Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Well Here Goes

There's nothing quite like getting fantastic new dressage pictures to motivate me to make plans. I mean, I realize the above shot isn't exactly god's gift to dressage, but Courage is moving forward in an appropriate balance for his training and I'm actually sort of starting to sit up and those things make me happy.

My primary goal for Courage is just to be the horse I can have fun on, whatever fun looks like on any given day. We are actually doing really well with that, but I also when something to push us as a more long range goal.
goal: kickass wrap job complete


So.

I want to get my USDF Bronze Medal on Courage.

Gulp.

Now it's out there.

I've never ridden about 2nd level at home, never showed above first. I've never been a polished and fancy dressage rider.
obv
But Courage is a solid horse and we're taking lessons. And there's no reason we can't do it, right? We don't have to compete against fancy warmbloods ridden by pros to get a medal. We just have to get 60% or better at first, second, and third level (while possessing the appropriate memberships).

I know, "just". Ha!

It doesn't mean changing up our program or anything, really. I still have jumping goals with Courage and we're definitely going to keep hacking and trail riding and competing and you bet your ass one day he's going to work cows and maybe do a trail class.

It just means that now we're serious about getting to third level. Someday.
battle scars and all

Monday, July 6, 2015

Getting Comfortable

safety first, kids!
Due to the incident with the trailer and generally being a horse, Courage has had moments of not quite right for the past week or so. Honestly, I was expecting it. It hasn't been a big deal--we've spent a lot of time hacking around at the walk and our few "work" rides since the show have mostly been long and long stretching. Courage had a pretty intense month in June and it is definitely time to dial things back, which actually coincides nicely with the god-awful heatwave we've been having.

Dear weather: take your 110f and go somewhere else. No one wants you here.

It's been fun, though. All the work and effort we put in to showing this past month really helped Coruage grow up and understand his job. He feels a little different to sit on. I mean, it's not a huge distinction, but now I call him a confirmed training level horse.

More than that though, the fact that we did all this together has really changed the way I ride him.

His saddle is starting to feel like "home" for me, if you know what that means. Like I climb on and hack on the buckle and I don't care that he's tense and threatening to be stupid because he's my horse and I know him and I know I can ride what he throws at me.

And I think that confidence on my end transfers over to him.
because pulling makes stretchy trot better

He's had some bodywork and time off and we're ready to start putting things back together, hopefully in time for one more go at training level before fall. We're going back to the facility where I almost got dumped last time, but that doesn't really bother me. 

We've got this. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Therapy

Life events lately have me not in the best of mindsets, which has me reflecting the whole "my horse is my therapist" gag that we've all heard one way or another.
 There's no doubt about it: time spent with my horse can be incredibly soothing.
 But it's important to remember that to be fair to my horse, I have to check all my baggage at the barn gate.
 He can't fix everything in my life. He definitely knows when things are off kilter.
 It isn't fair to him to show up and dump my shit on his pretty head.
 Instead, I need to show up, take a deep breath, and enjoy the scent of horses.
 And hugs.
 And laughs.
And know that one way or another, we'll get through all of this together.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

OTTBs, Conformation, and Progress Posts

Maybe I'm the only person on the ENTIRE PLANET who feels like she's constantly behind the OTTB curve. Seems like every other OTTB owner is like "HELLZ YEAH DOING STUFF" when I'm just over here working away at training level. Maybe I really am that far behind the curve. 

But in case I'm not, I want to show you something. (Or maybe prove something to myself.) Regardless. Here we go.
July 2013

You all know this picture. It's Courage, the night before he left the track and maybe two weeks after his last race. He's 8 years old and very, very fit. Conformationally, he is a lovely thing (which we can see because there's no fat getting in our way.) You can also see his upside down neck which is a part of his uber-short topline and the way his front legs are a bit inclined under his body. That can be just how a horse is posed (good conformation shots are an art form, yo), but in this case, I think it also speaks to his general body soreness and the type of fitness he has.
October 2013

90 days later is a lot less attractive. Let's be real. Courage's fall coat is coming in, which explains the coat color difference. His handquarters look so sexy and symmetrical and he's put on a lot of weight through his underline, but his whole topline still just looks tight and uncomfortable. You can still see how his front legs are set a bit under his body. He's lost most of the racing muscle, but he hasn't gotten to the pretty phase yet.
March 2014
A winter off made a world of difference for Courage. I know it's super sexy to be like "6 weeks from racing to BN", but while that might work for some horses, I don't think it's a good idea (AT ALL) for others--I mean, from this progression, it took Courage ~9 months to really get back to square one in terms of being physically ready to start real training. Courage is growing in a spring coat after body clipping, which account for the unattractive color, but he looks so much more comfortable in his own skin. His neck has started to drop a little. His topline doesn't have that almost "pinched" look to it. There isn't a lot of muscling going on, but it's definitely an improvement.
October 2014

