Sunday, March 30, 2014

Samantha St Jacques Clinic

It was cold and windy, and it had rained like crazy all day yesterday, but thanks to our super early ride time Bobby and I managed completely to miss the ice/rain/snow we're now getting. Bobby was feeling pretty confident that the chickens on the property were going to eat him, and he was slightly concerned that there weren't other horses in the ring with him, but despite his best efforts to rip my arms out of the sockets, he warmed up mostly in control.

bobby looking as klassy as ever while we get instructions.

I slathered on my Effax Leather Grip (which is why my leg stays locked in place, not some overnight miracle), and introduced myself to Samantha. I told her what our main issue was (stadium) and what I wanted to work on (course work). 

samantha: try not to look like the apocalypse is near when riding this line.
me: mmm...yeah...no guarantees.

She had us warm up on a circle over an X with poles on either side. Bobby cantered awkwardly through the first time because OMG CHICKENS DEATH WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE HOLY SHIT I LOVE JUMPS WHERE ARE ALL THE OTHER HORSES?! 

It only took him one time through though before he was a respectable citizen and did what was asked:


After doing it once from the other direction, we switched back to the left and added in a small vertical that she wanted ridden in six strides which meant Bobby had to be quiet or he'd get five. He only got the five once and we moved on to the next.


Samantha wanted us to do the vertical to vertical line in six strides, come back around and do it in five, and then once more in six. Our first time wasn't too bad, but it quickly went downhill from there. As Samantha said, Bobby sees his distance and he moves up on his own to get it. He has to learn that there's more than one distance and he has to listen to see which one I want.

In fact, he has to listen to me period. If I make a correction, he has to respond to it. Otherwise we make a mistake at the fence, I try to correct it, he ignores me, I give up, and then it just spirals out of control from there. Sounds about right.

We were getting one awkward spot after another, and Samantha told me I have to move on to the next fence as soon as he lands. I can't just sit there and hope things magically work themselves out. I still have to get the strides and make it over the next jump. Hmm. Also sounds about right.


Once she got us sorted out and we'd accomplished our 6-5-6 exercise, she gave us a course.

It didn't go great the first time through. I had no plan coming into the first bending line and we got eight strides when she wanted six because we were wandering all over the place. The second line was even worse. I didn't make a plan for that line either and ran him head first into the oxer. He obviously stopped, and I immediately owned up to it being completely my fault.


Samantha told me I really need to sit down and think through literally every stride of my course, not just one jump to the next. Yep.

We tried again, this time breaking into the trot to try to get the correct lead through the second bending line. Apparently don't do that in a bending line. Whoops. We made it over the oxer anyway, but it didn't matter because he refused the first fence of the double.

He gave it a hard look when I brought him around again, but he did go over...in three strides. We proceeded to have issues with that as he either got the three strides or went flying in flat and fast to get the two. And the last jump of the course right after the double? Yeah, we pretty much never even got there until Samantha made us circle around and do it again by itself. 


I was starting to get really frustrated with myself although she kept telling me not to beat myself up so much. After a long walk break where she talked me through some of my issues--like, don't half halt so hard with your hands and instead scoop with your pelvis to slow him in a line, and he won't throw his head and ignore you--she asked if I wanted to try again. I was like "No, I suck at everything" but only in my head because that would have been childish.

The whole ride we'd been working on a slower, more relaxed canter to try to get Bobby to listen to me, and while I kept the relaxation, I did let him out a little bit which seemed to make the whole course flow better. You can hear in the videos how she's constantly telling me to pull my shoulders back, open up my diaphragm, and lengthen my back. Yeah....I really, really need to work on that.

I was really happy with how the last time through course rode:


We finished by working through the two stride by itself. First she had me lengthen his canter, but when that didn't work she put out placement poles--two in front of the first jump, and then she added one in between the two fences. That made him slow it down and think it through, and we ended on a really good note.


I got a ton out of my private, and I'm so glad I was able to do this. We pretty much never get anyone out here that's close enough and cheap enough that I can work with. I wish there were more opportunities closer, but at least I received a lot of information to work with for now.

Samantha was really helpful, and she had no problem explaining things to me in a way that I understood immediately. She didn't get frustrated when I repeated mistakes, and she stayed positive as we worked through them. I'd definitely recommend anyone doing a clinic with her if she's ever in your area!

Also major props to the clinic organizer who kept everything running smoothly, and had little gift packs when we were done. I wish we could have stuck around longer to watch more rides, but the dogs were locked in at home and I didn't want to leave them in there for too long.

