Monday, June 27, 2022

Fancy prance and future plans

 Got some video of Theo's last outing and have to say, he looks amazing.  Yes, I'm biased, but he looks amazing.


This is the Theo that has trainers offering money on the spot because they think he's perfect for their nervous adult ammies.  They also don't watch his warm ups so they don't know the truth.  

He has the best attitude in this test.  This is his fancy prance and he's happy to show his fancy prance.  He's also happy to halt and even happier to walk.  I can see why his canter/walk/canter is usually his highest scoring movement.  The first one got away from them but the second one is how he usually does them.  Trainer Z is talking about doing a series of them down center line in her freestyle.  Daaaaamn.  I believe this is his test that got him a 67% with 7s and 8s for his technical movements.  6.5 for the medium which is a pop the champagne win as far as we're concerned.  At least the judges are giving him points for trying.

Since he's got the scores he needs to qualify for his freestyle, he's taking July off as usual.  It hit 90's this weekend with high humidity and he is a puddle.  He'll probably remain a puddle until the summer heat settles in August.  Good time for technical stuff, bad time to show him off.  The plan for him right now is to get Trainer Z her bronze bar in freestyle.  Which means he'll have to go get his qualifying score for Third next year but that gives him another year to dial in those flying changes.

July is hot, miserable, and a good time to take a break from training.  It is also the time that a very special baby is due and I'm scheduled to go meet them.  Surprise surprise, there is a respected Welsh Cob breeder two hours away from me.  Fingers crossed for a little palomino colt but the color doesn't really matter.  Neither does the gender if I'm going to be honest.  I'll happily take a chestnut filly with flaxen mane and tail just like the dam so long as they are built like daddy (mommy also has plenty to add to the equation) and have both parents' fantastic temperament.

Quillane Authentic

The tough part may be choosing since there's a buckskin filly already running around that is pretty dang special.  Highly suspicious I'll be buying my first foal next month.  Whether it's the July foal or the pretty buckskin filly is really the question.  Don't worry, I'm bringing Trainer Z to keep my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds.

Quillane Marqui

But Trainer Z has a weak spot for buckskin mares.  I did not know this.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Third Level Pony

 I was so nervous sending Theo to a multi-day show with Trainer Z.  He's always been a handful and takes a lot of management to keep him from getting dangerous. He loves Trainer Z and they've worked out a great relationship all their own but he's different when he's in a stall for a couple days.  I didn't want anyone to get hurt.  I've been glued to my laptop and phone for days, worried about getting a bad phone call.

Apparently, I didn't need to worry.


Friday was an awesome warm up with Theo being a total gentleman except for one banner which he decided was evil.  Trainer Z figured that would get her a good canter extension so win?  We'll call that a win.  And I've definitely corrupted her with the colorful get ups.

Saturday was a lovely Second Level 3 test to get that qualifying score for their freestyle.  They needed a 63% and Theo delivered a 63.09% on their first try.  There was a rider error in the test so there were points left for them to pick up and Trainer Z was delighted with his performance.  She'd never experienced show Theo who is an absolute twit in the warm up and then sparkles when he hits center line.  It's something you can explain but until you feel the way he lifts his back and powers up as he enters, you don't quite understand.  Trainer Z now understands.  I don't know how it's possible that a horse can understand something like that, but he understands what a show ring is and loves to show off.  In warm up he'll flip you the middle finger and have little temper tantrums but when the sand box is all his, it's go time.


That was already a big victory.  They had the score they needed, they had the first show bugs out of the way.  Day two was just icing on the cake as far as I was concerned but Trainer Z wanted those points that were still on the table in the Second 3 test.  They went back in and got a 66.5% for second place in the open division for Second 3.  Ahhhhh!  I was so proud of them that I almost forgot he was also entered in Third 1 in case Trainer Z thought he was ready to give that a shot.

Apparently she thought he was ready because the scores popped up on my laptop.  60.3% in his Third level debut.  I'm so proud of them both!  His first show in years with a new rider and a new venue and he rocked it.  Absolutely rocked it.  I'm so excited, I just don't have words.  He's come a long way from the mutt school horse that struggled at Training Level.  Sending him off to Trainer Z was the best choice I could have made for him.  

