Monday, March 19, 2018

Getting the team back together again

I gathered a proverbial shit ton of pros around me last year while dealing with Bobby's leg and hoof issues. Farriers, body workers, vets, trainers, close confidants--you get money, and you get money, everyone gets money!

The Team worked well together, and while there were disagreements here and there about how to best proceed as everyone was essentially playing a guessing game with Bobby's one in ten katrillion disease (actually seen in a whopping .4% of horses, so basically it's everywhere), everyone communicated and I was able to bounce ideas off of ALL THE PEOPLE.

I think it's imperative to build up a network of trusted professionals. It took me a few years to pick and choose who I was going to use when, and I dropped one of those team members after I put Bobby down--not because of the work she does which is fantastic, but because of more personal reasons--but I feel like I now have a solid list of people to run through whenever I hit a problem with my horse.

Bitches, it's time to start checking them off one by one.

listen, donkey. put the side eye away already.

As planned, I started off my conversation with BM on Friday morning before my lesson about the persistent bald spot on Opie's right side. He's still showing no signs of soreness along his back. I, however, have been having screaming pain from my right hip to my knee lately. Are they tied together? Is my saddle causing both of those things, or is it bad riding on my part?

BM readily jumped aboard to see what we were working with.

As soon as I got on, I told her I felt like my right stirrup was shorter because my ankle felt like it was being jammed down more when I flexed and I instantly started feeling the cramping crawling up my leg. BM watched me for a minute and said it actually looked like the right stirrup was longer. Well, fuck.

I stopped so she could get right in front of us which worked better once Opie got his cookie and put his head back on straight because Opies deserve cookies for standing still for eternity while his rider flops around on his back. (I've also maybe just created a monster that expects cookies for anything and everything. Not even sorry.)

needs a cookie for being a penguin. 

With some shifting around and standing in my stirrups, I sat back down and BM and I both felt my stirrups were even. BM thought what was going is that Opie's bigger right shoulder pushes the saddle to the left and I'm unknowingly compensating by stepping more into my right stirrup and using it to keep the saddle centered. My Mattes pad is shimmable so sticking a shim on the left side to lift it a titch for the time being is an option.

We got sent out on a circle to start our lesson which immediately devolved into "What the fuck are you doing with your hips, Opie?"

It started with him dropping his right hip lower than the left as he went around both directions, and then he was like, "JK, now it's my left." BM stopped us again and dug under his quarter sheet to see if she could feel anything. On his left hip he had a huge band of knotted muscle, and then she later discovered a big knot ball on his right butt.

walks in the sun seem like a good remedy even if it's only 25*

We worked through a little of this and a little of that to see if anything changed his way of going. He didn't feel off to me at all, and BM said he didn't even look off--it was noticeable only if you were standing behind him trying to find a problem.

I ended up jumping off and BM flexed his hocks as a hip drop could be a precursor to issues there. He trotted off sound though, so once I got home I scheduled an appointment with a new massage lady for Wednesday evening.

Opie is only five, but the kid raced forty two times in his career before going right to the hard work of being a dressage horse. I've had body work done on my horses for less of an excuse. Hopefully she can get his muscles some relief and get him a hundred percent comfortable. I don't want him to have any excuse to not do his best under saddle.

would prefer to just not be under saddle at all, thx.

If the massage doesn't get the results I'm looking for, I'll move on to Farrier to talk to her about hind shoes. Also still on the docket is the mother fucking dentist who rescheduled on me an hour before he was supposed to be there and still hasn't been heard from. To me, the teeth issue is at the top of my list of things to be addressed so not being able to get Dentist here again has been extremely frustrating.

We did get our vet appointment out of the way. Of course it was the day before the lesson so when she asked if I wanted her to check anything specific on him I was all, nope! He's perfect! #false

Vet loved him though and couldn't stop gushing over So Smol, Such Cute, Much Manners (ground tying party trick ftw). She said he officially has a dorsal stripe which I was curious about whether it would get classified as that. #adorbs

He also has mild aural plaques in his left ear which I got a prescription for--along with an added note on the end to remind me he was SO CUTE OMG in case I'd forgotten.

i should just shove twenties down your throat instead of carrots.

