Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mr Tappy goes for a ride along: Pt. II

I went out to ride Saturday afternoon. It had finally gotten a little chillier, so I tucked Bobby under his butt cape and we headed into the outdoor once again to enjoy the sun despite the cold. He was his usual dopey self as I tightened his girth, dropped my stirrups, and got on.

I let him walk one lap on the buckle as I got my coat adjusted and generally shifted and fiddled around before picking up my reins to get to work. Bobby obediently dropped his head and did the same. After one lap, I halted him at the far end of the ring to do a turn on the forehand to change direction.

He'd barely completed the halt before he started going backwards--not in a frantic way, but in a "Oh, gosh. We've halted. Time for a rein back. I know how to do this. Just do it quickly so we can keep going." way. I corrected him, had him halt again, and asked for the turn.

He's done turns on the forehand approximately one million and a half times. This wasn't a new request. It wasn't a difficult request. But for whatever reason, it completely set Bobby off.

He whipped around, legs flailing in every direction, stepping all over himself (remind me to take pictures of his now shredded Dover boots when I get back), until he was facing the opposite direction. Whatever, Bobby. We'll come around and try it again.

Only he'd frozen in place and wouldn't move his feet.

That's not a new Bobby evasion by any means, so I heaved an exasperated sigh and went through the motions of getting him unstuck. I grabbed mane with one hand since he does occasionally go up before he goes forward, used my other hand to give him a big opening rein into the wide open space of the arena, and put my leg on relentlessly until he took a step forward.

Back around after a lap and try again. Once more he flung himself around to face the opposite direction and added in racing backwards this time. I quit on the idea of a turn on the forehand and simplified the plan to walking a lap and then halting calmly at that end of the arena before calmly walking off again.



Once he halted, I'd scratch and pet his neck and tell him he was a good boy. While I was doing this, he'd bend his entire dinosaur neck and head and shoulders around to touch my boot. He had to splay his front legs out to compensate for how twisted he was getting himself, so when I did finally manage to get him walking again, he'd half lurch, half fall forward.

Mostly it was just him doing this over and over again, to both sides of his body. I could feel his heart pounding under my legs, but he wasn't snorting, his eyes weren't wide, he wasn't trembling. He wasn't biting at my leg or his own sides. He was just bending his whole front half around to look back at me.

Occasionally he would change things up when I asked him to walk off. Sometimes it was throwing himself sideways. Sometimes it was launching forward into a canter instead of a walk. Once he even sat backwards on top of the arena fence.

The finale came when BM left the ring with her lesson student and there was just me and another girl hacking a horse in the ring. Bobby and I were standing at the far end of the ring with my reins completely drooped. I was petting his neck and he was standing like an idiot with his front legs wide apart after turning back a few times when suddenly his whole front end buckled and the back half started to go down with it.

I goosed him with my spurs and yelled, "Don't you dare lay down with me, asshole!" He hopped back up, but was still frozen in place. At that point I kicked my feet out of the stirrups and got ready to bail if he tried it again. He has no concern for what happens to his body when he gets in this mindset, and I had no problem imagining him laying down right on top of me without a care in the world.

I finally got him unstuck and gave up the whole "halting calmly" thing to trot it out again.

We trotted nonstop for an entire hour. BM gave another lesson. The girl I was riding with hacked, untacked, blanketed and turned out the horse, and had another one out and groomed by the time I was done. It took every minute of that hour to get Bobby to take a breath, relax his back, and just trot around like no big deal.

Every now and then as we went around, he'd randomly lose his cool and go jetting sideways before getting back to work with no correction from me. It was like his brain would just misfire out of nowhere and then go back to being normal.

Once he was consistently loose, I halted him at the end of the ring again. He was totally relaxed and we stood there on a looped rein for a bit before he calmly walked off when asked to.

I hopped off after that, gave Arthur some thorough belly rubs, and put Bobby away for the night.

"it's time to get off now, human.
i'm in serious need of loving down here."

This wasn't the first time Bobby's used laying down as an evasion to get out of work. He tried it a few times when we were teaching him to drive. It was, however, the first time he's tried it while I was on his back.

Now I know to assuage readers I have to cover all the bases first before blaming it on a brain that has in the past malfunctioned violently and seemingly did the same over the weekend.
  • He's been in the outdoor dozens of times since moving to this barn.
  • He's ridden in the ring and on trail with all the horses that he worked around Saturday.
  • He's worn his quarter sheet already this year without issue.
  • None of his tack or boots changed in the slightest.
  • He wasn't sore in his back once I got off, and his saddle was still sitting right where I'd put it when I got on.
  • He's not lame, and all he was (supposed to be) doing was walking and halting.
  • Ulcers? Maybe. 
  • A Lymes flare up that made him body sore? Maybe, but again he wasn't actually working yet, and he didn't appear body sore once I got off.
  • Mr Tappy? Probably, though while we were halted, I was alternately scratching his neck with the hand that held my whip and the one that didn't, and he didn't once acknowledge it.
  • Neurological problems? Doubtful. I've had two different vet offices do neurological testing on him in the years I've owned him precisely for this reason (Vet, is my horse bat shit crazy because his brain is damaged?), and they've never found anything.
  • Genetics? Those golden eyes are courtesy of a papa with a well founded reputation for being the biggest asshole to ever walk the earth on two legs because he was too busy rearing to ever lead quietly beside you. Amirite, Sarah
So  what does that leave us with? A horse that will occasionally sully up and have a full blown melt down because he can?

