Monday, April 30, 2018

Together but apart

Unsurprisingly, dear Dopie made himself a bit back sore after last week's overly dramatic shenanigans. Tightening all your muscles while jigging downhill and then throwing multiple tantrums while flying backwards off the trailer will do that to you. He got Tuesday off and I attempted to give him a light, loose ride on Wednesday. It was full of head flinging and general No-ness, so Thursday I popped him on the longe for some light, loose circles.

Yeah, no. Still not feeling it. Instead it turned into a schooling session on manners and listening, but we roundabout finished with a slow, relaxed jog.

BM was kept abreast of the situation and our lesson on Friday was catered to getting the back to relax while still doing its job of lifting and engaging.

looking all cute waiting for his cookies to arrive

I started the ride perched in the saddle as a peace offering and Opie responded by giving nose to the ground stretches at the walk several times all on his own. He got lots of praise and scratches to reinforce the idea that stretching is always a good answer.

Not wanting to drill the horse, I got drilled on my riding instead. Dudes, much needed. I will never turn down this type of lesson.

At the trot, BM really wanted Opie "looking out of the bridle" instead of down at the ground or behind him--aka, stop curling your big ole white snoot, sir. She tried to describe it to me as getting his front half to lead instead of my top half leading, but that visual wasn't doing it for me. The great thing about BM is that she has a hundred different was of saying the same thing. When she told me to imagine lengthening his front half out I was like, "Oh, duh. That makes total sense."

We worked on half halting and then catching him and sending him forward promptly to make the hind leg the one leaving the ground the quickest. It took several attempts of sending him forward and then having to bring him right back again as he got too quick to balance himself, but once he got trucking and really pushing off the ground it was awesome. For a tiny horse he's got a big stride, and when he's not falling down it's killer.

his bookends would also like some cookies

Then there was the fucking canter.

I have an incredibly hard time with coordinating multiple aids, and I was getting really frustrated with myself. I could tell BM was struggling with teaching me as I kept falling apart because, as she told me at the end, "You're an educated rider so I think I can give you all this information, but it's not computing real time." A-fucking-men.

I was supposed to be half halting the outside rein to slow down Sir Runs A Lot while simultaneously keeping a light feel on the inside rein unless Sir Throws His Head A Lot threw his head in the air at which point I was to gently vibrate that rein with my ring finger. Two hands working at the same time doing two completely different things.

I. Could. Not. Even.

he's much cuter now that his summer coat is coming in so dark

And if I could magically trick my brain into working Together But Apart, some other part of me got left out of the picture and went to shit. Like I was supposed to be working on all this as well:
  • Thumb down to hold the reins in place so that the ring finger has freedom to talk with the bit. Otherwise it's too busy all the time and sending mixed signals. 
  • "Lean back" (basically be upright/don't fall forward if you're me) in canter transition so his front end has a place to lift up to.
  • Think of pushing my hand forward as if I was pushing into her fist.
  • Long rein in the canter transition. "If you can't push your hands forward on a long rein then I'm going to make you do it on the buckle."
  • There's a block behind my back that my elbows aren't allowed to pass behind. 

Meanwhile Opie is over here checking in with every air molecule in the state of New York , and BM's trying to threaten him into learning at the same time as trying to kick my own brain into gear. "If you don't stop being so ADD we're going to put blinkers on and ear plugs in to cut off all your senses." (Aimed at Opie, not me. I think.)

"i pay attention to everything."
we know, opie. that's the problem.

We had a powwow at the end while I casually ripped my hair out in frustration and defeat. While BM lectured me on how I make dressage too complicated in my head, and I was all, "Who's making whose hands do two separate things at once, BM? Not me!" And BM was all, "Well, clearly." (...that might have been inferred and not an actual quote.), she stopped and pointed at my leg.

"Look at what your heels are doing! Doesn't that hurt?"

