Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Shopping spree help needed

As I got a promotion (and my annual bonus), I'm buying myself something nice.  Which means Theo is getting something nice.  I'm having some trouble deciding what I want so time to try crowdsourcing. What bridle should I get him?

Theo is still wearing that $90 bridle I got from Dover three years ago for his jumping bridle.  It's fine, but it's a little tight on him and I don't like anything tight around his ears.  I have kept it in rotation so I can have his eggbutt available for his other riders (don't want new hands using his 12mm Verbindend), but I think he's due to get an upgrade.  Probably another PS of Sweden.  I just can't make up my mind which one, the Nirak or the Jump Off or the High Jump.  We'll be doing some cross country and stadium this summer (schooling only) but no hunters, so no worries about it being less than traditional.  I want anatomical fit to keep things away from his cheek bones.

High Jump from PS of Sweden

Jump Off from PS of Sweden

Nirak from PS of Sweden

I keep the noseband loose on my bridles so treats can be delivered, so not sure if the combination noseband on the Nirak will work.    I suspect it would work fine as a regular bridle, I just wouldn't see any distribution of pressure over his nose from the bit.  I like the idea of having only one strap running down his face.  It looks so clean and neat.  But I have no idea how it would work on mi papi's face and with a loose noseband.  The High Jump is very adjustable.  The Jump Off looks very similar to a Micklem, no one would even give it a second look. 

I don't know what to pick!  Or are there other bridles I should look at?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Theo's been so good.  So dang good.  Trainer A is in love.  She got some true mediums out of him in his last training ride.  This video is us at the end of our last lesson and he felt like a million bucks.  He was taking the contact, light off the leg, fantastic.  Valegro he ain't, but for me, this right here is what we've been working toward for almost three years.

Look at his tail swing.  He was so happy to get in the ring and work.  He wanted to lengthen so badly and we did a lot of passes across the diagonal with a lengthen.  And that's his left lead canter picked up so willingly.  I love the fact that he is so happy to stretch for me now.

And then he bucked his new adult w/t/c rider off the next day.  Theo.  Theo, noooooo.  We need her to give me days off!  And to feed you cookies and give you light days where you can flop around without a frame or real impulsion!  But spring is upon us and he had a brain fart when the lesson started a group canter.  Two bucks, one crow hop, and she was off.  No injuries, thank goodness, and she isn't giving up on him.  He's just too damn good 99% of the time to give him up.

Story of my life. 

But bucking people off and getting studish isn't cool so he's getting his work upped.  This has been rough for me since the hubby is travelling for work this week and I'm handling the house, the dogs, and the chickens as an army of one.  And then running and commuting to work.  Making sure I work Theo 4 times a week is rough right now, but I'm enjoying seeing him so much.  He whickers and trots up to his gate when I call his name.  Who needs sleep when you have adorable whickers?  There's a theory that he missed me and he figured that if he dumped his other rider, I'd visit him more.

On Monday we had a ground session.  We worked on basics like staying out of my space and that cues are not suggestions, they're orders.  I also figured out what I should work on for the foreseeable future:  Focus.  Theo needs to focus even when the world gets hard, such as things moving outside the arena door.  He gave me a buck and scoot on the lunge but with side reins, he couldn't get out of work.  It took only two rounds of scooting for him to realize it wasn't going to get him anywhere.  I corrected him when he was coming in too close and he bronced in response.  I corrected him sharply, then repeated the cue to move out.  He considered throwing a fit, then worked through it with one ear on me.  I gave him a complete release, including a cookie.  That.  That right there, Theo.  Accept my feedback and keep working.

When he spooked at something outside the door, I gave him a verbal command and he responded promptly.  That got him a reward.  The lightbulb went off.  When he'd start to spook, I'd move and his ear and eye would focus on me.  That got him a verbal reward and he started to chew.  We worked very hard on him promptly responding to verbal cues regardless of what else is going on.  He was chewing like crazy, visibly thinking, and the impression was made.  Scoot and bronc is not cool.  Cookies come with putting an ear and an eye on the human.  It's something we do with dogs that are going into competitive obedience.  Eyes up is rewarded.  I can do the same for Theo if he puts an ear on me.

Today I swung on with no lunging and got to work on the same lesson.  He was a little sore after being an idiot on Saturday and giving me some havoc on the lunge on Monday.  But even with two appy ponies working the canter and a beginner on the lunge, he kept an ear on me.  If he started to brace and get above the bit so he could act up, I'd give him a cue and his ears would swing back to me.  Reward, reward, reward.  I think this is what I really need to survive the show season.  He will spook.  He will want to bronc.  He will try to spin for home.  It's what he is.  But if we have it set in stone that a verbal cue overrides his freak out, we'll be okay.  If he stretches for the bit, puts an ear on me, and refocuses, that is a win beyond measure.  He didn't spook at all with me today.  When he tried to get big and look out the door, I said shoulder in and he said 'okay'.  I felt his back relax and let me connect rather than his old response of locking me out.

