Getting With The Program

Last night, I had my first lesson in… a while. Anyone else sick of hearing me say this? I AM sick of hearing ME say this.

I had originally wanted to take a jumping lesson, but the flooded status of KY in general, ridiculous winds, the threat of MORE rain, and a dropping temperature meant that I decided on a Dressage lesson instead.

The barn was oddly quiet last night with just me and NT around that evening, so our lesson was a bit more casual than usual with lots of chatting and catching up on the state of May. (Future injections, 2019 plans, etc). I’ll probably write about the lesson tomorrow, but suffice to say, we have both seen a lot of progress thanks to her help this past fall and the work my half leaser has been putting in.

As with most eventers at this time of year, I am looking at the 2019 competition season. My grand goals are, and have been, to get back to a recognized horse trial at Beginner Novice. Last year was a “I am hope we get back into the show ring.” This year is a “I want to do this.”

So I started looking back. What made May and I capable of moving form starter to BN in 2016? How did we get to the point where we were schooling Novice sized SJ course with relative ease that summer?

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I remember this being fun.

It wasn’t because I was younger (26 – 29 is not a huge jump… unlike 22 – 25 which seems MASSIVE). It wasn’t because I had access to a better trainer. (There are some serious similarities between NJ trainer and NT.) It wasn’t because May was more educated.

It was because I was in a regular program… and I haven’t been in one since.

Late 2016, we moved from NJ to KY just as show season was winding down and trainers in KY were looking towards Aiken and Ocala rather than their own backyards. Money was tight, and I let lessons fall into the category of “nice to have.”

^This feels like a lifetime ago…

Then in 2017, I had committed to lessons with my trainer at the time, but due to a job that had me traveling and her own schedule, we would average maybe 2 lessons a month… at best. Money was still tight, I got married in mid-summer, and the lack of competition goals meant that again, lessons fells to the back burner.

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Our First Lesson Together.

2018… I moved barns in mid competition season, but I still made it out to a couple of shows to get our feet wet again. (Literally and figuratively). Lessons started up again, and I was surprised at how much I felt like a fish out of water. My whole riding career had been focused on weekly lessons (and catch riding). Here I was, on my own horse, and feeling odd about lessons.

Then this year… I find myself really prioritizing lessons. So, for the first time since Spring of 2016, I have put myself into the weekly lesson rotation schedule. Fingers crossed that this has really been the missing link in my confidence lately!

So I really want to know – Are you a “weekly lessoner” or more of a “when I need them” or even a “don’t need no trainer” type of rider?

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A Tale of Two Rides

First of all, a GIANT thank you to everyone who commented on my post and facebook and instagram regarding the great helmet search! I think I will have to suck it up and make the pilgrimage to Dover (turns out, it is a full hour and a half away), to try on all the helmets. Be ready for an epic blog post about all the helmets.

As for Ms. May… she’s been both a delight and a frustration lately hahaha. I think the wet weather has been keeping her from really moving around in her field like she usually does, so she has been a bit more tense and flighty lately.

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I rode her last Tuesday night, and it was just a really odd ride for a lot of reasons. First of all, the weather made a SHARP 180 during the day on Tuesday. From 65 during the day, to close to 40 when I was actually riding… and we were riding under the lights trying to stay out of the way of a pretty interesting jumping lesson.

During that ride, she was tense through her whole body, half halts were considered to be suggestions, and the idea of coming off her forehand was a foreign language. I ended up taking my winter gloves off and riding bare-handing (something I NEVER do) because I couldn’t figure out why the connection was SO bad. It varied between her hiding behind the contact to her leaning down and bearing into it.

So what do you do? You do a ton of transitions. Trying to get the horse to accept both the reins and the leg. Or at least… that was my plan for action. The canter was just an impressive feat of holding the horse together with all the aids. Leg stayed on until the hind end engaged, seat stayed deep until shoulders came back to me, hands stayed engaged until she flexed around the contact. Then, suddenly, it all softened, and I had a really nice horse on my hands.

She still wasn’t super supple laterally, but she was engaged and listening. Cool. Then, I spotted my trainer doing a cool exercise.

spindaljump

The exercise had you jump one wing (maybe 2′ high), loop around to the second wing (maybe 2′ high), and then come back to a trot or walk and go over the center piece (maybe 18″). The piece was really more of a spindle shape than a barrel, so it had small sides on it as well. However, it was REALLY narrow. (I would think the same method would work with a small barrel, but they definitely need to be LITTLE.)

