Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Teach Me Tuesday: Grooming

it obviously works for him
I really, really love grooming. I used to pick feet every time, go over the horse with a rubber curry, use a stiff brush, and then finish with spendy body brush. I'd hand pick tails and keep manes perfectly pulled.

And that was pretty cool. It was beauty time and bonding time and everyone is happy.

Enter Courage.

Little man HATES grooming. I had to go out and buy him his very own special long-bristled-super-soft dandy brush and even that used GENTLY makes him pick up his feet and dance. Heaven forbid I get out the TORTURE CURRY MITT.

i like this mane. there is so much to grab.
World-ending, folks.

My grooming routine has radically altered--quick dust off, check feet, run a brush through his mane if I have lots of time. If I hose him off after a ride, I try to rinse his tail and throw some conditioner in it to limit breakage. Anymore, his mane is on the long side. It's a dressage horse look, I like it, and why not. Those are my reasons.

So. What else are y'all doing out there? Does anyone have a horse that likes being curried I can borrow?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Martingale Monday

running and jumping
One of the things I love about blogging is the ability to get to know the person on the other side of the keyboard. It removes the whole "strangers on the internet" stigma and makes people be more civil.

And that's good.

Because I hate when I'm reading the latest post on the Chronicle facebook with a picture of a Big Name Rider, and someone IMMEDIATELY jumps all over them for using (DUN DUN DUN) a martingale. It takes less than four comments to get from "what's that for?" to "they are obviously a bad rider" to "that person is like horse Hitler".

standing and jumping

Look, I'm not a famous rider and I never will be and I'm ok with that about myself. I like to refer to a quote from one of my personal idols, William Fox Pitt, when he said that he lost at one of his first big events early in his career because something unforeseen happened and he was riding without a martingale. Now he always rides with one on the logic that it does nothing unless you need it, and then you don't want to be without it.

morning after something bad happened
So there's that.

And let's all just agree that Mr. Fox Pitt rides a hell of a lot better than most 4* riders ever will, much less us ammies flopping around the lower levels for fun.

But if you have an irrational hatred for one of the best British riders in the world. let's look at one of the most prominent American eventers of all time, aka "god". Some of you may know him as Jimmy Wofford. His comment is that every horse should go in a plain caveson and a snaffle, but you have to LIVE THROUGH THE PRESENT to prove him right eventually.

And if you're still hating on those people because they're strangers on the internet, well, here's this:
because somehow i'm not a stranger on the internet
This happened in a dressage lesson at home with a low pressure trainer. It created a whole chain of behaviors that took quite a long time to fix and the initial shenanigan could have been completely prevented with the use of a simple training aid known as a martingale. In fact, either a standing or running martingale would have done the trick in this situation.

I had neither.

It sucked.

So while I 100% understand that a martingale is not an legal piece of tack for a dressage horse to compete in, you bet your ass Courage goes in one periodically. 

no you cannot dump my ass in the lake
It works for us. It has no effect until something untoward happens, then it goes back to neutral. Instead of learning to turn himself inside out and run for the hills, Courage learns to deal with life.

And that is a very, very good thing. Hate all you want on my artificial aids, but at the end of the day, I'm creating an educated equine who will be very capable without the crutch. Until then, I have to survive.

Friday, October 9, 2015

About-Face on Video

It's no secret that I hate video. I just do. I can't explain it. I rarely watch it. When I have it of myself, I mostly use it to take screenshots and make pretty pictures. I'm quite discontent with how I look and how I ride, so the idea of watching myself riding is rather nauseating.


We have the big goal of doing first level (ack!) at the recognized show in May.

someday i will ride the canter not like a monkey
That means I have to get better. My first step was to not only take a lesson (!!) with my fabulous on-site trainer who totally gets my horse, but also to inform her that we were going to step it up and get in on the program. By which, I mean take a lesson every 1-2 weeks. We have an indoor. Weather is a non-issue. We're going to make this happen.

Moment of silence for all the pretty shit I will be not buying the rest of the winter. SOB. GOODBYE CUSTOM MATTES.

The second key is video. I need to be consistent about getting video of myself and my horse and I need to get over my hatred of watching it. Video keeps me honest about myself and shows me what the judge sees. That is critical to improving.

So. I made myself watch my derby videos and am including them below if you're interested. (I am not offended if you're not.) My trainer is totally ok with me handing her my phone and taking lesson video, so that's covered too.

