Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Ho Back

And no, we're not holding up a line of hot walkers here.

I'm curious to see if anyone can throw out some trailer loading advice--or more specifically trailer unloading advice.

As I've known since day one of Opie, exiting the trailer has been a source of great anxiety for him. His go-to is to fly out as quickly as possible, head in the air, anything behind him be damned. He's excellent to get on the trailer. He'll follow you right up, and we ended this morning with him self-loading again and standing still while I banged the butt bar loudly behind him. But the second I ask him to take a step back, it escalates to boom, gone like the wind.

In our last practice session before today, I was able to keep pressure on the lead rope and get him to back out slower--not calmly and thinking about where each foot was, but slow enough that I consider it backing out instead of running out in a blind panic. I didn't do anything different than normal that day so I'm not sure why he was feeling more confident.

This morning I was able to get him stopped halfway down the ramp. Once his hind legs hit solid ground, he stopped with his front legs still on the ramp and stayed there until I asked him to slowly back the rest of the way down.

He genuinely seems anxious about the whole thing. I don't think there's any part of him that's doing it because he's trying to be bad or sassy or ill-mannered. He gets on the trailer, eats his candy while looking out the window, and then the second he thinks I'm about to ask him to back he starts trembling.

I reward him for any small backwards shift where he lets me immediately stop him, but once that back foot leaves the inside of the trailer, he's gone. The drop from the trailer to the ramp is minimal. My ramp is solid, the hinges are solid, and I'm on as level ground as he's ever going to get.

I can live with a quick exit being his thing, but I'm honestly concerned for his safety with how frantic he is right now. I don't want him to fall down, and he has zero regard to bashing his hind end into the butt bar--while it's padded, it's by no means "horses like to maim themselves on perfectly innocuous things" proof.

So, any ideas?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Peg Leg Life

I told BM in my lesson on Friday that the goal I'm grinding towards right now is to sit the trot.

Yeah, guys, that's literally it.

Win ribbons? Yes. #slayallday? Also yes.

But I want to sit the trot more than anything because A) I suck at posting in general, and B) I want my right leg to stop hurting so very badly.

the same look i give opie every time i fall off of him at the
end of a ride and roll around on the ground in agony

I've had my saddle checked, I've had the horse checked, I've had BM stand in front of and behind me as we go around. We've talked shims, girth tightness, more saddle fit, more horse fit.

I'm not a naturally crooked rider. I have a lot of bad riding habits, but sitting straight in the saddle has never been one of them. But something was clearly going on somewhere as I've never had to stop in the middle of a lesson to stretch my leg because I couldn't push through the pain for one more step.

I didn't ride all weekend, my leg got a break, and I got back on Monday with a pad from BM that she uses to help hold her saddle in place on her very wide, round horse. Opie was LIT. Horses were galloping around in the ring before we went in, everyone in the barn was throwing a screaming tantrum because they were locked inside while the vet was running late, the arena doors were open, and just omg the distractions.

He eventually settled and we were able to put in some really nice canter work followed by working more at the haunches-in at the walk. My leg though? Still hurting.

always with the side eye 

BM wanted to do a horse swap. She wanted a change from her school master, and I got to sit the trot. That was definitely more of a win for me as I actually rode rode for all of five minutes before turning my attention to what BM was up to with Opie.

I'd tried shimming up the left shoulder, but BM felt like maybe the right side was what needed it. Then changed her mind again and said the shim was doing jack shit. She felt like it was all mechanically coming from how Opie was using himself--or not using himself.

I'm not going to attempt to explain what moving parts were doing what they were supposed to and which ones weren't because I'm not any good at that sort of thing, but the moral of the story is that Opie needs to bring his haunches in a bit more to track up correctly/be a straight horse and use his back better. Oh, and if he could just stretch his fucking neck already that'd be great.

secret and i being the best at supervising 

She eventually got off to let me get on and immediately commented on how bad her right leg hurt. Welcome to the Riding Opie Club. #pegleg

She'd been riding Opie at a slow jog which is what I went back to...which means I got to sit the trot! The goal was to get Opie to slow down, think about his feet, think about his balance, and think about how you're a horse and horses have to hold themselves up, saddest story of the day.

