Thursday, February 22, 2018

Mares are the Worst

I swore off all mares and especially black mares after the Hellmare. Mares were supposed to be loyal and personable and perhaps hormonal. I mean, I guess you could say she was personable in that she definitely hated me and made every day hell.

But now I have a black Zoebird mare.

What's better than a champion dressage baby mare? 
ZB <3
Having that same baby mare be the sort of superstar that you can also hop on bareback and toodle around on because you're working late and it's dark and cold and saddles are the worst, man.

I've never had a horse like her.

Now I wonder how I ever lived without her.
and how it took me this long to get her a nameplate
I tell myself that toodling is to keep her brain fresh and give her developing body a rest, but it's as much for me as it is for her. I love sitting on her comfy back and just letting all the tension from the day melt away. I can't get over her wide-eyed, enthusiastic enjoyment of the world around her.
We've only known each other seven months now, but time loses a lot of meaning when you just fit together. I'm excited for our plans this year. I love showing up at the barn every day. It melts my (cold black tiny) heart when she whinnies at me as I walk up.
She's everything the Hellmare never was.

I've never been so happy to eat my words.

Monday, February 19, 2018

On the Bit or on the Buckle: Dressage Clinic Round II

Let's just agree cold medication does not make organizing one's thoughts easier and bear with me as I try to put words in an order that make sense.

Let's also agree that trainer rides are THE BEST THING ever for working ammies because omg "phoning it in" would be a generous description of how I'd been riding the two weeks up to the clinic, but the combination of trainer rides and having a champion baby mare means it was actually a really good experience for everyone. WUT.

Soooooo we last rode with this clinician back in like... October? At that point, she said many wonderful things about ZB's ability and told me 1) ZB will be very easy to get on the bit and ride correctly but 2) she must learn to come up and over to the bit, never ever down. This is a function of conformation--if I pull her head down, she'll dig a hole to China she's so on the forehand.

This is a concept that I really stressed in my daily riding. That's why you saw lots and lots of photos like this:
I wanted her going forward with her head up out of the way of her shoulders.

Right of the bat, clinician was like "wow she looks like a different horse have you done turns on the forehand?"

I sort of made a croaking noise. (Answer: trainer has done them with her. Go trainer!)

The idea was to teach ZB that leg=stretch down. Thus, I'd ask her to stretch in the halt, then ask for a single step of turn on the forehand, then immediately ask her to stretch down again. The idea being that she'd start to anticipate the stretch and associate it with the leg. (omg let the anticipation work for you. horse nerd training brain loooooved this.)

Of course, there are other answers then the right answer and because ZB is a clever lady, she started offering those as well. I think my favorite quote here was, "You do the right thing and wait for her to come to you." The was no punishment or rushing and because ZB is a champion baby mare, she pretty consistently started picking the right option. (um swoon srsly can you ever she is just the best).

Then we had to overcome some mental obstacles on my part--I'd give up to easily (but she wants to look at that other horse!) or overcompensate and do too many other things. Since I was asking ZB to bend to the inside, she just kept taking a smaller circle and I was getting all pretzel-y trying to make it big. Clinician pointed out that "she's not going to want to stay on the smaller circle. Let her make the mistake and then let her learn to listen to your leg."

Oh yeah I guess that super makes sense too huh.

The funny thing about this lesson is how I'm describing it in so many complicated sounding steps, but the actual riding of it was very simple. Once ZB was stepping up with her inside hind and reaching down with her neck, if I rode consistently and correctly and let her come to me, she connected across her back from inside leg to outside rein.

Of course, leave it to me to find interesting ways to screw things up. The moment we switched directions, I started overbending ZB's neck, which would cause... nothing good, haha. (It's not like I have a massive amount of baggage about turning right. OH SNAP YES I DO.)

The next video is a long one, but we started really putting it all together. Basically, I needed to be aware that she's learning every stride. If she's pulling, I need to change something so she has more good strides than bad strides. "On the bit or on the buckle" is our new mantra. That means either I am expecting her to work correctly or she is free to do whatever, but no weird half assing things in the middle.

We didn't actually get to canter this time out, but we talked about how to transfer those same concepts across.

It was a really fantastic lesson for both of us--I've felt like Zoë was ready to take the next steps, but I wasn't quite sure what those steps looked like. Now I feel confident going forward that we can work on these concepts and progress. At no point did I feel like either of us was overfaced or out of our depth and there was definitely a huge change in ZB's way of going in the lesson.

And now it is time to re-up my DayQuil.
buckle sass

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Smoosh Victorious

Zoëbird and I are prepping for our first clinic of the year, second clinic ever. We've had... uh... 1.5 lessons since the first/last one in October? 