Friday, March 28, 2014

When It Just Isn't Your Day

Or, When You End Up On Your Backside in the Dirt.

First of all, I woke up seriously nauseous this morning. I have a sneaking suspicion it had to do with my meal choices yesterday. Let's recap:

Breakfast:  English muffin.

Lunch: Six mini Cadbury eggs washed down with half a Mountain Dew (the other half went to Bobby).

Dinner: A piece of pizza (at least it was homemade so it wasn't greasy), and the other six mini Cadbury eggs.

And that is it. I think I need to reevaluate my diet.



After crawling around the house all morning, I went to the barn and had to work around the barn's vet. That's no big deal, but she kind of freaks me out which is why I don't use her. But BO was in the barn so she was an excellent buffer and I talked to her a bit.

Down to the arena we went for a quick jump school. Warmed up over an X twice before coming in through three trot poles to a vertical and out over what was going to be an oxer but was still just ground poles. Bobby was fine with all of this, and since I was suffering from cramps (love being a girl), an upset stomach, and random lower back pain, I went ahead and bumped everything up to where I wanted to end. The X became 3'6" and the oxer became 2'9".

Bobby was also very good for this, although the first time over the oxer he cleared the 4' standards and nearly popped me out of the tack. That was a one-time over-exuberance though--fortunately--and the next few times he was perfect.



Over the 3'6" vertical, he was easy and pleasant to the right. We did that three times before switching directions. First time? Totally fine. Second time? I chased him into an awful distance he had no hope of saving, and he threw on the brakes. I flipped right over his shoulder and landed on my nicely cushioned thigh and side. See? All that junk food is good for something.

I may not be the best rider, but I am damn good at falling. I bounced right up and quickly assured Bobby--who was standing morosely exactly where he had stopped like, "I know I'm going to get blamed for that even though we both know it was your fault."--that he had done nothing wrong. I set the jump back to an X and finished by going over it twice more.

I've ridden this horse for almost his entire life. I broke him out, taught him to gallop, and restarted him off the track. This is only the third time I've come off of him, and to be honest I'm kind of disappointed I'm not even going to have a bruise to show for it.

In clinic news, I'm actually going to be getting a private so that's pretty awesome. I'm the only one doing 3' and the next closest group is 2'3-2'6. Maybe I should have signed up for that group. The "small jumps, aching bodies, and menstrual cramps" group. Wish us luck!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Redemption

Bobby had only two meltdowns today instead of two million. I feel like that deserves a celebratory e-high five. Shit yeah, everyone!

As I was driving to the barn, the radio man was all, "The clouds are starting to come in here in the Susquehanna Valley, but it's warmed up to forty degrees." Shit yeah, radio man!

gave this fat pony a make over.

I got Bobby ready to rip and we started off with a nice stroll up the hill. Once we'd gotten to the end of our trail, he couldn't bring himself to head back to the barn so we wandered around the pine tress for awhile, sniffing out deer that had starved to death over the winter. Bobby finds this job fascinating. He's like a cadaver horse. A cadaver horse that wants to put shredded deer hide in his mouth. I draw the line there.

After a brief w/t/c back in the arena, we began the leg yield process again. To the left, he got it right away so I only asked him to do it once at the walk before lots and lots of pats and a nice trot to decompress.

To the right, the first time we turned down the quarter line he stopped as soon I asked for sideways. We hung out there for a minute as he gave me The Look to show his extreme Bobby displeasure. He finally deigned to walk on and the second time around he thought about every single step, but he did do it. Good pony!



Then, as we were walking around the corner, for absolutely no reason he went flying backwards. My reins were on the buckle and I hadn't changed a thing. He just decided he needed a little excitement, I guess. After much pony club kicking, I finally achieved forward, although it was a sideways forward. He upset himself into a trot which he got praised for and we changed directions and had a long trot until he let out a sigh and relaxed his back.

I put the pressure back on after awhile and asked for a trot leg yield to the left. Yay, first time! To the right? Yay, also first time! Neither were perfect, but there were no tantrums and it took us the entire length of the arena to get to the rail instead of one stride. See? Grown up horse! He was even relaxed enough to have a completely drama free canter in half seat afterwards.

I was chatting with NF's assistant when I was done riding and she asked how Bobby's bare feet were doing. I refrained from gloating, but only a little. Sorry, NF. I made the right choice. I'm the tootsies winner!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Leg Day

Bobby had a flashback Friday...today, on Wednesday.

