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The Closest I’ll Get to Competing at Rolex April 28, 2014

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I was so excited to see Lauren Kieffer finish second in the Rolex 4-star event. I’ve never met Lauren, but guess what – Bahea has! In addition to her Rolex partner Vironica, Lauren is well known for her accomplishments on the now retired Anglo-Arabian Snooze Alarm and his brother Vermiculus. Both of these talented horses and Bahea as well were all bred by Lawson and Jeannie Williams. I remember Lawson telling me about Snooze Alarm many years ago so I always kept an eye on him. He has also been keeping me apprised of her advances with Vermiculus.

It seems Lauren knew Bahea when she was in dressage training in Indiana. She recalls her being a solid, talented horse. It’s wonderful to have Lauren be a positive spokesperson for the Arabian breed and have such great success on Anglo-Arabians. I hope she will continue to do so. And congratulations must go out to Lawson and Jeannie (who have since gone their separate ways). They bred some outstanding sport horses and I’m pleased to be riding one of them. I hope that perhaps one day I’ll get to meet Lauren and her horses. For right now I’m excited to know someone who knows her!

To learn more about Lauren Kieffer and her horses, go to http://www.laurenkieffer.com. The photo below is of Lauren and Vironica after finishing their stadium jumping round at Rolex.

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Finally a video! April 24, 2014

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With better weather finally the opportunity came to shoot some video of Bahea. You can view it by clicking on the link above. It is unedited and gives a good representation of where she is. She knows a variety of movements, but she obviously still needs to build a lot of strength and suppleness, especially in the canter. Under saddle I’m taking the advice of Cheryl Swing…do 20 to 30 minutes of correct work and quit before she gets too tired. With Bahea’s strong work ethic, she will keep on going even after fatigue has set in. Cheryl also suggested doing some canter leg yield, which is really helping her canter improve.

On the ground, Dr. Deb of PECTS has been doing some massage/chiropractic work focused on her hind end to help loosen and stretch Bahea’s tight muscles. We are also doing hind leg stretches before and after her rides, and I can definitely feel a difference. It’s only a little bit at a time, but slow and steady wins this kind of race.

I’m entering her in a small schooling show on May 10 doing training level. I’m looking forward to her return to the show ring!

 

Bahea the Professional Mare March 18, 2014

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I’m so pleased with Bahea’s progress back to fitness. Her hay belly is going down and her topline is filling in so she looks less like a broodmare that’s been out in the field for a few years and more like a riding horse. My plan of joint supplement and slow, steady work (and let’s face it, warmer temps) has reduced her stiffness and the fluid on the front of her hocks. Focusing on her balance in walk and trot has definitely helped the balance in her canter. It still needs work but I’m at least able to play with it a little bit.

For fun last week I first tried some walk/canter transitions. She took a couple of trot steps then went right into canter. I feel like with a little practice she will be back to having those spot on. Then, since her canter was feeling pretty good, I thought to myself “Why don’t we go across the diagonal and ask for a flying change.” So I did. And she seemed to have no idea what I was asking her to do. She didn’t get upset or fussy – she just kept cantering. So I quickly changed plans. “Okay, let’s see if she can counter canter.” And she did so pretty easily through the short side of the arena. I came across the next diagonal to get back onto the true lead and praised her highly. She didn’t need to know that I asked for a flying change and got no response. She did a good job at counter canter. So I got going the other direction and did the same pattern only skipping asking for the change. Her counter canter going to the right was more difficult for her, but she tried hard and stayed true. What a good girl.

The lessons here? Ones you’ve probably heard before. Have a plan. But when that plan doesn’t work that day, be ready to change it immediately to what the horse needs. Don’t be afraid to play with other skills – like the flying change. But at the same time, don’t punish your horse if he doesn’t do it right or not at all. Remember, you are just playing and any attempt is worth praising. And in my case I figured out right away that Bahea doesn’t know a change so there was no way I was going to get after her. She does, however, counter canter so I praised her for that.

I’m very impressed with Bahea’s work ethic. She knows her job and does it. Work in the arena? Got it. Hack around the field on the buckle? Sure. Of course, I’m still waiting for the weather to improve enough to get her out on the trail, but I don’t know why she will be any different there. She is, after all, a professional Arabian mare.

 

Blogging on ANOTHER Snowy Day March 3, 2014

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This winter has been brutal for so much of the country! I’m starting to think that if spring doesn’t come soon everyone is going to “go postal”. Of course I’m watching it snow again from my little, warm apartment, but luckily I have been able to do some consistent riding and it’s starting to show with Bahea. Her back is filling in ever so slightly and her trot is becoming much smoother and more even. I’ve started adding some lateral work back into the routine – mostly leg yield and a little shoulder fore/shoulder-in. As soon as we start with it she curls and wants to get behind the vertical. My guess is that she was ridden in draw reins at some point so my goal is to encourage her forward, up and out (but not hollow) with her head and neck when we move laterally.

