Thursday, January 19, 2017

For Sale

No, not the horse. At least not at this time. Maybe a lesson recap tomorrow, but I'm too lazy at the moment. I'm also too lazy to post real pictures at this time, so please enjoy stock photos of a couple things I'm trying to clear out so that I can buy Aimee's saddle. See? You wouldn't be helping just one blogger, but two! And if Aimee sells her saddle, think of all the tack ho posts she could do!

BR Premiere Dijon Bridle


Horse sized, but it also fit Shooter who has a pretty clunky draft head. So it can get tight enough for a regular horse, but stretch out for a bigger head. Extra wide crank, flash, anatomical crown, sparkly browband, yada yada. I can throw in a pair of cheap black rubber lined reins if you want them. I fucking adore this bridle, but Bobby has made it clear he's only going to work well in a Micklem, and I can't justify letting it hang around looking super pretty but not doing anything. $100 plus shipping. 

Bell Boots


Absolutely nothing wrong with these, they're just too small for Bobby's fat legs and too short for his wedge shoes. I bought them off ebay so I can't return them. Size large. $20 shipped. 

Tekna S Line Dressage Saddle


Boooooo, I don't want to sell this! I LOVE this saddle, but Bobby has filled out so much behind his withers and in his shoulders it pinches him now. I brought it home, cleaned it up to list it, and then took it back one more time today to have BM look at it again just in case it magically fit again. It didn't. It's an 18" seat and currently has a MW gullet in it, but I have M and W plates as well. It's a synthetic saddle, but it's so nice. $500 plus shipping.

Nothing fancy as I am not a fancy person, but if you guys know anyone looking for good, sturdy budget friendly dressage tack, send them this way! I'd really like to get this stuff sold so I can flat in something besides my rock hard ancient Stubben again. I'll happily send real pictures if you want them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Nailed it

Yep. The little large and awkward asshole had no problem coasting through shoulder-in both directions from walk or trot this morning.

very angry i took the cat out of his mouth to snuggle.
the injustices that go on in this horse's life, let me tell you.

Bobby came out of his stall bright and chipper, clearly holding no grudge against our battle yesterday. He leaned into his face brushies, he mugged for cookies, and he dove his face into the bridle.

Once we set off, he was loose and forward. I warmed him up for a good long while in a relaxed long and low frame and let him cruise around stretching out. In the canter he was feeling super strong, and I channeled the forward energy over the big X I had set up. I wanted to work on staying out of the saddle all the way to the jump, not chickening out and letting my butt touch down a few strides out.

It was a complete success over the X, and I was actually enjoying jumping around and wrangling Bobby after the fence. He was on fire, but it wasn't a crazy fire. He was just feeling really good, and he was right there when I asked him to slow it down a titch but keep the hind end firing.

Over the 2'6" oxer, I did chicken out at the last second and sat back a bit and let my butt brush the saddle. BM said that was okay though, as long as I'm not plonking down and holding with my seat. I don't remember jumping ever feeling like so much work before, and it's kind of not work I look forward to anymore. But we'll get to that post eventually.

a variation of the wall smashing is turning in to the middle of the ring completely.
variety is the spice of life, bobby says.

I had my pockets weighted down with cookies for when I moved on to asking for the SI. I'm very liberal with my bribery, and every time we got through a SI, I halted and stuffed one into his face. The first couple run-throughs were a bit tense, but once the cookies started flowing, he just went about his business without fuss.

WHY IT TOOK TWO HOURS TO DO THAT YESTERDAY WHEN IT TOOK FIFTEEN SECONDS TODAY IS BEYOND ME.

Obviously I'm very glad my tactic worked, but hot damn, Bobby. Does it really have to be so difficult?

As he was being oh so cordial, I worked through parts of 2-3 for the first time since...well, basically since we last showed. SI, 10m circle, haunches-in, halt, rein back, turn on the haunches, free walk, and repeat. We had zero issues, and he even deigned to give me some really good TOH. I have a feeling those are going to be on the list of drag out fights one of these days. Does he know how to do them? Absolutely. Does he like doing them? Not one bit.

i love a good, majestic flowing butt cape

We finished with a left lead canter. He keeps wanted to bulge to the outside this direction, and the first time on our circle he did just that and smacked his foot right into a ground pole that was most definitely not in my chosen path. That seemed to wake him up to maybe listening to my outside leg trying to keep him straight, and we had better success after that.

The goal was to work on opening up his stride, and I was really pleased that he went right to it. He stayed light and he stayed in rhythm. There's no way we're near a real extended canter yet, but it's turned into a much, much better medium than we had last year.