The goal was to go perfectly straight over the center piece and really have the horse between your legs. May’s feeling on it? That it wasn’t worth jumping. She was great over one, and two, which looked like proper jumps to her. But over the spindle? Nope… she just stepped over it and knocked poles everywhere. But, she was straight, and I felt bad making NT reset jumps for me when I wasn’t even in her lesson. So we called it good. She was straight, she was brave, she was just UTTERLY UNIMPRESSED.

Friday night into Saturday morning it snowed, so I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the barn. However, by mid-day, the snow had melted off the roads for the most part, and I figured I should probably ride the beast again.

The barn was bustling with activity as NT and some working students and other boarders worked to make sure the place was fully winterfied before a serious cold snap passed through KY this week into next week. (The high this Sunday is 20 degrees, with a low of 4… I told the half leaser she can picks another day to ride haha)

I tacked up May… noting just how wet her feet are. Ugh. And I headed into the indoor. The trainer from the other barn was riding in there, doing one stride tempis around the outside of the arena… nbd. Let me just get on and try to bend right. I hopped on and we walked for a while.. I am not sure why I decided to just walk, but it was a good decision apparently. May got nice and limber, and by the time we went to trot, she was READY to get to work.

She was quick off my leg, but consistent in the contact. She wanted to get heavy through the transitions, so we did a lot of big loopy circles with transitions and changes in direction. I was concentrating so hard on maintaining this great feeling, that I did not see the working student approaching the arena with the massive wheelbarrow. May did, however, just as we passed by the arena entrance and the wheelbarrow was all of 5′ away from entering.

May popped off the contact, threw her head in the area, and SKITTERED away from the door. The WS kept apologizing as I put my leg on, lifted my hands, and reestablished the trot we had before. I told her it wasn’t her fault and no big deal… but I hope she took my word for it.

I spent a lot of time at a barn with some older ladies with some serious fear issues. Anything that you did the spooked their horses resulting in screaming, throwing things, and then at least a week of the silent treatment. I know it came from a place of fear, but I refuse to be that way. Spook my horse. Please. It gives me A LOT of information on where our holes are. (Or just confirming the fact that my horse is a bit high at the moment).

However, May settled right back into work. I did some shoulder ins and leg yields at the trot. They were great… ok. I picked up the canter and did some leg yields both away and towards the wall at the canter… also really good for something we haven’t touched in about 6 months. MMMMMK. I asked for a halt, and she rocked back and came right down, staying on the contact. I shrugged my shoulders. Gave her a pat. And called it good at about 25 minutes of work.

Just as I was leaving the arena, I noticed that a bunch of people were going on a trail ride, so we hopped into that group. What better reward for a yellow pony than a nice trail ride after a great dressage school?

WHEW! LONG POST. If you all made it this far, let me know, do you find that sometimes your best rides follow a ride where you really struggled?

Ugh Horse Why?

I wish I had a more elegant title to this post, but this is basically where I am at. Saturday ended up being a decent day weather wise. Sure, it was damp and in the 40s, but it wasn’t actively raining. So I was able to ride in the outdoor. All good things. My plan was to put in a Dressage ride with a focus on connection and bending since May was coming off of back to back jump lessons. (by back to back, I mean lessons on Tuesday and Thursday but no flat ride in between)

The ride started out well. I carried a crop, just in case I needed to reinforce the leg aid, but she was in front of my leg and even a bit spicy. No big deal. We did a lot of walk/halt/walk transitions before stepping into the trot. When we moved into the trot, she threw her right shoulder into my right leg to come off the connection and fling her head up in the transition. UGH.

I brought her back to the walk and tried again. Same result. I halted and asked her to move her right shoulder around in a turn on the haunches. Nope. Nope. Nope. She did not need to do these things, she is a JUMP HORSE now. NOT a DRESSAGE horse. (These pics disagree)

MMMmmmmk. Let’s break it down further. Walk on a small circle and bend her neck around the circle. NOPE. She flung her head up and threw her whole body to the outside, stumbling sideways and flinging her tongue out of her mouth.

Alright, I am thinking… maybe this is physical. Maybe she is pretty sore and stiff from the jump lessons and bending her neck hurts. (Anyone else immediately fall down this rabbit hole?) Then, she saw a horse being ridden over across the field from the other barn. And She Lost Her Mind.

