Sunday, April 23, 2017

Culture shock

I worked from home, full time, for three years.  I worked from home more than half time for the three years before that.  It's been six years since I regularly commuted anywhere, sat at an assigned desk, and made like a corporate cog.  Sure, I still sat at a desk all day, but it was my own desk in my own office looking out on my own yard.  My commute was up a flight of stairs and I could start my day still in my pjs with my goofy, giant mug of home brewed coffee.

I went to the office five days in a row last week.  My brain hurt.  I wish I was joking, but it was such a culture shock.  I now get up 1.5 hours earlier than I'm used to so I can be at the office by 8am in professional attire with a packed lunch.  I down a protein shake in the car as breakfast.  I wear (brace yourselves) . . . nylons.  And heels.

My bento box in action at my new desk.  You can see my skirt and if you look close, a bit of my high heel shoes.  Monbento brand bento stuff is highly recommended for packing lunches.

Suffice to say, I've had a lot of changes in the past seven days.  I'm glad I got Theo settled with his leasor and trainer ride so he didn't get forgotten in the chaos.  I missed both of my lessons.  I saw him Tuesday night and then today.  The rest of the days I got out of work late or I just couldn't do anything after 9 hours of learning a new job.  But even though I only rode him twice, he was still worked five days in the week.  It's sustainable.  He was happy to see me and had ants in his pants on the cross ties, but it was the happy level of energy and not the explosive kind.  We worked in the outdoor ring, then went out with a pony for a little walk around the Ritz.  I snuck in the first cross country jump of the season!  Then I took papi out to help trim the grass near the rock wall where the lawnmower doesn't fit.  He's a helper.

He's actually ridiculously good at this, Trainer A sends us out to handle the grass growing up from between rocks because he's more effective than the weed whacker

This week is going to be closer to my long term schedule.  I'm no longer bound to the 9 to 5 hours since I've got a start on my work and I don't need to have someone sitting with me and showing me where stuff is.  I can start going in early so I can leave early.  I can work from home one day this week.  My new plan is to do an 8am lesson once a week as my hardcore dressage lesson and then work from home so I don't have to try to clean up for the office afterward.  I'll keep my 6pm lesson on Wednesday nights.  I'll ride him after work more often as I adapt to my new reality.  It's only three rides a week to keep him on his six rides a week minimum.  If I want more than three rides in a week?  Papi gets two rides in a day.  It's good for him.  He will be such a fit hunk.

Last week was hard mentally and emotionally.  It didn't occur to me just how huge of a change this would be for me.  I worked at my previous company for almost ten years.  When you've worked somewhere that long, it becomes twisted into every part of your life.  I'm still untwisting bits of the company out of my life.

I think this week will be better.  And long term, this job should be a good fit to my equestrian life style.  My boss is very supportive, the job isn't locked into a specific time at the office, and it's awfully close to the barn.  That doesn't mean I expect it to be an easy transition.  I spent a good ten minutes of my ride today having Theo trot on the buckle while I sat the trot with no stirrups and got my back moving again.  I'm terrible about carrying tension in my back.  But the shock is over.  Now I adapt.

Monday, April 17, 2017

New and improved

Two years ago, I started riding a draft cross and said I thought he had a cute First level test in him.  I was laughed at.  By multiple people.  The horse had a four beat canter, a bad attitude, and didn't like to go forward or bend.

Last year at the Hilltop schooling show, I got a 63% at First 1 and just about threw a party.  First level!  Theo had achieved First level!  Not by a lot, but it still counted.  It was an act of God and weight lifting to survive that test, but we did it!

 A horse that has realized the show season is starting

On Sunday, Theo got a 64.9% at First 3, a mid-60's on First 2, and made it all feel easy.  The judge that had previously not been a big fan of Theo came around, saying he was a nice horse and she liked his willing attitude.  No comments on needing forward in either test!  She liked the canter lengthen, just wanted it more uphill.  Got knocked for an attempted walk to canter transition, but who's counting?

Fancy, fancy show pony.

Video is pending, but no idea when I'll see it.

First outing of the year and he was a champ.  No lunging, no real dramatics, he looked around and then went to work.  We trotted down center line and he knew what to do.  He's a completely different horse than what I had in 2016 and I love it. 

