Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Can-can (or can't) canter

After Dopie's training/"getting to know you" ride, I gave him Saturday off. He'd worked all week, and since he's just the sleepiest I figured he'd appreciate the break. Hubby and I slayed all day instead, getting a ton of shit done most notably of which involved not getting sucked into a time vortex while down at his parent's house. I swear they exist in their own universe; you think you've been there for an hour and poof! Surprise, bitches, two years have passed.

I did get a ride on Sunday for which Hubby was kind enough to be dragged along to. I've got social media to run here after all. There's only so many of the exact same head shot of The Snoot even I can take.

Opie's gelding soul mate--who he has not been turned out with since the first month he was here, but whose existence Opie still worships--was cooling out in the ring when I finally retrieved my horse from Hubby who had gone out to get him and then disappeared on a trail ride armed with nothing more than a halter and lead rope. This ended up being a really annoying distraction for the first half of the ride until Wym was finally turned back out.

only one baby scream when he heard wym walk down the aisle though!
it's about to come out of his llama head here.

We keep getting these weather swings where it snows a lot, then warms up and melts everything, and then freezes hard without the benefit of snow cover so everything is sheets of death ice. Unlike most horses that get sassy when the temperature dips, Opie seems to get sassier with the upswings.

He started off with a huge, swinging walk that felt like enough of a muscle warm up that I rolled with BM's advice to disperse the canter throughout the ride and asked him to step right into the left lead. That involved some hilarious dramatics.

this is him bucking and me trying not to laugh at him too hard

He thought he was very wild and crazy. Unfortunately for him, porpoising into transitions is frowned upon so after a few more neck flings and leaps through the air were shut down, he had to deal with a normal horse canter transition.

okay, it was still maybe a little enthusiastic 

I have mixed feelings on the canter. I gave him a few weeks off of it because it was the cause of a lot of drama--the transitions weren't great to the left, he didn't want to pick up the right lead, and the canter itself was too big and unbalanced for our narrow arena on a horse whose self preservation instincts are absolutely not on point yet.

While the kick in the ass by BM who reminded me the only way the canter was going to get better was to canter the horse, I also think he came out better for the break. He's a little stronger, a little more aware of his moving parts. I think in the long run this horse is going to have a really fabulous canter. Probably that's just because I already think he's the cutest though. He was being naughty for BM while I was watching her ride, and I was all, "WHO CARES SO CUTE PERFECT TEN."

a little less racehorse and a little more dressage horse would be nice

My struggle is my own head. As always. I think I take lessons more for brain training than horse training.

I have in my head this idea of the canter I want. It's a schooled horse collected canter. The canter of horse whose had years of dressage training, and whose ass is both trained and fully equipped to handle the work load. It's been so long since I've ridden any other canter that I'm not a hundred percent sure what canter I'm supposed to be getting from Opie. BM told me to work in half seat in the canter for now as Opie's back gets stronger. Opie offers me up a big track canter, I get into half seat, and my brain goes in track brain right along with his. I set the reins on his shoulders and let him do the work, the end.

stirrups set at shorty height from BM's ride for better half seat stability

Obviously that's not what BM was trying to get me to do. I'm still supposed to be trying to put a half halt through, still supposed to be working on getting him slower and working over his hind end more. Instead my brain checks out and we cruise around in too big of a canter for what the current goal is. I know getting back into the groove of weekly lessons will help. Some of this baby horse stuff is coming back naturally, other things definitely are not.

We've had two rides since Friday, and in both I made sure to drop the beat canter sporadically throughout. He had some big outside distractions on both days, but I was pleased with his mental effort of staying with me. He wasn't always completely tuned in, but I was able to bring him back without much difficulty at all.

#workingonmyfitness so hopefully my fat roll stops impeding me from sitting
the fuck up straight while posting. 

BM also wanted me to work on trying to get him to follow my longer reins down to lengthen his neck. That was a definite no for the start of both rides as Opie wanted to either make a run for it or curl, there is no in between. Then I could get him slow, but his back felt tight to me and I wasn't confident I was doing the right kind of slow.

