Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Child Genius. Again.

In between the distractions of hunter pacing, and learning to pull a cart, and general shenanigans, I have been slotting some dressage rides in as well.

does jumping a boat in a dressage saddle count as a dressage ride?
PC: Abby Sick
(and i'm aware you can't tell this is a boat, so click here to see it at 4:40)

Opie has been straight up ballin' for these rides.

Actually he's been a complete and total nappy shit, but then he turns into a baller--after we're done discussing how the outside rein is a thing, and by god I can sit here and hold it All. Day. Long. and no amount of head wagging or flailing sideways is going to get him out of that.

It's been taking a good fifteen to twenty minutes of warm up to get that through before we can move on to real work. The upside is that it's easiest done on my part in the sitting trot, and to keep from having to adjust my stirrup length every time I go from posting to sitting (because my sitting length is a hole longer than my posting length, and no I can't work with anything different without my body doing awkward AF things), I just drop my stirrups. My thighs and flabs are burning by the time we're done, but yay for strengthening those bits?

trying to solidify ground tying aka "where them cookies at?"

To get him connected evenly, I mostly do a million serpentines and circles to change the bend and change the rein and yes you can get your butt involved in this party as well and leg yields are the new straight line sad story.

Probably there is a simpler and faster way to go about this, but that's going to have to wait for a lesson. You know, when I stop spending money on useless things like carts instead...

worth it.

Once he's there though! Gushapalooza, my friends. I know he's a midget OTTB and therefore never going to look as flashy as a great big warmblood, but he's the fanciest thing I've ever owned. A lot of that is just because he's doing it correctly, but he finds it so easy once he's there that it makes me swoon in excitement.

Especially at the canter, he's upped his game big time. I'm finally getting a real half halt through to him in that gait and obviously it's done wonders. It understandably only lasts for short spurts right now, but he's really starting to rock back and push up and off his haunches. There's actually lift to it which is something I never rode in all of Bobby's lifetime.

This morning I checked in on the lengthenings at the trot and canter after I'd gotten him really even in the bridle and marching around light and lovely. Ughhhhhh, I couldn't even. I had actual heart eyes when I got off. He doesn't change his rhythm for a beat, he just opens right up and then comes right back.

"plz to have more candy now?"

The flailing and falling and fighting that it takes to get to the next step of progress is nothing on this horse. None of it gets under my skin like it did with a certain other dressage moose horse because he comes out the other side a day or week or even months later so much improved. I'm not working my lady balls off for an ounce of difference. I work my lady balls off and Dopes delivers like a fucking genius unicorn.

BRB better go give him some more cookies.

Monday, September 24, 2018

TNEC Hunter Pace

It's the very best season of all: hunter pace season!

opie is all about the runnies and jumpies

We didn't even have to leave the barn for this one, and any chance at ribbons that involves zero driving is alright by me. I hadn't taken Opie over any jumps since the previous weekend's hunter pace, instead focusing on getting him hitched to the cart (success!), but once again he didn't need it. I teach him the dressage, he teaches himself to jump.

has never looked twice at this jump even though it sits in the shade

We start the pace off in the front field where Opie gets turned out. Historically speaking--as in, the past and only two times I've tried riding him out there--he's been Satan incarnate in this field because his friends are missing/have been sucked into the abyss leaving him in a horseless wasteland. He was certainly looking around, but we had another horse with us so it was mildly acceptable this time. Of course the second I asked him to pick up the canter he bucked and tried wildly unsuccessfully to take off with me because he's still a child at heart.

We popped over a couple small logs, did the baby coop, the tires, and then I asked my partner if she wanted to do the rolltop. It was my goal jump for the day because it got built right after Bobby went lame for the last time and I've always wanted to jump it. My partner was being a melodramatic teenage girl though (so pleasant, as you can imagine), so I left her to her own devices and did it myself.

A for effort

Good ole Dopie didn't even hesitate, but he certainly wasn't too sure what to do with his feet over such a substantial jump. I felt him twist his hind end in the air as we landed, but the rest of it felt far less awkward than the pictures look.

I made my partner follow me over the big log because she was being a chicken (and then made her do the rolltop as well, both of which she nailed). Opie got about three strides out and was like, "Bitch, are you serious?! This thing is enormous!" but I gave him a poke and at the last second he launched over it.

"imma do the thing, but only because you stabbed me."

