Monday, February 27, 2017

TNEC Jumper Night

Also known as, Bobby is the slowest jumping Thoroughbred of all times.

And I like it.

no doubt somewhere just out of frame of this picture is bm yelling, "go faster!"

I put him on the longe  Friday to assess soundness after he came out a little gimpy on Thursday, and he went around with a big, swinging stride with no sign of ouchiness until he got bored and started "broncing" on the line (Being a bronc on the line for Bobby equates to head tossing and minimal leaping. So crazy, look out.). It was pouring outside and I was already wet and covered in mud from doing turnout, so I decided it wouldn't kill him to give him Friday off, too.

I don't think I can really call this a show since it ended up being in-barn competitors only and a whole lot of rule bending went on, but there were ribbons....which everyone immediately knew were mostly for me. Okay, so I might have a little bit of a reputation of being a satin whore/five year old child, but it's all in good fun. You know, as long as I get them.

doesn't it look like we're going super fast?!

I signed up to do the 2'6" division which got turned into the 2'3" division because I don't think BM trusted us all that much a) because we're a bunch of whiners, b) we all go a little retarded riding in front of other people, and c) the other two divisions had already proved her point on the previous two things by having multiple unnecessary run-outs and a couple falls, and I think she wanted to end with no one dying by that point. Poor BM. I don't envy her at all.

Our first course was pretty flowy so rode nicely. Bobby didn't get the warm up the other horses had because they were lesson horses and had to pull double duty between divisions. I managed to get some w/t/c in by darting between the other horses and the people resetting the course, but he was basically doping along without much energy. That was probably for the best because I knew I had to really get him revved up from the very first stride to make it around the course.


With a good pace established right off the bat, we coasted around the course with zero issues. Nailed the distances, got the striding, never felt panicked, easy peasy. The jump off was similarly easy. I was like, "Woo hoo, we are going so fast and making such good turns we might even get close to the jumper pony's time!" Dudes. We got beat by the jumper pony by almost ten fucking seconds. LOLOL. Still good enough for third since there were a couple rails and refusals scattered through the rest of the people.

Bobby was a good pone and waited patiently in the corner between rounds after he got his cookie at the finish of each trip. I'm so happy with this--his ability to go and wait and go again without coming unhinged somewhere in there. He's not always been like that, and it's a really nice change.

I think because the first round felt so easy, I quit the killer mentality for the second round and went into useless lump mentality instead. I didn't really ride to my fences, and I stared down the first jump into the one stride and got in really awkwardly. Bobby knocked the rail down there, and then it was a crazy turn to the next fence which we barely made it over. I was too frazzled to get my brain together to sit up for the next crazy turn to the two stride and opted to circle to reorganize. This is why I find hunters so soothing. So much more time to think! Everyone got to do the jump offs because the actual rounds weren't timed. We went clear there, but again so slow and came in sixth.


The last round was gambler's choice. I had a good plan in my head starting off, and the very first fence Bobby tapped the rail down. The rider after me did the exact same thing so I didn't feel too bad. The rest went pretty well. I had to improvise a little bit since that jump was down and couldn't be used again, but Bobby had fun slicing and dicing a few of them.

angled jumping champions. 

 When we were done, I brought Bobby over to the corner and he started stomping his foot incessantly. I was like, "Oh, great. I did break him after all. What the fucking fuck." I hopped down and immediately saw what his problem was. He must have smacked that first fence in the last round just right and peeled back the skin on his ankle--of course on the cursed RF no less--and it was dripping blood onto his hoof.

I took him to his stall and got him all scrubbed clean and spritzed with Blue Kote, on top of his Equiderma and hoof packing. Because Bobby had to be medically attended to (what's new?), we didn't get to do a jump off for our tie between second so instead flipped a coin and got kicked down to third. Thanks, Bobby. Have I mentioned how ugly I find yellow ribbons? And how very, very many of them we get?

"i get cookies for these ribbons?"

