Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The jaw bone's connected to the new saddle bone


Or something like, "Money goes in one way...and then also goes in here, and here, and over there, too!"

"carrots go in, too?"

Bobby has had an eventful past few days. Actually, he hasn't really being doing anything, but we've been moving and shaking in other ways. After his less than stellar rides last week, I went out over the weekend with no other intention than getting him to loosen up and soften up at the walk. If we got to the trot, super. If not, whatever.

He was acting very back sore when I was grooming him, and after some poking around I found a massive brick-like knot right along his spine where the back of the saddle would sit. Per Chiro's long standing orders I'm not allowed to even look at my saddle until I've run my hands along Bobby's back to see if he needs any precious rubbies first so I know the knot wasn't there the day before.

Had it manifested from the tension of being Bobby the past two days, or was it there and just hadn't risen to the surface yet where a body working newb like myself would notice it? Maybe a little bit of both, but it did put the kibosh on riding for the weekend. I dug into it as best as I could before whipping out the RockTape (review to come) again. Barn friend B gave me the number for the massage lady the barn uses, and I put a call into her straight away.

all this horse does is eat 23.5 hours a day. it'd be nice if he wasn't quite so delicate.

Monday morning I peeled off the tape to see where we were at, and I was happy to see a much looser back. Still tight, still tense, but there was no longer cement casing my horse's muscles. BM and I pulled out All The Saddles and All The Pads and BM got to work seeing what fit Bobby.

The verdict was: get a bigger gullet plate for the dressage saddle, sell the jump saddle, and look for an old school used Stubben to replace the jump saddle.

Even though they're the same brand, my dressage saddle is built differently than the jump saddle (thank fuck!) so our only problem there was that Bobby's bulked up too much for his medium tree. He might not quite be ready for a wide tree yet, but you can always pad up and both Massage Lady and BM think once there's room for the muscle to grow, he's going to explode behind his shoulders post haste. Waiting for his new wide plate to come now!

The jump saddle fit at the withers and along the panels, but it bridges really badly in between--enough that BM didn't feel padding was going to make any difference and that he just needs a different shape. We pulled out ye olde Stubben and were happy with how that looked. Better yet, once under saddle Bobby dropped right down and went on a stretching rampage.

I can't afford to go fancy saddle shopping until next spring, but I can afford one of the multitudes of cheap, old Stubbens out there. It's not like we're showing over fences at all this year, so while they're ugly and usually beat to shit, it will get us through. My Tekna's been good to me and really showed me the power of no knee rolls to fuck with my position, but the flap has never been anywhere close to fitting my ultra long femur and it sucks to flat in.

really hard to get your leg under you in this thing.

really good for not pushing or pulling your leg where you don't want it to go over fences though.

While we're on the right track with saddle fit now, and Bobby has been a stretching machine in has last couple rides, what we haven't been able to solve is the locked jaw. We've tried the fruit roll up technique:


And the "You only get to eat your breakfast with a bit in your mouth" technique:

"fuck you guys."

I'm constantly stuffing sugar cubes into his mouth during our rides, and while this has always gotten him munching in the past, now he just holds them in his mouth and lets them disintegrate.

The locked jaw was one of the first things I brought up with Massage Lady (ML), and she said his TMJ is in great shape (Chiro just adjusted it a week ago so it should be!). She thinks it could be that he's either still adjusting from getting his teeth done properly for the first time in his life (which was done in April, so BM and I don't think so), or that it's linked to the knot she found high up in his neck.

I didn't notice a difference in our ride this morning as far as jaw softness, but it was only one day after a two hour massage session so I'm willing to give him several more days to see if he figures it out.

yay, body contortion and screen caps!
i can't wait until i can flat in my dressage saddle again.

ML's work up sheet of Bobby when we were done was basically "This horse is tight everywhere. Literally. Everywhere. Oh, except his ribs. Those are fine." Bobby stood like a statue the whole time and did his releases happily and quickly, and ML kept telling me how quiet and sweet and amazing he is. Well, yeah, he is on the ground. But he didn't get all these knots and kinks from being so quiet and sweet under saddle, lady. It's hard to explain that side of Bobby to anyone that meets him because his ground manners are perfect and he's a complete mooch.

He's just a nutter under saddle.

She did a really good job though, probably the best out of the several massage workers I've used in the past, and she was able to point out all the problem areas BM and I have been working on without any background information. She also said his hind end looks fantastic and that the rest of him should catch up as we continue doing what we're doing. She'll be back in six weeks to work on him again.

In the meantime, we get back to work. Our next show is next weekend already! To prepare, I jumped Bobby once a piece over two different 2'6" fences set up in the ring this morning. It was awesome, he was forward and happy, his canter was big and balanced, and I felt no fear letting him move out coming up to the jumps.

Yes, the next show is a dressage show. Sooo....yes, I should probably do some dressage things instead.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Stressage Lesson

After our weekend of pacing, Bobby got the next two days off. On Monday he got dressed in his fly gear and kicked outside after a brief looksie to make sure none of his body parts were in places they weren't supposed to be. Tuesday morning he got thrown on the longe to work any stiffness out. He was quite creaky and lazy, but unsurprisingly after I got the lazy chased out of the equation the creaky went away as well.

back to work!

