Thursday, May 30, 2013

Where We're At

Things have not being going well.

After our no good, very bad stadium round at Bucks, I've been trying to formulate a game plan to get Bobby back on track jumping-wise. I thought all I would need to do was get him to focus and he'd be back on auto-pilot. Every day we trudged up to the outdoor arena and dealt with horses getting turned out and brought in, the tractor running, the ATV going back and forth from the barn to paddocks, people lessoning in the indoor arena that the outdoor overlooks, and horses just outside the arena rails grazing.

Focus seemed to be mostly there for the dressage, and despite moments of anxiety and tension, Bobby really settled into a routine and started putting in decent flat work out there. The jumping, however, never came back.

I brainstormed with Hubby and people at the barn that have seen Bobby go. I had Sarah ride him to see if she could give me any insights. After her ride, he seemed patched together enough to jump a few fences with me, but I didn't feel at all confident about my ability to continue the trend.

On Monday, we had an all-out drag-out fight. I ended up sitting on Bobby for two hours, trying to get him to trot a one stride line of small crossrails. He pulled out all his evasive maneuvers and threw in a few extra for good measure and we never did get it done. I ended the ride sobbing, managed to pull myself together to walk back to the barn, and then promptly burst into tears again when S asked me how it went. "I broke my horse, and I don't know how to fix him!" was about all that was coherent from my answer.

S consoled me, and I went home and immediately send an S.O.S. to pm BM to ask her if she'd put in a real training ride on him. I also shot off an email to the secretary at Bucks and scratched from the June event. She was incredibly kind and quick to respond and promised a refund was on its way. That lifted a huge load off my chest, and I felt even better when BM said she'd be able to ride first thing Tuesday morning.

BM got a small taste of Bobby's tricks that Sarah did not. He rushed, he pulled, he got tense, and he shot sideways once when faced with a jump. BM never got frazzled and very calmly and very professionally continued on like he hadn't set a foot wrong and Bobby slowly began to decompress.

She asked me if I could handle constructive criticism. I told her that she could rip me to shreds at this point. I was beating myself up enough knowing that I'm the reason he's come unglued and nothing she was going to say would hurt my feelings. She told me that what she sees from me is my complete inability to release over fences. Absolutely! This is something I've mentioned over and over again in this blog, yet I get so caught up in everything that Bobby's doing that over and over its priority goes right out the window.

So BM had me get on and she stood beside the jump and reminded me at every single approach to grab mane and release---nothing else matters. Bobby got quick, but he didn't once pull his "I hate everything!" antics.

The moral was that Bobby's probably been throwing on the dramatics because he doesn't like getting snatched in the mouth. Who can blame him? He's a horse that internalizes everything which makes him seem like he dopes along without a care in the world, but I think he finally got so fed up with me that all the tension, anxiety, and flat out distaste for my riding finally came to head.

We had a long powwow after the ride.
  • Bobby does like his job. He likes to jump. I haven't ruined that yet.
  • He's not a hunter horse, and he's never going to put in a hunter round. I need to drop that notion right now. Permanently. All he has to do is get us around clear and safe--who cares how it looks?
  • Bobby probably won't be the horse to get me to the top, which isn't something I really have any ambition for anyway, but if I can ride him well at my level, I'll be a better rider on any horse after him because of it.
  • Going into our show this weekend, I'm assuming we're going to get eliminated. I don't know how he'll handle a new place, but quite frankly my hopes are not high. If he finishes in our division of 18, that will be complete icing on the cake.
  • With that in mind, BM said my one and only goal this weekend is to make sure I release. If I do nothing else, at least I'll know that I did my job. 
And here's a disclaimer for all the "Aren't lessons great? You should get them!" comments that are just dying to come from your little fingers:

I'm not going to take jumping lessons from BO. Reasons were chronicled last year, and I stand firmly by them. Also, because it's BO's barn, she's the only one allowed to teach out of it. I completely understand this, and I have nothing against it. That means that while BM and others might lend me a hand here and there, setting up a weekly lesson schedule is not a possibility. I don't have my own truck to trailer out for lessons--we use Hubby's company truck for shows, and he works six days a week during this time of the year.

At this point, I don't really have a plan for the rest of the show season. I have no burning desire to go to another show. Until I feel confident that Bobby will do his job without the explosives, and I'm able to ride him without snatching/panicking/fighting, we're not going anywhere.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Trail Ride!