It was a little rough, but for the first time he let me actually sit on him, and I quit with him really lifting and rounding his back without splatting on his face and getting heavy. And when I got off? My fucking leg didn't hurt. So that's something we're going to have to explore further. I'm glad BM got the chance to sit on him and feel what I was feeling before our next lesson. Hopefully the leg pain will soon be a thing of the past.

i've realized owning a grey horse may be for me after all.
there's nothing i love more than obsessively grooming and cleaning
my horse (and all his things). this tail makes me so happy. 

A well-timed farrier appointment tomorrow morning will give Opie the day off.

He did finally get his teeth done yesterday. His bottom teeth were pretty sharp, and while I haven't run into an instance to test out if it will make a different under saddle, he finished his breakfast in half the time it had been taking him. Yay, new teeth!

He also got his first treatment for the aural plaques in his ears which is supposed to irritate them, so a day off for that isn't the worst thing.

Poor Dopes. All the treatments all at once! He gets his final round of stabbies the second week of April, and then he should officially be done being traumatized with vet and dental care just in time to be traumatized by show season starting.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Rainbow Farts

I feel like most of my riding posts lately have had a Negative Nancy feeling to them.

Boo hoo, my horse didn't come off the track ready to prance down center line and drop 10s left and right, how sad for me.

The truth is that young, green horses are hard work, and it's sometimes tedious bullshit that has to be put in on the daily just to inch forward. I keep ending up with these horses because they're what's in my budget. I also kind of hate getting on something that has another person's bad training so there's that. Only my bad training, thanks. Regardless, despite #childgenius status most rides aren't Opie shooting rainbows out of tush. Sadly.


it was so cold the other morning so i decided to take opie
bareback and bridless. outside. by himself. two fucks were given.
mostly because he gets very offended by me sliding around on him
and constantly stops to shoot me side eye. 

I was in dire need of a win with him this week. I was feeling really frustrated and defeated after our last dressage school on Sunday where he couldn't do anything but fling his head rabidly into my face. I know some--if not all--of that has to be coming from his teeth, but instead of letting it roll off it was getting me more frustrated that I was having such a hard time contacting the dentist.

After dicking around the two previous days, yesterday I went in resolved to be zen with the lowest of expectations. I cleared the ring of jumps so we could run through parts of Training 1 if we got to that point.

Homie was straight pimpin'.

my position not so much. next on my list of angsty things to bring to BM.

He felt so strong and relaxed that I was able to push for a bigger trot, and he opened right up and kept his balance without splatting onto his face literally or figuratively. I know I have the owner heart eyes My Horse Can Do No Wrong syndrome, but ughhhh you guys, he's going to be so fancy for a midget OTTB I cannot wait.

I skipped the first center line for our test and started with the left trot circle. He stayed completely chill through both trot circles instead of anxiously anticipating when the next canter was coming like he did the first time we ran through it. Got both leads, didn't fall down or even really do much wrong at all for both canters, and came strutting up center line ready to drop mic. Then he swung his haunches out. Boo.

We finished working up the center line a few times to reinforce that square is always good, but square and straight is even better.

not a believer.

This morning I managed to beat the doors to the arena open to let in some sunlight. It might still be below freezing as the high, but at least we missed this round of snow! Opie caught sight of his two amigos eating hay in their pasture and couldn't. even. I didn't bother getting after him about it. He's so easy to "work down" that it's not worth getting in a fight with him. I hopped off, popped him on the longe for all of two minutes to let him canter and trot, and when I got back on he was ready to go.

I broke down Training 3 for this ride which was basically five thousand weird fake loops to X. I mean they're everywhere. What a strange test.

Dopes was good until the right lead canter. This test has him picking up the right lead in his bugaboo corner and he exploded into it and never came back to me. He was so set on blasting around on the rail that the steering went bye-bye and he came about an inch from falling on his face as I bodily turned him. The downward transition was a disaster, but good kid--he checked his brain back in and while a real stretchy trot isn't in his repertoire yet, he did the circle at B on a loose rein without trying to book it.

It felt good to have two rides where hands down there are still a lot of things that need polish or plain introduction, but that the basics are there and accessible and not completely horrible.

