Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bored Cupid

Cupid is used to be turned out during the day, so even though I walk him several times a day when he is stalled he gets pretty bored and finds ways to entertain himself.

When we were camping I was happy to see that he was drinking plenty of water - or so I thought.  Then I observed him dumping out his water bucket!  He grabs the edge with his teeth and shakes it up and down until all the water sloshes out! 

Apparently he needed more variety because I also caught him playing with his salt lick.

Even at home he can be a little destructive.  The other day I arrived at the barn to this mess in front of his stall.  My friend said he looks pretty pleased with himself here!
I had gotten the blanket bag because I was tired of having to pick his blanket up off the floor every single morning and it worked for a little while, but Cupid managed to work on it enough to tear the side and now he can pull everything out!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Riding Camp at Eventful Acres

Cupid and I have returned from a four day riding camp at Eventful Acres.  The camp was organized by the Pony Club, which I am a former member of.  In fact I attended this camp with my old horse sixteen years ago!

Cupid has not gone off the property since the Halloween show last October, and was reluctant getting on the trailer coming and going there so I was a little worried about how he would load.  Luckily the trailer had a ramp (the last one had a pretty big step up) and Cupid walked right up!  So we were off to a good start.  It was about a three and a half hour drive. 

The horses stayed in pipe paddocks.  I hung two water buckets and a salt lick for Cupid.  He was on the end of the row, and had an empty pen next to him, but with several horses near by.  Thankfully there were a lot of trees around, since the temperature forecast was for the upper nineties.  His pen turned out to be shaded most of the day except for the late morning.  The facility was very nice - in addition to trees everywhere it was mostly covered in grass.  The camping area was a short distance away. 
Settling into his temporary home

Day 1: Cupid had a few hours to settle in before our first scheduled ride.  I let him eat and relax in his paddock a little, then went on a walk.  He was pretty good and enjoyed the grass.  Then I tacked him up and gave him a quick lunge, during which he was good.  We had five horses and riders in our group. 
Cupid was pretty good, though a little distracted looking around.  There was definitely a lot more activity than at our barn.  I was anxious as well, since the arena did not have a fence around it and I was worried he would run out! 
We warmed up with some walk and trot.  His trot was a little quick, and I was still a little tense.  The instructor told me to work on getting him to yield his poll - she showed me from the ground at a halt and told me to work on that at a walk.  We ended with going over some poles.  The instructor asked if I wanted to canter, but I wasn't quite ready.
The instructor said my dressage saddle may be putting me in a bad position, too forwards, but I told her unfortunately I can't blame the saddle, that's just me and the more nervous I am the worst it is.

In the evening the pony clubbers went on a bareback ride around the property and invited me to join.  I decided to just hand walk Cupid.  He started off good, but when the group got bigger and people started trotting around and going in different directions he got very excited, pawing and pulling me.  I tried getting him to relax but with limited success.  Two of the girls were nice and came over with their horses to keep Cupid company, which seemed to help a little but he still had a few jumpy moments.

Day 2: We had a private dressage lesson scheduled, but not until the afternoon.  In the morning we went on a few short walks and I moved Cupid to a different pen for a few hours since his had no shade. 
I gave him a quick lunge before our lesson and spent about 10 minutes walking around the arena to warm up.  The dressage court was just laid out with poles, so again I was a little nervous that there was nothing to keep us in.
The instructor had me start by walking on a 20 meter circle, and circling my arms one at a time and rotating my ankles to help me loosen up.  Cupid was being very good and stayed on the circle.
The instructor wanted me to focus on three things: 1) bending my elbows; 2) sitting back; and 3) keeping my legs long.
For Cupid we worked mainly on straightness (not letting him throw his shoulder out) and forwardness.  Forwardness is always tricky for me when I'm anxious because I'm more comfortable with him going slower, but we worked up to it and got some nice trot - the instructor said Cupid was moving out nicely even though it felt a little quick to me.
In the evening we went out walking again when the kids rode.  Cupid was better today, though he still got a little excited.