On Monday morning I shifted back and forth between a bigger trot and the slow jog, and eventually he started softening his back, but I didn't get any stretch at the trot. On Sunday, he did manage to offer up a few strides here and there where his neck wasn't completely cramped.

plenty of other things to work on here, but look-his neck comes out of his shoulders
and doesn't just end part way!

We have so much to work on that I want to shove it all into each and every ride, while simultaneously having brain melt over trying to do more than one thing at a time. I'm hopeful Opie's mouth will be good to go by Friday so I can get some rider feedback on the canter. His gums looked pretty okay for the abuse they endured when I took a brief peek this morning. I'll give them a solid flush tomorrow just because I'm nervous about anything getting stuck in the holes as they heal up, but so far everything looks fine.

Monday, February 12, 2018

We're halfway there

Sing it, Bon Jovi, you fabulously feather-maned heart throb.

But also it's in regards to Opie's dental work.

remember this gloriously awful mug?

I didn't get any gory pictures like some of you weirdos may have liked because it turned into a three man operation, and my extra height over Dentist's assistant meant I got to be the Dopie shoulder rest.

Dentist warned me that this could either be really easy--they'd be shallow and he could just pop them out--or it would involve a lot of cutting and blood. BM and I were like, "LOL it's going to be the latter just because he belongs to me." Yeah, it was.

working on the first tooth.

Opie seemed to take his first hit of sleepy drugs well and was soon dragging his lower lip on the ground. Dentist got his scapel and got to work on the first one (the little nubby teeth in the front row). Opie was instantly like, "NOPE." They added the twitch, and Dentist managed to get the first tooth out in a couple of pieces without much issue, but the second one was in deeper. Opie wasn't loving the twitch--he seemed more distracted by it than anything--so they ditched that and opted to add a little more sleepiness on board.

Our barn gets dark when there's snow covering the skylights like there has been lately. For tooth two I held the flashlight which would have been a good opportunity to try to shove my phone in there for pictures, but I was also on bloody scapel holding duty which left both hands occupied.

Tooth three was the big problem. Dentist said it had fused to the jaw which involved crunching and blood and gore and Assistant and I both grimacing and refusing to look while Dentist told her to hold the flashlight steady and I tried to both hold Opie's head up high enough for him to work and not let him throw it too high. It was a hot mess, but he eventually got it cut free.


He let Opie be done there so I'm not sure if he actually got the fourth tooth out while I wasn't paying attention, or if it's still in there. Honestly I got distracted by blood and homeopathic remedy talk. Did you know imitation vanilla on a cotton ball or gauze held against the gums is supposed to help sooth the pain? He also told us a story about a horse that had a lot of scar tissue in its mouth that an old cowboy softened by wrapping a bit with pork skin and leaving it in the horse's mouth. The salt was supposed to soften the skin. Dudes, so distracted, couldn't focus on anything.

i also got distracted by this corgi playing ball, and for that
i'm not sorry.

He'll back in two to three weeks to give Opie a proper float since clearly he didn't want to follow all that with rasps. He said the gums should take about ten days to heal up, and despite the possibility of there being a bit of ridge where the one tooth was really in there, there shouldn't be any issues. Opie should be able to go right back to normal food along with a few days of Bute to help with any soreness.

Opie, for his part, immediately went to scavenging the second he was unclipped despite Dentist being adamant on the No Food rule while waking up from sleepy drugs. I'd gotten there early to get in a ride since I wasn't sure how long he was going to be out of commission for (we'll play it by ear...or mouth?), so he only got half his hay and grain before I stole him away, and then only had time to finish the other half of his grain before Dentist arrived. I stripped his stall while he was "waking up" mostly to get rid of all the blood before an unsuspecting stall cleaner got to the crime scene, but it didn't stop Dopie from trying to shovel shavings into his dripping mouth.

there might be one nugget of grain in there, you never know!

He finally took the most half-assed nap ever while Dentist did two other horses, but by the time they got to the third, Opie had peed and was starting to half-ass weave so I kicked him outside.

not at all a sleepy horse.