He was back in dressage tack Wednesday as I start gearing him back up again for more dressage shows. That ride was not so good. I've been dealing with him getting lateral in his trot work the past couple rides--not a new evasion by any means, but it had disappeared for a good long while--and completely losing control of where the fuck his haunches are going. One teensy tiny correction to try to get them back on the track sends them into orbit and usually his brain with them.

So I asked BM to change her training ride over fences into a dressage lesson. I'm past the point with this horse where I have any desire to fix his ridiculous problems by myself. It's all fine and dandy when it's actual training, but when it crosses the line to him just being a complete shit head, it's time to Phone A Friend.

Thursday's lesson was a mix of both training and being a shit head.

so little media so here is a pony who is also a shit head

BM got on first to get a feel of what was going on and to come up with a game plan of how she wanted to go about fixing it. She's determined to make Bobby "Automatic". Like, he automatically is good instead of automatically an asshole. My hat's off to you, BM. You have fun with that.

To keep things brief, a.k.a. an excuse to use bullet points:

  • Push first before anything else. Stop pulling and letting him pull back. 
  • If he gets stuck, immediately send him forward. I'd asked her to work on the turn on the haunches with him since that move seems to have fallen out of the tool box the second we started showing these tests. Bobby was very stuck starting out, so the second he got caught and couldn't turn softly and lightly anymore, she kicked him into a trot and sent him out of it.
  • He needs to get hot so I have something to half halt. You can't half halt a lazy horse. He needs to be spicy and moving forward so there's something to work with.
  • "Contain it, don't kill it." Rebalance with the half halt, don't shut him down.
  • Wiggle my fingers (not my rogue right wrist!) not to wiggle his head down but to play with the bit and get him to soften and unlock his jaw.
  • He should be so light I can ride him off one finger. 
  • He only needs a little tiny bit of bend. Once we get control of the haunches better, the bend can become deeper.
  • Make him sit deep and collect at the trot. Make him a Lipizzaner. Make him bounce me into the ceiling he's trotting so powerfully.
  • He's so in-tune to the aids that the corrections have to come from the seat only. Any leg and he's going to over correct and send his haunches a mile in the opposite direction.
  • He tries to bend from the middle of the neck instead of the base. No cheating!
It was good for me to see him with his neck and head so elevated with the muscles in front of his withers bulging. Sometimes I doubt that this horse can reach the collection needed for Third, but now I know he can sit and he can really elevate his front end, and he can do it off of one finger. You know, if you're BM and have the abs and ass muscles of an equestrian god. Plus impeccable aids and flawless timing. 

Yeahhhh, probably ought to work on some of those things.

He was super light when I got on him after her though, and I was able to ride him off one finger (and all my other muscles working overtime to compensate). Plus our flawless turn on the haunches returned once he was light and forward and paying attention. What a concept!

bad horse.

Even BM is not incapable of running into a Bobby Road Block though. I got back on him this morning, took someone out for a lazy half an hour trail ride, and then came back and hit a wall. Bobby felt like a drunk, lazy, lock-jawed fuck wit who had no interest in cooperating with anything. 

I eventually got him sort of loose and working low at the trot, but when we went into the canter he started double pumping behind because he tensed up his back so much. He hits so hard that it knocks my jaw together and completely fucks up my back. He was just adjusted last week, so it's not that he's out. He just works himself up into a tizzy, tightens his back, and then can't hold the lead because his back is a big, knotted mess.

After almost an hour of accomplishing next to nothing, I handed him over to BM. She then proceeded to walk him for easily an hour and a half, if not more, while trying to get him to do such horrible things as: unlock his jaw, stop pulling on the reins, stay off the forehand, walk a mostly straight line, and stop trying to run off.

The rules we impose, I know

BM's patience is infinite because several times he lost his shit (WHILE WALKING) and threw down a good old fashioned Bobby tantrum that after two hours I probably would have brained him for, but she just carried on.

I got on him at 9:30 and a little after noon she was able to end with Bobby walking on a long rein while not pulling or losing his rhythm and speeding off. Almost three hours to get him to do nothing more than walk like a normal horse.

I may feel incompetent some days, but it was kind of nice to see a really good trainer run into the exact same problems I do and still not be able to fix them in ten minutes flat. My horse can just be difficult. Very extremely difficult. It makes me want to kill him, but it also makes me a better rider.

Or so I'm going to tell myself. Fuck you, Bobby.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Weekend Hunter Paces Pt. II

As I was playing on facebook between rides Saturday, the time hop memories thing reminded me that it had been five years to the day that Bobby went on his first hunter pace at the same place we were headed to on Sunday. Bobby had never seen cross country jumps before, and it was his first season doing real riding horse things.

good job, baby horse!

Five years ago, Bobby did a better job being a respectable fucking citizen than he did this year.

"who me? standing here so nicely waiting to head out even after i untied myself?"

My barn brought five pairs (including us). We split into teams of two, one with the less experienced horses who were going to go slow and take their time, and then W and I went out in the speed division with Bobby and dear old Ralphie. Everyone was poking fun at poor Ralph, saying W would have to ride home on the back of Bobby with me while we dragged the fatty's carcass home. Ralph's a lazy dude, but he really is plenty in shape so while it was fun to make fun of him, we weren't actually too worried.

watching the group before us head out

The start of the pace was up a short but steep, rocky incline that you had to blast up before being dumped into miles of farmland. Both horses handled it with no problems, and Ralph landed running so we went ahead and set off at a good trot.

go ponies, go!

