Monday, February 29, 2016

Road Trip

Hubby and I took a weekend away from the Worst State Ever and visited the land of hills, and giant pastures, and mystical morning fog over said giant pastures.

PA being all casually gorg. 

Hubby dropped me off at riding bestie Sarah's and we spent the day eating bad tacos (love bad tacos) and riding ponies. BO pawned one of the lesson horses off on me to ride for the afternoon. Bennie is a packer of a low level hunter, but he doesn't do anything else.

bennie and my fat kid soul mate, the dutch hippo,
try to share the taco bell love.

Dear Bennie,
Please trot forward. Or trot at all without me having to kick you every three strides.
Please.

He got pissy every time I tried to shorten my reins past the buckle. He got pissy if I asked him to circle with some bend. He got pissy if I wanted him to trot faster than a slug. Forget the pissy look he shot me when I asked him to canter. I finally just gave up on him and parked on the rail to talk to people. Jump around a 2' course with zero rider input? Right up Bennie's alley. Do actual work? Pass.

not even any good at posing.

Sarah and I went out on an early morning trail ride Sunday, and this time I requested Ranger. I'd never ridden him before, but I know he's a total plug on trails so I figure we'd have fun gallivanting across the country side.

False.

wait for us! we're sooooo sloooowwwww.

Ranger had just come in from overnight turnout and therefore didn't get the chance to nap. He did not plug along. He slugged along, and I had to pony club kick him every other stride to get him to a) walk and b) not casually stroll off into the underbrush.

We cut our trail ride short since it wasn't any fun, and went back to the indoor to ride. I then became very aware of how unschooled on the flat these lesson horses are after riding my current BM's horses.

As much as I didn't want to relocate to NY, I will say that this move gave me a serious kick in the ass in my riding. Not having the right trainer for me down there definitely made me settle, and I'm so much more educated and picky about the horse underneath me now. Not that my PA barn is bad or anything, because I still love them and want to go back, but I'm grateful for the progress Bobby and I have made up here.

Still the Worst State Ever.

not settling for anything but dramatic posing.

Bobby had the last three days off, so I was excited to get back on a fresh horse that was well schooled, and revel in not having my legs whimper from exhaustion when I dismounted. I went into his stall and was like, "Hi, Bobby! I brought you an apple! Have some neck scritchies--WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO BITE ME?!"

Apparently Sir Robert did not appreciate his long weekend of doing nothing but hanging out in his field with his amigos in the gorgeous weather and woke up with sore muscles. Or so he was telling me.

Loudly.

With his teeth.

I spent half an hour digging the heel of my palm into his neck and back on his left side while he yawned and groaned. He ignored me when I moved over to his right side, so after a quick rub down, I let him chill for awhile.

no chill.

I stuck him on the longe before I got on and let him creak around at the trot until he finally loosened up and looked comfortable. I don't know if he partied too hard, or slipped in some mud, or just had a long enough break that he realized he's been working those muscles really hard lately, but he definitely needed his muscle massage and back loosening.

Under saddle, I figured karma must have struck for bemoaning what poor flat horses I rode all weekend and bragging about how amazing my own horse was. Bobby was like a drunken sailor tottering around on the deck of a ship about to capsize.

I had to actually make myself ride like a respectable person to get him together which is the worst. After lots and lots of figure eights and circles, he was finally even in both reins and feeling like he knew what things like "balance" and "rhythm" were. You know, those super elusive upper level movements.

shouldn't have acted like i knew how to combat rubs on aimee's post.
bobby was like, "lol, here, have some more!"

His canter was better than I expected. I had to really focus on rocking him back to the left because he wanted to tip forward a bit, but to the right he was pretty decent. I had him do one flying change R-L that he picked up on the second I shifted my seat. That wasn't an actual cue, so I tested his counter canter to make sure we weren't going to start to go flying change crazy. Nope. Hold the bend, hold the lead. Good pony.

I had him switch back over L-R which he leaped into, spooked at the reflection of the leaping horse in the viewing room window, and then was like, "jk, I wasn't scared of that horse. I'm a stud. I don't get scared of anything. Look what a stud I am."

His whole front half lifted like ten feet and he was cantering around like a super light fluffy magical upper of the lower levels unicorn. I played with that for a few laps before bringing him back to his super light fluffy magical working trot for a lap and then calling it quits.

Ten points to Gryffindor horses that do work.

Friday, February 26, 2016

You so fancy and famous.

