Friday, December 19, 2014

Po' Folk

rocking the free halter
Welp.

A local trainer is hosting a seminar for riders that is sort of a holistic wellness/riding goals/financial planning thing/nutrition counselling thing. There's a cost to attend (obviously), which rules us out as attendees. Instead, Redheadlins and I made a list of things to say to the financial planner just to bring her joy:


  • Um well, I try to pay my bills usually, but it's a mild panic if I have to take a sick day.
  • If my bill is printed in red, I know I should pay it first.
  • I pay board before my car payment because I have my priorities.
  • The only thing I put on credit is vet bills and tack.
  • If I have enough cash for coffee, creamer, butter, and popcorn, I feel my groceries are covered.
  • My idea of a night out on the town is cooking dinner at a friend's house.
  • Do English Tack Trader and Craigslist sales count as income?
  • If I have more than half a tank of diesel, I feel financially secure.
  • When I'm depressed about being poor, I eat cookies and ice cream. If I can afford ice cream.
  • My biggest financial goal is to buy a saddle that costs almost as much as my car.
  • Savings for a new car? My hay barn is full.
  • I use sauve shampoo to save money so my horse can get the cool stuff.
  • When things break around the house, I pretend it's Little House on the Prairie and go without. 
priorities
It was all a very hilarious gag until we got an offer to attend the seminar for free. 

Soooo I'll keep you posted if we actually say any of those things to said financial planner or (heaven forbid!) the nutritionist. In the mean time, anything to add to the po' folk list? 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Downtime 1: 5 Lessons from Grand Prix Jumpers

Let's pretend I took some
Due to moving to a dressage barn and trying to actually DO some of that dressage, Courage and I haven't jumped since like... October. Instead, I've been watching Grand Prix jump offs in my spare time to get a feel for what's going on at the top and make lists of goals for the winter. If you're interested, here are some of my favourite videos:

British Showjumping - British Masters 2014
The commentators are bloody hilarious. Must watch.


booooing!
British Showjumping - Bolsworth 3*
I hate to be so blatantly anglo-centric, but the USEF network commentators just sit there and count strides. The Brits make it a full-on TV broadcast with interviews and behind the scenes and course breakdowns and interesting (!!!) commentary.

Global Champions Tour - London
Because watching champions is awesome.

There is so much to learn from watching horses and riders at this level. I mean, I have zero interest in ever jumping that high (HOLY HELL JUST SAY NO), but it's showing the exact same flaws and strengths you'll see at any level only with all the boring-ness and terrifying-ness of smaller jumpers taken out. Also I'm not worried any of the pairs will die on camera (eventing, I'm looking at you).

exhibiting a variety of flaws
So based on that, here are some goals I've set for Courage to works TOWARDS this winter. Obviously, we won't nail them all and they're all things to work on for a lifetime:

  • Seamless transitions from counter bend to correct bend in all three gaits
    • Particularly, I want Courage to be very soft and flexible. True bend is all well and good for dressage, but straight/counterbent is the way of life in the jumpers. It gives the horse maximum power and engagement. That straightness comes from evenness, which comes from strength and flexibility.



I need grand prix pics in my life
  • Instant transitions within the trot and canter
    • Adjustability and responsiveness are paramount. How do I think I'm going to be able to get my horse to land and move up to a distance (or hold for a close spot) in the jumper ring if he can't do it on the flat? Again, it's not harder--it just requires me to be very disciplined.
  • Get comfortable going forward on the flat and over fences
    • Here's the thing: the good riders DON'T pull back. I mean, here and there is a pulley rein or something, but in generally, the best rounds come from a smooth horse going forward. Not pulling. Not fighting. If the horse picks up speed and doesn't change his balance, the rider just needs to be able to think in that rhythm and still NOT PULL. Some horses go faster. That's ok.

not exactly enormous
  • Ride forward through disobediences
    • Again, pulling on the horse or slowing down or getting upset all just distract the horse and screw up a nice round. As one of the commentators pointed out, correcting an overreacting horse just makes things worse. Ignore the silly buck or goofy one off spook and just continue the job at hand.
  • And finally:
    • Experience matters. You just get better with age in this sport.
    • Confidence matters. Absolutely 100% for horse and rider.
    • Conformation doesn't. Such a diverse crowd out there. 
I do love tack and turnout posts
Because I am SUCH a nerd, I'm excited to do some more write ups about tack and turnout and lessons and maybe even how I am incorporating these concepts into our daily (and very basic) rides.

