Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How to take the perfect conformation picture

As someone who takes their horse's conformation picture without fail at least once a month, I am here to share my secrets in how to get your horse to best show off his body and pose him or her with a similar stance and expression for side by side comparison.

cannot be held liable if your horse is just naturally fugly.

Before we delve too deeply into things, we have to have a very brief spelling and word definition lesson.

Conformation: manner of formation; structure; form, as of a physical entity.

We are looking at the way your horse is conformed NOT confirmed when taking a conformation picture. Your horse is confirmed in his trot work. He is not confirmed like a hunky, handsome foundation bred Quarter Horse.

Also, definitely and defiantly are not the same thing, but that's a lesson for another day.

defiantly glaring at the camera because he definitely does not like photo day.

Step One: Choose a background that's not distracting.

Easiest step ever! Please do not include any of the following in your horse's conformation picture:

  • swing sets
  • another horse peeing
  • a person peeing
  • dangerous objects laying on the ground
  • general garbage laying on the ground
  • small barefoot children
  • barbed wire fencing
  • a background so dark or so light that your horse blends in with it
Step Two: Teach your horse to ground tie OR find someone willing to hold your horse.

If your horse is willing to stand quietly ground tied, you can usually get a decent enough conformation picture. The problem here is that you usually end up with more pictures of your horse staring off into the distance at things he finds far more interesting, or at the very least staring at you hoping you'll get the hint that he finds this entire process very boring, and you'll soon let him go do things he finds far more interesting.

"hi. when do i get to eat?"

To easily solve that problem, just grab a barn friend or unwilling significant other. Assure them there is nothing more fun than holding your horse in the exact position you put him in for several minutes at a time. "Oh, you thought we were done? No! I have to move his hind foot back one inch."

Make sure you give them clear instructions about what their job is. "Can you crinkle this wrapper so his ears come forward? But don't let him stretch his head out like that. And don't get in my picture, so take a step back. But don't let him move from his position! Now we have to start all over again."

Don't let this "volunteer" try to trick you into letting them take the picture and you hold the horse. You're better off being in charge of the whole shebang and bossing them around. They'll get over it or they're saner than you are not a real friend.

Step Three: Bring snacks.

They can be for you, but also bring some for your horse. Food is key to keeping your horse from holding his breath and sucking in his ribs so he looks like he hasn't been fed in months, thereby ruining every single picture you take and forcing you to give up your own snacks to keep your horse happy and looking slightly photogenic.

Ugh, horses are the worst.


Step Four: Set up for the perfect pose.

Little known fact: Three legs are better than two. Four legs are better than three. Space those puppies apart...but not so far apart that your Thoroughbred looks like a Saddlebred.

or a hackney with a bobbed tail.

Step Five: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

If you are very small and your horse is very large, you won't have to crouch down to get a better angle. If you are very tall, engage those thighs and get a little low. It makes for an overall prettier picture. Just do it because I said so.

Step Six: Don't stop at one. Or even five.

Take ten million pictures all at once. Even if you think you got the perfect shot, take more. When you've taken ten million pictures, feel free to give your horse handler a rest, but don't let them escape. Chances are, once you look through the ten million pictures, you'll end up wanting to delete them all because they're not as good as you thought they were.

basically just always starving, but genes that give mutant rib cages cannot be changed

So there you have it. Six easy peasy steps to taking the perfect monthly conformation picture of your horse which you should all be doing because there's nothing better than a year end collage of ponies.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Touch Wood

Bobby has been jumping for about a month now and--touch wood--his leg has held up to the increased strain without giving him any discomfort. It's all about management, and not getting greedy, and having prior experience with a horse who sported a far more serious soft tissue injury but came back to full jumping without any soundness issues.

That horse was cuter, smaller, cattier, and one thousand times more aware of his moving parts than my current lumbering lummox, but it all amounts to the same thing in the end.

how do i get pictures of his croup looking level? because his ass is white girl flat.

