Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A fun comparison

Well, here's a fun comparison...

Spring of 2014, I was finally getting some consistent work with Griffin under saddle with a bit in his mouth. While he would accept a bit, it took him a good while to be 100% okay with the pressure of it on his mouth. I outlined the issues in this post.

I introduced video screenshots in that post, but never actually shared the videos as I'd said I would.

Well, while perusing my YouTube uploads over the past few years, I was noting to myself the wealth of Griffin videos. There are so many! It's really fun to be able to look back on where he was so long ago. This January will mark 4 years together (!!).

Realizing my mistake in never uploading the videos from March 2014, I thought I'd share one now along with a comparison video of where Griffin's canter work is these days. He's changed so much in 20 months.

It's visible evidence like this that absolutely blows me away. He's come SO far. I've spent SO much time working with him to get him there, too.

And it isn't just his canter that has improved -- his jumping really has, too! Here's a 64 second video of a small 9 jump course I've recently strung together with him. Each cavaletti is 18", the skinny vertical is ~2'3" (yep, he's jumping a 4'-wide skinny with ease now!), and the standard verticals are at 2'6" -2'9".

I was realizing it for the first time in the post from March 2014, but the sentiment really rings true 20 months later: He's SO MUCH FUN. I really love working with and riding this grey horse.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Raptor Banding Trip 2015

If you are fascinated by birds of prey, this is a post for you. If birds ghoul you out, then click on past.

I inundated my Instagram and Facebook feeds with photos and videos last week, so time to top off the trifecta of social media and share them on ye olde blog.

I have aided with the raptor banding efforts for the Cape May Raptor Banding project since 2011. One of my best friends is permitted and I assist her (and other banders) to trap, band, process, and release these birds. The project has been monitoring the status of raptor migration every fall since 1967. It's a fabulous long-term project and I'm really grateful to get to be a part of it. It's a really great way to celebrate the 1x a year I get to see Mandy (as she lives in CA and I live in WV); it also makes for a really epic Girls Trip. No, this is NOT a part of my normal job and no, I do NOT get paid to do this. I take a vacation to go and volunteer with this project and spend quality time with my bff.

Hatch year (HY) coopers hawk
Team Redhead selfie!
HY red tail hawk (RTHA)
Kenai beaching it up
One happy dog!
Added Arthur to the blind for a day
An epic pose with an epic bird - HY peregrine falcon
A non-epic pose with the epic bird
The box we sat in for nearly 10 hours every day
Mature coopers hawk - ain't 'e a beaut'!
Selfie with a female sharp-shinned hawk -- she looks so quizzical
And now, the onslaught of photos of the second year (SY) male northern harrier (NOHA) I trapped -- I've been wanting one of these in hand since the very first year we went
See that little brown feather? That was how we ID'd him as a SY bird
This accurately describes my excitement about finally having a NOHA in hand
Such an incredibly cool bird
Beautiful "grey ghost"
Look at his long legs! Better for snatching prey out of grasslands/marshes
Another epic sunset night on the beach for Kenai
Mature adult RTHA -- a GORGEOUS bird
She was stabilizing herself in hand against the wind gusts (> 20 mph)
So gorgeous!
Talons! And her new jewelry - a band.
Another RTHA later in the morning - and Mandy's sassy face apparently.
I LOVE the eye color of these birds
Shot of a HY RTHA release from my hand -- see the band on its right leg?
Redheads with redtails. Both HY birds.
And finally, the most epic release photo of a HY RTHA.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Happy Horse Progress Report

Writing this year has definitely been minimal in comparison with former years on this blog. I've been making a very big effort to live a little more richly and get away from technology this year and in that, I have had quite a bit of success!

Regardless, I do enjoy looking back on the chronicles of my adventures and horse training, so I will continue to write, though it will likely be without the frequency I originally did.


Both horses have been a part of my life for >3 years now and while training never truly ceases, the noteworthy parts of training that were once a daily conversation are now more of a weekly/monthly conversation. Now, it's more important to me to observe trends over periods of time than to note every individual daily happenstance. My partnership with each horse is ever-changing and constantly moving forward -- that's what matters most.

Still, I believe it is important to note these trending changes and the high points of them so I can continue to look back through this blog and remember them. I'm always astounded how far we've come when I take time to look back on my journey with both horses as chronicled through the blog. It's a great resource to keep me grounded and heading in the right direction with things which is awesome because that was the reason I began blogging!