Call it divine fucking providence that my horse waited to bash my head in and scramble all my "Training or DIE, bitches!" confidence once we moved states. You know what's not in abundance around here? Eventing. Specifically cheap, one day, less than four hours of driving eventing.

But do you know what is? Dressage! Western New York apparently loves them some dressage.

Schooling shows? Check.
Local GMO hosted shows? Check.
Five thousand USDF/USEF rated shows? Double check.

While casually looking through all my options for a show schedule this year--a show schedule that will revolve around flat work and hunter paces until I stop giving BM the stank eye every time she's like, "Get on and jump your horse! He's so good!" and there's a vertical higher than six inches in the ring--I discovered there are also a ton of clinic opportunities.

Sooo....here are some of my options throughout the year if I don't want to drive more than a couple hours (which I don't) (because poor) (and lazy):

Jenny Veenstra
Tracy Durham
Eric Horgan (Ridden with him before. I'd like to try to make one of his for over fences.)
Susan Strong Kelley
Eddo Hoekstra
Dorothy Maxfield

Does anyone have any strong opinions on any of the above one way or the other? I'd prefer to ride with someone who is an advocate of walk breaks and patting your pone because Bobby cannot horse without walk breaks and frequent, "You are so goooood, oh em geeee."

walk it out.
(so in need of new media.)

In other news, I cantered Bobby down a four stride line of cross rails yesterday and he didn't speed up and we didn't die, so, yeah. Kind of a champion over here. Nevermind BM rode him for half an hour first over way bigger jumps. Still winning.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Self Doubt

I finally convinced myself that I needed new dressage media more than I needed Hubby to be around to raise or lower fences I may or may not have the balls to jump and brought him along Sunday morning for some video. I feel like Bobby has been doing pretty well on the flat recently. Obviously we have our awkward/inconsistent/"what the actual fuck was that?!" moments, but overall it's felt...dare I say easy? 

Obviously I needed to see what was actually going on here because easy and effortless are not words I usually ascribe to Bobby. Especially since the last time I rode him--Friday--I basically had to beat him to get him to trot. Ugh, he was so tired he literally could not

literally could not go forward on occasion on sunday either, being a horse is exhausting.

I was quickly joined in the arena by B who was walking around bareback on her OTTB. She kept to the inside of the track and was hyper-aware of where Bobby and I were at all times which I really appreciated. 

However.

This is why I'm anti-social and just prefer to be a hermit at all times, thanks.

She kept up a running dialog the entire ride. I'm way too non-confrontational to be like, "Yo. I love you, but I have ten working brain cells when I ride and they all need to be directed to my horse. Please HUSH. I can't focus on what in the hell my right wrist is doing when you expect me to talk back to you."


Fortunately, Bobby felt relatively solid after his day off Saturday. Warm up was correct if uninspiring (see above video--that was our first trot). I wasn't too impressed with his canter:


But at least that canter to walk transition is getting somewhere. 

I was able to tune out B long enough to get Bobby off my left rein after our walk break, and I went to work on opening up his trot. 

This trot is a winter trot. It's a work in progress as I fuck around and experiment with different things. When I focus on a good, forward working trot with no other bells or whistles, damn. That is a good trot.

I'd laid off the lengthenings a little bit because he can get spicy after doing them. And by "spicy" I mean slightly unhinged in the dome piece. I'd throw one in there every now and then before instantly forgetting it so Bobby didn't feel the need to go jetting off into the atmosphere every time we turned a corner. 

I've started to work on opening up his stride again though. Only this time around, we're moving on from the lengthening and shooting for a really good medium, and by a really good medium I mean one step away from a true extended trot. 


That trot? HA. That is my, "Go forth and do something, Sir Robert!" And Sir Robert saying, "UGHGBHBKSKJHDSFK, MY BODY DOES NOT UNDERSTAND."

Bobby has pretty ballin' lengthenings, and every now and then we'll stumble into a pretty ballin' flicky toed fancy prance extraordinaire thingy. The thing with lengthenings though is that the horse is supposed to lengthen their entire frame. This took many dressage judges writing this on my tests for it to sink in, but a longer neck should go with a longer stride in First. 

We're not down with a long, stretchy neck for extended gaits. And by "we" I mean, whoever. The dressage gods. Whatever. The point is, Bobby is finding his toe flicking style getting cramped by having to remain in what he thinks is a serious choke hold. So that's something to bear down on. 