This is a gorgeous photo, but it's not my favorite shot ever of Courage. Again, he looks comfortable in his own skin and much more relaxed. He has put some muscle on after a summer of work. I like that his lines are all kind of longer and more filled in. I basically haven't changed his neck at all, but it's not worse, so that's good. There is more muscle in his hindquarters and abs (do people talk about horse abs?). There is definite improvement, but it doesn't have that "WOW" factor of his racetrack shot.
July 2015

And then today. We're closing right in on two years off the track, and to me, Courage is starting to look really good. (Noted: conformation shots should be taken without wraps, but we're not dealing with a PPE or lower leg blemishes, so whatever.) (Also noted: I should have asked Courage to drop his head some, but eh. He's beautiful.)

Here I'm finally seeing what Courage can look like after months of correct work. There is some lovely definition in his shoulder and his neck is starting to fill in. Honestly, this picture shows his neck the least well, but trust me when I say it's deeper and thicker and getting more attractive. I'm already coveting more hind end development and a bigger, thicker  neck, but if this sequence shows anything, it's that progress comes with slow, correct work and lots of time.

PS Note how he's in a different head collar for every single shot.

PPS Check out that kick ass tail development!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Daily Ride Outfit Thingy

Stephanie P over at Hand Gallop is doing a daily ride outfit blog hop, which is kind of cool. I'm a total tack junkie and I've loved reading everyone's answer, but I can't really participate. 

Not because I'm some sort of horrible hop-hating harridan (you're welcome), but because I'm screwing with our equipment CONSTANTLY and well... there isn't a normal. 

The basics are this: I jump/hack in an 18" Barnsby Diablo on a medium tree and I dressage in an 18" Ideal something or other with a M or MW tree. I have some saddle pads. I have some Ogilvies. I have some peg protection. I mainly play with bridles and bits... here's the current set up: 

so much right
4. PS of Sweden Flat Out Revolution

This bridle is amazing. It's the low end of the PS of Sweden line and it's quite utilitarian looking, but I just keep coming back to it. The clips are so easy to use. The look is very classic and simple, so it works on a lot of faces.

The leather is nice enough to use, but not so nice that you feel bad abusing it. The flash is completely removable.

It's not fancy and sometimes I try to put it away so I look like less of a tack ho at the barn, but I keep coming back to this bridle. It is the quintessential training bridle and I love it.

It's perfect for new bit trying day or hauling to shows or whenever I might need something quick and simple. 



fantastic charm not included
3. PS of Sweden High Function Revolution

SAD NEWS: This bridle isn't currently available on the internet!! I hope it isn't discontinued.

Regardless, this was my Valentine's present from hubs, and it is lovely. The padding is super soft and again, the very simple, classic design works well for a lot of faces.

It's wide enough to be visually interesting without overwhelming the face. It isn't so padded that it distracts from Courage's very tiny head. It also comes with a fully removeable flash, but Courage just isn't a flash kind of guy, so we don't use it.

It's pretty, it's classic, and I love looking at it, and of course, it's our go-to on dressage days.

another fantastic charm
2. PS of Sweden High Jump Revolution

This bridle just makes me happy. The anatomic design is brilliant. The way it fits Courage's face is lovely. I love the fact that it's visibly very "different" and...

Yeah.

I love it. What else can I say?

I use it to jump or hack or dressage or whatever strikes my fancy.






Franken pride
1. FRANKENBRIDLE (not available by retail)

I know, I know. I was ostensibly trying to get Courage out of the Frankenbridle but instead, I just Franken'ed it more.

This bridle is a total mishmash. It's a Nunn Finer (cob size) crown and cheeks with my Ocala Tack Shack custom race noseband and a Dark Jewel Designs browband, coupled with my favorite PS of Sweden softie grip reins.

I know it looks a bit crazy, but I love it so much. The reins mean I can use my fancy breastcollar+running martingale if need, while the plain cavesson permits a standing martingale, which we use almost every ride.

The sparkles get changed out to match any given outfit and that noseband is just plain FABULOUS.

I use it a lot. It's obviously the go-to for standing martingale days and game days and cross country and hacking and jumping and... frequently the hardest part of my ride is choosing a bridle.

In fact, the biggest complication right now is that C-rage has selected his one and only be all and end all of bits, and naturally, it is the $220 bit that I got for a song a year or so ago. I don't know why I have 4 favorite bridles if I can only ever ride in the same damn bit.

I am playing with a sprenger d that Jess loaned me to see if we could at least have something mildly cheaper+cuter next time I'm in the bit market. Fingers crossed!

