Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Little things

For lack of having enough motivation content to write a full post on anything, I'll just put all the things together into one post!

Black Friday Shopping

My mom sent me my Christmas present money early so that I could spend half of it buying a matchy matchy custom coat to fit in with the barn fam before the embroidery deadline passed (and to also have a nice winter barn coat for once). The other half was set aside for Black Friday shopping. I didn't get anything exciting, but I did get two big items that I actually needed and didn't want to pay full price for.

The first was a full set of SMBs. Both the vet and BM recommended this style of boot for Bobby. They're fucking expensive though, so I was super happy to find these from Tough-1 on State Line. Comparing them to BM's Professional Choice boots, they're just as nice.


The second thing was a new pair of Noble Outfitters MUDS boots. I got my first pair of these almost three years ago after winning a giveaway from Dover. I did a review of them back then, and I'm so happy with how well they've held up and how much I like them that I replaced them with the exact same thing. I'd recommend these to anyone. My last pair is still going strong in the right boot, but the left boot finally sprung a leak on the side of the foot area. With winter here (aka lots and lots of snow, then rain, and then melting snow....aka so much mud), it was pretty imperative to have dry boots when you work off most of your board doing barn chores! As a bonus, they also came with a free pair of purple socks. Win-win!

i love them so much i'm having a hard time throwing them away. 

Ouch

Speaking of barn chores, I was pulling the sheet off of the first horse I turn out this morning when he tried to kill me. I was reaching around to his front from his shoulder to unbuckle his chest straps when out of nowhere he spooked violently, swinging his head up and bashing me full on in the face and then leaping sideways into me and slamming me so hard into the stall wall that he knocked the wind out of me. I managed to stumble out and slide his door shut before doubling over and dropping to the ground to try to catch my breath and clear my vision.

I was so angry. I wasn't angry at the horse. He's a sweetheart, and he's just a dumb animal that probably took offense to a dust particle or something. I was angry that my fucking brain is still such a mess after nearly eleven months of getting hurt that literally anything rattles it to the point where I can't fucking see. Come on, brain. Just be healed already! Vision is kind of essential to my daily life.

After getting an appropriate amount of snuggles from barn cat Arthur who came running in from outside where he was stalking things and having to giggle at the Halfie pony who was eyeing me with great concern from the stall next to the big dummy, I got up, took a handful of Tylenol, and got back to work without further incident. Arthur followed me to and from every single paddock like he was making sure I didn't get into any more trouble, and I rewarded him by pretending to be very impressed with his collection of mice heads he's hoarding. (Ugh, barn cats.) My head feels fine now, but I've got a massive bruise on my upper arm from being crushed against the wall.

arthur says he's always available for snuggle assistance.

Tres Amigos

I'm on three-a-days at the moment. First up to bat is Shooter.

one day i'll get better pictures of him

Mr Fatty Fats is actually doing really well these past few rides! He's starting to relax, and with the relaxation everything else is coming on so much easier. Instead of curling, his go-to is stretching down and out. He's using his back better, and he's starting to keep track of his wayward hind end as we work on shoulder-in and leg yield. He hasn't even spooked a single time all week. (Yet.)


Second in line is old Bobby Magee. I keep meaning to dig out his hackamore because he likes it and I like to play with it during the winter, but I don't remember until I'm already on him. I brought both my bridles home to clean tonight so when I inevitably forget them here tomorrow, it will be the perfect time to force myself to switch over. Other than that he's not really doing anything too exciting. W/T/C, a little lateral work, maybe pop over a couple jumps.

And finally:

drooooooool

Oh, you want more?


Even he knows he's drop dead gorgeous:

he's obsessed with himself.

BM and I went to Finger Lakes a week and a half ago. She was looking for something sporty but sane that could eventually be transitioned to another advanced lesson horse. I'd sent her this dude's listing (among many others because OTTB shopping is my fave thing ever), and it was pure coincidence fate that his trainer called her right as we were checking in at the gate so we swung in to see him first. He was my favorite by far before we even saw anything in person, and once his trainer led him out and told us all about him, I was like, "Sold!" Only obviously I wasn't the one with the cash, so we did force ourselves to look at quite a few others--aided by trainers literally dragging horses in front of us trying to get rid of them--but it wasn't hard to get BM on my side and convince her he was the one.

Now called Pongo, this dude oozes class and came from very, very nice connections who took excellent care of him. They've even already come to visit him armed with handfuls of Gastro Guard to ease his way.

