Monday, April 24, 2017

The weekend strikes back

Those of you that are friends with me on facebook or follow me on instagram know what I was up to this weekend:

leaving the stable tour just before midnight.

One of my mom's oldest friends is a Cirque du Soleil fanatic, and he's been wanting to see Cavalia for ages. He lives out in the Bay Area but missed them when they were there, so when he saw they were in Chicago (where my mom lives) he invited us along. And then paid for the entire trip, VIP package second row center seats included. Ohhh-kay, if you're going to beg, I guess I can go.

Guys, it was fucking amazing. I had steeled myself against being judgmental against the riding as you will when seeing people fake it in movies. Yeah, no. I can't say I was as wowed by the haute ecole at the end as most of the audience was, but everything else was incredible. 11/10 would recommend. I can't say enough good things about it.

i was pretty giddy to be there, won't lie. 

I flew out first thing Saturday morning and landed back in Rochester Sunday afternoon. I was exhausted by the time I got home and even with a nap and a full night of sleep, this morning's 6am alarm went off way too early. Once I finished feeding, I chiseled Bobby out of his mud coat and got on fingers firmly crossed he'd be sound.

On Friday when I last saw him he was not sound. We'd had a tough-on-me lesson the day before (post on that to come), but we never even made it to the canter so I was kind of really a lot freaking out. If he can't even hold up to flatting on our cushy indoor footing, how the fuck is he going to show on stone dust? Fortunately Farrier was there doing another horse so I asked her to watch him go quick.

please stop being a fungusy gimp.

She agreed he looked uneven on the RF which was what I was feeling. I got off without doing anything more than the brief w/t/c soundness check and Farrier put the hoof testers on him. Of course, being Bobby, he tested worse on the LF. The LF is the worse navicular foot, but the RF is the leg with the old soft tissue injury and the still-recovering leg fungus. Farrier didn't come to any great conclusions.

Bobby isn't big on reactions on the ground. He's got such good ground manners drilled into him that he thinks it's his job to stand like a statue and never move. He jerked his hoof once each time Farrier hit a sore spot, but when she came back to the same spot he didn't so much as twitch. Occasionally he'd look back at me like, "Should I be doing something? Is this okay? I won't move again, I promise." Ugh, Bobby, for being such a drama queen under saddle, you're difficult in your own way on the ground.

I packed his feet and Farrier said to just keep riding him as normal. If he continues to be uncomfortable we'll go back to wedges. If he comes up sound, then great. This foot shit is a serious mind fuck, let me tell you.

we ride! for one day at least.

Fortunately he was sound this morning!

Unfortunately, I apparently can't take a weekend off without forgetting everything I know about riding. BM has given me about six months worth of things to work on in my past two lessons so I should have a wealth of things to draw on. Yeah, no. I couldn't get my tired brain to dredge up anything useful for a good fifteen minutes of wandering uselessly around at the walk. Even at the trot it took me way longer than it should have to start riding with a plan instead of being like, "I have legs. They push me up to post. That is all."

I did rally though. Once I started working on bending Bobby at the shoulders keeping my calves against his side instead of giving into his "Your leg means nothing or it means zoomies. There is no in between." I was able to get him moving really well.

hubby picked me up from the airport in my new car! so long, old saturn. 

Once again I ran into the flying change problem at the canter. He popped right over unasked for down the first long side--totally drama free, completely correctly, and in perfect balance. He was more than happy to pop right over as soon as I shifted my seat which again wasn't what I was asking for. If he's going to be change happy, he needs to remember there are other ways to get the lead. I can't do another change through the canter in the test to correct the lead, so he's got to work with me. I gave him a scratch anyway, then calmly brought him back to the walk and picked up the left lead again. Then, minutes later, I went to do a simple change across the diagonal--the move required at Second level--and he felt the half halt right before I asked for the walk and changed again.

I know having a horse that excels at changes is nothing to bitch about. The fact that he's decided that not only are they easy, but they're actually really fun is great. It's just not great when I'm not asking for them. I don't want to shut him down so, as always, we have to work on the whole listening thing instead of the anticipating thing.

"leave the dressaging to me, lady. you know nothing."

Of course once we got over to the right lead to actually stay there, he couldn't canter anymore. Honestly I don't even know what gait we were in. It felt like none of his body parts were moving together and yet everything was stuck nailed to a board. I finally just got into half seat and kicked him into a hand gallop. BM is always telling me to let him fail, so I let him fail hard. You can't make this circle without falling over or crashing into something if you won't bend, Bobby. You can't run fast if you're cross cantering. I was finally able to sink back down into my seat and work with a more forward, looser horse. It was a hot mess getting there, but the end result was where it needed to be.

It ended up being a good ride, but the amount of time it took me to sort out my body parts and what the fuck I was supposed to be doing was unacceptable. Mental toughness, it needs work.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

There are worse problems

Guys, damn it.

After my post yesterday about how good it's going to be to switch to strictly dressage lessons, and how BM has taken away my best friend crutch Inside Rein, we have overnight run into a new problem.