I had a rock solid game plan all worked out for leg yields. He knows these, and he's done them well in the past. "It'll just be a brush up!" I told myself. "We'll have a nice warm up, work on making sure the leg yields are correct, and have ourselves a little trail ride. Yay, dressage can be so fun and easy!"

Spoiler Alert:

This is not how things went.

i get this face a lot, mostly from the saddle when he's giving me the dirty eye.

It was bitterly cold today so Bobby got an extra long warm up on the longe line followed by an extra long warm up under saddle. By the time we got down to business, he was forward and loose, and his poor naked self was nice and toasty. Heck yeah, things are going to go awesome!

I began leg yield work at the walk to the right since that's usually his easier direction. As soon as we turned down the quarter line, Bobby was all, "SIDEWAYS! THIS MEANS SIDEWAYS!" So I had to be all, "Let's just make straight lines first. Also fun!"

Things actually went pretty well both directions at the walk. I set forth three steps that I repeated to myself out loud to make sure I was doing them:

  1. Go straight.
  2. Shoulder fore so the shoulders aren't leading.
  3. And now the hind end can join us.
He got loads of praise for being correct, and I interspersed his hard work with several laps of his dream boat trot he uncovered over the weekend.

let's revisit that trot since it's so dreamy.

I was already mentally high-fiving myself, and I was so super proud of Bobby for keeping a lid on it and working through it like a calm nine year old who's been ridden since he was eighteen months old. 

Now we can do this shit at the trot, and then we can have a little canter and be done! Back to the right, and....back to the diving across the area to get to the rail as fast as he can. 

You see, Bobby is a problem solver, and his solution to things is never wrong. He's just so much smarter than I am that it frustrates him to no end that I think I know what's best. No. Bobby knows best. I want him to go sideways to the wall? Look how fast he can accomplish that! MOVING ON.

Back to the walk we went. To the left, he had a couple of slam on the brakes and contemplate spinning moments, but he very quickly worked through it and we were able to pick it back up at the trot with the same success. Yay, Bobby! Way to be a team player!

To the right? Nope. He was having none of it. Which brings us to Flashback Wednesday: Baby Dressage Brain edition. 

I have sincerely missed the spinning, rearing, leaping, flying sideways, bashing my leg into the wall, refusing to move, periscope head, and dirty looks Baby Dressage Brain brings out. Fortunately, I got all of them today!


But back to the problem solving quickly because it made me laugh even while he was doing it and I knew it was naughty. We were about halfway down the quarter line, and I put my leg on to ask him to step over. He threw on the brakes--which was his chosen aversion tactic at this time--and began backing up diagonally. Next thing I knew, he had basically parallel parked us on the wall, complete with a very smug look back at me like, "There. I'm on the rail and I'm straight. That's what you wanted. Does it matter how we got here? NO."

After a whole lot of leaping and flailing about, I finally got the three steps over that I was after and I heaped loads of praise upon him. "Fuck," I thought. "Let's have a nice loose canter and call it a day. Bobby loves a good canter. This will chill him out."

No, it did not. It incited the worst of the spinning and backing, and I'm note entirely sure why. I guess because why not at that point, right? But to find the silver lining of the whole thing, I didn't get upset the entire time. Rides like this used to crush me. Now they just kind of annoy me. He'll get over it, and I'm confident that the next time I ask for a leg yield, he'll be much more compliant. 

anxious sweats.

note the rivulets of sweat pouring down his shoulders.

Two coolers and forty minutes later, he was happily mugging me for treats and trying to stuff the barn cat into his mouth. See? There is a grown up brain in there now!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Mental Argument with Hubby

Ah, a break from trotting in circles and fighting about trotting in circles. Just what the pony and I needed.

our exercise.

Everything started out as cross rails, albeit great big cross rails. I still need something easy to warm up over, and I thought it was a good compromise for Bobby.

After warming up over jumps individually without issue, I put together a little course: Tracking left down the two stride line. Continue around to the red X, and turn right on landing. Down to the orange X, all the way back around out of the corner back to the red X landing on the right lead. Finish with the two stride line going up.

The first line was fine, but he kept getting faster and flatter as we went. It's hard with big horses (and you big horse riders know what I'm talking about) to stay forward and collected without crossing over to fast and strung out. That's hard for me to do while also making sure I'm actually going faster than a crawl, and keeping my heels down, and not pulling on the reins, and releasing over the fences, and trying to keep my legs out of my ass, and not slouching.

