Friday, May 6, 2016

Getting Real

Horse officially shed out (meaning dressage-illegal bum-logo gone). 
such shine
Thinking eyes more or less back.
much wise

Morning rides in full swing.
i love mornings
First level at the show tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Standard Deviation of a Courage

Those of you who are stats nerds (it's a surprisingly huge number--I was a B stats student, so I don't quite make the cut) know what a standard deviation is.

Those of you who are B stats students (or less) like me might need a little reminding.

The above is (sort of) a bell curve, if bell curves were drawn freehand in ms paint. Like this one. It's pretty self-explanatory, but it goes like this. The red line is the average on the curve. In this case we're talking about the behavior of Courage on any given day, so it's just an average day.

An average is created by some things being higher and some things being lower.
actually not that far off average

Most days are going to fall in between the green lines--that's one standard deviation. And those things are all pretty ok for Courage in general.

The blue lines are where things get concerning--that's two standard deviations and you'll notice the incidence drops a lot. It's still not mission-critical MAYBE (or maybe it is), but something is definitely up.

Anything past the blue lines is RED FLASHING LIGHT URGENT DROP EVERYTHING AND CALL THE VET/call trainer to sell horse.
has opinions even when drugged

This curve is very specific to an individual horse. I swear some horses are a freaking flat line. (There's one at my barn. Cool horse. Odd.)

As we all know by now, Courage is a complicated, sensitive horse who not only wears his emotions on his sleeve, but also has OPINIONZ about EVERYTHING. The math I do every day is simple--do those opinions fall within a standard deviation of a Courage? If yes, proceed. If no, think it through.

That's how we got body work and teeth done--the OPINIONZ had escalated outside the blue lines and were rapidly accelerating into the green ones.

There's more to it though--the Courage I had last year actually had this inside one standard deviation.

Yeah don't miss that at all.

The horse I have this year has deescalated to this:
my apologies to my trainer for making her ride it
It's not pretty, it's not all that fun. It is less dangerous and a little easier to explain as "normal" behavior, because even the non-horseiest of people tend to know that the horse's head shouldn't actually be over yours.

But not only is the horse a moving target--so are my tolerances. This whole equation only works if his standard deviation fits into what I can deal with. So to some people, the first fail picture is "whatevs NBD" and to others, it's "OMFG NO SELL IT NOW". I fall into the category of "I rode it enough times that I know I can, but I'd rather not".

The second one is pretty hard to be upset about. Yes, Courage didn't want to play in a lesson. Yes, he was a pissy pants and hard to deal with. But meh. Instead of saying "CANT WONT HATE YOU ALL NOT TURNING RIGHT EFF YOU BAI" he's like "screw you i don't want to connect my hind end and soften".

I mean, it's still not a great attitude, but it's hella easier to work with than a full fledged flail. (You're welcome.)

Frankly, when I compare the two shots, which were taken at roughly the same time of year almost exactly 12 months apart, I get a little excited. Look! Things are changing! Maybe someday they'll be good!
And then there's this. Yeah, it's a cherry picked screenshot and the video is nooooooot even sort of amazing, but the good moments are getting better, the bad moments are not as bad, and I feel like I've kicked the whole bell curve a few feet to the right and improved everyone's scores.

And that's the world as I see it. You see how I didn't even use any numbers to talk about math? It's like how I talk about dressage and never say "outside rein". #magic

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Horse I Have Today

I'm struggling to find interesting ways to talk about the training process with Courage. Some of you write the most incredible lesson wraps and I think that's cool, but like. Our week looks more like this:

Monday: decide to be the grown up and not put the leaping pad on C, even though it's pretty. Skip lunging, but realize that w/t in the indoor is the limit that C's brain can handle today, even though you have a real photog and want kickass pictures. Staying alive>glorious fail pictures at the funeral.
but alive!
Tuesday: Have a brilliant, glorious ride on a bendy, amazing horse. Be completely alone at the barn and wish you had a trained bird to video. Realize that "bendy and glorious"=w/t/c in a circle, which isn't all that interesting. Realize that you hate birds anyways.

