End of the Season

This weekend marked the end of the eventing season in Kentucky. There’s one last recognized event in Tennessee this weekend, but obviously, May and I won’t be going. Once again, I am left with the feeling that we let another season go down the drain, but in the spirit of being thankful and positive, I figured I would list out all the things we DID accomplish this year.

Got Back in the Show Ring

2017 was the year of no shows for us, so the fact that we managed to make it to two shows this year, is a massive improvement. Part of me wishes we had made the jump to tackle BN at our second event, but the majority of me feels accomplished in the fact that we really seemed to slay some demons in the show jumping ring.

Found Our Barn Family

Some of them read this blog so… Hi! Moving to a new barn has meant a better routine for May and I (when she isn’t escaping), and easier access to the level of shows that I am interested in at the moment. However, more than that, it has meant new friends, a trainer whose program is really working for us, and very few days or nights at the barn where I am completely alone. It’s added back a part of riding that I hadn’t realized I was really missing – the social part.

Found May a Second Rider

This was one of those odd times where timing, circumstances, and luck all kind of came together. I guess it follows along with the vein of how I got May. I put what I wanted out into the universe and… the universe delivered. Life is weird that way sometimes.

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Our first full HT was 3 years ago!

However, now is a great time to refocus on the off season.

Get Fit

I guess this is a goal for both May and me. Having a second rider means May is being worked 4 – 5 days a week right now, which is pretty much ideal. As for me, I committed to working out with a friend of mine. First spin class is on the schedule for tomorrow morning. Wish me luck!

Get Lessons

Budget has been diverted to paying for things for the house in hopes of getting everything set before we have a full house for Thanksgiving (7 adults and 2 kids!). I will probably end up posting pics at some point. Either way, the extra income from a half leaser is going to, at least, somewhat, be diverted towards lessons.

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Make a Plan

Am I the only one already looking at the schedule for 2019? Budget will really drive our path next year, but I would love to do a recognized event at KHP at BN. Hopefully, that isn’t too much to ask for!

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Plan should include more of this!

Anyone else having all the feels at the end of another eventing season?

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Putting the Buttons Back On

When I made the decision to partially lease May out, I also made the decision to soften some of May’s buttons. I didn’t want someone else to get on her and have to deal with accidentally pushing buttons they didn’t mean to push. All that could do is end up frustrating both the new rider and May.

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So I trained May to go forward and straight, on the contact. That’s pretty much it. Did it mean that the issue of her not connecting properly to the outside rein going right came back? Yup. Did it also mean that her shoulders mostly stayed in line and she was easy to steer? Yup.

With the half leaser taking her first Dressage lesson tonight with my trainer, I decided to throw those buttons back on and tune them back up. It took about two rides haha.

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Last night, I rode May under the lights of the outdoor for the first time. (Thanks Daylight Savings… more like daylight wasting) She was really good, and I was able to move her body parts all independently. We had a very brief and not at all dramatic discussion about her moving off of my right rein and leg and into my left rein and leg, and that was it.

I sat the trot and got some decent shoulder in and leg yield work. We stepped into the canter. The first canter transition in both directions was fairly lackluster with her definitely leading with her inside shoulder instead of stepping under with the outside hind to push into the canter. I did a quick downward transition, reestablished connection, pushed her shoulder out, asked again, and had a much better transition.

We played with the circle of death set up at one end of the ring, but after about 20 minutes of work, I realized that I had accomplished what I had set out to do. So I hopped off and gave her some cookies. In May’s world, it was a pretty good day!

What about you? Have you ever “untuned” your horse for one reason or another?

Blog Hop: 25 Questions

Not a lot going on so far this week, so Amanda’s 25 Questions blog hop came at the absolute best time. Let’s get into it!

Why horses? Why not a sane sport, like soccer or softball or curling?

I dont think there has ever been a question of me doing anything else. Sure, I played soccer until high school and then a bit for fun in college. I played softball until middle school… I am sure I played a bunch of other random sports in between. (does marching band count?) However, I have always needed horses to keep me sane. Just ask the hubs.

