Friday, May 20, 2016

Here we go

I feel like the time of reckoning is upon is. Will we pass muster as a real dressage pair, or won't we? Dun dun dunnnnn.

Okay, so it's only a schooling show this weekend, but it's one of the four shows my GMO puts on and these scores will count for year-end awards, so it's a big deal to me. It's also going to be our Second Level debut, and while I feel prepared and nothing in any of those tests feels difficult, part of me is still waiting to be called out as a seriously delusional impostor.

fancy dressage horse just do not look like this,

Either way, I'm going into this with the mindset of it being a learning experience to launch us into the rest of the season. I haven't had real dressage feedback since Trainer got sick last year. I'm hoping for some useful critiques that will show me where I need to focus most before we do Second at a real fancy prancing show the first weekend of June.

In my ride today, I wanted to hit two things: the counter canter and medium trot.

After getting Bobby all riled up Wednesday with the changes, I wanted to make sure he wasn't going to be all neurotic and change happy during our test. I mean, he's always neurotic, but he did hold the counter canter without any fuss today. He always wants to get the right answer--even if he thinks he knows the right answer and you're asking the wrong thing--so as long as my aids are clear between those two things, he rarely messes them up.

The medium trot was another story. He's been a bit sluggish in them lately, so I brought Mr Tappy back out. Mr Tappy always brings out the big trot...eventually.

basically what things look like when mr tappy comes to play

There was much flailing, some cantering, some slamming of the brakes, one minor wall sit, and then one great big medium that let me put the whip away and take a walk break to get the relaxation back before trying again. Fortunately, Mr Tappy had done his job and we got two good ones to end on.

I'm really hoping we won't embarrass ourselves. I don't want to come back here and have to tell you all that what I've been touting as my solid Second horse is actually a complete joke of a dressage mule.

even if those ears are incriminating

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Back in my comfort zone

Thanks to everyone for the comments on my show post, and to everyone that reached out to me privately as well. I don't drink, but I can assure you I went home that night and ate more garlic bread than I would recommend to anyone, and then spent all of Monday stuffing my sad, pouting face with chocolate. It did make me feel a little better, I won't lie.

so did adding this creature to the fam on tuesday!

Bobby obviously got Monday off, though how much he needed it I don't know since he led his geriatric, crippled friends on several squealing, bucking, farting gallop laps around their pasture the second I turned them loose.

We didn't do much in the way of work yesterday. My butt was still like, "Ughhhh, why did you sit in that saddle for what felt like ten hours straight?!" It helped that Bobby came out ready to get back to work and just went around and did whatever I asked.

His canter started off like it usually does: kind of braced and...I don't know, just yuck. Everyone always says how nice Bobby's canter is, and we always score well on it in tests, but honestly it's my least favorite of his gaits. He doesn't bend his hocks much so it looks ugly to me, and keeping a thirty foot long moose packaged together is hard fucking work.

so is being a kitten. sometimes you just can't even.

Determined to get a better canter, because it is in there, I made him shorten up his stride and neck and really over-bend at the walk. He wanted to get tense because he feels trapped when I do that, but I just pushed him forward calmly until he started stretching out over the top of his neck while still staying round.

I asked for the canter quietly, he thought about flailing, but I just kept quietly, calmly, almost invisibly asking him to go forward until he went into a really nice, round, bouncing counter. I kept leg on, kept pushing, kept rewarding and telling him how good he was. We got it both ways, and he added on the best canter-walk-canter transitions. I let him be done there and we finished with a trail ride.

tails are so sneaky.

Today we started with a trail ride during which Bobby spooked at everything he could think of. His spooks aren't more than a fast step sideways, but it was still a little ridiculous. We headed out to the outdoor to work, and since his trot was a little spastic, I brought him back down to the walk. Lots of shoulder-in and haunches-in got him round and bending again, and he was in such a good place that I just had him go right to canter instead.

His canter was fab and totally carried over from our work yesterday. Counter canter, simple changes, both there, both fabulous. The trot was pretty mincy, and since BM had mentioned a couple other horses that had gone to the show had come back a little footsore from the footing in their indoor, I went into ours instead and Bobby was immediately improved.

Lots of trotting, working on going forward while staying balanced and relaxed, and then back to canter. I wanted see if his flying changes were still operating since I felt like we had the perfect canter to do them out of. He's been doing them without issues while jumping, or even just while flatting in the jump saddle.

more on kitten in another post once she finally gets a name.

