Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In Search of Confidence: Grinding it Out

When I jumped last Monday, I was fantastic. I came out ready to conquer the world and I totally did. I was excited to jump, I sort of marinated in my success, and I was gung ho to jump again on Thursday. Monday's ride video below:

And then I wasn't.

Baby steps. Also oxers.
I've spent way too much time complaining about how horse training isn't a linear process to miss the rich irony here. Confidence isn't linear either. Redheadlins and I set a fun hunter-esque course. I told myself it wasn't that big of a deal. I told myself we could do it. I visualized riding over the fences. I knew he could do everything out there.

Hell, he overjumps everything by at least a foot anyways, so it's not like height should be a remote problem for us.

But it was. For me that day, it just wasn't going to happen. I mean, yes, I could have jammed myself around that course and made it through the day, but that wasn't going to build my confidence. It was just going to unnerve me and keep setting me up to fail.

So instead we broke things down and made everything smaller.

Yay giving a nice release!
I'm focusing on the positives from this session. It wasn't as smooth and world-beating as last time felt, but we completely changed up the questions. We did related distances and slightly bigger jumps and lines up and down the hill (our arena is on an ever so slight slope). Instead of completely losing the ability to function in front of the fences now, I'm able to focus on finer details and keep my leg on and think about my line of direction.

Do I need to ride straight and more forward and have a better plan? Yes, absolutely. I can nitpick all the things I need to do better, but for me, right now, this is progress and I am happy with it. I was able to ride my horse forward and put my leg on and be committed to my jumps and give him some release. That's a great start.

I'm happy with how I rode and happy with my horse and we're getting through this together.

Friday, August 29, 2014


After a really productive flat ride on my birthday, I hacked Courage around the fields. I was thinking about all the things that changed since my last birthday and how I'd chronicled them on my blog and then I remembered that last year, my BO took a picture of us hacking through the field. 

So because I am the BEST CLIENT EVAR (ha!), I called the house phone and my BO obligingly came out and took another picture for me. Also I got an incredible birthday present. I am wicked spoiled.

Anyways. Behold another progression picture sequence!!! 

Every piece of tack is different in these, but my boots/helmet are the same.
August 2013. Courage is about four weeks off the track and just figuring out this whole "not racing" scene. He still has his racing muscle (and shoes, I believe), his body is right, and that's probably the lowest his head ever got in the first six months. It's hard when all the muscles are on the underside of your body. 

It's football season. Get over yourself.
August 2014. He looks like a whole new horse and not just because I got his mane under control! 

I'm absolutely loving the muscle development I'm seeing. He has twice the neck he used to. His whole body has just relaxed and lengthened out a little bit, and you can just see him swinging. His stride is longer, his tail is longer.

The only thing that's the same is his ridiculously kissable nose. <3 

I promise I will stop doing these for a while now, but omg how much fun is a quick peek back now and then?!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Faces

I ride Courage all the time. redheadlins rides him regularly, and Alyssa pops on now and then. I try (sometimes) to ride other horses and I think it's really good for Courage to learn to carry other riders of all skill levels. Part of training the little man this year has involved letting him toodle around with different riders.

In no particular order:
He is the best at making funny faces
A friend from the track who hasn't had much saddle time. She started on the lunge line, but was able to confidently steer and do some basic transitions on her own by the end of the session. Courage's first time with a beginner up and he did great.

One of those fearless jumper girls that we all wish we were. She's actually ridden Courage a couple of times now, most notably when it was something like zero degrees in January and he had to figure out how to deal with frozen footing and uneven ground.

Courage rose to her level and they started out a little rocky, but ended up popping around a little jump course. Can't fake those smiles.

And then Rinsie from Nanakorobi Yaoki came to play! I haven't gotten to hang out with her much since we now board on opposite ends of our little world (geographically), but she's moving away and leaving us west coasties here soon so we had to do something.