Dudes, riding horses is so hard.


If I transferred my issues with myself into how they were causing Bobby problems, I was able to keep my brain focused better. My shoulders are slouching and I'm tipping forward? Bobby is falling on the forehand. So get Bobby off the forehand. How? By lifting my shoulders and hands. Tah dah! No longer tipping!

Does that make sense? Probably only to me.

I raised the two stride line from cross rails to a 2'6" vertical and oxer and started over. The course went better even with just two jumps raised to the beginning of Bobby's lowest acceptable height. However, I still wasn't really nailing that line.

Enter my mental battle with Hubby.

Me: Ugh, I just can't get it together. He's landing so unbalanced and I'm just popping up like an idiot.

Hubby: Well you're not folding your upper body or really releasing.

Me: Listen, Hubby. Sometimes you have to go on instinct and what's going to get you though the jumps. It's not always going to look pretty.

Hubby: He's going to get to the jumps better if you ride better, and then you can look better.

Me: FINE. Oh, hey. He came to that first jump so well that it made the second jump better. I just wish he wouldn't land on the wrong lead and be all crooked and counter bent.

Hubby: Are you telling him with your body what lead you want him to land on? No? Then how does he know what you want?

Me: I see where you're going with this.


It was like magic after that. You know, after I started really riding. I finished up after course work going through the line itself a few times each way and he was so good. He really is growing up this year. Hopefully it doesn't all disappear when show season starts.

I finished the day braiding his mane over and doing his front feet. He's so fucking sound on them it just makes me want to break out into dance.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

More Dressage...With Boring Video!

I feel like I have to take advantage of the outdoor before it snows Tuesday, and since it hasn't been dragged yet I'm stuck doing dressage work only out there. Whatevski though because I brought poor old Hubby out the day after his birthday to video 1-2 and 1-3 so I could see what I needed to work on. Or, more specifically, just how bad I was slouching.

Yesterday I dragged poor old Robert away from his dinner and kindly forced Hubby's mother on top of him for a walk around. I'm glad he was good and just followed me around because he was actually kind of a snorting idiot when I pulled him out, and I could see him going Rogue Bobby out of nowhere.

"seriously? i am not a pack horse. i am an event horse."

Today, he was so. dead. to. my. leg.

Like. seriously.

It was one of those times when you would have given a normal horse a no-nonsense smack behind your leg, but Bobby is far too neurotic for such things. Instead, I had to get what I could with my legs and spurs, but he was not feeling it throughout the tests.

trying to install some forward with a canter.
complete fail.

For our first attempt at 1-2, we made it all the way to the first canter before Bobby pulled a Bobby. I asked him for the canter at A, he picked it up, and then he turned the corner and threw a temper tantrum and went shooting sideways out of the "ring". I don't know why he felt that was necessary, but with Bobby you never really need a reason to freak the fuck out over things no other horse would have a problem with.

I had to stop, take a deep breath, and decompress myself before starting back up again.


sometimes  often this horse makes me homicidal.
but look how fit and hunky he's getting!

The break was worth it as we both went back to work with clearer heads. We made it all the way through the test this time, though it's hardly pretty. At least it got finished! Small win!



After a quick walk break and a read through of 1-3, we went back in. The test actually went alright except the part where I forgot my first canter circle, and the part where Bobby threw in a lovely flying change when I asked for a canter lengthening and it took us the entire long side to get the correct lead back.

Because of those problems, I figured we'd just run through it one more time, right?

No.

"UNACCEPTABLE!!!!!!!!!!" says Mr Magee. "NO MORE DRESSAGE EVER IN MY ENTIRE LIFE I HATE YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD HATE YOUUUUUU!!!!!!!"

Our first attempt at a halt at X resulted in a backwards spin and a trip around the arena to start over. The second attempt is the video below where you will see my beautiful beast in one of his beautiful moods.



Take out the tension, the curling under, the inability to go forward despite my legs feeling like they were going to die (complete with a lovely saddle hump during the second canter circle--so classy), Bobby's curious interpretation of a leg yield, and did I mention the tension, we look super!

Basically just watch the test with your eyes closed and we look super!

Immediately after the final halt, I sent him right back into the trot. I made him trot and trot and trot until he was going forward and was soft in the bridle. No way was he getting away with that test.

after forty minutes of being a douche bag, he was lovely!

I'm glad I made him trot it out because we were able to end on a really good note. We need a break from dressage though. Bring on the jumps and the barrels! You know, as long as it's not SNOWING.

