Friday, February 12, 2016

Winter? Is that you?

Bobby usually gets his training rides on Thursdays, but Wednesday afternoon BM texted me to let me know we were going to have to push it back a day because winter:


That was our high yesterday, but it felt approximately ten million degrees colder because the wind was howling. 17mph my ass, weather app. In exchange for these training rides, I help BM with morning chores several days a week (because I don't have hundreds of extra dollars to add to my already stout board bill each month). That means that even though it was negative ten million degrees outside, I still had to drive the twenty-ish miles to the barn.

not snowing. that's how hard the wind was blowing.

Fortunately, I'm a pretty confident winter driver and while a little hilly, the road I take it basically a straight line from my house to the barn. Frozen water buckets, here I come!

seriously not snowing. all that snow is from the fucking wind blowing it off the ground.

In conclusion: New York finally decided it was February. Hello, New York. Where the fuck have you been?

I did jump on Bobby bareback very briefly Thursday just so I felt like I'd done something productive. Bobby loves the bareback game because he knows it only lasts approximately five minutes. Have you guys seen my horse's withers? Like, okay, I don't slide around while I'm up there, but a vagina can only take so much.

"uh, excuse me?"

We did one lap each way of walk, a couple laps each way of trot, and then picked up the canter for one lap before I asked Bobby to come across the diagonal and change from L-R. A little shift to my right seat bone and bring my left leg back an inch and he quietly stepped right over. I'm not sure why that was so easy bareback when someone feels the need to try to savage innocent passing horses under saddle.

Actually I have several reasons, but this post is so off track already. I wanted to blog about Bobby's training ride today because Bobby and I both got some good stuff out of it.

waiting patiently for jumps to be set.

Bobby's brain exercise this week was an 18' one stride set against one wall and a 32' two stride set against the other. Distances, Bobby. They are things that need to be learned. The jumps started out as ground poles, and then the one stride went up to 2'3" and the two stride around 2'.

The main takeaway, really the only takeaway today, was what I've been talking about all week: FORWARD.

  • He needs to be active behind over poles. Going fast or going slow doesn't matter. If he's not pushing with his hind legs, he's not doing it right. He shouldn't be activating his pole tappers under any circumstances. Poor pole tappers.
  • He needs to go forward in the lateral work (which BM was playing with while I put the poles up). He's got to step under with is hind legs. Active, active, active. 
  • Land from the fence and go. He has no problem blasting down the line, but the second he jumps out of it, he dies. It doesn't matter if it's at a trot or a canter, but he needs to push forward. Not fast--forward! Obviously this is my fault. We land from the fence and I need to take a moment to celebrate the fact that we're alive. I've done this on Bobby for years. He expects a vitals check after we do something hard. 
  • If they're not going forward, they're going up. This manifests in some horses as rearing. In Bobby, it comes out as him hopping up and down in place or shortening up his canter so it's so teeny tiny it's not actually going anywhere.
  • The beginning of our Novice round in the above jumper derby is a perfect example of him shortening his canter up so it's not going anywhere. Even with me beating him forward, he just cannot lengthen. He cannot.
  • I asked why this was such a problem over fences because I really don't have a problem with him responding to me asking him to go forward/lengthen his stride while doing dressage work. BM said, "Well, whoa whoa. He does object to the forward sometimes, doesn't he? Every time he gets laterally imbalanced and disconnects his front and back ends from each other, he's objecting to going forward." Hrmm....very interesting.
  • But also in relation to the above point, she thinks a lot of it has to do with him not having a lot of confidence with seeing distances and freaking himself out.
  • "You are a big and powerful horse!" BM chanted to Bobby as she circled over the first jump in the two stride, trying to build up his pace and get him to stretch out and move up to the jump. She did lots of kicking in the canter to try to get him to open up, but the best approach for him turned out to be activating that mind blowing extended trot. But, you know, we can't really extended trot our way around a stadium course. I mean, I guess we could, but that's not the objective. He must learn to go forward at the canter.
here is the puppy because who doesn't love a dumb dog in snow?

The thing I like about BM's training rides is that they directly correlate to the work I do on the flat. It never feels like we're two separate entities working towards different things. She expects me to do my homework in our dressage rides--lengthening the canter, working over poles to improve his canter and help develop his eye, yada yada--so that the next time she gets on him, he's that much farther along.  

Of course, we also ride a bit differently. I'm quite a bit taller than BM, so it's much easier for me to wrap my calves around Bobby's sides and push him into a longer step. BM was able to access that a little bit at the walk and trot today, but my saddle is the worst to flat in, so it wasn't as easy in the canter. 

The wrap up talk was that Bobby needs some cross country in his life to remember how to gallop to fences. Don't we all, Bobby?

go forth and lengthen, brave stallion!


  1. Wow. The sameness between Bobby and Murray just keeps becoming more and more. I too think my horse has ZERO confidence finding a good takeoff in front of fences, and he feels the need to absolutely climb them if he is in any way concerned about the fence. SO FASCINATING!!!

    1. Right?! I was just reading your post from today and I was like, hold on. Were you in my lesson?!

  2. uhh yup I have the same problem with my pony!

  3. You mean you're not supposed to take a vitals check after landing? It certainly seems like a good idea. I hope that the weather improves some.

  4. mean while in CA it's in the 70's

  5. I had a TB who was built very similar in the wither area, I feel your pain. Brr it looks so chilly there!

  6. first of all i do *not* miss that NY weather one bit, nope no thank you! seriously tho, i love reading about your training rides with bobby and how your bm is working with you to get this sorta 'tandem' approach for helping bobby figure his shit out. sounds promising!

  7. Haha soooo


    Last summer, I kind of realized that Courage can jump SO WELL and take any spot from the trot, but he just doesn't have the strength/ability to do it from the canter. Just not there. I'm hoping that all our work on the canter in dressage pays off to the point that Courage can bring his hocks underneath him and have better balance and more than one size of stride.

    If that works, we'll jump again.

    If not, we won't. Because not having those gears makes jumping terrifying and there's no goddamn point to that.


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