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.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Noncompetitive Riding, For Once

Would you guys be surprised to hear that there has been riding going on besides shows? For fuck's sake, I feel like that's all I bothered blogging about this summer. Then a horse tried to remove my toe from my foot, and I couldn't even write about that anymore!

Blogging has turned into a bit of a bummer for me this year though. I'm in a very weird head space where I enjoy interacting with with people through social media...except when I don't. I feel like I'm a very OK rider, and I am so completely happy being a very OK rider. I also feel like that's not an okay thing around these parts. I'm not into living in lessons, or scheduling every minute of my horse's life, or spending every second of my free time consuming intensive training knowledge. No judgement if that's you, but that isn't fun to me personally.

What is fun to me is riding my horse and improving him as best I can to reach my own Opie and Carly oriented goals. No one else has these goals, as similar as they might seem to your own, because no one else is us.

I was finally, finally able to finagle my poor toe into the world's most beat up sneaker which lead to me putting my stirrups back on at the end of my ride Saturday. No one else has seemed particularly impressed by this, but after being stirrup-less and in a post-op shoe for a month, I AM SO EXCITED.

thinking really hard about doing zoomies instead

It let us get back to mandated stretchy rides, cantering without getting taken off with, and our short term goal of being comfortable in a jump saddle post haste so BM and I can go cross country schooling before it snows. (Which, it was almost 90* this weekend, but I know you, NY. It could snow any day now.)

i was so happy to tell bm we jumped a jump, and then she told me her horse
was foot sore. c'mon man! fortunately he should be good to go again soon.

We were able to do some super fun, mostly pointless, yet highly rewarding things in our ride this morning. I had a sneaker, I had my stirrups, the horse was filled with candy, morale was fucking high.

We spent a long time at the walk because that's our fave. I trailered some ponies down to a hunter pace yesterday and two of my barn mates were in the truck with me. They were discussing how BM has been on their cases lately about getting the lesson horses to Walk and not trudge along in lesson horse mode, and how it was so much work. I could not relate. My horse screamed his fool head off Saturday morning, spun around in a circle, almost fell over, and got smacked upside the head for his troubles, but hot damn can he walk.

can you hear the drama? because i can.

After getting cooking into his giant, marching, back swinging me nearly out the saddle walk, we threw in a couple leg yields both ways with no fuss. Once I figured out that corralling the shoulder to keep him straight was the key to those, they've been great. Then I decided I wanted to see if he remembered the half pass. We worked on them exactly once this spring and he found them super easy.

First we had to make sure the shoulder-in was good.

It was not.

me: imma pull on you
opie: cool, imma brace against you

After seeing my media from Saturday, I knew I had to stop fucking pulling at the lateral work. He throws his head up, I pull back to compensate for the sudden slack in my reins, he tenses everything, nothing works, the end.

I started off fixing this by dropping ALL contact. Opie was like, "Cool, cool, free rein to do whatevski, here's a little llama anyway."

So then I had to go and fix that, too.

We had to agree to meet in the middle which took the length of both long sides. There was some sitting on the kick boards and plenty of head flipping, but he eventually got it. You no pull, I no pull, still do what I'm asking though, the end. I did still have to work on other stuff. Like, okay, you're soft over your topline, but stop bending your neck like a C. Shoulders being held responsible for things is definitely a weak spot for our Dopie Horse.

We finally moved on to the half pass. He is so good at these, I love him. For all that Bobby loved flinging his body sideways, and how easy he found the rest of the lateral work, the half pass never seemed great. Opie is so good, I can't. He got so many pats and scratches he finally stopped to look back at me like, "If I am A Very Good Horse, you should give me moar candies." SO I DID OBVIOUSLY.

is not shy about expressing his emotions. like how he's here expressing his
displeasure over being asked to do anything when his friends get to go outside

After hitting up a few halts where the new rule is No Llama--Ever....

the halt is not for staring at your adoring fans, sir.

...we moved on to the canter.

He stepped right into from the walk continuing his Very Good Boy streak. I feel like the up transitions to the canter are finally a reliable thing, even if the down transitions can still be a bit hurried/harried. Only took almost two years!

We frolicked around in half seat for a few laps before I decided to see the state of his flying change. Having ridden racehorses, I can pull these out of pretty much any OTTB. I wanted to see how far off from dressage pony changes his are.

They are very far, guys. They're accessible, and they're clean, but they are hands down, "I was a sprinter, see how fast I go the second I get my new lead! SO FAST!!!!!!! The flying part is my favorite part of this game!!!!!" I gave him some candy anyway because at least knowledge is there?