Most all of the heavy duty training rides for ZB are done by my trainer right now. On days we ride with a saddle, I try to pick a single topic to work on and quit when it feels successful. 

objective: canter on both leads

There's a part of me that feels like I should be working harder here. I'm definitely not pushing and struggling and frustrated. 

But like. 

It's fun? 

polos by Go Big or Go Home
shirt by She Moved to Texas

I dunno. Alyssa came out and took pictures the other day and yeah 100% there are things I want to work on with myself, especially at the canter. 

But I can't even be mad at myself about it. 

Because in every single picture, I have this giant stupid shit eating grin on my face. 

Lil miss ZS Zoëbird whinnies at me when I show up every day. 

And even if all we're doing is hanging out for a few minutes while I freeze to death in the wind, she has this incredible way of centering my whole world. 

To me, that matters more than all the other things put together. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

How to Get a Zoëbird of Your Very Own

(Spoiler Alert: You can't. I have the only one.)

For realsies though if you read about ZB all the time and you're like "well damn I want a [horse] who is fun every day and who meshes with my personality real well. How do I get what SB has?"

Then this is your guide. (Again. Remember. Original ZB is off the table so it's sloppy seconds for you.) (PS I just pictured ZB on a table and it was really funny. SMOOSH CRASH.)
by courage has opinions

1) Be realistic about your abilities + budget + goals. 

I cannot stress this enough. If you want to run advanced eventing, do you have the mental and physical fitness, expendable income, and flexible schedule to allow it? And if the answer to those questions is "yeah maybe not", then what do you want? In the next 1-5 years. Realistically.

See, I kept picking up whatever just fell into my lap, which in my price range tended to be the the OTTB or OTTB cross. Which like. That can go well. But it can also go poorly. Right now, I'm chasing some non-horse goals that are important to me. I want to pursue dressage but I also want to straight up have fun and I need a horse that doesn't have to be ridden every day.

Rather than looking for that diamond-in-the-rough calm, straightforward OTTB, it was time to set parameters that matched my goals.


This is such a simple principle but DAMN it changes the way you look at things. See, I had a very specific list of what I wanted.

Then I didn't look at anything that was excluded by the list. Period end of story.
 i mean can you even with that face

Obviously, the list has to be realistic. I'm boarding with a trainer who is FANTASTIC with young horses, so I was willing to take on something pretty green and therefore spend my money on better quality for my price range.

Instead of looking at everything with a pulse, I screened out the horses that were not what I want so that what I ended up with was exactly what I wanted.

It's so simple.

3) Source through people who understand what you want. 

There are so many different types of horses and jobs for them and people tend to pick one focus and craft their skills and horses around that. That's why you buy event horses from eventers. That is a good thing. Let it work for you. I talked to people who were doing what I wanted to do and asked them to work their sources.
ride roxiecorn bareback through the fields?
sign. me. up.

Roxie's mom ultimately found ZB for me, but Leah ran down a promising candidate and the other front runner was sourced by a local lady who consistently produces calm, correct, fun horses. I definitely made some fun connections along the way.

Again, it's just so much easier to find what you're looking for when you're talking to people who speak the same language. "Kid safe" means different things to a rough stock operator and an ammy dressage lady.

You can't have ZB. You can use the process I used and find your own version.

Life's too short for horses you don't love.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Sagebrush Over Satin

I'm not feeling it on the horse showing front right now. I'm just not. I love riding Zoëbird at home and I'm excited about doing a series of clinics with her and I'm thrilled that I'm able to keep her in part training and that's all well and good.

But like. Nothing about a horse show sounds fun to me right now.

Oh and I've been watching Westerns lately and like.
godless. watch it.

I live in the west. And I have a ranch bred horse.

And that is a literal thing I can actually do.

SO WE'RE DOING IT. (Soon. Snow melting off the mountains as we speak.)

guys she's not even trying yet

Don't get me wrong here--ZB is a talented, good-minded, hard-working lady and the progress she makes in her dressage training every day is phenomenal. And yeah long term I want to get my bronze medal on her.

This isn't me abandoning those goals.

A huge part of getting Zoë to me was finding a horse that I could just flat have fun on. And y'know.

Whether it's our first outside right lead canter....

Or just hanging out with friends on a gorgeous day...

She makes me smile every day.

It's not a sayonara to horse showing. We'll get back to it. There are just so many other fun things to do right now.

I'd be silly not to.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Where We're At, Right Meow Style

So much going on, so little time. Needless to say, Ms. ZS Zoëbird has been completely fabulous. We have:
Acquired a sheet

Acquired a cooler (with a more fancy one on the way--anyone up for sacrificing a virgin to USPS so they'll start delivering to my house again?)
Played outfits (a lot, clearly)

We've been riding too. Nothing huge or ground breaking, but it's really fun because Zoë learns from day to day and the ride on her changes accordingly.