I've officially hit the Over It stage of this winter and going out to the barn to ride has been more along the lines of crawling and whining and throwing a tantrum. Hence the jump saddle above. Sometimes you've gotta crash through some crossrails for variety. Opie was on board. He was also on top of a pile of poles at one point when he literally jumped into the crossrail instead of over it, but...well, he'll get there.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ups and downs

I corralled Hubby on Sunday after a failed attempt to do pretty much anything else productive and got a few videos as an update on Opie's training thus far. I was excited to share them with a progression write up, but...things are moving at such an incrementally slow pace that I got nothing.

So then I was bummed and thought about shelving them until I do have leaps and bounds to write about, but at that point they'll probably be defunct and not an accurate depiction of what we're working on.

Random small updates with video and picture interludes it is!

listen to this with the sound up to see why dopie earns his gold
stars on the daily. #notaspookyhorse

Saddle rubs: After having the fitter out to check everything over as the first course of action, I went ahead and body clipped. I wanted to get it done anyway before the vet came out to take pictures for Coggins, but also because I've never shed out a horse before in my life. I. Hate. Hair. If we didn't keep getting a new fucking blizzard literally every single week, I would have clipped my spotty dog by now, too. Hair. Is. Everywhere. CLIP ALL THE THINGS!!!

being naked revealed the extent of his rain rot
i've been battling for a couple months now. hopefully
having it out in the open helps it finally clear up.

The body clip made the rub on his left side disappear completely, but there's still a visible rub on the right. Which means it's probably something I'm doing. Will have BM assess in our next lesson.

Trailer loading: Also accomplished on Sunday while I had Hubby on hand. I loaded and unloaded him twice before my ride and once afterwards. He wasn't sure he wanted to get on the very first time. He put his front feet on the ramp and then stood there, not even budging for a cookie. I didn't want to get into a fight with him so I simply picked up the longe whip and re-presented. He marched right on both times after that, and didn't need it at all after our ride. 

I had Hubby bang around the butt bar and generally be a presence behind Opie once in the trailer, and while that made him a little wide-eyed, he ate his cookies and didn't budge. 


While he was quick to scamper off the ramp the first time, by the last time I backed him out I was able to put some pressure on the lead rope and have him not panic. Instead he thought it through, listened, and slowly backed all the way down the ramp. Copious cookies and praise and back out with his buddies. Another good session in the books!

quietly munching on a carrot and checking things out after
our ride. 

All the other shit:

i do love his walk though.

I can't quite put my finger on what I think is wrong with Opie. No, he's not lame--though you might catch a step or two of "head bobbing" where he's not quite through in the connection and/or he gets jammed up in his shoulders, both constant things on the To Work On list--he's just...lacking.

That seems harsh, especially for a green horse that goes around as naturally lovely as he does (I have a serious crush on him when he's not about to bash me in the face with his head.). Part of me wants to jump down his throat and simply call it a lack of work ethic. 

certainly lacking in steering sometimes as he almost canters
directly into the wall instead of turning

He does the job, he doesn't get particularly upset about having to do the job, he's just not in it to win it. You know the horse that would turn itself inside out to please you? Opie is not that horse. Things just kind of come easy to him, #childgenius, but when I start to push for something a little harder, or maybe one step forward out of the comfort zone we were previously working in, he's a quitter.

Some of it is lack of strength of course, some of it is that he doesn't always know what the fuck I'm asking of him. But some of it is that when given the choice to dig in and try, he'd rather quit. Long walks on the beach eating candy and hanging out with friends? Sign Opie up. Training for a marathon? Sign Opie out. Hard pass.

