Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dopie Does Dressage

As was his intended purpose--once he got done being a relatively mediocre sprinter for three years, that is.

i mean he is really super fast though. just look at him. travelling at the speed of sloth.

We've been slowly plugging away at the fundamentals. It's not particularly flashy or exciting, but it is rewarding when it produces things like less falling down, adjustability within the gaits, and--my current favorite--a semi-reliable half halt at the canter.

With the new dressage tests finally released, I was ready to take all our basics to the next level starting as of this morning. The new leg yields! The canter patterns from First! The super kind counter canter from 2-1! Opie hadn't been ridden in three days due to the power steering on my truck going as BM and I were on our way to a field trip which derailed my scheduled weekly plan, and the temperature had dropped to the thirties with heavy winds, but no matter. Dressage, here we come!


that is a half chap over my tall boot. DAMN IT.

My wool socks finally did my sad, old zipper in so I had to wrestle on one of my moldy, forgotten half chaps over my boot. Then my spur wouldn't fit comfortably over the whole shebang so I went with a spur on the right foot only. Fine, whatever. We're coming for you anyway, dressage!

he's so dark and dapply after his body clip. it makes me deliriously happy.

I put Opie on the longe out of prudence, but he trotted all of three circles before asking if he could quit. I made him canter instead and he managed maybe three circles of that as well before we both gave up. He does, however, take a hot minute to warm up in the colder weather even with his butt cape on. We did a brief trot in both directions before going back to the canter and doing a bunch of laps in half seat.

Finally we were ready for real for dressage!

he is just the most perfect midget thoroughbred. i will take no arguments.

We worked mostly on the new leg yield pattern in 1-3 as that test and 1-1 will be the go-to next season. 1-1 because it's the easiest (although I haven't even looked at 1-2 yet so that might change), and 1-3 because you have to ride the highest test at your level for year end awards so we're always going to get stuck there.

Opie was a tight, tense mess when I first introduced him to leg yielding. He doesn't like moving his hind end independent of the rest of his body--sad story, welcome to dressage, amigo--so any and all lateral work has been slow in coming. But I spent multiple rides on a long rein at a slow trot asking him to gently move back and forth off the rail and then praising the shit out of him. Slowly he realized it wasn't that big of a deal and now we can do it reliably out of a working trot. I want it to get a lot better, but it's passable for now.

The 10m circle and then turn off the centerline were no big deal which was where those basics waved their little victory flags. Fifty different changes of bend in five seconds? Easy peasy.

i went from not being able to sit my horse's canter because it was nonexistent to being able
to sit it because it was small and kind of sucky back to not being able to sit it because it's good.

The canter is a mixed bag. It's getting so much better but each time it gets better I have to completely relearn how to ride it. Bobby was gigantic, but he had a tiny pony stride. Opie is tiny, but he has a gigantic step. I want to choke it back to make it easier to ride, but I'm trying to suck it up and let him roll because I know forward is always the answer. Unless your core is made of jello chocolate.

I am FINALLY getting a half halt to go through in it though! It's helping the balance, and is slowlyyyyyy helping the downward transitions. Both the up and down transitions out of it are still mostly crap though. I was going to schedule a lesson to work specifically on those, but then my truck. And my tall boots. Hopefully once the holidays pass I'll be able to get back on a regular lesson schedule again.

In the meantime, I've also started introducing some counter canter. It is super special.

He actually does better when I plan ahead and steer (surprising, I know) and give him more time on the long side to get rebalanced. He went from breaking and falling down to now trying lead changes when I don't get him set up right. Ah well. The rare occasion we're both in order it's nice. And he does the shallow serpentines to X just fine. Once we get locked in the narrow indoor for winter, it will come. Either that or we're going to face plant on a regular basis.

The 15m canter circles at the end of the ring are there, so check that off. The change of lead at X is a downward canter transition so is currently meh. The lengthen canter to working canter is getting flawless, and the lengthen trot is as steady as ever.

Basically we're ready for First, but this winter should give us the polish to hopefully do as well as we did at Training this year.

don't need no polish for posing, yo.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Dopie Does Driving

Things have been ticking along at a steady pace which is great, but steady can be boring and boring leads to lack of motivation to write actual posts.