Today was the perfect day for a much needed trail ride. Only five more days of turkey season and then we can go out whenever we want!

I met Sarah at the barn and loudly announced, "I am so high right now." Then I rounded the corner and saw two impressionable tweens with startled looks on their faces and I quickly assured them it was because of Benadryl. I took some helmet cam of our trail ride, but I'm not sharing a single second of it because I'm breathing like a heifer--a heifer that just ran twenty miles in 100* weather. Allergies are a bitch.

killer views, gorgeous weather.

Even though I couldn't really tell where my feet were, I got Bobby all tacked up and we headed out. For not being on a trail ride in nearly a month, he was pretty good. A little jigging and a little sideways drift, but seeing as I was riding on the buckle with one hand, he could have been a lot worse.

We made our usual across the road loop which including me going down the monster hill for the third time ever. Holla! Floating out of my head from antihistamines has its advantages, I'll tell you. Since it was so beautiful out, neither one of us wanted to head back so instead we trekked down to Fishing Creek.

probably the shallowest we went.

Bobby took one look at the water and plowed right in. Round river rocks that make horrendous footing? Who cares! Bobbys love the water! He did not want to get out of the water, but Memphis didn't want to get in, so I finally convinced him to go retrieve his trail partner. Memph stuck his front toes in and then spent about five minutes creeping the rest of the way in.

"welcome, friends. give me head rubs so we can swim."

As long as he was right next to Bobby, Memphis was okay, but he definitely needed to employ the buddy system. Unfortunately for poor Memph, Bobby really wanted to go exploring the rest of the way down the creek and kept splashing further and further downstream on his own volition, getting deeper and deeper. Memphis would slowly follow with a worried look on his face until he caught up to Bobby, and then he'd nip him in the face to show his displeasure to his dumb friend.

"this isn't a good idea, bobby."
"lolz, whut? this is awesome!"

Bobby wasn't offended. Bobby was all, "Yayyy!! Swimming hole!" At which point--when the pawing and splashing got a little too zealous and I thought he might take the wading up to his belly to the next level--I turned him around to go home. He wouldn't move! He did not want to get out of the water. He was having way too much fun. I finally got him to go forward, and then he tried to make a detour into the "rapids" instead of exiting the creek. He finally agreed to get back onto the bank and we headed home.

Hopefully the day off and a good trail ride put Robert back in good spirits and he'll work with me through a jump school tomorrow.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Training Ride

The weather totally caught on to my bitching. It went from 90* at the beginning of the week to the mid-forties today. I put Bobby's sheet on for tonight. That's right. It's the end of May and my horse needs a sheet for turnout. What the fuck is going on with you, weather? I'm not saying the lack of heat induced fainting spells isn't appreciated, but at least be consistent, amigo.

Bobby had Wednesday off and had a dressage school in the outdoor yesterday. He was longed, and then alternated between being mediocre and downright naughty. We spent a solid five minutes spinning about in circles because... well, quite honestly I'm not really sure why he was spinning, but there you have it. After a ten minute canter, he collected himself to perform slightly above mediocre and I finished the ride with a scowl on my face. You can learn to be a little consistent too, Robert.

centaur summer sheet, aka more loot from bm.
say whaaat. 

Today I made a date with Sarah for her to jump Bobby. Since he was so awful at our last show, and so awful Tuesday, I really wanted to see if it was just me making him a total fruitcake, or if he just genuinely is a fruitcake and I'd have to find something else to fix him. I've also never seen anyone else jump him, or anyone else beside the 10yo that leased him back in 2011 ride him. Sarah willingly agreed and because of the rain last night, we set up a few jumps in the indoor.

First things first: I switched his saddle from the Stubben to the Pessoa. The Pessoa is a bit wider which never would have worked on Bobby's bony, narrow ass last year. However, with how much he's muscled up, it actually sits pretty damn nicely on him. Of course, it's one size to small for me, but Bobby first. I can squeeze my ass in there if need be.

I warmed Bobby up on one half of the arena while Sarah longed Memphis on the other half. Memphis decided he was the fanciest Dutch stallion you've ever seen when he realized there was a filly off the back of the arena. The filly fell for it and proceeded to bang on the gate for the majority of our ride. We won't get into what Memphis did, but it involved a lot of acrobatics on the longe and a very ungentlemanly....display of affection? Pervert.