To be fair, I am one hundred percent the same way. Candy on the beach sounds great to me, too. I do, however, also really love satin and poor Opie got stuck as my partner in the satin hunt. We've both got to put our heads down and slog through this boring shit especially in this never-ending winter. I'm curious to see if he starts to put forth more effort into his life once I can get him out and about more, doing fun things and workin' on our fitness.

In the meantime, the horse abuse must continue. I'm going to keep working on those horrible transitions from trot to canter canter to trot okay, fine, just everything about the canter in general. I know it's in there. He's given me glimpses one lap at a time before, well, quitting.

i swear some days it's really not that bad at all.
this was not one of those days.

We've got a long list of things to work on, and sitting around feeling sorry for myself that I can't ride outside and do more fun things isn't going to train the horse.

And can I really feel sorry for myself when my baby horse finishes every single ride without fail on something that makes me jump off of him and swoon because he's so amazing? No. I cannot. The bitch work is worth the good work this kid gives me in between smoking his weed and lounging under a beach umbrella when he should be tuning me in. 

In good news, the dentist comes out to float him right after the vet is done with him on Thursday. I am super interested to see what else he finds in there, and if it helps with the neck flinging at all!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Not a bad horse, just a baby horse

It's been a long ass time since I did a proper riding recap post. Or at least it feels like it has. I keep getting distracted by side eye (be sure to get your vote in before tomorrow night!) and forgetting to check when I last wrote anything of substance. Although maybe flying out of the death box was substantial. It substantially made me reach out to Amanda and purchase her horse dunce cap, so there's that.

probably going to do some more death box training tomorrow.
probably going to get this face.

Honestly, riding lately has sometimes felt more like a chore than anything else. A necessary chore, and one I know will undoubtedly lead to good things, but polishing basics--or just putting them on--is not the most scintillating thing in the world.

We've made some tangible progress though, and as I chip away at the baby steps I get a better insight into how a Dopie brain works.

if this is what four months gets us, i think we're on the right track

BM pointed out in a lesson the other week that he lacks a sense of healthy anticipation. That made a lot of sense to me in explaining some of the things he does.

He's the type of horse that is very one end of the spectrum or the other. (#thereisnoinbetween is Opie's life motto.) He can be calm and collected and doing the thing, but he's not really engaged with what you're doing and what might be coming next. Or he's soanxiousomg and isn't anticipating anything except how long he can get away with grinding his teeth and sucking on his tongue--a habit we've firmly tied to nothing more than his anxiety as it shoots right out as soon as he gets anxious, but is firmly tucked away in a quiet mouth the rest of the time.

This makes it hard for transitions because he's slow to respond when he's being calm and then the movement is a hot mess express, but when he's on high alert it's just a sense of "Oh god, I'm going to throw myself forward and do something because that seems like the right answer." Neither of which I want.

thinking about being sassy,
but keeping his shit together because at heart he is a good kid

Of course it doesn't help that he's not well versed in Ammy language yet. He's guessing, but it's at elementary school level. He knows legs mean something, but his best guess right now is Go. Obviously I'm trying to be the best rider I can be, but let's be real, I'm no pro and sometimes I'm not even rudimentary good. But BM is quick to remind me--and I'm quick to remind myself--that he's not doing it because he's a bad horse. He's a baby horse and he's learning. He'll learn to tune in more appropriately, and in a few more months it will be behind us and we'll have a whole new set of problems.

Throughout the tedium, there have been some shining star moments.

Last weekend...two weekends ago at this point, whoops, I miscalculated when BM was going to be done with her lessons and arrived when they were still going full steam ahead. Full barn, full ring, busy everywhere. I decided to go for it anyway, and Opie stepped up to the plate. I couldn't create a better replica of a chaotic show warm up, and the worst he did was get twitchy over outside noises and carry slightly more tension than usual.

so many things to look at!!!

We also had a really good lesson last week. I mean, I did cry for part of it, but the rest of it was really good!

