First Jump Lesson with New Trainer!

(and my first jump lesson since my birthday back in April) New trainer and I chatted a bit as she set jumps from the prior x-rail lesson. “What height have you been doing? Like BN?”

I blanked… I admitted we hadn’t really been jumping and then said, “between Starter and BN is pretty comfortable.” Spoiler alert, turns out it wasn’t super comfortable (but everything was a hole or two smaller than the pics). The jumps were laid out in a way that gave a lot of options, gymnastics, and related distances. Overall, everything was set up to be super technical.

June 7 Course

The orange line was a placement rail, 5 one-stride jumps, and then another placement rail to help riders get into and out of the gymnastic on the right stride. The blue line was a x-rail, two strides to an oxer, and then two strides to another x-rail. The green line was set in a moving 4, and the purple line was set in a steady 5. The only “stand alone” jump was the blue, double barrels. The new trainer offhandedly asked me if I thought they would be an issue, and I flippantly said no. (and then immediately was thinking (OMG we’ve never done barrels like that.”)

I warmed up, and she had me head through the gymnastic towards home, trotting in and cantering through. It was originally set really small, with just one side of each pole in the cups, and the distances were a true one stride. NT explained to me that the ring has a bit of a slant towards the barn, so things will always ride more forward coming towards the barn (i.e. traveling left to right of the above photo).

May was a bit wiggly the first time, and I don’t blame her. We haven’t done a gymnastic like this in a LONG time (like more than 2 years), and she wasn’t totally schooled in them at that time either. However, I kept my legs on, my reins open, and we were just fine. We alternated our approach to it a couple of times (making a right turn into the gymnastic, a left turn at the end, then a left turn into the gymnastic and a right turn at the end), until it was smooth and easy. Then, she put them up to small verticals (about a hole smaller than the above pic).

After that, it was time for our first course. Down the gymnastic (left to right), right turn and up the green line in 4, left turn and down the barrels. Sounded easy enough. Except I also cannot remember the last time I did a line that was oxer to vertical… That line was set to about 2’6″, and the approach to it was a bit weird. I tried to capture it in the below photo, but you had to come maybe 2 strides past the corner of the ring, turn, and then had maybe 2 – 3 strides off the rail to the oxer. AND THEN we would have to turn right and come down the double barrels that I wasn’t too sure about.

The “Green” line (oxer to vertical). 

I nodded. I picked up my canter. I came through the gymnastic, May landed on the right lead after, I looked for my line to the oxer… and looked… and then just pulled back around the corner, lost her shoulder, lost any straightness or rhythm, and had a BIG OL’ CHOCOLATE CHIP into the oxer. I kicked on out to get the 4 strides to the vertical on the second half of the stride… and finished really well over the barrels. (At least there was some good)

Then the dreaded trainer words, “So what do you think happened there?”

I briefly blanked before blurting out, “I lost her shoulder in the line and then everything fell apart.”

NT nodded and then elaborated, “You lose her shoulder, couldn’t find a distance and did nothing. When you keep this horse balanced and on the line, you have no issues with jumps, distances, etc. However, when she loses her balance, then she pulls you off balance, and then it all just kind of falls apart. Worry about balance and straightness, and if you’re in doubt, add leg. The barrels were really good though.” (I swear, she is SUPER positive, but the negative feedback is more important right now than the positive)

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Old blurry media… 

We did that course one more time and while the turn to the oxer wasn’t perfect: I didn’t throw my body at it or panic. I just added leg and tried to keep my body back. Overall, a lot of improvement.

Now for a new course! Down the gymnastic, a right turn to the purple line (so oxer to vertical), and then around to the barrels. Gymnastic was great. I got to the oxer into the purple line, and we lost our balance a bit. I over corrected coming down the line, and got to the out in 5 and 1/4 strides… and promptly threw my body up May’s neck. Uh… not helpful. We rubbed it hard and landed in a heap on the other side.

The “Purple Line” is the red white and blue, square oxer to the purple jump. You can also see the turn from the gymnastic to the oxer, and the turn off the corner to the “green” line. 

“KICK AND SIT UP!” I heard from the other end of the ring…. oh gosh. our first lesson and here she is terrified that I am about to eat dirt. Oh well, I kicked on. Got a brief instruction of “always kick away from something like that!” while I cantered past her, and back to the barrels, which were, once again, no problemI walked, and huffed, and puffed (it was like 85 degrees with 80% humidity). May was prancing around like she was ready to go run the Belmont. Trainer sent me back to do just the barrels to the purple line again. It got tight on me again, but I sat back and it rode fine. SHOCKING.

