Monday, June 18, 2018

Poor Woman Showing

Almost every post I've written in the last two months has been a show recap. I'm starting to fill out entries for the next block of shows coming up in July, and--as ever--along with that comes carefully looking at the budget to see how I need to space things out to work in the accompanying entry fees.

hopefully with less angry baby horse cantering this round

I named this blog Poor Woman Showing because it is me. I enjoy showing no matter the discipline. I need a goal to aim for, something to set out expectations towards each ride. While the lifestyle Hubby and I live now is vastly more secure and comfortable than where we were when I started blogging however many years ago, we still try to maintain as debt-free an existence as possible (I mean, let's be real. The house and car are going to get paid on for a good while longer.).

That means that I still sometimes feel like I'm living the poor life even if it's solidly in the Horse Poor category now instead of the How am I Paying the Electric this Month Poor. I don't get to charge it and think about it later; we don't have credit cards. Show season get planned out at the very beginning of the year. Gas costs are calculated. Memberships are rationed out and sent in one at a time when doable. The whole thing gets itemized, totaled, and put on my bulletin board to plan around the rest of the year.

I thought I'd share how I make my show season affordable while still hitting up as many opportunities as I can fit in. I'm sure these costs are going to seem unfathomably low to some of you, but remember--just because you have a larger budget than I do doesn't mean I think this is chump change. It takes a lot of planning to make every show season work, and there are a lot of things we give up to spend on the horse instead.

gotta budget in that satin

Memberships:

GMO: $40. I've never paid more for a PM in dressage because I've never had a horse that's made it worth it. I can get my scores towards my bronze with just my GMO membership, and that's all I've ever aimed for. Maybe if Opie continues his child genius ways I'll think about it in the future for Thoroughbred year end awards.

USEF: $80. Or maybe it was $85 this year?

USDF: $35. For Opie's registration. A one-time cost.

US Rider: $149. Optional of course, but I pay it every year for peace of mind.

Schooling Shows:

Entry fee: $10-$15 per test.
Secretary/Office Fee: $10-$15
Membership: $10. One of GMOs whose shows I go to charge an additional $10 per show if you're not one of their members.
Total: The schooling shows I've done so far this year have run me between $30-$50 depending on the discounts I get through my GMO or the extra I pay for another GMO.

Rated Shows:

Entry Fee: $40-$45 per test.
Drug Fee: $23
Secretary/Office Fee: $20-$30
Total: I pay $256 for a weekend of showing--same facility, but they split the two days into two separate shows so separate drug and secretary fees. The one day show I did last was $143.

The Other Stuff:

  • No PM means I have no aim for qualifying for Regionals, so I don't pay the extra $15 GAIG fee for Training 3.
  • I hate driving, so I only compete within a three-ish hour radius of my barn. This used to be extended when I lived in PA, but I'm so over it now. That means:
    • No overnight stays, so no hotel fee.
  • I work exclusively out of my trailer so:
    • No stabling.
    • No bedding costs, no stall cleaning deposit.
  • My truck gets good gas mileage for an old lady. I take care of her, she takes care of me. She does especially good on the highway, and I generally can do a round trip for around $60.
  • I bring my own food and drinks. I never buy show food and stick to whatever I packed in my cooler from home.
i also bring opie his own cookies from home and dole them out regularly.

What does your show budget look like? Do you plan for it at the beginning of the season, or are you able to take it as it comes? 

Monday, June 11, 2018

Dressage in Wine Country II

Yesterday was not the most fun show day I've ever had. I have to say that for all the drama my past horses have given me under saddle, none of them have ever had so many Feelings about their existence the other ninety percent of the time they were off property.

On the bright side, Hubby was able to come down with me so I have some media to share. It's not particularly flattering because of said Feelings, but it's better than nothing, right! I signed up for the show photographer not wanting to count on Hubby making it, but she ended up taking zero pictures so that was a wash.


The morning started auspiciously when I got done wrapping Opie and came back to his stall to put his halter on and bring him out. He saw me coming, spun around to stare blankly out the window, and began weaving in earnest. Way to make me feel like a horrible person, Dopes. He let me grab him without fuss and walked right onto the trailer with zero hesitation, but the whole ride down he spent weaving and screaming.

