Friday, April 29, 2016

Redheadlins Blog Hop

Bobby was super awful Wednesday, but super good Thursday, so I'm saving that post after I've done some ruminating. In the meantime, I love this blog hop from Redheadlins!


"If your horse was your co-worker what kind of reports would you have to make to the HR department?"

Complaint #1: Bobby shit in the water cooler again.

Complaint #2: Bobby stole my snacks from the fridge. And right off my desk while I was sitting there. Apologize? No. He then proceeded to dribble the crumbs out his mouth all over me.

Complaint #3: Others got to leave work before Bobby did today. He started throwing objects around the office.

Complaint #4: Told Bobby he shouldn't line up the office chairs and treat them as a hurdling course. Pretty sure the whole office is destroyed after that tantrum.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Anxiety

Yesterday I had a flashback panic attack about jumping relatively harmless wooden sticks. Remember when I was going to puke off the side of my horse when confronted with what was essentially a raised ground pole? If you don't, that's fine. I remember it enough for all of us.

Yesterday was cold and rainy/snowy and windy. I was tired, crampy, and had just dumped half a bucket of soaked alfalfa cubes down my vest (horses are so glamorous), and my desire to ride was nil. But I was already at the barn so I figured I'd give both Bobby and myself a break over the semantics of dressage and pop over a couple little fences in the indoor.

last naked turnout day for awhile.
where are you, spring?

My oxer from last week (that was 2'9" and I jumped without a second thought) had been put down to an X at which I left it, and I added a 2'3" vertical on the other diagonal off a short turn out of the corner.

Bobby warmed up really well, especially for being in jump tack which generally means: No flatting, just go fast!  I let him have a quick hand gallop around the ring to get any stupids out before taking a walk break. Short stirrups and I need to get better acquainted. Dressage may be working on ye olde fat roll, but it's not doing much for ye olde galloping position. Maybe if it ever stopped raining/snowing I could take my horse out on trails and do some conditioning work. Just throwing that out there, New York.

I picked our canter back up and made sure Bobby was moving right along coming into the X. We turned in and I blanked. I stared down this harmless 18" cross rail and all I could think was, "I fucking hate jumping." Bobby took a long spot, and since I was sitting in my saddle ramrod straight (BM's yelling over the past few months has been good for me as well as Bobby), all that happened was that I got left behind and had to slip the reins.

Only now I was feeling queasy. Oh, shit. We didn't hit that fence from the perfect distance, death and destruction are sure to follow.

Obviously my solution was to come back with the same approach and see if things magically fixed themselves. Spoiler alert: they didn't.

from last week's good jump school

Despite my completely irrational fear trying to worm it's way even further into my rapidly shrinking lady balls, I reminded myself of the conversation Tracy and I had. Repetition is key. It doesn't matter how small the fences are, if you just keep getting over them, every successful attempt will make you that much braver.

I got Bobby's canter a little more packaged. When we turned in, I remembered my half halt. This jump was teeny tiny. It didn't need a balls to the wall approach. Unsurprisingly, this turned the whole thing around. Bobby took off from the perfect spot and essentially just cantered right over it instead of heaving himself over from ten feet away. Rinse and repeat a few more times with equal success before tackling the vertical.

Our first approach there was atrocious. It came off of a very short turn, Bobby didn't really know what the fuck we were even doing until I'd shoved the jump in his face, but despite sputtering out to a flailing trot, he hopped over anyway. I brought him back to it from a put together trot and he was just fine after that.

From there I wove the X and the vertical together-canter the X, trot the vertical. Bobby was good, so I reversed direction and took the long approach to both fences. Fine for the X, but from the trot to the vertical, Bobby started to go up and down instead wanting to canter. I took a deep breath, put my leg on to send him forward out of the hopping while keeping my fingers closed to let him know "go" did not mean "go really fast run", and he calmly stretched out and cantered the last three strides before quietly popping over the jump.

so clean and shiny he's blinding himself.

Really, the whole ride Bobby didn't do a thing wrong. He was soft and listened to everything I told him to do, even if what I was telling him wasn't the best decision. No stopping, no running, no tantrums. I gave him his due praise each time he packed my ass over a fence from a pukey distance, and we were done after fifteen minutes total ride time.

Even so, I got off feeling sick to my stomach. We were done, nothing bad had happened, and yet I still had this feeling of dread. We've got thirteen long months until the first show of the 2017 eventing season. If cross rails still seem like a death trap at that point, then hey--that makes it twenty five long months until the first show of the 2018 season.

I'm not anticipating that much mental brokenness though. I think once we get to hunter pacing, maybe a couple tiny hunter shows, and we're not being rained/snowed on, my brain will get a little bolder. One jump at a time, right?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Anticipation

After a week spent being a jump jump horse, Bobby got Saturday off (actually he got naked Saturday since he was refusing to let go of his coat) and then went back to his actual job this year of being a fancy prancer Sunday.