And really he gets candy for everything. Bribery as a means to results is my training motto. Take it or leave it me alone, folks.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Dopie Does Roping, Part I

Still here, still stumping around! The cut on my toe is healing up really well, the nail is still somehow attached (during my last appointment, the surgeon told me I could pull it off myself if I wanted and I was like, "LOLOLOLOLOL I THINK NOT, SIR."), and the crushing force of a steel shoe launching itself from one direct point did so much nerve damage that things are basically still numb. I'm able to walk around the house without my boot which is fantastic because that heavy thing is a real ankle torturing bitch, as you guys warned me. Every now and then I'll get a quick stab of pain that's either nerves trying to come back from the grave or a reminder that I have a vertical line of broken bones in there, too, but overall things are going pretty swimmingly in that regard.

I was also told not to ride for another four--now three--weeks, but I think we all know how that's going.

he was very sad there was no swimming at this new park
so he kept parking himself in puddles and refusing to leave them.

I pulled the stirrups off my saddle and have been hitting the trails as much as possible. BM is fully on board and we explored a park down the road from the barn last week with plans to go there again on Friday. We've gone back to Mendon yet again, and Dopes and I have been strolling around the home property on nice days. We've logged seven hours of walking in the two weeks since I got hurt, and so far it's been enough to appease the both of us. Mostly a vacation while trying to enjoy this beautiful fall weather before it disappears for eight months of winter.

However! I'm not here to ramble about trail riding--any more than I already have at least.

Hubby decided he wanted to climb aboard SS Dopasaurus Rex over the weekend, and I fully support any time I get to pull out the western horse outfit.

does he need that tie down? for aesthetic purposes, YES.

Hubby wanted to play #dopiedoesroping and I've never had any issue with any of my other horses he's attempted this with. They've all taken to having ropes flung through the air and inevitably getting thwacked in the head with nary a complaint. Opie isn't at all a spooky horse so I was expecting no difference.

Instead, once Hubby had gotten on and ridden around a little bit, I reached out to hand him the rope and Dopie went shooting sideways.

i'm so glad you can't smell pictures because this horse reeks of pee and pond
scum at the moment. a bath is on his schedule during this brief warm up.

We ended up having to take things all the way back to the ground. First longeing with the rope whacking against his saddle, which he kept an ear on, but was otherwise okay with.

hadn't had real work in weeks and loped around on a loose line. he is a good pone.

Then I had Hubby swing the rope in front of and then next to Dopie several times. Dopes watched with wary interest, but with a steady stream of candy if he stayed still instead of trying to go sideways, this went quickly.

Hubby finally got back on with the rope hanging neutrally in his hand at his side. I put him on the longe while he started shifting the rope around, slowly swinging it back and forth and then gradually holding it out to the side and up in the air. Opie was definitely pretty fucking twitchy about this to start. However, in true Dopie fashion, once he sussed out the game--don't react to the shenanigans going on around you and you get a candy--I was able to let them off the line and they walked around without issue.

Hubby was able to throw the rope out a couple times while I stood at Opie's head shoveling candy into his face until I finally ran out. I wanted to get it on video though, because I'm trying to run a blog here obvi, so he did it one more time.

Opie looking back at Hubby at the end to see where his candy is still makes me laugh hysterically. And then Hubby was like, "One more time." but Opie was like, "NO CANDY NO WORK" and started to get mad so we quit there so I could fetch him a fresh bag of peppermints.

I told Hubby I'd work with Opie during the week with the rope so by this weekend they could hopefully do more. I think it was less a case of being afraid of the rope though, and more a case of knowing his mother wasn't sitting on his back and ready to quash any naughtiness because on Monday....

"couldn't care less about this rope. where's my candy?"

I clambered aboard bareback in my boot, grabbed the rope off a jump standard, and proceeded to bounce it all over his body and chuck it through the air with barely an ear twitch. Hopefully he's as over it with Hubby as he was with me so I can bring you guys some more exciting media!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Laid Up

For once it's not my horse that's laid up, but me.


the horse is living his best life. i'd stop turning right
if someone would get me a massage.

I was bringing a horse in from turnout Saturday evening, and as I led him into his stall he body slammed me into his door (just because--horses are assholes, let's be real) which then spooked him so he jumped forward--directly off my right foot. I said many, many bad words, cried for two seconds, and then gimped around for the next forty five minutes finishing bringing horses in and feeding until I glanced down at my shoe.