I was SUPER paranoid that he would do something insane and hurt her right before her big trip. I don't know why. I have made a cross country move with a broken arm and I can tell you I wouldn't recommend it. Regardless, she rode well, he behaved, and if calamity strikes, it won't be because of C-rage.

I think Courage is starting to get it. He's learning to communicate with each rider a little differently. He's got it in his head that this is his job and he isn't doing anything too silly. It's all a part of the plan. I want Courage to be a super fun all-around horse, and that includes being mentally flexible enough to accept all levels of riders.

I hope to start mixing it up and hauling out more in the near future. I'm even day dreaming about maybe a dressage lesson (in the heated indoor) this winter*. Plus team penning. I need to get him exposed to cows. Ha! We'll see how things go.

*It's really more about the heated indoor than the dressage. We'll see if he's trained enough to be able to see the fancy trainer without totally embarrassing ourselves.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


He is the best at modeling browbands

In the interests of clarity and fairness, I will explain exactly how I come to a result in a contest.

1) I compile a spreadsheet of all entrants in order of their comments on the contest post. I try to file them by user name but some of you apparently have similar names, so I differentiate as needed. See: Lauren Chestnut and Jessica Vet. 

2) I go to random.org, which claims to choose random numbers based on atmospheric noise. I don't know if they do or not, but they allow me to put in a range of answers.

3) I hit the "Generate" button and find out that our winner is... 

Woo woo party time and do a dance!! 

Lauren, please contact me and I'll get you all set up. Thanks for playing everyone! 

If you didn't win (like me), you can still check out all the pretty things on Dark Jewel Designs facebook page or look them up on Etsy

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In Search of Confidence: Seeing Progress

He is the best at series posts.
NOTED: Contest results will be up tomorrow!!

I decided to turn this into a series, because it seems to be an on-going theme for this blog anyways.

Last time, I talked about the things I'm doing to actively develop my confidence so I can be the best rider for my horse. I guess I should maybe do a post about how the MOST CRITICAL INGREDIENT is always always ALWAYS the right horse.

But maybe this entire blog is about that. Let's call that the meta narrative and move on for now.

So with all the work I've been putting in on developing confidence, I scheduled a lesson with our awesome biomechanics teacher on Saturday. I decided to do flatwork because A) I wanted some solid guidance on what to work on and B) my newly-found jumping confidence needed to marinate a little more before I wanted to test it in a lesson. Let's just say lessons haven't been universally positive experiences for me and I want to let the confidence take root before pushing it like that.

downhill over the vertical like badasses
This is more my issue than the instructors' and I know that. I'm not knocking instructors, but I'm playing the hand I have, so easy on the lessons for right now.

Anywho. We did our flat lesson. We worked hard. Courage had brilliant moments and flailing moments (yeah, he still does that apparently) and I rode through it all and made progress and at the end, I almost felt a little bit cheated.

Because at no point was I afraid for my life or worried that I'd get hurt or anything. It was just a lesson. There was no super human feat of courage (ha!) or mental fortitude to just survive the hour. No, I kept my brain engaged and learned the whole time and that was it.


yup, did that
Then comes Monday. My mental schedule indicated that it was jump day, so redheadlins set up a fantastic course. She's doing this great thing right now where a course goes from cavaletti up to a large (for my brain) oxer with everything in between. That way we don't have to get off and on all the time and we ride forward and jump and the bigger jumps build themselves into the courses. I 100% approve.

Courage and I had a solid warm up, then rolled through the cavaletti. I was happy with how I was riding and the decisions I was making.

We got close and I wasn't terrified.
And then we jumped. And it was awesome. I had my leg on and eyes up and rode forward and the little man was brilliant. He was balanced and listening. It didn't even matter how tall the fences were. I pointed him at them and rode straight. When he said "are you sure?" I could answer "YES!" It wasn't my best jumping form of all time, but it was hands down the most comfortable and confident I have ever been jumping on him.