We have a lot of work to do, don't get me wrong.  I had two errors in First 2 when I started to do First 3.  We need those trot lengthens to get more than a 6.  I need to dial in some of the geometry (shallow serpentine that looked like I'm drunk being the primary example).  I need him to not kick out when I say canter lengthen now, not some time half way down the ring.  But I'm celebrating tonight because that is a confirmed, competitive First level horse!  I can buy my freestyle choreography because he is now ready!

I'm nearly in tears, guys.  It's been a long road but so worth it.  I have now surpassed what I did with Fiona and entered unknown territory.  Theo is a confirmed, locked in, competitive First level horse.  And he has so much more to he can do.

Of course I went out and celebrated.  Oreo cheesecake!

Friday, April 14, 2017

A blogger call to arms

My fellow bloggers!  I have a request for you!

If you are going to Rolex (I know some of you ridiculously lucky people have tickets *cough*Aimee*cough*), go to the Cosequin booth.  One of my best friends in the world started at Nutramax this year as a product manager and she's going to be manning the booth.  Her name is Melissa.

Go drive her crazy.  Ask her about her gorgeous hunk of an Irish sport horse, Index.  They do dressage, though she's considering playing around with eventing again.  Get free Nutramax samples.  They have a probiotic product for high stress situations and she'll have tubes of it to give away!  Useful for horses that get diarrhea while traveling.  Also, free stuff.  Yay. 

So please, pass the word widely.  I want to make poor Melissa wonder why she's friends with me.  She'll be so confused when random people seem to know who she is and who her horse is.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Living in the now

I blame my lack of employment for my over focus on all things showing related.

Ever have that moment when you read something and all of a sudden your thoughts just kind of pop into place?  It's almost an audible 'thud'.  I'm surprised no one heard me downstairs.

Heather over at The Graduated Equestrian replied to my post on a hunter division with "I'd always rather wish I'd done more than push for too much and miss my chance to go back to smaller stuff."  Holy crap, I hadn't thought of that.  It's a one and done thing.  I can't go for the big division then back down like when I was eventing.  Once I go over 2'6", I can't go back to 2'3" if it turns out my horse wasn't ready.  I have to wait three seasons.  How did I forget about that?

Also, I have a dressage horse.  I don't have a hunter.  I'm not cheating by doing a lower division regardless of what I did over a decade ago.  I'm giving my dressage horse a fighting chance to cope with a world that's radically different than where he usually plays.  I'm giving myself a fighting chance when I haven't worried about the striding of a line in over a decade.  And he doesn't have a flying change.  Let's all be honest, I'd be wasting my money trying to do an eq medal qualifier without a change.  Even Trainer A gave me the 'wtf' blue screen of death look when I said adult eqs.  Why would I do that?

That flying change isn't coming any time soon.  We are currently sweating blood over the simple change through the walk.  It really is a hard movement, I can see why it's something that really defines that jump to Second alongside sitting the trot.  We had a 'come home to Jesus' ride about the canter-walk-canter transition on Saturday.  It was time.  He's been doing that transition all winter.  The muscles are there, he knows how to do it, there's no excuse for being a lazy brat about it anymore.  When I picked him up and said walk and he replied with 'hey, just a couple of trot steps, no biggie', I decided to have the conversation about how that's no longer allowed.  Once he was going nicely and listening, I asked to canter.  Then I halted his magnificent booty at X with extreme prejudice.  If you can halt with a breath at the trot, you can do the same at the canter.  Diving against my hands and dragging me into a sloppy trot is not acceptable.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  When I say whoa, I mean whoa, damn it.  Once I had his attention, we did walk-canter-walk-canter until he was reliably stepping into the walk on both leads.  Goodness, papi, it's not that hard.

I am going to have to accept that I won't have a consistent flying change this summer.  I can't risk ruining his change by throwing a swap on him in a hurry just to have one.  I certainly don't want to deal with an auto change that would wipe out my counter canter.  He's still a dressage specialist first (unless he gets out there and blows the judges away -- *cough*) and we're going into the modified and baby green divisions because this is our fun vacation time stuff.  I'm going to have my hands full when he realizes he's supposed to go in that big ring full of alien hiding spots, I don't need to add height to the equation.

