Thursday, December 28, 2017

2018 Goals

Finally, the last year-end post is out the door! It was the perfect week to get all of these written up as all I've been doing at the barn is having mental breakdowns over dealing with the cold. How cold? So cold the fucking lighter I had to go out and buy to thaw the snaps for the water buckets shit out on me after all of two minutes of exposure. This is decidedly not helpful when the snaps re-freeze in the time it takes you to pound ice out of buckets. And the hose froze despite being kept in the heated tack room, and my face just burns nonstop, and I hate everything about this state.

But that has nothing to do with goals, so let's get these going!

1. Fully outfit Opie in all his own necessary gear. Most of what he has was Bobby's and most of it works for him. I did buy him his own fancy dressage saddle that was mostly for me as the Stubben fit him fine (It's for sale--someone please buy it!), but was a mess for my body parts. However, we are down to no jump saddle, and a jump girth that's too big for his itty bitty self. I'd also like to get him a blanket with a neck for next winter.

2. Figure out the best show routine to make Opie comfortable off property. He's a pretty sensible dude so I'm not expecting him to be unmanageable, but I know he's going to revert to weaving and screaming. I'd like to have those things completely nixed when we leave the barn.

3. Complete 25 hours for TIP trail riding patch. Mendon Ponds, here we come!

4. Be able to trailer Opie by myself. This ties in closely to the goal above as I trail ride almost exclusively by myself. I also show a lot by myself, so he's going to have to learn about self loading.

5. Smooth out the basics. I want to develop a better canter and have him working through lateral moves--leg yield, shoulder fore, shoulder-in, haunches-in. I'd also like to start seeing some adjustability within the gaits.

6. Don't get hung up in how everyone else is progressing. So many bloggers got new partners in 2017 that it's easy to compare yourself to what someone else is doing. People think the way they're training is the best way and the only way, and if you're doing it differently you're doing it wrong. I've been down the OTTB training road several times before, and I need to trust myself instead of getting caught up in someone else's journey.

let's do this thing!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 Year in Review

Imma do it, you guys. I keep psyching myself out because I don't particularly want to look back at all the shit this year brought, but my archival OCD won't let me not have a review post to put on the list. So. We'll make it succinct and get it over with.

In January, Bobby carried on the yearly tradition of being a flaming rage monster idiot in the winter. We fought over flying changes and shoulder-in for no particular reason, both of which were resolved in a follow up ride. Bobby never failed to enjoy making more work for himself, getting upset about it, throwing massive tantrums, and then magically getting over it the next day.

while a raging asshole, he was also totally trustworthy for all manners of shenanigans

February brought the first hint of what was to come with Bobby's leg. The vet was out for a couple of other horses and I had her take a look at what I thought was some fungus on his knee and ankle that was causing minor swelling. We put him on SMZs, treated with Equiderma, and while it never went completely away, it didn't seem to be a cause for real concern at that point. I dealt off and on with his sore feet from his navicular, but we manged to get him comfortable enough to participate in jumper night.

Apparently March was just a lot more of managing the drama king of winter. Reading back through these posts made me realize how truly awful this horse sometimes was. Fuck, he was a difficult bastard when he wanted to be.

#angryunicorn celebrates his twelfth birthday 

April was the month of ramming in all the lessons we missed due to inclement weather. I'd pretty much stopped jumping at that point due to Bobby's navicular issues creeping back up, and BM ripped our sorry dressage basics apart and rebuilt from the ground up.

Shit got real in May. We started off with Bobby feeling especially crippled in his feet, but Farrier did another shoeing change and we managed to get him comfortable again. Shortly after that, I had the vet out for the third time this year as Fungus Leg had taken an abrupt turn for the worse. Biopsy results gave us our diagnosis of Sarcoidosis. My horse was sore, depressed, and the vet was telling me to brace myself for euthanasia being an immediate option.

Instead, in June Bobby fucking rallied. We hit our only full show of the year, we did a high intensity hunter pace, and Bobby went back to work like nothing was wrong with him.

bobby never really got behind hunter shows

I posted two whole times in July, both of which were about the lead up to Bobby's return to eventing.

