Friday, August 28, 2015

Gallopin' Feet

This morning I dragged my sleepy self off to M's thinking I'd have a light dressage ride, sort out the connection stuff a bit more, and then help her set jumps for a grid school for some kids heading to their pony club rating.

But of course, M had a different plan. "If you want to go, Spike and I are going to go down the hill, do some trot and canter sets in the meadow, and then come back up. If you WANT to go. You don't HAVE to."

But I think I had to.

The bad news is, I only keep one saddle at a time at M's because I need one at home to ride Red (and also my diamond shoes are too tight) so I only had the dressage saddle. I just shortened the stirrups as much as I could handle with the straight flap and off we went! It was fine, really. In some ways having the longer leg was good when he did screw around a little bit.

I was wishing so hard for this saddle

Man, it was fun. I mean, Mo whined a little bit on the hill and he wanted to lead (as did Spike so we just took turns), but I finally had a horse that was trotting forward with zero input from me. I wasn't sure how the cantering would go because he's never done that with another horse around. He's cantered in the open on a couple XC schools, but that's it. There was always another jump to think about. We didn't really plan to gallop, but he did switch to a gallop here and there when he was pissed at Spike.

It was so much fun. His gallop is going to be perfect. In the first canter set, I was all, "I should bridge my reins," so I did that, and then M noticed and was like, "Show jump rider, huh? Riiiiiight." Ha. The old instincts were kicking in. At one point when I was passing her, I yelled, "Next time you have to tell me before I come over that we're doing this so I can bring my jump saddle!"

Yeah, this get-up says "go gallop" all over it, huh?

I had a really great time, and I think Mo did too. He especially liked getting to be in front. It will be interesting to see if this translates into a more forward-thinking horse on the flat next week. Fingers crossed.

Moral of the story: The first time you gallop your baby horse, do it in the dressage tack. :D

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Jumping Legs

Mo had a terrific flat ride yesterday--in the bridle, on-point leg yields, relaxed canter. So M and I decided that for my lesson today, we should, you know, jump some jumps.

And then I pulled into the driveway and saw this. And said, aloud: "Ohhhhhhhh shit."

All jumps please report to the centerline
I actually really love this exercise, and I was psyched that she thought Mo was ready for any part of that. As with all of her jump schools, there are various exercises with degrees of difficulty built in, and I figured she wouldn't ask him the very hardest questions. So I walked into the barn like "LET'S GET READY TO JUMP, MO!"

He was thinking more along the lines of bedtime stories.

I have hearts for eyeballs when I look at this.
So I was all, "Good idea, buddy! Rest your jumping legs. I'll get your tack together and you can get up and stretch and then we'll be ready to go."


Foaling out, there, Mr Belly?
But not to worry. Once I got him up and in the ring, he was forward and happy. I was very pleased. M was riding her young horse too. He's about a year ahead of Mo in his training, but we can do jump schools together sometimes and she can choose the harder options or hike the jumps up another hole when I'm done. I always enjoy the schools where we ride together because I get the instruction and I also get to see her do the exercises and learn. Plus it's fun because we get along so well.

In case you can't tell from my mediocre pics, the line went: chevrons (which we didn't jump but M did later on her more advanced horse), vertical (started out as a cross rail), liverpool (started out with rails on the ground on each side and eventually became a cross rail oxer), vertical, square oxer, vertical, skinny with a block under it. Mo has historically not been a fan of skinnies with stuff under them.

I made him step over the liverpool at the walk and then we both trotted figure 8s over the X. Mo actually took a hard look at the X the first time, which was weird, but we carried on. Then we each did three circles on the left lead over the center vertical. Mo kept trying to break to the trot, and the theme of the day was established: Get the snoozy horse in front of the leg. I mean, that's the theme of his entire life? But when he was in front of my leg in a canter I liked, I could see a distance. When he wasn't, I found that I'd get too far behind the motion and drive him to something, which isn't good. Ideally, I stay with the motion and just keep him in front of my leg. And then, honestly, the distances just show up. For as green as he is, when his motor is running, his canter is really good and jumping is easy for him.