Overall it was a good "show" for me. I didn't have a mental meltdown because there were a bunch of people there watching. I didn't really step up and ride better either, but small wins. BM pointed out that while we were slow, that's what we've been asking of Bobby so he was just doing his job. I'm okay with that. When I put my leg on to ask him to go, he went. When I asked him to slow down, he did. When I got us into a bad spot, he carted my ass over anyway. He can't do much more than that!

here is the barn's own tiny, sassy, squealing, and grunting  pony to compete with leah

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Oh no he didn't

Oh yes he did.

The vet was out yesterday with Bobby on her list. His leg has been off and on blowing up to epic proportions despite going on a week of SMZs, and the skin kept splitting open around the fungus sites. I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing, or enough of what I was doing for it, so I wanted her to take a look. Of course when she pulled in first thing in the morning, his leg was tight and not looking any worse for wear.

She agreed to look at it for me anyway--and not charge me for it, which was nice since my car just needed its own vet work! She said that the reason she thinks it's taking so long to heal up is because the two spots are right over his joints (the knee and ankle) and basically every time he moves they're going to split a little bit. But she thought the Equiderma was doing a good job and to keep applying that. If the healing really looks like it's stalling she'll give me another anti-fungal ointment to try. She also said to up the SMZ dosage a bit since she weight taped Bobby at a whopping 1300 pounds and to continue it for another week.

serious hulk monster at the moment

All was well and good, he got kicked back outside with a new pasture mate who he desperately tried to ignore because #antisocial is Bobby's middle name, and then we had a good lesson that evening.

However.

Because Bobby, once the vet was gone and a split call charge was off the table, he came out of his stall this morning lame. Ugh, BOBBY. I popped him on the longe and it looked like he was completely crippled. That's pretty typical for Bobby on the line even when he's sound though, but even after ten minutes of trotting both ways, while he looked significantly better, I could still see a little gimp in the LF.

I packed his feet, gave him some bute with his other drugs, and tossed him outside while crossing off yet another lesson. Hopefully he's back to normal tomorrow. He was sound and happy when we were done with our lesson last night, so who knows what he managed to do to himself in such a short period of time especially while confined to his stall.

i think i shorted you guys on PUPPY PICTURES!!

Anyway, on to the lesson itself. It was a good group of people, and we got to ride at 6:30 at night in February in t-shirts so we were already winning. At the trot while warming up, BM reminded me to ride Bobby with his nose more out in front since he'll fall into the dressage trap and face plant into the first jump if he's not in the jump-jump mindset from the get-go. She had everyone post the canter which broke Bobby's brain going right. Every time he felt my seat brush the saddle--that being almost every other stride--he kept offering up a flying change, and every time I got back out of the saddle he tried to jet off. To the left he was fine, though he clearly found group canters very exciting.

Once everyone was warmed up we started the jumping with a single bounce. I kept second guessing whether Bobby was going to be sane and not crash through it so I'd either reel him back or sit there like a lump and sing Jesus Take the Wheel in my head. Bobby's not a complete idiot though, and he's been through bounces a zillion times so he always figured it out himself and got through without issue...or input from his rider.

complete sass monster had no problem bossing my hounds around

From there we moved on to a mini course--diagonal single to diagonal single to a two-to-one stride line on the long side. We nailed the first fence then got in underpowered to the second one but lurched over, and then my brain was like, "That was not the perfect distance, everything is going to end, just sit there and stop making any decisions." Bobby puked over the first fence in the line and waited for me to give some input, but I was just like, "I DON'T KNOW GO FORTH AND DO SOMETHING DO WHATEVER YOU WANT I'LL BE UP HERE DOING NOTHING." so he loped through the two stride in three and popped out of the one before coming back to a walk on his own.

Way to make good life choices, Bobby. I'm glad someone is stepping up to the plate because it's sure not me.

We tried that course again with better success all around--I listened to BM and drove Bobby forward through the (short! the reason for the problem!) turn on the second diagonal and got to a better distance which made me feel better about coming through the line. I have such a hard time mentally moving on when I biff one fence. I mean, I have a lot of problems when it comes to jumping, but that's probably my biggest one.

trying to get all three of them to stay still at once was a challenge.
also mags looks like a moose.