However, August was more rain and the event was a no-go for us. It was a complete waste of hard-earned savings that was so horrendously handled by the show management for yet another year that I sent in a scathing event review to USEA. We got up to all sorts of other things, though! We went to Cornell to do ALL THE TESTS only to be told they had no idea what the actual fuck was going on in his leg/coronary band/foot, but wow sarcoidosis is so cool, p.s. your horse is the only one in this country in recorded history to have this particular type. With even more shoeing changes, we got Bobby sorted enough to go cross country schooling with a couple barn mates. We also introduced him to the double bridle because he was owning the Third Level work, so it wasn't a complete wash of a month.

loved his job

September was officially the beginning of the end. We were able to get some great days in during the very beginning of the month, and my last ever ride on Bobby was jumping him over the skinny chevron Hubby made for us. Then he went very, very lame very suddenly. I panic-texted Farrier saying I thought he was foundering in his RF. She came out, didn't want to confirm or deny anything, and brought in a colleague to get yet another set of eyes on him. The second farrier was slightly more optimistic, but I think Farrier knew, after working on him so closely for so long, that we weren't in a good spot. They recommended putting the vet on standby in case he full on foundered, but I went ahead and called them out take take yet another set of images.

On the second of October, the vet came out, took a new set of rads that showed Bobby's coffin bone had disconnected and dropped and was about to come through the bottom of his foot, and I knew it was time. My whole barn family dove in to give Bobby the best last days of his life. One week later, either the night before or the morning of his appointment, his coffin bone came through his sole. He was on three legs hobbling out to where we chose to put him down and bury him. It was not an easy euthanasia. He did not go quietly. But I will instead always remember that with a foot that was completely useless, in the freezing, whipping wind and rain after being confined to a stall for weeks, he followed along behind me on a loose lead with no hesitation--always trusting, always looking for an adventure, always the kindest horse.

always very, ahem, relaxed about pictures

I drowned my sorrows by going to Fair Hill for the first time and having an epic blogger meet up with some of my faves. The next weekend I decided to go to the track just in case I saw something that struck my fancy and came away with a little grey 4yo.

so small, so snootable. how could you resist?

I spent November getting to know Opie and introducing him to his new life. He went trail riding for the first time, did his first free jumping, learned about bareback ambling, and just generally adjusted to his new set of rules while proving to be just about the easiest baby horse ever in existence.

And finally, the month of December brought Opie's first real trail ride, his first jump courses, first "horse show", and his first ribbons! He's wrapping up the year the same way I think most of the horses in the Northeast are--on vacation because of brutal cold.

and taking his first selfies which he was very into

I had big ambitions of year-end awards and moving up a level, but instead finished it out down one partner and getting to know a new one. It's not a year I'll look back fondly on, but it was--to try to put a positive spin on it--a learning experience, and I know I've come out the other side a changed horseman.

Here's to 2018 not being so spectacularly shitty!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A very blogger Christmas

Just in time for the holiday itself, Hubby walked in the door with the mail this morning and asked me what I'd ordered from Alberta. As we're on a spending lock down for the moment to make sure present shopping doesn't get out of hand (ahem, my saddle), I feel as though he was accusing me of being a little bit frivolous with ye olde checkbook.

Nah, Hubby! It's mother fucking Blogger Secret Santa time!

I always feel bad for whoever ends up stuck with me as I never have any idea of what to ask for. I give the vaguest suggestions, and every year my Secret Santa has delivered in spades. It was no different this year from Renate at Grain Before Groceries--one of the first blogs I started following because of the fellowship I felt to her through her blog's title. #preach

One of my favorite things about this gift exchange is seeing just how well everyone knows each other. The gifts are always so personalized that I think it makes it that much more special. Renate nailed it with a new blueish teal bonnet for Opie who looks dreadful in Bobby's old lavender bonnet, but who rocks all his blue gear. We'll be using this for trail rides and hunter paces for sure!

She also enclosed my favorite pair of socks that has been sitting on my Amazon wish list for eternity, and this cuff that had Hubby and I LOLing so hard:

so fitting.

Thanks Renate, and thanks Tracy for putting this together yet again!

Friday, December 22, 2017

2017 Goal Review

'Tis the season, even if all my goals this year became moot pretty much right off the bat!

1. Stay present while riding at shows. Can't cross this off as we only went to one and one third shows, and the goal was aimed at riding every movement of a dressage test.

