Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Runaway

Some of you may remember the amazing, sassy British trainer I got the chance to work with for a few months before she passed from cancer. Everyone that ever rode with her loves to throw around Val-isms because she had a way of phrasing things that made you collapse with laughter while still making a completely valid point. Few rides go by without a Val-ism popping into my head over something I or my horse is inevitably doing wrong.

Starting with last week's reintroduction to lateral work in hand, one of the things she yelled at me with Bobby came screaming back to the forefront with old Dopie Horse.

"HE'S WALKING OFF WITH YOU."

It's like running off but without the running. Equally as fucking effective though.

On the ground, it took shape with him trying to evade by bulldozing over the top of me. He never once broke from the walk, and the evasion probably leaned more heavily towards trampling than walking off, but it was there.

But in my ride yesterday it was everywhere.

I cleared the ring of jumps so there would be no temptations lurking and got down to a good dressage school. Once again he warmed up great with the highlight being the canter. He's even starting to really own the counter canter.

After a quick stretchy walk break, I picked him back up and started to leg yield. Right away at the walk, he didn't really want to step under and was basically just angling towards the center line walking quickly so that tah dah, we've arrived at out destination! I grabbed a Mr Tappy and tapped the haunches to ask them to get in on the game plan. That was offensive and we had a brief interlude to work through a tantrum at the trot/jog where--sad story--he still had to leg yield with his hind end involved even if he wanted to flail about instead.

Once he got over himself and the whip in my hand, we went back to the walk. I wanted him to step over, but I wanted to get it done without him being a locked up tense rage monster.

And here I got walked off with again. Each time I asked for more reach, he'd walk off with me instead. He's sneaky. He doesn't rush or hurry, he just opens up his patented power walk with his gigantic step and whoops, somehow we've run out of ring.

So he got kicked out of kindergarten leg yields and put back in preschool. One step over. Halt. One step over. Halt. No matter what form the evasion takes, you don't get to ignore the aid, sir.

Visiting the haunches in, same thing--he doesn't want to step the hind leg under while keeping the bend. It's one or the other and he will walk right out of it if he can. I ended up remedying that by coming into it out of a 10m circle, getting a couple steps and then sending him into a big trot as a reward.

A chiro visit will get scheduled when I can afford it to make sure everything is in alignment back there, but in the meantime he can certainly do the movements on the basic level I'm asking for. Without being a wild walking horse.

Does anyone else's horse try this slow motion evasion?

Monday, December 3, 2018

You've missed nothing

I do love a lengthy blog silence.

Or so it seems at least.

The good news is that Opie and the barn help survived his two week vacay with everyone coming out the other side with no missing body parts or beatings of note. Proof that he's grown up in his year off the track, and hopefully this means I'll be able to slot him in some more break times in the future without fear of him going feral.

"hai hello i feel like it has been longer than two seconds since my last cookie.
plz remedy asap."

The day after getting back from Illinois (ugh, so tedious, 0/10 recommend family time), I did the barn and then got Dopie cleaned up and ready to return to the world of the working horse.

jk, first and foremost i dug out some garland for stall decorations. priorities.

The first two days back I stuck him on the longe and did some in-hand work with him. Despite the current crazy flip flop weather where it snows six inches one day and then is in the upper fifties the next (YAY MUD), this is New York and I know we'll be in the negative double digits before we know it.

Because Worst State Ever.

So I've been tossing in a couple minutes of in-hand work here and there to prepare for when it's too cold to want to ride, but I want to give my horse something mentally to do besides standing in multiple layers of clothes. And I do love me some good ground work.

taken not even a week apart from the first picture.
make up your mind, weather!

He has, however, had three whole rides now. Taking the world by storm, I know.

His little break did exactly what I hoped it would do for both of us: reset the mental button. When we last left off, I didn't want to work, Opie didn't want to work, and we were telepathically sending each other great big middle fingers just for existing. Actually when we last left off I was bathing in satin, but telepathic hate waves was what was really going on.

It happens in every partnership for a hot minute, and if you say it doesn't I'm sending a telepathic middle finger to you. Also I don't believe you.

But back to the good!

i am in desperate need of new riding media.
this little butterball is cute to look at anyway.