His changes, on the other hand, are super fun now.


Because of the jumps in the middle of the ring, I wasn't able to take him across the full diagonal to get them. That made the much harder L-R change uh, scattered to say the least. I'm super slow in my aids for the changes because they're hard for my brain and body to get on the same page about so I really need that whole length to get everything sorted out. Bobby went scooting sideways for that change because who has time to remember straightness in like five strides?

His changes are clean though, and he's no longer getting the least bit frazzled about doing them. All the candy I stuff down his throat for them probably helps. We probably should start doing them down the long sides now. Or down center line. Like, bitch, here are five perfect changes. I mean, I did three tempis once on a school master, so I'm basically a pro. 

LOL, anyway.

good britches. sorry i am your mother.

This morning I was all gung ho for a jump school. I changed the two jumps on the diagonal from the weekend to a teeny vertical and a big X that was higher in the middle than the vertical. Bobby warmed up like a pro, and right away we had that bouncing canter BM drilled us over on Thursday. Instead of trotting the jumps first, I cantered right up to both. Yeah, Bobby was legit perfect. 

I made him transition down to a big, forward trot and then trotted both of them from both directions. Yep. Still perfect. 

Thanks to BM, I'm trusting my horse again, and it's making jumping so much easier. I know that I can half halt him and he'll check himself before he wrecks myself, and I know that when I release that half halt he won't jet off. Good riding is becoming instinctual again: my leg automatically goes on approaching the jump even if I'm staring down the fence in semi-horror. 

i cut my sunday ride short to go for a quick trail ride with B.
BECAUSE I AM A NICE PERSON AND I CAN'T HELP IT.

I cut the jumping off there because why fuck with perfection, and instead made my horse do MOAR dressage work! I wanted to work on the canter to walk transitions because they are straight up sloppy right now.

Yeah, they were still straight up sloppy to the left, but after going around on a circle to the right chanting "Lift and bounce and lift and bounce" out loud to myself, the one in that direction was perf.

I'm finding that as we start to progress to more "advanced" shit, I'm harboring a lot of self doubt about my horse and myself. We did a few turns on the haunches and I was like, "Psh, what a breeze. Moving on." But then one second later I was all, "Why did that feel so easy? Why does this all feel so easy?! I must be doing something wrong!!"

I'll read other blogs, and when someone explains a problem they're having with a certain movement, I automatically try to put that problem on my own horse. If they figure out a way to fix it, I'm just like, "Thank god they figured it out. Now I'm going to have to do the same thing."

Like, what. That doesn't even make any sense! Just because someone else is struggling with the same thing we're working on does not necessarily mean Bobby isn't doing his own shit right. Get your shit together, Self. Give yourself some credit.

this is the face of a god damned champion after all.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Training Ride/Lesson/Did we just jump shit?

Usually Thursdays roll around and I'm super excited for BM to get on Bobby and make him jump the jumps like a sane-ish horse. Today, however, I was kind of jealous she got to ride my horse. I gave him a dressage school Monday, but other than that, I hadn't done more than sat on him and frolicked in the snow in more than a week. I'd turned fifteen horses out in two feet of fresh snow one by one after carrying out hay and water buckets to five different paddocks the day before, so I really should have been thankful that I was able to move someone else was going to have to use copious leg muscles to get my horse forward.

but it was so pretty!

In the end I did get to ride my horse after all, and I absolutely had a little cry about how weak I was. But then so did BM and Bobby. Tired kids unite, yo.

Today's jumping was super easy in theory. There were only two cross rails, one on each side of the ring. The goal was to get some flow going. Go forward, Bobby, and jump the jumps from a normal distance at a normal pace!

I warmed Bobby up on the flat since BM was still feeling crippled from digging the barn out all day Tuesday, and then she was able to get on and get right to work over fences.

They started off on the right lead which is currently the stronger lead for him (I know. What fucking sorcery is this?), and he really didn't do too much wrong. He was a bit on the forehand the first couple jumps, but quickly got his shit together and went to work. Pretty quickly they changed directions and went to the left.

We've been dealing with Bobby wanting to always land on the right lead, especially when he gets tired and wants to default to his stronger lead (Sorcery!). Today he was consistently landing on the left lead after every single jump. BM was working hard on creating more bounce in his canter--activating those hind legs, lifting the front end, and adding some jump to his otherwise flat striding.

