengthen your side bodies" to keep myself tall and even.

After serpentines we went into the lateral work and it was really just me playing with the idea of where can I put Koda's hooves and how accurate can I be.  I wanted it to be a bit of a challenge for me (and trusting Koda too), so I rode with no stirrups.  Our shoulder-ins were great, leg yields were fantastic but I do need to watch in those that I don't collapse my upper body either.  We ended on practicing our halts for the end of dressage tests, so going from trot-walk-halt.  The halts weren't that great when I was trying to get a stride or two of walk, so went to just doing trot-halt and they ended up being much more balanced and square.  I think it was because I was keeping my leg on through the transition that keep Koda balanced into the halt.

Once all was done with the riding, we had a very relaxing time just chilling by the trailer, Koda being brushed, me enjoy grooming him.  It's really kind of cool to see how we're starting to figure each other out, and to trust each other in things.  I think Koda is learning about his new job and isn't too opposed to it, and I'm learning how he likes to be ridden best.

I can't wait for the next steps on our journey together :)

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Saturday's Ride

Heading out on the trail, barn dog Smudge leading the way!
(Note: Fly bonnet in place)

Heading down the field road
(Note: Lack of fly bonnet)

Apparently Koda took offense to the fly bonnet to the point that he almost shook it off (got it off his one ear before the tie string saved it).  This horse gets such bad bites in his ears, yet cannot handle a fly bonnet.  it ended up in the back pocket (aka tucked into the back of my breeches) for the rest of the ride.  
Ah well...

Beautiful green fields... sadly, these are crops, so no riding on these until harvest.

Part of Koda's exposure to 'new' things on the trail.
He grabbed a drink on the way.  These puddles were one of those slick/deep puddles of clay like mud.  He was really interested in checking these puddles out along with the mud cracks and deep ruts from the work equipment using the road.  

He REALLY liked the mud puddles...

It was too hot to do a full on trot/canter set, so long walk 
trail and then a few short canters at home.

Yay!  Koda has at least SOME extension!

Plus can come back down and be semi-fancy too

Love this pony

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Summer Solstice

Yesterday was the summer solstice, and up here that means essentially you get 18 hours of actual sunlight, and it never actually gets dark.  One of the people in town always has a party, so the SO and I with friends headed over!  Halfway through the night, I nipped out to the barn to go for a sunset ride.

It was absolutely fantastic

It started with some excitement as the BO's horse, Dandy, wasn't very keen on getting ridden, so he went for a bit of a yahoo around with Mik.

Ran around the front pasture twice, bucking and twisting as they went...

Before heading out, I grabbed a quick shot of my watch since my photos don't have time stamps on them to prove the time, and off we went!

Down the road we go!

We did a pretty easy ride, down the road to the point but we didn't make it there (I had to get back to the party in town), so we stopped half way and let the horses chow down while I played around with my camera.
Staring at one of the barn dogs in the woods

Yup, that's the moon behind us!

BO and Dandy with the other barn dog Smudge in behind

It was a great ride, rode on the buckle most of the way, and considering the last time we went down this road Koda had his rodeo moment, I was extremely happy!

All smiles

We got back to the yard and still could easily untack without lights.  The time we got back home from the party, the sun was actually starting to rise again (around 1:30 or so).  One of the good things about living in the far north.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Liebster Award!

My first blog award, how cool :)

Thanks to Carly ( and Emmi ( for the nominations!  Looks like I'll be answering double the amount of questions and have a hard time finding blogs to nominate.  It seems like almost all the blogs I follow have already been nominated!  But here goes nothing.

How to Accept the Award: The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs who have less than 200 followers. Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued. Here are the rules for accepting the award:
  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  • List 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  • Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  • Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
  • Go to each blogger's page and let them know you have nominated them.
Here are 11 random facts about me:
1.  I've been riding since I was 7 years old
2.  I love to travel.  As a kid, my parents would take my sister and I all across Canada and the states, plus some overseas travel to Europe.  I've tried to continue this as an adult, going on one big trip once a year.  This year myself and the SO (along with my family) are going to France for two weeks!
3.  I have a BSc and 95% of an MSc in Earth Sciences, majoring in hydrogeology
4.  I teach singing lessons
5.  My two favourite sports are all about feel - riding (obviously) and rowing
6.  I have a knack for remembering very strange trivia about random things
7.  I love reality tv, particularly Survivor and So You Think You Can Dance
8.  In university I taught swing dancing
9.  As time goes on, it seems like I'm living in smaller and smaller communities.  Started in a city of 250,000, went to university in a town of 8,000, and now live in a hamlet of 800
10.  I strongly dislike the colour pink
11.  Even though I've been riding since I was 7, I bought my first horse when I was 25. 

