Thursday, May 31, 2018

Hustle

Welllll.... tomorrow Dopie Horse makes his rated dressage debut. On Tuesday I was feeling super excited about this. Last night I had a dream I lost my brakes and was getting pulled backwards by my trailer in the rain. This morning I had the worst ride on Opie yet.

SO THINGS ARE GOING GREAT, THANKS.

i have no new or exciting media, so enjoy these pictures from the zoo this weekend.
really though, how adorable is this posing rhino?

Actually things aren't that bad. If Opie continues his trend of being better at shows than at home we'll be fine. And let's be real. It's Training level. All he has to do is w/t/c and not fall down. A monumental task at times to be sure, but getting increasingly less worrisome with each ride. Coming off of showing dressage on Bobby, my expectation for scores is still bottom of the barrel. I literally can't be disappointed by scoring anymore. If we stay in the ring, I'm like, "Already winning!"

Our lesson Tuesday was fucking great though. If I can recreate-ish that, we'll be in a really good spot. (Spoiler alert: couldn't recreate one step of it this morning, so...)

Back in my lesson last Friday, it was all at the walk. BM had us starting in on counted walk which is mentally very fatiguing, but he needed it. It was all about getting him to slow down and go to the contact honestly. At the very end BM sent us off into a slow jog to see if there was a stretch ready to be offered. He got a little tense when he got unbalanced--both because he's five and green, and because I'm his wobbly rider--but he made an effort. Then she had me send him forward and he loosened right up and went way down.

i definitely wasn't the only person to say, "oh, look. it's hedwig!"

I played with that a little bit in our warm up Tuesday while waiting for BM and he gave me a long neck on a long rein. Not a lot of stretch, but none of that awful crimping he likes to do either. When BM came in, she had me pick him up a bit and get him marching in the walk. And then get him marching into the trot.

It was another lesson on half halt then catch him and send him off quickly to get his hind end activated and really pushing without letting him get so forward that he loses his balance. He was finding it almost too easy on the straightaways so we moved to serpentines and circles which took some finesse, but we made it happen.

When he came back to the walk, he was all about the stretching. I had to keep leaning forward to let him go to the ground because even with my reins on the buckle he wanted all the room to go down.


For the canter, we worked on the downward transitions. That is, after we had to get after Opie for being a quitter and trying to die whenever he got even remotely tired. How about a little try, sir? The theory was to hold the half halt until he came down to trot and then immediately send him forward to keep him from diving down and quitting. That worked so-so, but it just needs work.

For the left lead canter, he wants to throw his shoulders out. I want to try to bend him around my inside leg, but all that's doing is overbending the rib cage and letting the shoulders escape even more, so I have to think of shoving the shoulders back in to line up with the rest of him.

The canter itself is slowly getting better. I can actually sit on him reliably now, but he's got to learn that any shift of my weight isn't an excuse to quit, and that a half halt can mean rebalance and not die. He's so much more fit than he was a couple of weeks ago though. God bless the Thoroughbred and their ability to get in shape at the drop of a hat.

By the end of the lesson, I was riding a big, moving trot that felt like a real horse under me for the first time with this kid--one that I wasn't working my balls off to manage and one that felt like the horse was doing it easily and comfortably.

this snoozing lion enjoying his mister is how opie would like to spend his life

And then this morning I couldn't get him to pay attention for more than a second. All he wanted to do was canter. I couldn't get him to take up any contact without him wagging his head side to side. His neck was short, his legs were everywhere, and he was completely tuning me out. I ended up putting him in side reins and working him on the longe for ten minutes before calling it quits after he offered a little stretch.

My goal is to leave the barn around four tomorrow morning for our first test at 7:30. That's early. That means the fucking horse better get on the fucking trailer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

What is your deal, bro?

In the continuing education of Dopie, I hooked up my trailer this morning for a field trip to the park. Although honestly at this point the education has nothing to do with the riding part.

Opie has Been Places. He is Worldly.

just hanging out munching on hay like a calm horse

However!

