Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Progress in the New Year

So far, so good in this new year. In fact, everything is pretty par for the course for January. Well, minus the whole shutdown debacle. I am fortunately one of the lucky exempt employees who is still working and bringing home a paycheck. Working without colleagues and without a lot of resources I need to do my job severely limits my abilities. I very much miss my coworkers, and I know they miss their jobs. It's interesting to say the least, but it is giving me time to catch up on things I never seem to have time to do in the usual hustle and bustle.  Hopefully things will be resolved soon, though I'm not holding my breath.

Reasons I don't take many photos - they'd all look horribly like this because it's dark!
However, I took this photo on this night because it followed an amazing ride on this little mare that I wanted to remember.

On a lighter note, the horses are doing well and winter is here in full force! I know many hate winter, but I'm not one of those people. Snow makes me happy. Skiing makes me happy. And what makes me happier yet is when the mud is frozen and the ground is blanketed in pretty white. I hate mud and mud season with every fiber of my being.

I thought I was retired. What is this riding nonsense you're suggesting? - Stan, probably

I've been keeping a decent schedule for riding so far in January. I've logged over 8 hours in the saddle and have ridden at least 3x per week. All three horses have been out multiple times. I'm focusing on Griffin and Q, with whom I have competition hopes for this year, but I am making a concerted effort to try to ride Stan at least once a week to keep him moving. And to enjoy grinning like a fiend because he is such a pleasure to ride.

Snowing sideways in 21°F weather. Lovely!

I've been working on very similar things with Grif and Q: legging them back up, redeveloping their toplines, and focusing on the pieces of homework LC gave me back in December. And I'm seeing marked success in each of these categories! Both horses look better week to week. I squeal almost daily over small successes each one is making. They seem relatively happy in the work, too, both meeting me in the field almost daily, which is wonderful.

I'll admit, my toes were cold. And my riding skirt blew up around my waist twice from the gusts.

Success in itself is exciting. But more than that, I'm truly enjoying each step of the process. Maybe it's all the talk of process goals in bloglandia of late. Regardless, it's been awhile since I've found so much enjoyment from every piece of the journey. I find myself humming, singing, talking to the horses, laughing at the horses, and smiling constantly on every ride. 

On the rail trail.

Almost every ride so far has involved a lot of hill work at a marching walk. I march each horse up the big hill in riding field a minimum of 3x per ride, if not more. This week I have marched Griffin and Q up it 18x each, ponying one while riding another. I'm beginning to throw in a random trot or canter climb into the mix, but by and large I've been focusing on and honing each horse's marching walk. 

Hi Grif!

All of the hill work is doing wonders for their fitness in a way that prevents them from becoming too sweaty in the cold weather - perfect for my typical evening rides post-work. I love it. Even more, I love seeing the change in their appearance and abilities with each passing day. Both are really getting the hang of the faster marching walk and pushing through their hind end with a lot more power. The change is especially evident in Griffin whose fitness had been at an all-time low for the first time in years these past few months.

He's a happy little chunk. Lauren rode him beautifully on this day!

Last weekend, we were able to get out on a 12-mile conditioning ride on the rail trail. Lauren rode Grif, I rode Q, and Chelsey joined us on JL. The pace was a very moderate 5 mph average, but it was still a good ride. Q even led for the first half and was really wonderful, choosing a forward 7-8mph trot! I was going to continue letting Q lead for the return, but after a half-dozen "spooks" within the first mile of the return I resolved the situation and had Lauren put Griffin in front. 

I just missed capturing us all cantering in a single file line.
Too slow getting the phone out with my gloved hands.

I know my horses (and most horses) will strike out for home with more gusto than they traveled away from home. And Q definitely powered in the homeward direction with a lot more power than she did for the first half of the ride. But the problem arose when I began to rein her trot back to the more reasonable pace we'd kept for the first half instead of the 10-12mph trot she was offering.

Two-by with the mare behind. 

See, when Q has a difference of opinion from me about work - especially if my request makes the work "harder" - her MO is to first, rush and bull her way forward, and if she is unsuccessful with this she will then "spook". I've countered this behavior by simply slowing her down and/or ignoring her "spook" and continuing whatever we were doing as if it never happened.


