Thursday, March 23, 2017

Active Riding

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about this morning's lesson. Between the weather and being sick, it's been a good long time since our last one and I can't actually remember the last time we jumped anything.

Also my horse has fluctuated between being semi-manageable and something straight from the depths of hell these past few days so which Bobby was going to show up to play this time?

After Monday's less than stellar cooperative ride, on Tuesday I tried again. He was actually far better behaved to start. He wanted to try the bucky pumpy hoppy nonsense right off the bat at the canter, but I just kept kicking him and sat through it and he finally dropped his llama face and got to work. We even coasted through a canter half pass across the diagonal to a flying change with zero dramatics. He still does the canter half passes like we're swimming through cold molasses, but we eventually get to the other side. I mean, it's not like these tests are timed, right? So what if we need a full minute to make it from K to M?

I didn't want to burn him out with another dressage ride, but I also didn't want to jump him two days in a row--and it was fucking freezing yesterday--so I went with a longe for Wednesday. I bent down to pick up the whip and he went shooting off. Of course it was the one time I wasn't wearing gloves to longe so I was only able to yell at him while trying to send his rabid dolphin leaps into a circular motion before I finally got him wrangled down. He spent the rest of the longe snaking his head at me but at least remained on the ground.

"fuck you, i'm so sassy!"

So yeah. Maybe not the most confident feeling that I was going to get a well behaved horse today.

However, since he's Bobby and Bobby plays by his own mysterious Bobby rules, he was actually completely perfect...in his own Bobby way.

BM started us off with two poles down the long side five strides apart. She sent us off to the left first saying that we could get however many strides we wanted as long as I came in with a plan to get them. I couldn't waffle and just let Bobby splat in and then race out on his own terms. "You need to be an active rider and make decisions before it's too late." Okay, well, I think we all know that being an active rider is the complete polar opposite of who I am. Sit like a lump and space out? Right up my fucking alley. 

I was able to get some good work done on not having Bobby take a nose dive after the first pole/jump (As if he would just canter over them. Please.) and then barreling down the line on his forehand yanking the reins out of my hands. When he does that it makes him feel like he's going a thousand times faster than he is, and like he's going to land and do a somersault. I got him to lift his front end up and keep it up so he felt really light, and it made the five strides feel like we were just strolling down the line easy peasy.

the picture of lightness and adjustability, amirite?

Then we switched and went to the right. The first pole came off a shorter approach that direction and, as always, I completely botched it pretty much every single time. Bobby kept swinging his haunches out, losing balance, and swapping behind which didn't help matters. I was like, thankfully Massage Lady will be here next weekend because he clearly needs work. Meanwhile BM was like, "Stop riding like shit, control your horse's haunches, and you won't have that problem, you fucking jagaloon." (possibly not a direct quote)

After bungling through that direction enough times, BM mercifully let us move on. Back to the left, we had a pole 9' to a gate 18' to another pole. She rolled the poles in and out each time so I had to get him to compress or lengthen his stride accordingly. It went fairly well though I definitely felt like I was riding Bobby's coattails as he figured things out mostly by himself. To the right it wasn't quite as pretty, but uh...compressing your horse and making him use himself apparently makes him not fish tail all over and land on the correct lead with no crazies. Hmm.

must get kitty snuggles in

We finished with a standard hunter-ish course. It wasn't the smoothest, but I made decisions and acted on them with every single fence. There was no launching, no getting left behind, and we actually got out of the two stride in two strides without difficulty. BM gave me the option of doing it once more to clean it up, but my lungs were well and truly shot at that point so we quit there.

Overall not a bad lesson for a bad horse who hasn't jumped in ages.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Is this what it's like?

Is this how normal horses are? You give a super fit clipped horse nearly two weeks off in cold weather and they don't come out like a sleepy little puppy dog?