My fucking horse has figured that shit out and moved on with his life. "You want me to go into the outside rein? Fine. Stop laying on the inside rein? Fine. Bend off your inside leg? Fine. Fix the straightness with the outside leg? Fine."

Bobby. STOP. I thought we were going to have months to focus on this! You're learning the things too quickly and I don't have the learning to keep up with you!

hubby: "he looks like a cavalry mule."

He was quite saucy this morning coming out of his stall, but he didn't make a fuss when I put him right to work on pushing him with my inside leg into the outside rein. No. He just did it. I was like, "Uhh....uhhhhh....." and then figured I should be an active rider, didn't linger, and changed direction. It took a touch longer to the right which was a change from the other days, but still went down without much correction.

It carried over in the trot. He was so light and just with it right off the bat that after a few circles and trips down the long side both ways we threw in some serpentines to get a really good bend going off just my leg--far harder for me to commit to than him--and finally stepped into the right lead canter.

The right lead felt like a drunken sailor on a sinking ship yesterday, and while we started off with a little fishtailing, I focused more on getting him rounder today and that packaging him up helped get both ends under control. Once he felt with it, I asked for the medium keeping in mind BM's advice to bounce him up and ooze him forward. #ohmylort did we get it. He bounced his flat crouped booty and opened his stride right up. It lasted all of five strides before neither of us could hold it anymore, but I think I've got the 1+1 aids sorted in order to ask properly again.

basically the best at dressage. obvi.
also, LOL, pulling on the inside rein even when there's no inside rein!!

Across the diagonal, testing that I could get the change where I wanted it and not just wherever Bobby felt like giving it since diagonal at canter means change time. Hold the right bend, he holds the right lead. Straighten him out and cue, and he pops over. I do love that R-L change. It's always there for me.

To the left, he immediately felt straighter so we didn't do too much before I asked for the medium that way. Sit deep, bounce him up, both legs on, and send him forward. I could feel him sit and reach the first couple strides and then I suddenly felt him jump for a step before carrying on. It wasn't a buck or double pump like he sometimes throws out that wrench my back, and he carried on still completely in balance so I didn't even connect what had happened until I glanced down and saw we were on the right lead.

I must have poked him too much with my outside spur which is his change aid, and he took it and rolled with it. We were approaching the corner quickly so I was greedy and asked him to switch back over. Easy peasy, no fuss, so I immediately halted and shoved cookies down his throat.

always cookies all the time.

Who is this horse that's so in-tune to my aids and does what he's asked--inadvertently or not--without throwing a royal fucking shit fit?! I don't know how to ride this creature!

I let him have a long stretch break before going back to a collected trot which was where I wanted to work out of for the end of the ride. He was feeling so pumped about his changes and his candy and praise that he was looking for every twitch from me as an excuse to canter. I eventually got him serpentining all over the place, making him settle the fuck down and that my leg meant change the bend not canter, until he was like butter in my hands. He was super light, super forward, super still wanting to canter at the drop of a hat, but he let me channel all that into a touch of legs and off he went into his newly discovered extended trot where there's no lugging on the reins and we actually stay way uphill for a Bobby Horse.

If he can just keep a lid on his psychoness this season, we're going to have some fun at Second and maybe not entirely embarrass ourselves if we can get to the goal of one Third test by the end of the year!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Curse of the inside rein

Another foot crisis narrowly averted. After Bobby was trimmed way back, he came out for our lesson Thursday looking like he was okay with doing such strenuous tasks as walking and standing around without shifting uncomfortably. He actually felt really good, and BM said she didn't notice anything aside from the usual stiffness in his right knee he gets when the fungus leg blows up overnight. (Fuck the fucking fungus leg, omg. That's its own post. It will be like, "I'm completely healed!!!" and then two days later it's like, "JK here's MOAR FUNGUS!!1!!")

when you forget about the lake dividing your
horse's pasture and don't put your boots on so
you have to ford your way out on horseback.

The theme of my lesson was: It's time to actually ride real dressage.

Ugh. You guys. You think dressage is fun and stuff until you're not allowed to cheat at it anymore. And then it's not that fun at all.

I usually get on early enough that I can warm Bobby up with a little w/t/maybe-c on my own. That way we're not wasting time on just getting the muscles juiced and can focus on the nitty gritty. This time BM got there while I was still doing chores so she could get on another horse first. That meant she was there from the start of my ride and asked how he felt.

Insider's tip: If you don't want to stop cheating at dressage, do not tell your trainer your horse won't connect to the outside rein.

ok, but we're both really good at snacking so
that should count for something, right?

BM started reeling off a list of aids to apply to rectify this problem--you know, basic "Stop fucking with the inside rein, put both your legs on, hello where is your outside rein connection, touch that inside rein one more time I will cut you, etc."--and it was information overload. Not because it was really anything difficult, it was just too much too quick and too different from the simplistic "pull horse, kick horse" mentality I usually coast around in.

I had to stop and have BM place my hands, arms, and legs exactly where she wanted them. Yeah, not the first time a trainer has had to do this with me so I can't blame the ole TBI on this one.