Fortunately, her spooks are infinitely easier to ride than they once were because she's making some effort to pick me up and take me with her when she does it. Unfortunately, on the day of our conditioning ride she wound herself so tight in the process of spooking and evading the work that I knew I needed to change the situation before things became worse.

Good drinking horses following our 12 mile ride.
PC: Chelsey

It was nice to have other people/horses along so I could simply give Q a break from leading to resolve the situation. But I definitely recognize that the problem isn't "fixed" by doing this. I will absolutely be heading back out solo with Q in the future to work through the issue slowly and systematically. Well, as systematic as one can be with a horses/an opinionated mare. It will inevitably involve a lot of walking every time she becomes rushy and rewarding her when she's relaxed and forward.

Ponying Q from Grif two nights ago.

Now that her confidence is up, it's a lot easier to work through these types of issues. I have a much better read on her and can tell when she's being contrary because she wants to be lazy and when she's genuinely scared. And, I can confidently say she's being contrary 95% of the time! Mares...

Happy relaxed expression!

All in all, I'm super pleased with how things are progressing for January. I've got another lesson scheduled for next week, and am excited to have new homework to fuel me forward for another 6ish weeks. This will get me through the brunt of the winter weather and firmly into longer daylight hours!


  1. Omg Griff! You're a marshmallow! Also, Q. Listen up. I have no ability to take you right now, so I need you to suck it up and do the work, chicka. ;)

  2. I'm glad you aren't furloughed - I feel so bad for the workers who are.

  3. I can't even understand this whole shut down and it makes me sick thinking of the impact on people. It's good that Q is feeling good and raring to go. She'll figure it all out- she's a smart cookie.

    1. I can hardly understand the shutdown. I've experienced at least 3 that have kept us off work in my short career span. So ridiculous.

  4. Glad you are still able to work and that you are enjoying the snow.

  5. I'm glad you are still at work, that's so tough :(

    Looks like you have some nice snow to ride in! Enjoy!

  6. Thanks for letting us come along! I was so pleased we "did the thing" last week! I hope to get out and do that again, soon. Family stuff and a ridiculous work "emergency" stole several of my precious nights this week.

    Tonight, we are MARCHING! TO THE BEAT! TO THE BEAT!

    Also, since opening up and not being afraid to try something new with the beastie I seem to have impressed myself, too - in relation to your "feeling good about goals" comment. You're probably right. It may have something to do with the season, however, it is nice to be re-energized!

    I can see the business of the #adulting world striving to crash in - work, school for work, family crazies, student drama, and Lord knows what else. Those things take the joy away from the success that should be celebrated. I will make a pact that WE DON'T LET IT! Working with the critters is something to celebrate! The world can continue to spin when we're not with them, but while we are, we SHOULD strive to find the joy in it all! : : cue motivational music: : lol.


    1. HA. I sing that same song every time I climb the hill. =)

  7. Aw I’m so glad things are going so well (minus the shutdown obv ugh)! And I’m with ya on really enjoying the process lately. Even if I’m just getting on for a simple lite conditioning ride to move my horse’s body around, it’s just been really enjoyable. Funny how that works!

    1. It is kinda funny how it works. Wish it was easier to remember all the time!

  8. Looks like a great start to the year! Hill walks are so great to build fitness, I'm jealous you're already out there getting it done!
    Here's to getting your co-workers back soon- this has to end at some point. Right?!!?

    1. Right. It does. I think? Ha. The government is so broken.

  9. Yay for riding through the winter! So glad you are able to keep all the horses in work! Although I don't know how you do it - I have trouble with just one!:)

    1. You're doing a pretty outstanding job though - especially with a Gemma who keeps you busier than I can even imagine! She's a pretty amazing little human.

  10. Looks fun! I wish I shared your enthusiasm for winter weather. The biggest issue in Wisconsin right now is a continuous cycle of thawing and freezing which results in more ice than anything else. It isn't very safe to walk into the pasture, let alone ride. Deep, powdery snow sounds fantastic right now!

    1. Oh man, the ice definitely sounds like a difficult thing to work around!