Friday, May 29, 2015


Sometimes, things happen for a reason.  Sometimes you come around a corner and opportunity just drop kicks you in the face.  I had one of those moments.  A glittering, glorious moment when everything aligns perfectly and my chance dropped neatly into my lap.

I got new tall boots.  Size 6.5, wide calf.  They were sitting at the consignment shop when I dropped by on a whim.  I didn't even really have a reason to stop by, but it was a nice day and I had an urge to go shop.  The fates were on my side.  Beautiful Treadstep boots with the sturdy zipper and elastic gussets and the stamped toe and everything.  A freaking 6.5 with a wide calf.  I put them on and they were just glued to my leg, such a neat, snug ankle.  I didn't want to take them off for fear they'd disappear, I made them hide my new treasure behind the counter while I picked up some liniment and a new tub of treats.

With breeches on they're a bit tough to zip, but frick me do they look fabulous once they're zipped.  I rode in them this weekend and felt like a super star.  Spanish tops are great for making me look a bit less like a pony clubber when riding big horses.  I'll keep riding in them to stretch them a bit and they'll fit me like custom made.  All that for a grand total of $100.

I'll admit to petting them and muttering 'my precious' at the store.

My gear is starting to come together for my big Papi.  New used Thinline pad to protect him while I practice sitting is the latest addition, should help his back.  A new jumping saddle is on the way so I have a prayer of keeping with him when he makes the big move over a fence.  It turns out Fi's leather jumping boots fit him, so he's looking very stylish.  I'll have to go shopping for a new hunt coat if I'm going to be doing pleasure shows, I look kind of silly in my black dressage coat with four brass buttons.

This is what I do while stuck on conference calls at work.  Most work notes have doodles all around the outside.

I'm such a snob about turnout.  It's ridiculous.

As for Papi, we had a very, very good ride today.  You know it's a good ride when you're smiling while trying to not pass out in the saddle.  It was a hard core dressage ride with Trainer A, getting my hands up where they belong (I felt like I was grabbing my boobs) and getting Papi's butt engaged.  At one point our trot had suspension.  Seriously, suspension!  It lasted about one long side of the ring, but it says a lot for his potential.  It also says a lot for the fact he's learning to handle pressure from the rider.

My shoulders are shaking and my abs hurt, he weighs about ten pounds in each hand right now and surges up to twenty when he loses his balance.  I know he'll get lighter as we go, but right now, he's a heavy, heavy beast.  The flashes of brilliance are starting to show, though.  Trainer A used the 't' word today.  She has a goal for the great lumox.


Brb, getting a bottle of rum.  Actually two.  I think we're both going to need it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The look of victory

Spooky?  Pfft, that's not spooky!

Sure, it's not spooky after you have to jump over it.  It was a bit exciting and he took some serious convincing, but the big baby jumped through a grid with a terrifying blanket on the last fence.  He got many, many pets and cookies for being such a big boy.  After that, tossing it at his feet wasn't exactly a scary moment for him.

Such an expressive face.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


So now that the dust has settled and I've had several awesome rides on Papi, I think I have an idea on what to do with him.  He loves to jump.  Seriously loves to jump.  Nothing big right now, 2'6" is about what we can cruise around at, but it makes his ears prick up and makes him happy as a clam.  So what do you do with a horse that loathes cross country (omg big scary outdoors!) and isn't very fast but loves to jump?

Hunters and eq.

He takes a very hunter ride, no winding up or popping up.  You just set your canter and hold still.  I was definitely having a flash back when I was jumping him around to my many, many lessons on getting out of the way and being quiet.  Does he want to be a low level hunter and mini-medal horse?  Maybe.

The trainer (I'll call her Trainer R, since I don't like to use full names that Google might decide need to be search hits) is going in for surgery on her foot, so I'm going to be riding with Trainer A full time for awhile.  Trainer A is the eventer, so yay, jumping!  She has also been filling me in a bit with Theo's past.  He hasn't had a lot of technical training, probably just last year and this year.  Before that it was all behavioral.  Evidently they got him because he terrified his owner and broke her back.