We left the field and continued on the rest of the pace from there. Opie was super and jumped whatever I pointed him at. We had a good canter, and then came back to the walk to pass a slower group. Right as we did, another group went thundering by on the other side of the hedgerow and set off the field of horses we were passing at the neighboring barn. Opie was like, "Peace, I'm out." and tried to go back the way we came. The five of us let our horses stand and take in the situation for a moment while the other group left the area before I kicked Opie back into the lead. He was a little wound after that, fake spooking at fences before jumping them and looking for stampedes around every corner.


We finished up in the outdoor over a couple stadium jumps which he was super lazy over. I've done this pace enough times now that I have a pretty good mental clock on the time--which is probably cheating, but honestly delivering the pouting teenager in good form was my biggest concern--and we managed to clock in within seconds of the optimum time for first place at the end of the day.

jumped the teeny X, then barely plunked his ass over the final vertical

Opie got his bridle pulled and girth loosened for a hot minute while I ditched my long sleeved shirt and grabbed some water for ride two--escorting my favorite barn kiddo on her first pace.

telling my teenager to stop whining while favorite barn kid waits for her turn

Barn Kiddo's Haffie mount had been a sass monster earlier that morning almost bucking his rider off, so I clipped a lead rope to him and anchored him to Opie. Oh p.s. Opie, you are now a pony horse. Fortunately the Haffie was a complete saint for his tiny rider and I was able to detach them as soon as we left the front field. Opie plodded along like a superstar himself, none of the spooking or tension from the previous trip present. He picked his way down the big hill by himself while I sat twisted around in the saddle making sure Barn Kiddo did okay. He let the Haffie bounce off him and trot up into the back of him without fuss (after thinking about kicking our previous partner when she got too close going up the hill), and we escorted our charges across the finish within a couple minutes of optimum time to get them a blue ribbon as well.

gotta get a ribbon pic, even if it's the morning after while
getting his little patch of dew poisoning treated

Needless to say, Dopes got all the candies from me and multiple carrots from Barn Kiddo. He gets today off, and then back to learning about being a driving horse tomorrow! Unless it's raining really hard. And then back to being a dressage horse. Whomp whomp.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Never underestimate my commitment to crazy

I bought a cart.

Obviously.

in all its old lady glory

To be fair, I did really think it out. But then we got a sizable school tax check (Thanks, NY, for pretending like you're trying to help when that check was a fraction of what we actually pay in taxes each year.) that we always use for extraneous expenses, and we ended up with plenty left over for a truly frivolous purchase--like a cart. Hubby was of no help talking me out of it because he wants to drive, so over the weekend I sent an email to another craigslist ad.

I didn't hear back from them until Monday evening and had kind of given up on it altogether. Through a few strangely worded emails I was able to set up a time to drive down and look at it, and then I made Hubby call for directions because I was getting the vibe that the seller was either elderly or a backwoods banjo playing serial killer. Turns out they were just old.

they lived on a property that was up for sale for just under $1M that included
this insanely large, empty house.

The cart is basically an EZ Entry cart on steroids. It's a little bigger, a little sturdier, and a little heavier, but with the same easy bail-out access for the driver and still a completely manageable size. The seller had used it as a training cart for multiple horses, and while it had a couple of repairs done to it, they were all really well done and it should suit my low-key purposes just fine. We dropped it off at the barn last night, and one of the girls immediately pointed out it would look great covered in Christmas lights. #ideafactory

Opie got a dressage school this morning after snooting it quickly, and then I brought him over for a proper introduction.

"this is the most boring game ever."

He could have cared less about the cart's existence...until I hefted it up and started pulling it behind me while walking him. He wasn't so sure about that and kept a close eye on it, but he followed along beside me on a loose lead without question. I did a lap of the ring before setting it back down and letting him check it out again. Now that he realized it was a moving thing capable of chasing him around the ring, he took a closer inspection of it. He snooted it all over while I stuffed cookies in his face before deciding it was still pretty boring.

I brought him in between the shafts head-first and plopped down on the seat to feed him cookies just so he got used to standing between them. He walked in fine, but backed a few steps out the first couple times. He was being cautious and polite about it, so I just didn't give him his cookie and instead told him he was a good boy until he stepped forward on his own and hung out.

"seems questionable."

"jk, cookies make everything okay."