Unfortunately, our good trot brought us right up to our slow group in no time, and a pair behind us had the same idea so we all got funneled into a tight pack of trotting horses. Bobby was not pleased with this arrangement and immediately started running sideways. Everyone else was behaving, and the behaving horses got to do some jumps which just set Bobby off even more.

We were finally able to disconnect from the slow group and were stuck with just the other pair as we made our way through the first woods. I got Bobby to jump a few things since he was leading and was still able to sort of function though it took a lot of pony club kicking and growling at him to just go the fuck forward.

The other pair zig zagged around us as I apologized profusely for my lovely horse swinging back and forth across the trail like a deranged llama. They kept up a good pace and stayed far enough ahead of us the whole time that they rarely got close enough to bring out Rage Monster Magee.

Rage Monster Magee's brain was already fried though.

(lots and lots of swearing in all of these. you've been warned.)

Bobby kept trying to run sideways, only there was a fucking wire fence in the hedgerow so that really wasn't a smart idea. I was finally able to beat him forward enough that he picked up the canter, and then after a little more beating he was going mostly straight. A good mile long gallop uphill put the sideways cantering bullshit mostly to rest, and we were able to communicate a little better after that.

It was here, right off the bat, that Ralphie showed us how much of a rock star he was going to be for the day. He stayed in the canter the whole way up behind us, and when we pulled up he was still happy to go along. As long as Bobby led, he matched pace with us and even offered up a few trots on his own. It was so fun to see him enjoying himself instead of moping around the ring doing up-down lessons.

I tried to get Bobby over some jumps after our gallop, but it was...

....really not the most fun I've ever had. Even with his martingale on, his back was so hollow and his head so high up in my face that he'd literally pogo stick hop over things because I couldn't get him to stretch out and go forward. 

Whenever we went into the woods, he was a little better and we were able to canter a few fences in a row with some semblance of relaxation. I don't know if the wide open spaces were doing him in, or if he was just thinking up Bobby Reasons, but whereas five years ago when his experience level was jumping on and off for all of six months in his whole life and he jumped everything on this pace, this time we jumped maybe a dozen things total. 

That was kind of a bummer, but we were in good company, and we finally reached an agreement that he wouldn't canter sideways if he could extended trot instead. Bobby can get trucking at the trot, and he never fucking tires (just ask my back) so we were covering ground at a good clip.

BM accidentally activated the big trot while warming up last week.
you can't help but ride it out once he gets going because it's so fun.

There was only one section where we had to walk because of footing, and it was more that it was gravel and round stones mixed together made it a tripping hazard than being too hard. My barefoot horse absolutely cruised over everything, rocky or not. I feel for everyone with horses that are throwing shoes every which way because I've been there, but the year it took to get this horse comfortable without them was the best decision ever

We rode back into the parking area and checked in as BM came over to tell us she hadn't even had time to nap because we'd gotten back so quickly. Both boys were sweaty (it was in the upper eighties), but aside from being ravenous, neither of them looked any worse for wear. Honestly I don't think Bobby drew a deep breath the whole time. Six miles isn't an unreasonable distance for any horse, but it was nice to see that our work this spring paid off and I'm sitting on a big, fit brute of a creature. 

"hi, pony. did you get any snacks yet?"

We were given candy and carrots for completing, and ribbons were awarded for how close you got to the time--within a certain limit you got a blue ribbon, outside of it you got a red. Optimum time was 70 minutes and W and I came in right at 72. Pretty dang good if I do say so myself! The slow group was just ten minutes over their optimum so they got blue ribbons, too.

bobby had no problems mauling anyone he could reach for snacks.

I think for the next one (the end of July), I'm going to ease the way with a little calming paste to see if it's enough to slow Bobby's brain down so that he can process things. Things like, just because there are other horses within a ten mile radius does not mean we need to race them. Bobby's not much of a team player.

he can't even pose with his team.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Weekend Hunter Paces Pt. I

This weekend we covered approximately five hundred miles while hunter pacing. I mean, we're basically Liz and Q.

Also, that might be a slight exaggeration and we probably hit closer to ten miles total. In two days. Over three different rides.

So. Still basically the same.

photo by BM

Saturday was my barn's first hunter pace of the year. It's a baby pace designed for lesson kids that don't get to get out of the arena much to go out and have fun, and for anyone to trailer in with young or green horses/riders to see some small cross country jumps and trail ride in a relaxed setting.

Bobby and I were the escorts for two kids first thing in the morning. We went along to make sure no one made bad life choices and did anything to get hurt, so I told them they were leading and to not worry about us. Bobby thought that was a poor life choice and was very angry that he didn't get to be the lead horse.

He was pretty okay for the trotting only because I was able to get him super collected and slowed down enough that he wasn't powering by the two pokey lesson ponies. He ignored the other horses spooking at random things, and he stood quietly while they jumped around him.

it was obvi really hot all weekend. #tanktopstrong
photo by a barn mom

Then I told the kids they could canter down the stretch everyone always canters down. "Just sit back, make sure your reins are short, and if you feel like you're starting to go too fast at all, pull them up!" Fortunately both ponies and kids were golden because Bobby was too busy running sideways into the hedgerow and getting stuck to supervise them.

I was all, "Bobby, if you want to run fast, go forth and do it!"


"But Bobby, I'm trying to kick you into a canter so you can go race them, soo....?"