He was doing so good, she soon got off and told me to get on him. These were super big cross rails, but they were still just cross rails, so the actual jump itself didn't scare me. My mind did go right to anticipating him charging the jump, or biffing the distance so badly that we crashed again.

aliens spotted! oh, wait. those are just other horses.

BM had us start off at the trot which we did pretty well.

At the canter, we spent some time on a circle recreating the bounciness before heading into the jump. She had me shorten my reins up significantly so my arms weren't having to do so much--just go with the flow and follow him over the fence. She told me to keep a feel of his mouth over the jump and not give him such a generous release. He likes to know you're up there and with him over jumps, and I run the risk of catching him in the mouth on landing if he lands in a heap and I've chucked my reins away in the air.

To the left, things went okay. She talked me through every stride leading up to the jump, telling me when to half halt, making sure I then released the half halt, and when to just stop doing anything and let it happen.

To the right, the approach down one side was really long. I was for sure convinced there was no fucking way in hell this horse was going to come around the corner and canter almost the entire length of the long side without blasting into orbit and hauling ass to the jump.

Um, he did none of the above. He cantered along, took the half halt, and waited until I closed my leg before moving up to the jump. Now that is some fucking sorcery!

BM had to coach me a little more this way because I couldn't quite make myself believe he'd continue being sane. "Now let go of the half halt and sit. Don't panic. Don't panic. Just sit. Good! Awesome! No, now don't let him die on you. Kick him forward! I don't care what lead he's on or if you want him to trot. He can do both of those things by going forward!!"

BM is the best for crazy me and my crazy horse.

She hopped back on him to take him over a little Swedish oxer a few times, but the britches was tired and wasn't nailing it. We let him be done anyway because dealing with that snow made the whole barn comatose today.

when the snow's so deep you don't even want to walk all the way to your hay.

We talked about looking into getting his hocks done this spring. He's not old, but he has such shit conformation behind and he's being asked to sit on his butt ten thousand times more with the work we're doing both on the flat and over fences that a little juice might make his life easier. We'll see what the vet says when she comes out for vaccines.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

WW: Snow Pones

yesterday morning BM texted me and said,
"do not come out here we r all going to diieee."

which turned out to be the 2nd largest snowfall in rochester.
which turned into an awesome trail ride this morning. 

ponies still had to go out today, so the mule beast got to work breaking trail to the gates

come along, mule beast. much work to do.

"SNACKZ FIRST."

"love snackz."

"DID SNOW JUST FALL OFF THAT TRAILER?!
WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE."

warm enough for this large male moose to be naked for awhile.

"i'd come beg for moar snackz, but i cannot move."

a haffie in blinkers and a pony the size of my dog. not such a bad morning. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Book Review: Learn to Ride Using Sports Psychology

Okay, first of all, right?! Is this book not titled specifically for me?

Answer: DUH. Yes it is.

If you guys have been following this blog for approximately three posts, you'll know that after I had a non-falling crash that gave me a concussion, my confidence went right down the shitter over fences. Raised ground pole? Yeah, no. Fuck that. I've regained some of my chops over very tiny fences thanks to some serious schooling sessions on Bobby from BM that have rendered him moderately more rideable when faced with striped sticks, but I am a grand champion at getting in my own head.

A couple weeks ago while I was putting my stuff away after a ride, Hubby was perusing the bookshelf in the tack room and pulled this book. Flipping through it, he showed me this picture:


And was like, "Look! This is exactly what you need to do with jumping." So I took the book home in hopes that it would cure all my riding with an injured brain (and not just physically) problems.

The Specs:

Title: Learn to Ride Using Sports Psychology
Authors: Petra and Wolfgang Holzel
Buy Me: Found on Amazon for a whopping $0.15 used.
Other Shit: This book was published in 1996 by German trainers/husband and wife pair.


The book is eight chapters, and each chapter is broken down into several specific, linear parts. For instance, the chapter on jumping is set out like so:

  • Riding in the light or half seat:
    • Aim: Why you're doing what you're being told to do.
    • Method of learning: How to psychologically get prepared to go into learning this new thing. Usually it's "Take a private!"
    • Suggestions for the instructor: This book is not just for the feeble minded beginner or learning rider. It also targets trainers and how they should approach these feeble minded riders.
  • Jumping:
    • Same bullets as before
  • Tips for dealing with any problems which may arise:
    • I actually really like this break down. It gives you a few common scenarios (My horse is rushing, I'm getting left behind and catching my horse in the mouth, etc.) and then breaks down what might be going wrong and how you can change what you're doing to fix it.
  • Suggestions for the instructor:
    • How to troubleshoot any problems your feeble minded rider(s) might be experiencing. 
it also has some excellent drawings.
salsa dancing, guitar playing, and ball fondling anyone?