BONUS: I finally got in touch with the dentist again and he should HOPEFULLY be coming back out Monday morning. He best.

Also bonus:

the blanket gets 'em every time.

Dopie Horse got his massage last night. He was initially very suspicious of what our new massage lady was up to, but she said she works almost exclusively with OTTBs (unsurprising given our proximity to the track and the fact that TBs are high maintenance assholes, let's be real) and wasn't worried about him at all.

He was very sore in his left hip, hitting several really tender points. Since that's what I brought her out for, no surprise there. No soreness in the right hip, some along his back, and a couple spots along the right side of his neck that made him release by rolling his tongue out of his mouth, curling it, and flopping it around. It was slightly alarming and Massage Lady and I were both like, "Uhhhhh....what is happening?!" She'd stop, he'd stop and stare at us expectantly, and when she started again he did too. It was only along his neck on that side. You do you, Opie.

Overall though, I thought she did a really thorough job and will definitely be having her back out the next time he needs it.

On to tomorrow's lesson with a positive attitude and a resolve to have BM address why I can't get my pelvis under me in the posting trot! Or whatever the fuck is going on there...

Monday, March 19, 2018

Getting the team back together again

I gathered a proverbial shit ton of pros around me last year while dealing with Bobby's leg and hoof issues. Farriers, body workers, vets, trainers, close confidants--you get money, and you get money, everyone gets money!

The Team worked well together, and while there were disagreements here and there about how to best proceed as everyone was essentially playing a guessing game with Bobby's one in ten katrillion disease (actually seen in a whopping .4% of horses, so basically it's everywhere), everyone communicated and I was able to bounce ideas off of ALL THE PEOPLE.

I think it's imperative to build up a network of trusted professionals. It took me a few years to pick and choose who I was going to use when, and I dropped one of those team members after I put Bobby down--not because of the work she does which is fantastic, but because of more personal reasons--but I feel like I now have a solid list of people to run through whenever I hit a problem with my horse.

Bitches, it's time to start checking them off one by one.

listen, donkey. put the side eye away already.

As planned, I started off my conversation with BM on Friday morning before my lesson about the persistent bald spot on Opie's right side. He's still showing no signs of soreness along his back. I, however, have been having screaming pain from my right hip to my knee lately. Are they tied together? Is my saddle causing both of those things, or is it bad riding on my part?

BM readily jumped aboard to see what we were working with.

As soon as I got on, I told her I felt like my right stirrup was shorter because my ankle felt like it was being jammed down more when I flexed and I instantly started feeling the cramping crawling up my leg. BM watched me for a minute and said it actually looked like the right stirrup was longer. Well, fuck.

I stopped so she could get right in front of us which worked better once Opie got his cookie and put his head back on straight because Opies deserve cookies for standing still for eternity while his rider flops around on his back. (I've also maybe just created a monster that expects cookies for anything and everything. Not even sorry.)

needs a cookie for being a penguin. 

With some shifting around and standing in my stirrups, I sat back down and BM and I both felt my stirrups were even. BM thought what was going is that Opie's bigger right shoulder pushes the saddle to the left and I'm unknowingly compensating by stepping more into my right stirrup and using it to keep the saddle centered. My Mattes pad is shimmable so sticking a shim on the left side to lift it a titch for the time being is an option.

We got sent out on a circle to start our lesson which immediately devolved into "What the fuck are you doing with your hips, Opie?"

It started with him dropping his right hip lower than the left as he went around both directions, and then he was like, "JK, now it's my left." BM stopped us again and dug under his quarter sheet to see if she could feel anything. On his left hip he had a huge band of knotted muscle, and then she later discovered a big knot ball on his right butt.

walks in the sun seem like a good remedy even if it's only 25*

We worked through a little of this and a little of that to see if anything changed his way of going. He didn't feel off to me at all, and BM said he didn't even look off--it was noticeable only if you were standing behind him trying to find a problem.

I ended up jumping off and BM flexed his hocks as a hip drop could be a precursor to issues there. He trotted off sound though, so once I got home I scheduled an appointment with a new massage lady for Wednesday evening.