Definitely time to take a breath, check my ego, and sign up for the division we need today, not the division I would have picked twelve years ago with a different horse.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


There's one rite of spring that I can't escape:  Theo's last clip.  No horse grows hair like mi papi.  It's ridiculous.  And then he's super attached to it and doesn't shed out quickly.  He still had marks from his clip in June last year.  With the temps hitting 87* today (I still have 6 - 9" of snow melting in my backyard, I give up on this weather), I had to make sure his winter coat was gone.

You know how they say never clip a dirty horse?  There's a reason.  Theo hadn't had a bath since September.  His coat was about two inches long in the places that weren't clipped in his trace clips.  This meant even my most vigorous attempts with the curry comb didn't get to the skin.  There was about a half inch of oil, dirt, and dead skin zone.  I couldn't give him a bath until that massive winter coat came off.  I couldn't get my clippers through his winter coat without a bath.  They gummed up and stop clipping within 30 seconds with the state of his coat.  I had to dunk the blades and clean them out, then try again.

The end result was my gorgeous horse looking like a giant moth attacked him in his sleep.

I was so embarrassed.  Every time his sheet came off, I cringed.  I couldn't even bring myself to take a picture.  Especially his haunches with the bits sticking straight up. Today was a spa day with Trainer A and I doling out baths while temps are hitting 80*.  After his scrub down, I gave him a new clip job.  Much improved!

He looks like a real show horse!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Episode V: The Hunter Strikes Back

Yes, I have a dressage show next weekend and I'll be spending all of my copious free time this week getting ready for it.  Today I took the all important step of getting Theo out for his first conditioning ride on the trails.  Have trouble getting your horse to go forward?  Try having a random teenager hidden in the trees start yelling 'ROAR' at your horse in a deliberate attempt to spook him.  You'll have more engine than you can handle!*

But my May show is going to be my long anticipated return to the h/j ring.  I am plunging back into the world of hair nets, field boots, and zero ride times.  It will be my only overnight show of the season so technically the biggest show of the year.  Woohoo?

The show schedule just came out and I find myself flipping through the class list, wondering what to do with mi papi.  I want to do one day of equitation, one day of hunters.  This way I can see what he likes best.  I could pop into the jumper ring, but that seems silly on a horse that really thinks slower is better.

At home I pop around at 2'6".  My one actual course away from home was at 2'7".  At the show, I'll need to pick from 'not to exceed 2'3"' and 'not to exceed 2'9"' in the equitation ring.  That's actually not an easy choice as the height may be no problem, but Theo's only jumped a handful of courses away from home and has never even gone to an h/j show.  His brain may be completely short circuiting.  At the same time, I get to do warm up and a prep round.  He should be pretty comfy with the ring and the fences.

I also have to pick a hunter division.  I could do modified adult which is 2'3", special child/adult which is 2'6", or baby greens which are 2'6" and flying changes don't count.  The regular adults are 3' and out of the question for his h/j debut.  But if I do the baby greens, I can't do any equitation since the tall division makes me ineligible and the short division is running on the same day and Theo isn't doing two divisions in one day.  We could do some puddle jumpers and open eq at 2'6" on Saturday, but that's about it.


So do I just go for it, jump the full equitation height and the 2'6" child/adult hunters and YOLO, or do I back down to the modified divisions and jump around at 2'3" both days?  Or do the baby greens?  I don't have a confirmed change on him, so I'm really not sure if it's worth my effort to do the big kid eq classes just yet.  I might be better suited doing the littler divisions.  I was going to do some medal classes, maybe give myself a fall goal, but do I want to qualify for a 2'3" medal?  I'll feel ridiculous!  I did a 3' medal final once!  Sure, it was twelve years ago and I'm very qualified for the modified divisions now and my horse is a dressage specialist that is clueless in the h/j world and has no flying change, but I'd still feel weird.  But then again, shouldn't I set him up for success, not max him out at his first show out the gate?

Why is this so hard?  Dressage show is First 2, First 3, and done.  I'd forgotten how complicated this h/j stuff can be. 

Aw, hell, I need new breeches.  All my show breeches are white!

*results may vary, not responsible for any injuries, lost ponies, or trauma due to attempting the teenager roar technique

Thursday, April 6, 2017

His royal highness

Someone is spending the night in a stall.  And why would the infamous stall chewing rage monster be kept inside when he has his very own field and run in? 