We finished with a full, relatively simple course. The very first fence I completely upchucked and almost died. I could see that we were getting into a little bit of a long spot and all I had to do was close my leg and Bobby would have taken it with ease. Instead I just assumed he would go with zero input from me and went to jump while he decided to #throwbackwednesday and stuffed in an extra half stride so I ended up hugging his great big dinosaur neck. BM was like, "You know what you did there!" I did and went back to start again.

The second time I got the first fence, made it through the bounce just fine, and then got in too close to the third fence. We made it through the line while getting the distances. I felt like Bobby was flying through it, but....yeah, no. Just an appropriate pace for a real two stride. Next fence was spot on, and then around to the oxer off a long approach which also was spot on.

While on course (why can't I just show with an ear bud with BM's voice?), BM pointed out that I like to whoa coming up to a fence, so I needed to really get Bobby cruising so that I wasn't throttling him back down to too slow. She also reminded me to use my voice if I want to slow as Bobby will cut the thrusters right down if I just say whoa. "You guys have such a great partnership and bond that it's really kind of amazing he'll slow right down with just one word from you." I think I got a little misty eyed, but that might have just been the sweat dripping down my face.

"PLZ DON'T BE FRIENDS WITH ME!"
why bobby and i are the same.

Overall a really good lesson with some predictable screw ups. BM said it was the most together Bobby and I have been working over fences in a long time, so I'm glad we're chipping away there. There's still plenty of time until the first real jumping show I'm tentatively aiming for (so long as he stays sound) to keep working. In the meantime, I hope the old pone will be feeling better tomorrow and Saturday so we can play at the barn's show!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

SS Bobby

Not to be a complete and total whiner, but I feel like the theme of every post I want to write is, "I want a dressage saddle."

Boohoo, woe is me, first world horse problems, still want one.

an exquisite equine shirt and diy purple spurs thanks to hillary's post on doing her own!

On Monday I finally dropped my stirrups five holes from what I jump in (which isn't particularly short), and kind of, sort of pretended it worked for a dressage school. I'm still in a forward flap jump saddle, but it did allow me to wrap my leg around Bobby a little bit better which makes subtly cuing for things a million fucking times easier.

Yesterday's ride was our first hyper-focused dressage ride in awhile. We've had plenty of flat-only days, but they've mostly been w/t/c working on changing the frame around and, of course, fighting about the SI.

first day the arena doors were open and bobby really just wanted to peace out

Bobby started off with a great walk, into a good warm up trot, and then crashed and burned into a shitty walk. I was never able to get the walk back, but a return to the trot got him unstuck and I was able to get him working well enough there that his canter was bitching and the trot after that was also super. We ran through SI, leg yield, and half pass.

I'm so pumped with how his half pass work is coming. He could use more bend (story of his life), but he's starting to find it really easy and in turn he's more fluid and flowy through it instead of stilted and forced.

staring wistfully towards the trails. never fear, he got to go out afterwards.

Today was another dressage ride. His canter to start was a hot mess express. Actually, the canter itself wasn't too bad as long as we were going straight. It was like steering a fucking sinking battleship to make a circle though, like SOS SS Bobby is going down in a hurry, and then we lost the haunches to the right and he swapped behind. Remembering BM's advice for this, I got him super round and collected and worked on squaring the turns up so his hind end wasn't just wheeling along behind him. That worked well and we finished there with a couple of clean albeit....er, flamboyant changes.

After a long stretchy walk break, we went to the sitting trot asking for more collection. He started off a little sucked back, but once we started getting lapped by the pony sized OTTB in the ring with us, I got my head out of my ass and sent him forward. He was so relaxed through his back for once that it just oozed out of him, and I couldn't help but ask for a few passes of extended trot.

cookies to make him hold still. poor creature.