Only he wasn't fancying anything about prancing. #throwbackbobby

zoom zoom, bobby says.

He came out very distracted by everything, and so intent on rushing around that even Hubby was like, "What's his deal? Maybe you should have longed him first?" Bobby, you are a grown ass horse. Get over yourself already. It seems like every year I have to reinstall his brain all his buttons once we take this circus out of doors. But really, aside from rampant stupidity, the quality of the work is still in there.


On Sunday, it was cold, he was freshly naked, there was another horse in the ring cantering all over the place, a man was out in the field next to the ring tending to his trees, and I kind of felt like puking my lunch all over my horse's neck. Bobby used all of these excuses to fly his freak flag high.

We ran into our first problem picking up the canter. Apparently not letting him lurch into it was extremely offensive to Bobby, and he pulled the parking brake and got stuck in the middle of the ring for awhile.

"NO. I DON'T LIKE YOUR WAY."
sad story, bobby. 

We got the canter eventually, but when I tried to casually swing across the ring to counter canter, he did a flying change, so I brought him back on the circle and asked him to canter again. That led to a quick run-in with the arena fence, gate, and almost running over Hubby before he deigned to pick it up. Once he got it though, it was perfectly alright.


I pointed out to Hubby how much quicker he was able to move on from his tantrums now--instead of losing the rest of the ride, he's able to throw his little shit fit and then get back to work.

LOL, magic words!

ALERT: CANNOT HORSE TODAY.

I don't exactly remember the order of events, but basically Bobby began to take offense to everything. Literally. Everything.

"HATE THIS WORK THING."

I have long since gotten over being drawn into Bobby tantrums, so I carried on by doing nothing more than putting my spurs into his side until he tantrumed forward and then let him carry on until he got over himself. A lot of times letting him trot it out will reset his brain.

do your thing, bobby.

I let him wheel around the ring for awhile before bringing him back to the walk. From there, I picked up my reins and just sat. Not asking for bend, straightness, didn't care about the speed or track. We're just walking.

"hate walking."
"hate it over here, too."

After trying and failing to nurse a little more trot out of him, I finally gave in and got off to put him on the longe. He cantered like a demon until he got tired and trotted on his own. Then he trotted for a good long while before walking. I took one look at him (having been talking to Hubby the whole time and completely ignoring him) and immediately sent him off in the other direction. He still had crazy eyes, and he spent another ten minutes whipping around at the canter and trot to the right before we were able to call it quits.

video on instagram, but this pretty much sums it up.

Monday morning, I was ready to get back to work. Even though it was cold, windy, and threatening to rain, you bet your balls we marched into the outdoor. Indoor dressage Bobby may be a lot more pleasant, but I have a feeling outdoor Bobby is a lot closer to what I'm going to get at shows so I might as well figure out how to wrangle this drama llama now.

Right from the get-go he wanted to pick a fight about walking. I ignored him and focused on a few positional things I'm working on right now: keeping my hands even--don't pull back with that inside hand and don't let Bobby pull the outside hand forward, or let my right elbow wing off into the distance; straighter, stronger shoulders; and a draping leg--if I need to cue for something, don't lift my thigh.

pulling inside hand. stop that.

Pretty quickly he gave me his good walk, I gave him a good scratch, and off we went to the trot. No problems there, and our canter work was long and uneventful. Some counter canter shapes, a couple simple changes, a couple changes through trot, and lengthening and shortening the stride. All good stuff, and I was able to give him a lot of positive feedback the whole time. 

Then we walked again. Free walk across the diagonal to medium walk--a transition that always needs work. The first one was good, so I let him continue on to the trot and do the lengthened trot to leg yield pattern from 1-2. Good, drama free stuff then back to the walk to do another free walk transition.

without a doubt also my face during these walk transitions.

Holy shit, why would I ask him to do such torturous activities?!

I think the problem here really stemmed from Bobby anticipating that I was going to ask him to do something he didn't like after the walk. What things, I don't know, but better to just throw a tantrum in anticipation than waiting to find out if anything was actually going to go down. Eventually I got him to just walk like a good Christian as Trainer would say, and we were able to end with a halt that did not involve either flinging himself sideways or turning his head to look at me. 