He'd spent the whole day inside Saturday while his pasture mates were away cross country schooling which meant he probably spent all day weaving and screaming in his stall. I'd completely forgotten they were both going to be gone or I would have gone out there and found someone else to babysit him in turnout, so that's partially on me, but clearly that can't be allowed to happen in the future. He was a complete fucking nutter to ride when I came out to show prep, so I chucked him outside with his friends as they'd just pulled in and let him have an hour of turnout before he had to come back in.

I think that was a huge factor in his mental instability the whole morning. He was absolutely dreadful at the trailer the second he unloaded--hands down the worst he's been yet. We were parked far away from stabling and the rings so he couldn't see anyone, and he just could. not. even.

just needs to see all the horses all the time.
also my browband was crooked which i didn't realize until the day was over and
now it's all i can see in every picture. life ruined. 

I took him for a walk and a graze so he wouldn't be alone which he was mostly alright for, but eventually I had to go back to the trailer to get ready. Cue screaming, weaving, pacing, circling, pulling back, and eventually getting handed off to Hubby where he got walked in circles between flinging himself around and trying to rear (at which point I had a brief intervention and laid down a CTJ about keeping one's feet on the ground at all times).

Once I was on, he made the long walk down to the rings quietly, but he was ungodly tense and scrunched up. At that point I had already committed to the day being a wash. I'd accepted defeat before I even gave improving the situation a chance. I made zero effort to rally and make good decisions.

I let Opie walk around on a long rein for a good bit while he stared all around him. Once at the trot, I had a horse that was periscoping everywhere when I usually focus every ride on getting his head head out and his neck up. My reaction was to just go to town with my hands and try to force his head down. I legged him and tried to get him forward as well, but it was hands down (pun intended) shit riding on my part on a horse that wanted no part of participating that day.

pure elegance

I'd also shortened my stirrups a hole the day before for no other reason than that I wanted to change them to see if they felt better shorter because one day last week they felt a little long. The change wasn't great, but I never got around to dropping them. It made my posting huge and ugly and put me in a horrible balance.

Honestly, the whole lead up to this show was approached with complete laziness. I knew this was going to be the last one for a month, and I was basically coasting on last weekend's success. Of course last weekend's success was due to a well thought out and executed game plan and didn't just poof into existence.

could do some jumping with those stirrups

I was cantering Opie around at a high rate of speed hoping to get some steam blown off when the ring steward asked if I could go in early. I told her I need another couple minutes (it was a solid ten minutes early), but I'd hurry it up. That wasn't a good choice on my part. I should have let her find someone else to go early or just made them wait until my ride time as I'm allowed to. Instead I wrapped up the canter as quickly as possible and went right over.

Training 3

I hate when shows have the higher test before the lower test. I know it's training so it's not that exciting, but when your horse is not much for stretching at the trot on a good day, he's certainly not going to do it in the first test.


We were in Ring 2 which was tucked into the furthest reaches of the show grounds. The judge... ahh, the judge. I feel like I probably should not whine about judges as much as I do, but this lady really gave the impression she didn't want to be there. She was ringing people in the second the previous rider cleared the court--not even the ring around the court--and while I was standing around waiting for scores later, she went hustling past after the lunch break exclaiming loudly, "Thank god I only have a few more!"

Also she hated me. Probably on a deep personal level by the time we were done showing.

Opie wanted no part in being in that ring all by his lonesome. We came down center line as the previous horse was leaving the ring (I seriously had barely made it into the ring and past her truck when she ran the bell for me to go in), and he stared forlornly at his best friend disappearing.

Thus kicked off an entire test on a horse who only wanted to look for all the other horses. He did the things in right places, but he was tight, braced, tense, above the bit, hurried... I think that's a summation of all our comments. Aside from the constant head wag from both my too busy hands and that being one of Opie's go-to's when he's tense anyway.

you don't have to watch the test. this should sum it all up for you.

We got a wide variety of marks for this test. 5s. 6s and 6.5s. Lots of 5.5s, and our very first 4 for the nonexistent stretchy trot circle. I came out of the ring knowing there was no way this thing was even going to make it to a 60% and I was right. A 57%+ got us fourth with the final comment of, "Stunning youngster whose rider could develop elastic feel and quiet hands to encourage horse to reach down and out to bit."