Questions from Carly:
  1. If you could assume the identity of any person for one day, who would it be?
    Ian Millar
  2. What unique horsemanship skill do you possess?
    Being able to switch from evil growling monster back to happy rider in a matter of seconds.  My old coach used to say "Grow your fangs out!" for when your horse is being naughty, ignoring your aid, etc. and then soften the moment you get what you want.
  3. English or western?
    English :)  But will slap on the western saddle if the feeling strikes me
  4. Would your horse have an accent? If so, what would it be?
    I think it would be slightly french... even though he's arab/quarter horse
  5. Have you ever met any of your fellow bloggers?
    Nope, but would love to!
  6. What is your favorite vacation spot?
    Jasper National Park (Alberta) or Algonquin National Park (Ontario)
  7. Do you have any other pets besides your trusty steed?
    Two cats (Sooks who made the trek with us from Nova Scotia and Gin who we adopted shortly after I lost Dillon) and Shiloh who we adopted this past October.
  8. Have you ever ridden bareback?
    Yup! Used to school dressage riding bareback with Dillon, but haven't got there yet with Koda.
  9. Who is your favorite clinician?
    Right now?  It would have to be Kathy Playdon, or Francois Lemaire
  10. Urban, suburban, or rural living?
    Rural, for now, but would rather suburban, or just outside of a city.
  11. What is your favorite food?
Questions from Emmi:

1. You are stuck on a deserted island, what is the first thing you do?
Start a fire (signal beacon) and look for water
2. You meet a stranger, he offers you two pills. He says the green one will take you on an amazing adventure although it may have dangerous/deadly consequences or he says you can take the yellow which will make you forget any of this ever happened. Which would you take? Why?
Yellow pill - I like adventure, but not with deadly consequences :)
3. Would you rather own a unicorn or a pegasus?
4. What was your most memorable experience you and your horse shared?
Koda and I haven't had many memorable moments yet, but just chilling together in the pasture, him getting his bug bites itched, me enjoying his company, was pretty nice
5. What is a riding discipline you have always wanted to try? Why? ie. barrel racing, steeple chasing
Endurance riding - to be able to ride your horse for that long a distance is impressive!  The bond between rider and horse must be strong, along with their stamina
6. What was your favorite toy from your childhood?
My Breyer model of Big Ben
7. If you show, what was your most favorite ribbon/award?
First ribbon I ever won at a show that wasn't hosted by my barn
8. You are at a bar (or restaurant if you are under 21!) what drink would you order?
Gingerale or water
9. How many siblings do you have?
1, older sister
10. What is your favorite time of the year?
11. Do you like short horses or tall horses?
16.2H and under please :)

Questions for Nominees:
1.  What got you into horses in the first place?
2.  Other than riding, what are your favourite hobbies/passions?

3.  Name a horse from history you would want the chance to ride
4.  Show or clinic?  Why?
5.  What is your favourite moment from your riding career?
6.  Best tip or trick you've heard from a clinic, coach, fellow rider, etc.
7.  If you're in a library with every book in the world, which one do you check out?
8.  How did you end up with your current equine partner?
9.  What is your favourite type of jump/question (oxer, bank, vertical, drop, etc.)
10.  What is your motivation to continue in this amazing sport we all love?
11.  You're running late for your start time for your dressage test.  What do you most likely forget?

As most of the blogs I follow are already nominated for this award or are over 200 followers, I only have 3 to nominate!  Well here they are:
1.  Stanthehorse at
2.  AlbertaEventer at
3.  SprinklerBandit at

Ride the Horse Underneath You

I went out for a quick evening ride last night to try and get back into the groove of riding.  The ride on Sunday wasn't stellar, and I think it was because I didn't really have anything in mind for what I wanted to do.  I wasn't actually schooling, but I wasn't actually going on a trail/hack ride either.  It was a mish mash of things that just didn't work.  Last night, I went out with a fairly clear idea as to what I wanted to focus on - relaxed transitions, some lateral work.  I didn't have much time to ride, so I was all about getting down to business. 

Fat poneh

I tacked up and took Koda into the front pasture where an outdoor arena used to be (no more fence or anything, but it is flat and has good drainage).  I wanted to start with some nice and easy leg yields, big circles, some shoulder-in at walk, but Koda had different ideas.  The moment I put my leg on, he went into a very fast-paced trot, completely on alert.  The conversation went a bit like this:
Me: Koda, all I want for you to do is walk!  Easy there
Me: Ok turkey, trot it out....
Koda:  AH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *trots faster*
Me: Easy buddy, just relax
(loose reins, stroking on his neck)

This went on for about 5 minutes.

