Friday, September 25, 2015

He's So Bad and He Does it So Well

There's your Friday-morning TSwift reference. You're welcome.

Yesterday I took Mo on an XC schooling adventure. M had a couple of other students going so we tagged along, as did my mom on Teddy (M said Teddy got the award for Best Mane).

You can see why.
Teddy didn't really jump, although he bravely stepped over some logs and did the little step in and out of the water. The other two horses and Mo needed pretty much the same school, so that was good.

Good thing: Mo jumped everything put in front of him without saying no at all. He did ask some questions but I put my leg on and he jumped everything. The jumps ranged from tiny logs on the ground to some solid BN questions. He owned the jumping, the terrain questions, all of it. Ditch-to-jump, jump-to-ditch, on the bank, off the bank, funky looking jumps, whatever.

This was, what, my second day with him or something?
He's never cared much about terrain issues. Love that.

Bad thing: He did NOT own the "we're just hanging out" time. It was chilly yesterday, and he was a little up, and he just wanted to mess with me endlessly. He also got nappy about leaving the group a couple times. But if I made him gallop away from them, he would. There was a lot of head-flinging and acting like a dummy, so he's gonna get a running martingale for at least awhile.

This would have been a mild disobedience in yesterday's context.

What was interesting was that his best behavior was when he was pointed at a jump he thought was interesting or maybe hard. Then he'd focus on his job. But logs on the ground are borrrrrriiiiiiing to him now. This is a HUGE step up from where we were at the end of May, exactly four months ago. However, I would like him to be rideable. I think we'll get all the pieces in place. He was acting like a screwball yesterday, but I don't think he really is one fundamentally.

Fundamentally he wants to nap.

The one thing that kinda messed me up with his behavior was that I was taking back the reins too quickly after the jump to defend against his antics, when what I needed to do was stay soft and just let him gallop. We all know this horse needs to be more forward-thinking, and so the worst thing for me to do is to stop him. But always happens, M harasses me until I do what she wants. I'm pleased that I was able to stay soft going TO the fence, and put him between my leg and the jump and leave my hands out of it (and this comes from him now understanding his job, that he's to march down to the middle of the fence and jump over it, so I don't have to keep a hold of his mouth on the way in). I also have my release back and was able to let him jump all the way over the fence without feeling my hand at all. But within a couple strides of landing I was instinctively like "get back here" instead of "go go go." By the end it was much better, and this really is an easy thing to fix. I just have to be aware of what I'm doing, and isn't that a huge part of riding anyway?

Ultimately, I'll take the horse that ably and enthusiastically jumps what's in front of him and yanks my chain when he's bored over the horse that ambles around like a saint but can't/won't jump. That's my preference, and it doesn't have to be yours. Still, I think I can get Mo's brain back into my hands over time. We all know that his brain does sometimes fall out an ear and roll away. This ain't the first time that's happened and won't be the last! I also trust my seat enough to know I can stick a lot of crap, and I trust him enough to know that the crap isn't going to get truly terrifying.

We were schooling at a place owned by a lovely man whose life basically revolves around OTTBs, and he's been in love with Mo for awhile. So when he came up to us after the schooling he was eager to show me (and Mo) that the lock screen on his phone is a picture he took of Mo back in May when we went to the Brian Ross clinic. I LOVE it. I texted it to myself right away. It was worth the trip just for that!

He's not very tall but he IS handsome as hell.
He jumped well enough that if we can get one more good XC school in the next week or so, I might move him up to BN for MDHT on the 18th. We'll see!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Stay Not Freeze

I'm picking up on something. A pattern is emerging. I need to break the pattern right now if I'm gonna progress in my riding.

When M says "stay," I think "freeze."

Example: "Stay still, don't change anything in front of the jump" leads to me NOT MOVING for the last two strides, just sitting there doing nothing. Which is not what she meant, because that translates into dropping the horse, losing the rhythm, and then good luck getting a decent jump. She doesn't really mean "don't do anything," she means "don't change what you're doing." I've got this sorted out while jumping now. Part of what helped was M saying "stay connected" and reminding me to count my rhythm.

Staying in the moment and not abandoning Mosey.

Now I'm having the same issue with transitions. I can competently ride my lovely horse from trot to walk and back now (after like 25 years of riding), but I freeze in the halt ("If I sit here perfectly still, you'll be perfectly still, too, right?" Um, no).

He needs to stop moving but I need to ride him while he's standing still.

And then yesterday, M realized that I'm still riding the canter transitions like he doesn't know what those are--tipping a little forward, throwing the reins at him, driving with my seat. Instead, I need to STAY--I need to sit up, keep riding, do just what I do in the walk-to-trot transitions. But instead, I FREEZE, and do nothing. And then he inverts and runs into the transition because that's what he has learned. From me. Yay.


I can fix this, I think, by riding Red. His canter transitions aren't perfect yet but I know that on him I can stay sitting up and keep the trot rhythm going (and I bet if I really think about how I'm riding them, they'll get better...). But I need to be sure that when I get on Mo, he's getting that same ride from me.


Is this something you've dealt with? How did you fix it?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

SB's Awesome Things "Blog Hop"

I love SB's "blog hop" that doesn't involve any fancy links but is a GREAT idea. Here are some awesome things I can do with my horses.

Celebrate the holidays with Reindeer Realness

Teach a kid to groom

Walk over scary liverpools

Find a freaky-similar Breyer model

Sunrise hacks

Winter naps

Own grids

Pose for treats

Lick our lips

Jump clean at our first show

Start a ribbon pile

Dressage in front of one of the best in the world and not die

Scrutinize our tests

Teach a kid to ride


Ensure M's job security

Learn to like XC

Road trips!