Ouch. My stunning youngster could help by growing up and paying attention, but let's be real. We're building a reputation for judges loving Opie and not being a fan of me. Just little old me over here, taking this young, not long off the track horse everywhere by myself and getting him around to the point where you judges can love him, no big deal.

Okay, I'm done with that. I promise.

could have used this stunning youngster in the ring

I was pretty fucking annoyed with Opie at that point and decided to take him right back into the warm up ring to trot around more in hopes that when I brought him out for our second test a few hours later I'd have a more tractable horse. We'd been cruising along for a good fifteen minutes without Opie showing any signs of relaxation or at the very least exhaustion when the show organizer called me over.

She wanted to know if I could move my second test up--as in, could I go back in in twenty minutes? I wanted to get off this stupid baby horse, put him back on the trailer, and dump him in his paddock where I didn't have to deal with him anymore so I quickly agreed. It turned out that about half the show had scratched after the previous day. The footing in the rings was not particularly good. It was hard and uneven, and there were quite a few complaints about it so I wonder if that had anything to do with it.

I got Opie trotting again, and when they tried to call me in early again, I told them no.

gritting my teeth so hard at the canter. so over it.

Training 1

Opie was slightly more settled and therefore a bit lighter in this test. Still, the childishness hadn't gone anywhere. At the first canter depart a horse in the distance neighed so Opie answered back. He hasn't made a peep in the warm up or in tests yet, but he was a scream machine all day long. We got a few 7s in this tests, but mostly 6s and another 5.5 and 5 for the second trot circle and final halt. Fortunately she didn't comment on him tripping behind in the corners in both canters because the footing had really turned to uneven shit by that point.

(youtube is being super slow, so this might not be uploaded yet)

More overall comments on me being a bad rider with horrible position (like, a lot of these comments), but whatever. I've had worse judges, lady, and way worse rides. We ended up with a 63% and a second.

both happy to be done with this nonsense

Thus began the two hour wait for scores to get done. I scored an entire show last Sunday so I know it can be a serious hassle, but I scored by myself and had those puppies in people's hands asap. There were three people that were supposed to be in charge of it here, and it took them forever to get anything done in the most unorganized fashion possible. Then the musical freestyles started and instead of leaving someone to continue scoring, everyone emptied out to watch. Never mind the growing crowd of people milling around the scoreboard waiting to leave.

ready to leave this creature behind by this point.

Fortunately for all parties involved, today starts Opie's week long vacation I planned into the schedule at the beginning of the year. I think it's safe to see we're both ready for some mental down time. I won't even be doing lessons for the rest of the month. When I bring him back we're going to start playing over fences to get in gear for hunter paces. There's still a bunch of dressage shows on the docket, but right now I want to give the kid some variety to keep him fresh.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Houghton Spring Dressage II

I was whooped after day one, but I had perfectly respectable ride times for day two. I was able to sleep in until 7:30, get some house work done, and get to the barn with plenty of time to re-bathe and braid Opie if needed. Fortunately his braids stayed in even with a few hours of turnout, and besides a couple of poop spots from sleeping that got quick Cowboy Magic treatment, he was good to go.

Unfortunately, I was crawling around the barn trying not to throw my guts up. I felt fucking awful all morning long with a pounding headache and constant nausea. I think the heat got to me worse than I thought the day before despite my best attempts to stay super hydrated. Opie, for his part, didn't seem any worse for wear, and we got off easy with temps in the 60s Saturday. At least one of us can handle early death summer well!

Parking was atrocious yet again, and since I was literally the only one working out of my trailer I was stuck trying to find a spot to finagle my trailer into by myself. I got it stuffed in by the barn, but while we were closer to everything than the day before we weren't in view of any horses. This was very upsetting to Opie whose ADD brain was having a lot of trouble not being a complete tool at the trailer.

not at the trailer.
looking for horses to be besties with anyway.

It started right off the bat when he couldn't wait two seconds for me to finish dropping the butt bar while I unloaded him and he blew through it right as I unhooked it and then he fell off the ramp into a big dumb heap on the ground. So that was a great way to kick off the morning although at least he was none the worse for wear for it.