Opie has been light and pliant and willing, and I've been calm and focused and clear. We're back to being friendsies. We've lost some straightness--that's assuming we actually really had it nailed down in the first place which....we maybe had not--and sometimes bending is taken as a suggestion, but those are some good basics to hit on quickly the first few rides back without being like, "Wow, okay, you're perfect! I demand a 10 lengthening right now." Yeah, the in-between is a tough place for a Type A to habitat.

We've been doing 10m circles in the corners to back up that bending is a hard rule. Lots of walk and trot work down the quarter lines for straightness. Forever and always with the leg yields. Ten million transitions to wake up and look alive. And then just floating around in the canter because it is looovelyyyy.

And a lovely canter means we get to do the jumpies!

"i sent this jump halfway across the arena and then my mom
ran me into the wall and i remembered i had legs."

He's had two "jump schools" in those three rides. The first one I set up the above three jumps--a single X on the diagonal and a 3 stride line. He's never done a related distance before, but I figured what better time than now. He started off beautifully. Cantered right over everything right out of stride and just felt like a beautifully schooled adjustable dressage horse hopping over some tiny fences.

Then #dopiedoeseventing came out, and he was all, "Bitch, please. I know all there is to know about jumping. Watch how much more fun this is when we just go fast!" After straight up galloping through the 3 stride one time, coming back through and biffing the distance to the first jump before plowing through the second, we did a few canterhaltmotherfucker transitions. Then we trotted in and cantered out before being allowed to canter again. Fortunately he is not a dumb horse, just SO EXCITED to do the jumpies, and he realized that lovely canter was what was making the jumping so easy and fun and he went right back into it to finish on a good note.

And did a few laps of victory trot that I was like, damn son because bro was struttin'.

i had a massive carrot tucked into my grooming tote for after
riding and when i came back from grabbing something else
it had somehow disappeared. don't ask opie where it went,
he doesn't know.

After a really good w/t/c warm up this morning, there was a different arrangement of jumps in the ring so I let him pop over the 2'3 vertical once before I planned on moving on to something else. He launched and over-jumped it by a good foot and landed feeling very proud of himself. Only then every time we passed one of the other jumps he kept trying to drag me over them instead of flatting so I finally gave up and let him get a couple more jumpies in.

The only condition was he wasn't allowed to turbo jet at them and land with a giant bucking yahoo fest which was a sad, sad story, but he eventually acquiesced and got to put a course together.

I'm excited to be able to do some more jumping to break up the dressage doldrums next year without worrying about him eating shit and landing on his/our head(s). That was definitely a concern before, but the dressage doldrums are what got us to this point. It's a double edged sword, poor Dopie Horse. 

he is literally never fed ever. absolute starvation victim.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Satin Ho Life

I've been absent lately for no particularly good reason. In a nutshell I've just been too lazy to write a coherent post, so haven't even bothered trying to write a non-coherent one.

The Dopie Horse is still alive and kicking. He's five days into an impromptu vacation and so far has been behaving himself. I hope that lasts for another week because I won't be getting back on him until I come home from visiting my mom in Illinois for the holiday. Historically he's turned into an ill behaved rage monster when not in steady work à la Bobby, but BM put the fear of God in him the other day when he tried to start shit in the afternoon, so hopefully he doesn't terrorize the poor barn workers too much. 

He got worked a couple times at the beginning of last week before I pulled the plug and quit on him. Neither one of us wanted to work with each other, and even Farrier picked up on us being grumpy assholes to each other when she did his feet. So vacation it is, and hopefully we're both in a better mood and ready to work when I get back around to riding again. 

penguin season is officially here to stay

In the meantime though, over the weekend I got a fabulous satiny reminder of how amazing my little #childgenius is when he's not just being a child.

clean sweep!

My GMO's year end award banquet was on Saturday. We sat with the owner of the barn that hosts the schooling shows and she was aghast that we'd driven two hours just to eat (a gross) dinner and collect a couple ribbons. Clearly she's not well acquainted with me.... #satinhoforlife

We also sat with a couple other women who cleaned up, and our table was draped in tri-colors by the time the evening was over. I haven't met very many members personally throughout the year, so it was nice to meet some new people in a setting where no one was distracted by riding or taking care of their horse. I'm basically two hours from anywhere in any direction, so I don't have a lot of interaction outside of shows. Hopefully now that I know a few more faces I won't feel like such a loner loser next year. 

