Friday, February 12, 2016

Wild West: Things That Are Awesome About Idaho

I've laughed before about the east/west differences for the horse scene in the US. They are many and hilarious. However, whenever I talk about that, I get lots of people inviting me to move to more, eh, "horse friendly" parts of the country. You know, places where a show 6-9 hours away isn't considered "close".
yeahhhhh can't beat it
It's not that I'm not grateful for the offers (I am!), but I thought I should explain things that are awesome about Idaho/the west in general.

1) Jeans and a hoodie are always socially appropriate. 
governor's cup race night
Not even kidding. I could go to the governor's ball (fanciest event in Idaho) in this get up. I'd have to wear my nice cowboy boots, but I'd fit right in. I guess maybe some people see this as a drawback, but as someone who deeply hates dressing up, I really value this feature.

Noted: If I did this, I would make sure the hoodie was reasonably free from hay. And of course, featured the correct sportsball team. Go sportsball!

2) If your horse is clean with its' mane pulled, you're already over dressed. 

This doesn't apply at rated and recognized shows, but it's totally a thing for everything else. If I had to haul my horse 7 hours one way to a clinic and I knock the manure off before I get on, that's pretty good.
names taken
I realize that sounds like poor horsemanship, but what it works out to are people who are more concerned with the performance of the horse and his general fitness and health than the spit-and-polish details that cranky old men try to use to feel superior to their clientele.

3) Driving is a whole different ball game. 
just another day
I know I talked about the long hauls, intimidating roads, and mountain passes we deal with. That sort of investment creates a whole different kind of driver. If I'm stuck on the side of the road, people stop to help me. If I'm driving a big rig, people not only give me more room, but wave and are friendly because they know not all roads were designed for a 4h gooseneck with full lq.

And they know that because they drive one on the weekends.

4) It's a little (or a lot) redneck, but that git-r-done attitude can be amazing. 

When I go to shows and clinics, I find myself more interested in the ranch horse-giving-pony-rides-who-also-events-at-training than the fancy five or six figure warmblood. I mean. You can buy talent anywhere, but the brain that lets a horse toodle over crossrails with a kid, then gallop clean XC is something to be marveled at.
this horse does not do everything
The family only keeps one horse, so of course it does everything. Why wouldn't it?

5) Camaraderie between barns and disciplines is common.
an eventer, a dressager, and a showjumper and it's not even a bad joke
Forget cutthroat competition and wanton disparaging of that other, obviously inferior discipline. We're all horse people, we're all in this together, and it's a totally normal thing for hunter riders to volunteer at dressage shows, eventers to fill classes at jumper shows, and everybody to get along just fine.

Sure, we have our bad apples and sour grapes, but everyone knows who they are and that they're usually a fine person who's just having a bad day.

6) You can't beat the scenery.
or the company
You know? Green hills and trees are nice I guess, but if I have to choose between that and mountains, it's no choice at all.

I'll just be over here in my hoodie taking it all in.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Learning Lessons: The Sunbeam Solution

In the winter, I ride inside most of the time. Our indoor is enclosed with limited-to-no natural light. The only time we have real light in there is IF it's clear outside AT sunset AND the sun is at the right angle, it slants through the back door of some of the adjoining stalls and makes sunbeams in the arena dirt.

They only last thirty to sixty minutes at best and because of the nature of the solar system, they are constantly (albeit slowly) moving. 

And they are TERRIFYING.

Don't believe me? Ask Courage. 
artistic rendering. not actual events.
Well, ask him six weeks ago. 

Because around that time, we were riding with one of our awesome barn buddies on her super awesome horse and C was like "OMFG ALERT ALERT LASER EYES FROM SPACE" but he's also a self-styled Don Juan/Rico Suave who hates to lose his cool in front of ladies he thinks he might have a chance with (hint: he doesn't. mare hates him). 