Model outfits


Jump 3' for his first time like a boss

Ride show jumpers in the dressage ring and live

Scrutinize tests some more

Summer naps

Make my coach work WAY too hard

Have some dressage moments to be proud of

Jump like a baby rockstar
Ahhh. I love these horses. Thanks, SB, for the cool idea!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Morningside CT

It's weird how sometimes ribbon-success doesn't translate into a good show, does it?

Nothing bad happened at Morningside. Mo and I just never got it together. I didn't feel like he really relaxed and got on the same page as me. If he had, we'd have won. Instead we came in second. I mean, there isn't much to complain about, though I am a tiny bit worried about his tummy so he's going back on Ulcergard for a few days and ranitidine for the rest of the season. He just seemed stressy. And if you know me, you know that I'm neurotic as fuck about ulcers.

I had a friend I know from work who has a horse go with me to the show, because all the usual suspects were unavailable. She's a nice person but I'd never seen her in the context of a horse before so I had no idea what she knew or didn't know. She turned out to be very helpful, and I think if she ends up going to a lot of shows with me, we'll get into a good rhythm. I'm also very grateful that she went at all because I had to ask her last-minute. It's just hard to trust someone new with your pride and joy. In other words, I want my mommy at all horse shows forever.

But my friend did a good job helping me get tacked up and mounted and then was gracious enough to take pictures and video. I guess my phone died before I jumped, so the jump videos are on her phone. She texted one to me but it's so blurry I can't get any screen grabs. I'll just have to use the power of my prose to describe it to you. Snort.

I didn't lunge him as much as I normally do (which is always less than ten minutes) because he kept trying to graze, and even though I'd tied up the reins, I still felt like there was a risk of him stepping on them. And I think my friend was nervous about me getting on so we just had some tension in the camp. I got on fine, but he felt tense. Nonetheless, we had some good moments in the warmup.

He stuck his tongue out A LOT at this show.

I can't tell if I'm staring at his ears or if that's a trick of the light.
I don't like penises so I don't usually stare at horses' ears.

The show was pretty deserted in the morning. I had the whole warmup to myself. One girl went in for her intro test and then there were basically tumbleweeds going through the dressage area, so the ring steward was like "...whenever you're ready?" And since I'd been on him for about 35 minutes and figured the horse I had that day was the horse I had, and he wasn't being terrible, I just went in.

 It was Intro C, same as we did last week, and interestingly we got the same score (34), but our points shook out in different places. For instance, we got 8s on our trot circles. The halts weren't great. The canter departs were a nightmare (the judge was suuuuuuuper irritated at his canter work, but... it's Intro C? Not Prelim A? So mark us down accordingly but don't grouch at me about it from the booth, please. Also I used to like it when judges talked to me but these days I just find it unnerving and I'm looking forward to recognized events where they can't).

Okayyyy, not a bad start.

X, halt, lick your lips.

Accepting contact but doesn't really look like he's carrying himself.

You know what we love a lot? Circles!

Except canter circles. Don't love those.

Change your rein, change your attitude.
Trot Circle Realness

...Okay, I can see why the judge hated this part
Our downward transitions are sucking less.

This was a stretchy as the free walk got. Gotta work on this.
Halting while licking lips is a thing apparently

Heh. Needs help.
Always check for buddies!
So overall, not tragic in any way. It was funny, because after Loch Moy I was like "better nail the geometry" and the judge said, "You know, in spite of him flinging his head around, the shape and size of the canter circles was perfect and I gave you 8s on the trot circles." Ha! I told her that I spent years riding jumpers and I learned how to hold my line through all kinds of nonsense, which made her laugh.

At that point I had one more test to ride--the one that would actually count for my CT--and there was still no one around. So I took Mo out of the ring and let him just amble around because he hadn't gotten much of a break since I got on and I wanted him to catch his breath. I also knew I wasn't going to fix the canter departs or the free walk in the warmup and that it would only stress Mo out to try. I was on the horse I was on that day, and that horse is very green and easily stressed. So when the ring steward asked a few minutes later if I wanted to just go back in for my second test, I was like "sure whatever!"

Centerline pics never get boring, huh?
Living for trot circles, but a hair behind the vertical.
Nope. Didn't fix the canter.
At least he's quiet in the free walk?

I had to pony club kick him to get him to trot instead of leave the ring. This was a bad moment.
There was one stride of the right lead canter that was not the worst.

Turning down centerline means ALMOST DONE


Lick lips
Whew. I wasn't happy with that test really, and the judge laughed when I said that we hadn't schooled the canter transitions much since she last saw us. So anyway, that's showing green horses.

Between dressage and SJ I helped some people get their naughty horse on the trailer and Mo stood very nicely for my friend. I swapped out his tack, hopped back on for jumping, and went to the warmup. The whole area was, again, a ghost town. I went into the ring for my round and something, I'm not sure what, spooked him as we were on our way to the first fence. We got to it and he was like "WHO PUT THAT THERE" and... stopped. Cue sobbing. Well, not really. I smacked him on the bottom and reapproached and he jumped everything after that. I asked if I could add a second round, regular practice at this show, and the judge was like "please do, give me something to look at." And if I should pack anything away from this show for a rainy day, it was the feeling of that second jump round. The horse just nailed it. We cantered forward for the whole thing, I stayed in the moment, he stayed with me, and at the end the closing canter circle was soft and lovely. BIG pats and we were all done.

We came in second in the class, which, whatever. It's a tiny schooling show over teensy fences. I think there's something to learn here about taking our time, keeping his tummy happy, and realizing that even if everything doesn't feel perfect, it's not an actual disaster. I'll be interested to see how he does next time we have back-to-back show weekends. And at the end of the day, no matter how the show goes, I'm still super lucky that I get to do this at all, with such a cute horse.