Wednesday, January 23, 2019


First things first I'm the realest, Opie's leg could not be healing up any better. I'm planning on removing the sutures Sunday, and then hopefully he can start going back out again on Monday.

and maybe one of those days i'll wash the blood out of his
ankle fluff...

He's been handling stall rest much better than I expected him to. I even let him go to the indoor for a quick naked rollies this morning, and his eyes only popped out of his head a little bit at his "freedom". (He was still attached to me. The only reason I'm comfortable with turning him loose before the full 14 days is the 3' of snow outside to slow down any crazies.)

In the meantime, I'm throwing it back to when he still made good life choices and was getting ridden.

do you not do dressage in uggs?

Riding Bestie came up on a Friday and even though it was a high of 15* and she was only seven or eight weeks post-baby I made her ride my horse anyway. Because that's what friends are for.

I always get a lot out of seeing her ride my horse because there's zero emotional attachment. She's not mean of course--I fill that role just fine myself--but she takes no excuses. Go forward, do the thing I ask, the end. And the horse unsurprisingly is like, "Oh, for real? Okay, no problem."

uphill horse and matching uphill doggo

So the day after she was up I got on determined to channel my inner Sarah and just ride my horse forward first and foremost. It worked and it didn't. I still wanted to jump right in and participate by picking when Opie tried an evasion so the first half was: Pick a fight, no STOP send him forward, ooh fuck with each other again, NO DO NOT.

that side eye is a-scheming. 

But eventually we sorted each other out. I had to get after him a bit about being a lazy bender because that's his latest favorite sneaky trick, but he finally caved and just did the work which was ten times easier than trying to get out of the work.

I finished up doing about a million and a half canter transitions, and then working in the canter itself to keep trying to push the concept that a half halt does not mean quit. You can see that in the second video where he keeps taking a step or two of trot every time I half halt until finally the concept goes through. (There's also some trot at the end if that suits your fancy. These videos are really only interesting to me to see what I need to work on.)

The videos were good in that is showed my I've got nothing on Sarah as far as forward riding goes. On Monday I went back out determined to work on that--forever and always--but also make sure I wasn't being so handsy. Dopie needs to be more honest and quiet in the contact and that comes from me reciprocating.

It was a fucking fantastic ride. I mean, I took a break halfway and thought about having a pity cry because I was so frustrated, but I was able to finish with the best trot the little Dopie Horse has ever given me.

slooooowlllyyyy turning into a grown up horse

In my current horse book rotation is Fit & Focused in 52 by Daniel Stewart. It's got a bunch of yada yada in the front, but the core of the book is that every week is a new workout exercise combined with a mental focus. (Full review to come eventually.) Last week's mental exercise was the When/Then Technique. To paraphrase, horses are dumb and you might be too, but if you start training yourself to prepare for the unexpected with the thought process of "When me/my horse does something dumb, then I will execute this well thought out and prepared for plan."

Does that make sense? I'm about to tie it in, I promise.

I'd just read through that before my ride on Monday and applied it to my most likely "U R dum" scenario--the warm up ring.

#childgenius generally sticks to business, but when he doesn't i've gotta be able to
channel my own #vaguelygenius 

When my horse does not go steadily into the contact, when he starts wagging his head, when he comes above the bit or ducks behind it, then I blank and resign myself to being fucked get really handsy hope the judge is blinded by cuteness I REMEMBER MY LONG LOST TRAINING AND TROUBLESHOOT.

The first half of Monday's ride was battling my instinct to pull. Or get fussy with my hands. Or just quit and hope it fixed itself. I was policing myself which is where the frustration with myself was building. I would catch it, and then one circle later I was doing it again. (It was also at this point that I was planning on budgeting a lesson for the next week with that extra money, but LOL, horses.)

