Sunday, May 28, 2023

Why so complicated, Theo?

 Theo's been doing so darn well and getting so strong that you had to know there would be some new issues.  It's just how these things work.  Moving from one plateau to another isn't usually a smooth process.  For Theo, it usually involves some amount of drama.  It's just what he does, he can't help himself.  Things that worked fine for eight years are suddenly a problem.  Such as his bridle.

Theo's been wearing the same PS of Sweden Flying Change bridle from when we started working together eight years ago.  His browbands have expanded and one cheekpiece was replaced after a lunging 'incident' but otherwise, it's held up perfectly and he's been very happy.  Double jointed loose ring and his snaffle bridle with a plain cavesson noseband has been everything he needs all this time.  He's got a busy mouth but it's not resistant, he's always licking his lips or sucking on his bit.  The judges don't mind since it's all very positive.

He can't help himself

Three weeks ago, he suddenly started to protest his bit.  He went super light and started to open his mouth like he couldn't get his bit where he wanted it.  We had his teeth checked, nothing.  We double checked his bit, it's fine.  We gave him a couple consistent rides to see if he straightened up but no change.  Swapped to his wider double jointed snaffle, nothing.  Rode forward, rode long and low, rode very collected, he kept opening his mouth.  

With his first show of the season a week away, I played wheel of bits and nosebands with Trainer Z today.  I watched from the ground and helped with quick tack changes while we raided her bit box and tack room to try to figure out what his problem was.  Theo was a trooper as we kept swapping his tack.  He liked the mullen mouth with tongue relief a bit too much and immediately laid on Trainer Z's hands so much that she couldn't really ride him.  Egg butt was a bit better but still invited him to lock down.  After messing around for awhile, we popped a drop noseband on him.  Just like that, he settled down.  He can still lick his lips so it's clearly not holding his mouth shut but moving the noseband down his face seems to have stopped whatever was going on.

Trainer Z thinks he needed more stability now that he's working in an uphill frame.  Different angles, different feel for him?  He still needs his loose ring, double jointed snaffle to keep him from weighing 1,000 pounds but he also seems to need something in front of the bit instead of behind it.  He tested it once or twice but he very quickly settled into his happy, tail wagging, relaxed ears frame.  Just a higher frame then what he could do just a month ago.

Seriously, who is this horse?  This isn't even his real collected canter, we were still testing bits

Kudos to Trainer Z for taking the time to go through the checklist and find what he needed rather than just strapping his mouth shut.  We're still not sure just what he needed but if all he needs is a different noseband, we're happy to do that.  Considering his mouth was checked about 1.5 weeks ago with no hooks or issues, it seems to be related to him recently getting strong enough to connect over his entire topline from poll to tail.  We did find some poll soreness when all of this started but after massaging and focusing on loosening that up in the saddle, he's feeling much better.  Maybe today was a combination of the poll feeling better and a more stable connection in his mouth so he doesn't feel the need to try to rearrange it.  It really looked like he was trying to move it in his mouth intermittently, like it would bug him and he had to fix it.

Other side effect of him finally have a topline from poll to tail?  He's now casually offering his flying change.  It appears he's finally ready, mentally and physically, to make that part of his work.  He gave me the cutest flying change this week while I was working his counter flex to loosen him up.  Small problem is that Trainer Z's doing a Second Level freestyle next weekend.  We're excited that he's very ready and eager to start his Third Level career, but couldn't it wait another week?!  Come on, Theo, why do you have to make things so complicated?

Friday, May 19, 2023

Finding the time

 There were three years where I thought I was done riding forever.  I made other plans, did other things, even (gasp) picked up other hobbies.  I can't go back to riding 5-6 days a week again but I do want to ride twice a week.  If I can find the time.

Theo, however, is very focused.  Locked and loaded.  Seriously, look at this very fancy Third level horse.  And my hands are in the right zip code!

While Theo has Second 3 mastered, I'm still catching up.  This weekend will be two lessons and then another ride on Tuesday on my way to the university where I now teach.

Oh, right, on top of getting my doctorate, my full time job, and my two horses, I also teach some graduate level classes on analytics in Maine now.  You know, in my copious free time.  I started in January when I was offered an opportunity too good to pass up.  So it's great, but it's also a big time sink.

I was looking at my calendar and realized June is going to be a disaster.  I'm going camping Memorial day weekend.  Then it's NEDA Spring where I'll be grooming for Theo while Trainer Z does their freestyle.  Then it's my turn to show the next weekend.  Holy mackerel, it's practically here!  We were thinking about doing another show on the 16th but I'm currently thinking NOPE because it's also commencement season so I've got extra nonsense at the university.  And I need to get my dissertation proposal submitted in June assuming my methodologist ever gets back to me.

Such a good boy while I'm trying to not spook at random squirrels after Trainer Z moved me outside so I could stop being so spooky.  Not the horse, me.

I'll be able to get this all reined back in once my commitments made from before my return finish but for now, it's like I'm leading multiple lives.  I have clinics with both Theo and Kiki scheduled this month along with an AI seminar at the university.  And the hubby wants me to go mountain biking with him.  

I expect to careen into July exhausted, over caffeinated, and still feeling grateful that I have these things to worry about.  Two weeks until I'm back in the show ring!

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

I did a thing

 So I might have just sent in my first horse show entry since 2019.  Cue the heart attack and the insane nerves.

"Mom's freaking out, news at 11"

I'm signed up to do Second 3 in June, the weekend after his first show of the season with Trainer Z.  I figure he'll have the cobwebs dusted off after a weekend show so a day show will be no big shakes.  June is a good time of year since it will be warm enough to be happy but not hot where he melts.  A day show means I ride one test and leave which is lovely.    

This makes the whole abstract idea of returning to competition a lot less abstract.  Now I'm franticly hunting down my show clothes and trying to remember Second 3.  Then realizing I never got around to riding it in competition because we weren't ready for the serpentine.  Oh yeah.  I guess that makes me feel better that I've been schooling 15m circles in counter canter.  I think Second 3 will be comfortable.

"Seriously, mom, I can do that test in my sleep, have you seen my ribbons?"

New boots had to be ordered as my Ariat field boots of many years have started to come apart.  The stitching on the toe cap is coming loose.  I got some Treadstep dress boots since I'm still  not ready for real dressage boots.  At least they're dress boots and will look nice on me.  I'll need something to ride in while waiting forever for full custom for my x-wide, short calves.  Dressage boots on the shelf don't even come in short.  I found my black coat and helmet in the back of my closet so those are set (still fit, too).  New white pad from PS of Sweden en route.  Still need white breeches and my white gloves recently disintegrated.  I might have blotted out how much stuff is involved in these competitions.

But the entry is in.  I'm going back into the ring.  I'm coming for that Bronze!  After I finish conquering Second.