We only had about an hour to blow before I had to get on for the first test, so I grabbed my water and we went back over ringside to watch some Second level tests.

this arabian stallion reminded me of speedy

Training 3

Warm up started out pretty well at the walk and trot. When I asked him to pick up the canter, he was all, "I do not know what leads are." And I was like, "That is false."

He's gotten to the point where I no longer have to bodily throw him onto the correct lead, and I've been asking for them like I would on a normal horse without issue. Yeah, not so much here. It was either pick up the incorrect lead or just not pick it up at all. The ring steward called us over to go in, and with one last attempt I did bodily throw him onto the left lead and make him do a circle before going over.

I've ridden for this judge before with Bobby--she's a 6 judge. She will give you a 6 for everything unless you really give her a reason to do otherwise. We kicked things off with a whopping 7 for the first center line and halt and then got all 6s except for 7s for the walk work.

The red flowers decorating the letters that Opie didn't give two fucks about the day before were suddenly offensive to him, and every time he passed them he tried to drift away. That's a lot of letters in a standard arena. That was a lot of drifting to keep a lid on. We got some comments about needing to be straighter, which uhhh completely warranted.

Final comments though were in capital letters and underlined, "Capable horse" with another 7 for gaits. Dem judges love them some Opie. Still, a line of 6s only got a 62.5% which was a titch higher than T3 the day before but only got us a 5th this day. We beat people though, and pink is much better than yellow! He even got both leads and offered a little real stretching at the trot.

still looking for some besties.

We came out of the ring and the show organizer (who also runs the college's equestrian program) was standing with the bit check volunteer. She asked me how old he was and what his breeding was and then told me he was really lovely--he just looked like he was a little wide-eyed the whole test. Well, yes. Red flowers and no besties are very disconcerting!

We had a split of more Second tests and then an arena drag before our next test, so I grabbed some lunch and went back to the ring to watch a few tests. Opie was grateful to be in the presence of horses again and took a nap.

how cute is this stocktie? and my horse about to bash me in
the head with his own head because bugs.

When I brought him back to the trailer to get my things around, he lost his fool mind.


Y U being so crazy, Opie? Let me show you!

do you see them? his new besties? i didn't either until i was
up in my dressing room. 

We still had quite a bit of time before I needed to start warming him up, but I threw his tack on and got mounted to go over to the rings anyway. The last thing I wanted was for him to escalate and learn he can get free of the trailer. I parked him in an a corner completely out of the way of the two horses in the ring and hung out for a good bit before starting his own warm up.

Training 1

My goal for this test was to not get beat by POINT TWO FUCKING PERCENT. We could have gotten beat by ten points and I would have been okay with that. The judge wanted to see more energy in the last test so I really put the gun to Opie and got him pushing. BM's last lesson of making him dance beneath me was in my head as I sent him forward, rebalanced, and sent him forward again.

As we made our lap around the outside of the ring, Opie was like, "Look at the other h--" And immediately I was on him to pay attention and push, dammit!

"but look over there at my besties!"

We marched in for a 7.5 right off the bat, laid down a line of 6.5s, 7s for the walk work again, 7s for the right lead canter and trot transition, and threw down an 8 for the final halt. He wanted to look around quite a bit so I got a little handsy playing with the bit to keep his attention on me which the judge commented on in the final comments ("Keep steadier hands"). She liked the forward though ("much better tempo this test--good job!"), and again commented that he was "willing and CAPABLE" (her caps) with a big smiley face and a "good luck!"

I ran up to the bathroom and checked the board to see if scores had been posted yet (they hadn't) and ended up chatting with another competitor who was bemoaning how low the scores were all day. Almost everyone throughout the levels were topping out at 65%. She'd gotten 7% lower than the day before for a test she thought rode better and we were both like, "Meh, 6 judge, what are you going to do?"

So imagine my surprise when I went back up a little later to grab my test and was handed a blue ribbon--with a 68%!

first place at pining for besties

what whaaat!!

Needless to say, there were much cookies given and grudgingly taken (because cookies are barely acceptable when all you want is besties) before loading up and heading home.