Yeah, dudes. We've moved on from medium to extended. The strength in this horse's ass makes me giddy when he uses it for good instead of evil. When I put my legs on, he sat and went blasting off without ever changing the rhythm. I contained myself and only asked for it once more with the same results. Ugh, so strong, so dreamy. Please keep your psycho brain under wraps this season, Bobby. I don't have money to go crazy chasing my Bronze. We gotta make every show count, bro.

sometimes loves going crazy

We finished with some SI, HI, and more leg yield with multiple breaks interspersed and homie kept it cool, calm, and ultra collected. (#dressagepunftw)

In other riding news, I did a pretty incredible thing Sunday. I jumped a 2'9" oxer off a ridiculously tight turn one whole time without fucking up. We I fucked up lots and lots of times to get there, but hot damn I persevered and got it done! Short turns, I will win the battle against you. One day. Maybe in this lifetime.

owned it. after it owned me...multiple times. 

Tomorrow evening I finagled my way into a group jump lesson as one of my makeups, regular jump lesson Thursday, and then our first show Saturday! Don't get too excited, we're not even going anywhere for it. It's a really low key jumper show the barn is hosting, but a good chance to get in a few rounds in a competitive atmosphere that's sure to undo my brain before the real season starts.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Learning

In the month since my last riding recap post, I've had one lesson and had BM put one training ride on Bobby instead of a lesson. We also cancelled two: one because BM was dying from the flu, and the other last week because I was feeling sick myself, it was brutally cold, and I was still acutely feeling the affects of another concussion. Not sure I'm ever going to see straight again in my life after this one, but who needs vision anyway? It's fine. Everything is fine.

My lesson was over fences--really, itty bitty, tiny fences.

i'm glad my horse just ignores me leaning off the side of him over fences.
not from our lesson, but jump size to scale.

The exercise of the day was a long one stride where the goal was to get Bobby to open up his stride without running and to take off from not underneath the fence. BM set out jump blocks (you know, the little rail raiser things) instead of a pole for our ground line so that if Bobby ignored the take off line, he wouldn't step on the pole and roll/die into the jump. BM threatened that if he ignored those, she was going to build a fire in front of the jump instead to get him to jump out instead of up.

i don't know where she gets this idea that bobby jumps from underneath the fence

Bobby was getting a little heavy picking up the canter and wanting to go down instead of up on the depart, so BM told me to think of opening my fingers and letting him lift up into my hand and into the open area that created. Obviously I wasn't suddenly going around with loose, floppy, wide open fingers, but it was an excellent visual to soften my grip and not block him as I asked for the transition. I've used this a lot in rides since then, and it's made those first couple of steps much lighter.

On his right lead, he tends to lose his shoulder and compensates by swapping behind on the circle or sometimes in a corner. I need to think of squaring off my turns and pushing for a deeper bend.

Speaking of turns, I'm still completely useless at short turns to jumps. I can't find a distance to save my life and I either chase him onto his forehand and past the distance, or I sit there like a useless lump and hope he gets us over in some way, shape, or form. I was having a hard time getting the one stride off the shorter approach (left lead), but finally got in mostly normal and had to ride like we were being chased by wolves to cover the distance. Who knew hunter courses and their sweeping turns were so appealing?

One of the reasons I think I've gotten so comfortable out of a forward pace again is that Bobby has become so adjustable. He's very responsive to the voice as well, and BM constantly reminds me that a simple spoken "whoa" will get him to slow down. He also likes it better because I'm not getting fussy with my reins and making him think that I'm panicking or that he's doing something wrong.

after three days off, we stuck with just a few tiny jumps

For Bobby's training ride, my specific request was that BM work with him on the SI. He was feeling so stuck just plain old bending that I wanted her read on that, too (I'd already scheduled the massage, but wanted her input on where she was feeling any blockage in his body).

Her first note was that overall he felt like a much stronger horse than the last time she'd been on him. He was very even in both reins and he was much quicker to lighten in the contact than he was before. She said his jaw felt looser and she was happy to see him moving the bit around instead of clamping his jaw down and locking up.