Portable fan to help keep him cool, though luckily the heat wasn't as bad as I feared.
Day 3: Cross country!  I was in a group with four other horses and riders.  We started out in the arena, warming up with flatwork and then trotting over a few poles.  We went down a row of poles, then the trainer made the last pole into a small crossrail.  Cupid hopped over it calmly.
Then we walked out to the cross country horse.  We started out with a log - the trainer told us to just walk over it.  Cupid scrambled a little over it, but was good.  The trainer said he had good instincts and seem to enjoy the job, and told me to give him his head and just have the rein at the buckle.  We walked back and forth over two little logs, and Cupid was relaxed.  Then we trotted over the logs.  Cupid landed in a canter but was relaxed and pulled right up.  He wasn't concerned about going away from the other horses or when we were faced back towards his pen, which I was worried about. 
Then we walked over a little ditch, which the horses could just step over.  We walked across it a few times, then moved to a slightly bigger ditch.  We entered it through the side facing into the ditch, and turned ninety degrees to step out over a log.  Cupid was not concerned about the ditch.  I opted to not trot it.
Our final obstacle was a bank.  We walked both up and down it a few times, and Cupid was very good.  I decided to leave it at that and not trot it.
Overall I felt very good about our day - I wanted it to be easy and no big deal and we achieved that goal.
In the evening I walked Cupid before the kids came out, and he was good.

Day 4: I was still feeling very positive from the preceding day.  Just when we're getting into it, it is the last day.  We warmed up with some flatwork, and Cupid was being very responsive.  The trainer asked if we'd cantered yet, and I said no so she told us to go do it.  I had a touch of panic about the open arena and other horses, so I went down to a quieter end and started out on a circle.  We cantered both directions and Cupid was calm throughout.  The trainer said she knew Cupid would have a nice canter. :)
Next the trainer had us walk over small flower boxes.  Cupid is generally not bothered by this sort of thing, and had no problem here.
We started out with a line of poles.  Then the last pole became a crossrail, and Cupid was good hopping over it.  Then the trainer raised it to a vertical and I was still feeling good.  I focused on keeping my legs from swinging back and my upper body from coming too forward.  The trainer told me to focus on pushing my hips forward instead of shoulders back - "belly button to (Cupid's) ears" and somehow that seemed to work.  We did a little figure eight over the vertical and the flower box.  Then the trainer added a crossrail to the flower box. 
We did a little three jump course, then a five jump course, and it felt great.  Cupid was jumping beautifully and listening to me - he never got quick.  I finally felt relaxed and confident, and was even able to focus more on my position.  We didn't jump anything bigger than 2'3" but I was really happy.
Proud of my baby!

The camp was a great opportunity for Cupid and I to get out of our comfort zone, and helped build our partnership further.  Being at the camp where I didn't have to think about anything other than my riding helped me get through the anxiety I had been feeling.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Do Horses Like Strawberries?

Well I can't speak for all horses, but here is what happened when I offered one to Cupid:

He was curious, but did not eat it.  He likes carrots, apples, most pears, grapes, and his salt lick.  He does not like bananas, oranges, strawberries, wheat thins, sugar cubes, peppermints, or Lik-It treats.

Our rides have been going well.  We are going to keep the jumps low because I've been dealing with a little anxiety.  I don't know why, Cupid has been very good, but I guess I have been dealing with a lot of other things in my personal life. 

Yesterday I rode Cupid in the bareback pad, which I haven't done in a while.  We walked around the property.  He shied once, but was good.  Then we went into the dressage court and worked on bending and some leg yields.  We only trotted a few steps each direction because it's not very comfortable for either of us I'm sure. 