Okay, listen. Just because my heels like to try to dig into the ground every second of their lives even while hanging neutrally at my side does not make them bad heels. They just don't know the meaning of being horizontal. Ever. BM added on to her lecture that I have to police myself at all times to make sure I'm not weighting only the outside of my foot and over-flexing my ankles. The entire ball of my foot has to be weighted. Just the worst.

Opie started three days of Bute that Friday and continued through the weekend which he had off. When I got to the barn this morning he was ready to work. He was also a little squirrely to start, but that's to be expected.

I was able to really tap into my seat aids again without any resistance from him, and it got him going so much quicker. After a nice stretchy walk break, I picked the trot back up and he offered that great big floaty trot we worked most of the lesson on all on his own. He got tons of praise as I rode around enjoying it before finishing with a much nicer left lead canter than the first one he offered.

finished the morning with inhaling grass

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Spring Cleaning

It felt like a good time for spring cleaning this weekend.

Basically, it wasn't snowing. Good enough for me!

"but i love the snow."

I've been waiting impatiently for the weather to get its shit together so I could bring my trailer home and scrub it down. Every time I looked at in the parking lot I shuddered. I also love cleaning and organizing so I was legitimately looking forward to diving into this project.

top: bottom half washed, roof waiting to be tackled.
bottom: mold. mold everywhere.

I had to wash the fenders twice--there was so much mold that I was basically smearing it around the first time. The roof also needed two rounds of loving. I didn't think the body was quite as bad as it was until I started scrubbing, and then a whole new trailer appeared glowing from underneath.

so shiny and beautiful

The inside was already in good shape as I've been using it for trailering practice (a fat fucking lot of good that's done me), minus all the candy wrappers that needed to be picked out of the shavings. Tire pressure was checked on all four plus the spare, a missing grease cap was replaced, and a new light cover was put on the list for the next time I drive by a TSC. The bearings all got greased last year and then the trailer sat pretty much all year so I held off on doing that this round. It will probably get done later this summer depending on how much work it actually gets to do.

Finally it was time to tackle the dressing room!

mostly just needed a good sweep

I was expecting this to be more work/fun than it was. The downfall of loving to organize things is that they're always organized on some level. I pulled a few things out to leave at home, set some things aside to move into the barn as the weather warms up, and did a once-over to assure myself I had everything I needed to kick off the season.

extra lead rope, two lead shanks, shipping halter (now dead thanks to opie),
two extra halters, a dunce cap, and a mirror to get my hairnet hair proper

extra girth, bridle, and reins, plus standing martingale.
laundry bag for sweaty pads/clothes, poop shovel, cooler, irish knit, chairs, and road bag.
one day it will be for real warm again and i can pack his blankets away.

"hullo, would you like to come play ball with me now?"

My three drawers that house the majority of my show-only shit needed nothing more than a quick glance over. They were prepped for last year and never got to do anything.

UL: vest, mattes shims, dunce cap bag
UR: show helmet, white clothing that lives in quarantine
BL: first aid shit, duct tape (duh), tests book, baby wipes (for sweat), hair net and miscellany
including two of my three tide to go sticks. i have a lot of faith in my ability to get filthy.
BR: all of the above tucked away plus an extra clean rag (probably used for more sweat),
and my bag from bel joeor that houses my braiding kit

I always think I'm going to clean out my door, but it always gets ignored. I don't know why, there's just nothing in there that excites me.

mostly dead sponge, sunblock, rasp, sweat scraper, sunblock,
cookies that usually get made into a soup, electrolytes, mostly dead fly mask.
probably some other shit...

All that left was making sure my "Should you break down on the side of the road" box was equipped.

i didn't even know i owned that hoof pick.
registration, tool things... i have AAA and US Rider....

Yeah, I don't know. Hubby said it was fine. Pulling the Useless Girl card on that one.

Since I had the soap and the bleach out, I also brought home my grooming tote to scour. My brushes got soaked and I attempted to clean out the tote itself.

eventually i'll chuck this thing. it's like ten years old at this point.
it's broken. it never really gets clean.

nothing that needed replacing in this mess.