BM was standing nearby so I calmly walked up to her and asked her to look at my shoe. "Is that water or is it blood?" She snatched me and hurried me into the wash stall where I buried my head in my shirt while she pulled my shoe and sock off, both of which were thoroughly saturated in blood. BM cleaned and wrapped the shit out of it and told me it probably needed stitches.

trash bag to keep dirt out and blood in.

I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to wounds on my own body. Someone could cut their arm off and I would be totally zen helping with that. A paper cut on my skin? I will pass out. Or projectile vomit. Or both tbh. I still don't know what the outside of my toe looks like. I refuse to look at it until it's healed.

 Hubby cleaned and rewrapped it again the next morning, and Riding Bestie (a nurse) was sent some pictures; she also told me to go get stitches. Bitches ain't got time for stitches. Also I really hate going to the doctor. Also I had to go back to the barn for our hunter pace.  Sadly I had to skip the actual jumping part, but I wanted to take my favorite barn child out. I managed to get a sock and slipper over my foot and clambered aboard Dopie bareback.

i couldn't shimmy jeans over without bumping my toe
so shorts completed the look. #safetythird

We managed that without incident, my kiddo got her ribbon, and Dopie got a nice massage to top his weekend off. Then I was responsible for doing the barn again since the girl that usually does it was still on vacation. I gimped around for another couple hours feeding and dressing ponies while Hubby and the stall cleaner did the actual turning out and bringing in.

When we finally got home, there was some blood leaking through the bandage again so I had Hubby pull it off to clean it and rewrap it. At that point, he was like, "Listen, you idiot. We are going to the doctor. Right now." Ughhhhhhhhhhhh.

We got in at the Urgent Care right away, got a set of x-rays, and had a nice sit down with the doctor. Aside from the deep laceration along the nail bed (can't tell you what that looks like, I don't ever want to know), my big toe was essentially shattered. He wrapped me back up, prescribed some antibiotics, and referred me to an ortho specialist.

emotion support doggo here for your needs.
"i know i checked on you five seconds ago, but are you still
doing okay? do you need more snugs?"

I saw her this morning, and the good news is despite the multiple fracture lines and chunked off pieces, they're all in line with each other and avoided any joint damage so it will heal up all on its own without further intervention. The nail will eventually come off, but she thought the cut looked like it was doing good. The main thing was how long any soft tissue or nerve damage will take to heal. Basically it will look better before it actually feels better.

I go back in a week for a recheck to make there's still no sign of infection. In the meantime I have a walking boot so I'm mobile enough to continue making bad choices. I'm hands down the worst patient alive. Thumbs down for rehab, y'all. Ain't no one got time for that.

emotional support cat also here for all the snugs

Obviously the biggest bummer is that I can't tolerate stuffing my foot in a riding boot at the moment. I had to back out of cross country schooling Saturday and our last dressage show of the year next Sunday. I'm hoping I'll be able to tolerate pressure on my toe by the last couple of paces of the season because I'm going to be crushed if I miss out on the actual fun part of the year!

I am, however, planning on riding at the park this Sunday. I only need one stirrup for a trail ride, right?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Dressage at the Fair

I was thrown for a loop with this show because instead of getting up at O'Dark Thirty, I sat around twiddling my thumbs cleaning out my basement until noon when I finally let myself get moving and head to the barn to bathe and braid. My first test wasn't scheduled until five in the fucking afternoon, with my last ride finishing up just after seven.

Remember how I said dressage is booming up here? Bitches love them some lower level dressage, you guys. I was the second First rider of the day--the show started at 8am and allll the rides before me were Intro and Training.Want to participate in an active dressage community? Come to Western/Central NY! (Only don't because this state is the worst.)

also our weather has no chill. after being in a drought all summer
we got a good two inches of rain in--no shit--about five minutes right
as i was getting ready to get on. good thing dopie lives for swimmies.

We pulled into the fair grounds around three, got unpacked and settled in, and was then informed that rides times had been moved back by twenty minutes. The worst. A friend and I went over to watch some tests and suss out how the horses were handling the coliseum, and she fortunately got intel that we were allowed to enter directly into the ring before the test started as a standard court takes up every inch of the ring and the riders we were watching were sticking to trotting up the long sides and having to turn around without circling the entire court--and therefore passing Satan's Altar the judge's open booth.

First 1

I got on with at most fifteen minutes of warm up time. It was more than enough to touch on everything we needed and head into the ring feeling as ready as we could be while knowing that nothing was going to prepare for the actual atmosphere of the show ring. I was hoping that since he'd shown here before he wouldn't be quite as stupid as he started out last year where he wouldn't go near the judge's stand in either test.