Anyway.


Sarah ran through All The Things with Bobby. Does Bobby like this? Does Bobby like that? Does Bobby need to go more forward to the jumps to avoid rushing those last two strides? Does Bobby go calmer halting a few strides out and then trotting over? Does Bobby like when you do absolutely nothing?

What she found out:

  • Don't chase him to the fences. If he wants to go more forward, he'll do it on his own. Absolutely no spurs, leg, seat grinding allowed.
  • He was pretty confused about the whole halt-trot-jump exercise, but he didn't rush. 
  • What made him happiest was just putting him on course for the jump, grabbing mane, and sitting there.
  • He does feel like he's charging the fence, but at the same time, he doesn't. It's not like a calvary charge. It's more like a, "Get to the fence. Get to the fence. Ok, it's been jumped. Carry on."
Sarah also fell off for the third time this month, all three of those times being with me. Pretty sure I'm bad luck. She had asked Bobby to halt just a little too close to the fence so he didn't have quite enough room to get a good trot going to clear it and he ran into the jump, pulled the rails, stopped, and backed up to avoid the mess. I really thought she was going to stick it, but his jumping back tipped her off over his head, taking his bridle with him. To his credit, he just stood there and gave us a worried look until I went to grab him, and he jumped right over it when she got back on.


I took Memphis for a brief spin before getting back on Bobby. Memphis was totes confused and plodded along like a packer for me, including going over a couple of jumps from a crawl to make sure I wasn't jostled. Such a good pony, and so much fancier than Bobby. 

Bobby stayed willing for me to jump him. He had one stop at the yellow vertical, but he trotted over it once he was circled. We did a pattern a few times over all three jumps and headed up to the outdoor to see what the footing was like. Once up there, we cantered the same X and vertical from Tuesday with no runouts or refusals. We even jumped the coop! My position is absolute shit, but at least my horse is jumping again.

I'm still not feeling very confident about our show next week. I'm worried that he's going to pick up on how worried I am about him doing a repeat performance of the last show and do exactly that. But we still have one week! One week for me to throw up with anxiety. I really, really question why I ever want to do more than trail ride about ninety percent of the time.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

So. Hot.

The Top Five Reasons I Hate Summer:

  1. The unattractive shade of puce my face turns when I get hot.
  2. Despite being born in California, and the vast majority of my immediate and extended family living on the sunny west coast, my dad's Irish and English heritage and my mom's Irish and German heritage have combined to make me an albino. "Tanning" to my body means freckles and various degrees of sunburn.
  3. Sweating grosses me out. I'm not above holding my shirt off of my disgustingly sticky body and squealing like a two year old, "Get it off! Get it off!"
  4. Along those lines, sweat + "warm vanilla" deodorant + SPF 5,000 sunblock = I smell like a wet dog's ass.
  5. Every mutant bug known to man comes to life and wants to be my BFF. Dear Mutant Bug: Fuck off. I will go ninja warrior on your ass, and you will not survive. 
time outs in the shade are a summer must.

Since it's a balmy 90* outside today, I decided to go to the barn at 8:30 to try to beat some of the heat. That failed. It was still in the mid-eighties, humid, and no cloud cover. Whatevs. At least it wasn't raining! I threw Bobby on grass while I set up a grid from the August 2012 Eventing USA magazine.

The exercise is simple: A vertical and a square oxer on opposite ends of the arena and a double bounce in the middle. I only had enough standards for one bounce, but it worked. According to Courtney Cooper the purpose of this is "to introduce making shorter, more square turns. In time, this will help young horses to start looking for their jumps as soon as they land." Right up Bobby's wandering brain alley, right?

Bobby warmed up fine. The mares had been switched to the field above the outdoor and the mares like to run around for no reason, but he was relatively focused. Started out by warming up over the single vertical (2'). Jumped it the first time, refused it the second time. And refused it again and again and again. Oh, and again.


He finally got over it (I won't say jumped it) and we moved on to the bounce. "Oh?" Bobby says. "Charge the jump like a rabid rhino? Done and done!" ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. We had a spastic piss-fit about the bounce for awhile before making it through and taking a break.

Went back to work and cantered over a pole on the ground, counting out from 3 strides and then 5. So exciting. At least it calmed both of us down. Took another walk break to cool off and tried the oxer (also 2').