But what we're really here for is the ribbons!

and the shiny!

My GMO does year end awards for recognized shows and their own schooling show series as well as a couple other odds and ends. Opie was champion for both the recognized and schooling shows at Training, and I got the above platter for my rider achievement award--which is way fancier and more fun to have on display than the certificate USDF sent me.

year end ribbons. also is this creature not the cutest thing alive?
yes. yes he is. 

In annual tradition, I hauled our year's worth of ribbons out to the barn for a photo shoot. I got there and Opie was hanging out at the fence with his forelock knotted with burrs in a unicorn horn, and BM and I were like, "Yep. Clearly a fancy ass show horse."

wow so noble. 

Once I got his forelock untangled and wet down, the mud washed off his legs, and the majority of the shavings picked out of his tail, he got dragged outside where Hubby quickly had to take over holding him while I decked him out because he does not have the patience for standing still shenanigans. And then he was not impressed with being outfitted in flapping things.

"fuck you guys."

But he eventually got bribed with enough candy so it didn't look like we were torturing him.

candy solves everything

Overall Dopie ended up out of the top three only three times this season: his first show where he was fourth in his first ever test, a fifth at his first recognized show, and another fourth at the recognized show where he did his test screaming for his friends and being a tense childish asshole. He was high point two different times with an 81% and a 74%. 

The last thing I'm waiting for to truly close out the season is to see if we did well enough to qualify for one of the joint GMO awards--we have three GMOs in western NY and they have a couple of awards for people that show across all of them. Those won't be announced until December though, and I have no idea how we did compared to anyone else so I'm not going to hold my breath for those. 

And who cares because I have enough satin to bathe in at this point if I want!

should have put the double on just to hold everything.
#childgeniusproblems

Okay, that's enough bragging and being annoying. Back to radio silence as I venture out to the midwest and hope my horse doesn't terrorize anyone too badly while I'm gone.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It's always something

Opie has been up to some CRAZY STUFF over the past week or so.

One day we wandered around bareback in a halter and then he ate grass while I sat on his back and talked to BM.


Another day he learned about steering with the cart in the indoor. There was a tantrum. He learned tantrums don't get you anywhere with a cart attached either. And then I had steering again.


I rode him on Friday which was a lot of starting to go out to the rail to trot before getting psychically run into, cut off, or chased by a woman who leases one of the Haffies who could not steer to save her life--or Opie's. I finally just parked it in the middle of the ring between standards and the mounting block until she was done unapologetically careening around. Opie shares my vast displeasure of riding with people who have no ring manners, but once we were able to navigate without having to duck into a corner or slam to a stop he was was super.

He then got the weekend off, and I climbed back aboard Monday for another dressage ride. NY finally decided to get on the rain train and is catching up for a summer of drought conditions in earnest so our trail riding seems to have finally come to a close.

exactly my feelings.

The rain has come with weird temperature swings. Over the past few days we've had low 40s with wind and rain, low 40s with wind and sun, and upper 50s with wind and rain. Sometimes in the same day. Just the worst. Opie felt pretty lethargic and sluggish when I got on him yesterday--an upper 40s with wind and rain day. I didn't think too much of it as he's naturally a pretty lazy horse, but we'll come back to it later.

Aside from having to keep legging him on, he was in one of his #childgenius modes. The upward canter transitions are finally getting there. No surprise it's come from getting him super connected in the bridle first and then he just steps right into them. They're maybe not as sharp as they could be, but I'll come back around to that once I feel like he's confirmed with the through-ness.

The down transitions are still not where I want them. They're progressing, just at a glacial pace. I'm struggling with getting him to stay forward into them when he wants to die and splat the second he thinks I'm asking him to come down. We'll get there eventually. The canter itself, at least, is amazinggggg.

"duh, lady. now give me candies."

He has randomly developed an aversion to the letter E. But only tracking right. Every time we pass--be it at walk, trot, or canter--he bulges way out away from it. Nowhere else in the ring, and never going left. Whatever, bro. Straight lines are overrated I guess.