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Superstar

 With all of the bad reports I get, it's a particular delight to get some good reports.  Trainer Z messaged me on Sunday with pictures of Theo making new friends during his bath.

Bathtime is better with cookies and new friends

Ah, the tiny ones.  Theo loves them.  They ask for nothing and give him all the attention, skritches, and cookies.  He needed a bath since it was clinic time on Monday.  He got packed up with Sparklepants and off they went.

We're here!

I will admit to being on pins and needles.  A new ring in a place he's never seen after a couple years of no shows or clinics?  Evil Theo could easily show up.  But I didn't need to worry, Theo is a bit of an old warhorse at this point.  He knows how clinics work.  Trainer Z messaged me afterward all aglow.  He was so good that the Second Level stuff got boring and they worked on Third.  Clean changes in both directions!


Trainer Z also surprised me by dressing him up in colors. I'm such a terrible influence.  Glad I left his dark purple browband for her, it looks awesome with the forest green.

I'm so proud of him.  I got a video clip of him doing his left to right change, the one that was very sticky and he would trot one step rather then do an actual flying change.  He's got the mechanics pretty well sorted out now.  It's not fluid yet but it's a definite flying change with no drama and he no longer needs a pole on the ground to remind him to do it flying and not cheat.  He's still doing it as he heads into the wall but he's not far off from being able to do it at X.  His right to left is now clean and being done at X.  Well, sort of, he has to really concentrate and it takes a couple strides for him to plan the move in his head so accuracy is a bit spotty still.  But hey, that's fine for Third.  It's willing, it's clean, there's no drama.  

He still winds himself up for the change, you can see him going '1, 2, Change!' as he's cantering along.  It's pretty cute.  He also grunts as he picks himself up to prep for the change.  But it's very calm, he's no longer upset or flustered.  Theo's an odd duck that way.  Learning something completely new upsets him and he gets overwrought.  Once he understands the request, it suddenly becomes no big deal and he can practice without any effect on his emotional state.  Turn on the haunches was the same, shoulder in was the same, half pass was the same.  Flying change was harder because he couldn't do baby steps or practice at the walk.  We're finally through the part where Theo gets upset because he doesn't understand.  Now he understands and we can finally just work on them without drama.

No lesson for me this weekend since I'm going camping but next weekend, I can start working toward being able to ride that fancy, Third Level horse I own.


Saturday, April 30, 2022

Hope

 Third time is a charm, right?

He has no business being this pretty

Third ride back and I feel fine.  I did have my first encounter with 'omg it's going to kill me' Theo when the arena doors dared to slide against each other and creak as we were trotting past.  Fortunately I've ridden that enough times to know reflexively how to stop him.  Hold the left rein like it's the only thing keeping you alive and sit back.  He stopped straight and stared.  Trainer Z was on supervisor duty and decided to latch the doors to stop the noise rather than have us have a set back.  And then we marched off and acted like nothing had happened.  Kind of glad we got that out of the way.  I still know how to get deep in the saddle and how to stop that spin before it can start.  Theo stopping straight isn't a problem.  That spin?  Let's just not do that, papi.

I actually rode him enough to get him breathing hard.  It's a good thing, Trainer Z is taking him to a clinic tomorrow and it's his first trip off property in a long time.  But she noted my strength, fitness, and confidence appear to be fine now and asked if I'd like to get back into formal lessons rather than supervised free riding.  Yay!  Next weekend I'm camping but in two weeks, it's back to the grindstone so she can fix my wayward hands and teach me how to correctly ride my Third Level pony that she has all tuned up.  I couldn't get a clean canter-walk today so I know it's time to get back to formal training for me as well as Theo.

Mom is still crooked, news at 11

I did some sitting trot to check that out and it wasn't bad.  Just a couple minutes and I can tell that it's something that's going to require careful management but we can at least work on it.  Theo's trot is appalling to sit but I only need to do it for three minutes or so at a time to get through a Third Level test.

Am I thinking about that Bronze again?  You betcha.  And why not?  I may be embarrassed to have my trainer get on my horse first at the show but that shouldn't stop me from finishing what we started. 