And yeah, that's more or less what we ride in any given day, not including western days...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Rainbow sparkles, Kittens, and Unicorns

Arabians have best ribbons. Helps to be kick ass.
There's been a lot of overwhelming sadness going around the world lately. There have been some good things too though: You know about my rainbow sparkle prize bush and my rainbow reins.

Well, in light of the recent court ruling, C4 put their rainbow belts 50% off AND I found a rainbow sparkle hat at a friend's horse show (and also got to play with her neck ribbons). Our color is rainbow, apparently. Wear it proud.









BURNINATING THE CAT TREE
And then. Since I'm done horse showing for a while, it was finally time for my little kitten to come home. Blog world, meet TROGDOR. The Burninator.

Because obviously.

(Our old cat is named Azuzu. +5 if you catch the reference.)








Trogdor burrito!


AND THEN.

In keeping with mythical animal sightings, I didn't get a good picture of the unicorn... it wasn't far away and blurry, but I was too startled and too close to shoot well with my phone. All I can show you is this...

Friday, June 26, 2015

For Lauren

I'm sure you're all aware of Lauren's recent tragedy. If you're interested in joining the blogger effort to support one of our own, Tracy is setting it up HERE. Anything you can do is helpful, whether that's a monetary contribution or a kind comment.

Many thanks to Tracy for taking point on this. The blogger community really can be a wonderful place.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Challenge ACCEPTED

we are the best at toodling
Courage and I are taking some intentional down time from dressage and have been toodling and doing nothing.

The internet is a dangerous place for toodling, as you might be aware. I was reading through Eventing Nation's #EventerProblems list and I thought it was funny right up until I saw the last image on this list.

And because I am toodling (and have loony friends), I thought "we can do that" and then immediately "I bet I can make a competition out of this". So I emailed it to the obvious choice for the challenge (and not the one that would kick both our asses without even trying) and obviously, she was in.

It's all been a very hush hush project, because you don't go advertising to your competition just how you train your horse to WIN, but here's what I did on day one:


1) Get water trough.
I'll teach those DQs to leave things laying out....

2) Show it to horse in the arena.
so interesting now

3) Lunge horse over similar skinnies to remind him that he does things other than dressage.
so easy now

4) Lunge horse over it with standard(s).
OH YEAH

4) Show it to horse under saddle and establish that he still has to go forward/straight.
forgot to take a pic of this part, so you get yesterday's shot again
5) Jump over other, similar skinnies that horse is familiar with to get him thinking about jumping. And skinnies. And straightness. Oh, and to re-tune my jumping position/aids.
Wore the same outfit, but looked better in my head

TO BE CONTINUED (DUN DUN DUN)!!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Cycle of Rainbows

Safety first, kids!
See, I do this thing where I get really, really focused on certain goals and pursue them at the expense of everything else.

And then I get burned out and quit doing everything for a while.

That's not a particularly great character trait, but it's very consistent. Thus, in an attempt to continue adulting before the burnout phase kicks in, I am voluntarily taking a little break with Courage.






so fancy
He got Sunday after the show off. Monday we toodled in the stock saddle a little because he was still down a shoe.

And then Tuesday we toodled more and played neck reining trail horse all around the property in our cheapie mechanical hackmore that we're trying out.

yeah rainbow sparkles
I'm enjoying the little things, like busting out the rainbow sparkle brush we won at our last derby. Oh, and I maybe possibly bought myself the rainbow roping reins I've been wanting forever because obviously. Champion dressage horses need rainbow reins.

repping the OTTB
We're mostly just hacking around the property, opening gates, and walking through ditches, but I think it's so important for both of us to have some time to hang out, have fun, and not pick. At all.

We might jump tomorrow. Or we might go bareback in a halter.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hair Update

thick(er) sexy neck

Noted: I wish I had something insightful to say about Lauren's situation. She is really one of the nicest people I've met through the blogging community and my heart is with her at this time.

I know I blogged earlier last fall about how I'm trying something new with Courage's mane--letting it be a little longer and thicker just to experiment with a new aesthetic. Honestly, I've been on the fence about it. I couldn't take the thickness, so I pulled it, but I couldn't get a really pretty pull job without going too short. I was about to just say screw it and go back to a thin, short little eventer mane, but it's hot and I'm lazy.

And then we had dressage braids practice day.

 And I realized that the biggest hinderance to my pretty braids was a pulled mane.

scissored. he's really excited.
So before our last show-prep lesson, I steeled my nerves, got my scissors, and turned Courage into a dressage horse.

Not gonna lie. It physically hurt me (and not because I caught myself with the scissors) (which I didn't, for the record). I've never been a scissors girl and I've definitely made fun of dressage divas with cut manes for being too lazy/useless to pull a mane properly.

like this
Buuuuuut.

That is how we make nice braids. And if we have to braid, dammit, they're going to be nice.

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