Friday, January 29, 2016

Top Gun

Better know as Oz, or Oz Man, or Ozzy, or "If you feel like you're going to die over jumps, this is the horse for you!"

BM texted me Thursday afternoon to say she had Friday morning free, and if I wanted to jump around on Oz, she'd school Bobby again. Bonus training ride? Um, duh! I'm glad BM likes riding Bobby so much. She gets off and is already spouting ideas on what she wants to try with him next. Her last client horse she had in training--and who is out now with a paddock injury--was super nappy and kind of a tool to ride, so I think the fact that Bobby is already so well schooled makes it more fun for her.

A quick run down on Oz: He was broke to race, but he had serious starting gate issues stemming from his giant size and never actually made it to the track. Not only is this horse super tall, but he's also built like a tank. BM got him at two from his breeder and has had him ever since. He's twelve now and has been in the lesson program for most of his life. He knows his job to a tee, and he's very much adopted the lesson horse mentality. "I'll do it if you ask right, but if you don't, fuck you."

also loves kitties

BM told me he was going to tattle on every single one of my jumping faults, but that he was in no way malicious about it. If he stops, it's three strides out and he does it so slowly there's no mistaking he's going to do.

I was actually able to get him a little active and round warming up on the flat which BM was very happy with. He's so giant and set in his plug-along lesson horse ways that he's not much for flexing or bending, but he ended up looking alright for me. I'm glad I can bring something to the table!

Our first jumping attempt was a one stride--pole to a 18" vertical--that I trotted into first because his canter is very big and I'm a chicken. Oz plunked into the line and--just like BM said--calmly came to the slowest, calmest halt in front of it when I did nothing but hold onto his reins and not add leg.

I brought him back around, and....yeah. Same result. BM told me I had to build up some momentum and actually, you know, tell him to jump the jump so I picked up the canter and came around with a war cry, determined to get us over this massive obstacle.

Oz patiently loped into the line and loped out over the vertical without so much as picking up his feet. Okay, so, maybe not the giant jumping effort I rode for, but I got him over it.


We played around with that a few more times, and I finally got him feeling alive enough that he did a big canter stride over the vertical instead of a little one. Look out, eventing world. Training is almost within my reach again.

BM assured me that this was how Oz jumped everything 2'6" and under, and he was in no way going to launch these tiny jumps. Basically, chill the fuck out and go jump something else. Our next beast was a whopping 2'3" vertical on the rail.

"He's not going to kill me if I turn in to this, is he?"
"Carly, no. Just sit up and let him do his job."

He gave me a great "jump" over it and we cantered off in a victory lap. OMG, so big, we're alive!!! We changed direction and had to come off of it from a much longer approach. This led to me clinging to dear life to my reins, and Oz calmly veering off to the side as we got closer to tell me I was doing it wrong, and could I please figure myself out so he could do the jumping.

BM told me to stop clutching my right rein and just let him go. He wasn't going to rush, he wasn't going to give me a bad distance. All I had to do was sit there and let him do his thing. I gave him a nice loopy rein, stayed back and out of his way, let my legs close around his giant barrel, and we made it over with zero issues.

We jumped that again without a problem, and then made the 2'6" star jump our finale. Only, you know, IT WAS SO GIANT AND SCARY. BM told me to soften him as we turned the corner, so I gave him a half halt that I then didn't release because SO SCARY, and Oz, from easily five strides out, told me, "No, no, lady. You give me my reins or we do not do the jumping."

I circled him and approached again, making sure to flop my reins and let him take over. He gave me a nice metronome canter and hopped over it without any fuss.

of course i made a barn mate get a picture, although
she pointed out that oz's giant size made this look about 1' tall.

He might not be the best horse to learn to manage Bobby's specialness, but he is for sure going to let me get back in the groove of "jumping is fun and not scary."

BM, meanwhile, was jumping Bobby over a triple bar and a 3' one stride, and I had zero desire to attempt any of that with him. Turn Bobby into Oz over fences, BM, and he'll be the perfect horse!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Demon Fire

BM declared Bobby a good event horse because of the demon fire that rages inside him. "And now we just have to get you to use your demon fire for good, and not towards killing your mother." Which we made an infantile step towards today when I trotted and cantered him over a cross rail...


(and no, we did not jump that vertical. bitch, please.)

Okay, so it was actually the world's smallest X, but that's just fine. BM had me warm the beast from hell up for her as she wrapped up a lesson. I'd had fun riding yesterday and was feeling good this morning, so while BM went to put on her helmet, I got SUPER FUCKING BALLSY and decided I could jump this thing.

Bobby was like, "Whatevs, doing my thing, we'll hop over these ground poles if you really feel the need."


To which Bobby replied, "Okay."

"now give me snacks."

I mean, obviously the actual jumping of the minuscule cross rail was not the victory here. It was my mindset, and so what if it was for a six inch jump? Small wins, people. Small wins.

BM started him out at the trot with the jumps remaining at their tiny Carly height. They remained small so she could play mind games with his spazzy brain. "Oh, you think we're going to jump that jump? Just kidding! We're jumping this one right behind you." Bobby likes to lock on to jumps, and fuck you if you don't want him to go, so BM suggested playing this game with him a lot, even over ground poles. It got his brain engaged and made him start paying attention to his rider instead of seeing a jump and not thinking about anything but blasting over it.

arthur says stop stocking up on kleenex and let me into the tack room already.

After a good warm up with lots of, "Do not land in a heap on your forehand. You will carry yourself uphill at all times." BM had me make the cross rails into verticals and roll the ground poles way out so there was no adding that last stutter step to squeeze in as close to the base of the fence as possible.

We also started building a line to the 2'9" vertical by putting a pole 9' out. After hopping over the other two verticals a few times, they went to work on the line-to-be.