We started with BM him on, ponying him off of Bobby. BM got on him solo for the first time over the weekend, and for now I've taken over the ride. I don't do a lot of things well, but riding fresh off the track Thoroughbreds just so happens to be my specialty. He's a dream to ride--sharp off the leg, but equally sharp off the seat. He puts himself on the bit nicely, and doesn't pull on you at all once he gets moving. He does the typical squirrelly OTTB stuff--gets tense, sometimes jigs sideways at the walk after cantering, isn't too sure about ground poles without someone leading him, and he nearly face planted attempting our first right lead canter today, but he's got a great brain. For being two weeks out from his last race, he follows you around like a puppy and would basically do anything for a peppermint.

I'll try to get video Friday if Riding Bestie Sarah is able to make it up!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Balance, you bitch

First and foremost, make sure you check out Equinpilot's giveaway for Riding Warehouse gift cards! I know blog land is a RW-obsessed place, so who wouldn't want to win?

using old pictures since the outdoor is now underwater. yay, winter!

I've been struggling to come up with coherent ride reviews lately--which is probably why it's been a good three weeks since I actually did one. To be honest, I think I'm incapable of writing long, detailed dressage recaps about what my body is doing to influence my horse, and how his inside leg is doing this and making his back do that while his eyebrow (Do horses technically have eyebrows? I don't even know that.) is pointed towards the holy grail of Dressage Jesus because I feel like a fraud and, quite frankly, like a fucking idiot.

#worldslongestrunonsentence

I'm able to nod and follow along when I read other dressage lesson/clinic/rides by people far more knowledgeable and introspective than myself--people that are vastly superior to me in their ability to convey what the fuck they're doing to their horse at any given time. It's not that I'm necessarily clueless in how to train my horse (I mean, it's kind of like we move in a hardening molasses sort of way, but...you know, it gets done eventually.), I'm just completely unable to put all of it into words that make any sense.

I'm also spiraling back down into "I will never be good enough, I suck at this so much, why can't I do anything right, why is this so hard, I'm working my balls of and things are still suckingggggggg" mode. WHICH IS GREAT.

#false

But in the interest of sharing all aspects of the journey as I've tried to do on this blog from day one, I'm going to attempt to consolidate all the angst learning I've been at lately. And I have some video again, so for the sake of posterity, I'm going to put that up here, too.

warm up trot

I have loads more positional things I'm more than happy to drone on and on about for myself, but first let's dive into Bobby Land.

Despite outwards appearances of still being a large tank that may or may not be pregnant with a litter of puppies, I can tell that his time off from being unsound did actually do a number on his fitness. He's always let me know when he's hit the wall on collected work, and we get there pretty quickly. That's perfectly fine, and we go right into a nice stretchy walk or trot break which always needs more work itself.



Since coming back from his lameness stint (I can't even bring myself to call it an injury anymore because no one knows why he went lame. u r so awesome, Bobby.) I hadn't touched on any lengthening or medium gaits while still testing out the waters on the soft tissue possibility. As I keep upping the work and he continues to be stone cold sober sound, we've all but tossed that out the window along with literally everything else.

We did his first medium this past Wednesday. It was surprisingly super light and easy. He just oozed into it after getting flustered with asking for collection and I let him open up his stride to defuse the situation. We revisited it again a couple days later and it wasn't quite that easy.

I've got him starting it on a large circle so that he can't just start running off his feet and lose his balance. It's hard to build up momentum in our ring when you take away the runway of the long side.


He's only getting it for a few strides at the moment because, again, he needs to rebuild that strength, but I'm happy with the quality of it when it's there. Mostly I need to police myself to make it easier for him. Being a bit flabby myself, I tend to balance myself by leaning back and accidentally driving/chasing him with my seat which just runs him off his feet. I started talking out loud to myself yesterday, reminding myself to sit up and not back, don't drive, close the legs, keep the rhythm, and just let the stride open on its own without ever getting faster.

At the canter, hes getting much lighter and uphill...to the left. He's telling me loud and clear he's ready for some body work to the right, so that will be on the docket shortly.


I'm still not getting a great stretch at the walk for a real free walk until we're finishing off our ride, but I need to play around with pushing my hands forward more and not just letting my reins out. The stretchy trot is something he's really learning to get behind though!


Overall I'm happy with how he's doing. Me, on the other hand? I kind of feel like I've regressed in all areas. My hands are bouncing, my legs are bouncing, I still want to slouch and when I'm not slouching I'm leaning too far back, my reins never seem to be at the right length, and my hands still like to revert to sky high levels.

You know, the little things.

Monday, November 21, 2016

TRM Blog Hop: Before and After

Yay, pictures over writing! This blog hop from Cathryn is to show "before and after of their training progress, personality changes, or even of them growing up!" 

