Thursday, November 30, 2017

You're a trail horse now, k?

A couple weeks ago Riding Bestie came up to meet The Snoot for the first time. I had to pick Hubby up at the airport in the early afternoon, but it left us with just enough time to ride ponies, go tack shopping, and stuff our fat faces with Taco Bell. You know, the usual, just in overdrive.

and run these puppy dogs into the ground of course.

Sarah got on Ralph who accompanied us on our first trail ride and who also gets turned out with Opie. We headed out as soon as we were mounted and I had strapped on my quarter sheet because it was freezing.

Opie bravely marched out the door in the lead and walked on a loose rein the whole time. He crossed the creek with a little leap before waiting on the other side for Ralph to catch up and cross too. Since it had been raining so much, I decided to reverse the path we had gone before and come up the smaller hill instead of go down it.

As we crossed into another field, we got too close to a pricker bush and my quarter sheet snagged on one of the branches. I reached back to try to tug it free as we kept walking, but it was well and truly stuck and the velcro parted from my lap and the whole thing slid over Opie's butt to dangle from the bush. I don't know if he was ever galloped in a quarter sheet during his time at the track, but regardless, he didn't so much as twitch the whole time.

purple breeches, purple butt cape, ten thousand layers under blue coat.

Obviously I was pleased with that, and then we rounded the corner and he spotted the horses turned out at the farm behind ours. He stopped in surprise and looked back which I noted in our last trail ride meant he was unsure and would appreciate a lead.

Ralph said no. Ralph said, "You think Opie is lazy? Watch this." Despite Sarah spanking him on the ass with a dressage whip, Ralph refused to so much as stick his nose in front of Opie. He commenced bucking into the side of Opie to show his displeasure at being asked to do such an impossible task. Opie, meanwhile, trotted two steps to get out of the way and carried on leading on the buckle.

Welcome to your new life, kid. You gotta do what you gotta do whether you want to do it or not.

including cooling out bareback. #roughlife

We finished by walking around the front field and over some of the logs while Opie screamed his brains out because his recently relocated bestie had seen him pass by on the trail ride and couldn't even, but the fight against incessant screaming is a post for another day.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

First free jumpies

My main goal with Opie is to turn him into a super fancy, blow your socks off, please don't notice he's a midget, dressage horse. There aren't a ton of eventing opportunities around here, and those that do run are expensive, prone to last-minute cancellation, and not particularly fun for me. However, I have every intention of sweeping through the disciplines because ribbons, and with the plethora of low key hunter shows in the immediate area on top of all the hunter paces offered, Opie needs to learn to jump.

Jump without clonking through poles without a care for his cannon bones that is. Because he's already super good at that part.

wow so gud. 

It wasn't until I started working with BM that I put any stock in free jumping actually being a valuable tool instead of an excuse to chase your horse around the ring and let them free wheel through a bunch of poles. BM's approach with Bobby showed me that when planned out, there's actually a whole lot of training going on. 

I was working by myself and didn't want to overwhelm Opie on his first go-round--and first time ever seeing anything more than a twelve inch vertical he could clunk over from a standstill--so I started off with three poles on the ground, 9' to a one stride. 

As we all know Opie is not one for, uhh...forward thinking so really my biggest concern here was that I was going to die of exhaustion chasing him up and down the ring to get him to go through the chute. What I didn't take into account was his supreme love for peppermints and how it trumps All Things. 

where them cookies at??

I led him through once each way by his halter and rewarded with a peppermint each time. Then I let him loose at the entrance, shook the whip at him, and met him on the other side with a cookie. I adjusted his ground poles to a teeny tiny X one stride to a bigger X and sent him off by himself. I herded him through the chute, he clobbered everything, and then came to get his cookie. 

Round three?

Child genius. 

I put my phone away to adjust the jumps a couple times and give him my full attention to actually make sure he was jumping things instead of just Hulk smashing. I ended with his tiny X to a 2'3" oxer. The first time through he was feeling so wild and thought maybe he'd run through it because omg so fast.

That clearly didn't work out for him, but because he's brilliant he didn't even stop for a cookie. He went right back around all by himself and fixed the whole shebang. 

And then obviously got extra cookies and finished there. 

superman that ho

jk i'm perfect

It wasn't so much of a "Use your body better" session as a "You have a body" session, but even that little bit has already paid off. I try to incorporate little Xs into nearly every ride just for something fun to do besides the mental hard work of learning to trot on the bit. Opie has felt way more confident in himself on approach--instead of getting wiggly, he's locks on and boldly...trots over. 

Okay, so I didn't instantly create a horse that jumps the moon (or even jumps at all), but he did keep trying to drag me to the little 2' vertical set up yesterday while we were boldly CANTERING little Xs under saddle.  He'll being seeing more of the jump chute this winter!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Oh hey

I'm having a bit of a conundrum over blogging lately.

