Thursday, October 30, 2014


A couple of weeks ago I started a new job working from home for an online education company as a contract author. It's only a three-month contract position, so it won't last forever, but for now I'm really enjoying feeling mentally stimulated again and the pay is good. Plus I can't complain about the flexibility or convenience of still being able to ride/train regularly and do this work on my own time.

Between that, two art commissions, plus several trips back and forth to NJ to visit Dan (because our apartment search has been a fiasco and a half and we still don't have someplace definite to move), my barn time has necessarily become more limited. When I do ride, it's mostly to train. And after riding several training horses and doing basically the same routine over and over and over, when I finally get a chance to ride my own horse I'm done with riding boring circles in the indoor. So I decided to give myself a new challenge: bridleless.

Five training bridles in a row, but none for Charlie...
Going bridleless is a bucket list item I've been wanting to try for awhile, partly for fun and to add variety, partly out of curiosity as to whether we have become in tune enough to do it. I figured removing the bit from the equation might also help Charlie focus on the finer details involved in a "whoa" or half halt and not become fixated on rein pressure.

So over the past several weeks I've been working up to it in small doses: first with a loose rein teaching neck reining; then working walk-halt transitions from body weight shifts and pressure from a neck strap; then riding in just a halter and leadrope, increasing the complexity by adding turns, circles, and transitions. Last week was the week I decided to take everything off (well, off his face). 

Bridleless superstar
That's the first time I ever rode a horse without anything on his face, and I have to say it was a bit scary at first. Even though I had effectively prepped and had already ridden several times in a halter and lead rope without needing to touch the lead rope at all to stop, seeing Charlie's bare face and knowing there was no emergency brake if I needed it made my stomach flutter a little (although I did still have a neck strap). 

A somewhat nerve-wracking sight
That day we started with the halter and lead rope on, like I always do, then I unhooked the lead but left the halter on, and finally I reached forward and slipped everything off. It was so worth it! I couldn't have asked to feel more in tune and grounded and liberated at the same time. Without the bridle, Charlie was so calm and rode with his head/neck level and his lips and ears nice and relaxed, just as good as or better than he's been doing fully tacked up. When I asked for the canter I half expected him to take off (although why should he? That's just my lingering irrational fear from knowing there are no real brakes). Charlie instead gave me the nicest soft canter and as soon as I sat up and said "whoa" he came back smoothly to the walk. I should have known he'd like bridleless work; he's never been a fan of having pressure on his face.

I think I like this view
I feel like this was such a huge milestone for the both of us, and that in achieving it my relationship with Charlie has crossed into another level. It's going to be a fun twist to add to our rides every now and then. :) 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Oh what a beautiful morning

Today might be a bit wet and rainy but yesterday I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful morning:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Flint and Casper

Remember those draft horses we were training a few months ago? Well here's an update on two of them, 4-year-old Flint (black) and Casper (grey), living it up in Delaware and proving to be total rockstars in their Mounted PD program. :)

What a ham

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Accidents happen and people get lucky

Yesterday I had a horse flip over on me for the first time (no, it was not Charlie). I was working a 3-yr-old Quarter Horse with a decided dislike of water, attempting to get him to take at least a few steps toward the tiny creek in the woods while Jan worked Goose from the ground.

Everything was going fairly well, albeit slowly, with only a few frustrated buck/mini-rear episodes,  but then he tried to back up and mini rear at the same time. Unfortunately he did so up a small, muddy incline and his back feet slipped right out from under him as he was lifting his front ones off the ground.

It was the weirdest feeling. From all those times Charlie used to rear I learned how to anticipate them and deal with it, hugging neck to maintain both of our balances if it did happen, and most of the time heading off the urge before it got to a full blown rear. This was different. We were instantly vertical and neither myself nor the poor horse knew quite what had happened. There was what felt like seconds of vertical air time (although I'm sure it was pretty instantaneous) during which I somehow processed that he was going over and I had to bail. I remember being scarily calm throughout everything. But that's generally how it goes with me, I'll have the panic attack afterward.

I landed on my back, saw him coming down and tried to tuck and roll away as much as I could as he crashed down next to me. Don't ask me how but even though I ended up practically underneath him and his legs came rolling over all around me as he scrambled to stand up, that horse didn't touch me at all. Instead of being crushed, I ended up without a single scratch (well, except for my knee which happened to land on a rock). Jan was there instantly to help but since neither one of us was hurt I opted to get back on. We actually managed to finish the lesson on a positive note and I rode him all the way back to the barn with no issues.

So long story short there is a first time for everything and I'm pretty darn sore today, but, hey, I'll gladly take that over being dead!

