Wednesday, August 31, 2016


It's fun getting to know a horse.  When I first rode Theo, he really didn't give a rat's ass what I was doing up there, he was going to plod around and do as little as possible.  Over the past 1.5 years, we've developed a language all our own.  One heavily laced with profanities, but one we both understand.  During our lesson today, the fact that we're so aware of each other became a topic of discussion.

In an effort to encourage a certain someone to carry his weight with his haunches, we were working over raised trot poles.  My hands were giving me trouble, floating down to discourage him from bracing and only succeeding in blocking his shoulders.  Trainer A was ready to throw things at us.  Well, me, but I'm sure Theo would have had some opinions.  But at the end of the lesson, after my hands were successfully chastised, we swapped to walk/canter transitions to check our work. 

I immediately started prepping for the transition and Theo immediately started prepping because I was prepping and we managed to turn ourselves into a pair of pretzels within a couple of steps.  Which made Trainer A just stare at us for a long moment.  Because really, its a walk/canter transition.  What the hell?

'No prep with that horse! He's too into you!'

 Who, me?


If my breathing changes, Theo changes.  I shift my weight, Theo shifts.  I speak, his ears flick.  It's what we strive for, but sometimes, I need to be whacked with the 2x4 to see just how far we've come.  I don't need to prep for several steps to make sure he's listening.  He's always listening.  He might tell me to bugger off, but that's not because I surprised him.  It's because he's Theo.  Our instructions were to walk like nothing was going on, over-emphasize the fact that we're just walking, and carefully take a feel of the inside hind.  Don't let him know why!  And then ask as his hind foot hits.

Lo and behold, it worked beautifully.  Instead of our usual first stride or two being short and a bit off balance, he stepped straight from walk into canter.  In both directions, which is a score since the right lead is usually stickier.  But that is something interesting to think about.  Theo is so into me that I don't need to consciously prep.  If I do, it's going to work against me as we both get tense and twist ourselves up. 
His true nature emerges

It's going to take some practice to ride the horse I have today.  Fortunately I've ridden some very sensitive horses so I know the drill, but it's going to take some time to learn how to ride a horse that's both incredibly lazy and incredibly sensitive.   I know damn well he knows I want him to keep cantering, he's just tired and doesn't want to do it anymore.  So I may have to boot him along, but if my inside hand drifts down, I'm going to have a mess.  And gods help me if I lean.

Having a smart, sensitive horse should be considered a curse, reserved for riders you really don't like.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Little things

It's the little things that make me happy.

Like this picture.

This is mi papi's standard schooling turn out now.  We've been wearing this general set up all summer.  I love my PS of Sweden bridle and ear net (and boots, though you can't see them), but nothing holds up through the many washes of summer like Dover's basic saddle pad.  $30 bucks and I can throw it in the dryer without a problem?  I'll take 10, thanks.  And they have so many colors now.  I need to buy more.  I love my fancy pads with braiding but when he's sweating through his pad on pretty much every ride, I need something I can wash with no concern or special care.

But he looks very slick and professional and that makes me happy.  The soft purple is very flattering on him.  I really should have his black ear net on.  Hm.  I'm also happy I remembered to take a picture at all.  I'm terrible about remembering that there's this camera in my back pocket and mi papi's adorable should be shared.

Do I see his winter coat coming in already?  I better not.

Theo's also about the little things, like his brand new hunk of Himalayan salt.

Can you hear him trying to break it?  There's a reason he gets this stuff and not a regular salt lick.  This was about 30 seconds after I hung it up.  Clearly someone was excited.  I got this at Tractor Supply as a knock off brand for cheap ($5 I think).  I also found a new brand of those molasses heavy, cupcake shaped treats with a piece of candy in the middle for cheap.  $8 for a 2lb bag?  Yes, I will be spoiling my pony today.  Not quite as good as the German crack cookies in the gold bag, but he was certainly letting me know he wanted another one.

And my last little thing?  Successfully convincing Theo for just a couple minutes that horses can trot UP as well as forward.  I heard this rumor that horses can take their weight back on their haunches, lighten their front end, and trot around like that.  Theo told me that rumor was spread by communists set on destroying our nation and way of life and that is was my civic duty to ignore them.

He's a patriot.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Actual work

Aside from our dramaz, mi papi and I have actually gotten some work done.  And it's pretty cool!

Since we made the grand leap to First level, our trot lengthenings have been getting some more attention.  They're currently kind of . . . pathetic.  There's enough of a difference for a judge to give us a reasonable score (6 or 6.5), but they certainly aren't the highlight of the test.  We usually get a couple steps that are longer, but we also get rhythm problems and sometimes some bracing against the hand.  We're typical newbies at First, trying to figure out how to have more than one trot as well as steer and remember where the letters are.  Screw you, L.

I've taught one horse to lengthen in trot, but with Fi, that was practically cheating.  She desperately wanted to lengthen, bringing her back was hard.  Allen already had his lengthen installed.  Theo is clueless.  He genuinely seems confused by the idea of stretching and reaching.  Leg = go faster, right?  So Trainer A has her work cut out for her.  Since mi papi is ridiculously stubborn once he thinks he's learned something, we are forbidden from practicing our lengthens right now without supervision.  I'm not the best about holding the rhythm while trying to get his lazy ass to move on and she doesn't want to have to remove any bad habits.

Our lengthening practice, which is very deliberately designed to start the process of installing a medium for our move to Second, is to set up trot poles along about half of the diagonal across the ring.  The first steps are working trot length.  Then the poles spread out, requiring him to reach and lift to make it.  I do my best to maintain for a couple steps after the poles, then bring him back to working.  It is a massively huge help since I don't have to worry about asking him to lengthen.  The poles do that.  I worry about giving the cue to start, not letting him brace, keeping the rhythm, and not falling off.

It's operant conditioning at it's best.  Theo gets a cue from me at the same time that he moves from working poles to lenghtened poles.  We do this over and over and over.  The idea is that when I turn across the diagonal and give the cue, he will lengthen correctly because he knows what I want without chasing or stress.  And it's working!  It's not stable or confirmed yet, but he definitely has an association started. 

The not falling off part is very difficult, though, since I'm doing this in sitting trot.  Turns out I just can't communicate clearly enough to get this in rising trot.  This is becoming an increasingly common issue as we move up.  We're also working on my reins 'whispering' to my horse.  Instead of my elbows or my hands, my ring fingers are what's talking to Theo.  Sitting down gives me my seat bones to adjust the trot as well as reducing noise overall.  As half pass at the trot becomes part of our routine, sitting trot has become a daily event.  I spend probably 10 minutes of every ride sitting, more in lessons.  So when we started introducing the lengthen and quickly realized I can't cue it without sitting, I skipped the rising trot bit and went straight to sitting the exercise.