He is a complete asshole about the fucking trailer again. Only now instead of getting onto the trailer a hundred times and flying off it ninety nine times, he just doesn't get on anymore. Which is awesome.

P.S. It is not awesome.

We spent thirty minutes in the parking lot of the barn having ourselves a go-round. He thought it was acceptable to park it at the base of the ramp and stare out into the distance completely ignoring me. I did not. He thought the answer to my prompts to move his feet was to rear in my face. I did not. Eventually I won because I always win, and I hope one day that sinks into his little brain and we avoid further go-rounds.

He unloaded quietly at the park though, and got right to work on his hay without moving a muscle or making a peep. He stood completely still while I mounted, and then marched off across the road and into the woods without complaint.

so happy the green is finally back!

I really want to ramp up his fitness so he has less of an excuse to try to die on me by the time his second test rolls around. Of course, I think if he could calm himself at the trailer at shows that would keep him going awhile longer, too. Because I don't think Farrier's theory that he's running through his tests to practice and I shouldn't judge him holds merit.

With that in mind, I skipped the big open fields we usually ride in and committed to the woods. I never explored those trails much with Bobby because the side of the road with the fields has several water access points and one must keep hippos happy. The woods are super hilly with narrow trails that range from well kept to jutting roots or stretches of gravel. They're great for walking and building up booties, though!

that mane has no self control.

Because I'm not familiar with the woods trails, I picked a color to follow and set out to explore figuring if all else fails I could just find the road and go somewhere else. We went up and around, passed the ranger station, passed a bunch of joggers, leaped straight into the air and magically landed in the exact same spot when a snake slithered underfoot (that was actually kind of spectacular), and eventually got dumped into a clearing with a giant abandoned silo (?) on top of a mountain.

no but seriously. what is this doing here?

For something so enormous, it appeared out of nowhere and Opie was all, DA FUQ. And then I pulled my phone out to take a picture but dropped it and Opie was confirmed in his belief that this clearing was haunted. I hopped off, grabbed my phone, took my picture, and climbed back on.

There was a janky trail on the other side that started heading down and had our color marker so I figured I might as well see where it took us. The trail promptly narrowed to human-width with roots and stones sticking out everywhere and giant drops on either side. Opie was puffing a bit from hauling my ass up to the haunted clearing, so I did him a solid and jumped back off again. He's young, he's not super fit, and he's not super confident in his footing yet. It wasn't the best trail to force him to pack me down.

this. on both sides of a glorified deer trail.

He plodded along beside me without issue as we went up and down and up and down while I tried to get some sense of where the fuck we were. At one point I glimpsed the road but it was at the bottom of one of the above hills so on we walked.

going places. i just don't know what places.

We finally hit a cross-trail that I recognized from riding Bobby, except I recognized it because I knew I didn't want to go that way because it would take us deeper into the woods. So I went with opposite way and hoped it would dump us back onto a more mainstream trail. Fortunately it did and we soon blasted out onto the road amidst a bike race which we had to wait to pass before giving the woods the finger and heading into the fields to make for the boat launch.

yay, openness! 

I let him splash around for awhile to cool off before we finally headed back to the trailer.

does love a good dip in the pond

He hadn't jigged, thrown his head, or called out once the whole ride. We trotted, we cantered, I ground mounted multiple times, and he stayed relaxed and on the buckle for all of it. I figured our time had come when we emerged into the field by the trailer parking and there were multiple horses hanging out. His head went up and he got a little tight, but he was quiet and flat footed all the way back. Good kid!

The group of ladies with the horses came over to fawn over Dopie while I got him untacked and wrapped and told me how adorable and perfect he was. I was like, "I know, right? Seems suspicious..."

And then the battle to get back on the fucking trailer began. He was adamant he was going to stay with his new horse friends and kept trying to pull his "sneaky" move where he flails violently sideways in the exact direction he wants to end up like I won't notice. I was insistent he pay zero attention to the other horses which earned me a lot more rearing, but sad fucking story.

"i love you, new best friends. i'll never leave you."

After maybe fifteen minutes I won again and got him on.