"This is like easy math, right? It's 2+2. Don't overthink it."
"That's too much math for me."
"Okay, then make it 1+1. Inside leg plus outside rein."


jumped that baby gate to finish out today's ride.
because my horse is not going to break dammit.

We spent a lot of time at the walk. Mostly walking to the left because Bobby loves hanging on the left rein so he was reluctant to let go of it. Me too, Bobby. Me. Too. The main theme, besides don't ever touch the inside rein that's not for you don't do it, was to stop nagging. "Tweak it, and if he doesn't respond then correct it and move on. Stop lingering on middle ground and picking at each other." So hold the solid outside rein connection and put the inside leg on. If he twists his head to the outside instead of bending around my leg, then I get to do one quick tug on the inside rein to tip his head back in and immediately release it and let the leg go back to bossing him around. No constantly pulling on the inside rein to "bend" him.

This is hard because he doesn't particularly respect my leg. Probably because I'm not big on using it and err on the side of reallyfuckinghandsy. Real talk here, folks. Once we got permission to move on to the trot, we worked out of a serpentine to get both of us on the leg train. Not touching my reins to steer was a tough mental exercise, but BM had me put both reins in one hand to prove that he was moving beautifully with zero help from my reins. He literally didn't even notice the change. It's nice to know he's trained somewhere in there, I just suck at riding.

At the canter, same thing. I was allowed to use my ring finger on my inside rein if I need a bit more roundness, but it was all bouncing from one leg aid to the next to keep him straight, keep him forward, keep him bent, keep him in the connection. He can't lift his shoulders if his shoulders are falling in or out. Touch with the outside leg at the girth. Just touch though and just at the girth because Bobby associates outside leg aids at the canter with a flying change cue and wants to swap.

Speaking of, his changes these past few rides have been delicious. I only do one each way to not get greedy, but I've been starting with the L-R which has always been his angry one and he's been jumping over without any drama. Super clean and super quiet, carrying on at the canter like nothing happened. This whole riding the hind end forward thing is magic. Who knew?!

is this a real dressage horse?!

Of course by myself it's been slower going. I can get the same work, it just takes me longer to do my math. Especially on Friday where Bobby came out feeling quite fresh and I had to keep throwing in half halts so it was like 1+2 which is advanced stuff bordering on the complexity of fractions. But I sorted myself out, and this morning things came that much quicker. I have to beg Bobby sometimes to give me some amateur points and make some best guesses on his part. I am not a reliable Captain. We need to work together. Co-First Mates or something, I dunno.

With show season gearing up (less than a month to the first show now!), I think switching to dressage lessons is going to be really fun, really helpful, and really hard. We're basically the best at small jumps thanks to last year's training overhaul, so I'm excited to be the best at fundamental getting your horse correctly on the aids riding. Some rides Third feels like it's going to be easy to step up to, and some days I have to count not crashing into the wall because my horse won't steer off my leg a success.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Slow Your Roll

Where have I been in the week since I last posted?

Conducting the mother fucking crazy train is where. Toot toot, all aboard, one way trip to My Horse Is Dying Land.

me: bobby, are you sound enough to be standing here?
bobby: can you please fuck off?

Last Monday we trailered out to Mendon Ponds Park for a couple hour trail ride. Bobby was happy to be out and about. We, once again, set off down a new trail. It started in the woods and wound through there for about forty five minutes before crossing over to the grassy ponds side. We walk ninety nine percent of the time we're there because it's a hilly area and Bobby may be super ring fit, but he's not yet super traipsing about the countryside fit. I did, however, let him move out to a trot on a nice clear stretch...where he immediately felt very footy on the packed dirt. 

I pulled him up right away and that was that for trotting this trip, but I spent the whole rest of the day along the lines of "It's fine, he's due for a trim, I'll let the farrier check him out. Maybe the navicular has gotten worse and he'll need wedges put back on. Maybe I should have never jumped him this winter. I really think this is the end end of our eventing career which means he probably can't hunter pace again either. He probably won't ever even be sound enough to trail ride. OMG, what if he can never leave the arena again?! OH GOD IT'S TIME TO PUT HIM DOWN THE END IS NOW."

Things spiraled out of control quickly, guys. I'm not proud.

"hi, my name is bobby, and my mom is batshit crazy."

I packed his feet as soon as we got back to the trailer, and then gave him Tuesday off. He was fine for our dressage ride Wednesday (No, like, really fine. He was fucking fantastic.), so I went ahead with our jumping lesson Thursday. 

I got on and immediately felt the footiness again. Not lame, but a distinct minciness up front. BM put us through an A+ flat warm up, and we scrapped the jumping to work over a line of raised cavaletti. He felt great through that--essentially a giant canter stride, but so adjustable and light--but once we stopped and took a break in the middle of the ring he started shifting from foot to foot. We ended the lesson super early, and I packed his feet again and gave him some Bute. 

best frat boy friends

He had Friday and Sunday off. On Saturday I threw a lead rope around his neck and jumped on bareback to see how he felt. He felt sound then, too, so we popped over the tiniest of crossrails once before I jumped off and chucked him back outside. 