Bit-wise, Dentist was surprised that he stuck his tongue out with the french link, and thought that him reverting to keeping his tongue in his mouth with the single joint might have come more from pushing the tongue back than him actually liking it more. I don't know what to think. Opie is generally so quiet in the contact that he hasn't seemed to care one way or the other about what's in his mouth.

already back to business

He'll obviously get at least a couple days off, and we'll see how he looks and feels from there. In the meantime, Hubby got a ton of media from our ride this weekend so I should be able to eek out one riding post this week.

Feel free to ask questions about the procedure. I'm sure I missed a lot that he did tell me, but if I didn't think to ask it myself I'll be sure to ask next time he's out! I think this shit is pretty cool myself if exceedingly disgusting.

Friday, February 9, 2018

All the little things

Whelp, it's only been approximately eight thousand years (or five months, same thing) and one cancellation due to a gimpy LF foot, but I finally got the lesson train rolling again.

Farrier was nice enough to poke around Opie's tender tootsie Tuesday morning on the grounds that "If I was a hugging person, I would hug you for actually training your horse to not be an asshole for the farrier." To which I was all, wow Farrier, your job must really suck because ground manners are life and I just assume everyone else lives by that rule. He was, of course, actually sound that morning and has been since, but he did hoof test a little tender in one particular spot. Farrier pulled the nail there so that in case there's a latent abscess it will have a place to go. The consensus was probably just bruising though, and if he continues to be too tender to deal with the frozen ground we'll give him some pads.

the cutest penguin around.

On to the lesson!

As planned, I had BM get on him for the first ride. I found this to be a huge help with Bobby who could look easy from the ground while you were actually working your lady balls off to keep him from spiraling apart. I wanted BM to get a baseline feel for how Opie's body parts actually moved and know that she would have an idea of what I was talking about during lessons when I was having a problem with something.

you can thank emma for these pictures as my phone was buried in my pocket with
my hands until she texted me mid-ride. it was so fucking cold i only got a few though.

She gave me a lot of good stuff, brought to you by my fave: bullet points!
  • He has a good walk, better still after a a few transitions to loosen up. 
  • Agreed he needs to use the base of his neck and stretch down and out better. Thought he was probably galloped in draw reins as he likes to default to that signature curl. 
  • Slow down the trot. Once he learns to slow down and shift his weight back, he'll lighten off the forehand and it will make it easier for him to use his neck properly.
  • He's light in the contact--but he's either light and lovely or straight up pulling you out of the saddle, there is no in-between.
  • He's sharp off the leg, but maybe too reactive. I think BM had a harder time with this because I ride in spurs every single ride and she only uses them when she thinks a horse needs a corrective schooling. She's stronger with her leg than I am because of it, and I think Opie was kind of jumping to obey quicker and more reactive than he does with me. Simple difference in riding styles though, not worried about it. 
  • He gets hotter off the seat than in half seat which is weird because jockeys aren't exactly known for urging down the stretch with their seat bones digging into a horse's back, and neither of us has a particularly driving seat. I mean, let's be real, I live for a slow, collected trot or canter. We'll stick to canter in half seat for now until he's stronger.
i didn't say they were good pictures. i was huddled in the corner
and not moving for fear of losing my small bubble of heat.

These are all for the canter--the main reason I wanted her to get on him:
  •  If he loses balance, back to walk or trot and try again. He doesn't have a real half halt so there's no re-balancing within the canter yet. 
  • Zero tolerance policy for a bad transition. Don't want him to learn that running into them is okay, and even if I don't ask perfectly, the level of drama he's giving is not okay under any circumstance. 
  • Scatter the canter throughout the ride, don't just follow the w/t with it and end there. Don't let it become A Thing. 
  • When trying to get the right lead, he forgets he knows how to do anything--suddenly doesn't know how to move off the right leg or that he can bend right. Once he gets it though, it's better than the left lead.
the elusive right lead
angrily trying to yank BM out of the saddle instead of
picking up the right lead. such sass, much drama.
Overall, her impression was that he's going to be a fun, easier-than-Bobby horse and what more could any rider ask for? He's far more forgiving in that he can get upset over something and throw a tantrum, but once you move on, so does he. The ride doesn't have to end because his brain quit working for the day like a certain big bay moose we all knew and sometimes loved. 