They were not in working order today. He was getting very wound up about them and throwing his haunches out every time we made a turn. Since being straight is, you know, kind of key to changes, it wasn't working.

So I brought out Mr Tappy.


But then he also got the clue that maybe Mr Tappy wouldn't even have to visit him if he didn't fling his butt in the opposite direction it was supposed to be going. There was much snorting and eye rolling, but any actual dramatics were practically nonexistent. And we got the change both ways the first time. I doled out his candy and then let him go soak his worries away in the pond for awhile.

Second feels very easy and doable right now. I'm hoping Mr Prancy Anticipation The World Is Ending Pants can keep his shit together in the ring Saturday and not make me look like a fool for saying that.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Eastside Hunter Classic

I don't know if that's what this show was specifically called, but it was the first in a series and that's what the series is called. It sounds fancy at least. The series is all local barns, and the shows are split so that the first half is Open--anyone can come and party--and the second half is for lesson students where the trainer is allowed to go in the ring with them if need be, and basically hold their hand a little more than in the Open. Because it is a hunter show. Ringside coaching is happening anyway.

I trailered over with three other girls from the barn (and BM of course) at 7am for the Open classes. The show didn't start until nine, but in this strange discipline it's all about getting in the ring as many times as humanly possible before actually getting judged for things.

I opted out of the early schooling. My logic was that when we finally return to eventing, I won't have the luxury of schooling my course ten different times before going in for my round. We were doing the hack division first anyway so that would be my time for ring familiarization, and there were jumps set up in the indoor to warm up over. Besides, this is Bobby. He shows up to new places and gives zero fucks. I wasn't concerned about him freaking out about the sights and sounds.

snacking while watching warm up...or more likely just playing on facebook.

Spolier alert: That was not a good game plan.

"rawr, i am so fast! the fastest of all these horses!"

I got signed up for all my classes, went back to the trailer to get myself and Bobby dressed, and then finally joined everyone else in the ring. The hack division (apparently a made up thing for local shows that is basically a division just for flatting) was the biggest of the day. I'll be honest, I thought I was going to be showing against two of my barn mates and maybe a couple other riders on dopey lesson ponies.

No. I was not. Holy shit, these were some nice horses. The barn that was hosting the show does real hunter shows and most of the riders we were up against were on way better movers and rode a thousand times better than I do. Not ashamed to admit it, just the truth.

bobby as dubious about this experience as i was

We finally get everyone corralled and begin the first class. Bobby is powering along, gnashing his teeth and generally pulling the fucking stupid leather reins out of my hands (I fucking hate leather reins with a fiery fucking passion.), while giving stank eye to any horse that comes near him. As we pass BM, she tells me to try to let his neck get a little longer to see if it helps any.

Spoiler alert: IT DOESN'T.

this is how all our flat classes looked

He actually mostly held it together until was time to canter.

And then he lost his shit completely.

Bobby was pretty fucking sure the point of this exercise was to be the fastest racehorse, and whoever wins the race gets to jump the jumps afterwards. Winning that class by a mile!

just gnawing on this horse's head who is probably freaking out about something
bobby or S just did. reppin' the barn in style.

Fortunately (?? Sorry everyone else.) Bobby was not the only horse having histrionics. A was riding BM's horse who took great offense to anyone getting within twenty miles of his personal space and would have a mild bucking fit because feelings.

Here comes the absurd part:

bobby: WHAT is THAT over THERE?!
me: trying not to kill you. trying really hard not to kill you.

We actually beat people. We won our first class. Then we got third, fifth, and sixth. Uh, yeah. Seeing a downward spiral there? I honestly have no idea how we snagged that blue ribbon. I blurted out, "What?" when they called my number. Whatever, hunterland. Thanks for the satin.

I did do one smart thing this whole show. (Literally only one thing though.) When we got back to the trailer to wait for our o/f division, I switched out Bobby's plain eggbutt for his slow twist. I should have done that from the get-go.

After putting my winter coat back on over my jacket--having originally been dressed in heavy sweatpants, a wool sweater, and my coat to battle the 35* temps and 40mph winds--I went down to the ring to hang out with A and to see how many people there were going to be in the two divisions between us going again. There were only three kids in the 2' and four in the 3', so I naively thought we'd coast right through those two divisions.