Opie got Sunday and Monday off and goes back to work today to prepare for another show this Sunday. I've been trying my hardest to guilt trip Hubby into coming to this one since Saturday's show was on my birthday and he missed it completely. Hopefully the next recap will have real media!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Houghton Spring Dressage I

Once again I have no riding media for this show. There wasn't a photographer (for shame because I always buy pro pictures when they're available), and it's spring so I pretty much never see ag-working Hubby this time of year. Oh well. I'm well used to showing alone, and it's worked out well to just dump Opie right into it and expect him to deal.

STILL WISH I HAD SOME PICTURES THO.

he enjoys ripping the hay out of the net then eating it off the ground.
actually i think he just enjoys ripping my fucking nets to shreds.

I know that you're all really here to find out if Opie got on the trailer. And he did! Both Friday and Saturday morning he put on the brakes as soon as I pointed him at the trailer, but we had the briefest of discussions about how the feet don't get to stop moving until he's paying attention to me. It took all of five minutes combined for both mornings and on he went. Heading home from the show he marched right on without a second thought.

I got Opie unloaded and we went for a brief hand walk around the ring to check out the flowers before stopping in the barn to get his tail re-washed. I needed to check in and get my packet, so for the first time I left him tied to the trailer unsupervised. He was in sight of one of the barns with a bunch of people milling around so I wasn't too worried if he got loose or got himself in trouble, but when I hustled back he was hanging out in the same place I left him munching his hay. Phew! First hurdle passed!

searching for horses in this desolate wasteland. 

It was balls hot Friday--in the mid eighties with 80% humidity and full sun with no breeze. Essentially the worst horse show weather known to man... or woman in a sports bra. We had a little bit of shade to start the morning in our parking spot, but that probably had more to do with it being six in the morning than anything. By the time I went in for our first test at 7:37am, I was already dripping sweat.

Training 1

After being a complete fuckwit Thursday, I was happy to have my normal child genius back under me warming up for the first test. He felt a little sluggish, but he's a lazy dude. I got up at three in the morning and was drowning in my own sweat; I was sluggish, too.

Half awake and on complete autopilot, the judge rang the bell and I turned Opie in to the ring following the tracks of the horse before me. First mistake there, as the horse before me hadn't entered straight and we started the test off center line. Dumb ass. Needless to say when I got my test back and saw that comment I didn't repeat that mistake for the rest of the show.

The entirety of the test proceeded to be a string of 6s and 6.5s with one 7 for the medium walk because Opie has a great walk even when sleeping. It's so great he would like to stay in it forever and I had to pony club kick him at A to pick the trot back up.

The whole test was fine. Just fine. He got a 7 for his gaits as well, but it was a boring test with both of us just plunking along doing our thing. The judge's comments were that he's a "talented horse!". She wanted to see him more through in the transitions, especially the canter work "for even higher scores". Seeing as how I took a month off of cantering this horse because it sucked so bad, I'll allow it. Definitely a work in progress there.

We ended up with a 64.348% for second... POINT TWO PERCENT behind first place. RIDE YOUR OWN DAMN CENTER LINE, YOU FOOL.

best baby horse deserved a blue

Our second test wasn't until noon-ish so we had four hours to kill. I spent it reapplying sunblock and fly spray every hour on the hour and forcing myself to drink nonstop while we hung out ringside to watch the FEI tests. Mostly I did the watching and Opie alternated napping, grazing, and licking the bleachers while being admired by the people sitting beside me. He didn't make a peep though and didn't make a nuisance of himself which was all I cared about.

i loved this lady's shad.
opie was getting his learn on for future goals.

Training 3

When I got back on for the briefest of warm ups, Satan made a reappearance from the day before. Opie wanted to give a big old Pass to dressaging. Even though it was so hot out, I opted to give him a little canter right off the bat to see if it settled him any. The second I put my leg on he blasted off and when he hit my hand he went up and tried to spin. He's done this on the ground a few times--most recently after breaking the crossties the night before while I was braiding him, and it usually ends with him on his ass falling down so I wailed him in the ribs and he jumped forward out of it before we both landed on the ground.

I think that knocked most of the stupid out of him because I was able to go right back and pick up a normal canter.