What was your riding “career” like as a kid?

I guess my “kid” time can be broken into my experience at two different barns. One was a small barn, under a dozen horses. I did everything there from teach at summer camp to riding potential lesson horses. All the rules were broken when we hopped on horses straight off a truck from Mexico and jumped them over barrels in a round pen. Seriously…

DarlaI showed welsh ponies and cobs as a young jr. Typically they were really young 3 – 5. I helped break one or two of them. One I have kept tabs on, and he has gone on to show 3rd level dressage. Cool dude. One day, I will get myself a cob/thoroughbred or warmblood cross. If wishes were horses.

In my later teens, I rode at a hunter jumper barn. I went to exactly one A rated show, but I groomed at helped out at some of New York’s most classic h/j venues: HITS, Old Salem, etc. I still rode anything under the sun, but definitely also developed all the bad habits that come along with riding or unpredictable green horses. There was one horse that I rode on and off for almost 10 years. When I broke my hand, he was the one I got on first.

If you could go back to your past and buy ONE horse, which would it be?

Ugh Boo. Without a doubt, Boo. This is not my photo, nor me riding, so I blurred out the rider’s face. This was… many years ago, so before Facebook was a thing for high schoolers (or middle school?), no idea how old I was at the time.

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Anyway, Boo was an  Irish Sport Horse. He is BY FAR the most athletic horse I have ever ridden. He was the type that, if you pointed him at the fence to stop, he would happily jump over it and just keep going. I wonder now what it would be like to ride him with all the tools I now have in my toolbox (and as an eventer).

I would love to own something like him now, but I doubt I would ever be able to afford it! I kept tabs on him for a bit after he left. He ended up owned by a vet in southern NJ.

What disciplines have you participated in?

Western Pleasure, English Pleasure, Pleasure Driving, Eventing, Hunter Jumpers, Dressage…

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Most of my experience pre-late teens was more at generalist english barns.

What disciplines do you want to participate in some day?

Reining would be super cool. I think there is a barn around here.

Have you ever bought a horse at auction or from a rescue?

Nope. I have only ever owned 2 as an adult, and one as a kid.

What was your FIRST favorite horse breed – the one you loved most as a kid?

Welsh Cobs. Hands down.

If you could live and ride in any country in the world, where would it be?

Probably Germany. I used to speak fluent German, and I just love the country. The UK would be a close second. img_4053

Do you have any horse-related regrets?

I’ve stayed at a few barns longer than I should’ve. I also regret not being able to put as much time and training into May and myself as I have wanted to the past couple of years. We should be going Novice, but now I am not sure that we will get there together.

If you could ride with any trainer in the world, ASIDE from your current trainer, who would it be?

Right now? Mary Wanless. I think bio-mechanics would make a big difference in some challenges I have had in all three phases.

What is one item on your horse-related bucket list?

A traditional 3 day event format. Even at BN, I think it would be an incredible learning experience.

If you were never able to ride again, would you still have horses?

Honestly, I am not sure. I would probably still be involved in horses, and May wouldn’t go anywhere. But horses can be incredibly emotionally draining.

What is your “biggest fantasy” riding goal?

Right now? Training level hahahaha. Although, one day I will probably switch to pure dressage.

What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?

My horse life has always been kind of a collage of horses. I could say Sport – the broken down quarter horse who was so terrified on cross ties that he visibly shook the first time I worked with him. He turned into a very dependable 2′ horse.

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I could say my friend’s horse Henry, who was by far the best trained horse I have ever sat on. I should probably say the horse I owned before May. He taught me a lot about myself, my passion, and how to let go of something that just isn’t working.

If you could change one thing about your current horse/riding situation, what would it be?

I would have more time and money…. Isn’t that true for everyone? hahaha

If you could compete at any horse show/venue in your home country, where would it be?

