Wednesday, January 17, 2018

WW: Happy Birthday Opie!

dopie celebrated his fifth birthday on saturday

he did not want to share his bag of birthday carrots

and did the #angryunicorn birthday hat proud

side eye is better with a party hat

those ears tho

he really hates ralph. i do too.

it snowed 2' that morning, everything was frozen, cars were getting stuck in the
parking lot, and i slid to my knees in a giant puddle within two seconds of arriving
helping push someone out. it wasn't the most fun party.

the derp is strong.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Tough Love

Poor Opie had a long six days last week. I had originally planned on giving him Friday off as I'd worked him all week and had already chained Hubby into coming out to the barn with me Saturday, but he was being a complete terrorist in his stall while I was turning out because he had lowly first cut hay instead of second and couldn't even. I couldn't even with the attitude, so despite feeling like shit he got tacked up yet again.

while i love and fully advocate for ground work, i'm not big on longeing down a horse.
however this thing is so fucking lazy i can pop him on the line for five minutes and have
his full and complete attention under saddle right away. #winning

The intense warm up we got at the end of last week reportedly made everyone hot and tired while it seemed to do the complete opposite to Opie. He turned into a certified sass machine and was full of himself under saddle.

His trot work continues to be his strong point. He's pretty maneuverable at this gait, and if I buckle down and ride him for what I want, he usually responds. His walk is naturally pretty nice, but he's naturally pretty really lazy so I do occasionally have to get after him to get it swinging. Once he's there though, he seems content to let it roll.

default walk right off the bat. not the worst.

The canter. Ohhhhh the canter.

I should feel grateful that it's even where it's at now as it took Bobby a full year to be able to canter a twenty mete circle. That's not an exaggeration. It does, however, vacillate between "Wow, I've really got something here." to "Wow, how are you still cantering while you're essentially doing a hand stand?"

The end of last week was the latter.

He struck off into the left lead squealing in exuberance every single time, and while a lot more bargey than I would have liked, it wasn't too horrible. On Saturday with his new bit (more on that in a second), he was magically not ripping my arms out, but also finally seemed a little tired. Right now I'll take flat and controllable over giant and pulling.

To the right, on Thursday we switched directions and he immediately got anxious. I went through the routine of doing some circles, some serpentines, and some transitions to settle him down, and he finally stopped chomping. I asked, got the left lead, brought him back, and tried again. He was not having it to the point where I finally told him to get over himself and get on with it. I wasn't being unfair. I wasn't asking him to do something out of the realm of his experience. I was setting him up for success.

Right then BM walked into the ring and told me he got in trouble the night before for being a little stud coming in at night. That was exactly the feeling I was getting. He was no longer anxious, he was angry. He tried bullying me out of what I wanted by rooting the reins out my hands and diving onto his forehand insanely bad. I finally got it, but every time we turned he tried ripping the reins away and turning the opposite direction. He wasn't successful, but we ended on me winning the turning battle after he struck out at the wall with a front leg as we were turning and almost falling over.

Attitude. The Side Eye King has it.

On Friday I stuffed the right lead in within the first five minutes of my ride. I didn't let him build up to it, got it over with in a flash, and moved on. Which left him the left lead to try all his midget baby horse tricks, and at which point I made the executive decision the friendly copper eggbutt is momentarily getting kicked to the curb in exchange for a slow twist until there's a line of communication at the canter that doesn't involve bodily pulling me from the tack.

Saturday he landed off the jump in good spirits so I asked for the right lead straight away. He willingly gave it, then took a wonky step on the short side that you can see in the video and pulled up the slightest bit uneven. He was completely sound the next day, so I'm assuming he stepped on a buried frozen manure ball or clump of frozen footing. So long as he's not lame tomorrow, I will refrain from freaking out. Probably.

why yes, i do treat the shit out of him.
i also beat him when he's bad, so it evens out.