Barn Party 2014

I'm not sure how many of you have been following for this long and would remember, but back on October 20 of last year Charlie and I participated in our first Spring Hill picnic and games (we had trailered over since I hadn't moved Charlie there yet). It was disastrous. Reading back over my entry from that day (which you can read here) I sounded surprisingly optimistic and happy, but Charlie really was a jerk. He spent most of the time giraffe-style, pirouetting with his head in the air, or standing on two legs.

Not so this year! :) Sunday marked the annual Barn Party and Charlie was an absolute star.

Games are more fun in Western gear
We had a lot more participants this year than last (thank you weather gods for the warmth and sunshine!) and Charlie and I did every single game: Simon Says, Musical Stalls, Egg & Spoon race, you name it. We even tried our hand at barrels and pole bending. Charlie didn't quite get the point of "go fast, then slow down for a quick turn"'s hard to get that long body around a tiny barrel! But we still had a ton of fun and he didn't give me one ounce of trouble. If anything he was (dare I say it?) lazy!

One of the games involved putting lots of carrot pieces on several barrels and then seeing who, in the fastest time, could make it to all three and allow your horse to eat only two carrots each time. Charlie loves this game. He loved it so much, in fact, that when it came time to try pole bending and he caught sight of the barrel marking the turn at end of the ring he raced right up to it and slammed on the brakes, searching for carrots. His face when he realized there was nothing there must have been priceless. Meanwhile I'm kicking and pulling and telling him "No, Charlie! Move! The poles! The poles!" We didn't win that one. 

Going over the rules. Charlie got bored and started pushing the pole back and forth.
In another game we had to team up and hold a length of toilet paper between two riders and be the last team with an intact strand after a series of Simon Says-type commands. Charlie handled that like a pro and we won easily, even though he was teamed with a very marish mare (she's the cute buckskin). He doesn't care about that stuff. He's like a little kid who thinks the snarling dog is "smiling."

I did switch to my Micklem after a few games so I'd have a bit more brakes
We also won the egg and spoon race which I was sooo happy about. I usually fail miserably at that one, but this time we made it through a canter and everything! Overall, of the 10 or so classes Charlie and I won four.

Everyone had such a wonderful time. Even 28-year-old TB, Prince, brought his A-game and showed everyone how it is done, blowing everyone away with pole bending and barrels. The old guy has still got it :)

Group pic (only missing Cinnamon on the left, couldn't fit everyone in the frame)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pre-winter shed

Two days ago we had a good night of rain so that meant Charlie rolled in as much mud as he could and I had a lot of cleanup to do today before I could ride (ankle is doing much better, but we're taking it slow since he's still not 100%).

I guess it really doesn't look as bad in pictures....
Since he's still blowing his summer coat there was a lot of short summer fuzz flying everywhere, especially on his face, but after today's session there shouldn't be much left to come out.

After I was done grooming and riding I gave him a big kiss before sending him out to the pasture and only realized after getting home (several errands later) that I had a huge smudge across half of my face that made it look like I was beaten and had a huge bruise across my jaw and right cheek. Whoops! The troubles of being a horse person in a normal world.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Oh that's what liniment is for!

About a month or so ago a fellow blogger, who does wonderful "Teach Me Tuesday" posts btw, wondered about the purpose of using liniment (thank you, SprinklerBandit! You can read more here). It got me thinking and I realized liniment is one of those things that I naturally have on hand because it's widely thought of as a "must have" to avoid aches and pains, but I Never. Ever. Use it. Like ever. The bottle is growing dust and it's inside my trunk.

Yesterday I found a use! Two days ago, about 3/4 of the way through our ride Charlie and I had a nice soft canter going down the long side of the arena, everything was beautiful and smooth, and then I felt him take a random misstep and suddenly become quite "crooked". There he was, tripping over his own feet and coming up lame for the first time since I've owned him. I couldn't find anything obviously wrong so I cooled him out and gave him some bute, watched him for awhile as he meandered around eating grass, and then set him back outside for the afternoon. To be safe I kept him in overnight but by morning his right rear ankle was pretty stiff and a bit puffy. Bring on the cold hosing and *aha moment* liniment!

It sure makes my hands feel good, so I figured it must at least be somewhat cooling and refreshing on a hot, sore ankle. And if it does increase circulation like it claims to, then it should help the swelling at least a little. All I know is that after ten minutes of cold-hosing and a few applications of liniment Charlie marched right out to the field with much less of a limp, and by today (no cold-hosing, no bute, just liniment) he was nearly 100%. The verdict? Liniment may not be a miracle drug, and I don't think I'll be full-on bathing with it anytime soon, but it's re-earned a respectable space in my medicine cabinet.