I know that won't be the popular answer, but for me--knowing this horse his entire life--it's the most likely.

ignoring the whip, the end of the arena, and whatever
other traumatizing thing he'd thought up the day before
to watch people pull into the parking lot. parked vehicles:
now that's something he's consistently freaked out by.

I went back out Sunday morning prepared to do battle if necessary. I got him booted, wrapped (since he destroyed my hind boots), put his quarter sheet back on because it was super chilly out, and grabbed my whip.

I'm a big proponent of ground work, so first things first, we marched over to the end of the ring and stood there for awhile. I rubbed his face, scratched his neck, gave him lots of pats, and told him what a good boy he was.

"whatever. just going to stand here with my mule face on."

He wasn't remotely concerned with anything, so I spent some time running the whip all over his body. That didn't light so much of a spark, so then I asked him to do a turn on the forehand in hand which involved asking him to move his hind quarters over by tapping him with the whip. He did so both directions without fuss, and then stood quietly afterwards.

"whatever. whips don't bother me.
that horse getting hayed in the barn does concern me though."

Since he was so chill, I jumped on him, kept my reins on the buckle and repeated what I'd done Saturday. We walked one lap and then halted at the far end of the ring. Bobby stood quietly while I petted him before walking off with the slightest squeeze of my legs.

listening mule ears don't care.

I repeated the same process on the buckle once again with the same results, and then picked up my reins and came around again. Bobby dropped his head and continued to march forward, halted when asked, and stood quietly, occasionally glancing back at me to see what we're were doing.

"what's all the fuss about, lady?"

After that, I walked him to the middle of the ring, jumped off, and put him away. He won't get ridden all week since I'll be in Illinois, and I think that was a really good five minute mental ride that he can hopefully sit on while I'm gone.

I also think it goes to show how much of Bobby's problem is all in his head. For whatever reason, something will offend him, and he mentally cannot come back down. He keeps getting himself more and more upset over it.

Could there be a real physical issue? Possibly.

Is it more likely he's a difficult horse with certain issues that are unfounded and acted out on in an uncalled for manner? Um, yes.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mr Tappy goes for a ride along

Mr Tappy goes for a ride along and Bobby's brain slowly oozes out of his head, culminating in a truly epic melt down that harks back to the days of running backwards through fences and over the side of cliffs.

Oh, those were the days. So glad they're not gone forever.

Thursday was very warm--it was almost seventy out by noon, and while Bobby has thankfully mostly halted the mad rush to grow his winter coat back in no matter how often I clip it back off again, he was feeling pretty sluggish.

So I hopped off quick and brought out my dressage whip.

feeling so super excited to be a dressage horse.

Long, long time readers will remember that Bobby had some crazy whip phobia that seemingly developed out of nowhere. For those not super familiar with the history between Bobby and I, I bought him from the college we both went to (Bobby being a part of my breeding class, later a training class I TA'ed, and finally I got him ready to go off to be a real race horse) after he'd had some let down and riding time.

I had him for eight months before I gave him away due to a boarding situation I was in that I had to get out of immediately, and I couldn't afford to move both him and Red to a new barn. When I had to put Red down a couple months later, the woman I gave him to gave him back to me because she's a truly incredible human being that I will cherish forever. (Although some days...)

When I got him back, he was fat and lazy and had pretty much thought he'd been retired to the good life. Thus began a year of crazy ups and downs. Bobby threw a tantrum about pretty much anything he deemed hard. He wouldn't get near ground poles. He'd flip out on trail rides for no reason after walking calmly for the first half of the ride. Any correction I gave him was an excuse to run backwards or sideways no matter what obstacle was in his way.

But the biggest issue was his fear of whips, one he didn't have when I first bought him. There's no way this fear manifested while he was at L's. I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't even a whip on her property. I still have no idea why he decided to take such violent offense to them out of the blue one day, but it was there. He'd go so far as to walk by a whip leaning against the wall and lose his mind.

Eventually he got over me carrying a jumping whip. To this day, he takes zero offense to me using it. The dressage whip is a different story. After a lot of work with him, I got him to the point where I can carry one now without him freaking out. He gets tense initially, and I can use it maybe once without him losing his mind (I use it mostly for lengthenings), but if it stays in my hand the entire ride without moving, he usually forgets about it and goes about his life like a normal horse.

so fast. so angry about being forced to go fast.