It's absolutely awful.

satan after a mid-ride longe intervention

On Friday I was finally feeling sort of human again. I could mostly speak without coughing, and while it still felt like I'd shredded every muscle fiber along my ribs (PSA: Never get bronchitis. According to the vet, women who get bronchitis in winter are almost guaranteed to break a rib. Did you know that? Doesn't that sound fucking horrible? Take your vitamins!), I'd finally found time to have BM check Bobby's new saddle for fit.

It sits a little low up front which I could already tell, but she said it was great in the shoulders so all I did was stuff my ancient foam Roma wither pad under it and off we went! We did a super low key w/t/c ride just so I could get a better feel for riding in it and to see how Bobby felt.

Yeah, Bobby felt like he was possessed by a malignant spirit.

summoning a demon while doing dressage? right up his alley. 

Bobby is not the type of horse that does well with time off. I wouldn't classify him as a hot horse--he doesn't try to run off with you or feel uncontrollably fresh. Instead he turns into a fucking terrorist. He gets mean. He walks from the paddock on his hind legs. He picks a fight with you about everything. He tries to bite you. It's like he gets so bored and he has all this (imaginary) 'roid rage built up that he channels into bad things.

He got the weekend off since he was vaccinated Friday afternoon and I was busy anyway, but I got on this morning in a wide open, jump-free arena excited to be able to do some real dressage work in a real dressage saddle on my real Second horse.

FALSE.

remember all those fancy horse ribbons we won last year?
(ribbon rack brought to you by tracy!)

He was actually pretty good to warm up w/t. I was lulled into a false sense of, "It's so nice to have a horse that can just come out and get back to work without missing a beat!"

And then we cantered. It started off fine. Left lead, not heavy, staying forward, not curling, all good news. And then he couldn't horse any longer. He started to get tense, like, "Oh, I forgot I'm Bobby. Quick, better have a tantrum for no apparent reason and then also get over it for no apparent reason. Rinse and repeat."

We made it through that, never really getting the quiet, drama free simple changes I was going for, but first ride back, we'll work on those later. Canter right.

No. No canter right. Violent bucking fit sounds like a much better option.

st patrick's day festivities.

At that point I got off and put him on the longe to canter right. Once he was done flailing, he picked it right up and went around without issue.

I got back on and did some work with the halt on the center line. Trot/halt/trot, trot/halt/rein back/trot, yada yada. He would be okay and then randomly decide he wasn't okay and try to instigate something. I finally just finished by beating him onto a circle at the walk and ending once he could remember he could bend again.

The saddle rides nice though! Throughout all his malarkey I felt like he was using himself freely--no get stuck from a too tight saddle here, express yo self, Bobby.

Only don't. Please. Just go back to being a nice horse, and stop trying to fucking bite me and sail away on the end of your lead rope.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

#eventingbingo


I find it a little spooky (or suspicious) that one of the eventing bingo cards I was assigned has one row that can accurately sum up all of Bobby's eventing career. We're going south from N here folks because #thetruthhurts.

I don't often find myself nervous about dressage. In fact #never because #dressagemoose #whatisthejudgelookingat #notthesamehorseimriding #clearly. I've been guilty of dialing it in plenty of times and losing scores that way, and sometimes Bobby loses his shit because #bobbyreasons, but if you've read my blog for any length of time, you know the real issues have always been with the jumping phases--mainly #stadium #fuckthatbitch

wow, does looking at old pictures make your current self feel like a #fatty

I feel a little guilty about claiming our first box because rarely are rails Bobby's fault. But from Bobby's point of view, every rail he knocks is a #cheaprail because his pilot #rideslikeshit.

"you are #useless, lady"

Flowing right along, the main reason we take rails is because I prefer to gallop around stadium at the #speedofaslug #sofastwow #waithaveyouevenmovedyet.

trying to asses if we're in some sort of jumping #timespacecontinuum 

Ironically, while jumping I also run into the problem of #nobrakes #whoadammit.

the day the #hackamore got banned from competition #isaidwhoayoufucker

But the main love of Bobby's life is #crosscountry and he'll put up with a whole plethora of rider errors to jump around clean.