Notes from that are as follows:
  • When he twists his head, move him to the outside and then to the inside back and forth. Sometimes it will be a big step over, sometimes it just needs to be an inch. Worked like a charm.
  • Right lead: make way for his right shoulder by sitting slightly to the outside.
  • Left lead: I wanted to "over-bend" him to the inside--coming off of a giant, stiff, perpetually not bent horse (Bobby), I'm obsessed with getting a horse curved around my inside leg. Only when you now ride a curly Gumby basketball, all I had to do was tip his nose an inch too far to the inside and it pushed his shoulders out and wasn't allowing him to pick up the correct lead. BM had me release the inside rein pressure (no one's ever heard that before, right?) and focus on straightening his shoulders, and he stepped right into it. 
  • Transitions will get better through more transitions, but can't/don't want to do a ton with him because he gets so anxious. Instead do serpentines and big loops, picking up both leads back and forth randomly all over for ten steps than back to the walk or trot until calm and repeat.
  • Leg yield on a long rein at the trot. He's barely getting leg yield at the trot right now, so I was very skeptical. In fact, my exact quote was, "You don't actually think this horse is going to do that, do you?" To which BM said, "Yes, now shut up and go do it." We want him loose over his topline and learning that he can do the lateral work while stretching through his whole body. He was actually pretty okay at it, just a few steps at a time to stay straight and not rush. He's gotten better by leaps and bounds with each proceeding ride.

I gave him the weekend off because I don't want to burn him out, and he came out Monday afternoon for our ride with the saddle fitter feeling fantastic. He was also good for our ride this morning, though again with the tuned out-ness for transitions until I picked up the dressage whip.

Immediate goal: get the horse on the aids and on the same brain wave length as myself.

petties even when you're kind of dumb

Also going on:
  • I need to get in touch with the fucking dentist. He was supposed to call me yesterday, but never did. No more texting tag, I'll call him tonight to set up an appointment to finish dental work. 
  • Vet will be out next week for such exciting things as vaccinations and Coggins. That was a ten minute phone call to set up as the receptionist was beside herself I don't have Opie's full and complete medical history. Listen, lady. Give him all the vaccines ten times, I don't care. Just stop yelling at me.
  • The saddle fitter was out yesterday to take a gander at the rubs on Opie's back beneath the panels. She gave it a minor adjustment, but her assessment is the pad rubs because my horse has huge, swinging back muscles and a huge, swinging stride. Boohoo, sad story, switched to my Success pad to see if that helps.
for how much i paid for this saddle, i don't want to see a hair out
of place. the pad change better help.

I think that's a solid catch-up. It's balls cold again and more snow is on its way, so nothing overly exciting is in the plans. Might get a little wild and do some test riding one of these days. Look out.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Side eye entrants

Thank you to everyone that entered the side eye contest! I decided to leave the entries "anonymous" although most of these horses are probably pretty recognizable. Once the voting is over, I'll come back and identify everyone. 

Voting will be open until midnight EST Wednesday. From the top three favorites, I'll randomly select the winner for prezzies. You can vote as many times as you want! (Or at least I think so, if I set up my poll correctly...)


UPDATE: Our top three based on voting were numbers 21, 14, and 13. I used the power of the internet to randomly select the winner, and #mareglare won out with Janet's epic side eye. Congrats to Kayla! Thanks to everyone else for entering!

1. Hannah

2. Katie and Winston

3. Lindsey and Dewey

4. Otis

5. Casey

6. Levi

7. Charlie
8. Joey

9. Indy

10. Dom

11. Arya

12. Blackjack

13. Nadia and Macy

14. Phantom

15. Emi

16. Rio

17. Cinder

18. Cinna

19. Mia
20. Chelsey and Jean-Luc

21. Janet

22. Spring

23. Bast

24. Candy

25. Ruby

26. Remus

27. Zoe

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

First field trip

First, don't forget about the side eye contest! There are almost a dozen entries so far, and the winner will be chosen from the top three so there's a big chance of prezzies still. #loveprezzies

Secondly, Opie went on his first field trip yesterday. It was...a mixed bag.