Man, Blogger is being a serious bitch about videos, isn't it?

Bobby refusing the oxer. Repeatedly.

I knocked everything down--angled the bounce, made the vertical a ground pole, and made the oxer an X. And still! Still!!! he refused.

Foul language runs rampant.

FINALLY, after walking everything and trotting everything, we were able to canter all the tiny little baby jumps. For fuck's sake, horse. What is going on in your head??

OMG, it jumps!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Good pony!

Bobby is make huge leaps forward in his outside dressage work! I longed him in side reins first and got on with dressage whip in hand--something he's also being very good about me carrying lately. He doesn't like getting touched with it (and I literally only brush it against his hip when he's sticky to my leg), but he does allow me to carry it now without having a complete spaz.

His walk work was very good, very relaxed, and very focused despite plenty of pony and people distractions around the barn.

distractions included, but not limited to, wild ponies.
His trot was okay. He was being very good about halt halts, but he was a little more unfocused. I did a few trot-halt-trot transitions with him which brought his attention back until the cows across the road started mooing. Then he had to take a peek at them and was sluggish moving off to the trot. I brought him right back to a halt to try again. Unfortunately, Bobby takes great offense to super fast transitions because he thinks he did something wrong, and he hates doing things wrong. So when I asked him to trot off again he had a bit of a tantrum.

Me: Give your face. Very good. And trot.

Bobby: Back up? You didn't want me to trot before, so you must mean back up.

Me: No, no. Halt. Give your face. Good pony. And-- no, Bobby. I want you to go forward.

Bobby: WHY DON'T YOU WANT ME TO GO BACKWARDS?! YOU ONLY LET ME TROT TWO STEPS BEFORE YOU TOLD ME THAT WAS WRONG, SO YOU MUST MEAN GO BACKWARDS NOW.

Me: No, Bobby. Just relax and halt. Good. Give your face. Good. And--nope. Wrong again.

Bobby: OH MY GOD, DID I JUST FEEL THE WHIP TAP MY BUTT?? WHY ARE YOU BEATING ME?? I'M JUST TRYING TO GO BACKWARDS FOR YOU!!!

Me: Ok, no spinning. That's naughty. Just halt. Good pony! And trot.

Bobby: I'M ONLY TROTTING BECAUSE YOU BEAT ME SENSELESS WITH THE WHIP.

Me: Mm, pretty sure I didn't.

Bobby: PRETTY SURE YOU DID.

After that, he gave me quite literally the best trot work he has ever done. Ever. You guys are obligated to believe me in this despite lack of photographic proof because you should all know how honest I am when things are not going well--which is about 93% of the time. He was fucking fabulous. If all it takes is a teeny little tap on the butt when he's being naughty and he takes that as "Must be perfect now", the dressage whip is coming to warm up with us. Sometimes I really do wonder what goes on inside Bobby's head.

After his perfect trot work, he got rewarded by getting to stop and say hello to Dollar.

"whoa, dude. what's on your head?"
His canter work to the left was acceptable, but really good to the right. He did want to get fast when coming back down to the trot, but I put him right to work leg yielding and doing shoulder-in to slow him down and get him focused back on a rhythmical trot. He was a little resistant, but again--he was so solid with half halts today that all I had to do was throw one at him before asking him for the lateral work and he quickly slowed.

I have a fun jumping exercise planned for tomorrow so I'm really hoping the rain holds off another day. It's going to make him think fast about jumping instead of loafing around half the arena to get to the next jump and having the opportunity to gawp at the outside world.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

"Cross country"

I promise I'll get a massage post up eventually. I'd like to make it more than a "Bobby loves rubbies!" post, but that will require brain cells that I'm not currently possessing. Instead, have some pictures of Sarah and I cross country schooling up in the field today. Not a lot of schooling went on, but there are still pictures.

bobby was feeling fresh and feisty.

memphis was feeling fancy. as always.
We went over the ditch a few times and then over the cherry log once.

no effort required.

he hasn't stopped at it once! but he is clearly impressed with it.

not impressed.
Bobby and I did a line uphill to the big log, bending line to the ditch, bending line to the hanging log. Memphis and Sarah followed suit, doing the big log to the ditch before circling and doing the hanging log on its own-- only Memphis picked up on Sarah's "Ehhh"-ness and had a dirty stop right in front of it and Sarah went tumbling down. She really is the most graceful dismounter ever. I salute you, Sarah!