"you're an #incompetentidiot but #okay"

Monday, March 13, 2017

Roxanne

I hope I can stop bitching now.

My saddle still hasn't sold (Oh my fuck, someone please buy it. Do you want a blogger discount? Done. Sold. It's yours.), but I was finally able to take the plunge and buy another dressage saddle.

pause for celebration

ignore wonkily placed saddle pad. i'm used to having
to pull his jump pads up to his ears.

It's not fancy, but it was under budget, a brand I'm familiar with, and was coming from right over the border in PA so it shipped up to me practically overnight. I'm all about instant gratification, what can I say?

It's a Stubben Roxanne which is far from their nicest anything saddle, but I'm hardly a leather snob and this is probably the nicest saddle I'l ever own. If it fits my horse, fits me, and isn't falling apart, I'm a-okay with life.

So. Does it fit?

"does this process involve cookies?"

Um. Well.

It wasn't a magical unicorn fit that--once settled onto my horse's sky high withers, massive shoulders, and relatively narrow back--shot glitter and fireworks down the barn aisle, but I didn't immediately take it off and chuck it in the manure pile either. I want to get BM's opinion on it since she's far more knowledgeable in that area than I am, but for now my impression is that it's something we can make work with some tweaking. I think it's a touch wide, but I'm hesitant to stick anything under it without BM's advice because Bobby's shoulders are enormous and I don't want to pinch him there.

In the meantime, I jumped on for all of two minutes to do a quick w/t and see how we both felt in it. Bobby hasn't been ridden since last Tuesday and is going on his third day with indoor turnout only, but he went right to work as always without any grumpiness or indication that he absolutely hated it. It fit me well in the seat, although my knee tips over the front just a touch. I have absurdly long upper legs so getting a dressage saddle to fit me is tough. It's one reason I went with the most minimal knee blocks I could find. I was worried something big and bulky would yank my leg back into some weird contortionist position or bang against my knee and annoy the shit out of me.

I'm currently dying of tuberculosis/pneumonia/black lung/the plague/a death cold of epic proportions so I had to stop the ride pretty much as soon as it started anyway. I also didn't want to irritate Bobby's RF's latest malady either:

pre-cleaning. there are three different gashes there.

Dudes, I left him at 9am in his stall happily munching away at his hay with nary a scratch in sight. I had to go home to sign for my saddle, but then I was back at 11:30. When I pulled him out of his stall, I saw that.

HOW DO YOU MAIM YOURSELF IN TWO HOURS STANDING IN YOUR STALL EATING FOOD?!

AND WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE THE SAME FUCKING LEG EVERY TIME?!

"but do i still get cookies?"

I scrubbed it clean with some borrowed betadine since mine froze again (which prompted me to finally move my first aid box into the heated tack room since I clearly need to access it on a full time basis), threw a wrap on it, and locked him back in his house. The vet's coming Friday for other leg things and vaccines so she can deal with it then if it decides to go rogue.

I have no idea how he did it. Unless he picked a brutal fight with his rubber feed tub, my best guess is that he just straight up stepped all over himself. I don't know. It's Bobby. Is there ever a clear reason? How did he injure his DDFT overnight? Why did he suddenly present as a severe navicular horse and then magically become fixed the second shoes were put on? #bobbyproblems

The massive snow storm starts tonight so depending on how easily I can breathe, he'll either get more indoor turnout tomorrow or a good frolic in some fresh, clean snow. Or I might just kill him at this point, I don't know.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Happy Birthday Bobby!

Old Bobby Magee is just one year away from being a teenager! How do they grow up so fast? And how, after twelve years of knowing this horse, am I still somehow stuck with him?

The mysteries of life: horse edition.

so boring on decorations this year, but i wanted a change from the same old pink
stuff i use every year.

i tried to get a better picture outside, but it was too windy

his main present was a pound of carrots. his fave.

listening to the indoor roof try to fly away

momo is pouting because i shooed him away. he was trying to stuff his head into the
hat. neither of them are renowned for their brains. 