Finally, Koda realized that slowing down and trotting nicely is a bit easier than trotting at mach-10 (he was not allowed to canter).  We did some nice big circles, worked on just relaxing into the rhythm and tempo of the trot, keeping it consistent (even beside the "scary" red sheds that he grazes beside every day...), and just getting into the groove.  At this point I decided to go into some canter transition work which resulted in him tensing up and blasting.  Luckily, he does listen and come back rather well, so we just did tons of canter transitions with some walk transitions thrown in.  Relaxation is the key with Koda when riding outside of the indoor arena.  After a bit of improvement in the canter, I asked for one last canter to the right and it was lovely.  He gave me the exact same quality of canter he would in the indoor, and I was over the MOON!  Now we just need to get that consistently outside and we're good.  After that, we did some basic trot-walk-halt transitions, practicing on coming to a square halt such as after a dressage test, and called it a day. 

So!  On the to-do list for the next few weeks are as follows:
 Ride out in the outdoor arena at the rodeo grounds, the ag society grounds, and at Irene's
 Fitness (schooling ride, then hack out)
 Keep contact consistent, stop fiddling

Easy lawn mowing for the yard!
Don't worry, it's fenced

Time to get both of us back into fighting shape!

Up next:  Liebster Blog Award Nominations (Thanks Carly and Emmi!)

Monday, 17 June 2013

Change of Plans!

Well, I've FINALLY had the chance to get back into the saddle after healing from injury and the weather cooperating.  We went with the BO to a poker rally on Saturday morning which was part of the Farmer's Day activities going on at the agriculture society grounds (where the indoor is).  It was a great ride, although I wasn't really planning on going with others as I wanted to test Koda and myself by going solo.  Still had a nice ride, Koda led for most of it except for when we got to some muskeg.  I'm pretty sure he's never seen muskeg before, so not a surprise that he stopped.  Instead of getting him over as I wanted, the BO took the lead from there.  Once Koda's herdmate stepped in, he was all for going forward, the turkey.  We didn't win the hand (only got a pair of fives), but had a good ride none the less. 

I cannot wait to get the trailer fixed since I want to hit those trails for conditioning and more exposure of being out and about!  I don't know why, but I would rather ride on those trails solo than out on the field roads.  Perhaps it may be because I grew up riding in wooded areas and not in the wide open spaces... Or it's simply because there are no major roads anywhere where major accidents can happen! 

Went for a ride yesterday and it was alright.  I didn't really go out with a plan in mind since I was running short on time, but wanted to fit a ride in anyway.  It was spitting rain, and couldn't ride in the front field since it was MUCH too slippery so decided to go on the back mini trail.  Things were going well, was playing around with some lateral work along the trail, walk/trot transitions, but EVERY time we went into the trot he would go into this daisy-cutter rhythm.  Of course, I've been trying to work on relaxation and chilling out, but this was not helping.  We had a few mini moments, so I decided we're just going to walk on a very soft rein while doing leg-yield zig zags for 5 minutes and call it a day. 

I'm trying to instill a stretch forward-down/relax by putting your head down cue with Koda since he is such a worry wart.  Every little thing in the woods deserves his utmost attention, and of course his brain goes with it.  After this ride I decided it wasn't worth going to the show at the end of the month, particularly since we're both out of shape (he's so ROUND!), so we're going to miss this one and go to the next one that is closer to us at the end of July. 

With Koda, I'm really discovering that he needs to be exposed more and more to anything and everything as we work on our relationship together.  It's becoming clearer that he really hasn't done much except be a pleasure horse for his previous owners, so he's somewhat like a greenbean but in a mature body. 

Man, I wish I could get a coach up here consistently!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

And now the weather...

Riding up here has come to a complete stand-still right now.  With my leg now on the mend, I was going to start getting back into my riding with Koda, starting some easy hacks around the property, venturing out on the roads when I have a riding buddy.  Of course, the moment I am healed enough to get back in the saddle, we get a huge weather system moving through.  It has rained every. single. day. for the past five days.  It's great for the pastures and the farmers, but darn it!  Why couldn't it just rain overnight instead of during the day?  Either way, there has been plenty of giving scritches and scratches and hanging out in the field, but no riding as of yet.

In any case, I have the last post of the Kathy Playdon clinic.  On this last day we set up a nice mini course to go through.  With the feedback and tips I got from the previous days, I knew (and still know!) that I need to work on always moving FORWARD, and getting Koda in front of my leg no matter what we're doing.  We had our game faces ON and were ready to go!