I'm completely thrilled. Utterly happy. Can't wipe the smile off my face. It feels so good to be back here.

What a great birthday present.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Now that what I call a bundle of joy

The Dark Jewel Designs browband contest closes in just under 27 hours. It's your last chance to get your entries in for a sweet prize. Just leave a comment on THE POST LINKED RIGHT HERE

Poof I have something in not-blue. Possibly I didn't pick it out.
Who wouldn't want a piece of this?

Contest closes at midnight on Sunday. (Let's face it--I won't log in til Monday afternoon, so as long as you get it in by then, you're really good to go.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Transformations: The Informal Blog Hop

Our Favorite Irish Blogger over at Life of Riley did a fantastic post showing how far she and Riley have come together in about a year and a half,which includes a wretched winter and some pretty serious time off. I know I like to do training progression pictures way more than most people like to look at them, but HAHA BITCHES I'M DOING ANOTHER ONE!!!

 Trotting first!!

And jumping!! 
 I'm loving it. I think everyone should do one. Thanks Niamh!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to Not Have a Lesson on Your Greenie

I'm supposed to be getting ready for my first lesson since June right now. Literally. I should be just finishing tacking up and then climbing on to warm up.

But I'm not.


It stated with this:
Or maybe he wants a long nose fly mask to match Prisoner
I'm not really sure what he's got going on here.It looks a bit like sunburn, but that's a really random place to sunburn after going two full summers at the same facility on the same feed and never sunburning at all before.

Also he has created a fun new game that my BO just LOOOOOOOVES in which he tries to take all the T post caps off in his field.

Really. It's her favorite thing ever.

Anyways. Perhaps he just scraped himself playing the T post game.

At least it's not painful?
So I can sort of explain that, but then there was this:

What is that? I have no idea. It looks like a peeling sunburn, but again, it's on a horse that has never sunburned and who peels the black skin on the side of their face? It made no sense.

Annnnnd then a friend asked if I'd used any new products on him....

Guess who is somewhat reactive to his new fly spray?


Still. Neither of those conditions seemed to cause undue pain or distress and I really, really want a lesson. I lead Courage out of his stall for turnout...

And he can hardly put weight on his right front foot.

I immediately grab a hoof pick and find this:

Yes, he got new shoes on Monday. No, it wasn't loose enough to come off. And yes, his shoe is just sitting on his sole. I'm touchy about sole pressure.

In a crazy stoke of luck, two journeymen farriers and their intern showed up like ten minutes later and got the shoe reset correctly, but a certain little bay horse must have done a very impressive spin move in his stall over night and he was pretty sore from standing on his sole since then.

And that's the story of why I'm not having a lesson today. Cross your fingers for Saturday. I have bell-booted, hoof-painted, and un-fly-sprayed the little man.

What will he come up with next?

PS Don't forget to enter our contest!! It's open through Sunday night and all you have to do to enter is leave a comment!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

In Search of Confidence: Use Your Resources

This was an epic outfit
I've talked about how I lack confidence. Now I want to talk about what I'm doing to get it back.

On the Ground
Jess (if you don't read her blog, you should start) recommended Jane Savoie's "That Winning Feeling" to me. I believe her specific recommendation was "I don't usually like this kind of book, but it's really good". I got it on Amazon for like $4 shipped and started in. I haven't even finished it yet, but I already love it.

This outfit was great too
Program Your Subconscious
According to Jane, our subconscious is a powerful thing. Instead of just letting it run wild and screw us over, it makes way more sense to harness that power and use it to our own ends. To do that, she recommends positive self talk--saying "I will" and "I can" instead of "I'll try" and "I hope". She's also really big on visualization. I really latched on to this concept because my biomechanics coach reminds me that the human brain can only process one thing at a time. That means everything else has to be muscle memory. The nifty little aside is that the brain really can't differentiate between created memories and actual memories sooooo....