I guess I'm just not understanding where this is coming from. I got him on and off by myself the first attempts without issue for the first show at the beginning of the month. I had Hubby with me the second show, but he walked right on first try both times and stood while he got locked in. I don't know why he now suddenly thinks planting his feet and saying "No" is the right answer. He doesn't seem anxious when we get to places, and he always comes home and goes straight into his field with his friends.

Is he just testing to see if he can get away with new things? He doesn't have that frantic, shaking fear about him that he had when I first started working on the trailer with him. There's no worry in his eyes. He just doesn't wanna.

I dunno. I'm open to your thoughts. In the meantime, it was a really good two more hours crossed off the list for our 25 hour goal for the year!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Rise and kind of grind

Three weeks seemed like a long time between shows when I was writing out my schedule, but hot damn. Here we are with the second block starting next Friday and it feels like no time at all.

After our last show I gave Opie two days off. He got his feet done on the third day and I gave him a light hack when he was done with that. He felt loose and forward so I called it quits early as I'm always looking for any excuse to not work on hard things. That's how champions are made, folks.

Or not.

Because then we spent some time on the longe in the front field working over cross country jumps, and suddenly it was lesson time and my horse had been ridden one whole time since the show. Opie was distracted by everything and kept returning every squeak that came from inside the barn with his own bugling. BM asked if he was always such a mess in the outdoor, and I had to admit that maybe probably he had an excuse this time. At which point BM slapped us both upside the head and put us to work.

the best at looking at everything

It was a tough lesson because it played to neither of our strengths. She wanted Opie to un-crimp his neck and poke his nose out, and she wanted me to stop fiddling with the reins and for fuck's sake straighten my rogue right wrist out. Not unreasonable requests and obviously things that really need to get done in a timely fashion, but ugh. Woe is me, riding is so hard.

In the spirit of "Show season is here, I need to actually ride my horse like a responsible competitor.", I saddled up again Saturday. I mean, I spent most of the ride playing over jumps, but I did work on some canter on the flat as well. That felt semi-responsible.

He did end up getting Sunday off as I had a lot of other grown up things to do which is just the worst, but the past two days we've been back in the grind. Yesterday he was super relaxed and focused so the whole ride was lovely. Leg yields at the walk both directions, some stretch shown at the trot (the actual comment I'm hoping we can achieve because stretching is soslow in coming), and a super relaxed canter. This morning's ride was more of the grinding variety.

The focus from the day before was nowhere to be found. Every noise from the barn set off a scream, and every movement from outside the ring had to be swiveled around to look at. There were a lot of small circles and abrupt changes of directions until I finally had an ear on me.

The canter was dreadful. He wanted to go fast, I wanted him to slow down. He thought quitting was the answer for slowing down, and when he got booted back into the canter it was off to the races again. After a few unpleasant canter-halt transitions I got my point across, but I didn't even bother touching the left lead.


Fortunately, as is always the case with Dopie, we always end on a good note. I've been working on a bigger show trot and its been fun to play with him to see how much he can offer up while holding his balance, and he really gets into his struttin'. We wrapped up with some slow jog on a long rein with a long (for him) neck.

It gets frustrating some days when he takes a huge leap forward in one area and then the next day he doesn't steer anymore, but such is the life with green horses. I'm trying to balance the whole show prep/should probably get my horse trained thing with keeping it fun and not boring myself to tears with remedial work thing. At this point I'd say I'm drifting pretty hard towards the latter. After all, you can still leg yield and work on stretching while out and about!

That's my justification and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

WW: D'funnylady

now that i live close to a crappy track, and have a young horse that came from said
crappy track, i can do some serious stalking. meet opie's half sister!

she's a 3yo and currently his only sibling

she's just as little as opie

sans pony the whole warm up

she broke vertically and was last for most of the 5 furlongs

but she made a mild bid at the finish in her fourth ever start and first one for the year

and then she jogged back and i was like, whoa whoa whoa. what have we here?

how fancy is this thing?

she was so springy, too. that was all her natural gait. she's built really well.

her groom was sweet and kept giving her face scritches in the paddock.
she got a big pat while unsaddling, though he's just shoving her over here lol

what an elegant filly though. she certainly didn't get that block head of opie's.
i'll keep you guys updated on her in case she gets listed with FLF. because someone needs her!