The truck also got washed, vacuumed out, and all fluids checked and topped off as needed--that at least I can do by myself! All that was left was to park it back at its home.

and give the naked pony some cookies

Opie got his tail scrubbed white again, half a bottle of Cowboy Magic sprayed onto his poop stains, and his bridle path trimmed. Let's be real. There's no point in making him clean clean until the day before his first show. And my little cleaning OCD heart cannot wait for bubbles and braids and Hello Kitty.

Has anyone else been hit by the spring cleaning bug? Or did you guys get spring five weeks ago and have long since moved on?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

All by himself

Opie has been up to so much the past few days! I need to write recaps on how BM fixed his canter departs, his first 2'3" jump, and about how I would get on and have this dreaded feeling of, "This is the anxious, tense horse that's going to be at shows." and then he magically became #childgenius at the end of each ride.

Really, those are the recaps though.

  • I was in too foul of a mood to ride in my lesson Friday so I had BM get on. She had his canter departs transformed by the end and now he steps into them easy peasy. Whatever, Genie. That's why I pay you. 
  • BM had a 2'3 vertical set up on the rail that looked doable after Opie was being such a star cantering over a giant X so BM and K urged me to try it. Opie hesitated a stride out because #daunting, but I gave him a poke with my spurs and he launched right over it. He landed in a heap, but knows the game is to land and canter so he quickly picked up the canter all on his own even though he was a little wide-eyed. Good kid.
  • Sass monster to trained(ish) horse every ride, every time. That is all.
Now I just need to keep those wins in mind as I recount the frustration of Opie's first solo outing.

always interested when the trailer comes out.
all the better to plan nefarious things probably.

Winter disappeared for a hot minute this weekend continuing into Monday so I marked yesterday as a park trip. BM was too busy to join us, but that was fine. I actually wanted to get a solo trip in before show season starts up so that Opie could see we go places by ourselves and no one dies.

Right off the bat, it was kind of defeating. Opie wanted no part of self loading which means I had to walk him on to the trailer and then try to sneak down to latch the butt bar. This is actually how I loaded Bobby, minus the sneaking as Bobby had the most rock solid "Stand" known to man and would wait patiently while I went around and locked him in.

Opie doesn't do stand in any part of his life. BM was on hand to offer assistance if needed and pointed out that he just never stops moving. In his stall he's off from one station to the next--feed bucket, hay, mineral block, LikIt, scoping out the aisle, repeat ad nauseam. His little baby brain is constantly spinning.

After multiple rounds of me taking one step to the side and Opie reverting to flying backwards off the trailer, he finally just...gave up? I was able to get the butt bar up and latched then quickly got the ramp up and jetted out of there.

so sweaty

He weaved and screamed for the thirty minute trip over, but actually unloaded fairly sensibly. I hand walked him for a few minutes, and then tied him to the trailer for the first time without him doing anything more than wandering a bit. The trailer parked next to us had horses on it which I think calmed him down a little bit and he even ate a little bit of hay between staring at everything.

sneaking bites while i rolled wraps.

I got him saddled and was putting on my helmet when the horses next to us got unloaded. That set Opie off onto a scream fest right in my face which took all my meditation skills to ignore, but he let me bridle him and get on without trouble. I was pleasantly surprised that he marched right off past the two horses without a second thought. He needed a couple of reassurance nudges once they were out of sight, but soon settled right in.

We did a little bit of high-headed trotting before reaching his first brave horse test. The water crossing that we came to at the end last time and needed Momo to lead us into was about ten minutes into the ride this time with the route I took. There were a bunch of people in the parking lot that he screamed to once when he saw them, but he plowed right into the water with zero hesitation. There were two girls taking pictures with their phones so I asked them if they'd mind snapping one for me. Young girls with phones: they know the importance of #doitforthegram.

"maybe if i look hard enough i'll see other horses??"

