Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It's always something

Opie has been up to some CRAZY STUFF over the past week or so.

One day we wandered around bareback in a halter and then he ate grass while I sat on his back and talked to BM.


Another day he learned about steering with the cart in the indoor. There was a tantrum. He learned tantrums don't get you anywhere with a cart attached either. And then I had steering again.


I rode him on Friday which was a lot of starting to go out to the rail to trot before getting psychically run into, cut off, or chased by a woman who leases one of the Haffies who could not steer to save her life--or Opie's. I finally just parked it in the middle of the ring between standards and the mounting block until she was done unapologetically careening around. Opie shares my vast displeasure of riding with people who have no ring manners, but once we were able to navigate without having to duck into a corner or slam to a stop he was was super.

He then got the weekend off, and I climbed back aboard Monday for another dressage ride. NY finally decided to get on the rain train and is catching up for a summer of drought conditions in earnest so our trail riding seems to have finally come to a close.

exactly my feelings.

The rain has come with weird temperature swings. Over the past few days we've had low 40s with wind and rain, low 40s with wind and sun, and upper 50s with wind and rain. Sometimes in the same day. Just the worst. Opie felt pretty lethargic and sluggish when I got on him yesterday--an upper 40s with wind and rain day. I didn't think too much of it as he's naturally a pretty lazy horse, but we'll come back to it later.

Aside from having to keep legging him on, he was in one of his #childgenius modes. The upward canter transitions are finally getting there. No surprise it's come from getting him super connected in the bridle first and then he just steps right into them. They're maybe not as sharp as they could be, but I'll come back around to that once I feel like he's confirmed with the through-ness.

The down transitions are still not where I want them. They're progressing, just at a glacial pace. I'm struggling with getting him to stay forward into them when he wants to die and splat the second he thinks I'm asking him to come down. We'll get there eventually. The canter itself, at least, is amazinggggg.

"duh, lady. now give me candies."

He has randomly developed an aversion to the letter E. But only tracking right. Every time we pass--be it at walk, trot, or canter--he bulges way out away from it. Nowhere else in the ring, and never going left. Whatever, bro. Straight lines are overrated I guess.

We finish the real work part of the ride with sitting trot. I incorporate lateral work throughout the ride, but usually come back to the leg yields quickly and then finish with shoulder-in and haunches-in. The leg yields are now easy, but they'll need some outdoor love to work on the geometry in the First test because I run out of room in the narrow indoor.

The shoulder-in is much more relaxed although they can still get better. The haunches-in is currently still riding the struggle bus. At the walk they're fine. At the trot he loses all bend and just wants to stare at the wall while his haunches wing out to the inside of the track. He needs his front half and his back half to work together but apart which is too much for his brain at the moment. But honestly he used to be so awful at the shoulder-in too that I didn't it was ever going to be a thing and now it is. So I shall persevere!

what a mug

I was going to ride him again this morning, but when I went into his stall to groom him I noticed he had barely touched his breakfast grain. I shook it around and convinced him to eat a couple mouthfuls while I stood there, but he quickly shunned it and went back to his hay. Opie is a pretty aggressive eater--you can go in while he's eating, but only if he knows you'll smack the shit out of him if he tries anything--and he basically lives with his face buried in his bucket until every molecule has been cleaned up, so that was definitely weird.

he's really quite a tiny tyrant the majority of the time tbh

He was chowing down on his hay though, his gums and gut sounds were normal, his poop looked normal, and his temp was normal. He wanted candy (as always), and was alert and interested. BM offered him a handful of a different grain and he happily cleaned that up. I started him on Empower Boost last weekend which is a rice bran type grain supplement that he gets twice a day, but he's been cleaning that up without issue.

I ended up giving him the day off and riding Chance instead who was a very good boy. When I walked back past Opie's stall afterwards he was sullenly picking out one pellet of grain at a time and eating it. Confident he wasn't going to fall over and die I left him to it, and when I got home BM texted me that he was viciously eating the rest of it.

So possibly he was just having a childish tantrum over life or he has Eating Cancer, I dunno. With the lethargy yesterday and the wild weather swings I'll be keeping a closer than usual eye on him in the meantime.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Unending Tale of White Breeches

One of my unwritten goals this year was to cut way back on unnecessary horse expenditures. Forget the vet and farrier bills--those don't count as I'm never going to apologize for throwing dolla dolla bills in the air in that category.

However, I did spend almost five thousand dollars on tack and gear last year. That's an obscene amount of dolla dolla bills. Of course a lot of that was from the Stubben I bought that didn't work for me which I then sold, and the County that replaced it. The last $1,000 of the County got paid off this year (which still makes me twitch a little as this saddle was more expensive than my horse trailer, never mind the bargain-priced horse himself), so I know that year end number is again going to be higher than I want. But I do feel like I tried to keep a wrap on my spending on everything else.