The thing I like about this horse--well, to be fair there are several things, but the thing that keeps me from braining him at the canter--is that there is a brain in there. He's not a spooky horse, and he stands up to pressure. I think he's just reached a new comfort level and is starting to test things out. I'm okay with that. I like that some real personality is coming out, and hopefully I can figure out how to channel it for good instead of evil.

Despite how I wrapped up my last post, I really want to focus on not being a passenger. I need to ride him like an experienced, trained horse even though he's not yet. If I never teach him the things I want him to know, if I never ask anything hard of him, then he's most definitely never going to be able to do them. I need to stop being so cautious and up my expectations--of myself almost more than the horse.

he's pretty fucking cute.

I started in on my second de Kunffy book last night (The Athletic Development of the Dressage Horse), and right off the bat found this quote that fell right into place for me:
The rider and coach should often do what the horse enjoys doing but they should also like to learn what must be done. Thus, the virtuous rider knows both the pleasures of harmonizing with the best of the horse's achievements and repeating successful lessons that give both his horse and himself pleasure. But the rider must also learn of the pleasure that comes from a  decreased threshold of pain. The virtue of greater endurance for what must be endured. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What we've been working on

Nothing! We've been grounded since before Christmas, you're all caught up, the end!

the dopeasaurus rex says that's fine by him, there was no
cookie shortage on his end.

In all actuality, we completed our third ride since before Christmas this morning so things are getting pretty serious. I don't really buy into the whole, "Your horse's lungs are going to bleed and he'll develop pneumonia and you'll both die." thing when it comes to cold weather, but since I do barn chores every morning during the week, I do buy into being able to say a big old nope with no shame when it doesn't hit (positive) double digits for two weeks straight. I'm already tired, and cold, and cranky, and the very last thing I want to do is take my horse's clothes off and stay cold, and tired, and probably cranky even longer.

Plus I was able to justify it to myself further. Dopie officially turns five Saturday, he's only been off the track since the end of October, and I don't want to burn his little brain out by ramming things into it in less than ideal conditions. Mental and physical vacation for the baby horse, yay!

Only Opie was not really down with this plan after the first week or so, and BM finally texted me in the middle of the day to tell me my horse was yet again being a monster outside--weaving, running the fence line, screaming his brains out even with his two pasture mates hanging out calmly just behind him. You know, just everything I hate horses to do.

"wow, sounds naughty. what sort of horse does that?"

I have no idea how to go about fixing those issues aside from waiting for the snow to melt so they can wander out further and start nibbling grass, and making Sir Lazy of the Laziest tired enough that chillin' with his homies is a far better idea than being obnoxious.

I put him on the longe a couple days last week where he was Satan incarnate, but when I finally got aboard for the first time last Thursday, he was absolutely lovely to hack around for fifteen minutes. I even took him outside for his first solo trail ride where he doped along and didn't make a peep.

Then we dipped well below zero, and I was shoveling two to three times a day for three days straight to keep up with the fucking blizzard we got, and I didn't get back on until Monday. At which point he did make a peep--several peeps in fact, though I suppose all less ear piercing than when I first got him.

if someone would just pay attention to me instead of being so concerned about
everything anything else going on...

Regardless of the minor problems going on elsewhere in Opie's little world, we are getting a lot done under saddle. This kid doesn't take steps backwards, he retains everything good or bad. He's smart and sensitive, and he tends to get frazzled when he doesn't understand what you're asking. Also he's pretty lazy so he's not above throwing childish tantrums when he does know what you're asking but it's hard, so no thanks, maybe if he flings his giant head and tiny neck around you'll be super intimidated and quit. Yeah, no.

"work smarter, not harder. then you get more cookies."
So here's where we're at in the baby dressage horse getting its learn on stage of training.