He doesn't have any glaring issues beside the standard green, young OTTB problems with balance and strength. 

My homework is: counted walk; work on as long of a rein as I can at as slow of a trot that he can manage without dumping onto his forehand; and lots and lots of canter throughout the whole ride.

the morning ended with me chucking my gloves at this asshole's
head to get him to stop standing here weaving and screaming because
momo was being ridden and all he was left with was a stupid pony
and an entire bale of hay. his life is the worst

Monday, February 5, 2018

Cue maniacal laughter

I'll have you guys know I have been keeping my shit together so well lately. My horse is lame-ish, but that's fine.



be like momo. he's calm even when his face is being eaten.
(they're besties, i promise.)

We've had one of those obnoxious winters so far where it's been really, really good at getting cold, but it hasn't been so great about snowing. It will warm up-ish for a day or two, rain, and then BAM BITCH--freeze solid overnight and turn everything to icy, deadly mud ruts with no cushion.

Opie came up a little foot sore the other week and while I was hoping it was a quick-acting abscess, Farrier agrees that it seems more like stereotypical bruising. Which is worse. Because that shit takes forever to heal up. She'll be out tomorrow to take a look at him to double check, but it's been a really exciting time of packing his feet, giving him Bute if he seems especially ouchy, and nailing those straight lines at the walk and occasionally trot.

It's been so cold though that missing out on real training rides hasn't been too much of a downer.

don't be like me. always wear your helmet!

We did, however, miss out on game night and our first lesson of the month. He's sound-ish, but I want BM to be able to get on him and ride him with no limitations, so that's been pushed back indefinitely. Fucker.

In other news, I was out at the barn today to do my due diligence--walk my horse in straight lined laps of the ring, and deliver him a 5lb bag of carrots in hopes I can teach him to smile--when Opie decided he just really looks up to Indy (both metaphorically and literally as I'm pretty sure Opie could stroll unhindered beneath Indy's belly) and flopped his dead fish tongue out of his mouth.


BM suggested a bit change so I swapped his french link out for a thinner single joint. It didn't make a difference, and he wasn't actually being fussy with the bit. He just stuffed his tongue out and went about his business. BM then suggested maybe he'd bit his tongue and it was just swollen and uncomfortable. I hopped off and started digging around his mouth looking for a wound or sore or something.


what is that about not looking a gift horse in the mouth?

Obviously the dentist will be getting called. In the meantime, if anyone has any insight to share, throw it at me! He has zero problems with eating grain, hay, or snacks, and he had no issues with us stabbing him in the mouth with our fingers repeatedly.

I feel like I need to update the blog name to Poor Woman and Her Long List of "WTF is wrong with you?!" Horses.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: The Athletic Development of the Dressage Horse

Title: The Athletic Development of the Dressage Horse: Manege Patterns
Author: Charles de Kunffy
Where to buy it: Used on Amazon

This is my second de Kunffy (and not de Knuffy) book review. After enjoying the last book so much, I browsed through some of his other titles and added this one to my Amazon wish list to pick up later. I still had Bobby at that point, and while he had reached the end of his soundness, I was still holding out hope that I was going to get to ride him again. The thought of having a book with a bunch of dressage exercises to ride through put it on my priority list, but a couple weeks later I had to put Bobby down and I never got around to buying it.

Then I was used bookstore browsing one of the times I was out at my mom's in November and I saw it on their shelves. It was $9, so more than I could have bought it used on Amazon, but I grabbed it anyway. Nine bucks for some de Kunffy wisdom? Sold.

I finally got around to starting it a few weeks ago. I read probably four or five books while trying to slog my way through this one. While I really enjoyed and easily made it through Training Strategies for Dressage Riders, this book felt more like a tedious school assignment.