One thing I couldn't get away from shelling out money on was a new pair of white breeches.

MUCH TO MY FUCKING DISMAY.

much loved old breeches at dopie's second show

My old breeches were a now discontinued pair of Devon Aires with a suede full seat and unobtrusive velcro bottoms. They had no back pockets and deep enough front pockets that I could stuff my phone in for walks without worrying about it falling out. The belt loops were generous enough to fit my C4 belt without being so large that I had to go out and buy an obnoxiously wide belt to fill them. The fabric was soft and light, and I could chuck them in the washer without any special treatment. And I think they cost me all of $60 when I bought them six years ago.

Basically they were the most perfect breeches ever.

Until the crotch split wide open beyond all repair.

it was at this show where my horse was a colossal shit. death of favorite breeches
and naughty AF baby horse did not make for a fun day.

I happen to be in the minority in that I love the look of white breeches. I also really enjoy keeping my grey horse clean so maybe there's just something inherently wrong with me. It turns out that part of the reason I'm not adverse to wearing them is because my original pair were so flattering. They never showed any lumps or bumps, they weren't flaunting my panty line (and bitch please, I am not wearing a thong for a horse show), and I didn't have to worry about anything being see-through. When I started shopping, I realized that not all breeches were created equal forgiving.

I wanted to keep my budget for a new pair around $100. I personally don't think that's an absurd request, although I appeared to be in the minority. I've never paid more than that for a pair of breeches in my life, and I don't plan on ever doing so.

My first go-to was Riding Warehouse. I don't usually shop there because their selection is so limited and their shipping is glacial out to the east coast, but every now and then I find a crazy good deal in their closeouts. I ended up with two pairs of Horze breeches for $40. I had a pair of Horze breeches a million years ago and I remembered them being a thicker fabric, but nice enough.

not horze breeches. 

These ended up being the most unflattering breeches ever. I'm not sure how such thick fabric can create such a lovely display of thigh cellulite, but these did beyond imagining. I tried them on, took one look in the mirror, and sent them right back. The other pair I bought were purple, and while I rode in them one whole time, they didn't sit right on me either and they moved on to Andrea.

After a lot of browsing, I decided I liked the look and reviews of the Equine Couture breeches. The best price I found on them was on Victory Canter, so I placed my order and waited.

And waited some more.

After not getting any confirmation of shipping in over a week, I finally emailed them--because those of you that have used Victory Canter before know that email is the only way to contact them. Which is weird. To their credit, they replied quickly. Only their reply was, "Oh, we don't have 32s in stock anymore. We sent you an email that said that!" They hadn't. "We can send you a 30 or a 34 instead." I'm a 30 in pretty much everything, but I'd read that these run small. At this point, I had a show rapidly approaching and just needed some fucking breeches. I conveyed that urgency and told them to send a pair of 30s.

we had fancy prancing to attend to!

Again, to their credit, they made up for their mistake and overnighted me those bitches post haste with a promise of free returns if they didn't work for me. I tried to shimmy into them and barely got them over my thighs. Forget zipping them. Plus they were way too short. I was deep in the crazy trenches at this point and desperate for breeches, but I wasn't that desperate. I emailed my friendly customer service contact and asked her to facilitate a return. She got me a paid return bag within a couple days and back they went.

Where I then waited some more.

After nearly two weeks of waiting for my return to pop up in my checking account, I emailed again and, to their credit (anyone else getting annoyed at this point?), the money popped right up.

IN THE MEANTIME!

The saga comes to a unsatisfactory close.

these fucking breeches.
flattering from the ground, THE WORST in the saddle.

I finally just went and bought a pair of Pipers. Because SmartPak gets things to me quickly and cheaply. They're the silicone grip full seats with a different fabric from the regular run of the mill Pipers. Which is great because those are heavy and hot and last for shit. I like the fabric on these, and they didn't add to my propensity to sweat like a pig at shows. #klassy They fit great and they don't show my underthings--panty lines or fat lines.

They are, however, the. fucking. worst. to ride in.

there they are, slowly eating my stirrup leathers.

So at first it was just that they chafed wherever the silicone grip lay against my leg. Fine, that's fair, I'm a sweaty person and it was a hot summer. I applied Body Glide the next time out and solved that problem. But they were also sucking my stirrup leathers up under my leg in the saddle. I had to pull the tail of the leathers out of their keepers and let them dangle so they would stop bunching under my thigh as I rode. And they just stuck more than I needed them to. Like when I had to go back to change my stock tie and my ass was essentially glued to the saddle which meant I half slid, half ripped myself free and earned a giant saddle stain down one leg--which then took five thousand soaks and washes to get out.