In the mean time, I'm really glad to have found some purpose to going around and around in the indoor. It's not just dressage practice--it's instilling the same basics that Laura Kraut put on Cedric (and omg Courage is the same size as Cedric!). I'm finally able to see how this is all going to apply next year and it's making me excited.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Progress Looks Like


Because this picture is only just so interesting
You know what's super weird about boarding at a busy barn? There are moments of chaos, sure, but in general? I'm completely alone. There's not even anyone to talk into taking some video of Courage. Our last barn had only like 3 boarders (including me) but we all came at the same time and got along really well and there were ALWAYS pictures.

Soooo. I mean, I guess it's a good thing. I've been spending my rides doing really exciting things like "a bajillion (actual number) w/t transitions", which is something other than breathtakingly exciting to watch. I get really excited about them, though.

NECK MUSCLES
Here's why: In order to jump well, Courage needs to learn to use the base of his neck and jump up through his withers/shoulders. His default lock-the-neck-and-deer-leap-when-tense isn't a great end game.

In dressage lesson #1, we learned how to unlock the base of his neck. Now I'm working on keeping it unlocked at the walk. Then at the trot. Then in a walk/trot transition. Then at the canter. Then in a trot/canter transition. Then in transitions within the trot. Then putting all the transitions closer together.

It's really exciting to me because I can feel Courage figuring it out. I know he needs to do this for hundreds of hours and re-learn how to carry his body.

all the stretches with Alyssa up
But yeah, no one wants to take the same pictures of me trotting long and low every day. That's why we mix it up! On Saturday, Alyssa came out and grabbed a few shots of me in the tack, plus hopped on herself.

On Sunday, a dressage-riding (and non-blogging) friend came out. I warmed up Courage and talked about what we've been working on. She got on and OMG my little man looked like a dressage horse.








upward motion
Because I am ridiculous, I didn't realize I had my phone handy until the ride was mostly over. (whoops). This shot isn't terribly complimentary to the rider (hey, props for even getting it done in a jump saddle), but LOOK AT MY HORSE MY HORSE IS SO CUTE.

She was really able to pick Courage up and put him together like a first level horse versus the somewhat-training level frame I've been working in. Now, she's certainly a much better and more polished rider than I am, no question there. That said, it was really fun for me to see that all the buttons I'm working to put on actually make sense to Courage.

There is so much more work to do, but HOORAY for my horse being awesome in the mean time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teach Me Tuesday: bits bits bits bits bits

so many pretty things
I wrote about my bit box on Friday, and that got me thinking. I am a bit hoarder (no shame). I buy lots of bits, I almost never rehome them, and I'm completely fascinated with the function of these tiny little pieces of tack. I've written whole posts on them. (Go ahead. Fact check me. That's THREE separate links and it isn't even all of them.)

So for this week's edition of Teach Me Tuesday, let's humor me a little and talk about bits. I know why I use bits. I have had at least one conversation with every single instructor I have ridden with about what bit I'm using and why. I have had professional riders ask me why I'm using a given set up and I can articulate it quite easily because yes, I do think about these things.




I love me some happy mouth
Noted: Contrary to common opinion, I do put thought into what I ride in for lessons. My "it looks pretty so why the hell not" philosophy is for when I'm riding at home. Usually.

So I'm curious. What bit do you use and why do you use it? "It's all I own", "my instructor told me to", and "he NEEDS this M***** F****** bit" are all perfectly valid answers. No judgement here, just wondering how "normal" horse people select a bit.

As if bloggers were normal. :-p you nerds.

Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 Year in Review: How We Did What We Did

and what a year it was
Oh boy! This is seriously the best part of blogging. I go through the year's blog posts, cherry pick my favorite pictures and posts for the month, and share snippets here. It's a great way to get a sense of how Courage and I are progressing and omg yay pony pictures!












January



This was a terrible month. The weather was terrible, Courage was on break, and I had to make the decision to put down my mean ass bastard horse.

Ellie (who took this gorgeous picture) wrote the post to let the blog world know because I couldn't find the words.

When I finally put the words together, all I could summon was gratitude for all that Cuna had done for me.



