Category Archives: 2020 riding log

Riding log day 11

1/30/2020–snaffle, English saddle

It was foggy in town so I expected the same at the ranch. Much to my surprise, it was bright and sunny out there. Amazing what difference five miles and a change in elevation can make.

Mocha was grumpy about her chest when I groomed her–but that seemed to go away when I stopped and stretched her forelegs. I suspect she was a little sore from Monday’s work…well, she was full of herself that day and it was to be expected. Like Monday, we headed out for the loping/galloping ground for the best footing, transitioning from straight walk to walk serpentines. We worked walk and trot serpentines including counterbending, and she was focused and using herself well. A walk break, and then we did some two-tracking, followed by a set of canter serpentines. By this point she was pretty well warmed up so we had a good set of flying lead changes. Then we did the bowtie exercise at the trot. She’s settling in well at the trot now, coming onto the bit and working pretty consistently.

I was generous with the walk breaks and she was pretty decent about settling into them. We ended up with the zigzag trot coupled with haunches and forehand turns. Then more walk break, backing up in a figure 8, ending with four sets of canter/gallop, with walk breaks in between. She didn’t get herself as worked up as she did on Monday but it was also pretty clear that she wanted to end out with a run. Then she was a bit rushy riding in from her work area. We did stop for spin sets and they were okay. Not great, but okay. They do vary by day.

The other thing is that she clearly has a preferred snow depth to canter or extend into a gallop. 4-6 inches seems to be her preference. More and it’s hard work for her; less and there’s more slipping around or catching a hoof on frozen poop piles, with less cushioning if the ground is frozen.

She wasn’t quite as dripping with sweat as she had been on Monday, which is good. But I’m still contemplating clipping along her windpipe and chest. But I’ll have to see how the weather shakes out in the next couple of weeks. I’ve got a local bazaar next Friday-Saturday, then RadCon, then a Portland trip. Maybe I’ll do it after that–by then it will be the end of February and about time to do it if she isn’t shedding out anyway.

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Riding log day 10–1-27-2020

1/27/2020 (posted a day late).

Field ride, English saddle and snaffle.

Followed up on the work we did in the lesson on Saturday, grabbing a quick chance to ride in the sunshine before rain and snow came back into the picture today. We started to work in the usual place, but the footing just wasn’t working. I couldn’t get her to pick up a consistent pace and it felt to me like the ground and not so much Mocha. So we headed off to the other section, which has primarily been a running area…and of course, somebody immediately perked up. Oh well, I channeled that energy into getting and maintaining a good walk through a lot of serpentines, then moving into a consistent, regular, working trot.

It took a while, in part because she was full of herself and wanting to go. I finally had us pick up the bowtie exercise we learned. She remembered that, and started relaxing into that mode, though we still had moments of rushy-rushy when Mocha thought we might just take off in a splendid gallop. But at last she settled. Then we did some canter serpentines, complicated by Little Miss wanting to rush off toward the herd for the first part of it and not wanting to change leads. Eh, she was testing things. A spell of interrupted changes instead of flying changes, and she was past that moment.

We ended with a line of forehand and haunches turns, and a little gallop. Small serpentines on our way back to the gate, and a stop to do spins. They’re improving as we keep working.

However, she ended up wet. Her coat is long and heavy, and the temps are in the mid-to-high 30s F. I’m thinking very hard about clipping her windpipe and part of her chest to see if that will cut down on the sweatiness. But I’m hesitant because we’re due for some significant temperature swings, and I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. Maybe if I use the long teeth on the clippers instead of the close teeth. I have to think about it.

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Riding log day 9–dressage lesson

Riding Day 9 of 2020. English saddle, snaffle bridle.

Hauled Mocha out to a local dressage trainer for a lesson. It went pretty well. While she was hollering and fussing outside of the lovely indoor arena, once she set hooves inside, she settled right into business (of course, after suspiciously eying the corner that corresponds to the Pig Corner in her home arena, because PIGS!!!!!). Having figured out that no pigs lived behind the pile of alfalfa hay, she was ready to work.

We focused on establishing a consistent rhythm that she could relax into, with some work on my position as well. It didn’t take long for Mocha to respond to the coaching and we had some very nice schooling at the trot, as well as smooth serpentine work at trot and canter. I need to work on my focus and get her mentally centered before asking for too much, and then use my body to get her settled into a smooth rhythm. At the end, while working hard, she was sufficiently relaxed that her tail was swinging, and she was stepping well under herself.

But oh, that lovely trot. And she was clearly happy to have a lesson and be focused and working on schooling.

Once we were finished, THEN she started talking to the other horses. Her focus was quite lovely while she worked, though. The Girl is baaack, and it’s nice to see.

