Thursday, January 14, 2016

I get by with a little help from my BM

It has been quite the last few days in Bobby and Carly land.

My old roomie from college, J, was out in Rochester last week so of course we had to make a day work out where she could come and ride Bobby. She hadn't seen him since he was sent off to the track, so seeing him with several more inches and all different muscles was fun for her. She also got to hop on him after I warmed him up very quickly, and I was really pleased that he marched right off for her in much the same way he would have for me. I also never get to see Bobby from the ground, so that was a fun switch.

The following day, I had a really good jump school on him where he clocked around a small 3'3" course like a complete pro, jumping out of his skin, but totally with me every step. We followed that with a short but intense dressage ride Saturday, and then had Hubby out Sunday to video some more jumping for us.

And that is where shit hit the fan.

Or shit just hit my head. Really fucking hard.

Bobby had no brakes for the ride. I do grid and pole work in his egg butt, but I do course work in a slow twist, and that's what I had in Sunday. I had absolutely nothing to work with when it came to speed control, and for whatever reason, Bobby was on fire that day. Among other jumps, I had a one stride of 2'6" verticals spaced at 18'. That's a collected distance, but we were putting one stride in 15' earlier in the week with no issue.

Bobby kept bouncing through the 18', until I finally felt like I had him strangled back enough. He got in too short to bounce but too long for the one stride, and went plowing through the second jump. I got thrown forward and was only saved from falling over his shoulder by the crown of his skull slamming directly into my face and knocking me back into the saddle.

he looks completely unconcerned with the entire situation.

It was instant, exploding pain throughout my entire head, but I stayed on and had Hubby knock everything down to ground poles. I trotted him through the course a couple times where he trod on every single one of the jumps before jumping off and longeing him over a vertical both ways just to say I got him to pick his feet up.

When in doubt, return to ground work.

The blow to the head ended up being a concussion, diagnosed after I tried driving to the pet store to get cat food and not being able to get my eyes to focus. So I sat on the couch for a week in a semi comatose state with a never-ending headache and loopy fucking vision. I went to the barn briefly yesterday, and finally got back in the saddle this morning.

I set up a 2' vertical on the quarter line that I was going to circle over whenever our canter felt right. Bobby was reasonably good to warm up, and once I got a really good canter going, I turned him in for the jump. To the left, he launched. To the right, he slammed on the brakes after coming up to it from a perfectly good distance. Around again from the right, and he charged it.

At this point, my head was starting to ache again. BM was sweeping out the tack room across the aisle, so I called out to her and asked if she had any interest in putting in a training ride.

"Right now? What's he doing?"
blubber sob "I can't jump this horse. I don't know what to dooooo."
"OK, well I have sweat pants on under my Carhartts."
sniff sob "Can you get on him tomorrow?"
"Can you give me five minutes, and I'll run home and change?"
"Yessss." sob sniff blows nose pathetically

I'll point out here that one of BM's best attributes is her ability to manage emotionally unstable horse people like myself.

I got off while I waited and put my helmet away because my head was really hurting at this point. When BM came back, she proceeded to explode Bobby's brain on the flat for almost an hour before even turning to a jump. BM is really good with nitpicking the biomechanics of both horse and rider. She narrated what she was doing and what she was feeling, but it was a lot of information to take in. I'll try to recap what I remember.

  • He's stiffer to the left because he's tight along the right side of his back. He needs to loosen the right side up in order to bend left.
  • His hips get disjointed and she had a hard time controlling his shoulders because of it.When his hips aren't connected to his front half, the hind legs aren't pushing, and the only thing to do is fall on his forehand which is awfully convenient for him because he doesn't like to carry himself.
  • He likes to go lateral instead of bending. He likes to just randomly throw in a leg yield and hope he can get away with that instead of lifting his shoulders.
  • He hangs so badly on the left rein that he's not filling the right/outside rein--another reason he's not bending as well to the left. He needs to be booted into filling the outside rein,
  • He does better with a bumping inside leg to bend around than one quick aid.
  • He doesn't want to step under with his hind legs. Lots of shoulder in to force the hind legs underneath him.
  • "His canter is great. I love his canter."
  • The counted walk will make him pay attention to every part of his body.
  • The shoulders have to lift and expand. No one is allowed to hold his head up for him.
  • Probably the biggest reason he can get so strong over jumps is that he prefers to plow along on his forehand.
There was so much more, but I can't remember all of it. It was some amazing stuff and I'm not doing any of it justice.

Bobby was whooped by this point, but she made him persevere and move on to jumping. The very first time she came to the same 2' vertical I had been "jumping", he pulled the same shit with her. He threw his head up and charged right at it. BM said it was funny because he waits until only a stride or two out to do it, and then he runs at it, but still sticks in an extra step if he can. "I've never met a horse that wants to bolt to the base of the fence."

ponying a broken pony while cooling out

She had me put up a tiny X and then basically just looped the reins at him and flopped along to it to see what he would do with zero input from the rider. He did the same old shit, so she made him quietly trot it a few times before moving back to the canter. She tried to get him to move up to take a longer spot a couple times which at first he completely bungled through, but finally something clicked in his head. She also kept him on a circle the entire time. "No straight lines while jumping for awhile."

Once she got his head screwed back on over the 1' X, she moved back to the vertical on a circle. He started out rude again, but she got him settled down. "You need to be very zen in your mindset when riding this horse. Just think about your breathing. Don't think about the reins, or the jump, or him flying at the jump like a lunatic. Stay calm. This is fixable. We can make this horse lope the jumps."