Opie, for his part, was like, "Why on earth would I just go forward into the contact and stay quietly there? Your hands are annoying and it's easier for both of us if you just wiggle me down and we pretend like that's legit."

pulling on the inside rein is just so much easier tho

But I persevered. No cheating, send the horse up onto the bit. I am not going back to fill in colossal holes five years later this time around. 

As we went around and around, and I told myself not to do this or that, I realized I was at the when part but hadn't come up with a then solution. Fortunately, once upon a time, I could still afford lessons and something BM told me blipped onto my radar. If I couldn't get what I was trying for from forward, try to get it from slower. (Or vice versa.) But don't linger at one or the other and expect it to just happen. If it's not working, try the other thing.

Well I wasn't getting anything but a pissy horse over constantly kicking him forward into my annoying hands, so I slowed it down. BM doesn't mean a sluggish, toe dragging jog. Slower is usually harder because it means bouncier and more engaged. I was able to slow my tweaker brain down as well and really stop my hands from all bad things. From there, with quiet hands and an engaged booty, Opie had his aha moment.

Once there, solid and steady in the contact, I was able to work in and out of different trots, and we finished ballin'. 

And then that was the last time I rode. Boo.

often i like to scrunch my leg up too. one thing at a time, my friends.

I'm excited to get back to work in the near future. I love showing, and I love test riding, but figuring out how to be a better rider and make a better horse can be just as fun--if also mentally debilitating until I come out the other side. Yay horses?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Why you gotta do me like this

Opie decided me on whether I was going to do a blog post about our recent rides or not by taking himself out of commission. Can't say I suck at riding if I don't ride--win-win!

But this is going to be a long, boring couple of weeks while he heals himself so I might get around to that eventually. He's been good, I'm just having yet another existential crisis over my own riding, nothing to see here. (Only there is because I have some media.)

To solve that, I was gung-ho to sneak in at least one lesson with a little extra cash I had this month, but instead all the extra cash goes to the vet instead.

boo you whore

As I was on my way to drop off my car to get new tires all around (Money likes to give itself away around here.), BM called me breathless to tell me Opie had just gotten cast and his leg was bleeding. I told her I'd finish checking in my car and then head right over, keep me apprised. A minute later she called me back after hosing his leg and said that one of the cuts looked pretty deep so I went ahead and called the vet to get them on their way. It was 4:56 by my car, but of course it was out of hours in Vet Land.

Fortunately there was a vet within a couple miles of the barn finishing up another call, and they ended up beating there. I walked into the 25* barn--in moccasins, a light cotton pull over, and a jacket because I'd had zero intention of being outside for more than two seconds--and a barn mom was holding an already sedated Opie while BM told them what had happened from the doorway of the arena in between teaching a lesson.

At that point I pretty much had nothing to do besides tell the vet to add as many sleepy drugs as she wanted because Opie is not a lightweight. She shaved and washed his leg and we were able to get a good look at the injuries.

it was awfully deep

the outside of the leg, far less exciting

Upon closer inspection, she felt confident he'd managed to slice the sweet spot directly in between important pieces so no joint damage was involved. She decided to go ahead and block the leg to stitch him up since it was in an unsafe location and he really doesn't take much of a hit from sleepy drugs.

My favorite barn kid who had been waiting for me at the door as soon as I pulled in made her mom and sister stay to watch the entire thing because "I want to give Opie my support." She's maybe six and the sassiest creature alive. When he was done, she and her sister immediately went to give an instantly wide awake Opie (I swear he fakes sedation because the second he's done getting worked on he's 110% alert) all the scratches and head pets. It was so cute to see her asking the vet about every little thing. She'd also explained that in addition to Opie's penguin blanket he also sports Hello Kitty jammies which led the vet to dig out her hot pink sutures instead of the white.

so stylish

The vet bandaged him up, topped off my SMZs, told me to Bute him as I saw fit, and was off to the next poor sucker in need of emergency care in all of twenty minutes.

i should have given her a roll of my zebra vet wrap
because this green was a snooze