Phone back, Opie strolled down the trail without further incident. Occasionally he'd spot a person ahead of us and would try to hustle to catch up with them. There's power in numbers I guess, even if you have to make do with humans instead of horses. We came out at another parking area where a big party was going on in one of the pavilions. He watched them closely, and as soon as we crossed the road and left them behind he let out another scream. Trying to rally them to him so he didn't have to continue in this desolate, horseless wasteland by himself? Who knows. Fortunately that was the last noise he made during the ride which was fantastic. I'd braced myself for a nonstop scream fest honestly.

future jumpies?

We had a little trot, then a little canter, then proceeded to engage the jigging button. WHOOPS. Especially when said jiggy button was occasionally, randomly paired with the violent head flinging button, often seen when one should be paying attention to one's feet when walking down an exceptionally steep hill. I trail ride with a floppy rein and floppy seat because trail riding is solely for the joy of riding for me. This has worked just fine up to this point, but Opie needed the security of a short rein to stop jigging. He never pulled, but the second I let the reins go slack off he went again.

Of course picking up the reins was double edged. He would stop jigging, but he started chewing on his tongue--a loud, annoying alternative that almost made me want to go back to the jig.

We finally reached the boat launch where I thought he might want to stop for a drink as he loves drinking from puddles on rides. He took one look at the pond spread out before him and trotted right in all by himself. I was like, "Aww, so cute!" except then he seemed to think he should just keep going. It might have been 70*, but it was not a day for swimming. I got him wrestled to a stop, grabbed my favorite between the ears picture, and carried on.

love this view

No further incident until we burst forth from the trail and saw the trailer parking across the field. Opie practically sat down then jumped forward before slamming on the brakes and then walking like nothing had happened all in the space of about two seconds. I almost somersaulted off the back of him it was such a bizarre move.

He managed to get back to the trailer flat footed on a long rein and was a gentleman while I took his bridle off and got him haltered. He accepted his candy, snatched a bite of hay, and the second I turned around to hang up his bridle his screamed and set back. Fortunately I was all of two steps away and managed to talk him off the ledge but the fucker still managed to break the cheek piece of his nice leather halter. I grabbed one of my many spares and strapped it over the broken halter before retying him.

what a beautiful show halter.
too bad it's number 564 that you've broken!!!!

Everything packed away, all that was left was getting the horse secured in the trailer. Cue twenty minutes of getting on, flying backwards, and leaping up as he went flying backwards as if he intentionally wanted to bash his brains out on the top of the trailer. He's too short and the trailer is too tall for him to hit it even with his head in the air, but thank god for putting the dunce cap on him anyway because he was literally jumping up as he went off like it was a goal to knock himself stupid.

And maybe that's exactly what happened because he then decided he wasn't even going to get on the trailer anymore.

I know twenty minutes is not a long time for some of you to spend with trailer shenanigans, but more than a minute is too long for me. Especially since we've been working on trailer manners constantly and he was doing amazing with everything.

Once again, he finally just seemed to give up. He walked on with me and let me hastily latch him in. I tried working on the backing off once we got back to the barn, but he'd reverted to completely fucking useless.

too a.d.d. to even focus on grazing this morning

So while the ride was better than I expected based solely on this amount of making noise he did (and he was very brave and didn't balk at a single thing the entire time), the trailering really upset me. I know mileage is going to be key, but mileage is also extra gas money and an extreme emotional toll on my fucking brain that deep down hates baby horse dramatics.

He got today off as planned. He felt pretty tight on the left side of his back, but no surprise there with the amount of tense jigging and tense everything for the second half of the ride. I rubbed some liniment in, gave him a gram of bute, and tried to let him have a long graze after scrubbing his tail and poop stains.

Hopefully he gives me a good, silent ride tomorrow. He's got some sucking up that needs to be done before he's back in my good graces.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A jump jump horse

or not.

I bought Opie with the goal of making him my dressage horse. My allegiance has shifted away from eventing since we moved up here from PA. The availability of events combined with the community that participates in them quickly soured my favorite things about the discipline--the general camaraderie and feeling that everyone is rooting for everyone else.