We cantered right lead over the second vertical three times, and that was necessarily a tighter circle because of where it was in the ring. It was fine, though, as long as I kept my leg on through the turn. Then the real work began: Right lead over the first vertical, turn left and jump the next one (making square turns to get straight to the jump), then right over the third vertical, then loop around left back to that vertical and serpentine back down the ring so each jump had been jumped once from each direction.

This was hard for Mo, because things came up fast. If I stretched up tall and kept my leg on, it went okay, though he doesn't always give me the proper lead in the air (no worries, we haven't worked on that at all). But he really did well if I kept him forward. M did the same exercise and also did a set in which she angled each jump. Mo wasn't ready for us to try that so I just watched. Her horse did an incredible job of following her eye. He's going to be a superstar.

Next she had me canter the center vertical, turn, gallop almost all the way around the ring, and then come to the skinny on a long approach, after which I'd make the short turn back. Then I'd repeat the exercise the other way. Mo said no to the skinny at first, but then he was okay after that. I really have to keep his motor running, but skinnies are tough because you also have to steer better. On a horse more broke than him this isn't an issue, but it's a balancing act with him still. He eventually did really well with it. Finally, I'd start with the skinny from the long approach, turn to the square oxer, and then turn back again to the liverpool oxer, then serpentine back up the ring again. It was hard, but he did it. These are the kinds of jump schools that turn into a big step forward for the horses.

The feeling I get from him when everything clicks into place is phenomenal. I can't wait to see where he is in a year.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Makin' Plans

Awhile ago, I put up a Horse Show Schedule page on the blog, but I never pointed it out. I've edited it now. Here's what it says but with annotations:

Fall 2015
September 12: Fix a Test with Brian Ross at Gordonsdale
Mo: Entered to do BN Test A
Red: Entered to do N Test B
(Some chance they'll ask everyone to bring only one horse, in which case, I'll flip a coin)

I'm VERY excited about this. I loved my lesson with Brian back in March. I hope he thinks Mo has improved and I'm eager to hear what he says about Red, who's a bit tricky still but has made progress.

Better than this now, I HOPE.

September 13: Gordonsdale Schooling Horse Trials
Mo: Entered to do Advanced Green (BN Test A, 2'-2'3" show jumping, little logs/brush jumps XC)
I scratched Loch Moy to take Mo to this and the Brian Ross clinic. I've schooled at Gordonsdale a bunch and will again this weekend. I think this should be a lot of fun. I had a great time in March.

But this behavior was nice

September 19: Morningside Combined Test
Mo: Goal of Baby Novice
I adore Morningside. It's probably my favorite showing venue, although I've never set foot on their XC course. Mo jumped around the Baby Novice show jumping course last time we went as his extra jump round and it went great, so I think it'll be lovely.

I still live for this canter from Morningside a few months back

October 3: Hunt Club Starter Trial
Mo: Goal of Elementary

I had initially hoped to enter him at BN here, but it's feeling too soon. If I hadn't hurt my back, maybe, but better a year late than a day early when it comes time to move a horse up. Confidence-building experiences only, please.

This is from JUMP, not Hunt Club, but it's cute

(Note: Advanced Green, Baby Novice, and Elementary are all the same thing)

October 18: Maryland Fall Starter Trial #2
Mo: Goal of Elementary or MAYBE Beginner Novice
I'm on the fence about entering this one because he'll have been traveling a lot. I need to see what else will be going on in later in the month or if there's something closer to home this weekend. If he's totally perfect at his other shows going Elementary or its equivalent, I'd feel better about going BN here. However, I've seen a couple of questions on the BN course here that I thought were a bit advanced for the level, like a jump out of the water. I'll decide in a month if I'm going to do this.

Loch Moy was a good time before

December 12: Maryland Fall Starter Trial #3
Mo: Goal of Beginner Novice
He should be able to go BN by this point, and there's a chance that I'll have been able to drive him over to Loch Moy to school their BN jumps. If I end up deciding to keep him at Elementary for the rest of the year, though, that's cool. Plenty of time.