In the grand scheme of injuries and what could have happened from him getting cast, this is basically nothing. Of course, why he felt the need to--I assume--roll within just a couple of minutes of being brought inside is beyond me, but maybe fresh shavings are that enticing. Hopefully he learned his lesson. Rollies are for outside the stall! Regardless, Hubby was all over a plan to fully mat Opie's stall asap. Dopie is his favorite, no expenses spared for #childgenius.

i appreciated that the vet wasn't like, "he needs a fancy bandage
every day for the next eternity!!1!1!" instead she told me daily
standing wrap changes with a nonstick gauze pad, slap some
tricare on it if it looks dry. that i can do/afford.

Hopefully everything heals quickly and without drama. He was fully weight bearing the entire time and honestly doesn't even seem to realize he's done anything besides get locked in jail with his personal torture device hay net and extra candy.

creeping on the mare in front of him while arthur supervises.
i got the old bandage cut off and his leg wrapped without him so
much as flicking an ear. he's a good patient (so far).

Fingers crossed for an uneventful next two weeks!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Happy Birthday Opie!

Unlike last year's party where we got 2' of snow in about two seconds on the day of Dopie's birthday, this year it was just single digits cold with barely any snow to be found. Bonus that we didn't have to do any shoveling, but bummer that there isn't any snow to play in.

this party hat really highlights his donkey ears

Regardless of the weather, Opie got to share his homemade cookies with his two friends in between romping around the indoor like crazies--that being his two friends and not him.

"you guys got that."

I'm the actual worst at making homemade horse treats as any recipe I try to follow always turns out the same blobbish, gooey way so I've just given up and make my own version. I basically combine all the horse's favorite things (that meant heavy on the carrots and no apples for Opie), some oats to give it volume, and a generous plopping of molasses to hold-ish it all together. Enough time spent in the fridge and they turn out solid enough to make it from the container into the horse's mouth and that's all that really matters.

opie was eating them right out of the box at first and then by the end decided
he didn't really like them anymore...after inhaling about 7 or 8 of them.

fortunately they didn't go to waste

they're all OTTBs so i guess they all deserve birthday cookies this month

His real birthday present was not having to do any work because homie got schooled by myself and Riding Bestie the past two days. He clearly had a lot of excess energy to burn.

meanwhile his friends were flying through the air like psycho kites

Happy low key sixth birthday, Dopie Horse!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Dopie Doing the Dressage

It's only taken me into the second week of the year, but I finally feel like I'm back on a normal schedule again. I really hate the holidays people. Let's call it what it is.

I was feeling a bit lost in my horse life as well because I wasn't getting any time in the saddle. I was convinced that my horse had lost all of his training. Like, all of it. Would he even know how to horse when I finally got the time to ride again?! Would he know anything ever what if he forgets how to even walk oh god why do people have to socialize on my time?????

It was a period of great angst, you guys.

opie says, "check yourself, lady. i self-train."

Fortunately, #childgenius in the house and all my fears were immediately assuaged.

Did he rein back like a shuffling, inverted slob? Nope, diagonal pairs clearly lifted and right back into the walk.

Did he fake the stretch and just face plant about the ring? Nope, taking the contact down and lifting his back up.

Did he suddenly decide contact wasn't a thing and walk around like a rabid llama? Nope, light, easy pressure in the reins and struttin' off.

The horse is fine, the horse is trained, the horse does not give two shits if he gets ridden twice in two weeks as long as the cookies keep coming.

grey pony cookie delivery

We have, however, been tackling some new and old problems. The fun part of dressage is that you literally never stop training the same old shit, you just get to call it different things.

The main focus of the past couple rides though has been really engaging that inside hind. Opie has conned me into letting him get away with not using it as much as he can for long enough. It's easy to be tricked, too (at least when you're a multi-aids halfwit that has the focus of a gerbil--I was made for this discipline, what can I say?) because his short little neck is good at bending and making you think the rest of him is being just of flexible. But that is false.

