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.


  1. Sounds like major progress to be! Also- found the "Around the Barn" comments hilarious!

  2. Sometimes I miss the snow. Then I think about driving in it and I think, hmm, maybe not. I'm glad Bobby's issues are being addressed.

  3. Ha! Definitely relate to the perfectionist on a horse that can't handle Type A. :-) Glad you guys are finding your zen.

  4. I know what you mean with the head curling. I'll try that technique!

  5. Your drive pic looks very depressing. :( Sounds like you have a good plan of attack for the ugly winter months :)

  6. So glad to hear you've made a breakthrough. I love your BM!

  7. Your BM is amazing! It's so amazing to find THAT person that gets you and can help you and your horse progress. I found mine I out of the blue and wouldn't leave her for the fanciest most expensive trainer in the world because she's just right for us.

  8. so much of this actually sounds really similar to my mare too.... too short neck curling under, hanging on the left, over bending to the right... maybe they're in cahoots? seriously tho it sounds like you're making great progress!

  9. Glad to hear that your new plan seems to be working!

  10. I like that your car is laughing at you with the license plate.

    Also finding solace in your "dark, cold nights are meant for non-pretty rides" mantra. I'm with you there!

  11. So cold looking. I give you mad props for making it to the barn in those conditions.

  12. WHOOOP WHOOP breakthroughs/progress. Not jealous of that snow though

  13. We have tons of shows year round in Syracuse!


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