With that rambling background, back to Thursday's ride.

I got back on with the whip and there was no drama from Bobby. He reacted exactly how I expected: he immediately went right to work to avoid the imaginary wrath of Mr Tappy, and I was really, really pleased with with the ride.

I brought the whip out with me Friday in case it was needed again, figuring I could drop it if he got tense during our lesson. Unfortunately, our lesson was cancelled last minute, but I did do a quick hack in the ring before the other rider and I went out on a trail ride. Bobby was a dream right off the bat. Transitions to canter were quiet, the trot was loose and forward, and his walk was big and swinging.

On our trail ride, he was fine until we came back to the walk after trotting around the conditioning field. He started getting a little wound up and trotting sideways. I'm not sure what it was over, but I sat there with a loose rein and ignored him as I talked to B and eventually he gave it up and started walking again.

not the same creature on the ground and under saddle.
the devil lurks within.

But he stayed very tight and tense, so when we got back to the barn, I took him to the outdoor to trot around a little more. "A little more" turned into thirty solid minutes of doing nothing but trotting figures until he loosened his back and we could quit.

At this point, I hadn't had to so much as lift the whip for anything. It hadn't accidentally brushed him. It hadn't purposefully tapped him. Knowing Bobby though, I had my suspicions he was slowly starting to get upset about Mr Tappy's continued presence.

Tough luck for Bobby because to me, having a rider carry a whip is just one of those life lessons horses need to learn and accept. Stand still at the mounting block, tie, get on a trailer, ignore a passive whip, etc.

Now my goal is to finish what I started a few years ago: the whip is going to get carried in every ride until it's a complete nonissue and he remains relaxed while it's in my hand.

This turned into one of the top three most epic Bobby meltdowns of all time Saturday. Stay tuned for tomorrow because I won't be seeing my horse all week so I have nothing else for fill. Sorry, suckers!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Flying Changes Camps: Haikus

I've had a post on flying changes sitting in my drafts folder for ages. It was super long and rambling, but it basically talked about how the Big Three english disciplines see flying changes in such vastly different ways. I was saving it for the week I'm going to be gone for Thanksgiving, but with Nicole's haiku post sparking such hilarity across the blogosphere, I immediately came back to this idea.

Let's be honest. Haikus are better than rambling any day of the week.


What's a flying change?
I can't even count my strides.
I'm an eventer.


For the amateurs:

Oh my god, you guys.
My horse missed his lead changes.
I just lost my class.

Get the change, she said.
Sit up and add leg, she said.
Too late. We're jumping.

For the pros:

Auto change installed.
He's already four years old.
Plus he's an import.


Start flying changes?
They'll wreck your horse for a year.
Best hire a pro.

Upper level horse.
Mystical and magical.
This one has changes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lay it all on me

Nothing like a little Ed Sheeran to kick off your Wednesday afternoon and another belated riding recap. This post should probably be titled more along the lines of "Blame it all on me", but ear worms, dudes.

Let's throw it all they way back to Monday's ride because Bobby had Saturday and Tuesday off, and all we did Sunday was go on an hour long trail ride with a riding buddy that moved to the barn behind me and just got a new mare.

all photos by a friend's SO--paul rehbock--who needs to teach hubby the way to be a
proper horse show picture taker. when you take pictures of your SO's friends for them,
they should all turn out like this, hubby.

I set up a couple (I, or someone, will eventually move the rest of the standards back into the ring.) of small fences in the indoor Monday to work over. I originally had grand plans of putting them up after warming up and doing all sorts of angles and what not.

What ended up happening was a very good schooling ride where good things happened, bad things happened, more bad things happened, and then I made good things happen again.

Warming up on the flat, Bobby was really heavy and resistant. I'd set up on oxer right on the rail since our arena is very narrow, and we had to keep weaving around it. Clearly the dude knew what was coming, and he wanted no part of the nonsense that is flat work.

Usually I'm guilty as charged with letting him get away with this. It's something I work on for all of one--maybe two--rides before giving up and moving on to the jumping. Monday happened to fall into the cycle of: "No. You are a capable dressage horse. Go like one."

Bobby basically gave me the finger despite repeated requests for no more llamas at this party. So I spanked him once and told him to get trotting like a respectable dressage citizen, so help me god.

the good thing about going training is that it's still within bobby's comfort zone of
him being taller than the jump itself and therefore little effort is required to clear it.

And he did just that, and it was beautiful, and we cantered over the 2'3" vertical balanced and collected. On landing, he was still balanced and collected because dressage. I asked for a flying change that he was easily able to deliver and stay collected and in balance, and we turned in to the oxer.

I waffled a little bit coming up the oxer. He got a little wiggly because I was wiggly, but I gave myself a quick mental smack, sat up and put my leg on, and we delivered another perfect jump.

