Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Double Dose of Good

I had my horse show up with a working brain in his head the past two days, and hot damn was I glad to see it.

I wrapped up a rather stiff and mediocre ride on Friday with me completely dropping the reins in disgust as Dopie head wagged his way around the arena, paddling his front legs high up through the air like Michael Phelps in what Farrier lovingly refers to as his Demented Morgan gait. Which is quite frankly insulting to Morgans everywhere.

Fortunately for all parties, I was super busy on Saturday and the only productive horse thing I accomplished all weekend was scrubbing my tack clean while Opie got a massage. His massage lady complimented him for being in pretty fucking good shape. A little sore in the hind end, but nothing out of the ordinary for a dressage horse. His was tight in his neck--his weapon of choice--and had one reactive spot on the right side of his back which was why I had her out in the first place.

we're currently fluctuating between naked weather and 30*.
in the same week. worst state ever. 

When I swung back aboard Monday morning, I had a much looser and steadier horse. Like, I could ask for right bend again. Winning!

Right from the get-go we both felt locked in. I think I should clean my tack more often because that extra smidge of stickiness that comes from leftover saddle soap always makes me feel glued in a little tighter. Plus, you know, I should just clean my tack more often. Aside from that though, I had a horse that felt spicy, but was completely willing to take a half halt and focus. We ran through our warm up without incident beyond nearly getting wiped out by fighting birds, and I moved on to the sitting trot without having to spend extra time at the walk like I sometimes do to get Dopes to take a breath instead of anticipate.

those ears. so donkey.

Sadly I can tell my workouts are doing what they're supposed to and firming up the flab. Or at least making it more susceptible to being told what to do. (Sadly because that means I have to keep doing them.) There's needs to be a manual for fat, lazy dressage riders. "Don't want to stop eating Cadbury eggs or extend your workout past twenty minutes? That's okay! Here's how to activate your lower fat roll instead of the upper."

Ugh, I would buy that.

has no time for my shit.

The sitting trot is reaching levels of adequacy for both of us finally. Dopie is relaxing and staying loose in his back, no doubt in relation to me jouncing around less as I remember where certain muscles exist and how to bring them into play. From there, with that better connection and engagement, I'm getting much better canter transitions. Of course now they're only coming from the sitting trot, but probably they'll be there for a First test depart by May 4th, too. Hopefully at least.

Dressage is boring to write about though, especially when it goes well, so on to this morning's fun!

finally got him all his harness bits and pieces. he was less interested in fitting them
than in wondering why i was being so stingy with the candies.

I've been collecting harness and cart parts all winter, and I finally got everything I need. I think. The cart needs to come home to get a face lift and some adjustments to the fittings since it was too big for Opie when we got it, but that has to wait until my truck gets back from being torn into a million parts at the garage. The new girth was the last thing to arrive yesterday, and I was super excited to take advantage of clear skies and driveway (even if it was only 30*) to pull the cart out and play with everything.

I let Opie snoot the cart quickly before putting his outfit on and ground driving him to start. As soon as I stepped away from him with the whip he kicked out and gave me ANGRY SIDE EYE SO MAD because he did not enjoy his in-hand work this winter. Once he realized what game we were actually playing--the one where he strolls around and gets candy for seemingly no reason--he was like, "Oh, okay! Off we go!"

heading into the brush because i can't steer with one hand.

We did a few figure eights around the indoor before heading out and looping the parking lot a couple times. He was so chill I figured I'd go ahead and hitch him. If he felt squirrely we'd work on standing and be done. If he continued being good I'd lead him around once.

Of course he was a gem apart from wanting to turn around to beg for cookies (bad horse!), so I clipped the lead rope to his bit and did a lap. I was so proud to see him pushing against the shafts all on his own instead of just cranking his neck around while his body kept going straight that I stopped him to switch out the lead rope for the lines and ground drove him from behind the cart. Same excellent steering so I jumped in for the final lap and he cruised around making the snug turn back into the parking lot like a complete pro.

parked, but ears cocked back to listen for cookie wrappers

I let him be done there since it was more than I'd intended to do with him starting out. He felt like he'd never missed a day though. In fact, it appeared someone taught him a little something about steering while the cart sat under a tarp all winter. Whatever, I'll take those driving elves all day.