Also, I talked with the clinic organizer today when she called to ask if I'd gotten my Coggins yet (nope, my vet has lost my blood work again), and she slotted me in for the first time slot with her daughter for this Sunday: 8am, bright and early. Yay, clinics!

hubby: now there's proof you actually like your horse.

Friday, March 21, 2014

First Level Pracitce

The past two days, Bobby and I have been in the outdoor fastidiously working on the first level tests inside our ghetto dressage court constructed on jump poles and traffic cones. Our outdoor isn't quite as long as a standard dressage ring, but it works well enough especially since I'll only be riding in a large arena once this year.

snacking while i was hard at work lugging poles around.

Yesterday's ride started off not so great. He was a slug on the longe line so I ended that early. When I got on, he was distracted by absolutely everything and not willing to to soften in the slightest. "It's so windy out here! There are horses over there! And over there! I think I just heard someone shut their car door! I hate cars! I hate wind! Holy shit, another horse!"

I finally ended up goosing him with my spurs which he chose to react to by throwing up his head. Unfortunately for him, I'd bridged my reins and planted them at his withers so he just hit himself in the mouth. Then he got smart and dropped his head, and I dropped the pressure. And suddenly....I had a light, focused horse that was completely willing to do whatever I asked.

Hmm. Is Bobby Magee really growing up? Last year, and the years before that, he would have had a complete melt down that I had dared go against what he wanted to do and the ride would have been over then. Yesterday he just accepted the correction and got to work.

this crow has been overseeing our work the past two days. when we pass it
on the rail, it flies into the closest tree and screams at us until we pass, then comes back.

Today, I didn't bother with the longe line since he's so intent on ignoring me. Instead, I warmed up with a long stretchy walk, a long trot on a loose rein over the poles that made up our arena, and a forward canter in half seat. After which he was a total gem to ride. Like, he literally could do no wrong.

Well, okay, he is Bobby so he could do some wrong, but he wasn't even hanging on my left rein! Win!

We ran through First 1 and 2 yesterday and 2 and 3 today. I think out of the three tests, I find 2 the hardest to ride. I don't know why, it just doesn't seem to flow as well for me. 1 is basically just a warm up, and 3 is actually kind of fun...for a dressage test. 3 also practically has to be ridden in sitting trot, or at least it does if changing you posting diagonal every five seconds doesn't appeal to you. Between the leg yields and the random little figure eight at X, my butt is better off just planted in the saddle.

Things we need to work on:

  • The first trot lengthening. If I put my leg on, he canters. If I go conservatively to prevent the canter, he doesn't lengthen at all. It's only the first one. By the time we reach the last one, he's one flicky toed mother fucker.
  • Leg yielding tracking left. Definitely harder for him than to the right.
  • Leg yielding off the rail. I just don't work on this much, so it's time to add it to the list.
  • Oh, hey, guess what. If you ask your horse to pick up the canter lead to the direction his body is bent, he'll pick up that lead. So if you're trying to get the other lead, bend his body the other direction. Come on, brain. You've got to keep up.
Overall though? Totally rocking it. His canter specifically is really starting to rock and roll. 



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hooves and Jumps

It's time again for the latest round of Bobby hoof pictures! I've been doing his feet once a week, and he last got Sunday, so these are at about the halfway point.

LF

LF
RF

RF.
that stupid flare in his toe is wanting to creep back. how much do i have to hack off??
LH

LH
RH

RH

They actually look pretty good in person. They'd probably look better in pictures if they weren't so dirty. Regardless, I only see two or three things to work on this weekend instead of ten or twelve. That is tootsie progress, bitches. Plus, I've taken to trotting him up the driveway back to the barn when we're done riding and he is super, super sound on the hard gravel. What. I'm still aiming for my personal year end trophy of getting Bobby Magee through an entire show season sound on his toes. Or maybe I'll get myself a neck ribbon. Or cooler. Or all of the above.

as if adorable pony wasn't adorable enough just existing,
he went an took a nap. awwwwwww.

For today's jumping, I decided to not set up any course work, but instead add some height to the jumps and keep the exercises themselves simple. For warm up, I started off with an oxer on the far side set at 2'6", a 2'6" vertical on the diagonal, and a one stride line with big cross rails.

He was fine the first time through everything, but almost immediately starting jumping flatly and with complete disregard to the height. Look, Bobby, I still think 2'6" is a perfectly respectable height. Just because you don't doesn't mean you get to play a personal game of "How fast can I go? How little do I have to pick my feet up and still not touch the rails? Can I actually make this in just an exaggerated canter stride?"