It's ok. I visualized this already.
I visualize. I try to do it every night before bed and on long boring driving stretches. I don't just visualize the action I want to internalize. I focus on the minutiae. I'm cantering to the jump. It's a good, forward going sort of canter with a steady rhythm. My heels are down, my hands are level, my eyes are up, my core is engaged, my leg is on. I picture exhaling to the base of the jump and putting my leg on. We jump across, land in a straight line, and canter away.

And then I do it again. I'm really specific about the type of jump I visualize. Things I'll see, things I know will bother me. I realize that's maybe not practical for shows, but I'm not worried about that right now. I want to set myself and my horse up for success.

I think he cleared it
In the Saddle
Everyone should have a Lindsey of their very own. I'd be sunk without her. Lindsey helps me tag team on Courage--she puts rides on him for me now and then and she's always giving me helpful pointers when we ride together. It's not that I can't ride--it's that I can get in a mental rut and it is really helpful to get those quick reminders. (I wish I could say I was equally helpful to her, but pretty much I just share tack and hold the video camera.)

Work That Conscious Mind
Here's where I really benefit from reading through old blog entries. I try to review lesson write ups and then ride. I want Courage forward and off my aids. I want him responding to me. I want his mind so busy processing what I want him to do that he isn't staring off into space and inventing monsters to spook at.

It's hard work for both of us, but it really pays off. When Courage starts saying "yes ma'am" and toeing the line, I know we're ready to jump. Right now, that means he has to put his head down (joys of remuscling an upside down neck), go forward and back within gaits, and do a solid leg yield each direction.

A little more reasonable
The Big Plan
 I know that putting pressure on top of fear is completely useless if you're trying to work through the fear (different story if you're trying to save the world, but I sort of don't see a scenario in which I need to jump 2'6" on my greenie to avert planetary destruction in the near future.)

So. I've been setting jumps at my comfort height. Sometimes poles. Sometimes 12". Whatever. I let that be the height for the day and I jump it until I'm bored. Then afterwards I think about how fun it was. I smile (release the endorphins!!) at the memories and I incorporate in emotions from other times I've had fun jumping.

Tuesday we jumped through the course that Lindsey set for Prisoner. We did the baby crossrail until I was happy with how I rode it. We did the bigger crossrail until I was happy. Then we strung the two together. Then we added the barrels and the vertical.

One step at a time. Each when I was comfortable with it. On my timetable.

There is a time to push and I time to just create calm, positive experiences and really soak them in.

I did a photo editing thing
Does It Work?
I think yes. Not only do I have fantastic jumping pictures, but I think I rode better than I have in ages and I feel very happy with the ride. Courage did some typical green horse wiggly stuff and I was able to confidently ride him through and git'er done. That is the ingredient I was lacking and I feel like it's back.

I'm going to keep things slow and advance when I feel confident and continue to use the hell out of my resources, but I'm on the right track and I'm excited about it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Teach Me Tuesday: Oinment

The best at green wraps
Here we go with this week's round of Teach Me Tuesday! As per the usual, I pick a topic that I cannot seem to wrap my mind around and do not understand.

This week I'm curious about ointment. It seems pretty universal--a horse gets a cut and the owner is immediately all "LET'S PUT SOME GOOPY SHIT ON IT!!!"


I don't put ointment on myself when I get a cut. Hell, I don't even usually use a bandaid. I realize I'm a bit of a minimalist in the personal care department though. I understand stitches for bad cuts and I'm all about wrapping when something needs to be covered up. I even get using some SWAT (or similar) to keep bugs away from cuts in fly season.

Put a bridle on it. That's my motto.
I just don't understand what the attraction is to trying to improve the built-in healing function of a horse. Are we somehow improving that? What is the idea here? I really have no idea.

So why when a horse gets a cut do owners want to put stuff on it?

Don't forget to enter my sweet contest for personalized bling for your horse!!

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