The cue is double touch with the spur while 'laying back'.  Which is what Trainer A has to say to me to get me to get behind the vertical in sitting trot.  She showed me video of myself and I'm just barely behind the vertical when we do it, but it gets my hips in front of my shoulders and my pelvis going forward which is what he needs.  The duct tape analogy is back in full force.  I feel like my head is on my horse's tail.  I showed her this cartoon, and she said 'yes, that is exactly what I want you to feel like'.  Ugh.

And it's worse because mi papi can actually do this.  Neither of us expected him to catch on so easily.  I count my rhythm out loud, grab on to my saddle pad with one hand, get back, and pray because when he does a proper lengthen, it's like he's on springs.  He is actually capable of reaching through his shoulder and is now strong enough to truly sit and push for that moment of suspension.  Who knew?  And a true lengthen is so weird to ride!  There's more up, not just more forward!  I never really realized that until I felt his butt drop (in a good way this time) as he lifted himself so he could make it through the trot poles.  Sitting that trot is really very hard.  All that extra lift just wants to toss you out of the saddle.

I did it exactly once.  ONCE.  I happened to nail the approach, have my body where it belonged, and Theo lofted his way through the poles while I stayed in the saddle.  You know when they say you feel like you're suctioned on to the saddle?  It was exactly that.  I just stayed in the saddle even though I knew I should have been tossed up into the air.  Trainer A threw her hands in the air and declared the lesson over.  I sat what will probably be Theo's medium.  I have no damn idea how I did it, but it's a feeling of relief to know that I can physically do it.  It's going to take a long time to make it consistent, but I know it's possible.

All of this is super hard for Theo right now.  That's the other reason it's a strictly lessons exercise.  Mi papi is a serious princess and if he's muscle sore, he lets you know.  One too many reps of turn on the haunches had me doing major body work on him for days.  On the plus side, I always know when something's bothering him.  He doesn't let stuff fester.  It's also letting me get good at doing assisted stretching and muscle work.

I'm starting to think mi papi is playing me for extra massages . . .

But I'll forgive that in exchange for knowing, having evidence, that there's a real, honest to goodness, might even get a 7 one day medium in there.  Second level, here we come!  Very slowly.  And not in a straight line.  But we are definitely en route.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Theo's favorite day

Following along in the thread of making Theo a happy, productive member of society again, I decided he needed a day that was all about him. 

Well, not completely about him.  I'm not going to throw a bale of hay and a 50 pound bag of sweet feed into his field, followed by choice mares and a note saying he never has to work again.  I have to keep it realistic.  He still has to do some work, but I can make it the kind of work he likes.

First he got a very thorough curry comb session, followed by a complete tail brush out.  He's a weird horse and genuinely enjoys having his tail brushed.  By the time I was done, he was gleaming and dozing.  Next came the jumping tack, since he still seems to prefer that jumping saddle.

Our work out of the  today?  A walk up Walnut Hill.  The bugs have finally subsided, the heavy deer fly season is over, and walking trail rides are now an option.  We walked all the way to the top.  The great part about hill work is that I was able to get him puffing without any nagging or requests from me.  I just sit on top and try to keep him from falling on his face while navigating granite rock faces.  By the time we were done, he was a sweaty but content beast.  We walked back to the barn on the buckle with his ears pricked.

After a nice, cold shower, he got a massage with lots of liniment.  While I was working on his hips, digging in with my elbow in the way that makes him shut his eyes and quiver his lower lip, the guy feeding dinner asked if Theo would like his dinner during his massage.

I'm pretty sure it was Theo's idea of heaven.  He had his face buried in a bucket of grain while I worked his glutes after having a nice (if steep and sweat inducing) walk in the woods.  And then he got to go outside in full fly armor to chase his roommate away from the hay.  It really doesn't get any better than that.

Today I have a property owners association meeting, so he gets a break.  These cupcakes aren't going to frost themselves and I need some extra time since I've never made paleo-friendly cupcakes before.  Not quite sure how that's going to turn out.  The golden cupcakes with mocha buttercream, on the other hand, I know how to rock.  Tomorrow I can take him out for another trail ride, this time on the flat, and get those hoses cleared. 

I just found chocolate batter on my keyboard.  That's going to be a problem.  Word to the wise, don't have your laptop near your stand mixer.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Kiss and make up

So with some time and consideration (the blog has a title for a reason), I went to visit Theo with a battle plan to handle our negative last ride.  We've worked too long and too hard to screw our relationship up now.  And let's be clear, it was bad.  Like a bruise on my leg from hitting the thigh block bad.  Small children fleeing the ring in fear bad.  I kind of wanted to flee and I'm not easy to scare.  I got a good, hard look at the dirt and didn't much enjoy the view.  I have a lot of vested interest in avoiding doing that again for as long as possible (because we all know the storm will return some day).

So here was my plan to make ammends with papi:

1.  Ground work.  Someone got his pony roommate back, and getting a roommate is strongly correlated with a spike in studish behavior.  Mi papi is a bit of a bully.

Remember this bit of adorable?

I'm not a big fan of him dragging me or thinking he can push me.  So from the time I got him from his field till the time he went back out, it was bridle or chain shank and I carried a whip.  It took very few reminders to snap him back to giving me complete respect on the ground and stepping out of my space.  I guess the other people that handle him haven't been telling him to mind his manners and I've been letting him slide a bit.  Bad habit with a horse that thinks he's a stud.

2.  Go forward.  As I learned through the winter, Theo tends to get short and stomp when he's got too much energy.  He tends to get negative when he's not had enough work.  It's weird.  Most horses come out hot and forward with excessive energy.  Theo reverts to his 'in need of therapy sessions about anger issues' state.  He's been in light work due to real life eating my time and my strange, deluded impression that he needed some down time after being back in full work for a grand total of three weeks.  It never processed that I was looking at the same winter Theo problem, but in summer.  He'd been short and a bit sullen in both of my lessons and I never broke through that wall of resistance.  Time to get the forward back.  Go forward, go forward, go forward.  Screw balance, screw frame, screw collection.  Screw the entire training pyramid.  Which sounds kind of dirty.  Hm.

Just go forward, big man, and burn off some energy.  By the end of the ride, I finally got to feel his back swinging and his frame stretch for the first time all week. 

3.  Bring the cookies and love.  Because I have the frontal lobes, I'm in charge of driving the relationship.  This includes setting the overall tone.  It got away from me and the results were . . . less than ideal.  I still have my opinions on his behavior (completely out of line), but it's my job to basically pretend it never happened.  I can't rant and rave about him being a jerk.  He's a horse.  He wants food and rest and water and company.  He and I had a dominance dispute because he was gelded late and thought he should take a shot at being the leader.  I won, it's over, I get to go back to being his benign, trustworthy leader.  It was a bit unnerving to ride him past the skid marks from our previous battle (still there a day later) while not shortening my reins.  But if I don't set the tone, it won't change.