2. Focus on year-end awards. Obviously not. We didn't make it to a single dressage show thanks to Fungus Leg.

3. Ride a Third level test. See above, although by the end of the summer I feel like we could have confidently attempted this.

4. Attend at least one horse trial. I saved pennies, did bitch work, renewed my USEA membership, and we completed the dressage only to have the cross country cancelled due to flooding and opting to stay home for the stadium since the footing was just as bad.

5. Stay quiet on approach to the jump. Nailed this one. I learned to just sit quiet, let the canter do the work, and let the jump come to me. I'm so thankful I got this out of the way as it's made me so much more quiet and confident as I start teaching Opie about jumping.

bobby never failed to drop weight in the hottest part of the year.

Lamest, most boring post ever I know. Had to do it for posterity. Now to think up some achievable goals for The Snoot!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Bobby's #BestNine2017

I tried the autofill calculator of insta-likes for my Best Nine this year, but it was pretty lame. A couple pictures of Opie, the post from the day I had to put Bobby down, and a few random ones that I have no idea why they were so popular. Things I didn't care all that much about, things I didn't want to remember, and things that have become a separate part of my journey through this year.

The most notable absence was of Bobby's face plant into water lilies, and that picture is what inspired me to create my own Best Nine--a tribute and a farewell to one Bobby Magee.

In June we went to our only completed show of the year. Bobby won one of the hacks, but it was his two over fences rounds in the Thoroughbred division that had me grinning like a fool. After his navicular diagnosis at the end of last year, I wasn't sure he was ever going to compete over jumps again. We'd got him back in fighting shape with corrective shoeing, but he still hadn't jumped more than a handful of times in the six months leading up to this show. More than that, a week before this he was handed his diagnosis of sarcoidosis and we were preparing ourselves to put him down. Instead he rallied and packed me around like a complete professional.

Who needs a dressage saddle for dressage? When sound, Bobby felt incredible in the strength department this year. He finally got his head in the game, and by the end of the summer I was feeling like Third was strongly in our grasp. This was a glimpse of the badassery that was to come.

I really struggled with keeping Bobby comfortable in his feet, and footing was something I always had to keep an eagle eye on. He never turned down a romp in the front field though.

We jumped 3'6" two times the whole year, just to prove we still could.

The crowning jewel of 2017. Hubby came along with us to Mendon for a photoshoot, and we couldn't pass up a chance for a dip before we left. Bobby's favorite speed was wading with a side of snacking on lily pads.

One of our last rides. Money was tight, but BM hauled us down for free with a couple other barn mates to go cross country schooling, and Bobby was in heaven.

The water beast in its natural habitat.

We attempted a second show, but the dressage was a shit storm due to footing, the cross country got cancelled due to flooding, and I opted not to haul back down for stadium on equally shitty footing. He still looked like a beast.

The end of an era.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Color me confused

Hey, you guys remember that post where I lamented that one lady who would not, could not stop sharing WORDS?

The one where I was like, "I can't even with this person and her WORDS anymore."?

And then you all scampered off to my facebook to get your stalking on?

I feel like it's time to share further. I was going to write a post today about Opie's dissolving right lead canter and how I'm tackling that issue (methodically and with cookies), but instead I feel the need to open a discussion.

getting to be a pro about standing still for pictures

I posted the above picture with a silly lament about how I'm bummed about how light Opie already is. I keep a close eye on you bloggers with grey horses. Every black point I can still see brings me some relief that he's not going to turn to white in two weeks, but honestly, he already looks white to me.

This was not meant to open a discussion about...well, anything. It did make me hate KC and Lauren a little bit for not being good friends and jumping in to tell me not to worry--GREY HORSES DO NOT FADE EVAR. #plzlietome

So I could. not. even. when I got this comment:


You guys, can we please discuss this? Have you ever actually found there to be a color bias against grey horses at dressage shows--or any shows? Am I that sheltered over the grey horse culture?


Face. Palm.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Jumper Night

BM texted me last month that she was planning on doing the first jumper night of the winter in the middle of December, and I was like, sold. And then as it was getting closer I was like, "Let's make it a ugly sweater Christmas party!" BM took it a step farther and turned it into a contest, best sweater getting a free class.