I was over buying breeches at that point, so I finished out the season in them, but they will be getting stuffed in my trailer as an emergency back up pair next year. I'm not looking forward to going through the process of trying to find the perfect pair again, but these just won't do.

old breeches last ride. they were as done with life as opie was.

Has anyone else experienced such a colossal cluster fuck when it came to buying one single, solitary item of clothing? Or am I the only crazy person that can't make a pair of fancy pants work for shows only?

Monday, October 29, 2018

True Confessions: I Don't Got It

I jumped Opie over a solitary vertical a couple weekends ago.


We were finishing up our dressage ride, the canter was feeling really good, and the temptation was just too much to not turn in on the diagonal and pop over.

I also jumped him this Saturday, only I went wild and threw on my generous barn mate's jump saddle. I set up two whole fences in the ring: a 2'3" vertical on a quarter line and a big X on one of the diagonals. It was rainy and cold, I'd waited all day for lessons to be over so the ring would be clear of small children, and even though I had to temporarily relocate a horse (who was weathering the storm in the indoor with an upset tummy, but is now back to normal), I was going to do some jumping--half assed or not.

I swung aboard and immediately wondered where the rest of the saddle was. I've become such a dressage snob--or maybe just a cushy County dressage saddle snob--that every time I sit in anything it feels fucking weird.

Also my stirrups felt really short. I don't usually adjust them because my barn mate is a shorty and her flat length stirrups are my jump length. Even so, I could have comfortably put these down a hole. Or two. Or even three. But no. I wanted to get my ride over with so off we went.

W/t warm up, easy peasy. Into the canter at half seat, also easy. I took a light seat for the jumping, my butt skimming the saddle at the canter. Opie was perfection. Metronome canter, adjusted at the slightest cue, popped over from the perfect distance every time and cantered off without missing a beat.

Then my foul weather headache slammed in and I quickly got off and put him away after fifteen minutes so I could get home without throwing up on myself. All told I was in half seat for maybe...three minutes of that ride?

does love the jumpies

You guys. I got home, walked down my short driveway to get the mail, and my thighs were literally quivering.

The next morning I woke up and my calves hurt all day.

This morning my calves are still sore AND my left butt cheek aches.

Once upon I time I could gallop multiple horses in a day. Once upon a time I could do eleven minutes of two point without breaking a sweat. Apparently now I can't even warm my horse up without aches and pains.

True Confession: Someone on this blog may be a weakling when the stirrups get raised higher than the longest available hole. #itme

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Goals? What Goals?

The fun thing about dressage (I know, I'm already starting off like the beginning of a bad joke.) is that just when you're like, "Wow, we are so good at that movement! Never going to have to work on that again. ....so what do I do now?" That movement turns to shit again so you do have something to work on.

SO FUN!

remember when it was warm enough for naked ponies? all of a week ago?

I was chatting with Farrier yesterday morning as she was trimming a horse and I was getting Opie groomed and tacked up. She asked if I'd been riding much and I told her I hadn't really been on a regular schedule lately. She wanted to know why since I'm known for getting a lot of saddle time, and I didn't have a good answer. But I think there are a couple factors.

One is still that we did so fucking much this summer that it's been nice to bring it way back and mostly putter around. The vast majority of my riding has been on trails with a dressage school thrown in here or there. And it's been awesome. We've got a long winter ahead of us, and being able to get outside to ride before being locked in the indoor is a priority.

The other is it's only October and we've already crossed off all my goals for the year--and then some.

a couple weekends ago i hopped over the border into PA to visit riding bestie's
old horse with her, and we also got to visit all the ponies on the farm. i'll take both
this cuddly perch and the adorbs yearling beside him.

We've obviously still got a shit ton to work on. I don't want to be gallivanting around at Training level forever and would like to come out swinging for a full season at First by May. But my brain is stuck in 2018 limbo where I had a game plan laid out; that's what I was going to stick to, even if that means sticking to the exact same shit we've already conquered.

Well time to move on, brain. Tally forth to new dressage horizons and all that!

completely unstaged. i was caught in the act of pony giddiness. 

I wrote in my last dressage post about how the canter work for First is so easy yada yada. It was for that day, but in the spirit of dressage it went a bit off the rails in the next ride.

The up transitions were still shit, but the down transitions were significantly better. We could do the trot change of lead at X without falling on our faces--mostly because the depart back into the canter sent us into orbit with how high his front end rockets up, punctuated by his head in my face at the last second as he's all, "oh wow so elevated much unicorn must touch the sky with my horn."

Or something.

The lengthened work was also super. Where we ran into problems was coming back from the lengthening. He would either break, or fall down, or both, or just ignore me all together and continue his floating cavalry charge. But that gives me a good area of focus to work on when I don't want to put in a dressage school because I'm bored and have already crossed everything off my goals list.

a very hopeful puppy waiting to see if opie would share his
horseversary snackies with her

The leg yields in one direction suddenly became the most legit thing this horse can do, so now I need to get them as good going the other way. And he offered me the most beautiful lifted back transition into the sitting trot for the first time ever which means it's in there for me to get again.