The first time through, Bobby sailed over the vertical like it was a good foot higher. Bobbys love big jumps, even if they have to make them themselves. They came through a bunch more times before rolling the pole out to 18'. He started off a bit rushy the first few times, but eventually settled into a rhythm.

The final test was the pole becoming an X with a pole in front of that 9' out. BM had a pep talk with Bobby about not showing her how 18' can be bounced, and off they went. The first time through, Bobby jumped BM right out of the tack. Bobby was very impressed with himself and had a fancy prance lap around the ring while BM tried to stop laughing long enough to pull him up.

obviously in serious need of new media.

The moral of the story was: See how much better your jump is when you lift and use your shoulders instead of dragging yourself along on the forehand, Robert?

BM gave us a little bit of homework to do should I chose to attempt it. If not, there's a white PONY waiting in the wings.

Also, just because this is funny: Farrier stuck her head in to watch for a second and told me afterwards, "It's amazing that your horse can trot along so fancily, and yet his ears are still flopped to the side. It kind of ruins the affect." Ahh, Bobby. Some things just can't be fixed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Meet Step One of rehabilitating Carly to over fences work:


Now I know that I mentioned in my last post BM offered up her giant red TB to pack me around tiny fences until I feel like I'm not going to shit myself when something is higher than six inches, but Oz--the giant red TB--has spent this winter doing his best bashing his body parts on things and bleeding all over, and above pony is in constant need of "military rule" flat schooling according to BM.

So we did a little switcheroo of plans. Oz is step two. "When you're ready to canter fences again, you're going to canter them all day on Oz because there's no horse better for that job than him." Apollo is step one.

The pony is an Arabian/Quarter Horse/Welsh teen aged lesson pony. He likes to spook at random things when you ignore him for any amount of time, and he's the worst beggar for cookies I've ever met in my life, but he is a complete blast under saddle as I found out this morning.

pre-grooming. how do people own grey horses?!

His walk feels like you're on a ship in a very wavy ocean because it rolls along instead of feeling like each leg is being picked up and set down individually. It was a bit weird a first, but so comfy--sort of like how I'd imagine a gaited horse to be. His trot was totally pleasant, and the second I asked him to carry himself properly, he went right to work. His mouth is light, his half halts are instant, and he trucks along without any brattiness once he realizes you're not going to take his shit. His canter was decidedly not pony at all. He's very sporty and smooth with none of that short, choppy canter some ponies can throw out. I could have cantered along on him all day. Plus, I mean, HE'S A PONY.



After I had a blast warming him up, BM asked me if I was ready to jump him. I was like, "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?"

The freaked out spazzy hamster half of my brain said, "No. Let's just have more fun on the flat. Flatting is SO FUN."

The very tiny baby balls side of my brain said, "You will be brave again, Self! Do it! No one is going to die!"

And BM said, "This pony doesn't know the word stop. He is not going stop on you."

So I said, "Please make me the teeniest, tiniest, babiest, microscopic cross rail you can."

I trotted my trusty pony in towards it. I felt him lock on and get excited, so I squeezed my fingers a bit to keep him from rushing it, and....

He trotted right over it like it wasn't even there. I mean, I'm not sure he even had to lift his feet up any more than he was just trotting along on the rail. BM laughed and set up another jump, this one a daunting 18" vertical. I dutifully trotted my X again, the pony dutifully pranced right over it without a care in the world, and we came around to the terrifying vertical.

Chanting out loud a mantra of, "Don't freak out, don't freak out, do no freak out" (Have I mentioned how much I love BM for her abilities in managing and not judging her bat shit crazy clients--myself definitely included?) I kept my eyes up, my leg sort of on, and Apollo did just enough to get over it at the trot without knocking the pole, but it wasn't so much of a hop.


So, there. That was my victory for the day. I "jumped" an eighteen inch straight rail. My own horse was also very good in his dressage school, so even though these are the very smallest of baby steps, we'll take each win as it comes.

here is my puppy eating a giant icicle because
she is cute, too.

Bobby has a training ride tomorrow. You have fun jumping my fancy Thoroughbred over big jumps, BM. Imma be over here like, "Rocked the shit out of that X today, Pony. We're so boss."

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Moving on.

Thanks for all the input on what to do with my helmet on my last post! I'll look into the CO trade-ins, but since it's already so old, I'm not sure they'll take it. I bought the Ovation this past summer and had only used it a handful of times up to this point, so riding in something else right now isn't a big deal. It is comfy, even if it's kind of ugly.

comfy but kind of ugly: also a good description of my horse.

I'm finally going to get around to last week's training ride from BM, and all that unfolded after it. It basically amounts to me never wanting to jump my horse ever again because I am one hundred percent sure I'm going to have a giant crash and die, and Bobby is one hundred percent in agreement with this and is willing to help facilitate it however he can. It's a long story.

Actually, no it's not. That is the story.

But first, some BM wisdom!

For a jumping horse, BM is less worried about how far his nose is poking out and more concerned with lifting the entire front half. I need to stop riding him like a dressage horse and "start riding him like a hunter". Basically, don't micromanage him. He can't see the jump if his head is tucked in.

She brought this up right away because I'd done my homework on the flat so well from the last time she was on him that he was too light for what she wanted. "Hands up, head up. Let him see what's in front of him."

but we are so good at the dressage

I was able to put this to practice in my ride yesterday, and I got exactly what she was looking for. His tan mule nose was poked out, his neck was long and up, and that lift carried all the way through his shoulders, made easy by how well he was sitting on his bum. It was a fucking awesome jumping horse canter.