Opie is only five, but the kid raced thirty one times in his career before going right to the hard work of being a dressage horse. I've had body work done on my horses for less of an excuse. Hopefully she can get his muscles some relief and get him a hundred percent comfortable. I don't want him to have any excuse to not do his best under saddle.

would prefer to just not be under saddle at all, thx.

If the massage doesn't get the results I'm looking for, I'll move on to Farrier to talk to her about hind shoes. Also still on the docket is the mother fucking dentist who rescheduled on me an hour before he was supposed to be there and still hasn't been heard from. To me, the teeth issue is at the top of my list of things to be addressed so not being able to get Dentist here again has been extremely frustrating.

We did get our vet appointment out of the way. Of course it was the day before the lesson so when she asked if I wanted her to check anything specific on him I was all, nope! He's perfect! #false

Vet loved him though and couldn't stop gushing over So Smol, Such Cute, Much Manners (ground tying party trick ftw). She said he officially has a dorsal stripe which I was curious about whether it would get classified as that. #adorbs

He also has mild aural plaques in his left ear which I got a prescription for--along with an added note on the end to remind me he was SO CUTE OMG in case I'd forgotten.

i should just shove twenties down your throat instead of carrots.

I've officially hit the Over It stage of this winter and going out to the barn to ride has been more along the lines of crawling and whining and throwing a tantrum. Hence the jump saddle above. Sometimes you've gotta crash through some crossrails for variety. Opie was on board. He was also on top of a pile of poles at one point when he literally jumped into the crossrail instead of over it, but...well, he'll get there.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ups and downs

I corralled Hubby on Sunday after a failed attempt to do pretty much anything else productive and got a few videos as an update on Opie's training thus far. I was excited to share them with a progression write up, but...things are moving at such an incrementally slow pace that I got nothing.

So then I was bummed and thought about shelving them until I do have leaps and bounds to write about, but at that point they'll probably be defunct and not an accurate depiction of what we're working on.

Random small updates with video and picture interludes it is!

listen to this with the sound up to see why dopie earns his gold
stars on the daily. #notaspookyhorse

Saddle rubs: After having the fitter out to check everything over as the first course of action, I went ahead and body clipped. I wanted to get it done anyway before the vet came out to take pictures for Coggins, but also because I've never shed out a horse before in my life. I. Hate. Hair. If we didn't keep getting a new fucking blizzard literally every single week, I would have clipped my spotty dog by now, too. Hair. Is. Everywhere. CLIP ALL THE THINGS!!!

being naked revealed the extent of his rain rot
i've been battling for a couple months now. hopefully
having it out in the open helps it finally clear up.

The body clip made the rub on his left side disappear completely, but there's still a visible rub on the right. Which means it's probably something I'm doing. Will have BM assess in our next lesson.

Trailer loading: Also accomplished on Sunday while I had Hubby on hand. I loaded and unloaded him twice before my ride and once afterwards. He wasn't sure he wanted to get on the very first time. He put his front feet on the ramp and then stood there, not even budging for a cookie. I didn't want to get into a fight with him so I simply picked up the longe whip and re-presented. He marched right on both times after that, and didn't need it at all after our ride. 

I had Hubby bang around the butt bar and generally be a presence behind Opie once in the trailer, and while that made him a little wide-eyed, he ate his cookies and didn't budge. 


While he was quick to scamper off the ramp the first time, by the last time I backed him out I was able to put some pressure on the lead rope and have him not panic. Instead he thought it through, listened, and slowly backed all the way down the ramp. Copious cookies and praise and back out with his buddies. Another good session in the books!

quietly munching on a carrot and checking things out after
our ride. 

All the other shit:

i do love his walk though.

I can't quite put my finger on what I think is wrong with Opie. No, he's not lame--though you might catch a step or two of "head bobbing" where he's not quite through in the connection and/or he gets jammed up in his shoulders, both constant things on the To Work On list--he's just...lacking.

That seems harsh, especially for a green horse that goes around as naturally lovely as he does (I have a serious crush on him when he's not about to bash me in the face with his head.). Part of me wants to jump down his throat and simply call it a lack of work ethic. 

certainly lacking in steering sometimes as he almost canters
directly into the wall instead of turning

He does the job, he doesn't get particularly upset about having to do the job, he's just not in it to win it. You know the horse that would turn itself inside out to please you? Opie is not that horse. Things just kind of come easy to him, #childgenius, but when I start to push for something a little harder, or maybe one step forward out of the comfort zone we were previously working in, he's a quitter.