Yeah, we barely made it out of the chute before he threw on the brakes and tried to spin and leave because he had to pass the letter A.


I booted him past it into the ring and made him circle in front of the judge's stand until she blew the whistle. There was a lot of side eye and he was tense AF, but at least he deigned to be in its vicinity this time.

The whole test was tight, tight, tight. He didn't spook, but he was so locked up I could barely steer him. I was super fussy with my hands trying to contain the lurking giraffe just under the surface, and that made him understandably fussy with the contact. Bro doesn't let me get away with any sort of busy hands without calling me out on it loud and clear.

My entire ride was focused on managing him and getting him through without any major mistakes. The second half of his stretchy circle he actually took the stretch for a second and I was like, "Yes! Success! Now he'll take a breath and settle." No, he saw Dopie Things in the distance and lost it. Judge's comment: Minor distraction.

minor distraction is your new show name, dopes.

Usually the canter gives him some forward momentum to propel him out of the stupids, but I had nothing to work with. I tried about two strides of the lengthen before putting the kibosh on it because he instantly locked up and tried to run. I was happy to get the right lead picked up even though the transition was a mess.

Overall most of the comments were "braced" or "tight". One hundred percent accurate, and I was happy to get that test out of the way while feeling optimistic he would come out for the second one much more settled. He ended up with a 64+% for second. The horse that beat us had already done two Training tests so had the advantage there.

relax yo self

The judge was being a rock star and bombing riders through there, ignoring her breaks and giving us just enough time to make a quick tour of the ring while she finished up comments before moving on to the next. I'm sure by her 500th test she was as ready to wrap up this marathon show as much as everyone else. Guys, she judged for twelve hours straight. #beastmode We ended up going in for our second test at our originally scheduled time, and she even ditched her dinner break to get the last block of us through early.

First 3

I warmed Dopie up when the rider before me went into the ring. 10/10 less is more with this horse. I had to harass him a bit over the right lead canter, but I made it clear that under no circumstances were we picking up the wrong mother fucking lead in the change at X for the fiftieth time this season.

Opie was still a little distracted in this test, but he was actually rideable.

the were more people in the stands this time and he was very interested in them.

The leg yields were rough. At this point he basically automatically braces the second any sort of lateral work comes in. I have a body work appointment set up for him to kick things off, but this is going to need some serious attention in the off season. You've gotta stay supple, my midget friend. Those garnered a 5.5 and a 6, but the 10m circles were 7s and then!!! He hit that stretchy circle and flowed right down and around for an 8 with the comment "well done".

day of stretch days paying off!

I was able to go for the canter lengthening a little bit more this time around, but still not to the point where he's picked up big scores before. He picked up the right lead in the transition at X, but I pretty much threw his ass onto it. As I was riding it, I was like, "You fucker, I will take the 5 this is going to get over the 4 picking up the wrong lead will get IF MY FUCKING LIFE DEPENDS ON IT." Also he tried to leave the ring picking up the first canter but I cut him off at the literal pass.

opie: soulmates this way
me: not today #childsatan

Despite the couple of disorganized bobbles, it felt like a much steadier test. It scored a 63+% for another second. Just like last year, with a cooler and giant ribbons on the line, we did just enough that on any other day it would have been super results--but we got no giant prezzies. Cue my inner sad child.

Second 3

With the judge giving up her final break, there were only four rides before my final test so I stayed on and hung out in warm up feeding Opie candy. When the rider before me went in, I picked him back up and he was instantly right there. He felt really soft and loose, did a couple of tight but acceptable shoulder-ins, stepped right into the right lead canter from the walk, did a counter canter serpentine easy peasy, and we were ready to go in.

refueled by candy, he went strutting in like he owned the place

Unfortunately, the trot work is all lateral work which means all the loosey goosey went right out the window. Every comment was "tight topline" or "stiffness". Where another judge might have let a 6 slide, she tipped towards 5.5s instead with just a couple 6s for the shoulder-in. Honestly I don't even know how we got a 5.5 for the travers--they felt more like retarded on the wall leg yields.