Go ahead and get your laughs out, hunter riders.

so little media from this show. 

I ate half a lunchable and got back on Bobby as the last rider did their 2' round. They decided to run the flat for the 3' division first which barnmate A had decided to do, so I took Bobby out to watch her go. After about two seconds of Bobby spinning around in circles, I hopped off and made him stand at the rail with me while waited for the class to start.

And waited. And waited.

Finally, the woman they were holding the class for (fucking hunters) showed up leading her horse, casually got on, entered the ring only to have her horse spook, and then immediately took him back out because she decided she wouldn't do it after all. No one else seemed fazed by this and the class finally started.

I got back on Bobby and attempted to do some work while the above rider longed her horse in half of the tiny box of an indoor arena for the next fifteen minutes. They finally left only to be replaced by someone hand walking their horse also in the tiny indoor in the opposite direction the rest of us were going.

The ring finally cleared out enough that there was only one horse parked in front of the two jumps instead of three, but it left me enough room to go over the 2'3" jump a couple times each direction. Bobby was a star now that I had the braking power of the slow twist, and finally, nearly an hour later, they called our division.

did this tiny X for the bridle path hack. we had to trot it because bobby couldn't
canter in a straight line. or really at all by the end of the hack division.

I handed off my nice, warm coat to A and let Bobby make big circles outside the ring as the rain started turning to snow. After two ticketed warm ups (Seriously, what is with you people? You already jumped the course for an hour before this show even started!), and three people doing their first rounds, it was finally our turn.

I could barely get Bobby near the gate as he started flinging himself sideways, but I finally channeled the sideways into the ring. BM was there to tell me to pet him and talk to him and don't pull on the reins. So I gave him a scratch, started telling him he was a good boy, and got him walking in a straight line before asking him to trot down the long side of the ring to get past the oxer before picking up the canter.

He launched upwards the second I cued him and picked up the wrong lead which upset him greatly. I brought him back to the walk and tried again, this time getting the left lead. He settled down then and cantered off on a nice long rein in a straight line.

We turned in to the first fence which seemed like a mile away, and I stared it down. And started pulling. Bobby obediently kept making his canter shorter and shorter as I picked and stared and panicked and blanked out, until finally we were underneath the fence and he lurched over from almost a standstill. I got flung up onto his neck and all I can remember is staring down at the ground thinking, "I can't do this. I'm going to get hurt. I can't jump these jumps."

bobby: i got this jump, dumb lady. just let me do the thing.
me: ohgodohgodohgod

I halted Bobby after the jump and made myself take a breath. "You're okay!" I heard BM call from the gate. I thought I could just trot all the jumps because that might be less scary, but as I made the big turn to the next jump, the big, blinged out blue oxer, all I could picture was Bobby chipping in to that jump too, throwing me up on his neck again, and me getting hurt again.

So I finished my circle by the judge and asked to be excused.

sorry, horse.

Bobby nearly plowed BM over as we left the ring as he instantly went back to a jugging idiot, and while I sat there and had a crying pity party, BM tried to get me under control. "This is a big ring and he got a little unglued, but it wasn't even that bad. It was a long approach, and you pulled, and that's what's going to happen. I can't show him in jeans, but if you take him to another one of these, I'll be ready to get on him if you need me to."

I nodded and blubbered to her to scratch me from the other o/f class but that I'd at least come back out for the flat.

I immediately went back into the indoor and made myself jump the 2'3" vertical again, and then circle right back around and do the 2'9" jump beside it. I let Bobby open up, I didn't pull, and he took both out of stride without a worry in the world.

After waiting another 45 minutes until our flat class ran while I basically used my time to run through my dressage tests for this weekend to keep my psychotic brain busy, we went in and did what I thought was a really, really good flat class. And we came in last.

horse doesn't care. horse just wants cookies and
not to be seen in this outfit.

Obviously I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed in myself. I didn't do things right the whole day. I didn't give my horse the best chance to succeed. I didn't step up to the plate when I needed to. I didn't force myself to make use of a good schooling opportunity.

Bobby was fried by the time we finally got to do the jumping. I was on him for way too long, and he's not used to being ridden aimlessly around a bunch of cantering, jumping horses for hours on end. Yet he still behaved himself. He listened to my half halts, and even when they put him in an awful spot he got us both over the jump without even touching the rail while I just sat there and hung on his mouth.