In a snapshot --

Griffin came to me as a gangly youngster with nearly no learned skills, now (because of me! -- something that never ceases to amaze me) he is successfully under saddle, can travel successfully down the trail, is learning basic dressage concepts, and has beautiful form over fences.

Q entered my life with quite a mysterious background, but after a weekend trial I knew I had to try my hand with her to see what could unfold within the realm of endurance riding. Three years later she's got nearly 300 competitive completion miles and countless hours spent on trail and our relationship is stronger by the day.

Ups and downs have existed along the way, of course. And I know they will continue to, but I am really proud to say that by and large the journey has consisted with quite a few Ups this year. You see, my "live more, write less" lifestyle has been great for not only me, but the relationship I have with both horses.

I'm seeing each horse for what they are better than ever before and because I'm able to do that, training sessions (and all interactions, really) go so much more smoothly.

A big factor in this is that I've really truly been able to remove my emotion from situations with the horses that once caused me frustration and grief. The only times I can think of offhand when I lost my temper recently were when my safety was put at risk (Griffin uncharacteristically rearing up on me while we were doing work in hand from the ground -- the session ended very positively after he realized that was NOT allowed).

The biggest changes this year --

- Q's calmness on the ground is the new norm for her. She stands tied and calm for various periods of time with no issue and is cool and collected for all handling from the ground. When I introduced her to lateral work in hand the other night, she got a little frazzled, but settled quite quickly and had a great introductory session. It helped that I kept my cool during her momentary worry so she calmed quickly.

"Oh, what's that? Stand ground tied in the middle of nowhere by this bike that I've been following for 12 miles? Sure. No problem." -Q

- Trailering issues are a thing of the past now. Our new norm involves Q getting on the trailer immediately upon walking up to it and then I close the door. Of course, the time I go to actually film this, she backs off twice, and then she gets on and turns around to face backwards, a practice she rarely does anymore. (I would insert the laugh-crying emoji here if I could.) That's how filming works though, things never go as you plan! Regardless, you can see how she gets on without hesitation. In addition to the whole "if you're filming things won't go to plan" rule, I think Q knew we weren't actually going anywhere as the trailer was in it's parking spot and not in the "hooked up ready to leave" spot.

I'd say at least a third if not half the times I rode her this year involved a trailer ride, so she learned quickly that the trailer isn't the end of the world. It's such a welcome change!

- Q's strength and skill at distance riding has also continued to improve. While our competition season wasn't nearly what it was last year, she absolutely excelled at what we did. Her recoveries at check/holds were pretty outstanding. Her post-trot out pulse was pretty routinely 4 beats lower than her pre-trot out pulse.

I think I've found what kind of conditioning works well for this little mare. I'm going to be adding some more downhill work to the regiment, but beyond that, I'm really pleased with the way we're going about things. If I can get our gear tweaked we will definitely be moving up in distance next season.

- Stretching, leg handling, and trot outs are things in the "we really need to work on this" category. Already though, I'm seeing improvements in these areas. We've practiced each only a handful of times since I decided to begin focusing on them and Q is already much better about them.

Here's several shots of us trotting back an d forth in front of the camera followed by a faux trot out (in which she bobbles as she considers spooking at the camera on our return...we need to work on our straight lines, haha). What do you think of her movement?


- Griffin is absolutely leaps and bounds from where he once was. When compared to the beginning of his US work (March 2014), there is such a huge difference. Even the comparison of where he was last fall vs. this fall is very notable (October '14 - October '15).

March 2014
March 2014
November 2014
October 2014
October 2015
October 2015
October 2015 - amazing what a sunny day does in showing off how much his grey has lightened!

And of course there's the notable improvement in his jumping form and ability over time:

October 2014 first time at 18"

April 2015 2'
May 2015 18"
June 2015 22"
July 2015 3'
October 2015 3'

The quality of his gaits and his jumping ability has improved immensely. I can't speak highly enough of how pleased I am with this little horse. My only complaint is that he's still a bit rotund around the midsection! I'd like to slim him down just a hair.