For a change of pace last weekend I put out ground poles. I figure she was fit enough to start doing them and I was curious to see how she’d react. Well, first time through she pricked her ears as soon as she saw them, broke into a canter and did a 2-stride bounce through the 4 poles. Ha ha! I was told she had jumped at one time. She obviously remembers it and liked it! It took a few tries to settle her down through the poles but once she realized that jumping was not part of the equation, she trotted through the poles nicely. Since she obviously enjoys that sort of thing I want to incorporate more poles into our work.

The last time I rode before the snow I actually rode in the outdoor arena. Hooray! Finally the snow and ice had melted and the footing thawed and dried enough to be in really good shape. Yes it was cold (30 degrees I think), but the sun was shining and I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity. This was the first time I rode her outside. She looked around at the horses turned out and made a sideways glance at a remaining snow pile, but otherwise was very good. It was nice to get her in a larger space (the indoor arena is the 20m by 40m) and to know that she is not easily distracted by the goings on around her. We finished with a walk around the grass jumping field. She stopped and stared at the horses who came over to the fence, but moved on when I asked. Riding outside was so enjoyable for both of us. I look forward to taking her out on the trail and seeing what she does there. In company I suspect she will be just fine.

So here’s hoping the snow melts quickly and warmer weather makes a return. Bahea and I are ready to go!

 

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Blogging on a Snow Day February 3, 2014

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1546279_650273495341_1362278932_n (2)I’m blogging today. Why? Because we are having another significant snow event and we only own one reliable bad weather vehicle. Since my husband Donavon is the one with the fulltime job he gets the truck and I stay in the apartment. We live in Maryland. Who would’ve thought we’d have so many days where I was stuck in the apartment? Okay, whining over. Last week it finally started to warm up and the existing snow began to melt. Apparently that is why it is snowing again. We must have snow covered ground. At any rate, I actually managed a few good riding days.

Bahea seems to be happy with her new home and she’s starting to know me, or at least that I always have treats in my left pocket. I’m really starting to like Bahea. At 17 she is old enough to be settled, but chestnut mare enough to have an opinion. The first two times I rode her she tried spooking in a couple of different spots. Her methodology seems to be to stop dead and then shift quickly into reverse. However, it only takes mild encouragement for her to go forward, and I’ve found that she gives up quickly when she realizes it is not successful. Thus I really think the spooking is a test and once deemed worthy (or at least knowing what to do in case of rapidly backing horse) she will quietly accept you as the rider and one in charge.

Because it’s been years since she’s been in regular work I’m keeping things short and simple. We’re doing large figures and transitions at walk and trot on a light contact. Initially Bahea traveled with her head up and back tight but she quickly is offering to stretch out and down which is wonderful. That’s really all I want her to do right now. She has no topline muscle and quite the hay belly so doing this slow stretching work is a wonderful place to begin. She’s less fussy with her head since having her teeth done (duh) and quite amicable about being ridden. I have learned that she is a face scratcher. When we halt she really wants to rub her face on her right leg (and so far only the right leg). Other than that she is very polite.

While I was told she was an alpha mare with other horses, she has yet to work her way into the herd. She seems to still be biding her time. She stays on the outskirts of the other four, but when those girls move across the pasture and go by her, Bahea follows along, making it think it was their idea to include her. Smart girl. She is going to be a treasure for someone.

 

Making a Case for Mares January 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — theridingwriter @ 6:44 pm

I don’t have much to report on the horses. While it may not be too cold for them, it’s been too cold for me. Once the temps get below 20 I’m pretty much done. But it’s given me time to think about the horses, and it’s no coincidence that both subjects of this blog are mares. I like mares, and I don’t understand why people won’t even consider a mare when they are horse shopping. I hear over and over that people “don’t like mares”, and I really don’t like when someone advertises that a horse for sale that is “not marish”. Okay, so what exactly do they consider “marish”? They may get fussy or more difficult when they are in heat. Umm…how many women do you know get grumpy at certain times? You deal with it and move on. And most of the mares I have known have not been at all moody. Mares typically are smart…and opinionated. They make you be a better horseperson because they do not like being told what to do. They like being asked – or even better – make it think it’s their idea. So I ask again…how many of you (assuming most of you are women) like being told what to do? You get pissy about it don’t you? I know I do. I’m an independent, strong-willed woman, and that’s what many mares are. Once you understand and accept that, you can have a great relationship with a mare. Mares that are with you will give you 110%. Mares that aren’t…well…they can make your life miserable. (Just like us women.) Of course, also like women, mares typically don’t have as much muscle or are as strong as geldings. But unless you are riding at higher levels, that usually doesn’t come into play.

Back when I was still dreaming about owning my own horse I used to say that I didn’t want a chestnut and I didn’t want a mare. Well, my first horse was a chestnut mare named Posey. (I’d post a picture of her but they are all packed away in storage.) This was also probably the first time I learned the lesson that if you put something out to the universe, it will come back to you at some point. She was a wonderful first horse and took care of me on many occasions. My second horse was a palomino mare named Charisma. Yes, she was a blonde, but palomino is diluted chestnut. Charisma and I were like bickering sisters. We knew how to push each others buttons but we still enjoyed each others company. She was a drama queen, but incredibly smart and I often wonder how much better we would’ve been together if I knew then what I know now. Charisma had a friend, a roan pony mare named Minnie. They were quite the pair! Minnie was a wise old soul, but opinionated to the end.