He's much better now, of course, but most of his education has been walk, trot, canter and don't be an a**.  Now it's walk, trot, canter, jump, carry yourself, change leads, have some speed control, and don't fall on your own face.  Oh yeah, and still don't be an a**.  Putting lead changes on this horse is going to be quite the circus.  A couple weeks of transition work has already taught him to carry his own butt so there's hope.

Today Trainer A introduced us to the circle of hell.  Trot poles on a 20 meter circle, so he has to turn and go over trot poles neatly at the same time.  He did it surprisingly well and some of it even translated to our work back out on the rail.  He's learning to cope with me carrying a dressage whip so I can now touch his rump and remind him that it exists.  It's quite effective, I just set it against him and he'll engage more.  The canter is still a bit of a twitching wreck, but we're getting there.  I refuse to carry him and he's learning that breaking from the canter doesn't get him a break with me, it gets him a spank.  I can't even consider anything other than a clumsy simple change until he learns to maintain the canter for himself.

But yeah, there are some shows coming up with hunter over fences and eq classes that I think would be a good place for him to pick up some miles.  I'm eligible for the modified adult eqs since I haven't done a recognized h/j show in ten years.  I'm so old.  I can do the over 35 divisions now and it makes me want to cry a bit.

2'3" and 2'6" is right in his wheel house right now if I can convince him to just go in there and get to work.  That, of course, is the actual challenge.  No point in putting in a lovely canter and neat changes if he spazes and spins.  Guess I'll just have to keep torturing the poor thing every time I see him so he learns that nothing is going to eat him on my watch.  I have a blue tarp and helium balloons and I know how to use them!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Picture perfect

I found this on my phone, I completely forgot I took it.

This is Big Papi, standing around patiently with his groom (aka a teenager that looked bored that I wrangled into helping me babysit).  He may be a naughty pony, but he's a darn good looking naughty pony.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Expect the unexpected

I found out that Theo has a show name.  Expect The Unexpected.  It's so damn appropriate.

We went to our first outing yesterday.  It was the same little show that I once hacked Fiona out to with Dorkzilla.  Tiny, casual, I didn't even wear tall boots.  It's the perfect spot to figure out what a horse is like away from home.  After the big spook experience, I was aware that I would probably have my hands full.  A Friday lesson showed that we're very well suited over fences and ended with me cantering around at 2'3" with a huge grin on my face.  It's just a matter of when he'll hit the FU button.

As an experienced rider, all of my classes were at the end of the day.  Papi and I hung out all day, hand grazing and watching other riders.  I even did the trail class in hand just for the fun of it, making my poor pony wear the big yellow slicker as part of his desensitization.  He gave the rope gate exercise some big eyes, but walked over the bridge like a champ.  We even got a blue for our effort!

Finally it was our turn to ride.  I got tacked up and walked him around the ring in hand.  I introduced him to the judges and made sure he got a good look at the shed just outside of the ring.  Everything was good.  Then I got on.  That doofus gave me such a round of theatrics when they were breaking down the equipment for the trail class.  It took me thirty minutes to get to walk, trot, and canter around the ring without him plunging around or flying backwards.

His mind set changed for the better once we started jumping.  Giving him something to focus on that he liked really helped, but it was still a constant state of alertness in case something was going to happen and send him dive bombing off the rail.  Very alarming when there's kids and beginners warming up around you.

Our actual jumping rounds went well.  Once there were fences in front of him, he was too focused to care about what else was going on.  Our flat classes were mixed bags.  He did very well until I asked him to canter to the right at the scary end of the ring.  We got a spook/buck combo that bumped us down to third out of four.  In our very last class, I didn't even attempt to canter on that end of the ring due to another rider looking petrified.  Every time Theo went off, her horse would react.  I just bowed out, that's not fair.

So now I have to think.  I could have won those flat classes if he'd held it together.  He did beautifully right up until he didn't.  I've got spooks off both leads, so I don't think it's a vision thing.  I will look into saddle fit, since it's possible that something is off.  I'm looking for a new jump saddle that will fit him, since jumping in a dressage saddle sucks.  Especially when he's feeling good and decides to crack his back over a fence and almost jumps you clean out of the tack. 