However, I got some new media this weekend, and I made a big breakthrough with Dopie's driving exploits so I'm going to put it down. And usually once I start typing word vomit happens anyway.

cart pony says gimme my candy

Since I have enough media to split this post into two parts--riding and driving Opie--this will be the driving post. Also because there's only so many ways to write about lower level dressage work. "We only almost fell down once working on the counter canter today, so I guess you can say things are going well."

The weekend before this past one, I was feeling awfully fucking dejected about the driving progress. I was only working with him once a week because I needed Hubby's extra set of hands to get him hitched safely, and I still didn't trust him to drive around solo without someone there to grab him should things go south.

having a pout because my horse didn't magically learn to drive by himself in two sessions

The biggest issue I was running into was that Opie kept reverting to his habit of employing his short cobra neck as a weapon instead of using his body properly. He didn't want to push the cart over to make turns--instead he would just turn his head and neck all the way around, and then I'd have to stop and either get out or have Hubby reset him on the straight track again since turning your head doesn't move the cart.

I did some work with him in-hand, physically shoving the shafts of the cart over as we turned until he was kind of getting the idea on his own. I whined about it to BM who has some driving experience and she told me to try side reins to keep his head straight. Hmmmmm. Food for thought!

Hubby, meanwhile, was like, "You just need to ground drive him more and he'll get it." To which I pointed out that he knows how to ground drive, and he turns just fine in the lines. He doesn't know how to maneuver a cart, and he's not going to learn unless he's got a cart attached to him. So pipe the fuck down, Hubby.

spolier alert: i let hubby take him for a spin this weekend at the walk

Not one to feel sorry for myself for long without coming up with a full scale attack approach to my problems, last week I decided Opie was doing well enough with the cart that I could get him hitched myself and at the very least work with him on the ground. After our ride on Thursday, I got him dressed in the outdoor and lifted the cart up. Just as I got the shafts slotted into the tugs, Opie spotted BM strolling into the ring and was like, "OH HAI NICE LADY YOU HAVE CANDIEZ?" and started to walk the fuck off for a visit. The cart harmlessly slid out and clunked to the ground, and Opie got walloped for moving. When I set him back up, he had the most dejected look on his face, but he stood like a rock--and got lots of candy for it which improved morale.

I attached the side reins on both sides super loosely and led him around the arena once in-hand. He was completely fine about the whole thing, so I clipped the lines on and moved behind the cart to ground drive him from there. Not only was he fine for that, but I let the fence line do the work for me the first couple laps and barely had to give any input on steering. I wanted to see if the side reins and Opie's sense of self preservation--aka don't walk into the fence, dummy--would kick in. The side reins were a huge help and there was no angry cobra neck to be found!

i can't wait to give this cart a face lift this winter.
obvi it's going to become purple.

The next day, after our ride, I got him hitched again this time with no moving. In-hand I led him for half a lap at the walk, and then did a full lap at the trot. He did not give two shits, so after a lap of ground driving him at the walk from behind the cart, I got in and sent him off for our first solo trip.

His steering was easy, his brakes were solid, and when I decided to go ahead and ask for a trot, he hopped right into it for a lap and then came back and stood like a statue while I got him undressed and stuffed all the candy in his face. (No, but really. He got an entire plus sized bag of baby carrots.)

When I finally dragged Hubby out on Sunday, I climbed right in as soon as we were hitched and off we went for some loops at the walk to show off our newly installed steering. Hubby was impressed and I had to be like, "Right, bitch. No ground driving. Cart driving. Also side reins. Also extra candy. Also I'm a genie and my horse is a #childgenius." Because I'm a grown up and rubbing things in is how I roll.

Then we pranced off into the sunset:

And everyone died of cuteness overload.

The end.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Year End Awards

I feel like I haven't talked about ribbons in awhile.


"wait, does this mean more shows?!"
nope! just trail rides until the snow comes!

This morning I sent off my reservation for my GMO's year end award banquet next month along with my two-page completed log form of twenty six recorded hours of trail riding for the Thoroughbred Recreational Riding Incentive Program. Opie is coming up on his one year off the track anniversary, and I felt pretty dang proud I was able to get both of those in before that day. 