That said, I do still love jumping and there are plenty of other opportunities to show over fences in the area. While I will never be a hunter princess or have the brain skills to navigate the jumper world, they're both readily available to dabble in should I so choose on a weekend where nothing else is going on. We're also in an area that has hunter paces all the time, including at my own barn!

So while Opie's main focus is on the flat, he's going to get an active education over fences in his life, too.

loves this game

While it may seem like poor Dopie gets drilled on the daily, I assure you we spend just as much time frolicking about doing absolutely nothing productive. On Sunday I decided I would combine the two and give him a real deal jump school. Last week our lesson was the only structured ride we had. Every other day was spent slopping through the mud on "trail rides" (Opie says hauling my ass around while he swam is a more apt description) and popping over whatever jumps were set in the ring. He really enjoys his days off from dressage, and he always comes back into work the next day better for it.

Previous jump days have been...a little sketch. While he has yet to say no to anything in front of him, getting to the other side could be slightly perilous. I was never entirely sure it would occur to him to put his landing gear down in time, and he felt that any input from me about distances was to be ignored at all costs.

so cute tho

Surprise! All that dressage work that's been force fed down his throat has done what it's meant to do. He's a more balanced horse with an understanding of his legs and feet, and how to keep them a part of him. He takes a half halt--a real half halt that re-balances him and loads his hind end instead of just slowing him down. He's allowed me to have input on distances because he waits to see what I'm telling him to do.

Don't get me wrong--not jumping hasn't magically trained him to jump. The jumps are so small because he's not completely trustworthy about that landing gear yet. There's landing in a heap, and then there's landing in a literal heap.

and then there's landing like a boss on the hunt for the next fence

He still throws his head in the air sometimes when I correct him close to the fence, but while he does it he also takes the correction. I try to put him in the best spot to jump from and give him every cue that "This is the spot, now jump!", but I also try to let him live and learn a little. If I see from several strides out we're on the right rhythm to nail it, I let him carry on all by himself. Sometimes that means he gets to that perfect spot and feels his way through by braille, but live and learn.

sometimes awkward, but...

...always pleased with himself 

As for me, I spend a lot of time with chicken wings, boobs out unnecessarily, and my head canted back to avoid a potential blow to the face. There are, to put it lightly, improvements to be made with my upper body position. I feel that once we get to the point where the jumps can go up and cantering to them becomes more regular, I'll be able to follow more instead of being so defensive. Right now I'd rather lean back and not follow him to the ground should he take a face plant upon landing.

i mean, how happy does this kid look?

Nothing we're jumping right now is anything any horse shouldn't be able to get over from a walk. Maybe I'm going too low and too slow, but fuck knows I've made the mistake of hurrying things along with past jumping horses. The difference in Opie with his dressage homework has been significant enough that we'll stay on this path.

I'm sure a pro could jack the jumps up and get him around without much issue. He wants to jump and he wants to get to the other side; I don't think he'd say no to anything. But I'm not a pro, and I'm not equipped to handle the minute adjustments and quick reactions that would take. I want him to continue to like this game, and he doesn't need blunders from me shake his confidence.

my face says, "plz don't bash me."
opie's face says, "yasss, jumping horse!"

How do you guys approach jumping with green horses? Let 'em rip because there's no better way to learn than by doing the thing? Or is it all flat work all the time until they get to do some small jumpies and then more flat work? Personally I can't wait for summer so I can get him started over our cross country fences!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jekyll and Hyde

I'm so over third fourth eighteenth winter. I'm so over the week starting out with a weather forecast of "Sixty degrees will be here by the weekend!" and then Thursday hits and instead it's "JK HERE'S MOAR SNOW."

Over it.

That doesn't really have anything to do with this post. I just thought I'd share that with you all.

just going to be over here in this dark corner of the indoor feeding my horse cookies,
never seeing the sun or tshirts ever again.