For the first time in a long time, I was feeling pretty defeated after Sunday's ride. It's been awhile since I've just had to completely throw away an entire ride. Monday made me feel a lot better despite Bobby repeatedly getting stuck in corners and trying to sit on the fence. The good work is in there, and he can come back down to earth and refocus. Bobby might be the king of anticipation, but I'm going to trump his shit by being the queen on perseverance. 

i will win this war, mother fucker. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sharing the full Bobby experience

Okay, maybe not the full Bobby experience as my horse was super good on Friday, but Tracy and her husband met up with Riding Bestie (of Dutch Hippo fame) and myself while in the area to get up to some Bobby shenanigans. With an eye on Aimee's contest, we put together an idea for a joint entry, got all our random shit gear together, and headed over to the barn to play ponies.

tracy on bobby and sarah on ralphie. 

I hopped on Bobby in the indoor quickly while BM finished up a lesson in the outdoor so I could see what sort of mood my horse was in. I figured if he decided to be naughty (er, no, Tracy! He is never naughty!) with his aunty on him, it was best if I was prepared for which naughty horse personality we were dealing with. No worries though as he stepped right off without any issues. He was calm and light in the bridle, and after a super quick w/t/c, I popped him over the 2'9" oxer in the ring without him so much as blinking in anticipation. I handed him over to Tracy who walked him around a bit while I giggled at Sarah trying to get Ralph to canter, and then we headed out to the outdoor.

looking awesome!

I was really mean and made Tracy shorten her reins way, way up. Hey, if I've got to torture myself with shorter reins, everybody has to be tortured! Bobby was being quite the heavy, leaning tool, and I was trying to get Tracy to kind of bully him into being nicer to her because he can be a nice fluffy butterfly when he wants to be.

he also thinks the outdoor is the zoomies place no matter who's on him. 

I wish I was better at teaching because while I know Bobby inside and out, I couldn't explain to Tracy how to get that light, fluffy ride out of him. "Don't let him giraffe, shorten your reins, and don't be afraid to have a hold of his mouth." And that was about all I had. It's hard to explain to someone, "Shift your left butt cheek one centimeter and then squeeze with your abs and your right ring finger two seconds apart for eight seconds before releasing." Like, what. Trainers are magic.

Fortunately, Tracy was not here to rock the dressage world and didn't seem to hold it against Sir Racing that he wasn't exactly being cooperative to flat. I dropped the 2'9" course set up in the ring from the lesson to a small X and baby verticals. As we all know, Bobby is not exactly a packer when it comes to jumping, and I was in no way going to be responsible for putting any dings in this brave lady's confidence.

"ermahgerd, i'm jumping this jump."

I've got to give Tracy a ton of credit for her lady balls. Getting onto a horse she's never met before, but with a history she knows (and, you know, is not exactly a most pleasant one), and agreeing to canter around on him over jumps--I don't care what size they were--takes some serious bravery. And! Bobby was totally, completely, one hundred percent quiet for her! Dudes, he's not even quiet for me!

i wouldn't have been jumping that vertical from a canter on a new horse. fuck no

With the success of Bobby being sane, Tracy being awesome, and Ralphie actually picking up his feet to jump:

admit you just died of cuteness overload.

...we got the ponies stripped and gathered up our stuff for the contest. Our idea was to turn Bobby into a frat boy--popped collar, douchey shorts, equally douchey short tie, hipster glasses, and a mustache (obviously)--while we were going to be his sorority bitches in our college gear. There was much debate about how to best attach a pair of shorts to Bobby who was, I have to point out, not at all pleased with his mustache, and then we had to have Tracy's husband google sorority poses for us (shout out to Sam for being a proper Horse Husband and putting up with all of this without a word of complaint), but finally we put our coats on and got to work.

booty pop and duck face. how sorority can you get?
we are so classy.

bobby really loved tracy

We finished off with Tracy and Sarah being the worst horse girls ever and not buying anything at the weird lady's tack store before stuffing our faces at Red Robin. Sarah and I got in the car to leave the restaurant, and we were both like, "Okay, well, she's amazing!" We had a blast hanging out, bemoaning our shared weenie statuses, swearing, and reveling in the glory that is dressing Bobby in silly outfits.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Canter Work

Bobby's canter deserves its own post because it's been so erratic lately. Some days he is a good horse, some days he is not a horse at all but a strange ten legged creature that just emerged from the womb and isn't sure what to do with his mile-long appendages except fling them in all different directions.


I've started referring to the bad canter as "tension lameness". When he gets tense, he gets very, very tight in his lower back to the point where he's not able to come all the way through with his hind legs. As a result, his stride gets even shorter than it already naturally is and his canter turns into a hoppy, braced disaster.

If he wasn't already receiving regular chiro work, I'd be all over that as an excuse. I really liked this quote from Austen's clinic write up: "You can pay for as many chiro adjustments as you want, but at some point you both (horse and rider) gotta sweat. Otherwise no one will get trained." That is exactly the same conclusion BM and I have come to, so instead of babying him along and making excuses, I've been experimenting to try to find things that make a Bobby canter happy.