Suddenly, she could bend all the way around to the right, while cantering, to try and see the horse behind her. Any kind of half halt was met with head flinging and tongue wagging. It was 45 minutes of me just trying to get SOME kind of response from her so that I could end on a good note. I ended up just riding her super straight and doing some collected/extended transitions in the trot (where to be honest, she had some moments of actual suspension).

Unfortunately, I still got off feeling frustrated and annoyed. I gave May a proper cool down, put some thrush stuff in her feet (standing in the mud at the hay bale for hours on end is a great recipe for thrush), and used from probios cookies to do some stretches JUST IN CASE.

However, it is one thing to have a really bad ride and have to go back to basics consistently with a horse that has talent. It is another to do it with a horse that is basically a BN horse AND has been a BN horse for 3 years.

I know other people have worse rides. Rides that are genuinely dangerous. This ride wasn’t dangerous. It was just like… (trying to find a not super crude thing to write here)…. it was like writing a post where every time you finished a paragraph, it totally disappears on you.

I think May got Sunday off, so today will be the follow up ride to Saturday. Then, my half leaser is out of town for the holidays, so I have her to myself for a while… and some extra time to actually ride. Maybe the weather will hold out, and we can go on a hack. BUT as Michele knows… it will probably rain.

Anyone else just want to turn their horse out into a field for the rest of winter and hope that Spring is better? (Also, gave up on the new WP editor and went back to the classic. Best decision EVER)

12.11.2018 – Jumping Lesson

It had been MONTHS since my last jumping lesson. Actually, I just looked back and… Yup. It has been FOUR MONTHS… which makes it the fourth jumping lesson of 2018. BUT that also means that I got TWICE as many jumping lesson in during 2018 than I did in 2017. That counts as improvement, right?

I was totally inspired to take this lesson after watching a friend of mine tackle this exercise a week earlier. However, I am sure no one is surprised to find out that thing were a bit rough around the edges. (Also, apologies but the lesson was at night, under the lights, in the cold, and I didn’t want to expose the helmet cam to all of that… so there’s no media)

After warming up, we started trotting through a fan of poles at the end of the ring. It was similar to the exercise below, but there were four poles and they were just on the ground. 

I had a lot of trouble to this going to the left. May really wanted to fall out through her right shoulder, and I felt like I couldn’t quite keep it in the line I wanted. Definitely something to work on. The canter was somewhat better than the trot, but May kept wanting to jam in an extra step before the last pole (keep this in mind). 

Going to the right, the exercise was a lot easier, because all I had to do was regulate how fast her right shoulder came around… a lot easier than trying to pull the right shoulder in and around. 

Next, we started setting the groundwork for the main course. This:

Four verticals, one oxer with 2 placing poles. 

To get May moving forward and get me riding a line (the whole purpose of the above set up), we started with creating a circle from the yellow vertical to the green. In both directions, I messed up either my line or my rhythm the first time, but totally nailed it the second, so we didn’t spend much time on this. 

Then we moved onto the full exercise. The verticals are set exactly 4 strides to the placement poles and the placement poles are one stride from the oxer, so as long as you take a fairly direct line but jump all the elements straight, it is 5 strides from each vertical to the oxer and the oxer to each vertical. 

A couple more notes about what makes this a bit unique. Our ring is not 100% flat. It angles slightly towards the barn, which means that coming towards the barn things are easier than going away from it. This totally becomes relevant, I promise. 

An old pic of the ring. 

NT tells me that I am most likely going to get a forward 6 to the fences and trying for the 5 will likely leave us too unbalanced to do the exercise correctly. Doing 7 will either leave us dead in the water or on too wide a line. I nod, and then immediately tell her that I feel nervous. She gives me a funny look. 

Our first course went in this order: Green, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Yellow. I ride the green perfectly with a great pace… Then I take a feel coming towards the oxer, and May adds an extra stride. This means we are kind of dead in the water and we add again to the red… BLAH. I kick on, but the orange and yellow kind of go the same way. NT notes that she liked my pace coming in, but I took my foot off the pedal once I had to actually jump and turn. She’s not wrong. 

We do it again. The Green, Blue, Red combination goes REALLY well, and I am feeling good. BUT remember that the ring slopes down in that direction… I ride the Orange pretty well… and then don’t kick enough towards the oxer. It’s a bit of a stretch for May to get over the placement pole, and instead of stretching AGAIN over the low, wide oxer, she shoves in an extra stride… takes down most of the oxer… I do manage to kick on and get 7 or 8 strides to the Yellow, so we finish… but not in great form. The oxer gets rebuilt, but I can almost feel May losing a bit of confidence here. I am DETERMINED to give her a positive ride. 