Challenge accepted, BM.

credit to riding bestie who hunted this beauty down at target friday morning
and then promptly bought a matching one. we had to pull out all the stops to
beat santa riding a unicorn across the night sky. #epic

Opie's jumping education is going about as well as his steering education. When he gets it, he's pretty much the best. When he doesn't....we run into walls/bring down every element of the twelve inch crossrail we're going over--standards, poles, fill, you name it. I allow myself a brief pout that he isn't magically some beautifully trained and confirmed jumper before moving on and reminding myself he's four, he's just about two months off the track, and this kid doesn't yet know that not going over the jump is an option. First world horse training problems, yo.

After his free jumping, he thinks he's got the whole thing figured out. So when he lopes over jumps from the perfect distance over and over again (that being like, three times in a row) I get complacent and stop helping him, and it shows when he misses, or clobbers into them, or gets wiggly, or breaks. I'm helping him more than I think I am and I need to hold myself accountable to be there for him all the time, even if being there is just being soft and waiting before giving him that extra little squeeze on take off to remind him he has feet.

rly hard to figure out two pointing over tiny Xs.

Individually, Opie's being popping over some 18" verticals with fill underneath. He definitely gets the idea a little better when there's some "size" and we approach it from the canter. Even the "bigger" jumps he still just puts in a big, awkward trot step over if we don't canter up to it. Even if he breaks before the jump, if we start from a canter he'll give it the old college try.

the right lead can be elusive.... practicing in the dressage saddle
on friday

Jumper night was split into a beginner and an intermediate division with each division having two splits--crossrails and 18" for the beginner, and 2'3" and 2'9" for intermediate. It was a game time decision on what I was going to do with Opie. He's practiced courses exactly one time, so while he might be the best at cantering single 18" verticals, I wasn't particularly confident in his ability to turn quickly and still make it over the jump without blowing his mind. I figured I'd do the crossrail division and depending on how he handled everything, add in a 18" class as well. 

turning and burning. clearly. 

The courses were all pretty simple, but since our arena is so narrow and my horse is so green, we were challenged enough. Hubby tried to get pictures of our first round, but it was so dark they all turned out horrendous. I handed him my phone and he videoed the other two rounds and the scintillating jump offs, but since we tapped out the canter in round one, they're all really scintillating trotting.

our second round where opie shows off his crashing prowess

Opie, for his part, handled everything like a champ. I brought him in to take a peek at all the decorations--including a Christmas tree in the corner by the sectioned off viewing area--but he was far more concerned with the horses that had started trickling in. He's still not super experienced riding with other horses, and I've never ridden him in the evening before so I opted to stick him on the longe for a couple minutes to take it all in while burning off any excess energy. He also hasn't been ridden consistently in the past two weeks--maybe three or four rides total?

The worst he did the whole night was need to walk a circle while waiting between one of the rounds, and then not want to stand at the mounting block when I got back on after adjusting his borrowed saddle. That was decidedly not helped by a couple of parents instantly jumping all over us the second he took one step away from the block before I could get on.

We were already tucked into a crowded area, we were almost done for the night (well, Opie was already done with us), and all I wanted was some fucking space to give him two seconds to remember his training and stand. There was one dude who grabbed his fucking tail when I led him up, and another one that was all over his face tugging him forward as I was trying to get him to just stand still. My desire to fling my arms around and send people physically scattering was strong.

both of our expressions by the end of that experience

We ended up doing the full crossrail division and nothing else. He was clear his first round, annihilated one jump the second round, and trotted through his first one stride for the third round (gambler's choice). Combined with two jump offs, he was one tired kid by the end of it. He didn't say no to anything, his steering was mostly there, and apart from being super excited--for him--to start his final round, he didn't get sassy or strong or distracted by things even the lesson horses Noped over.

our xrails jump off courses were tough stuff

He got cooed over by literally everyone, fed extra, extra cookies, and ended the night with the combined beginner division in second place for his first round and third for gambler's choice. 

i can't escape without an ugly ass yellow ribbon no matter the
horse it seems. 

Here's to the first two ribbons as a kickstart to many more!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mind Your Manners

New horse, new beatings, new people to offend!

I was going to write some sort of preface to this post about how maybe you should skip this one if non-stop snuggy time with your horse is the only thing on your agenda. If that's your horse reality, enjoy yourself. #snuggytimeforlife But instead I remembered I'd already written a preface many moons ago and went ahead and dug that out for you!