Monday, May 14, 2018

CNYDCTA Informal Dressage Show

I am happy to announce that with a game time decision, Hubby deigned to take Sunday off of work and come to the show with me. Not only does this mean that he didn't get murdered when I got home, it also means I have tons of media. Frankly one of those things makes me more pleased than the other, and it involves ponies not death.

because we all need more pictures of his glowing white tail.
maybe less pictures of me sitting like a goon.

Last week was a never ending shit show of Things. By the time Saturday evening rolled around and I still needed to ride my horse, bathe and braid, clean my tack, pack my trailer, and do the barn for someone else, I was in full twitch mode. But it all eventually got done, and I was lucky with my rides times that I didn't have to be at the barn to get loaded until at least nine in the morning.

The drive through East Syracuse was slightly sketch as there's nothing like multiple lanes of merging weekend traffic in a major city with jersey barriers everywhere to make you feel claustrophobic. I was glad I had scouted the place out on Friday before hanging out at the hunter show with my barn because it was a little tricky to get to, but we eventually made it without issue.

We got there early so Opie had plenty of time to get more practice with being tied to the trailer. He provided endless amusement for the Appy parked next to us who watched Opie's non-stop moving like, "Oh, youngster. Y U waste so much energy when you have the foods in front of your face? See me eat the foods in front of my face? Much better strategy." He was the cutest thing ever and his owner was awesome to talk with before she left.

angry donkey ears at the loose dogs cavorting behind him

Hubby and I ate our lunch before caving and taking Opie for a hand walk around the facility. This place was never-ending with two indoors, two outdoors, multiple barns, and a million outbuildings. We eventually settled in to watch a couple western dressage tests while Opie grazed.

With about thirty minutes until our first test I got dressed and Opie saddled at which point he went into his own twitching meltdown. I had time to spare so I flopped back down in my chair while our new trailer neighbors were like, wow so speshul.


Eventually he will learn that he doesn't always immediately get to do the thing as soon as the saddle goes on. Sad story, bro.

Training 1

Once I was on him he was his usual chill self and made the long walk up to the rings on the buckle. I learned from the last show that he doesn't need much warm up right now. He just goes in and gets to work. We're doing 20m circles as the fanciest thing right now--both at home and in the ring--so it's not like I've got a long list of things to run through with him.

so cute trit trotting around

Will he pick up the trot promptly? Will he give me both canter leads? Can I get him more balanced at the canter? The end.

The test:


He still puts his head right up and looks around at the halt which is fine. The focus will come. He also wanted to look around as soon as we trotted off and I was like, oh no. This whole test is going to be a bunch of staring at his adoring fans. Fortunately he got on board quickly and went to work.

You guys can still make fun of me for calling my baby horse worldly when he's left the property four whole times now, but it's true! The amount of improvement he had from last weekend to this one was insane. He went around like he lived in a dressage court and knew everything there was to know about doing a test.

Our lowest mark was a 6.5 which we only got twice--first for the transition from left lead canter to trot which are always suspect, and then for the free walk which is fine because stretching is not really in our wheelhouse right now and the free walk in this test is super short. Everything else as a long line of 7s, a few 7.5s, and an 8 for the medium walk. He finished with a 70.87%

Hubby said Opie had a bunch of groupies on the rail drooling over him the whole test. Of course he did. Look at him--he's adorable.

"i see you, fan club.
i see everything because i have the focus of a gold fish."

Training 3

We had forty five minutes until our next test so I pulled his bridle and attempted to graze him back at the trailer. That involved walking around me in circles so I tied him again and ignored him while I hydrated/drank Mnt Dew and ate Red Vines.