Bend: He, unsurprisingly, had no concept of what this is, and I felt like it was the biggest issue with picking up the right lead. So I went to the ground because that's where I'm more comfortable introducing new issues, not being any sort of real dressage whiz--or, you know, having any real understanding of keeping up with my horse's body parts in real time while I'm riding. After my concussion, my brain is so slow to process while riding, and it just frustrates me and then the horse and things spiral down unnecessarily. After a few in-hand sessions, the wheels got turning in Opie's head, and now we can mostly get proper bend around the corners and on big circles. Sometimes the steering still fails, and sometimes he'd just rather not so he gets mock offended by my leg and swishes his tail to show me his vast displeasure before quitting and just doing what I ask because lazy.

Leg: Putting it on does not mean go, except when it means go. This is very confusing for Opie who initially was like, "Okay, you said don't go faster when you add leg, so I won't!" and then I try to squeeze to get him to move forward more and he's all, "Nope, not falling for that. You said no going faster!" He's getting better about listening for other aids when my legs do something, and he's got quite a cute little shoulder-fore and leg yield at the walk now.

Canter: I've said it several times before--our arena is long, but really narrow so balancing around the short sides is hard fucking work for a baby racehorse with a huge canter stride and next to no sense of balance. He flip-flopped at the beginning on which lead was easier for him, but he's firmly in the left lead camp now. I finally wised up this morning and shortened my stirrups a hole to canter which was a massive help for me being able to sit and use my body with him. I'll get video this weekend of his canter so hopefully it comes across, but for how small he is, his canter is enormous. Even Riding Bestie was all, "Whoa, I was not expecting that." when she rode him. We can now do several circles in a row on the left lead, but the picking up the right lead is cause for much angst for Opie. If he gets upset and doesn't pick it up, we go back to the walk and trot until he's calm again, and then try again. If he picks it up, we do a lap, come back to the walk, and then cookie.

bobby never put his ears forward either, but at least he wasn't always shooting me
dirty side eye while looking like a petulant donkey.

Nothing we're working on is out of the ordinary for where he's at. In fact, I think he's a thousand miles ahead of where he could be just due to his natural affinity for seeking the connection and being light and easy on the bit. He doesn't llama, and he only tries pulling when he starts getting anxious which usually goes away after a couple of chill-out laps.

He's able to carry a little more forward at both the walk and trot without losing his balance and tripping over his own feet and falling on his face. That is not an exaggeration. It happens just like that.

I messed up so many things early on with Red, Storm, and Bobby that I'm probably going too slow with Opie, but I don't want to lay down another incorrect foundation. However, I'm also far and away a more educated rider now than I was with any of those horses. Part of me really wants to scramble around and dig up money for lessons that unfortunately just aren't in the budget quite yet, but at the same time nothing we're doing is out of my realm of experience. He needs strength, and he needs to learn about his body parts, and I'm more than capable of getting him to the point where BM can actually teach us things instead of telling me to do exactly what I'm doing. Just gotta trust the process!

and keep feeding cookies. obvi.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The (Mostly) New Kid

Emma's post about finally getting the perfect dressage saddle for Charlie was the kick in the pants I needed to post about my own dressage saddle shopping experience. Or maybe it was just that I have no other topic of conversation now that I've exhausted every goal/review/recap post of 2017 I could draw out.

I could write about Opie's CTJ on the longe line after BM complained about him being The Worst outside, but...I don't know. The CTJ wasn't anything special, and the reason I put him back to "work" even though it's colder than I would want to do anything with him in is not something I'm ready to tackle mentally yet. If I don't see him do anything, is he really being Satan? (The answer is yes.)

Stupid horses.

On to the bulk of that $4k+ tack shopping category!

not always the best. sometimes the worst.
but that saddle tho.

I rode in the Stubben Roxanne I bought March '17 most of last year on Bobby. It's a nice saddle. It's comfy--especially for a lower end Stubben--it fit Bobby fantastically, and it was by far the nicest piece of tack I'd ever owned.