Still, we went into the ring (straight, and on the center line) wobbling all over the place. He wanted to stare at the horses outside the ring and was just generally feeling like a very green horse--much more green than he currently is. The judge gave us a couple more 7s, but our 6.5s were knocked down to 6s and our stretchy circle was spent staring at the world around us and earned a well deserved 5.

"Promising horse", another note to work on transitions, and that the right lead canter was better this test. That earned a 62+% which put us in third out of seven.

i hate the color yellow and i seem to always come home with 3rd.
my barn mates think this is the funniest thing ever.

Overall it was a really good first day of his rated debut. We were out of there around 2 (we were the first ride in T3), but since we got there so early it was a long day. Opie was eaten alive by the bugs, but I was able to leave him a few times at the trailer to run to the office and not have to worry about him getting into trouble which was a huge win for me.

And while he was a fruitcake for warm up for the second test, the judge really liked him and I only have myself to blame for missed points. Ride better, get better scores because the judge wants to give them to Dopie Horse. That's motivation for sure!

Stay tuned for day two redemption!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hustle

Welllll.... tomorrow Dopie Horse makes his rated dressage debut. On Tuesday I was feeling super excited about this. Last night I had a dream I lost my brakes and was getting pulled backwards by my trailer in the rain. This morning I had the worst ride on Opie yet.

SO THINGS ARE GOING GREAT, THANKS.

i have no new or exciting media, so enjoy these pictures from the zoo this weekend.
really though, how adorable is this posing rhino?

Actually things aren't that bad. If Opie continues his trend of being better at shows than at home we'll be fine. And let's be real. It's Training level. All he has to do is w/t/c and not fall down. A monumental task at times to be sure, but getting increasingly less worrisome with each ride. Coming off of showing dressage on Bobby, my expectation for scores is still bottom of the barrel. I literally can't be disappointed by scoring anymore. If we stay in the ring, I'm like, "Already winning!"

Our lesson Tuesday was fucking great though. If I can recreate-ish that, we'll be in a really good spot. (Spoiler alert: couldn't recreate one step of it this morning, so...)

Back in my lesson last Friday, it was all at the walk. BM had us starting in on counted walk which is mentally very fatiguing, but he needed it. It was all about getting him to slow down and go to the contact honestly. At the very end BM sent us off into a slow jog to see if there was a stretch ready to be offered. He got a little tense when he got unbalanced--both because he's five and green, and because I'm his wobbly rider--but he made an effort. Then she had me send him forward and he loosened right up and went way down.

i definitely wasn't the only person to say, "oh, look. it's hedwig!"

I played with that a little bit in our warm up Tuesday while waiting for BM and he gave me a long neck on a long rein. Not a lot of stretch, but none of that awful crimping he likes to do either. When BM came in, she had me pick him up a bit and get him marching in the walk. And then get him marching into the trot.

It was another lesson on half halt then catch him and send him off quickly to get his hind end activated and really pushing without letting him get so forward that he loses his balance. He was finding it almost too easy on the straightaways so we moved to serpentines and circles which took some finesse, but we made it happen.

When he came back to the walk, he was all about the stretching. I had to keep leaning forward to let him go to the ground because even with my reins on the buckle he wanted all the room to go down.


For the canter, we worked on the downward transitions. That is, after we had to get after Opie for being a quitter and trying to die whenever he got even remotely tired. How about a little try, sir? The theory was to hold the half halt until he came down to trot and then immediately send him forward to keep him from diving down and quitting. That worked so-so, but it just needs work.

For the left lead canter, he wants to throw his shoulders out. I want to try to bend him around my inside leg, but all that's doing is overbending the rib cage and letting the shoulders escape even more, so I have to think of shoving the shoulders back in to line up with the rest of him.

The canter itself is slowly getting better. I can actually sit on him reliably now, but he's got to learn that any shift of my weight isn't an excuse to quit, and that a half halt can mean rebalance and not die. He's so much more fit than he was a couple of weeks ago though. God bless the Thoroughbred and their ability to get in shape at the drop of a hat.

