Friday, June 24, 2016

Horse Girl Problems

This year, I am attempting to have somewhat less of a farmer tan and MAYBE even off-white (as opposed to see through) legs. Mixed success on that front.
Roxy has problems too

Part of the initiative involves wearing those swanky sunshirts I snagged in sales in the off season. Right? Keeps the sun off, which helps keep people from getting cancer and also limits the amount of sunscreen I have to wear which probably also helps reduce the risk of cancer. Plus they're trendy. Aside from showing every possibly unflattering lump, what could be wrong with these trendy beauties?
yeah that's me and lindsey #noshame

Cough

I call it the "sun shirt line".

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Small Step for Dressage, Giant Leap for Courage

Anymore, I try not to do ride write ups. Courage and I aren't doing any cool tricks. Day in and day out is just simple consistency and giving him time to learn. We vary what we do--toodling days, hard dressage days, transition days, slow walk work days--whatever he needs in the moment. It's fascinating to ride, but not the most riveting reading.
winning the outfit game
Last week, we did a lesson with my trainer. Courage was on it and reasonably solid. I have some jumbled video I need to go through, but the most important part for me was riding through our tests. I did a sufficient First Level Test Two and then stopped to get feedback. Trainer pointed out that I rode the test, but I didn't set him up to be successful. It's not enough to do the movements on the paper. I have to think ahead and be proactive.
he's so handsome
So we rode another test and she coached me through it. Instead of just trotting through the corner, then kicking for a lengthen, I had to shorten into the corner, coast through the corner, half halt out of the corner and then send him forward about three times per lengthen across the diagonal. Simple things like that. Also important: "on this horse, straight lines are not your friend".

It was one of those lessons that isn't earth shattering in what we worked on, but the principles needed to be reinforced for me. Not riding movements--riding the horse I have in the moment.
sometimes that horse is fancy
I felt like I made some great breakthroughs, but what made me even more excited was putting Courage on the lunge line later in the week. He's a horse that really does well with lots of ground work and lunging so he can figure himself out without a rider up, and it showed. Usually I take a zillion pictures of him and then root through them until I find one that looks good.

Not. So.
 It was kind of magical--he kicked things into a whole new gear in the trot. He had to work through canter transitions a few times, but once he figured it out, he floated into the canter and then offered this amazing, slow, balanced, cadenced canter that I didn't even know he had.
I can't quit you
Fascinating. Mysterious. Sexy. No wonder I still have this horse.

The next day I rode him.

YOU GUYS.

OMG.

I dunno what clicked for him, but there are gears in there I didn't know he had. Judging by his reactions, he didn't know either. He was powerful and forward and light and balanced and yes, of course I was riding alone with no witnesses.
but color coordination=win. are these breeches amazing or what?
See, Courage has this move he does usually in the right lead canter--if I sit too deep or ask for too much, he does this almost-invisible hop to get me out of the tack and let him stop loading his hind end. It's a strength issue and careful conditioning is making it a lot easier for both of us.

But that's how I knew the gear he dropped into was as surprising to him as it was to me--I was getting the "hop" while trotting to the left. THE LEFT. TROTTING. That's his good side in his easy gait.

I pushed my luck a little and asked for canter. He didn't quite magically lift into it like he did on the lunge line the day before, but when he got there?

OMG YOU GUYS.

It's the canter dreams are made of. The canter that makes me forget galloping and jumping. It feels every bit as good as it looks and it looks freaking amazing (I mean, for first level for us, you know).

He's not strong enough to hold it for more than a lap or so of the small indoor arena, but not one time did he panic or flail.

This canter. <3 It was worth waiting for. We have a long ways to go to get strong and confident and consistent with this newfound level of awesome, but it is so freaking exciting to know it's in there for someday.
so yeah i'd say he's pretty sexy

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

See The Change--OTTB Conformation Update

For almost a year there, I barely posted an progress pictures. Then I did one last week and now I'm like RAWR CANT STOP ME NOW, so here you go. Conformation progress, one shot per calendar year.
This is Courage on July 26, 2013. It's the night before he left the track and two weeks after his last race.
This is spring of 2014. Courage had a good chunk of the winter off and was just starting to come back into work. We were still attempting jumpers/eventing with mixed success (my code phrase "mostly failing").
Summer of 2015. Courage has been at the dressage barn about eight months and was successfully competing in training level dressage.
Summer 2016. We've putting putting in the long, slow, methodical miles in the sandbox. We're about 6 weeks from celebrating the three year anniversary of Courage coming off the racetrack.