Do we aim to do better next time? I don't know when the next time will be. I'm too scared to jump off property right now. I'm too worried about things going wrong and getting hurt again. I don't believe in my horse, even if he's proven he can be trusted to do his job. This is shaping up to be a much longer road than I anticipated.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sound bites* from our hunter lesson

*(Is it bites or bytes? I don't know. Sound snippets sounds like a poorly named racehorse.)

With our first show of the season this Sunday, BM had me ride my own horse instead of her usual training ride so she could give us some pro advice on how not to embarrass the barn to best navigate a hunter course. I know. Like, who does she think I am, some sort of rider or something?

Bobby was a complete packer and listened to whatever I told him to do, even if I told him to add in ten strides in a five stride while BM chased after us yelling, "GO, GO, GOOOO!!!" Never one to miss an opportunity to use bullet points, here are some things that stuck with me when I was paying attention enough to not worry about dying. Because yes, we jumped everything, and yes my horse was a saint, but yes, I did have B drop a 2'6" fence to 2'3" because it looked too big.

  • He bends, he goes in his corners, he's got great changes. You don't even know how far ahead of the curve you already are.
  • Soft reins, soft hands. 
  • The biggest thing they're going to want to see is submission. Does your horse look easy to ride? Or do you look like you're going to die?
  • Long neck, quiet canter. If your horse looks drugged, you're okay. 
  • Quiet doesn't mean slow. Open up his stride! Make his neck long and tell him to move out.
  • Get that distance! He doesn't need to pat the ground there. We're over that stage! Make. Him. GO.
  • Get the fuck out of that line! You're coming in perfectly, but then you need to land and tell him, "Go! Get out of here, Bobby!"
  • He wants to bulge with that right shoulder. Make sure you hold your outside rein whenever you're going left. 
  • You are not going to die. I'm going to be standing by the ring the whole time, and if I think you're doing that bad, I'll just make you get off.
This whole showing with your barn thing is so strange. People actually at a show with you, helping you and telling you what to do? Sorcery!

"making me stand in this wash stall for 20 minutes is sorcery. let's just go eat snacks."

Of course it was 80* and sunny today, but should be raining and 40* by Sunday. It's not like it's the middle of May or anything. It's fine. I'll just bust out my winter coat. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

See, this is the problem.

When the horse is good, I get stuck in this quandary of "What the fuck do I blog about now?"

Honestly, I feel like I turn into a little bit of a braggart to people after a few rides in a row where Bobby hasn't sat down on top of any supporting structures in an attempt to show me how displeased he is with...whatever it is that displeases a Bobby. There's really not an in-between space with him. He is either Very Bad or Very Good. Since last week, he has been nothing but Very Good.

You guys read about the rides over the weekend/Monday where he was jumping like a rock star, flatting like a rock star, and even popping over cross country jumps in the field like a rock star. My horse is easy fucking peasy, yada yada, I'm sorry that's so boring.

the pond monster goes swimmies for the best snacks.

I know it's absolutely bat shit crazy and wrong of me, but sometimes I kind of like the low key cray cray because it's funny and it makes posts funny. What's not funny?

Yesterday we ran through 2-3. I figured a week out from our first dressage show, I better start putting some shit together here.

Bobby started out on the forehand so badly that his first medium he ended up splatting on his face with his front legs flailing and his hind legs cantering. What the fuck even, horse? I pulled him up, quite sharply as we were rapidly heading into the corner practically doing a head stand, and then took him out for a loop of the driveway figuring he was going to take offense to me cramping his style and telling him he was wrong.

Only he didn't take offense. He didn't even really seem to notice. We entered from outside the arena and went straight down center line to start the test. Bobby didn't get tense, he wasn't upset, he just went around and did his job, nailing his canter and counter canter work so well that my face hurt I was grinning so hard.


lots of trail riding both before and after rides

Today my knees are killing me to the point where the idea of sticking my legs in stirrups ever again ever seems like death. You think galloping racehorses is fun when you're all young and sprightly? Don't. Don't fucking do it. It will destroy your young sprightly body and make you a fucking cripple before you hit thirty.

But I did feel like I should ride since I was going to be there anyway to turnout and feed ponies, The solution was obviously to get on bareback and make my inner thighs and vajay hurt just as badly as my knees. Solid game plan, right?