I know this schedule is very Mo-heavy at this point, and I need to look around for some dressage shows for Red. I probably also need to put on my big-boy pants and get him jumping again. We'll see how our work with the pole goes.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ups and Downs

The thing about bringing along a green horse is that one day you have a super great jump school and you're like "my horse is a GENIUS" after he jumps his first Swedish oxer and canters into his first one-stride that isn't part of a grid.

And then the next day you can't get him on the bit.

Except for the jump school Thursday, Mo has had quite a light week. He just walked Monday. Tuesday he went on a trail ride. Wednesday he walked and did a tiny bit of trotting. Even Thursday's jump school was pretty quick, because no need to prove a huge point to him when he's doing things right the first time. And last week was also relatively chill for him. So, dude should not be tired or sore or out of quarters. He just straight-up didn't want to cooperate on Friday.

Throwback pics today

But that's too bad, because he had to do what he was asked. The problem was that I got no sleep at all the night before because I'm farm sitting at a place with a fox hound who wants to share the couch with me even though he's my size and a cat that has to be touching me at all times and two other dogs and two other cats and also a noisy rooster outside. So I was kind of behind the eight ball to begin with, and then when 30 minutes went by of him doing every single thing imaginable except coming round, even with M in the ring to holler instructions at me... I just kind of melted. I wasn't giving up, but I was allowing those stupid emotions to get involved and beating myself up really hard. It's really hard to focus on the subtleties of feel when I'm in that head space.

So M got on, and that's never happened before, and THAT is what is really bothering me. I mean, she did a great job up there. He threw a huge fit for her too, but she got him where he needed to be. I got back on, rode the horse that she turned him into, and when we'd executed a couple of good serpentines we were done.

For the rest of the day I felt like I had that bad-ride hangover. It was educational for Mo, I guess. And for me. But mostly it left me feeling like I don't know shit about anything. In the barn, M said that my deal is that I've ridden a lot of horses that are greener than Mo and then moved them on before we got to this point, and a lot of horses that are less green than him who already get this, but I've only had three horses right where he is now (him, Lex, and a horse I rode in FL for awhile--and things with Lex ended in tears). She's had at least 50 horses be right where he is now, so she simply has more education in dealing with it. That made me feel the tiniest smidge better (as did whining to Niamh and Aimee).

It's frustrating to work so hard and sacrifice so much and have such a nice horse and feel like I'm totally lacking talent. I'm trying to tell myself how great this will all be when he owns the connection piece, and also that this show season is just about getting out into the world so if it turns out he can't dressage at all, fine.

Also, as I'm always saying, if it was easy to be Beezie Madden, we would all be Beezie Madden. That doesn't mean I'm cool with not being Beezie Madden.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Not According to Plan

Horses are so hilarious.

First of all, I was not planning to still feel like crap on Wednesday morning (and I'm writing this on Wednesday afternoon). Gluten is such a bitch for those of us with celiac disease. I hate it. So I hadn't eaten much since Monday night, and ordinarily I'm a big eater, so it's no shock that I felt weak and gross and headachy on Wednesday morning. I tacked up Red anyway. Got on at 6:30am. Because I am insane.

I put the jump tack on him and set out one pole on the ground because he needs to do something besides work on connection and engagement for a minute. He was happy to see the pole, and after I let him trot over it a couple of times... I had a horse who'd have had an excellent first level test. Ha. He's a goof.

My plan after warming up was to trot the pole a couple times, and then canter it. If he stayed rhythmical in the canter with the pole, I'd put it on the lowest setting of the blocks, so like 6". Then I was going to get a rhythmical canter over that each way and go back to the barn. WELL. As soon as Red saw the pole was off the ground, he ZOOOOOOOOOOMED at it. Being a little ill was a good thing, because my natural instinct to sit back when he does that (and hence drive him even more forward) was beat out by my floppy "stay with him" seat that is what actually works if the "jump" is going to work out well. When you're on a horse that coils against the hand and rushes like that, do notttttt lean back and drive them unless you like flat jumps. That's my advice.