That was really about all the jumping we did until Hubby told us to go jump something else because we were boring him. I was like, "I'll go jump the gate since Bobby hates it!" Because that sounded like a really good idea.

nope.
no way.
After about ten minutes and a failed lead from Memphis (Memph didn't fail--Bobby just refused to take the bait), I trotted him towards it off a crazy angle and he deer leaped over it. I was all, "YAYYYY!! YOU IZ THE SMARTEST HORSIE EVER!!!" and he was all, "I am not participating in this celebration."

"you shut up, lady. i hate you."
I went to walk him by it and he had a random meltdown where he frozen in place and refused to move an inch. He would not scoot one foot over. I didn't want to pop him with the whip because I know he hates it, but I did have my spurs on. He didn't care.

having a pep talk about forward motion.
Hubby finally came over and led him forward and we had a little walk all around the jump to show him that its mere existence wasn't going to kill him.

The four of us trotted down to the end of the field for a finishing run up the hill. Bobby thought it was best to go like a llama until we got to the fence, and then he thought it would be best to go sideways into the tree branches until I got sick of being whacked in the face and just let him go. 

bastard horses.
After he got all cooled off, hosed off, and put away, I started putting my stuff away and Hubby pointed out Bobby's apparent distress about life. He was standing with his head against the stall door, kicking out hard with his back legs. Of course I jumped to the colic conclusion, but his gut sounds were strong. I fly sprayed him to death and when that didn't stop his kicking, I had BM check his gut sounds, too. She assured me they were fine before groping his unmentionables whereupon something gross fell off of his sheath. I couldn't find it in the shavings once it fell, but it might have been a tick which would have explained the pissy kicking. I hand fed him some hay for awhile before he decided he was no longer close to death and could eat by himself. 

Such a drama llama in so many ways.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The canter, the canter, the canter.

Not to sound like an ungrateful whore, but I really fucking hate hot weather.

buttercup head says, "ughhh, me too!"
It was "only" eighty today and I know it's going to get hotter, but I am already over this weather. Sorry winter haters. I'll put on my layers and trot around for hours without breaking a sweat any day. Of course, I could also do without the snow, ice, and rain, but at least it's not black-out inducing heat.

Bobby got tacked up in his dressage bridle and jump saddle to play a fun game in the outdoor called "Regulatorssss!!" No, it was actually called "Let's adjust the canter."

Skye and Dollar were turned out in the fence around the round pen for extra weeding/grazing privileges, so we also incorporated the game "Pay the fuck attention before I beat your ass in my heat stroke-like haze." I actually was excited about this, since we now all know that nothing turns Bobby into an ornery douche like distractions! He warmed up well at the walk and trot. I made him work every single step which was just as much of a challenge for my A.D.D. brain as his. We circled every few steps and were constantly changing direction. "Frame"/dressage-wise, it probably wasn't the prettiest, but he was striding out and not a complete giraffe, so we'll consider it a small win.

Then the canter. We kicked it off to the right and continued to make circles everywhere, this time focusing on keeping his shoulder UP and varying the speed. It was difficult in that I was being a shoddy rider about adding more leg when taking more of a hold on him when I wanted him to add more bounce to his canter and he was taking advantage and breaking to a trot. However, he was very adjustable between going fast and coming back to a normal canter. Small win!

We were politely kicked out of the outdoor by J who wanted to drag the ring, so we finished in the indoor going left. I made him go down the quarterlines which involved going straight--which really involved going all over the place. I had lost my momentum at that point and made him aimlessly trot around for awhile. He'd get fast and my mind would be all, "Half halt" while my body was like, "Meh."

So we went for a hack around the pastures.


A nice breeze had picked up and Bobby was content to wander all over the field for nearly twenty minutes before we headed back. Stupid turkey hunters. I want my trails back!

He got a good hose down and then I made him pose for a conformation update.

he thought it was exhausting work, and didn't want to participate.
His head is almost as long as his neck, and his neck is nearly as long as his back, but he is looking fit and amazingly barely ribby at all.

not winning any beauty awards.
Massage tomorrow (which I will do a post about!) and Saturday off.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A "new" poor woman acquisition

Something frivolous has been bothering me for a long time: Bobby has lacked a nice leather halter with a name plate.