I know I've done variations of this post before, but I liked Cathryn's take on solid just before and just after--none of this "but look at the journeyyyy" bullshit. Fuck the journey. LOOK AT THE RESULTS. 

I was able to steal a few of the before pictures from Sarah, and if you're sort of new to the blog and don't know who Sarah is, let's do the briefest of recaps of The Story of Bobby.

Bobby was bred, born, raised, trained, and retired at Cobleskill where both Sarah and I went to college--only Sarah is just a wee baby so while I got foal, weanling, yearling, and two year old Bobby wherein I broke him for the track and sent him off to be a racehorse, Sarah was there when he came back and got stuck with OTTB Bobby before I bought him out of the program. 

Let's begin the journey there!

Before, 2010:

fresh off the track. he's never been this dark and shiny in the summer since this picture.
bobby is a pig and he loves his turnout which makes for a dirty, sun-bleached pone.

this angle is obviously not the best, but that pencil neck has plagued me for years

After, 2011:
february, two months after i bought him

This was right when I first started blogging, and I think there were maybe five of you that were reading back then, so what happened next was the boarding barn where I had both Bobby and Red was a literal disaster and were feeding my horses' grain (lots and lots of it that I was buying myself) to other horses in the barn. I couldn't afford to board two horses anywhere else, so Bobby went to go live with a COTHer so I could get them out of there.

Before, June 2011:
it was a fucking saga. let's not revisit it in depth.

After, December 2011:


then red had to be put down,
and the COTHer gave bobby back to me as one chunky monkey

Other milestones include....

First trail ride:
january 2011

august 2016

First jump:


january 2011

may 2015

First dressage rides:
january 2011

july 2011
(actually from our second ever show,
but i assure you the dressage test itself looked just as awesome as this)

may 2016
(pc: megan stapley, used with purchase)

First cross country jump:
july 2011

june 2015

First hunter show:
april 2011

I can't believe I don't have the pictures from Bobby's first hunter show--and first show period--anymore!! The above will have to do because his first show was with the small child riding him who I leased him out to. They did showmanship and several w/t classes and got ribbons in pretty much everything.

may 2015
now we do flat classes like this and just steal hunter princesses champion ribbons

Conformation-wise...

Look again:
february 2011

And now:

obviously a summer picture because he looks like a rabid yeti at the moment
#hurryupandcomebackclipperblades

It's sometimes hard for me to notice big changes when look at full body shots of Bobby because he still has the same, dopey baby head even at eleven years old. But the change in his body is so apparent to me in person--he's a big horse, and it's less in being leggy and more in being a massively built tank with a lot of presence once you're up close to him.

In conclusion? Don't fret, owners of young, awkward, probably a little ugly at times (a daily battle in Bobby Land), slightly crazy, and definitely bumbling baby horses! Beast mode transformation takes a long time to fully come about. Maybe one day you'll own your very own versatile Bobby Magee!*

*aim higher

Thursday, November 17, 2016

10 Questions for November

From L, who manages to produce not only content for her own blog, but for everyone else's as well!

1. How old is the youngest/greenest horse you've ridden? We started babies at around 18 months for the track.

baby bobby ready for work

2. How old is the oldest horse you've ridden? Hmm. That's tough. Probably only through late teens that I can think of.

3. Were you scared of horses when you first started riding? No. I first started riding at a very podunk farm in South Carolina when I was five, and I remember trying to climb onto the backs of horses in their paddocks.

4. Would you say you're a more nervous rider or a confident rider? It depends on how quickly I can get into my head and trick myself into thinking that I'm super confident and nothing will phase me. But if I let doubt starting creeping in, forget it.

5. Biggest pet peeve about non-horse people around horses? How they don't seem to understand that I have to take care of my horse. I don't just arrive and it's tacked and ready to go, and I can't just get off after riding and walk away without doing anything to it. So sorry to waste your time, but fuck off.

6. A time you've been scared for your life? (horse related) I very briefly owned this OTQH who flipped over with me once. That was the end of that relationship.

7. Have you ever fallen off at a show? What happened? We were coming to the second-to-last jump on cross country (sitting in first place I might add), and Bobby misread the produce stand at Bucks and tried to climb it instead of jump it. He rethought that mid-scramble and threw on the brakes, sending me over his head onto my head for my first concussion.

baiii.

8. What's a breed of horse you've never ridden but would like to ride? I've never ridden a gaited horse but would really like to!

9. Describe the worst behaved horse you've ridden? Back in the good old days of Bobby running backwards at a high rate of speed being his answer to everything was not awesome. Like the time he ran backwards off a fucking cliff while I was on him (emergency dismount ftw), or the many, many times he ran backwards and sat down on top of fences.