I was surprised at how much he was grabbing the bit and running, but then again, that's his go-to move. So this is the work I have to do. Next time we do this exercise, I'll move the pole to a better spot in the ring and do downward transitions once we've turned to it until he's cantering nicely, or do the old Steinkrauss exercise of getting his eye on it and then turning him away if he starts rushing. I've done that one with him before and it's worked well.

I then drove to M's thinking about how much easier my jump lesson on Mo was going to be than trying to canter the "broke" horse over a cavaletto. Because I am dumb and I like to jinx shit.

Oh hi, right hock

I guess Mo said something rude about the pony's mother and the pony nicked his hock with one of his sharp little pony feet.
At least there's not a show this weekend

I led him up to the ring where M was riding and she asked why he didn't have a saddle on. I told her it was time to start training for the circus so I wanted her to put all the jumps to the top of the standards while I rode tackless. Then I made her watch him trot and she said what I thought: horse is totally sound.

We scrapped the jump lesson, obviously, but since he was sound and I could palpate it without him crying, she and I decided I should tack him up, walk him out on our short hacking loop, and then trot a little in the ring. The idea was to get him to go forward and move the joint, because moving is good for edema and standing in the stall is bad.

Wouldn't you know that he actually gave me the best trot work I've had in over a week? Really stepped up under himself and engaged. Horses. So weird.

Afterwards, I iced his hock for 20 minutes to be on the safe side. He was quite patient with the whole ordeal.

Too cheap for ice boots when this works too

He only pouted when his pony left the barn
After all of that, the swelling had gone down quite a bit.

My best attempt to get the same angle while woozy from lack of food
By Thursday morning it was all back to normal and I was thrilled. We had a good jump school that I'll write about another time. I'm glad that M and I were on the same page--if he's sound and happy, he can keep hacking out. It's better for him than stall rest, and there's NO reason for stall rest given that he's sound. And the plan worked, because all that remained Thursday morning was a small scrape.

It'll be nice when we figure out how to bubble wrap horses.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


When I think back to last fall and how often I had to grab the neck strap, it puts into perspective for me how far Mo really has come. I can ride him without worrying most of the time, and he's proven over and over how great he can be with things a lot of horses find challenging. We've had some really great outings at horse shows. He's jumping great. Even the dressage has come along, especially when I can get his motor running--which I think will be easier when it cools off.

Part of the reason he's gotten more rideable is simply because he's more broke. We're also feeding him a lot less and he's still a giant marshmallow, but when he arrived he was on the skinny side. M and I both hate skinny horses. So that had to get fixed! But I think the feed wound him up, so now that we've cut the ration back significantly and he's holding his weight, we've got a calmer horse on our hands. Maybe too calm.

Too scrawny

However, there's one demon we haven't successfully killed, and that's Mo's issue with going down the hill to the meadow. On Tuesday, after I'd spent an entire night throwing up because I'd accidentally ingested gluten (I have celiac disease), M announced that she was taking one of her horses down the hill to walk a lap around the meadow, then trot a lap, then walk another lap, then back up the hill and home. Since I was already queasy, I was like, sure why not.

Mo fussed a little bit going down the hill, but nothing as bad as he's done in the past. He whined quite a bit about this one deer fly that wouldn't leave him alone, and about the flowers touching his tummy, about whatever. After we got the first walk lap done, M had me pull ahead. She was on a fat warmblood who doesn't care where he is in the pack, and she thought my thoroughbred would rather be in the front. But I guess we forgot that this was Mo.

Naps 4 Lyfe

He just looked over his shoulder for the other horse the whole time we were in front so M pulled up beside us. I got excited that he would find his thoroughbred motor and try to race the other horse. Heeeeee diiiiiiiid noooooot. He was more than happy to watch P disappear off into the distance. M had us get back in front again and at one point he threw a tiny fit and bucked but he was pretty good after that. We had a good giggle about his whiny attitude.