Plz read before leaving stupid comments, thx.

When Opie first arrived, he came with the warning that he stall walks when introduced to new places. His trainers were very upfront about that, and I assured them the first thing in his mouth was going to be ulcer medicine to ease the transition. Turns out not only did he stall walk, he also weaved, screamed, and his overall ground manners were found wanting.

"i what?? never!"

Ground manners are of utmost importance to me. I board at a very busy barn where several different people bring horses in and out to turnout during the week, and occasionally stalls get cleaned with horses still in them. From a safety stand point, the ground manners had to be installed right away.

Also though, I just hate a rude horse. I don't want them in my personal bubble, I don't want them dancing around on crossties, pulling me around while leading, or making tacking up/wrapping/treating injuries a time consuming process.

I've never dealt with a horse that weaves or stall walks before, and the accounts I got from people who have ranged from "It will never, ever stop. Don't even bother." to "You better make him stop before you maim him he maims himself." and everything in between. Several people forwarded me really interesting articles about what causes weaving, and what effects weaving has on the horse. Honestly, the conclusion I came to was that it's not fixable.

So obviously I decided I was going to be the one to cure weaving.


"seems like a lie, where are those cookies."

Now before anyone offers me a book deal or a scientific grant (to which I say, where the fuck were you when I had the only horse ever in the history of 'merica with localized sarcoidosis?), I repeat: I've never dealt with a horse that weaves before. I don't know what's typical or how bad Opie was compared to other horses.

However, the reason I thought I could get him to stop the behavior was that he never did it incessantly; it was always triggered by something. He didn't stand in his stall weaving or pacing up and down if the barn was full, or if he had food in front of him, or something else was holding his attention. He was weaving if he was in the barn by himself or when he was on the crossties, and it got worse on the crossties when I was doing something like tacking up or the farrier was working on him.

With that evidence, I felt like this was more an anxiety outlet combined with a 4yo's fresh off the track brain in a brand new environment with a brand new routine. All things that pointed to: remove the anxiety, remove the weaving.

At first I tried just sticking him on the crossties and waiting him out. Surely you can't weave forever. While eventually he stopped flinging himself from side to side, he was still most definitely weaving.

So from there I moved on to beating. (Again, plz read the linked post.)

The weaving was approached as just another part of Ground Manners Boot Camp. These are the rules. If you follow them, you get a reward. If you don't follow them, you get a punishment.

I learned straight away that Opie's high reward, will do absolutely anything to earn it, reward is a peppermint. Easy peasy. Figuring out a punishment that he listened to that didn't involve me actually beating him took a few days to work out, but eventually I found that he really dislikes being driven backwards--no actual touching involved as having the lead rope shook at him and getting in his space to move him back was what stuck in his head as a real punishment.

Armed with that knowledge, I ditched the crossties and worked with him in-hand to show him that all those things he found so anxiety inducing were actually okay. If he ignored the reward and wouldn't follow the rule, he got sent backwards.

I leave his two pasture mates in now until I'm done riding him. That works especially well at this time of year where they're on hay instead of straight grass, and I was having to hold out hay until everyone was turned out which made Momo and Ralph upset. That nixed the stall walking right away to have his buddies still in their stalls while he was in his.

While tacking up, I made sure to constantly stuff him with a lower reward treat (baby carrots) until he stopped dancing all over the place. Once he was quieter about getting saddled, I went back to the crossties again, eased off the carrots, and only rewarded him with his high reward peppermints when he stood still for the whole process with no bribery. He now waits patiently to get tacked up, and has no problem hanging out waiting in the crossties with his saddle on if I get distracted by something else.

just chillin. 

He was also quite bad for the farrier when she came out to shoe him for the first time. Because he was so intent on weaving, he didn't want to stand still long enough for her to keep his foot up on the stand. It involved a lot of yanking his feet away, and if he couldn't get them back he'd just fall over. Fortunately Farrier is patient, but when she was done she said, "I'm glad this is one horse I know won't be like this the next time I do him." Challenge accepted!

During every grooming while we worked on standing still being the best ever here are some more cookies, I'd bring my hoof stand out and practice him holding his feet up for longer and longer. He'd learned that Bitch Is Serious about the rules, so by this point he understood that yelling his name was the one and only warning before getting chased backwards. Not liking getting chased backwards at all, he quickly grew very respectful of a verbal warning. Also good because it's something Farrier can use with him.