So rude.

I decided to just say "fuck it" and put the oxer up to 3'3" and one of the Xs in the one stride line up to 3'. And then I had an anxiety attack about how massive the jumps looked. Nevermind that I've been cantering into 3'6" like it's no big deal. Nevermind that we've jumped these heights before. Nevermind that Bobby has actually been quite reasonable to jump lately, and I've got myself figured out enough that things are starting to become easy.

HOLY SHIT GIANT JUMPS WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.



I had to force myself to pick up the canter and turn in to the first jump. And I had to force myself to keep going around and around or I was going to lose my one shriveled testicle and never jump another jump again. I hate this stupid anxiety when it comes to jumping. I don't even know what it stems from, but it gets so bad that my chest tightens to the point where I'm gasping for breath. If you listen to some of my horse show helmet cams, you can hear me breathing like I just ran ten miles. It's because overwhelming fear of something is trying to eat me alive.

Fuck you, fear. I hate your stupid face.


The moral of the story is: no one died, though my brain thought we were going to.

Another moral is that my lower leg has decided to just abandon ship and not even pretend to hang out with Bobby and I anymore. Talk about rude.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Unstructured Riding

To escape the forty degree temperature of our house where the oil once again ran out days before the next delivery is scheduled (though has since been rescheduled to accommodate such absurdity--we are the worst at keeping track of the oil level, though if we didn't live in the fucking arctic it would probably be right on target), I went to the barn to spend my time in the forty degree out of doors.

I was going to the barn anyway. I just wanted to bitch about how cold our house is. Woe is me.

Since the sun was shining on one of its rare, fake "it's almost spring!" occurrences, I initially went up to the outdoor to ride. Bobby longed fine up there, though he made sure I worked ten times harder than him once he realized I was not in possession of the longe whip. Dick. I got on, walked for awhile, and picked up the trot.

He wasn't particularly comfortable on the footing which wasn't as soft as it had been over the weekend. It needs to get dragged, but who wants to drag the outdoor when next week it's supposed to snow again?

Answer: NO ONE BECAUSE FUCK YOU, WINTER!!

So down the hill we went to retreat to the indoor. He was one sassy monster once we got down there so I let him have a bit of a canter before going back to the trot. It probably had something to do with the hussy of a mare in the back pen that had her tail flipped over her back and her butt pressed against the gate peeing all over herself at the sight of my giant, awkward gelding. Seriously. Mares. I don't know how people deal with that.

said slutty mare hoping to gain access to bobby's manliness from outside.
bobby, meanwhile, is shooting me The Look for making him stand still for this picture.

Amazingly, the canter seemed to do the trick and he settled right into his work. And by work I mean mostly aimless trotting and a few circles of canter thrown in as I pretended we were getting ready for the Novice A test.

After which, of course, we ran through the Novice A test. Easy peasy, well done Robert, moving the fuck on, back to outside.

We were all set to walk up the hill for a brief trail ride when Bobby suddenly decided that he could not step down the two inch drop that was filled with a two inch strip of ice that would lead us to said hill. I finally got off to address this new and totally uncalled for problem.

"no. i cannot do it."

After several unsuccessful attempts at getting the pig to take one fucking step down, I stomped back to the arena and grabbed a dressage whip. Oh, ho, who can walk forward now? I didn't even need to touch him with it. He gave me a dirty look and marched down beside me over and over and over again. There is nothing scary about a strip of ice that's thinner than my arm and about as long, tool bag.

I finally got back on and we made it up the hill and back down again without incident.

Feet soaked, blanket changed, and back to the ice cave that is my house.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sunday Jump Day

Sarah and I had a jumping sesh (it's what all the cool kids say) Sunday morning, but there is no media evidence. Hubby was too busy doing other winning horse hubby things like taking my trailer home to see what it needs done to get ready for this season to take pictures or video.

But it was a good ride that I want to blog about. However, I am not one to blog without pictures so you're just going to get stock footage. Sorry.

No, I'm not sorry.

eat your heart out, equitation queens.

I took a break from building on my own course work because Sarah had a clear plan in mind for what she wanted to do for herself. I was super grateful for this because I still have no idea what my next jumping exercise is going to be. We set up two simple vertical lines--one at two strides (outside line), the other at three strides (inside line). Sarah's trying to rebuild her jumping confidence after a winter off, and fuck knows Bobby and I can always work on getting the correct striding in lines.