Finally, it was time for our last course. Is your head spinning? Mine was. UP the gymnastic, a left 90* turn to the purple oxer, a right turn down the blue line, a right turn to the barrels, and then ANOTHER right turn to the green line. The turn from barrels to the green oxer wasn’t quite as tight as it looks in the pic, but it wasn’t much more generous.

The Blue Line. 

I jumped up the gymnastic and actually had too tight of a turn to the oxer… and promptly forgot to turn right. I looped back around, got my right lead, and came down the blue line. Despite being a true 2 strides to 2 strides, the second half got a bit tight (*more of this later). The barrels, as always, rode great, but we landed on the left lead. I tried to fix it. I failed. I lost her shoulder and AGAIN the green line was ugly. At this point, I actually felt nauseous from the heat. (May was fine though. Totally amped and ready to keep going).

NT waved me over and said, “I am going to tell you something that is going to blow your mind. Stop worrying about the lead. Worry about balance and your line.” Now, I know this is kind of a controversial topic. However, I can tell you that for May and I to drop down to a trot, get the canter back, get balance, and get our rhythm back… it can sometimes take a lot of effort and coordination and TIME. So I decided to try it her way. (there is also a small chance that, if I stop fixing it for May, she might start fixing her own leads on her own.)

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I jumped the barrels, we again landed on the left lead, I left the lead… and couldn’t turn to save my life. I ended up pulling her around the corner at the last minute and almost missed the jump. I did get a nice 5 in the line though. I was officially done tho. We identified something to work on, and it was overall really positive.

NT really liked May. She was shocked by how easily she got down the line, how un-bothered she was by all my mistakes (my words, not hers), and how light she actually is on her feet. She seemed really excited to be working with us, and I felt like I got a lesson that really challenged me without over-facing us. The whole idea is to do really technical courses at home, so, at shows, things feel easy. Sounds good to me!

*Now the striding thing. Since May had her hocks and stifles done, her stride opens up MUCH easier, and I am still getting used to riding the difference. She is also more receptive to taking the long spot, vs. chipping in, so it has really affected my riding.

(As a total off topic, I came across this article on stretching tight hips. https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Best-Stretches-Tight-Hips-44931840 I remember when I first got May, I had to be DILIGENT about stretching my hips to be able to ride her. Time to get back on that band wagon!)

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05.13.18 Horse Trial – Cross Country

It is probably fair to say that about 90% of people do eventing because of cross country. It is just… fun. May and I had gone xc schooling once since moving to KY, and we hadn’t really done a full XC course since our last horse trial. Again, due to the late start, we didn’t get a chance to walk the course ahead of time. Luckily, most of the jumps were visible from either the Dressage arena or the SJ area. There were 13 efforts in total. I didn’t wear a watch, so I have 0 idea how long it took us.

There was no formal start box. I decided to pick up my canter a bit before the start line so that we could have some momentum into the first jump. May, of course, wanted to throw herself on her forehand instead of creating power from behind, so we had an argument all the way to jump one.. and then onto jump two…

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Jump 1 – Itty Bitty Brush

Jump 2 was a bit downhill, so again, I had a conversation with May about how that was not permission to fall flat on her face. Either way, we were up and over it.

You can see us trotting at the end of the clip, as I tried to find my way to jump 3. Jump 3 was a small down bank, but it was in line with a bunch of other banks through the trees. Of course, I lined up with the larger bank that we had schooled the other week, so I had to correct my course. Either way, May dropped down like a rockstar.

Best sassy mare in the world 😊#may #crosscountry #eventing

A post shared by Emily (@may_as_well_event) on

Immediately after jump 3 was the water. The water was flagged generously, so you could go around it on the left. I took that option, since I didn’t have enough time to land off the bank, get May squared up to the water, and create impulsion towards the water. Either way, May bent her body so far away from the water that we almost missed our flags.

We galloped through a fence line and up a small hill to the 5th jump on course, this little red house we had schooled the week before. (somehow, this venue managed to move all the jumps around in just a week. It was really impressive.)