BM is actually pretty much in love with Bobby's canter, so you're welcome, BM, for me being the one to suffer through Trainer's yelling and torture (which I loved, let's be honest) to make it so enjoyable. I've gotten "This is a nice horse! I really like him!" and "I wish all my Thoroughbreds cantered like this." To which I reply, "He's for sale, BM. Hint, hint."

We set up a course for him this time around, so while it was all fun and games playing with his flat work during warm up, he is Bobby, and BM started to break down the bad things once the jumps were introduced.

He started getting antsy anticipating doing his changes whenever she came across the diagonal, so BM suggested no more changes while jumping. He's confirmed in them, we know they're there, don't give him something else to get wound up about when jumping. He's got enough mental issues to focus on.
he leads such a stressful life, it's no wonder he's such a nutcase. 

She also kept preaching the most basic fundamental when jumping: Leg. If you don't know what you're going to do coming up to a jump, if you do nothing else, add leg! He turns the corner and sees a jump halfway across the ring? Add leg in that corner and keep adding it. Dropping him in front of the fence and hoping he gets us to the other side is not helpful in any way, shape, or form. He also, of course, needs to differentiate between leg meaning lengthen the stride and not just GO FAST.

This really came to light when she came down the six stride line. He just bulled through the first jump without paying any attention to it to get to the second jump. Lengthening to get the distance is fine, racing SO FAST is not. She told me to do lots of turning out of lines and splitting the jumps so that we only did one off a circle without ever coming into the line.

She also suggested riding as close to the fences as possible, circling around them and whatnot, while flatting so he doesn't think every time he gets near a jump he gets to jump it.

And finally, "This horse can't see a distance to save his life. He comes to the jump and he's just like, 'There's a fence. I'm supposed to jump it. Go fast. I have four legs. I'm a dark bay. My name is Bobby.' Anything but looking for a distance." Um, yes. Bobby is a nutshell.

Overall she got him working pretty sanely, and when she was done, she had me get on him to trot a 2' vertical a few times to have me get the feel of getting his head up and his eye on the jump. It was...not great. He slammed to a stop once right off the bat which rattled me, and no amount of, "Leg, leg, leg, LEGGGGG" from BM was actually making me put my leg on. Instead, I'd freeze up and grab either mane or my neck strap, and Bobby would take over and do whatever he wanted, which was basically just run at the jump.

BM told me to stop going to the neck strap when I got scared. I've basically taught Bobby that when I grab it I'm anxious, and then he gets anxious, and everything instantly falls apart. Part of this stems from be being afraid I'm going to hit him in the mouth and get him pissed at me. To which BM said, "Well, stop. You're not going to catch him in the mouth. You're a good rider with a good base of support. Sit up, lean back, and slip the reins if you have to."

That's all well and good so long as curl into the fetal position and pray you make it safely to the other side isn't your current go-to.

freshly clipped and braided, and looking for cookies.

The truth is that Bobby has slowly chiseled away at all my confidence over the past year, and my crash two weeks ago firmly solidified in my mind that bad things happen when jumping Bobby. I am scared shitless to jump this horse right now. An eighteen inch vertical--essentially a raised ground pole--is cause for a serious freak out. And it's not just when I'm in the saddle. When BM was jumping him, she came around to a 2'6" oxer, and I was sitting on the mounting block having an anxiety attack about him throwing on the brakes and crashing into the jump. He didn't, of course. He went right over.

Yes, I know this is not a good relationship to have with your horse. Guess what? He's for sale! Someone buy him instead of just telling me to sell him! And in the meantime?

"Find a packer to jump things with to rebuild your confidence!" Check. BM has offered to let me lope over as many tiny jumps as I need on her giant, saintly TB when I get the chance.

"Have someone with more experience jump Bobby in the meantime!" Check. BM will be doing all the jumping on him from now on unless I'm feeling very brave and ballsy and like I've jumped 4'+ on him before, which I have, and easily, and without being a total fucking chicken.

"Do fun things with him that will boost your confidence!" Check. This horse is really good at dressage when not randomly pitching fits, and he's been agreeable to letting me access all his buttons and some new ones lately. The jumping with BM will be good to keep his brain happy, and I'll enjoy his fancy flat work,

"Look at all possible health and tack problems!" Check. He's been on Magnesium for almost two weeks now, and it might be contributing to his overall pleasant demeanor on the flat. BM also hiked my jump saddle up a good six inches further onto his shoulders, and said she felt an instant difference to the freedom in his trot.

So. We will proceed with the game plan for now. I always appreciate reader feed back, but on this one, I feel mentally shitty enough all on my own. It's a good plan. We're making progress. I'll either jump him again or I won't. He'll either sell or he won't. It's January. We can do whatever we want right now, and I'll try to come to grips with currently feeling like a complete fucking loser instead of a total bad ass. This too shall pass.

that one time we jumped a prelim skinny because we were brave and ballsy.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Head Update

Ugh, you guys. This horse makes my brain hurt.

For real though.

It's been two weeks since I had my head bashed in by Bobby's head, and the headaches are still pretty consistent albeit pleasantly mild the past few days. The first week was a frustrating disaster. I had a lot of issues with my vision for the first several days, and a nonstop pounding headache. Sitting around the house with nothing to do and not able to see anything (I had to have my glasses off to combat the nauseating lack of focus, so while things weren't weirdly blurring in and out of focus, I couldn't see jack shit.) was enough to make me crazy.

I went out to the barn a couple of times once I could see the road clearly again, but I mostly just wandered around flying a nutty Bobby kite.

Once I did start riding again, the headaches--which had tapered off to present but not debilitating--became persistent and painful again. I was getting off after rides with slamming, pulsing, "let me just sit down and die pain" behind my eyes. It's pretty pathetic that I took such a hit and didn't even get to say I fell of my horse. Special talents, I have them.