I was excited to capture this fancy, so I jumped off and set up my phone to video the oxer. Cue Bobby thinking he had done such a good job that he was already done. Ergh. I got back on and the dressage was pretty much gone again. I pushed for it a bit, got some of it back, but still ended up rushing through the process. When we came back to the vertical, it wasn't quite as good and he landed in a bit of a heap.

I pushed him on anyway, counter cantering and strung out, and he compensated by flinging himself at the oxer in a mad rush that was in no way ever going to get us over. We took the whole thing down, and when I got off to set it back up, I put my phone away.

No more distractions. Or sucking.

I drilled the dressage until Bobby was back to where he really needed to be before sticking just the vertical back in. We had to repeat that multiple times until he'd settled down (How he doesn't have permanent PTSD from our years of jumping escapades, I'll never know.), but eventually everything clicked back into place for us.

not clicking in place.

With one last jump over the vertical from the left, I threw in a circle on landing to make sure he was in a good canter and tried the oxer again. He got pretty backed off, but went anyway and took the front rail down with him. I came around just to the oxer again, made sure my leg was on, grabbed a little mane to stay out of his way, and he cleared it by a good foot. It was a good approach despite the obviously slightly anxious jump itself so I called it quits from that direction.

Normally I would have quit the whole ride right there, but I'm trying to push for more during my jump schools. It's never going to be automatically easy if I don't keep trying harder to get better. That sounds stupid, but I've spent so many years settling on "okay" or "good enough". I've got the killer instinct now, remember?

Off to the right we went. Just like to the left, after establishing a really good trot, I thought about picking up the canter and did it that second before I could overthink it and cause Bobby to tense in anticipation. This worked so well, I can't emphasize it enough. Bobby flowed right through the transition without any fuss whatsoever and carried on that quality dressage frame.

The vertical was everything it needed to be except he landed on the wrong lead. Instead of asking for a change since he's not as good switching left to right, I did it through the trot. It took a full circle to get the right canter back, but the oxer came right out of stride. Again, he jumped it with a mile to spare, but no getting quick or frantic.

could he be any cuter?

This ride really showed me how much responsibility lies with me. It's my responsibility to demand the good flat work--he's not going  to give it himself. If I don't do my job of asking for it then I set him up for failure. That's on me, not him.

The journey towards being a better rider and horsewoman is really exhausting, you guys. Holy shit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Strengthening the fancy

So much riding, so little blogging. I've been in a bit of a mental hold blogging about my daily rides lately. I half assed drafted a post about some of my feelings about how our cliquey equestrian blogosphere has changed over the years, but it kept coming down to most of the same points I wrote about in my open letter to horse people.

However, I've decided not to get caught up in any more drama or pettiness. PWS is about making fun of my horse and myself and chronicling my riding and showing experiences. I'm going to continue to do that in my own way, and if no one else wants to read about good rides, shit rides, or whatever other random things pop into my head, whatevski.

I started this blog for myself. I'm going to keep it going for myself.

poor quality riding pictures included.

With that said, Bobby and I have done much work lately.

Since there was no school on Wednesday (Yep, we're throwing it that far back.), I ended up riding with the girl that leases Bobby's pasture mate Romeo. She's a pretty beginner rider, and things like steering and speed control aren't really there for her yet. We spent the first several minutes of the ride trying to get her to keep Romeo away from Bobby. Gelding romances are seriously the most pathetic thing ever.

Avoiding her was at least a good distraction as I warmed up with no stirrups. I posted until I was ready to die, and then moved into the canter. Building muscle or breaking down my body? The verdict it still out on that one.

Romeo finally decided Bobby wasn't going to abandon him and never return so the rail was in fact an acceptable place to plod around which meant I could get to work for real.

video from friday's lesson. our first trot where i almost puked up the
huge breakfast i foolishly ate before riding which is why i go from crap
sitting trot to posting.  

For real meant warming up over a big X on the quarter line. To the left, Bobby was pretty perf. To the right, he flung himself at it the first time so I halted him the second we landed. We came back around again, I really rode to maintain that quiet, consistent canter, and we went over a few more times doing just that.

I jumped off and set one of the poles up to where the cups were already placed which ended up being 3'6". (I finally went and measured all the standards because I definitely like knowing what height I'm jumping.) It looked big, especially with the 8' poles instead of 12', but still completely doable. Going from an X to 3'6" maybe wasn't the smartest, but Bobby jumped it without so much as rubbing the rail.

I got left behind though, and when I came back around again, Bobby skittered to a halt and looked back at me with his patented stank eye. "Listen, lady. You clearly don't know what you're doing up there. I am not going to indulge your bad decisions."

I gave him a pat and pet his neck until he heaved a very dramatic sigh and resigned himself to coming around again. I hooked a finger in my neck strap on approach and we hopped over totally in sync.