We're gearing up for a little jump-jump competition in the future, so I've been upping the days a week over fences. However, while doing that, I've been dialing back the number of jumping efforts. There's plenty you can work on with just a handful of jumps when your horse already knows his job.

That said, this particular horse's rider might have some minor mental hang ups about poles that roll harmlessly to the ground when you look at them too hard, so I've tailored our rides around me.

On Saturday I set up a 3' oxer and a 3' vertical. Start on the left lead to the oxer, come around and jump the vertical on the diagonal, turn right, jump the oxer off the right. So easy! Well, it was relatively easy because we'd done the same exercise in reverse on Wednesday.

One thing I'm struggling with in this indoor is building up the appropriate pace. It's mostly a strength thing where it's easier for Bobby to take shorter steps and race around instead of lengthening his stride in a small space and getting the forward ride we need that way. I feel like I'm gunning it when really there's nothing wrong with the speed, it's the execution.

I'm also trying to regain the feel of what length I want my stirrups at. They feel short when I first pick up the canter, but then once I get over the first fence without dying and relax my super tense body and stretch my leg down, they feel too long.

add that whole laying on my horse's neck thing to the list of problems to fix while we're at it.

I'm trying hard not to psych myself out with all the small things that need to be worked on, and then convincing myself I'm in way over my head and never going to be able to jump again ever.

I can do this.

My horse can do this.

I'm seeing my distances without fail even if I see we're about to come in a hair short or a hair long. My leg is a nonissue; it stays where I put it, and I feel rock solid over jumps. Bobby is adjustable, willing, and has barely tapped a pole since we've gone back to work.

also hubby is fired as my photographer. that position is now available.

Today we put in a really solid flat ride in the indoor in jump tack before heading outside. It had been raining lightly all morning so the grass was a little slick, but not enough to get me worried. We did two strong canters around the conditioning field with only one minor slip on the straight away. Bobby didn't seem to register it, and he calmly collected up when asked to make the turn around the corner before letting out a monster buck and shooting forward once we were straight again. I'm not sure why bucking after slipping seemed like a good idea, but whatever.

I took him over some of the hunter pace jumps after that just to get him cantering over grass and terrain while still keeping his brain in check. That was a big ole fat fail for the first jump. He flung his head into my face and supermanned that ho.

put a 2' fence in front of us and you'll have an accurate representation of what happened.

We had a little CTJ immediately upon landing and schooled a few more things without issue. I'm flip flopping on whether or not I want to try him at this show in his egg butt or dig out something else with a little more breaks. He's not going to take off with me, I just need something that he listens to a little more before the fence.

Still plenty of time to keep experimenting and convincing myself we aren't going to die!

Also still plenty of time to keep obsessively icing, wrapping, linimenting, and cold hosing his leg for preventative measures, and trying to contain the nasty fungus on his tush.

I swear this seemed like a much better idea when I sent the entry in. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Redemption for a good ride

Phew, I have a much better lesson recap post for you guys than last week. Hallelujah for crappy rides!


sometimes he's adorable and meets me at the gate when he sees my car pull in.

As I mentioned briefly in yesterdays post, thanks to all the various lumps and bumps Bobby accrued this past week, I'd only ridden him twice between these two lessons. He came out a little creaky and grouchy this morning no doubt thanks to another flare up of hives (ARHGBJKSKJGHDKJHGKHGH WITH THESE FUCKING LUMPS) and just general malaise that he had to work, and he never really let go and softened up during our ride.