Mo? Whine? NEVER

The rest of the ride was fine, but I really do want him to go down the hill a lot and get over his crap. I'm hoping that when it cools off and the bugs go away we'll be able to have a better time. Not much is getting his motor running these days, but we have a jump lesson coming up that, I hope, will help. If nothing else, I'll just teach my intro event horse to gallop.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Another Post on Drugs

I read Gingham's post on Inclusive and the latest big name drug bust in hunter land, this time from the Colvins, with interest. I thought she did a great job and the comments were on point, so I don't have a ton to add, but here it is:

When is it okay to drug a horse, in my humble opinion?
1. When the vet, dentist, or farrier needs to in order to complete her job. 
I'm all about this, and I don't think most people would argue, although I've heard vets tell stories of people who wouldn't let their horses be drugged and then someone ended up getting kicked in the head or whatever. When Red had colitis last fall and needed to be tubed, it just wouldn't have happened without dorm. If you need to do ultrasound or radiographs, you're probably going to have to knock the horse out a little (though I did participate in a pre-purchase for a client on a horse who stood perfectly still through the entire radiograph session and was such a perfect gentleman that the girl whispered to me that she no longer cared what the rads said--they were perfect, she bought the fabulous horse, and they're still living happily ever after).

Sleepy time for teeth day

2. If you've got to get them somewhere that isn't a horse show, like a new barn or the vet's clinic (but not for a PPE because that'll fuck with your blood draw) or whatever, and they need a little Ace to get on the trailer.

Hey, look. I get that we're all perfectly principled horse people around here who practice every single thing we preach. In my world, horses need to get on the horse trailer when they're told. Red self-loads, Mo now loads nicely. I take the time to work on it. But sometimes the time isn't there, or the horse is frantic for an unusual reason. Plus it's not always in your best interest to let the situation spin out of control. I spent three and a half hours trying to load a mare for a client. Mare was beside herself, client was beside herself, I really needed a drink. We finally called the vet, who showed up with xylazine, and the damn horse got on the rig and it was fine. Wish we'd done that an hour or so in because I hate how much stress that put on the mare. What if she'd hurt herself?

3. Stall rest, if the horse needs it.
After Lex's stifle surgery, I put her on oral reserpine. Saved her life, because without it she'd buck and kick the walls, which is not what a horse recovering from stifle surgery should do. She missed a dose one night and the next day kicked my arm and broke it. Back on the reserpine, back to an easier time for her. I wouldn't jump right to that for any horse, and I'd DEFINITELY hesitate to have oral reserpine in a barn where any horses were doing recognized showing in any discipline because yikes, cross contamination. But I think it can be okay sometimes.

This poor mare hated stall rest

4. Turnout after stall rest.
Sometimes they need some Ace to settle back in, even if it wears off by the time you've led them to the paddock, like it seems to do with most thoroughbreds. It's fine. Whether you'd do this or how much you'd give would really depend on the horse, but man does it ever make me feel better knowing it's there. This could also apply to the deep midwinter when the horses have been in for two days and the paddocks are safe for turnout but getting five psychotic horses out to the paddocks without them killing me or themselves is nearly impossible. A little ace for them, a little whiskey for me, and we'll all live.

I think that's about all I can come up with on when it's okay to drug a horse. Some professionals I respect would say that it's also fine to give the horse a little Ace for various non-competitive riding situations (fox hunting--Pretty Famous Dude who lives here was telling me at Middleburg HT that he hunted for 40 years and never one SINGLE time hunted a horse without Ace, and in fact the huntsman would pull a needle out of his pocket and stick the horse again mid-hunt; first ride back after time off; etc.). I don't like riding horses on Ace, I don't feel safe. I don't really know what goes on in a horse's head when she's drugged. So while I'll do it when it's in the horse's best interest, like the situations above, I don't do it when it's in mine. Then again, I can stick a lot of stupid crap horses pull and falling off isn't the end of the world anyway.

