Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Pole Jumping

Pole jumping:

Not to be confused with its demon cousin log jumping:

Dopie has been getting his arena jumping learn on as we gear up for the last show of the year--a hunter show! You guys know I love me a good frolic through the land of fifteen warm ups and sideline coaching.

Are we good at it? Fuck no!

Do I have any shame whatsoever? Also fuck no!

only here to dress my horse up in his cute hunter gear

But in true Carly fashion, we have yet to work through a full course or even set lines. Nah, bitches. We've been gymnasticizing (Is that not a real word?) our way through the learning process. We've done some singles. And we've done a lot of cantering.

It all makes sense in a roundabout way though. I promise it always does.

First things first, poles and gymnastics. Last week BM had a sort of gymnastic line set up--an extension of a little jump exercise I ran Dopie through a few days prior. Pole, jump (I then had another pole and that was that), one stride, another pole. The poles were set at a snug distance while the one stride was going. Adjust! Have feet! Use them responsibly!

sometimes those feet are super tricksy

He actually totally nailed that exercise and kept dragging me into the line each time we took a break from it. The same day we also worked over a single set so we could come off a short approach or the hunter-esque long approach. The short side was easy peasy. He hit it twice right out of stride, jumped like a good boy, and loped off. We quit that direction on that. The long side was an exercise of me figuring out the correct canter to put him in, and then him maintaining that canter instead of lurching back and forth between speeds.

Thus all the extra canter work.

herp derp, beluga whale on the move

We had an intense flat school last Friday where I was able to get a fucking awesome collected canter out of him to the left. I aimed for three to four strides at a time because sir was sitting and then I'd let him melt back out into a regular canter. The adjustability there was just what I wanted, so I was expecting similar results to the right.

Instead he was so crooked I ended up zig zagging him back and forth across the arena a dozen times until he got the front end and the back end in line and under himself and settled for cantering straight down the quarter lines for the rest of eternity two whole laps.

Fortunately it ended up setting us up well for Saturday's ride. I set up a grid with whatever was already out there because I was too lazy to drag any more standards from the indoor. I ended up with bounces to an oxer. My oxer was supposed to be two strides away, but Hubby somehow turned it into a long one stride so we just rolled with it. Making Opie stretch out over jumps when he tends to do the llama leap from underneath them wasn't the worst thing.

Opie was GUNG HO for this grid. He was living for it.

could those ears be any farther forward?

He was so pumped he almost kept cantering out of the arena a couple times before I finally made the rule we would be stopping at the fence line.

But the grid exercise was great for both of us for a couple reasons. He had to come into it straight. That meant the turn had to be straight which meant the shoulders had to be straight. If we got the turn right, which we only messed up twice (in a row), the grid rode like an arrow. I also had to occasionally sit down and drive him forward into the bounces. It didn't matter if he hit the first one a titch off stride as long as I was sending him into it.

If I saw he wasn't going to hit it from the perfect spot and then tried to collect him back up, he inevitably got into an even more awkward distance and then struggled a bit to roll through them.

Strange voodoo magic, the forward ride...

He's been loving life lately with all the easy yet interesting learning he's doing. We did our weekly stretchy ride this morning (#nailedit), and I picked up the canter at the very end to let him finish over an X for funsies. Off a looooong approach, he maintained his steady canter and got to the jump right in stride. Only instead of jumping it he just cantered right over.

Dopie says Snooze Fest. Give him real jompies.

and moar snacks. because clearly this hippo is starving.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

GVH Hunter Pace

I mentioned in my last post that I had two hunter paces coming up, and that they were on the Fun list.

You guys. Last weekend we did one of those paces. It was not fun.

The last time I did this particular pace was a few years ago in the spring with Bobby. I remember it being a lot of fun because of its level of difficulty. It's run by the local hunt club and is therefore run over hunt country--big, open sprawling fields into hilly forests with Novice sized coops in every fence line. That was a shit ton of fun with Bobby who had been eventing for years at that point and was too stupid to say no to anything.

me: bobby, jump this prelim skinny from a trot
bobby: sounds like a really good idea!

I wasn't expecting to jump anything with Opie so I figured ruling that out would lower the difficulty level to easy peasy. Enjoyable for my often trail ridden young horse, even with some greener horses and greener riders my barn was bringing along.

Then Farrier asked if I wanted to ride with her instead. Of course! Take out the green horse and rider company and it just got even more fun! Sadly Farrier's trailer ramp broke the day before the pace. No worries, back to my barn mates.