Fortunately for blog fodder, that meant Trainer dropped some good one-liners on us again.
  • You find life very tiring, don't you, Bobby? You're a very philosophical thinker.
  • Get him walking more briskly. You look like you need an electric shock.
  • With the half halt, you slide your hips forward and hold. A half halt is a release once you've readjusted the balance of the horse. The upper level riders are half halting all the time. I want you to work on riding for a halt. Half halt, but then don't let it go--hold your hips in place until you get a halt. None of this giving up and going to the reins.
  • Come in here right now, Carly. I have no idea what you're doing, but it's a today problem. You're bring your leg back here (just behind the girth) and constantly nudging him asking him to do something, I don't know what. Your leg needs to hang here, at the girth, and stay there. If you keep it back where you had it and I asked you to move his haunches over, you'd have to kick him in the stifle to get it done.
  • He's a long horse, his steps can be long.
  • Bring his haunches inside the track about the width of the horse. Well...that's about two inches. Maybe. You'll need to work on that.
  • He's at medium mold today.
  • He's not using his diaphragm in the canter as well today as he usually does. He's got to show up and go to work four, five, six days a week, but we'll cut him some slack. He is trying. 
  • We won't charge admission for it, but he did get both leads. 
  • When asking for the leg yield, step him over, don't just push against his big meaty side. Make him cross his legs like a dancer. 
  • That's embarrassing. It takes a lot of talent to trip over sand at the walk.
  • He's not really feeling up to it today, but he's got to be a good christian and try. 
  • I can't wait for you to get out and start competing next season. You're going to have a very easy time with these tests. I'll be quite disappointed if you don't. That is unless he gets excited at shows. No? No, he doesn't get excited about anything, does he?
  • I'd like to see boots on his legs for jumping and increased flat work instead of bandages. They look sharp, but that's about all they do. (Wh-whaaat?! But white polos make a dressage horse!!)
he also looks cute when i disappear into the tack
room for more than two seconds and he thinks i've
left him for all eternity, and he's so grateful when i
come back to claim feed him.

We didn't get pushed for much today because Bobby was just in a bit of a funk. Trainer said he's allowed to have a day like that when he needs one, but be prepared to work twice as hard next week. No doubt that means plenty of opportunities for yelling!

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Despite moderate blog silence this week, I have been keeping busy. I just haven't been doing anything that warrants its own post--at least not when I have the motivational levels of a sloth.

A sleeping sloth.

Over the weekend, I went down to see my barn family in PA. I kept promising riding bestie Sarah I'd get down there after she came up to see me in July, but one thing or another kept pushing it back. I finally just said fuck it and two days before told her I would be there for a day of ponies... and Taco Bell.

do you not store your tacos in your helmet for later?

We hit up Horse Loverz (always a bust, yet we keep going back because it's close) and the outlet store. The outlet store is the most magical place where you chance upon completely random shit that's marked down approximately ten thousand percent. I got a pair of brand new brown full seats for $10, and I was eyeing up hoof boots for a mere $20. Bobby doesn't need them anymore, but I almost bought a couple just because they were so cheap.

every size imaginable, and all different styles.

After shopping and gorging ourselves on cheap, fake Mexican food, we went back to the barn for a trail ride. I called dibs on my favorite holey headed Appy mare Cookie and Sarah got on The Godfather. Both ponies were complete super stars.

i forgot my boots at home so i went all endurance rider outfit.

There was a hunter show right behind my barn on Sunday that I briefly considered going to, but after getting the news about my trailer, I quickly scratched that idea. Instead I went up that afternoon just to ride and found my horse covered in welts and super painful in his back.

all over his back and barrel.

After talking with BM, our best guess is he rolled in ground bees because there's nothing Bobby loves more than annoying bees to the point that they attack him and then standing there like a fucking idiot and taking it. His pasture mate also had several telltale welts despite wearing a fly sheet.

After a day of Bute and a Benadryl, the swelling had moved down into his legs on its way out. Good for the painfulness in his back, not so good when I had planned on doing his feet but had to scrap that idea when he couldn't bend his legs. He also decided on Monday to stick a mild case of hives on his cheeks for funsies.

yeah, no. he really is that cow hocked.

For whatever reason, he keeps getting hives every couple weeks since we've moved up here. I'm pretty sure it's his body's way of protesting living in this state. I feel you, Bobby.