He was fine after that because we walked or trotted the rest, and our fearless tiny leader kept us on track so well that their team got second in the junior division!

team two.
stealing all these photos from my barn mates because my battery was almost dead.

When we finished, he got a good hose down and hung out in his stall eating hay and enjoying the comforts of his fan until he was dragged back out for another round several hours later. This time we went out with my pace partner for the next day who was riding the great red dragon. I was a little afraid they were going to feed off of each other and be complete idiots, but Oz was tired and Bobby got to lead so they were both fine.

We started off jumping a few things in the front field, all of which Bobby did really well. He was a cool customer and cantered everything right out of stride. He was actually a star for jumping everything and for cantering, up until we passed another group (who were waiting calmly at the bottom of the hill waiting for us to come down causing no fuss whatsoever), and then he kind of, sort of lost his shit a little bit again and jumped the next jump like a pogo stick.

It was a good reminder to put my running martingale back on for the next day though, so winning?

a 5lb bag of carrots was our prize.
bobby says best prize everrr.

I think we might have been the fastest time of the day. Optimum time was 28 minutes and some seconds and we rolled in right at 23 minutes which was close enough for a third in the adult division.

It's fucking miserable hot out, so I'm going to split the weekend into two posts for blog content. Tomorrow will be a recap of the real pace we went to where Bobby was very naughty and Ralphie was the very best, fastest fat Quarter Horse I ever have seen.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Heard Around the Barn, Part III

Click for Part I and Part II.

On shoulder guards: Let me remove your man bra.

On Ralph being lazy: "He's saving his strength." "For what, we don't know."

On getting into a grid off a bad distance: Shit.

On being unclear how sane getting to the other side of the fence is going to be: I have a lot of faith in you, Bobby. You're making me a very spiritual trainer.

On children: If I had that many kids on my salary, we'd be living in my car. Or I guess I could put them in stalls.

On trimming a naughty horse's feet: I sure do love when you walk on me.

On the naughty horse's future: "K owns him now, right? If she wants to get a new farrier, tell her to go ahead." --Farrier

On rushing jumps: I am a woman, and I have the right to say no at any time. You need my consent to jump. There will be no jump rape.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Assault on jumping

Dudes, I have been fighting the jumping demons full force for weeks now. Like, what is dressage? So easy, collection shmollection, it's not like a shoulder-in just disappears.

LOL, it does, by the way. Do not follow my training routine. EVAR.

paid lots of money for dressage memberships.
dicks around in jump tack all season.

We haven't done anything big, but I have been hammering down on the repetitions. I still haven't managed to complete an entire course yet because I still kind of, sort of get over one jump without dying and stop to pat my horse and celebrate. Sometimes maybe even two jumps.

it was so windy my helmet cover slowly blew off my helmet.

Bobby, for his part, has been absolutely rock solid. The dude has seriously not set a single foot wrong. He half halts, he rates, he bops along in a metronome canter up to anything I point him at. If we're not straight, it's because I'm crooked. If we biff a distance, it's because I inadvertently told him to. Yesterday when I was jumping, I was feeling my usual sense of "This is all going to go wrong." I decided it would be smart to trot my first fence for confidence building. Bobby trotted in before getting distracted by a horse getting turned out, so I oh-so-bravely closed my leg and told him to pay attention. He was like, "What? You want me to go? Okay! Off we go!" and took off from...uh, let's just say quite a long distance.

conquered the mother fucking tire jump over the weekend

But after that, I put on my big girl britches and forced myself to canter everything. And guess what? Bobby hit every distance and I was able to just sit there and go through the motions. A little half half a few strides out, and then do nothing more than soften my arms and let him go. There was no fear of him charging or crashing through anything.

I think a lot of what helps me not vomit off the side of my horse anymore is focusing on breaking down every step as I do it. Keep the outside leg pressed against his side to hold the lead, check. GOING TO DI--no, now it's time for the half halt, just a little one, good. Now soften, DEAT--NO! Has he changed his rhythm or his speed? No. Good, so look up past the jump, don't touch those fucking reins, and tah dah! We're alive! Nothing to be scared about!

bobby's all, maybe one day she'll let me jump something exciting again.

Some days it feels like I haven't made any progress. It's been six months already since I bashed my head. Surely we should be cruising around 3' by now! But then I look at my little 2'3" verticals I put up by myself and think, "Today I did not need a crossrail to warm up over. That is winning."

In six months, BM has turned Bobby into a truly reliable, steady packer type at home. He gets a little more wound up off property, but it's mostly just for show and when I actually take him to the jump, he doesn't do anything wrong. I don't pull my horse off of jumps now, and I don't pull him to a stop in front of them. From being too afraid to trot a raised ground pole to cantering 2'6" at a show is progress.

This morning we went and played over some baby cross country jumps with Ralphie. I ditched the bridle because it's been awhile since we'd done anything bridleless and I just wanted to go out and have fun.

Aside from constantly try to drag me into the pond to go soak (horse has priorities, yo.), Bobby jumped over everything without any problems. He was a little wiggly when not paying attention (but zomg BUGS were outside), but he didn't stop, run out, or get fast to anything.