We finish the real work part of the ride with sitting trot. I incorporate lateral work throughout the ride, but usually come back to the leg yields quickly and then finish with shoulder-in and haunches-in. The leg yields are now easy, but they'll need some outdoor love to work on the geometry in the First test because I run out of room in the narrow indoor.

The shoulder-in is much more relaxed although they can still get better. The haunches-in is currently still riding the struggle bus. At the walk they're fine. At the trot he loses all bend and just wants to stare at the wall while his haunches wing out to the inside of the track. He needs his front half and his back half to work together but apart which is too much for his brain at the moment. But honestly he used to be so awful at the shoulder-in too that I didn't it was ever going to be a thing and now it is. So I shall persevere!

what a mug

I was going to ride him again this morning, but when I went into his stall to groom him I noticed he had barely touched his breakfast grain. I shook it around and convinced him to eat a couple mouthfuls while I stood there, but he quickly shunned it and went back to his hay. Opie is a pretty aggressive eater--you can go in while he's eating, but only if he knows you'll smack the shit out of him if he tries anything--and he basically lives with his face buried in his bucket until every molecule has been cleaned up, so that was definitely weird.

he's really quite a tiny tyrant the majority of the time tbh

He was chowing down on his hay though, his gums and gut sounds were normal, his poop looked normal, and his temp was normal. He wanted candy (as always), and was alert and interested. BM offered him a handful of a different grain and he happily cleaned that up. I started him on Empower Boost last weekend which is a rice bran type grain supplement that he gets twice a day, but he's been cleaning that up without issue.

I ended up giving him the day off and riding Chance instead who was a very good boy. When I walked back past Opie's stall afterwards he was sullenly picking out one pellet of grain at a time and eating it. Confident he wasn't going to fall over and die I left him to it, and when I got home BM texted me that he was viciously eating the rest of it.

So possibly he was just having a childish tantrum over life or he has Eating Cancer, I dunno. With the lethargy yesterday and the wild weather swings I'll be keeping a closer than usual eye on him in the meantime.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Unending Tale of White Breeches

One of my unwritten goals this year was to cut way back on unnecessary horse expenditures. Forget the vet and farrier bills--those don't count as I'm never going to apologize for throwing dolla dolla bills in the air in that category.

However, I did spend almost five thousand dollars on tack and gear last year. That's an obscene amount of dolla dolla bills. Of course a lot of that was from the Stubben I bought that didn't work for me which I then sold, and the County that replaced it. The last $1,000 of the County got paid off this year (which still makes me twitch a little as this saddle was more expensive than my horse trailer, never mind the bargain-priced horse himself), so I know that year end number is again going to be higher than I want. But I do feel like I tried to keep a wrap on my spending on everything else.

One thing I couldn't get away from shelling out money on was a new pair of white breeches.

MUCH TO MY FUCKING DISMAY.

much loved old breeches at dopie's second show

My old breeches were a now discontinued pair of Devon Aires with a suede full seat and unobtrusive velcro bottoms. They had no back pockets and deep enough front pockets that I could stuff my phone in for walks without worrying about it falling out. The belt loops were generous enough to fit my C4 belt without being so large that I had to go out and buy an obnoxiously wide belt to fill them. The fabric was soft and light, and I could chuck them in the washer without any special treatment. And I think they cost me all of $60 when I bought them six years ago.

Basically they were the most perfect breeches ever.

Until the crotch split wide open beyond all repair.

it was at this show where my horse was a colossal shit. death of favorite breeches
and naughty AF baby horse did not make for a fun day.

I happen to be in the minority in that I love the look of white breeches. I also really enjoy keeping my grey horse clean so maybe there's just something inherently wrong with me. It turns out that part of the reason I'm not adverse to wearing them is because my original pair were so flattering. They never showed any lumps or bumps, they weren't flaunting my panty line (and bitch please, I am not wearing a thong for a horse show), and I didn't have to worry about anything being see-through. When I started shopping, I realized that not all breeches were created equal forgiving.

I wanted to keep my budget for a new pair around $100. I personally don't think that's an absurd request, although I appeared to be in the minority. I've never paid more than that for a pair of breeches in my life, and I don't plan on ever doing so.