After every lesson, I jot down some notes that stuck with me to come back and organize into a post later. The first two things I wrote down were ironically "Don't get stuck on the correction." and "He's an intense horse." Way to foreshadow, BM! Foreshadow my horse being a colossal asshole in his next "dressage ride" that is.

We'll get to that.

Our lesson Friday was mostly at the canter as requested by me. I don't like riding it when it consists of going fast, and falling in, and flinging oneself dramatically into and out of the transitions, but very unfortunately it's not going to stop doing any of those things unless I work on it.


all canter should be done in half seat in a jump saddle. much better.

Fortunately, the kid is a smart horse and he keeps his lessons in his head. There was almost no bolting into the transition and then having to be sat on his ass to immediately stop him. There was drama and anticipation, but certainly less than it has been. That's where the "Don't get stuck on the correction." comes in. I was to tell him no and immediately move on back to the trot. Nothing's coming out of lingering on a fight besides a longer fight.

Usually he's almost a hundred percent about picking up the left lead, but he was all about planting his right shoulder out Friday so I didn't even bother trying for the lead until we had a talk about move your fucking front half over here. My hip pain has ceased, but my thighs were whooped after this lesson keeping him straight.

kid also has some pretty accessible flying changes when not falling down

He also hasn't done his disappearing act from the bit in awhile, but after hard canter work he wanted no part of using himself at the trot. He tucked his nose in to his cute little fake frame and peaced out on contact. We worked on alternating pushing him forward and slowing him way down until I could feel his mouth a little bit. Then we oozed down to the walk while keeping a firm feel for a couple of strides before oozing back into the trot. As long as I kept the contact and didn't just throw the reins at him at the walk, he kept the contact as well.

The intense horse part? Ugh. I've said it before. There is no in between with Opie. He does nothing half assed. He doesn't just break from the canter and fall on his forehand or into a messy trot. No. He flings himself down and then flings his head and neck and body around. If he gets something wrong, he's doesn't just shrug it off. He has Feelings about it. Many Feelings.

Something else he has Feelings about?


after being so good sunday where he got pets and cookies.
no cookies on monday, asshole.

I should have walked right back out of the barn Monday. I wasn't even in the mood to ride, it was more showing up to put the time in with show season looming ever closer. The horses were in for a melting ice storm and torrential flooding rainfall (It's been super nice weather up here lately, why do you ask?), and as I passed the door to the ring BM asked if I'd hold her horse so she could get off as he kept rearing whenever she took her foot out of the stirrup. Said horse then proceeded to lose his shit over life and everything else and set the whole fucking barn off.

I got on Opie and he was fine for all of one lap at the walk before he joined in on the scream fest. I despise screaming all on its own, so when he added in trying to go up as he screamed I got off and put him on the longe before I was too tempted to brain him.

listening ears--listening for anyone to answer

Ten minutes of w/t/c work in side reins and I felt his head was back in the game. I got on and immediately booted him into the trot--where he remained until we cantered. He muttered a few times, but mostly kept a lid on it. I was ready to be done and had him cooling out at the walk when Secret got the barn started again, and Opie joined in again.

After he flung himself bodily into the closed arena doors and then started to go up as I swung off, the fucker went back on the longe where he proceeded to gallop around for twenty minutes. I'd ask him to walk and he'd just turn on the boosters.

"i've made a terrible mistake."
yes. yes you have.

Mindful of his own well being, he was a perfect horse this morning. I had the truck with me so first thing we did was get on the trailer to back off. He patiently waited for his cookie after each slow step back, and strolled all the way off completely relaxed the first time.

Under saddle, we did nonstop lateral work at the walk to hold the brain's focus before moving on to trot and canter. He was really good for both, and as soon as we were done I jumped right off to cool him out in-hand. Horses were starting to get turned out and he'd already ignored one scream-along. I didn't want to get into it again when it was clear he was trying to contain himself.