Which brings me to when I think it's just not okay to drug a horse and I don't care who you are:
Not all professionals agree with me on this one. Some are happy to give a hot horse a little Ace to go to an unrecognized event or unrated show because there aren't drug tests there and "everyone else is doing it" and "it'll help him have a positive experience." All of those things may be true, although I'm not so sure about the last one. I'm not convinced Ace is a pleasant experience. Maybe it is! But I don't know. And going back to how unsafe I feel riding a drugged horse, I just don't want to do that.

Plus it's against the rules. And I don't like cheating.

At recognized/rated shows, of course, there are random drug screens. One of M's horses was randomly selected this summer at a recognized event, which was fine by us because our horses are squeaky clean. I can't imagine how crappy I would have felt if the horse had had something in his system.

Not drugged. Just lazy.

As I said in my comment on Gingham's post, what it comes down to for me is that:
1. If you care about the sport enough to spend your life and/or money in it, you should care about the rules. The rules say don't drug.
2. A real horsewoman would never hurt her horse to win. Ever. Ever. Ever.
3. I still don't get why everyone needs a warmblood because no one can ride a thoroughbred--if warmbloods are so lovely and amateur-friendly, why the Carolina Gold and Perfect Prep and endless lunging? Someone explain this to me please.

I think it's likely that Inclusive was getting the same drugs as everyone else in the barn. It'll be interesting to see what happens as the investigation goes on. But I'm not gonna assume she didn't have anything to do with it ("innocent until proven guilty, Jess?" Eh. Not so much here).

So there it is, my not controversial stance on drugging. Hunters need to change the judging standards somehow, but that's their world and not mine. I like that the quarter horse people revoke judging licenses for people who've been caught drugging, and I think that would go a long LONG way, because judging is incredibly important to the politics of hunters, and the politics of hunters is where the money is made.

Everyone says they don't drug. But clearly people do. I wish they wouldn't, is all I'm saying.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Derpsage, Red Edition

One of the ways I bond with horses is by going places with them, especially to horse shows. I think that's why Mo and I have really advanced in our partnership this year--we've been through some stuff together. I love Red but he and I don't have that "in it" feeling that Mo and I seem to have. So how do we fix that? Horse shows.

I've been focusing on dressage with Red for a couple months now, and we'd gotten to the point that we weren't going to totally horrify a judge, but I knew we wouldn't knock anyone's socks off either. I entered him in two dressage-only tests at a local combined test on Saturday. I went in thinking we'd likely score in the high 30s or low 40s in BN B and N B (both supes boring tests until the end where they just get weird).

I had no idea what Red would be like at a show. He has an excellent USEF record, but there was definitely some questionable training going on in his jumper life (more to come on that in the future). So it's entirely possible that he was living on Carolina Gold and Perfect Prep and hours of lunging--that happens in the jumpers too, weirdly. So would he come off the trailer, pick up the horse show atmosphere, and lose his marbles?

Honestly, I think last year, he would have. When I occasionally took him on field trips last fall, he was kind of a nut. Nothing too scary that I couldn't sit, but just SUPER wound up. In general, this year he's been a much more civilized dude. So he stepped off the trailer, was all "Yay they make grass here!" and was very polite while my mom held him and I tacked him up. I didn't even consider lunging, just hopped on and cruised around the show grounds so he could see everything. He kinda bounced at the walk for a few minutes, then took a deep breath and just ambled around like the professional he is.

Rainbow flag on the saddle pad!

Warmup was tough--it was hot as shit by that point, only like 9:30am. The warmup was basically on a hillside, so it was hard to get my show jumper to balance himself. Event horses learn to balance on hills a bit, but he's never had that chance. He wasn't being bad, but he was definitely against my hand a bit and rushing around, and I felt like I was getting sucked into bracing in my arm and taking my leg off.