Warm up was a breeze as we started with everything as cross rails. When Sarah felt secure that she wasn't going to die, we moved the outside line to verticals at 2'3" and 2'6", and the inside line up to 2'3" and left the barrel standards jump as an X. That was also easy for all parties involved so the 2'3" vertical in the inside line got knocked up to 2'9". Or, as I told Sarah, "It's only 2'6", just like the other one!" Haha, trickster. She jumped through it super easily just like I knew she would, and was even brave enough to come through again once I told her how tall it really was.

awkward slouching cantering picture because why not?

It helped that I shared my newly rediscovered secret to having a relaxed, rhythmic jump. You guys are going to be blown away by this.

Are you ready?

Sit down.

No, the secret isn't sitting down. Don't do that. The secret is keeping your eyes up and not staring down the fence like you're going to burn it out of your path with your laser death rays for eyes. "I'm getting closer to the jump. Oh, God, it's coming. KEEP LOOKING AT IT. IT WILL MAGICALLY DISAPPEAR IF YOU STARE AT EVEN HARDER."

This never used to be a problem for me. In fact, keeping my eyes up used to be one of the very few things I was really good at jumping. Or maybe the only thing. That's debatable.

Anyway, I told Sarah my trick to reading the signs in the arena, or looking at the clock, or picking a spot on the wall, or whatever, so long as I wasn't glaring at the top pole. Turns out she was having the same issue and while Memphis isn't a neurotic nut bag like Bobby, it helped her not freak the fuck out. Simple, basic riding tricks you need to be reminded of every now and then.

i can keep the birthday tiara pictures coming for weeks.

Bobby had to keep jumping a bit after Sarah was done, and we ended with the barrels set at their top height of 3'6" three strides to the 2'9" vertical. The turn to the first jump was quite tight as three strides between jumps is a stretch for our small arena, but his canter was right on, he made the turn easily, and cantered into and out of the line like it was still set at cross rails. I'm getting a little bit excited about setting jumps back up in the outdoor.

Okay, I'm getting really excited. I want to jump big jumps on my big horse in a big arena.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday Stills: The Outdoor Arena

For the first time in three or four months, we were able to use the outdoor! I don't have anything exciting to say about this momentous occasion, nor do I really have any mind blowing pictures. Sorry.

I would just like to say that I win the Slumpy McSlumperson Award. I need "Shoulders Back"'s cousins "Erect Spine" and "Activated Core". Clearly those things are missing when I don't have walls of mirrors to constantly remind me to sit the fuck up for fuck's sake.

But this blog ain't no equitation blog, so I'll share my slumpy ass pictures with you anyway!

gosh, my boobs look fabulous.
a perfect example of why bobby lived in bell boots.
leg yielding his bad direction.
lengthening....with a heel first landing!!
more flicky toes.

And if those pictures weren't enough of a let down, have some really boring video to go with it! Shit yeah!

Warming up in the canter:


And the lengthenings:


It's the weekend. Go outside and do something productive. Don't judge me for this boring as Hades blog entry.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Barrels

Bobby and I were both really intent on celebrating World Sleep Day today. I dragged myself to the barn around eleven feeling seriously unmotivated to do anything.

I was all, "Ughhhh. I don't want to do another dressage ride, but ughhhh I don't want to pull out jumps either. And ughhhh the thought of being in half seat for longer than half a second just sounds so strenuous."

Bobby was all:

"do whatever you want, as long as it doesn't involve me."

So I broke out the western tack. Not that riding western isn't work of course, but there is a massive difference between cantering twenty meter circles and cantering tiny barrel sized circles. One is way more fun than the other by the way.

Once I finally got Bobby on his feet, tacked up, and in the arena, I set about warming him up in his barrel specific routine--trotting with lots of changes of direction, and then spiraling in on a 20m circle at the canter before skipping the spiraling out part and going straight down the long side to do it again at the other end. Bobby can barely contain himself through this exercise and goes ripping off as soon as he comes off the circle.



We practiced some rollbacks off the rail both directions and finally started breaking down the barrel pattern. Bobby gets really hot and tense coming into the first barrel in our tiny indoor. I think the first turn is tough for him because he doesn't have a lot of room to navigate it, and he's anticipating the flying change that comes up. His canter gets very up and down and is usually coupled with a baby buck or an anticipatory and very early flying change.