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I galloped to the end of the field, looking for the only jump on course I hadn’t been able to find when I was scoping things out. It was described as a “stack of logs.” Cool, I thought, it will just be a little pyramid of logs on the ground. No big deal.

The approach was a bit odd, as the fence line kind of curved away from the jump and then back to it. I managed to find it on google maps, so you all can see what I mean!

Log Jump

Of course, what I didn’t anticipate, was that the “stack of logs” wouldn’t be sitting on the ground. They were actually raised about a foot off the ground, making this both a bit of a looky jump, and the biggest jump on course. Cool. I didn’t look at it too long, just found my line, looked up, and kicked. May popped over it beautifully.

We had a bit of a gallop to fence 7… which I honestly can’t even remember. I am pretty sure it was just a small, brown coop. Then… I got a bit lost… I almost jumped the BN number 8, before I found my number 8. It looked tiny, so I cantered over to it. As I came upon it though, I realized why it looked so tiny. It was at the bottom of a very steep, short hill. Maybe two strides down the hill to the log. May could care less, and we were over.

We came back through the woods to number 9. Jump 9 was a cute, baby roll top.

However, you can see May land and start drifting back toward the trailers (towards the camera.) Our approach to jump 10 was a bit crooked, and then we had to re-balance, turn left, and go down hill to jump 11. As a result, we had a bit of an argument over jump 10, and a not-so-flattering moment. Oh well. It was fine.

Jump 11 and 12 jumped great, and we had a nice stretch uphill to jump 13, so I asked May to give me a bit of a gallop. She did, and I got lots of compliments from people after about how much fun our course looked. Jump 13 was the last jump. It was a cute train jump, which May popped over, and then got lots and lots of pats for.

The event still had several hours to go, and the barn was only 10 minutes away. I decided it would be best to cool May off, take her home, and then come back for the final results. (especially since May decided that any of the water presented to her at the show was poison.) May hopped back onto the trailer and was all settled in at home again within an hour. I drank lots of water, and we headed back to the show for, hopefully, a ribbon.

And we got one! We finished 6th out of 19 horses, adding just 4 jump penalties to our Dressage score. When I went to get my ribbon, I told them I came in 6th and asked for my ribbon… then thought about it and asked what place they give ribbons up to. Tenth! They give ribbons up through TENTH place at a schooling show! Awesome. Definitely, 10 out of 10, will be returning. 🙂

05.13.18 Horse Trial – Show Jumping

After Dressage, I had nearly 2 hours until Show Jumping. I took a look at both the show jumping and cross country course, but I wasn’t able to fully walk either due to the late start we had in the morning. Oh well, show jumping was 8 jumps with 1 related distance, and XC was basically one big loop.

May got to hang out in the shade and enjoy the breeze and grass, while I got to actually eat some real food. It might have been 10:30 in the morning, but I needed lunch! Once we were about a half hour to my SJ time, I pulled May off the trailer, threw on our jumping stuff, and got back on. Given that XC was running immediately after SJ, I just put all of May’s XC gear on and wore my vest. And then promptly forgot my armband. Whomp Whomp.

Too Cute For Words. 

The husband ran back to the trailer while I warmed up again. It was a short, but good warmup, so I cut it a bit short. I wanted to watch a couple of rounds before I went in. Unfortunately, May had other plans and wasn’t super interested in just standing at the in gate, so while I caught bits and pieces of other rounds, I wasn’t able to watch the whole thing through. I do not think I saw anyone go through the related distance line (remember how I didn’t get a chance to walk it?)

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Entering the ring for the round was a bit awkward, as you had to check in with the volunteer at the in gate, and then trot to the other end of the SJ field to check in with the judge. I also wanted to trot by 7 because, for BN, there was a 7B. As a result, right after 7 there were a bunch of poles in the grass, and I wanted to make sure May saw them before we were at the base of 7.

So once we checked in with the judge, I trotted along past 5, since that was a couple of hay bales and sometimes hay bales are scary. I picked up my canter, and May immediately started throwing her head around. Ugh. I got her attention back somewhere around 4, as I made my turn to jump 1. Unfortunately, our lack of focus meant my line wasn’t as crisp as I wanted, as May drifted behind my leg and towards the in gate. What does this all mean? It means we pretty much clobbered jump 1.

I think this is between Jump 7 and Jump 8.