4.  For the love of little green apples, let go of his face.  Long, low, and forward fixes many pony brain flaws.  When caught up in the moment, it's almost impossible to let go of his face.  And there's a reason for that!  I don't want to be bucked off!  If I have control of his head, I can prevent the worst case scenario.  If his head is up, he can't manage the powerful buck it takes to unseat me.  It's so, so hard to take a breath and let go and trust that I can hold it together and that he doesn't actually want to hurt me.  But the cycle won't stop if I have his head cranked the entire time.  I let go, trotted him around the outdoor on the buckle.  And he looked, but we didn't escalate.  He genuinely doesn't want to drop me, not unless I've hit the F U button. 

5.  Breathe.  Smile.  Tell him he's a good boy.  Competition really does bring out the worst in me.  When doing the run through of First 3, I was right on his case about his leg yields.  The blow up sure didn't help my mood, but figuring out how steep those leg yields are made me more aggressive.  Today I made a point of just chatting with him.  I pet his neck, cooed to him a bit, told him how smart he was for adjusting his walk based off nothing but my seat.  He really does love to hear me talk to him.  And you know what?  My leg yields were just fine.  So what if we didn't quite make X?  The judges will be happier to have a willing, calm leg yield that's a hair short when the other option is my rage machine making an appearance.

And yes, the battle plan worked.  We had a lovely, normal ride.  It took a good twenty minutes to get him to realize there would be no repeat or hard questions.  By forty minutes, I had my over tracking, happily chewing pony back.

And who's fault is it that we had a blow up?  Mine.  I haven't worked him enough.  I have cracked down on myself that I need to be at the barn six days a week.  Do I need to school six days a week?  Hell no.  Trail rides and spa days count.  But mi papi needs to see me on a regular schedule, even if it's a hit and run. I have to shift to the idea that he's now a well trained, fit horse.  He's not a school horse that I can leave in a field when I'm not quite feeling it.  Two days off?  Might want to plan on lunging him in the future, even in the dog days of summer.  If I'm going to spend that much time teaching him how to sit, I might want to take all possible steps to avoid him showing me just how strong his haunches are.

Fortunately, he's a forgiving soul.  He'll let me slide on this one.

Friday, August 26, 2016

My storm

Things look different depending on how close to them you are.

From a distance, a storm is a dark, powerful, beautiful thing.  It doesn't seem like a bad thing when it's all the way over there. 

But when you're in the thick of it, you feel a bit different about it.  When that's your reality, you notice other things.  Like the risk involved and the fact that there is no off switch.  You just have to wait it out and try to avoid damage.

And then there's Theo.  He's dark, powerful, beautiful.  From a distance, that's what people see and fall in love with.  I've been asked if he's for sale while out with him.  This is usually from trainers looking for an ammy friendly ride while he's dozing in the warm up ring or rifling a steward's pockets after standing like a statue for tack check.  Fun fact, we've practiced taking his ear net off enough that when I reach forward to grab it at a show, he lifts his head so I can reach.

I mean, who wouldn't fall in love with this horse?

He's also capable of being a rampaging dick and likes to give me little reminders that he could, at any moment, decide he's done playing.  About once a week, I get a glimpse.  A curl, hump of the back, tense ears, a buck or offer to rear.  My relationship with mi papi has always had that little edge of trying to keep a lid on things. Unlike my TB partners that would blow up due to excessive energy or over reacting, Theo gets pissed.  And when he blows, it's not pretty.

Being dumb stubborn suicidal experienced, these generally don't even register with me.  I note the dropping barometric pressure, adjust, and we move on like nothing happened.  Half of the time, even Trainer A doesn't notice it.  We've worked together long enough that I can smooth the edges, hand him a cookie, and not miss a beat. 

But storms are a force of nature and, in the end, you can't stop them.  It's what they are.  You plan and take precautions, but that doesn't mean they'll never strike.  Theo will always be mi papi, and that's not always a good thing.

Theo gave me a totally awful ride yesterday.  We were outside so we could use the large arena to work out the First 3 trot pattern.  As I'm walking around the outside to warm up, we both hear something in the woods.  Theo stops and pops his head up.  I'm looking with him, but never see anything.  Probably a fat squirrel.  I wait until it's quiet, then shrug it off.  I put my leg on and he walks by with some looking, but whatever.  He gets a pat.  This is all completely normal.  I start trotting.  At that same spot, he stops dead.  I nudge him to step up and he says NOPE.  Which is ridiculous, we work in this arena all the time and squirrels are nothing new.  I said go on, he started going sideways and swinging his butt.  I put my spur on and that jerk decided that he was going to curl and fly backwards, followed by a lift and turn on the haunches I wish I could get when I wanted it.  When I booted him, he started to go up.  I smacked him on the neck, my standard response to going up, followed by a verbal correction.  Usually he gives at this point, verbal corrections are very effective with him, but instead I felt his butt drop. 

Oh shit.  We just went to the place I don't want to go.

Now Theo wants to fight.  Now I have to make sure I don't let him face home because I'm in a loose ring snaffle and there's no way in hell I can stop him from bolting home.  He's already using all of that lovely new flexibility against me and trying to spin.  I pop him on the shoulder with my whip to stop the spin and he kicks out.  It got bad enough that a clueless mother watching her equally clueless daughter ride called for her daughter to get out of the ring.

And my temper started snapping.  This was ridiculous and I was not going to be hauled back to the barn by his bolting ass.  It would have been easier to get off and throw him, but I forced him to walk by it in a shoulder in so he couldn't look at it.  Fine.  I won.  But now what?  He was stomping his feet more than trotting and diving out his shoulder rather than cantering.  I was ticked about the whole thing and guarding against another blow up.

I forced myself to let go of the reins and give him a cookie.  He kind of glared at me, then took it.  He crunched away and I took some deep breaths.  I picked my reins back up and we went back to work.  It was still tense and tight, but at least we weren't actively plotting each other's deaths.  I did the bare minimum for the day and got off. 

Why thank you, papi, for reminding me that you are not, in fact, bluffing.  Yikes.

And we stood there, sort of glaring at each other, until I gave in and started scritching along his crest.  You know he's angry when he looks at a treat before he takes it, but by the third treat, the eyes were going soft again.  After his bath, I let him loose in his field.  I needed to move his hay back to where he could get it, so he followed me as I walked down the hill.  I gave him a little push and jumped away.  He snorted and came back.  I pushed him and took off.  That was enough for him and with a mighty head toss he chased me the rest of the way down the field.  Even the best of friends have fights sometimes.

Controlling a storm is not an easy feat.  It's not for the faint of heart.  I adore him, but I do need these little reminders to take his threats seriously.  He's not bluffing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

On your mark, get set . . .

Not quite time to go yet, but it's definitely time to get set.

