Monday, April 30, 2012

Nice Canter!

One of the things Secret has struggled with most under saddle is the canter. She is more like a motorcycle than a horse, leaning in and going faster and faster. I've schooled it a ton. I've worked on transitions and other exercises and then come back to it, trying to improve it without actually cantering. Its still a struggle. At this point, I think half of it is mental - she anticipates and gets herself worked up before she needs to be.

The other day, I was riding across the cornfield and asked her for a canter. Boom, right lead canter. Not only was she cantering, it was slow, collected and she was on the bit. I was thrilled. After we cantered for a stretch, I turned her around and walked back to the place where we had begun. I asked for the left lead canter and got the same result.

A week later, I asked again, in the same place. Once again, I got a really nice canter. I think I will be limiting our canter work to the fields for a little while so that she can build confidence and the right muscles. Then I will keep my fingers crossed and try it in the ring again.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Killdeer

We have these birds around the farm, called Killdeer. They particularly like to hang out in the cornfields. A couple of weeks ago, as I was riding up to the Pine Tree on top of the hill, I had one come running right at me while I was riding my horse. And it wouldn't back down, just kept coming at us. Both John and Secret just stood there mesmerized by this little bird coming at them.

Finally, I would steer around the bird and continue. The third or fourth time this happened, I noticed a nest of eggs, and figured out why this bird was challenging my horses. I totally avoid that small spot now, no need to cause undue stress!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chasing Demons

Once I conquered the issue of my horses wanting to race for home, I moved on to chasing their demons away. The farm has a lot of scary things, at least as far as my horses are concerned. Secret worries about the farm equipment, strange noises (welders, air brakes etc) coming from farm machinery and buildings, and the trucks that are parked around the farm. Her method of handling these situations is to turn and retreat quickly when faced with something scary. I used to try and push her through it, but that wasn't really working.

This year, I have been letting her take her time to look at everything and move forward when she is ready. This is working a lot better for her, and we're slowly overcoming the fearful things around the farm. She is still nervous about the farm machinery, but we are getting there.

John is afraid of many things, but mostly as an excuse or because he is trying to avoid work. At least that is my theory. John's biggest demon is small birds. The ones he could knock unconscious with a swish of his tail. In the past these birds have been cause for leaps to the side and galloping the other direction. One of these birds was the cause of my unplanned dismount last September, and resulted in us missing the Warren Tessier Competitive Trail Ride. Since I believe he's not truly afraid of the birds, I decided to take a different approach to getting him over his phobia. We've been doing a lot of transitions and just trying to get him on the aids and responding to me. This is working, his reactions are not as overblown as they used to be. He still jumps to the side, but now he stops and stands. He has a few other demons we are working on, but progress is being made. It will be interesting to see how this all translates to a competitive trail ride. Hopefully it is positive!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Race For Home

When I began trail riding around the farm again at the beginning of the spring, my horses would take a nice leisurely walk on the first half of the ride. Sure, they would perk up when they saw something interesting, or jig a bit if they were nervous, but we had a really nice first half of the ride. And then, when we turned for home, the second half of the ride was always a race. They know every trail around the farm just as well as I do and would speed up, at times breaking into a trot, to get home.

I wasn't really okay with this. It was a bit of a problem last year too, but I decided this was the year I would actually do something about it! When they started getting faster on the way home, I turned them around and made them go back and do it the right way. Again and again and again, until they walked home. Secret got it right away. She realized that she had to work harder if she tried to race for home. John was a bit more stubborn, but he has been getting away with bad behavior longer than Secret has. He finally got it though. Although they both have a bit more spring to their step on the way home, I am glad they are a bit saner about it. Now onto the next bad habit that I let them get away with.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Climbing For Cancer


Join us at the Stone Age Rock Gym in Manchester, Connecticut on Saturday, April 28th for the Climbing For Cancer Event! The event benefits First Descents and we are trying to get 70,000 vertical feet of climbing in on the 28th - at locations across the country.

You can join the team here:
Climbing For Cancer/Stone Age

A $25 donation to First Descents and you can climb from 10-1. Even if you have never done any climbing before, this is going to be a blast.

See you on the 28th!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Cancerversary

Three years ago today, I was at the UConn Health Center in Farmington for my last chemotherapy treatment. It wasn't an easy one. For the first time, my nurses had trouble accessing my port. They ended up flipping me upside down in my treatment chair in order to access it (there is a method to the madness, it really helps - blood flows toward the port when you are upside down).

As much as I would like to pretend cancer is part of the past, it really isn't, and never will be. Although I'm not celebrating the three year point, I do think its important to recognize the day.

I used to believe that 5 years was the magic number - after five years you can stop going in for post-treatment check ups. I couldn't wait until I was five years post-cancer and "put it all behind me." The more I learn about cancer and survivorship, the more I believe there is no magic number. The same goes for life, and you really don't need cancer to teach you that. I really don't recommend getting cancer in the first place anyway.

The point is to take each day and make the best of it. Sometimes that is easier said than done, it has been for me lately! However, I keep reminding myself that there are ups and downs, and I've come a long way.

Three years ago today, I was upside down in the chemotherapy infusion room. Today, I went for a really windy trail ride around the farm on John. I'll take the windy trail ride any day!