I kicked forward and got a slightly better rhythm and line to jump 2. We jumped in a touch weak, so I decided to balance up and do the add. Except I HADN’T WALKED the line. SO I got 3/4 of the way down the line, and I realized it was SET SHORT. It was also too late to chase her for what would have been a MASSIVE distance, or just faster shuffling corgi steps toward the nothing distance we already had lined up. Oops… we got to the oxer with no step, no impulsion, and no distance. Cool. May HEFTED herself over it, somehow leaving it up. Seriously, there is video evidence of this that I need to upload for you all.

Jump 4

By this point, I was pretty angry at myself for riding the first 3 jumps like a monkey. I kicked on to 4 and actually had a pretty nice jump. I keep kicking to 5. I am DETERMINED to have almost a “hunter gap” to this fence. We. Will. Not. Chip. For some reason, I had it in my head that she might look at that one, so I needed to ride strong. It was an oxer, which I hate, and it had some hay bales under it. Now, I am not sure we have ever jumped hay bales, but I know many horses that have taken offense to them. (I got an awesome nose bleed once after a horse took serious offense to some hay bales.)

Jump 5… I really need to be doing BN lol

I think it went fine though. 😉 It ended up probably being our nicest jump on course. Jump 6 I don’t even remember jumping. I probably stopped breathing that point. At 7, I was determined not to have the same issue I had at 1, and I rode more determined through my line. As a result, 7 was a non issue. I turned to 8. Kicked on, and was over. So SJ finished with just one jump down, but I was pretty frustrated for myself for not starting the round well.

Jump 8. May thinks the jumps are way too small. 

SJ was pretty messy for a lot of people, and I later heard that the first jump when down a lot for people. Overall, we moved from 4th to 6th out of 19. No matter the score though, I was determined to go out and attack XC.

Of note, all the professional photos were purchased by me from Bluegrass Equine Photography for digital use. I am a big believer in supporting horse show photographers, so I was more than happy to pay for these happy memories!

05.13.18 Horse Trial – Dressage (and May’s Fan Club)

Let me start my saying, my horse is a magnet for attention. More than once, I found myself surrounded by multiple girls, as they asked questions, petted May, and even gave her kisses. The horse, who is usually so aloof, really loves all this at shows. Go figure.

Our day got off to a bit of a rough start, as a scheduling conflict at the barn meant that we couldn’t get on the road until 9AM, vs. the 8:30AM I had been planning on. Luckily, the show venue was maybe 10 minutes down the road, so we weren’t in danger of missing my 10:06 ride time. I did, however, change into my boots, my hairnet, and my helmet while we drove.

As soon as we got to the venue, I sent my husband off the office to get my number and whatever information he could glean from the staff there. This was the same place we had went to for XC schooling the prior week, but I wasn’t sure where everything was set up for the actual competition. While he was gone, I pulled May off the trailer myself. For some reason, she isn’t a fan of my trainer’s 2+1 trailer, but she was patient as I worked out how to get her off of it myself.

The husband arrived back in time to help me finish tacking up, and then May decided to be a total beast to get on. Now, my husband is not a small man, and May full body shoved him out of the way as I was swinging a leg over… I guess It’s truly time to get serious about the standing at the mounting block thing at home.

I then wandered aimlessly around where SJ and XC were, trying to figure out how one gets to the Dressage arena on the other side of the pond. I finally found someone to ask, and it turns out you had to go down what looked like a private driveway, take a right onto a dirt path past a hot walker, walk up into a random field and around the fence line to the dressage arena. I am not going to lie, being lost like that and on a bit of a time crunch really stressed me out.

Whew! When we finally found the Dressage warm-up, it was broken into two areas: a big grassy field that was mostly flat, and an actual dressage court. I rode around in the field for a while before the Dressage court emptied. Then, I moved to the court. Of course, as soon as I got in there, someone else, let’s call her Competition Crazy (CC), decided she needed to run through her WHOLE test in that little court multiple times in a row. Maybe I am naive, but I feel like there is no scrubbing a test right before you go in. Practice the movements to get your horse as connected and tuned in as possible, and then go into the ring. (more on CC later too)

With a couple of riders left to go, I just let her walk around in the shade for a bit, hoping that would help relieve her of some of our combined tenseness. As I was watching the last rider go before me, a couple of girls came up to pet May. It’s amazing how just talking to people about my pony helps keep my nerves at bay. The rider before me wasn’t ready, so I happily agreed to go a bit early.