I tried to initiate some stretching at the trot in our warm up for the second test, but it's barely there on a good day at home so it didn't magically appear at a show. Other than that I checked to make sure the left lead was there as he's been giving me some shit about it (it was), and then walked it out while we waited. He's such a quitter I didn't want to give him any excuse to throw in the exhaustion flag.

worldly horse figured out the standing quietly ringside game from one weekend to the next.
also i think i'm going to pull the top of his tail. thoughts?

The test:


Yeah, sooo he didn't want to leave X... Maybe the judge thought I was just taking a bit longer to compose myself and missed the poke-poke of my spurs trying to get my fucking horse to move because we got a 7 for the first movement.

We got a bunch of 6.5s mixed in with the 7s for this test as once again he got a little tired which made him heavy and tighten up some. Our stretchy circle was a joke (5)--no surprise there though as I know right now it's a write-off movement until we get better at it at home. That will take some more strength and relaxation, and that will all come eventually.

You can see me getting creative asking for the canter as I could feel he wasn't totally with me, and I had to kind of knock him into them to get the correct leads. Again, that's a known weakness that we're working on so that's fine.

look at that hind leg doing the thing.
don't look at me doing the thing. i don't know what that thing is.

We finished and the judge called me over. She hadn't called anyone else over to give feedback and I was instantly like, "Oh dear lord. What have I done wrong now?" Because Bobby has given me dressage judge PTSD where I only get called over for them to tell me sorry my horse is a psycho, better luck next time or maybe just quit dressage.

Fortunately that wasn't the case here!

plz don't yell at me, judge lady.

She told me that she thought Opie was a lovely horse. She told me that repeatedly. Her comments were that, as is typical with OTTBs, he gets tight in the canter and hollows his back off and on. She thought it was making me ride a little crooked (I refrained from telling her that I was trying to combat motorcycling and being crooked is my answer because the ammy is strong in me), and at times he got braced and looked uneven. She assured me he's not actually off, he just needs to be more supple.

She also told me to work on the stretchy work, and just keep on doing what I'm doing. Take the time, the strength will come, and he'll put it all together and be very nice.

does not like to stretch. likes to keep his neck short like his little legs.

Then she told me she'd called me over because she didn't want me to be discouraged by my scores as, again, she thought he was a really lovely horse. I thanked her for taking the time to pull us aside since she spent a good chunk of time talking things through with me, and braced myself for a high 50s score. When I picked up my test I literally LOLed when I saw she'd given us a 65.91%. I would have killed for that to have been a low score with Bobby at any level!

Overall another successful outing. I've now got four test sheets in hand to go over with BM to focus on where we can pick up more points. Once again, he came out with the same weak work he has at home so nothing new or exciting is popping up off property. I know I keep reiterating that, but it's such an amazing feeling not to have a tense ball of "Imma go flying across the ring because I can." when I get in the ring at shows. I feel like we're on the right track, and we now have three weeks until his first recognized show to get even better.

all the pats for the good kid

And, you know, maybe in that time I can learn to sit the fuck up?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Right back at it

We do a quick turnaround this week and head to Opie's second show Sunday. It's another dressage schooling show, but more low-key than the last one.

This is the first show for my GMO and it's not even being placed. You go in, do your test, and then grab your score sheet and go. Normally I wouldn't show somewhere without the chance of ribbons because I'm a shallow child, but the scores do count towards year end awards. I also won't be able to attend their next show because I'll be showing elsewhere on that Friday and Saturday. I'll be getting some volunteer hours in though!

For a $30 entry fee to get some more test riding feedback and off-property experience, I'd say it's worth the trip out. Hopefully.

getting in some extracurricular grazing while waiting for the farrier 

Opie got Sunday and Monday off after the last show, and then had a very light w/t/c school in the ring before heading out on a trail ride. It sounds silly, but he feels like a more grown up horse after just one field trip. I mean, he still almost fell down at the canter this morning because he was too busy doing Not Smart Horse things, but the overall feeling is there.

I put my leg on and it means things--different things, not just Go. He feels a little more in-tune, and a little more like maybe he could listen to me and think my request through instead of making a snap decision between canter or quit. Because #thereisnoinbetween.