So when mare buddy kept trooping right through the sunbeams, so did Courage. By the end of an hour of walking and chatting, around and around, going through sunbeams HUNDREDS of times, Courage actually thought they were fine. (And yes, like you always suspected, Courage and I frequently don't work very hard). 
at all
After that ride, Alyssa came out to visit and take some pictures and wouldn't you know, Courage trotted through sunbeams like they ain't no thang. 
also pretending eq not a thing apparently
But here's the funny thing: I was also pretending the sunbeams were not a thing because I wanted good pictures. 

We tried to repeat the performance later, but Courage was getting progressively more weird about the DEMON BEAMS until I realized something. 

I was staring at them. HARD.

What would happen if I pretended they weren't there and just went about my ride? 

BOOM. I'm not looking, he's not looking. Now that he understood they weren't scary, he just wanted to see if he could talk me in to spooking at sunbeams instead of using his booty and going to work. 

And see, here's the complicated part of Courage: at first, he WAS legitimately freaked out by the strange beams. He's a confident and intelligent horse and NO ONE can tell him something is safe when he doesn't know if it is. Honestly, my life would be so much easier if this horse was a little more insecure and he just listened when I was like "srsly 4 real nbd p0nee". But no.  

He really did need to understand the problem and have his mare friend show him it was ok. 

Until we reached that phase, it did not matter AT ALL if I ignored it, told him he was safe, whatever. He has to understand things for himself. 

Enter mirrors. 
so attractive
When we got the big mirrors put up on the side wall this winter, I was very careful to introduce them to Courage at his speed. As prey animals (especially as prey animals in claustrophobic dark indoors), horses are very sensitive to changes in their environment. Also, I'm really not sure how well a horse can conceptualize what a mirror does and how much is just desensitization and getting used to mirrors. 

I mean, if horses understood mirrors, then you couldn't put them in their stalls to keep them company, right? 
he sure does like looking at himself
Anyways. I let Courage see the mirror. I let him run around. I lunged/rode in front of it. 

And EVERY SINGLE TIME we went by that mirror in the saddle, whether it was ambling on a loose rein or trotting or cantering or doing ground work or ANYTHING, Courage would stare in it. Hard.
what was he seeing?
 I was starting to lose patience with it. I mean. He'd barely even look at it other than the requisite "hey handsome" when I turned him loose in the indoor. He took no notice of it whatsoever when I lunged him.

And I could watch him make googly eyes at himself every.single.time. we rode by the stupid thing because I was staring in it to see how pretty we looked.

Hold the phone.

Oops. Again.

So uh. Guess who is actually totally 100% FINE about the mirrors as long as I don't gawk at them like a stupid tourist?
Courage. Courage is not afraid of mirrors.
 It's definitely a journey with this horse, that is for sure. He's pushing the limits of my knowledge, training, and horsemanship abilities. He's forcing me to think creatively, be flexible, and learn to laugh (more) at our biggest failures.

Basically, I see his board payment as tuition to the school of Important Life Lessons each and every month.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Out of the Closet: Tack Ho Edition

I hope y'all aren't too bored of tack posts, because I guess I did just do one. 
i had it down to 3 for a while!! 
But the advantage of me being a consummate tack ho is that when my sensitive princess horse changes his mind (frequently), I rarely even have to buy anything to keep up with him.

I mean. JenJ and Lindsey and Alyssa were all like "wtf beyotch WHY ARE YOU GIRTH SHOPPING you already have a girth and it's fine".

Which like. Was true. But.

I just had this feeling that Courage would do better in a different girth. So I bought one. It looks almost exactly like the last one, but I like the way it distributes pressure better. Does that matter? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I'm over reacting.

OR MAYBE

My sensitive princess horse has recently gotten rubs from his Back on Track saddle pad (fine in winter, not in shedding season), his CWD breastcollar (really can't explain, but if bozo didn't have to go in a martingale, he wouldn't have to wear this), and then from his most favorite princess bit because eff you logic, apparently.

So.