Absolutely no cookies for Monday. Many cookies were earned this morning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Death Box Training, Part the something

You guys gave me some great suggestions on how to work with Opie's unloading issue--as I knew you would! The blogosphere never fails to lend its collective knowledge and having a fresh perspective on the problem was exactly what was needed.

i feel like these pictures give a good sense of what a shorty opie is
It took awhile to get back to work with the trailer as my truck was at home partially disassembled waiting for parts to arrive and Labor to be done with his day job. It needed a little TLC this year to pass inspection. Nothing big or mechanically terrifying fortunately, but we did put a new bumper on and a couple of minor fixes while Hubby had the back end open which took some time on an old, rusty truck.

In the meantime, I formed a plan for Opie based off of the feedback I received. It mostly revolved around getting him to move one foot at a time and then stopping. No more "One step, THE WORLD IS ENDING FLAIL EVERYWHERE RUN FAST."

We practiced in the aisle, the ring, and his stall. On flat ground he was fine. He thought things through and listened to the new game with his usual Will Learn for Cookies attitude. When I took the game to his stall, it was a whole different result.

casually glaring at me

His stall dips down slightly to walk into it. It's covered in mats and is maybe an inch slope. This mimicked the trailer ramp situation perfectly--so perfectly that the second his hind foot stepped down he went flying backwards the rest of the way into the stall and then stared at me like I'd just chased him off a cliff. I was actually excited about this as it gave us a safe, easy place to practice every day while the truck was getting put back together.

Fortunately Opie is extremely food motivated. There's nothing this kid won't do for the chance at a cookie, and he remembers his cookie sessions very well. As in, he still tries to jump jumps in the ring while I'm on the ground if I get him anywhere near their vicinity because of that one time I led him over some scary fill in-hand and he got cookies. (I should also point out that I have a universal "Bite me and die" rule for all horses so no, he's not a nippy prick.)

A few giant carrots stuffed into my pocket and away we went, up and down and back and forth in the stall over and over again. One step at a time. After a couple sessions he grasped the fact that all he had to do was take one step, stop, and a cookie was produced. Best game ever!

Last weekend my truck was ready to go again and we swung into the barn on the way to Lowe's for a practice session.

never any issues with getting on!

Opie and his two friends were in their field having a snorting dinosaur fest at...probably air molecules again, I don't know. There was literally nothing out there out of the ordinary. Opie was a little distracted to start as we were parked in front of his field, but I started the game with stepping just his front feet on the ramp and then one step back at a time. He finally tuned in once he realized what we were doing, but having his hind feet on the ground and front feet on the ramp has never been an issue. He was only freaking out getting his back feet out of the trailer and onto the ramp.

The only way to address that was to get him all the way on the trailer and start the backing process there.

He started off the first couple of times reverting right back to the problem: the second his hind feet stepped out he went jetting backwards frantically, fuck you and your cookies.

Back on the trailer, try again. And again. Finally the cookies started to work on his brain and he was able to step out of the trailer and stop at the top of the ramp. Any further steps and he was outta there though.

Part of me thought about calling it quits there as it was some progress. However, I could see the little wheels in his brain turning. I felt like he was close to getting it. He was wanting to listen, he was just fighting his instinct to runfastbackwards instead.

I had used up an entire bag of peppermints and two mondo sized carrots so I had to raid my trailer for the bag of cookies stashed in there (where we're off to at the end of the above video). Restocked, we tried again.

And that is exactly how I want that to go. Thinking horse, loose lead, no dramatics.

Having a solid equine citizen is where it's at for me. That's really my number one goal at all times. I don't want to deal with drama, or bad manners, or insecurity. I want a horse I can pull out and do anything with at any time. I think that's achievable for any horse if you're willing to put the time in, and honestly I don't buy into the excuse of "My horse is never going to be able to do that." I'm in now way, shape, or form a pro. I don't have any experience beyond basic problem solving--and clearly sometimes I even need to get outside help for that!

Train your horses, people. I promise you'll thank yourself later.

Monday, April 9, 2018


The last three rides have been the tale of three Opies--three gaits, three different racehorses.

joining red pony in the winner's circle. my ottbs have not
been the winningest of creatures. 