I finally got my Ovation helmet out of my trailer to try to ride in because it has an adjustable dial at the back of it, and I thought if I was able to ride with it a little looser, it wouldn't make my head pound so much. There was instant improvement, and it made me reexamine my Charles Owen that I was riding in when I took the hit.

The area of impact in the lining is hard, and now I wonder if I got bashed hard enough to damage it. The helmet is coming up on its fourth year, so it's about time to replace it anyway, but I'm wondering if it's even possible to damage one like that. What do you guys think?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Winter is for the ugly

And I don't just mean the shaggy goat hairs covering my horse's body because I'm too lazy feel bad about refreshing Robert's clip job.

But to be clear those are very ugly too.

stop judging me.

Thanks to BM's help, I've pretty much hit the reset button in my dressage rides this past week. After struggling through the month of epic histrionics in December in which being asked to do any work for longer than approximately five seconds was grounds for a melt down, I'd compressed our flat rides into fifteen minutes or less.

Walk, trot, canter, a little more trot, any quick "tricks" I thought he was capable of doing that day, and bam. We are done before any explosions go off.

BM schooled him on the flat for close to an hour when she got on him last week, and there were only a few breaks. He pulled only minor shit for her. When I got on Saturday, I wanted to work hard on stepping that inside hind underneath him and getting his front and back end to work in harmony.

Bobby was copacetic with the whole thing, and I was sure to dole out the praise and give him several walk breaks (especially since we were constantly being chased by a rogue lesson pony that had taken over the steering from his teeny, tiny rider).

I was asking hard, and he was working hard, and finally his brain started to short circuit. He started jigging and getting a little sideways right as we passed BM. She yelled out to me, "Drop him, Carly! Dump him right on his forehand!"

So that's what I did. I let him have the reins, stopped kicking and asking for real work, and let him plow to the ground with his front end. It instantly halted the tantrum as he now had more fun things to do--like not actually working.

That reset his brain, and I was able to slowly lift him back up. BM advised finishing with some long and low--not dragging himself along on his front end, but a stretched out neck. That was hard work, too, more for me probably than Bobby, but we finished with some okay trot and a really good walk.

the sunny snow storm yesterday made for excellent pictures

BM pointed out the obvious: that collection work is all well and good, and was certainly what Trainer was all about, but don't let it be the entire ride. Like any Thoroughbred, he's very good at curling under, and while I'm capable of getting him to lift his nice rounded neck, he also needs to work on making that neck long.

So for my next two rides, I made that a focus and interspersed the collected work.

Which, let's be honest, is a much better way to go. It's hard being very Type A and a bit of a perfectionist because I very much want to nail the advanced work, and can get a little greedy when Bobby offers it up. That's something I'm really going to have to work on.

the saturn says, brr. it's cold outside.

Despite his many faults and general look of...well, not the sharpest creature out there, Bobby is wicked smart and picks up on things super easily. By the end of my next ride, he was trotting along in self carriage with a beautifully long underneck and soft expression after a ride where I worked his tush off to get him stepping underneath himself.

Some of the things we worked hard on over those two rides were:

  • When he swings his haunches out on a circle, don't push the haunches back in. I need to lift the shoulders and bring them back underneath him. Pushing his butt over may realign him, but it's not actually going to get him stepping under and working correctly. I shared this epiphany with BM during our training ride, and she was like, "Yes!! That's the most important thing for dressage you're going to learn!!"
  • While I need to keep forcing the issue of keeping my inside leg on him to get his own inside leg to come under, I can't let him cheat and just go faster.
  • He really likes to lean on the left rein which is nothing new. BM told me last week that he's absolutely not allowed to have someone hold his giant head up for him anymore, so I combated that by just dropping the rein at the canter where he was doing it the worst. It was more of a core and leg work out for me (never a bad thing, chubs), and damn were we both huffing and puffing by the time we were done, but in the end, when I did go to pick it back up, there was no heaviness there.
  • Cantering right, he bends easier, but he's almost too bendy and isn't as good travelling straight down the long side. Lots of inside seat bone and rein dropping going on there to get him to carry himself upright with using me as a crutch.
It has not been the prettiest as we work through this stuff. I sometimes find myself in a strange contortionist position as I try to get Bobby to listen to me, and easily half our work isn't with Bobby's head neatly tucked in, but that's what the dark cold months of winter are for. No one is around to see us looking less than perfect as we fill in these holes. This is the perfect time for being a hot mess so that we can come out and look fancy schmancy in the spring...or summer because this is New York and apparently shows don't exist until June. 

every day life on the east coast.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Free Jumping Sorcery

BM and I have been bearing down on the problem child this past week. And guess what? Sir Robert has taken it like a champ.

I've put in three hard core dressage schools, all going on close to an hour, and Bobby only thought about throwing in a little sass once which was quickly shut down by a word from BM. He had his second training ride this morning, and we free jumped him over the weekend.

I know I'm going to have word vomit about my flat rides and the training ride, so I'm going to spread all this good stuff over lots of posts. Yay, easy content!

I was pretty dubious about the usefulness of free jumping him as my BO in PA tried it with him and it got us exactly nowhere, and I came away with zero information about anything my horse was doing besides frantically racing through a line of jumps and getting grain at the end of it.

Not so with BM. She set up a line of four bounces, obviously all set as ground poles the first few times through. I stuffed my pockets with candy because I know how quickly Bobby breaks down into an anxious psycho mess doing this exercise. Unsurprisingly, the first time we sent him through on his own, he went plowing through and came whipping out prepared to go flying around the ring like a cracked out banshee.

I got my crinkly peppermints out and let him stand and eat candy for a second while he stared around the arena assessing the situation to see if anyone was going to come chasing him with a whip. BM, B, and I all hung out chilling until he settled down and we were able to send him through again.