Things are rarely the same from one day to the next with this horse. What might have worked to troubleshoot a problem yesterday won't even come into play today. You're forced to constantly evaluate your game plans, and if something doesn't click, you have to move on to something else. Who needs to school different horses every day when you've already got ten of them locked into the brain of the one you own?

On the day I rode him in his hackamore, we played over a single pole running parallel to the long side of the ring. I kept him circling over it coming in from all directions and angles, sometimes holding the lead, sometimes switching over the pole. He was so focused on what he was supposed to be doing that he forgot to be tense. I tried the same exercise yesterday--it was a mess and I quit.


A lot of times doing a little shoulder fore down the long side can unlock him. Some days he can't come off the circle without losing his shit. Long reins and just let him move out? Maybe on a Tuesday. Collect him up and force him to use himself? Might work on Saturday, but certainly not a Monday.

The one constant is that he's always better after a lot of trot work. No surprise there as the more he trots, the more engaged and connected he becomes and the easier sitting while simultaneously loosening his hind end is. On days where he comes out ready to work, he's on the ball from step one, his head is in a good place, and there's no tension in any of the trot work, he flows right into the canter like butter.


I'm working on a new method of attack currently. He loses his shoulders, dives in on turns, loses his balance, compensates by swapping behind with a little hitchy buck step, and then gets tense because he's unbalanced. I hate the hitchy buck step.

Yesterday my hate came to head as I corrected the lead instead of letting him continue on to a jump and he lost his shit and threw a tantrum. Well, boo fucking hoo, Bobby. Unable to get his brain back enough to make jumping worth it, I took him out to the outdoor and made his ass go. Just GO AND CANTER, BOBBY. If I felt the hitchy buck step, I stopped him, backed him a few steps, and sent him off again.

First of all, very good boy for taking the correction instead of flipping over backwards. That was a win. Secondly, by the end of all this, he was cantering around round and forward and balanced. Suck it, bro. I win.


I went into today's ride with the same plan. I set up a simple X with kicked out ground lines along the long side of the ring in the outdoor. After a few calm halt, back up, scratchies for good pony, and back to trot transitions to lighten him up, I cued the canter. No swapping to be seen on the circle or down the long sides, but when I turned into the jump, if I didn't have his shoulders way up and his body straight, out came the swap.

I kept my mind super zen and my corrections super relaxed. Wrong answer Bobby, but it's fine. Let's get the correct lead back and fix the body alignment issue. No big deal, pony pants. Shoulders up, ride the turn more square, half halt to keep the canter balanced as we come to the jump, perfect distance because of all that preparation, and another halt for some candy and a pat. Rinse and repeat.

He was pretty snorty in his canter which is one of his anxiety ticks, and he was sweating like a mad man--another sign of tension--but outwardly he stayed so chill. He took the corrections and only once got a little flustered and tried to run sideways. I just pushed the reins at him and kept my leg wrapped around him until he went forward again and we both carried on like it hadn't even happened. I was even able to go out and repeat this same work in one of the fields and pop over a cross country jump a few times.


I'm not saying this is the magic formula, but so long as he keeps his brain firmly (or even loosely) planted in his head, there's something for me to work with. If he can take a correction, move on from the mistake, and try to do what I'm asking, we're going to be in good shape here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

TRM Blog Hop: Honest Sale Ad

Cathryn has another great blog hop going that I hope gains a lot of traction because I feel like it has the potential to show all of our horses in the best possible light.

Only not.

Which should make it even better.

Without further ado, I bring to you....

Bobby Magee

wow! such presence!

This is an eleven year old gelding that I was recently told looks much older when aged from his teeth. Fortunately, he still has all of them so ignore anything that might imply.

He's a Thoroughbred who I have known his entire life. I can tell you the whole history on this horse! I can also tell you he hasn't lost his baby fixation with putting things in his mouth or carrying his feed tub around with him.

He's not very tidy in his stall, but he loves to be outside. Only don't leave him out there all the time. Bobby requires a least a few inside hours each day to find the choicest spot of pee and take a nap in it. He also needs a bit of a reprieve from his turnout buddies. Even when pastured with the gentlest, most geriatric cripples, he will find a way to get chewed on and chased away from food.

"zomg, the horse is after me, go away horse."

Bobby will ground tie for eternity anywhere you park him...unless there's something else he'd rather be doing...like leaving. 

He finds stationary vehicles deeply disturbing, but will self load onto any trailer. Although please do not drive your truck by the arena while he is in it. He finds that deeply offensive.

Use only your jankiest, oldest, most decrepit horse supplies because he will not acknowledge or appreciate anything expensive you buy him. Don't worry. You can spend all that money you saved on hipster items keeping him in applesauce for the rest of his life. He won't eat his food unless you mix it in.

"applesauce all the time, please."