With a horse like Theo, it's a bit of a balancing act to get him ready.  It's a very small window between feeling good and telling me to get the hell away from him.  He's not a horse that drills well, but he'll also lose fitness at the drop of a hat.  He's gained weight after the ridiculous heat that kept us at the walk for days.  He needs to be in full work, but I need to carefully balance his mental state so when we arrive in New York, he's physically and mentally ready to roll.  

At this point, strength and fitness are pretty much where they're going to be.  We've got some ground to make up with the heat abating, but it's too late to pack on much more muscle.  Now it's time to just add on some finesse and make damn sure I have the right tests memorized.  I'll never live it down if I get an error on T3.

Oyster River Dressage Show, August 2016
My gods I'm almost level across my shoulders!

We also have some work to do to get us ready to fumble our way through F3.  Our lengthens are starting to become an actual thing, but it's inconsistent right now.  I do better if I sit the trot, but Theo is still learning that sitting the trot does not automatically mean canter.  Trainer A has been setting up poles to add in some muscle memory.  I bump twice, lean back, and let the poles make sure he properly lengthens.  We've had some lovely passes.  We've also had some passes where he falls on his face and runs, but that's kind of expected right now.  We also have that leg yield pattern that will be rough.  Our change of lead through the trot should be very shiny.  We were jumping on a figure eight yesterday and our changes in both direction are down to about a step of trot.  Clearly not a flying change, but a very prompt simple change.  I'll be focusing on getting an extra step of trot in there so we don't accidentally pull a flying change.

But at the same time, I need to nail down T3.  I haven't ridden that test in months at this point.  I'm less worried about him memorizing stuff now that he is doing so many different tests, so time for a couple run throughs.

I also need to go shopping.  As much as I like my coat, I think I need a formal dressage coat for this outing.

GMHA, June 2016 with one tired pony
Just now realizing my coat and saddle pad clash 

Charcoal grey hunter coat doesn't seem formal enough for the occasion.  I want something in black with a contrasting collar or piping.  I'll go hit Dover soon, see what they have.  And possibly a new saddle pad.  I love my black pad with crystals, but you can't beat brand new bright white for a show.  Especially on a dark bay.

Speaking of dark bay, he also needs his mane pulled, his tail maintained, and at least one bath with quick black.  The flies have died down so he's out of his fly sheet.  He's fading to a chocolate brown with dapples, which is lovely, but now I have to make sure he doesn't turn orange.  Or get too fuzzy.  He's shedding his summer coat already.  Ugh.

I'm alternating between excitement and shock that this is here already and trepidation.  Less trepidation when I remind myself we're only doing Training level and we'll be just fine.  More trepidation when I think of what a big to-do this show is.  But there's a bar, so we'll be fine.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Coherency and contemplation

Now that I've had a night's sleep, some Advil, and a big coffee, I can write the coherent version of my horse show results.

On the plus side, they moved our forecast back down to 90*.  Better?  It's still the hottest it's been on that day since 2002, but who's counting.  At least it wasn't record shattering heat like originally forecasted.

Fluffy braids are not appropriate for night before braiding, even with a sleazy on.  They just didn't look as nice and I had one braid that looks like Theo got after it.  Not a problem with tight braids, looser braids collapsed.  I guess I'm back to smaller, tighter braids.  Though the effect right after I did them was lovely.


My first test was everything I could want from Theo at a show.  He warmed up nicely.  He went in the ring like a gentleman and ready to work.  Our test was soft, willing, good energy, nicely forward with no nagging.  I worked very hard on not opening my inside rein and riding like I do at home.  It was probably the best test we've done.  70% of my class got a 63.xx score.  The difference between 3rd and 7th was 0.5%, so I'm very pleased with my 6th out of 10 score.  It was a tie and we won out on our cumulative scores.  Got a 7 for impulsion!

It was 90* degrees out for our second test.  Theo was head down sound asleep when I went to get him out for our 2:25pm ride time.  Hottest part of the day.  He was panting a bit just standing there with his tack on before I mounted.  I did a maybe ten minute warm up, just enough that he knew we were going to work.  The humidity was down and we had a nice 10 - 15 mph breeze so he was working comfortably.  Just didn't have the spring of his first test.

I did notice something.  He was far, far more looky once the wind picked up.  Having everything around him in motion mucks with his adorable little brain.  His first test he handled the judge's booths well.  The second test?  He had to go behind one to get to our ring and noticed the back door propped open.  After that, all of the judge's booths were terrifying.  I had to bribe and struggle a bit to get him past the first one and on to his own ring.  He did it for me and was in professional mode down centerline, but there was more tension.  The unused judge's booth along the side was just not okay.  That open back door was facing our ring and he was sure there were aliens in there.

From our UNH show in June, hoping our pictures from yesterday are even better
Good gravy my horse is beautiful
Sit your ass down, Catie

Error was my fault, I panicked and walked at A instead of turning for my second leg yield.  I knew I needed a reader but my pride won out.  I've learned too many tests in quick sequence to avoid errors right now.  No big deal, leg yields were way better than anyone expected.  Most of the time a horse that hasn't done lateral in a show gets confused that the sideways is suddenly in the little white box.  Mi papi took it in stride and gave me very nice steps in both directions.

Our stumbling moment came when I asked him to lengthen canter while going past that judge's booth near B.  He'd been keeping an eye on it the whole test but this time he got a little bump of the spur  while cantering past it which turned concern into 'mom says run!'.  We teleported about six feet off the rail and scooted.  I lost a stirrup, which screwed up my next movement as I tried to get resettled.  I was frantically trying to remember if I'd be penalized for finishing my test without stirrups and decided to pick it up to be safe.  Theo popped right back to work by the time we hit M which was wonderful to feel, but damage done.  We went from all 6 and 6.5 to several 4's and 5's.  Also hit our collectives hard.  Submission 5, rider effectiveness 5.  Ouch.

But that was a move up test and I wasn't expecting anything more than a 60%.  I definitely felt like he belonged there and that he was at the right level.  It just wasn't his day.  We both made mistakes and he was too tired to really power through to the end.  C'est la vie.

I also have to remember that I've moved up.  Stuff that would be seen as minor in Intro or Training tests are deal breakers at First.  They expect your horse to be far enough along to keep it together even when there are probably aliens plotting world domination in the judge's booth.  If I want to play with the big kids, I have to accept that what was good enough is no longer good enough.

I had so many people come up to us and ask about his breeding, his name, just him in general.  He was the picture of soft, willing dressage horse.  He's figured out life is full of cuddles and was trying to be a lap pony with anyone that would come and visit with him.  Several people guessed he was an Oldenburg.  I'm not going to argue with people thinking he's a fancy WB.  One lady was riding her Canadian and pegged him as part Canadian from across the ring.