A stadium round might not be in our grasp right now, but I can sure as fuck go out and enjoy my horse again.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Houghton Spring Dressage Show

After the bad feeling the first dressage show judge left me with, I wasn't particularly upset when I scratched from the show the weekend after that one. I waffled back and forth about whether or not I was going to even go to this show because pouting, and when the times came out I immediately knew I was going to scratch from Saturday. My rides were scheduled for 7:08 a.m. and 4:08 p.m. That seemed...excessive when it came to waiting, but really it was the perfect excuse to not have to go.

I had one and a half days of real dressage work in the two weeks leading up to our Friday show. Sanctioned dressage show debut? Second time at Second level? Meh. I couldn't muster one single fuck to give, and we spent most of our time either frolicking on trails or jumping around outside. Possibly I am the world's whiniest adult, but I don't give a shit.

soak time with friends

I finally strapped on my dressage saddle Tuesday or Wednesday before the Friday show and attempted to get a ride in super early in the morning to beat the heat. Unfortunately, the heat was too much for a Bobby to cope with (He probably would have been fine if it hadn't swung from snowing one weekend to 90* with 5m% humidity the next weekend. Worst. State. Ever.) and he had a little brush with heat exhaustion. As I stood there hosing and scraping my poor horse with a pile of tack at my feet from where I'd dumped it to get to the wash stall quickest, I almost whipped out my phone and sent off an email to scratch from the whole shebang.

too tired to even eat grass.

But I didn't, and Thursday afternoon I climbed back on to check his buttons. He completely fell apart even turning to go across the ring, so I knew the simple changes were going to be a complete disaster again if I didn't do something. Armed with pockets full of candy, I broke everything down for him. Walk across the ring and nothing happens? Cookie. Walk across the ring, halt for half a second without freaking out? Cookie. Walk across the ring and trot at X without freaking out? Cookie. And so on and so on. We ended with really good, really quiet simple changes wherever I asked for them, so I was feeling a little better after that.

Hubby got me all wound up about taking 590 (which is only a couple miles from my barn) past Rochester during rush hour the morning of the show and tried to convince me to go the longest way around known to man, but I ended up sticking to my original plan  and running into zero traffic from there all the way down to the show. I did, however, run into crazy fog once I hit Geneseo and it didn't let up all the way to the college. I crawled along with my hazards on for ages, occasionally hitting 45mph, and finally pulled into the barn's driveway super thankful there hadn't been many people on the road.

it was a little clearer on top of the mountain the school sits on

Bobby unloaded like the consummate show pro he is, even ignoring the field of horses that escaped from the paddock we were parked next to and went gallivanting off behind him. I checked in and saw that they'd pushed my second test back by about ten minutes which was fine, but they were also going to have pushed my second test on Saturday back to 5 p.m. LOL, no.

They kept announcing that the show was running early, so even though I knew I had all the time in the world and my horse doesn't need a lot of time to warm up at shows, about forty five minutes out I started scrambling to get ready. Fortunately I was put back in my place and got distracted by my fucking brand new show helmet my dad had gotten me for my birthday. I was trying to get the thing on with proper hunter hair because that style really is fabulous, but no matter how hard I squished my helmet down, it just didn't feel secure. "Great," I thought. "Now I'm going to have to fucking return this helmet even though I ordered it in a bigger size to fit with my hair under it."

Of course, on Sunday, while I was getting ready to school before the hunter show and wasn't rushed or flustered, I got my hair tucked under there in a second flat and my helmet was snug as a bug. So lesson learned: When it's as ungodly humid outside like it was that Friday, probably nothing short of a fish tank designed for a whale shark is going to fit over my hair which means I need get a fancy dressage bun holder with copious amounts on bling so I won't have to resort to ye olde scrunchie again.

my blingy ass earrings also went flying as i wrestled with my hairnet. #dressagedivaproblems
pc: megan stapley, who i forced myself to stick to only 3 pics to buy...this time.


Bobby warmed up really well, and I quickly slotted real dressage riders into the top spot of people to warm up with. Even with someone doing piaffe/passage work in-hand on the rail, everyone knew where the fuck they were going, and followed all the unspoken warm up rules. I knew they were running all different levels at a time, so it was easy for me to focus on my own work instead of sneaking peeks at other people and feeling like I wasn't good enough. It's easy to feel like you're doing pretty okay for your level when you're passing a GP horse.

Hearing another announcement that they were running early and seeing that there was no one in my ring, I asked the organizer as she scurried by if it was okay if I went ahead in. Given the all-clear, we double checked our number and test with the judge and headed down centerline.

Bobby can be really hit or miss with his halts. When he doesn't throw down a perfect one, he likes to swing his haunches left, or crane his head around to look at me, or just ignore me when I ask for him to trot off. This test he halted super square and crisp...and then shifted back a step before trotting off. That was new. Yay, innovative horse!

I overshot our first medium a bit, but I focused on going more conservative to keep it more correct. Less leg flinging, more sitting and using the butt (see above picture and those engaged hind legs). We snagged a 6.5 for that which I was happy with as I know Bobby can show off a lot more--we just need to work on strength building to keep it packaged and fancy.

i'm also sitting up better than this now!

The shoulder-in and travers were both obedient if boring and scored sixes. The turn on the haunches was, uhhh, not our best. I didn't prepare well enough and we fumbled through both too strung out. Our walk work was too quiet for the judge, though I was just happy he wasn't jigging. The shoulder-in right is always Bobby's worse direction, and really probably his worst movement in general. He gets super tense when you ask for it and he dropped down to the walk for a couple steps before I could boot him forward enough to get back into it. The travers was fine though, and he never got upset about my correction so that was another win.