The other day there were a couple of jumps set in the middle of the ring that made a nice 15m pen right in front of the mirror. I locked Opie into this jail cell and we worked at all three gaits both directions, stepping under and keeping all parts of the body aligned. He said it was the shits and super hard, but he was perfectly capable and willing to do it once I made it clear this was the exercise.

i am sooo out of media. riding bestie should be up soon to remedy that.

Then I gave him the day off because he worked really hard and I didn't want him to hate me. Currently I'm going through this phase of I AM NOT WORTHY TO BE YOUR RIDER. I basically feel that if I'm not actively worshiping Dopie then he's going to stop being so amazing.

But emphasis on "phase". I'm sure he'll be a real tool soon and I'll be a hundred percent over it.

I've been incorporating serious work with that hind leg in every ride since, but this morning I wanted to devote the majority of my time to the canter transitions. I'd left the arena doors open after dragging the ring so that was a bit of distraction at first until I reminded him that he may be getting worshiped but I am god in this relationship so pay the fuck attention. All was good after that and we warmed up with lots of 10 and 15m circles and spirals. Engage, bro.

"but my soul mates are out there."

Dudes, it's amazing what you can accomplish in a short amount of time when you go in with a game plan. While the departs still aren't as round as I want them to be, he sitting down and stepping up into them instead of just lurching into the canter and then getting sorted a couple strides later. The down transitions were fucking fabulous. The stronger he gets and the more collection he's able to hold the easier it is for him to just step back into the trot. Duh, of course, but it's nice to feel that all the mindless bitch work is doing it's job.

He tried to get strong and sassy heading towards the open door and I just gave a big half halt with my seat, and he sank like ten feet (possibly less) onto his haunches and brought his front end up about thirty miles (actual distance) and gave me the most ridiculous-in-an-amazing-way canter. I let him keep if for half the long side before back to the trot, change direction, and then over the jump left standing in the ring to finish on a fun note.

He sure does suck at lateral work compared to Bobby who got a lot of practice going sideways by flinging himself violently around the arena, but he's getting a grip on the collected (and stretchy!) work light years ahead of the big brown moose.

maybe one day you'll be worthy of wearing otto for real

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Cost of 2018

I did my first one of these in 2016 and found the experience so..."enjoyable" that I did it again in 2017. Now I'm back for year three! Either I'm a glutton for punishment or I just really enjoy math.


No one enjoys math.

Without further ado:

Supplements and Healthcare: $619.42
  • I put all of Opie's various weight gain experiments under here, along with such necessities as wormer and his brief need for medication for the aural plaques in his ears. 
Farrier: $590
  • In case you guys doubted my farrier is the best, which you shouldn't because she is, I spent more this year doing simple steel front shoes for Opie than I did for nine months of corrective and trying-to-be-life-saving shoeing setups and consultations for Bobby in 2017. 
Lessons: $640
  • One category I would be okay with being higher. Sadly I think this is going to be pretty low in 2019 with another big bill being introduced to our monthly life expenditures budget. 
Board: $1,290
  • Listen. I really hate horses some days, but I don't hate that taking care of them makes my board pocket change.
Vet: $586.50
  • Opie "needed" booster vaccines since I didn't have a written record of them from the track. He also needed extra dental care because Shark. That is all.
Shows: $1,141
  • Cost of all that satin? Priceless.
Tack/Gear: $1,880.82
  • I had a goal this year to get this category way down from previous years. Mission fucking accomplished. $1k of that was the last bit of my saddle I owed, and I bought a cart for $225. Take away those two things and I feel like a miser. In a horse owning sort of way. Plus I can't be held responsible for having to buy things like fly gear because my horse is allergic to nature and multiple replacement halters because my horse is bad. 
Miscellaneous (memberships, registrations, repairs, etc): $1,365.82
  • Oof, this one got me this year. Poor old Growler needed a lot of extra love at the beginning of the year, and then her power steering lines needed to be replaced mid-summer. I have a sinking feeling this category is going to skyrocket next year. I'm tacking on a few more memberships, and my truck is making a rather ominous clunking noise. As I told Farrier, "She needs some love and I've got no more love to give her." Fingers crossed the old lady doesn't need a complete engine overhaul because I really don't know what I'm going to do at that point. 
Overall total: $8,113.56
  • I saw that and thought it was still painfully high. Then I went back and compared to the last two years--almost $12k and just over $14k--and I basically paid zero dollars on my horse all year! (Pretty sure that's how it works.) 
This is seriously one of my favorite year-end posts to do. It sparks so much conversation, and I love when other people jump aboard and do their own calculations. So how about it? Was 2018 an easier year financially for you? Did you hit any grossly ambiguous financial goals? Are you also already absolutely dreading 2019's costs?