I made him walk back and forth between the first two barrels for a long time to settle his cray cray brain before moving up to the trot. Once he was acting like a normal horse, I let him pick up the canter. He was actually really sane when I turned him in so we spent a good amount of time just cantering in a big circle around the right barrel. He got hoppy one time when I let him pick up a little speed, but he regrouped his brain right away.

We finally moved on to the full barrel pattern which was great Bobby fun. I don't know how barrel racers look so serious as they're running around because I can't keep myself from giggling like an idiot. Maybe it's just because I know how absurd my giant Thoroughbred looks lumbering around in slow motion. But he's such a pro at it despite his size, and he really likes to get down and whip himself around the barrels.

I can't wait for July and August when he takes a vacation from Event Horse and becomes Gaming Horse.

to top it off, the snow mountain and ice rink melted enough so that we could
actually get out of the fucking arena. yayyyy!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Building Blocks

I've been riding in a t-shirt that past two days! Shit yeah. Love spring.

And when it snows on Thursday, I'm going to hiding in bed all day until it's back to 50* on Friday.

helga, darcy, pig, and i ate our subway for lunch outside in the sun today.

Yesterday was a flat school that was so uninspiring and boring--though at least it wasn't awful--that it's not even worth blogging about. The only thing of note was how long it took me to rouse Sir Robert from his post-birthday hangover:

"don't even talk to me right now."

too tired to even lift his head for cookie wrappers.

But today I kept right on going with working up to a full course of jumps. I've gotta say, I'm pretty impressed with myself for how well I've been making up these little jumping exercises and building up from one exercise to the next. I rarely do things in a cohesive manner, so high five, Self.

Here's what we worked on today:

shit yeah, paint!
(i don't know why it's a grey background?)

The jump to left is three 5' trot poles, 9' to a 2' vertical. The yellow is a 2'6" vertical with barrels underneath. The orange is the traffic barrels set as an X.

I started him off warming up over the X both ways. He was fine the first couple of times, but then decided it was much too small to warrant anything except speeding up and taking it in a big canter stride. So we moved on to the yellow vertical, taking it from the diagonal and doing it as a sort of rollback from out of the corner. He was totes fine for that.

Finally, I pointed him towards the fucking trot poles jump which we are notoriously awful at. He was a superstar! Trotted in and jumped out without once trying to canter all the trot poles all at once. Who's a grown up pony? He is!

grown up ponies still get very concerned about things like shutting car doors.

With all that kick ass mostly obedient work behind us, we took a long walk break because frankly I was huffing and puffing like a fucking heifer about to collapse from heat stroke. Who knew 56* and humidity could take you down so quickly? I wish I could shave the fat off of my body like I shaved the hair off of my horse.

So the course was this:

Tracking right, come down to the X from a canter. Trot upon landing to make the turn to the trot poles fence. Simple change back to the right lead because fuck it all if I can remember to ask him to land on the right lead when being so impressed he's actually trotting trot poles. Roll back from the corner over the yellow vertical. Left lead canter, come around up to the X again.

This made me ride my lady balls off, and it made Bobby actually have to listen to me to wait and see where we were headed. There were so many different transitions and changes that we both had to think every step of the way. We are really bad at that, by the way. But we got it done! It's wasn't pretty, but it got done!

The main problem was the X that Bobby insisted was not a real fence and therefore didn't need to be treated with any respect. Fine. I threw the rail on top of the barrels and made it 3'6". Then I raised the trot poles jump to 2'6". I couldn't make the yellow vertical any higher because that's as far up as the holes went in the standards.

i feel like you need another "bobby in a tiara" picture
for making it this far.

The 3'6" fence garnered enough respect that he actually lifted his feet to jump it. But he did not once speed up to it. ZOMG, you guys: My horse maintained his rhythm all the way up to and over the jump!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I then had to sit him on his ass to get him to come back to the trot for the next jump, but once we got back to the barrel jump to the left, he also maintained his rhythm. I even gave him a little leg a stride out!

MAGICAL UNICORN PRINCESS JUMPING HORSE!!!!!

The best part is that a calm jumping Bobby is actually becoming the norm. So long as he considers the fence worthy of a jumping effort (basically anything 2'6" or above), he's starting to go on cruise control.

Fuck, who knew it could be so pleasant--and dare I say easy--to ride your horse?

Of course, we had to end our day by having a "Come to Jesus" about putting his hooves in a tub to soak them for the little bit of white line disease his back feet have started getting. Who knew that was a trick your horse could unlearn? Because I'm pretty sure he spent all fall with his feet getting soaked for one thing or another every single day.