 Gallery for June show photos

So I brought home lousy ribbons (last in my second test, 6th in my first test), but I left very happy.  No hands July did quiet my hands down considerably and we're starting to see improved impulsion.  He just can't maintain it in the heat yet.  We've got many pounds of muscle to go.  I didn't expect to get to First at all this season, so this is all icing on the cake.  Now it's time to lock down and focus on Saugerties.  One month to get ready.

I think I'm starting to look forward to it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The show process

4am - Alarm goes off.  Pick up phone and stare at in groggy confusion and denial. 

4:15am - Realize coffee was not set up.  Fire machine up because being late is better than being uncaffineated.  The coffee must flow.

4:30am - Drive off into the dark, nursing a large coffee and cursing the concept of horse shows.  Violently.  With creative combinations of terminology.  Most anatomically impossible.

5am - Arrive at barn.  Balance case of bottled water, saddle pad, show clothes, and field boots while walking to the trailer in the dark.  Don't die.

5:30am - Pull out horse and realize he wallowed in pee all night.  Lovely.  Braids still in.  One point horse, one point human.

6am - Load 1 gelding, 2 mares, and way too many adult humans.  Take off through rural New Hampshire.

6:30am - Stop at Dunkin' Donuts.  Have another large coffee.  Start to feel human.

7:15 am - Arrive at showgrounds.  Spend next half hour trying to get adult beginner in her gear and on her horse so she can make her 8am ride time.

7:50am - Flop out with co-pilot and enjoy brief break.

8:10am - Start grooming for copilot.  Tie papi to trailer with haynet so he can tear haynet up with plenty of room.  Rage issues.  He has them.

8:40am - Get copilot up on horse.  Walk across show grounds and immediately walk back.  Realize sneakers are falling apart in middle of mile of walking.

9:30am - Start cleaning old pee off of horse.  Start smelling like old pee.  Ew.

10:10am - Mount Theo.  Head to warm up.  Explain that spectators near bushes aren't assassins lying in wait.  Repeatedly.  Explain that stewards in tent are not aliens there to abduct him.  Repeatedly.

10:40am - Lay down excellent test for 63% in First 1.  Woohoo!  Stuff many cookies in papi. 

11am - Put papi and mares away for naptime.  Find lunch.  Don't eat because it's hot and food is stupid.  Give lunch away.

Noon - Watch freestyle.  Plan things.

1pm - Help copilot get dressed again and back on mare.

1:30pm - Wake up Theo from sound sleep (head down, eyes closed, snoring kind of sleep) so he can be show pony.  Pony not impressed.

2pm - Back to warmup.

2:20pm - Proceed to botch test with error and ride through big spook when papi spots movement in empty judge's booth at the exact same time spurs are applied for a canter lengthen.  Weehaw!  55%, bit harsh, but still good first run for that test and leg yields were on point.  Leave ring oh so pleased and proud of pony.

2:45pm - Wait for scores.

3:15 - Still waiting for scores.  Trailer and other car long gone.

3:30pm - Scores!  Run screaming from the showgrounds.

4:45pm - Return to barn, staggering tired.  Put things away, pull braids, steal a few minutes for sappy baby babble with pony who wants sleepy cuddles before going to bed.  Rub ears until his knees almost buckle in the aisle.

6pm - Arrive home.  Jam random food in face.  Don't remember what.  Collapse on couch with painful leg cramps, maple liqueur, and a dumb smile because your horse packed your ammy butt around at First level and enjoyed doing it.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Best laid plans

Maybe I should give Mother Nature a costar role in this blog.  I certainly discuss her enough.  Today it's about the heat and humidity.  For New Hampshire, 94* with a dewpoint over 70* is just ridiculous.  We're on day two of this.  Heat Index is expected to go over 100* again today.  I tried riding yesterday at 8am to avoid the heat, but that didn't work with the dew points so high.  None of our sweat evaporated.  Mi papi looked like he'd just had a bath and I used a sweat scraper just to keep him from leaving a puddle in the aisle while untacked.

We're also in a severe drought, so bath time for the ponies is limited.  It's a mess.

You know it's bad when my cardio beast is panting after 35 minutes of running through dressage tests.  I was very startled to see that.  He was also mentally not with me.  I said leg yield, he said sure, but it's going to cost you all of your forward.  It wasn't bad, we made it through the tests just fine and he was generally cooperative, but it was braced.  He didn't want to work, and I can't say I blame him.  We did have a short discussion on getting up in front of my leg.  Even when it's hot out, me putting on leg means go forward, not sigh and think about it while shuffling your feet.

Today is even worse than yesterday, so I didn't bother trying.  The temp outside was already 80* when I woke up.  Theo will spend the day in a stall, hopefully with a fan, and drink lots of water.  It's really not the heat that kills him, it's the high humidity.  If that sweat can't evaporate, he fries.  The big drafty Green Bean was really struggling after her ride yesterday and had to be cold hosed multiple times at 9am.  It's just not good weather for their type of horse.

The Green Bean at her show last weekend.  She's not the dainty, delicate type.

Tomorrow is going to be stormy, but not so hot.  I should be able to get in a good school before packing up.  Then the heat is back for our show.  I'm trying to come up with a plan.  We're getting day stalls since the ride times suck.  Green Bean is 8am, my last ride is 2:30pm, Miss Thang is between us.  We ended up with something like 8am, 9:40, 10:40, 1:30, and 2:30 for the group.  Nice for the coach, long day for the horses that are waiting.  That's a lot of hours to stand around with limited shade, especially for the Green Bean that only has one test at 8am and then she's done.  I want mi papi out of the sun with a bucket of water under his nose all day.  And if it decides to storm, at least we'll have the option to be under cover and not in a sardine box that's hotter than the outside.

I've considered scratching, but I really do need to get Theo off the property again so he can remember he's a big fancy dressage horse.  If the day is really miserable, I'll just scratch my second ride.  But Miss Thang really needs to do her afternoon test, so I doubt we'll be leaving early.  At least with a stall, Theo can chill and eat hay and basically be doing what he'd be doing at home anyway.  I'll just plan on very short warm ups.  These scores aren't for any goals, I just wanted to get him out again.

At least I can plan on waived jackets.  Must remember to not wear a dark bra in case it rains on me while I'm in my whites. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Unless you keep your horses at home, there's a certain amount of politics involved with the barn.  There's a lot of personalities, passion, and expenses in a small space.  There's a certain amount of compromise that has to happen in order to keep the peace.

I've been lucky enough to have some amazing support teams in the past.  I've had farriers, massage therapists, and vets that treat the best horses in New England.  I've gotten used to a certain level of expertise and skill.  In some ways, it's made me a snob with high expectations.  I don't accept so-so care of my horse.  It's also made me very educated.  I like to ask questions and if I can't get a straight answer, I assume something shady is going on.  But I usually get straight answers and learn about how my horses work and move.  I love my current vet and massage therapist.  They both do solid, straight forward work, answer any questions, and take good care of my horse.  Of course I love my trainer, she's patient and positive with my continued flailing.