The Kentucky Horse Park is still on my wish list. Hopefully, I can make it a reality in 2019!

If you could attend any competition in the world as a spectator, what would be your top choice?

Burghley.

Have you ever thought about quitting horses?

Yes. Many times. My original plan was to sell my previous horse and take a break before going shopping again. The universe had other ideas.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the horse industry, what would it be?

Everyone would be more concerned about horse welfare than money and fame.

What’s the dumbest horse-related thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?

Hah… buying May. I am amazed everyday I ride her at how cool she has become.

As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?

I want to say jumping, but I am not sure that is true. I have been so out of practice with my jumping that it is not fair to say that fear is growing with age. I would have to say now that it is probably riding horses that I am unfamiliar with. I used to climb on EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. (how about some REALLY old video for fun… you probably want the sound off)

What horse-related book impacted you the most?

Go ahead and laugh, but I don’t really read/listen to horse books. And I read A LOT. So… Black Beauty?

What personality trait do you value most in a horse and which do you dislike the most?

I really like a thinking horse. I am not sure everyone does, but I want my horse to give me their opinion. It tells me they are engaged and actively thinking in their work, even if I don’t always appreciate their opinions.

I cannot stand horses that want to hurt their rider. If you have never been on one, count your lucky stars. I got on a friend’s horse one day. He was incredibly talented, but I rode him halfway around the arena and a walk and then got off.

What do you love most about your discipline?

I would love to say that I love that no one cares what horse you’re riding, that it is more about ability than aesthetics. But honestly? It’s not really true in eventing. SURE, no one cares if you are riding a thoroughbred vs. a warmblood, but I have definitely gotten some disparaging comments about May.

So I will say that I love the challenge. I love that I am competing against myself. My goals are independent of those around me and directly related to things I can control. And ride times. I LOVE ride times.

What are you focused on improving the most, at the moment?

Strength and fitness. Officially down 15.5 lbs (don’t laugh, I am proud of that .5) and definitely starting no stirrup november tonight.

Blog Hop: Things I’ve Learned from Other Bloggers

The Roaming Rider posted about some things that she has learned from other bloggers, and I thought it would be fun to jump in. (Go check hers out first. It will give you all the feels.)

While I have been blogging for only a couple of years (can I still say only?), I have been reading blogs basically since I became horsey deprived in college. The flavor of blogs is as diverse as the people writing them. Some still make me laugh out loud at my desk at work, while others will instantly bring me to tears, but that is horses too. Many of us will describe our darkest and brightest days by the horses that surrounded them.

I don’t talk about other people on my blog as pretty much a rule, but I hope everyone will grant me a reprieve just this one because you all deserve a tribute for all have taught me! I wish I could include EVERYONE, but I am not sure ANYONE would want to read that, so here are my 5 highlights.

1. Emma from Fraidy Cat Eventing.

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Emma and I have somewhat similar stories. H/J backgrounds with a burning desire to event. While I tip toed my way in with lessons and then eventually moving my horse to an eventing barn, Emma JUMPED IN the deep end. Girl – you took a couple of lessons, bought a truck and trailer, and did the thing. You took a lease on an off breed horse and trained her into an eventer. When that came to an end, you took a pause before finding another horse and restarting an OTTB from the ground up. I hope you know how badass that is.

AHEM – Emma taught me to go for the things I want. To not worry if I didn’t have the fanciest horse or the most expensive tack. The only thing I had to answer to was my horse. As long as I was doing the right thing there, then I was doing the right thing.

2. Lauren from She Moved to Texas.

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(I am linking her personal website because I think something funky is going on with her blog site)

I am not sure when I started following Lauren, but she was the first blogger that I took back to the beginning. The first one that I did the blogger version of netflix binged on. Why? I would say it is because her writing is beautiful, and I am obsessed with that kind of thing (which is true); however, it is because she has been so true to herself and her voice.

I am not sure I would 100% categorize her blog as a horse blog. I would say that, if anything, it is a life blog about a person that owns and rides horses. She taught me that speaking my truth is the only topic that really matters.

