Monday, February 20, 2012

Horse Projects and People Projects

The water heater in the barn stopped working last week.  We've had it since we started building the house -- we needed warm water for our barn showers while we were living in our travel trailer, parked behind the barn.  Brett's friend, Richard, was down for the weekend from the central valley.  He used to live on a farm (growing grapes and cotton) and even after the farm was sold and he started teaching high school math (he was an aeronautical engineering major -- graduated when the aerospace industry tanked so went home to help his dad and brother with the farm), he stilled lived on a few acres and his farm house.  A few years ago, he and his wife moved to the suburbs but I think a part of him misses the country.  When Richard visits, he and Brett enjoy working on a project.  In fact, Richard and I put the shingles on the barn roof during one of his visits-- while Brett shouted up instructions.  Brett is deathly afraid of heights so Richard and I crawled all over the black roof, in the heat of summer.  It was not pleasant. 

So Sunday, I suggested that they look at the water heater -- located up in the rafters of the barn. Richard crawled up and found a mess.  There was water everywhere and the cord had shorted out.  Thankfully there is a GFI on the outlet or the barn might have burnt down.  There were some sparks involved while Richard was up there checking it out.

The boys went to Home Depot and bought a new water heater.  They spent the rest of the day installing it.  The heater didn't come with a cord so they weren't able to plug it in.  Brett will pick one up tonight on his way home from work and hopefully we will have hot water tomorrow. 

I was going to ride Winston yesterday but knew that all the ladders and commotion in the barn aisle would be more than he could handle.

He is, for some reason, very suspicious of the barn aisle.  If the hay cart is moved from its usual spot he gets worried.  I think his issue with the dentist had more to do with the barn aisle having dental stuff set up than the dentist himself.  

Winston and I are making progress.  Last Friday, we had another lesson with Gayle.  During the lesson, we worked on establishing a working trot and keeping Winston in front of my leg.  It was his first time in the comfort snaffle so he had that to get used to as well.  I didn't carry a whip and he was trotting willingly along but not forward enough for Gayle.  She wanted him to use his whole body so I was constantly urging him on.  I was toast at the end.  We worked a tiny bit on canter.  He would do this weird thing; slowing down and elevating his front (felt sorta like collection) and Gayle said no, he has to go forward.  We did get some nice working canter and it felt like we were flying around the arena.  Gayle also spent time focused on my position.  As she said, with Jackson we didn't work too much on me because he had so many issues.  With Winston... the spotlight is back on me.  I need to keep my leg under me and not slipping back, ask for go with my calves and not reaching my leg back first (why do I do that??!), and not folding forward in the canter transition. 

Saturday, I planned to give Winston the day off since he had worked hard in the lesson.  But, I caught him doing laps in the pasture at a full gallop with happy bucks thrown in here and there.  He clearly had energy to work.  I decided to carry a whip so I wouldn't have to work so hard to keep him in working trot.  I got high headed zooming behavior for the entire time I was on him.  I tapped him once lightly with the whip when we started and he never slowed down after that.  He never relaxed either.  When I tried to canter, he did that elevated thing again and when I used my outside leg to say "not up, go forward" he switched leads.  I asked again, he switched again.  He switched and switched and then got frustrated and did some half rearing.  Sigh.  It wasn't our best schooling session.

Sunday was a day of rest with all the hot water heater activity in the barn.  Today, I'm home for Presidents Day so I schooled him in the arena.  Brett is at work so I was a bit apprehensive about riding with all the zooming and rearing antics -- not good to come off when no one else is around.  There is still one ladder in the barn aisle, and as expected, Winston was nervous as all get out at the tie rail as a result.  I decided to longe him first and gauge his zoom factor.  He was fine, just trotting around me in a perfectly well behaved easy trot. 

Winston wasn't thrilled to come out of the pasture to work and that bothered me.  He's always been at the gate begging to be ridden.  I decided to just work on getting him to relax and take the contact at trot.  That's it.  No pressure, no frustration, just take our time until we got there.  It took about 20 minutes of straight trot work before he relaxed and stretched to the bit -- and then I gave him lots of praise.  We spent about 10 minutes in a very nice frame and he was happy -- happy to get it right, and happy to be on steady outside rein contact.  I decided to ask for canter but he started with the hoppy business so we went back to trot.  I'll let Gayle help me figure out the canter business at my next lesson.  I wanted him to feel good about our work today so as soon as he was relaxed and stretching again, we called it quits. 


  1. the water heater sparking sounds terrifying! eek! glad you have a brave and handy friend to help!

  2. I am just astounded at how much work riding is. Trainers and lessons and work, work, work. At least you listen to the trainer. I'd probably have gotten quite frustrated. You are so dedicated.

  3. I've had Crispy do that hoppy canter thing before as well. It's strange- definitely a feeling akin to collection.
    He has the same reaction to Winston too- ask for forward, and he gets frustrated and reary.
    I wonder what it's all about?

  4. It's always good to end the session on a positive note. I guess Winston is young and it's going to take time to get it all right. Sometimes it seems like it takes forever, but one step at a time to build on and he'll get there.

    I still do that leg back to cue the canter once in a while. Don't know where it came from but I guess it worked at some time and I revert back to it once in a while.

  5. Sorry I read it wrong about the trot and the leg. I should have explained better in my comment that I meant at the canter I make the mistake of exaggerating the leg. Instead of just going behind the girth to ask for canter I go overboard... going back and up, sort of like a chicken wing. It's too much and it's a bad habit I work on when I get reminded I'm "doing that again."

  6. Was Winston in regular work before you brought him home? He may be sore if he's not used to long schooling sessions/lessons. Maybe try another trail ride? I'm glad you were able to end on a positive note. :)


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