The Walk

Opie has a great trail horse walk. He goes places. He hustles, yo. When Opie is paying attention, his walk is also fantastic in the ring.

One of Opie's biggest weaknesses? ADHD brain.

We were taking a walk break in our lesson Friday and BM casually mentioned that the free walk could probably improve by not letting him scurry forward on his forehand, pounding his feet into the earth like an elephant.

but at least a cute elephant?

No real issues in our Sunday ride, but this morning he wanted to get super crooked trotting right. Since he's still not the best at legs meaning more than Go at the trot (and definitely not the canter), I brought him back to the walk to get his front end and back end realigned.

He wanted to lay on my right leg so badly at which point he got acquainted for real with my spur for the first time. After throwing a minor tantrum where he tried blowing out even more into my leg and spur, he finally deigned to straighten out.

He drifts back and forth slightly both directions still when we're working hard on stretching from the base of his neck like he can't focus on both a straight line and using himself correctly. That's fine. When your ass and your shoulders are not even in the same universe as each other is not fine.

stay straight little dopie horse!

The Trot

Our last lesson was all about slowing down the trot. This time it was graduating to the next step and using all those things we learned while going slow--what feet are, having a long neck, being a calm horse--and pushing forward into a good, strong working trot.

Overall he's been doing really good with this. He loses his balance with the bigger step sometimes and bobbles, but BM is as quick to jump down my throat as I am about wanting to jump down Opie's throat when this happens. I'm such a control freak that the second he fusses I want to do something to correct it. BM reminds me to let him go for a step or three and see if he corrects himself first (which pretty much always happens). A lot of the fussiness can be fixed by a half halt to re-balance and then pushing him forward again. If he's using his butt and reaching for the bit, he's not going to do strange things with his head.

BM: straighten your wrist.
me: feels straight.
my wrist: is never actually straight.

Today I introduced him to the beginnings of trot lengthening. Dudes. SO. CUTE.

He's so much easier than Bobby ever was even with this being his very first attempts. He's so small that he doesn't explode into a million pieces because there's too much body to keep track of. A little half halt here and there, maybe a half a lap to slow down and get everything back in order, and then his little legs are off and bouncing and reaching.

Adorable. I think he actually enjoyed himself as well. Will get media asap.

wrists gone rogue. always. all the time.
at least i'm not falling completely forward though!

The other thing of note at the trot is for myself. Looking through the media from Sunday's ride I was happy to see some definite improvement in my posting. It's still a work in progress as I have to actively think through all the corrections BM gave me. I need to always work on bringing my shoulders back, but there's a lot less pictures where I want to yank my entire body into a different position.

The Canter

Ohhhhh, the canter.

a pretty accurate representation of the right lead departs. 

Opie still wants to jet into the canter. He's not too bad to the left--really most of the time that direction he steps pretty quietly into it--but the right lead is just a hot mess express.

Our right lead canter departs have been: cue, bolt, stop immediately with much head flinging, repeat. This has been...sort of intentional? Of course if I cue and he doesn't put the pedal to the metal right off the bat then we carry on and work with what we've got. But he absolutely cannot get away with the spastic, rabid, rage monster leaping.

Since he's not great with half halts at the canter when he's behaving himself, they really don't mean anything when he's like this. Lots of repeated halting and putting the kibosh on the horrible running off departs seems to eventually get it through his brain that we can, in fact, canter off without it being from the starting gate.

proof it can be done.

The good news is that I can finally sit on my horse at this gait. I've been in hovercraft mode since we started cantering because he couldn't deal, but he finally seems strong and comfortable enough that I can plug in my seat. Not that I always do it because I wouldn't be me if I instantly fixed my problems instead of taking forever to get my life together, but small steps.

opie's all, ride better and maybe i'll go better. touche, sir.

It's all getting there though. Some things are going to be ugly for awhile yet, but every ride he creeps forward that much more.

able to trit-trot around for cool out on a long rein without falling down now