We're under a flood watch as over an inch of rain falls on our leftover snow.  Even with the improved drainage around his run in, it's going under water tonight.  And if Theo doesn't get to lay down and sleep at least a couple of hours each night, he gets very ragey.  He doesn't like to sleep somewhere muddy.  So tonight, Trainer A is letting him wreck a stall so he can sleep somewhere nice and dry.

Yes, my horse is coming in because he's cranky if he doesn't get enough sleep and his run in isn't going to be to his liking.  He's such a spoiled brat.  I had to explain to someone that I need to monitor Theo's sleep to keep his raging tendencies in check and she looked at me like I'd lost my mind.  I sound like one of those owners.  I swear I'm not!  He just needs his specific blanket determined by temperature, wind, and precipitation, his very carefully calculated meals, and to come in if it's going to be too wet for him to get a good night's sleep.

I really am that owner.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Who's a good boy

First things first.  For those that replied to my quandry about a second trainer, I girded my loins and talked to Trainer A about going away to camp.  Her response was a cheerful 'hey, if it's not during summer camp, I'll go with you!  Or you can borrow the trailer if I can't make it'.  So I stressed myself over nothing, you guys were right.

Secondly, background check completed and official start date is set.  I have a new job!  I'm so excited and relieved.  It's everything I could have hoped for as a horse mom.  I won't be doing my 3pm on Tuesday lesson any more, at least not for the first month, but in every other way it's what I need to keep my Bronze Medal dreams alive.  Out the office door at 4pm, at the barn by 4:20pm, in the saddle before 5pm?  Yes, yes that works.  So the ulcer is subsiding and Theo is relieved that the alien is leaving until the next time life starts to get a bit too real for me.

And third . . . ly?  Don't think that's a word.  But third, my horse is freaking amazing.  How did anyone ever think this horse was a jerk?  I mean, he still tries to bite people on the cross ties before you ride him, but it's mostly excess energy and the spring yayas.  Once I'm in the saddle?  It's all good. 

Trainer A revealed that she's really been enjoying her rides on him lately.  Moment of honesty:  Trainer A didn't enjoy her training rides on Theo to start.  Mi papi doesn't work for other people the way he works for me, everyone knows that.  When I ask, he'll at least give me a try.  It might not be a lot of try, but he'll give it a whirl.  Most of the time he'll give me a solid effort just because I'm the one asking.  Trainer A used to spend 15 - 20 minutes of her ride convincing him that it will be easier for everyone if he just cooperates.  As she put it, she's not his mom and he has no real interest in making her happy.  But the times, they are a changing.  The months of working together are adding up and they're working out a compromise all their own.  She can now get on and warm up as opposed to convincing him that work will not actually kill him.

He's also been a bit of a rocket lately.  In a good way.  Spring is in the air and he's feeling it.  He really hates being cold.  Now he's in a turn out sheet most of the time and he's very happy.  When I call him up out of his field, he now canters up to the gate instead of moseying.  Or does a bolt-ish gallop like he did today.  I put the chain over his nose and walk very briskly down the road because I want to keep his attention.  He arches his neck and struts along.  He fidgets and fusses on the cross ties a bit, but a quick tap with the dressage whip will remind him of his manners.  He marches down to the ring, his overall attitude positive and a little impatient.  He genuinely enjoys heading down to work now.  He dozes during his post ride groom, all of his fidgets and fussing gone. 

That doesn't mean we're ready to start showing.  Far from it.  The outdoor ring is still under snow, so run throughs of my test are a bit challenging in the small indoor.  I'm going to be doing First 2 and 3.  Yay, leg yields.  While mi papi has made big steps forward in carrying himself correctly (aka not bracing through the underside of his neck in order to utterly ignore the bit), I have good reason to believe that he'll forget large parts of his progress once we're away from home. 

Easter weekend will be my weekend of freedom between jobs, so I may squeak in some extra lessons.  I quit one job on the 12th and start the other on the 17th.  I'd hate to start the 2017 season by flopping around the ring like a stranded fish while my horse demonstrates his impression of a porpoise.  Might need a mini boot camp to prevent that.