Derby Dressage Intro B(score of 35):

And the ground poles course:

(My apologies--aside from about the first 15 seconds of the ground poles, both those videos are wicked boring.)

And hey! If I haven't lost you yet, there's even video from my lesson.

So here we go. Onwards into first level and video and the modern era!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Not Confident, Not Proud

Well, we did it--Courage and I finished 3 of 4 in the locally offered derby series. We won twice and were second once, which means I should be a lock for the big goal: my first ever chance at a year-end award.

That is all very exciting.

Or at least, it should be.

it's what we can do
I mean, it's huge for me. I have a massive xc phobia, to the point that I almost didn't even complete the first derby because I was so out of it. After a full season of trotting my talented-but-difficult horse over poles in a field, I'm not sure that moving up (to cross rails!) is such a good idea for us. I certainly rode better at the end of the year, but it was never what I'd call fun.

not me riding
Not ever.

This whole thing is hard for me and that's just what it's going to be. We can (and will) be dressage and show jumping competitors and be quite happy. We don't ever have to do XC for real.

But here's the rub: we all know that pride has no place on a horse's back--they humble us so fast that it would be funny if it wasn't excruciating.

just keep riding
But when I'm off the horse?

I know I'm proud of us. I know that what I did last Sunday was HUGE for my confidence. I know I improved over the year and what I did Sunday was NOT something I could do in June.


It's ground poles. It's a glorified trail ride. If it literally was your first time on a horse, you could probably do it. (Well, probably not on my horse, but a horse.) Go SprinklerBandit! You're the best at something a lesson student who's never ridden before can do just fine.

I was all excited for my first-ever award for being consistently not-horrible at something, and now I'm contemplating not even showing up to get it. Like. "Hi everyone. I'm scared of xc and did it anyways, except over tiny poles."

high option even with sharks
I'm surround by talented people on horses that IMHO are no nicer than mine. I SHOULD be better than this. I feel like I should be farther along, braver, something. I should be the one who can just kick around a stiff course on my oh-so-talented horse.

But I'm not. I'm right here.

And it's not easy to admit that in public sometimes. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Why Winter is the Best Season

looking up
Our last dressage test of the year was Sunday. I'd like to never do another walk/trot test again, so this winter is all about getting to first level.

And it's going to get ugly before it gets pretty.

I've been holding off on pushing Courage to do too much in the sandbox because I didn't want to freak him out and then spend our last derby galloping sideways out of the ring and getting disqualified. That would be dumb. Also, it would not be the first time something like that happened to me.

First level (eek!) means I need to ride better. Courage needs to go in a more uphill balance. We need to develop a comfort level with lengthenings and going sideways, both of which require a loose, moving back, which neither of us are good at. I need to start thinking about sitting trot again, though I don't think I have to be good at it until 2nd level.

We're starting to push my comfort zone, so I need to be consistent about lessons (which also means I need to buy less tack to afford said lessons).

long lonely nights in the indoor
I know a lot of people are down on winter because it's dark and cold and there are no shows, but to me, the whole thing is a golden opportunity. I probably won't do another proper dressage test until what, like April, which means I have MONTHS to get better at this whole thing.

I suspect I'll need every minute. 2016, here we come!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

This One Time, At Pony Camp...

Most. Adorable. Picture.
 I kept Courage at pony camp aka "our former barn that we dearly love" an extra day because in theory, ground poles aren't hard and we were going to squeeze in another ride with friends. Our fall weather is AMAZING right now, so we were taking advantage of it.

In practice, not so much. Courage and I were both pooped from the weekend. Plus one of our barn buddies wanted to set a jump shoot chute. Sorry failing at brain today.

Courage was actually jumping great--I've jumped him on the lunge a fair amount to help him learn to use his own body and then to reel him in when he gets mad and pisses off. None of that yesterday. Buuuuut there was the tiny issue of trying to bounce an oxer.
think bounce
cue general destruction
Yeah meant to do that
and that is why we don't bounce oxers, kids
 After that solid dose of heart failure, we dropped back to a cross rail and started over. Courage never even thought about refusing, though he definitely gave everything a lot of space.
you'll note the bar across the top of the oxer...
and over
Did I mention he jumped every fence out of a lazy jog trot? I'd post a video for you, but my phone was all NA NA NA NA NA NOPE.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Event Derby #3: Sharks and Satin

um how cute is he?
Sunday marked the last event derby of the year.