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Riding log day 8

English saddle and snaffle today. A snow squall blew in while we were riding, which got the other horses in the field wound up and running a little bit toward the end.

Mocha came to me from quite a ways off–still working on making that consistent, because there are times when she just stares at me when I call. Today I called from the gate while undoing her halter, and she started walking in even before I entered the field. She still had moments of stopping and thinking about coming, but I didn’t have to walk too far out there to catch her. That’s happening more and more these days. Geez, this is her fifth winter in this situation and it’s taken until now? Sigh.

I used the weight tape on her because I was curious about weight gain since I’ve had to let the English girth out one notch on one side, and no, I’m not imagining it–she’s up to about 1050-1060 lbs, from about 950-975 last fall after moving back to the ranch. Good hay, and less intensive works, I guess. It’ll come off in the spring once we start building up mileage on the roads.

This was the kind of day that I got my chinks for. Wet, sloppy snowfall that would have made my jeans uncomfortably damp, coupled with a wind that could cut through to the bone even with my old ski base layers on. I was happy to have them on. And I noticed that even though Mocha was working up a sweat toward the end of our work, the flakes that fell on her neck and mane didn’t melt. She was cool once I was done riding.

It was pretty much the same work as last time, the serpentines and two tracks with zigzag alternating haunches and forehand turns. We did a little more trotting than before. But she was eager to run, and while she caught her foot on something (probably a frozen mound of poop) a couple of times, recovery was easy since I was balanced in my stirrups and could brace my hands on her withers to steady her. At one point we backed through a figure eight because she was just a wee bit too eager to run. While she alerted when the herd did a short run, she listened to me and didn’t take off to try to join them.

What is really nice this winter is that she is focused on me and not so much on the herd. That’s a change from the past winters here, and good to see. Looks like I’m doing the right things.

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Riding log day 7

Snaffle and English saddle today. Sunny, temps in 30s. Snow still in pasture.

After the last ride, I figured I’d better bring the saddle and let Mocha canter/extend a little bit. The problem with cantering in the bareback pad in snow for very long is that I worry about slipping a little more than with the English saddle, where I can get up in the stirrups and off her back, and have a more stable and balanced position.

It worked. Besides the usual serpentines and two-tracking, I added in zigzag trot with a mix of forehand and haunches turns. It’s an attention drill, except of course Miss Mocha knows just about every drill by the book these days. On the other hand, it’s also good for trot departs and when the footing gets better, we’ll do it as a canter exercise. Plus the haunches and forehand turns are good schooling.

She extended nicely when we cantered. Like before, she eased up after the first length of canter to catch her breath, then was much more energetic for the next three lengths. Then we did the chain forehand and haunches turns, as well as backing in a figure 8. Up to three spins in each direction as well.

I had a moment out there when I was thinking “62 years old and tearing across snowy fields on a mare that’s going to be 20 years old in a couple of months.” That said, Mocha is doing well this winter. I think she’s at her highest weight of the last ten years. I’ll have to bring out the weight tape and see what it says, but I think she’s a wee bit over 1000 lbs right now. She doesn’t quite have a divot in her hindquarters where her spine is, but…it’s almost that much. Which would put her at the heaviest she’s been for a while. She certainly seems to be happy and content these days, which is good.

And fun to boot. I still love galloping across a field on a sure-footed horse that listens to her rider.

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Riding log day 6

Riding log day 6. Snaffle and bareback pad. 3-12 inches of snow, depending on drifts.

This riding day should have happened yesterday, but the weather had a different opinion. Late on Wednesday afternoon the wind kicked up hard, to the degree that the road by the barn was closed due to drifting snow. The winds continued for a good part of Thursday, to the degree that the barn owner posted she couldn’t feed hay to the big field yet for fear it would blow away. So I went down to the gym instead and worked out.

This afternoon, though, was clear and after some obligations in the morning, I went out and rode. It was Mocha’s Adequan injection day (for arthritis) so she got her monthly shot, and then a ride. I did notice that her neck is muscling up nicely. The current work is paying off.

We did the usual serpentines and two-tracking, then after a quick check of our usual canter area, four lengths of canter—um, well, it turned out to be gallop. The first length was subdued as she checked out the footing and asked to pull up to catch her breath. But after she caught her breath, she wanted to run. Would not have been so bad in the saddle but in the bareback pad? I’m not there yet. Still, we did three more lengths, albeit a bit faster than perhaps I would have wanted them to be. Think I’m going to take the saddle out next time. Finished up with the chained haunches and forehand turns, except that I added another set of 360 degree turns. I just read something talking about how forehand turns can be useful for building up the shoulder. Then, stopped about partway to the gate to do two spins in each direction. She was stiff spinning to the left and not quite into it, but lengthened her neck, stuck her nose out, flattened her ears, and gave me a good pair of spins to the right.