He does not bite or kick although the awful, horrible faces he will make at you while you brush him might lead you to believe otherwise.

He has no vices unless you count peeing in the aisleway after every ride a vice. And then he does. And it is an unbreakable habit I'm afraid.

Bobby is just now learning to pose, mostly because it's spring and the grass is coming in so he's often caught looking for ways to escape you and go eat.

such drama.

If you want a very large, mostly friendly, endlessly patient while being dressed for photo opportunities, and surprisingly sound pet for you or your children, this is the horse for you!

If you're looking for a riding horse, I'd look elsewhere.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Go forth and do

I've taken my long winded bitch fest inspired from my riding a week ago Sunday and have decided to reword and rework it. I'm glad I sat on it for so long because it really was a lot of unfounded whining, and that's not the person I want to be. As the week dragged on and I read other blogs, I kept getting...I don't know if inspired is the right word, but there were several posts out there that really struck a cord with me. Allison's post on mental toughness. Louisa's post on being true to yourself and getting rid of the negativity in your life.

I'm constantly drawing strength and wisdom from the horse blogging community. I want my posts about my journey with Bobby to help someone out even in a small way even if you're just laughing because oh my god Bobby, what even are you doing. I don't want to be the person always begging for my hand to be held or fishing for compliments.

You don't need to tell me I'm a good rider or that Bobby is a talented horse. While everyone has their insecurities and doubt can creep in, I know those things.

willing to pose with the mule when he's been good.

However, like any horse and rider, there are plenty of things for us to work on. I have to self-police my riding most of the time, and my blog is a great way to keep track of those things. So instead of bitching (always a little bit of bitching), I'm going to share some of my Emma level amounts of media and layout what Sir Robert and I are working on right now.

Last weekend, I shared the ring with B on the baby green horse. I've written about B before and how she keeps a steady stream of chatter going while riding. I made a point to tune everything out and really stay focused. I've been playing around with a lot of different warm up variables as I try to figure out what Bobby likes best when he's tense, when he's half asleep, or when he wants to be ridden up into collected work from the first step.

At the walk, he's really gotten a lot better about not flinging his head around and waiting for you to take the bait and pull on him so he can pull back. I've been trying to live by Trainer's rule to "Sit for what you want" and ask for a medium walk with my seat before doing anything with my reins.

such a hunk right now.

I've always admired Jen's posts because of how she can break down every muscle and body part she's working. That sort of attention to detail and body awareness is pretty much out of my scope, but as I sloooowwwwllyyy start working out again, I've started to realize something.

Yo. Baby's got (a) back.

And it's a separate part of my body from my seat. Well, hmm. I remember Trainer telling me that when Bobby felt heavy, I needed to be stronger in my back, and I was basically like, "Okay, so just stop pulling, Carly. The answer to everything." But now, months and months later, I get it. I can control things if I engage my back muscles. Whaaat.

But. I've actually been focusing on riding off my seat and core and back maybe a little too much.


As you can see in the above very blurry indoor video from a week ago, I'm doing all this while letting my reins get way too long. I had let myself play into "Long reins are being nice! Short reins make Bobby angry. No more reins evarrr!" Of course that's not right, and when I got done watching those videos back, I was kind of like, what the fuck is happening there, Carly?


It's hard to keep your hands down and your horse connected properly to the bit when you have sixty feet of rein in front of you doing absolutely nothing but getting in your way.

So I went back out in my next ride and worked on gathering up my reins to what felt like a stranglehold, but in the mirror proved to be maybe even a titch too long still. Did Bobby get angry? No. Bobby didn't give a shit.

With my vastly shorter reins, I still made sure I incorporated the other parts of my body. If I felt like one of us was starting to pull, I didn't throw my reins away. I softened my arms and tightened the flabby bits in the middle of my body. What did I discover? Um, well, turns out there's way less pulling with shorter reins than there is with long reins. He needs a place to come up to when he responds to my seat; I'm not doing him any favors by floating the bit at him.

not freaking out because i have contact. not surprising. d'oh! 

I think I'm going to make the canter its own post because holy fuck balls has that been a process. This is also getting really long, but I want to include videos from yesterday's ride to compare to the other ones.


Bobby was in a "If you do not sit on me, I cannot bring my magical pieces together" sort of mood, so I warmed him up in sitting trot right from the get go. Making myself adapt to the horse I bring out every morning instead of what I rode the day before (oh hey Megan's post) has made our rides move along so much quicker.

While my reins can probably be even shorter (noooooo! so hard!), I'm okay with this as the very first go-round in trot. As we kept going, he started bringing himself up a little more, and I started asking for a little more forward.