3. Megan from A Enter Spooking.

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Is it hyperbole to say that Megan was my first Dressage instructor? My first ever introduction to Dressage was someone taking a 45 minute lesson at my barn. During that 45 minutes they continuously trotted around a 20 meter circle. I remember having to rake the ring after because there was literally a ditch growing there. “Nope,” I told myself, “Dressage is not a thing I ever want to do.”

Then Megan popped up on my screen one day, and well… just read this:

At the same time as straightening him on the outside rein to get him to step into the inside rein, TC needs to be a bit lighter off of my inside leg. His tendency is to lean into my leg with his ribcage, rather than engaging his inside hind leg and stifle under him.
– Knowledge Dump

I can feel what she feels when she writes, and I can feel her corrections. I never knew that people had these kinds of detailed dialogues going on in their heads while they rode, but here comes Megan with 81 posts tagged with “connection”. While Megan has opened up the world of Dressage for me, she has, more than that, taught me the important of really being a thinking rider.

Anyone else notice that the first three people are all from different disciplines?

4. Carly from Poor Woman Showing.

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Does anyone ever know what Carly is going to do next? Carly teaches me and continuously reminds me that I am supposed to enjoy my horse. Not everyday will be sunshine and rainbows, but horses are there to be enjoyed. Does she compete? Yup. Does she win satin? Um, DUH.

Does she also stick her horse in a cart because it seems like a fun idea? Absolutely. Reading her posts reminds me that we don’t HAVE to have a serious Dressage schooling if we don’t want to. We can just go on that trail ride or attempt to jump crossrails while bareback. Dressage and “serious” eventing will be there, and I am not ruining anything by simply enjoying my horse.

5. Michele from Fat Buckskin in a Little Suit.

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I am going to be super cheesy here. I fell off the blogging bandwagon in 2017 a bit. Nothing was really happening, I had no jump saddle, I wasn’t really able to take lessons, and I was about to get married. Michele reached out to me and checked in. I was floored. Here was someone I never met who honestly cared about how May and I were doing.

Michele and I have gone through very similar struggles with our opinionated, rotund creatures, but Michele has taught me, more than anything, about how a love of horses really does bring people together and create friendships. I know you’re reading, so thanks girl. 😉

One day, I will get to meet some of you in person! hahaha Who else is going to join in on this positive blog hop?

Half Lease Update

Remember how I said I don’t talk about other people on my blog? Welp. That is also true for the girl half leasing May. However, I think you all deserve an update!

May was a perfect princess on Monday night. I mean like, I got on her, warmed up a bit, popped over some fences, and she was just soft and easy and in front of my leg. MMMMMK. (like this but probably SLOWER)

So what did I do? I made a friend get on her. I then made said friend jump some stuff. May continued to just pack around like a little school horse. Welp, I thought, she will probably be terrible for the trial tomorrow.

I was SO NERVOUS. Like our mutual friend has ridden May, but May is May. We chatted a bit as we tacked up. I gave her the barefoot history and gently explained that I have no bias against shoes, and I am happy to put shoes back on the horse if it looks like that is going to be a better solution than barefoot. She didn’t seem concerned. She did ask about my spurs (little nubs at the moment), and I told her that spurs are more for moving May’s body around than they are for speed or anything.

I rode first, obviously. May was almost as good as she had been the night before. I would say she was a bit stiffer through her body, but I wasn’t about to start an argument before putting someone else in the irons. At one point in the canter, I circled through the middle of the ring and just held the reins by the buckle to show that her balance will change, but she won’t run away with you. (or at least not with me.)

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I did everything I could think of to show that May was as represented. I popped over some fences, missed more than once, and then handed the reins over. Number one response everyone has had to getting on my horse? She REALLY swings through her back at the walk. I had no idea. I am just SO used to it.