I convinced BM to go to the park with me on one of the three nice days we're getting this week before the return of snow and winter and gross. I wanted Opie to go with a friend for the first time to give him a confidence building experience. Also I didn't want to listen to him scream the whole time. One of those things may have factored in more than the other, judge as you will.

casual side eye while sporting fresh blu-kote on his hip

After last week's super successful trailer loading, I was feeling pretty confident we'd have a relatively smooth trip to and from the park. False.

We got Opie's pasture mate and sacrificial trail buddy loaded up first on the driver's side as he's quite a bit bigger. Opie took a hot minute to think about getting on before calmly following me up. He then immediately flew the fuck right back out for no discernible reason, bashing his hip on the divider on his way out. Rinse and repeat half a dozen times while we tried to lure him to stay in with cookies and grain, but every time someone so much as twitched in his periphery, he was violently outta there. He even snapped the chin buckle on his halter cleanly in half while yanking the lead rope out of my hands.

We finally took Mo out and put him away because while the poor dude was trying his hardest to be good, you could tell Opie was understandably setting him on edge and it made no sense to melt his brain. While BM led Mo back into the barn, I took Opie over to the driver's side and asked him to follow me up--which he did, and then stood there trembling but on a slack lead as I stuffed snacks into his face. BM walked back out and was like, "Uhh...?" I dunno, BM.

Another barn mate pulled in, scooted past the trailer ninja style, restocked my cookie supply for me, and then BM went to work on latching the butt bar behind Opie. She strolled around the parking lot behind him for awhile before working her way up to the ramp and silently dropping the pin in. Opie still seemed on edge, but hadn't made any sign of wanting to vacate the facility so she quickly brought Mo back out and got him (grudgingly) back on the trailer.

i'm skeptical of you sometimes too, dopie.

We were both on edge about getting them off, but they'd ridden quietly over and didn't seem at all frantic once we parked. Helmets and gloves on, I unclipped both horses at once while BM stealth mode dropped the ramp and butt bars. Opie stayed quiet so she was able to come up and grab Mo while I backed Opie off without much more drama than our practice runs. Phew!

Opie tried to drag me around a bit once off instead of grazing, but he seemed most interested in trying to steal treats out of the dressing room while I got him tacked up. At my "mounting block" (ghetto step stool), he walked away as soon as I put my foot in the stirrup. I simply hopped down, led him back around, and he was like, "Oh, right. This is like at home. I stand while you get on and I get the cookie." This was something I was curious to see how it would play out off property so it's good to know cookies still carry weight.

From there, we set out across the road and into the woods. Opie immediately took the lead. He doesn't get upset when he has to follow, he just has such a naturally huge, swinging walk that he usually ends up out front. Fortunately, he loves adventure time and willingly marched on.

about that bulging mid-neck even with a long rein.
the struggle is constant.

He was hesitant about going downhill, but with minimal encouragement he was careful about walking down. He wanted to trot or canter up the hills, but listened and kept it to the walk every time. Both things more experience will help with. We're not exactly rolling in terrain at the barn.

He did need Momo's lead over surface changes. He did okay for the first road crossings with the lines on the road as he'd previously trail ridden on those, but with the unlined black asphalt, he needed Mo--who was having his own conundrum being dumb-struck by a kid on a swing. Or just being dumb, jury's out. He also needed leads over a bridge and was a little worried about the weird noise, over a water run-off that he adorably very closely watched where and how Mo trundled across and then copied him exactly, and into the water though he followed perfectly willingly and tried to have an unauthorized swim.

he should be way over towards the bridge like mo as the
water drops off pretty steeply directly to our left

He didn't care about bikes, a crane surrounded by work trucks and people climbing everywhere (you can kind of see it in the background above), car traffic, or pedestrians. He did care about two St Bernards we saw in the distance, and it was the only time I thought he might try something stupid. I've passed these dogs a couple times before with Bobby and they're super quiet and well behaved with very conscientious owners, but they do kind of look like strange ponies. He got tense and tried to break into the trot a couple times, but he came right back every time I asked and kept it to a little jig step here and there until they were out of sight.