Part of me wants to share every single thing Opie and I are getting up to because Oh Em Gee this kid is such a smarty pants. But I don't want to become that person who expounds on how amazing their horse is, and everyone ends up being like, "Shut the fuck up, bitch. Some of us are over here struggling with real problems."

Spoiler alert though: It's not all roses. Is it ever? Today I clunked my horse's head into a steel support beam in the arena because he was about to somersault picking a fight about the right lead. We are beauty, we are grace. I will hit you in the face. (Not intentionally though, just, you know, please focus on your body parts for fuck's sake, Opie.)

there is no one better at throwing side eye than this kid.

And then there are the wonderful people on facebook who have Opinions on everything. Y'all. EV-UR-E-THINGGGG. From old college friends to one particular person from my barn in PA that feels the needs to comment on every single picture, I can't get away with a mention of Opie or Bobby or any other horse that has ever existed without them being like, "WORDS. WORDS WORDS WORDY WORDS."

"I miss doing real dressage rides."

Right. I know.


I've actually only ever owned fresh off the track horses, and I've turned every single one of them into the horse I wanted. I've been down this road several times before. Sometimes I just want to share cute pictures or celebrate small wins, and facebook is the quickest place to be like, "Yay, we did a thing!" Then that reaction spirals out of control before I can form a blog post about it and it kills all desire to share with you lovely people who neither annoy me nor say foolish things.

So I need to find a balance of #blessyourtimeline with pictures of The Snoot and bragging about all the fun boxes we're ticking off without crossing the line of  "I will cut you if you don't shut up." Because really, every day we're up to new and amazing things:
  • Trail rides
  • Free jumping
  • Saddle fitting
  • Bareback romping
  • Just Say No to weaving
    • and screaming
    • and invading personal space
    • and bad manners in general
  • Gearing up for our first "horse show"
just say yes to cookies

I do want to document these things to look back on--that being the whole reason I blog in the first place--so expect to see some posts crawling out here shortly.

In the meantime, PA Barn Lady, if you can't refrain from being so obnoxious I'm going to have to start commenting back on all your delusional horse posts and go full on Cyber Psycho on you. Good fucking lord.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Child Genius

Sometimes with a heavier emphasis on child instead of genius.

idk where the rubber stop on my standing went so it's duct taped.
things is klassy around here. also, real talk, opie has maybe not the
most attractive profile out there. 

Opie returned to work Monday after a week off while I was in IL in which BM reported that he spent one night screaming his brains out for an hour and a half while one of his buddies was doing a lesson.

BM said, "Oh noes, Opie, your mom hates screaming. You better learn to be quiet!"

And then I said, "You have my permission to kill him."

And then he tried screaming during our ride and learned maybe piping the fuck down is the better option in Carly Boot Camp Land.

"oh hai, i missed you. JUST KIDDING YOU'RE THE WORST."
-opie, probably.

It was a rough re-introduction to Land of the Rules for this kiddo, but hey--at least it kept me from whining that things are too easy with him, right?

I started him off on the longe to give him a fair chance to get any sillies out, especially since we had to have a minor Come to Jesus in the crossties about standing still to get our feet picked. He started off with some zoomies at the trot before wildly bursting forth into the canter...for three strides and then quitting. Wow, Opie. Much wild. Such sassy. I finally got him going both directions w/t without being a lazy cow and quitting, or being a lazy cow and going fast for half a circle before quitting.

We, once again, had to have a little chit chat about standing at the mounting block, but fortunately that seemed to be a quick regression as he was a pro today. 

I really wanted to get after him about picking up the canter yesterday, but he ended up being such a spicy firecracker--on an Opie level which means he kind of trotted fast and had slightly less steering than usual (which is saying something as sometimes bouncing off the wall is still what turns him)--that I spent way more time working on transitions and settling into a quiet rhythm. He ended up offering me really good stretches at both the walk and trot, and since he'd also w/t over rows of ground poles a million times throughout the ride I let him quit there.

i went full #tackho and ordered him a new bit and bridle
simply because i don't like the way the brown micklem looks
on him. black micklem? fine. brown? no. he likes his bit while
he waits for his bridle to get here tho!
This morning I was set that we were going to tackle the canter. I didn't even need him suddenly going laps and making circles and picking it up in ten different spots and yada yada. I just wanted him to pick it up when asked and not immediately quit because hard

He was much more settled this morning than yesterday afternoon, probably because all his friends were still in. Whatever, I'll take the wins wherever. W/T, lots and lots of circling and changes of direction, and finally I set him up for the canter and asked. He ran into a faster trot which is his go-to, but right when I was about to regroup and try again he picked it up. Maybe four strides, but that's about twenty strides less than it took before I could even reel him back in from his Standarbred gait in previous attempts. He made it one whole lap before he thought about quitting. I legged him on and made him finish another half a lap and asked for the walk. 