I'm so nervous he's not going to be able to keep his shit together in the ring when I ask for all these things--he had a melt down over something in almost every single test last year--but that's why I'm trying to up the pressure and really fuck with his brain now. If I can get him to settle the tantrums down when I'm shoving things down his throat in a tougher fashion than what he's going to face in a test, I'm hoping by the time he gets in the ring a test will seem like a cake walk.

gotta up that mental toughness, old mule ears.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Under Pressure

I felt like I was suiting up for war today to ride my horse. The affect was maybe slightly spoiled by having to change into my riding boots early when I stepped into a fresh pile of very wet pee shavings in my tennis shoes and then jumped back to extricate my foot and sloshed water all down by backside, but mentally I was all over it.

Bobby had Friday off after his jump school as will be the plan for the foreseeable future. I pack his feet, give him the day off, and so far he's been coming back the next ride with nary a soundness issue so that's reassuring I'm not completely ruining my horse yet. Our ride on Saturday was shared with three to four other people in the indoor. Bobby warmed up pretty well, w/t/c, lead changes both ways without dramatics (you little shit), and then we popped over a 2' oxer with ease.

little bitty baby jump with over exaggerated leaning to land on the correct lead
because that's how i roll. no amount of yelling at me will stop it, trust me. 

It was kind of a scattered ride because the amount of people stuffed into our long but not very wide ring made things a little chaotic. We tried the jump twice more in different times throughout the ride, and he was a horrible dramatic flail monster that left the ground from almost between the two poles. It made the wheels spin on whether or not I want to even bother pursuing jumping at all, but that angst is for its own post.

The angst for this post is about taking an hour and a half to school one movement.

Bobby threw down some great work Saturday. He's slowly getting stronger and stronger behind, and I can feel it the most when we go powering across the diagonal in our newfound extended trot and he doesn't get heavy and lean. He can't hold it the full length of the long side yet, but I'm glad we're heading in the right direction with it. There were lots and lots of times I thought he'd never be able to channel enough pushing power without winging his legs out of balance and splatting on his face.

baby steps. but they are sexy baby steps.

The not so great work was trying to do some shoulder-in. For whatever reason, this movement that Bobby used to shift in and out of anywhere in the land without so much as a blink has now turned into A Thing. Bobby's go-to evasion for things is lateral movements--or just running sideways in general--and he was very easy to teach moving his body around. He's always been a hot mess longitudinally so don't be too jealous. He might have an easier time going sideways than some horses, but the concept of adjusting his frame or his stride length was/is like teaching a really fucking stupid brick wall.

one stride after a clean l-r change. you little shit.

Anyway, back to the SI struggle. He's been getting super tight in his back asking for it to the left, but he'll do it. To the right, he'll usually do it, but it might involve a flail first. On Saturday he was having none of it, and he repeatedly opted out by bashing his hind end into the support beams of the wall.

he just runs down the wall crashing his ass into things because that's how he rolls.

I didn't feel comfortable getting after him since things can escalate quickly into a spinning, no steering hot mess express, and I didn't want to unleash that crazy on other people trying to hack. I settled on getting him to go straight instead of just turning the corning and automatically going into spastic jigging. We moved on to something else, finished on a good note, I gave him Sunday off, and then I went into this morning's ride knowing I was going to have another throwback ride on my hands.

We had the ring and the barn to ourselves by the time I buckled down and got ready to battle. We started at the walk first since he's usually better at that gait. Right away he tried to get out of it by swinging his haunches out to the rail and running sideways down the wall. I came prepared for this with Mr Tappy in my outside hand, and the second he aimed for the wall, Mr Tappy was there with one little tap to say, "No butts allowed over here, sir."

That sent Bobby into an absolute melt down.

s-i or just winging our legs around dramatically? some days it's hard to tell.

One wrist twist that made the whip brush his roaming butt and he was positive the end was near. I knew it was coming, so I sat it out just asking for forward and then rewarding it by taking my spurs off when he gave it to me. If he tried to smash into the wall again, Mr Tappy was there to remind him that was no longer an option.

Without too much drama, we got it at the walk and moved on to the trot. Cue another angst ridden meltdown where we took a break from the SI to work on actually just trotting, and then trotting with an inside bend. That turned out to be the inside leg that broke Bobby's brain, and he finally slammed to a halt and refused to move.

why can't you just be good all the time?

There's stuck Bobby, and then there's stuck Bobby. When he hits the latter point, there is literally no getting him to move. I dismounted, disengaged his hind quarters to move his feet, and then led him back to the mounting block to climb aboard again.

This quick reset cleared his brain cell a little bit, and we had a trot...and then a SI. After a few steps, I halted, gave him a cookie, let him process, and then went back to the trot and tried again. SI down one whole long side, halt, cookie, process, back to trot. SI down both long sides, halt, cookie, process, stretchy walk break.

rogue inside hand alert.

Once his back was relaxed again, I turned the ship around and headed off to the right.

Dudes, it has been a long, long time since this horse has brought me to tears on the flat. I've been riding him so long and dealt with so many tantrums that he rarely gets under my skin anymore when he starts throwing these dramatics around with reckless abandon, but today he nearly got me.