My first go-to was Riding Warehouse. I don't usually shop there because their selection is so limited and their shipping is glacial out to the east coast, but every now and then I find a crazy good deal in their closeouts. I ended up with two pairs of Horze breeches for $40. I had a pair of Horze breeches a million years ago and I remembered them being a thicker fabric, but nice enough.

not horze breeches. 

These ended up being the most unflattering breeches ever. I'm not sure how such thick fabric can create such a lovely display of thigh cellulite, but these did beyond imagining. I tried them on, took one look in the mirror, and sent them right back. The other pair I bought were purple, and while I rode in them one whole time, they didn't sit right on me either and they moved on to Andrea.

After a lot of browsing, I decided I liked the look and reviews of the Equine Couture breeches. The best price I found on them was on Victory Canter, so I placed my order and waited.

And waited some more.

After not getting any confirmation of shipping in over a week, I finally emailed them--because those of you that have used Victory Canter before know that email is the only way to contact them. Which is weird. To their credit, they replied quickly. Only their reply was, "Oh, we don't have 32s in stock anymore. We sent you an email that said that!" They hadn't. "We can send you a 30 or a 34 instead." I'm a 30 in pretty much everything, but I'd read that these run small. At this point, I had a show rapidly approaching and just needed some fucking breeches. I conveyed that urgency and told them to send a pair of 30s.

we had fancy prancing to attend to!

Again, to their credit, they made up for their mistake and overnighted me those bitches post haste with a promise of free returns if they didn't work for me. I tried to shimmy into them and barely got them over my thighs. Forget zipping them. Plus they were way too short. I was deep in the crazy trenches at this point and desperate for breeches, but I wasn't that desperate. I emailed my friendly customer service contact and asked her to facilitate a return. She got me a paid return bag within a couple days and back they went.

Where I then waited some more.

After nearly two weeks of waiting for my return to pop up in my checking account, I emailed again and, to their credit (anyone else getting annoyed at this point?), the money popped right up.

IN THE MEANTIME!

The saga comes to a unsatisfactory close.

these fucking breeches.
flattering from the ground, THE WORST in the saddle.

I finally just went and bought a pair of Pipers. Because SmartPak gets things to me quickly and cheaply. They're the silicone grip full seats with a different fabric from the regular run of the mill Pipers. Which is great because those are heavy and hot and last for shit. I like the fabric on these, and they didn't add to my propensity to sweat like a pig at shows. #klassy They fit great and they don't show my underthings--panty lines or fat lines.

They are, however, the. fucking. worst. to ride in.

there they are, slowly eating my stirrup leathers.

So at first it was just that they chafed wherever the silicone grip lay against my leg. Fine, that's fair, I'm a sweaty person and it was a hot summer. I applied Body Glide the next time out and solved that problem. But they were also sucking my stirrup leathers up under my leg in the saddle. I had to pull the tail of the leathers out of their keepers and let them dangle so they would stop bunching under my thigh as I rode. And they just stuck more than I needed them to. Like when I had to go back to change my stock tie and my ass was essentially glued to the saddle which meant I half slid, half ripped myself free and earned a giant saddle stain down one leg--which then took five thousand soaks and washes to get out.

I was over buying breeches at that point, so I finished out the season in them, but they will be getting stuffed in my trailer as an emergency back up pair next year. I'm not looking forward to going through the process of trying to find the perfect pair again, but these just won't do.

old breeches last ride. they were as done with life as opie was.

Has anyone else experienced such a colossal cluster fuck when it came to buying one single, solitary item of clothing? Or am I the only crazy person that can't make a pair of fancy pants work for shows only?

Monday, October 29, 2018

True Confessions: I Don't Got It

I jumped Opie over a solitary vertical a couple weekends ago.


We were finishing up our dressage ride, the canter was feeling really good, and the temptation was just too much to not turn in on the diagonal and pop over.

I also jumped him this Saturday, only I went wild and threw on my generous barn mate's jump saddle. I set up two whole fences in the ring: a 2'3" vertical on a quarter line and a big X on one of the diagonals. It was rainy and cold, I'd waited all day for lessons to be over so the ring would be clear of small children, and even though I had to temporarily relocate a horse (who was weathering the storm in the indoor with an upset tummy, but is now back to normal), I was going to do some jumping--half assed or not.