After a super quick w/t/c warm up, I walked through 2-2 and then got to work.

Dudes, Bobby beasted that shit. He was so. fucking. good. Alright, so he tried to take over at the medium canter and continue it right on out the open arena door, but other than that? Totes perf. I wouldn't have changed a single thing.

spent ten minutes trying to explain my very simple camera phone to the neighbor.
she asked if this pic was ok or if i wanted more. i was like, "no! it's fine! thanks! please join the 21st
century and learn how to press one single button! thanks again!"

I don't know how else to apologize for my horse going through a Solid Citizen phase right now. Provided the weather holds, our hunter show this weekend should probably take care of that phase and provide some hilarious blog fodder. If nothing else, seeing my broken AF in the confidence department self compete against ten years old should be amusing.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Show Season has cometh

I spent all of Saturday doing this:

Two of the rated (Recognized? What do you people call your sanctioned shows?) shows I' doing are going to be at this facility, so it was a great opportunity to get down there and scope things out while also clocking some volunteer hours. The weather was perfect, the people were great, and the college team did a really fun quadrille performance to break up the monotony of a whole lot of lower level dressage tests.

On Sunday I finally got back in the saddle for the first time since Wednesday--BM did her training ride through a very tricksy grid on Thursday that Bobby positively rocked--and did a little dressaging of my own.

We started off in the outdoor, and Bobby was feeling very agreeable. His walk and trot work were exactly where they needed to be, but right when I went to pick up the canter, trying hard to avoid puddles (Will it EVER stop raining?!) and jump standards, another rider walked in and Bobby broke to the trot in astonishment at the appearance of a horse.

"zomg, never seen horses before!"

I booted him forward, but he just tripped and almost fell on his face so I brought him back to the walk. He was surprisingly unfazed by this and his walk was really nice...until a person sat at the picnic table. Never seen a person before!!

Knowing there was at least one more rider coming out, and with how limited the space already was with jumps set out, I opted to bow out and move to the indoor. Again, Bobby did not care! He went right back to work, and I was able to school him through everything I wanted with zero issues. It's so nice when your horse is being agreeable; I almost forgot what it felt like!

bobby psa: trying to yawn in a micklem is impossible.

As I was getting my dressage gear around this morning, BM swung into the tack room to talk about the show the barn is going to Sunday. I was like, "Wait. That's this weekend?!" Dudes, how the fuck is show season suddenly upon us? I feel like we were just riding the struggle bus while it snowed outside a couple weeks ago.

Oh, wait. We were. But that's just because we live in the WORST STATE EVER.

So long as it doesn't rain, Bobby and I will be heading around the corner to participate for funsies, then our Second level debut is next weekend, followed by our first rated show the weekend after that, and then another rated show after that. Then break time and hunter pace time provided I haven't eaten all my funds using up that much gas. Fingers crossed, right? Blog fodder for days weeks!

"ok, but when is it snack time?"

Anyway, back to my ride this morning. I'd gotten my dressage shit around, but as I was grooming Bobby, he was in such a pissy bitch mood that I felt like I was asking for a fight if I went that route. Instead I swapped things out for the jump tack and walked around outside on the soaking wet trails for fifteen minutes first.

Bobby was Mr Periscoping Dinosaur Head the whole time when left to his own devices, but if I asked he'd come right down and walk on the bit. Sadly my original plan of getting him out there for a bit of a romp was foiled by shitty footing, but I was able to pop him over two little log jumps in a different field which he was very polite for and came away feeling very pleased with himself.

We wandered into the indoor since BM was dragging the outdoor when we got back and worked on some hunter style flat work just in case for this weekend (!!). Mainly go long and low and forward without motorcycling around the turns because flat work isn't as easy in a jump saddle. Then we popped over the X and the gate topped with a rail that were already set up, both of which were fab.

i will never run out of stupid pictures of my horse.

You guys, Bobby is like butter to jump now. He's almost too adjustable and listening too well. Any little squeeze of your finger or sinking of your seat and he's coming right back up to you. I have to stop being such a chicken and let him go forward because I'm so bad about micromanaging, that if he messes up it's one hundred percent on me now. "But you said to whoa and add in ten more strides, lady. I'll whoa all day long." Only he also goes forward when you close your leg, and he just calmly jumps from wherever you tell him to now. Such magic. BM really is the Bobby Whisperer.