Until you've seen a full Bobby Tantrum, it's impossible to picture the scope of what this horse can do. He whirls, he rears, he bucks, he runs into things, he runs backwards, he props and bolts, he'll refuse to move, and he has no hesitation getting seriously dirty and laying down with you. I absolutely, one hundred percent draw the line there. The other shit is not okay, but he's not going to get me off, and aside from scraping his butt cheeks on occasion, he's not going to hurt anyone. Laying down will get someone hurt.

He doesn't respect my legs or my spurs when he does this shit, hence the dressage whip. He abhors the whip, but at least he'll react to it. When he's refusing to move then starts pawing and dropping to his knees to lay down, a crack with the whip to a front leg will get him back up. Of course then he's been hit with the whip--something I try to never actually do--and it starts the whole fucking cycle all over again.

you fucking fuck.

I was seriously questioning my game plan to ride things out until I got what I wanted. In the past, I usually give up and find something else to end on. But this horse knows this. He is confirmed in SI, just like he's confirmed in his damn L-R change. Not backing down and forcing a change down his throat got me clean, easy changes at the end of that ride, and they've been clean and easy ever since. I wanted to keep the pressure on until he gave me what I was asking for since I know it is well within his abilities.

In a detached sort of way, it was interesting that between the bouts of being an unholy shit head, he was also trying to evade the SI by offering me other movements. He tried getting out of the trot several times by picking up a perfectly acceptable canter, and more than once he "interpreted" my leg cues into one ground covering extended trot that got shut right the fuck down because it was not what I was asking for.

no butts in the wall, bobby.

I had to get off three more times. Twice to unstick him because he wouldn't move and one an emergency dismount when I couldn't get him stop laying down. The drama is strong with this horse.

But in the end I got a right SI down the entire long side. I was on for close to two hours from the beginning of the ride to the finish, but I fucking got my SI both directions.

I hope this ride will work as well as our L-R change ride did. I don't know why Bobby gets it into his head that he can't do something he can do, but that's not going to fly anymore. I have no problem being patient and letting things slide as he learns new things, but the movements he's confirmed in--things that aren't even that hard--are going to be done when I ask for them from now on.

all rides end with scritches and cookies, even if they make me super sore afterwards

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I Work Out

If riding a rabid dragon over the actual smallest of fences counts as working out. I have to admit I'm a little bit ashamed of how much I was huffing and puffing after our forty five minute jump school. Of course that might have had something to do with riding in near-60* weather when my body has adapted to believing it's never going to get above 20* again. Don't get too excited, body. We'll be right back at it by the end of the night. #literally

hot or just insane? you decide.

I warmed up on the flat while BM adjusted the few fences that were already out. I'd let one of the college girls home for vacation hack around on Bobby for awhile yesterday (After I was on him for all of ten minutes because he gave me two flawless lead changes each way with zero sass so I got off and shoved a bunch of cookies down his throat...like, close to a dozen cookies in the space of ten seconds.), and while she liked him a lot in comparison to the horse she usually lessons on, he went like a racing llama the majority of the time. He started off our ride this morning pretty heavy and resistant, but loosened up once he realized he had to do real work.

BM started off with a "simple" exercise. Off the right lead down the long side to a ground pole, 9' to a 2' one stride, around to the other long side to a single 2'3" vertical.

Dudes, I was not excited about this start. The one stride was set up in the same place as the one where I got my concussion coupled with the ground rail which Bobby had great difficulty handling a couple weeks ago, I was having serious stomach churning flash backs.

BM told me I could trot into it the first time if I wanted to, but the theme for the day was that I was not allowed to get into my deep dressage seat and cramp Bobby's forward style. I was like, this is basically shaping up to be the worst lesson ever and I haven't even jumped anything yet.

I sort of bravely picked up the trot and came around to the one stride where I promptly sank my ass down into my seat and got carried through with much lurching at a snail's pace while BM was like, "GET OUT OF THE SADDLE DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN."

Ugh, fine. It's not that I can't come up to jumps in half or light seat, it's just that over the last year I've reverted to staying as far away from the crown of my horse's skull as possible so that it doesn't temporarily blind me again. But BM pointed out that I don't have a problem keeping my weight back and staying balanced while staying up out of the saddle. There's a time for getting in the back seat, and cantering sanely up to a 2' stadium jump is surprisingly not it.

brain melt. dude had froth in his forelock

I made a circle in canter at the end of the ring in my half seat and came around to the single vertical. When BM said add leg, I did. When she told me to idle and let him come up to it, I did. When Bobby went diving over it and raced off like a lunatic, I kicked him up and made him get off his face while BM made the vertical into a wide oxer.

We did the one stride one more time, out of canter in half seat which rode easily, and then tried the oxer. No racing this time, but he was getting in a touch close so BM set out a pair of cones, rolled the ground line out more, and told me the cones were my aim for the ideal takeoff spot. Righto, that seemed easy enough.