Monday, December 31, 2018

Goal Review and 2019 Goals

I can't remember if I usually combine these or if last year was an outlier and I made two separate posts since I was dealing with two separate horses. Regardless I think we're all okay with there only being one goal post on record.

2018 Goals:

1. Fully outfit Opie in all his own necessary gear. I put this down planning on getting him his own jump saddle and another blanket to add to his collection but ended up doing neither. I'm crossing it off anyway because I decided the saddle wasn't yet worth the investment when I could borrow a barn mate's for the few times I felt like jumping in something besides my dressage saddle, and after getting a full winter under our belts I think he's good to go with the blanket set up I have now. I did get him sorted out with bits and bridles, so he officially has his own Opie-specific set up now.

2. Figure out the best show routine to make Opie comfortable off property. Dude much prefers hanging out at the trailer or ringside where he can creep on other horses. He wasn't too happy having to be stalled for the one whole show we had to get one at. He also won't eat his breakfast in the barn on show morning, but he eats his hay great in the trailer and then I just give him his grain once we get there. I'm very routine oriented and I think it's helped him settle at shows. He was a complete pro by the time the season wrapped up. 

3. Complete 25 hours for TIP trail riding patch. Well over 25 hours! Although they still haven't sent me my patch. Better email them about that...

4. Be able to trailer Opie by myself. Through pain and suffering and all the training in the world, I can now say this kid is reliable to haul solo.

5. Smooth out the basics. AKA learn to canter. Done! Also learn the basics of being a dressage horse. Done! He's now got a couple different trots and canters, he leg yields, and if you close one eye he's got a perfectly acceptable SI and HI. 

6. Don't get hung up on how everyone else is progressing. I think writing this down made it more concrete in my head. There were several times throughout the year when I wanted to get caught up in comparisons, but I immediately shut it down and focused back on myself. I did fucking awesome this year. There are a lot of other people that did even better, but that doesn't diminish any one of the teeny tiny things I accomplished this year a single bit.

2018 opie, complete with some ugly AF growth spurts

2019 Goals

1. Make First Level our bitch. Solidify all the necessary movements so they come easy peasy: the leg yield, trot and canter lengthenings, and counter canter (even if it's kind of a fake counter canter at First). 

2. Fix the canter transitions. Up and down. They both suck depending on the day, and what a stupid area to lose points in.

3. Get another 25 trail hours logged. I already have 7 recorded. The next prize needs 50 hours I think, but that's not happening in a year for me. 

4. Go to two new places. Show venue or trail adventure. I want to explore some more areas around us.

5. #dopiedoesdriving. Get him back to work with the cart so he's a reliable driving horse at home. Make sure steering is a thing!

6. Learn to braid a forelock. I am a straight up forelock braiding retard, and I am not ashamed to admit it.

Stretch goals:

I ran into the problem this year where I got all my goals crossed off well before the year was over and was kind of floundering with what to do with myself. So in case that happens again, these are next on the list to give me something to work towards.