Wednesday: Ride early in the morning to try and beat the horrendous spring winds. Find out C was just vaccinated and is completely incapable of bending his neck or going on a contact or anything. Stare at all the letters in the dressage arena and wonder how you're going to ride a test in that muddle while walking on the buckle.
horse obv dying. obv.
Thursday: Schedule an early morning lesson because I dunno, what a good idea!

Friday: try to remember not to burn your horse out on dressage before his big move-up show. Consider setting jumps and realize that pissing him off over fences is also a bad idea.

Saturday: look like we have our shit together hopefully.

Sunday: repeat Saturday? Or not, if Saturday is bad.
there's a broke horse in there somewhere
If it looks like we're having one "successful" schooling ride on our own a week, well, keep in mind this schedule is pretty optimistic.

I'm not complaining about it--I enjoy my horse and his quirks make me laugh, but how exactly I make interesting blog content out of "today my horse couldn't turn his head to eat a carrot" is a bit beyond me.
actual event
So uh. Thanks for readying, sorry things are slow, and here's to maybe not embarrassing ourselves too much this weekend?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Teach Me Tuesday: Open Seasons

I acknowledge three (3) official seasons: Spring, Horse Showing, and Football. Obviously, spring is the worst because A) the weather and B) no horse shows or football. Also obviously, Sep/Oct is complicated around here because it's both prime Horse Showing and prime Football.
and sometimes we combine the two
In this climate, Horse Shows run basically May-October, Football is September-early February, and everything else is spring. 

I don't think my non-horse friends (or non-football friends) really get it. I certainly do things other than horse show in Horse Show Season, but shows get precedence. Same with football (and yes, game with my team>most horse shows unless there's a tri color on the line). 
def for a tri color
So how do you divide up your year? 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Kiss Your Bum Goodbye

someone looks optimistic
I rolled the dice and mailed an entry for Courage and I do do first level. Together. In public.

At a schooling show, but it counts.

I've been avoiding actually looking at the tests because I know they're harder than "do three gaits and a stretchy circle", which is our safe place right now.

But I need to learn these suckers by like... Saturday. Which is actually pretty soon. So I finally looked at them. Ok, one of them. And then the other one.
really need his confidence right about now
And uh.

They are using letters in the test that I sort of knew existed, but had never paid any attention to whatsoever and have no actual idea where they are in the ring.

 Also in test 2, the coefficients (or most important movements to the score) are the free walk/stretch trot (ok yay we can do) and then BOTH the canter lengthenings. Ask me if we've ever done a canter lengthening.

That's a no.

I keep reminding myself that we've been working toward this goal for over a year and while it sounds super scary all put together like this, 1) it doesn't even register on the scary scale compared to say, another horrifying go at a jumping show and 2) we actually do have (almost) all the pieces. 15m canter circles are fine. 10m trot circles are fine. Leg yields are fine. It's not like we're going to blow everyone out of the water, but at least we have most of the pieces.
yay friends!
Oh, and I still can't catch C-Rage, but at least he's back to being rideable, so I think that's exciting too?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Male Seeking Soulmate

The other day, I wondered what it would look like if Courage tried online dating. We all know he's a character, and I think it would go a little like this:

Fabulous, fun loving guy searches for height-challenged curvaceous soul mate. 

I'm reformed speed demon learning to love suburban life and luxuries. My idea of a good time is a walk in a safe, well-lit environment, culminating in a review of local theater while enjoying a sampling cookies. The finer things appeal to me--I'd rather shop all day than get dirty. I give great feedback on fashion, style, and art. I love big curves, fun accents, and hard things. Just don't ask me to belay you--I have a deep-seated taphophobia.

Snapchat me! I'd like to check you out.

M seeking M/F/other for romantic relationship or friendship.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Winning, Losing, and Riding: Thoughts From a Former Kid

I recently ran across a personal situation in which a kid was pursuing a complex sport that the parents knew next to nothing about. The situation reminded me strongly of my own childhood, so I wrote a note to the parents in hopes it would help them clarify the situation, their roles, and what was in it for their child.
unrelated attractive pic

1) There's nothing wrong with being hands off as a parent. 

To this day, my dad doesn't know what color/gender/type of horse I had or even really what we did with it. He and mom made sure I got where I needed to be when I needed to be there, but it was on me to arrange transportation for my horse, make sure I had the correct equipment, was adequately prepared, and knew what forms to get to what people. 