The dressage journey is never ending. I need to keep that in mind instead of going on a mental hiatus because I'm too OCD to write down new goals until the new year.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Oatka* Creek Park Adventure(s)

*Pronounced Oh-ahhht-cuh and not Oat-cuh. APPARENTLY.

We have a gorgeous, sprawling park that's super horse friendly just thirty minutes from the barn. Most of our trail adventures happen there as it goes on forever and you can choose a new trail pretty much every time you're there. I average about two hours on our usual loop, but I can squeeze in a fun ride in an hour or meander for three or four.

But it gets a little boring when you go there every month--sometimes more than once a month--and I wanted to expand our trail riding horizons. I'd taken my puppers to a new park just down the road from the barn's vet office which is about forty minutes away. The trails are really well maintained and I knew horses were allowed. Farrier, who is my go-to for adventure advice as she rides everywhere, said it was a pretty park to ride in and she'd definitely recommend it.

it is indeed really pretty

So last Tuesday BM and I loaded up our horses and hit the road to do some exploring. Everything was going fine until I went to merge onto the interstate and my steering wheel felt stuck. I was like, "Uhh...that's weird? And also probably not okay?"

I kept driving as it turned to the left fine, it just felt tight to the right. Better safe than sorry though, I pulled off at the first exit with a gas station I knew could fit my trailer to check things over. As I made the turn into the parking lot, the steering wheel locked and I had to use all my bodily strength to wrench that bitch out of the way. Needless to say, the power steering was kaput. I popped the hood and there was fluid sprayed everywhere.

patient ponies wondering what sort of adventure this is

Fortunately, BM knew someone who lived just down the road who was promptly able to come and take BM back to the barn to get her truck. I called AAA to tow my truck to the garage down the road from my house, and BM was back just before the tow truck pulled in. We had the trailer dropped, trucks switched out, and both of us back on the road to our respective destinations in about an hour. Obviously it sucked not to be able to go for our ride, but talk about best case scenario!

Plus BM reported that both boys backed out of the trailer like complete gentleman even though she was by herself. And that's why we train our horses to have perfect manners at all times, people.

yeah, you. even if you have to spend an entire winter pulling
your hair out to ensure proper death box etiquette. 

The weather was looking like shit for the foreseeable future--so, like, for the next eight months--but I saw this morning there was a small glimmer of no rain or snow or gale force winds. I'd had a shitty day yesterday, an even shittier night, and I woke up in a foul mood. I figured a good trail ride was just what I needed.

I got the barn done and then spent a good ten minutes going back and forth about a thousand times trying to inch my hitch to my trailer straight. Because that was just how life was going at that point. Finally, well and truly pissed at that point, I got the fucker lined up and connected. I tromped down the aisle, got my horse, loaded him with ease, and then told myself I was going to have fucking fun.

On the drive down, my check engine light suddenly came on and started flashing. I said many curse words, but the truck felt fine and all the gauges looked okay. About ten seconds later it went off and never came back on again. Fuck you, truck.

doesn't care where we go as long as he gets to eat 

I (finally!) managed to make it there without further issue and got Opie unloaded and tacked up. I stopped at the second parking lot to take a picture of the trail map on the off chance I got turned around somewhere, but Opie wanted no part of that. He was ready for adventure time and kept dragging me towards the trail head. Once we got on the trail in the woods he put cruise control on and marched along taking in the sights. Not bad for having three days off on a 45* day.

the fall leaves have been getting blown off the second they change
color so the foliage this year has been pretty weak. 

I had to get off twice. Once when we reached a bunch of exposed, elevated tree roots on a super narrow section that led downhill to a giant boulder face. Opie attempted it, but halfway down thought about aborting. Since we were about two feet from falling off the face of a cliff, I shimmied off and slid down it with him. It was a tricky spot for even a seasoned trail horse so no harm there.

The second spot was heading down a Man from Snowy River type trail that was borderline ridiculous. I half hopped, half sledded down it while Opie plodded along behind me. He's such a good boy about staying out of my space whenever I end up leading him on trails which has happened a few times now as I end up exploring some sketchy places because who needs maps. I ended up staying on foot for awhile because I wasn't sure how the trail would progress, but it certainly looked to be higher on the sketchy scale.

fortunately i was appropriately dressed for hiking since my
new boots don't get here until this afternoon. also i'm pretty
sure that's lichen growing on my right half chap. 

It ended up being not too bad and I got on and rode him back up it on our way back after I got done trying to convince him to play in the creek.