About as balanced as we were going to get

So I took him down to a walk, patted him on the neck, rode him back up to the trailer where my mom lightly sponged him off, and then let him stand in the shade for about 15 minutes. That left me like 10 minutes to actually warm up. The "ring" emptied a bit and I managed to find a relatively flat area to do some 20m canter circles. His trot work always improves after a canter, but I didn't have much time to really get the trot together before it was time to go. I was fine with that, because even if I'd given myself more time, I don't think we'd have gotten anywhere good. He was washing out with sweat, you know? I think that break in the shade was better for his brain than drilling the trot. It's not like I was hoping for a bronze score that day.

Chillin with the best show mom ever

When it was time to go trot around the ring, I was again a little unsure of what he'd make of things like the letters and the judge, but the judge was sitting in an SUV on the other side of a fence (great visibility, I'm sure) and the letters were small. I don't think he really noticed any of that. I felt that he asked me a question about what we should do, so I asked him to please release the base of his neck and stay in a rhythm, ha. We were hit or miss with the coming-round bit, but he did stay in a non-rushing rhythm and was actually pretty relaxed.

Listening ears

Now listen: I memorized the tests the day before the show. I'd never practiced them. I don't have a dressage ring anywhere to work on geometry. It occurred to me on the way to the show that I have probably never done a trot-halt transition on this horse, ha.

BN B was the first test, and it was fine. He inverted at times, softened at times, and I was trying my best to get him to be in a nice pushing trot without rushing and to get the geometry right and keep my stupid show jumper shoulders back and let my leg be long and half halt at the appropriate moments and so on, and guys, I just really want to get in the jumper ring where I have half a clue what I'm doing. But the test was fine, appropriate for the level. We got a 39, so right about where I figured we'd score.

Decent for the level

Frame-worthy, huh?

WTF upper body, but he looks fine

leeeeean wid it

Could my reins get longer?


Not dressage! Carousel horse!

This is kind of as good as it gets at the canter for him right now

Hey, the halt wasn't tragic

I had 40 minutes before N B, so I just hopped off, let him eat grass with his bridle on, watched a few friends ride, chit chatted, and hung out. Like a real professional, ha. It was 95 degrees and humid and Red does not care about dressage, so what was the point of going back on the hillside to get a better trot? There was no point, is the answer to that shit. It was fun, though. A local equine dentist was hanging out with his wife at the show and he was totally enamored of Red, who was resting his chin on my shoulder, like he does. "He's so SHINY! I don't usually like chestnuts but he just GLOWS. What is he???" I think he'd have taken Red home with him if I'd let him.

He was posing so nicely all day

I climbed back on about eight minutes before my next test and just did some changes of bend in the walk to get him moving forward and off my leg a bit. We went back in and had a somewhat better test, I thought, in that we got a bit better in the geometry and I felt he was, for the most part, a touch softer in the bridle. The judge gave us another 39 though, so I guess she didn't think we improved.

He does need to go more forward

I love how he was listening to me

Wheeeeere is my lower leg going?

Shoulders back, jumper rider

Hey, kind of okay!
Another decent halt--maybe I don't actually need to get around to practicing these?

Her comments were on point, I thought. She noted when he was soft and when he was bracing, and said she'd like to see a more forward trot. I would too, but right now when he goes forward in the trot he gets a little tense, so I was sacrificing forwardness for relaxation, given that relaxation is before impulsion on ye olde training scale. I think it was the right choice, and also that she was correct to note it.

No ribbons because I was riding HC, but he'd have been second in Novice and like third in BN at a not-super-competitive show. I showed the tests to M and she was happy with them as a starting point. I told her that I was having some self-loathing issues about hating my riding, and she said, "We are not going to beat up Jess! Go pick on someone your own size!" Ha.

Time to set up a couple of jumping lessons. I like dressage fine, but I'm bored and I want to think about something else for awhile. I think the stripey-faced ones agree. Sorry, DQs. Not totally there yet. Love you though!

I fucking love him

Monday, August 17, 2015

Jumping, Thank GOD

On Wednesday I finally decided that the balance between "my back doesn't feel great" and "Mo and I both need to jump" had tipped enough in the latter direction that it was time to just get it done, so M scheduled me in for the next day. Fortunately, M is doing a zillion Pony Club C-3 preps right now so the C-3 grid is set up. It's three trot poles, a cross rail, one stride to a vertical, one stride to another vertical, one stride to an oxer. Not too complicated--Mo has done much more technical grids with ease, but this was our first time back to jumping in a minute and we haven't done grids in months.