We finished off working at the trot in our very recently discovered more elevated frame. Trot and canter sets out on the trail are one type of conditioning work. Right now I'm also making him do in the arena dressage conditioning work. We are strengthening the fancy, and the fancy trot gets a little more auto pilot with each boring lap we take.

warm up trot right.

On Thursday, I did a dressage ride to prepare for my lesson the next day. The whole ride was mostly done in walk. If Bobby is tense in the walk, he's not going to get any better at any other gait. If I run into a problem at one of the other gaits, I come back to the walk and reassess there. Slow is good for Bobby.

I worked a lot on moving his haunches in and out as that's something Trainer forces us to do every ride with her. He was good to the left and I did all my work at all three gaits on that rein in one go. To the right, he wanted to throw a serious tantrum about being asked to move his haunches out.

In the past, I probably would have engaged and gotten us both worked up into a hot mess. This time around, I simply kept asking him to step over by putting my "spur into his meat" as Trainer would say. I was insistent, but quietly so and Bobby very quickly gave up the fight and did as asked. It was kind of a wake up on how much I've fed into his drama, and also probably how much he's fed off of me getting worked up over his drama in the past.

We had a really awful lesson two weeks ago where nothing was clicking, tantrums were thrown, and Trainer basically told me to tune him out because he was making a fool out of himself. At the end of it, she said that when he finds things hard, he makes a big fuss to try to get out of it. I have to tell him that I understand what I'm asking is hard, but I appreciate that he's trying and to acknowledge anything he's giving me. That still doesn't mean he gets to get out of doing it, and in return he's got to acknowledge that.

you can't really hear trainer in any of these (thanks, hubby), but 
she's repeating what i just said above. "he finds this very hard. 
he's got to do it anyway." and he does and then gets a scratch. 
Our right lead canter started out very braced in his under neck--something I'm desperately trying to avoid at all costs. His neck is so long, he can very easily use it as a weapon for evil, and he's got a whole bag of tricks to make that thing do crazy moves. I kept at it though, again just quietly insisting that he do what I was asking, and he finally relaxed over his whole back and cantered around softly. I had him stay in that canter for ages--strengthening maybe not the fancy, but the right muscles at least.

Right now his left lead and right lead are two totally different canters. I can start to ask for the fancy to the left. To the right, long and low is a serious "fuck yeah!" win at the moment.

left lead with a bit of counter canter at the end that falls apart
briefly as we try not to collide with ralph.

Finally we get to lesson day! Hubby took Friday off and I promised him a diner breakfast (worst. idea. ever.) and a trip to a used tool store if he came to video my lesson for me. I was so pumped you guys were finally going to get the full glory of a Trainer lesson complete with Trainer sass, but alas. Bobby was actually pretty amazing the whole ride so we didn't get yelled at nearly enough. Even if we had, Hubby kept fielding calls from work, so he stayed in the doorway to keep from interrupting the lesson and you can't really hear Trainer. 


Ugh, I was so bummed about that. Trainer had us canter right first which is never a good idea. We were trotting along really well, she called for it out of the blue, I asked without even thinking about it, and it was flawless. 

Later in the lesson she asked for it again, only we'd gone back out on the rail knowing it was coming so Bobby anticipated and got a little tense in the transition.

The whole canter wasn't nearly as good as the first time as a result. Trainer said that if I feel him tense up in anticipation again while schooling, then I have to just have him keep walking or trot instead. He's not allowed to anticipate the canter anymore. This has ended up being an awesome seemingly obvious tip that has helped out so much since then. 

We finished up with work on the rein back. Trainer said we both have a very good basic understanding of it, with the key point being "It's called a rein back, not a run back."  Bobby steps back way too quickly. I need to actively give the rein with every step like I'm asking him to step forward with my reins while simultaneously asking him to lift his legs and take big, slow steps back with my seat and legs. 

being lectured on the finer points of the rein back.
 We got to be done with that while the other two riders got yelled at a little bit more, and then Trainer took the time to tell me that she really likes Bobby. Not only that, she thinks he's a very useful horse. "Half the horses I train I think to myself, 'Why am I even bothering?' Not with this one. He's a nice horse. He can be naughty, but he's very honest. He's a fine fellow."

To which Bobby said:


Monday, November 16, 2015

TRM Blog Hop: 25 Questions

I have lots of ride recaps I want to cover from the past week (including some lesson video!), but that requires serious brain effort. Fortunately, Cathryn wrote up a blog hop that was easy filler until then!

1. Mares or Geldings? Why?
Geldings because I don't like girls. In any capacity. As a girl, I can confidently say we are all bitchy fucking wenches with few good moments interspersed. 

2. Green-broke or Fully Broke?
I prefer green broke. I like installing my own buttons on horses and have them go in a particular way--the way Carly knows how to ride way.