Now that his ground manners are where I expect them to be--he leads quietly, crossties quietly, tacks up quietly, is patient about waiting--the last thing I had to conquer was the fucking screaming.

When he first got here, he'd scream about anything. Was the entire barn full but someone was walking a horse down the aisle? Better scream about it. Were horses getting turned out even if someone was in the ring with him? Definitely scream. Trail riding and see another horse? Scream. Trail riding and don't see another horse? For fucking sure scream.

when you scream make sure you fling you neck around dramatically.

If there is one thing in this world I hate above all others, it's screaming. I cannot stand it. Like, legit grounds for selling a horse. Can't deal.

This habit has been much harder to break than the others, and it's still not totally kaput. What's made it so hard is that there doesn't seem to be a defining factor about what triggers it. Sometimes he doesn't make a peep. Sometimes we're doing the exact same thing we did the day before without issue and suddenly he lets one loose. It's like he's a horse or something, prone to horsey whims. Mind boggling.

Anyway, I have made some progress sticking to the same boot camp rules. You behave (no screaming when in the face of a prime screaming situation like other horses calling out or turnout is going on), cookie. You misbehave (scream), back you go. Obviously this was hard to enforce from the saddle. I couldn't yank him backwards--I mean, I guess I could, but obviously didn't want to. I tried a couple different tactics--booting him in the ribs, spinning in a circle, hustling at whatever gait we were in, etc--but none did anything.

He would not shut up one day while I was trying to cool him out by walking laps around the driveway because he could see his paddock but couldn't see his friends (because they were still in the barn so he wouldn't scream and weave). I'd run through any distractions I could think up, but eventually one scream per lap turned into straight up trumpeting to the fucking angels and mid-bugle I jumped off and sent him backwards all the way across the parking lot. We were able to finish with several in-hands laps in silence after that.

But again, we came back from our trail ride with Riding Bestie and Ralph a few days later, and outside there were horses screaming which got Opie screaming which for some reason Ralph felt the need to participate in (because Ralph is a dick and I hate him), and it was just a giant non-stop scream party.

So I jumped off mid-scream again and chased him backwards...each and every time he started making noise. The intensity of Scream Fest 2017 wasn't dying down for anyone and Opie's attention wasn't staying on me so I broke down and wailed him in the chest with my hand. That got his attention in a hurry, and it was immediately followed by more backing until I felt like I was the only thing in existence in his tiny little world.

I threw him in a stall quickly to grab his standing martingale since I knew I was going to need it after that display of ridiculousness, during which he picked up the screaming again. I finished getting what I needed, slammed the tack room door shut, and stomped up to the stall and screamed his name at him like a fucking rabid banshee.

He shut the fuck up. And he hasn't had a screaming fit in front of me since. He still lets one loose when we come back from trail rides, but I can tolerate that.

"can't scream if eating cookies nonstop. just saying."

I haven't beaten him at his game yet though.

I got there last Saturday mid-turnout and was happy to see him hanging out in his stall quietly even with the horses on either side of him out of their stalls. I gave him a scratch and a cookie and told him what a perfect baby horse he was. When I got into the ring, K was like, "I should have known you were here when he shut up. He's been screaming non-stop all morning."

Is that Carly 1 point or Opie 1 point?

I know the weaving and barginess will come back once show season starts. I don't expect him to be perfect at his first off-property experiences. But I think once he learns the routine of a show horse, and I teach him that it's also fun and rewarding and filled with cookies, he'll settle down while traveling, too.

And, you know, hopefully it will be so fun being surrounded by so many other horses he can keep his mouth shut.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

In which Opie earns a day off

After a constructive ride in the ring Saturday morning in which I was like, "Opie, you're never going to pick up the correct lead if you violently fling your head and neck about like some sort of angry block-headed swan." and Opie was all, "Watch me." (That wasn't the constructive part, btw.), I brought him out to the aisle and got him untacked.

While we were waiting for a clear path to his stall/halter/freedom in general, BM stuck her head out and asked her two tiny lesson kiddos if they wanted to start their lesson with a trail ride. Tiny kiddos said yes, and I invited myself along with the bareback Dopie King.

he is so very short, but already so very wide.