Some of it is lack of strength of course, some of it is that he doesn't always know what the fuck I'm asking of him. But some of it is that when given the choice to dig in and try, he'd rather quit. Long walks on the beach eating candy and hanging out with friends? Sign Opie up. Training for a marathon? Sign Opie out. Hard pass.

To be fair, I am one hundred percent the same way. Candy on the beach sounds great to me, too. I do, however, also really love satin and poor Opie got stuck as my partner in the satin hunt. We've both got to put our heads down and slog through this boring shit especially in this never-ending winter. I'm curious to see if he starts to put forth more effort into his life once I can get him out and about more, doing fun things and workin' on our fitness.

In the meantime, the horse abuse must continue. I'm going to keep working on those horrible transitions from trot to canter canter to trot okay, fine, just everything about the canter in general. I know it's in there. He's given me glimpses one lap at a time before, well, quitting.

i swear some days it's really not that bad at all.
this was not one of those days.

We've got a long list of things to work on, and sitting around feeling sorry for myself that I can't ride outside and do more fun things isn't going to train the horse.

And can I really feel sorry for myself when my baby horse finishes every single ride without fail on something that makes me jump off of him and swoon because he's so amazing? No. I cannot. The bitch work is worth the good work this kid gives me in between smoking his weed and lounging under a beach umbrella when he should be tuning me in. 

In good news, the dentist comes out to float him right after the vet is done with him on Thursday. I am super interested to see what else he finds in there, and if it helps with the neck flinging at all!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Not a bad horse, just a baby horse

It's been a long ass time since I did a proper riding recap post. Or at least it feels like it has. I keep getting distracted by side eye (be sure to get your vote in before tomorrow night!) and forgetting to check when I last wrote anything of substance. Although maybe flying out of the death box was substantial. It substantially made me reach out to Amanda and purchase her horse dunce cap, so there's that.

probably going to do some more death box training tomorrow.
probably going to get this face.

Honestly, riding lately has sometimes felt more like a chore than anything else. A necessary chore, and one I know will undoubtedly lead to good things, but polishing basics--or just putting them on--is not the most scintillating thing in the world.

We've made some tangible progress though, and as I chip away at the baby steps I get a better insight into how a Dopie brain works.

if this is what four months gets us, i think we're on the right track

BM pointed out in a lesson the other week that he lacks a sense of healthy anticipation. That made a lot of sense to me in explaining some of the things he does.

He's the type of horse that is very one end of the spectrum or the other. (#thereisnoinbetween is Opie's life motto.) He can be calm and collected and doing the thing, but he's not really engaged with what you're doing and what might be coming next. Or he's soanxiousomg and isn't anticipating anything except how long he can get away with grinding his teeth and sucking on his tongue--a habit we've firmly tied to nothing more than his anxiety as it shoots right out as soon as he gets anxious, but is firmly tucked away in a quiet mouth the rest of the time.

This makes it hard for transitions because he's slow to respond when he's being calm and then the movement is a hot mess express, but when he's on high alert it's just a sense of "Oh god, I'm going to throw myself forward and do something because that seems like the right answer." Neither of which I want.

thinking about being sassy,
but keeping his shit together because at heart he is a good kid

Of course it doesn't help that he's not well versed in Ammy language yet. He's guessing, but it's at elementary school level. He knows legs mean something, but his best guess right now is Go. Obviously I'm trying to be the best rider I can be, but let's be real, I'm no pro and sometimes I'm not even rudimentary good. But BM is quick to remind me--and I'm quick to remind myself--that he's not doing it because he's a bad horse. He's a baby horse and he's learning. He'll learn to tune in more appropriately, and in a few more months it will be behind us and we'll have a whole new set of problems.

Throughout the tedium, there have been some shining star moments.

