Saturday, December 8, 2012


Today is the first day I've been able to get away to see Rockie since Monday. On Tuesday, I was hit with some sort of nasty cold/flu bug, and I've spent most of my time since under a blanket on the couch. But today, I just couldn't take it anymore... so I bundled up in about a bazillion layers and went out to the barn, kleenex in tow. Even though it was really, really cold out. And windy, too.  Rockie was happy to see me... especially since I brought cookies. Little cow ;) 

After grooming her up a bit, we went out to the pasture to play around with some ground work. We did a little longing, worked on getting her to move off my body pressure, and then played around with some of the obstacles that Sue has built. 

The pedestal:

I know it might seem like I've put Rockie on a pedestal, but sheesh. 

The teeter-totter: 

In yet another dog life/horse life crossover moment. 
After we'd messed around a sufficient amount, I took her back to the barn to play dress up before we rode. Naturally.  

First, up was my Nunn Finer Figure 8 bridle. I've been itching to try this on her since I first saw her picture. I forgot it the last time I came out, but made sure to grab it today. And it didn't disappoint!

Future English pony in the making? I think yes. 
She looked so cute in it that I decided to ride in the Nunn Finer today. And she went great in it!  She seemed  to really appreciate the bit stability that the figure 8 noseband provided.  As usual, I worked a lot on helping Rockie be soft, supple, and round... instead of the hollow backed, forehand-heavy, nose-out way of going she's used to ;)  Using the random sagebrush plants that are currently growing in the pasture, I concocted an exercise of circles and serpentines which really seemed to help her loosen up and become more comfortable with lifting her back and forehand. What a good girl she is <3.  For those of you who are reading this blog.... I would LOVE any recommendations for exercises, books, videos etc that you think might benefit us. 

To me, there's "Nunn Finer" than this little mare :P
We practiced some stretchy walk and trot, did a little canter, and called it good for our ride for the day. Miss Pony Mare was decidedly lazier than the other few times I've ridden her so far... I'm anticipating spurs in our future.... once I gain a bit more strength in my lower leg and core. But overall, she was a very good girl. 

Pony wubbins <3
It was starting to get dark by the time our ride ended (ugh, winter!), but I still wanted to play around with more clicker training before I left. Rockie was great! By the end of the session, she was reliably doing a nose touch/bump to the cone on the ground, in a variety of locations. The article I referenced about how to teach this "trick" said that it could take weeks or months to get to this stage. Rockie is proficient and more than ready to move on to bigger/more difficult skills in just two sessions! Smart mare!

I am so thankful that we found each other <3. I can't believe we've "clicked" so quickly and completely. I can't wait to see what the future holds for us :)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cantering, Carrots, and Clickers

I was so excited about going to the barn this morning for my first "real" day with Rockie :)

Adorable mare :)
She wasn't quite sure who I was, naturally, but was polite enough while I put her halter on and led her out of her stall. I gave her a cookie, and after that, she was my BFF ;)

U gives me cookies?
I spent some time grooming and talking to her, then it was time to play dress up :P. I unfortunately forgot my very pretty, brand new Nunn Finer Figure 8 Event Bridle at home, but brought one of my western headstalls,  a pair of soft cotton purple reins, and a purple Happy Mouth loose ring snaffle to play with.

How about those cookies now?
The purple bit looked adorable on her, and I'll ride in it next time. I rode in the purple reins, and they were so soft and awesome! I'm nerd-girl excited to play event pony and put on the Nunn Finer next time. I think it'll look adorable on her cute little face.

Cute pony face, exhibit A. 
After we played dress up, I put her halter back on and we went out to the pasture and did some ground work. I played around with some Parelli stuff, longed her a bit, and basically just got us both in the right mental place for training. Then, I went and tacked her up, went back out to the pasture, and got on.