I know at least part of this is him being a bully and trying to push me out of asking him to do something he doesn't want to do.  His manners in hand are appalling and he'll be getting a lot of work on that.  I just need to stack the deck more in my favor when in the saddle.  If I get his head down and neck long, he's good.  That head comes up and I can forget it.  I may need to swap some bits around, bring in the baucher for flat work and the pelham for over fences.  A little leverage will help out, my hands were torn up pretty badly after the show.  I'm also going to start carrying a stick because a sharp smack on the shoulder he's considering plunging through is very effective.  It's such a delicate balancing act.  I need to set myself up to win, but I can't walk into the ride like there's a fight coming.  His reputation for pig headedness makes it clear that I don't want to actually get into a fight with him. 

There was a photographer at the event, so hopefully there will be some pictures soon of me and Papi that don't include bucking or profanity.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

If you want to get with me, there's some things you've got to know

I like to gallop fast and your butt down low.

(sung to the song Bass Down Low by DEV, NSFW, in honor of me explaining to Theo that there were some things he needed to know if he wanted me to be his new partner)

So Theo decided he needed to show me the little quirk he has that's gotten him a reputation as a little puke.  Today was a jumping lesson in preparation for a little schooling show on Saturday (and that's a whole other rant about how I can't seem to avoid competition, but I digress).  After a nice warm up, I got up off his back and asked him to give me a big canter around the ring.  I'd pick him up in the corners and then push him forward down the long side, standard stuff before jumping.

After doing this a couple times left, I changed direction and warmed up to the right.  That little SOB decided he'd had enough of being asked to do something hard and shied at the door to the arena.  Then he bounced with the front end with a little buck and a big head shake.  It was enough to rattle me out of the stirrups but not enough to get me out of the saddle.  It was enough to piss me off.  Nobody gets to try to scare me out of doing work.  That pony backed his butt up halfway down the ring while I got my stirrups back, then went right back to cantering.  He tried to shy away again and I put my spur right in his little rib cage.  I do not think so, GI Joe.

That didn't work for him, so he tried not going forward promptly.  Yeah, that didn't work out for him either. 

After about 10 minutes of reexplaining the rules of the relationship to him, he shifted back to being his usual awesome self.  I passed the test and we went about jumping in a very pleasant and reasonable manner.

So now I've learned a lot about Papa, and Papa learned something very important about me:  stunts do not scare me, they piss me off.  Good ponies get cookies, bad ponies get spurs and lots of galloping.  I'm sure it's really effective with more timid riders, he seemed very surprised by what followed.  My trainer was worried about me, thinking I was mentally rattled, but I wasn't going to let him get away with that.  He pulls that nonsense, he is going to canter around the ring until neither of us can stand up straight. 

After that I had to catch my breath, straighten out my stirrups, and convince my hands to stop shaking.  I got a good look at the dirt on that little stunt.  Ugh.

But he didn't finish me off.  He could have dropped me pretty easily after I was rattled out of place, but he didn't.  He doesn't seem malicious, just used to getting his way.  He's a bit of a bully, not uncommon in big horses that do lessons.  I'm probably in for a month or so of hell while he tests me, but I don't expect it to last long.  He's learning very quickly that he can't scare me and I'll just make him work harder.

In related news, the roller spurs (called Soft Touch) are awesome, though I sound like a bit of a cowboy with them clinking along.  No more pinching means no more swishing tail.  I also tossed a sheepskin on under his saddle and he seems to like that.  He's going to get so spoiled.  I also got the last laugh since I had to pull his mane after our lesson.  His mane is so long and thick, there's no way I'm even going to a schooling show with that. 

Fly spray bottle for scale, I can almost knit a new pony and that's not even including the tail trimming

That's just from session one.  I'll do the other half tomorrow.  He was good for about 45 minutes, but he was making it clear he'd had enough.  I think that's fair.  Tomorrow he gets another session of pulling, a bath, chestnuts removed (soaking in moisturizer overnight), and I'll fine tune the trim job on his tail.  At least he'll look very spiffy when he attempts to unload me because the shed by the town ring is terrifying.

