Monday, March 18, 2019

Test Riding

This morning I stuffed all the jump standards into the corners of the ring, pulled up 1-3 on my phone to look at it for the first time since the new tests came out, and did our maiden run through.

Wow it was so bad!

Okay, fine, in all fairness the test itself was probably the best part of the ride. Opie was a total gem in a busy arena yesterday afternoon and I got on expecting much of the same. Instead he found the arena doors terrifying because the sun was melting the snow off the roof and it was dripping into a puddle just outside the closed doors.

Basically haunted, duh.

one never knows where serial killer water drops may lurk

As such, our warm up was a hot mess from step one. Aside from him being spooky--genuinely flinging himself sideways and snorting, not just breathing hard once as is usual for him--I was running through the test in my head to memorize it and was distracted myself.

Fortunately I clued in when we picked up the canter and it was the nastiest jarring thing alive. That seems to be a solid tell that someone is neither supple nor off his forehand so I went back to the walk, got some good work there, picked up the trot again, and had a flaming retard.

not a flaming retard, but also not from today

I ended up getting off and putting him on the longe in side reins to let him run around like a fool while I was on the phone with another boarder. A good romp both ways, a cookie shoved down his throat, and I got back on. 

He felt much better after that. I trotted him around a couple times to make sure his brain was somewhere in his head and turned up centerline to begin our test.

We have been practicing halt transitions up the whazoo lately. Walk-halt, trot-halt, halt-trot, whatevski-halt, we've done them all. So of course the first halt he stumbled over his own feet and almost ate shit. That being a patented Opie move--and one of the reasons we do so much trail riding because feet are a thing--I brushed it off and came around for another try. This time he didn't trip on air, but he did halt and instantly throw his head up.

Nah, bro.

I'm finally getting a handle on the canter transition head fling, there's no way it's going to start creeping in on any other transitions. After a brief CTJ, he suddenly remembered what staying on the bit was and off we went for the fifteenth time.


The first trot lengthening was more fast than lengthened because he was still a little tight. The leg yields and 10m circles are getting much, much better, moreso to the right than the left. Counter canter is fine as always. 15m circles are fine, lengthened canter is always good and I'm feeling like I can probably bring him back in some semblance of time and order in this test. The walk is always the star, and the final lengthening was right where I wanted it. 

And the halt was a 10.

Overall not a bad first trip. I want to run through it in its entirety a few more times this week so I can figure out where I need to dig in and clean things up. I should probably take a look at 1-1 at some point, too. 

That will have to wait another day though as Dopie got his vaccines after his ride. To make up for it he also has a massage scheduled next week, and sooner rather than later I'll have to call the worst-scheduling dentist alive. But then we'll be all set and ready for show season to begin!

he's very excited, i promise.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Layout of a ride

Dopie did some #werk this weekend. Short, sweet, to the point, thank god for no dramatics work. And I got media from it!

(I'm only just now writing about it because he got Monday off because I don't like to work too many days in a row, and yesterday I had to scamper home post haste to hover over my computer to make sure I got Hamilton tickets. And neither day I felt like I had enough to go on for a full post because I'm still a bit sticky going back into this whole blogging thing. I figured I'd do a post after another ride was in the books.)

(I don't know why I thought that paragraph needed parenthesis. It started as just one sentence and then spun out of control.)

(ANYWAY THO.)

BM has dubbed dopie the silverback gorilla after his body clip because beef cake.

Let's work our way back from this morning, shall we?

After his two days off, in which I skated him across the edges of the icy parking lot to park him into his pasture where he and his friends had a small chunk of field that wasn't choppy or iced over to mill about in, I was expecting him to be a bit fresh and sassy.

As much as Opie can be at least.

check out his wild spook in the corner around 30 secs in

With the arena doors open to let in some fresh spring 35* weather--so balmy, I know!--I set out two sets of ground poles, got on, and immediately started doing walk-halt transitions. Fortunately, Opie was being perfectly sensible and went about his business without incident. 

We cruised over the 4' walk poles a couple times each way, did a few rein backs and turn on the haunches, and moved on to the trot where we leg yielded in and out to the set of 5' poles. He was a little spicy at the trot, he needed a half halt every now and then to keep from rushing, but he felt loose and straight and that's all I aim for in the warm up. 

i'm here to tell you that you can leg yield while pulling on the inside rein.
i do dressage training in my own special way, what can i say?