There is definitely a learning curve with May, but the half leaser handled her really well. They seemed to get along, and May didn’t get frustrated or upset by any gaps in communication. She did decide to do the double add down the line of jumps… Oh mares. The strangest thing was being told how she is excited to ride something a bit more made instead of a greenie. I am still not used to the idea of my horse really knowing and doing her job. It’s a cool feeling and definitely true at this point.

Overall, it sounds like it is going to be a 2-day a week lease instead of a 3-day a week lease, but her being able to take lessons with my trainer is more important than May being ridden an extra day a week. In fact, she wants to take her first lesson the first week of November. Can it really just be this easy? I guess so!

The Joys of Owning a Smart Horse

I have ridden/trained/dealt with MANY fairly dumb horses in the 20+ years I have been riding. And I love dumb horses. These horses took patience and repetition to truly teach them concepts, but once learned, those lessons were set in stone. Teach a dumb horse to ground tie, and it could be scared out of its wits and wouldn’t move an inch.

Now, I do not own a dumb horse. I own a very smart mare. I didn’t really think horses could deeply reason or scheme or really PLAN until I met this mare. A mare that could learn the rules, and learn when she can break them. Case and point.

This weekend, my sister and dad were in town. My sister and I decided to take a quick trip to the barn to pet May/feed her cookies/ pick her feet. Almost the whole barn was at one of the last horse trials of the year, so I knew things would be fairly quiet.

We showed up to the barn, and we walked towards my trunk to grab some treats and a hoof pick.

What did we see? This face… looking rather put out at being caught in what is (definitely) not her stall. Fully in the stall. No food in there. No chain up. Just hanging out.

Notice – she picks the stall with pretty ribbons on it.

My sister, who has spent a lot of time around horses as a kid, immediately starts looking around for a halter. “Don’t worry about it,” I tell her. “She knows where she’s supposed to be.”

My horse loves me… right? LOL

So we start walking towards her stall and… she comes with us. Face full of all her opinions about it.

I opened the chain to her stall. The chain is still up. She doesn’t do this with brute force. She weasels her way under the chain…. and only when the barn is empty for a significant amount of time. Maybe she has figured out my trainer’s normal schedule and knows when things are “off”. I have no idea.

Either way, she was quite put off when we closed and secured her lower door. She even gave my sisters a snort when she told her to “be good”. This mare…

So… anyone have any recommendations for a stall guard? Doesn’t need to hold up to a horse leaning on it. Just needs to keep her from going under it.

Also – a friend of a barn friend is coming out tomorrow to give May a try. She just sold her horse and moved to the area, so she is looking for something to ride without taking on full horse ownership. Fingers crossed!

First Fall Ride

Other than taking a long walk up and down the road on Tuesday, May hasn’t really been ridden since…. um…. the first weekend of October? Even then, it was so unbelievably hot that she got an abbreviated workout. To say she is out of shape is putting it gently. So when I actually put on gloves, tall boots, spurs, and prepped for a real ride last night in 50 degree weather, I wasn’t really sure what I would get.

May is never malicious under saddle. However, she does develop selective hearing when she isn’t in full work. What do I mean by selective hearing? It means that she tries to set the gait, pace, balance, AND direction without any input from me. It usually lasts all of one ride and then she is back to normal.

So when I went to get on last night, she was wide-eyed. She didn’t want to stand near the mounting block, and I swear she grew 2 inches when we walked out of the barn. So I was ready for a difficult ride. However, instead of getting frantic or demanding, I got endlessly patient and calm.

She wouldn’t stand for me to get on? Then we will just keep circling around. Once on, I made her halt again, and I put her on the contact before we even got to the ring. Want to jig? Well, we will just do a little shoulder in until you relax over your back again.

Once in the ring, we did serpentines and did more walk/halt transitions than I even care to count. She had to move through her rib cage and over her back. After 10 minutes of walking, I felt her body start to soften, and I asked for the trot. Again, big loops through the ring, asking her to bend through her rib cage, and lots of soft, correct transitions.