Leather halters can certainly be cheap. You can pick up a poor quality one with a buckle chin strap anywhere. Nameplates are also really cheap, running anywhere from $8 - $20. However, the cheap leather halters don't usually fit Bobby's strangely shaped head, and I detest the buckle chin straps. So Bobby has been sporting a variety of colored nylon halters with matching lead ropes while I complained about the way they rub his nose for the ten minutes a day he has to wear them, and while I keep telling myself that eventually I'll just bite the bullet and order him a nice leather track halter.

Then, when I was digging through one of my multiple tack trunks filled with miscellaneous crap while looking for... I don't remember what before our first show of the year, I pulled out a moldy track halter that was worn by the very first baby I ever broke out.


The filly was eventually sold as a riding horse as she was deemed too small and too quiet to work for the school's racing program, but I kept her halter as a keepsake. I scrubbed the halter down, oiled it, and threw it on Bobby to see if it would fit him.

modeled here after burgundy hollow.
Since that was a success, I searched the internet for the cheapest nameplate available and used some of my PayPal funds to order a $9 engraved nameplate (plus $10 shipping--what's up with that?!). It got here last Friday and I ambitiously decided I was going to put it on myself.

You may not think that something so small would be so hard to work with. I was deeply involved with technical theatre in high school and I can saw, drill, and build large wooden scenes in no time flat. But hand me a screw driver and a six inch piece of metal and I'm like, "......??" I eventually pried the old nameplate up with the screw driver enough that I could cut the old screws off with metal cutters--only gauging a massive hole in one of my knuckles in the process, thank you very much. Then the old holes were too small for the new screws (LOL), so I used a pre-drill bit to make them bigger and then hammered the new screws in so they were nice and snug.

tah dah!
The leather is a little rubbed in some spots, and it's not shiny new, but it's buttery soft and fits his silly head. Plus, I would never want to stray from the Poor Woman theme of this blog!

finally a little class.
Bobby seems no worse for wear from his lackluster performance over the weekend, and I jumped on him bareback yesterday to wander around the farm for a few minutes. We eventually ended up on the grass outside the round pen where I stopped him so we could do that strange human bonding thing where the rider sits on their horse's back while the horse grazes. The only problem was that Bobby knows he's not allowed to snatch at grass while under saddle so he simply stood there while up to his knees in snacks. I eventually figured out what the issue was and got off so he could graze. Poor dude does try to be good most of the time.



Monday, May 13, 2013

BCHP ST - N

I'm going to try very hard not to make this show recap whiny and negative, no matter how much I want to. While yesterday's show didn't go at all the way I wanted, there were still some good things to take away from the experience.

Hubby and I had a disgustingly early 3:30 wake up call and we stumbled into the barn just after 4. I gave Bobby his grain and forced myself up the hill to grab a pony out of the paddock to longe her for one of the girls that was going to a hunter show with the barn that morning. Fortunately, she was a very good girl and didn't make a fuss about getting led about in the dark before getting worked in the indoor at such an early hour, but I was sleepily doubting my decision to be a nice person by volunteering for this job. I put her away, hayed the barn to keep them quiet, and then wrapped Mr Magee and took him out to get loaded. He was totes confused and distracted and was so busy looking around him that he forgot to pick his feet up when walking into the trailer and fell into it. Yep. Giving us a glance into how the rest of the day was going to go.

Dressage

Despite giving myself just over an hour before my ride time, I still somehow managed to feel rushed and like I was moving way too slowly. Getting myself ready, tacking up Bobby, picking the hay out of his braids, and finding my stock tie somehow seemed to eat up my entire hour and I quickly threw Bobby on the longe with his side reins out in the parking area.


I trotted him to the left for all of three minutes before having to call it quits and get on. He was surprisingly more cooperative than he was last weekend, but still just too tense and too braced to really put in the work he's capable of at home.

keeping the bell boots on as long as possible!

one last canter before getting called over.
Our test was...alright. It looks and felt smooth, flowing, and obedient, but I was riding my lady balls off to keep him focused. He kept trying to sneak glances down into the warm up ring that we were overlooking. Thankfully, we were the second pair in our division to go and there were only tree Training riders so no one was jumping yet. There were no mistakes, but there was no fanciness either and we scored 7s pretty much the entire way down to tie for 6th with a 32.6. There was less than 8 points separating our entire division after dressage.