Could still stand to slim up a bit.
Can't believe how light he has become despite knowing he'd be lighter every year.
He's still got a cute face, though I miss his blaze </3

Overall, he's more mature, stronger, more able of body and mind. The kid hasn't had a workout longer than ~ an hour for nearly the whole year. Our frequency of workouts is much higher than what Q does, but the intensity and length is much less. It's the perfect place for his mind and body -- as evidenced in the photos above!

To conclude --

I'm really pleased with the direction Q and Griffin are going. We've made a lot of progress in a lot of areas so far this year. Griffin's progress is more visible (and easier to capture via media) than Q's, but Q's progress is right in line with my goals for the future. Having a calm, happy horse is the most important thing and she's definitely much calmer and happier than she once was in her interactions with people.

Our winter promises to be successful as I have set multiple goals that are more than attainable. Setting the horses and myself up for success is the only way to go about things.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Autumn Adventures

My social media skills are definitely lacking of late.

So here, have a photo dump of epic proportions chronicling my adventures from late summer as it faded into and through autumn in West Virginia and beyond.

Took a photo from this same spot in summer. The change is incredible.
So many leaves! This was on October 2.
I spy with my little eye, a Kenai!
Happy, happy, happy dog.
Leaves, ferns, ground cedars.
Still happy as can be!
Those trees though...
It was a very misty, murky rainy day in Little Alaska.
Kenai still had time for a swim though.
Beaver dam holding the water back.
Reds and russets.
Fallen red maple.
Sir Chicken Legs in the Blackwater.
The ominous skies with the trees made for a pretty backdrop.
Apples at the first cider party
The press and juice/cider in progress
Old, but it's perfect for the job!
A bit of apple butter in progress as well
The literal fruits of our labors at the first party before I headed onto party #2
Dave is churning the apple grinder (behind me), I'm pouring apples, Dan is working the press.
Party #2. More apples and another press and more wonderful people. Dave working the press this time.
More fruits of our labor at the second party. So freaking delicious. Pairs perfectly with pear/brie pie.
My 7 year old lesson student went on her first trail ride. Things were still green in Elkins despite the relative peak color in Canaan.
I took photos for several friends of their kids. Kenai photobombed this shot of little Emma in the absolute sweetest way, kissing her on the nose very gently.
Back in Canaan though, the colors were still showing off.
It's worth noting that zero of the photos posted here of autumn colors have been filtered or edited beyond cropping.
Just look at the valley behind Kenai!
We climbed a very steep slope on this day.
The views were worth the climb.
How beautiful...
The slopes at one of the resorts I ski patrol at.
Blueberry bushes ablaze with color.
And two sugar maples showing off near the golf course.
So this was one of the most epic hikes I've ever done. View after epic view. It go to where we were joking about the view "sucking" because there were just so many outstanding vistas.
I adore red spruce <3
Lots of scree to hike across.
Kenai never poses. Ever. ;-)
Dave and I at one of the first "more open" vistas.
I freaking LOVE this state. No filters or editing to any of these photos, once again.
I mean, look at it! Mountain momma, I do love you. And this view? This wasn't even "the good one".
We reached this view and immediately (very sarcastically) stated, "Ugh, this view sucks. Can we go home now?"
We also joked that we didn't understand why they call it the "mountain state", wouldn't the "tree state" or "valley state" be better?
<3 <3 <3 <3
Another of the same but with red spruce because they are my absolute favorite.
"THE VIEW" taken from an area call The Promontory. 270° vista.
Dave and Kenai.
Moi and Kenai
Tree pose. Because Chipper requested it.
Photo by Chip Chase. Dave was a very good sport and joined my posing.
It seemed like a good time for a selfie.
Upwards of center is Seneca Rocks in the distance.
Most epic helmet ever? Yes. Yes it is.
My lesson student is becoming bolder by the lesson.
See? And in a bareback pad to boot! I did a lot of bareback riding as a kid and it really helped me, so my two lesson students are doing the same.
And then, last week, I went off the radar for a whole week in TN.
Camp fires every night, 3 guitars and a mandolin. And a whole lot of climbing.
Dave working his way up to the roof on Heresy.
Getting horizontal on Heresy.
Yep. Typical Obed roof climbing.
Not a bad part of the country at all.
One of the campground host's dogs. This is Big. Big Scruggs. He's a doll.
Group selfie with Big on our last morning. <3 It was as great week.