Huh. Pretty cool to see it laid out like that.

PS I know it's not kosher to take conformation shots with wraps on but I like wraps and he's not for sale, so y'all will just have to deal. His lower legs are no more or less ugly than they were on the track.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Teach Me Tuesday: All By Myself

So many times, I tell people I'm working with Courage 95% completely on my own and they immediately say "oh but it will be so cool when he can do X and you know you did it yourself".

Will it?

I've only spent time on a made horse once in my life, and let me tell you, when we were soaring over giant oxers, I wasn't sitting there going "goddammit someone else rode him through his green phase".
No. I was 100% having a blast and loving every minute and it did not matter to me one teeny bit that he came to me knowing absolutely everything and that I didn't put a single button on him. Well, I did teach him to put his ears up for photos, but that was hardly difficult.

Obviously, it's been a different journey with Courage. We're going in a good direction now, but I sometimes wonder if we wouldn't be better off if someone else had ridden through his shenanigans. I'll never know, but it's something to think about.

So tell me. Does it matter to you whether you trained your horse or whether someone else does?

Monday, June 20, 2016

A Supposition

Courage and I have been to four shows this year (if we count a two-day dressage show as one). He's been incredibly good at two of them and incredibly bad at two of them.

Now, obviously there are a LOT of factors that go into both of those, but there's one factor I wanted to play with: braiding.
hot mess

You see, he was totally rideable at both the shows we didn't braid for and a loony toon at the ones that we did.

That's weird.
lovely

We did braid for one show last year, but that wasn't until he'd been getting out and showing a lot and then we had other issues.

So here's my hypothesis: Courage is a sensitive horse that likes to be tight in the neck/back. Tight braids exacerbate that tendency and increase the amount of tension I have to ride through.

To test said hypothesis, I read Austen's write up of how to do her fluffy loose braids, bought myself some yarn and a needle, and went to work.
I was really, really glad I was doing this in my free time at the barn--it definitely took a few braids to get the hang of it. By the time I got to the last braid, I finally figured out a specific method I liked best and of course, next time will be better.
Here's the really interesting part. Courage is an old warhorse who's totally used to be being messed with and pretty well lets me do whatever. He does hate mane pulling, but he tolerates it without escalating. When I braid, he just stands with his head down and lets me go nuts. No problem.

HOWEVER.

When I finished putting in the floofy dutch braids (which are super loose and don't pull his hair), I stepped back to admire my handy work.

He instantly started licking and chewing and yawning and stretching and it went on and on and on.

He got really in to it.

He's never had that reaction to braiding before. Not even sort of. He's always just been sort of resigned to his fate.

What's more (since I have a lot of time on my hands), I then tacked up and threw him on the lunge line.
uh yeah i'm in love with this picture

stretching

relaxed

covering ground
I mean, a big storm was rolling in and he was a little up, but he gave me some of his best work yet. A huge part of that is all the under saddle work and lesson (sorry, need to do a write up) we had, but he was slow and cadenced and even sort of looked like a dressage horse.

Obviously, the braids didn't turn him into a dressage horse, but I'm starting to wonder if they might be another piece in the puzzle for us. I mean, when I took them out in his stall (with scissors because whoops didn't get a seam ripper), I didn't even halter him. He just stood next to me with his head down and his eyes closed and let me take my time.

That's... unlike him.

Of course, to fully test my hypothesis, I need to ride him in braids, both at home and at shows. Until then, I'm intrigued by my preliminary results.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Or Not

Without getting overly personal or detailed, let's just agree that 2016 is a shitty-ass year on a lot of levels, and every time I think something will work for me, I get blindsided with something else dumb and out of my control.

blinded by his own shine
Yeah so that happened again.