It took a lot of "Whoa, Bobby" "Easy, Bobby" "Just trooooot", but he finally figured out we weren't interested in him going through as fast as he could. Once that sunk in, he was really good to work with.

We started the jumps with the final bounce at 3' and everything else still as poles. That eventually progressed to the first being an X, the second a vertical, and the third an X.

BM's observation was that he uses his neck to balance himself by throwing his head up instead of sitting on his hind end. Once he started working through all the bounces set up, he was really using his booty, and we were able to move on to phase two:

Two oxers set at a one stride distance. BM still wasn't pleased with his form, so she stuck a pole between the two to make him focus on what his feet were doing.

The first time he came to the oxers, he was approaching at a perfectly acceptable canter and he came to a spot that would have been just fine if a touch gappy. He tried to stick in an extra stride and slammed on the brakes, sliding into the fence. He's just not confident jumping from that spot in the ring, and BM wants to do a lot of work to get him there. He can't be jumping from underneath the fence every single time.

That was the only problem we ran into, and we finished with him trotting into a one stride of 3'6" oxers like it was no bigs.

Once again, I was left super impressed with BM's methodical and intuitive training/teaching style. She breaks down everything she sees in terms I can grasp, has no problem with stupid questions, and just seems to have such a read on my bat shit crazy lost cause that's really boosting my self esteem about this dude and broadening my knowledge at the same time.

It's a fine balance to hold someone accountable for the things they're doing wrong without making them feel seriously useless about the things they have been able to accomplish, and BM has nailed that with me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Heard Around the Barn, Pt. II

Find Part One here!
  • This thing was a demon midget today.
  • I tried to explain to my boyfriend how much clipping sucks, but he doesn't have boobs, so he just can't fully understand.
  • Don't laugh! It spooks him!
  • I'm going to go stock up on peppermints quick. I can tell this is going to be a peppermint kind of day.
  • You're bad! You're just a bad horse!
  • I mean, I think I almost got frostbite in that lesson, but it was still fun.
  • You need cooking oil to loosen up this jaw. A little Pam would go a long way.
  • I don't know what's in this applesauce, but I'm never eating it individually packaged like this again. It doesn't freeze!
  • Yes I have to beg my seventeen year old horse to stand in the crossties. Otherwise he's like, "Fuck these crossties."
  • This horse had the brain of a mountain goat. As in, he would climb out of the dressage ring and go bolting up the side of a hill.

I have lots of things to write about, but my computer finally heaved its last dying, million year old breath and I just got a new lap top this afternoon. Yay, usable technology! Hopefully I'll be all caught up on the not so exciting but oh so ground breaking rides by next week some time. Bobby gets his second trainer ride from BM tomorrow, so there will be much rejoicing...from me. Probably not so much from poor BM and Bobby.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I get by with a little help from my BM

It has been quite the last few days in Bobby and Carly land.

My old roomie from college, J, was out in Rochester last week so of course we had to make a day work out where she could come and ride Bobby. She hadn't seen him since he was sent off to the track, so seeing him with several more inches and all different muscles was fun for her. She also got to hop on him after I warmed him up very quickly, and I was really pleased that he marched right off for her in much the same way he would have for me. I also never get to see Bobby from the ground, so that was a fun switch.

The following day, I had a really good jump school on him where he clocked around a small 3'3" course like a complete pro, jumping out of his skin, but totally with me every step. We followed that with a short but intense dressage ride Saturday, and then had Hubby out Sunday to video some more jumping for us.

And that is where shit hit the fan.

Or shit just hit my head. Really fucking hard.

Bobby had no brakes for the ride. I do grid and pole work in his egg butt, but I do course work in a slow twist, and that's what I had in Sunday. I had absolutely nothing to work with when it came to speed control, and for whatever reason, Bobby was on fire that day. Among other jumps, I had a one stride of 2'6" verticals spaced at 18'. That's a collected distance, but we were putting one stride in 15' earlier in the week with no issue.

Bobby kept bouncing through the 18', until I finally felt like I had him strangled back enough. He got in too short to bounce but too long for the one stride, and went plowing through the second jump. I got thrown forward and was only saved from falling over his shoulder by the crown of his skull slamming directly into my face and knocking me back into the saddle.

he looks completely unconcerned with the entire situation.

It was instant, exploding pain throughout my entire head, but I stayed on and had Hubby knock everything down to ground poles. I trotted him through the course a couple times where he trod on every single one of the jumps before jumping off and longeing him over a vertical both ways just to say I got him to pick his feet up.

When in doubt, return to ground work.

The blow to the head ended up being a concussion, diagnosed after I tried driving to the pet store to get cat food and not being able to get my eyes to focus. So I sat on the couch for a week in a semi comatose state with a never-ending headache and loopy fucking vision. I went to the barn briefly yesterday, and finally got back in the saddle this morning.

I set up a 2' vertical on the quarter line that I was going to circle over whenever our canter felt right. Bobby was reasonably good to warm up, and once I got a really good canter going, I turned him in for the jump. To the left, he launched. To the right, he slammed on the brakes after coming up to it from a perfectly good distance. Around again from the right, and he charged it.

At this point, my head was starting to ache again. BM was sweeping out the tack room across the aisle, so I called out to her and asked if she had any interest in putting in a training ride.

"Right now? What's he doing?"
blubber sob "I can't jump this horse. I don't know what to dooooo."
"OK, well I have sweat pants on under my Carhartts."
sniff sob "Can you get on him tomorrow?"
"Can you give me five minutes, and I'll run home and change?"
"Yessss." sob sniff blows nose pathetically

I'll point out here that one of BM's best attributes is her ability to manage emotionally unstable horse people like myself.