The morning of the pace, BM texts me and tells me she won't be riding either because she crushed her foot and bashed her knee. She follows that up by telling me that left me paired up with the greenest horse in the barn and a rider with no chill. I quickly squash that plan and told her we'd all travel in a pack--Opie and I, the junior rider I had ride Opie while I was gone on an experienced pony, a green rider on a usually broke adventure horse, a fellow boarder on the best Chancey Pants ever, and this neon green mare with her hit-or-miss rider.

A and I jump in my truck with Opie in tow and despite trying to keep BM in my sights behind me, we get separated getting on the interstate. No worries, she can't be too far behind me and we'll be able to park one behind the other on the side of the road where the pace is. I get to the final intersection and waffle there for a moment. Turn left and go past where the horse trials are held, travelling down the gravel road for longer first thing, or turn right and travel down the real road leaving the gravel road for the trip home? 

I turn right. And then I get to where the pace is supposed to start and no one is to be found. No worries, we'll just keep driving down the road. It's all hunt country back there, we'll run into it somewhere!

We drive for eternity. We hit gravel road. We see nothing. BM calls me. She made the same decision and is somewhere not too far behind me, also wondering where the fuck everyone is.

Eventually we start seeing horse crossing signs. We see a pair of horses galloping across a hill on the horizon. We see no trailers parked anywhere. We pass another trailer going the opposite direction looking lost AF. We drive some more.

Finally BM--still on the phone--says she happened to glance down a side road and saw trailer parking. What road is it? The road where the horse trials are held. If I had turned left instead, we would have run right into it. No signage, of course, and on the website it does not say "ROOTS FUCKING TAVERN ROAD" which anyone would have been able to find in two seconds.

I pull a u-turn in the middle of an intersection and make my way back to where I'm supposed to be. I get Opie tacked up in the middle of the road without fuss and jump on while my pack of barn mates turn into loopy clueless beginners. I've said it before, but BM does not get paid enough to do her job. How she managed to wrangle four horses and four riders by herself is some voodoo magic. Finally everyone was aboard, we paid and signed away our souls, and set off into the woods.

Right off the bat, the mare loses her shit and goes cantering by Opie. Her rider seems in control at least so I leave her to her own devices. Let them get their stupids out off the bat so they'll be tired sooner and behave for the rest of the pace. The trail makes a sharp turn so we all come back to a walk. I can see a creek crossing ahead so call up Chance. Opie loves water, and he loves trail rides, but he does not love mud and he jumps any creek crossing he can. He'll worry over it before I convince him to go if he's by himself, but he'll follow another horse right over.

dopie says he'd rather go swim in the genesee river

Good thing we had the best trail boi that ever did live with us. This creek crossing was an actual drop down into a flowing, rock strewn creek bed with a jump up to get back out. Chance navigates it calmly so Opie jumps in after him and launches himself back out. Everyone else follows suit without much drama and off we go again.

We come out into a big field where we pick up the trot again and all hell breaks loose as everyone goes shooting past me, one of the horses dropping his head and bolting, the mare starts bucking, everyone is BAD and I HATE THEM. I scream out in the Voice of God to WALK RIGHT THIS SECOND and gather everyone back behind me. New rule: No one passes Opie, none of you can be trusted, for fuck's sake.

We finish walking the edge of the field and come to our next obstacle: an actual vertical cliff side. I shit you not. I let everyone make their own choice, but I get off. The rest follow suit. Muttering curse words under my breath, clinging to trees as I slide down half on my feet and half on my ass, hoping Opie doesn't pull a shoe or slide right by me in the mud, we all make it to the bottom. Everyone gets remounted, and then immediately we come to the next creek crossing which is even bigger and worse than the first one.

Even Chance takes a few seconds to figure out how to get across. I bash Opie's head into a tree semi-unintentionally as he impatiently waits for Chance to pick his way through it. The mare throws a shit fit and refuses to get close to it. We call the other two riders across hoping she'll think she's getting left behind and follow, only at that point two more riders have come up behind us. I'm yelling at the rider to kick the shit out of this naughty mare who at this point doesn't even care about the water, she's just throwing a straight up tantrum. Finally, one of the riders behind her, an older gentleman who has clearly been around the block, basically chases/pushes the mare into water where she calmly splashes through.

Fucking heifer.