I lifted the cart up and bounced it around a little bit while he ignored me, so I backed him out and--you guessed it!--gave him another cookie. The last thing I wanted to do for the day was get him to back into it. I thought I could just get him to back right in, but Opie is an easy read and he quickly let me know he still wasn't too sure about the thing being behind him.

Instead I backed him up parallel to it a few times with lots of praise until he was bored with that. I had to grab a crop to control his butt after that because he would step back crookedly and start to step on the shafts which wasn't a good plan. Once I had an arm extension and was able to keep him straight, he stepped carefully all the way in and hung out for awhile.

listening to the electricians bang around in the barn because
this cart business is a complete bore

I lifted the shafts again and gently bumped them against his sides several times while he ignored me, and then he got to be done and have a good graze before getting tossed back out with his friends. Obviously I have to wait until I have a second person on hand before I get him all strapped in, but Saturday I'll have Hubby. The plan is to get him dressed and have one of us pull it behind him while he ground drives, and then I'll hitch him and just let him sit with it for a couple minutes. Next weekend he should be good to go with pulling it the first time!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Cohocton Hunter Pace

I've been holding off on writing this because I wanted to get pictures from the photographer first, but those have yet to appear and I'll have other things to move on to soon.

So when I tell you we jumped a fucking boat you'll just have to take my word for it until the pictures arrive.

P.S. OH DANG WE JUMPED A BOAT.

beautiful day for a pace!

This was Opie's first hunter pace, and he handled everything like a seasoned pro. He hung out at the trailer with his saddle on casually snacking from his hay net and watching the activity around him while we waited for the rest of our group to get ready. He didn't get upset when he had to wait for horses to go by him on the trail, and he was fine being stuck anywhere within the group at any pace.

remember when he would go full meltdown when he got saddled
and didn't immediately get to go do the thing? those were good times.

We left the start line in the lead just because Opie, with his giant stride, is by default always the fastest. He was a little apprehensive about the new wide open spaces though, and after he "spooked" (stepped sideways) at the first two jumps, I asked the other adult if she would take over the lead. Once Opie had a buddy in front to be brave first, he settled right in and I was able to start taking him over the jumps instead of running away from them.

After navigating a couple of muddy and/or steep sections, we opened up to the looong uphill pull and we let the ponies loose. Opie took back over the lead and cantered all the way up on a loopy rein. After that, he was good to for the rest of the ride. We had a mandatory long walk for a rocky road, and he marched way out in front of everyone else taking in the sights. He didn't care when the rest of the group repeatedly trotted up behind us to catch up, or when I made him stop and wait for them.

we had a great group of barn kiddos who were a lot of fun to ride with--and
who were riding actual ponies so opie looked like a giant for once!

When we came to the boat, no one in our group was going to jump it. It's literally on overturned boat with a stick across the top of it. The photographer was there trying to egg us all on to go over it--"If you fall off, at least you'll get a good picture of it!"--but after she told us it was only four feet wide, the only other girl considering it noped right out. But I figured what the fuck. Opie was being bold and brave to everything because Event Horse (apparently), so I trotted him back around, picked up the canter, and he locked right on and popped over without a second thought. Everyone fawned over him and told him he was amazing--because he is--and off we went again.

these views are gorgeous on a clear day

We passed through some pool noodles hanging as a car wash, scaled mountains, did a ton more cantering, a ton more jumps, and finally popped out of the woods to where the bank is. No one in my group again wanted to do it, but fortunately we'd been passing back and forth with a pair of riders who blasted right up it. I asked one of them if they'd give us a lead, and she obligingly circled back around and got us up it. And then she was like, "I love this grey horse, he's amazing." And I was like, "Welcome to the state-wide Opie Fan Club. I'm thinking about charging membership fees at this point."

even the trees are gorgeous

The only hang up Opie had was crossing over the empty creek. He's a little shit about our own empty creek crossing at the barn, and you may remember we straight up got stuck at the horse trial last month because of a similar crossing. Fortunately we had Sid to take over the lead. Sid calmly walked right through the multiple crossings while Opie launched himself over every. single. one. I just gave him the length of my reins and leaned way back, but in the future it would be nice to just stroll through them. Because they are all of six inches deep and maybe two feet wide.

thanks for being a good back up leader, sid.
sorry we landed on top of you that one time.