Lately my ride gets blocked out like so: Walk on a long rein, letting Opie take as much as he wants as long as I can still feel the bit. Into the trot on the same long rein, doing lots of circles, some spiraling in and out, leg yields on and off the rail, and if he's feeling particularly supple I'll throw in some shoulder-in as well. From there I pick up the reins and the horse and go back into the walk where we hit the lateral work some more. Once he's feeling connected and compacted, into the sitting trot for--you guessed it!--more lateral work. I also bounce him in and out of a "collected" trot into a "medium" trot. But for toddlers. 

AND THEN WE CANTER BECAUSE SAVE THE BEST FOR LAST!!1!1!


I actually swapped the sitting trot and the canter this morning because I hadn't planned on doing much of the former. It was cold, he's naked, and he was feeling a bit tight in his back. Wowza though, what a difference. Like, not a good one. Apparently Opie needs thirty straight minutes of moving sideways to show off that dreamy, dreamy canter.

This morning it felt like poo. I stuck with it anyway because I wasn't really cantering for long periods. Instead it was transitions across the diagonal galore. He's getting much sharper off my leg and he's finally stepping right into it from both the walk and trot. His head still flops about in outer space while doing so, but at least that's one thing crossed off.

going to look into bone corsets to support my floppy core at this point.
seems better than sit ups. just asking my aching fat roll. it doesn't want to leave.

I finished with a smidge of sitting trot today because I wanted a short, compact trit trot to go back through the 4' poles. The first time pass, Opie stepped on every single one, but I gathered him back together and represented. The second time he boinged through just like he was supposed to and I immediately halted, gave him (more) candy, and quit there.

To finish out Sunday's ride, I thought he might enjoy going over the two Xs set up. Under the first was an empty flower box which actually haunted. Obviously. He wobbled all over the place cantering up to it, thought about stopping, got booted, and launched from a mile out.

didn't get eaten by flower box demons tho!

In the midst of him bolting off on landing, I was all, "Opie, that seems excessive. What if we just trot this plain X instead?" And Opie was like, "Pretty sure all of life is haunted. Not being tricked into going near that bitch either." So instead we walked over it as a pole and finished, as always, with a good stretchy trot.

all day every day with the stretching.

I have loads more media, but I think I'll wait to share that for another post. Spreading the media love out for weeks!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Catch up


Since it’s been a hot minute since I last posted, and the last post was about how my horse cut his leg off, we’ve got some riding to catch up on. I needed a break from blogging because I was running into training issues and it was making mental. (Enjoy some random video throughout from forever ago that I can't even remember what the content is to break up text.)


Having a fancy horse--fancy being relative--is both a blessing and a curse.

.........

.........................

It’s fine, I can wait a minute for the melodramatics of that to fully sink in.

But real talk, it’s funny how expectations can change so quickly.

Looking back at Bobby’s dressage career, that “illustrious” one year showing recognized Second the highlight of a scattering of schooling shows throughout eventing seasons, it’s comical and ultimately unfair to demean anything Opie does wrong. For Bobby, if he remained in the arena and mostly kept from flailing sideways in dramatic fashion over nothing I was pumped.

Opie throws his head up in the canter transition. It is literally the end of the world. I feel like I have an obligation to present this horse really well. He ended up becoming recognized at shows by the end of the season for his consistency (And his cuteness. Duh.), and I kind of feel like people are going to be watching to see how he progresses and nobody is to blame if I make a fool out of him but me.

First world problems, I know.


But I get tightly wound over things like the fucking canter transitions because I'm not mentally in a position any more where I'll accept, “My horse only ran backwards one time during our test!” I want it all to go right. ALL OF IT TYPE A CONTROL FREAK ALERT IT’S MAKING ME TWITCH.

I'm not expecting the same success this year showing at First as we had at Training, but I do have certain bottom lines and expectations in my head. I want Opie to do really well--the best both he and I can put forth.

WHICH MEANS THE DAMN CANTER TRANSITIONS MUST BE CONQUERED.

Anyway tho. Let’s talk about other things because I currently have neither a solution nor any particular insight about what’s going on there.


I took a lesson last month because I was feeling super frustrated and lost about the whole transition thing, but we ended up focusing more on getting Opie moving off my leg. Always needed because he’s lazy, but he ended up feeling run off his feet and the next few rides it felt like he’d lost confidence in himself and trust in me. When I’d ask him to trot, he’d immediately jet off frantically. When I put him on the longe, he was a complete spaz like he was waiting for bad things to happen.

Hubby rode him one day and then he got a couple days off. I felt like I’d done a disservice to my horse and was wallowing in guilt. Fortunately all evils are cured by copious amounts of candy and when I got back on last week I was working with a much more relaxed Dopie.

BM had had me working on getting him to warm up on a super long rein to stretch out to the max, and he’s actually been good at going to that as a default now even through baby leg yields.