And then of course it also inspired me to blog about year end awards to make sure everyone has a fair chance at ribbons. At least everyone with a Thoroughbred. 

The long and short is: move to central New York and you can join my GMO, fight tooth and nail for volunteer hours that no one wants to give you, hopefully make it to at least two of their often weirdly inconveniently scheduled shows, and get a year end ribbon or two from them as well!

No, just kidding. Don't ever move to this awful state.

year end champion of keeping himself clean in the mud

I actually want to talk about the Jockey Club's Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP). Most of you are probably aware of this program, and probably randomly signed your horse up for a TIP number on the off chance you ran into any of their sponsored classes/shows during the year. It's free and easy, and another chance at an extra ribbon. (Unless you go to a show that says they're offering the TIP awards, but then don't actually bother going through with it even though you checked to see that they were. Ahem, Houghton...)

However, they also offer their own year end awards! The shows don't even have to be TIP sponsored to qualify for points.

There are divisions ranging from the standard dressage, eventing, and hunter/jumper to western and in-hand. You can find the full list here.

You record your results throughout the year online via their super easy reporting form. Fill in a couple boxes, select the appropriate drop down tabs, and they calculate the points for you. The only thing I've found difficult about this is when shows don't report their results online. You need to submit verification of your results, so if you can't provide a website link, you need to fill out a reporting form and have the show secretary sign off. I didn't start recording my results online until the middle of the year, so I've had to email the reporting form off for the two shows I competed in that don't have online results. Next year I'll know to just bring the form with me and have them sign it quickly when I'm done riding. 

Results for those don't come out until February, but in the meantime, get on your pony and ride because you can also take advantage of their recreational riding offerings.

award winning show horses right here. clearly. that's opie
splashing everyone while mo goes scuba diving.

The recreational riding incentive program includes trail rides, endurance rides, hunts, and hunter paces. There's a form to print off to log in your hours for each ride. Every time you hit an award level--starting with 25 hours--you send off the form and get back the assigned prize for each level. Opie will get a patch with his hours, and then we keep plugging away to hit 100 hours and a hat. It's a great way for people that don't show as much or at all--or for people like me that show a lot, but still looooove trail riding--to participate. Plus there is no timeline for hours. Start whenever and finish whenever; hours are cumulative.

planning on hitting a new park next week.

Is anyone planning on submitting their results from this year to the Jockey Club for a chance at year end awards? What about their trail riding prezzies? Or do you have your own association's year end awards coming up? Tell me all about your future satin!!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Media Monday

Almost as good as Taco Tuesday! (False. Nothing is as good as Taco Tuesday.)

trail ride thursday almost as good as taco tuesday

I basically have a bunch of random pictures to dump and zero motivation to write individual posts so you get everything all at once.

In chronological order since my gush fest last week, we have: logged two more hours for our TIP recreational 25 hour badge which leaves us with just two hours left, hitched Opie and drove him around the outdoor like a real horse, and had a meltdown over leg yields.

That...doesn't actually seem like that much I guess. But those three things were big things!

so many places to wander at the park

On Thursday I trailered out to Mendon by myself to get a couple hours in. Opie was a complete star for his solo trailering--loaded, unloaded, and rode over without making a peep or causing any drama. As we were exploring a new-to-Opie part of the park and he was marching along on a loose rein, I was still riding the previous day's high of how good this kiddo is. So easy! So fun!

we are one with the deer

Then we looped back to our usual circuit. He had to pass through the channel into the small off-shoot of the pond and didn't really wanna. It was the slowest backing refusal of my life, and I just sat there until he got bored and plowed into the water, at which point he remembered he loves water and spent a few minutes splashing before carrying on.

Halfway around the pond we stopped at the beach where Opie immediately made a beeline into the water. I pulled my phone out to snap a picture and then grab a video of his splashing party. Only the splashing party quickly devolved into, "WE'RE GOING SWIMMING I LOVE SWIMMING!!!"

I was laughing so hard by the time I steered this sinking ship back ashore I was almost in tears. Also I was very cold and covered in pond muck.

my poor, poor saddle got the vip treatment when we got home.
aquaman got chucked in his field with no groomies. bad, aquaman!