His canter was great, and after I let him have a little walk and stretchy trot break, I wanted to play around with his mediums. Nothing is more fun to get pictures of than a blasting ass trot, amirite?

basically i just sit there and giggle like a child while trying not to fall off

and bobby tolerates it because bobby likes to go fast.

My right arm has most definitely decided to go rogue again just when I thought I'd corralled the bitch:


Still. How cool is my horse for being able to do these things with me as his sole fancy prancer instructor?


The answer is obviously very cool.

My to do list for things to start really buckling down on:

  • Quiet my hands. 
  • Lower my hands.
  • Consistently shorter rein length.
  • Bring my leg back a bit more.
  • And all of those things will be so easy peasy once I strengthen the flabby middle region. Sit up boot camp anyone? This biking shit needs some reinforcements in the work out department. 


Friday, April 15, 2016

Crouching Bobby, Bobby Dragon

I was going to make the title "Crouching Bobby, Hidden Dragon", but ain't no hiding some Bobby Feelings.

Also, this is not my boo hoo post. That's still sitting un-touched in my draft folder waiting to be unleashed should I see fit.

Today let's quickly talk halts. After a good jump school under BM yesterday, I brought Bobby out for yet another flat ride with myself. I finished my last of three show entries for the moment overnight, and I couldn't remember a single step of 1-2 besides something involving a leg yield, so I figured I better run through that.

waiting for BM yesterday

I also feel like there are not enough days to do all the things I want to do. I want to jump my horse, too. However, he probably still needs his BM tune-up and undoubtedly a day off each week. MOAR DAYS, PLZ.

Anyway, halting. So fucking scatterbrained lately.

the king of conformation shot posing.

We come up center line for the first halt in the test which is at X which is parallel to our mirror on the wall. Bobby halts. He's square and--for once--straight instead of whipping those haunches to the left like he likes to do. What he's not anymore is connected to the bit. His head is in the air, and he's starting to tilt it to eye me up.

This is not a new problem. Bobby is very expressive in all his feelings, and he's patented The Look.

"I think you're an idiot."
"I do not want to do this."
"I am going to throw a giant tantrum if you ask me again to do what I don't want to do."
"Why are we standing here instead of doing fun things?"

This doesn't fly in dressage tests. "Unfocused" is a comment we've received before during our first halts. Our final halts have rarely scored below an 8, but who has time for first halts? Let's go do the thing so we can be done, Bobby says.

So I was like, "Let's work on halts before we tackle this test, Bobby!"

And Bobby was like, "Let's go fuck yourself."

My first approach was to ask him to halt, and if he threw his head/neck up, I immediately made him go back to the walk. Not the right answer, Bobby. No halties for you.

The problem with this tactic was Bobby very much hates to be wrong. Those quick w-t-w-h-t-c-t transitions send his brain into orbit every time. "You told me to do the thing and I did it why are you now telling me to do something else acknowledge I did the right thing right not that I did something wrong you are wrong I hate you!!!!"

possibly just looking for cookies.
or a nap.

This quickly spiraled out of control and Bobby would fling himself violently into the support beams of the ring (his favorite thing to do in this arena) any time I asked him to do anything besides walk on a loose rein.

So I quickly put the kibosh on that and tried Plan B. Always have a Plan B with Bobby! I asked him to halt. He anticipated me telling him he was wrong and to go forward so he had a melt down. I said, "Just halt, Bobby. Just stand here and bask in the glory of a halt."

He thought about it, stopped moving his feet and trying to sit down (another favorite move), and then took a deep breath and relaxed a little. Yay, Bobby! Thinking things through!!! I squeezed my fingers on the reins with half an ounce of pressure and he quietly dropped his head. I gave him lots and lots of scratches while I told him what a genius he was before giving him a cookie and trying again at a different spot. 

Same result, more scritches, more cookies, and back down center line we went.

The first halt was very good. The test itself was fine. First is pretty much warm up for us at this point. Around to X again, aaaandddd cue Crouching Bobby again. I quietly sent him back out at a trot (a very lovely trot at that), turned in at B, and tried twice more before he stopped moving his feet and paused to see what would happen before throwing his tantrum. I gave him all the praise, he relaxed, and we did the whole thing one more time without any drama to call it quits.

Halts need calm work. Horse needs a trophy for how quickly he moved on from his anxiety attack.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wrap it up

I have one of those angsty, reflective, deeply insightful (or none of the above except maybe angsty) posts sitting in my draft folder waiting to be ironed out and made cohesive. At this point, however, all the fun things are getting pushed behind as I stare at my screen and pout for no particularly good reason.

So, to embrace the fun and save the "woe is me" for another day, I'm going to do a quick run down of what we've accomplished in the past few days.

Or past week. It's almost been that long already!

Friday

Bobby got free jumped Friday to see if we could pinpoint what was causing all the tension under saddle. Are you worried about distances, Bobby? Height? Width? The color blue? Being asked to do a job in general?