Many accouterments modeled her

February



The second month of the year from me reeling from losing Cuna and from really great (sarcasm) personal situations. I compensated by stress-buying nearly everything on the internet. Courage snagged a saddle, browband, breastcollar, custom pad, and various accouterments.

The weather was still terrible and there wasn't a lot of riding to be done. I occasionally walked around on Courage, and when the arena cleared up a little, I started doing some lunging.







Look! I did a craft!
I also had a lot of fun dressing Courage up like a Budweiser Clydesdale, because why not?

I still can't explain why I thought this was a really good idea, but it was tons of fun and we got great pictures and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.










A shining moment

March

March had moment of brilliance and moments of not-brilliance. Courage came back into real work and he was feeling very, very good. He leaped and flailed his way through an attempted lesson, although his home jumping efforts were respectable.

Despite looking like a hot mess, Courage started to address placing poles, obstacles higher than 18", and some different looking stuff. It was more for my brain than his, but we both needed it. 







But great outfit, right?
Our flatwork continued to progress as well. Ellie got some nice shots of us, but she had to pick them out from lots of wild flailing. When this shot was taken, we had to cut the ride short because SOMEONE flailed so hard he nearly went through the fence and did bite his own tongue. 

Horses.







It can be done

April


April saw Courage and I take our first out of state trip together. Aside from a little interlude about ditches, it went very well. 

I was impressed with how well Courage handled the whole thing and blogged about the entire experience






YEAH
Even at home, Courage was jumping really well. We addressed lil' jumps with some fill. Courage was going forward on a loose rein and I was riding very well. 

We were very excited for the upcoming show season, at least until my car exploded.











not a look anyone wants

May


This was a serious roller coaster of a month. The weather was gorgeous. My life was not.

I got too focused on trying to force Courage to be a show horse and made some really stupid choices. He got very overfaced in a lesson and it recreated all the anxiety I've spent so long working through.








Teaching him to deer leap
I like to blame the circumstances, but the truth is, I would have been money ahead to just give him the month off instead of trying to ride through all the stress. Or you know, just not jumping. 

We did some fun trail rides and had a fun show practice at the barn. We made progress in dressage, and that's always useful.








this was good

 June


So apparently, overfacing yourself and your horse and then going straight to a show that you're under-prepared for is not the best idea anyone ever had. Not even the same level as sliced bread.

In case you were wondering.


this was good too
I already checked.

So instead of talking about how terrible the show was and how screwed up Courage and I were, let's talk about how we got over it.

We went trail riding and we played western pony and we lunged over jumps and we tried to rediscover the fun parts of riding.

so fancy

July



It was crazy hot and I felt like I barely rode, but that mostly isn't true. We opened the month with Courage getting some time over fences on the lunge line. Then redheadlins popped him over 2'11" oxers with all the cameras going.





almost like a broke horse
I made decisions like a smart amateur, both backing the pressure off and letting Courage get comfortable jumping again with a better rider in the tack.

It's not that I didn't try it--it just wasn't working out for us.











Other milestones included Courage and I celebrating our one year anniversary together and me recognizing that Courage was really turning into "my horse" instead of just the green project that I picked up.

Besides, he was picking up the flat work and learning new things.



always the cutest

August


We played a lot in August. Courage had a whole host of different riders, from horse show friends to first time beginners. We did flat work and hacked in fields and didn't stress too much as we totally missed shows I'd been hoping to attend all year.

I started up one of my all time favorite blog series about regaining my jumping confidence.








yeah, we look good
It wasn't exciting or glamorous, but we were laying a foundation in a steady, day-to-day grind. I could see flashes of progress, but horse training tends to be more little increments than blinding flashes of genius (at least if you're me).


I also hit my 1000th post and did a contest, which was super fun.




It's that good

September


September had moments of brilliance. Courage and I took lessons with S, which brought us my all time favorite jumping picture of us so far.

I rode great, Courage was on, and our good moments made it all worthwhile. I also talked about my history with horses and how that changed my interactions with Courage.







Solid ground tie though
Much like the rest of the summer, though, I struggled with being very discontent with where I was at. I wanted Courage to advance faster and I wasn't happy with the options available to me.

I had to be careful to not translate that to my under saddle work.





<3

October


I had a lot of fun this month. My rides weren't the most consistent due to traveling every single weekend and some during the week, but Courage and I were connecting really well. Ellie took some unforgettable shots of Courage.





still love this
There was lots of progress in the rides we did have--Courage had some wild moments, but he also had excellent ones. We jumped skinnies and cleared our first 3' jump.