Mo, meanwhile, was behind us losing his shit though not necessarily because of the dogs. He was pretty sure this was the stupidest hunter pace he'd ever been on and could the walking please be over with now. Opie never fed off of him though which I love as all my other horses could turn into serious assholes when someone else went off.

Opie saw a building off in the distance as we were crossing a field and called out a couple times. We joked he forgot Mo was behind him, but he was obsessively looking at it like he thought it was a barn. It was also super windy and we were walking in the direction of the big show barn further down the road so maybe he caught a whiff of horses and was sending out an S.O.S.--Save Opie Srsly.

needs saving

I couldn't find my regular lead rope in the mess of throwing everything in my dressing room to get the fuck out of the barn parking lot before a certain someone realized he was locked in for good, and since the chin clip on his halter was broken I had to have BM hold him while wrapping him to go home. He was fine to graze next to Mo as long as I was next to him as well, but every time I walked away he'd stop grazing and stare after me. It was noble and majestic staring, but when I took my phone out he gave me the above pose. I'm glad he was looking to me though. I want him to consider me an acceptable substitute to his horse friends as I'm the only thing he's going to get at shows.

i judge your friend on the daily, dopes.

Getting them back on the trailer, we loaded Mo on the passenger side first then again had to wait a minute before Opie decided he would follow me up. Once on though, he gave no signs of drama and I shoveled handfuls of grain into both boys while BM lightning speed locked them in. Unloading back at the barn, he walked off cool as a cucumber. I guess the passenger side of the trailer is just a no-go, though there's going to be lots more repetition about loading on the driver's side regardless. I absolutely cannot have a horse I can't get on and off by myself, and our first show is in May.

Minus the trailering, I was really happy with his first outing. He got to go for a trip with his friend, did a relatively relaxing (though there was much teeth grinding and sucking on his tongue in times of stress--more on that in another post) yet engaging ride with no drama or fights or bad things happening, then got to come home. Hopefully with lots of that on repeat he'll get better about the trailering. Of course now I have to convince BM she doesn't hate us both and that coming for trail rides with us is so fun. Three more hours down for our trail riding goal, twenty left to go!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Will do side eye for prezzies



I've noticed an increase of side eye being thrown around the blogosphere since I bought Dopie. I'm not sure if it's because everyone's horses are down to throw some serious shade lately, or if I'm simply more cognizant of it now that's it's a permanent fixture on my own sass master's face.

side eye from day one, even while snooting things he should not be snooting.

So in honor of all things side eye, I'm putting on a mother fucking contest!

Why? Because it's the end of February, the weather is shitty, and nothing new or exciting is going on in my horse's training to otherwise amuse anyone. The prizes are mind blowing:

jk, they're not really.

Up for grabs is a bag of horse cookies (which I will gladly exchange for something sugar-free if your pone needs it), and a pair of shark socks in honor of Opie's teeth. Also because who doesn't love shark socks? And that's it. I'm poor and boring, and all you're doing is taking a picture of your horse so deal with it.

How this will go down:
  • Share a picture of your horse's best side eye. You can email it to me ( or tag me on instagram or facebook. Just make sure I confirm that I've seen it so it doesn't accidentally get skipped. 
  • The contest ends Sunday night. Next Monday, I'll post all the entries and let readers vote on who their favorite side eye is. The top three will then be entered for a random drawing for the prize. I'd like to say I'll be doing something exciting to randomly pick the winner, but chances are I'll just use an online randomizer. 
it's never ending

Go forth and be judged!