#angryunicorn

so angry

"durhhh i hate this hat!"

"charging" momo who was incredibly unimpressed and just continued standing there

i'm not all mean. i only made him do a couple circles before pulling it off.

Besides carrots, his other present was getting out of yet another lesson. The barn lost power yesterday from the wind (We win--81mph at the airport.) and the arena roof stands a very good chance of not making it through the weekend if this wind doesn't calm the fuck down. Everyone was stuck inside waiting for fence to get fixed and power to come back on (most of the fencing is electric tape, but the post and board paddocks also suffered serious damage). We're doing short, supervised indoor turnout while keeping an eye on the roof, so hopefully things return to normal asap!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Delusions of Grandeur

Today my horse crushed our dressage school. If I could have gotten off and chest bumped him, I would have. My focus was shortening the trot and canter up to as collected as Bobby can get right now while maintaining massive power in the hind end before sending him forward to a huge, uphill medium gait and then coming right back again.

He never once got frazzled. He didn't quit on me. He was sharp off the aids and light in the bridle. His back was up, his butt was down, and he was so round it felt like he'd grown several inches underneath me. When we were done, my core was aching and Bobby had a thin sheen of sweat up and down his neck. We'd worked our asses off in unison, and we were both happy to end with a good, long stretch.

I'd take that work into a Second Level test any day of the week, and I wouldn't be ashamed to turn down the center line for a Third Level test with that horse in the slightest. So when a comment gets thrown out that, "Horsey McBorsey was so good for Person McPersy the other day. She was seriously doing Second Level stuff so easy!" it bothers me.

Horsey McBorsey is a nice horse, and she hacks around on the bit politely in all three gaits. She knows SI and can leg yield. She's got a little bit of a lengthening on her. She's not a Second Level horse.

I've touched on this before here, about when you can call your horse confirmed in his discipline. For me, dressage specific rider that I've become, I think you have to make it through an entire test at your level before you can start throwing out labels. Most horses can--and should--be able to do basic lateral work and be able to adjust their stride within a gait. Having a horse that does SI and HI does not make them a Second horse. You should have to factor in degree of collection and being able to string all those movements together one right after the other for five minutes at a time.

Over the winter, there was a rider that talked nonstop about how she was going to event a horse. She'd done a couple of local Intro level events several years in the past and had no other eventing experience, she doesn't have a truck or trailer or any passing knowledge of the rule book, but she was going to take this horse out and event him all summer long. That bothered me, too.

When people offhandedly throw these goals or general phrases out like they're the easiest things in the world to achieve, I feel like it cheapens the accomplishments for those of us that work so hard at them, and for those of us that have actually attained those things.

There are people that act as if they're going to get to the top of their sport despite not being a naturally gifted rider, or not having heaps of money, or not being paired with a suitable horse. I'm okay with that. I feel like all of those things are me. I think you can channel that to become a better rider and to work harder always, all the time.

But to the people that have this vision that they're better than they are, the people that brag about things they don't actually have a firm understanding of, you bother me. Don't try to lessen the success of those of us that have clawed our way to every minor win we've gotten by diminishing those things as if anyone could cross them off the list without any effort at all. We work hard to be better, and it takes hard work to be the best.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Holding Pattern

Wow, that return to regular blogging thing went off spectacularly. It's not that I haven't been riding, it's just that there's only so much that one can accomplish while trying to gear up for dressage show season in an ancient jump saddle.

Also maybe I haven't been blogging to save you all from the daily angst rants about how I'm going to have to start from scratch once I get my ass back in a dressage saddle because my body will be like, "wtf is this, bro?" And I'll have to be all, "I don't know, all I've been riding in is this ancient jump saddle for the past three months."

So. You're welcome.