I got off while I waited and put my helmet away because my head was really hurting at this point. When BM came back, she proceeded to explode Bobby's brain on the flat for almost an hour before even turning to a jump. BM is really good with nitpicking the biomechanics of both horse and rider. She narrated what she was doing and what she was feeling, but it was a lot of information to take in. I'll try to recap what I remember.

  • He's stiffer to the left because he's tight along the right side of his back. He needs to loosen the right side up in order to bend left.
  • His hips get disjointed and she had a hard time controlling his shoulders because of it.When his hips aren't connected to his front half, the hind legs aren't pushing, and the only thing to do is fall on his forehand which is awfully convenient for him because he doesn't like to carry himself.
  • He likes to go lateral instead of bending. He likes to just randomly throw in a leg yield and hope he can get away with that instead of lifting his shoulders.
  • He hangs so badly on the left rein that he's not filling the right/outside rein--another reason he's not bending as well to the left. He needs to be booted into filling the outside rein,
  • He does better with a bumping inside leg to bend around than one quick aid.
  • He doesn't want to step under with his hind legs. Lots of shoulder in to force the hind legs underneath him.
  • "His canter is great. I love his canter."
  • The counted walk will make him pay attention to every part of his body.
  • The shoulders have to lift and expand. No one is allowed to hold his head up for him.
  • Probably the biggest reason he can get so strong over jumps is that he prefers to plow along on his forehand.
There was so much more, but I can't remember all of it. It was some amazing stuff and I'm not doing any of it justice.

Bobby was whooped by this point, but she made him persevere and move on to jumping. The very first time she came to the same 2' vertical I had been "jumping", he pulled the same shit with her. He threw his head up and charged right at it. BM said it was funny because he waits until only a stride or two out to do it, and then he runs at it, but still sticks in an extra step if he can. "I've never met a horse that wants to bolt to the base of the fence."

ponying a broken pony while cooling out

She had me put up a tiny X and then basically just looped the reins at him and flopped along to it to see what he would do with zero input from the rider. He did the same old shit, so she made him quietly trot it a few times before moving back to the canter. She tried to get him to move up to take a longer spot a couple times which at first he completely bungled through, but finally something clicked in his head. She also kept him on a circle the entire time. "No straight lines while jumping for awhile."

Once she got his head screwed back on over the 1' X, she moved back to the vertical on a circle. He started out rude again, but she got him settled down. "You need to be very zen in your mindset when riding this horse. Just think about your breathing. Don't think about the reins, or the jump, or him flying at the jump like a lunatic. Stay calm. This is fixable. We can make this horse lope the jumps."

She had me get back on and take him over the X myself. I did it at the trot first and he was a gem so I came back around at the canter. Also a gem. We quit there because he was soaked and my head was pounding, but it was the perfect spot to stop. 

finally cold enough to bust out the super heavyweight 

Her assessment was, "He's got a few quirks, but I have some ideas for him." A few quirks is putting it nicely, but we're going to try to work something out where she can put a training ride on him once a week for awhile. She said he doesn't look like such a difficult horse to ride when I'm on him, and that I'm not doing anything wrong on the flat per se, I just need to make him work harder and me smarter.

It was also good for the first time to have someone tell me that Bobby can in fact be a perfectly good show jumper. Every jumping lesson I've taken on him--and admittedly it hasn't been many--have been about how can I survive his jumping style and work with him. BM wants him to do his job correctly, and that doesn't mean me clinging for dear life while he kind of, sort of slows down enough not to make people cringe.

Fingers crossed this works out. This horse is hurting my brain in more ways than one.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Social Media and Your Horse

We're horse people, and there is nothing horse people love more than pictures of our ponies doing awesome things with us. I'd assume almost all of you reading this are bloggers, and chances are you're also running some other form of social media, whether it's an instagram, twitter, or your horse's own personal facebook page. We love to share those pictures with people on what we're doing with our horses and brag about everything we accomplish.

a friend from college came to visit bobby and i which meant of course we had to get a selfie

There's nothing wrong with that, and people wouldn't follow along on our journeys if they didn't enjoy sharing in the process. I have to wonder though, if all this sharing isn't having an impact on how we go about our rides.

It can be easy to want to push yourself farther than you want to keep up with what others are doing with their own horses. There are times where I've felt almost obligated to do more than I might necessarily want to just to stay relevant and interesting in the blogging world. Certainly that could speak to my own insecurities (Neurotic hot mess? Me? Nooo...), but sometimes I get a sense that social media forces us to push harder and reach farther not just for ourselves, but to get content that's worthy of sharing.

only selfies with bobby involve him heavily mugging for treats instead of posing

There are plenty of good things about being so involved in social media. In a way, it holds you accountable for your actions, and that certainly should make you strive to be the best you can be in all aspects for your horse--not just riding, but also horse care. Following along with other people can also expand your knowledge of things in the horse world you might only be remotely familiar with, or thought you knew all about but discovered there's even more out there to learn.

But what happens when beating out the competition becomes more about beating the online competition than those you're actually competing against?

Have you changed your goals or any aspects of your riding or what you do with your horse for social media?

so this was the best we got.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Jump Work

I was going to get this out yesterday as a follow up to my flat work post, but I was too excited to finally share my breastplate makeover. The conquering of such an ugly piece of tack wins over jump media any day.

Well, most days.

Or on that particular day.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last riding post, I've been focusing a lot more on jumping with Bobby because it's something he really likes which means it doesn't bring about random bursts of anxiety driven temper tantrums. That's a win in my book.

Jumping days are split into two different categories: grids or course work. Since one of my main goals this year is to get Bobby jumping straight down the middle of the fence, even our course work gets catered to that.

So. What have we been doing? Sounds like a good time for Paint Skillz!

