Thursday, May 14, 2009

Less than a month!!!

Oh my, how time flies. When I first brought Sangria home from the BLM corrals, I was bold, confident and sure of my ability to win this competition. So confident was I, that I skipped many basic steps, leading to my being severely injured a month ago due to my ignorance. Since then, I have been extremely timid about moving forward and making any progress. While she has not given me any reason since that fateful day to fear her, I am terrified of her. Every time I mount up, I have an anxiety attack. My heart beats a million miles an hour, I break out in a cold sweat and I feel weak. Ugh! Each time I work with her, I get better - but it still takes me a good 5-10 minutes to finally feel comfortable riding and training her.

One of the techniques that often helps me distract myself from my fear is focusing on chasing the ball. I hope this doesn't hinder our skills, but it keeps my attention on something other than my fear of her reactions to my cues. So far, it's helped tremendously. Tonight, I asked a friend to give me instructions - just tell me what to do to keep us busy and schooling. This helped almost as well as following the ball. From walk/trot/halt transitions, to small circles at a trot to working over trot poles. Sangria was a superstar and I am incredibly grateful for my girlfriend's help!

Cowgirl Spirit Rescue Drill Team is attending our next competition on May 23rd. My goal is to be able to ride Sangria in a low-key quad drill at that competition. We would trot and be extremely laid back. Just entering the arena with loud music and other horses is enough of a goal, but to actually perform quad manuevers will be amazing! Our first real 'drill practice' is going to be on Saturday. Wish me luck!

I am still excited, but also very worried about the competition. Our riding skills are behind schedule, our ground work is coming along ok, but we also probably won't place well in the body conditioning score - my mare is FAT! She is an extremely easy keeper and only gets two flakes of timothy hay per day. Yikes! Oh well - she's healthy and beautiful, so if I can help her find a wonderful home then I will have accomplished my mission!

In the video below, you will notice that Sangria starts out kind of busy, fidgety and distracted. After riding for approximately 30 minutes, she really started to focus. I am thinking she is the kind of horse that will need plenty of warm up time in order to be ready to work. Some of the issues I am working on with her are responsiveness to my legs and focusing on my requests. However, I am very proud of her - I had my first canter on her the other night, but it took all of my strength in leg pressure and kicks as well as Jenny flagging her from behind just to get a few strides at a lope. Sangria tends to become very dead-sided the more she works.

In reading Mugwump's blog, I have read a tip on 'over/under' when trying to get a green colt to respond to forward requests. I am not sure if this is the right solution for Sangria and I. One, I'm terrified she will buck me off again, and two - I've only done the over/under thing once or twice. Is there another way to get her to canter when I request it? I've thought about putting bumper spurs on when she becomes dull, or perhaps carrying a crop. Thoughts?

Here's some pics and a video - sorry the video is so long, about 10 minutes - I didn't want to cut anything out, good or bad:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Building our confidence with baby steps

Sangria and I are slowly but surely continuing our saddle training. She hasn't exhibited her bucking and bolting behavior since the beach ride 3 weeks ago, though I am still extremely nervous working with her under saddle. When I feel comfortable in my surroundings and with her mentality during a certain session, I will ride her in the saddle. However, when I am not so sure of her on a certain day, I will ride her bareback.

She has completely succeeded at all of her groundwork exercises, but seems to need them each session as a prelude to riding. Last night, I hauled her to the Tacoma Unit and rode her bareback. She had been jumpy and snorty during our typical groundwork, and I was not in my usual kind, quiet mood. Instead, I pushed her harder than before, demanding responses immediately. I think this had her on edge.
With a few other riders in the arena, I climbed on Sangria bareback and again headed towards our ball. While the ball is still something that I feel like I need, it doesn't seem to be as much of a crutch as before. It keeps us focused on something, but after pushing it around the arena once or twice, I was comfortable riding her away from it.

I suppose at this point, baby steps for both of us is the best I can ask for - to keep us safe and moving forward :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Our progress!

This past week has been good for Sangria and I. I have only ridden her one other time but have continued to enforce our groundwork efforts. Sangria still tends to be reactive to things coming up behind her, perceived or real. I have tried everything I can think of to resolve her fears of this. Yesterday, she stood in the round pen (untied), while I spent quite a bit of time running up behind her (in her blind spot), just to pet and love on her and then leave. The first few times she wanted to skitter away, but soon she was standing quietly.

We spent quite a bit more time with desensitizing techniques while on the ground, from the rail and while on her back. I also worked on hindquarter yielding and softening of her neck and mouth when I ask her to give her head. While all of the signs point to her being calm, cool and collected, I cannot help but have doubts in the back of my mind since I truly do not know why she reacted the way that she did at the beach. Was it because I didn't warm her up? Was it because I saddled her while she was wet and cold? Was it a combination of things?

How can I be confident that if faced with that type of situation again, I won't come off? I know there has got to be more than I can do - I just don't know what it is!

After doing some of my desensitizing work, I rode Sangria (in a saddle!) while chasing the ball. For some reason, I feel the most safe riding her when I have something to concentrate on - like chasing the ball. If I just get on and try to get her to move, my mind goes crazy with worries and insecurities with each of her movements. Each tension of her neck or back, each brace against the reins just sends me into a minor panic. However, if I'm concentrating on that ball, I'm able to push her forward with leg and rein cues and not pay attention or put too much focus on her reactions. It's working really well for us both. Last night we were trotting around, pushing the ball here and there. She was very good for me, though by the end, she was pinning her ears and attempting to bite the ball. I'm not sure what that was all about!

Physically, I am feeling better each and every day. I am loving my temporary teeth and am eager for May 12th to come around, which is when I will get my final veneers and crowns. I do still have quite a bit of sensitivity in my teeth at times... sometimes it feels as though my teeth are throbbing?! My facial fractures are not bothering me at all, other than my nose when I occaisionally forget it's broken and go to rub it. Ouch! My lip is healing well, and ironically, is the most painfull part of my personal rehabilitation. But I'm almost back to normal and am thankful to be alive each and every day! Thank you again for all of your love and support!