Guys, he did one whole show after all. He's basically as worldly as they get.

surveying his domain in a confident because he runs the world way.
or looking for his friend in the field even though he was left in the
stall next to him to babysit. #sogrownup

The spring weather has finally put together a long enough run that the outdoor was able to get some serious loving from the tractor and drag, and we headed out there the last two days. Opie wandered through there a few times when I first got him, but these were his first real works in it. I thought I was going to have a distracted, staring, screaming baby horse because you can see other horses from the ring, but he settled right in without fuss.

Tracy's post gave me a bit of a mental kick in the ass that if I want the weak work to improve--that being the canter transitions and the canter itself--I have to actually....canter. For shame.

Fortunately the walk and trot work have been good enough to carry through the week without having to linger on them. There's room to improve of course, but it's good enough to get through the next show. Instead the canter has been the focus.

I was holding out hope all winter that having more space in the outdoor would help with the canter, but the first day it was a whole lot of motorcycling to the left. I had no control of what his shoulders were doing and since the canter isn't particularly maneuverable anyway right now, adding in that extra problem was a whole lot of extra work for my poor legs.

He came out much better this morning though. He started off heavy, but several serious halt transitions that showed him plowing through my aids wasn't going to be tolerated lightened him right up. The right lead is usually his better lead with a worse transition, but it was the opposite today. He picked up the wrong lead going left a couple times because crooked, but once he got it the canter was lovely.

I've finished with some stretchy work at the walk and trot and lateral work in the walk every day. The lateral work is getting there. It's not trot worthy yet, but he's finally (mostly) doing it without being a llama at the same time.

i have to say it's nice to have a horse sound enough to outside again.

He gets tomorrow off as I scout out the facility we'll be showing at which is theoretically just down the road from where my barn is at a multi-day hunter show. So I'll get to swing in and cheer them on for a bit. You know, if it doesn't take them ten hours to get to their classes because hunter land.

Monday, May 7, 2018

WNYDA Dressage Schooling Show

Oh man, I am tired. I forgot how much sitting in the sun all day doing nothing takes out of you. What a rough life horse showing is!

I am happy to say that while Opie did not meet all the goals I set out for him, he made up for it by being a little midget horse rock star in the areas where I thought he was going to be a complete terrorist.

be aware i have zero exciting media to share

I scheduled in an hour window to get him on the trailer. Or to get him to stay on the trailer. I arrived at the barn early, shoved paste electrolytes down his throat because I wasn't sure he was going to calm himself enough to drink on his own, and then tried to feed him his breakfast which he refused because I'd just poisoned him. Apparently.

Hubby had agreed to meet me at the barn in hopes that he could get Opie locked in from behind fast enough to keep the horse on the trailer, but since I didn't have to wait around for food to digest I decided to see if I could do it myself. I've been doing a ton of trailer-less trailer themed ground work with him which is a post for another day.

I dumped his grain in a to-go bucket, shoved a handful in his mouth so he knew what I was toting, and then lead him on the trailer. Getting him on is never the issue. He followed me right up, and then I clipped the grain bucket to his hay net and shook it around to distract him while sneakily creeping back to throw the butt bar into place. He was twitchy and couldn't stand still, but he never threatened to book it backwards. Starting the day off with a win!

my mom said he was probably good because he was so confused
by his outfit. 

The ride down was uneventful (well, I did see a raccoon crossing the street that was the size of a fucking wombat which was slightly alarming), and Opie stayed quiet and chill for it. I got there so ahead of schedule that I had a primo parking spot and the guy parking everyone had nothing better to do so offered to help me unload. Thanks, sir! Just stand back while my horse jets off like a nutter.

We had two hours until our first test so I let Opie have a good long graze before doing anything else. I was relieved he was willing to put his head down and eat since he couldn't manage to stand still long enough on our trips to the park. He got his grain, and then we went for a long hand walk around the barns and outside rings. A trainer schooling her horse joined us for our walk and both Opie and her first-timer mare settled down in each others company while we talked OTTBs.