We got a new girth. We eliminated the martingale. We changed saddle pads.
so minimalist
And that left us with the bit.

I switched him back to his beloved Sprenger on his Red Barn bridle, but that's a crank noseband (so no standing martingale) and we have to eliminate the running because rubs. Dammit.

Unfortunately, if you know anything about riding Courage in the spring, you know that it becomes a martingale-or-die situation, so then we switched to our jump bridle with it's knock off sprenger. It's less desirable, but accommodates a standing martingale and I attempted to borrow a running without a breastcollar so that we could MAYBE not get rubs.

Then I threw him on the lunge line with his standing on his jump bridle. And watched him completely freak the hell out because you know. Horse. Spring. Life. Whatever. An interesting thing happened--Courage would try to blow sideways, fling his head up, hit the standing martingale, and go back to horsing properly.
a standing to lunge #logic
Now THAT, ladies and gentlehorses, is deeply interesting. He isn't a huge fan of the running martingale because of the action on the reins, but he's had to deal because I am a huge fan of not dying. But. The standing doesn't operate on the reins, and if it also achieves the object of not-dying and (bonus!) not-rubbing, that's amazing.

But that still leaves us with a bit problem. You see, I really love the sprenger for when he's working correctly because it gives me the right amount of sensitivity with him. HOWEVER, because he is very sensitive and because I'm working VERY hard to convince him that contact is good, we go in his super fat princess bit 2-4 days a week. That lets him just rest into a very safe contact.
fattest. bit. ever.
Except it's not safe if he's being pinched. And the sprenger alone is sometimes "too harsh" for a princess brain. (I know. wtf. ottb.)
the mean, mean sprenger
This is where the Tack Ho thing comes in. I purchased a fulmer snaffle a few years back because it was $10 and I didn't already have one. (Note: I will buy any bit on this justification. Hit me up.) I've never used it on Courage because he HATES loose rings with a fiery burning passion, but the cheek is such that it's physically impossible to pinch him. Worth trying? Yes.
no joint touches the pony face
And because I'm a Ho, we might as well put the whole shebang on a different bridle.

So we did that. Courage flipped his shit on the lunge line (it's our new thing), but it never got too out of hand because of the standing. Then I got on and was able to work quietly with him and talk him into resting in the contact, which was now safe because it was still the same hugely fat mouthpiece that princesses need.

It was a very thoughtful, interesting ride, but the net result was two of the best trot circles I've ever done on this horse.
you heard me
Could I get it done with less tack and more cowboy?

Maybe.

On this horse though, I have my very serious doubts.
but hey. he looks like this.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Teach Me Tuesday: Contact

This is a funny topic that seems to be wildly polarizing. I've ridden with a lot of different trainers. Some of them are like "OMG MOVE THE BIT IN THE HORSE'S MOUTH SO IT'S NOT DEAD" and others are like "OMFG STOP MOVING THE BIT BC OBVIOUSLY YOU ARE A FAILURE"

Or something. Those possibly aren't direct quotes, but I tried to capture the essence.

Now I assume that we're all of the school of thought that we do in the moment what works at the time for the horse that we're riding, but what does that look like for you? Hands still? Fingers moving? Hands moving? Eff it and loopy reins?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Learning Lessons: Part Three

I've had Courage around 2.5 years now.

It has been a bit of a rocky road. I mean, I got him the end of July in 2013. He went to a show and did ground poles that fall, but that was it.

Then 2014, we did one show. And it was... ummmmm yeah I'll go with horrible. And then we didn't even bother to try again.

2015 saw a lot of show miles and our oh-so-memorable championship of ground poles.

I'll be real with you: there are parts of me that are not proud of winning the ground poles. We all know Courage can jump like this:
swoon-worthy
And dressage like this:
yup
And it's so, so easy to get down on myself for only having Courage as far along as I do. I always blame myself. I feel like if he just had a better rider, he'd be running Novice eventing by now or show jumping respectably or really, anything other than almost-first-level dressage and sketchy-ass ground poles.