With the one stride dismantled, I used the whole long side to get Bobby revved up so that I could half halt and rebalance if I needed to without killing the pace. The first couple times he was still getting in a touch close, although it honestly felt perfectly acceptable to me. He was lifting his knees right up, rounding his back, and pushing off his hind end with ease.

But BM was like, no. None of this rushing to the base and catapulting over it whether it's better than a bunny hop or not. So she rolled the ground line out more and gave him V rails in hopes he'd look at them and jump from farther out.

Bobby was like, as if I give a shit about V rails. He wasn't jumping from underneath it and he wasn't under-powered by any means, but the exercise was to jump from the distance BM had given us and we weren't. So she gave us an X right off the corner of the short side and told us to go get two strides.

sweaty goat beard.

That turn was tricky as fuck especially since I was trying really hard to maintain my hovering ass when all I wanted to do was park it in the saddle and use some lovely dressage to slow waaaay down and make a collected turn. We somehow got it (after bailing out of the line the first time because we did not get it) and Bobby went jetting down the line and launched over the oxer while profanities spewed from my mouth and BM called out, "Yes! That was the perfect distance!"

That did not feel like the perfect distance. That felt like death was imminent. Why can't we just jump when we're two inches from the fence? I like that better. After slowing my heart rate down, we came back to it again with a bigger jump in to the first fence which made the two seem like a lot less ground to cover. The good part was that through all of this I didn't feel like I needed to reel backwards in fear. I kept my seat light and my body made easy work of being carried forward over the jump without getting left behind or jumping ahead.

We ditched that exercise and moved on to the next: three cross rails.

psh, so easy

I was convinced this was going to be a walk in the park. Just get a good canter and do laps around the ring, right?

HAHAHAHAHAHA FALSE.

Bobby was in full demon mode at this point and it took several attempts just to get him to pick up the canter without launching skyward or shooting off into the canter and then getting stuck in place. Bobby. Why. At one point he was on the left lead tracking right so I tried to ask for that fucking change and he basically just threw down a counter canter pirouette which we were all very impressed with. You know, except not.

Once we got the correct canter going, we could not get the curved line for anything. Who knew I was so utterly useless at short turns? Part of the problem was that I couldn't coordinate my aids without the safety net of my butt planted in my saddle, but the other part was the rabid foaming creature beneath me. I had to keep taking breaks to wipe the gobs of sweat off my reins and then try to scrub my gloves dry on my saddle pad so that I could attempt such things as steering and braking.

it. was. everywhere.

We finally kind of a little bit got it to the left, so we switched to the right. Then the real rabid dragon came out. BM was like, "Bobby WHY do you have to be so dramatic?" and Bobby was all, "IMMA EAT THIS MOTHER FUCKING CROSS RAIL FOR BREAKFAST DON'T BELIEVE ME JUST WATCH."

I got yanked out of the saddle like a fucking five year old a few times because he'd just straight up bolt from the second corner jump to the jump on the long side and then land like he was about to do a head stand. That ended with the e-brake getting pulled and Sir Bat Shit Crazy Pants getting his face turned into the wall to stop him.

Completely unacceptable. We walked over it both ways before trotting in and throwing down a face ripping half halt that finally went through so that we were able to calmly canter over and out.

The good was that once BM laid down the law and told me to lighten my seat, I just did it and it didn't faze me or effect me negatively at all. I didn't have any fear once we started jumping, and I actually had the wherewithal to add leg when it was needed.

The bad was that my horse was a nutter and we would in no way, shape, or form have been able to jump even the smallest course of jumps with how he was acting on the landing side of the fence. Some things to work on, but after four months of no jumping lessons (and not a whole lot of jumping period) we're not doing too badly for where we were when we left off.

kind of suspicious when you're only sweaty on your neck and face, you psycho.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Classic

Today was a #throwbacktuesday sort of riding day.

Bobby hadn't been ridden since our lesson last Thursday (I jumped on him bareback yesterday for Farrier to watch him go, but that wasn't a real ride.), but he'd been getting his turnout in the indoor instead of outside for a week because of the lack of snow in the paddocks so he'd actually been able to get some serious crazies out on the daily. As such, he was nice and relaxed when I hopped on this morning.

Our ride started out just like all of them have been lately--soft, supple, and willing with lots of work on bending, being light, and moving forward all at the same time. This step way back to the basics has been great for Bobby. It's work he's getting really good at and it makes him feel confident when I sneak something a little trickier into the routine.

jk he still totally gets pissed when i ask for such horrible torture as s-i.
but look at how uphill we're learning to be! i see you, dressage test comments.

My main goal for this ride was to revisit his changes with an eye towards 3-1 this fall. He's pretty much flawless over fences. On the rare chance he doesn't land on the correct lead or switch automatically, all I have to do is step into the stirrup a little more and he pops right over, left or right. On the flat? Ehh, not so much.