As in the other book, he starts off philosophizing about generalities of the sport horse. I like reading these insights, and I like that he again points out that the best way for a horse to be a horse is to turn them out and let them interact with each other.

From there he starts talking about training the very young, just-broke horse. I was able to pull some useful points out of this as while Opie is certainly already broke to ride and knows how to balance a rider on his back, he's still very much green broke.

One of them was that horses will volunteer actions that we maybe didn't ask for, but should roll with anyway. "Opportunistic riding" basically installs the thought into the horse that everything he does is "allowed to happen by the rider's will." Does he canter instead of extend the trot? Pick up the wrong lead? A horse that's constantly told No will start to get confused and resent the rider. He's not advocating for letting the horse get away with murder, but reminds the rider to make sure their aids are correct and that the ask isn't beyond the horse's ability. "Riders should correct their own, not the horse's, behavior first."

From there on out, the rest of the book had me dragging my nails down my face. He quickly jumps from a horse that has no training yet to one capable of schooling all the lateral work, pirouettes, and changes. While he does point out the difficulty of these exercises and that you shouldn't attempt them until the horse is ready, I had a hard time staying with it when my own horse is just now getting the concept of two whole steps of leg yield at the trot. I think I would have been able to commit more if I was still riding Bobby and these exercises were pertinent and achievable.

Even so, some of the manege patterns were...well:

excuse me as my eyes cross in confusion 

The writing in this book felt more like a dry, ultra-descriptive, ultra-intense training manual than the friendly read-through vibe the other book gave off. That won't be a problem for a lot of you, but it's not my style of learning at all, and I had a hard time getting the paragraph I had just read to stick in my head.

although there were a couple of not book related
picture pages that i guess were nice to look at?

However, there were still quite a few good gems I was able to pluck out.
  • On how unnatural it is for horses to be ridden. "Both are creatures of precarious balance, even when left alone to cope with the ground." Amen, sir.
  • On collection: "This shifting of the horse's center of gravity towards the haunches liberates his forehand from unnecessarily weight and liberates it from stress. The forelegs being the weaker, riders have learned early the value of saving them and conserving their health." Makes perfect sense of course, but I liked the imagery of this one.
  • "Horses will do almost anything from the rider but read his mind." The rider must make sure they're aiding correctly, judiciously, and clearly. The horse will guess to its best ability, but it can only do what the aids are asking it to.
  • For the spooky horse:

  • "We must remember that it is not sufficient to let the horse move forward, but rather we must ask him to carry forward. ... we ought to insist in our gymnasticizing that the horse move 'forward upward'."
  • It goes against the horse's instincts to move away from leg pressure; they instinctively lean into it. When the rider's calf is correctly wrapped around the horse's barrel, it should rest against the muscles that cause the haunches to react by contracting when stimulated by the rider's leg, therefore increasing the activity in the haunches. Active haunches enable him to move away from the leg pressure. I was able to relate to this a lot with Opie who still struggles with going into my leg sometimes instead of away from it.
  • OMG, never do haunches-in at the canter. The horse loves to use it as an evasion. He brings this up approximated 47,008 times throughout the book.
  • Important that when doing lateral work at the walk to routinely let the horse walk on a loose rein at the free walk to stretch the topline. "Never allow a lazy stroll, but keep a marching attitude."
  • The turn on the forehand encourages the horse to "lean and dwell on the forehand", but it also serves as a useful exercise to get the horse off your leg and moving the haunches. 
  • On lateral work: "Explosive, impatient young horses will not benefit much from these movements... Premature drilling of these exercises can be harmful and can also cause resistence. ... Infinitely delaying more difficult tasks can also be counterproductive in training strategies. Progress can only be made by challenging the status quo." 
The few actual manege patterns in this book don't come until about the last third of the book. I was able to book mark three that I wanted to try when my horse is a little better trained.

I felt like I deserved a good wrap-up for getting through the last training chapter, but instead the book just...ends.

abruptly, the end.