"worst swimming hole ever. hard pass."

We put in a couple of canters, lots of trotting, and even more meandering. Before I knew it, we'd explored literally the entire park.

In an hour.

Whomp whomp.

this just calls for a good canter

After all that, I probably won't be coming back to this park to trail ride. I spent almost as much time driving down there as I did riding. It's pretty, and I'm glad I got to see all of it, but it's better suited for walking doggos than ponies.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

One Year of Opie

Today marks the one year anniversary of buying Opie! To say he has made all of my Training level dressage dreams come true would be an understatement a lie--because I didn't have any. 

BUT! 

I think it's safe to say he's exceeded all my expectations, and he has been hands down the most fun, enjoyable, rewarding horse I have ever owned in my life.

and i try to let him know it by excessively fawning over him at all times

To quickly recap Opie's previous life, he raced for three years, from two to four, 31 times exclusively at Finger Lakes. His last race was 10/2/17 where he finished ninth...and second to last. He was actually entered to race the Monday after I bought him, but instead he had a "vet scratch" to go to "Cornell to get scoped." AKA "Put the horse on your trailer, the $1k you're paying us is more than he's earned in the last two years combined."

he was cute to start, but i like to think i've made him cuter.

Instead of racing that Monday, Opie got his first post-track ride. My checklist for my new horse was simple: gelding, brain, farrier approved feet. (And no grey. But that was a clear fail.) Right away, all the gushing his trainer--"Oh Opie? Nothing bothers Opie."--and his groom--"The last time this horse won he looked like someone was chasing him, and he's never run that fast again."--did over him while I was shopping was immediately apparent. We did w/t in the indoor and after all of ten minutes I had to kick him to keep him going. 

He had Carly Boot Camp to attend though, as he also ran over my barn mate and then BM at the mounting block. He weaved horribly in the crossties, he had no patience to stand still under saddle, he tried to lay down on the farrier, and when he set his sights on an adventure he was dragging you along with him. 

But I quickly found that the key to Opie's heart was candy, and in a month or two he learned that standing equals candy and literally all our problems went away.

it helped that his favorite activity is napping whenever and wherever

The biggest hurdle was definitely death box training, but a winter of being persistent and patient led to a spring with only a couple of mild loading and unloading setbacks, and by the time his extensive show season wrapped up, he certified himself as automatic with the trailer. I can take him with another horse or by himself and trust him to get on the trailer, hang out tied, and then get back on again without any drama. 

Speaking of show season! Opie did ten dressage shows this year--five recognized and five schooling. He collected 70s and even an 81% at schooling shows, and consistently scored in the mid-60s at recognized shows, including a 68% to win his class at his second show. He's learned to let his cobra neck get long, and aside from being #childgenius he's proven to be super willing and capable of dealing with pressure--two things Bobby never had going for him.

i think he's still so dark, but i forget how much darker he was

While the vast majority of our time is spent focused on dressage (or trail riding), he also gradually got introduced to jumping. He was horrible with body awareness when I got him though, and couldn't figure out how to stay on his feet to save his life. He got to play with some tiny jumps over the winter, but as show season kicked off that pretty much got scrapped which turned out to be the best thing for him. All the dressage and trail riding made him figure out his moving parts and beefed him up in the strength department. When I re-introduced fences, it was like he'd already been trained over them.

If I tried, I could still probably count the exact number of times he's had a jump school because it's been that few, but he's still managed to jump up to 2'9" xc, a couple 2'6" stadium fences, and full courses at Intro (2'3"). 

ground pole graduate

AND, most importantly, I haven't even used up my very first bottle of Cowboy Magic and I'm a stickler for a clean, spot-free horse. So he's basically a unicorn.

one year snackies

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Dopie Does Dressage

As was his intended purpose--once he got done being a relatively mediocre sprinter for three years, that is.

i mean he is really super fast though. just look at him. travelling at the speed of sloth.

We've been slowly plugging away at the fundamentals. It's not particularly flashy or exciting, but it is rewarding when it produces things like less falling down, adjustability within the gaits, and--my current favorite--a semi-reliable half halt at the canter.

With the new dressage tests finally released, I was ready to take all our basics to the next level starting as of this morning. The new leg yields! The canter patterns from First! The super kind counter canter from 2-1! Opie hadn't been ridden in three days due to the power steering on my truck going as BM and I were on our way to a field trip which derailed my scheduled weekly plan, and the temperature had dropped to the thirties with heavy winds, but no matter. Dressage, here we come!

Only:

that is a half chap over my tall boot. DAMN IT.