To try to keep the good vibes going, I started setting up a jump as a reward system. Lots of candy still on hand? Yes. But the jump has been a good, “You didn’t almost knock me out during that canter transition so here’s something you really like to get your mind off of how much angst getting to that point caused.”

And then he got a few more days off and when I rode him Monday with a course of jumps in the ring he was a fire breathing, cross rail grand prix champion of the world. And now he’s gotten two more days off so winter’s still going well.


I’ve also been working diligently on the sitting trot. Once upon a time it was really easy for me and now Fat. Opie’s been getting better with it which has made my job easier, not having to sit on a rock hard, tense back.

I think that's a good enough summation to get you caught up. Horse got lots of days off scattered between, when he has been in work the canter transition makes me postal, but the other work is fine beyond needing fine tuning. But also I want everything to be better than I fine. I want sunshine and rainbows and fucking confetti flying for each ride. Which is unrealistic and therefor why I've been mental. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Champions are made in the offseason

False. 

Do you know what's actually made in the off season? Don't worry, I'm here to tell you.

Migraines. Ulcers. (For me, not even the horse.) Existential crises. Weight gain from binge eating Cadbury eggs as if they count as an incredible, edible egg. Which they should.

You may find specific results vary obviously.

neither one of us is hurting for calories to burn to keep ourselves warm.
#babyelephant

I've been battling with a negative mindset stemming from the barn and it's lead to a real disconnect with my blog. While I've always been honest about the struggle of training a horse as an often clueless amateur, and I'm very much against sugar coating things so it looks like my rides are all rainbows and butterflies and things just magically falling into place, I don't want to be the Negative Nancy of the blog world either. Because old Nance is a real bitch and nobody wants to read that--least of all me!

So it seemed best to take a step back until I was able to pull myself out of the dredges of self doubt and self pity.

As always, nothing sparks joy in me more than the promise of giant satin. (See the trend here.) Opie did fucking awesome in the TIP year end round up, and while it will be probably ten years before they mail physical rewards out and I bring you another satin post because I just can't help myself, it was a pleasant kick in the proverbial ass. 

Winter sucks. Training a young horse by yourself sucks. The results of working through it and coming out the other end with #childgenius does not suck.

perspective. even if a few minutes later he almost dumped me.

I took a giant mental deep breath and went out last week with a calmer, clearer head. Show season starts in exactly two months and the leg yields could be steeper. The trot lengthening could be bigger. The canter transitions have reached a new level of shitty. 

But for fuck's sake, that is okay. 

In two months we should have access to our bigger outdoor--provided it's not still under snow and ice. We should be able to get back on the trails to work the booty and give the brain a much needed change of scenery. And the canter transitions? Yeah, I dunno, those might still defeat us. Let's keep it real.

is just here for the cookies

A couple days ago I went back and reread my year-end wrap up posts. This time last year my horse literally could not canter at all without either bashing me in the head with what we scathingly lovingly referred to as his "Donald Duck canter" or face planting into the ground. Or both honestly. He didn't know what stretching was. He could barely hold his balance at the trot. And look where we are now!

I don't want to skip all of winter not writing about whatever issues crop up and how I worked through them. The blog is here to keep track of all of that so I can look back and realize how far we've come. It's hard remind myself that I've been here before and came out the other end perfectly alright if it's not there to go back to.

All that said, I'm going to do my best to return to a semi-regular posting schedule. We're working on a lot, and a lot of it is bad, but we are also making progress in other areas.  

Plus I really want to share that I think when it finally gets above 20* again (maybe never) and I body clip Dopie, HIS NAKED BODY IS GOING TO STAY AS DARK AS HIS WINTER COAT.

#idie

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

When/Then

First things first I'm the realest, Opie's leg could not be healing up any better. I'm planning on removing the sutures Sunday, and then hopefully he can start going back out again on Monday.

and maybe one of those days i'll wash the blood out of his
ankle fluff...

He's been handling stall rest much better than I expected him to. I even let him go to the indoor for a quick naked rollies this morning, and his eyes only popped out of his head a little bit at his "freedom". (He was still attached to me. The only reason I'm comfortable with turning him loose before the full 14 days is the 3' of snow outside to slow down any crazies.)

In the meantime, I'm throwing it back to when he still made good life choices and was getting ridden.

do you not do dressage in uggs?

Riding Bestie came up on a Friday and even though it was a high of 15* and she was only seven or eight weeks post-baby I made her ride my horse anyway. Because that's what friends are for.