It's not that I think he wants or needs to be farther along--obviously, he's a horse and he doesn't even know that "farther along" exists, much less that it's something he should want. It's that as a high-achieving adult ammy horse person, I feel inadequate. I feel like we scrape by doing the bare minimum and that most of our hold ups are my confidence issues and not him at all.

And yeah, that's hard. Those things are real. The amount of courage (ha!) that it took for me to get around an XC course, even at poles on the ground, was staggering. I can talk all day about the tactful ride that Courage requires, but the truth is, I don't want to kick him in the belly either because I don't want to get hurt. Not now. Not on this horse.
this still doesn't look fun
 But then Alyssa ran across some old videos the other day and sent them to me. After our one really horrible show in 2014, I sent Courage to an xc schooling with Lindsey in the tack. I thought I was the problem. I thought I was screwing up my horse, and I knew Lindsey didn't have the emotional baggage with him that I did.

I've told the story a hundred times--Courage was so naughty that the trainer (pro who's gone advanced on multiple horses) had Lindsey get off and he got on. And then 15 minutes of the "group lesson" was the pro getting Courage to go through ground poles. And even after that, we ended up just getting off and lunging Courage because he Could.Not. that day and that was it.

But no matter how many times I've told the story, nothing quite compared with seeing the thing again. Here's part one:



Part Two, Three, and Four if you're deeply interested.

It was so therapeutic to watch those videos for me. I'd forgotten what it looked like. I mean, if you go through the videos, you can watch the trainer try several different approaches. He gets after C for leaping and pissing off, but that makes it worse. Then he tries pushing him forward when he runs off, and that makes it worse. He tries changing the topic with lots of little circles, and that sort of helps but sort of results in C trying to shut down.

And he ends by walking through the poles because that is all Courage could handle at that time.

It wasn't a rider problem. It wasn't a training problem.

It's just that Courage needs things explained to him at his speed. If you try to force things any other way, it gets ugly. You can watch him pop the trainer out of the tack, time after time. Courage isn't bucking or rearing (really) or doing anything "horrible", but he's putting the rider wherever he wants him because he CANNOT take the pressure.
not how ground poles are supposed to be negotiated
It wasn't pretty. Looking back, I feel kinda bad for the guy riding. Sorry dude. Not your fault. At the time, I thought Courage would just get over it. I thought if we kept trying, if we did SOMETHING, that it would get better.

I felt the pressure of all those magical "3 months from track to BN" success stories. I wanted Courage to be brilliant and high achieving. I wanted everyone to see how special he was, the same way I did.

So yeah. In 2015, my horse and I were the champions of ground poles. In 2014, even a pro couldn't get him through ground poles without completely losing his shit. Maybe ground poles don't matter to you and you're going to make mean, snitty comments to me about how I'm less of a rider (I will delete those comments and leave my snide replies. You have been warned.)
best ribbon
But maybe I don't care. Maybe I'm enjoying my horse at my speed and maybe the fact that he NAILED his leg yields last week was good enough for me.

Scratch that. Not maybe. It is.

Courage and I have made incredible progress together. Our first dressage test together looked like this:


I don't have recent video of a test, but last time I got riding video, it looked more like this:


Just because our progress doesn't look like your progress or a professional's progress or whatever, it's enough for me. Courage and I aren't going advanced or grand prix and we don't want to. I want him to be a fun horse for me to ride and chase my goals on, whether those goals are a bronze medal, a fun jump course, or going to a goofy trail competition (or all of those).

So yeah. My horse is sensitive, complicated, and (barely) proficient at ground poles. He's also a boatload of fun, a challenge every day, and damn good looking in all the outfits I put on him.
so attractive
2016 will be our third/fourth year showing together and I have absolutely no idea how it's going to go. We probably won't be the champions of anything. We probably won't blow anyone's mind. I'm hoping we make a respectable showing at first level. I'm doubtful that we can also make a run at the crossrails derbies.