I wandered down to the arena and gave the judge and scribe my number. ANNNND they couldn’t find me. They asked for my name, and I gave it. They said my number didn’t match my name… cool. Then I gave them my horse’s name, and they were like “OOOHHHH. We thought YOU were May”. I may be a bit short, a bit round, and quite pale, but I am definitely not May.

We got it sorted out, and I got to trot a bit around the arena before they honked the horn, and we headed down centerline for the first time in 2 years. Below is how it went.

(a copy of the test can be found here, I am just going to give the scores and comments for each movement below)

Movement Scores

  1. 8.0 – No Comment
  2. 8.0 – Nice Energy
  3. 7.5 – Slight Head Tossing
  4. 7.0 – Could Have More Balance
  5. 7.0 – Slight Loss of Bend
  6. 6.5 – Could Have More march
  7. 8.0 – 2-3 jiggy steps, but very nice stretch (This was VERY generous)
  8. 6.0 – Could March More. Slight Tension
  9. 8.0 – No Comment
  10. 7.0 – Could Have Been Cleaner
  11. 6.5 – Losing Bend. Slight Loss of Balance
  12. 7.0 – No Comment
  13. 8.0 – No Comment
  14. 9.0 – No Comment

Collective Marks:

  • Gaits: 7.0
  • Impulsion: 8.0
  • Submission: 8.0
  • Rider: 8.0
  • Overall Comments: Well Matched Pair. Lovely Test. Work on Canter transitions and tension.
  • Final Score: 24.1

So my thoughts? The scoring was CLEARLY generous, but it was equally generous for everyone. I was happy with how May stayed connected and engaged throughout the trot work, and I thought the canter work was a lot less scrambly then the last time we competed. However, the tension in the walk is definitely something we need to work on, as it comes up at home too.

The score was good enough to put us in 4th place out of 19, so that was very encouraging. Either way, we had about 2 hours to cool off. Then it was going to be time for jumping!

After 2 Years, Back At It

This Sunday marks the first event for May and I since May of 2016. 2 Year. 24 Months. I thought it would be fun to look back at that last event. (Full details on the original post here.)

Dressage:

There are a couple of things that I think have improved since this text. My position is a bit stronger now (I think). I have done a lot of work to get May thinking forward into the bridle vs. trying to tuck her nose behind the vertical. The canter is pretty shuffly and off-balance here. I expect that to be better too. May will even be in the Micklem bridle, which she prefers over a traditional bridle with the flash. We scored a generous 27.895. Comment being: “Fairly correct test effort. Great Pair 🙂 Work to maintain steady balance through test.”

However, there is also a lot that hasn’t changed. I plan on wearing almost this exact same outfit (trading the TS breeches for the ROMFH Sarafina breeches). There will still be very little stretch in our free walk, and May will still pop up above the contact in the canter transition. Most importantly though, the ride will still end with big pats.

Stadium

First and foremost, jumps might be a bit smaller. We are doing starter, but the above was super undersized for BN. I will still probably blow one jump, and chip into a few more. May will probably still disagree with my corrections occasionally. I will probably even cut a couple of turns too tight and have to scramble to fix my line. However, we will probably still jump all the jumps.

I have made a big adjustment to how May canters between jumps, and a lot of her balance has come off the forehand. I am hoping that helps us keep all the jumps up on Sunday!

Cross Country

I probably still won’t be able to stop, or change gaits or do any of that. We will probably definitely both be horribly out of breath at the finish. I will probably still lose steering occasionally. May is still going to attack most of the jumps, but not care about banks, ditches, or water. (not that we are likely to see any of that at start)

Finally, I might come in third, or I might come in first (or last). I am sad to say that I won’t be coming home with a new hat and a team-awarded blue ribbon, but I still have the tall guy by my side!

Return to XC

Last Wednesday, I received a text from my trainer, “Thinking about going XC schooling on Friday afternoon. Are you interested?”

Excuse me? Interested? I was DYING to go. My immediate response was, “I’d love to!” Cue panic. See, I work 8 – 5, M-F, and I really don’t have extra vacation days sitting around this year for various reasons. Luckily, it was Derby week, and I live in Louisville, KY. As a result, the whole city shuts down at around 12PM on the Friday before Derby; however, I work at a company that is heavily tied to the stock market, which DOES NOT close on Oaks Day.