We got the comment "needs jump" on our canter which is absolutely no surprise as BM yells this at me all the time. But a jumpy canter is a big canter and big canters are scary, ahhh. Working hard on that the past few rides though. Aside from a couple other hints at "Put your leg on your horse and make him go forward" the canter work was all fine, including a 7 for both our simple changes! I took my time through them, making them straight and calm and sending Bobby mental pictures of candy, and he was a complete rock star for them.

An obedient halt ended us with a 7.5, and 6s and 7s for collective marks. Instead of comments like, "Go home, you're drunk" (maybe a slight overreaction from last judge's remarks), we got such feedback as "Capable pair" and "Quiet, willing horse". She told me to "ride bolder", and I was able to pull something from almost every single one of her remarks on the movements. I really value constructive criticism, and this judge gave me a lot to work on without making me feel like I needed to get knocked back down to Intro.

she had some really good canter pics, but i look a little less like a buffoon at the trot.


I didn't let Bobby see the trailer at the last show, but I was parked right next to the ring this time, so I pulled his bridle and loosened his girth while I chugged down half a bottle of Gatorade and sat in the shade for fifteen minutes to try to cool down before getting back on for our second test. Bobby quickly dozed off, and I was glad I'd given myself a little extra time to try to ramp up the work a little for 2-3 because he was dead. I spent more time trying to jazz him up and get him moving off my leg than I did going through any movements. We watched the test before us go while Bobby stood with a hind leg cocked ringside which is not like him at all. He's never naughty, but he does like to keep moving. The poor dude was hot and sleepy. Being so good for five minutes straight is tough.

2-3 was one of the bigger divisions for our level, but I hate the canter movements for 2-1 so much that I'd rather compete against better horses than have to do that test. Most of the horses we were up against probably farted fancier than Bobby, and they sure as hell were bred to do their job better than my horse, but I know I'm good with geometry (when paying attention), so I was determined to pick up any fucking half point the judge would give us.

Bobby didn't play around in the halt this time and we started off the test with a 7. The first medium was "conservative" which, as I said before, was by design. The lateral work was ho-hum, and I didn't prepare for our first 10m circle enough and Bobby's haunches went winging out way too wide. So much for that geometry. Derp. The second circle was better, and our rein back was polite enough for another 7.

the cutest brown mule beast ever to live trying his sleepy little heart out.

Our canter work was straight sixes ("Needs more jump." Dang it, Carly! Ride your damn horse forward!) except for a 6.5 for the second change.  We finished with a 7 for the trot transition and a 7.5 for the final halt. I finished the test grinning and patting my horse like a crazy person. I knew it wasn't flashy and that we'd had some wobbles, but he was so quiet and so obedient that I was thrilled. The judge's comments were to make him more supple in the lateral work and to work on maintaining the energy.

I stuffed all the cookies Bobby would eat into his face before letting him get back to his nap and cleaning up my stuff. I snuck a look at the score board before going to grab my tests. 57.31% for 2-2 and first place. 57.68% for 2-3 and 5th place. I was really hoping I'd be able to squeak out a 60% for 2-2, but I was happy with my scores, and happy we'd improved even a fraction from one test to the next--and that we'd actually beat people at 2-3!

sleepy horse just wants to be left alone.
also kind of bummed we didn't get one of those
fancy ass ribbons you dressage people are always sporting.

I'm mostly happy we redeemed ourselves from the schooling show. Looking over my tests made me want to get back on my horse and work on the judge's suggestions instead of throwing my dressage tack across the room like a child and vowing never to ride in it again.

We played mostly over jumps all last week with lots of trail riding to give Bobby a mental break. He gets adjusted Friday, we go on a hunter pace Sunday, and then next week we'll back to the grind and aiming for shows 7/10 and 7/23-24.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Eastside Hunter Classic II

Our sanctioned fancy prance show came first, but since once again I was showing by myself I have zero media. I'm hoping photos from the photographer there will go up soon, and I'll have something to share. I know there's at least one where I must look constipated because I saw her swing around to take our picture as we prepared to do the halt-rein back and I was like, "I should smile for this! No. Stop. Pay attention to your test." >grimace, poop face<

You can refer back to the first show in this series here if you're so inclined. If you're not, I'll sum it up for you: I passed on the opportunity to school before the show started, Bobby was a nutter in all our hack classes, and we jumped one jump before I broke down into tears and excused myself from the ring.

It was awesome.

When the next show came up, I really wanted to go to it solely to jump around before the show started. I'm starting to transition from being scared shitless to jump period to just being scared shitless to jump off property. Yay, small wins!

bobby had just launched over a jump like a looney and i was debating whether or not
to ask BM to get on him for me. but i didn't. because i am so brave.

Originally I was going to have to pass because I was showing Friday and Saturday and I would have felt bad making him jump around after hauling two hours each way for two days straight on top of doing two Second tests each day. But then I scratched Saturday which I gave him off to recover from Firday, and off we went first thing Sunday morning.

I was smart and put his twisted dee on him from the get-go--learned my lesson from last time! I also put my rubber reins on because schooling, and also because fuck those fucking leather reins. I'd forgotten my schooling boots at the barn, but I still had my dressage boots in my trailer so at least I didn't have to borrow a car to run back and dress myself. I just couldn't really put my heels down or move my ankles. No bigs.

learning about hunter hair though!
bobby's hair not so much.