From there on out, for awhile, it's pretty drama free. THANK FUCKING GOD. There are a few logs we have to jump which Opie takes in stride from the lead without fuss. Road crossings, lots of trotting through the fields as I try to get this pace over with as quickly as possible without anyone taking off again, and another creek crossing that's so wide everyone wades in without complaint.

We finally get to a narrow bridle path with a fence on one side and woods on the other. Everyone behind me looks tired so I let the group ooze into a canter with instructions to stay behind me. Ram naughty horses up Dopie's butt, he won't care. I don't want to chase bad horses down if someone gets out in front of me and loses their shit. Again.


A, for whatever reason, does not seem to comprehend this. Whether she took it as a personal affront to her and Chance, or she wasn't understanding what I was saying, she passes by me and sends Chance off into this speed eating trot that Opie can't keep up with at the canter.

"Don't let the other horses get by Opie, it will upset him," she calls out to everyone else.
"No," I correct. "He's so lazy he doesn't care if someone else leads. I just don't want people ahead of me where I will have to chase them down if they get into trouble."

We'd talked earlier in the ride about how Chance likes to zoom with the lead horse, but once he gets in front he doesn't like to actually be leading so he slows down to a crawl. "Don't do that," I joke with her. "There's no point in being in front if you're going to be the slowest of the group."

Now having zipped past me, she keeps him gunned and tells me, "Is this fast enough for you? He's not slow now!"

Does anyone see where this is going?

We come back to a walk to navigate a muddy, ditchy crossing and when we hit a field again A instantly urges Chance into his super sonic trot again. I let Opie step into a lazy lope that's easier for both of us, and two seconds later I hear commotion from behind. The green rider is laying on the ground and her horse is being grabbed by the junior rider. I yell at A to come back and go find out what happened. When Chance and Opie set off again, her horse--who had already bolted on her once at the beginning of the ride, which is not characteristic of him--pulled the same stunt. She popped off and he clipped her knee with a foot as she fell.

SO FUCKING OVER THESE NAUGHTY HORSES AND THIS FUCKING PACE, I tell her she's going to ride Opie the rest of the way. I know we can't be that far from the finish, and we'll walk the whole fucking thing from here.

i then had to drop my stirrups five holes this morning.

We get her up and she's sore and uncomfortable but otherwise fine. Opie lets her climb aboard from the offside with help from A and then stands there munching grass while I wallop her naughty bastard in the fat gut with my unicorn whip when he tries to book it when I go to mount. Once on, Opie retakes the lead and Mr Bolty Pants and I have one immediate, firm discussion when he thinks running again would be more fun than hanging out at the back walking. From there on out he plods along on a loose rein.

Fucking heifer gelding.

Fortunately, we were one hill and field away from the finish. Opie gets to lope across the finish line while BAD HORSE gets to do the slowest trot of his life before walking across.

In conclusion, Opie was the only good thing about this pace. He went on a looped rein the entire ride no matter the speed. He jumped whatever was in front of him, he did his bugaboo creek crossings with no fuss, he stood to the side and waited while the junior rider jumped some of the coops, and he let a completely green rider with a busted knee ride him back into the lead and got her safely home without putting a foot out of line. He hung out in the road while I got him dressed and undressed, and marched onto the trailer with zero hesitation.

The next day we celebrated two years together by feeding him a pound of carrots with a few peppermints as a chaser. Well deserved for A Very Good Boy.

the best cookie monster

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Rallying the fun

I was so super bummed when my toe got squished into a million pieces and filled my shoe with an ocean of blood.


I had one more show left that I really wanted to do, but I had managed to get enough scores to submit for year end awards anyway. The biggest disappointment was that it put me out of commission for the most fun time of the year--hunter pace season!

I ended up missing two of those and a scheduled cross country school, but through perseverance refusal to stay off my horse, a month and a half later I've managed to cram my foot into a riding boot and actually be totally okay with riding like a normal person. That gives me two hunter paces this month, a hunter show next month, and a cross country school last week. Hallelujah!

just the cutest fall snootest

I spent last weekend and into Thursday evening of last week flying hither and yon across the country. BM and I had our sights set on Friday for pretty much the only day for the rest of eternity we could both make work to haul out to school, so while I was gone I managed to convince one of the barn kids that riding Opie for me while I was gone would be really super fun. I don't think she agreed by the time the week was up--BM told me she couldn't get Opie's buttons to keep working after day one (schoolmaster he is not), and the girl herself let me know that he may or may not have spooked at make believe things every ride and then tried to take off with her on the last day.