So now I know what we're working on.  Theo has to focus.  Screw what level test we're working on, this is a bit more critical.  When the world is terrifying, if I tell him to come back and focus, he needs to do it.  I will let him out of the frame, I will let him stretch and look later, I won't keep him in there forever, but when I say focus he needs to do it.  It's a trust exercise.  He has to trust me that if I say focus, that he can ignore whatever is going on. 

I'll admit, he's gotten a lot of cookies over the past two days.  This is a hard lesson for him and I can't be rough about it.  I've purposely put him in a heightened state, then worked him.  Getting rough will get me launched.  Cookies?  Cookies always work.

It's good that I'm back to riding so much.  And I genuinely think Theo missed me.  I don't think his other riders know how to scritch his ears the way I do.  I'm certainly getting the whickers and cuddles.  He's such a funny dude.  He does a good job of scaring people off with his facial expressions and open mouth, but what he really wants is a serious ear scritch and to get his neck curried for an hour.  Per side.  He's shedding and very itchy.  I suspect a plot to get me out to the barn more often.  I guess I should be flattered that he went through so much work to get me out for more visits.

He's so lucky he's cute.  These long days are a killer.  But I got my promotion to lead data scientist so I think a new browband is in order.  Since I have three saddles and really don't need any more.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Health and welfare check

Hey there, intertubes.  We exist still.

And we still can't selfie.  No, Theo, don't eat my phone.

Work has been an exercise is chaos trying to pass for organization.  Boss is gone, no new boss in sight, reporting up to an exec that is way too busy to lead a team of 8.  The running joke on the team is that I'm in charge because I'm the crankiest and seem to know what's going on with everything.  Yay?  But there's a light at the end of the tunnel.  I found out that there is a restructure coming and that there's a promotion in it for me and a really, REALLY cool opportunity.  Like a once in a career opportunity.

But they can't announce or make anything official until the end of March, so I'm holding down the fort at the office, just trying to keep the place from completely igniting.  And then I go see my pony.

He is so good looking when he's spooking at ducks fighting over nesting locations.

We are still soldiering along.  I ride three times a week on average.  Trainer A hops on once a week.  He has a new adult ammy friend to teach that rides him twice a week in lessons, one jumping and one flat.  She thinks he's fancy and safe and very cool.  I agree.  She's learning to jump with confidence which is amazing since she used to break out in a cold sweat when faced with a cross rail.  With mi papi, she grabs mane and smiles as he handles the rest.  He doesn't bolt, rush, or refuse.  Ever.  He's successfully earned the title of school master and has earned the respect that goes with it.  Never, ever will he do rank beginners again.  Lucky teens and some very lucky adults that w/t/c and jump.

He's 14 now, though he's a very young 14.  He didn't start work until he was 6 and no serious work until he was 9.  Can you believe I've owned this beast for two years already?

I'm schooling Second, jumping, and still trying to figure out my western saddle.  We sneak out for trail rides when the conditions are cooperative, but that's not often.  Poor papi is getting ring sour.  It's not bad, but he's definitely bored of the indoor.  On the other hand, he's so eager to move his body that I've been getting some really nice work.  He's finally strong enough in front of his withers that he can lift through there without it being an occasion to get frantic.  I need to school outside where I've got the room to really turn on the afterburners, but no dice.  Another foot of snow in the forecast this week.  But at least we got out a little bit.

I hate mud season.  Theo revels in it.

Good gravy, papi.  Keep this image in mind any time you feel envious of the tail.  This is a daily occurrence that must be maintained.

The current plan is for me to take advantage of the dropping stress levels and step up Theo's work as the temps rise.  April 7 I have a ride review ride with a trainer/judge that I really respect.  It will be a great chance to get off the property and do a run through of that Second 1 test.  And if we totally blow it?  Eh, it's a ride review ride, it's fine.   First schooling show is April 22 and, assuming we don't fall on our face on the 7th, we'll be doing Second 1.  No plans to do rated shows this year outside of some Western Dressage outings.  I want to focus on us being able to go in the ring without theatrics.  I might do the UNH show in June if things are going well since it's close by and he likes those rings.

I've also got my road races scheduled out through June, so need to make sure I leave time for that stuff, too.

The chug thinks I need to run more.  My knees disagree.  But I'm up to 5 miles for my weekly long run and my cardio is better than ever.  It really does make a difference in so many ways.  I spent a couple hours doing spring cleaning for the chickens yesterday and I was muscle tired, but not exhausted or out of breath.  My heart rate stayed in the 120 range for my jumping lesson yesterday (used to be more like 150).

And they give me stuff at races.  Like beer and medals.

So we're doing well.  Theo is fat and sassy.  He's getting his alfalfa back finally.  He had it taken away for a bit after his explosive December and two weeks off in January, but it's time to start turning the dial up.  I'm working hard on my sitting trot and my transitions within the gaits.  Theo's learning that he can sit without getting tense about it.  The days are longer, the snow is melting, and my show schedule is shaping up.

Work is still hell, but pony life goes on.