By the end of the lesson, I was riding a big, moving trot that felt like a real horse under me for the first time with this kid--one that I wasn't working my balls off to manage and one that felt like the horse was doing it easily and comfortably.

this snoozing lion enjoying his mister is how opie would like to spend his life

And then this morning I couldn't get him to pay attention for more than a second. All he wanted to do was canter. I couldn't get him to take up any contact without him wagging his head side to side. His neck was short, his legs were everywhere, and he was completely tuning me out. I ended up putting him in side reins and working him on the longe for ten minutes before calling it quits after he offered a little stretch.

My goal is to leave the barn around four tomorrow morning for our first test at 7:30. That's early. That means the fucking horse better get on the fucking trailer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What is your deal, bro?

In the continuing education of Dopie, I hooked up my trailer this morning for a field trip to the park. Although honestly at this point the education has nothing to do with the riding part.

Opie has Been Places. He is Worldly.

just hanging out munching on hay like a calm horse

However!

He is a complete asshole about the fucking trailer again. Only now instead of getting onto the trailer a hundred times and flying off it ninety nine times, he just doesn't get on anymore. Which is awesome.

P.S. It is not awesome.

We spent thirty minutes in the parking lot of the barn having ourselves a go-round. He thought it was acceptable to park it at the base of the ramp and stare out into the distance completely ignoring me. I did not. He thought the answer to my prompts to move his feet was to rear in my face. I did not. Eventually I won because I always win, and I hope one day that sinks into his little brain and we avoid further go-rounds.

He unloaded quietly at the park though, and got right to work on his hay without moving a muscle or making a peep. He stood completely still while I mounted, and then marched off across the road and into the woods without complaint.

so happy the green is finally back!

I really want to ramp up his fitness so he has less of an excuse to try to die on me by the time his second test rolls around. Of course, I think if he could calm himself at the trailer at shows that would keep him going awhile longer, too. Because I don't think Farrier's theory that he's running through his tests to practice and I shouldn't judge him holds merit.

With that in mind, I skipped the big open fields we usually ride in and committed to the woods. I never explored those trails much with Bobby because the side of the road with the fields has several water access points and one must keep hippos happy. The woods are super hilly with narrow trails that range from well kept to jutting roots or stretches of gravel. They're great for walking and building up booties, though!

that mane has no self control.

Because I'm not familiar with the woods trails, I picked a color to follow and set out to explore figuring if all else fails I could just find the road and go somewhere else. We went up and around, passed the ranger station, passed a bunch of joggers, leaped straight into the air and magically landed in the exact same spot when a snake slithered underfoot (that was actually kind of spectacular), and eventually got dumped into a clearing with a giant abandoned silo (?) on top of a mountain.

no but seriously. what is this doing here?

For something so enormous, it appeared out of nowhere and Opie was all, DA FUQ. And then I pulled my phone out to take a picture but dropped it and Opie was confirmed in his belief that this clearing was haunted. I hopped off, grabbed my phone, took my picture, and climbed back on.

There was a janky trail on the other side that started heading down and had our color marker so I figured I might as well see where it took us. The trail promptly narrowed to human-width with roots and stones sticking out everywhere and giant drops on either side. Opie was puffing a bit from hauling my ass up to the haunted clearing, so I did him a solid and jumped back off again. He's young, he's not super fit, and he's not super confident in his footing yet. It wasn't the best trail to force him to pack me down.

this. on both sides of a glorified deer trail.

He plodded along beside me without issue as we went up and down and up and down while I tried to get some sense of where the fuck we were. At one point I glimpsed the road but it was at the bottom of one of the above hills so on we walked.

going places. i just don't know what places.

We finally hit a cross-trail that I recognized from riding Bobby, except I recognized it because I knew I didn't want to go that way because it would take us deeper into the woods. So I went with opposite way and hoped it would dump us back onto a more mainstream trail. Fortunately it did and we soon blasted out onto the road amidst a bike race which we had to wait to pass before giving the woods the finger and heading into the fields to make for the boat launch.

yay, openness! 

I let him splash around for awhile to cool off before we finally headed back to the trailer.

does love a good dip in the pond

He hadn't jigged, thrown his head, or called out once the whole ride. We trotted, we cantered, I ground mounted multiple times, and he stayed relaxed and on the buckle for all of it. I figured our time had come when we emerged into the field by the trailer parking and there were multiple horses hanging out. His head went up and he got a little tight, but he was quiet and flat footed all the way back. Good kid!