My wool socks finally did my sad, old zipper in so I had to wrestle on one of my moldy, forgotten half chaps over my boot. Then my spur wouldn't fit comfortably over the whole shebang so I went with a spur on the right foot only. Fine, whatever. We're coming for you anyway, dressage!

he's so dark and dapply after his body clip. it makes me deliriously happy.
#neverturnwhite

I put Opie on the longe out of prudence, but he trotted all of three circles before asking if he could quit. I made him canter instead and he managed maybe three circles of that as well before we both gave up. He does, however, take a hot minute to warm up in the colder weather even with his butt cape on. We did a brief trot in both directions before going back to the canter and doing a bunch of laps in half seat.

Finally we were ready for real for dressage!

he is just the most perfect midget thoroughbred. i will take no arguments.

We worked mostly on the new leg yield pattern in 1-3 as that test and 1-1 will be the go-to next season. 1-1 because it's the easiest (although I haven't even looked at 1-2 yet so that might change), and 1-3 because you have to ride the highest test at your level for year end awards so we're always going to get stuck there.

Opie was a tight, tense mess when I first introduced him to leg yielding. He doesn't like moving his hind end independent of the rest of his body--sad story, welcome to dressage, amigo--so any and all lateral work has been slow in coming. But I spent multiple rides on a long rein at a slow trot asking him to gently move back and forth off the rail and then praising the shit out of him. Slowly he realized it wasn't that big of a deal and now we can do it reliably out of a working trot. I want it to get a lot better, but it's passable for now.

The 10m circle and then turn off the centerline were no big deal which was where those basics waved their little victory flags. Fifty different changes of bend in five seconds? Easy peasy.

i went from not being able to sit my horse's canter because it was nonexistent to being able
to sit it because it was small and kind of sucky back to not being able to sit it because it's good.

The canter is a mixed bag. It's getting so much better but each time it gets better I have to completely relearn how to ride it. Bobby was gigantic, but he had a tiny pony stride. Opie is tiny, but he has a gigantic step. I want to choke it back to make it easier to ride, but I'm trying to suck it up and let him roll because I know forward is always the answer. Unless your core is made of jello chocolate.

I am FINALLY getting a half halt to go through in it though! It's helping the balance, and is slowlyyyyyy helping the downward transitions. Both the up and down transitions out of it are still mostly crap though. I was going to schedule a lesson to work specifically on those, but then my truck. And my tall boots. Hopefully once the holidays pass I'll be able to get back on a regular lesson schedule again.


In the meantime, I've also started introducing some counter canter. It is super special.


He actually does better when I plan ahead and steer (surprising, I know) and give him more time on the long side to get rebalanced. He went from breaking and falling down to now trying lead changes when I don't get him set up right. Ah well. The rare occasion we're both in order it's nice. And he does the shallow serpentines to X just fine. Once we get locked in the narrow indoor for winter, it will come. Either that or we're going to face plant on a regular basis.

The 15m canter circles at the end of the ring are there, so check that off. The change of lead at X is a downward canter transition so is currently meh. The lengthen canter to working canter is getting flawless, and the lengthen trot is as steady as ever.

Basically we're ready for First, but this winter should give us the polish to hopefully do as well as we did at Training this year.

don't need no polish for posing, yo.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Dopie Does Driving

Things have been ticking along at a steady pace which is great, but steady can be boring and boring leads to lack of motivation to write actual posts.

However, I got some new media this weekend, and I made a big breakthrough with Dopie's driving exploits so I'm going to put it down. And usually once I start typing word vomit happens anyway.

cart pony says gimme my candy

Since I have enough media to split this post into two parts--riding and driving Opie--this will be the driving post. Also because there's only so many ways to write about lower level dressage work. "We only almost fell down once working on the counter canter today, so I guess you can say things are going well."

The weekend before this past one, I was feeling awfully fucking dejected about the driving progress. I was only working with him once a week because I needed Hubby's extra set of hands to get him hitched safely, and I still didn't trust him to drive around solo without someone there to grab him should things go south.

having a pout because my horse didn't magically learn to drive by himself in two sessions

The biggest issue I was running into was that Opie kept reverting to his habit of employing his short cobra neck as a weapon instead of using his body properly. He didn't want to push the cart over to make turns--instead he would just turn his head and neck all the way around, and then I'd have to stop and either get out or have Hubby reset him on the straight track again since turning your head doesn't move the cart.

I did some work with him in-hand, physically shoving the shafts of the cart over as we turned until he was kind of getting the idea on his own. I whined about it to BM who has some driving experience and she told me to try side reins to keep his head straight. Hmmmmm. Food for thought!