So what does a still-pony-crazy, 20-something do? She slyly asks her boss and the rest of their team what their Friday plans were (after she had already committed to the XC schooling with her trainer). Luckily, everyone seemed to have plans to either take Friday off or leave around lunchtime. Woohoo!

So on 1PM on Friday, I packed up my bags, changed into some of my nicer riding clothes in the bathroom, and hopped in the car on a mad dash to the barn. I got about halfway there before the thought of, “I should really eat” popped into my head. A quick stop at a nice gas station, 1 protein bar, and 1 giant bottle of water later, and I was off again! So eager in fact that I was at the barn about an hour before anyone else would be ready to go. Oh well, May could use the extra grooming time to try and get MORE HAIR off of her.

But then, of course,  my mind wandered, as I have never actually trailered off the property with my current trainer. Would she want May’s saddle on for the 3 minute drive? (no joke, that’s how far we were going) Should she wear her XC boots for the trip? Should I used the lead rope with a chain or without one? Etc. Etc. Etc. Turns out, I don’t really think my trainer cares much, as long as I have some kind of plan and logic. Ultimately, May shipped sans-saddle, but with boots.

When we arrived at the XC venue, I had another thought. My horse hasn’t been off the property since we moved there more than a year and a half ago. Would she be a total beast while I was trying to get ready? Nope. She was perfect. She hung out by the back of my SUV, eating grass while I tacked up. She even stood mostly still to let me get on. Then, she pranced her way towards the XC jumps.

We started at the water, an old nemesis of ours. The water was big and dark with whatever grows in those ponds. I put my leg on. I kept my eyes up… and May wandered into the water as if she has never had a problem with it… Cool horse. Real Cool. We splashed around a bit, as our XC partners for the day were my trainer on a thoroughbred and another boarder on her standardbred. Neither of those horses had ever gone XC schooling before. After splashing a bit, my trainer walked her horse out of the water and over one of the smallest log I had ever seen. It looked fun, so we followed.

We then headed to the main field with jumps, and we walked over a few more really boring logs. My trainer explained that, for the less experienced horses, we didn’t want to make XC a big deal. It should just be like trail riding with things in the way that you go over. May and I hung out a bit, while they continued to familiarize themselves with the itty bitty logs.

 

Then, my trainer told me it was my turn. She immediately gave us a small course of 4 jumps. We started at the bottom of a hill, did two jumps, climbed up the hill, jumped a jump, then proceeded on mostly flat ground to the last jump. Feedback of the day? Don’t throw your body with your horse. Let the horse come up to you. I am not sure I mastered it at all the whole day.

We ended up adding the red house to the mix, a small combination (that was set for a nothing distance, and then two slightly larger green houses (which were actually set to a real 4 stride line. May didn’t look at anything, took me to each jump, and cantered politely in-between fences. The biggest feedback was to try and get May’s balance back WAY before the jump, like 8 – 10 strides. This way, I could get the balance back and then allow up to the fences, instead of getting into a fight at the base. I think it worked!

 

We only did it a couple of times as the big hills took a lot out of May, and the whole point was to just have a positive experience. We walked around a lot while the other riders put together a course with some smaller jumps and easier terrain questions. Once everyone was feeling especially confident, we went on a long trot to the ditches. Now, this venue is great because it has the baby-ist of baby ditches. I mean, this thing is about 12″ wide and 12″ deep. I pointed May at it, not making a big deal about it, kept the eyes up, my hands forward, and my leg on.

What did May do? She stepped in it. Just very politely, down into the ditch, and then up out of the ditch. My trainer just stared at me for a second and then said, “well, that’s not really right.” We tried again, with more leg, and she stepped over it. I even popped over the larger ditch a few times. We might have 99 problems, but a ditch ain’t one!

 

Overall, I was over the moon with Ms. May. She, as usually, was the exact same horse off the property as she is at home. Have you been able to get off the farm and do anything fun lately?

3 Years With The Corgi Horse

Three years ago, my trainer and I drove to PA with one horse in the trailer. He was tall, handsome, and as athletic as I could ever need. We returned with a short, kind of strangely built, corgi horse (and me with a lighter wallet).

It was probably a trade that made no sense. My old horse was easily jumping around Novice courses. He was brave, flashy, and even registered, but our relationship was in tatters. I had very few rides that didn’t end in tears, and he was just as miserable.