For everyone that calls dibs on him for their pokey hunter pony, sorry. This kid has the natural knee action of once fancy (Yeah, I went there, Emma!) AF dressage horse. You know, down the line when he's not a lazy, non-steering, carriage horse. I'll try to make Riding Bestie get video on Friday!

in the meantime he's the best at strolling about on the buckle
after rides. 

We finished our ride in the outdoor where the never ending rain and/or snow melt (haha, missed all that while I was gone, suckers) has created two decent sized puddles down one long side. Opie marched right up to the first puddle, stopped, stuck The Snoot in it, and then marched through and on to the next. 

He also trotted through both without a moment's hesitation as long as I had both hands on the reins for steering, and not one hand occupied with my phone. 

Are we sensing a theme here? #steeringishard

getting so good about just hanging out, something he thinks
is a way better idea than working.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Grey Horse Problems

Remember how I went into every horse shopping experience ever saying, "I don't want a grey."?

Remember those days?

I wanted nothing to do with the grooming of a grey horse, especially down the line when grey becomes white. Opie isn't as much of a hog as he could be, but he does love deep sleeps in his stall and has recently discovered the joys of mud. While he's still plenty dark, his grey is more silver-ish--fucking awesome, yes, but it does next to nothing to hide dirt and pee and poop spots. Plus he's got that great big white snoot, a white pastern one hind, and a white leg on the other hind.

nothing more satisfying than a brand new blankie

I'm a Type A organizational cleanliness psycho, so Opie is getting really good at standing quietly on the crossties while I dig into him with my curry comb and brushes. Fortunately the dude seems to love his grooming time, even channeling his inner Prince and begging for the curry comb to get stuffed down his ears.

Unfortunately, my grooming tools do not extend further than a rubber curry and a couple of brushes. I don't have any sprays or lotions or dry shampoos or anything fancier than a bottle of Mane and Tail in my arsenal.

I know there are a lot of current and former grey horse owners in the blogosphere, and all of your horses seem to always look amazing, so what are the tricks of the trade? What do I need to purchase for optimum cleanliness, both for a full showtime scrub down and a cold winter day spot clean?

Tell me all your secrets!

and nothing more sad than its first mud bath

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Doing all the things

As planned, I was able to rally some riders from my barn and get together for a trail ride walk on Saturday morning. It had rained literally every single day last week, and was gearing up to drop nearly three more inches on Sunday, so we were limited to our exploration.

The barn is also hosting a hunter pace this upcoming Sunday (which I will be in the process of driving back to the East coast during, boooo!) which meant we were cautious about footing to try to keep everything as unsullied (See what I did there, GoT fans?) as possible. We still managed the smaller hill through the woods and wended through a different section of woods that's usually completely flooded.

so interested in the great outdoors

I wasn't expecting any grand theatrics from Opie because that just doesn't seem to be the type of dude he is. That said, I did my best to set him up for success. I'd taken him on several hand walks back where we were riding both by himself and with our fearless leader Oz (the big red butt you see above). He knew how to navigate the stream and the bridge, and there was little back there that was going to come as a surprise to him.

He got his first taste of weekend morning mayhem as we were waiting for all the troops to assemble. There were several other people riding, people in the aisle, and the Gator racing around outside dropping hay. He had a minor set back about the mounting block because he couldn't focus and had to go on an adventure right now, but once I got on he was quiet if distracted.

interested but listening. good kid. 

We finally set off with Opie close on the heels of Oz. K said she'd relinquish the lead if Opie out-walked Oz, but once we got past the pastures Opie settled into a slower pace and was happy to trail with the two other horses behind him.

He crossed right over the stream, giving it a minor leap--more like a stretched out hop stride--before stopping to wait patiently for the other horses to follow him. From there we went uphill into the woods where he hadn't been before, and then cut into them halfway to get back down the hill.

The first time around down the hill, Opie wanted to go, go, go which is completely typical for trail newbs. On our second lap he took the time to think about his feet and had no issues coming down. His one "big" thing that will need work is that he wants to run through mud because ew, touching. He flings his neck up so it's hard to get leverage, but I was able to yank him back to a thinking walk each time. Guess what's in your future, kiddo? ALL THE MUD.

We stopped for a picture to commemorate his first trail ride which involved our photog nearly getting yanked out of the saddle by Fatty McFatFat Ralph and not getting my phone to work. #fail

dramatic reenactment of what it would have looked like

Overall though, he was his usual superstar self. He led for a couple minutes and probably would have kept leading if pressed, but he started looking behind him so I figured that was his cue he wanted a buddy up front and Oz took back over. He walked the whole time on a loose rein, and even started thinking about stretching that periscope neck down which to me is what trail riding is all about. Stretch it out and use that body, baby racehorse.

