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Monday, November 16, 2009

In which Farley proves herself

The title is a nod to AareneX who received the little sheep today as her prize and has decided to write him into her NaNoWriMo.

Farley proved herself in the following ways this weekend:

1. She demonstrated that she does not, in fact hate me, and is actually quite bonded to me

2. She can relax and have fun - not everything has to be about getting up and doing 50+ miles at an ung*dly speed too early in the morning

3. She can relax enough to give me quality dressage work in an unknown place.

4. She can gallop at top speed in wide open spaces and not get "hot". (and alternate this with quality dressage work!)

5. Sword target practice is no big deal

6. Battle scenarios including sword work and close-combat situations are no big deal.

So yes - all is well with my little pony and I have such a glow of satisfaction of a weekend gone well that I can barely stand it!

Here's the details (warning - this gets more and more gushy about my wonderful pony as the post goes on....):

Farley and I packed up this weekend and headed to Salinas.

(Can you see Farley in this pic - she's at the far side, coming closer at top speed)

Once there, the owner of the ranch gave me the option of letting Farley run in a pasture, while we got some work done (CHAS was having a work party to winterize some of our equipment).

So, Farley got to run in a HUGE pasture all day on Saturday. I was going to ride on Saturday, but she got quite a work out all by herself so instead I just let her run.

It was exactly what we needed after those dark nights in the arena - a change of scenery and some bonding time.

It was so cute - I would walk into the pasture and she would quit her self imposed exercise and come over to hang out. She would walk and run beside me. We played for a couple of minutes. I would dash at top speed and she would chase me. I'd stop suddenly and change directions. I would chase her as she pivoted to try and keep up with me.

I've never had a horse so bonded to me. Minx, in her own way loved me, but I think that her past kept her from having that same total trust without reservations that Farley has. Abuse leaves its mark.

While Farley was cavorting, I set upon my task for the work party - reassembling harness.

Above is a picture of the completed work. Two teams of tack was inspected for wear and repair, and for completeness.

Out of huge piles of leather on floors and tables, I and one other person was able to assemble a third, almost complete set of harness (one set of harness is for 6 horses).

Above is a saddle (a drive, non-wheel) complete and ready to be assigned to a team.

I love this sort of work.....Little strips of leather an buckles....what can it be? A valise strap? A throat latch? A cheek strap for a bridle? Is it artillery or cavalry?

(above - another shot of a completed saddle)

(Terri deciding whether that piece of leather is a Mcclellen stirrup leather, a back strap for an artillery saddle....or...something else...)

(More pieces of leather and parts to fit together into something recognizable)

I admit, I love this work and the day flew by.

That night the three people staying over and riding the next day - Alan, Terri, and myself went out to dinner. We washed the harness blankets and ate Chinese food and created grandiose ideas for events next year. Whether it was the influence of good Chinese food, or the intoxicating effects of green tea, I found myself agreeing to write an event proposal for 2011 AND to retake the photos of the CHAS horses for the website (for those of you that have gone and looked at the horses on www., I have this to say - truly we have beautiful, well-kept animals. Unfortunately, late winter photos of hairy ponies in muddy pastures does not exactly showcase this).
All of us decided to sleep in our respective vehicles. All of us froze. All of us did not sleep (yes I know this is bad grammar). Farley was probably the most comfortable of us all. For the night I put her back on her spring tie at the trailer. She seems to be getting accustomed to the concept of "home" while at the trailer and immediately relaxed and drank, and ate.
Farley woke up at 5am wondering where I was and "shouldn't I be tacking and getting going already????". (She rarely spends a night on the trailer unless we are at an endurance ride.) Once she realized I was NOT getting up until at LEAST 7am, she relaxed and settled.
The plan was to set up a course and practice cavalry horse skills, with an eye towards the national and (hopefully) regional competitions.
Pictured are the 2 noble steeds.....

Here is the course. Yes, I know it looks like a jumbled up mixture of cones and PVC pipes. In actuality, there is a 20x40m dressage court, with 20 and 10 meter circles laid out in one half. Additionally there are 4 trotting poles set up outside on edge of the court, and on the other side, 7 bending poles with flags on the top. The back area of the pasture was left open. The footing was almost perfect!

Terri schooled 2 different horses in the round pen and me and Alan played for 2 hours on the course. It couldn't have gone better.
(Warning - gushy part ahead and lots of self-patting-on-the-back about how I ended up with such a wonderful pony)
We practiced patterns and circles and corners in the court. Farley felt so free and happy. We alternating our time with on-the-bit work at trot, walk, and schooled transitions then we would take breaks by cantering and galloping in the back part of the pasture. Then back to on the bit work in the court. I would canter her in great big, lazy circles, then ask for a full speed gallop from end of the pasture to the other, then back to a gentle canter. She never once bucked, never once got hot-headed. Even at a full gallop with me shouting and yelling she stayed perfectly level headed and calm. And was able to go back to quality dressage stuff. Wow!
Then we got out the swords. Nice, light, wooden swords, which I think are a good 2 inches longer than the real thing. :) This is the second time I've asked Farley to do sword work, and she responded exactly the same way as she did the first time - no hesitation, no shying away, no jumpiness. I hit targets at a walk, trot and canter and she was absolutely solid. And remember - to wield a sword, I'm controlling her one-handed. And she doesn't neck rein. What she's really listening to is my seat and leg. Pretty amazing.
Alan and I decided to do a little melee on horse back. I asked Farley to charge into Alan, jousting style and there was no hesitation. For 10 minutes we wheeled and spun, charging each other, ramming horses together and whacking each other with swords. We moved into close combat circling around, getting in hits all the while. Farley never hesitated, never baulked, never bucked, never objected at the other horse being in her space during the sword play. At one point I "cut off her ears" with my wooden sabre and she never flinched. (Sorry). If I didn't know her history I would conclude that she's done this before...somewhere....somehow....
Our practice went so well, we are going to stage monthly practices. Next month, Alan I agreed to focus on pistols. I'm thinking I won't have a problem. So far she's taken everything I've asked in stride. I'm thinking pistols won't be that big of a deal and she'll have another feather in her cap.
So yes, all is forgiven. She gets the day off today, since we've ridden or travelled for 10 straight days.


  1. What a terrific post, including the gushiness! Hey, if you can't gush about a good horse, then what is the point of talking at all, sez me.

    That big box of mysterious leather straps is pretty intimidating to me, though. I think you're brave to tackle it, let alone enjoy it!

  2. OOOO that looks like fun! I love seeing all sorts of harnesses altogether in once place! Bet is smells good in there!

    Your so lucky Farley does so well with the swordplay! I can't wait to meet her!

  3. ok, yes bad grammar. But nice parallelism.

  4. YAY! I'm so happy for you and Farley!

  5. swordplay? So curious..just stumbled on your blog so I guess I'll do more digging! Very enjoyable so far! :)

  6. Kristen E. S. - Welcome! Thank you so much for dropping by - I'm checking out your blog now. I think I'm hooked :). Definately adding it to the Reader.


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