This Friday I can start shopping, which is not sounding as fun as I thought it was going to be because now I have several really good sounding options to try and that just seems terrible. Saddle shopping (and selling--someone please buy my saddle!) is the fucking worst.

someone always gets a little swagger to him when the tiara and boa comes out

A quick recap of rides in hopes that once I'm caught up I'll keep pushing forward. Or at least not feel guilty when I instead devote my time to get my Eventing Bingo story written out.

On Tuesday, I had the arena doors open since it was sunny and sort of warm. I was going to end our ride with a trail ride, but Bobby started off in full retard mode. He was legitimately spooking--not just Bobby sidestep spooks, but tucking his butt and shooting forward over absolutely nothing--and just being a complete fucking pill in general so I scrapped that plan and stuck in reverse. He plowed out of the ring and set off down the trail on the buckle completely relaxed.

The ground is still super saturated from cycles of snow, snow melt, massive rain fall, and then the whole shebang over again. It's not good footing for doing anything but slogging through in spots and carefully picking our way through others. I don't want him to pull a shoe or tendon, or tear up the ground for later in the year, but I've been trying to at least let him walk around for five to ten minutes any time it's not horrendous weather outside.

Once he was back in the ring, he was amenable to working. His best work was in the canter which wasn't too exciting itself, but at least it wasn't a complete wash of a day. We'll both be happy when things dry out and warm up for good. Nothing beats a good dressage school in the field.

outfit adjustments. can't have a janky tiara.

On Wednesday, the only thing I remember was that he started off really heavy in the trot. Several rein backs from the walk before sending him back to the trot got him bouncing right away. Must keep that in mind for show warm up!

Thursday was our jump lesson. It had dropped forty degrees overnight, I had calling hours I had to get home to get dressed for, and my horse is a naked, super fit Thoroughbred who started out like a complete raging psycho, but I was not missing another fucking lesson!

ever since mags got zapped in the butt brushing up against the electric fence she
blames all horses for what happened. bobby just likes to rub soft things with his nose.
pig dog is in the process of turning around to sit to pose. someone has to be good.

I warmed myself up since I'd gotten on early to use up as little time of my lesson as I could since I had to get out of there on a very set schedule for once. Bobby was a leaping, pulling maniac at the canter. I wasn't feeling too confident about how things were going to go, but once BM started us over fences, he was perfect.

We started off alternating between lengthening and shortening the stride to adjust distances while focusing on maintaining the forward. Bobby is incredibly adjustable, and he listens so well to my voice and seat that it really puts all the pressure on me to not fuck things up and make the right choice. I have to be a smart, aware rider for every single stride and that's way too hard ohmygod.

From there we did a course which I only got a little bit left behind on one fence (a tricky bending line off the diagonal to an oxer on the wall), but nailed every other distance. Bobby was really being a gem for the jumps themselves, although still being a little RUNFAST between fences. We finished doing a few roll backs in different spots and called it quits. "It's hard to teach you when you're being so good, Bobby!" Now we just need to carry all this over to some bigger fences.

"i love you, puppy!"
"OH GOD GET IT AWAY IT'S GOING TO ELECTROCUTE ME."

He had Friday and the weekend off for a funeral and horrible, freezing weather, but we were back at it this morning. He came out with a big, open stride but no crazies this time around. He stayed soft and responsive the whole ride, and it was a good breather for me and reminder why I haven't sent him to the Amish yet.

Since he was being so civilized, I was able to work on all things Second and a few Third. SI, travers, leg yield, half pass at trot and canter, ten meter circles, turn on the haunches, rein back, medium trot, and counter canter serpentines. He made me stay focused and ask for everything correctly (what a tool, I know), but he was such a gem for once. Lots of cookies and scratches were doled out throughout so that probably helped.

going for the hay in the back of the gator

It feels like everything is kind of on pause for me right now. We're not quite close enough to show season to start really pounding away (and I don't have a new dressage saddle yet, in case you guys didn't know), but we're also getting close enough that I feel like I should be doing something. But the weather is shit, I don't have the right tack, and I don't want to jump my princess footed horse into the ground. Come on, dry weather!