After a shoeing job that had me seeing red about four weeks ago, I talked to Trainer A about the barn farrier.  Theo is straight forward to shoe, but he's also in heavy work and has increasing demands on his body.  He's simple, but he shouldn't be set 'em and forget 'em.  I've been having problems with chunks of hoof missing after he gets his shoes done.  I've been having heart attacks thinking I've got white line brewing or that his hoof quality is still crap despite his biotin supp.  His feet just look crappy to me.  I'm not a farrier so I couldn't put my finger on it, but the angles looked off.  Then he started losing nails regularly and this last time his clinches weren't done correctly.  They were sticking out enough to be uncomfortable when picking up his feet.  A clip wasn't fully set.  This screams hurrying through the shoeing to me.  He also reset shoes despite my repeated demands that he not do that, Theo chews through them too quickly.

The decision was that Theo should move to my personal farrier, the one that did Fi's feet, permanently.  I wasn't happy with the barn farrier but it wasn't doing Theo any harm in the beginning, it saved me $100 a shoeing, and it kept peace at the barn.  I stuck it out and kept my mouth shut to other clients.  And I'm sympathetic with Trainer A.  She wants me to use the farrier I want, but she's not the barn owner.  She was just the monkey in the middle with me tantrum-ing on one side and the owner not wanting to lose a guy that's good at keeping the barefoot school horses trimmed.  For walk/trot horses with shoes in front, he's fine.  For a horse in serious work, he's not good enough.  As soon as I saw signs that it was doing Theo harm, I was done.  I'll play nice when it's a matter of preference, but when I see crappy shoes on my horse, I'm not doing it.  Nope. 

My farrier was out today.

I missed him so much.  Theo and I were dripping sweat from trying to sneak in an 8am ride before the heat hit.  Didn't work.  I stood there, wringing my hands, while he pulled shoes and checked the situation out.  Please, please, please don't have white line.  I will never forgive myself if I waited too long and there was real harm done . . . .

He's fine.  No white line, no hoof quality issues at all.  Theo's now in a slightly different shoe that places the nails in just a bit more, away from the edge of the hoof.  It's an overall wider, stockier type of shoe.  As my farrier described it, it's harder to nail a shoe like that, but you won't see bits of hoof tearing off when his shoes are taken off and he shouldn't lose nails at random.  His back shoes are on with just 4 nails per shoe right now, giving the damaged parts of his hoof a break and a chance to grow in.  There's nothing wrong with Theo's feet, it was just the nails were too close to the edge.  He also took a lot of toe off of his back feet and added a rocker toe up front to bring his breakover back more.

It takes my farrier almost 2 hours to do one horse and costs me almost twice as much.  I regret none of it.  Theo's feet look nice again.  He doesn't have shredded edges on his hind feet or sharp points anywhere.  Clinches and clips are all completely flush with his hoof.  He's in shoes that were hot set, ground, and shaped specifically for him.  We talked about his confirmation (he toes out slightly) and optical illusions (his right foot looks bigger, but his shoes are almost identical).  My farrier says he's super simple, just needed some tweaks and some quality time with the rasp to bring his toes back.  He'll be fine on a 6-7 week schedule, rather than the 4-5 weeks I was doing trying to keep shoes on his feet.

Theo was a little freaked about the hot shoeing, he doesn't like the smell or sound, but he didn't care about much with the farrier's monster fan blowing on him.  Nap time for the pony. 

I feel like a huge boulder is off of my shoulders.  I was so worried that I had a lurking issue that was making his feet shred.  Hearing that it was just a tweak to his shoeing left me giddy.  Theo will get shod again before regionals, then he'll settle into a nice, normal shoeing schedule.  A little Keratex on the nail holes and sole was suggested, but that's it.  Tomorrow I'll get a feel for how Theo goes in a rocker toe.  I'll get some pictures of the finished shoes tomorrow as well.  After two hours, mi papi was done with standing quietly and got moved into a stall to wait out the worst of the heat.

Our show is forecast to be 90* with high humidity and afternoon thunderstorms.  My ride times are 10:30 and 2:30.  This is not okay.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Position, pain, and perserverence

This took awhile to get up the nerve to write, since its one of those subjects where my opinion isn't exactly popular.  But hey, my blog, life is short, etc.

I've been reading several posts lately about how important position is.  Opinions run the gamut between 'position is all' and 'hey, whatever works for you and your horse'.  I find that many riders lean toward the what works for you camp.  Me?  I'm solidly in the position is all camp. 

Which is a funny view for someone with pictures like these.

Good gravy, what am I doing in those?  Though to be fair to myself, I was out of shape in both of those pictures.  I picked these examples because I was on mi papi and had no excuses.  I tend to forgive myself of bad pics with Fi because I was frequently just trying to stay on as she did her impression of a barrel of TNT.  Hard to have a solid position when the horse under you is trying to go in multiple directions at the same time. 

But I hate my position in those pictures.  I will turn myself inside out to avoid more pictures like those.  I work hard at my position, I'm just not perfect.  But I've got solid fundamentals and I'll probably work to build on them until the day I hang up my spurs for good.  I do have a position over fences that I can be proud of even if I think it needs work.

 I've been a position nut over fences since I was a kid.  I competed in equitation, after all.  It served me well as an eventer after some tweaks to get me solidly over the center when jumping outside of the ring.  This didn't translate into my flat work.  My position on the flat was basically one of waiting for the jumping to start.  But that's finally getting fixed.

These are better.  I'm not sticking my elbows or butt out as much.  My toes are pointing mostly forward.  I'm actually sitting on my horse.  A long way to go, but it's progress!  Painful, slow progress.  And the pain isn't just mental.  When I got off my horse yesterday, I had to have someone take Theo for a moment while I held very still.  A nerve in my bad hip twinged hard and I wanted to make sure I didn't set something off that would lay me up with a show this weekend.  Advil, muscle patches, extra pillows, heating pads.  Reshaping my middle aged body is not an easy task.  So why would I do all of this to make my toes face forward?  What does it matter?  I can move up the levels with toes that point out, right?  It's just part of one collective mark.  It works for us, so why change it?

I used to think that.  I used to think things like toes forward and a pretty hand position were just the icing on the cake.  I've been firmly, harshly shown that it doesn't work that way.  Toes, for example.  I've always had a toe out type of position.  Common enough in the h/j circuit but not acceptable in the dressage ring.  I groaned and half hearted my way through the comments about my toes.  It bothered my knees and hips, I didn't want to do it.  But with steady nagging and adjustments, my hip rotated, my knee settled in near the saddle, and my toes moved forward.

You know what?  That completely changes your leg position.  I have a whole new set of leg muscles to use now.  It also changed the opening on my hip, making it possible for me to actually sit down.  I clamp with my calves less and can use my thigh far more effectively.  It wasn't about making my toes face forward to look pretty.  It was about moving my entire leg to make it hang down from my hip in the correct way.