The book is all bullet points, and I read it from start to finish pretty easily. Scattered throughout are Important Tips and Instructor's Tips. There are a few chapters aimed at beginner-beginners--those who have never taken a riding lesson before in their lives--which weren't particularly useful or enthralling to me, but they were a good brush up on the absolute basics that would certainly be helpful for someone in that position. 


As far as the psychological aspect that this book touts, I'm not really sure I bought into it. The main concept was to visualize every aspect of what exercise you're working on--really break it down by each step and memorize how it felt to ride the movement correctly until it's so ingrained in your head that you do it automatically and stop psyching yourself out over it.

They call it "self talk", and you're supposed to work with your trainer to come up with code words to remind yourself of how to ride the movements correctly. When in doubt, go through your self talk to remember not only your aids, but also that you are a relaxed, in-control person and not a total fucking spaz. The self talk will make it easier to put these positive affirmations into action.

It's a good theory for sure, but not one that I think will do anything for me. I'm very into positive visualization leading up to a show, and I absolutely obsess over every step my horse is going to take in a dressage test or jumping round. I don't picture run outs, spooking, or stops. So far it hasn't helped me much, but I will certainly be testing some of these breathing and relaxation techniques.

perhaps i need to be more relaxed in my face?
oh, wait. i'm too freaked out by this picture.
 All of that said, I was able to pull some good tid-bits out that apply to myself.

  • "I will tell myself what I can do, and what I intend to learn. I will not tell myself what I cannot do." Have some self confidence and don't be afraid to talk yourself up. You should be proud of your accomplishments and not drag yourself down for your mistakes. 
  • "I will not let myself be put off or 'psyched out' by other people! It is for me and my instructor to judge what is good for me." Don't get distracted by how other people are warming up at shows. If you have a good routine at home, don't change it. Stay focused, stay relaxed, and stay positive.
  • "Fear is not only a risk factor in itself. It can also paralyze you and persistently block the learning processes, because it monopolizes your concentration and energy." Particularly relevant for me right now with my jumping fears. 
  • "At the FIRST SIGN OF LOSS OF IMPULSION, however slight, immediately RIDE YOUR HORSE FORWARD AGAIN ON A STRAIGHT LINE." Their caps and bolding, and rightly so. This is basically the summation of every one of my ride recaps. Go forward!!!
  • "Do no stop until your horse is going the same way as you would like him to between the jumps." BM? Is that you? Land from the jump and make your horse get his shit together and keep cantering like a trained animal. In the problem solving section of this same chapter, it also goes on to say (among other good things), "Turn on to the circle, get the horse under control, and come back to the trot only when the canter is right."
  • "Tell yourself: I will stop at the 'last jump but one'." Basically, end on a good note and don't push yourself past your comfort zone to the point where it becomes unsafe. 
Would I recommend this book? For fifteen cents, fuck yeah I would. Even though it might not be the right brain training for me, that doesn't mean someone else wouldn't benefit from these methods. On top of that, there really was a lot of good morsels of information to be picked out, and there's no such thing as too many positive affirmations!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Appreciation

Yesterday afternoon, Hubby and I stopped in to the barn on our way to lunch to get some snow pony pictures. Like everywhere else on the East Coast, it was fucking frigid all weekend with howling winds and several inches of fresh snow, so no real riding was getting done. The horses hadn't been outside in almost a week and were operating on a couple hours of indoor turnout time a day.

a high of 4* on sunday. totes warm. 

I pulled Bobby away from his hay net and debated about whether I should put the neck strap on him and ride him bridleless or just clip a couple lead ropes to his halter. I finally decided to go the lead rope route because the neck strap is short, and I didn't want it interfering with his high neck blanket.

I led him out to the front pasture where he gets turned out and attempted to scramble onto his super tall back from a tree stump. He stood like a rock watching BO's dog frolic around the parking lot as I bounced up and down and eventually hung limply off his side, laughing too hard to make it all the way up. He patiently repositioned himself so Hubby could give my ass a shove and I could gracelessly climb the rest of the way onto him.

he never looks big until you have to heft your giant ass over him from the ground.

nope. still too giant.