Opie showed ZERO remorse in his decision and kept trying to drag me back into the water as we left the beach to hustle back to the trailer where I could put on dry shoes. 0/10 recommend fully submerged swimming in 55*.

this face is opie in a nutshell. he's such an unapologetic toddler still.

He got Friday off, and then Saturday evening Hubby and I went out to the barn once lessons were all wrapped up to get some more driving work in. This whole once a week thing is a drag, but at this point in his learnin' it's absolutely not safe to work with him in the cart solo. Lessons go on late during the week, and we seem to always be doing something Sundays, so Saturday is driving day.

awww yiss

I took Opie for one lap of ring with just the lines, and then parked him right in front of the cart. No snooting around this time, it was his second time getting hitched so in he went. Then he immediately got to come right back out again so Hubby could saw off the obscenely long ends of the shafts. I don't know who this cart was made for, but Opie certainly didn't need 89" shafts.

Once that was done, back in he went. I had Hubby at his head this time attached with a lead rope while I took the lines behind the cart and drove him from the ground. Twice around like that, Hubby unhooked the rope but stayed close, and then twice more around.

walking in a ring doesn't make for the most exciting pictures

After that Hubby got reattached and I hopped in the cart!

Opie was a little tense for the first couple laps as I got myself sorted out and remembered how to steer--as in, I can still pull my inside rein just as well in a cart as I can under saddle. #thatsnotagoodthing

He got a little jiggy and tense for all of five strides when I got him too close to the puddle and he had to pull us out, and another time when we changed directions and I steered him too close to a standard and sent the jumping crashing (Um, about my steering. I swear it was better by the end.). He was less concerned with the noise and more worried about the cart banging around into him. "It's touching me!"

But he came right back both times, Hubby gave him candies (and I bailed the second time he spazzed because we were headed directly into a fence and he wasn't listening to Hubby so I ran up to his head and also gave him some candy), and we were able to go around with no Hubby attached (around the 1:40 mark in the video). Not visually exciting, but a super next step in the process.

He got Sunday off as well since I had to drive down to PA for Riding Bestie's baby shower and then make it back in time for prime time sportsball (You're welcome for carrying that load until 11:30, Emma.). This morning it was back to the dressage grind.

slobber party

He was fan-fucking-tastic to warm up w/t/c. Then I went to start work on the leg yields and all hell broke loose. We had a CTJ about how he can move his hind end sideways; and he does know what I'm asking; and no, running away, rearing, or moving every body part in a different direction doesn't get you out of doing it. Once that tantrum was over, he gave me a couple of perfectly acceptable leg yields both directions.

And then we finished with the loveliest trot lengthenings yet.

no grudges held. he left his hay for snoot scratches after his "you have legs" battle.

Phew, now I don't feel like I'm responsible for media for the rest of the week!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Child Genius. Again.

In between the distractions of hunter pacing, and learning to pull a cart, and general shenanigans, I have been slotting some dressage rides in as well.

does jumping a boat in a dressage saddle count as a dressage ride?
PC: Abby Sick
(and i'm aware you can't tell this is a boat, so click here to see it at 4:40)

Opie has been straight up ballin' for these rides.

Actually he's been a complete and total nappy shit, but then he turns into a baller--after we're done discussing how the outside rein is a thing, and by god I can sit here and hold it All. Day. Long. and no amount of head wagging or flailing sideways is going to get him out of that.

It's been taking a good fifteen to twenty minutes of warm up to get that through before we can move on to real work. The upside is that it's easiest done on my part in the sitting trot, and to keep from having to adjust my stirrup length every time I go from posting to sitting (because my sitting length is a hole longer than my posting length, and no I can't work with anything different without my body doing awkward AF things), I just drop my stirrups. My thighs and flabs are burning by the time we're done, but yay for strengthening those bits?

trying to solidify ground tying aka "where them cookies at?"

To get him connected evenly, I mostly do a million serpentines and circles to change the bend and change the rein and yes you can get your butt involved in this party as well and leg yields are the new straight line sad story.

Probably there is a simpler and faster way to go about this, but that's going to have to wait for a lesson. You know, when I stop spending money on useless things like carts instead...

worth it.