I can't wait to get the cart home for its makeover, mostly so that all the fucking straps and buckles fit and lay how they're supposed to. I don't know what kind of sixty foot monster they had hooked to this thing, but things are in the weirdest positions and my improvising isn't necessarily the safest method. See floppy, crooked breeching above. But it works for a few laps around the driveway which is all we're going to get until winter decides to leave for real anyway.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Test Riding

This morning I stuffed all the jump standards into the corners of the ring, pulled up 1-3 on my phone to look at it for the first time since the new tests came out, and did our maiden run through.

Wow it was so bad!

Okay, fine, in all fairness the test itself was probably the best part of the ride. Opie was a total gem in a busy arena yesterday afternoon and I got on expecting much of the same. Instead he found the arena doors terrifying because the sun was melting the snow off the roof and it was dripping into a puddle just outside the closed doors.

Basically haunted, duh.

one never knows where serial killer water drops may lurk

As such, our warm up was a hot mess from step one. Aside from him being spooky--genuinely flinging himself sideways and snorting, not just breathing hard once as is usual for him--I was running through the test in my head to memorize it and was distracted myself.

Fortunately I clued in when we picked up the canter and it was the nastiest jarring thing alive. That seems to be a solid tell that someone is neither supple nor off his forehand so I went back to the walk, got some good work there, picked up the trot again, and had a flaming retard.

not a flaming retard, but also not from today

I ended up getting off and putting him on the longe in side reins to let him run around like a fool while I was on the phone with another boarder. A good romp both ways, a cookie shoved down his throat, and I got back on. 

He felt much better after that. I trotted him around a couple times to make sure his brain was somewhere in his head and turned up centerline to begin our test.

We have been practicing halt transitions up the whazoo lately. Walk-halt, trot-halt, halt-trot, whatevski-halt, we've done them all. So of course the first halt he stumbled over his own feet and almost ate shit. That being a patented Opie move--and one of the reasons we do so much trail riding because feet are a thing--I brushed it off and came around for another try. This time he didn't trip on air, but he did halt and instantly throw his head up.

Nah, bro.

I'm finally getting a handle on the canter transition head fling, there's no way it's going to start creeping in on any other transitions. After a brief CTJ, he suddenly remembered what staying on the bit was and off we went for the fifteenth time.

The first trot lengthening was more fast than lengthened because he was still a little tight. The leg yields and 10m circles are getting much, much better, moreso to the right than the left. Counter canter is fine as always. 15m circles are fine, lengthened canter is always good and I'm feeling like I can probably bring him back in some semblance of time and order in this test. The walk is always the star, and the final lengthening was right where I wanted it. 

And the halt was a 10.

Overall not a bad first trip. I want to run through it in its entirety a few more times this week so I can figure out where I need to dig in and clean things up. I should probably take a look at 1-1 at some point, too. 

That will have to wait another day though as Dopie got his vaccines after his ride. To make up for it he also has a massage scheduled next week, and sooner rather than later I'll have to call the worst-scheduling dentist alive. But then we'll be all set and ready for show season to begin!

he's very excited, i promise.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Layout of a ride

Dopie did some #werk this weekend. Short, sweet, to the point, thank god for no dramatics work. And I got media from it!

(I'm only just now writing about it because he got Monday off because I don't like to work too many days in a row, and yesterday I had to scamper home post haste to hover over my computer to make sure I got Hamilton tickets. And neither day I felt like I had enough to go on for a full post because I'm still a bit sticky going back into this whole blogging thing. I figured I'd do a post after another ride was in the books.)

(I don't know why I thought that paragraph needed parenthesis. It started as just one sentence and then spun out of control.)


BM has dubbed dopie the silverback gorilla after his body clip because beef cake.

Let's work our way back from this morning, shall we?

After his two days off, in which I skated him across the edges of the icy parking lot to park him into his pasture where he and his friends had a small chunk of field that wasn't choppy or iced over to mill about in, I was expecting him to be a bit fresh and sassy.

As much as Opie can be at least.

check out his wild spook in the corner around 30 secs in

With the arena doors open to let in some fresh spring 35* weather--so balmy, I know!--I set out two sets of ground poles, got on, and immediately started doing walk-halt transitions. Fortunately, Opie was being perfectly sensible and went about his business without incident. 