Stadium

Bobby warmed up fabulously for stadium. He was hitting his distances, he was moving forward without getting strung out, and he wasn't at all fazed by the considerably more crowded warm up or all the horses jumping around him.

such a good pony.

calm pony pants.
We headed over to the ring just as the first rider was starting his round. There was one rider that wanted to get going so she went before us. Bobby curled his head to his chest despite being on a loose rein when she went in and started gnawing on his bit. He doesn't like to wait around for the jumping. The course had some crazy turns in it, but overall looked very doable, and despite the massive amounts of rain we got Saturday the footing was great. 

First jump? Fine. Landed on the correct lead, circled around to the right, and:


Ok. A chip. Nothing we haven't run into before. A bending line across the diagnol, I gave him a little more leg and three was...passable. Sharp left turn to an oxer on the short side right in front of the judge's booth and Bobby bunny hopped over it. Another sharp turn to a two stride and Bobby was so busy gawping at the judge that by the time I yanked his head straight again, he was like, "Whoa! Where'd that come from?!" and ran out. Circled him, he skittered sideways at the judge again, and ran out again. I gave him a whack behind my leg that he kicked out at, I turned him on a tiny circle and trotted him over it.

the offending fence with the offending judge behind us.
By that point we were both frazzled and Bobby just got faster and longer and more spastic. We somehow made it over 5b and 6 before crashing through 7. I ended up sitting on Bobby's neck and we were obviously eliminated. I came out of the ring mad, but also really confused. What was his deal? Why the drama over a course that he really should have been able to cruise around? Our course last weekend felt great and the turns were a lot crazier. Hubby was watching with our trailer neighbor's wife and he relayed that she said it looked like Bobby just wasn't seeing the fences until he was on top of them. That very well may have been the case; he was so distracted by the large crowd and horses milling around the arena--something that we didn't have last weekend where we were the last pair to go of the show and had the place to ourselves--that he wasn't focusing on his job.

I went over to the TD and asked if we could still try to go around cross country. She gave me a brief but well deserved lecture about my disastrous stadium round, but agreed to let me go as long as I pulled up at the first sign that he was going to pull the same shit that he did in the ring. I readily agreed as I had no desire to get myself hurt and cross country fences don't come down when you jump into them. 

Cross Country


The course was soaked when we walked it. Absolutely saturated. Listen for the suction/swimming noises on the helmet cam and you can get some idea of how wet it was. It was also massive



The first two fences went okay, although Bobby felt obligated to take as many zig-zags as he could to fence 1 before straightening out. The third jump was a giant drop.


Thank God for my cross country schooling where I felt like I had dominated banks because I would probably have walked up to it and gotten a stop otherwise. As it was, I still made him trot it and he launched off of it Superman style. We trotted through the swamp on landing and went mud bogging through the woods. At fence 10, I began to lose control. 



Fence 10 was actually his best effort on course. He had a big, forward canter going to it, took it in stride and carried on strongly. Too strongly. Fence 11 was the N version of the dreaded "farm stand" that I fell at last year and I was just as freaked out by it as I was then. I wanted to get him focused on it so he could see that it was steps and not just a solid upright like it looks, but he blew me off and sailed over it from a mile out. Same with 12. And 13. And 14. After 14, I ripped his face off with all my strength. After the "palisade" (the ramp thing), look for his head to go shooting up in the air. That would be me sitting him on his ass. He was completely ignoring me and just steam rolling through my attempts at braking.

That was going to get us hurt for the "roller coaster" of 16 A and B. 

up a steep, short hill to this hanging log where you can't see the landing
land downhill, down this short, steep hill into
a ditch and across the road
to another hanging log.
I fought with him to get him to trot the fence as I didn't want to go mach speed down a hill that he couldn't even tell was there, but he was insistent on cantering. Fortunately, I was hauling on his mouth enough that when he  got to the jump and saw the landing, he had enough sense to stop instead of catapulting over it. We stopped there. We'd already earned our E, no need to finish the last two jumps.


The helmet cam:


Where do we go from here? Ughhhhhhhh, I don't even know. It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around our stadium round. I just can't believe it went so awfully. I know that Bucks has a ton of atmosphere and Bobby does not do well with that. We have never had three good phases there. But that much of a mess? Really, Bobby? Now I have to decide if I want to spend $165 on an entry there for next month, or if I need to find another Sunday one day event in the same time frame--because that's super easy. 