Watching Trainer Z work with Sparklepants

Once Theo's going Third in the show ring with Trainer Z, I want to take a shot at those last two scores.  Last year I couldn't ride more than thirty minutes without suffering the next day and couldn't really sit the canter.  Now I'm riding 45 minutes with real work and doing fine with nothing more than some Advil that night.  Who knows what I'll be able to do in 2023?  And he's very polite about his changes now that he understands the request.  They're about 75% confirmed right now, per Trainer Z.  Once I'm back in formal lessons, I can learn how to ask for them correctly.  I don't need to win, I just need two 60's.  

Yes, I'm starting to hope again.  We may not be done just yet.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

So foals, how does that work?

 I hinted that Trainer Z and I were discussing a potentially cool upcoming project as it appears my neck is going to let me play for awhile longer.  We talked a couple times and now it's kind of becoming a thing.  For the first time in my life, I want to own a horse with a pedigree.  I want to know where they came from, who bred them, and what they were meant to be when they grew up.  I want to have baby pictures and watch someone look like they're flying a kite while getting the baby around a triangle.  And it's the perfect time since Theo would be around 23 by the time this theoretical baby was old enough to become my primary focus.

I'm going to buy a foal.  

I still feel like screaming every time I say that.

I'm very lucky that Trainer Z is on board and this is far from her first rodeo.  She's got one due at the end of the month and her four year old stallion was born on her property.  And he's such a riot, he's turning into this total clown that loves to watch her working the other horses.  He will also peer in the window while she's using the wash stall, it's hilarious.  

Just look at this weirdo

As much as I love her horses, her breeding program isn't for me.  Her horses are getting scooped up by people with grand, CDI type goals.  They need a lot of horse and I, frankly, have reached the point in my life where I don't need that much horse.  I need smaller gaits, not bigger.  And I want to be closer to the ground.  I'm tiny, damn it!

I wrote about what I want back in 2019 (before all hell broke loose) and it's more true now then when I wrote it.  I want short, sturdy, hairy, and fun.  I need enough power and brains to go up the levels but not so much I live in fear of what will happen.  And with my changed status, Trainer Z was ADAMANT that I not look at big, powerful, dressage bred WB.  As much as she'd enjoy having another fancy baby in the barn, she likes her client in one piece even more.  And I think she just likes the idea of having a fancy pony in her herd.  And we both immediately latched on to it being a stocky, native breed pony.  None of these mini-WB ponies.  Good feet, good brain, lots of self preservation.  Or, in her words:

Think: THICK, small, round, cute, and fancy.

So we're shopping.  She reaching out to her contacts, I've started reaching out to the few Welsh Cob breeders I know (Quillane and Castleberry, for those that are curious).  The plan is to find the right foal and to have Trainer Z manage the baby until they're safe enough for my AA butt.  Probably five or six years (because I'm still dumb enough to get on a five year old).  So a very nice start for the pony, growing up at a barn with their care and training supervised by a GP rider that's also a breeder.  And I can help with the ground stuff!  I have no restrictions on handling so I can get them ready to show in the breed ring or the DHSB stuff.  

Now comes the hard part.  Picking a foal.  Especially as I've never done this.  Trainer Z is absolutely helping but she's got a business to run.  Some of the leg work has to fall on me, especially as we're diving into a breed she hasn't shopped for in the past.  I have Welsh cob pictures and pedigrees all over the place right now, trying to figure out what's going to work for us.  I didn't realize how hard it is to get a feel for the mares since they don't usually have under saddle pictures or even decent confirmation pictures.  My eyes aren't trained to understand a broodmare belly. 

So for those that have done something crazy like this, how did you do it?  How did you pick the perfect one?  And what questions should I ask the breeders?  Because asking 'are your horses awesome?' doesn't seem very effective.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

So far so good

 Another Saturday, another lesson.  After our success last week, I came into my lesson today with the goal of seeing what the world of the possible is.  Can I really ride my horse?  What is my limit?  I tacked up and hopped on with the intent of not riding like a w/t up down student.  I was schooling Third, damn it, I can at least pick up a contact.