We change up the course a bit to keep May from anticipating where we are going. It was SUPPOSED to be Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Yellow. Buuuuut I forgot where I was going at the end, and I end up doing Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Green. 

Why do I forget where I am going? That’s right, because I still can’t get the distance from the Orange to the Blue to work out properly. I close my leg, but May keeps giving me this response like “this is as forward as I will go.” I am not sure if I am having trouble committing, or if she is just used to a different ride from my half leaser, but either way, she is going forward… but she is not in front of my leg. 

“Gallop in a bit like you’re going XC this time.” I nod. I go. I gallop. I jump the orange. I get four PERFECT strides to the placement pole. I close my leg on the fifth stride. The distance and pace are REALLY good. I lean… and May JAMS in an extra stride and jumps pretty much straight in the air. I get thrown up IN FRONT of my saddle and on her neck. My thought? “I can’t afford a new helmet right now.”

Proof that she can stretch for it. 

Luckily, May is still my partner in this whole thing, and she flings her head up, throwing me mostly back into the saddle. I scramble my way back and manage to get her stopped before she carried me over the green. Everyone was very impressed with my save, but I was fully freaked out. May has always been the horse that as long as I have a decent pace, she will safely get us to the other side of the jump. That decision though, was not the safe decision. Honestly, I am still kind of freaked out by it.*

My trainer confirms that everything looked good, but May decided that she needed to make the final decision on that one. Again, a lot of this probably comes back to the fact that it has been 4 months since we had a jumping lesson and this set up was really difficult, but she had really just not been fully responding to my leg all night. I’m not sure who suggested it, but my trainer ran back to the barn to grab me a longer jump crop. Something I could reinforce my leg aid without taking my hands off the reins. 

To test the gas pedal, we went back to the second exercise of just circling from Yellow to Green. It was way better, and I felt like she wasn’t sucking back behind my leg to assess each jump. So we adjusted the exercise again:

As you can see, we were now starting on the line I was having the most difficulty with. ALL I WANTED was to get the first line right. We jumped in, I rode forward, we got 6! I turned to the green. Another 6! I rode forward to 4. Never got straight to it… and got down that line in 5…. Yup, definitely more in front of my leg this time. However, doing the five put us way too off balance for the Orange, so I had to bend it out a bit and I got 7. But it was SO MUCH better with the crop in my hand. May was taking me to the fences again, and I felt like we found our usual groove. She puffed herself up and pranced back to the middle of the ring. 

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NT was also MUCH happier with that performance. For our last course, she just wanted me to do just the Yellow, Blue, Orange line to fix those distance, and then circle back through the fan exercise we had started the day with. (I think she was checking my breaks and balance)

Either way, we nailed the bending line, and May came right back to a perfect dressagey-canter to bounce through the poles and then halted easily to end our ride. 

*I am going to add a note here. May HAS done similar things before when she loses confidence in me. The below video from Kent is a perfect example. After the combination, May was just DONE saving me, so we had a run out. Once I rode better, she went perfectly again. 

Today? I am sore and still feeling a bit back on the heels from the experience. BUT I am super proud of the fact that I didn’t give up in this lesson, and I didn’t decide it was just too hard for us. I kept riding, and I ended the lesson with a much more confident and trusting horse than I started with… even if things got REALLY messy in the interim. I will probably dissect my feelings a bit more in my next post. Until then, have you ever had a lesson that had to hit a pretty low LOW point before ending great?

Fail Friday – No Stirrup November

First of all – thank you for all the comments and advice I got regarding tall boots. The blogging community really is the ultimate resource. Super big shout out to The Everything Pony who basically made a review post just for me! (not really the truth, but it makes me feel special) Go check it out if you are also curious about the Mountain Horse Sovereign boots. 

We are halfway through No Stirrup November. Posts have been rolling in of various bloggers and their sore muscles, strength progress, and just general struggles. Me? I have ridden without stirrups… twice? I think?

Totally missed fall this year…

Now this hasn’t been due to pure apathy about No Stirrup November. It more has to do with life, weather, and daylight savings. Prior to daylight savings, I was able to round up a couple of no stirrup rides after work. Now, however, riding during the week means riding in the dark under lights.