Despite most of the ride being spent in either the trot or canter, Opie walked into the parking lot and picked up the trot again all on his own with his ears pricked when he saw other horses heading out. He barely took a deep breath the entire ride and finished the eight miles of terrain looking and feeling as perky as he started. We came in at ninety one minutes and the optimum time ended up being ninety. This pace does ribbons using the Danish system so we were guaranteed blue ribbons being that close.

we'll take our blue ribbons any way we can get them

I'm so proud of how this kid handled another brand new experience. He's matured so much this season, and all the work and exposure I've forced on him has definitely paid off. He was relaxed and confident, and just a fun horse to have there.

Hopefully I can share some boat jumping pictures soon. In the meantime, Hubby and I are going on a short field trip this evening to get up to some serious shenanigans. I'm so excited to share this not really a surprise, I can barely wait!

Monday, September 10, 2018

It's okay, I'm (not) a professional

A large part of why I show is because it gives me something to aim towards. It helps me set a daily game plan. It keeps me focused.

Without any showing on the horizon, shit has quickly gone off the rails.

you are now a driving horse.
and a western horse.
and a professional snacker trail horse

This was the first year ever where I A) set out a schedule all the way through to the end of the year, B) was able to have a sound, sane horse for that entire schedule, and C) didn't get distracted and jump into another discipline halfway through that schedule.

Clearly I'm making up for it now!

has no idea what's going on.
feels more cookies should be involved.

I've had this idea in my head for a good long time that Opie would make the cutest pleasure driving horse. I envision him in swanky brown and classy navy, though quite frankly he looks like a donkey in brown leather. Still. It's my imaginary vision. We'll work with it.

But I had a real, grown up show season to push through so while I kept the idea in the back of my head, I didn't so much as browse harnesses online. Then show season ended. And Hubby and I went to the fair and watched a bunch of driving horses, and Hubby--who has always wanted a horse that could pull logs (Yeah, I don't know.)--was like, "When are you going to teach Opie to pull?"

"Pull" in my head meaning a cart, not logs. I didn't bother clarifying that to Hubby and instead began the harness search in earnest feeling he was giving me his blessing. And by "in earnest" I mean I google searched harnesses for maybe half a second before going on craigslist, clicking on the first and only ad that popped up, and sent an email. The next day, for $25, I picked up a cheapo nylon pleasure harness with all the parts.

way too ugly and janky to do anything real with,
but for $25 and no cart, it serves its purpose.

I took my goodies to the the barn, spread everything out on a jump to make sure I remembered what went where (I taught Bobby how to drive as well for those newer to blog and wondering where the fuck all of this is coming from.), and then plopped Dopie in front of said jump and started getting him dressed. With a constant stream of cookies as I tugged and adjusted and flung lines around his body, Opie was perfectly happy to just hang out. Then I put the blinders on him and he was very confused. He raced in blinkers, and I've found in my vast experience (Read: literally one other horse) that that helps ease the way, and in no time he was like, whatevski.

I've also found that OTTBs have a head start in the driving world. That is, if they're well started. Also they're just better in general. #suckit A well started baby racehorse should know what ground driving and/or what long lining is. Was your OTTB started well? Try ground driving. Chances are they pick it back up in two seconds.

As was the case for Opie. He needed BM to get him walking for a step and then we were off with zero issues.

before the pole was attached he was steering all over

On Saturday I brought Hubby out. Hubby had made Opie his very own single tree despite me trying to explain that he will literally never need a single tree for a pleasure harness or cart. Maybe Hubby was faking ignorance because you do need a single tree to pull logs. 

Spoiler alert: Opie is never going to pull logs, Hubby.

safety first: don't be like hubby.

I threw my Micklem on Opie since I figured he'd appreciate the open bridle aspect to see what the fuck he was dragging for the first time. (I did not give Bobby this luxury. He didn't give two shits.) I ground drove him all over the ring without anything behind him first, and he looped all over without any issues. Next we jerry rigged the harness to attach it to the single tree, sent Opie off for a lap to see how he would react to that--he could have cared less--and then attached a pole to the single tree.

also did not care.

It was really the most anticlimactic adventure ever. I would have attached him to a cart the next day if I had one.

WHICH BRINGS US TO.....

....no, I still don't have a cart.

I'm constantly going back and forth on the idea if I want to buy one before winter or not. Part of me is like, "YASSS!!! Finish what you started!!!" While the sane part of me knows that there's nowhere to drive on this property except the outdoor and during the winter even that option will be gone. So a month or two of driving in the outdoor, or having to trailer out to the park and then repeat the teaching process there. And I hate driving so the chances of that happening often enough to justify the cost of even a cheap cart--and you can get them for a couple hundred bucks around here--are pretty slim.