Last weekend...two weekends ago at this point, whoops, I miscalculated when BM was going to be done with her lessons and arrived when they were still going full steam ahead. Full barn, full ring, busy everywhere. I decided to go for it anyway, and Opie stepped up to the plate. I couldn't create a better replica of a chaotic show warm up, and the worst he did was get twitchy over outside noises and carry slightly more tension than usual.

so many things to look at!!!

We also had a really good lesson last week. I mean, I did cry for part of it, but the rest of it was really good!

Notes from that are as follows:
  • When he twists his head, move him to the outside and then to the inside back and forth. Sometimes it will be a big step over, sometimes it just needs to be an inch. Worked like a charm.
  • Right lead: make way for his right shoulder by sitting slightly to the outside.
  • Left lead: I wanted to "over-bend" him to the inside--coming off of a giant, stiff, perpetually not bent horse (Bobby), I'm obsessed with getting a horse curved around my inside leg. Only when you now ride a curly Gumby basketball, all I had to do was tip his nose an inch too far to the inside and it pushed his shoulders out and wasn't allowing him to pick up the correct lead. BM had me release the inside rein pressure (no one's ever heard that before, right?) and focus on straightening his shoulders, and he stepped right into it. 
  • Transitions will get better through more transitions, but can't/don't want to do a ton with him because he gets so anxious. Instead do serpentines and big loops, picking up both leads back and forth randomly all over for ten steps than back to the walk or trot until calm and repeat.
  • Leg yield on a long rein at the trot. He's barely getting leg yield at the trot right now, so I was very skeptical. In fact, my exact quote was, "You don't actually think this horse is going to do that, do you?" To which BM said, "Yes, now shut up and go do it." We want him loose over his topline and learning that he can do the lateral work while stretching through his whole body. He was actually pretty okay at it, just a few steps at a time to stay straight and not rush. He's gotten better by leaps and bounds with each proceeding ride.

I gave him the weekend off because I don't want to burn him out, and he came out Monday afternoon for our ride with the saddle fitter feeling fantastic. He was also good for our ride this morning, though again with the tuned out-ness for transitions until I picked up the dressage whip.

Immediate goal: get the horse on the aids and on the same brain wave length as myself.

petties even when you're kind of dumb

Also going on:
  • I need to get in touch with the fucking dentist. He was supposed to call me yesterday, but never did. No more texting tag, I'll call him tonight to set up an appointment to finish dental work. 
  • Vet will be out next week for such exciting things as vaccinations and Coggins. That was a ten minute phone call to set up as the receptionist was beside herself I don't have Opie's full and complete medical history. Listen, lady. Give him all the vaccines ten times, I don't care. Just stop yelling at me.
  • The saddle fitter was out yesterday to take a gander at the rubs on Opie's back beneath the panels. She gave it a minor adjustment, but her assessment is the pad rubs because my horse has huge, swinging back muscles and a huge, swinging stride. Boohoo, sad story, switched to my Success pad to see if that helps.
for how much i paid for this saddle, i don't want to see a hair out
of place. the pad change better help.

I think that's a solid catch-up. It's balls cold again and more snow is on its way, so nothing overly exciting is in the plans. Might get a little wild and do some test riding one of these days. Look out.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Side eye entrants

Thank you to everyone that entered the side eye contest! I decided to leave the entries "anonymous" although most of these horses are probably pretty recognizable. Once the voting is over, I'll come back and identify everyone. 

Voting will be open until midnight EST Wednesday. From the top three favorites, I'll randomly select the winner for prezzies. You can vote as many times as you want! (Or at least I think so, if I set up my poll correctly...)


UPDATE: Our top three based on voting were numbers 21, 14, and 13. I used the power of the internet to randomly select the winner, and #mareglare won out with Janet's epic side eye. Congrats to Kayla! Thanks to everyone else for entering!

1. Hannah

2. Katie and Winston

3. Lindsey and Dewey

4. Otis

5. Casey

6. Levi

7. Charlie
8. Joey

9. Indy

10. Dom

11. Arya

12. Blackjack

13. Nadia and Macy

14. Phantom

15. Emi

16. Rio

17. Cinder

18. Cinna

19. Mia
20. Chelsey and Jean-Luc

21. Janet

22. Spring

23. Bast

24. Candy

25. Ruby

26. Remus

27. Zoe