3. Would you own a "hotter" breed (ie. Arabian, Trakhener, etc).
Are Thorougbreds considered a hotter breed? Irregardless, they are the only breed I've ever owned and ever will own.

too amped to walk when there are applauding fans on hand.

4. What was your "dream horse" growing up?
A dark bay Thoroughbred. But one that was not a mule, so don't tell me Bobby is fulfilling all my childhood fantasies.

5. What kind of bit(s) do you use and why?
Bobby schools in a plain old egg butt. He previously jumped in an elevator except at our last show where he went in a slow twist dee. Not sure what I'm going to go with next year.

6. Helmets or no helmets?
#helmetnazi. Put one on, assholes.

7. Favorite horse color?
I love me a shiny, coppery chestnut.

8. Least favorite horse color?
Red/brown and white paints. Meh.

9. Dressage or Jumping?
I'm way better at dressage than I am at jumping, and a much better cross country rider than I am show jumping rider. Sooo...I guess in that order of liking. Really, I just don't like stadium period. Fuck you, stadium.

so good at dressage.

10. How many years have you been riding?
Off and on in random spurts since I was five.

11. Spurs/whip or no spurs/whip?
I ride in spurs every time. I jump with Mr Spanky pretty much every time unless I forget him in my tack trunk. Mr Spanky's long necked dressage cousin Mr Tappy only comes out on the very rare occasion as he makes Bobby a little stupid.

12. Your first fall?
I got thrown into a round pen panel by my lease hony (a TB/Welsh gelding) after riding him for a few months. And then he dumped me twice more in that same lesson, once completely over the round pen panels we were riding in. I have a very vivid memory of this entire ride probably for this exact reason.

13. When was the last time you rode and what did you do?
I rode Bobby this morning and jumped small jumps before going for a trail ride.

14. Most expensive piece of tack you own?
Either one of my super cheap synthetic saddles, one of which was a gift. I'm [horse] poor, yo.

15. How old were you when you started riding?
I started riding at five in the backwoods of South Carolina.

16. Leather or Nylon halters?
Anything that doesn't rub or make my delicate flower's face sweat if it stays on for more than two minutes.

17. Leather or Synthetic saddles?
Anything I can afford and fits my horse.

18. What "grip" of reins do you like?
It is a proven fact that I am only able to ride in rubber reins.

so much angst went into having to use laced reins for hunter land it was ridic.

19. English or Western?
I'm primarily an English rider, but I do love romping around in Western tack when the mood strikes. 

20. How many horses do you currently own/lease?
Just the one majestic unicorn.

that hello kitty sleezy was the best purchase of my life.

21. Do you board your horse? Self-care/full board? Home board?
I board, and as much as not having things done exactly the way I want them sometimes, after both having horses at home and doing self care on rented land, I'm never not boarding again.

22. Have you ever had to put down a horse that you loved?
Yes, the greatest Red Pony to ever live.

23. How many saddle pads do you have?
Almost none. I've bought three saddles pads in my entire life. The rest have either been gifts, rejects that have been passed on from other people, or won at a show.

24. Slant-load trailer or straight haul?
Straight load all the way.

25. Why do you ride?
Because I lack the ambition to do anything else with my life. And I heart ponies?

riding and snacking: my two favorite things.

Monday, November 9, 2015


I had a rather frustrating ride on Robert over the weekend. I try to take advantage of getting Hubby to come out to the barn with me whenever I can since, hello Hubby, I'm trying to run a blog here, pictures are need on the daily. Hubby's a good sport about it, but I do try to keep my rides short and structured when he's around to not take complete advantage of him.

Saturday we went out to the front jump field where Bobby and his bestie Romeo get turned out. I'd swung into the barn around ten that morning on my way home from the pet store to throw on his blanket before he got turned out, and then at the last second asked to have him left in because I was planning on coming right back with Hubby in tow.

ho hum. quietly being a dressage horse around xc jumps.

Well, "back in under an hour" turned into back in close to two hours which left my horse stuck in his stall all morning with his lunch hay waiting for him in the pasture he wasn't getting turned out in. Sorry, dude. So sorry.

He was really good warming up on the flat for me though. He went right out there and went to work at all three gaits in both directions. I called out to Hubby that I was going to throw a few jumps together, and we did all three without any fuss.

first jump of the day

tires require minimal effort.

Hubby got distracted by geese flying overhead (No, Hubby. I don't think BO will let you hunt geese in her fields. Eyes on the ground, son.), so we took a quick breather before starting back up again. That has historically not been ideal in schooling Bobby in any situation. If he thinks he's done, he's done.

We came back around to the stacked rails jump and Bobby promptly lost his shit. Jump after jump was fast and flat or sideways and then fast and flat. I tried to troubleshoot as we went along, but eventually, after getting stuck in a corner because he couldn't bring himself to go forward at all (Oh, hey, BM! No, we're fine. Just keep driving.), I called a halt and we took a timeout. I could feel myself starting to lose my own shit, and I didn't want to feed into Bobby's ridiculousness.

deep breaths, everyone.

