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:



  1. A FINE FELLOW!! Whaddy'a know! I love your blog. Never stop.

  2. I get you with the feel of how things have changed - personally, I see a lot less "journey of my horse" and more "journey of things related to my life as a horse person." I have tried to combat this with more lesson recaps and riding posts. Fight the good fight!

    Also that last picture, lol.

  3. That last picture is just fabulous. Bobby seems so flattered, haha. But seriously, what a great compliment on Bobby. You can see in your videos just how hard he tries, even if it ends up with naughtiness happening. ;)

  4. Yay for the return of trainer! Boo for failed media person!

    As for the blogging, well, I could work a lot harder (and spend some $) to promote my blog and make it more accessible. Or like. I could not. So I don't. I read the blogs I like, not the ones I don't, love meeting new people, and try to get along with everyone. :-)

  5. Fanciest mule I know, that is for sure! You are a very pretty rider.

  6. Trainer is cracking me up, sitting her her chair and looking at Bobby!!

  7. Fine fellow! Don't stop blogging ever!

  8. The last sentence coupled with that look. I died. What a character.

  9. d'awww i love bobby's mule face haha. and also these lesson posts too bc lots of useful nuggets in there (sticking spurs into his meat? staying at the walk bc the tension will just creep into everything else? yup yup, useful haha)

  10. You guys look sooo good! His canter has completely transformed, it's been so fun to watch you guys progress.

  11. I hope you never stop blogging. Where else would I go for raw honest horsemanship? And the best voice ever given to an animal. Also, it's like getting free tid-bits from Trainer which hello, is awesome.

  12. "Spur into his meat". I will remember this and laugh every time i ride until the end of time :)

  13. I love watching you and Bobby progress along with reading about it. You're the only person that can have me laughing hysterically about a dressage post while still maintaining a serious respect for you as a rider.

  14. WOW. I have to say that the difference between Bobby's left and right canters is astonishing. He really does look lovely going left! It will be super badass when the right canter catches up.

    Let me know how tension-anticipation = more relaxing walk or trotting goes. Sometimes I think Murray KNOWS that I will keep him walking if he tenses up, so he uses it agaisnt me... not sure if that is real or not. But I do want to try this again. Anticipation sucks.


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