My hands are another example.  Dropping them down or opening up the rein seemed like a no brainer.  It works, you do it.  I used to tell Dorkzilla's owner that she could wear white gloves because her horse was so steady that she could have pretty hands.  I'm learning it goes the other way around.  Her horse was so steady in the bridle because of those pretty hands.  It's been well over a year now of having Trainer A crack down on my hands.  Spending all of July with no hands made a fundamental change.  My hands are so much more still now because I don't feel like I need to muck around.  And guess what?  Theo's steadier in the bridle and more accepting of the contact.  I get a true connection with my pretty, steady hands.  I don't get the false frame I got with my hands constantly picking and setting.

I don't have the strict, vertical head at all times, but I do have a new 1/2" of muscle in front of the withers.  I gave him his head and he's learned to carry it for himself.  I'm not quite white gloves ready, but it's a whole new, very quiet world. 

There's a reason professionals tend to have beautiful positions.  Because those beautiful positions work.

That's Katie Robicheaux, Charlotte Dujardin, and Shelly Francis.  They're all Grand Prix level riders I enjoy watching.  And guess what, every one of them has beautiful hands and a rock solid position, regardless of who they're riding or who's watching.  You don't make it to that level by being a noisy, ineffective rider.  And having watched Katie training at the Wanless clinic, she busts her butt every day to maintain that position.

So how important is position?  It's everything.  If we can do it with me in an incorrect position, imagine how much better it will be if I'm in the correct position and making it even easier for us. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016


Spending a lot of time at the barn means I've used my horse products on myself more than once.  Horse shampoo is great for hair, Showsheen was a massive mistake, vet wrap is incredibly useful when bandages aren't available.  Corona and Effol Lederbalsm are both good on your hands and Sore No More really helps with exhausted legs.  I've bummed Robaxin and Ulcerguard from my horse during show season in the past.  I like to think it gives me a unique perspective on their experience.  Ulcerguard, by the way, is actually rather tasty and effective if you have ulcers.

CYA statement:  Please do not use your horse's meds on yourself.  It's dumb.  I was young and broke.

This has included cleaning up wounds with horse products.  What I've discovered is that horse products burn.  They burn like crazy.  Wonder Dust on a badly bleeding cut at a horse show was one of the most painful experiences of my life.  I used combinations of profanity I'd never considered and educated many youngsters.  It did the job of stopping the bleeding when nothing else worked, but I hated my life during the process.  Who knew charcoal was so horrible?

My latest discovery was Banixx.  I love this stuff, clears up any kind of mystery funk and heals up scrapes fast.  It's in a spray bottle which is very convenient.  I hit most of Theo's scrapes and bumps with it because he seems to get an infection if I look at him funny.  The horses tend to step away when I use it, but they often step away from a spray so I never thought of it.

Yesterday I looked at the big scrape on my elbow and thought 'that could use some Banixx'.

Still looks gross


That stung!  That really stung!  And there were campers in the aisle, so I couldn't accurately convey to my friends how much that stung!  And then I turned and looked at Theo, who I've been spraying with this when he has open, bleeding wounds, and apologized.  A lot.  I had no idea how badly that stung every time I used it.  It's effective so I'll keep doing it, but now he gets a cookie every time because standing for it is not something I would do.  I'd probably kick someone that sprayed me with that when I didn't know the reason.

So I'm developing a new policy.  All products that I can safely try, I'm going to try it on myself before I use it on my horse.  It never occurred to me that Banixx would burn.  I'm a weenie about this stuff, but so is my horse.  And he doesn't know why I'm doing it.  That means trying his supps, testing all of his wound care products, all of it.  I don't want to cause him pain without knowing it. 

 My elbow looks better today, btw.  So it's a good product.  Just ouch.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Blog Hop: Viva Carlos August's 10 Questions

1. What is your biggest source of caffeine that gets you through the day? (drink, not just brand) Two big cups of coffee every morning.  Two of my coffee mugs may or may not equal half a pot. 

2. Do you honestly think your trainer is the best trainer for you? Eh.  I've changed trainers so many times in my life that I don't think any trainer is perfect, but I can learn something from anyone.  She's fantastic for where I'm at right now and she can get me where I want to be.  We'll probably have to call in more help as I move up, since I'll be her first student moving up the levels, but I'm enjoying myself and fixing things that have been broken for years.  I don't mind being her guinea pig at teaching someone the intricacies that most students don't get around to learning.  It's slow, steady, and non-stressful.  I would probably go faster with someone else, but she's here, she's affordable, and she keeps me marching along happily.  I've learned slow, steady, happy progress actually lasts.

3. One token of advice a fellow rider/trainer/horse person told you that you still remember to this day.  Don't fit a round peg into a square hole.

4. If riding meant costing your family so much money that they’d be basically on poverty line, or making your family terribly unhappy (if they were not supportive or understanding, etc.) would you still do it?  I would stop.  I have cut back in the past when necessary to keep afloat.  I don't get financial support from anyone and I wouldn't accept it if they tried.  My hobby, my problem.  If I can't afford it, I don't get to do it.

5. (Girls) would you ride while pregnant?  With the complete understanding I want no children and have taken steps to make sure that doesn't happen, I'd keep riding as long as I could get in the saddle.

6. How do you tell when a horse likes someone/has bonded with you or someone else? It's really individual.  Fi loved most people on sight.  Theo, on the other hand, is much less trusting.  You know you've got him with he whickers and comes out to meet you or tries to suck you in for a grooming session.

7. Are horses capable of loving, in your opinion? I believe that they can develop a relationship with a person where they consider them to be a herdmate, that separation is distressing for them, and that they prefer to be in the company of their close herdmate.  Is that love?  Probably, same chemicals released, but the horse version.

8. If you could have one horse from your past come back for 5 minutes, who would it be, why, and what would you do with them in those 5 minutes?  My gut said 'Allen!' and we would just go out and gallop and jump big jumps.  He would appreciate the control and experience I've picked up while he was gone and I miss having that much power dragging me to the jumps.  But my first pony Terry is a close second.  And I'd just feed him all of the treats he couldn't have as a foundered pony and groom him and hug him as an adult that now appreciates how wonderful he was.

9. Should a trainer also be a friend, or should it be a student/teacher relationship? That's a tricky one.  Your trainer is in charge, that's how it works.  Quite a bit of what they say is non-negotiable.  There's also financial pressures that require a certain amount of emotional neutrality.  You can't feel betrayed by your friend when there's a business decision made that you don't like.  On the flip side, if you're showing and spending that many hours with them, you better have a friendly enough relationship to not mind hanging out in the truck or in stabling for hours on end.  You should be comfortable enough and friendly enough that you can make jokes and have frank conversations.  It's a delicate balancing act for the trainer.  I try to keep a certain level of separation, specifically to avoid things getting complicated. 