Do I have a phermone that attracts the 'problem' horses to me?  Or am I attracted to them?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lack of supervision

The best part about picking up a half lease is having the option to ride without supervision.  All of my riding since my return has been under the watchful eyes of an instructor.  Even the trail ride I went on this weekend was led by an instructor.  It was a really nice walk in the woods with a visiting rider that was on vacation (named Katie from Minnesota, what are the odds?!) and I rode a fantastic pony named Juice, but it felt weird to have a teacher with me.  It's been a long, long time since I got instruction on a trail.

But with the pen to paper on the lease, I am a loose caboose!  I think it's an important part of building my relationship with Papa.  I took some extra time in the grooming today and discovered that he loves to have his ears curried.  Not just the outside, but the inside as well.  His head was hanging, his eyes half closed, and he was practically moaning once I discovered how much he loved having the insides of his ears rubbed with a small curry comb.  When I finally stopped he stood there with his head down and eyes unfocused like he'd just had one hell of a good time.

He comes cantering when you call him from the field, drools excessively when eating apples, and likes ginger snaps.  He enjoys a neck massage but is not a big fan of currying the belly.  Always tighten the girth another hole after mounting because he's a sneaky jerk about that.  He understands the idea that he should step off of my leg, but he doesn't seem to realize his body can bend and that his shoulders aren't directly bolted to his hips.  He's a bit of a board.  His mouth is interesting, he'll start out heavy as hell, braced on my hands, but then he'll go soft and try to figure out why I'm not carrying him.  He seeks contact and seems to enjoy riding in a light contact, but he's used to having people carry him around and my complete refusal leaves him a bit out of sorts.  He's definitely not the most confident horse I've ever ridden and seems to appreciate a confident, sympathetic ride.  He's very fussy about the spur and does not appreciate my Prince of Wales spurs.  He responds beautifully to voice rewards, ears flicking back and forth and making it clear that he understands he's done it right.

I'm going to be heading to the tack shop this week to pick up some of those roller spurs.  I accidentally dragged my spur while trying to push him over and he certainly made sure I knew he didn't appreciate that.  It's not very often a PoW spur is too sharp, but there we are.  My tom thumb/bug bites for Fi are too short for a horse that needs a reminder on where the gas pedal is, so it's time to shop!  I'll be looking to rebuild my brush collection as well, and possibly get him a long fly mask.  The flies just adore him, it's kind of ridiculous. 

Not that I really need an excuse to go shopping.  I gave Dover Saddlery my new address finally and now the catalogs are coming fast and furious.  Riding is so dangerous.  It's not the risk of falling off, it's the number of things we need!  Well, not need, but want with a burning passion.  It's all the same thing.  Just don't tell the hubby I'm heading to Dover, it makes him cry a little.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Going steady

The instructor is writing up the half lease.

Behold, my partner of the moment.  We discussed the fact that I'm free to swap out to another horse when I'm more in shape *coughMissThangcough*, but I think this is the right match for me right now.  He doesn't mind when I flop and make mistakes, though he did give me a bit of an F You moment today while doing quick trot-canter-trot transitions.  Nobody's perfect.

I'm excited!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Life with carnivores

It occurred to me that I should update everyone on the state of the puppies.  I was flipping through some pictures and wanted to share some of the cuter ones, but you're not going to recognize one of the faces.

First, Cowboy.  Despite his massive list of medical issues, our sweet Min Pin made it to the ripe old age of sixteen.  We lost him this spring to a suspected brain tumor, but what a life.  Minnesota, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire with lots of adventures in between.

Cowboy as a young man with me and his father, Cruizer

And the unfamiliar face in the face sweet pack family moment picture?  That's Aura, our most recent addition.  She's a year and a half old Boxer/Pit cross, at least that's our best guess on her breed.  We've had her for a bit over a year now, so we're most of the way through the teenage years. 

She's a rescue that was transported up from North Carolina.  She's been a super challenging addition with a variety of reactivity and aggression issues, most linked to a less than ideal previous home life that included being hit with magazines, but she's doing much better with a lot of professional help.  We've been lucky enough to have a fantastic nearby training center that has been willing to work through all of her issues.  She recently got her Advanced Canine Good Citizen title, completed a tracking workshop, and is learning Rally Obedience.  She adores her boy.  She likes me well enough, but she can recognize Joe's car pulling into the driveway and does the most adorable song and dance routine.  It's pretty clear where her heart lies.

As for our other little rescue, Miss Peyton?