To me, there's never a time or place for fast and flat. In show jumping, it brings down rails. In cross country it can bring down the horse or rider. It's not safe, and I don't tolerate that.

After our chill time, I put Bobby back to work on the flat. Lots of changes of direction, changes of pace, and weaving in and out as close to the jumps as I could get him. Look, dude. We are two inches from this jump and nothing is happening. We even walked over a tiny log a few times. Nothing to get upset about here, Bobby!

jumps? jumps ain't no thing.

cantering by a jump? no big deal!

He settled down some and I was able to trot him and canter him once a piece over the stacked rails without issue. Good, britches!

Keeping that super packaged but still forward canter, I changed direction again and kept the train right on rolling over a little table thing along the fence line. Unfortunately, the train derailed and Bobby flung his head skyward, launched himself in the general direction of the jump, half climbed, half fell over it, and then almost face planted on landing.

slip your reins and try to stay tall...and alive.

I think that was a bit of a wake up call for him as he at least kept his giant head in this stratosphere afterwards. Still, the next few times were not any good either. I stayed focused though and kept repeating my rules to him: collected canter, stay forward, listen to me, I will choose our spot, it will be a good spot, I will not pull on you if you listen to me, and if you go with this spot that I choose, I won't end up hitting you in the mouth.

Finally, he got the memo and we went around and around half a dozen times with the right canter and leaving from the right spot. It's frustrating because it's obvious he can do it. He was doing it right off the bat just fine earlier in the week, and finished by doing it just fine. Why we have to go through these tantrums first, I don't know.

so much nicer, mr magee. why was this so hard?

Walking out of the paddock, he angrily dragged me to his waiting hay by the gate and refused to leave until he'd grabbed several mouthfuls. Bobby. Were you just hangry out there? Talk to me, bro. 

When we got back to his stall, he was too busy checking out his feed bucket after I untacked him to beg for his post-ride candy. To try to speed things along since Hubby was there, I skipped that step and went right to putting my tack away and changing out of my boots before going back to him. He was screaming his brains out and absolutely frantic in his stall.

Bobby is secretly a very sensitive, insecure dude. I'm probably being anthropomorphic here, but if we have a bad ride and I don't tell him it's okay when we're done, he loses his shit. He'll rear and thrash around and won't shut up until he gets comforted. Honestly it's a little absurd, and once I went into his stall armed with handfuls of candy corn, he settled right down and went back to being his usual cheerful self.

I gave him Sunday off because I was tired, and today we had a really, really good dressage ride. It was mostly spent at the walk, but focusing on getting him listening to all my aids at that gait and coming back down to refocus when needed had him so sharp and soft. He's going to get tomorrow off to let that one sink in (hopefully), and then back to work for the rest of the week.

walking is our favorite.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jump jump horse

Much to Bobby's delight, all of our rides since our lesson last Friday have been in the jump saddle, and the jump saddle has finally been used for its intended purpose. We haven't jumped since our show at the beginning of October. I wanted to keep a close eye on that RF to see if anything belatedly popped up, but--knock on wood--so far everything has seemed okay.

best buds.
It does fill up when it gets cold and rainy, but I have a feeling that's what it's going to do from now on. With the warm weather we've been having lately, even with three solid days of hopping over jumps and trail riding, his leg has been as tight as it gets.

On Sunday and Monday, we stayed in the arena. Only two pairs of jump standards have been hauled back into the ring since it got its new footing, and being too lazy to muscle the doors open and drag those behemoths back in myself, I made do with what was there.

I warmed him up over a little 2' vertical on the quarter line first. I was expecting serious dramatics to be honest. He hadn't jumped in a month, and the last time he did jump it was a mix of 3'3" stadium jumps and big ass cross country fences.

Bobby, however, was apparently possessed by some drugged up Hunter horse who lopes along without changing rhythm and maybe even needs some leg to move up for the distance.

very enthusiastically waiting to go for a trail ride.

I added in the other vertical on the center line set at 3' with the same result, and then looped between the two for awhile. We chipped once to the 2' because I didn't add enough leg (since when is that a thing?!), but that was literally the only bobble.

It was very weird. Awesome, but weird. Hunter Horse Bobby is ready for your show debut, Lauren.

Monday was a repeat performance, only this time I'd crossed my stirrups for the entire ride. I trotted the 2' jump first out of chickenness only to have Bobby actually just trot right over it and continue trotting away after. That ended up being more uncomfortable than cantering the stupid thing, so we stuck with loping quietly over jumps for awhile before finishing off with a trail ride.

i'll take this weather in november every year!

Yesterday I decided there was no way I could jump in the ring again when it was 70* and sunny outside, and my horse lives in a giant pasture filled with mini cross country fences.