I swung aboard and immediately wondered where the rest of the saddle was. I've become such a dressage snob--or maybe just a cushy County dressage saddle snob--that every time I sit in anything it feels fucking weird.

Also my stirrups felt really short. I don't usually adjust them because my barn mate is a shorty and her flat length stirrups are my jump length. Even so, I could have comfortably put these down a hole. Or two. Or even three. But no. I wanted to get my ride over with so off we went.

W/t warm up, easy peasy. Into the canter at half seat, also easy. I took a light seat for the jumping, my butt skimming the saddle at the canter. Opie was perfection. Metronome canter, adjusted at the slightest cue, popped over from the perfect distance every time and cantered off without missing a beat.

Then my foul weather headache slammed in and I quickly got off and put him away after fifteen minutes so I could get home without throwing up on myself. All told I was in half seat for maybe...three minutes of that ride?

does love the jumpies

You guys. I got home, walked down my short driveway to get the mail, and my thighs were literally quivering.

The next morning I woke up and my calves hurt all day.

This morning my calves are still sore AND my left butt cheek aches.

Once upon I time I could gallop multiple horses in a day. Once upon a time I could do eleven minutes of two point without breaking a sweat. Apparently now I can't even warm my horse up without aches and pains.

True Confession: Someone on this blog may be a weakling when the stirrups get raised higher than the longest available hole. #itme

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Goals? What Goals?

The fun thing about dressage (I know, I'm already starting off like the beginning of a bad joke.) is that just when you're like, "Wow, we are so good at that movement! Never going to have to work on that again. ....so what do I do now?" That movement turns to shit again so you do have something to work on.

SO FUN!

remember when it was warm enough for naked ponies? all of a week ago?

I was chatting with Farrier yesterday morning as she was trimming a horse and I was getting Opie groomed and tacked up. She asked if I'd been riding much and I told her I hadn't really been on a regular schedule lately. She wanted to know why since I'm known for getting a lot of saddle time, and I didn't have a good answer. But I think there are a couple factors.

One is still that we did so fucking much this summer that it's been nice to bring it way back and mostly putter around. The vast majority of my riding has been on trails with a dressage school thrown in here or there. And it's been awesome. We've got a long winter ahead of us, and being able to get outside to ride before being locked in the indoor is a priority.

The other is it's only October and we've already crossed off all my goals for the year--and then some.

a couple weekends ago i hopped over the border into PA to visit riding bestie's
old horse with her, and we also got to visit all the ponies on the farm. i'll take both
this cuddly perch and the adorbs yearling beside him.

We've obviously still got a shit ton to work on. I don't want to be gallivanting around at Training level forever and would like to come out swinging for a full season at First by May. But my brain is stuck in 2018 limbo where I had a game plan laid out; that's what I was going to stick to, even if that means sticking to the exact same shit we've already conquered.

Well time to move on, brain. Tally forth to new dressage horizons and all that!

completely unstaged. i was caught in the act of pony giddiness. 

I wrote in my last dressage post about how the canter work for First is so easy yada yada. It was for that day, but in the spirit of dressage it went a bit off the rails in the next ride.

The up transitions were still shit, but the down transitions were significantly better. We could do the trot change of lead at X without falling on our faces--mostly because the depart back into the canter sent us into orbit with how high his front end rockets up, punctuated by his head in my face at the last second as he's all, "oh wow so elevated much unicorn must touch the sky with my horn."

Or something.

The lengthened work was also super. Where we ran into problems was coming back from the lengthening. He would either break, or fall down, or both, or just ignore me all together and continue his floating cavalry charge. But that gives me a good area of focus to work on when I don't want to put in a dressage school because I'm bored and have already crossed everything off my goals list.

a very hopeful puppy waiting to see if opie would share his
horseversary snackies with her

The leg yields in one direction suddenly became the most legit thing this horse can do, so now I need to get them as good going the other way. And he offered me the most beautiful lifted back transition into the sitting trot for the first time ever which means it's in there for me to get again.

The dressage journey is never ending. I need to keep that in mind instead of going on a mental hiatus because I'm too OCD to write down new goals until the new year.