We started off with the right lead canter. He got a little stuck picking it up, so I did the transition again and the second he picked it up I sent him right off into a great big canter to get him moving. That worked well and I was able to bring him back to a normal working canter after a couple big circles to make sure he was feeling loose.

We stuck to circle work, and eventually worked on spiraling in and out. I felt him start to think about propping and saying no on our final small spiral, but I just gave his neck a quick scratch, closed my legs, and asked him to keep going--which he actually did! Yay, brain cells!

not cantering. just walking. in case you couldn't tell.

Out of the final spiral, I left the circle and asked for the change. He gave it promptly and cleanly, R-L is always super easy and drama free for him, but then started to get unbalanced in the canter so instead of fighting him, I just had him go right to halt and stuffed a cookie down his throat. We went back to the right and did the change right off the bat which was again clean and easy, and this time he kept cruising without losing his balance so we started our spirals to the left.

He was wanting to drift out to the left, so I had my outside leg pressed against his side which started out as a cause for some angst. A couple c-w-c transitions and neck scratches later he was back in the game and I sent him off on the short diagonal for the L-R change.

This has always been Bobby's worse direction, and he didn't even attempt to change. He just went flying sideways and ran into the wall. Thus began a vintage Bobby melt down.

I tried breaking it down in different ways.

What about a few a lot of simple changes so you know I'm asking you to change your lead here? Nope.

What about a long diagonal? Definitely nope.

Half seat? Noooo.

Literally anything I can think of? Nope, nope, nope!

There was much running sideways and backwards. There was spinning, there was sitting on the wall and on jump standards. But you know what didn't happen? He never stopped moving. Yeah, that might not seem like a win to anyone else, but when Bobby shuts down for good, he'll park it and refuse to move. No amount of anything will get him to budge unless you get off.

saywhatnow?

He wasn't getting a rise out of me, but after fifteen minutes of rapid thrashing about the ring, I was starting to get annoyed. This horse has a perfectly clean, perfectly sane L-R change, and he's done it lots of times in dressage schools. I don't know why it's cause for such angst in his Bobby Brain, but my final solution was to see if I forced him on to it--as in, if you don't change at least up front, you are going to fall down--he'd realize he could indeed do it and it wouldn't be a problem.

So I stuck him on a 15 meter circle at the end of the ring tracking left, and then one stride away from hitting the rail I turned him right and cued for the change. Tah dah! He popped right over, I stopped him and shoved two cookies down his throat, and then we did the whole thing all over again.

I got another clean, drama-free change so I let him carry on in a big canter with lots and lots of pats and praise before coming across, doing the R-L change easily, and then coming right around to the next diagonal and getting the L-R change smooth as glass.

WAS THAT SO HARD?!

I doled out the last of my cookies and we cooled out with several minutes of stretchy trot to relax the crazy muscles.

always ends with petties, even when horse is psycho. 

It was kind of a frustrating ride, but in the end it was a major win in Bobby Land. Despite keeping the pressure on him without ever letting up, he never got to a point where he quit on me. He tried to get out of doing what I was asking with a whole lot of dramatics, but every time I asked him to pick the canter back up once we'd established a forward trajectory again, he stepped right into it without actually being tense.

Having that one brain cell remain firmly lodged in place--the one that tells him, "Stay in tune. Don't check out completely. Maybe your rider will have something useful to tell you."--is such an enormous step forward for this horse. If he can learn to work through these tantrums faster, and down the line learn to start them less and less, we're going to be in a good spot when show season rolls around and the work really ramps up.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: Solo Schooling

Title: Solo Schooling: Learn to Coach Yourself When You're Riding on Your Own
Author: Wendy Jago
Buy it: Used on Amazon


I bought this book used last year for my birthday with an Amazon gift card. I didn't really read the description or research anything about it. It had been sitting in my wish list for a couple years based solely on its title. Solo schooling? Self policing your rides? I'm all about mental exercises to try to improve my rides, and since I spend most of my time riding alone, this book seemed like it was made for me.

Spoiler alert: It wasn't.

I started it as soon as I got it, but I was immediately bogged down by the writing. I flipped through it and didn't actually see anything that I wanted to dive into. It got set aside...and never opened again until this past weekend. I was between books and it was brutally cold outside so I decided I was going to just sit down and conquer it with a blog review being my biggest motivator to finish it this time around.

The book is basically a giant two hundred page sales brochure for a program called NLP--Nuero-Linguistic Programming. From what I understand, this program wasn't created specifically for equestrians, and while there are examples in every chapter that tie it into the horse world, they all feel like a stretch and didn't do a particularly good job of explaining anything further.

NLP is basically an exploration of how people think, behave, and interact to learn.