10. The most frustrating ride you've ever had? Too many on Bobby to even count.

#realtionshipgoals

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

WW: That time Bobby was adopted by deer

i saw a group of deer while trail riding monday

i didn't think i was going to be able to get too close

but figured we'd try to get as close as they'd let us

they could have cared less it turns out

bobby kept trying to graze with them

but i was like, bobby! get your head up and pose!

finally they either got annoyed or weirded out by
my giggling and started wandering off

except this big doe who really didn't want to leave her snacks

the slowest exit ever

bye deer!


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Clinic and Trail Ride

Right? Doesn't it sound like Bobby has been up to so many things the past few days?

Spoiler alert:

"hai! cookies?"

He has not been.

Our barn hosted a jumping clinic with Dave Kendrick over the weekend. I didn't participate because Bobby is not (yet?) in two hours of flat and over fences work shape, but I did audit and try to get some pictures and videos for my barn mates.

The main takeaway I got was that I really need to invest in a new camera. One that doesn't randomly take pictures on its own and then turns around and shuts off my video recordings before I'm done filming. IS THAT SO MUCH TO ASK?!

big brown moose loves snuggles

I wish I could give you an in-depth clinic report, but...I didn't get any ground breaking information I feel is worthy of sharing. Dave was very strict about proper flat work, and he spent a long time warming everyone up with good, solid dressage instruction (and no stirrup work, poor suckers). The course for the first group was a slight deviation of a hunter course, while the second group was more focused on jumper turns--which really highlighted how important dressage is in every discipline.

The second group finished up with a tight roll back turn:


Everyone had some degree of difficulty with it, and I was being very grabby hands in wanting to get on my own horse and show them how easy it actually was. So, uh, I got Bobby out of the field when they were done, popped him over the green diagonal once as a warm up and then came right around to the roll back exercise and nailed it with ease the first time. Dressage, people. It makes everything cake.

We also jumped the triple bar once even though Bobby hasn't jumped a stadium fence in two months. He was literally perfect, and then proceeded to flat around for another ten minutes like a light, fluffy, lateral work slaying butterfly.

Even though I didn't get a whole lot of new information out of the two sessions, I liked Dave as a clinician a lot. If he comes back, I'd definitely see about getting a private with him as I think he has a lot to offer.

pig dog is maybe not the biggest fan of ponies, but she's also too dumb to resist
when i call her into the paddock and then gets tricked into this.

Bobby had Sunday off. I was planning on a dressage ride Monday morning, but my car was in the garage racking up a bill to rival Bobby's vet work so I was left with my truck. As I was doing chores, I kept walking by my truck...and my trailer...and it was almost 60* and sunny out in the middle of November...

I rode Shooter quickly first. He was in full spookasaurus mode which I was not in the mood for because he was spooking at LITERALLY NOTHING. "Oh, is that my reflection in the mirror that I've ridden past FIVE HUNDRED TIMES ALREADY? LET ME SPOOK AT IT." "Is that a SUN BEAM I see? OH GOD, RUN AWAY SLOWLY."

We had a go-round where I finally kicked him (hard) in his fat, flabby sides and made him trot until he decided maybe spooking wasn't worth the effort and he could actually just go around and do his fucking job. I was able to work on getting some correct shoulder-in out of him instead of just him bending his neck too much and doing strange things with his haunches, but I got off feeling like it was a wasted ride. I forgot how much retraining horses sucks.

never going to be able to retrain this thing to not
spend an hour soaking whenever it comes across water

When I was done with Shooter, I hooked up my trailer, threw Bobby into it, and drove the half hour down to Mendon Ponds Park for a glorious walk only trail ride.

how could i not with this weather?

Bobby may be a lot of bad things at times, but I'm forever grateful for his ability to self load onto the trailer and be unloaded literally anywhere without a care in the world. We stuck to the pond side of the road which is flatter with perfect footing instead of venturing across the road into the woods and hills. The great thing about this park is that you can come here a hundred times and never have to take the same trail. It literally goes on forever, and while not a horse park, the miles of beautifully manicured fields are never off limits, and most of the trails are limited to hikers and horses only.

gorg.