I figured all that was enough to take his mind off Bobby Problems so after a walk break, I dropped my stirrups and did a little dressage school after all. Shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg yields, rein back, canter-walk-canter transitions, all super round and relaxed. I wrapped that up quickly and gave him the rest of the candy in my pocket.

It's funny that the closer to shows I get, the more relaxed I become in my preparations. I know the horse is solid in this stuff, and while I'm going to keep working on polishing all the movements, at this point I feel like if we don't know it, we don't know it. Of course that just pertains to everything covered under First and Second. After this block of shows, I'm going to start back on the torturous  super fun Third...stuff. I expect things to return to being a little more dramatic at that point.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Anatomy of a Bobby breakfast

I feel like we should all come together and make Filler Friday a thing. It's where you try to clean out your drafts folder and dump a few posts that have been lurking too long. Any other participants? Here's my first entry with a look into what my horse gets for his morning noms.

2 quarts Blue Seal Carb Guard:

Bobby was getting fed a lot of sweet feed at our barn in PA. It was a mix specifically made for the barn that everyone got. Obviously sweet feed is not the best for a horse with sketchy feet, but although we were allowed to bring in our own grain, you didn't get anything off your board price for doing so. At the time that wasn't financially feasible for me.

Our new barn offers a choice between Blue Seal's Carb Guard or their Senior feed. Bobby started off at three quarts because he was a little ribby from the first barn we were at up here, but he was quickly backed down to only two quarts. His weight and his feet look great now.

SmartPak containing MSM pellets and Cocosoya:

I originally purchased the Cocosoya to try to fill Bobby out a little bit. As you all know, he naturally looks ribby because of the massive rib cage his papa passes on to all his offspring. He also sweats an insane amount, and that makes him look a little meh. Between grass coming in, his brain supplement (see below) causing him to be (in general) way less stressed about things, and the added fat from the cocosoya, I'm pretty much in love with his weight at the moment. The cocosoya has also made his coat super soft, shiny, and healthy looking.

The MSM is a recent replacement for the SmartTendon he was on for almost a year. I want to feel like I'm doing something for lubrication, and it's cheap, so there.

30 grams Mag Ox:

Yes, he gets a lot of Magnesium. Yes, I feel like he needs it all. Yes, you can find Science to back the dosage if you use the internet. Yes, I'm sure at least one of you will tell me it's too much. Yes... wait, no, I don't care.

Usually when people buy this in bulk from their feed stores, it's floofy white powder that flies everywhere. Fortunately for me, Hubby works with chemicals all the live long day and was able to find me the exact same thing in pelleted form. Way less mess, though Bobby still won't eat it unless it's top dressed with...


Horse loves applesauce, what can I say?

What about you guys? What are your horses eating?

freshly clipped bobby on the last day of april.
sound, shiny, and filled out. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Release and Reward

I debated for a long time yesterday about whether or not I wanted to do a ride on Bobby this morning. Would he be so tired from our trail ride that he'd use that as an excuse to throw a tantrum to try to get out of work? Or would he be nice and limber from getting out and about for awhile?

horse loves napping. 

In the end, I took into account that we had mostly walked, and his walk was beautifully round and stretchy completely of his own accord. Plus we're quickly coming up on shows every single weekend for a month straight, and I know I'm going to miss Saturday due to volunteering and the Derby. Dressage day it was then.

I went in with a game plan: short, sweet, hit the lateral stuff, lots of praise, be done.

What we actually did: short, sweet, hit the lateral stuff, lots of praise, and we're done. That's right! Bobby was willing to work with The Man, and I did my absolute best to not offend his delicate sensibilities.

laying around eating snacks is also one of my fave hobbies

I let him have a nice stretch at the walk and trot to warm up with lots of little neck scratches every time he reached down into the contact on his own. He still powers around at the trot, but I let him roll with the thought that as long as he stays balanced, it's better for him to get his energy out now while not doing any harm than using it to fling himself around the ring.

I brought him up at the walk before moving on to the sitting trot and keeping him more collected. Shoulder-in this way, shoulder-in that way, medium across the diagonal, and halt, rein back, and another walk break with candy. Collect again, work on the renvers at the walk (so hard), and then into the canter.