This was hard for me. I was a really shy kid, and it terrified me to call people in my club each week to ask for horse hauling. The net result was that I learned to develop working relationships with adults who could help me. I learned to network and find creative options. I learned to be grateful for the kind people who were willing to help me, and I learned how to verbalize what I needed and when I needed it. 
2) There's nothing wrong with losing. 

This is one of the most important lessons. Whether or not I was a good rider at home, I wasn't a particularly good rider at horse shows, especially at first. Part of that was riding borrowed horses, part of that was not having much show experience, part of that was nerves. I lost a lot. I lost in horribly public and humiliating ways. I not only got disqualified in all the usual ways, I invented new and creative ways to lose. 

I have lost far more horse shows than I have ever won. I learned far more from losing than I ever did from winning. Losing taught me that preparation is everything. Losing taught me that life isn't fair. Losing taught me that no matter how embarrassing and horrible a loss was, the sun still rises and life goes on. Losing taught me to be humble. Losing taught me how to empathize with people who struggle. Losing taught me to take what I'm handed and keep on trying, no matter what. 

Winning feels good, but feeling good isn't really something most of us need a lot of practice at.
shake it off
3) Preserve your relationship with your kid.

As I mentioned, my parents knew nothing about my sport of choice. I'll probably never forget the day my mom tried to rush me getting ready for a lesson and put my saddle on backwards right when my instructor walked around the corner. Thanks mom. ;-) I really appreciated my non-horsey parents though. In my observation, the parents who knew the sport forwards and backwards were frequently the parents that sabotaged their own relationships with their children. 

My mom knew to pack food, sit here, and not talk to me before classes (I knew to be polite and keep my distance when I felt stressed). My dad learned how to memorize courses and talk me through them before my classes so I wouldn't miss basic things. Beyond that, they were hands off and we were stronger for it. They didn't pick at me, share my stress, or try to control me. They knew I was prepared and they were there to cheer for me (loudly and inappropriately, always), make sure I was fed, and be supportive, no matter what. 
It was important that they were there. One of my clearest memories is at one of my worst horse shows ever--I'd fallen off TWICE in front of everyone. I was hurting and humiliated and disqualified and I wanted to pack up and go home. My Dad came up to me privately while I sat on the (hateful) horse in tears and wanted to sink through the ground. He told me that he didn't care if I ever rode well or ever sat on a horse again after that day. Life was bigger than horse shows. He cared about what kind of person I was and no matter what, I couldn't quit right then. I could quit tomorrow. I could quit next week. But that day, no matter what, I had to finish what I had started. 

He was right. I finished. It was horrible. It was years before I ever won anything and it wasn't until my adult life that I was really any good at much. I'm still not great at riding, but I 100% know that I am a stronger, better person for what I learned through participating (and losing) at sports as a kid.  

My dad still can't tell you what color/gender/type of horse I ride and that doesn't matter. The character lessons I learned from losing and trying anyways mattered far, far more to me in every aspect of my life than winning ever did. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Try and Fail: Follow Up

Because my addictive personality requires that I obsess over everything and because I realize I a little bit sounded like a princess in my post about Courage and I having troubles, I thought I would clarify a few points here. 
this is good
1) I have a plan. In consultation with an actual vet, Courage is getting his teeth done hopefully this week.

In fact, before consulting said actual vet, I consulted Dr. Google, DVM (through COTH, source of all knowledge), and ran across this factoid:
Teeth problems would (maybe) explain a lot of things. Fingers crossed on this one for sure.

1b) I have taken other advice under consideration--we're ruling out teeth first. Might be behavioral and we can address that as well. Might also be something much worse and scarier, but we'll cross that bridge when/if we get there. My money is on teeth.

2) The showing thing.
clearly not showing
I made a comment that there were no recognized shows for me if this doesn't resolve something like instantly.

That comment was made for a very specific reason.

There are two (count 'em) recognized shows in my area. One is in May, entries due ASAP and the other in in June, entries due shortly. So while I have no doubt we'll have this whole thing sorted out this summer sometime, there exists a very real possibility that it won't be sorted in time to make either show worthwhile for me. Plus, May show will be a very large chunk of change for me and I simply can't justify it if Courage is a wild card.