Opie happily marched along in the lead, traversing a new to him field and a family of hidden Christmas tree shoppers without a care in the world. His one bugaboo appears to be the sight of other horses turned out. I'm not sure why this is very confusing to him as I know he got wintered at a large farm during his racing career, but it's consistently been the one thing he needs a lead to get past. All it takes is another horse continuing to walk and he'll follow--or another horse throwing a tantrum into the side of him to distract him, Ralph--but it definitely blows his little dappled mind.

When we got back, BM asked what the weather was going to be like for Sunday. It was forecasted as 50* and sunny, but sometimes it says that and it turns into 35* and raining and I've chucked horses out naked. Sorry, ponies. I'm glad you're all fat and fluffy. We lucked out though, and were on for a trail exploration BM had been wanting to try for awhile.

strolling down the neighboring farm's driveway

BM was on her personal horse and K joined us on Oz--both seasoned pros of trail riding and road riding in particular. Things started off auspiciously when BM's horse began crossing the first main road, realized we weren't directly behind him, and started throwing a tantrum in the middle of the road. At that point traffic around The World's Busiest Christmas Tree Farm was still relatively light so there was only one minivan with a tree strapped to their hood that had to stop and wait for the four year old to march across and take over the lead. Again.

It wasn't long until we hit the edge of the tree farm and started hearing people among the trees...with chainsaws and handsaws and loud, hidden voices. Opie was initially startled by these hidden, lurking humans and twitched a little before stopping and letting Secret take back over the lead.

Secret was like, "Whatever, I seriously do not care about hidden humans. Seems like I good time to throw a tantrum and buck at passing traffic!" Which also upset Oz who agreed with Opie that these monsters in the trees were something very fucking suspicious indeed.

a less populated part of the tree farm, though i'm pretty sure
that's oz about to take his fiftieth nervous poop.

Kudos to BM and K for telling their horses to get on with their lives and stop being naughty children because I probably would have called it. Instead, I was busy scratching Opie's withers and telling him he was a good boy while he gave the hairy eye to a parked cart with a tree in it.

And that's it. He didn't do anything more than stare in confusion at the swarm of activity surrounding at least a hundred cars and milling people as we passed by. He kept walking on a loose rein beside a deep drainage ditch, happy to be in front or behind or squashed into the side of someone. He waited patiently for a clear moment to cross the road again, and then plodded along while Secret and Oz power walked ahead.

If someone needed a lead, he gave it. If someone got antsy and wanted to charge ahead, he let them go by without ever changing pace.

now entering foreign territory. we have crossed the county line.

The only problems we had were nearly slipping on someone's freshly sealed driveway, and running into one obnoxious pony and donkey pair at a farm we were passing. The temptation was too much and Opie called out once before jigging for all of thirty seconds until they were out of sight. Whoa, stallion. Don't get too crazy.

Once we reached the county line, we called it good and decided to head back. We tried to get a selfie in front of the sign, but I'm not coordinated enough to use my phone that well. Instead, right as we gave up, one of BM's friends drove by and--being a fellow crazy horse person--parked her car and hopped out to grab a picture for us!

opie is all, "what is my life."

Secret particularly was pumped that we were heading home and opened up a whole new walk gear. Opie did not understand the concept and was very, very tired after his longest ride yet. Probably of his entire life. He figured out that he could walk slowly and occasionally burst forth into the trot for a dozen strides to catch up before walking slow again.

He did, however, occasionally break out the Zenyatta walk which instantly made me make loud, girlish noises and point dramatically down at him while telling BM and K to LOOK AT MY HORSE. I will have to find a way to get this on camera so you can be suitably impressed. It may involve putting game cams up around future trails. Worth it.

Our second trip past The World's Busiest Christmas Tree Farm was slightly less dramatic. There was no bucking into traffic (Secret), but much jigging by both of the older gentleman. Opie tried their tactic a few times, but was much too tired to get behind it. Instead we trailed them on a looped rein at a steady walk while I slumped lazily and thought about how incredibly comfortable fancy saddle is.

Back on home turf, Oz had a sudden fit of anger and lunged at Opie who scooted forward out of the way in confusion. I kicked him into the lead to give Grumpy his space, which worked fine until we hit a huge puddle and Opie slammed on the brakes to take a drink break.

will give side eye to anyone for judging him

I let the poor kid have a long graze when we got back before turning him out and laced his handful of peppermints with a gram of Bute. We covered six miles in two hours which is fairly glacial, but it was all road riding--obviously we were on the grassy shoulder for the majority of it, but certainly different from cushy indoor ring footing.