Monday was really nice out so I threw my dressage tack on and climbed aboard to see how he felt. 

Awful. He felt fucking awful.

He felt crippled throughout his whole body, and I lost my shit and started sobbing. It didn't help that I was full of raging hormones, but there's nothing quite like feeling you're directly responsible for your horse's soundness downfall and he's never going to recover from it ever.

Once I was over myself, I pulled his bridle, taught him a fun trick which he picked up on in approximately twelve seconds, and then brought him in to pull his mane, give him a bath and some Bute, and pack his feet again. 

will do anything for cookies
I didn't even look at him Tuesday. I threw him right outside and left. The farrier came today so I was forcing myself to act like a rational human being to outside people until I got her opinion. 

He was right at eight weeks, but he was so long. He'd grown a ton of foot--too much foot. For a horse that now has foot issues, it had messed with his angles too much and was making him uncomfortable. Bobby usually zones out or falls asleep while getting his feet done, but this time he was super engaged in the process. He kept licking and chewing as she went and shifting around to adjust to his new feeties. 

He walked off so much more comfortably, and Farrier agreed we'd need to take him back to no longer than six weeks. Between the navicular and a host of other problems--a possible bone spur, a previous soft tissue injury, and wonky as fuck conformation--we're not going to be able to get away with any sort of mistake anymore. 

Are we officially done forever and ever with eventing with no chance of a once a year comeback? Yes. We are. The navicular changes are only ever going to get worse. We can probably slow them down, and we can certainly make him as comfortable as possible, but we've shifted from "Let's see where we are and what he can handle before making any firm decisions" to "We need a serious maintenance program in place with set limitations." 

We'll treat the discomfort when it arises. We'll see how trail riding pans out with a heavy focus on staying on the best footing. We'll stick to our dressage-only show season. We'll play over jumps in the arena with less regularity until that, too, gets taken off the board. This horse loves to work. He loves having a job and using his brain. We'll let him keep going as long as he holds up to it. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My Horse is Perfect: A Poem

My Horse is Perfect

My horse has perfect ground manners
He doesn't cross tie
And you shouldn't walk behind him because he'll kick you
Don't clip him unless you Ace him
Don't Ace him unless you twitch him
He doesn't like needles

My horse is perfect to trail ride
He's afraid to lead
But don't leave him behind
He can't go out by himself
But he hates groups
He won't cross water
And he doesn't know how to walk without jigging

My horse is perfect at shows
He just needs his own separate warm up area
And don't crowd him in the ring
That's what all those ribbons in his tail are for
It's your fault your horse got kicked
He should have won that class
He got on the trailer this time after all

My horse is the perfect turnout partner
Don't let him go out with that horse though or he'll rip its blankets
And he can't go out with that horse because they won't stop biting
I think that one is the one that almost broke his leg last year
He didn't deserve it though I'm sure
Because my horse is perfect

Dedicated to That Person in every barn.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Weekend Activities

you know it.

On the riding front, it was limited activities. Bobby had a massage scheduled for eleven Saturday morning so I jumped on him quick before then. He was surprisingly really, really good. No drama about a thing, not even the canter. He wanted to break to the canter when I cued for the medium trot, but once I started posting instead he went prancing around like a mother fucker.

For the massage, he was--as always--sore in a million different places in his hind end. He's got previous stifles issues, a mile long back, and he does a lot of dressage work. Massage Lady wasn't concerned with anything out of the ordinary. He was more sore in his neck than usual, but that seemed to show up right after he got vaccinated about two weeks ago. He also likes to play Fighting Giraffes with his pasture mate where they bash each other with their heads and necks so, again, nothing too concerning. She gave his back an A++ though and said his new saddle is perfecto!

giraffe chomp mark. 

He was still stiff overall in his body after his ride as she watched him go on the longe before working on him. I was bemoaning how tight he's been lately, and she reminded me that this type of weather is the worst for Lyme positive horses. I don't know why I didn't put two and two together and think of that myself. He's had it for so many years now that I guess I just kind of forgot about it. We should have one whole day of warm up this week though. I mean, that's basically spring, right? Ugh, fuck you, New York. I hate you.

contemplating life after his massage. 

We ran a bunch of errands to round out Saturday, and then Sunday we hooked up the trailer and used it to haul ten million pounds of landscaping timbers home. While it was so conveniently parked in the driveway, I gave it a thorough scrub down both inside and out. I also bossed Hubby around and made him do some quick fixes to it to get it ready for show season. He put a new spare tire on (Hubby loves changing out tires, just ignore all the swearing.), dug out a bolt to secure my saddle rack (ask me how long I've been trying to get him to find me the right size in his super special only he understands organization system), and I had him rip the old western saddle racks out.

ugly things

The last owner had welded them onto this aluminium sheet and the welds were barely holding. I couldn't actually put anything heavy on there for fear of ripping the thing off the wall. It's hard to find someone to weld aluminium, and they were such a giant waste of space anyway that I said fuck it.

drilling holes for a second english saddle rack
higher up and out of the way

It left an ugly strip when it finally came off. We'll put a new sheet of light steel or something there one day, but for now it got smoothed down with the grinder and bandaged with tape. It wouldn't belong to me if it wasn't a least a little bit ghetto.

much better! just needs the second saddle
rack put in once it gets here

The rest of the day was spent doing way, waaaaay too much yard work. At least I got my own wheelbarrow out of it? Do I really need my own? Probably not. Did I really want my own. Yes I did.