We cruised over the 4' walk poles a couple times each way, did a few rein backs and turn on the haunches, and moved on to the trot where we leg yielded in and out to the set of 5' poles. He was a little spicy at the trot, he needed a half halt every now and then to keep from rushing, but he felt loose and straight and that's all I aim for in the warm up. 

i'm here to tell you that you can leg yield while pulling on the inside rein.
i do dressage training in my own special way, what can i say?

Lately my ride gets blocked out like so: Walk on a long rein, letting Opie take as much as he wants as long as I can still feel the bit. Into the trot on the same long rein, doing lots of circles, some spiraling in and out, leg yields on and off the rail, and if he's feeling particularly supple I'll throw in some shoulder-in as well. From there I pick up the reins and the horse and go back into the walk where we hit the lateral work some more. Once he's feeling connected and compacted, into the sitting trot for--you guessed it!--more lateral work. I also bounce him in and out of a "collected" trot into a "medium" trot. But for toddlers. 


I actually swapped the sitting trot and the canter this morning because I hadn't planned on doing much of the former. It was cold, he's naked, and he was feeling a bit tight in his back. Wowza though, what a difference. Like, not a good one. Apparently Opie needs thirty straight minutes of moving sideways to show off that dreamy, dreamy canter.

This morning it felt like poo. I stuck with it anyway because I wasn't really cantering for long periods. Instead it was transitions across the diagonal galore. He's getting much sharper off my leg and he's finally stepping right into it from both the walk and trot. His head still flops about in outer space while doing so, but at least that's one thing crossed off.

going to look into bone corsets to support my floppy core at this point.
seems better than sit ups. just asking my aching fat roll. it doesn't want to leave.

I finished with a smidge of sitting trot today because I wanted a short, compact trit trot to go back through the 4' poles. The first time pass, Opie stepped on every single one, but I gathered him back together and represented. The second time he boinged through just like he was supposed to and I immediately halted, gave him (more) candy, and quit there.

To finish out Sunday's ride, I thought he might enjoy going over the two Xs set up. Under the first was an empty flower box which actually haunted. Obviously. He wobbled all over the place cantering up to it, thought about stopping, got booted, and launched from a mile out.

didn't get eaten by flower box demons tho!

In the midst of him bolting off on landing, I was all, "Opie, that seems excessive. What if we just trot this plain X instead?" And Opie was like, "Pretty sure all of life is haunted. Not being tricked into going near that bitch either." So instead we walked over it as a pole and finished, as always, with a good stretchy trot.

all day every day with the stretching.

I have loads more media, but I think I'll wait to share that for another post. Spreading the media love out for weeks!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Catch up

Since it’s been a hot minute since I last posted, and the last post was about how my horse cut his leg off, we’ve got some riding to catch up on. I needed a break from blogging because I was running into training issues and it was making mental. (Enjoy some random video throughout from forever ago that I can't even remember what the content is to break up text.)

Having a fancy horse--fancy being relative--is both a blessing and a curse.



It’s fine, I can wait a minute for the melodramatics of that to fully sink in.

But real talk, it’s funny how expectations can change so quickly.

Looking back at Bobby’s dressage career, that “illustrious” one year showing recognized Second the highlight of a scattering of schooling shows throughout eventing seasons, it’s comical and ultimately unfair to demean anything Opie does wrong. For Bobby, if he remained in the arena and mostly kept from flailing sideways in dramatic fashion over nothing I was pumped.

Opie throws his head up in the canter transition. It is literally the end of the world. I feel like I have an obligation to present this horse really well. He ended up becoming recognized at shows by the end of the season for his consistency (And his cuteness. Duh.), and I kind of feel like people are going to be watching to see how he progresses and nobody is to blame if I make a fool out of him but me.

First world problems, I know.

But I get tightly wound over things like the fucking canter transitions because I'm not mentally in a position any more where I'll accept, “My horse only ran backwards one time during our test!” I want it all to go right. ALL OF IT TYPE A CONTROL FREAK ALERT IT’S MAKING ME TWITCH.

I'm not expecting the same success this year showing at First as we had at Training, but I do have certain bottom lines and expectations in my head. I want Opie to do really well--the best both he and I can put forth.


Anyway tho. Let’s talk about other things because I currently have neither a solution nor any particular insight about what’s going on there.