Today's grand plans include giving him his first clip and washing his tail if it's not too cold. Very exciting stuff.

Monday, December 4, 2017

All the trot work

I got a fresh batch of Snootcentric media this weekend, and while the Big Adventure was a two hour trail ride spanning seas of hibernating alfalfa and treacherous holiday traffic (located approximately ten feet apart because welcome to the 'burbs of Rochester), I just left you all with a trail riding story last week.

So. I will save that for tomorrow. It is full of daring and intrigue walking calmly on the buckle while I annoy my barn mates with incessant giggling and pointing to The Snoot exclaiming, "LOOK AT HIM. LOOK HOW PERFECT." And they're all, "Yes, we're too busy leaping into oncoming traffic on our naughty old men supposed-to-be-seasoned-trail horses."

Alright, maybe some daring and intrigue.

opie says trail rides R stupid, cookies are better

Hubby was kind enough to swing into the barn on his way to do other things to grab some new pictures and a couple quick videos for comparison's sake. I hadn't gotten any video until I forced Riding Bestie to record a couple minutes of very boring trot work when she was out last month.

In this video, we'd already gone on our trail ride, had a meltdown over screaming to relocated best friend and Ralph (who was in the fucking ring with us), and trotted for about five minutes. It was hands down the worst Opie has been under saddle since he came off the track.

Yeah, I know. Someone should give me an award for being able to stay on.

In all seriousness though, what it's hard to tell in the video is that he was constantly trying to yank the reins out of my hands using the considerable power of his block head and tiny, flexible neck. Using his tiny neck as a weapon is one of his favorite tricks--one that usually only comes out when fighting over picking up the canter, and is not very much on display here. The second favorite trick being rein-yanking.

Of course, now that I've made some changes, a lot of that was probably coming from a too-narrow saddle. Now that he's equipped in fancy leather that's approximately seventeen inches wider in the gullet (more on fancy leather once our official one gets here), he's slowly transitioning to just following the contact down and pleasantly stretching instead of hurtling me ass over teacups with a particularly ferocious yank.

Typical for most fresh OTTBs, he started off rides overly excited about the prospect of other horses in the ring with him. I actually don't usually ride during the weekends because they're so busy, but for now it's a great introduction to what's going to happen during warm up at shows. That is, mass chaos.


Fortunately in Opie Land, while things remain interesting, you are the side eye master of the universe and all those interesting things can still be watched without putting forth undue effort.

one lap later.

He takes maybe five minutes of trotting around before the half halts start to compute and he's ready to go to work. It's going to be a big difference for me warming a horse up at shows with the goal of riding them down before actually warming up, but he's so fucking lazy I don't think it's going to take much.

He no longer cares about other horses passing him in the ring--from behind, the side, head-on, or if they're jumping or cantering elsewhere. Should we be in the way of someone else trying to work, no worries. We've gone from being the danciest to the standiest. He'll park it wherever and whenever for however long you want. Possibly even longer than you want. Grand Champion of standing and hoping more cookies get doled out.

He's never been one to err on the side of llama--he carries himself naturally in a pretty cute frame, although certainly Victorian-era carriage horses must be in his lineage somewhere--but he's learning to let go at the base of his neck with his new saddle, and stretching has become his jam. I am slightly bitter over this as it took Bobby all twelve years of his life to figure out stretching was a thing.

my saddle will have a seat my ass fits in. i eagerly await its arrival.

Overall, my biggest impression of him is that he's super honest. If he doesn't get it, it's not because he's being bad. He either isn't quite there physically yet, or the concept is not computing in his brain. If you tell it to him correctly, he will try. He's also going to be super good for me because he tattles right away when I get handsy. "You do waggy waggy with your hands? I do waggy waggy with my head." 

gah, so cute.

I don't know if it's just the emotional clusterfuck 2017 has been for me that's making me extra-appreciative of how easy this kid is, but right now I'm having so much fun restarting him. The knowledge that I was going to have to be at square one yet again after I put Bobby down was depressing at times, but Opie is making the experience really rewarding instead.