1. #dopiedoesdriving... off property. Take the pony and his cart to the park and see how he does in the wide open world.

2. Muddle through the movements from Second. A better shoulder-in and haunches-in, increase the oomph needed for medium gaits, and get Opie more relaxed and active with the sitting trot.

And you know what? Not a stretch goal or even a regular goal, but I'm going to write it down again anyway. Don't get hung up on how everyone else is progressing. Another year, another new level, still only on me to get my horse where I want him to go. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

2018 Year in Review, Part Two

Opie started off July still in quasi retired mode. We finally kicked off the return to "real" work with an eye on the next block of shows coming up by leading a massive group of riders from the barn on a field trip to the park followed by a grill out. It was a shit ton of fun, and Opie got to do his first official four off the floor swimmies.

giggling like a maniac on my sea horse

Our return to showing was a good one despite riding in front of a judge I had the worst experience ever with on Bobby. Opie was a star at another new facility and came away with his first high point award on an 81%. The next weekend we returned to rated competition for another two day show. On the first day, despite warming up beautifully, the tests themselves were in the brand new indoor facility which was a lot for a young Dopie Horse. He did his best for a green bean, but the judge was only impressed with the giant moving Warmbloods all day across the levels. We came away with two thirds anyway because he is #childgenius. The second day he was much more settled. His scores went way up and we ended with a second and first. We ended the month trying a little cross country schooling at home where Opie was straight Satan.

my saddle pads were so disgusting by the end of the season. no bleach could save them.
definitely getting a new pony wardrobe next year. 

August was our last month of showing, but we filled it to the brim with three shows at three different places. First up was a GMO show where Opie crushed both of his tests and came away with another high point award. From there we went to the inaugural dressage show at the state fair grounds. After being so distracted in the new indoor at Houghton, I was worried the massive scale of this place would be too much for Opie. It was also his first time being stalled for a show, but he handled it like a pro. He--and every single other horse--was suspicious of Satan's altar the open judge's stand, but he still laid down two almost identical scores for two second places.

such a show pro 

I audited and volunteered at my GMO's sponsored Courtney King-Dye clinic before our season finale which wasn't a dressage show at all. Instead #dopiedoeseventing! He'd just started cantering jumps, had done a handful of 2'3" stadium fences, and could jump logs in the fields mostly without falling down. Seemed like he was ready to me! Obviously he was perfect. Actually he was pretty awful for his dressage test because he was in the wide open world instead of a ring, but he cantered around the entire stadium course like a champion and only had one honest "Da fuq is that?" stop on cross country. He finished feeling so proud of himself.

it's okay if you cannot. i cannot either.

obvi deserves double the pics

Following that success, we kicked off September with hunter pace season. We got two in this month which was a good thing since it soon started raining for all eternity and the rest of the calendar basically got cancelled. I also went wild got horse ADD and bought a cart. Because why not.

October was a lot of trail rides, and I was able to check off my twenty five hour goal for the year. Dopie continued his driving practice and I was finally (Well, finally, as if a month after buying the cart and deciding he was going to be a driving horse is an infinite amount of time.) able to get him hitched and driving around by himself.

Things slowly came to a halt in November. We were still plugging away at our dressage work, but not with any intensity. The big party this month was collecting our year end awards for all those shows!

satin, satin EVERYWHERE!

We finally started slowly getting back into real work in December. And I use that term loosely. When we did put forth the effort though, the year's worth of training showed up and I could tell that this kid got the right education this year. He feels correct, and he feels happy in his work. That's how I want every year to end!

After all the shit that 2017 brought, 2018 was definitely the year I needed. Now I just need to reel everything back in and set myself up for a more realistic 2019. I don't know if we can ever recreate the unicorn-ness of this year (although quite frankly all the times Opie was a real dick about the trailer and that time I thought for sure he'd broken my hand helped keep it in check), but I know that if we accomplish even a fraction of what got done this year we'll be in a good spot.