The trot poles were tricky as our arena is very long but not very wide, and the turn into them was pretty tight. Bobby likes to suck back before entering a maze of ground poles, so getting him to carry enough momentum through the turn and into the poles proved tricky. We worked over the single canter pole several times because it's important to be able to canter a single pole without leaping it like it's a Grand Prix jump. Once we got some control there, we did the one stride multiple times. I ended up using a pole on the ground to the right in front of each jump because that right drift was working hard. The guiding poles worked great though.

random trot page break 

We also worked on a set of three bounces. Bobby was a tool that day and wanted to fling himself into the bounces before spazzing out that he was then in the middle of bouncing and had gotten himself in trouble by flinging himself into a line of bounces. Well, duh, son. I had to take a long w/t break to get my mind back in a good place because I was very, very close to bawling my eyes out during this ride. Eventually though, I got him under control and he was able to jump through like a normal horse both directions because listening.

More grid work before a course work recap? Well okay then!

We did this grid over the weekend. Bobby's never jumped with poles winged into a V before, so I started off with them pretty wide. He ended up not bothered by them at all, except, you know, they kept him super straight all the way through. Yay! The real problem he had was focusing on his feet for the two trot poles before having to pick up the canter for the bounce which also involved brain cells. It was definitely a full brain work out for poor Bobby, and I kept the two oxers low so we could do lots of repetitions through it...which means I have all sorts of different media for one grid!

Helmet cam:


Okay, I didn't say they were high quality videos.

And finally, one more "grid" day--yesterday!

We did the warm up exercise from this Grid Pro Quo with Boyd Martin. I set the 15' distance with two poles on cavaletti blocks, and set up five 5' wide trot poles down the middle of the ring. I'm guilty of letting Bobby plod a bit while warming up before jump work, but I really got after him to get going right off that bat yesterday morning, and as a result he was able to power through the trot poles like a total pro. That was a big win as it directly correlates to flat work...but no one tell Bobby that!

For the two poles, we started off doing the one stride first. That was pretty easy as Bobby is now pretty easy to package up at the canter. I honestly wasn't even sure how a bounce stride was possible for 15', but we came around at a fucking solid clip and went for it. I had to really leg Bobby on in-air over the first pole, but hot damn, we did it. I brought him around again to do the one stride, and he was like, "FUCK YEAH, RACE AT THE JUMPS!!! BEST IDEA EVERRRRR!!" So I halted him between the two poles which was a feat in and of itself. It got his brain back in tune though, and we were able to do the one stride again upon re-approach.

From the other direction, he also got the one stride fine, and then we galloped up to it and still barely got the bounce distance in. Really, Boyd. I'd like to see this one on video for proof of "ease". He came right back for the one stride again, and we finished the ride working on really opening up the canter and bringing it right back down again. That's right, extra flat work at the end of a long ride with no tantrums. Because jump tack and jump exercises. Suck it, Bobby.

For course work, this is what we last worked on. He was great for the singles--almost all our poles are striped, so I made sure we hit the middle stripe each time--and I was feeling like I was on point with my riding. Sitting tall, shoulders back, leg on, and holding my reins steadily and low--you know, not chucking them at his face three strides out before flinging them up in the air and grabbing him in the mouth as he takes off. Say whaaaat.

The first time through the bending line, I completely stopped riding the second we landed from the first jump. I tipped his nose in the general direction of the second jump and he went, but it was fast and sloppy, and I was sloppy in the air. I gave myself a mental slap and made sure I sat the fuck up on landing and rode all the way up to the second jump. We I had no issues after that, and we did a meandering course to finish up while chanting, "Low hands, steady hands. Leg, leg, leg."

I plan to start putting fences up to height (3'3"-3'6") this week as the weather finally warms back up enough that it's not too cold to breathe. Gotta love the limiting factors of living on the East Coast.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Breastplate Dye Job

When Bobby got adjusted last month, Chiro told me that I should be riding in both my jump saddle and dressage saddle with a breastplate. Bobby's withers are so reminiscent of pyramids that Chiro said no saddle is ever going to stay in place on him without a little help. So I put our favorite tack ho on the job, and she found us a cheap polo style breastplate on ebay that I immediately bought for a whopping $14.

The leather quality was good enough for $14 (and I'm not even remotely a tack snob), but even I had to admit the color was pretty garish. My Micklem is brown, but it's dark enough that it's not too distracting with my black dressage saddle. This thing...


Obviously the only solution was to dye the thing myself. After an approximately two second perusal of Google, I decided it sounded easy enough to be well within my capabilities, and my crafting abilities are on par with my desire to own leather that costs more than my monthly board payment.

I got on Amazon and typed in "leather stripper". Step One: Remove as much of the horrible red coloring as possible. Amazon happily led me to a deglazer by a brand I'm very familiar with, and then sent me on an easy peasy click trail that produced black dye and a leather finisher. I also added in an extra package of daubers that fortunately I didn't end up needing since they still haven't arrived.

Total Cost (including useless daubers): $28.17

When I finally got all of my liquid goodies in the mail, I set up shop in the garage. At this point, of course, the weather had decided it was finally time for winter, so I wasn't able to do it in the warm outdoors. This also meant I had to crack a window to not die of noxious fumes. Deglazer is acetone--nail polish remover, folks. That shit stinks.

I clamped the breastplate between two saw horses for ease of handling, and then began experimenting on the underside first in case I thoroughly screwed up my $14 strap goods.

You can't really tell how much tackiness or color the deglazer took off, so here's what it looks like with a first pass once I got to the front side:

Once I'd rubbed down/off the inside, I applied the first coat of dye. It went on very easily, and the smallest dab of dye covered pretty much the entire back side of the chest piece.

Although the dye is nice and shiny and pretty when it first goes on, it dries very quickly to a dull matte black.