Today's festivities include painting my kitchen cupboards and a trip to Mendon with the brown stallion. Even if all we can do is walk because the ground is so saturated, neither one of us can do one more day in the indoor.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

how now brown cow

Since I had so much success with my mini jump school on Tuesday and had to deal with another bout of assholeness while attempting a flat school yesterday, I asked BM for a dressage lesson this morning instead of one over fences.

Usually I only switch out when I hit a training road block--like when our shoulder-in was going to shit which she got us back on track with in one ride--but this hasn't been a specific issue so much of, "Please, Bobby Whisperer BM, fucking help me keep this horse's brain in his head so I don't throw away my entire show season because he won't stay in the ring."

BM was, of course, accommodating. I mean, jump lessons are basically her yelling at me on the flat and the jump just kind of happens to be a momentary pause before she's back at it again. Equitation on fleek. Everything else not so much.

tried to take advantage of having my camera with me
to capture the cool early morning light. sadly there's this
brown cow in the way...

I did a ten minute stretchy w/t warm up on my own to get Bobby moving and then we started. Right away BM had me doing an exercise a lot like what Karen described the other day. She had me bending/tipping him in and as soon as he loosened and gave, I let him go and made sure he was still forward. Counter bend, release, go forward. She told me to think of it as sliding his back muscles back and forth to loosen them up and get him to soften and relax.

Bobby is such a fucking tense horse. He doesn't always use it for evil--a lot of the tension is that he wants to always be one step ahead of you, he always wants to get it right. When you're on the same page as him it's flawless. Telling him no, wait, that wasn't what I was asking, is a recipe for a blow up. If you can redirect quickly enough you can usually slide by, but sometimes he just locks onto things and won't let them go. He's a sensitive dude, but he also relishes a good fight so it's a fine line of coddling him and actually making him do the thing you want to do.

could have been an awesomely lit picture of you, bobby, but nooo.

Once he was loosened up at the walk we moved on to a slow trot doing the same thing. It was a lot of work. I had to keep him slow, but collected and moving over his hocks. Long and low, but not on his forehand. Relax and, oh yeah, don't forget to keep bending both ways. BM kept calling out to go lower and lower while I was like, "LOLZ, BM, this is the lowest Bobby has ever gone, WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN AND MAKE US DO REAL HORSE WORK MY FLABBY USELESS ABS HURT."

After a walk break, we moved on to the canter where Bobby has been blowing his shit for whatever Bobby reasons.

JK, we planned on moving to the canter, but first I had to get Bobby's back loose again without him parading around like a fucking llama. This is where my frustration really came out and BM had to earn her therapist salary a little bit.

other pone had a sweat wrap on for a hock wound. he's fine, it just
looks dramatic. 

I understand the concept of pushing with my inside leg into the outside rein. BM told me to keep at that instead of instantly giving up when he went full llama the second I picked my reins up and pulling his head down. The problem is pulling his head down takes two seconds and once he goes to work he lightens up into a true contact. It's fail safe for test work. It's not the right way to do it, but BM quickly saw why I cheat when it took ten full minutes of incessant leg to hand on a loopy rein to get Bobby to drop his giant moose face.

We're like a married couple in an unhealthy relationship. We love to fucking nag and fight and play into each other's weaknesses. He needs to respect the aids, but he doesn't want to and because he gets tense and blows up when I try to demand it, I just don't. I need to ride better, but he lets me get away with so much it's easy to cheat.

still have yet to master this camera, but i take every chance
i get to play with settings. bobby kind of looks photoshopped in. 

It took an equally long amount of time both directions to get the softening up, but we eventually got it and moved on to canter.

Which was a mess.

BM removed my grabby hands crutch and things felt pretty wild and woolly. I kept tensing up with frustration that things weren't going perfectly while BM yelled at me that the problem was that I was tensing up. Type A vicious cycle lemme tell ya.

She was telling me to relax and drop my shoulders while weighting my elbows and keeping soft wrists. Individually I could do each of those things, but everything at once felt impossible. The thing I like best about BM's teachings style is that she has a hundred different ways to explain the same thing. She finally told me to imagine that my arms were side reins--steady and firm, but still elastic. For whatever reason that finally made things click into place. She put us on a spiral circle, I got all my parts in unison, and Bobby did some really good collected work.