I directly contribute this to returning to the Micklem for all work--not just jumping. I know the Micklem isn't the most flattering bridle, and it's not magic for every horse, but for Bobby it's a night and day difference when he's in it. I love the dressage bridle I got him, but we had so many issues with him tensing his jaw, refusing to work the bit around, and even putting his tongue over the bit which he'd never done before. This was BM's first flat-only ride in it, and I wasn't surprised she also noticed how much happier he is with it.

She also complimented how well he stretches on his own now. Stretchy trot and even a good free walk were something we never thought he'd really grasp the concept of, but he's embraced it wholeheartedly now.  I'm not in love with his free walk yet--he's not super consistent with it unless it's at the end of a forty five minute collection-heavy dressage school--but it is in there.

obvi the most awkwardly timed shot ever, but check out that spit rope.
i swear he builds those up until they're huge before letting them fly

Anyway, on to the crux of the problem: the shoulder-in.

BM's advice was:

  • If he goes to four tracks, give up and send him straight. It's not easy shoving him back onto the three tracks, and it's just going to make his overly sensitive brain even bitchier than it already is.
  • The outside leg should be nothing more than a brush against his side to keep the haunches from drifting over. Everything needs to be a suggestion with Bobby. You have to make him think you're offering something up and that it's only because he's a generous creature that you've transitioned into the movement. You can't command him to do anything or he tries to turn it into a fight. 
  • I was working on an inch too much angle.
  • I tend to lean towards the slave driver side of dressage riding. I want to do two SI, and then right away do a SI to HI to medium trot to something else and so on and so on...then he can have a stretchy break. BM knows I'm hyper focused and really intense, so to make that work for me, she said to work the stretchy trot break into the bam-bam-bam rapid fire of directions. One or two SI, then stretchy trot break, then SI to HI, then some working trot, then SI, then stretchy trot, and so on. If I only offer it after I've drilled him into the ground and gotten him tense, I'm not actually giving him a very good reward.

carrot snowman in the pasture

She had me get on at the end of the ride and aside from being light as a butterfly--something he always is after she gets on him, damn trainers and their magical powers--he was also a lot bendier. So the moral of the story was that his SI issues were three parts: one part Bobby being a delicate bitch flower that gets offended by everything, one part me being a Nazi, and one part body soreness.

I've embraced the breaks worked into the harder work and we haven't had a meltdown since then. Now if only my saddle would hurry up and sell and/or March 10th would get here faster so that I could buy a new dressage saddle and start working through tests again!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Oh Hey

OMG, where the holy fuck has time gone?

I don't know. It's mostly lost in a fog of cold medicine and sleeping pills. #raginginsomniaftw

However, I'm pretty sure quite a few things have happened since I last blogged....however many weeks ago. So many things, in fact, that I think we need a list! Maybe even some mother fucking bullet points? Basically my fave, let's try to work them in.

I'm starting to feel less zombie-like, so I'd like to get back into regular blogging again. Since my last post, such topics need to be covered to catch back up first:
  • Lessons!
  • An abscess. :(
  • Looking pretty!
  • Normal horse feet!
  • A training ride!
  • A massage! Not for me, but for Bobby. :(
  • The return of Pongo! (Also maybe a :(, that little asshole.)
  • Jumping!
  • Cellulitis. :(
Fortunately for ease of recapping, between Bobby's abscess, BM's sickness and then my sickness, not a whole lot of riding has gone on. Also because I still haven't sold my dressage saddle yet (omfg someone please buy it), and I'm starting to get rage bitch pissed about having to school on the flat in my Stubben. Like, why bother riding when this saddle does nothing for me? NOTHING.

Winter is really doing wonders for my winning attitude, lemme tell you.

fucking hate it for anything but jumping.

I know recapping lessons is at the top of my list, but even though I've only had one (two? I don't even remember.), and then converted the other one to a training ride so I could get BM's opinion on whether it was my horse that was broken or myself, I--as always--got a ton of good information out of those rides so I'd like to make those into their own posts to come back to later. Record all the information, all the time.

So. Cross those two items off. We're flying here!