I would recommend this one to riders that have an easy time processing large blocks of detailed information. That person is not me. I'm glad I got through it, but this isn't one that's going to get a re-read from me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Lost Conection

Things have been moving along slowly and steadily with Dopie. Mostly slowly.

Riding Bestie was up last Friday so we went on a nice trail walk through the melting snow on the first nice, sunny day of the century month. Opie earned his gold star by leading the whole way, dealing with me yanking his blowing quarter sheet straight every five seconds, and not dumping me on my ass while I was mid-quarter sheet yank with one hand on the buckle completely turned around when he fell through a watery ditch. Riding out in winter is so fun, guys.

picture of errant quarter sheet by sarah

I was able to budget in enough money to finally start lessons again next month which couldn't have come at a better time. While I don't feel at all like I'm in over my head here, having a trainer on-site that I want to work with and whose training process I trust really shuts down any burning desire to battle through the hard stuff on my own.

You've turned into a massive shit at the canter? No problemo. Guess who gets to deal with it next week? Not me!

bad baby horse? never!

I feel like Opie has reached a point in his canter where he's no longer so weak and unbalanced that his only option is to listen to me or fall over and die. However, just because he's slightly stronger and slightly more balanced does not mean tuning me out is suddenly an option either which is where his little pea brain is headed. We might still fall over and die, it will just be at a higher rate of speed.

So I've shelved the canter until next Friday when BM will be riding him for our first lesson, and she can get a feel of what all his various disjointed baby horse body parts are doing to best help me going forward.

In the meantime, there are still a gazillion other newbie issues to work through.

like going on his third halter in three months since he officially
killed the first and the second one rubbed his giant noggin. 

His mounting block issues were resolved through candy bribery. He now stands quietly and politely while I get on and waits patiently for his cookie to be doled out for doing so. Only now he thinks the second the candy is in his mouth he's free to move about the cabin. Nah. You've still gotta stand, amigo. The feet don't get to move until I say they do.

He's also been a bargey asshole on the ground the past few days, so we've been reviewing the Personal Bubble and Don't Pass My Shoulder rules.

Really though, the main focus has been trying to rid him of the false frame mid-neck bulge that looks cute as shit as he prances around, but is obviously no good for anything.

so adorbs. such a faker.

I do love that his default is not to llama but to frame up, and while he takes the connection nicely and lightly, it's not correct work and I'm massively paranoid of fucking him up and letting him get away with cheating. He's got a short neck as it is, the last thing I want to do is encourage him to make it even shorter especially in the wrong part.

He's easier to convince to stretch out at the walk, but at the trot it's a big issue. I can float the reins at him completely and he won't move an inch. He holds his rhythm--he doesn't take advantage and blow off--which is nice, but there's literally no horse in my hand. Riding him more forward does nothing. He just opens up his stride and stays stuck in his little self-set head carriage.

I've been trying to talk to him by sponging my ring fingers softly as a little, "Hello, things are happening in your mouth. Would you like to participate?" That helps one day, but not the next, and then only a little the day after that.

He'll get there. If Bobby taught me anything, it's that stretching can be just as hard as collection to learn. That's our main focus at the moment though. We do a lot of walking, occasionally with some baby leg yields and moving the shoulders around to break up the boredom.

i also try to let him do some jumpies to break up the boredom,
but WOW is he bad at it.

There's a game night at the barn this weekend we'll be participating in. No real training will be going on there obvi, but any time he has to Horse in a crowded ring will serve him well in his future show horse glory days. Hopefully.

momo selfie photo bomb. this horse and his selfies, guys.
he's so #basic sometimes.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

WW: Happy Birthday Opie!

dopie celebrated his fifth birthday on saturday

he did not want to share his bag of birthday carrots

and did the #angryunicorn birthday hat proud

side eye is better with a party hat

those ears tho

he really hates ralph. i do too.

it snowed 2' that morning, everything was frozen, cars were getting stuck in the
parking lot, and i slid to my knees in a giant puddle within two seconds of arriving
helping push someone out. it wasn't the most fun party.

the derp is strong.