However, I struggled with my position in it far more than I ever did with my Tekna. It wasn't the worst for sitting the trot, but it was impossible for me to post in it, and it never felt like the best fit in the seat size. I was determined to make it work because I bought it and I had it, but once I got Opie and pulled it back out for the first time in awhile, I only rode in it one more time before pushing it aside for my ancient jump saddle.

hot mess express. trying to heft my ass out of the saddle was ridiculous.

Since I want to show primarily in dressage (and personally I think a dressage saddle is a thousand times more comfortable to ride in on the daily anyway, but that just might be my crippled knees talking), I wanted to make getting a new saddle a priority.

Once an idea is in my head, I can't just sit and wait on it. There are no local (or even semi-local) tack stores around here that carry dressage saddles for me to try. Trust me, I asked. I have a really long thigh and finding something that my knee doesn't blast over the flap has always been hard for me. I have next to no knowledge of what types of saddle work best for what rider, and while research left me with a list I really didn't want to end up with another Roxane problem--a lovely saddle that fit either myself or the horse, but not both and now I can't sell the thing.

Having never done so before, I put the question out to the world of Facebook on what the cost of demoing saddles is. You guys gave me some fantastic responses and I felt confident that at least was something I could afford to get done right away, and then I could keep an eye out on whatever the fitter recommended.

look at all the pretties. LOOK AT THEM.

I ended up starting with (and, uhh, finishing...okay, never moving on from) County at the recommendation of a local rider that gave me tons of great advice and recommendations when I moved up here. The rep was fantastic to work with--friendly, great with communication, knowledgeable, patient with Opie having all of a dozen rides off the track when she came out, and she never once tried to shove her product down my throat. I didn't feel pressured into buying anything from her, and she went above and beyond to make sure I got what I wanted.

She started off taking a tracing of Opie and then went right to pulling out saddles.

We started with the Competitor, but the flap didn't feel forward enough and alongside my knee shooting off the edge, we agreed that I was basically stuffed into the thing and a bigger set size wasn't going to help there.

Next up was the Fusion. This one had the external knee blocks which I'd never ridden with before. I was ready to be wowed. I loved the look of it, and Opie immediately moved off better than he ever had. The blocks didn't do it for me though. I felt like my knee was banging into them, and the flap still didn't seem forward enough. I told Rep upfront I was not going custom and needed something to fit me essentially off the rack. On to the next.

The Connection was like butt magic the second I swung my leg over. The seat was roomy, the flap was forward, the blocks were unobtrusive, and Opie was moving freely and happily. I told her it was my favorite hands down, but she wanted me to try the last model just in case.

oh, that's how your leg is supposed to hang. and it shouldn't be impossible to post?
what a concept!

I was in and out of the Perfection in less than a lap. It was my least favorite of the four, and after riding in the Connection I didn't even bother making my thus far impeccably well behaved baby horse go around yet again.

The saddle I demoed was a 17.5" medium tree in bull leather. I loved everything about it, but Rep told me the bull was almost $1k more than the elephant print. I wasn't totally sold on it because even the price of a demo with the elephant was astronomical for my little baby budget, so she dug out a weirdly sized 17" wide tree with the elephant print, and after checking to make sure the tree worked for Opie, told me to keep it until she was back up probably in a week and see what I thought about it, no strings attached.

I put in a couple of rides, and even though the seat was a bit too small for me (while the 18" Stubben was way too small for me, the 17.5" County is perfection), the difference in Opie and the ease of holding my position and working my body parts sold me.

it just cuddles my leg and i love it. #obsessed

I told the Rep I wanted it, she sent in the order to the County office, and they shipped me the 17.5" wide tree from another rep in two days. Rep came out shortly thereafter to fit it specifically for Opie. It needed a little lift in the right for his less developed shoulder, and she told me to use a Mattes pad for a couple weeks until he truly filled in the wide tree. Uh, yeah. Four years old, two months off the track with not a whole lot of rides, and he was rocking a wide comfortably. Though he be but little, he is fierce a sofa.

welcome home.