A couple weeks ago Time is relative here. At some point, Bobby got an abscess in his RH that knocked us out for the week. Bobby is the easiest horse to deal with abscesses ever. It's basically the only thing he does drama free. It popped out of his frog the day after he was like, "Oh, p.s. I have an abscess plz fix." Being an abscess though, it did take some time to close back up and toughen to where I felt comfortable riding him again, so we had to miss that week's lesson. 

That same weekend, Hubby and I went down to PA for Riding Bestie's wedding. Oh my goodness, the food was the most delish, the vibe was super fun, and Riding Bestie looked gorgeous and B looked adorable. Love those kids. We finished up Sunday stopping by at the barn to catch up with everyone there and snuggling the Dutch Hippo.

we're not wearing dirty barn clothes! there's a first
time for everything! (shamelessly stolen from sarah)

In the same week as Bobby's training ride, Farrier came out to put flat shoes on him. He had flat shoes for all of a week when we were first trying to help him with his "heel pain", but they did nothing to improve his lameness and we quickly switched to the pimped out aluminum wedges after getting rads done. But Farrier felt that his feet had improved so much since last September that we could try them again. She even said that if he wasn't in such heavy work, she'd feel comfortable letting him go back to barefoot altogether. Yay, Bobby! Doing something right with your life! He's felt exactly the same since he got them as he did with the wedges which is obvi fantastic. 

One of these Saturdays, Massage Lady came out to work on Bobby. After his full week off, the thought crossed my mind to ask for the SI and Bobby straight up lost his shit. Instead of clobbering him upside the head with a heavy object, I got off in disgust and didn't ride him again until BM forced me to sit on him after she was done with him. The training ride and the massage were my attempts to solve this apparently reoccurring problem with fairness instead of violence. Because things hadn't escalated to violence yet, but a severe lack of sleep and another concussion (Don't even fucking get me started, fucking windshields.) were making bad thoughts seep in.

bobby's really stepped up his posing game to keep up
with the new camera.

Anyway, the massage was definitely needed. ML found some things going on in his hind end--on the left side she attributed to chronic soreness, on the right acute soreness from the abscess, ndb. He was really tight in his hamstrings which was no surprise since he's a dressage horse that works in collection a lot. I was feeling the resistance most in the shoulders, and she found quite a few spots there and in his neck that needed to be worked on. Overall though, he wasn't in too terrible of shape for someone that works hard. She'll back back in April, and in the meantime Bobby feels a lot looser in his entire body.

Pongo should also be his own post.

his tongue is rarely in his mouth

Jumping? Yeah, we rock at it. I've found that I'm super, super comfortable at a strong hand gallop. Like, the stronger Bobby feels, the better I ride and the less anxious I feel. Go forth and be a beast, Bobby. I'm fucking loving it.

And finally, yesterday my horse walked out of his stall with his RF swollen up to the size of a fucking tree trunk. His RF is essentially Satan, and if I could I'd amputate it and send it off to be dissected because I'm sure there's all sorts of interesting things going on in there. I finally got the skin fungus on his knee that had a horrendous reaction to MTG under control by switching to Equiderma, and then he got a boot rub on his ankle from the same boots he'd been wearing for two months. Whatever, treated that two weeks ago, left the boots off, and thought nothing more of it.

knee after mtg reaction, before equiderma rescue

Yesterday the sore had grown (who knows) and opened up to spew pus everywhere (why even). I dug out my first aid box only to discover my iodine bottle had exploded over everything (awesome), so spent some time cleaning all my first aid supplies before scrubbing his leg clean and throwing a quick bandage on it. I started him on a course of SMZs, and after just a day he came out of his stall with that leg looking almost normal. That leg never looks normal when he first comes out in the morning so that was nice to see. Still didn't ride--I called off my lesson due to the sub-arctic temps, lingering sickness, and a violent uterus.

Riding Bestie will be up tomorrow with her NEW HEELER PUPPY (!!!!!!!) so I will ride tomorrow. In the meantime, I'll be working on lesson and Pongo posts to get back in the groove of blogging again. It will be show season in no time after all! (Ha. Haha.)

low key v-day celebration