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Riding log day 5


Snowy day but not as snowy as day four. There’s six inches or so on the ground in the field right now. Because I didn’t feel like being ambitious, I rode in the bareback pad, plus I figured we’d get hit with a squall at some point, which we did by the end of the ride.

We still schooled serpentine, two-track, and the chained 180 forehand and haunches turns, with full 360s at the end of one side for both haunches and forehand.

Mocha feels more confident with the additional snow. We did some loping but not a lot as I’m still getting myself legged up after being sick.

The yearlings were in a playful mood, running and bucking with their tails flagged. The palomino, Colt, snuck into the barnyard when I was leading Mocha into the field. Fortunately, he followed her right back into the pasture, the little stinker. Meanwhile, the two bay geldings were playing bitey-face, kick and chase. One of the other yearlings, Magnum, hung around them and was nipping at butts when he could. He started to follow me and Mocha when we went further into the field, but as we picked up a trot he decided it was more fun to follow along with the big boys. His nickname is “little man” because last spring he was hanging out with his sire when Chex was in the field with the broodmares. He’s shown an interest in hanging out with the adult geldings for some time, just following along and learning. But like the rest of this batch of yearlings, he’s also very curious when I climb up on Mocha.

We also kicked up a pair of whitetails. They’re funny because they are much more spooky about a horse and rider than mule deer are. They’ll spook up even when I’m riding on the other side of the 50 acre field.

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Keeping a riding log–days 1-4

One of the things I’m seeing the kewl kids doing right now is keeping track of how many days they ride their horse(s) during the year. I remember the year I did this with skiing–got some great blogs out of it and rather enjoyed going back later and seeing what I had done. While I did keep a log when I was training Mocha, I never specifically tracked the days. I don’t know how good a job I’ll be doing with this now, but I’m going to try. It’s going to be interesting, plus it would be nice to see just how many days I am riding. And it’s a good way to get back into the blogging habit!

So. Here we go.

Day Four–1/11/2020

English tack. I’m riding mostly English this winter, because I’m finding it easier to get up off Mocha’s back at trot and canter for extended periods, and I prefer to do that with winter footing. Plus it’s easier to carry around in ice and snow. We’re not doing much in the way of hills, where I want that back cinch, nor are we doing road riding or long rides. Right now it’s light schooling in the pasture.

Today we did the usual bending work in serpentines, first with inside bend, then alternating inside and outside bend. I’m finding that doing this work consistently really seems to help keep her shoulders and neck loose. The other thing I’ve discovered is that since she’s living in pasture 24/7 and grazing, it’s easier to ask her to come on the bit right away. No need for stretching out after a period of stall confinement! In any case, the serpentines were accented by blowing wind and snow, along with the herd getting fed hay. Mocha nickered a couple of times as if to say “don’t eat it all before I get there!” Not a chance of that happening, of course.

After the serpentines, we did two-tracking, then rode to the pasture section that’s best for cantering/galloping. We did a length on each lead, but then the wind came up, blowing snow so hard at times that we could barely see the herd eating, much less the ranch buildings. Mocha jumped once when the wind hit her haunches just right. But there was enough snow for a good extended canter, and if it hadn’t been blowing so hard, and me still recovering from being sick, we would have gone longer.

Also, today she walked 50 yards to meet me in the field, with a slight diversion to make mare face and lunge at a new gelding in the field who thought he would be getting treats too. That’s a big change for a little mare who has previously been at the bottom of the herd hierarchy. But I’ve noticed this winter that she has become more assertive about her space. In her case, it’s something that needed to happen.

Day Three–1/9/2020

Bareback pad and snaffle. Light ride, to get her loosened up before the farrier came. Clear and cold, light snow in the small right-of-way we rode on. She wanted to do more and go–was full of herself this morning, complete with disapproving grunts at having to come onto the bit and WORK when she wanted to GO.

Day Two–1/7/2020

English tack. First regular schooling ride of the year where we went out of a walk. After schooling serpentines and two-tracking, we cantered the long length of the field, twice on each lead, then ended up with chained 180 haunches and forehand turns, 8 of those in each direction, then one 360 of forehand and haunch turns, in each direction.

Day One–1/4/2020

English tack. First day of riding after being down sick for a week. I did not feel very ambitious, so we did serpentines and then a walk around the field. Did not feel like I had the energy to trot or lope. But hey, I got out and I rode, even if I was wiped out afterward!

Okay. So that’s a start. We’ll see if I keep it up…


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