Right away Bobby showed us how excited he was to participate in the day's activities:


At no point in the whole session did he get tense or worried. He just sort of preferred to jump the 4' barricade we set up instead of going through our grid. Bobby reasons are known only to Bobby.

he would jump and then stand quietly in the corner pouting until one of us went
to retrieve him and feed him cookies before sending back through

We did get some actual work done:



The takeaway was that he's one hundred percent comfortable over any height and spread from pretty much any distance--good or bad. The jumps were very easy for him, and at no point did he show any signs of tension. Cheekiness and a little bit of an unwillingness to work, yes, but no frantic running around. So where does that leave us under saddle? Still seeking our answer unfortunately.

super wide and about 3'6" in ending height. bobby snoozed over these. 

Saturday

Hubby fixed the electric on my truck! Yay! Now, for the first time in three years, I have a reliable right turn signal. However, in fixing that, he somehow managed to kill the brake lights--not just on the trailer, but on my truck. Now that has to get sorted out in between getting our fence finished and the giant sink hole in our driveway filled in. (Oh p.s. we're going to fall into a sink hole, nbd.)

While we were at the barn, I remembered at the last minute that it was game night and quickly texted BM to let her know I was in as soon as I dropped Hubby back at home...and, you know, switched to a vehicle with working brake lights.

You can read about the last game night I did here. Once again Bobby and I won almost everything that we participated in. Not to be a snob, but lesson ponies don't stand a chance against my former racehorse and gaming horse. We sat out the sack race to hold incoming horses, and only came in second in the water game where Bobby cantered through 4' trot poles and I spilled half my cup of water down my sleeve while giggling maniacally. Still champion of the night. There's nothing Bobby does better than silly games on horseback that involve running fast and hanging out with friends.

sometimes bobby really wants snuggles and then i do this to him and he's like, nvm. 

Sunday

Angst post. Videos to be had. Horse was good, still pouting about Self.

Monday

A quick longe day to see if the massive swelling in his bad leg was enough to put him on the vet list. I was kind of relieved he'd chosen this day to blow his leg up because for once the vet was already coming. No emergency call fee! Yay!


No worries though. He was completely sound and just super stocked up from the cold and damp. Once he was done trit-trotting around, his leg was back down to normal size and he got to spend the day getting snowed on. Lucky horse.

Tuesday

...will probably be included in angst post. Let's make it as long as possible. You're welcome. In the afternoon though, the dentist came out and did his teeth. I've never used an equine dentist before, always relying on my vet instead. However, the vet I used up here does power floats which I am not okay with. BM stuck Bobby on the list for her dentist, and I'm so glad she did.

The first thing Dentist asked me when he started working was how old I thought Bobby was. I told him he was eleven, but soon caught him surreptitiously trying to look at Bobby's tattoo.

"I know he's eleven. I've known this horse his entire life."
"Alright, I just wanted to check. Sometimes owners get lied to when they buy a horse. I wanted to make sure because this horse has the teeth of a sixteen year old."

Uh, what. Dentist couldn't give me a real answer for how they looked the way they do--the enamel doing this one thing (teeth are not even remotely in my area of expertise), and his Galvayne's Groove almost to the very bottom already.

super attractive head shot because i can. 

He also still had a wolf tooth, and Dentist basically told me this horse has never had a proper float in his life. He got to rasping and crunching (What the fuck was that noise? Oh my god, so gross.) and tooth pulling, and was more than happy to answer all my stupid questions as he pulled out tool after tool I'd never seen in my vet's dentistry bucket before.

He let Bobby have lots of breaks to work his jaw around and test things out, and while Bobby is generally the chillest dude you will ever meet on the ground, it was still nice when Dentist pointed to him when he got done and said, "This is the type of horse everyone should own. They should walk through the barn and see this nice guy and say, 'I want that one.'"

That's pretty much always the response Bobby gets when people spend more than five seconds with him.

Because they don't ever ride him.

"what a big, beautiful mule you own!"

Todayyyy

I rode Bobby in a hackamore since he lost a toother that day before, and he was pretty much perfect. Dentist said pulling that wolf tooth should alleviate all of our left rein hanging so I'm excited to get a bit back in his mouth to test that out. I'm sure BM will worship Dentist if he's fixed that problem. Bobby loves to pull the left rein hang with BM. More on today's ride in a later post because it pertains to other problems we've been having.

bobby found a new favorite snack

So there you go. An easy recap filled with all sorts of exciting things before doom and gloom sets in.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Dressage Dream

I think I've finally overdosed on dressage. Or at the very least overdosed on thinking about show season and if I've made the right choices in my entries so far. Last night I had my first dressage dream, and it was just as absurd as you might think.