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Several years ago I adopted another pony mare named Snip and her filly, Promise. Snip has one of the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen in a horse. She is an incredible mother and is currently taking care of a little boy. She is very kind and sweet, and would never make an aggressive move towards you, but she has her way of letting you know she is displeased. She will turn her back to you and “give you the butt”. She doesn’t do anything. Just turns her back to you. I found it hysterical.

Her baby Promise is something special. Extremely smart and a total princess diva. I often thought she was Charisma reincarnated. She’s as pretty as she is talented and she knows it. Currently she is loved and spoiled by a young lady in Connecticut. They are a wonderful team.

 

 

 

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My most recent horse is Nadia, an Arab/Warmblood cross. Nadia’s personality is all Arabian, which means she’s personable, friendly, smart and wants to be with people. I got her last year with the intention to sell her. Of course, we clicked and I ended up buying her myself. When Nadia came to me I could tell she so wanted to bond with someone. Now that we have she is just wonderful. It’s the best relationship I’ve had with a horse, mare or not. Of course, all the other mares (and geldings for that matter) have taught me so much that I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. This means I’m much better at communicating with horses than I used to be so the ones I’m working with now reap the benefits of my increased knowledge. In addition to Nadia I work with Bahea, Gwen and a friend’s mare named Ellie. I will say that Ellie is the most moody of the bunch when she comes in heat. She gets very fussy, but I chalk it up to being in heat and know that there will be better days.

 

Now don’t you have friends or family that fit the basic descriptions of these horses? Don’t you learn how to adjust to be friends with them? It’s the same thing as working with a mare. So give mares a chance. One may turn out to be your BFF.

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Introducing Bahea January 21, 2014

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I have another horse to play with – a 17-year-old Arabian mare named Bahea. Now…let me start by saying that Bahea is NOT a rescue. She was a youth dressage/jumping horse that’s been hanging out in a pasture for several years. Her owners were getting out of the Arabian business and looking for homes for their horses. Bahea’s first stop as a horse for an at-risk youth program didn’t work out (through no fault of her own…she just wasn’t the right fit). I offered to take her, get her back into riding shape and look for the right person for her. She definitely has some training on her. She does lateral work VERY easily! I can see her being a good horse on which to learn, but she is sensitive, so she is not a beginner horse. I don’t think she would do anything bad (she is a total sweetheart), but I think she would end up going this way and that as she is very responsive to the leg.

Bahea was bred to be a race horse, although she never did. Her sire is Virgule Al Maury, an imported French-bred Arabian stallion who has been one of the most successful French sires in the United States. (http://www.lonechimneyranch.com/virgulealmaury.html) At age 25, he’s still standing stud in Oklahoma. Her dam is a Polish-bred mare named Bintkana (Pierrot x Baska Lana, by Cytrys). Bahea has more of the Polish build to her. She is relatively small and compact, but she has the chestnut coloring with chrome that her sire is known for passing along.

Bahea is very sweet around people…and very food motivated. She barely leaves a scrap of hay behind. The barn manager at Windy Oak mentioned that they just need to figure out what is the right amount for her. I said that she’s the kind of horse that will eat as much as you give her. Hence the considerable hay belly. (Don’t let that picture at the top fool you. She only looks narrow there.)

Bless her heart she is a trooper. I rode her once before taking her so it’s not like she knows me. Last Monday we loaded her up and hauled her to her new residence, Windy Oak Farm (www.windyoakfarm.com). She loaded and traveled like a pro, settled right into her stall and started munching hay.  The next day I led her around the indoor, outdoor and outdoor jumping arenas. Other than looking around with the occasional whinny, she was quiet. Thursday she had her feet done and Friday she had her teeth done. She handled it all with the professionalism of a quietly confident mare that’s been through this a time or two.

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On Saturday, I got on and walked her around the indoor arena. Since she hasn’t been in regular work for several years, I want to bring her back slowly. She does need some work with bridling as she swings her head around. Otherwise she is good in the crossties. She stood quietly to be mounted at the mounting block, but was hollow initially under saddle, and she did get spooky by the open door. Her trick seems to be coming to a dead stop and then backing up. She goes forward with some persuasion and after a few times of confidently riding her past it, she was fine. I’m still not sure if she is really afraid or is testing me. Probably a bit of both. Eventually, she did relax some and stretch down with her head and neck. We did large circles, diagonals, and 3-loop serpentines. It was fine for the first day back.

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I was told by more than one person that she is an alpha mare (she is a chestnut Arabian after all…). So far, however, my mare Nadia is keeping her away from the other horses. Watching herd dynamics is fascinating. Bahea is keeping a respectable distance so far, but I suspect she is buying her time. I look forward to getting to know this mare better and finding the perfect match for her. I think she’ll do great with a small adult or teenage girl who wants to learn lateral work. She still has many good years left to give and she deserves to find a person of her own.