Tuesday I didn't even bother going out to see him. Heal from your lumps on your own, giant moose. Wednesday he was much improved all over. No swelling in his legs, hives mostly cleared up, and no lingering soreness from his bee friends. He did, however, pick up a nasty case of rain rot on the top of his rump.

Because why not.

Rain rot is right up there with giant, open bleeding wounds for me: things I can deal with if called upon, but I'd rather babysit a small child. That shit is nasty. Nasty to touch, nasty to treat, nasty to clean up, nasty to look at. Just nasty.

he looks so shiny and healthy! FALSE.

He's been growing in a winter coat like a crazy horse, but it's been in the seventies here so there's no need for it. He's always been a super heavy sweater, so I imagine the rain rot came from sweat collecting in his thick coat and sitting there getting all nasty. As such, he got body clipped. No more hair for you, fungus! Now he's naked with patchy bald spots from where the rain rot took his coat with it. So attractive.

I also finally managed to get his feet cleaned up. Well, trimmed up. I did not manage to keep them clean long enough to get their pictures. My phone's camera takes possibly the worst pictures anyway.

i've finally figured out a good plan for his hinds and the fronts protest.

This post wasn't as quick as I intended it to be. Oh, well. At least there were lots of pictures!

I've only ridden twice since last Friday, so hopefully I'll get yelled at a lot tomorrow during my lesson and I'll actually be able to give you guys a better lesson recap. Fingers crossed for bad riding?

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Reality of Owning a Horse Trailer

There have been a few blog posts floating around lately about people buying, selling, trading up, or wanting to do any of the above with horse trailers. My own horse trailer, the one we bought in March to replace my first trailer, is still beautiful, and perfect, and all that I could want.

However, during my last show way back in June, the lights started getting squirrely on me (while it was pouring out of course). I asked Hubby if he could work on them. He killed them. All of them. I had nothing.

My horse ended up going lame anyway so the trailer has been sitting in the barn's parking lot waiting to be needed again and therefore fixed. Well now it's needed, and last Wednesday we took it in to get fixed.

Here's is why owning a horse trailer is not always fun and games.

Two weeks ago, we called a trailer distributor in Ontario that my BM recommended based solely on the fact that it was the only one within an hour's drive. The company mostly sells work trailers and trailers you would stick your riding lawn mower on. There have, on occasion, been horse trailers spotted there sometimes, too.

We got an appointment in a week's time for inspection (so slow about getting vehicles switched over to NY, and I don't even care), to fix the lights, and to see why the trailer brakes make you press the switch in the truck to engage them every time instead of just popping on automatically like they're supposed to--probably also something going on with the electric.

The appointment was made for a Thursday. The plan was to drop it off Wednesday afternoon so that Hubby could follow along behind me (no lights on a major highway is not the best thing) and not have to take any time off work.

I get to the barn, hook up the trailer in approximately two seconds flat because I am legit as shit when it comes to hitching this fucker and away we go.

Only we get to the company, and....

No one is there and gates are closed across the driveway with padlocks.

Now I'm pulled over on the side of a very busy road with no lights wondering what the fuck to do.

Hubby calls Dude. No answer.

Back to the barn we go where I slot the trailer back into its home in approximately two seconds flat because I have very recently become legit as shit when it comes to throwing this fucker in reverse and navigating obstacles.

First thing Thursday morning, the day we're supposed to have an appointment, Hubby calls Dude again. "Hey, Dude. Remember my trailer? Remember how you were going to fix it? Are we still on?"

"Hmm.... who is this again? Oh, here you are. I have you written down for Friday."

So now Hubby does take some time off work to follow me back up first thing Thursday morning to drop off the trailer so we don't run the chance of getting locked out again.

Friday rolls around. The company closes at five. At three, I call Hubby to see if he's heard anything.

Nope. He calls Dude. No one answers. He calls again. No one.

At four thirty, Dude calls back.

"I'd like to put a new set of brakes on. They look like they've been sitting for awhile. That will be $500."

"Some random fucking part needs to be replaced in the controller box. That will be $50."