Each chapter is broken down into blocks so that you can learn what type of person you are. Do you learn best this way or that way? Do you look at a problem like this or like that? You essentially go through more than half the book trying to figure that out, and then set up your "meta-program" so that you can take it to your NLP coach who now knows how to best teach you.

If you're now like, "Wait, take it to your coach? Aren't you supposed to be solo schooling?" Don't worry. I was confused, too. In fact, I still am. Over and over, the book advises that when you run into a problem, go to your coach with it, or have a friend watch and help you dissect what's going on.

The writing was incredibly dry, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around what I was reading. It felt more like really bad homework than an interesting equestrian training manual. If you're an incredibly detail specific person, or someone that deals with cut and dry business documents on a daily basis, you'd probably have an easier time not getting overwhelmed with this book, but I was hoping for something a little more light.

If you can manage to break it down though, there are some really interesting points interspersed:

  • Performance = Potential - Interference
  • Presuppositions: Don't go into something with only one mindset about how that situation will play out. "My horse is lazy. I have to get him forward so I'll give him a kick, but now he's just fast and strung out." Instead: "My horse isn't forward today. Maybe it's because of the long ride we had yesterday. Let me loosen him up at a slower pace first before asking him to go more forward."
  • Make choices that fit you. If you think that fence is too high, don't let someone's outside opinion influence you to jump it, and then you get dumped. However, go outside your comfort zone into your "stretch zone", or you'll never move forward.
  • Framing things: For example, eventers see dressage as a phase they just want to get over with when all it is is getting your horse "obedient, balanced, on the aids, and changing speed and stride-length rapidly." It's just like jumping but without the jumps, so frame it that way in your mind and you won't psych yourself out over it. 
  • Don't get caught in behavioral traps: Playing it safe, not being in the moment, and/or getting stuck in repetition.
  • Ask better questions: Instead of just saying, "That halt was bad." ask yourself why. Did his haunches move out? If yes, did you have your legs on evenly or did you come in unbalanced? Did he throw his head? If yes, did you pull on the reins and not ride him forward into it? Did you half halt correctly?
Towards the end of the book, there's one chapter that I was able to relate to the most because it had the most to do with riding alone. That's where the asking better questions comes in, and it talks about being flexible and working with your horse if your chosen plan for the day doesn't look like it's going to go the way you want it to. 


Overall? One and half thumbs down. Not something I'd recommend to fellow riders, especially those looking to improve their own actual solo schooling.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sorry, Bobby. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

Ugh, there's a quick summation of our first jumping lesson of the year for you.

Bobby had Tuesday off, and then I flatted him yesterday. He felt great, and we were even able to go through shoulder-in, haunches-in, and some medium trot both ways without one single melt down. He was soft and willing, and just generally in a cooperative mood for once in his grumpy life.

look at it! it's cantering with its head above its withers!

He felt just as light and responsive when I got on this morning. BM occasionally called out reminders to check his self carriage by floating the reins at him for a few strides as she set jumps, but he was moving out nicely. Then I thought I felt one weird step. It'd be nothing then wait, what? Was that something?

I brought it to BM's attention, and she watched him go before telling me to pick him up a little more. Now that he's got a ticking time bomb in his front feet (Please, please let it keep ticking for a few more years!), she said that even being slightly on the forehand might make him feel off for that one odd stride. Once I got him a little more uphill and collected, I couldn't feel anything, and I was really trying to find something.

It's...sobering. I mean, I know the navicular is there, and maybe even something else lurking that we weren't able to find, but he's been so sound since his shoeing changes. The thought process--mine, Farrier's, and BM's--is basically if he's sound for what I want to do, keeping going until he's not and then we'll do something else. I'm sure there are those that don't agree with that, but Bobby loves jumping and he hasn't told me it's hurting yet. When it does, we'll be done.

still loves his job.

Anyway, that got slightly off track. This was our course for the day:

it's been too long, paint.

We started off with the (Shit, I should have made those different colors. Oh, well.) oxer between the one stride around to the vertical on the short side to the vertical on the rail. The first time the oxer was down on both ends and the first vertical was only 2'. We didn't have any issues with those two, but Bobby landed from the second fence on his forehand and consequently raced to the final fence, jumped flat, and landed in a heap.

BM put the oxer up (2'6") and sent us off again to do the one stride instead of the vertical on the wall. Bobby nailed everything the first time, and I was feeling pretty good. Then BM put the vertical on the short side up to 2'6" and the wheels fell off the bus.

He actually nailed the first two jumps, but then we were supposed to go from the vertical on the long side and carry on to the oxer to make it a bending line. We didn't get in well or land well from the third fence so I aborted the bending line and came around to try to the whole thing again.