The group of ladies with the horses came over to fawn over Dopie while I got him untacked and wrapped and told me how adorable and perfect he was. I was like, "I know, right? Seems suspicious..."

And then the battle to get back on the fucking trailer began. He was adamant he was going to stay with his new horse friends and kept trying to pull his "sneaky" move where he flails violently sideways in the exact direction he wants to end up like I won't notice. I was insistent he pay zero attention to the other horses which earned me a lot more rearing, but sad fucking story.

"i love you, new best friends. i'll never leave you."

After maybe fifteen minutes I won again and got him on.

I guess I'm just not understanding where this is coming from. I got him on and off by myself the first attempts without issue for the first show at the beginning of the month. I had Hubby with me the second show, but he walked right on first try both times and stood while he got locked in. I don't know why he now suddenly thinks planting his feet and saying "No" is the right answer. He doesn't seem anxious when we get to places, and he always comes home and goes straight into his field with his friends.

Is he just testing to see if he can get away with new things? He doesn't have that frantic, shaking fear about him that he had when I first started working on the trailer with him. There's no worry in his eyes. He just doesn't wanna.

I dunno. I'm open to your thoughts. In the meantime, it was a really good two more hours crossed off the list for our 25 hour goal for the year!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Rise and kind of grind

Three weeks seemed like a long time between shows when I was writing out my schedule, but hot damn. Here we are with the second block starting next Friday and it feels like no time at all.

After our last show I gave Opie two days off. He got his feet done on the third day and I gave him a light hack when he was done with that. He felt loose and forward so I called it quits early as I'm always looking for any excuse to not work on hard things. That's how champions are made, folks.

Or not.

Because then we spent some time on the longe in the front field working over cross country jumps, and suddenly it was lesson time and my horse had been ridden one whole time since the show. Opie was distracted by everything and kept returning every squeak that came from inside the barn with his own bugling. BM asked if he was always such a mess in the outdoor, and I had to admit that maybe probably he had an excuse this time. At which point BM slapped us both upside the head and put us to work.

the best at looking at everything

It was a tough lesson because it played to neither of our strengths. She wanted Opie to un-crimp his neck and poke his nose out, and she wanted me to stop fiddling with the reins and for fuck's sake straighten my rogue right wrist out. Not unreasonable requests and obviously things that really need to get done in a timely fashion, but ugh. Woe is me, riding is so hard.

In the spirit of "Show season is here, I need to actually ride my horse like a responsible competitor.", I saddled up again Saturday. I mean, I spent most of the ride playing over jumps, but I did work on some canter on the flat as well. That felt semi-responsible.

He did end up getting Sunday off as I had a lot of other grown up things to do which is just the worst, but the past two days we've been back in the grind. Yesterday he was super relaxed and focused so the whole ride was lovely. Leg yields at the walk both directions, some stretch shown at the trot (the actual comment I'm hoping we can achieve because stretching is soslow in coming), and a super relaxed canter. This morning's ride was more of the grinding variety.

The focus from the day before was nowhere to be found. Every noise from the barn set off a scream, and every movement from outside the ring had to be swiveled around to look at. There were a lot of small circles and abrupt changes of directions until I finally had an ear on me.

The canter was dreadful. He wanted to go fast, I wanted him to slow down. He thought quitting was the answer for slowing down, and when he got booted back into the canter it was off to the races again. After a few unpleasant canter-halt transitions I got my point across, but I didn't even bother touching the left lead.


Fortunately, as is always the case with Dopie, we always end on a good note. I've been working on a bigger show trot and its been fun to play with him to see how much he can offer up while holding his balance, and he really gets into his struttin'. We wrapped up with some slow jog on a long rein with a long (for him) neck.

It gets frustrating some days when he takes a huge leap forward in one area and then the next day he doesn't steer anymore, but such is the life with green horses. I'm trying to balance the whole show prep/should probably get my horse trained thing with keeping it fun and not boring myself to tears with remedial work thing. At this point I'd say I'm drifting pretty hard towards the latter. After all, you can still leg yield and work on stretching while out and about!

That's my justification and I'm sticking to it.