"I have no earthly idea what is wrong with your electric. I'm going to just have to explore until I find something. That will be $75 an hour."

"Oh, and also you should think about getting two of these tires changed out eventually. We can do that here, too."

(just put new tires on my car. byeeeee, money!)

We have the money for these repairs--all of them. Our savings account is currently well stocked. But right now we're trying to accomplish a really big grown up thing, and the poor old horse trailer cannot be the priority.

Giant Mansion (might not actually be a giant mansion) versus Horse Trailer. Only one can win.

We were driving past the track the other day, and I told Hubby we should swing in and grab another Thoroughbred (providing we had a working trailer, LOL). Hubby said, "You horse people. The value you put on things is absurd. $500 to fix your trailer is outlandish. $500 to buy a horse is bottom of the barrel."

Yes, Hubby. But you can pet and squish and get daily instant gratification from the horse.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sorry for riding better

I've got to apologize in advance, you guys. I barely got yelled at all today. In fact, I even finished my ride on Bobby with her telling me I should be very proud of myself today. Uh, what? It was, however, nice to show her that we are competent and--dare I say--capable after feeling a little frustrated the past two weeks. Bobby's getting stronger with every ride, and he's finally starting to pass the point where it's only showing by him not falling on his face with every step.

So, with that in mind, I have far less Trainer-isms than I have in the past two weeks.

dressage horse number one.

The Walk

We actually got yelled at for being too slow finally! Bobby was not too impressed with me when I told him he had to actually start moving again. I think he was getting pretty comfortable with what was almost a counted walk.

  • A little brisker walk. It's time to make him march.
  • If he tries to duck down and curl up, give him a boot with one leg. People need to treat their horses like horses. If he's not listening to what you're telling him, give him a kick in the gut. That's what another horse would do.
  • If he locks his jaw against you like he was doing in the rubber (Happy Mouth) bit, don't be afraid to give him a little chip with one rein. 
  • That's a rather sullen expression, Bobby. 
"that's my every day face."

The Trot

I had the misfortune of being on the right rein when Trainer was ready to ask for the trot which means we started off a fucking hot mess. While BM was trotting away, I was still trying to get Bobby to soften his face at the walk. Bobby was looking for any excuse to not have to trot. I finally just got after him and away we went.
  • You got quite fierce with him when he was trying to bully you around. That's fine. Just make sure that you get equally as kind to him when he does do what you asked.
  • Oh, you are a tricky horse, aren't you?
  • Shorten and lengthen. Shorten and lengthen. I want that shortening to look almost like you're jogging in place. 
  • If you're going to wear spurs, use them.
  • Lengthen more. More...more! Well you are quite the mover after all.
"snackz plz."

The Canter

Trainer asked if there was anything specific that I wanted to work on today. I immediately answered the canter. Knowing that he's pretty bad to the right, she asked me if the left lead was even marginally better. "Oh, yeah! The left lead is amazing!" To which Trainer knowingly added, "Compared to the right, it's probably absolutely lovely." She speaks the truth. Always.
  • Alright, BM. Come in the middle. This could get exciting.
  • Lengthen and shorten the trot a few times so that you can work on adjusting him first.
  • While still trotting, bring your outside leg back and keep your inside leg at the girth just as if you were asking for the canter, but don't cue for it yet. Now sit the trot as if you're riding the canter without changing anything. And touch him with that outside spur and canter without changing anything.
  • I dare you to find anything to criticize about that!
Time out to say that I got literally the best canter transition ever in my entire life. Bobby simply stepped into the canter and carried on round, balanced, and completely in self carriage. I was grinning like a total idiot the entire time. Sometimes you just need to hear the same thing a different way for the magic to happen.

too tired to acknowledge my existence. 