My mom generously donated a large chunk of change for Christmas that paid off a third of it, we were able to budget in another third, and County financed the last third which we plan on paying off in full by March. I sold my jump saddle to BM since it turned out to be way too narrow, and with the proceeds bought my own Mattes half pad (having been borrowing one from a generous barn mate) and a 22" Total Saddle Fit girth since Bobby's 28" memory foam girth was swallowing Opie whole.

i maybe also stuck with county because it's riding bestie's fave and i trust her judgement

It's hands down the most money I've ever paid for anything besides my truck. It's more than I paid for my horse trailer. It's more than three times the amount I paid for my horse. ALL of my horses! That makes me a little twitchy sometimes when I spiral down the whole "What if I paid too much?" "What if I could have found it cheaper somewhere else?" "What if there's a better saddle out there that's cheaper AND works better?"

And maybe all of those things are true, but it's the saddle I have and mostly paid for, and hot damn is it comfy and dreamy and makes my horse move like a unicorn. It can't be all bad!

of course i haven't sat in it in two weeks, but it's still nice to
look at.

Have you guys ever demoed saddles before? Any brand preferences? Do you make questionable life choices large purchases without shopping the market like I do?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Cost of 2017

I did a 2016 post and ended up really enjoying being interested in where my expenses were for my horse. It was also interesting that while obviously horses are expensive and I spent more than any sane non-horse person would ever fathom, once again I didn't end up spending as much as I thought I did. Of course that's easy to say now that the bills are far behind me because they sure felt like they were getting otherworldly at the time!

I didn't make my categories quite the same as the previous year, but close enough for comparison.

Supplements and health care (meds, ointments, creams): $1,522.04
  • Almost $100 of that was spent on various sized jars of Krudzapper. #noregrets
Farrier: $555
  • God bless my fucking farrier. All year long, we never went two cycles in a row without changing Bobby's shoeing. Since she does almost the entire barn she's out all the time anyway, but she never once charged me every time she stopped in on her way to somewhere else to check in, or Bobby lost a shoe, or I needed her to hoof test, or wanted an opinion after Vet was out, or every time I had her consult with whoever I was working with at the time. Bobby's laminitis treatment and outside consult she brought in? I never saw a bill. She knew we were at the end, and even when I tried pushing money into her hand, she refused to accept it.  
Lessons: $1,130
  • Hopefully to resume next month or March at the latest!
Board: $1,325
  • I quartered this from what I paid last year by picking up more barn chores. It's worth it to afford more lessons, shows, etc. At least that's what I tell myself as I drive 30mph through a blizzard in 10* to take care of 22 horses. 
Vet: $3,058.61
  • $1,000 of that was the Cornell trip, and that doesn't include close to another $1,000 a bunch of crazy fucking bloggers raised for Bobby's last bills. Love you crazy fucking bloggers! Much like Farrier, Vet really tried to work with me to keep costs down, and we did a lot of phone calls and emails so she didn't have to keep coming out every time something with Bobby's leg changed.
Shows: $848.51
  • This makes me twitch since I only attended one and one-third shows this year, and that hunter show only cost me $109. Enjoy your fucking donations, USDF and USEA!
Tack/Gear: $4,697.31
  • Um, whoops? I think I did Tack Ho Nation proud. That includes my Stubben dressage saddle I bought in the spring that ended up not working at all for my sasquatch legs (Still for sale!!), and 2/3 of the cost of my fancy new County dressage saddle. Look away, Hubby. Just look away.
Miscellaneous (memberships, registrations, repairs, etc): $918.74
  • My truck got new brakes in the spring which was a good chunk of that. 
Overall total: $14,055.21
  • Only about a $2,300 difference than last year. See, not bad at all! Oh, wait. I also bought a horse. Might need to work on that 2018 budget a little bit.....
How'd you guys do? More expenses than usual, or were you able to keep your wallet under wraps? Anyone else want to share their poor life choices?