Since our last check in, I'd say she's more forward and more consistent in the bridle and has gotten more comfortable seeking the contact from time to time.
Are you feeling nimbly bimbly?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Smoosh Champion!

I try not to be THAT BLOG where everything is always roses and there are never any struggles and it's magic land where everything just works all the time and the toilet has probably never even backed up at an inconvenient time (real question: is there a convenient time for the toilet to back up? even if the plumber is there. do you want him to see your poop?).
sunsets ftw

But you guys.


Have you met my baby mare?

She's cuter than shit. Can't even with how cute she is.

And then like.
w/t transition champion

Ugh she's the goddamn coolest horse to ride. She shows up to work every single day. Her answer to every question is HOKAY MOM ILL TRY. She's honest and sassy and fun. If she knows the answer, she does it the best she possibly can. If she thinks she knows, she gives this adorable little ear pin/head twist like U WANT THIS and gives it a shot.

As long as I'm fair to her, she gives 110% every. single. day.
first ride in an english saddle since a wreck? HOKAY I B PERFIKT

All of that is awesome. She may not know a lot, but she makes every ride worthwhile.

See and then I get off her.
sorry/not sorry that my barn crew is this cute

And you know what?

She is just as much fun on the ground.

I love her boldness and curiosity. No timid spooking here--she marches right up to unusual occurrences and sticks her smooshy nose right in the middle of things to see what's going on. She's never met a stranger. She's not afraid of anything. She's super smart and she thinks about things without ever getting panicked.
time to go #Zoesploring

It's not that she's some paragon of perfection who's schooling third and I'm over here shopping for a double bridle. She's a baby. The steering is getting pretty good and now we work on complicated things like doing up/down transitions without hollowing and collapsing. She's not on the bit. She's not inside-rein-to-outside-leg.
oh and lunging her in a flat halter is fine

She is fun every single day.

What else could I ask for?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Baby's First Clip

Zoebird is a lady from the cold, snowy north.
horse hats for a reason
I live in the desert.
you can't tell on account of how DST sucks

We're having some warm weather even by "high mountain desert" standards, which means nice rides get cut short because a certain bold, curvy lady is #Zoedying in the heat.
I have been LOVING this winter in terms of having a legit horse who just wants to horse and not wear blankets and be babied. But also. Let's not get heatstroke here. It's January after all.
is it really reusing a photo if it's still cute?
This weekend, I finally busted out the big clippers.
And went to town.

It's not the prettiest clip job I've ever done.


My baby mare who had never seen big clippers before in her life was like MOM U CRAZY BUT HOKAY and stood there like a total champion. She was a bit bored/twitchy by the time I got to her butt, so hopefully we'll attack that another day.

I'm hoping as we get back to work this week, she'll be a lot more comfortable. The other obvious plus side is that now she gets to look completely adorable in a blanket.
I dunno why other horses look so boring in blankets but ZB is super extra adorable.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sometimes I Ride Too

If you're sitting over there like "yes SB is shopping and thinking thoughts about horses, BUT WHAT IS A ZB DOING PRECIOUS?", well, this post is for you.

When we left off, Zoëbird had just figured out cavaletti and I took a lesson her.

 That's pretty much where we are.


Before all y'all Zoëbird fans riot on me, the little lady is doing fantastic.

We're in the middle of a streak of unseasonably warm weather, which means we got to put in record-early first rides outside the tiny dark indoor.

Full disclosure: every time I rode C-rage outside the indoor the first time, he bolted with me. Baggage much? YES.

I am pleased to inform you that ZB was a freaking CHAMPION OF OUTSIDE and like.
Yeah one of our best rides lately and she didn't put a foot wrong. What's more, I'm starting to trust her and expect that and I was actually able to keep my stupid brain stuffed in it's head and things were good.

Then we had our second ride outside, so like honeymoon's over.
pic actually from first ride, but is representative
Yup still a champion. The one big thing I'm learning is that if I want to work her hard when it's above 40f, I will definitely need to clip her. I'd been avoiding clipping because I was so much enjoying not blanketing and she seemed super happy with our mild winter buuuuut that's just going to have to happen.

I do make an effort to mix things up, so I set a wee tiny jump for her.


It's a work in progress.
10/10 cutest horse
I definitely wondered how it would be to start with a baby draftie type. Would the training be boring? Would my brain get on board?

What I've found is that my favorite part of horse training is learning to communicate with the horse, which I am already doing with Zoë on a basic level and she certainly has no shortage of things to communicate right back.


I cannot say enough about how fun this little lady is. She shows up and tries her hardest every single day. She wants to do the right thing. She's sassy and opinionated and just a darn cool creature.
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