While Bobby was still rocking a little bit of a floofy fro from having his braids taken out Friday afternoon, there was no other remnant of fancy dressage horse. He wasn't bad, he just wasn't know, on the bit. Whatevs, we're here for the jumping.

if i'm in as much pain as i look, it's probably from my boots.

After picking out a fence that didn't look too scary and wasn't being congregated around by other horses, I casually wandered up to it to let Bobby see it. I mean, this horse has carted my ass over Training cross country without blinking an eye, but surely he must need a look at this 2'6" picket fence! Bobby ignored the jump and tried to make off with the shrubbery instead which BM then had to come return to its rightful place, and then thankfully remained to started yelling at me as we began the jumping.

super easy

I think I took Bobby by surprise with the first jump. Not that he stopped or did anything bad, but exactly the opposite. He loped over it and I was able to follow BM's order of "Soften your hands, let him go." without second guessing any of our party. BM told me I needed "Let it go" to be playing in the background at all times when I jump. Probably true. But then the switch turned on in his head an he catapulted us over it the second time.

I had a walk/breathing break before doing the smaller gate to get my balls back a little bit. Bobby was good for that (again, I think it took him by surprise that we were doing the jumping), so we came back to the picket.

"rawr, i am here to do jumpies!!"

He was on to the game now, and there was much snorting and head flinging, but when we got to the actual fence, he jumped it quietly. BM pointed out that he's getting the distances fine, he's just being Bobby and throwing in all the theatrics on the way there. She told me to play her favorite game with him: canter around like you're going to jump the jump, but then go right past it instead. It keeps him guessing instead of letting him lock on and take over.

The first fence we did it to he was like, "OK, OK. Not that one then. BUT NOW WE ARE JUMPING THIS ONE INSTEAD!!!11hJ!!" I had to use a pulley rein to get him off of it. Lots and lots of looping and around and psyching him out finally got him settled, and I felt confident enough to turn into a little bitty vertical.

it was the first jump in a four stride line to a fucking huge (when you're a wimp)
vertical, so we angled it so he didn't get his eyes on the second fence.

He was really good for it, and we popped over it a couple more times before calling it quits.

yay, so brave!

Bobby didn't want to pull up. He just wanted to pull me down into the ground.

BM: kick him!
me: pulls back

me: lifts hands really high

me: aw, you walked. good boy.

Yeah, I'm working on the whole kicking thing, okay? Baby steps here.

Poor Hubby was very confused about the purpose of hunter shows in general what we were doing here when our group of riders left the ring and headed back to the trailers. He kept asking if I was going to show now, but I held firm in my decision to keep this as a schooling opportunity only. My horse was a little naughty, I worked through it, and we jumped a few different jumps several times apiece OFF PROPERTY!

I love satin as much as the next person, but that was a big enough win for me. Maybe I'll be ready by the next show.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

REC Dressage Schooling Show

For once I'm not going to name the venue this show was at. The equestrian world is a small and whiny space, and I'm going to be fairly small and whiny in my assessment of my experience. I also don't have any media from this show since it was a Saturday and Hubby couldn't come.

You already know that I had a bad experience with the judge, but honestly the whole show was a let down. I volunteered at the first show in our GMO's series, and it was well organized, well run, and well attended.

This show...was not so much any of the above. I think they got quite a good crowd for the lower of the lower levels (Intro, Training, and First), but there were only a few other Second riders with me and one Third rider.

filler pics!

I waited patiently for an email that contained ride times, and when that never came, I religiously checked WNYDA's page up until Friday--the show was on a Saturday. I ended up hounding the organizer/secretary to get my ride times and finally got her to cave and email them to me directly late Friday morning after she insisted they were posted on the farm's facebook page. (I never did see them posted there.) I had a friend who was also there competing, and she didn't get her times until nine that evening.

The barn was easy to find, but when I got there, there was no direction on where to park which admittedly is pretty hit or miss at any show. I crept past a few trailers and finally angled into a spot in the field behind the barn, figuring someone could come and tell me to move if I wasn't in the right area.

I got out, opened Bobby's door so he could scope out the scenery without screaming and pawing because he felt like he was locked in the trailer, and went to find someone to check in with. After wandering around a bit, I finally just asked someone in the barn where to go. "Oh, there's no check in--or numbers! Just go in and do your test."

Ohhhkay. I guess I can do that.

we played outside all week after this show.

Since I'd gotten there early, I went down to the ring and talked with my friend A for a bit to see how her tests had gone. She'd scored a 60% and a 67% for Intro A and B which she was happy with, but then she started telling me about the comments the judge had marked on her test. For Intro, this judge was wanting the mare to sit more. She also told A that the mare's neck was being carried much too low. A was riding a draft mare. Her neck must have been put on upside down to get that comment. We laughed it off and chalked it up to schooling show judges, and I went to get on Bobby to warm up.

There was no ring steward at either the warm up (in the indoor at the top of the hill) or the competition ring, so I kept an eye out from the indoor and waited until most of the people milling around had dispersed, figuring a thinning crowd meant my ride time was near.

Bobby was steady and obedient warming up. We ran through a couple of the movements from the test--shoulder-in, travers, a couple medium trots--and timed our walk down to the ring just as the rider before me was leaving and the rain started coming down.

bobby was soft and fluffy the whole time, happy to be back in jump tack.