Which he is. More than normal. Right now.

3) We all know it's not proper obsessing unless it necessitates a tack change.
So we're trying that too. I can't make the dentist happen any faster than the current rate (glacially slow, if you're wondering), but I can try new toys.

How are y'all feeling about the drop?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Teach Me Tuesday: Blogging?

If you're an equestrian blogger, the odds are you aren't rolling in the sweet, sweet cash that your hobby-turned-profession dumped in your lap. You aren't famous, you don't have a reality tv gig lined up, and aside from the people you already knew, basically no one knows who you are. Or cares. (At least, that's my experience. Ymmv.)

But still. Having a blog is kind of cool and it a little bit changes the way you interact with the equestrian world. I mean, if I didn't need blog content in December, there's no way I would have been shooting pictures of a how-to on wrapping liners for the blog when it was 9f.

I tend not to tell people I have a blog. I do have a blog facebook page because it's supposed to be a traffic driver (or at least, it is if you remember to update it). Once or twice a year, I write a post that I feel so strongly about that I will also share it through my personal facebook page. My personal friends all know about the blog, but I hardly go around introducing myself as a blogger.

And regularly, I'm surprised when people (who I know peripherally) come up to me and are like "hey loved your post on XYZ". To me, it makes sense that all y'all internet folks read blogs, but it's a little strange that real, actual people do too. I mean, it's not like strangers are recognizing me and I'm turning down endorsements over here or something, but the fact that anyone takes the time out of their day to read what I have to say is humbling. It's not like I'm a really cool person or something, you know?
pictured: much cooler person. my horse.
So how do you handle that in day-to-day life? Do your barn friends read your blog? Do you link to it on your personal facebook? Do you hide it and pretend you're totally normal? Do you expect people to read it and have conversations with you about it?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Try and Fail. Repeat.

It's tempting to cherry pick good screenshots right now and pretend everything is rolling along fine, but it's not. Last week, my somewhat-icky rides progressed to "might as well not bother" levels of ick rides. I knew that Courage was WAY overdue for bodywork, so I just stopped riding until he could get an appointment.
but it is a pretty great screen shot
But that wasn't magic. Courage's body felt better, sure, but he was just.not.cooperating. Like. Forget recognized first level this year. We won't make it around training level at a schooling show right now. It's bad. Doesn't matter if I ride my butt off. Courage is not going to play.

And there's nothing like a series of shitty rides to make me feel like I'm just pouring money into a sewer because I don't like it weighing down my purse. I don't know if I can fix this. I especially don't know if I can fix it in time to make pouring $$$ into a recognized show next month worth it.

I do know that my best attribute with this horse is that I have a really good feel for what he needs in a given moment (not just arrogance--verbatim quote from a respected clinician regarding our partnership). Instead of feeling burned out by what looks like a disappointing failure to reach a goal of over a year, I choose to focus on the horse I have right now.
a magnificent unicorn
who learned how to move his back
by kicking the wall
and leaping off the ground
I'm pursuing some other avenues this week to see if I can find a root cause for the yucks or if Courage has decided just not to play for the present. In the interim, we're trying other stuff.
so cute amiright
You know. Like when it drops 40 degrees Fahrenheit and blows in a storm overnight, so I decide it's a great idea to start riding Courage in a hackmore with zero stopping power. Yes, on the same day I took all the leaping pictures. I'm not just crazy--I knew Courage needed some play time, and once he played, I just kinda knew he was going to be fine.

Which he was.

It was actually very interesting--Courage has been hollowing and inverting and fighting me with the bit. Take that away and after we got past his initial "um wtf lady" response, he was fine. Nose poked out like a hunter, yes, but poll a little below his wither with lots of licking and chewing. I let him worry about him and I focused on re-training myself to ride completely from my body (and turn right).

It wasn't magical either. We didn't even trot. But hey. I'm of the opinion that horse training is less rainbows and pixie dust and more wet saddle pads and putting in the time anyways.

That's where we're at. It's not pretty. It's not very good. It's definitely not linear.

But I'm enjoying having a horse I can hop on and do dumb stuff with on a cold spring day and not feel like I'm going to die. If the rest comes later, great.
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