All our problems conveniently (for sake of recapping) started right off the bat in January. Bobby had spent all of the previous month being a feral dragon doing flat work, but I was figuring out ways to combat that--most of it revolving around making the dressage rides short and sweet while upping the over fences rides to keep his brain happy.
By February, BM had installed a fairly reliable half halt over fences on Bobby and had moved on to working diligently on getting him lengthen his stride in the canter. It became obvious that Bobby had a serious confidence issue with jumps himself due to being the actual worst at seeing a distance. I had progressed from riding my horse to a stop in front of the smallest of fences and bursting into tears to feeling pretty okay over cross rails. I even managed one whole 2'3" vertical two times, which at the time felt like a monumental win.
Apparently we didn't do much in March besides buy some basic necessities, do a blog hop or two, host a giveaway, and celebrate Bobby's eleventh birthday. That sounds like a lot listed out, but it doesn't appear we did a whole lot of actual riding.
In April, BM and I were working hard trying to find the root of Bobby's tension under saddle. He'd tighten up his lower back so much that he'd start to look lame. In between body work, time off, and free jumping sessions, I continued to plug away at working on regaining my confidence over fences. It was a mixed bag--one day I could pop over a somewhat sizable oxer and the next I'd get so anxious I'd start to shake just looking at a large cross rail. Meanwhile BM plugged away trying to get Bobby to relax and be responsible for himself. Most importantly, Tracy came to visit!
May brought our first shows of the year. We headed around the corner for a hunter show first. I didn't take advantage of the ample warm up time, and when we went into the ring for the hack section, Bobby slowly unraveled. We made it over one whole jump in our o/f division before I had a complete melt down and had to excuse myself from the ring. The absolute terror of jumping made no sense, but it was real, folks.
We followed that up making our Second level debut at one of our GMO's shows. Bobby also unraveled there and lost his shit in a serious way in the canter work. I debated giving up any riding besides wandering aimlessly on trails after having bar none the worst experience with a judge in my life. Winning both your tests with an average of 50% against other people is not something to celebrate.
We hit the shows hard in June. We went with the barn to the second hunter show in our local series, but this time with a whole new game plan--warm up only, no showing. BM had to yell and poke and chase, but we managed to school several fences several times with Bobby only being a little bit of a nutter. I for sure wasn't ready to attempt to show over fences, but it was a good forward step regardless.
We made our rated dressage debut and increased our scores by nearly 10% from our first attempt at Second. We also did two hunter paces, one at the barn and one down in Cohocton. Bobby was a jigging nut case for the second one and worked up a massive muscle knot in his back that required even more body work!
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We did three dressage shows in July, but a lot of my focus was still on jumping. I was getting more comfortable with 2'3" being our norm, and even hit up 2'6" without too much fear on occasion. Our first dressage show of the month, Bobby held it together for the first test, but then pulled a Bobby and lost his shit for the second test and neatly took out half the arena chains.
We finished our rated dressage season (yeah, it was really short lived) with a weekend, technically two different shows outing. We dealt with some tension and with me just dialing it in, but still managed to snag our first score towards our Bronze at Second.
August was the month for buckling down and conquering jumping from a long approach in preparation for our final hunter show of the season. I really, really wanted to finish by being able to make it around a full course without having a panic attack. We worked tirelessly over 2' jumps with the longest approaches I could set. More than anything, I feel like this is what finally got me over the hump. Having to maintain a canter without getting grabby or fucking anything up was the hardest mental exercise ever, and once I conquered it I was basically golden.
We cleaned up in the hack division of the hunter show, getting reserve champion, and then went and completed all three courses in the o/f. It was a sloppy mess, but I got over every single jump the first time with a big smile on my face. We finished out the month doing our first 3' fence since my crash.
September was a mixed bag. I did one last hunter pace on Bobby before he came up lame, and then did another one of the barn's paces on two different horses. I also picked up the ride on Shooter.
We tried the wait and see game with Bobby's lameness, but finally at the end of September/the very beginning of October, I had the vet out for what initially looked like it was going to be a RF leg lameness. False! Bobby presented as 3/5 lame on the LF foot. Farrier put plain steel flat shoes on him, ending his three year barefoot run, but when that didn't help, the vet came back out to x-ray. Her diagnosis was severe navicular changes, but then I went on a super fun adventure of sending the images to everyone and nobody agreeing on anything.
Fortunately, Farrier turned out to be a genie and shoeing changes made him instantly sound. We started back into work, and by the end of the month we were able to low key participate in our barn's last hunter pace.
I started upping Bobby's work load in November, and he stayed completely sound. I even introduced a little bit of jumping again, and not only did he not go lame, but the high I'd ended on when we had to stop jumping in September was still there and I no longer had any fear coming up to fences.
December has seen the return of the slightly demonic flat work Bobby. He rears his ugly head--and he rears it really, really high--every year around this time. Keeping that in mind, I'm trying to keep everything as low pressure as possible. If he needs our ride time to actually just be turned loose in the ring to romp around time, then that's what we'll do.
Overall we ended the year with:
- seven firsts
- two seconds
- nine thirds
- six fourths
- three fifths
- one sixth
- and a reserve champion
As far as our goals for the year, on Bobby's side the focus was on correcting his right drift over fences and growing the fuck up--aka stop being so overly dramatic about literally anything he didn't find appealing. With BM's jumping boot camp, and training boot camp in general for the both of us, I can definitely say any right drift on either of us has been eradicated.
The growing up? While the quick dressage show recaps sound like he was still a wild flail stallion, he has learned to stand up to the pressure a little more. He might lose it, but he can come back from it now. He's never going to a quiet, relaxed horse under saddle when the going gets tough, but now that he's holding on to at least one brain cell than can be accessed in times of duress, we're able to work with each other more and bring him back to sane horse land slightly faster.
I had three goals for the year. I don't know that I can say I knocked the "push for more" goal off the list. My main fail at shows was that I didn't do that at all. I stayed on the safe side of letting Bobby dink around in an attempt to not have any blow ups, but our scores reflected that in that I didn't push even when I could have. This is going on next year's list. I know Bobby is capable of producing more away from home, I just have to step up and ask.
I did, however, nail the jumping out of an open stride goal. It took me all fucking year to get there, but damn it, it got done!
My final goal was selling Bobby if push came to shove. Obviously he's still here, and the only one to thank for that is BM. She pushed me to stick with him, but she also turned him into a horse that I would actually want to keep. Beyond any doubt, without her work with us this past year, Bobby would have found a new home and this blog would have gone in a very different direction.