As far as a training plan for the next three weeks until GVRDC.... no clue. Absolutely no idea. I need to figure out brakes, focus, softness and suppleness, compacting his massive body, and on and on.

I scheduled a massage for him Friday and he probably won't really get worked until then. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Swag!

Yesterday, I got to the barn just as NF was finishing up his last horse so I got a chance to talk with him about Bobby's feet. He asked how our show went over the weekend and whether or not Bobby had had any issues keeping his balance cross country. He said that with the squared off toe in the back, horses can't quite dig their feet in as much and might lose traction a bit. I told him I thought Bobby felt great, but we discussed studs. We both want to wait as long as possible before having to use them because NF thinks that his feet are such a mess, tweaking with his shoes any more than we have to is just asking for a problem. He said that if Bobby really needs them, he can put some tiny studs in like he did for us over the winter and see if that works. For now, though, we're going to stay with where we're at.

I went to grab the horse to put him on the crossties and he started snaking his head and snorting as soon as he saw me. Sassy pants was pissed he missed his turnout the night before. Fortunately, Step Two of Operation: OUTSIDE DRESSAGE was longeing in side reins before I got on.

are those...neck muscles??
He had a little bit of sass on the line, but was overall pretty good. He longed for about ten minutes all together, and then I dumped side reins, longe line, and back up plan draw reins in a big pile and got on.

his tail is soooo long! (for him)
I was frustrated with myself at first. I've gotten so dependent on the mirrors in the indoor to track our progress that I didn't think I could tell if he was going correctly. I didn't want to let him get away with sub-par work, but I also didn't want to push him harder than he's been going without knowing it.

I had him do a lot of trot-halt-trot transitions with a few trot-halt-back-trots thrown in while focusing on keeping him straight and not launching above the bit when trotting off. Between the side reins and the transitions, he really stayed focused and all of the sudden I felt him click into Indoor Dressage mode. Ballin'!

Once he was in gear, it was easy peasy to keep him working correctly. We even had a stretchy walk break before picking up the trot and canter to the left again and he didn't throw a temper tantrum. We finished on a 20m circle cantering to the left, working really hard to keep his shoulder up and not drift out. He got it spot on for three strides and we called it quits there.

dressage mule.
Today was a scheduled jump day and, despite the massive amount of rain we got yesterday, we headed back up to the outdoor. The ring was absolute shoe-sucking slop. Oh, well. The footing at Bucks is almost identical to our outdoor and they're going to get just as much rain as us leading up to Sunday. It was like a home advantage! Sort of.

jump course.
After a brief warm up, I started Bobby off tracking right to the 2'9" vertical down the middle of the ring. He rubbed it so softly behind, he only knocked the rail out of the cup on one side. I didn't feel like getting off to put it back up, so we moved on to the oxer along the long side. Did that a few times, and then changed directions. We made a circle over the gate (against the short side of the ring), then made a line from the gate to the oxer, eventually also adding in the coop (angled against the other short side).

The first time adding in the coop, he jumped so big over the oxer that he landed uncoordinated and under-powered and he came to a slow, calm, "Um, no. That's a dumb decision." stop in front of it. Since I wholeheartedly agreed with him, I turned him around, circled, and came over the coop by itself. We finished there since he was not impressed with the footing and I didn't want him freaking himself out and getting panicked if he started sliding.

sloppy!
In other exciting news, I opened my locker yesterday and saw a giant pile of swag! NF and I were the only ones around, so I had no idea who it came from or if it was even supposed to be in my locker. I left it in there overnight and asked a.m. BM this morning about it. Apparently p.m. BM's mom owns a tack store (I think that's right) and BM got a bunch of loot and decided to share the wealth with me. Awesome!!!! So what did I get? A massive stack of dressage and eventing magazines, a shaped white show pad, a pair of black leather gloves, a bag full of half a dozen pairs of bell boots in swanky colors (not going to lie--lime green and hot pink excited me), and.....

dreamy.
It was like the best Pony Christmas in May ever. I can't wait to show off this bad boy this weekend.

rocking the lime green bell boots
Bobby gets tomorrow off. We'll do another outdoor dressage ride Saturday before he gets bathed and braided and locked down for a 4:30 am departure time. Ugh.