Aside from needing a refresher on manners, no harm done though. Plus he was super cute when I went out to get him for this adventure. His friends were already halfway down the field, and he was starting to wander off towards them, when I called his name from across the parking lot and he threw on the brakes to come right back over to the gate. ADORBS.

He needed that gold star in his book because once on it was a hot mess express for eighty percent of the ride itself.

He stopped at the very first jump--the tiniest log on the planet. I spanked him, backed him up, and made him go over it from the walk. And then again at the trot.

it's basically a stick, sir.

BM took us down to the water first which in theory was a good confidence builder. Opie walked and trotted in and out, and then gamely jumped right up his first bank like it was no big deal.

And then followed Momo down for his first drop:

he calmly stepped down the first time

but was slightly more exuberant for trip two

We popped over some smaller logs around the water without incident before heading back into the big field. Opie was a little snorty at all the different jumps so I trotted him in and out of them before starting with a seemingly simple log stack.

It was, apparently, not so simple.

I realized at the trailer once I was already on that I had taken my rein stops off for the last hunter show and had never put them back on. Not wanting to dig around for them--assuming they were even in my trailer--I just took the running martingale off thinking it wouldn't be a big deal. My face disagreed. On numerous occasions.

BM was like, "I don't even know exactly what he's doing, but it sure is special."

I tried to take a break from it and get some better juju going over a different log stack, but...nah.

After several start-stop-launches and a couple of half assed refusals, we were finally able to get in one jump that didn't end with both of us flying through the air in pure awkward glory.

why did this have to be so hard tho.

We moved on to a couple more jumps where neither one of us could get on the same page. I was trying to keep my reins long to avoid hitting him in the mouth as much as possible during his unpredictable launches, but in hindsight I don't think it helped either one of us. I also tried to canter him right off the bat to most of them since they were so small, but again, in hindsight probably not the best approach.

He was super squirrely to things and kept trying to duck out at the last second, which then made me doubt his commitment to go over anything so when he did actually take off I was usually in a defense position.

i do not trust you, baby jumping horse

We finally got one good jump from the canter; I praised the shit out of him, shoved a candy in his mouth, and took a little walking mental break. At the heart of it, he just didn't seem confident in himself until that last jump where he landed and you could physically see and feel him understand that that was how a good boy jumps.

I picked the trot back up and went back and forth over the little house and a mini fake rolltop thing over and over until he was picking up the canter himself and taking me to the jump.

In some sort of groove, we followed BM over a BN rolltop:

And then did a couple more BN fences on our own.

yeah, there was still some questionable technique...

We finished with the house to little rolltop line one more time. Both boys were sweaty beasts by that point and I felt like Opie was probably at the end of useful brain cells so we headed back towards the trailers. We cantered off over a little log which he did super, and then the tires which he went right over, even though I went back on the defensive thinking he was going to try something sneaky.

logs: scary.
tires: no problemo.

I was so annoyed with myself. I knew he'd gotten into the groove and was feeling like he could jump all the things finally, but I was still riding like he was going to slam on the brakes. With one more jump available, I told myself to quit riding like he was going to stop and trust him to go over like a [barely educated at best] jumping horse.

which he did because he is A Good Boy

We finished up going back and forth over the ditch. He followed Momo right over the first time.

no drama here

When I went to take him over by himself, he slammed to a halt. Fortunately for him, because I'm getting pretty sick of the "I can't do things anymore without Momo" attitude on adventures, I spanked him once and he went back and forth multiple times without further incident.

He then had to stand for thirty seconds to wait for Momo to jump a combination, during which he tried to knock me out by violently flinging his head around when I told him he couldn't follow, and the last of his brain cells officially died.

no longer a functioning member of society.

My goal for this schooling was for it to be a fun trip off property for both of us, but it ended up being more of an actual schooling event. I need to remind myself that's where Opie is in his jumping life, so my expectations shouldn't have been anything else. If I tried hard, I could probably recall every single individual, focused jump school he's had since he came off the track. It's not a lot.

He knows the game is to get to the other side, but that's really about the extent of his education. When he gets put in a brand new environment, with brand new jumps, he needs to be told how to do pretty much everything. I can't expect to just magically know how to go from being a trained dressage horse to a trained jumping horse with no training on his resume.

trained at the walk

My goal this winter is to do a lot of gymnastic work with him. He's going to stay a dressage horse, but if I want to keep pulling him out for fun jumping adventures, the least I can do is impart some knowledge on him to make them fun for the both of us.