I started off our ride working on getting her loosened up and soft. She was being pretty good, but a little stiff to the right. After letting her stretch out at the walk and trot around the perimeter of the pasture, I did a lot of circles, spirals in and out, and serpentines around sagebrush plants (LOL), and after about ten minutes, she was doing much better. Hey... I haven't been in "regular work" for awhile, either... so I don't blame her for being a little bit stiff ;)

Being a good sport
Rockie was being really good, and I was feeling brave, so I decided to try a little canter and see how it went. I could tell she was wanting to run when we were trotting, and she hasn't been ridden steadily til March. She picked up the canter straight away, without bucking or bolting or doing anything naughty other than trying to fall on her forehand ;). After a few laps, we had a really nice, smooth cowpony lope going on. This girl can move! She has very smooth gaits to ride. I'm looking forward to trying her bareback someday. Sue tells me that she hasn't ever ridden her bareback before, but I am guessing (knock on wood) that Rockie won't be too upset about it.  :P

Speaking of Rockie getting upset about things (or not), I experienced her spook for the first time, LOL. Sue owns a couple of chickens who are ridiculously friendly.  They followed Rockie and I out to the pasture, and I guess found something delicious in a sagebrush bush. They happened to come bursting out of the bush on one of me and Rock's trot circles around the pasture. Rockie jumped, spun a half circle, tripped herself, snorted, and then sighed like she was embarrassed. So funny!

They were killer chickens, I tell you! :P
The two or three of you who read this blog probably know that a big part of my life is training and competing with dogs. Over the past few years, I've gotten really into clicker training. I like it because it is very positive, and teaches animals to become thinkers and problem solvers. Plus, it's pretty dang fun, and you can teach a lot of really fun tricks :). Today, I decided to mess around with the clicker with Rockie. We worked on doing nose touches to a cone, and she did great! She picked up on the connection between touching the cone and getting a cookie really quickly, and as you can see by the video, she got quite enthusiastic about it :P

I just love this little mare already, and can't wait to work with her again!

P.S. You might have noticed that I changed the title of the blog. Yeah, "Diary of a Re-Rider" just wasn't cutting it. It was too boring, cliche, and uninspired. Not that this is much better, but at least it's fun :P. Plus, it now matches the blog URL. If you aren't as immersed in pop culture as I am, here is what the title is playing off of:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Meet Rockie :)

Rockie is an 11 year old APHA mare that I am kinda-sorta-informally leasing. Her owner, Sue, is recovering from a broken back (not horse related! lol) and needed someone ride her, and I was lucky enough to find her. I met Sue and Rocky today, and everything went just swimmingly. Sue is lovely, and Rockie is cute, funny, and 14.2 hands worth of awesome :P

Sue has done quite a bit of groundwork and Parelli-type stuff with Rockie, so she has really nice ground manners and actively tries to figure out what you want. She knows a few tricks, and has done some competitive trail competitions, but that's about it as far as training goes. Personally, I think she'd look adorable in English tack. I can't wait to bring out my collection of tack (silver and otherwise) and dress her up for some photos. I think she'll be really fun to work with... plus, she's super cute! And she's surprisingly stout for her size, I don't feel too big on her at all. I'm sure we'd look pretty funny in photos, though :P

I'm really excited for this new adventure!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Guess Who's Baaaack

I took a few months off from riding for various reasons, but I'm (hopefully) back permanently this time! :) This morning I had my first lesson with a new local instructor. She just moved to the Tri Cities area from western Washington, and has set up shop at a really nice facility. This new place has an outdoor arena, a big indoor arena, a dressage court, and a big grassy field for jumping. It's also five minutes away from a super swanky eventing facility. In short, it's a really nice place in a great area. And did I mention that it's less than 20 minutes away from my house? Yeah, perfect.

I can thank my obsessive Craigslist stalking for finding this place :P. I found a listing advertising a new boarding facility. The pictures were really pretty, so I went to their website and it mentioned they also offered lessons and training. I called the instructor (we'll call her S) and after a hilarious, extended round of phone tag, set up a time for a lesson.

This is a (rather unflattering, but cute) picture of Pooh Bear, my lesson horse:

Pooh Bear is an older red dun mustang gelding who, in his earlier life was a rocking eventer and jumped up to 3'6". Now, he spends most of his time as a pasture puff but is dragged out occasionally for lessons. He is stocky, sweet, and well trained, but not a deadhead by any means. He made me work for it, but when I asked him right, he was beautifully soft, round, and responsive.

 But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I got to the barn a little bit early, and Pooh Bear was already in the cross ties. He wasn't groomed or tacked up or anything. S wanted to make sure that I knew how to do all of that. Pshhhh.... I can groom and tack up a horse in my sleep ;). So all of that went okay.

Then, we walked over to the indoor arena and I got on and started walking PB around to warm up. S had me go into a half seat position for a bit to find where my lower leg needed to be, and then practiced keeping it there at the walk while getting PB to soften up and go round and on the bit. We did that for about five or ten minutes, graduating to doing a few leg yields, a little shoulder in, and going from correct bend to counter bend, just to get us both loosened up and used to each other.