Trainer Z left us mostly to our own devices since the whole goal is for me to figure out my new normal.  I pushed Theo's buttons a bit and he tested me to see if I was serious about things like taking a contact on the right rein and listening to my left leg.  Seriously, Theo, it's been seven damn years.  Yes, I am serious about you getting off my left leg.  I even did a canter lengthen while saying 'wheee!' at him to encourage him to actually push.  

In some ways, it's like I never left.  We worked on shoulder in, filling the outside rein in both directions, and transitions.  A million and one transitions.  It's lovely sitting on him when he's in professional training because he's already supple, fit, and symmetrical.  I just have to work on me.  I sat trot a bit to see what I've got.  I don't know if I'll be able to sit a medium but the collected wasn't bad.  I ended up working him for 45 minutes and it was an actual ride.  He actually yawned with his post-work super soft eyes in the cross ties so I felt like I accomplished something.

As for me?  I'm not perfect.  I'm comfortable but I can tell I've got some inflammation.  I took some Advil and I'm doing some ice.  It's not bad but I'm being cautious.  If I'm good tomorrow, then I'll say 45 minutes of actual riding with some sitting trot is in the realm of the possible.  Not enough to keep Theo in work all by myself but enough that I can ride him in a lesson once a week and start to get my groove back.

Trainer Z was very happy to see us actually working with him on the contact.  Not a Second level frame yet but a lot better than last week.  And Theo is such a ridiculous cuddle bug.  I swear if he could fit in my pocket, he would.  Not everyone knows how much he likes having the insides of his ears brushed with his tail brush and he appreciated my knowledge of the details.  It may just be me projecting but he does seem happy to see me.  

Trainer Z and I also had a talk about the future.  Theo has a clinic on Monday and has entered his first show of the season in June.  I've also booked a choreographer to get his Second level freestyle started for a hopeful fall debut with Trainer Z.  And one other exciting potential plan but we'll see what comes of that.  

Monday, April 11, 2022

What the heck happened?

 This is a question I've asked myself a lot recently and Trainer Z asked before my lesson.  How did I go from riding 5 times a week to not being able to ride at all so quickly?  In 2019 I was riding very regularly.  Sitting trot, big bucks, all of it.  My last show was fall of 2019 and I was riding Second Level complete with multi-day show theatrics from Theo.  By February I was seeing a doctor because of my involuntary head movements.  By spring I was out of the saddle and by summer, I had a diagnosis I didn't want.  If this is a decade old injury, what the heck happened?  Why did I have to stop riding?

Sitting the trot, NBD

There's two working theories after talking to my PCP, neurologist, and chiro.  Both link to the summer of 2019 and my two ER visits.

I had that nasty bout of Lyme disease that sent me off to ER due to high fever and not being able to turn my head because my neck was in so much pain.  They thought I had meningitis.  In hindsight, my whole body was inflamed and it certainly set off the damage in my neck that I wasn't even aware of yet.  I've had trouble in the past with my neck being stiff and sore but never enough to really register as a problem.  Lyme certainly made me aware that neck pain SUCKS.  Anytime I mention Lyme occurring just before symptoms start I get sighs from the professionals.  Lyme is such a pain in the ass.  It was treated promptly and I shouldn't be a chronic case.  Shouldn't being the key word.  It's not like they can test for it.  It will forever be just a coincidence.

I also had that incident where I got clobbered by a 2x6 when Theo tore the fence apart at GMHA.  No concussion but I took the hit across the back of my shoulder and my neck.  I remember laying in that ditch while my body felt like it was rebooting.  I also remember my neck and back hurting quite a bit afterward.  

Either incident could have taken my neck from potential problem to actual problem.  The two happening about a month apart?  Yeah, that was not ideal.  Of course my little head tic was assigned to my anxiety since no one ever saw me do it and it's not a typical symptom of nerve impingement.  It wasn't until a doctor actually saw it and tested some of my neurological functions that they realized something else was going on.

Everything in the imaging is old, cold, and set so if the head clobber incident caused problems, they should be over.  Lyme, on the other hand, can take a long time to settle down.  Like years.  It's only been in the last couple months that I've started to feel normal again.  My involuntary head movements have stopped.  After my ride on Saturday, I saw the chiro on Monday.  She said everything felt good and my body was completely normal.  Well, normal for me.  Woohoo!  I still have scoliosis and a twisted pelvis but that's normal.  For me.  Seriously, it's whacky sitting on Theo when he's all symmetrical and almost forcing me to ride him evenly.