We walked out to the front of the field after carefully navigating the frozen mud ruts by the gate, stopped to pose for a few pictures, and then made a lap to see how the footing was. Bobby ignored the cars whizzing past and me constantly adjusting my grip of the weirdly long lead rope in my left hand.

Hubby finally caught up to us, so I sent Bobby off at the canter to get some fun pictures. He stepped off the second I cued him, and I immediately thought to myself, "Hot damn, my horse is so fucking comfortable to canter."

the best way to play in fresh snow

Bareback, sitting on top of two blankets, steering with nothing but a couple of awkward to hold lead ropes, I was able to send my horse wherever I wanted at whatever gait I wanted. It never crossed my mind at any point that my horse might spook, or run off, or not do exactly what I asked.

the lead ropes weren't exactly the best way to go either. i need some clip on reins.

We did a lap of canter each direction before I pulled him up to a halt in front of Hubby, dropped my "reins" and stuffed some candy into his face. He mugged Hubby for cookies, buried his face in the snow a few times, found it in himself to tolerate my head rubs, and then calmly strolled back to the barn while ignoring the giant German Shepherd weaving around his hind legs.

"snacks for me?"

"stop touching me, lady."

This morning I had a great dressage ride. My horse came out light and forward with a brain ready to do work. It wasn't a flawless school, but at no point did Bobby lose his shit when we ran into a problem and I had to troubleshoot the answer.

I left him standing ground tied in the aisle on our way out to his paddock while I cleaned up my tack trunk so I wouldn't have to walk all the way back to the tack room once he was out. He amused himself by digging through the trash can until I was ready to go. An extra horse got added to his turnout, and even though Bobby's never met this horse before, all he did was look over at him before diving into his hay pile.


This is not an easy horse to ride. He's not attractive to look at. He grinds his teeth on the ground when you try to be his friend, and he loves to make demon faces at you unless you're holding food. We're not a match made in heaven, and he's not my heart horse, but this weekend I was able to appreciate the horse I have.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Winter? Is that you?

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

nope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"uh, excuse me?"

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

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

waiting patiently for jumps to be set.

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

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

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

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

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

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

go forth and lengthen, brave stallion!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Schooling Second

On Tuesday, I brought a couple of freshly printed and laminated tests to the barn to play with whenever I had the ring to myself. BM told me I probably had enough time to get in before she had to teach CLL, so I pulled the top test off my pile to work through. My selection was super planned out because I am such a good planner.

Well, whatever.

I'd grabbed 2-2 which I read through briefly as I waited for BM to finish dragging the ring, then plopped it on a standard to get to after we warmed up. Bobby was a complete idiot right off the bat. It was a cool 35*, but nice and sunny and the doors to the indoor were wide open which they haven't been in ages. SO MANY THINGS TO LOOK AT!!!!!

I struggled to get Bobby doing any real flat work period, let alone a good warm up for a second level test, and then BM dropped a box inside the door of the ring and Bobby was like, "WHAT IS THAT WHAT ARE BOXES PEOPLE LOUD NOISES NEVER SEEN ANYTHING BEFORE EVARRRR."

So we took a time out and investigated the box which was very scary. Then BM opened the very scary box and showed him that it contained a bag of shit to put on the footing to keep the dust down, but the giant crinkly white bag wasn't scary at all. Neither was the push along spreader that it went into. Priorities. Boxes are deadly, nothing else is.

"judge away, cookie lady. judge away."

I tried once again to get his brain focused, but then CLL brought Ralph in for her lesson which set off his pasture mate screaming for his lost love, and it was not happening. I got off and excavated my tack trunk contents to pull out my draw reins. Judge away, bitches. I never have to actually use them. The second they go on (to the sides of the girth), Bobby smartens right up. Every time I passed the mirror, I realized I'd let them slide through my fingers again and they were flapping five feet to the sides of my horse and I'd have to quickly shorten them up again enough so that they weren't a safety hazard. Not actually engaged, but they trick the baby Bobby brain into engagement!

The second I got back on, Bobby was one hundred percent focused and ready to work. BM was like, "I don't understand how he's now more uphill and lifting with those on." Because he doesn't get worked with them, but he knows they carry a threat and it's better to just do your shit right.

i'm awful about getting pictures lately. here's one non-fb friends haven't seen yet.
i call it "bobby the jumping horse."