Let's back up.

Friday and Saturday marked the horse show I was working hard to help organize. Saturday was also the day of an 8.30pm homegame (to which I had tickets) for my local sportsball team and BECAUSE Sunday was derby day, I still had to ride before the show.

sharing is caring
And stuff. I'm still sucking down coffee, though I'm pretty sure my veins are just running caffeine right now, but please bear with me if this doesn't make sense.

So Sunday.

Courage continued his streak of pretending that he never had a loading problem and we were off to the show! He unloaded great, hung out at the trailer fine, and when I tacked up and headed to warm up, I had my normal, rideable horse and not the fire breathing monster I'd schooled in the dark Saturday morning. (Thank. God.)

I dunno why y'all rave about ride times, because the show was running like 40 minutes late, so I ended up being on C pretty much forever. I probably should have been more disciplined--I started a nice warm up, realized how far behind they were, and then mostly hacked until they were ready for us. I was happy with how I rode and happy with the horse I had. We were doing intro B, so there isn't a change of direction at the trot even.

I will say that walk is not Courage's strongest gait, and there is a lot of walking. Anyways. I was happy with my test, not thrilled with my score. Life goes on.

Courage had a nice, long break at the trailer with hay. He did remarkably well. I mean, now he has to be tied on his own side on account of trying to breed Bacon last time he was at a show with her. Oops.

ground poles buddies ftw
When we got on to head to XC (for the super-competitive ground poles division), I actually felt ok. A little bit like dying, but not bad. Honestly, it's the best I've ever felt about this whole field-jump-thing with Courage, ever. We gave our buddy a lead over to the field and then headed out, first on course.

About a third of a step after our first pole, Courage decided the grass was filled with HORSE-EATING SHARKS and they were HUNGRY and he had NO CHOICE but to SPIN AND RUN FOR HOME.

Grass sharks are the worst, y'all. They're invisible, so you never know where they'll be next.

the XC boots make us badass
Unlike our May derby experience, where the sharks attacked and we spun circles until I remembered how to kick and racked up two refusals, I never let Courage turn around. I kept my leg on and my hands forward and we may have trotted sideways, but by golly we were still trotting.

Courage remained extremely suspicious of the far edge of the field (which we had to go by 3 times) and the whole ride was about settling him instead of worrying about high options or being competitive. But hey. We had no jumping faults and I'm really happy with how I rode, considering that just a few months ago, I simply could not do it.



It happened again. Last obstacle towards home.

Not gonna lie--I'm pretty proud of us. :-) I sort of doubt we're going to move up or actually event or do anything at all with this. I mean, the xc phobia is real and it makes the whole process not fun for me.

That said. I am really happy with the improvements in my riding and how it translates to my horse. I was able to salvage something that would have completely overwhelmed me in the spring. That is very cool.

Also very cool? Check out my ribbon collection from this year.

Blue and red, baby. (My inner realist must point out that there were never more than two in any derby division that we did, but the dressage ribbons are legit.)

Onwards and upwards.

Or rather:


(where sideways trotting is encouraged instead of heavily penalized)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Fun, Take Two

By the time you read this, I have already commenced the hell that is the first weekend of October. In lieu of commiseration, here is a collection of memes from the last week. Enjoy!

This week brings us no kittens and more bonus dog. And hey, a rare less-awkward-than-normal appearance by everyone's favorite beagle. (No really. That picture doesn't even register on the awkward scale for my poor beagle. He's... special.)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Happy to be Wrong

I've always maintained that it doesn't matter at all to me whether I train my horse or someone else does. The relationship with the horse matters and having good rides matters, but how we get there is a non-issue.

And that's still true--I mean, the horse I loved the most came to me broke-to-death at 17 and we had a glorious two years together.

But lately, Courage has impressed me. He's learning a lot. He's trying hard. One day, we'll get somewhere cool (2nd level?) and I'll be able to say that I did almost all his training myself. I don't mean to downplay the fact that he has had trainer rides, but he's never been in a regular program with anyone other than me.

In the past year, it really has been all me. My dressage trainer has sat on him twice.
August 2013
September 2015

For as much as I've always said that I didn't care, it actually feels really good to be able to say that I did this myself.

We have a long ways to go and a lot still to do. Truth be told, we're just starting to dip our toe in to the hard part of the journey--we're very close to maxing out my dressage knowledge.

Which means a whole new chapter. Together.

I can't wait. <3

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