Next, she had me pick up the trot and alternate between going all the way around the arena and doing 20m circles at either end. I had to work pretty hard to get him going at a decent pace.... as a schoolie, he is used to little kids who don't have the strength or desire to get him to move out... and let's face it, I don't have a whole lot of strength yet, either LOL. But eventually we got going into a nice working trot. S had us do some spirals in and out, which ended up being pretty tough as he likes to pop out his outside shoulder. Of course, it doesn't help that I am more flexible on my right side than my left, so I was giving him somewhat conflicting cues at times. We had one really nice spiral in and out where I managed to keep him nice and round, with good impulsion and balance. It made me smile. After the spirals, my legs were killing me... more on my left side than the right (hmm.... LOL). We did some more trot work around the whole arena, working on getting him to trot bigger while staying round. When I was right, he was good. When I got wonky, he popped out his nose and slowed down. He made me work! At least I only felt nauseous once... haha. Man, I really need to get in better shape. My core is straight up laughing at me right now.

After oodles of trot work, and some walk-trot transitions (I was sucking at those, ugh), we did a little canter work. For some reason, I was really tense, and the first time we cantered, I was a bit strong on my cue, expecting him to be a typical lazy schoolie. I forgot that he's an ex eventer who, as S said, "really loves a good gallop"... LOL! He started out going pretty fast and heavy on his forehand, and I was flopping around on his back like a sack of potatoes. I'm sure it was funny to watch. I decided to go back down to trot and try again. This time, it was much better. He has a typical stockhorse canter... not the most long-strided or comfortable gait in the world ;). But I managed to get him under control and mostly round. I was tense in my arms, though, so he was a little tense, too. I focused on relaxing my neck, shoulders, pushing my belly button back and down, and feeling long and deep in the saddle. It got a bit better, but there's a lot of room for improvement for me to work on at the canter.

After the canter work, we did a few more trot-walk-trot transitions (I never got one as good as I'd like, dang it!) and then walked some to cool off. I untacked PB, brushed him down and picked out his feet again, gave him a peppermint, told him thank you for taking care of me, and put him away in his pen.

I was really impressed with S's teaching style. She didn't go easy on me once she kind of figured out that I knew how to ride, and adjusted the level of challenge based on how well (or how not well LOL) I did at certain things. So I got my butt kicked, but without feeling like a demoralizingly awful rider, which I'm sure looked like at times LOL. She was good at explaining things when I had questions, and had a good balance between criticism and positive comments. She mentioned that I could probably learn from Pooh Bear for a few more lessons, but then would probably "like something more of a challenge." We'll see what happens there, I guess. Next week she told me that I could come early and tack up/warm up on my own. Guess that's a compliment in itself? :P

I need to work on getting in better shape (it's an ongoing battle ;) ) and consciously fixing all those bad habits I picked up from years of sporadic, mostly western riding without lessons. All in all, it was an excellent lesson, and I can't wait for next week!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Second Lesson

Terrible, unimaginative title, I know. But whatever.

Last Thursday, I had my second lesson with M. I rode Goldie again, and it was great! I continue to be amazed by how much my brain remembers about how to ride. If only my muscles were as strong!

As an elderly, experienced schoolie, Goldie is many things, but FORWARD is not one of them. Good lord, it took all my strength just to keep her in front of my leg at the trot down the long side of the arena! We spent most of the lesson trying to convince Goldie that she really, in fact COULD come on the bit and ride forward. There were flashes of brilliance, but overall, I would rate our effort a solid "meh." when it would all come together, those few strides felt amazing :)

In spite of her faults, Goldie is a sweet old girl, and I am thankful to ride such a trustworthy horse at the beginning of this new and exciting journey.

Gotta love the view :)

At the end of the lesson, M casually mentioned that in two weeks I could ride Smokey... M's retired prelim eventer and personal horse. Yay! When I went and observed her teach last summer, M told me that students had to earn the privilege to ride Smokey. So I guess I must be doing something right!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Beginnings

Hi! I'm Ellie.