And just in case you didn't love him enough already, he did his first "course" today. Oh, yeah. We trotted an X and a 1' vertical with a flower box in front singly first, and then strung the two together with no cookie break between. When he got to the vertical the second time he actually popped over instead of just putting in a big trot stop.

He's kind of a genius, he can't help it.

cooling out around the driveway all by his

Now to start weaning him off getting a peppermint every time he breaths. Things are going to get rough in the coming weeks!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Too Easy

The other day I was bemoaning the fact that Opie is so easy. With half a dozen rides off the track under his belt, a kid could get on this horse and go around.

Which is great because they follow us around ogling him, so when he proves to be too fucking slow to do anything but w/t shows down the line I'll sell him to their parents with an extra zero tacked onto his original purchase price.

Juuuust kidding.

he actually has a great walk when he's not half asleep

Really though, in the thought stream that only equestrians can have, I was like, "Is he too easy for me? I feel like I'm cheating the system here. MAYBE HE'S DYING OF ANEMIA AND THAT'S WHY HE'S SO CHILL." I might have some baggage, okay?

On Friday I got on him for the first time since last Saturday after he'd spent the week loafing off doing horse things. (Although the report from BM was that he mostly just loafed while everyone else in his paddock embodied their OTTB spirits to the fullest. Whoa, Opie. Settle down.) He stood at the mounting block like a statue, finally walked off with a nudge, and then stopped three strides later to see if maybe I would just like to focus on standing still today.

Sorry, kid. Riding horses have to earn their keep, too.

the dressage saddle is going to be for sale soon. i can't deal with the fit for me anymore.
anyone want an 18" 32cm stubben roxane in great condition?

After fifteen minutes of boring but productive flat work, I took him over his very first jump! No, he can't canter yet. No, his steering hasn't miraculously improved overnight. But my main goal for every ride is for him to enjoy himself. I don't want to ram contact and leg aids and DO THIS and DO THAT down his throat.

I'd spent Monday playing with him in-hand over jumps, and had led him over the tiny crossrail before I got on Friday, and he kept angling towards it during our ride. He knows he gets a peppermint when he does truly spectacular things (like standing at the mounting block, look out world). I finally just let him carry on straight to it.

He got a little squirmy coming up to it--not ever looking to go around it, just, "I don't know if I can do this all by myself." I kept my leg on and gave him a long rein and he ended up trotting right over it with his front legs and hopping over it with his hinds. His jumping style at the moment is more like interpretive dancing tbh.

and then he strolled right over it as i was trying to
get a picture because he's a legit jumping horse obvi.

I got Hubby to come out with me for some super exciting trot pictures Sunday since he was finally not doing anything else--mostly because it was flooding down in WNY, and no one was doing anything but canoeing around the streets.

Opie was bound and determined to show me he's not the easiest horse in the world. He didn't prove his point, but he did learn a few more rules the hard way.

like "you bite me, you little shit, and you get popped in the nose."
opie finds this rule OFFENSIVE.
and "just because horses are getting turned out without you doesn't mean you get to
scream and fling your head into my face." this was also OFFENSIVE to him.
my head is turned away because his neck is the exact length to bash me in the nose with his skull.

Let's be real though. Flinging your neck in the air like an angry viper is nothing more than a temporary annoyance. My last three horses would have taken off with me, spooked every step, or gone running backwards until I quit in disgust. Yawn, Opie.

Also, to be clear, that wasn't a challenge.

It was his first time being ridden during the commotion of morning chores--specifically weekend morning chores when the crazy seems to be amplified ten fold--so I cut him some slack and stuck him on the longe with a standing martingale to get his brain refocused on me. He started off wanting to dart around screaming more, but ended doing quiet trot work with his full attention on me. When I got back on I had the old Opie back.

i mean, really with this saddle.
it looks even worse on this little horse than it did on bobby.

Despite the fact that his default neck carriage is that of a....well, carriage horse, he is learning about opening up his stride a bit more. He's already great about half halts, and while sometimes I feel like I have to physically pick him up and move him over, he's fairly responsive to the leg as well. That allows me to let him move out more as the ride goes on without worrying about him falling into a fast, racing trot that's not helping anything.

He's also figuring out how to mouth the bit and soften to it. He's not a puller or a leaner by any means, he's got his head too far up for that, so when he works the bit he does it by dropping his head down to it and getting a big scratch as a reward.

things could be a lot worse at this point in the game.

I also rode him Saturday, but that's a post for tomorrow!