I was on a team of four people I didn't know. We were milling around in some holding area that was basically a hostel (camp cots, etc) behind the show ring and trying to figure out order of go for our team. I called dibs on going third, but as my turn rolled around another girl went in before me.

I was annoyed, but stayed outside the ring to watch her test. Within seconds she was at the far end of the ring setting up some collage of magazine pictures in the sand. Ugh, what the fuck. I must have missed that memo. So now I'm scrambling around to cut out magazine buzz words and inspiring pictures to make my own collage.

Next thing I know I'm in the ring and Alex Guarnaschelli (I probably watch way too much Chopped) is yelling at me, "I can't believe you forgot the tomato pesto!" Now I'm scavenging around for fresh fucking herbs to make my tomato pesto which needs to be smeared on the sandwiches I have to bury under a smoldering fire at E.

I get down to my collage building next, and all I can think is, ""This is so fucking stupid. I'm going to have to call the show secretary for my next show and do 2-1 instead of 2-2 like I'm signed up for. This test is just ridiculous."

My next test was what I thought was 2-3. I come in, halt at X, and immediately the male judge at E is reaming me for not having my horse collected enough. Meanwhile Dream Bobby is standing there like a fucking carousel horse, his head and neck practically sprouting from his withers, and I'm just like, whatever.

We start the test and right off the bat the bell rings for going off course. The judge is like, "Continue straight at walk....?" No, I have no idea. Why? Because surprise! I actually signed up for 3-3! The judge starts reeling off movements, pausing after each one to see if it sparks something in me. No, it doesn't. I've never looked at a 3-3 test in my life.

At which point I wake up and think about taking up something less exciting. Like fishing. Or basket weaving.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Can't ban these guns

After coming out wonky and having to cut the ride short, then a week off after a chiro adjustment, and then a missed week from camp, Bobby finally got to be tortured by BM again this morning.

Or torture BM? The debate still rages.

Obviously she was very excited to climb aboard him after watching his antics yesterday. She was like, "Oh my gosh, yay! This is my favorite horse to ride ever! He is so reasonable and relaxing to do anything with!!!1!gjkw9u!!"

Although maybe I just didn't hear her right and she was actually like, "Fuck." These things get muddled sometimes.

who wouldn't want to flat this magical creature? i swear he's this lovely all the time!

Warming up on the flat, she ran into all the same problems I had the day before: the hind end in a different galaxy than the front half, leaning on the left rein, holding a lot of tension in his jaw, and swinging his hind end around in a made up lateral movement instead of bending. These are a few of Bobby's favorite things.

Every now and then he'd lighten right up for her and coast around like the beautiful dressage horse he can be. Mostly though, he made her work her ass off for not a lot of reward. He's a funny dude in that he looks like he's going really well ninety nine percent of the time from the ground. "He's so damn fancy even when he's being bad. Until I get on him, I can't tell when he's got half a pound or ninety pounds of pressure in the reins, and he alternates between the two in a heart beat. I don't know how you used to do an hour of sitting trot with Trainer. It's all ab muscle with this horse."

He of course lightened up once she took him over a cross rail, but the whole ride was about managing his tension and anxiety. Anxiety about what? #bobbyproblems

Really that's what we tried to get to the root of for this ride. Why are you so anxious, Bobby? What is causing you such duress in your life?

er' day trit trot. really, not lying. 

BM broke down a five stride line a couple different ways until we finally had a ground pole 9' to a tiny X, 9' to another ground pole, and then four strides to a tiny vertical. She made him go through over and over, finally just looping the reins at him and letting him pick whatever pace he wanted until he just strolled through the whole line at a walk. "I can package him up and choose every distance for him, and he'd probably be just fine, but he needs to learn that jumping is ho-hum and not cause for stress. We've regressed in the seeing a distance department."

We brain stormed for a long while after they were done. We both feel like he's holding most of his tension in his lower back, and it's making swinging through in his step and manipulating his haunches that much harder. She's doesn't think there's anything wrong with him physically besides that. It's all in his head, and his head is saying, "OMG, SUCH DRAMA IN MY LIFE. BE TENSE OR BE GONE."

I dug into his hamstrings after untacking him and he practically sat on me to get the most out of his impromptu butt cheek massage. We're doing a lot of collected work (when I can access it), and he's loading up on the muscle right now. He's seriously just exploded in size lately, and building muscle is hard work. The hard work of living life like Hulk and having to go about your daily rides is apparently very extremely stressful when you're a Bobby Horse.

probably i should just make my horse wear this shirt himself. 

I think we're going to try free jumping him tomorrow to get an on-the-ground objective view. Other than that, just keep plugging along with lots of stretching interspersed. Hulk Smash is all for the best in the end, you great big moose creature.