Over and over again. By the time we got to the canter, I could get in a little two point and just let her cruise without her wanting to take over. And you know what? She was wonderful. We did a bit more trot work, where she really worked through herself, and when I popped her back into the canter, I let her figure 8 over a low vertical in the middle of the ring. She was rhythmic, calm, and in front of my leg. I could add, or leave out, or just maintain without an issue.

I gave her a pat and called it a day. Happy Horsey Mom.

P.s. Thank you for all of your support on my last post. Mentally hard decision to make, and it was so nice how understanding you all were. 🙂

If Anyone Knows Anyone…

First of all, is it possible to take Monday off and still feel like it is a long week by Wednesday morning? Apparently, it is.

The truth is, I am REALLY busy, and my life is only getting MORE busy. Unfortunately, the first thing that falls off my list when I get busy is May. Why? Because the other things are working, sleeping, and eating, and there is only so much of that you can cut before it starts to mess with your life in a big way. This means that, most weeks, I have been getting to the barn 3 days a week… some weeks are 2 days… and some weeks have even been 1 day.

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Let me start by saying that May does just fine mentally on very little work. She doesn’t get spooky, hot, or silly when she has days off. Yesterday was the first time riding her in a week, the temperature had dropped 40 degrees (I kid you not), the sun was going down, and I decided to walk her down the road with a friend of mine… past herds of thoroughbred broodmares. She was, as usual, a gem.

However, she physically really needs to work more. May was the most sound and most comfortable when she was working 5 – 6 days a week consistently.

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So after some thinking, talking, annoying all the horsey people around me, I decided to put May out there for a half leaser. I won’t move her off property, and I am going to be really picky about whoever I let part lease her. It might mean I don’t find anyone, and that is ok, but it could also be great. (Fingers crossed that it is great and not the worst idea I have ever had).

15.2 Belgian/QH Mare Offered for Onsite Half Lease Only

May is a stocky draft cross mare with experience eventing up through recognized BN and is capable of N with the right rider (i.e. not her owner, who is a chicken). While she is confident over fences and loves XC, she is also capable of being a straight Dressage horse and is schooling First Level. May is also an experienced trail horse and has been on hunter paces in large groups.

While May has never bolted, bucked, reared, etc, in the 3.5 years that I have owned her, she does require a confident rider who can be clear and consistent with their aids. She would do best with an adult rider who wants to have a fun, engaging ride but is not interested in riding a horse that spooks often, gets overly strong, bucks, stops at fences, etc. She would be especially well suited for an experienced rider who is new to eventing and would like to a fun intro to the sport.

Either way – if any of my blog friends know anyone in the Louisville area who can’t afford/doesn’t have time for their own horse but wants a fun ride 3 days a week – Let me know!

 

Behind the Stall Door With: May As Well

When I found myself at a loss for topics for today, Tracy came through with inspiration. Then, Olivia joined in on the hop to officially make it a party. If you haven’t checked out their versions yet, do that first!

Behind The Stall Door With: All I Need

Behind the Stall Door with: To Be Frank

The partnership between Emily O’Leary and her horse, May as Well, began about as unconventionally as any horse partnership could.

“I was debating just selling my current horse and taking a break for a while. No matter what though, I knew I wanted a plain bay gelding.” Emily admitted, before continuing. “Then, I drunkenly made a trade offer on the internet for a short, yellow mare named Krimpet.”

It turns out, that their first ride wasn’t even that magically. “Oh, I couldn’t steer at all, and we didn’t jump anything higher than maybe 12″. My first thought was that she would probably easier to sell then my current horse.”

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However, the two have stuck it out and entered the sport of eventing together. Going from W/T tests and crossrails up to a recognized horse trial at the Beginner Novice level. Let’s open up the stall door and learn more!