But whatever happens, this is the face I see every day and that makes it all worthwhile.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Maybe Maybe XC Boots

A couple times lately, I've talked about jumping Courage. Or rather not. ;-) But then Amanda did her XC Boot Write up. And Cob Jockey. And I have a boot problem. And then I did a show schedule for us, and realized it was technically possible to make it to some derbies and if we do derbies this year, we're moving up to cross rails, which is you know, ACTUAL JUMPS.
or at least they are the way we jump them
And that almost justifies real XC boots. 

But not quite. 

Sob.

I (barely) kept my hands in my pockets through Riding Warehouse's various sales this winter when I could have gotten a full set of Majyk Equipe boots for $120 shipped. GAH WANT SO BAD. (Not gonna lie--it helped they didn't have white.) 

But some of the terrain we derby on is less-than-ideal and it seems cool to have actual(ish) xc boots and I don't want to tear up my pretty open fronts in a field. Or get the fluffy dressage boots all full of stickers.
too pretty for stickers
 But $120 that I decidedly don't need to spend (at least not on boots. Memberships, on the other hand...)

I got looking around. I really wanted white boots, probably as some sort of psychological overcompensation for being terrified of having to find an acceptable pair of white breeches BY MAY (have I even looked? no). Because you know, thick white boots over attractive non-fatty legs seems WAY SAFER than white spandex+my ass.

Cough. Wow. That went a little deeper than I meant.
you'll note they don't jiggle
 I stumbled across a full set of white woof boots for $40 shipped. They ticked all the boxes, were 1/3 the cost of the original idea, and are already at my house. They aren't glamorous and technie and cool, but they'll protect Courage's legs if and when we get to the crossrails derbies this year, and hey, if the ground ever thaws and I'm riding in the mud, GREAT. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Learning Lessons: Part Two

Again, this is weird to write. Courage got all leapy/flail-y with me before our lesson, then expressed a strong desire to repeat the performance in our lesson. All of this was over the slight issue of turning right.
WARNING
Whenever this is an issue, big flashing red lights and alarm bells go off in my brain. This is CLUE NUMBER ONE that Courage is ready for the latest round of bodywork. We call in his special lady friend and she fixes him (with magic, imho) and he's all pissy and reactive until she's done, and then he's great. Voila! Right turns! Life is good.

Except this time, it's taking longer than normal to get on the schedule.

Winter has the horses back on restricted turnout, which means I make it a priority to get to the barn every day and at the very least, lunge Courage in a halter so he gets to stretch his legs. He had a light weekend until I came out Sunday night. I turned him loose in the arena and saw this:



To me, that's a horse who looks pretty damn good.

He went through a phase this winter where he just looked like crap. I didn't really video it because it was REALLY unattractive in terms of how he was moving (just stiff and stuck and feet slapping the ground HARD), but here's the best of the worst from the beginning of January:


If you compare the two, I think you'll see what I mean. (maybe?) The top video shows him loose and moving and looking like a dressage horse. The bottom shows him at a very animated point, but if you watch, his legs actually aren't moving all that much. Take away the animation, and he looked not very good. Not lame. Just sort of creaky, maybe. Like his whole body was stuck and he couldn't move.

So after the video at the beginning of January, we had some pretty intense body work done and it made a HUGE difference.
Can't complain about this trot
But the video from Sunday night I'm actually totally ok with. He looks pretty freaking good. He doesn't look all stuck and painful and weird. I mean, how much better is it going to get for an older, high-mileage horse? Especially with no turnout in the winter cold in a dark indoor at night during dinner.

And then I tacked him up and threw him on the lunge line with a sliding inside rein and an outside side rein. After I left him warm up, we adjusted those to working length.

And HOT DAMN I wish I'd taken pictures. It was magical. Right and left, he was super responsive to voice commands. I could do 3-4 calm, correct transitions in one 20m circle. He was light and stretchy and moving and... I don't know how to explain it. He looked great. He was relaxed and forward and easy. Everything I'm working towards, he gave me.