While May isn’t bad or spooky under the lights and in the cold, she is definitely not her typical self. On top of that… my winter breeches are SLICK (any recommendations here?). To add insult to injury, the weather has just been plain nasty and my schedule has made it very difficult to get out to the barn. 

I’m not giving up though. Failure only really happens when you give up on something (or it kills you… whatevs). So I am determined to continue to drop those stirrups all winter and come back even stronger in the Spring! (maybe, one day, even with new media) Maybe tomorrow I will even get my first weekend ride in since… forever ago. 


One thing has been going really well though. Since joining the gym last week, me and my friend have made it to 3 classes: 2 spin classes and something that I can only describe as some kind of hellish combination of yoga, pilates, and barre. Even after a bath last night, I am INCREDIBLY sore, but it feels good to keep my body moving even when I can’t make it to the gym. 

What about you? Have you been able to take advantage of No Stirrup November?

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.

Boo

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…

western

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.

Buddy3

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.

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!

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!

A Footloose Jumping Lesson

If you’re wondering what happened to me last week, join the club. I was called in for Jury Duty, and they quickly explained that, of the 60 people called, only 14 would be selected and the rest could leave at lunch time. Great! Except, I ended up being one of the 14 people and spent the majority of last week as a juror on a federal criminal trial. It was also at a location WAY DOWNTOWN in Louisville, so I was 45 min from home and 35 min from the barn, without traffic… given that there is always traffic in that area and they kept letting us out late, I basically didn’t get to ride last week… Oh well. Here is a summary of our lesson from the week below.

NT LOVES grids. She thinks that, especially in eventing, it is important to train horses to be responsible for what they are doing with their legs. The truth of the matter is, no one is ever going to hit ever jump from the perfect distance, so we have to train horses to make sure that they are confident and comfortable getting us out of some less than ideal situations. So instead of building exercises and courses that allow a jump, 20 strides, another jump, 5 strides, another jump, she built exercises that force us to think and react a bit faster.

The first exercise? A modified circle of death. In essence, we did the circle of death going to the left, but making right circles after the first 2 poles. See below… enjoy my paint skills.

Circle of Death

This was shockingly harder that I thought it would be. I really needed May to move off my inside leg and into my outside rein each time we changed direction, when all she wanted to do was drop her inside shoulder through my leg and barrel through my aids. Fun stuff. Eventually, we were able to do it without flailing around corners with me hopelessly hanging on the inside rein. Yay!

So then the circle of death changed again. We did it in the traditional manner, then circled in the opposite direction and came over an oxer in the middle of the exercise.

COD Oxer

Now, something interesting happened. If I could keep the balance and rhythm through the circle of death, then the turn and the oxer ended up being super smooth and easy. May POWERED over the oxer, and we ended up only doing this once in each direction. Calling it a win!

Now, it was course time. Let me just throw this out there… then I will explain. Luckily, all pics below are the jumps at the height they were set for our lesson, so you can have an idea of where we’re at. (somewhere between Starter and BN).

July Course

I always label the jump numbers on the side of the jump you are jumping from. So jump 1 was jumped from left to right, then the 2 combination was jumped from right to left. So yes. That means that the course started by jumping 1 near the rail, leg yielding out to the rail, then making a tight turn to jump the 2 combination on the quarter line. That two combination was a tight 2 stride… that I tried to make a 3 stride the first time we did it. The rest of the first course (which only went to jump 6) can be seen through my cambox!

It’s on mute because otherwise all you would hear in my heavy breathing. It was HOT and HUMID that day. After getting the 3 in the 2, I realized I really needed to get our butts in gear. I rode forward properly from there and, SHOCKINGLY, the rest of the course came up great. We were supposed to do the inside turn after the barrels, inside the red white and blue jump… but no luck the first attempt. Jump 4 jumped well, but I kept my leg on because of the liver-pool under jump 5. I shouldn’t have worried, May couldn’t have cared less. The triple rode AWESOME. It was a 1 stride to a 2 stride with the oxer at the end. So first course attempt was establishing the rhythm, but loosing the turns.

Our second attempt, we were told to add in jumps 7, 8, and 9. Except… I seriously massacred jump 4. I lost her right shoulder to the outside going around the corner, pulled (which made her MORE crooked), lost the distance. She chipped in, and jumped through her right shoulder, shoving my foot out of the stirrup and landing in a heap. I, embarrassingly, thought I was going to fall off. Nothing like impressing a new trainer in your second jump lesson by falling off because you lost your stirrup….