As you can see, she's been taking a few classes herself.  She's now Boca de la Locha, BN, RA, CGC and almost done with her CD and RE titles.  What can I say, she loves to work.  I have liverwurst.  She's also learned to help me round up chickens, but that's not something you can get a title for.  We tried Barn Hunt but she didn't see the point.  If the rat is in a tube, then it's not worth bothering.  She sat in the ring and gave me a look that clearly let me know I was being dumb.  I can deal with that when she can turn in a 99 out of 100 at the most difficult level of Rally Obedience courses.

Our two girls are enjoying life in the country.  We have a five foot fence going in so Aura can have more space for running.  We have an empty chicken pasture we're using to let her burn energy right now, but when we finish the new fence she'll be able to run out the door and be free without having a leash on at all.  Peyton is good off leash, so she gets to help with chores.  

 It's nice to have an outlet for my competitive side while I figure out what I want to do with riding.  Dog shows are a BREEZE after horse shows.  I throw the dog in the car and go.  No trailer, no braiding, no chance of getting chucked into a stone wall.  It's kind of amazing.  I'll have to blame the ease of dog showing for my reluctance around getting back into competition with horses.  I sure as heck didn't have any 2:30am wake up calls to walk my rally courses.  I'm sure I'll be back in the show ring with horses soon enough, but I'm at least aware of how insane it is when compared to other hobbies.

Peyton is not a morning dog

Does that make me more or less crazy?

Sunday, May 3, 2015


You know when you get a crush and it finally dawns on you, but you're not sure what your friends will think because he's really not your type?  But you keep thinking about him and can't seem to logic your way out of it?  So you wait, and you debate, and finally you confess to everyone because it might get serious?

I think I have a crush on a draft.  I'm scandalized.

I had my first jumping lesson with Big Papa today and was pleasantly surprised when he took me to the jumps.  It was a substitute teacher since I had to reschedule my lesson and I don't think she expected me to find it hilarious when he left a stride out.  I asked him to move up and he said 'yes ma'am, that stride's gone, ma'am'.  Nice!  Of course he also trotted pretty sedately when I asked him to wait for the short one but we both liked the longer ones.  The teacher was a bit confused, but I didn't give her the run down on my background.  Cross rails and two foot verticals?  Pfft, I was just goofing around and so was Papa.  He's one game pony.

We did have some time on the flat to work on his self carriage.  I was trying to explain to someone why I kept giving him breaks despite the fact he's ridden almost daily and is considered fit.  The average lesson is a lot of walking, a lot of trotting, and some bursts of canter.  Almost none of it requires self carriage and quite frankly, a horse really carrying himself would scare the pants off of a kid learning how to trot and steer at the same time.  When I got Theo to lift his back and carry his own weight, he was out of breath after one time around the ring.  Canter?  We can manage about three quarters of a twenty meter circle before he starts to fall on his face.  It's like the difference between someone that jogs every day and someone that cross trains at the gym.  He can jog forever, but he can't lift.

Seriously, do you even lift?

The bro joke wrote itself, I'm not ashamed.  The tablet is too old to work with Windows 8, though, so I'm back on the market for a new one.

So Big Papa and I rocked around the lesson, dodging ponies and doing his weight lifting sets.  I think there's a serious First Level horse hiding in there.  His canter needs a ton of work, but he's pretty decent over fences, too.  I asked the trainer what the odds were that he'd be available for a half lease and she said 'pretty damn good'.  That's a direct quote.

I might be going steady with a draft.  I'm still in shock.  I see that big ol' booty and wavy tail and every instinct tells me to run the other way!  I haven't been lucky enough to have a lot of drafts in my life with a work ethic.  Most of them tell me I can do it myself, and it would be easier to get off and just shove them along.  I was told he's a Percheron Chevelle or some such nonsense.  It's French, so I immediately think Canada, which makes me think PMU foal.  We're swimming in them here in New England.  His confirmation isn't bad. 

I swear his head isn't that massive, I just couldn't get a decent angle and he was taking such a nice nap after our lesson.

So yeah, it's getting pretty serious.  I even caught myself looking at ear nets for him, since he's sensitive to black flies and that season is starting.  Is that like asking him to wear my ring?