Hubby, meanwhile, was like, "You just need to ground drive him more and he'll get it." To which I pointed out that he knows how to ground drive, and he turns just fine in the lines. He doesn't know how to maneuver a cart, and he's not going to learn unless he's got a cart attached to him. So pipe the fuck down, Hubby.

spolier alert: i let hubby take him for a spin this weekend at the walk

Not one to feel sorry for myself for long without coming up with a full scale attack approach to my problems, last week I decided Opie was doing well enough with the cart that I could get him hitched myself and at the very least work with him on the ground. After our ride on Thursday, I got him dressed in the outdoor and lifted the cart up. Just as I got the shafts slotted into the tugs, Opie spotted BM strolling into the ring and was like, "OH HAI NICE LADY YOU HAVE CANDIEZ?" and started to walk the fuck off for a visit. The cart harmlessly slid out and clunked to the ground, and Opie got walloped for moving. When I set him back up, he had the most dejected look on his face, but he stood like a rock--and got lots of candy for it which improved morale.

I attached the side reins on both sides super loosely and led him around the arena once in-hand. He was completely fine about the whole thing, so I clipped the lines on and moved behind the cart to ground drive him from there. Not only was he fine for that, but I let the fence line do the work for me the first couple laps and barely had to give any input on steering. I wanted to see if the side reins and Opie's sense of self preservation--aka don't walk into the fence, dummy--would kick in. The side reins were a huge help and there was no angry cobra neck to be found!

i can't wait to give this cart a face lift this winter.
obvi it's going to become purple.

The next day, after our ride, I got him hitched again this time with no moving. In-hand I led him for half a lap at the walk, and then did a full lap at the trot. He did not give two shits, so after a lap of ground driving him at the walk from behind the cart, I got in and sent him off for our first solo trip.

His steering was easy, his brakes were solid, and when I decided to go ahead and ask for a trot, he hopped right into it for a lap and then came back and stood like a statue while I got him undressed and stuffed all the candy in his face. (No, but really. He got an entire plus sized bag of baby carrots.)

When I finally dragged Hubby out on Sunday, I climbed right in as soon as we were hitched and off we went for some loops at the walk to show off our newly installed steering. Hubby was impressed and I had to be like, "Right, bitch. No ground driving. Cart driving. Also side reins. Also extra candy. Also I'm a genie and my horse is a #childgenius." Because I'm a grown up and rubbing things in is how I roll.

Then we pranced off into the sunset:


And everyone died of cuteness overload.

The end.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Year End Awards

I feel like I haven't talked about ribbons in awhile.

THE HORRORS, I know.

"wait, does this mean more shows?!"
nope! just trail rides until the snow comes!

This morning I sent off my reservation for my GMO's year end award banquet next month along with my two-page completed log form of twenty six recorded hours of trail riding for the Thoroughbred Recreational Riding Incentive Program. Opie is coming up on his one year off the track anniversary, and I felt pretty dang proud I was able to get both of those in before that day. 

And then of course it also inspired me to blog about year end awards to make sure everyone has a fair chance at ribbons. At least everyone with a Thoroughbred. 

The long and short is: move to central New York and you can join my GMO, fight tooth and nail for volunteer hours that no one wants to give you, hopefully make it to at least two of their often weirdly inconveniently scheduled shows, and get a year end ribbon or two from them as well!

No, just kidding. Don't ever move to this awful state.

year end champion of keeping himself clean in the mud

I actually want to talk about the Jockey Club's Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP). Most of you are probably aware of this program, and probably randomly signed your horse up for a TIP number on the off chance you ran into any of their sponsored classes/shows during the year. It's free and easy, and another chance at an extra ribbon. (Unless you go to a show that says they're offering the TIP awards, but then don't actually bother going through with it even though you checked to see that they were. Ahem, Houghton...)

However, they also offer their own year end awards! The shows don't even have to be TIP sponsored to qualify for points.

There are divisions ranging from the standard dressage, eventing, and hunter/jumper to western and in-hand. You can find the full list here.

You record your results throughout the year online via their super easy reporting form. Fill in a couple boxes, select the appropriate drop down tabs, and they calculate the points for you. The only thing I've found difficult about this is when shows don't report their results online. You need to submit verification of your results, so if you can't provide a website link, you need to fill out a reporting form and have the show secretary sign off. I didn't start recording my results online until the middle of the year, so I've had to email the reporting form off for the two shows I competed in that don't have online results. Next year I'll know to just bring the form with me and have them sign it quickly when I'm done riding. 

Results for those don't come out until February, but in the meantime, get on your pony and ride because you can also take advantage of their recreational riding offerings.

award winning show horses right here. clearly. that's opie
splashing everyone while mo goes scuba diving.

The recreational riding incentive program includes trail rides, endurance rides, hunts, and hunter paces. There's a form to print off to log in your hours for each ride. Every time you hit an award level--starting with 25 hours--you send off the form and get back the assigned prize for each level. Opie will get a patch with his hours, and then we keep plugging away to hit 100 hours and a hat. It's a great way for people that don't show as much or at all--or for people like me that show a lot, but still looooove trail riding--to participate. Plus there is no timeline for hours. Start whenever and finish whenever; hours are cumulative.

planning on hitting a new park next week.

