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.


  1. isabel always got those rubs, but only on her winter coat. twas annoying, hope the pad change helps! i also love hearing updates on the dopemobile's education. lots of good stuff above that is still pretty applicable to charles even 18mos into his own training..... #sometimesweareslow haha

    1. The fitter thought it might be from the winter coat as well. He's going to get body clipped at some point in the near future because I hate shedding out horses so hopefully that makes a difference.

  2. Hampton gets those same back rubs sometimes! But not all the time! If you figure out a solution please let me know! lol!

    1. He got them once when I first got the saddle (which was right after I got him), then they went away forever when I ditched his half pad until coming back after our trail ride at the park. I thought it might be fit, but nah. Mystery back rubs. He's not sore in the slightest so that's good at least.

  3. Replies
    1. Every day they're something new and speshul.

  4. Stampede got those rubs only at the end of winter/start of shedding season and when I had a Butet. Once I got the CWD it didn't happen again, so evidently it was a fit issue but I thought it was just the hair at the time since it was seasonal. Anyways, during that season if I used a mattes saddle pad (which I'm selling now if you end up wanting to try it) with the sheepskin directly on his back he didn't get the rubs. Hopefully the fitting change fixes your issue.

    1. Ughh no, don't say that! He got them the first time from his Mattes half pad hanging over the back of his regular pad, but once I pulled the Mattes they didn't come back until last week. Hoping it's just a combination of shedding winter woolies and a shifting pad.

  5. I think Jamp is a baby horse in an old horse's body...
    Opie really has come a long way in a short time. He's looking great in the photos, and you're definitely thinking all the right thoughts in this post. He sounds like a good baby horse to me.
    My junior hunter had gotten rubs like that too, but just in the winter. It was about 100 years ago, so I don't really remember what we did to stop it. I think when I got my new saddle it stopped. But we might also have clipped him each winter after that too, so not sure which it was. Sorry.

    1. Hoping a body clip will help. A new horse is going to come before a new saddle. One of those cost way more than the other!

  6. Interesting trick for the head twist, I'll have to remember that!

  7. Baby horses, I’m glad people like you are out there to work patiently with them. I don’t have the personality for it.

    1. It helps when they're child geniuses. I don't think I have the patience anymore for true assholery.

  8. Overall it sounds like he is doing, so, so well. What a change in your time together! Those back rubs are really interesting - I hope a new pad and/or his coat changing with the warm weather will help. Q and Grif get similar types of abuse to their winter coats and while I fuss about it, nothing has ever come of it beyond my fussing lol They're never sore and are happy about the work...just, poor poor hair!

    1. He's not sore at all at least. I think I'd be having a serious mental meltdown if he was lol

  9. Considering his previously jacked up mouth and anxiety-baggage, it's impressive that you're still getting him to inch forward and progress! At this point the improvements can't really be much faster or bigger than that without overfacing baby brains right?

  10. At least you’re not as behind blogging as me? But also, riding a baby is fun for me but... the blogging material isn’t like super exciting, hah


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