With a quick rub down with a soft rag to get that off though, it shines back up again. It does not, however, when you're a bright red breastplate, instantly become a more socially acceptable black breastplate.

I got the color I would call mahogany (which was what this was originally listed as):

Obviously MOAR DYE was needed. I ended up doing three coats. It probably wouldn't have killed it to do one more, but between actually painting on the dye and waiting for each coat to dry, this was already well into taking the full day. I have zero patience, and when I start a project, I want to see it completed from start to finish as super quickly as possibly like right now why do I have to wait so long.

So after three coats, I cleaned off my dauber that had come with the dye, dampened it per packaging instructions (rendering Google useless. The instructions for each step are listed right on the boxes. An idiot could do this project.), and smeared on the resolene to seal the leather.

When I first put it on, I was like, "Wow. That is so bubbly. I must have done something wrong. Let me try that again." I wiped it off...and all the dye came with it!

And that is why we practice things on the parts that no one is ever going to see! Much too interested in instant gratification to go about re-dyeing the inside, I just slathered the resolene back on as-is and let it dry to see if the bubbly nonsense was going to affect anything. It didn't look too horrible when it was dry, so I went ahead and did the rest of the breastplate.

The finished result kept a little bit of the shine, but also came out a little splotchy looking up close. After a good once over with my Higher Standards conditioner, it evened out quite a bit (which I neglected to get a picture of). I don't know if the splotchiness was from my sloppy use of the resolene, or if I messed up somewhere else along the lines, but like I said, once it got a good once over from the conditioner, it did look a lot better.

And from a distance?

It actually looks quite alright!

Add on that brand new purple dressage pad that I bought myself for Christmas, and a black dressage bridle down the line, and we'll be the most styling dressage riders at our barn*!

*A barn where only one other dressage saddle resides, and it's owned by BM who never uses it...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Flat Work

My last ride recap was well into last month, and it was the final post in a series where all I could write about were all the naughty things Bobby was getting up to. Since then, I've revamped the program and we've come out the other side in a very different place than we were before.

I did one ride after that last post where I attempted the Tough Love attack. I got after him with Mr Tappy when he pulled his shit, and Mr Tappy was relentless in his corrections. That did...nothing. Bobby wasn't any worse for it--he didn't freak out even more because he was getting spanked--but he didn't take the lesson to heart. He didn't acknowledge it at all.

So I scrapped dressage rides. He wasn't acting up during jump schools (another vote for the lack of work ethic there as jump schools are fun work), so that's what we did ride after ride. Recap on those rides, and more recent ones, will come tomorrow, but first I want to write about the dressage work we've done the past few rides.

It's been sane, and lovely, and totally without dramatics.

The first dressage ride back I did on him simply because I ran into BM teaching make up lessons over the holidays and didn't want to interrupt. I'd trotted Bobby around in the indoor quickly while Hubby was dragging the outdoor for me, and he grabbed some video before we headed out there.

strange formatting due to my wonderful, wonderful phone.

You will note that he's wanting to duck behind the vertical. I tried the fancy Herm Springer bit on him that day because it's fancy and I really want him to like it, but he really does not. Oh, well. it was back to the boring egg butt after this ride.

He was quiet and calm during the brief time we were inside, but that wasn't much of a break through. In the rides where he was being a nutter, he started off fine, but once asked to continue working, that was when he'd have his melt down. The big test then was to see how he would take to having to restart his work after moving from the indoor to the outdoor and having a break between the two.

The footing was a little slimy, so we never made it to the canter, but we did quite a bit of trot work, including firing off a few lengthenings which were sure to rile him up in those earlier rides in December. He remained cool in his work, and we finished with absolutely no theatrics.

I was--and am--still firmly set into doing more jump rides than flat rides, but somehow we ended up doing two more flat rides in a row before getting back to over fence work. For both of those rides, he continued to go to work and not make a fuss.

I've come to the conclusion that my posting throws him a bit off balance, and honestly I'm better at managing my ride when sitting the trot anyway. Trainer was a staunch believer in the sitting trot, and that's pretty much the only way we rode in her lessons, so that's what I've switched to doing the past several flat rides.

Also, because he does better right off the bat, and his meltdowns were coming after being asked to go back to work, I've made our flat rides short but intense. From the first step away from the mounting block, he needs to perform to the best of his abilities.

The walk needs to be long and forward. The trot needs to be uphill, collected, and forward. He needs to lengthen and shorten his stride at the touch of my legs or the slightest pressure from my seat. The canter transition needs to be quiet, the connection maintained, and the step easily adjustable.

And then we're done.

Sometimes I'll cool him out with some stretchy trot if I feel he's in the right sort of mood. When we do get to do this, he drags his nose along the ground, but only for a few strides at a time before he loses his balance and gets quick. That's strength work, and we'll build on it as the brain catches up.

He's no longer bucking or cross firing in the canter. He's not evading the contact, or trying to get out of the correct bend. The lateral work is uninspiring, but it's quiet. He takes a correction and moves on. If I need to push for more, I can do it, and he gives it.

I'm also heavily praising him for these rides. I stuff handfuls of candy or sugar cubes in my pockets, and he looks for his treat when he knows he's stepped up to the plate. Maybe he was feeling insecure before and he needs this sort of "Do your work well and get rewarded extra well" confidence boost. I don't know, but this new approach is working for now.

Going forward, I'm going start incorporating ground poles so we can work a little longer during each ride. I'm hoping these jump-like objects will keep his brain distracted from adding on more time to a flat ride. Of course, they also have the added bonus of stretching out or compressing his stride and making him focus on what his feet are doing. My barn also has stacks of cavaletti blocks, so I'm excited to use those, too.

We'll see how long this lasts, but for now, it's a good plan and it's working.