Once he's there though! Gushapalooza, my friends. I know he's a midget OTTB and therefore never going to look as flashy as a great big warmblood, but he's the fanciest thing I've ever owned. A lot of that is just because he's doing it correctly, but he finds it so easy once he's there that it makes me swoon in excitement.

Especially at the canter, he's upped his game big time. I'm finally getting a real half halt through to him in that gait and obviously it's done wonders. It understandably only lasts for short spurts right now, but he's really starting to rock back and push up and off his haunches. There's actually lift to it which is something I never rode in all of Bobby's lifetime.

This morning I checked in on the lengthenings at the trot and canter after I'd gotten him really even in the bridle and marching around light and lovely. Ughhhhhh, I couldn't even. I had actual heart eyes when I got off. He doesn't change his rhythm for a beat, he just opens right up and then comes right back.

"plz to have more candy now?"

The flailing and falling and fighting that it takes to get to the next step of progress is nothing on this horse. None of it gets under my skin like it did with a certain other dressage moose horse because he comes out the other side a day or week or even months later so much improved. I'm not working my lady balls off for an ounce of difference. I work my lady balls off and Dopes delivers like a fucking genius unicorn.

BRB better go give him some more cookies.

Monday, September 24, 2018

TNEC Hunter Pace

It's the very best season of all: hunter pace season!

opie is all about the runnies and jumpies

We didn't even have to leave the barn for this one, and any chance at ribbons that involves zero driving is alright by me. I hadn't taken Opie over any jumps since the previous weekend's hunter pace, instead focusing on getting him hitched to the cart (success!), but once again he didn't need it. I teach him the dressage, he teaches himself to jump.

has never looked twice at this jump even though it sits in the shade

We start the pace off in the front field where Opie gets turned out. Historically speaking--as in, the past and only two times I've tried riding him out there--he's been Satan incarnate in this field because his friends are missing/have been sucked into the abyss leaving him in a horseless wasteland. He was certainly looking around, but we had another horse with us so it was mildly acceptable this time. Of course the second I asked him to pick up the canter he bucked and tried wildly unsuccessfully to take off with me because he's still a child at heart.

We popped over a couple small logs, did the baby coop, the tires, and then I asked my partner if she wanted to do the rolltop. It was my goal jump for the day because it got built right after Bobby went lame for the last time and I've always wanted to jump it. My partner was being a melodramatic teenage girl though (so pleasant, as you can imagine), so I left her to her own devices and did it myself.

A for effort

Good ole Dopie didn't even hesitate, but he certainly wasn't too sure what to do with his feet over such a substantial jump. I felt him twist his hind end in the air as we landed, but the rest of it felt far less awkward than the pictures look.

I made my partner follow me over the big log because she was being a chicken (and then made her do the rolltop as well, both of which she nailed). Opie got about three strides out and was like, "Bitch, are you serious?! This thing is enormous!" but I gave him a poke and at the last second he launched over it.

"imma do the thing, but only because you stabbed me."

We left the field and continued on the rest of the pace from there. Opie was super and jumped whatever I pointed him at. We had a good canter, and then came back to the walk to pass a slower group. Right as we did, another group went thundering by on the other side of the hedgerow and set off the field of horses we were passing at the neighboring barn. Opie was like, "Peace, I'm out." and tried to go back the way we came. The five of us let our horses stand and take in the situation for a moment while the other group left the area before I kicked Opie back into the lead. He was a little wound after that, fake spooking at fences before jumping them and looking for stampedes around every corner.

We finished up in the outdoor over a couple stadium jumps which he was super lazy over. I've done this pace enough times now that I have a pretty good mental clock on the time--which is probably cheating, but honestly delivering the pouting teenager in good form was my biggest concern--and we managed to clock in within seconds of the optimum time for first place at the end of the day.

jumped the teeny X, then barely plunked his ass over the final vertical

Opie got his bridle pulled and girth loosened for a hot minute while I ditched my long sleeved shirt and grabbed some water for ride two--escorting my favorite barn kiddo on her first pace.