I always get a lot out of seeing her ride my horse because there's zero emotional attachment. She's not mean of course--I fill that role just fine myself--but she takes no excuses. Go forward, do the thing I ask, the end. And the horse unsurprisingly is like, "Oh, for real? Okay, no problem."

uphill horse and matching uphill doggo

So the day after she was up I got on determined to channel my inner Sarah and just ride my horse forward first and foremost. It worked and it didn't. I still wanted to jump right in and participate by picking when Opie tried an evasion so the first half was: Pick a fight, no STOP send him forward, ooh fuck with each other again, NO DO NOT.

that side eye is a-scheming. 

But eventually we sorted each other out. I had to get after him a bit about being a lazy bender because that's his latest favorite sneaky trick, but he finally caved and just did the work which was ten times easier than trying to get out of the work.

I finished up doing about a million and a half canter transitions, and then working in the canter itself to keep trying to push the concept that a half halt does not mean quit. You can see that in the second video where he keeps taking a step or two of trot every time I half halt until finally the concept goes through. (There's also some trot at the end if that suits your fancy. These videos are really only interesting to me to see what I need to work on.)



The videos were good in that is showed my I've got nothing on Sarah as far as forward riding goes. On Monday I went back out determined to work on that--forever and always--but also make sure I wasn't being so handsy. Dopie needs to be more honest and quiet in the contact and that comes from me reciprocating.

It was a fucking fantastic ride. I mean, I took a break halfway and thought about having a pity cry because I was so frustrated, but I was able to finish with the best trot the little Dopie Horse has ever given me.

slooooowlllyyyy turning into a grown up horse

In my current horse book rotation is Fit & Focused in 52 by Daniel Stewart. It's got a bunch of yada yada in the front, but the core of the book is that every week is a new workout exercise combined with a mental focus. (Full review to come eventually.) Last week's mental exercise was the When/Then Technique. To paraphrase, horses are dumb and you might be too, but if you start training yourself to prepare for the unexpected with the thought process of "When me/my horse does something dumb, then I will execute this well thought out and prepared for plan."

Does that make sense? I'm about to tie it in, I promise.

I'd just read through that before my ride on Monday and applied it to my most likely "U R dum" scenario--the warm up ring.

#childgenius generally sticks to business, but when he doesn't i've gotta be able to
channel my own #vaguelygenius 

When my horse does not go steadily into the contact, when he starts wagging his head, when he comes above the bit or ducks behind it, then I blank and resign myself to being fucked get really handsy hope the judge is blinded by cuteness I REMEMBER MY LONG LOST TRAINING AND TROUBLESHOOT.

The first half of Monday's ride was battling my instinct to pull. Or get fussy with my hands. Or just quit and hope it fixed itself. I was policing myself which is where the frustration with myself was building. I would catch it, and then one circle later I was doing it again. (It was also at this point that I was planning on budgeting a lesson for the next week with that extra money, but LOL, horses.)

Opie, for his part, was like, "Why on earth would I just go forward into the contact and stay quietly there? Your hands are annoying and it's easier for both of us if you just wiggle me down and we pretend like that's legit."

pulling on the inside rein is just so much easier tho

But I persevered. No cheating, send the horse up onto the bit. I am not going back to fill in colossal holes five years later this time around. 

As we went around and around, and I told myself not to do this or that, I realized I was at the when part but hadn't come up with a then solution. Fortunately, once upon a time, I could still afford lessons and something BM told me blipped onto my radar. If I couldn't get what I was trying for from forward, try to get it from slower. (Or vice versa.) But don't linger at one or the other and expect it to just happen. If it's not working, try the other thing.

Well I wasn't getting anything but a pissy horse over constantly kicking him forward into my annoying hands, so I slowed it down. BM doesn't mean a sluggish, toe dragging jog. Slower is usually harder because it means bouncier and more engaged. I was able to slow my tweaker brain down as well and really stop my hands from all bad things. From there, with quiet hands and an engaged booty, Opie had his aha moment.

Once there, solid and steady in the contact, I was able to work in and out of different trots, and we finished ballin'. 

And then that was the last time I rode. Boo.

often i like to scrunch my leg up too. one thing at a time, my friends.

I'm excited to get back to work in the near future. I love showing, and I love test riding, but figuring out how to be a better rider and make a better horse can be just as fun--if also mentally debilitating until I come out the other side. Yay horses?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Why you gotta do me like this

Opie decided me on whether I was going to do a blog post about our recent rides or not by taking himself out of commission. Can't say I suck at riding if I don't ride--win-win!

But this is going to be a long, boring couple of weeks while he heals himself so I might get around to that eventually. He's been good, I'm just having yet another existential crisis over my own riding, nothing to see here. (Only there is because I have some media.)