Told you you're crooked, mom

Oh, remember my left shoulder that would just fail sometimes?  The one that plagued me with Fiona when jumping and Theo would cause to fail?  Guess what that is now attributed to?  Impinged nerve.  So glad I didn't let them talk me into rotator cuff surgery.  Apparently my scoliosis is the reason I ride crooked and the reason my left arm is prone to problems.  My arm has been consistently functional since I started getting regular adjustments.  The lingering issues from my little neck flare up consist of occasional episodes of pain from my neck trying to stabilize itself and my left hand not being able to help me open candy wrappers.  Lost some fine motor skills on that side.  I dropped my left rein once during my lesson which is a nuisance.  

Can I just get a new body?  This one is defective.

But I'm starting to feel like my old self again.  I have to stay on top of anti-inflammatories and use ice if I'm starting to get symptoms but it's all pretty manageable.  The hubby still insists that I not jump or ride unsupervised but that seems reasonable considering my latest x-rays and the horse I have.  I do have bone spurs and issues that would be a problem if I fell again.  There's no shock absorption left in my neck.  I know as well as any equestrian that falls are a matter of when, not if, but I can avoid courting disaster and can remove situations where I'll be moving at high speed toward an obstacle.

My next lesson is set for this Saturday since I feel fine after my first lesson.  We're scheduling a whole 60 minutes this time but planning on lots of breaks.  My legs were sore and tight after my first lesson.  I forgot what a lazy ass my horse is.  Since I don't seem to have completely lost my seat, I've been greenlighted for spurs.  Thank goodness.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Back together again

 It took a month longer than planned but it happened!  My first lesson in over two years.  Also my first ride on Theo since he was summarily thrown out of his barn and his job as a h/j horse which led to him needing some rehabilitation.  

We waited to make sure we'd have good Theo.  After his spring clip, evil spring Theo came out for an extended visit.  The usual week of chaos around the equinox turned into two weeks of chaos with the early clip.  After that he had a week that was mostly good but not consistent enough for Trainer Z to call it safe.  This last week he was consistently very good so I got the green light to come out for my first 30 minute lesson.

I was so damn happy to be tacking and grooming my pony.  He was so quite cute and cuddly, it's like we never spent a day apart.  I swung on and settled in.  After a few seconds, Theo recognized the babbling creature on his back and stretched out into this long, chill walk.  Trainer Z was in the middle of the ring, his girl had cookies, Theo knew the drill.  

We walked, we trotted, we cantered.  We even leg yielded and shoulder-in'd.  Trainer Z is mostly occupied with us getting our groove back and my confidence being rebuilt but she's also taking this as a chance to rebuild me.  I'm very out of riding shape and Theo is completely tuned up.  I only have to work on me so it's a unique opportunity to do something about my possessed hands and twisted position.  Theo was a very good school pony for me and I was grinning in the canter work.

I'm scheduled for another lesson next weekend.  This will hopefully be my new lesson time going forward.  I'm so, so excited.

Monday, March 7, 2022

OMG

 Who's got two thumbs and a riding lesson for this Saturday?

This girl!

Me and the hubby at Beyond the Eats with Alton Brown.  I'm such a fangirl of his.

Yes, all my lovely readers, I get to ride Theo in a lesson!

It's not as exciting as it sounds.  It's more like a 20 minute pony ride with supervision but I'm excited.  Super, super excited.  I visited Theo last weekend to give him his spring shear.  I removed half a wheelbarrow worth of fuzz.  I'm not exaggerating, I had to use a wheelbarrow to clean up the hair.  I didn't get a picture but it was ankle deep on him.  I was up half the night sneezing up a small pony's worth of hair that I'd managed to inhale.

How about a picture of me and the hubby at a 5k instead of me sneezing up horse hair?

After clipping, I ended up hanging out and talking to some riders while watching some rides.  I had so much longing as others tacked up their horses and rode them and discussed their show season.  I wanted to ride my damn horse!  But I agreed with my husband (and my mom and the chiro and half the eastern seaboard) that I would not ride Theo without supervision.  By the time I left, I was knew I needed to message Trainer Z and try to set up a lesson time.  She was eager for me to have a lesson and booked me for 30 minutes on Saturday.