We finished with her yelling at us to walk with purpose and pep. Bobby has a shit walk. It's flat and dragging and slow. It's never going to be a great walk, but if we can get it into a consistent 7 range I'll be happy. I pushed and kicked and squeezed and didn't let him cheat and trot and all the sudden I had this big, rangy, powerfully moving horse beneath me. Bobby's ears literally fell over sideways--I think he was as amazed as we were and there was much laughing at his expense.

batshit crazy cow dog staring down a wild, stick eating black bear to finish you off

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Baby Steps

Baby steps towards achieving BM's goal of me actively riding my horse over fences that is. A tall task, I know.

I debated giving Bobby today off. I don't like doing the same thing more than two days in a row, and trail riding is certainly out of the question as we'd go all Artax lost in the swamp if we wandered any further than just behind the pastures. I have a doctor's appointment today that I don't want to smell like horse shit for (Fingers crossed they figure out why my eyes still can't focus since my last concussion!), so it was either get there super early or just chuck him out in the pasture and get back to work tomorrow.

I ended up being roused super early by Hubby so Bobby missed his chance to be a lazy bum for a full twenty four hours instead of just twenty three.

I'd cleared the ring of jumps yesterday so we could do a test run through. BM dragged the ring after my ride and this morning there was only an outside five stride line and a single along the other long side set up. Perfect for me, I just wanted to give Bobby a break from drilling dressage.

sorry, no jumping media!

Our warm up was long and low and staying light which he was perfect for. He's always perfect for that in the dressage saddle too, it's just the hard stuff that comes after where he gives me the finger.

We started off circling over the first jump in the line that I'd left set low at 2'. To the left it was off a short approach so I went right to work making sure I had control of his haunches and was making a square turn so his butt wasn't fishtailing all over the place. I got that down right away, but then forgot that I also needed to keep both legs on to maintain the forward. SO MANY THINGS!!!

Once I forced myself to buckle down and really focus I was able to put the two together and get good jumps. Part of me wonders if I have such a hard time making these things that I technically know click in my head in a timely manner because I keep painfully jostling my brain, but the other part of me is like....well, you kind of have always sucked at jumping so there's that.

From the right I cut into the line and had a nice long approach to get my shit sorted out. That was easy peasy and I let Bobby have a quick break before moving on.

so glad the purple bonnet finally went on sale at the local tack store

I started with the line off the right. Jump in and immediately lift Bobby up with my seat and legs to make sure he didn't splat on landing. Nailed it and he cantered down the line not feeling like a runaway train burrowing into the ground. We came around to the 3' single and I whoa-ed too much and got him in too close which made him roll the rail out with a knee. Second time around, just as easily through the line and nailed the distance to the single.

Back to the left again to the line. He jumped in awesome, landed uphill and I felt like I could have added or subtracted as many strides as I wanted because of it. He handles like a fucking sports car when he's not dragging himself on his forehand. And, you know, is being a listening polite horse and not a raging asshole.

Easy over the single though I did come around the corner and realize I had to add a lot of leg because he wasn't paying attention and hadn't even picked up on the jump yet. But I was active and did it without hesitation which made the jump a breeze.

riding bestie's puppy came to visit on friday. the black bear loves her.

I get down on myself sometimes because we do a lot of small jumps in lessons, and I feel like I'm never going to get back to where we were. But we also do a lot of repetition in lessons and BM knows his feet aren't going to last forever. She's also drilling basics that I never learned or have never been very good into me, and those don't change no matter what the fence height is. When I'm on my own I can make the jumps as high as I want and use all the information she tries to hammer into my brain while only doing a couple jump efforts.

And there's no fear coming up to big fences. Just calculation and how to best ride my horse. BM earned an honorary therapy degree last year, for sure.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bad Horse

Ugh, Bobby, you're just bad!

one of us is pointed in the right direction

I guess I should have seen this coming. Bobby is a horrible monster during the winter, every single winter. But we did a lot of fucking around and not a whole lot of real work this winter because my motivation was down since I didn't know if I'd have a sound horse to compete this year, and a lot of days it was just too fucking cold to function seemingly more so this year than the years before. I had a relatively pleasant winter for once and now I'm paying for it in the spring.

I should be fair and say that while the tantrums are as violent and absurd as ever, he's actually coming back down to earth in a relatively short time frame for him. I don't feel like I've lost a whole ride fighting with him lately. Maybe five minutes max and I can start finessing some work out of him again, and we're able to end working normally.

lots of stretchy trot breaks to try to be nice. doesn't always work. 

Yesterday his problem was that he just wanted to canter. He also didn't want to steer and I was hit hard upside the head with how often my legs are off my horse when I steer. If I tried to get him to turn with just my legs, he blew through all my aids and then got pissed when I had to kick him over to avoid ramming into the wall. That obviously necessitated a fit, and while I got him working better, I still wasn't really putting my leg on like I needed to. That's going to be a constant work in progress. You have to respect my leg and not get rage bitch pissed when it's telling you to do things.

We also had a discussion about how you don't get to just canter whenever you feel like it. Oh, I picked up my reins from a free walk? BETTER CANTER. You want me to lengthen my stride? SOUNDS LIKE CANTER.

i've been working on letting him be way more forward at the canter which has resulted
in him really starting to lift up front. of course now i can barely ride it. 