Dudes, I could not make that fucking short side vertical my bitch for anything.

going to milk these indoor pics for everything they're worth until i get new ones

The first fence, the oxer, was fine. At some point BM had put it up to 3' and it was riding without issue. Bobby was jumping over it big, and landing in a big canter, and I felt the need to whoa the fuck down on landing every time. Bobby nailed the lead change with ease and he never once got unbalanced, but it was a tight, tricky turn to the vertical and I really needed to keep my leg on to make it happen. Yeah, I didn't so it kept not happening.

BM was yelling, "Go, go, go! Inside leg! Make it happen! Add leg!" and I was like, "OK, we can do it! We're going!" But I'd sit there like a lump with my legs completely off, clutching my reins, and Bobby would politely stop once we got up to it. He was like, "Your voice is saying go, but your body is saying no, so I'm going with no because you are so not with me, lady."

Grr. It was completely, one hundred percent my fault, and what was most frustrating was that I was completely aware I wasn't putting my leg on, and I still couldn't force myself to do it. We got the whole course with the bending line once because I got so pissed with myself and rode the shit out of everything which is really all I needed to do.

After a couple stops in a row, and a couple jumps where Bobby somehow levitated over the oxer in the bending line and/or the short side vertical from a literal stand still, I was so close to just quitting. Fuck it, I can't do this. I don't want to do this. There's no point in doing this.

But I rallied. BM dropped one end of the short side vertical and told me to stay in half seat up to it. She pointed out that with all the dressage work we've done, Bobby is obsessively in-tune to my seat. That's great for dressage, but he's slowing down way too much with the tiniest signal from me whether I'm giving it intentionally or not. It's fine if I need to get him more collected, but I have to keep the power coming forward and my seat was blocking that.

That worked out perfectly and we were able to coast over that vertical without issue from there on out.

practicing for our return to flat classes at hunter shows

Of course I'm way too chicken shit to stay in half seat all the way up to the fence for every jump. BM explained that my go-to when things get rough has switched from jumping ahead to getting left behind. Staying in the back seat is fine, but I can't cling to my reins and pull when I'm doing it. I have to still try to follow the motion forward.

I also need to work on staying in half seat longer. I can lightly sit back down on approach, but going around the rest of the way I should be up to encourage Bobby to move out. George Morris would say no sitting ever, but having my ass in the saddle really bolsters my confidence about not jumping to my imminent death.

It was a frustrating lesson mentally. I apologized to Bobby about a hundred times for stuffing him into fences or pulling him to a stop, but he never got frazzled. Every time I fucked something up, I made sure I gave him lots of pets and the occasional cookie when I really fucked up, and he responded by not taking it personally and continuing to be super game to come back around and try again. That was a big thing for him, and BM and I were both really proud of him for it.

BM also made sure to remind me that it might have been rough, but we're so far ahead of where we were last year. It's been a year since the crash and my concussion which seems like forever, but confidence is such a weird thing. I rode well to the big oxer, but then couldn't follow that and ride aggressively to a smaller jump off a trickier turn. My leg needs to be on all. the. time. Go, go, go, always!

Pffffttttt, oh well. We had to start somewhere, and that's what lessons are for, right? At least it exposed how good the dressage has gotten?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

WW: Sir Grumpy Pants

carrot stretches: okay.

saddle pads: not okay.

"jk, you're not looking so it's fine."

"NOW YOU'RE LOOKING AND IT'S NOT OKAY."

not looking, no grumpy faces.

looking? SO GRUMPY I HATE YOU.

no one is fooled by that face, bobby magee.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New Look

You. GUYS.

I bought myself the best Christmas gift ever, and it's the best because it's also a gift for all of you.


I gathered all my holiday money, gift cards, and some money I'd saved up and finally--like, can we get an Oprah, "FINALLYYYYY!!!" here?--bought a decent camera. No more blurry screen shots from blurry video in the dark indoor because the camera doesn't even recognize there's a horse in the ring! No more show pics where the background is crystal clear but the object in motion, that being me, are almost unrecognizable!

THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.

look at us working those hocks and trying to open up sir tiny prancer's stride!
look at us because you can see ussssss.

Of course to fully appreciate this new fancy thing, I have to get Hubby on board with it. He likes it, yes, but I took 400 pictures when I tested it out with BM as my riding subject over the weekend. Hubby took 180. Not acceptable. I'm trying to run three social media accounts here, Hubby. That shutter better never stop!

So that's my most exciting news for the new year. I'm waiting for some literature to arrive to teach me how to use some of its fancier functions because right now its doing all the work for me. Once I learn what all its buttons actually do (I had to watch a youtube video to see how to turn the flash off. Don't judge.), I will be annoying the shit out of all you owners of fancy cameras so be prepared.

dopey giant ottb and grumpy as shit normal sized qh. besties for life.

In actual riding news, I am being so zen in my approach to winter for once in my life. It means I haven't ridden quite as much as I usually do, but that's probably a good thing. Less things to upset Bobby's delicate soul over and whatnot. I basically get on with zero expectations, and if Bobby starts getting tight or tense, I just tell myself to manage it and move on. January isn't the time for drilling new movements into a horse whose Lyme disease can make him incredibly stiff and uncomfortable when it gets cold.