Here's a dorky picture of me wearing a helmet:

I'm 25, married, compete in agility and sheepdog trials with my Border Collies, and, after a long hiatus from horses, have decided to start riding again! I normally write about my dogs over at Cedes of Change, but decided to start a new blog to talk about horse stuff. Not sure if I am really lovin' the name of this blog yet. I suspect that it might change as my journey unfolds :P

If you want to learn more about my past history with horses, in great detail and with some fabulous old photos, click here. Some of you might remember me from last fall, when I impulse-bought an auction horse. If you want THAT (tragic) story, click here. But the reader's digest version is this: I started riding when I was five, and rode multiple times a week, pretty much every week, until I was almost nineteen. I started out riding English (dressage and jumping), and that's where my heart is, although I did spend a few years showing on the APHA (paint) circuit. Since selling my last horse (my beloved mare, Flame) in late 2005, I have ridden sporadically. Considering I spent a large chunk of my childhood and teenage years on horseback, it's been a strange transition. One might even say grounding. Pardon the pun.

Over the past few years, I've felt like something was missing in my life. And yes, I've thought about horses a LOT. Just ask my husband. But life has always gotten in the way. Money and timing. You know the drill. Recently, I decided that I wasn't going to let it. I emailed that eventing instructor (let's call her M) again and finally..... the stars aligned and we were able to set up a lesson!

My current plan? Commit to at least six months of lessons, then decide whether continuing in horses is right for me and my family right now...whether it's something I really want to do, or something I THINK I want to do :P. If all goes well, and the prosperity gods align, the plan is to eventually buy a horse of my own again.


Last night, I had my first riding lesson in five (six??) years. Dang, I can't believe it's been that long!

I made sure to get to the barn a bit early so that I had time to figure out where stuff was, which horse I was riding, etc. Ya know, basic "getting to know you" stuff. For my first lesson, I was assigned to "Goldie," an elderly palomino QH who, although mainly a lesson horse now, used to compete in first and second-level dressage. I got her out, gave her a good brushing, tacked her up, and headed to the arena. Luckily, it was a group lesson, so I didn't have to fret about having M staring at me for a whole hour straight. There were two other ladies in my class. One was riding one of the more "advanced" school horses, and the other trailered in with her beautiful painted Saddlebred.

I walked around a bit, getting my bearings and getting a feeling for Goldie. She is a very typical school horse... gentle and sweet, but lazy. She will try and get away with doing as little as possible for as long as possible, but when you make her behave... SURPRISE! She DOES have some skills ;)

After about ten minutes of warmup, I asked Goldie to pick up the trot. She immediately told me that no, no, she just COULDN'T trot without falling on her forehand and sticking her nose in the air. I told her that I very much doubted that, and we tried again. This time, I was more solid with my leg, and we had a decent transition. We did lots and lots of trot work, circles, serpentines, leg yields.... just trying to get both of us loosened up. We did some trot-halt-trot transitions that really helped her to round her back and come onto the bit, and helped me find my balance.

For the most part, I remembered what to do.... but my muscles didn't. My brain was ready and able, but my body wasn't taking care of the mechanics like it used to. I had to work twice as hard to look half as pretty as I did riding in the past. But I'm sure that will get better. Most of the time when M would call out something for me to fix, I already knew what she was going to say. Miles and miles of posting trot (at least that's what it felt like, LOL) chanting a steady mantra of "heels down, eyes up, shoulders back, lower leg back and steady, slooooow your posting, relax your elbows" in my mind. It was wonderful. I'm sure I was grinning like an idiot the whole time, even though I could hardly catch my breath. Riding is hard work!

And then we got to canter. I haven't cantered on a horse in five years. I wasn't even sure if I WANTED to canter, at the beginning of the lesson. And frankly, neither was Goldie. haha!. It took a lot of convincing to get her going, but after a few "moments" ("oh, you don't want me to just fall on my forehand and trot really fast with my nose out? dang!") we finally got it. That little mare actually had a pretty nice canter! We did a few laps, and for a few strides, I felt like we had it. She was soft, round, in front of my leg. Then we turned the corner, I wasn't strong enough with my inside leg.... and she dropped her shoulder and poked her nose out again. Oh well. Baby steps. :P

Overall, I think my first time "back in the saddle" went really well. It was exactly what I wanted it to be.... fun, not stressful, but challenging. I have a lot of work to do on my fitness and flexibility. I've already started making changes, but now I'm even more motivated. Looking forward to next week's lesson!

I gotta say.... I felt a little bit silly riding such a small horse, but I'm sure my legs would have been a lot more sore today on a bigger one. And they are still pretty sore.

But it's a happy kind of sore :)

You know how the saying goes.... "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Last night, I finally made the leap. And you know what? It feels freakin' FANTASTIC.