Bobby has also been getting very stuck in the right lead canter during our dressage rides, and while that lead has been beautiful after he's cleared a few jumps, I thought I could do a good strong flat ride out in the field and work on getting him forward and softer with the allure of the great outdoors.

Yeah, no.

so fast. much dressaging.

Bobby marched out into the field and immediately tried to go shooting off while I adjusted my stirrups. Bad britches. I got him walking and trotting normally without much effort, had a perfectly decent left lead canter, and then tried for the right.

Bobby threw out some of his favorite evasions--swinging his rib cage out the opposite way I wanted it, putting his head on sideways and bending his neck the wrong way, and hollowing out his back to better optimize teeny tiny tense steps.

I let him do whatever he wanted with his giant lug head which meant his ears were often above my helmet, but whatever. Instead I focused on moving his haunches around where I wanted them, and eventually he lowered his head on his own (see the floppy reins in the video below) and deigned to go to work.

He did get to do some jumping to celebrate, and then a few more jumps just because before I took him out back and let him have a gallop around the conditioning field.

Not so exciting rumpus video:

Despite him being a little cheeky out in the field, it was nice to feel a little fire from him again. I'll take the kick ride in the arena any day of the week, but there's nothing more fun than having your horse take you to the fences out on cross country--going sideways because brain hurt and tiny fences included.

We finished the ride with some no stirrup rising trot and canter in the ring to make sure his brain was back in his head, and then a long bath to wash the sweat and dried pee off of him. I'm going to have to clip him for the third time already today or tomorrow. I don't know why he thinks growing a full winter coat back in after two weeks is a good idea when it's been in the high sixties and low seventies lately.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Adulting like adults

*Warning: Not horse related.

I feel like I should have saved this as a Wordless Wednesday, but for the sake of personal documentation, I want to use my words, and really, my pictures are not that exciting. Also I want to say that just because we bought a house in the Worst State Ever does not mean that this is going to be our permanent residence.

semi permanent residence.

There's nothing quite like renting out an absolute shit hole in the Worst State Ever for double what a mortgage on a house would cost to make you feel even colossally more miserable than you were before. Add a certified slum lord to the picture (One day I'll tell you all about that time we nearly died from gas leaking into our house from the oven the landlord said was fine, or how the toilet would randomly flush itself and then not turn off, or how we replaced more basic living necessitates in that house ourselves than the house was probably worth.), and Hubby and I started house hunting almost immediately upon arrival.

things you discover while packing: why do i have so much syrup??

Here's the thing about me: when I set my sights on something, I am going to get it. Period. And I need it now. Period. And also, when I find something I want, that is the one thing I want. Period.

the puppies' first halloween with trick or treating.

puppies said to get candy you must first give pets.

I've never done a trial period for a horse. I've actually never gone to look at a horse and turned it down. The same applies to my other pets, vehicles, and now our house. I scoured real estate listings until I found one house I liked. We contacted a realtor and went to see the place.

first time owning a dishwasher. why are there so many choices?!
best house warming gift we got was a fire extinguisher.
I was sold immediately, but Realtor wanted to show us a few more places. We indulged her and looked briefly at three more houses the next day, but when we were done with the last house, we told her to go ahead and put in an offer on the first house.

my bookcases until i get shelving in.
mags is available to play ball in the meantime.

hubby installing a toilet paper holder because we oddly didn't have one.
mags is available to play with her fox in the meantime.

 We could not have asked for a better Realtor for our first home buying experience. She's hysterical and made us feel like a member of her family in about two seconds flat. Aside from the great chemistry, she was such a professional on the business end. She got everything done for us pretty much the second we asked her to do it, and never once got tired of our stupid newbie questions. Plus she made heads roll when the seller's attorney lost the title to the house the day before closing.

first night home.

the bottom cupboards will be painted white to match the top ones.

We signed everything last Tuesday and recruited a handful of dudes that work for Hubby to haul all our shit over that night. So long, slum lord and your slum house! We had to eat the substantial security deposit because of breaking the contract and moving early, but getting out of there was worth it.

The new crib is nothing fancy, and it certainly wouldn't work for anyone with a bigger family than ours, but it's the perfect starter home. Everything was redone before we moved in: paint, carpet, floors, windows, etc. There are a few changes we want to do, but there's nothing wrong with it as it stands.

ugh, fencing. y u so expensive?

we have naughty creatures that need to be contained.

realtor had listing agent cancel the open house.
this home is reserved for doggies, sorry.

After being a transient for so many years--my poor cat has lived in nine different houses with me since he was born under my roomie's bed in college eight years ago--it's been one massive sigh of relief to own our house for once. The substantially cheaper mortgage payment doesn't hurt either!

sir fat cat says this view is just as good as the other ones.
he also says to hurry up and get a new, grown up couch already.