I took a lesson last month because I was feeling super frustrated and lost about the whole transition thing, but we ended up focusing more on getting Opie moving off my leg. Always needed because he’s lazy, but he ended up feeling run off his feet and the next few rides it felt like he’d lost confidence in himself and trust in me. When I’d ask him to trot, he’d immediately jet off frantically. When I put him on the longe, he was a complete spaz like he was waiting for bad things to happen.

Hubby rode him one day and then he got a couple days off. I felt like I’d done a disservice to my horse and was wallowing in guilt. Fortunately all evils are cured by copious amounts of candy and when I got back on last week I was working with a much more relaxed Dopie.

BM had had me working on getting him to warm up on a super long rein to stretch out to the max, and he’s actually been good at going to that as a default now even through baby leg yields.

To try to keep the good vibes going, I started setting up a jump as a reward system. Lots of candy still on hand? Yes. But the jump has been a good, “You didn’t almost knock me out during that canter transition so here’s something you really like to get your mind off of how much angst getting to that point caused.”

And then he got a few more days off and when I rode him Monday with a course of jumps in the ring he was a fire breathing, cross rail grand prix champion of the world. And now he’s gotten two more days off so winter’s still going well.

I’ve also been working diligently on the sitting trot. Once upon a time it was really easy for me and now Fat. Opie’s been getting better with it which has made my job easier, not having to sit on a rock hard, tense back.

I think that's a good enough summation to get you caught up. Horse got lots of days off scattered between, when he has been in work the canter transition makes me postal, but the other work is fine beyond needing fine tuning. But also I want everything to be better than I fine. I want sunshine and rainbows and fucking confetti flying for each ride. Which is unrealistic and therefor why I've been mental. 

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Champions are made in the offseason


Do you know what's actually made in the off season? Don't worry, I'm here to tell you.

Migraines. Ulcers. (For me, not even the horse.) Existential crises. Weight gain from binge eating Cadbury eggs as if they count as an incredible, edible egg. Which they should.

You may find specific results vary obviously.

neither one of us is hurting for calories to burn to keep ourselves warm.

I've been battling with a negative mindset stemming from the barn and it's lead to a real disconnect with my blog. While I've always been honest about the struggle of training a horse as an often clueless amateur, and I'm very much against sugar coating things so it looks like my rides are all rainbows and butterflies and things just magically falling into place, I don't want to be the Negative Nancy of the blog world either. Because old Nance is a real bitch and nobody wants to read that--least of all me!

So it seemed best to take a step back until I was able to pull myself out of the dredges of self doubt and self pity.

As always, nothing sparks joy in me more than the promise of giant satin. (See the trend here.) Opie did fucking awesome in the TIP year end round up, and while it will be probably ten years before they mail physical rewards out and I bring you another satin post because I just can't help myself, it was a pleasant kick in the proverbial ass. 

Winter sucks. Training a young horse by yourself sucks. The results of working through it and coming out the other end with #childgenius does not suck.

perspective. even if a few minutes later he almost dumped me.

I took a giant mental deep breath and went out last week with a calmer, clearer head. Show season starts in exactly two months and the leg yields could be steeper. The trot lengthening could be bigger. The canter transitions have reached a new level of shitty. 

But for fuck's sake, that is okay. 

In two months we should have access to our bigger outdoor--provided it's not still under snow and ice. We should be able to get back on the trails to work the booty and give the brain a much needed change of scenery. And the canter transitions? Yeah, I dunno, those might still defeat us. Let's keep it real.

is just here for the cookies

A couple days ago I went back and reread my year-end wrap up posts. This time last year my horse literally could not canter at all without either bashing me in the head with what we scathingly lovingly referred to as his "Donald Duck canter" or face planting into the ground. Or both honestly. He didn't know what stretching was. He could barely hold his balance at the trot. And look where we are now!

I don't want to skip all of winter not writing about whatever issues crop up and how I worked through them. The blog is here to keep track of all of that so I can look back and realize how far we've come. It's hard remind myself that I've been here before and came out the other end perfectly alright if it's not there to go back to.

All that said, I'm going to do my best to return to a semi-regular posting schedule. We're working on a lot, and a lot of it is bad, but we are also making progress in other areas.  

Plus I really want to share that I think when it finally gets above 20* again (maybe never) and I body clip Dopie, HIS NAKED BODY IS GOING TO STAY AS DARK AS HIS WINTER COAT.