telling my teenager to stop whining while favorite barn kid waits for her turn

Barn Kiddo's Haffie mount had been a sass monster earlier that morning almost bucking his rider off, so I clipped a lead rope to him and anchored him to Opie. Oh p.s. Opie, you are now a pony horse. Fortunately the Haffie was a complete saint for his tiny rider and I was able to detach them as soon as we left the front field. Opie plodded along like a superstar himself, none of the spooking or tension from the previous trip present. He picked his way down the big hill by himself while I sat twisted around in the saddle making sure Barn Kiddo did okay. He let the Haffie bounce off him and trot up into the back of him without fuss (after thinking about kicking our previous partner when she got too close going up the hill), and we escorted our charges across the finish within a couple minutes of optimum time to get them a blue ribbon as well.

gotta get a ribbon pic, even if it's the morning after while
getting his little patch of dew poisoning treated

Needless to say, Dopes got all the candies from me and multiple carrots from Barn Kiddo. He gets today off, and then back to learning about being a driving horse tomorrow! Unless it's raining really hard. And then back to being a dressage horse. Whomp whomp.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Never underestimate my commitment to crazy

I bought a cart.


in all its old lady glory

To be fair, I did really think it out. But then we got a sizable school tax check (Thanks, NY, for pretending like you're trying to help when that check was a fraction of what we actually pay in taxes each year.) that we always use for extraneous expenses, and we ended up with plenty left over for a truly frivolous purchase--like a cart. Hubby was of no help talking me out of it because he wants to drive, so over the weekend I sent an email to another craigslist ad.

I didn't hear back from them until Monday evening and had kind of given up on it altogether. Through a few strangely worded emails I was able to set up a time to drive down and look at it, and then I made Hubby call for directions because I was getting the vibe that the seller was either elderly or a backwoods banjo playing serial killer. Turns out they were just old.

they lived on a property that was up for sale for just under $1M that included
this insanely large, empty house.

The cart is basically an EZ Entry cart on steroids. It's a little bigger, a little sturdier, and a little heavier, but with the same easy bail-out access for the driver and still a completely manageable size. The seller had used it as a training cart for multiple horses, and while it had a couple of repairs done to it, they were all really well done and it should suit my low-key purposes just fine. We dropped it off at the barn last night, and one of the girls immediately pointed out it would look great covered in Christmas lights. #ideafactory

Opie got a dressage school this morning after snooting it quickly, and then I brought him over for a proper introduction.

"this is the most boring game ever."

He could have cared less about the cart's existence...until I hefted it up and started pulling it behind me while walking him. He wasn't so sure about that and kept a close eye on it, but he followed along beside me on a loose lead without question. I did a lap of the ring before setting it back down and letting him check it out again. Now that he realized it was a moving thing capable of chasing him around the ring, he took a closer inspection of it. He snooted it all over while I stuffed cookies in his face before deciding it was still pretty boring.

I brought him in between the shafts head-first and plopped down on the seat to feed him cookies just so he got used to standing between them. He walked in fine, but backed a few steps out the first couple times. He was being cautious and polite about it, so I just didn't give him his cookie and instead told him he was a good boy until he stepped forward on his own and hung out.

"seems questionable."

"jk, cookies make everything okay."

I lifted the cart up and bounced it around a little bit while he ignored me, so I backed him out and--you guessed it!--gave him another cookie. The last thing I wanted to do for the day was get him to back into it. I thought I could just get him to back right in, but Opie is an easy read and he quickly let me know he still wasn't too sure about the thing being behind him.

Instead I backed him up parallel to it a few times with lots of praise until he was bored with that. I had to grab a crop to control his butt after that because he would step back crookedly and start to step on the shafts which wasn't a good plan. Once I had an arm extension and was able to keep him straight, he stepped carefully all the way in and hung out for awhile.

listening to the electricians bang around in the barn because
this cart business is a complete bore

I lifted the shafts again and gently bumped them against his sides several times while he ignored me, and then he got to be done and have a good graze before getting tossed back out with his friends. Obviously I have to wait until I have a second person on hand before I get him all strapped in, but Saturday I'll have Hubby. The plan is to get him dressed and have one of us pull it behind him while he ground drives, and then I'll hitch him and just let him sit with it for a couple minutes. Next weekend he should be good to go with pulling it the first time!