OMG.

Now I have to find my stuff!  I last rode in June and it was all in my Western tack.  I had to actually order a new set of breeches (the Covid 15 is no joke).  I found my tall boots in the back of my closet and my helmet was hanging up near them.  It's supposed to be 46 degrees so a long sleeve shirt and a vest will round out the outfit.  All the rest of my gear is already there, waiting for me with my horse.  I may or may not have taken advantage of a discount code to get Theo a whole new set of gear in lotus pink from PS of Sweden . . . 

And yes, Theo is still mine in the ways that count.  We had a major make out session during his post clip groom.  He loves getting curried right after a clip.  Even my fantastic Haas curry comb can't get right to the skin when he's in his full winter coat.  I was grooming him, he was grooming me, it was like nothing changed.  He still comes when called, even with his buddies and his ridiculously large hay bale waiting for him.  I wormed him for Trainer Z since he's still easier for me to handle.

Oh, and he's still an asshole.  He apparently escaped from his stall one day just to show a new employee that he could do it.  Stood in the aisle and chilled until someone made a fuss about him being loose, then scooted back into his stall.  They added bars to his stall so he can't hang his head out since he's basically unstoppable when he can reach the latch.  He also busted loose on the lunge again.  Seriously, Theo, you're nineteen.  Knock it off!  I warned Trainer Z to lunge him after his clip since he does enjoy doing his naked dance after a clip.  Those toddler stallions have nothing on him.

If all goes well, I'll get set up with a once a week lesson.  It will be the only riding I do in a week but it's a hell of a lot more riding than I'm doing right now.  Theo's actually training will be with Trainer Z, I'm just the owner that comes out to flop around once a week.  But I'm looking forward to it.  He looks so good under saddle now, I want to experience him when he's all fit and tuned up.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my body is up for this.  I feel good, though.  I really do think it's time.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Big boy clothes

 So how is Theo doing?


He seems to think he's awfully fancy.  Hanging out with all his fancy WB friends is a good influence. 


Theo free lunging on a cold day

Don't tell him he looks a bit ridiculous trying to keep up with the four year old stallions.  He thinks he's utterly magnificent and I'm just impressed he's got all four off the floor and some actual elevation.  Trainer Z appears to have pushed through the wall and gotten to the wonderful, sweet, hard working core of Theo.  He thrives as a show horse in training since that's lots of exercise, attention, and puzzles for him to solve.  Also all he can eat hay in the form of a large bale in his paddock.

In a lot of ways, Trainer Z is going through all the stages I went through in six years, but she's doing it in six months.  Like some sort of fast forward montage.

They had a rough period in the fall.  There were a couple 'incidents' and he got a week off because the changing weather appeared to have disconnected his brain.  I don't remember what Trainer Z said but we swapped his supplements and treated him for a potential ulcer flare up.  Bingo.  He stopped kicking at his fancy new stall and stopped offering to lose his shit under saddle.  About the same time Trainer Z managed to get his hind end connected to his front end and give all that excess energy a place to go.  Like a light switch, he was back with the program.  By January, he was lifting his back and a happy participant again.

Now he's back in his double and schooling Third.  He's muscled up enough that Trainer Z's saddle fits him again which is great to see.  Counter canter is back on board so the changes are on the agenda.  Trainer Z is even talking about shows for him come spring since he's so completely with the program.  Third in 2022 and then who knows?  His strengths are really in collection and balance exercises so if he decides flying changes aren't a big deal, he might even touch Fourth one day.

Not bad for a nineteen year old mutt former school horse.

As he refreshes his buttons and we manage his tummy, I still hope that he'll find a partner that he can cart around the shows and show them the ropes.  It's not a big deal, he's quite happy with Trainer Z, but I would love to watch him share all that he's learned.  However, that might not be for a couple more years.  He's gotten a few gray hairs but otherwise, he's pretty sure he's a four year old stallion.  Not quite ready to be a chill school master.  


But one day.  He does like the tiny ones.