Pretty much all I said was variations on "good boy".
using a flash the way it was designed. with a standing.
So naturally, I hopped on. I didn't want to work super hard because Courage had already been really good and he definitely responds better to praise than he does to correction. He'd also already run like an idiot and lunged for quite a while, so he didn't need more exercise.

But I needed a little more information. See, when I rode in our lesson the other day, he wouldn't take an honest contact for anything. He fought and he fussed and he chomped and lurched. I assumed it was a pain/anxiety response more than an attitude thing.

Except a horse in pain doesn't move like the one in the video and it CERTAINLY doesn't lunge like a perfect angel. And that's interesting.

I didn't ask Courage to do anything hard under saddle--we just did our usual first five minutes of a ride--bending through his body, asking him to step under and take a contact.

Which he did.

Just fine.

And then I got off.
so charming in his cooler
Hm. I didn't really know what to make of that result, not one little bit. I saddled up again Monday (and skipped lunging), just to see what would happen. As per the winter usual, we spent a huge chunk of time walking and bending and doing transitions between free walk and medium walk, but Courage was solid. Great. Balanced. His normal self.

We rolled into trot and he was FANTASTIC. Not a little good. Really, really good. I kept things simple because I still don't know what I'm dealing with, but we even schooled our leg yield (intentionally pushing his buttons) and they were solid.
bonus great outfit
And here's another fun fact--Courage and I do simple groundwork 3-4 times a week before our rides. When he's due for body work, he gets stiff in his right shoulder. He can't step off it and he certainly can't cross it over in front of himself. When we did ground work Saturday, Courage couldn't cross over right and offered to rear when I asked for it. That means pain.

Except I asked again Monday and he moved over like a total champ. Didn't even hesitate.

That's interesting.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN PRECIOUS.
coy horse is coy
I don't know. Did the fact that I caved and threw him on a loading dose of magnesium a week ago factor in? Did he somehow (for the first time in his post-track life) self-correct? Was I just seeing a case of the 'tudes instead of just the usual hallmarks of pain for him?

I have no idea.

It doesn't change our day-to-day routine--Courage still very much needed the tactful rides he got in the lesson. We're all learning to communicate here. For whatever reason, Courage felt panicked or overwhelmed by his rides in the outdoor arena. I'm still happy that we were able to work through that without escalating theatrics. I would like to start translating our good inside rides into good outside rides as the weather allows, but that might be a longer process than I thought.

At the end of the day, all I can do is shrug and say "that's sensitive horses".

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Learning Lessons: Part One

This is a weird post to write. Last week, I talked about how sensitive and complicated Courage is, and that is definitely 100% still true. And y'all probably remember our epic flailing lessons from last year (here's one).

I got on the schedule for a lesson at the end of last week. I picked out the most perfect outfit for pictures, recruited a photog, bathed my horse (hey, it was 43f! #heatwave), and saddled up. My last ride before the lesson was a bit flail-y, but I chalked that up to our first ride outside (dressage in big space NOT THE SAME as dressage in tiny indoor).

Game face on. Mental blank slate. Here. We. Go.
yeah that's what it looks like
We started out walking. It was not great. It was not even very good. Courage has been FANTASTIC at really swinging his back and taking an honest contact with the bit (as long as it's his favorite bit) within the first few minutes of every ride. We did not have that horse. We had a strange, distracted, lurch-y horse that didn't want to move his back AT ALL. Or go in a consistent rhythm. Or anything.

We went through the normal rigmarole of exercises--bend, changing bend, counter bend, moving off the leg, spirals, and nada. He got a little better, but wasn't really "improved" and definitely wasn't "connected". So we tried throwing in some transitions and trotting to see if that would help explain it.
SASS
 No.