Before the course, we did an exercise that I've wanted to do but have not done yet, and that's set up poles that you can trot over to help with either a shortened stride or lengthen stride.  I say shorten since I know Koda and I are not ready to do any true collected work yet, and most likely won't be for at least a year.  It was a great exercise for Koda and I, although we need to spend some more time our lengthening!

The course was a fairly simple one with some bending lines and the coop from the day before.  I rode the bending lines slightly conservatively since I know Koda isn't naturally inclined to do flying changes, so I opted for the quick simple changes instead.  After watching the videos, I realized that I really should have just gone for it and done the canter and try for the changes!  But this is why I LOVE doing clinics and having video to watch and learn from.

I have to thank one of the pony club moms that did the video taping for me this day.

Up next - New venues to discover!

Friday, 7 June 2013


So you guys may have noticed that I haven't been posting much about my day to day riding.  That's because I haven't been able to ride for the past week.  I pulled my left quad extremely badly last week while playing a softball game to the point where getting in and out of the car was difficult.  I've been icing and keeping it easy for a while, but it is still not good.  The issue now is my IT band and the muscles around my left hip and left knee are overcompensating...

At least I can be thankful it's me that is injured instead of Koda.

Words from the now wised up - ALWAYS warm-up your entire body before doing any sports, whether you are equine or human.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Kathy Playdon Clinic Day 2 PM

In the afternoon we continued with our lateral work, and started putting up a small grid to work through.  Koda and I had a fairly easy time of it, except for when we turned and faced jumping the simple coop-like structure that, according to Koda, was filled with horse eating monsters.  It was just 2' tall, but it was the great wall of China that day. 

We worked through the grid fine, until the height of the last fence was creeping up to 3'.  Considering it was the end of the day, after having an intense morning of flat work, Koda had decided he didn't want to play anymore.  Not gonna lie, I was getting pooped as well and my reactions weren't fast enough to avoid his run-out.  Thankfully, Kathy had changed the jumps from verticals to giant cross-rails (cups were at the top of the standards).  With my dwindling strength, but full-on stubbornness, we got through the grid and over the coop in fine fashion and called it a day. 

The grid with the big Xs

The approach on the other side had trees painted on it

After this lesson, I talked to Kathy about what I could do to really help Koda move FORWARD and get a bit of a work ethic in-grained in him.  Her response was to get him out of the arena (I do) and just ride FORWARD all over.  Since I'm a bit of a chicken hacking out by myself out here (flashs of Koda tossing me and him getting hit like Dillon did), I've devised a few "loops" on the farm that I can do.  The loops are rather short, but there are several and it's MUCH easier for me to ride forward in the fenced areas than out on the roads.  Sadly no video from this one (would have seen some SPECTACULAR run-outs, the lazy turkey), but I have a couple photos of the final grid we went through.

Next up - Day 3

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Kathy Playdon Clinic Day 2 AM

The second day of the clinic started off with us doing a lot of flat work, focusing on lateral movements.  It was a bit of a slower lesson mainly because the one girl did not know what leg yielding was, let alone how to execute it.  We did get up to do some more complicated movements including shoulder-in at trot and the beginning of counter canter.  Koda is actually fairly good at lateral work, and is now pretty much confirmed in shoulder-in.  If I'm consistent in my aids, he is consistent in his bend/hoof placement.  Without further ado, here are some videos!

Shoulder-In to the right

Shoulder-In to the left

When looking at the two videos, it shows that Koda has the potential to be rather fancy, just need to get him moving FORWARD into the bridle and movement.  We're working on the forward with very forward hacks around the front fields in trot and canter (kind of like mini trot/canter sets).  

Counter-Canter, left lead

Counter-Canter, right lead

When we're working, I need to make sure that I'm not resorting to the body-pump to keep Koda going.  My ideal would be to cue for the gait and speed that I want and have him carry himself until I ask for something different.  That's what we're working towards.  Essentially, the "how fast?" instead of "really, mom?  Are you SURE you want me to go forward?  Like, REALLY sure?".  

Overall, I was and still am super jazzed about how Koda did in this first lesson!  I had never schooled counter-canter myself (one time we tried to with Dillon, we tripped over the lip of the arena and went arse over tea-kettle), so wasn't sure how Koda would do.  He doesn't tend to swap leads, so I was certain he would hold the lead, but the likelyhood of him falling out of the aids, or down to a trot were very likely.  He did feel more flexible on the right lead than the left, but we'll work on his flexibility.  Along with that, I need to watch that I'm not over-cueing with my right aids, or sending mixed messages (as per day 1 with the exercise down center line).  

What do you guys think?  Do you think we're ready to do some walk/trot and Training level dressage tests?  There's a "local" dressage show happening at the end of June and am really wanting to get down to it to give Koda some exposure at a slightly lower energy venue than a full on event.