But I still kind of want one before spring anyway.

opie says, is retirement an option?

In conclusion, never take any training advice from me ever. My experience comes from getting an idea in my head and just doing it. There's a lot to be said for that mindset, but, uh, some of it probably isn't that nice. #worksforme #mightnotforyou

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Bits

Opie has been living his best life since his event horse debut/finale. Actually it's been more like he's been living his hottest life. The summer humidity refuses to die and since show season has wrapped up I've seen no reason to grind through schooling rides in the ring. Instead all we've done is two easy trail rides with a whole lotta walking and a whole lotta snorkeling. I'm so impressed with how much just walking the fields after rides has helped this dude figure his feet out. Yesterday at the park he was navigating down steep, glorified deer trails with tree roots coming up in every direction on the buckle confidently and easily.

loves water even more than walking

Since we've got nothing real going on, it's time to reach into the drafts bin! Karen's post from a little while ago got me thinking about bits. First of all, I didn't even know there were such things as bitting clinics. Or that people would pay actual money for them. WUT. They could give that money to me instead. They clearly don't need a real reason to light it on fire and throw it in the air.

Opie raced in a rubber D. I didn't have one of those on hand (and I think they're ugly #veryscientific), so I started him off in what was already hanging on my Micklem from Bobby: a single jointed eggbutt. He's been in four-ish other bits since then.

remember when he was super dark and couldn't steer? i sure do.

French link eggbutt: Opie seemed pretty oblivious to the single jointed eggbutt. He wasn't offended by it, but in an effort to see if I could make him any happier I dug this one out of my box of literally ten thousand eggbutts. Seriously, if you guys ever need an eggbutt of any width let me know. I can probably find one for you. Maybe even two. There didn't really seem to be any difference in Opie's way of going between the french link and the single joint. He got more trained and progressed, but he was never fussy in the mouth with either of these.

a couple months of schooling and a custom saddle did him wonders.
the bit change had nothing to do with it.

Half moon loose ring: I switched to this bit from the eggbutt when his tongue started flopping out of his mouth like a dead fish. That was also when we discovered his shark teeth. The idea was that the tiny port might give him some tongue relief. In the end the tongue flopping proved to be nothing more than a sign of tension (that fortunately went away well before show season started!), and the loose ring seemed a bit too unstable for him for where he was at in his training. I went back to the french link after a few weeks in this one.

there was a reason i jumped him so little until lately: he really sucked at it!

Copper full cheek and slow twist D: The french link and the half moon were the two big every day bit experiments. In between, Opie used two other bits. I got the copper full cheek as a jumping bit to go on his figure eight. I subscribed to the idea that the full cheek would help with his very lackluster steering, but even today if he's not going to steer, nothing besides my leg keeps him on track. The full cheek doesn't help with that at all. Nevertheless it hung on his jumping bridle up until last month simply because I so rarely used it that I didn't bother putting anything else on it. The slow twist was used for three rides over the winter when Opie went from not being able to canter at all to cantering like a wild racehorse. The quick brush up on brakes, mother fucker served its purpose and it went back into the box until the jumping phases of his last show.

getting that neck long took forever, but it makes me so happy.

Happy Mouth mullen mouth: Opie has always been quick to shorten his neck way up and duck behind the vertical which has made him not the best about contact. Obviously I've done a lot to get him going honestly forward, but I figured a softer bit might make him more inclined to be in my hands a little weightier. Opie was awfully suspicious of this bit from the get-go. He didn't particularly like it whenever I first put his bridle on, but he wasn't outwardly fussy with it once we started riding. That only lasted a couple weeks however before he started clacking his teeth together in it. Two rides in a row of that and I replaced it with the french link eggbutt again.

french link for life

I'm not inclined to try anything else after those experiments. I'll get him another of the exact same bit to put on his figure eight so I don't have to use a black bridle with a brown jump saddle (the horrors!). He doesn't need anything with bigger brakes when schooling at home. Thank goodness he settled on such a cheap, easy choice!

Have you guys done a lot of experimenting with bits for your horse? Do they go significantly better in one bit than another, or are they basically the same across the board and it's more for fun to try new bits out? And most importantly, has anyone ever attended one of these bit clinics before?!