It would not. Instead, Courage started running sideways. Corkscrewing his tail. NOT TURNING RIGHT. Alyssa (intepid photog) preemptively climbed the fence to avoid getting trampled (it's... happened before).

Our trainer was attempting to talk me through it and make some sense of the situation when I rode up to her, got off, and handed her the reins.

Courage and I have been through A LOT together. That's good and bad. The good part was that I 100% knew he was having a screaming tantrum and throwing all his toys out of his crib and that if I so much as BREATHED in a way that annoyed him, he was leaving the county.

And that's the good news.

The bad news is that he has to learn that even if he doesn't feel 100% and doesn't want to play, he has to express himself in tactful ways, trust we will listen to him, and not bolt into the sunset/fence/photographer.

And that, dear readers, takes an immensely tactful ride that while I may be capable of, I was struggling with emotionally because of all we've been through together. I wasn't upset that he didn't come to play. I understand what he's doing. I just really DO NOT ENJOY the full-on flail that was building and I knew that if I emotionally reacted and pulled on him or kicked at the wrong time, it was game over.

And those moments break down our trust instead of build it.
uninvolved parties
Since nothing makes a very cold day in a slick snow suit more fun than jumping on a squirrely horse, I'm sure I'm not world's best client (hm and now that I think of it, I should probably make her cookies or something).

This is what it looked like AFTER lucky trainer had spent a good long time walking and bending and talking Courage in to going left reasonably. Right is our hot button side. He doesn't do anything dramatic. He's not even being that naughty. He's just saying "CANT CANT WONT HATE STOP EFF YOU ALL".

And she is very tactfully, very patiently, very calmly riding through it. As she describes it, she has to constantly find just the right feel for him--she has to put her left leg on because he wants to blow through it, but she can't push him off the left leg, because then he will blow through it.

Gentle, simple, incremental steps. With the horse in mind.
this is what i want to ride
By the time she handed the reins back to me, Courage was going very well to the left and being reasonable to the right. As she pointed out, he would probably be fine to w/t/c to the left, but if we tried to canter right on that day, he would have peaced out and left. And as she also (kindly) pointed out, what she did wasn't any different than what I was doing--she just rides A LOT more horses than I do and isn't emotionally involved in the situation.
love this shot
And then I had to get back on and ride my own damn horse. Not gonna lie--I was super tentative and definitely rode in a more huntseat/defensive position, but I was VERY CAREFUL to float the reins just a little and not get grabby. This lesson wasn't about the latest/greatest/bestiest dressage. This lesson was about Courage and I learning to trust each other.

Now that he trusted we weren't going to hurt him, I needed to trust that he wasn't going to take advantage of me.
to the right even, omg
And trainer C was just as patient with me as she was in the saddle with C. It wasn't the best dressage work I've ever gotten out of C and it's not the best I've ever ridden, but it was hands down the best resolution of this situation we've ever had.

There was no leaping or flailing or breakdowns or tempers. There was no fear or anger or tears.

I'm so proud of Courage for getting to a place where he's willing to trust us when his first reaction is to be very agitated and defensive.

I'm really happy with myself for being proactive enough to make good choices.

Obviously, we're both thrilled with trainer C for getting us through this.
i'll take it
Courage and I have a long ways to go together, but what we accomplished in this lesson was something we could not have done last year.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Teach Me Tuesday: The One Sided Horse

imma call this "pony got fat"
I'm going to assume that y'all agree with me that horses are asymmetrical for one reason or another.

I even have anecdotal proof of that--Courage got his wither tracings/saddle fitting last fall, and then when he got his follow up visit a couple weeks back, she re-did the tracing. Guess what? Still asymmetrical.

these things are surprisingly expensive
The saddle fitter recommended adding shims to Courage's correction pad in order to balance my saddle and help me ride him more evenly.

I did, because that is why I pay professionals, but it got me wondering: how do you handle an asymmetrical horse? Does it change how you tack them up? Ride them? Does it change how you view your own fitness program?
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