To solve that, I was gung-ho to sneak in at least one lesson with a little extra cash I had this month, but instead all the extra cash goes to the vet instead.

boo you whore

As I was on my way to drop off my car to get new tires all around (Money likes to give itself away around here.), BM called me breathless to tell me Opie had just gotten cast and his leg was bleeding. I told her I'd finish checking in my car and then head right over, keep me apprised. A minute later she called me back after hosing his leg and said that one of the cuts looked pretty deep so I went ahead and called the vet to get them on their way. It was 4:56 by my car, but of course it was out of hours in Vet Land.

Fortunately there was a vet within a couple miles of the barn finishing up another call, and they ended up beating there. I walked into the 25* barn--in moccasins, a light cotton pull over, and a jacket because I'd had zero intention of being outside for more than two seconds--and a barn mom was holding an already sedated Opie while BM told them what had happened from the doorway of the arena in between teaching a lesson.

At that point I pretty much had nothing to do besides tell the vet to add as many sleepy drugs as she wanted because Opie is not a lightweight. She shaved and washed his leg and we were able to get a good look at the injuries.

it was awfully deep

the outside of the leg, far less exciting

Upon closer inspection, she felt confident he'd managed to slice the sweet spot directly in between important pieces so no joint damage was involved. She decided to go ahead and block the leg to stitch him up since it was in an unsafe location and he really doesn't take much of a hit from sleepy drugs.

My favorite barn kid who had been waiting for me at the door as soon as I pulled in made her mom and sister stay to watch the entire thing because "I want to give Opie my support." She's maybe six and the sassiest creature alive. When he was done, she and her sister immediately went to give an instantly wide awake Opie (I swear he fakes sedation because the second he's done getting worked on he's 110% alert) all the scratches and head pets. It was so cute to see her asking the vet about every little thing. She'd also explained that in addition to Opie's penguin blanket he also sports Hello Kitty jammies which led the vet to dig out her hot pink sutures instead of the white.

so stylish

The vet bandaged him up, topped off my SMZs, told me to Bute him as I saw fit, and was off to the next poor sucker in need of emergency care in all of twenty minutes.

i should have given her a roll of my zebra vet wrap
because this green was a snooze

In the grand scheme of injuries and what could have happened from him getting cast, this is basically nothing. Of course, why he felt the need to--I assume--roll within just a couple of minutes of being brought inside is beyond me, but maybe fresh shavings are that enticing. Hopefully he learned his lesson. Rollies are for outside the stall! Regardless, Hubby was all over a plan to fully mat Opie's stall asap. Dopie is his favorite, no expenses spared for #childgenius.

i appreciated that the vet wasn't like, "he needs a fancy bandage
every day for the next eternity!!1!1!" instead she told me daily
standing wrap changes with a nonstick gauze pad, slap some
tricare on it if it looks dry. that i can do/afford.

Hopefully everything heals quickly and without drama. He was fully weight bearing the entire time and honestly doesn't even seem to realize he's done anything besides get locked in jail with his personal torture device hay net and extra candy.

creeping on the mare in front of him while arthur supervises.
i got the old bandage cut off and his leg wrapped without him so
much as flicking an ear. he's a good patient (so far).

Fingers crossed for an uneventful next two weeks!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Happy Birthday Opie!

Unlike last year's party where we got 2' of snow in about two seconds on the day of Dopie's birthday, this year it was just single digits cold with barely any snow to be found. Bonus that we didn't have to do any shoveling, but bummer that there isn't any snow to play in.

this party hat really highlights his donkey ears

Regardless of the weather, Opie got to share his homemade cookies with his two friends in between romping around the indoor like crazies--that being his two friends and not him.

"you guys got that."

I'm the actual worst at making homemade horse treats as any recipe I try to follow always turns out the same blobbish, gooey way so I've just given up and make my own version. I basically combine all the horse's favorite things (that meant heavy on the carrots and no apples for Opie), some oats to give it volume, and a generous plopping of molasses to hold-ish it all together. Enough time spent in the fridge and they turn out solid enough to make it from the container into the horse's mouth and that's all that really matters.

opie was eating them right out of the box at first and then by the end decided
he didn't really like them anymore...after inhaling about 7 or 8 of them.

fortunately they didn't go to waste

they're all OTTBs so i guess they all deserve birthday cookies this month

His real birthday present was not having to do any work because homie got schooled by myself and Riding Bestie the past two days. He clearly had a lot of excess energy to burn.

meanwhile his friends were flying through the air like psycho kites

Happy low key sixth birthday, Dopie Horse!