I was a little rusty--M had to remind me to show the bottom of my foot to the front of the fence so my leg doesn't slip back in the air (I gotta spend some QT in two-point, man). She told me that he's ready for me to be more generous with my release, but that's hard when my base wasn't quite there thanks to weeks of dressage and trail rides (not that dressage riders aren't incredible athletes, but jumping requires different muscles). So that's a goal--get the base back, and release more in the air. I can do this, it's not super hard for me if I'm fit, but I've definitely slid backwards. No worries. I can fix that.

Anyway, the grid progressed as usual--just trot poles, then the poles to the X, then adding the next vertical, etc. He'd come once from each direction over each new element before she'd add the next one. Nothing new there. But every time, he just kinda trotted in and jumped. I'd add a little leg coming down the long side so he would have power through the turn and wouldn't have to change anything when he got there, and I'd close my leg between each jump, but I didn't need to nail him. I know part of the point of grids is that they keep the horse in a bit of a rhythm all on their own, but I really liked how he read it. As always, he just finds his way through without any drama.

Me? Drama?

M put up the two verticals a little after my first time through with both of them, so the first one was 2'3" and the second one was 2'6", and then left them alone after that and focused on making the oxer bigger. And bigger. And just a little bigger.

Until it was 3'. Which isn't THAT exciting until you consider that it was Mo's first 3' fence.

Bam, motherfuckers
I texted my mom after the lesson and was like "WE JUST JUMPED 3' AND MO IS AMAZINNNGGG." She asked how he handled it, and I said, "Without batting an eyelash." Why should he? Jumping is easy for him. I'm not sure we could have built a better jumper. He can really crack his back in the air, too. I'm definitely going to have to get strong in my position again if I'm going to do him justice. Which I really hope I do. He might not have fast shoes (yet), but he's got springs in his feet. While I would never do this because rattling him is NOT worth it, it felt to me like we could have put the rails at the top of the standards and he'd have just kept on trucking through.

Afterwards, M was like "You should be very happy, that was so great, a big step forward." I joked that since he's jumped 3' he's now ready to go novice, and she was like "yeah right, just go ahead and enter training, whatever."

I'm so excited. So, so excited. My mom promised to come get video of him jumping soon, now that she's on her way home from her summer trip, so I hope that works out soon (and that my position is back to decent beforehand, ha, selfish).

I'd say this jump school did the trick in breaking up the dressage ennui. Yay.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Someone Needs Fast Shoes

Oh, Moses. I love you so much, and yet you require so much kicking.

Default speed
So right after I got off Red the other day, I tacked Mo up and off we went for Round 2. A lot of the same principles were revisited, in terms of the horse giving to the contact and moving forward. But with Red, the forwardness is just there. With Mo, it has to be created. He can really step under himself and come round when he wants to, but it takes a lot of riding to get there. I think this might change when the weather gets cooler.

I also think he is getting bored with dressage. I don't blame him. For awhile there, he was going super well and I think that's because we were jumping and doing XC schools and going to horse shows. He was interested. It was fun for him. And then I wrenched my back and ignored it and really threw things off, and then it was just walking or dressage for WEEKS.

The exercise that seemed to help Mo the most on the dressage lesson day was spiraling in to a 10m circle at the trot, and then spiraling out while asking for a lengthening, which ultimately resulted in him getting into a very nice working trot, through and connected, really pushing from behind. For the first time, I really felt him take my hand.

But here's what needs to happen, besides getting him broke to spurs, which is on my agenda for next week: he needs to jump again. And go schooling, and get off the farm, and get interested in life. I'm bored, he's bored, we're all bored with dressage. I love dressage and hope to progress up the levels. I also love broccoli but sometimes I want to eat something else.

Good news is, baby had a grid school on Thursday, which you'll hear about next week, wheeeee.