May Really Didn’t Steer

While there definitely were videos of May navigating around courses in her sale ad, it didn’t immediately translate to her new role as Emily’s mount. “During our first lesson, she tried to run out of the arena, and she couldn’t make a 30M circle.” It was a steep learning curve, where May learned that life was just easier when she went along with whatever crazy thing Emily asked her to do.

May Coggins Photo
First Coggins Photo! She NEVER gets this dirty anymore. 

She Was Always Show Perfect

At May and Emily’s first competition together, they did an elementary level combined test. “I remember being terrified because the warm up for SJ was in an open field, and I hadn’t yet ridden May in an open field.” Emily had nothing to worry about, as May was a total pro.

 

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She Has Some Non-Negotiables

May is pretty laid back about everything. Does that new OTTB need a horse to pony off of? May will do it. Did the new dog at the barn just do a zoomies through May’s feet while she’s on the cross ties? She probably didn’t even wake up. However, there are two things that May simply cannot handle.

 

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Fly spray is best delivered through wipes, thank-you-very-much. May lets all her handles know through snorting, wide eyes, and prancing in place that the act of heedlessly spraying her with STUFF is not to be tolerated. Meanwhile, clippers should be avoided at all costs, unless they come with cookies at LEAST the quality of Mrs. Pastures Cookies for Horses. Sugar free substitutes will not be tolerated.

She Is Often Underestimated

It has been assumed that May is a Dressage-only horse, a companion horse, and a retired broodmare before. She will sleep on the cross ties, wander around on the trails, and sunbathe while other school XC fences around her. However, when it is time to go to work, she is all business. As one Equine Dentist once said, “Wow, she really gets up there. You wouldn’t think that just looking at her.”

You might not know it just looking at her, but those that have ridden her have never forgotten it.

Still a Mare

It gets pretty easy to forget that May is a “mare”. She is totally cool with other horses getting in her personal space, I have never seen her swish her tail and pin her ears at anyone, and 90% the time, she just wants to get on with the thing. Whatever the thing is (eating, turnout, going back to her stall, riding, jumping, etc etc etc)

In fact, May apparently took some kind of small adventure on Sunday. The barn was out at a small show. When they left, May was tucked into her stall. When they came back, May was somehow in a stall on the other side of the barn. NT went over to her normal side of the barn to see what was up, and then she heard hoof beats behind her. May had re-escaped from stall #2 and was sheepishly making her way back to “her stall”.

You can see the stall guard and the step down here.

My theory? May ducked under her stall guard, wandered around the barn to see if there was any grain dropped on the floor. Spotted some food in stall #2, and decided to spend the rest of the day there. I think she is going to be relegated back to having the bottom half of her stall door closed when the barn is empty, especially now that the weather has cooled off a bit.

So how does May remind us that she is, indeed, a mare? She has OPINIONS.

Last week, I decided it was time to put May back into real work. She is sound now barefoot, and seemed perfectly happy to drag me around again. So it was time to reintroduce some real work. I threw on my Dressage saddle and grabbed my Dressage whip. The ride was planned to be fairly easy – reestablishing contact and bend.

Our warm up went fine. She was a bit stiff off both legs, so I returned those with the help of the whip. She got a bit tense while I was schooling the whole “one leg means move over” thing, but she quickly relaxed once we had a few successes. Great. I picked up the canter to the left and had a nice easy bend and lope in that direction.

Then, we went right. If you remember, bending right has been our issue lately. So, when she went to lean through her right shoulder, I lifted my inside hand and added my inside leg more firmly. As a result, she MELTED DOWN.

I mean, full on temper tantrum. Throwing her head around, stumbling over herself, shooting forward, sucking back, etc etc. For maybe a solid 2 minutes. What was I doing? Keeping my right hand up and my right leg on while cursing quite loudly. Here’s the thing with May. No matter how much she escalates, I can’t give in or escalate with her. I have to be firm, clear, and consistent.

Serious Opinions about Pictures lol

After her meltdown, she gave me a big huff and bent nicely around my right leg. I put my whip and cell phone down, since I didn’t want to really use either if she decided to have another meltdown, and we went back to work. She picked herself up through that shoulder, quickened the inside hind to compensate for the new balance, and moved better going over her back.