We did the canter counter and simple change movements from 2-2 with zero issues--keeping the forward, none of the tension, though maybe a little above the bit on the departs. Fine, whatever, everyone stayed calm. I brought him back to the trot, played with a couple more mediums, and finished with a flawless turn on the haunches.

he knows he's not supposed to leave his stall when
the door is open, but sometimes he likes to throw a
mini rebellion and stick his foot out. 

I feel good about that ride. It was short, but it was all of the tricks and most of the quality with none of the drama. Making dressage rewarding and easy for Bobby is so key. Hopefully we can both continue this trend. We've got ribbons to get, bitches!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Wide open spaces

Short post because surprise! Nothing particularly exciting happened today. I did trailer Bobby off to unexplored lands, but trail riding is generally pretty boring to write about.

Unless you want to hear about how I had to do a three point turn in the middle of oncoming traffic. That was awesome.

Or not. Fuck you, Rochester.

when your self loading horse thinks you're taking too
long to get things around and tries to put himself on the
trailer to speed things up but doesn't realize he's still tied.

I know sometimes it can be hard to imagine why I've kept Bobby around this long when I can go on a good long run of posts about what a tool he's being. In the end, theatrics make for better blog fodder, and while not the most enjoyable thing to ride through, they're really not dangerous or difficult. Annoying as shit and getting me thinking about horse murdering land, yes, but in the grand scheme of things, he could always be worse.

never dramatic. doesn't know what you're talking about.

This isn't a Bobby shaming post though. It's a picture dump of our first time exploring (a small section of) a vast trail system in our area that caters to pony pants.

the gently rolling hills are going to do wonders
for a booty.

Bobby hadn't been on the trailer since the first weekend of October last year, but he strolled right on when I brought him out. He hauled quietly, calmly backed off the trailer, and stood with a hind foot cocked munching on hay while checking out the scenery and watching two dressage riders head out on their horses without making a peep. He waited patiently while I mounted, and then happily meandered across the road and out onto the trails on the buckle.

pretty trees!

This place is gorgeous. It goes on forever and ever, but the trails are horribly marked. I kept doubling back and shooting off onto random trails looking for my red markers, but ended up not having any luck finding the entire trail. Fortunately, the land just goes on forever and ever and we spent two hours exploring. Mostly walking since Bobby may be Hulk but he's not ready to go out and run a marathon, but we also got in a good long trot and a few strong canters.

the only place you weren't allowed to wander
was down to the ponds themselves. 

We passed a horse lady walking her dog a couple times by criss-crossing our paths, and she was like, "Your horse looks so good for this time of year!" Why thank you, random lady. For all the work Bobby did with all the varied terrain, he never took a deep breath and came back to the trailer only a little damp under his saddle.

still a little muddy out in spots from the heavy
rains over the weekend.

So, yes. Bobby may be a colossal asshole at times, but while I want a horse that can be competitive in the show ring--which Bobby has proven time after time he is--I also place significant importance on a horse I can drag out of his stall and do things like this with whenever I want. He might not have the greatest work ethic when he's doing something he doesn't like, but he's as versatile as they come (gaming champion anyone?) and plugs along in brand new places without a worry in the world.

"can't talk, trying to figure out this fucking slow feed hay net. bitch."

Monday, May 2, 2016

Jedi mind tricks

Bobby carried his trend of being an overly dramatic twit with multiple personality disorder all the way through his super hard, ever exhausting, downright traumatizing work week (in case the sarcasm doesn't come through--that was fake pity for a Bobby Magee) to the point that I put in an order for several tubes of calming paste on Friday. Better living through chemistry? I'll take it if it means I can access his spastic brain long enough to explain to him that he's freaking out over nothing.

rawr, dinosaur horse!

But then he really wasn't too bad over the weekend, and this morning's soaking wet ride was quite alright.

Last Wednesday we spent ninety percent of the ride at the walk, two percent at the trot, one percent at the canter in half seat, and one hundred percent having a melt down about life. #winningatmath Things like bending left were cause for much grief, and when occasionally he'd just be trotting around cool as a cucumber, he'd remember, "Oh shit! I'm supposed to be overly dramatic ABOUT EVERYTHING EVER!!!" and would just randomly shoot sideways.

I talked with BM for awhile after that ride, and then the next day before she got on for his training ride I brought the selling option back up. I would like to be able to focus on a really intense dressage ride and be able to school every movement that needs to be worked on, and then the next day do a full jump lesson.