She had me get back on and take him over the X myself. I did it at the trot first and he was a gem so I came back around at the canter. Also a gem. We quit there because he was soaked and my head was pounding, but it was the perfect spot to stop. 

finally cold enough to bust out the super heavyweight 

Her assessment was, "He's got a few quirks, but I have some ideas for him." A few quirks is putting it nicely, but we're going to try to work something out where she can put a training ride on him once a week for awhile. She said he doesn't look like such a difficult horse to ride when I'm on him, and that I'm not doing anything wrong on the flat per se, I just need to make him work harder and me smarter.

It was also good for the first time to have someone tell me that Bobby can in fact be a perfectly good show jumper. Every jumping lesson I've taken on him--and admittedly it hasn't been many--have been about how can I survive his jumping style and work with him. BM wants him to do his job correctly, and that doesn't mean me clinging for dear life while he kind of, sort of slows down enough not to make people cringe.

Fingers crossed this works out. This horse is hurting my brain in more ways than one.


  1. Scary!! Glad you are ok and BM helped with Bobby. Take it easy for your head!

  2. Sounds like an epic lesson. I hope your head feels better soon.

  3. Oi - what a hard head that Bobby has! Glad you're ok and hope it feels much better soon! Your BM sounds like a total gem and glad to hear you got some excellent stuff to work with from her!

  4. Yikes re the concussion, I saw your IG post and was curious. Also sounds like it was really nice to have someone else get on and give him what for! I'm tuned in closely for how you fix the "bolting to the base of the fence" issue, because that's precisely what Tango does and any and all input is lovely.

  5. Take care of yourself after that concussion! I hate hitting my head on my horse's skull -- their skull is SO MUCH HEAVIER and DENSER than ours is. I am really, REALLY interested to read more about your BM's plan for Bobby going forward. A few similar things to Murray -- tight back more on one side than the other, willing to go lateral instead of bending just because -- so those will be especially interesting to hear about. Be careful with that skull of yours for a little while!

  6. I've gotten whacked by Bacardi face a few times while unmounted and it hurts like a bitch..ouch!! Sounds like Bobby got his ass whooped into shape though

  7. My head hurts just reading this. Ugh - I'm sorry about the concussion, that's just awful. I'm glad that Bobby got his ass worked. And I'm excited to see how he progresses with the new game plan.

  8. Yikes!! Glad you are ok!!

    I love that she wants him to do his job rather then you having to just survive!

    Sounds like a great plan and that she is going to be awesome for you guys!

  9. I wish I had a BM to ride my horse! Especially since she sounds really good! Hope you recuperate quickly - concussions are no joke :(

  10. #1 OW!!! I hope your brain is feeling back to normal soon! That hurts! #2 BM's game plan for Bobby sounds like just what he needs, and it's so encouraging to hear how confident she is about being able to resolve his issues!

  11. Holy crap, I'm glad your brain is ok. Concussions are no fun.

    I've been doing some training rides on Hero lately to work through a few issues he's developed, and my biggest regret is not having him ridden by someone who actually knows what they are doing sooner!

  12. Ugh, poor you. Make sure not to push yourself too hard too fast, concussions can take up to a year or more to fully heal. :( I had a concussion last fall and it took a couple of months before the headaches were totally gone. Glad your BO is able to help with getting his head screwed back on right.

  13. Yowesers, head to head combat hurts like a bitch. So glad BM was able to smack Mr Bobby around to get him to listen, sounds like some training rides are the perfect solution to get his head screwed back on straight.

  14. Oh dear. I hope that you're feeling better. Your BM sounds awesome. I really like that very first point... a horse may be stiff one way but be tight on the opposite side. Dumb but that hadn't occurred to me before.

  15. <3 I'm so sorry you're going through this. As you know, I'm always here for you girl!!

  16. omg Bobby NO, do *not* harm your Carly! fucking rude! i hope your head feels better asap :( glad the BM has so many good ideas and feels positive about working through it. good luck!

  17. OOOF! Glad your brain is okay. Listen to your body and don't try to rush through the concussion symptoms! Sounds like the BM has some good ideas and I always think it's really interesting when someone rides a horse and they don't look complicated, but you get on and you're like WTF?

  18. Ouch!! Sorry about the concussion and hope you are healing up ok. Bobby clearly has a very hard head. The BM sounds awesome and like she has some great ideas.

  19. Hey hey! Welcome to the "I had a helmet on and stayed on the horse, but somehow still got a concussion" club. It's pretty exclusive.

  20. Ugh. Getting whacked in the face blows. I almost lost a tooth once. And broke my nose another time. Solidarity, sister.

    Bobby's struggles remind me of an old TB I'm riding right now. Convincing him to get off his front end is basically like trying to convince a semi truck it needs to stop by pulling on the roof of the cab.

    1. ... pointless, and you get bugs in your teeth.

    2. ... pointless, and you get bugs in your teeth.

    3. BM said it was like driving a battleship.:P

  21. Oh my, that sounds awful!

    Take care of yourself!

  22. Ahh crap, sorry to hear about your noggin'!

    Why are the fancy ones always so tricky....

  23. Your BM sounds awesome. Sorry to hear about your concussion... :( hope you're feeling 100% soon.

  24. Super glad to hear that your BM was able to give you some good advice! I hope you're able to work with her a bit. Bummer on the concussion. Horse heads are harder than ours, unfortunately. Feel better soon!


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