Courage was definitely going through a challenging phase, but I was stepping up to the plate and riding him through it without constantly relying on trainer rides to save me.

(I mean, there were still trainer rides, but more for a different perspective than because I thought I couldn't.)





because I hate snow pictures

November


Screw this month.

Courage was being wild again.

Just about the time I got him sorted out and we started to make progress, an epic winter storm came along and prevented all riding for about two weeks.








so much better
I cracked under the pressure and moved Courage to a new barn with a dressage trainer and an indoor.

To my great surprise, all the things we'd been working on sunk in during Courage's down time, and I had a willing partner again.




topline

December


I realize we're technically only about halfway through the month, but I'm not anticipating any major changes here. Courage and I took our first dressage lesson (not just flat from a jump instructor). I learned SO MUCH and Courage is going in a whole new, awesome way.




hey look no one's tongue is sticking out
We've played ponies and brought the puppy out and I am enjoying the HELL out of having an indoor this winter.

Courage is reminding me every day why it is I wanted him in the first place.













supermodels. or something.
It's not the year I wanted or planned on or dreamed about, but it's the year I had. It wasn't one of those years that makes people stop and go "wow, look at how successful she is". I'm pretty sure my show/event friends think I'm completely nuts for dropping off the face of the earth and not even trying to push the envelope.

But you know what? Despite our lack of material progress, Courage and I are a far better team now than we were at the beginning of the year. We have a bigger tool box, a more advanced skill set, and a stronger partnership. I'm happy and confident on him, whether it's our first ride in an indoor or popping over new jumps at home. We'll let next year worry about itself.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Making It: Tack Ho on a Budget

Bridle selection at the old barn
As I mentioned before, tack buying is not so much for me right now.

My very mature response has been: poo. And possibly sticking my tongue out.

The good news is, I have an end around that lets me keep having tack fun without all the expense of buying.

Remember how I'm going for the whole "minimalist" thing at the new barn? I have a trunk, a saddle rack, and a couple of hooks instead of a huge locker plus a trunk, plus blanket racks, plus all the space I want in the tack room.







I mean, yeah, I could add more hooks
That means the rest of the pony toys got cleaned and conditioned and put away in (dun dun dun) THE VAULT.

aka my garage.

Yeah, I even washed and rolled all the polos. There is a WHOLE RUBBERMAID TUB of boots. Don't even get me started on the bit box.

I don't spend a lot of time in the garage day to day, so when I'm feeling the need for a change, I just run out and rummage through rubbermaids until I have enough fun toys to keep me entertained for a few days. It's like the best store ever because everything is free and whoever stocks it has immaculate taste.




argyle polos and aramas bridle
I'm a total out-of-sight-out-of-mind person, so it works really well for me. I mean, it's obviously not completely the same as pulling the trigger on fancy new toys. However, I can just swap out a bead string on a browband, grab a bridle I haven't used lately, and pick the cutest polo wraps, which makes it almost feels like shopping.

Can't argue with the results, right?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Four Awesome Things I Want for Christmas

It's that time of year again. People are all crazy go nuts buying things for loved ones and I'm just over here like "I'm on a budget and all the pony things are on sale. Whyyyyyy." 

So as per the usual, I really, really want these things, but I won't be purchasing any of them in the foreseeable future. Let's imagine that I had a budget or someone was shopping for me though. Here's all the crazy fun things I'm wanting but don't need and can't afford. 

It's ok to borrow pics for advertising purposes, right?

I already have a PS bridle and not gonna lie, I love it. So much. Cool features, quality workmanship, fits perfectly and keeps me entertained. 

This one is also super cool. Interesting design features and very anatomic and 

GRABBY HANDS SO WANTY.



Not gonna lie. Wanty.

Yeah ok, it almost killed me when Bit of Britain had their black Friday sale and these bad boys could have been mine for $167, when full retail is $209. 

Long time readers know I have wanted these forever. They also know that I really can't justify $200 muck boots. I tried telling my husband that it was a great deal and I could ride in them too and I don't do barn work anymore (knock on wood), but no dice. 

I guess if I got them, I'd realize my wardrobe isn't trendy enough to match them anyways. 