It should come as no surprise that today's issue was that he didn't want to canter at all.


yesterday's reaction when i wouldn't let him canter.
today's reaction when i did want him to canter. 

It's a humid sixty degrees here today so I opened the arena doors and started our ride off with a meander around the pond and some of the trails that weren't too underwater. He was happy to be out and seemed better for it when we got back to the ring. He warmed up at all three gaits well. We did all sorts of fun things at the canter--changes of direction through walk and trot and counter canter shallow and three loop serpentines. He got a little tense a couple times, but no dramatics and stayed focused.

I let him have a long walk break while I looked up 1-2 on my phone. I'm doing 1-2 and 2-2 at our first rated show Memorial Day weekend. I never bothered entering any First tests last year because I never planned on sticking with dressage. Now we're mostly stuck here so I have to swing back down and grab those scores towards my bronze.

lengthenings are good to go. far too close to face planting for anything else.

He seemed pretty...mild, I guess, when I picked my reins back up to run through the test. Lengthenings were good, leg yields were fine, walk was fine, picked the trot right up, and then lost. his. shit. when I cued for the canter. I eventually got him into it and headed onto a forward trajectory, but when I turned in for the 15m circle he went winging sideways and lost his shit again.

bye felecia 

Lots of kicking got him moving forward even if it was up and down like a rabid rocking horse forward, but then he slammed on the brakes and refused to move. Ughhhhhhhh, Bobby. I got him out of that eventually and finally wrangled him at a walk onto the 15m circle we were supposed to be cantering. I let him walk on that for several minutes until his brain slunk back into his ears, trotted it a few times, and then--tah dah! I asked for the canter and he did two circles just fine with zero drama and continued on through the rest of the test quite fancily and without any fuss whatsoever.

casual every day warm up trot now

I let him be done there, did another outside walkabout, and hosed him off. Farrier and I had been talking before I got on about how everyone thinks Bobby is so sweet and perfect, and then I got off and she was like, "Good ride? LOLZ. Bobby you're the worst."

Some days, bro. Some days the Amish are calling you (metaphorically of course).

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Active Riding

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about this morning's lesson. Between the weather and being sick, it's been a good long time since our last one and I can't actually remember the last time we jumped anything.

Also my horse has fluctuated between being semi-manageable and something straight from the depths of hell these past few days so which Bobby was going to show up to play this time?

After Monday's less than stellar cooperative ride, on Tuesday I tried again. He was actually far better behaved to start. He wanted to try the bucky pumpy hoppy nonsense right off the bat at the canter, but I just kept kicking him and sat through it and he finally dropped his llama face and got to work. We even coasted through a canter half pass across the diagonal to a flying change with zero dramatics. He still does the canter half passes like we're swimming through cold molasses, but we eventually get to the other side. I mean, it's not like these tests are timed, right? So what if we need a full minute to make it from K to M?

I didn't want to burn him out with another dressage ride, but I also didn't want to jump him two days in a row--and it was fucking freezing yesterday--so I went with a longe for Wednesday. I bent down to pick up the whip and he went shooting off. Of course it was the one time I wasn't wearing gloves to longe so I was only able to yell at him while trying to send his rabid dolphin leaps into a circular motion before I finally got him wrangled down. He spent the rest of the longe snaking his head at me but at least remained on the ground.

"fuck you, i'm so sassy!"

So yeah. Maybe not the most confident feeling that I was going to get a well behaved horse today.

However, since he's Bobby and Bobby plays by his own mysterious Bobby rules, he was actually completely his own Bobby way.

BM started us off with two poles down the long side five strides apart. She sent us off to the left first saying that we could get however many strides we wanted as long as I came in with a plan to get them. I couldn't waffle and just let Bobby splat in and then race out on his own terms. "You need to be an active rider and make decisions before it's too late." Okay, well, I think we all know that being an active rider is the complete polar opposite of who I am. Sit like a lump and space out? Right up my fucking alley. 

I was able to get some good work done on not having Bobby take a nose dive after the first pole/jump (As if he would just canter over them. Please.) and then barreling down the line on his forehand yanking the reins out of my hands. When he does that it makes him feel like he's going a thousand times faster than he is, and like he's going to land and do a somersault. I got him to lift his front end up and keep it up so he felt really light, and it made the five strides feel like we were just strolling down the line easy peasy.

the picture of lightness and adjustability, amirite?