We finally headed back to the trailer where Opie got tied and began learning what horse shows are really like: standing. So much standing. There was much weaving, pawing, striking out, and pacing to the end of his line, but! He didn't scream. He didn't pull back. He never once tested the rope. I flopped down in my chair and stuck my book in front of my face to tune him out and eventually he gave up and started in on his hay bag. That took Bobby a full season and many tubes of UlcerGuard to figure out so he's already ahead of the curve.

the horses in turnout were very intriguing though

Training 1

The college is currently building a massive new indoor arena space so they had the competition and warm up rings arranged differently than usual. Intro through Training 1 warmed up outside and showed inside. Everyone else then warmed up inside (or in the far reaches of the second outdoor ring) and showed outside. It worked out well that Opie got to school in the ring he was showing in for Training 3, but he didn't get to peek into their very dark and trappy indoor before his first ever test.

He warmed up as well as could be expected. He seemed to forget that my left leg is a thing and kept bulging to the inside, but we schooled that a bit and got him straighter. His canter departs were as solid as they get for him right now. BM drilled a long neck and forward hands into me in our test run-through Friday so I had that fresh in my mind, and was also reminded seeing such lovely riders around me pushing for big, forward trots that my little horse has that in him too if I ask him.

Their indoor is the size of a small competition ring so we went directly into the "ring" instead of having space to trot around it. I let him have a walk lap while the judge finished writing on the previous test then picked up the trot. The second we stepped into it the judge blew the whistle. We were right by A and while I'm sure we could have done another lap before turning down center line I blanked and pulled Opie in to start the test.

That made our entry a little off center line, and then he threw his head up in the halt and looked around like, "WTF. How did we end up in here and what is happening now?!" He trotted right off though and did the first circle without incident.

As we passed by A/the open door to the outside world, he craned his neck around to stare at the people and horses massed just outside and consequently was too crooked and distracted to pick up the correct lead. I brought him back and got him sorted out quickly. He finished the circle and then promptly died and collapsed into the trot the second we went straight. Instead of getting after him to finish the last three steps of canter, I took the time to reorganize the trot so at least the next movement wouldn't be a throwaway as well.

His medium walk was good, the free walk is so short in this test and he spent it trying to covertly stare out of the ring, and then back to the trot. Trot was good, picked up the right lead first try and while he got a little quick an unbalanced that's just where he's at right now. He finished the fucking movement at least! Down center line and a very good square halt to finish.

Judge's final comments were, "Terrific horse--work on those canter transitions and canter needs more suppleness." Yep, agreed with it all! 68% for 4th place.

seriously. no exciting media whatsoever.

Training 3

We had a three hour wait until our next test which was spent with more hand walks, some screaming (but only when prompted by certain other horses he must have known in a past life. For how much nonstop vocalization was going on by every fucking horse on the grounds, Opie himself kept a pretty good lid on it.), and periods of being a Very Good Horse at the trailer and also a Very Annoying Please Stop Moving Horse.

He was quietly eating hay when I pulled out his tack for the second test, but the second the saddle went on he couldn't stand still again. I had plenty of time so I left the saddle on and plunked myself back down in my chair to let him see that he can get dressed and not immediately have to start doing all the things. Once he settled down some I finished getting him ready and attempted to get on. He had a little Come to Jesus about how he does indeed know about standing still for mounting and then we were off.

snackin'. 

I kept the second warm up super short because every half halt I did was a cue to Opie to quit. He was so tired from his constant mental awareness and constant fucking fidgeting that his already quitting nature was ready to give horsing a big ole pass. My goal for him not to stop to take a nap in the middle of the test was a real wish of mine, dudes. The chance of that actually happening was starting to become a distinct possibility.

Once it was our turn I kicked him into the biggest trot he had to offer as we circled the ring. I figured if I went in huge and overpowered and teetering on losing the balance, when I half halted I'd still have just enough left to still be mobile. He was a little haunches right for the halt, but moved off into the trot promptly. The first trot loop was an 8, and the left lead was there the first time. His comments for the canter were that there was some bracing on the hands which is fair. I was basically holding him up with both my hands and my spurs so he wouldn't die.