At that point our real warm up began, and once more at the canter we visited the changes. He was sloppy both directions the first time around, but I just kept sending him forward and making my cues very loud and precise. He slipped right over R-L. When going the other direction, I asked right as we passed poor Ralph, and Bobby snaked out his head and pinned his ears like he was going to eat Ralphie, but the very next stride changed right over. Naughty bastard. He got his pats and candy anyway.

I finally picked up my tests and walked through it on horseback. My impression is that it's filled with a lot of tricks and a fuck load of counter cantering, but I guess you're actually required to show you know how to do things besides going in a circle past First. Hrmph.

It's been a loooong time since we rode through a dressage test all in one go, and I'd forgotten how quickly you need to make adjustments before the next movement is on you.

Plus I have this horse who's memorized every dressage test he's ever performed. I swear on my life, if Bobby could speak English, he would be able to tell you every single move of every single test in perfect order. We've been running through tests before and I blank and forget where to go next, and Bobby just turns on his own and carries on. It's uncanny.

It can also get a little annoying when you're trying to teach him new tests, because until he memorizes the new one, he tries to figure out which test we're running through so he can do the movements. He was convinced the second I picked up my reins off the short free walk to medium walk that we were doing one of the eventing Training tests which meant he cantered in between A and F. We worked really hard on smoothing that movement out, so he was gung-ho to show me he knew it now. Only, in 2-2, you come around the corner and go into shoulder in, not canter.

The whole first run through was a little rushed and sloppy as expected. He got a tense and short in the counter canter anticipating doing the changes, but he held his lead like a good pony. I also couldn't get him to trot the fuck off from his first halt. Like I said, it's been a long time since we've done a dressage test.

We schooled the halt to trot until he was sharp off my leg, and then came around and did the whole thing again. Everything went much smoother this time around, especially a far more relaxed counter canter, though I'm still a little confused about the geometry of the loopy S shaped thingy going across the ring from shoulder in to travers/renvers.

Lindsey's post really resonated with me after this ride. Bobby has unlocked a whole new working trot that's an absolute blast to ride, and I know it's going to really elevate us to a new level in any of our tests. Obviously he's the one performing it, but I have to remind myself that I'm the one that taught it to him, and I'm the one that took him through the steps to getting to where he's at now. I making my horse a little bit fancier by the day. Go, me.

working on that canter since eighteen months.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Pace

Apparently it doesn't matter if we actually do dressage on Wednesdays, I'm going to blog about it on this day anyway. Maybe if I was more efficient about putting out jumping recaps same-day, I'd pull out of this cycle.

Not that there's anything wrong with dressage on Wednesdays.

And speaking of efficient, Crazy Longe Lady told me I was super efficient yesterday. "You never look like you're going fast, but you're always so efficient with how you move around the barn!" Listen, Crazy Longe Lady, it's called not being a total fucking nut bag. That's my fucking secret. Now get your bat shit crazy self out of the ring while I try to ride my dressage tests.

stealing crazy longe lady's horse's hay. 

Moving on.

On Monday, I knew I wanted start working on cleaning up Bobby's changes during every dressage school. Do I plan on showing Third this year? Bitch, please. However, I'd like to get them smoothed out so they're more acceptable while we're trapped inside doing nothing else particularly exciting this winter, and then much further down the line I won't have to worry about them. Plus it gives me something to do when I'm finding riding around on the flat a little bit boring.

So after warming Bobby up, I took him across the diagonal and asked for the R-L first since he's pretty automatic that direction. Instead, he completely ignored me and continued cantering on the right lead. To be fair, I did keep correcting him after the last time we were counter cantering about switching over.

But to actually break it down, while I knew I needed to get him moving forward, I wasn't getting him forward enough. He got a little frazzled when he failed to get the L-R, so we took a break and schooled the half pass a little bit. We only started learning that last year, and then abandoned it when Bobby got hurt over the summer, so while he technically does it, it's not particularly pretty. Add it to the list of fun things to work on!

look how excited he is to learn stuff!

I interspersed some stretchy trot in with working a little more collected and doing some rein backs before coming back to the canter. This time around, Bobby had way more umph in his step. I still felt like I had to lift him up with my legs and heft his ass over into the R-L change, but he got it cleanly. For the L-R--always his worse direction--he was actually moving even more forward and that change was an absolute breeze. I heaped the praise on him as we took a walk break and snuck him some candy.