I'd also like a horse that sees all his distances, never acts out, doesn't crack under pressure, is immune to sitting on arena fences while you're sitting on him, doesn't casually threaten to lay down under saddle when he thinks you're asking him to do something hard, and still has a 10 jump and 10 gaits. The little things, right?

The main points of the Bobby Roast were that he's an anxious horse, but he's also dominant. He wants to be in charge and do whatever he wants, but he get so worked up over things he can't even with his own brain. He'll get tense in his back, but he'll blame you for it even if you haven't actually done anything. Also though, it's spring and almost everyone in the barn is on the shit list at the moment. BM's words of advice as she jumped around 3'6" at an easy lope? "Carly, you can not sell this horse!"

So. I'm gonna work with (around?) what Bobby's momma gave him. And by his momma I mean his daddy because his dam was a gem and his sire was a vicious fucking lunatic. When Bobby's on, he's superb. It's just that when he's off, he's fucking horrendous. Fuck, he is such an asshole.

Let's hit up those good rides though. I'm constantly changing and evolving my game plans for training, and it's good to be able to look back on what did work.

On Saturday, we did a straight dressage school. I really took this comment from Heather on my post about canter work to heart:
I rode with a clinician several months ago who stressed the idea of not reacting to weirdness. He said not to reward the incorrect answer or green moments, but instead of making them a big deal to just keep going and then make a big deal about the right answer. The idea was that then the good moment sticks in their brains, while they were too busy moving on from the weirdness to remember that they had done it.
In general, that's what I try to do, but I'm trying to really emphasize the reward now. "Oh, you listened to that half halt? You are such a genius! How did you get so smart?!" "You allowed me to shorten the reins without trying to flip over backwards? Holy cow, what an amazing animal you are! Good boy!"

I also tried not to nitpick so much. Warming up, he was getting a little speedy in his long and low work, but so long as he stayed on the bit and off his forehand, I let it slide. It's warm up. It's fine. Don't ruin the rest of the ride trying to micromanage something that's not that big of a deal. We ran through 1-3 (after looking it up on my phone. I really need to start memorizing these tests at some point.) which was a touch sloppy and resulted in one very minor meltdown at the canter, but I'm blaming all of that on myself getting annoyed and distracted with the other rider in the ring.

On Sunday we did a really short jump school over two tiny verticals on each diagonal. Bobby was a gem. He's so good with listening now. He locks onto the jump from three or four strides out, but instead of yanking the reins out of my hands and bolting to the fence, he holds his excitement in. "If I just keep cantering, the fence will still be there and I'll still get to jump it. Plus I won't get in trouble for being the fastest racehorse ever which apparently is supremely under-appreciated in this establishment."

Even though this post is getting long, I'm going to tack on this morning's ride as well. I hate getting backed up on posts when exciting things might actually happen.

I made the jump on the left diagonal a 2'3" oxer, the right diagonal jump I added a gate under to make it 2'6", and put a 2'3" vertical on the rail. The first jump attempt was the one on the rail, and despite getting to it on the perfect distance, Bobby didn't bother picking his feet up to it and clobbered it down. After that though, he gave it plenty of air. Heavy wooden rails are ouchy.

The gate rode really well every time, and I was able to just sit there and let it come up to us. Good boy, Steady Cantering Magee.

The oxer, on the other hand, was cause for much angst. Bobby kept taking a fucking flyer to it for some reason--seriously leaving a full stride out--and I ended up sitting there brainless three or four times in a row not doing anything to help him out distance-wise. I eventually dropped it down two holes and put a ground pole 9' out which made everything peachy keen, and we finished stringing all three jumps together really well. Plus I was able to tack on some really good lateral work at the walk and trot as we were "cooling out". Ha ha, Bobby. DRESSAGE EVERY DAY.

shitty weather makes for a distinct lack of media.

Getting to watch BM ride a lot on top of watching her jump my own horse has really done a complete turn around for my jumping style. She advocates a very upright ride and minimal movement in the air which is perfectly fitting for Bobby and myself. If he bungles into a bad distance, I'm not getting pitched forward potentially resulting in falling off or getting caught in the face by his head and bashing my brains into a week-long blindness. It makes me feel a lot more secure coming down to a fence knowing that my position is only working for me. It may not look pretty, but it's not getting in the way. Also I'm always for not dying.