We have a lesson tomorrow then leaving for camp the following day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Table Manners

Cupid gets pretty excited about his grain.  He swirls it around with his nose, knocks it over the side, and paws the feed tub.  I always thought it was petty cute watching him and he seems so happy, but it is also wasteful.  Then when he's done he picks the feed tub up and waves it towards you, like he's asking for a refill. 
What a mess - grain spilled both inside and outside his stall
I thought he may outgrow this behavior, along with splaying his front legs like a foal when he's eating, but so far he has not.  So finally I decided to try a hanging bucket instead of the flat pan.
Trying out the over the wall feeder
And here is what happened:

!!  Bad horse!  He is deliberately using the side of his face to scoop the grain out onto the ground!  He has even lifted it enough to make it fall to the ground.  But after a few days I think he is starting to get used to it a little, he still throws some grain out and sometimes paws while he's eating but at least he hasn't been knocking it off the wall as much. :p

Monday, June 6, 2016

Beating the Heat

The temperature has been in the 90s the last few days.  I feel bad for Cupid when he is sweating just standing in his stall.  I'm not sure if it's hotter outside in the sun, or inside the barn.  There was a fan in the barn aisle, and even though it was on and making noise, Cupid walked right up to it to see what it is.  I'm not sure if he was just curious or liked the cool air, but he seemed to enjoy it.
We had a really good jumping lesson last week.  We started out with about half an hour of flatwork, and Cupid continued to be really good and responsive.  We rode through sprinklers for the first time.  Cupid was a little surprised when the water went on his face, but he continued walking through it.

We started trotting into a crossrail with a pole on both the takeoff and landing side. Then we added a little vertical the next stride. We ended with the vertical at about 2'9". Cupid must have been surprised by the height because he hit it the first time at that height, but was careful after.

Then we did a little three jump course. The last jump faced the gate and he got a little quick landing and did veer a little towards the gate. The second time was a little better but he still was heading for the gate. The third time was good and we ended on that. Cupid seemed to be in a very happy mood.

The following day we went on a little trail ride around the property, walk only.  The trail Cupid used to not like going down was pretty overgrown with shrubs and weeds, and quite rutted out in parts.  But Cupid was excellent, he walked right down and wasn't bothered when the bushes brushed against him.  I did let him steal a few bites of grass, but I figured it might make him like trail rides even more.

Yesterday was really hot.  We rode in the outdoor ring, which thankfully is shaded by the trees around it.  We mostly just walked, working on bending.  We did a cloverleaf pattern, with a little shoulder fore changing the bend midway down the middle.  We trotted a few 20 minute circles each direction and ended with walking a loop around the property.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


The last few weeks at work have been pretty intense, but now summer is here.  Today at 7am I was wearing a tshirt and thankful the outdoor arena was shaded by trees.  It must get pretty warm during the day, since when I see Cupid in the morning he has dried sweat on him.

I had my last few lessons a little earlier so I can get to work earlier, which means I have to ride in the outside arena since they drag the covered arena at this time.  The outside arena is now set up as a dressage court, and no jumping allowed so we did flatwork.  Cupid gets a little tired in the deep sand, and sometimes stumbles a little with his hind legs.

Today I finally had a little breakthrough with not letting Cupid ignore me when he wants to be lazy.  We did our walk warmup, then we went on a 20 meter circle and up to trot my trainer told me right away to get as big a trot as I can out of him.  Get where I feel like I need to slow him down.  So I clucked and squeezed and Cupid was trotting fairly big.  Once he got going I didn't have to do much for him to stay there.  We shortened the trot a few strides then back into a big trot a few times.  First to the left, then to the right.  After that Cupid was very responsive the rest of the lesson, and didn't ignore me when I asked him to pick up a trot again, and when we did trot he was moving out nice.

We cantered on a 20 meter circle both directions, with me focusing on keeping the contact when I ask for the transition, and then sitting up.  Also I continued working on bending my elbows and keeping my hands closed.  Then we did a little leg yielding at a trot from the quarter line back to the rail.  We worked on making sure we were straight before we start the leg yield.  Cupid was good, a little better moving off the right leg.
Outdoor ring - this is a few weeks old when I still needed a jacket!