Just like in jumping, I have to force myself to be more aware of my pace. Collected work does not mean slow work. He's got to be super engaged and active to nail these movements, and it's on me to manage that. He's more than happy to jog along for me if that's what I want, but he'll also step out if I just ask for it.

Of course, then we went back to the trot afterwards to get some muscle conditioning in on that uphill carriage, and we pretty much just plunked along until Bobby spooked at BM walking into the ring. That woke both of us up and he went back to work with a lot more forward to his trot which naturally made it that much better. We finished with some A+ stretchy trot.

i was admiring how sexy his topline is getting and i thought, "surely this must carry over
to pictures because you are soooo muscly right now!" it didn't. obviously. #bobbyproblems

I was going to make this one long dressage post, but it was getting really long, so I'm going to break it into two parts. MOAR BORING DRESSAGE RECAPS!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Being all brave and shit.

I managed to get Hubby to come out to the barn with me Saturday by sneaking it into the middle of a full morning of running other errands.

And by errands I mean just eating a lot of food. So. Much. Food.

i bought a purple shimmable half pad. so much love.

I wanted him out there so I could run through a heavy-on-the-ground-poles grid that is obviously easier to manage when you have a person on foot to adjust things as you progress. When we pulled in, there was one person in the ring finishing up their ride, and I knew they'd be done by the time I got Bobby groomed and tacked up.

Then, from her horse's stall, I hear the barn's residential crazy lady ask if I was going to jump. I told her I was. She asked if she'd be getting in my way if she longed her horse at the same time. Well, yes, Longe Lady, you would be, but if you get your crazy ass around and go in the ring right now, you won't be in my way. To which she said, "But there's a horse in the ring right now."

.................

Because I won't be in the ring when you longe with me in the ring?

Wait.

What?!

Bobby and I ended up stuffed onto a twenty-ish meter circle to do w/t/c while we waited for her to finish longeing. Only she didn't finish. She just kept going. So I finally got off, loosened Bobby's girth, unbuckled his breastplate, pulled off my helmet, and told Hubby we were done since I didn't have access to the rest of the fucking ring.

i even waited around and took some bobby pictures.

At which point Longe Lady stopped longeing and left the ring. Obviously then I handed Bobby over to Hubby and ran down the aisle to strangle her crazy ass. I would have maybe gotten back on (but maybe not because I was so fucking annoyed at that point), but then BM had a lesson getting ready to come in. I opted to cut my losses and try again the next day.

Fortunately, when we rolled in bright and early Sunday morning, the only other person there was B feeding and turning out so I had the ring to myself.

I set back up my one stride ground pole extravaganza: pole, 9', pole, 9', pole, 9', pole, 9', pole. I added in an X on the diagonal just off the rail to warm up for when I raised the "jumps" in my grid.

I have so many videos thanks to Hubby playing with the slo mo on his phone while simultaneously videoing on my camera (he has to do something to amuse himself), and Bobby really just went around and did his job (!!!!), that I'm going to media dump on your asses.

Prepare!

I'm too lazy to upload the start of the grid where it was just poles, and then one vertical, so let's fast forward all the way to two (itty bitty baby) verticals:


And in slo mo:


Fascinating stuff, I know! Let's make it even more exciting by going through the progression of the X. From the very first time, trotting up to it:


And then cantering it:


And then slowly cantering it:


Okay, this game is boring me already. But we did one more exciting thing. I jumped my first "big" vertical on Bobby again!


It was only 2'3", but since I was riding my horse to a stop in front of a 1' (yes, that is one foot) vertical just a couple weeks ago, I felt like a champion. And look at the britches. No bit snatching full fury charge ahead that ends with a stutter step at the base of the fence and a rocket propelled launch over to the other side. Plus I cantered up to it the very first time, kept my leg on, released my half halt, and gave him a nice, soft rein over the jump.

AND THEN I DID IT AGAIN!

But I'm not uploading that video because he drifts so far to the right over the jump that it's awkward and ugly. I think I turned him off the rail too late, and then didn't have the brain power to really shove him back over with my outside leg. He drifts right anyway, so coupled with a not-straight approach pretty much did us in. Oh, well.

To end on a good note, I had Hubby drop it back down to an X and we trotted in making sure he was super straight over it (note left rein saying, "Come over here, Bobby!"):


Not the most exciting jump school we've ever had, but for where I'm at right now with my bravery levels, it was awesome. Go, me!