At this moment, NT came to the ring and complimented me on how well she was working to the right. I think I and both the other riders in the ring with me (both advanced riders thankfully) had a good laugh as we informed her about May’s mini drama series.

She may be a REALLY good mare, but she is still a mare. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. What about you? Does your horse sometimes hit you with overly dramatic opinions?

Blog Hop: The Horse You Bought

After seeing Olivia’s blog post on “The Horse You Bought”, I hopped on over to Two and Half Horses, where the hop originated. Since it has been nearly three and a half years, I figured it would be fun to look back. I have zero media from our first trial ride, but I do have the wording of her ad:

Belgian/QH cross….UTD on everything. Has been shown and placed well at larger shows! Jumps up to 3′ courses. Trail rides alone and in a group, crosses water, trailers well… Literally does nothing wrong. Easy enough for an advanced beginner to handle!

To be honest, our first trial ride was not some beacon of hope where the clouds parted and angels sung. I could barely keep her on the rail, and at the canter, we basically careened around wherever she wanted to go. She leaned so badly that I was concerned she would trip and go down. The trot had no rhythm, and my first thoughts were “I could sell her as a trail horse for as much as I was paying” and “she’d be easier to sell than my c current horse.”

Seriously… so many people have this amazing AHAH moment when they buy a horse, like buying a wedding dress. BUT I didn’t have that. I had “this will probably work” and “I just need to ride something different.” She had really no personality and any jump we took that day was under 2′, and we got to it sideways. With all those romantic images in my head, I loaded her onto the trailer with a smile on my face anyway. Pure joy? Maybe not. Relief and terror? Probably more so that.

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Hilarious part? I still have this ENTIRE outfit except the breeches.

She was sort of easy to load (once food was involved), and we took her home. Then, I attempted to get a beauty shot of her at home, and I got this.

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And I wondered for a moment what I had done…

My first lesson? She couldn’t do a 20M circle and ran out the gate of the arena. Our canter transitions took more than a dozen trot steps, and my saddle really didn’t fit.

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And this was as good as our trot got. 

May was a lot greener than even I had anticipated, and I had ridden A LOT of green horses. I had started a couple horses from scratch, and this was even more difficult than that. There were moments of real promise… and moments where I couldn’t even figure out what was causing everything to go Oh So Wrong.

During one of these moments, I turned to my trainer at the time and just told her I was completely stumped. I knew we weren’t straight, thorough, or forward, but I couldn’t seem to get any of those things to work together. That day, I paid for my first pro ride on my horse, and it seriously helped us move forward.  I wish I had more media from those first few months because they were… not friendly to me.

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We added to her education with gymnastics and formal XC schools

I think this was our first “course” together:
Video Link

Overall, she was green but a fun horse to work with and every ride was engaging… even when I was mostly failing at accomplishing anything.

Fast Forward to 2018?

May has proven herself to be a really reliable partner. I have spent COUNTLESS hours ALONE riding at different barns. We have seen deer, bicycles, strollers, small children, quads, and, most recently, sheep together. We have done horse trails, Dressage, SJ, XC, clinics, hunter paces, trail rides, games days, and many bareback rides together.

May has been the horse my friends get on to ride something “other than a schoolie” before they set off horse shopping. She is also the horse that has, in slow motion, run away with more than one person in the arena. (never faster than a medium trot, just without willingness to walk)

We even did our first BN together… Which wasn’t the smoothest… But we got it done.

 

Her personality has come out of her shell. While naughty is probably never the right word, opinionated is probably a better one. She has broken cross ties, simply because she was hungry. She had decided that certain farriers should not be allowed to work on her precious toes. AND she has learned how to express to me when she feels a saddle does not fit to her standards (crow hopping).

However, now, I wouldn’t trade her for the world… Although, I could still definitely sell her for more than I bought her for!