10. One piece of advice/training you were given by a trainer or mentor that you look back on now and view it as incorrect? Just slide the bit back and forth until he puts his head down.  Ah, dressage in the late 80's.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Weird pony

There's a point where I just have to accept that my horse is weird.

I discovered Theo's new favorite thing ever yesterday.

Yes, I am using his tail brush on his ears.  The inside of his ears.  I've been using that brush along his crest and withers, but while brushing out his forelock I went to brush out the owl tufts in his ears as a joke.  Mi papi was in heaven, leaning into it and head around his ankles.  He loves having his forelock brushed out and now I have to add brushing out his owl tufts.  He'll be so happy this weekend when I have to clip those ears to get him back into show form.  He loves anything that involves touching his ears.

This is the same horse that falls asleep with a happy sigh when I start working on his tail and makes groans that are almost obscene when the massage therapist is out.  Maybe he really was always meant to be a show horse.  He certainly enjoys the primping and grooming enough.

Appointment made with my favorite farrier for next week and I get to keep him this time!  Woohoo, new very expensive shoes!  Woo . . . hoo . . .

Ramen for dinner it is.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Getting old

So I had a whoopsie type fall.  No biggie, right?  Hop up, give the pony a cookie, remount and continue on with my day.

This morning I woke up going 'what the hell did I do yesterday?'. 

Not all of this is fall related.  I continue to up the game on riding with my core and that means a lot of sore muscles.  I'm also cracking down on my dropped left shoulder and collapsed left rib cage.  This means other muscles moving in ways they're not used to.  Screw those Abs of Steel videos, try learning to manage the size of your walk with just your hips.  I figure I'll be bikini ready by the time I hit Third level.  Goals!

But that magnificent bruise on my ass and the corresponding knot of sore, tight muscles?  That's all from my little tumble.  It's right on the butt cheek, just the way I intended to land to prevent any actual injuries.  Lots of padding back there, but now I'm sitting at my desk reconsidering my choice.  It's hard to analyze data without sitting on said bruised ass.  I put a Salon Pas patch on to keep things from tightening up.  Dressage riding is so very glamorous.

Trainer A's comment was that at least it wasn't on my bad hip and maybe this will even me out.  Ha, ha, teach.

Though it might work.  I had a friend with a horse that had a chronic issue in one hoof.  He managed to bruise himself on the other side and suddenly bam, sound!  Well, not sound, but he trotted off even.  It actually helped in the long term to get him straightened out since he moved straight for the first time in ages.  Not that I think me bruising my right side repeatedly is going to fix my crooked position.

Also, skinned elbows are a way bigger nuisance than I remember.  As a kid they were such a standard state of affairs.  Now I'm acutely aware of every time I bump something.  Including the arm of my desk chair. 

Overall, I'm sore and have random tight muscles due to a combination of very demanding body work followed by impacting the ground at about 9mph (assuming a height of about 2 meters up, assuming I was at rest when we started, and assuming gravity works the same in the riding arena as in the rest of the world (9.8 m/s^2)).  That doesn't sound like a lot, but that's still a pretty good bit of force to focus on my ass with that very sudden stop.  I think we need bouncy footing to soak up some of that force. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


I was thinking to myself that I needed something to happen worth blogging about.  I mean, I love writing about my day to day riding, but it's about time to have something to really write about.  Aside from complaining about the weather.

Well, the fates delivered.

I missed a couple days, so Theo whinnied and cantered up to the gate when he saw me.  He missed me!

Clutzy dork, but so cute

He also managed to give himself another scrape.  Of course he did, we have a show in less than two weeks.  It's very minor, but after the last one?  I'm doing everything to keep it clean and infection free.

My lesson was great.  I went down in my dressage gear for my first private in August, getting back into the grind.  We've been starting to work on the concept of half steps.  Of course, since neither Theo nor I have ever attempted anything like this, it's slow going.  Right now we're working on the basic idea of me being able to tell him to either step over two poles set close together or step between them.  This takes a ridiculous amount of awareness and body control for both of us.  We've been teaching him just to reach out and step over both poles rather than always stepping between them.  That was step one.  Today we started working on having him step between with just his right hind on some passes and completely step over on others.

It's hard.  So, so hard.  It's going to take months to get this.  But I think it will completely change the way I ride if I can consciously control how big of a step he takes with each leg and he learns that he can have energy that goes up as well as forward.  Trainer A was very happy to see him stop his forward by lifting his hind leg up for the first time today.  It was just one time, but hey, that's a start.

Then we jumped around a bit to make Theo happy.  As usual, he bombed about happy as a clam, popping over the 2'3" fences like they weren't there while I tried to not hurt myself on my dressage saddle.  But it was worth it, he was so relaxed and happy at the end of our ride.

My water bottle was sitting next to a coffee mug in the corner.  Trainer A offered to grab it for me, but I said no, we've been practicing.  I went over, hooked it with my whip, and started to haul it in.  Theo reached over and gave the mug a sniff.  And a shove.  He knocked it over, spilling the contents.  I lost my grip on my water bottle.  One of the two knocked off a picture frame and some papers.  I was hanging way off to the right and Theo shied to the left, like he always does.  There was no chance of me recovering.

About the same time I heard Trainer A say 'sit up!', I was already abandoning my stirrup and letting go.  Me hanging that far off the side was freaking Theo out.  Safer to just fall.  I landed on my ass, right on my phone.  That's going to be an interesting bruise.

But on the bright side, it was the best kind of fall.  It was controlled, I chose to let go, and there was pretty much no forward momentum.  I apologized to Theo as soon as I was up.  I didn't mean to give him a fright by hanging off his side.  He was rather displeased by the whole situation with me ending up on the ground, but he was perfectly happy to accept my apology and it was like nothing had happened when I hopped back on a minute later.

 I don't always take selfies, but when I do, it's to show off my bleeding elbow after falling off my horse for a dumb reason

After every fall, I get an ice cream.  It's a rule.

Butterscotch soft serve!

I'm actually quite thrilled.  I was feeling over due and falling off in such a controlled, non-traumatic way makes me feel better.  I fall off about once a year and now I'm set for another year!  It wasn't likely I could pull off landing on my feet two times in a row, so at least I knocked off another minor, actually pretty darn funny fall.  I don't think Trainer A was expecting me to be so pleased to fall off.  I mean, I don't want to fall off, but if it's going to happen, this is the best way.  My head didn't even touch the dirt.

So now I'm sitting with a heating pad on my butt.  The bruise is already starting to show and it's exactly the size and shape of my phone.  But my phone is fine, so I officially recommend Samsung phones.  They are tough.

Tomorrow's lesson is going to be hilarious when I try to sit my bruised butt in my saddle.