May (then known as Krimpet aka Too Many Cupcakes) was about as green as any horse I had ever ridden. Steering was optional, rhythm didn’t exist, and we needed about 20 – 30 trot steps to get the canter. However, she was clearly brave, smart, and pretty unflappable. In the end, that was all I needed. I loaded her into the trailer, shrugged at my trainer, and said, “If it doesn’t work out, someone will want her as a trail horse.” In fact, the below was the best pics we could get of her the first day:

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It’s been three years, and I can pretty confidently say that it worked out. (And I’ve gotten a lot better at photographing her)

The Mare Factor

May is about as non-mareish as I think a mare gets. You know how I know she is in heat? She winnies every now and then when we are on a trail ride by ourselves. There is no carrying on, there is just a “hey everyone, I am over here. ok?” kind of noise. However, May does have attitude. Sometimes, it feels like pony-tude, but we are a few inches too tall for that.

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Case and point? On Thursday, I was chatting with a girl at the barn who was riding a horse other than her own. Turns out, she was having some issues with her own horse and was pretty down about it. This is a very accomplished rider (let’s call her PR), who has run a few prelims, so I gleefully offered her a turn on May. We laughed about it, as she hopped off the other horse and tried to get on May. She asked if there was anything to be aware of, and I told her she might test her a bit, but as long as you got control of the body, you wouldn’t have to fight a lot with her legs and hands.

As soon as she tried to swing on, May took off at the trot and joyfully bounced out of the arena. Welp… PR managed to get on. Still laughing, she headed back into the arena. I told her to try moving May’s body back and forth to establish connection and balance. May trotted, and kept trotting, then walked for 2 steps, then trotted again.

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Gosh… it’s incredible how much her frame as improved since this picture was taken. 

She tried falling behind the bit, jigging with her head in the air, popping her shoulders both to the inside and the outside. Generally, she was just a pill. PR, being a good sport, trotted and cantered her for a while. She even told me May actually seems like a fun ride, right before quickly dismounting and handing her back to me. The comment with the most conviction, “I am not sure how you ride this horse, but I think I need to do more yoga.” I couldn’t even convince PR to jump her, since she couldn’t figure out the steering.

Oh well, it still generated a lot of a laughs for another rider that was going through a rough patch. A couple of days later (after buying a new car!), I hopped on, and all the buttons were exactly where I had left them, so I am not sure if the issue is my riding or May’s attitude. Whatever it is, we made it work.

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What about your horse? Do they “object” to being ridden by others?

When your horse is, “That Horse”

In a good way! … Kind of.

On Monday night, a bunch of the ladies from the barn got together for margaritas and horse talk. You know, standard stuff. One of the women sought me out, and blurted out “I am so thankful your horse is so good. I almost lost her the other day!” I stared blankly at the woman… what?

Hey ma, where’s my cookies? #horsesofinstagram #cookiemonster #may

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She was out in the mare field to get her horse in an attempt to squeeze in a ride between the time the sun comes up in the morning and the time she had to be at work. She moved all the mares away from the gate, got her mare, opened the gate, and May (politely) RAN through the gate. Trotting down the path to the barn.

(for those that didn’t see my barn post, here is a diagram of the barn. May goes out in the teal field and lives in the bright green barn. The only road is the one at the very bottom of the picture.)

Capture

Now, this needs some context. A few months ago, a boarder was covering for someone on one of the morning weekend shifts. No big deal. On Saturday, she says to me, “I know May turns herself in and out, but I had to lead her myself.” News to me.

Apparently, May has trained everyone into knowing that, once her muzzle goes on, she can take herself out. And once breakfast is ready to be served, she is quite happy to let herself in and wait for her muzzle to be taken off. And that’s just… May for you.

At first, I was ready to be upset when I learned about this. Parts of me screamed about how unsafe it is, how something could happen, how horses need to be led everywhere. But you know what? Last year she got bit by a horse fly while standing in the grooming area. What did she do? She basically levitated in the air, spun herself around (carefully), and trotted the 10′ to her stall. She is far more likely to be kicked by another horse being led with her in and out of turnout than she is to hurt herself walking back and forth to her stall. (or even trotting when she knows she wasn’t technically being let back in)

Well… my pony is somewhere out there. #eventerproblems #foggy

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It works for her, so it works for me. (Although, I continue to lead her from stall to field and field to stall… Maybe I’m the sucker because May gets an extra treat this way.) Are there any “rules” your horse breaks?