As we entered at A, I realized C was a good three feet to the left of the center line, so I sort of crossed my fingers and kept riding straight at the judge and hoped that I wasn't going to get some weird penalty for not being straight. Fortunately that seemed to be the right thing to do, and we got a whopping 6 for our first halt. Straight entry, needs more uphill balance.

The first medium was forward, but it was forward in a flailing, legs going everywhere way. Bobby's not  naturally a particularly fancy horse, and he's got pretty shitty conformation, but he can wing his legs out there in a sort of flashy manner when he gets trucking. The problem is that his answer to everything he doesn't understand is tension, and that obviously messes up the quality of the movement.

I schooled him long and hard over the medium trot the day before because he'd stopped giving me any effort at all for awhile. Mr Tappy came out, there was much snorting and sweating and swearing, but in the end he remembered what my leg was for and was going.

During the test, he moved right off when asked, but it wasn't relaxed, and very quickly the big trot started coming apart at the seams. The legs were still being flung out a mile in front of him, but he was getting long, downhill, and pulling the reins out of my hands. Flashy to the untrained eye, but not a whole lot of fun to sit and any judge was going to see right through it.

Things all apparently went downhill from there, and I wonder it that first trot made a bad impression and the judge just decided there was going to be no coming back from it...even if the movement was okay. (Shoulder-in right: Good connection to outside rein. 5.)

Bobby was bad in the simple changes. I cued for the walk too hard and he actually came to a halt instead. I panicked and legged him on, hoping he'd just go into the canter instead since he immediately halted and started swinging sideways. He was extremely offended by my unclear aids and pulled a classic Bobby, flying halfway across the ring before going forward sideways at some sort of tranter before finally getting back to the canter at A. I rode the second change better, but he anticipated doom and disaster and other Bobby things, so he went ahead and flailed around quite a bit more.

Overall we got such constructive comments as: crawling, absolutely not uphill, establishing resistance instead of connection, etc. Her end comment was "This level requires far more uphill balance than anything you've shown. Go back to basics before you come back to this level." The highest score on the test was a 6.5 for rider position.

Obviously I didn't know anything she'd written when I left the ring, and while I knew we were going to be marked down severely for the complete lack of simple changes and ensuing tension in the canter work, I thought everything else was steady enough. Nothing exciting, but nothing to be ashamed of.

I jumped off and stood in the pouring rain ringside for half an hour until my next test as Bobby gets pissed when he goes back to the trailer and thinks he's done, but then he has to come back and do more dressage. Since there was no ring steward and the times weren't posted, I didn't really know how many riders were in front of me, so I got back on when there was one rider finishing her test and no one else was around. Two other people ended up coming down though, so I walked Bobby around the field and let him eat grass to try to alleviate any Bobby anger.


We got an impressive four 6s on this test! The first halt (straight entry), the first turn on the haunches (maintained rhythm), the walk to canter transition (obedient), and the collected trot transition before turning down centerline (needs to come through). We also got sixes down the board for collective marks except for another 6.5 for rider position.

Bobby was once again a tool for the simple changes, though there was slightly less flailing on this test. The problem once again was with the canter throughout. He was fine picking up the canter, but the second I asked him to open up his stride for the medium, he was like, "OK BAI GO FUCK YOURSELF BAD THINGS HAPPEN IN CANTER."

He was so, sooo tense and locked up that I rode the world's most conservative counter canter serpentines to try to mitigate a full blown Bobby melt down. It was during this movement that I could hear the judge laughing as I looped around the ring.

When I got done with the test, she called me over. "Do you know what a serpentine looks like? Do you know how to ride that movement?"

I told her yes, I did, but I was trying to control my tense horse to keep him from performing the same theatrics he was showing in the changes.

"Do you know what that movement is supposed to ride like?" She whipped out a diagram and held it up to me. "Three equal loops, right? You were practically on a diagonal, and honestly your horse is a saint for even allowing you to do that. I don't know how he held the lead."

I nodded, thanked her for her time, and left the ring.


Maybe I'm just a big fucking child, but I was upset when I got back to my trailer. I shoved all the cookies down Bobby's throat to make myself feel better, and because I really did--and still do--think that for our first time out at Second, minus the dramatics in the canter, we did fine.

I understand that the judge can only score us on what she sees that day, and what she saw was a horse that couldn't do simple changes and who got very tense and locked up during the canter. BUT I'M STILL GOING TO WHINE BECAUSE THIS IS MY BLOG AND I CAN.

I picked up my tests quickly since I was the last ride of the day, and almost threw them away when I saw the scores. 49.74% for 2-2 and 51.59% for 2-3.

I wasn't the only one competing at this level, and with those scores I WON both tests.


Which is just LOL, right?

I didn't even open the tests all weekend, and when I handed them to BM to look over she was like, "Well....I mean....I wish I could say there's some good stuff to pull out of here to use, but.... Seriously though, how much collection does she want to see at this level?!"

So there is my very bad, no good, much whining, woe is me show post. I'm glad my next show went better because the whole two weeks after I pouted and told everyone I was only going to trail ride for the rest of my life because clearly I SUCK as a rider.

And yes. Everyone did tell me to shut up and get over myself. I have good friends who don't put up with such nonsense.