Certainly wouldn't complain if it was monogrammed

I took the plunge this year and snagged an Ogilvy pad for Courage. It's a pretty great pad. It's way classier than my cheap and limited saddle pad collection. I really want the Ogilvy baby pads to balance out the classiness and be all non-slip awesome, but at $40 a whack, they haven't been in my budget.

I'm way too impatient to custom order through any of the vendors and I'm perfectly happy with black and white. 

Free shipping at smartpak if you buy two, ok Santa?

Not the dorky hat though.

Truth: many years ago when I still had the hellmare and expendable income, I snagged a horsewares hoodie on a mad post-Christmas smartpak sale. I loved it.

You can tell, because I'm wearing it while I'm typing this post. The cuffs are fraying apart and the print is wearing off, but that's par for the course after like.... 4 or 5 years of heavy wearing and washing, including barn work and riding in all weather. 

I love the horsewares line--cool details, well made, infinitely stylish (maybe that's just me? I dunno). I don't like the prices, which I why I don't own much from them, but we're dreaming here so SHHH. 



I'll stop now. I could come up with more. I could do an all-tack list. I could do a for the horse and for the rider list for several different disciplines, but I'm committed to my budget and shopping is the buzz kill of budgets as far as I can tell. 

So. What's everyone else dreaming of? 

PS Please don't say jewelry. If it sparkles, it damn well better go on a horse, or I'm flat out not interested. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014 Goal Wrap Up: Hint This Year Not as Planned

3'. We do that now.
Karen over at Contact started the 2014 goals round up. I figured I might as well jump in, because anything not accomplished at this point isn't going to get accomplished anyways.

Without further ado, here is a summary of the my 2014 goals:

1) Go chase cows.
FAIL

I did nothing with this goal. I want to do this for so many reasons--I want Courage to stay fresh by trying new things, I want him to be brave around cows, and I would really love to win prizes doing something. I didn't make it happen. Hm. Oh well. Maybe next year?

we got an epic trails picture
2) Do a mini endurance ride.
FAIL

We did some fun trail rides and there was that week where I rode the piss out of Courage so he wouldn't kill the farrier, but I never got coordinated enough to actually figure out what it would take to do a ride. Plus I hear rumors about the endurance world that make me not want to be involved and I really don't think I want Courage fit enough to trot fifteen or twenty miles, so we'll just scratch this one off for the time being.






Ok, this one is technically 2'9". 3' is at the top of the post.
3) Jump 3'.
SUCCESS.

The jumping we did this year was more about quality than height or quantity. I mean, we jumped lots and lots of little jumps, but we really just focused on teaching Courage the mechanics of how to jump and how to handle his body on a course. It wasn't the right time to do complex combinations or add in a lot of height.

It worked--the one day we jumped a 3' jump he was bloody perfect. He's been exposed to lots of different types of jumps and had one successful XC outing.

So that's good.

because cute knees over a ditch
4) Run BN XC
HAHAHA FAIL

Can we not even talk about this one?

Fine.

Courage did really great at his first ever xc schooling in March. I was THRILLED with him. THRILLED. ECSTATIC. JUBILANT. Unfortunately, due to my lingering cross country issues and the issues with jumping that we dealt with later in the spring, cross country just isn't happening for us in 2014.

When I set this goal, I was banking on being able to do more clinics and lessons, but the whole "buy a car" thing derailed the "spend money on ponies" thing that I was planning on.

It was optimistic when I set it, and yeah, didn't even sort of happen.

it was a jumper show. don't judge.
5) Do some local jumper shows.
Semi Success?

I'm going to count the event derby we went to as a jumper show, since it was over show jumps and then I look like I failed at goal setting slightly less miserably than I did. I also tried to send Courage to another jumper show, but he went a little lame and couldn't compete.

Courage handled the atmosphere really well (eventually). He did great in the jump warm up and was completely unphased by normal horse show things.

goal one: jump skinnies like a badass. check.
We all know that the carnage on the actual course was not his fault at all.

He definitely needs more exposure to be a seasoned show horse, but I'm not too worried about it. He's such a confident jackass most of the time anyways that it's not like he's impressed by the "atmosphere".

So that was 2014's goals. I still want to do the month by month wrap up (because I absolutely LOVE those. Srsly best time of the blogging year.) and I'm thinking on what I want to set for 2015 goals. Obviously, I aimed way too high for 2014. I want to be more grounded in the coming year and more mindful about pursuing my goals.
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