And then we went to the right.
  • Sit for the canter without asking, get him a little more forward, and now canter. Oh, dear. That's--well done you!
Time out again because even though Bobby flung his head into my face on the depart, within one stride, I'd gotten him back down to earth and cantering completely presentably. Whaaaat. It only lasted two circles, but that's two more circles than we've been able to do since June. 
  • He engages his abs very well to the left. He's really lifting his back that direction. To the right, he's starting off not engaged, but he is starting to try a little toward the end. He might just get there after all.
  • We'll try to play around with lengthening and compressing that canter next week. I'd suggest not trying it until then. It could get more than exciting for you, if you know what I mean.
this is my horse who sometimes pretends like he hates me, but is secretly a mama's
boy at heart. he's not happy unless he's grazing in my lap. also, sorry you're not as good
at selfies as i am.

As promised, I also did a quick ride in front of Trainer on Ralph. She let me go around on my own w/t (having already explained to her what a hot mess I'd made of the "canter" the other day) while just observing. Ralph had been schooled by someone far more competent in his type of ride than myself the day before, so he was a little sharper.

The canter departs were a teensy, tiny bit better. His canter is still not very good, and it's very much me not knowing how the fuck to ride this midget semi truck who needs spurs buried in his side with every stride to keep him going, then gets fast, but then does a sliding stop with the smallest of half halts.

Trainer's summation of the ride is all you need:
  • What a solid citizen. He's a very nice, capable horse. He'll do very well in your lesson program, BM. He doesn't need much work done with him, you just need to train the rider to work with him better.
Whoops. Guilty as charged with the sucking.

dressage horse number two. you can tell he's a dressage horse because he's wearing
white polos. duh.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Totally Original Title

First off, thanks to everyone who took the time to comment on my last post. More than anything I praise you for your intelligence for being able to understand what was essentially one long, confusing ramble that started out trying to be a ride recap.

I'm not going to quit my weekly lessons with Trainer, but I do think I need to communicate with her a little better about what I can work on by myself. While she's absolutely giving me valuable tools, great advice, and--above all--making my horse go better, I'm really struggling with essentially riding the same lesson every single day all week until the next one. Being able to progress on my own is very important to me.

Does that make sense? You people are brilliant. I'm sure you get what I'm saying.

here is my horse on monday because i suck at taking pictures lately.

I can tell already that these lessons are going to pay off in all aspects of my riding. Obviously stadium is just dressage over fences, yada yada, we've all heard that a hundred times. Me actually taking the time to put that into practice has not been heard a hundred times. When the fences come out, the flat work gets rushed because yay jumping!

However, I want to be better. I'm working my lady balls off trying to improve lately, dudes.

The change is upon me. (I hope you read that in a super melodramatic voice as that is how it was intended.)

So. I erased all thought of the low, wide oxer plopped in the middle of the otherwise empty ring and rode some dressage first. We struggled a little bit to start. I couldn't get Bobby quite as relaxed or round as I have been the past several rides, but I was totally okay with that. Working through shit! That gives me something to do!

Then I started to get a little frustrated with myself and kicked my feet out of the stirrups because flatting in a jump saddle eludes me. Instantly, Bobby softened all over like, "Finally, you fucking idiot. I'm glad you remembered how to ride."

Really ought to fix that, but I love you, dressage saddle.

here is sunrise in my backyard because i suck at taking pictures lately.

I did pick my stirrups back up to canter because once I developed a good canter, I didn't want to change anything before turning in to the oxer. Fortunately, I managed some level of competence there and was able to get Bobby into a forward but engaged canter with very little difficulty.

Dressage. It unlocks all miracles.

I turned Bobby down the center line, kept the forward canter, kept my leg on, and he jumped right over it out of stride and carried on like no big deal. I only came over it from the left, but turned in from both ends of the arena. We could do no wrong and I quit after a few times each way.

A quick right lead canter on the trails, and then on to the next horse!

here is ralph because he is adorable
and so hungry for cookies.

Ralph is the Quarter Horse BM let me ride a few times while Bobby was completely out of commission. He's western pleasure broke, and he is so hard to ride english. I don't think I've ever had such a hard time getting a horse to canter without flailing around and leaping into a gallop. We just weren't speaking the same language no matter how hard BM tried to help us out.