Then we switched and went to the right. The first pole came off a shorter approach that direction and, as always, I completely botched it pretty much every single time. Bobby kept swinging his haunches out, losing balance, and swapping behind which didn't help matters. I was like, thankfully Massage Lady will be here next weekend because he clearly needs work. Meanwhile BM was like, "Stop riding like shit, control your horse's haunches, and you won't have that problem, you fucking jagaloon." (possibly not a direct quote)

After bungling through that direction enough times, BM mercifully let us move on. Back to the left, we had a pole 9' to a gate 18' to another pole. She rolled the poles in and out each time so I had to get him to compress or lengthen his stride accordingly. It went fairly well though I definitely felt like I was riding Bobby's coattails as he figured things out mostly by himself. To the right it wasn't quite as pretty, but uh...compressing your horse and making him use himself apparently makes him not fish tail all over and land on the correct lead with no crazies. Hmm.

must get kitty snuggles in

We finished with a standard hunter-ish course. It wasn't the smoothest, but I made decisions and acted on them with every single fence. There was no launching, no getting left behind, and we actually got out of the two stride in two strides without difficulty. BM gave me the option of doing it once more to clean it up, but my lungs were well and truly shot at that point so we quit there.

Overall not a bad lesson for a bad horse who hasn't jumped in ages.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Is this what it's like?

Is this how normal horses are? You give a super fit clipped horse nearly two weeks off in cold weather and they don't come out like a sleepy little puppy dog?

It's absolutely awful.

satan after a mid-ride longe intervention

On Friday I was finally feeling sort of human again. I could mostly speak without coughing, and while it still felt like I'd shredded every muscle fiber along my ribs (PSA: Never get bronchitis. According to the vet, women who get bronchitis in winter are almost guaranteed to break a rib. Did you know that? Doesn't that sound fucking horrible? Take your vitamins!), I'd finally found time to have BM check Bobby's new saddle for fit.

It sits a little low up front which I could already tell, but she said it was great in the shoulders so all I did was stuff my ancient foam Roma wither pad under it and off we went! We did a super low key w/t/c ride just so I could get a better feel for riding in it and to see how Bobby felt.

Yeah, Bobby felt like he was possessed by a malignant spirit.

summoning a demon while doing dressage? right up his alley. 

Bobby is not the type of horse that does well with time off. I wouldn't classify him as a hot horse--he doesn't try to run off with you or feel uncontrollably fresh. Instead he turns into a fucking terrorist. He gets mean. He walks from the paddock on his hind legs. He picks a fight with you about everything. He tries to bite you. It's like he gets so bored and he has all this (imaginary) 'roid rage built up that he channels into bad things.

He got the weekend off since he was vaccinated Friday afternoon and I was busy anyway, but I got on this morning in a wide open, jump-free arena excited to be able to do some real dressage work in a real dressage saddle on my real Second horse.


remember all those fancy horse ribbons we won last year?
(ribbon rack brought to you by tracy!)

He was actually pretty good to warm up w/t. I was lulled into a false sense of, "It's so nice to have a horse that can just come out and get back to work without missing a beat!"

And then we cantered. It started off fine. Left lead, not heavy, staying forward, not curling, all good news. And then he couldn't horse any longer. He started to get tense, like, "Oh, I forgot I'm Bobby. Quick, better have a tantrum for no apparent reason and then also get over it for no apparent reason. Rinse and repeat."

We made it through that, never really getting the quiet, drama free simple changes I was going for, but first ride back, we'll work on those later. Canter right.

No. No canter right. Violent bucking fit sounds like a much better option.

st patrick's day festivities.

At that point I got off and put him on the longe to canter right. Once he was done flailing, he picked it right up and went around without issue.

I got back on and did some work with the halt on the center line. Trot/halt/trot, trot/halt/rein back/trot, yada yada. He would be okay and then randomly decide he wasn't okay and try to instigate something. I finally just finished by beating him onto a circle at the walk and ending once he could remember he could bend again.

The saddle rides nice though! Throughout all his malarkey I felt like he was using himself freely--no get stuck from a too tight saddle here, express yo self, Bobby.

Only don't. Please. Just go back to being a nice horse, and stop trying to fucking bite me and sail away on the end of your lead rope.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I find it a little spooky (or suspicious) that one of the eventing bingo cards I was assigned has one row that can accurately sum up all of Bobby's eventing career. We're going south from N here folks because #thetruthhurts.

I don't often find myself nervous about dressage. In fact #never because #dressagemoose #whatisthejudgelookingat #notthesamehorseimriding #clearly. I've been guilty of dialing it in plenty of times and losing scores that way, and sometimes Bobby loses his shit because #bobbyreasons, but if you've read my blog for any length of time, you know the real issues have always been with the jumping phases--mainly #stadium #fuckthatbitch

wow, does looking at old pictures make your current self feel like a #fatty

I feel a little guilty about claiming our first box because rarely are rails Bobby's fault. But from Bobby's point of view, every rail he knocks is a #cheaprail because his pilot #rideslikeshit.

"you are #useless, lady"

Flowing right along, the main reason we take rails is because I prefer to gallop around stadium at the #speedofaslug #sofastwow #waithaveyouevenmovedyet.

trying to asses if we're in some sort of jumping #timespacecontinuum 

Ironically, while jumping I also run into the problem of #nobrakes #whoadammit.

the day the #hackamore got banned from competition #isaidwhoayoufucker

But the main love of Bobby's life is #crosscountry and he'll put up with a whole plethora of rider errors to jump around clean.

"you're an #incompetentidiot but #okay"