I'm also doing less intense flat work because Bobby has made it clear my dressage saddle just isn't going to fit around his new muscles anymore no matter what size gullet I put in it. Doing real dressage work in a thirty year old Stubben jump saddle is not my idea of a good time, so our flat only schools have been all about the basics.

its rly srsly hard to sit the canter in this fucking thing.

Unsurprisingly, the basics--which most definitely need a lengthy revisiting--have started to really solidify. He's so much more supple and willing to bend. He's lightening up on the inside rein, and overall carrying himself lighter and rounder. He occasionally gets behind the vertical, but I give zero shits about that right now. With this long-necked llama, I'd rather him roll himself right up into an over-bent ball that I can push him out of than brace the underside of his neck and prance around with his fucking face in the rafters.

Sometimes I get a little antsy that he's not uphill enough or collected enough or we're not doing enough lateral work, but then he locks his back and refuses to move forward, and I settle the fuck down. Basics are fine. Basics are good. A relaxed horse is a good goal even if nothing else gets done.

casual every day warm up trot.

Shifting to something slightly more exciting, after our last "jump school" where Bobby was fine for his three warm up singles before losing his shit completely at the sight of a ground pole in front of a cross rail, I did another "jump school". There was a small course left over in the ring--a 2'6" line down one long side, a 3' single gate, a 2' single vertical, and a 2'3" swedish oxer.

I started off over the 2' vertical and biffed it every. single. time. The frustrating part was that for every. single. stride. I knew I was fucking up the distance because I wasn't riding with enough pace, but I still couldn't just get myself to add leg and go fucking forth and conquer.

made this X our bitch

I regrouped on Monday and set up one jump--a big cross rail. I don't know how many more jumps this horse has in his feet, so if I'm going to do repetitions, they're going to be over teeny little fences. In our last school, we hit all the jumps one time apiece and stuck to the 2' jump the rest of the time for a grand total of maybe a dozen jumping efforts that day. It might seem like every ride is jump, jump, jump, but the amount of actual jumping going on cumulatively since coming back is probably less than most of you do in a single lesson.

I warmed Bobby up with the focus of getting him really sharp off my leg and opening up that tiny pony stride. Mentally I was also more with it (Dudes, I was so fucking hungry during that last ride it's amazing I'm still alive.), so when we turned in for our first jump, Bobby was cruising and it came right out of stride so easily.

so easy i was paying next to no attention to jumping and carrying on a conversation
with hubby instead. he needs some more practice with the indoor jump pics, but
even this is a vast improvement from the old camera!

We hit it from one direction three times before coming around from the other side and doing it twice more before I asked Hubby to go ahead and make it a vertical. He was like, "Uh, are you sure at this height?" I glanced at it and figured it was about 3'3" or 3'6" and shrugged. Bobby was feeling super forward and responsive without wigging out on approach so I wasn't expecting any stop-start bullshit or the straight up bolting to it.

first time around

I know it's probably a bigger deal that I was able to stare down 3'6" (3'3" at the hole with a 3" rail so actual measurement 3'6") and not feel even a touch of fear or trepidation, but for honesty's sake I did chicken out a little bit and come at it from the shorter approach so I didn't have to stare it down for quite so long.

It was a little bit of an awkward turn in from the direction I was coming, and while I made sure to keep my outside leg active to get a straight turn and approach, I didn't support quite as much with both legs to keep the pace. However, Bobby had his thinking cap on and moved up on his own the last couple strides to cover up the lost ground and bounced right over from the perfect distance both tries. For my part, I was happy that my body still sort of knew what to do over something bigger than 2'6". I didn't freak out and stay in the back seat, and I also didn't fling myself up his neck.

sometimes i miss red's knees to nose jump form,
but poor awkward bobby tries his best.

The one downside is that he knocked the pole both times. This horse and his fucking boots. If anyone has any suggestions for getting a horse not to abuse the privilege of wearing boots to jump I am all ears. This has been one of Bobby's biggest problems for as long as he's been jumping. Any time any real effort is required, he'll jump the jump, but he has no problem bashing his boots into poles. Without boots? Always clear. With boots? Always bashing. I don't really want to leave them off in case we get into trouble and we wreck. There's got to be a solution out there!

good britches pats for no crazies

When we were all done I packed his feet and gave him a gram of bute because I couldn't help myself. Seven jumps in one school is enough to make me pack his feet like we just ran a full cross country course. He looked sound on the longe today, but he got the day off anyway. I'll flat him tomorrow, maybe have Farrier hoof test him just to set my mind at ease, and then we're on to our first lesson of the new year on Thursday! Please stay sound so we can do weekly lessons again, Bobby.

it likes to pretend it doesn't love scritches.