Is anyone planning on submitting their results from this year to the Jockey Club for a chance at year end awards? What about their trail riding prezzies? Or do you have your own association's year end awards coming up? Tell me all about your future satin!!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Media Monday

Almost as good as Taco Tuesday! (False. Nothing is as good as Taco Tuesday.)

trail ride thursday almost as good as taco tuesday

I basically have a bunch of random pictures to dump and zero motivation to write individual posts so you get everything all at once.

In chronological order since my gush fest last week, we have: logged two more hours for our TIP recreational 25 hour badge which leaves us with just two hours left, hitched Opie and drove him around the outdoor like a real horse, and had a meltdown over leg yields.

That...doesn't actually seem like that much I guess. But those three things were big things!

so many places to wander at the park

On Thursday I trailered out to Mendon by myself to get a couple hours in. Opie was a complete star for his solo trailering--loaded, unloaded, and rode over without making a peep or causing any drama. As we were exploring a new-to-Opie part of the park and he was marching along on a loose rein, I was still riding the previous day's high of how good this kiddo is. So easy! So fun!

we are one with the deer

Then we looped back to our usual circuit. He had to pass through the channel into the small off-shoot of the pond and didn't really wanna. It was the slowest backing refusal of my life, and I just sat there until he got bored and plowed into the water, at which point he remembered he loves water and spent a few minutes splashing before carrying on.

Halfway around the pond we stopped at the beach where Opie immediately made a beeline into the water. I pulled my phone out to snap a picture and then grab a video of his splashing party. Only the splashing party quickly devolved into, "WE'RE GOING SWIMMING I LOVE SWIMMING!!!"


I was laughing so hard by the time I steered this sinking ship back ashore I was almost in tears. Also I was very cold and covered in pond muck.

my poor, poor saddle got the vip treatment when we got home.
aquaman got chucked in his field with no groomies. bad, aquaman!

Opie showed ZERO remorse in his decision and kept trying to drag me back into the water as we left the beach to hustle back to the trailer where I could put on dry shoes. 0/10 recommend fully submerged swimming in 55*.

this face is opie in a nutshell. he's such an unapologetic toddler still.

He got Friday off, and then Saturday evening Hubby and I went out to the barn once lessons were all wrapped up to get some more driving work in. This whole once a week thing is a drag, but at this point in his learnin' it's absolutely not safe to work with him in the cart solo. Lessons go on late during the week, and we seem to always be doing something Sundays, so Saturday is driving day.

awww yiss

I took Opie for one lap of ring with just the lines, and then parked him right in front of the cart. No snooting around this time, it was his second time getting hitched so in he went. Then he immediately got to come right back out again so Hubby could saw off the obscenely long ends of the shafts. I don't know who this cart was made for, but Opie certainly didn't need 89" shafts.

Once that was done, back in he went. I had Hubby at his head this time attached with a lead rope while I took the lines behind the cart and drove him from the ground. Twice around like that, Hubby unhooked the rope but stayed close, and then twice more around.

walking in a ring doesn't make for the most exciting pictures

After that Hubby got reattached and I hopped in the cart!

Opie was a little tense for the first couple laps as I got myself sorted out and remembered how to steer--as in, I can still pull my inside rein just as well in a cart as I can under saddle. #thatsnotagoodthing

He got a little jiggy and tense for all of five strides when I got him too close to the puddle and he had to pull us out, and another time when we changed directions and I steered him too close to a standard and sent the jumping crashing (Um, about my steering. I swear it was better by the end.). He was less concerned with the noise and more worried about the cart banging around into him. "It's touching me!"


But he came right back both times, Hubby gave him candies (and I bailed the second time he spazzed because we were headed directly into a fence and he wasn't listening to Hubby so I ran up to his head and also gave him some candy), and we were able to go around with no Hubby attached (around the 1:40 mark in the video). Not visually exciting, but a super next step in the process.

He got Sunday off as well since I had to drive down to PA for Riding Bestie's baby shower and then make it back in time for prime time sportsball (You're welcome for carrying that load until 11:30, Emma.). This morning it was back to the dressage grind.

slobber party

He was fan-fucking-tastic to warm up w/t/c. Then I went to start work on the leg yields and all hell broke loose. We had a CTJ about how he can move his hind end sideways; and he does know what I'm asking; and no, running away, rearing, or moving every body part in a different direction doesn't get you out of doing it. Once that tantrum was over, he gave me a couple of perfectly acceptable leg yields both directions.

And then we finished with the loveliest trot lengthenings yet.

no grudges held. he left his hay for snoot scratches after his "you have legs" battle.

Phew, now I don't feel like I'm responsible for media for the rest of the week!