Because I kept it to a walk, and because Bobby had to have at least fifteen solid minutes of soak time whenever we got to the water (as in, no amount of kicking would get him out), it took us about two hours to circle the main pond. I packed his feet when we were done, rubbed his legs down, and then gave him a gram of Bute when we got back just to be on the safe side, but he was right as rain this morning.

one of a trillion perfect galloping fields

I don't know why I don't get down there more often. It's easy to get to and not that far from the barn. I'll make it a point next year, and maybe we'll be able to get in another ride or too before the snow comes!

creeping on a driving horse before heading home

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Great White Whale

No, not Moby Dick. I'm talking about the other great white whale--Shooter!

working on his figure

Remember Shooter? I never really got into blogging much about him since I was super preoccupied with trying to get my horse sound, and then during that time I got on Shooter one morning and he was also off in in his LF. I jumped off of him, threw him at BM, and basically had a hysterical melt down because I could not fucking believe that I had just made a second horse lame in the same damn leg.

Those were trying times, let me tell you.

But BM came to the conclusion that his saddle fit was terrible, and when she consulted with his owner, J said that when his arthritis starts acting up it presents as a LF lameness.

So the big dude got some body work done and a few weeks off to let everything settle down before I brought him back out to try again.

such a hippo

The first day I tried to just climb back aboard him, but he was in full on tweaker mode and I ended up popping him on the longe instead. I've gotten in several rides on him since then, and BM and I are pulling back all the layers of what's going on with this horse's head and body.

Shooter is complicated. I don't feel he's particularly complicated to ride, but the little wheels in his little brain are on their own special track. He puts on quite a show when he wants you to think he's afraid of something, and he's so big that it borders on being dangerous. He's the type of horse that spooks into your arms, and he has no problem flailing directly into you.

Obviously then the first priority was to put some serious ground work on this dude. He absolutely had to learn that you do not ever, ever come into my personal space no matter what the circumstance is. I started off leading him everywhere with a chain and a whip. If he "spooked" (we'll get to that in a second), he got yelled at first. If that didn't work, he got the chain. If that didn't work, he got smacked in the shoulder with the whip to get him to move over.

We're to the point now where if it's super windy outside or there's something new along his route out to his paddock I'll take the whip with me, but otherwise he goes in a plain lead rope with a nice loop I can wiggle at him if he starts thinking bad thoughts.

"OH GOD THERE ARE THINGS SOMEWHERE"

To come around to his spooking, it is absolute complete BULLSHIT. This horse is not afraid of things. My assessment of him is that he's big, he's spoiled, and he's lacking manners. I don't know if he thinks spooking will get him out of working--and maybe that's worked for him in the past--or if he just can't be bothered to focus on you long enough to behave himself, but I don't think there's anything he's genuinely afraid of.

The other day BM was watering outside the door to the arena and Shooter didn't care in the slightest. When she was done, she came in and was talking to me as we circled around her. One of the girls walked by again with the hose and he almost ran BM over from spooking...and then when I booted him forward he carried on like nothing had happened.

Or when we were hanging out in the aisle and he was completely chill. He reached over to nose the tub against the wall, thought nothing of it, went back to chilling, and then five seconds later leaped sideways away from it like it was after him.

Or this morning when there were two tarps outside the barn and he tried spooking but I caught him with the whip at the exact right second and he strolled over to them completely unconcerned, even as I jumped around on them and kicked them at him...and then spooked and tried to spin around at absolutely nothing behind him.

It's as if he's like, "Yawn, not scary. OH WAIT I FORGOT I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE TOO SPOOKY TO HORSE OH GOD THAT THING THAT HAPPENED WAS SCARY."

I know I shouldn't talk shit about other people's horses on my blog, but this dude is a straight up pig to handle, and I've had no problem telling his mom that.

he gets distracted staring at himself in the mirror constantly

Under saddle he also tries spooking, but he's a lot more unsuccessful. For one, he's so obese that it's like riding a beluga whale having a seizure in slow motion, but he also responds really well to being redirected to something else. He's so slow in his under saddle spooks that I can usually feel them coming a mile away and distract him with something else.

We're working mostly at the trot right now. He's got to learn to shift his weight back and articulate his hocks while relaxing his back and not curling under. You know, basic dressage. He likes to default to a fake head set, on the forehand and trailing his hind end. So we've been doing lots and lots of transitions within the trot and trying to get him to push his nose out and take a breath. I try to finish off with a lap or two of super collected work because then he's more willing to stretch down and out for his walk while cooling out.

I've ditched his mom's elevator bit and flash and switched him over to Bobby's french link. Copious amounts of candy are shoved in his mouth before and during our rides to get him to soften his jaw and move the bit around in his mouth a little bit. That's actually coming along really well.

He's not the easiest or the most fun horse to ride or be around, but he's a smart dude and somewhere in there he's quite a fancy dude. I'm still super grateful I get the chance to put my grubby hands on him whenever I want because he's doing a lot to broaden my education and lessen the load on Bobby.

ok, i do like him just a little bit.