I'm riding him with Trainer after Bobby's lesson on Friday. We're going to get yelled at a lot. I can feel it already.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


 Bobby was one hard working dude over the weekend. We carried over what we'd worked on Friday during our lesson while warming up for what was a  deceivingly simple jump exercise. Hubby was nice enough to come along to video what was exceptionally boring work for someone not particularly interested in the intricacies of dressage, and then I made him do some cardio by fixing fences with almost every run through.

And by me, I really mean Bobby.

I thought about saving the flat videos for our next lesson post, but the jumping videos aren't much more exciting, and let's be honest--as long as you read Trainer's bullet points in a British accent, you're amused enough.

I switched out Bobby's bit to a plain egg butt as suggested by Trainer, and unsurprisingly, he's gone much better in it than the french link Happy Mouth he was in. I picked up my reins and he went right to work.

Also, if you're wondering why my stirrups are just dangling at his sides, I've become completely inept at flatting in my jump saddle so it's easier for me to ditch them. I hate the feeling of them under my thighs when they're crossed though. I'm also only supposed to be sitting the trot while flatting right now because apparently I am also inept at posting slow enough to not make my horse go jetting off at a million miles an hour.

Possibly I am just inept at everything.

Trainer would have us walking even slower and rounder, but I did want him thinking a little more forward since we were going to jump. Even so, it looks so slow to me. My biggest focus is supposed to be getting Bobby (and myself) to think about every single footfall. He can go forward so long as he's not using it as an excuse to race off.

Want an example?

Here's us flatting in jump tack before our first lesson. This trot is rushed:

And this one is not:

It is, however, a little nauseating thanks to Hubby's camera work. WTF was going on in the ceiling, Hubby?

The canter from August I actually like. Outside of lessons, I haven't been working much on the canter in the ring. Saturday's video shows why:

He's round, every footfall is deliberate, but... I don't know. There's something about it I'm not a fan of. Maybe it's not what it's supposed to look like right now while following Trainer's guidelines. Maybe it is.


And that is giving me a serious complex. I understand we're going to have a lot of ugly moments before it all becomes easy and effortless and pretty. It's hard for my Big Picture brain to acknowledge that these small steps are going to help in the long run though. It's even harder for me to not have all the information all at once in my brain on how to get to the big picture.

Trainer is giving me homework every lesson to work on during the week, but it's things like, "Perfect the half halts so that you can almost bring Bobby back to a halt from the trot." Or, "Start incorporating leg yield." These are things we already know how to do, and we actually do them well. I don't think Trainer believes me when I tell her this, or that our current suckiness (or at lest a good part of it, as there's plenty of real suckiness to fix) is mostly thanks to Bobby being out of shape.

Bobby half halts off of a butt cheek squeeze. He may need another one in ten strides, but his reaction is instant. We were doing leg yield zig zags with zero effort during our ride on Sunday. I guess the next step is to make them even more perfect?


indoor pictures don't get taken because the best ones turn out like this.

I'm used to always working alone while I ride. I don't want to turn into one of these riders that can't ride outside of a lesson. That is never going to work for me. One because money, but two because no. That is just not okay.

However, I also don't want to be paying for lessons, and then go to work on my own during the week and derail what Trainer wants me working on by doing my own shit.

Is this struggle making sense to anyone? Possibly I've gone completely fucking crazy already and we're only two lessons in.

Bobby got a fun ride on Monday where we cruised around on the trails on the right lead at the canter. He's not particularly good at it in the ring yet, but I do want to start building up muscle on that side. Any excuse to do nothing but go out and do shit with my horse that we both enjoy is always okay with me.

Today he has the day off. Tomorrow we'll do a little jump jump school because there's a show entry sitting on my kitchen table waiting to see if it's needed, lessons be damned.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The British are coming

Well I guess she already came once. Now she's returning every week, and of course I'm referring to Trainer. I'm riding with BM from now on which is nice because it's a little cheaper, but also because it gives me minuscule breaks from being yelled at.