Here you can see the triple combination to jump 7. You can also see jump 4 (the watermelon jump) and jump 9 (the far, red white and blue vertical)

I regrouped, and we started again. I nailed one, got through 2, made the sharp turns to 3 and 4. Then, I got a little tight to the entrance into the triple combination. I am about 95% sure that I stopped breathing. We made it through fine. May really does have plenty of step. I made a VERY BAD turn to 7, and I realized I was REALLY dizzy when we landed. I circled and regrouped and came back to the walk. It was a cop out. I keep thinking that I probably could have made it through 2 more jumps, but was probably worth it in a lesson? Probably not. We took the walk break, and finished over 7, 8, and 9.

Just a slightly “to the left” pic compared to the one above, so that you can see the blue barrels and how close they were to jump 7.

I was exhausted. I felt heat sickness creeping up on me. I chugged a bottle of water while I hosed May off, and once she was in her stall under a fan, I sat down for maybe 20 minutes to regroup. It was bad. I was so sore the next day, and it was just really disappointing to me. I have spent the last couple of weeks getting up a 5AM to get to the gym before work, and this just reiterated how out of shape I have really gotten.

All I can do right now though is keep moving forward. I am pushing my morning workout a little harder, upping the amount of time I spend in the saddle (especially cantering) each ride, and I am making more of an effort to eat better to make my (and May’s job) a little easier with a few less lbs.

How did May feel? When I turned her out in her field (after a cold shower and some time under the fan), she took off galloping across the field to tell her friends about how awesome she is. I had to laugh. As usual, the problems are mine, not hers.

The circle of death! Hahaha (and the first 3 jumps of the course all the way in the background).

How do I feel about the lesson itself though? AMAZING. Reflecting back on it has made me realize just how much improvement I got from May through that one lesson. This horse has a habit of pulling me down and out of the tack after fences, but through these exercises, I had a horse that landing and came up to me, instead of pulling down. It was a huge improvement, and I can’t wait to keep working on it.

Product Review – Whole Horse Equine Fly Repellent Wipes

I have a confession to make. There is one thing I have never successfully desensitized May to, and it is fly spray. No matter how often we repeat the exercise, the simple act of spraying STUFF on her body causes her to snort, back up, and stare at me with wide eyed fear. That’s right. Fear. From May. Because of fly spray.

Eventually, I do get her to stand still, but the whites of her eyes will continue to show, and she will still shake with fear. It’s been 3 years, and I still feel like I am torturing her. I have tried natural fly spray, strong fly spray I only need to use a little of, and even home made fly spray. It didn’t matter. She thought it was all going to kill her.

Absorbine.JPGI, however, have been a die hard Absorbine Ultrashield Ex (the black bottle) user for YEARS. Seriously, I once sent the husband into a Dover to just buy that. When they didn’t have the black version in the 32 ounce bottles, he guilted them into giving him a discount on the full gallon… because “that’s really the one she likes.” Unfortunately, that stuff is miserable to use. It smells awful, and too much of it can cause irritations for both me and May.

SO when I realized that this woman in my barn had a line of plant derived horse care goods. I was kind of intrigued. When she mentioned that she also sold fly repellent WIPES, I was all over it. Serious grabby hands.

Now the product description reads as such:

Our unique blend of lemongrass, essential oils and natural surfactants repel Flies, Gnats, Mosquitoes and other Annoying Flying Insects for up to 8 Hours.

What does this mean in real life? It means it smells great, doesn’t irritate my skin or May’s skin, and lasts several hours. It even means that I can wipe them easily on her ears, an area that I could never get near with traditional fly spray.

I bought this product in the beginning of June, so have been using it for about a month. I have found that 2 wipes work best for May’s whole body. At $25 per container of 90 wipes, this works out to about $0.55 per use, so it probably is more expensive than a traditional fly spray.

So would I use this if May wasn’t so opposed to regular fly spray? Yes, but only for ears and such. I would probably also buy their regular fly spray at $25 for 32 ounces.

Other items I am coveting from them? They are coming out with a purple shampoo AND they have a fungicide that I seriously think might come in handy if we have another wet fall. Check out their full line for yourself here: https://www.wholehorseequine.com/ 

What about you? Make any switches in your core group of products this summer?

THIS REVIEW IS NOT SPONSORED, AND THE ITEMS DISCUSSED IN THIS REVIEW WERE PURCHASED BY ME WITH MY OWN MONEY.