The free walk was a bit better this time with more room to establish it. He can do much, much better at home, but that's just going to take repetition at shows to get it.

Picked up the right lead canter the first time. Poor kid was done by that point. He went and held it with lots of leg encouragement, but it was on the forehand and far from his best work. He nailed the final centerline and halt for another 8.

Final comments: "All around, a lovely test to judge. Keep working on transitions: prepare better to avoid horse's bracing." Again, yep! The lack of preparation was because every time I so much as breathed a little harder on the outside rein Opie thought maybe I was offering him sanctuary to be done. 72% for 2nd place.

you have no idea how happy it made me not to get a yellow ribbon

Obviously the scoring was very generous. It was a schooling show, and the first one of the year for most of us. There were a lot of called out apologies of "Sorry, it's his/her first time!" in warm up as horses went skittering sideways or careening into oncoming traffic so I'm sure the judge was trying to make sure everyone had a positive first experience. I expect our scores to be significantly lower next month at the rated show. In the meantime, we're right back at it this Sunday with another schooling show to get more mileage and more test riding down.

As far as the comments and how it felt riding the tests, nothing was different than what we're working on at home. I didn't go in the ring with a completely different horse to ride and manage. The green moments were our weak spots that we're working on, and the strong moments are only going to get stronger. That was a really good feeling.

To end an already great day, Opie deigned to make trailer loading just as easy as it had been that morning. I got him locked in on the very first try, and he didn't even maim himself when I ran to the office to use the bathroom and grab my test. He was a sweating, screaming psychotic mess by the time we pulled into the barn driveway where he friends were waiting at the gate calling for him, but at that point all I had to do was hose him off and chuck him outside so I didn't really care.

"fuck you and your pictures, i need to go be with my friends!!!"
-opie, definitely

If this level of cooperation is the norm at shows, I might actually be looking forward to the season. There were some behaviors I could do without, but the fact that this kiddo is only six months off the track and I was able to take him to his first show flying completely solo without having to worry about any safety concerns--spooking, breaking free, being an idiot around other horses in crowded rings--that is where it's at for me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Let's get ready to show!

Part of me is so excited that show season kicks off this Saturday!

And then the other part of me--the one driving to the barn in a Benadryl haze at 6:30 this morning--is like, I hate driving. I hate driving the trailer especially. So much brain power. Why does an hour and a half feel like five hours when you're hauling? I hate parking this thing, too. If everyone else could park like responsible citizens it wouldn't be so bad. Maybe. And my horse is probably going to be an asshole on the ground. And he doesn't stay on the trailer when I load him. What an asshole. Doesn't he know how much I hate hauling anyway?

BUT MOSTLY EXCITED!

super excited to braid this thing and make him look even cuter

I have realistic expectations for this debut. He's entered in Training 1 and 3 (because 2 was super long on paper so I didn't even bother reading it to see if I wanted to do it). I opted to pass right over Intro not because Opie is so amazingly advanced, but because I felt like Training gives you a lot more room to set up for each movement which is something he really needs. Basically I opted for Training instead of Intro because my horse isn't amazingly advanced.

As such though, after stalking my fellow competitors, we're going up against quite a few horses showing First already. We've got plenty of basics we're still working on: he curls behind the bit some still, his stretchy trot stretches down but not out, and his canter can be erratic.

Green to the level? More like green to horsing.

that bleach white tail always makes me happy even when the rest of him is
lightening way too fast

That's okay though! While of course I would love to come home slinging blue ribbons left and right, I have grown up goals for him instead. Things like, Stay in the arena. Pick up the correct lead. Maybe do not try to convince everyone you're dying of exhaustion and stop to take a nap halfway through the test.

I actually am feeling completely stress-free about how the riding is going to go. I'm only concerned about how much of a fuss he's going to make about the trailer and the three hour wait time between tests. Please do not make this a miserable experience for me, you naughty fucker.

"please get me my own fly mask
instead of this janky thing i'm wearing."

Is anyone else showing this weekend? Or do you live in the land of warm weather and are already months into show season?