The rein back, usually a strength to kick off the walk work, had an extra step which killed that score, and it almost had more before I goosed him with my spurs when he ignored me. Then the stupid turn on the haunches we we started off the season with 7s bombed again. The free walk was mediocre, so all those areas where we can usually make up for the tense trot work did nothing for us.

i still think he's super cute and that's all that matters

He stepped right into that canter like a boss though and finally picked up a long line of 6 and 6.5s to finish out the test. Still, only a measly 57+%. We were the only rider doing 2-3 so we at least got a blue ribbon, but there was another AA doing 2-1 who scored a 59%. You know what that means? NO COOLER AGAIN THIS YEAR. We got a consolatory reserve champion ribbon that's a good 4' long, but come on, man. My inner five year old couldn't even. 

he doesn't know the difference. he still got all the candies and snugs.

Not a bad show in the grand scheme of things, though. The judge's comments are all in line with what I know are his weaknesses right now--namely tension, but also needing more collection. He'll get there, and I think next year he'll come out feeling super confident in this test for having gotten the chance to do it several times this season.

In the meantime, we have one more show for our GMO to close out the competition year providing we don't get guilt tripped into doing a CT put on by one of Hubby's coworkers. There are lots of hunter paces on the horizon though, so fun things for the young Dopie Horse as a reward for grinding through another full year of dressaging.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The more you know

You know the old saying: The more you know, the more you wiggle. Pretty sure that's how it goes anyway.

I'm finally starting to feel like Opie has some reliable buttons on him. They're still fairly remedial in the grand scheme of dressage horse knowledge, but at the very least the concept of "leg can mean more than go" is firmly installed. The problem I run into here is that he's learned all these different ways to use his body, and sometimes he uses those powers for evil.

If he doesn't want to work as hard as I'm asking him to, his evasions are sneaky--his rib cage will subtly pop out, he'll get crooked in his hips so you think you're the one riding crooked, he'll tip his head to the inside ever so slightly, a shoulder will drop just enough to make you think you're doing something else wrong to lose the straightness.

you would be surprised how many different directions a horse's body can bend
on one 10m circle

Fortunately, riding alone all the time means I'm mostly proficient at self policing both of us. Also fortunately, that's about the least exciting form of evasion I've ever dealt with in my fucking life and everything else has been drama free.

We've mostly been chugging away at strengthening everything he already knows. Getting his Second level debut out of the way was a massive weight off my shoulders I didn't even know I was carrying. I'd planned for that show to be his debut at the level from the beginning of the year, but there was a lot of doubt right up until we went into the ring that I was going to make a complete fool out of us. With it out of the way, and another show on top of that, it's been good old fashioned basics getting hammered away at again.

Our week usually starts off with one or two short, high intensity, focused schoolings. I ask for the thing, you do the thing, there is no middle ground, sir. We focus a lot on keeping the connection steady, and really stepping under with the hind legs while bending. The butt must follow, no more cheating, sir. But more than anything I've been a complete Nazi about straightness.

I've gotten comments on several tests this year about Opie losing his shoulder, or just lacking straightness in general in a certain movement. I have about ten trillion flaws as a rider, but being straight had never been one of them. My ass sat in the center of the saddle, in the center of the horse, the end. Until I got Opie.

Remember that excruciating pain in my right hip from him travelling crooked? And then one year later my right knee also broke for the same reason? This horse finds being straight very fucking difficult, and he's very fucking good at knocking me out of alignment right along with him. We've been making square turns ninety percent of the time, and I'm constantly checking my own body to make sure I'm straight--and then therefore Dopie is also straight.

It is fucking hard work. I really don't think there's anything harder than making the simplest things absolutely perfect. But, unsurprisingly, it's paying off. The connection is so much steadier, and each ride he comes out working correctly that much faster and finding things just a little bit easier.

After a couple tough as balls works, Wednesdays are mandatory stretchy days.

We've lost our good stretchy trot circle in tests, and I know it's because I've been neglecting them at home. We still take lots of breaks on a long rein, but they've gone from "This is a stretch break" to "Take the reins and do what you want, I'm fucking whooped." I've tried to be more conscientious lately about not loafing off during breaks, but this is the third week in a row with one day being dedicated solely to stretching and I think I'll keep it like this. It's a good mental and physical break while still working on a much needed skill.

Since we're usually gearing up for a show or some sort of outing every weekend, Thursday or Friday he gets off and then he gets a super light ride the day before adventure time. We hack out after almost every ride, and he's been happy in his work.

Last week, he worked one whole day--a long stretchy warm up before popping over some tiny jumps where we worked on--wait for it!--being straight and landing on the correct lead.

We show Sunday so he'll get Friday off because tomorrow we hit the park with some barn mates for what will for sure be a good time. Running and swimmies and snacking with friends? Still out here advocating for trail riding your way to success, what can I say.