Bobby was both better and worse than our last lesson. Since she'd already gotten a read on him, she pushed us a little harder this time around. We ended on a really good note, but holy fucking Hades was my horse in full on diva mode this morning. He was not giving anything away, and I rode the first thirty minutes with my teeth gritted and a scowl on my face while trying not to lose my shit in front of Trainer. Fortunately, she met one of my trainer requirements: acknowledging that sometimes the problem is my horse just being an asshole.

he screamed his brains out until i took him
outside to graze because clearly he was dying. 

So without further ado, here are my takeaways this time around:
  • Slow him down. Slower, much slower. I know you feel like you should be going forward, but he's using that as an escape. He's walking off with you.
  • Your horse's mouth is only five inches wide. Why are you holding the reins like you're riding a Harley Davidson?
  • You can't just throw him away when you change what you're doing. Ride him every step. He needs to stay connected and focused when you're changing the rein.
  • Oh, he is a naughty thing isn't he?
  • You can't let him fling his head around and then correct him. You need to correct him before he gets the chance to lose the connection. 
  • Oh, dear. No, no, no. No. That's no good. Change the rein. Let's see if he can cope a little better back to the left. He's not very good to the right, is he?
  • How heavy does he feel in the reins? You're correct. He is heavy. So use your back instead.
  • You girls. Do you really spend so much time on motor bikes?
  • You're thinking you need this light, floating rein. You're not there yet. I don't want you to be mean to him. I don't want you to get malevolent with your reins. But he's a riding horse. He's got to go around like one. If you ask him to come lower, he's got to do it for you.
  • You're such a good rider, but you're too slow! You need to be faster with your corrections.
  • I'm not too sure about these plastic bits. I like cold, hard steel myself. Give me a good egg butt any day.
  • Do something! Start getting busy!
  • I do wish you would bring your hands closer together.
  • Do a few circles at the slow trot, let him move forward, and then bring him back and ooze over to the right. Do a circle, and then ooze back over to the left. He's never going to be as good to the right, but eventually he's going to have to learn to tolerate it.
  • When you're going right, you're too focused on trying to get him bent. He's not there yet. Just focus on the quality of the gait right now. Focus on keeping him slow. Even though geometrically you're going right, you're going to be sitting left. He'll get to the point where bend becomes important again, but not right now. It's just distracting you. Stop worrying about it.
  • I find that the Thoroughbreds and the Arabians are heavier in the reins than these Warmbloods. The Warmbloods feel a little lighter when they're going around. I still wouldn't want one.
  • Let's bring him even lower at the free walk. He's a grazing animal. His head and neck can come down much more.
  • This horse is not the most willing creature. He's perfectly pleasant, and he'll give it to you, but he's not easy about it. 
seriously, this phone's camera is so annoying in its formatting and i don't know how
to change it.

I got yelled at way more than last week, but she also took the time to pull each of us aside an explain what she was yelling about, and I never felt like it was out of line. We needed a lot of yelling. Things were not going well. However, we finished with Bobby maintaining a good rhythm both directions without flinging his head up into my face, and as we were cooling out, he stretched down so much his nose was practically on the ground.

Bad rides with trainers are good. They tell you how to fix things without you murdering your horse, although I did get after Bobby fo' real once for totally ignoring my leg. Trainer said nothing. I like that she's not above a quick ass whooping every now and then. 

The homework she gave me was to start asking him to move out a little more forward but only if he's connected and stretching down. I'm also supposed to start incorporating a little leg yield ("I think eventing dressage put leg yields in their tests just to give the judges a laugh. You couldn't get me on some of these horses at gun point. They can't turn left, they can't turn right. How on earth are the going to survive galloping over hill and dale?"). She said if I wanted to canter him, make sure it was from the slow trot--absolutely no racing around. We're okay to the left I think, but I'm saving that right lead for her to really wow her with our awfulness.

this conformation is doing nothing to help us along.