I now have a lot of free time and no money, so we're definitely not going to a show this weekend or for the foreseeable future. I'm trying to see it as an opportunity to fine tune things we need a lot of help with.
like braiding
or taking conformation shots
and cool dressage stuff
With any luck (don't hold your breath), I'll be back to work shortly. In the mean time, how great does my horse look?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Handy Hints for Online Shopping

As I mentioned, the campaign to pay for the Precious is ongoing. I have certainly done my fair share of buying online through the years, but now I'm doing more selling than normal. I've now compiled these experiences for your benefit.
don't sit in things you can't afford
For BUYERS:

1) READ the ad carefully. Some adds are shoddily written, but still contain a lot of the necessary information. If you have questions, by all means, ask.

2) Understand how offers work. If you don't want to pay the asking price but do want the item, it is 100% ok to contact the seller and offer the amount you would pay. That's negotiating. It's legit.

It is not ok to message and ask, "What's the lowest you will go?"

I'm struggling to explain what should be self-evident, but it's already listed for what I want for it. That is the lowest I will go. I'm not going to be like "LULZ JK actually only want a third of the price." No.
definitely try on boots that don't fit
3) Understand how offers work part II

There's making an offer and there's insulting the seller. I don't have a hard and fast rule here--on a higher end item that is fairly priced for the market (not for your budger--your budget is your problem), It's generally ok to offer about 10% less. That's not saying the seller will take it. Do not offer a tiny fraction of the price and expect it to go well.

Now if something has been sitting on the market for a while and the seller keeps dropping the price or adds an OBO to it, sure, shoot over a number. But if it's brand new? ;-) Give a good post a bump.
so much Back on Track!
For SELLERS:

1) The net result of a post bump is a post bump. Even if it's dumb.

I hear so many sellers complain about potential buyers asking stupid questions or tire kicking a facebook ad. Here's the thing--the way facebook works, even if it is the WORLD'S DUMBEST QUESTION, that bumps your add back to the top of the group and puts it in front of more people. So does your response to that question.

Sure, it can be annoying, but it's traffic and traffic gets things sold.

2) Price items fairly. This is a big one for me. I was raised by thrifty parents and I am the QUEEN of never paying full price.

Fair=fair market value. This is pretty easy to determine generally--what are similar items selling for? You have to compare apples to apples. Used bridle to used bridle, not used to new. My general rule on shopping for used items is simple: I'll pay about 60% MAX of the new price (unless it's a specific and trendy item with market value exceptions). The older an item is, the less I'm willing to cough up. The big exceptions here are trendy-brand (read: French) strap goods and saddles.

Saddles very widely--an in-demand used saddle can hold it's value relatively well, if it's the popular seat size and specs. Those ancient Crosby PdNs? STOP TRYING TO SELL THEM. Seriously. No one on the planet wants one.

3) Be clear and answer promptly.

In an instant marketplace, I want answers relatively quickly. I don't mean wake up in the middle of the night to answer a dumb question, but within 12-24 hours, you should be able to answer questions and pass pictures on to buyers. If you ignore a buyer, they're going to find something else.

I think I pretty well covered it.

All that to say, I'm moving a bunch of stuff to assist in paying for the precious, so if you need something, hit me up.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We Go to a Horseshow Part the Third and Final



Yesterday was a weirdly emo note to leave off on. I was very, very confused. Frustrated. Not angry, not really sad. Just sort of in this weird brain space where nothing felt right or good or bad or anything. I wasn't (and I'm not) mad at Courage. I was just stumped. I couldn't point to things that should have changed. I can't fix it and I can't make a plan, because I don't know what's wrong. Or if anything's wrong. Or if it's normal. Or if it's me. Or if it's him.

I read some articles and talked to one of my favorite hot OTTB experts and window shopped for first level horses, which confirmed that I can't afford them. And then I did what everyone having a weird horsey-crisis should do--go back to the show grounds to crew for a friend.
gotta scratch the itch

The weirdest thing happened.

I saw the hellmare.

And see, I haven't seen her in almost five years. She and I had a hate/hate relationship and after some complications with her sale, I have no contact with her owner. Which is fine. They deserve each other.

So I'd spent the previous 24 hours thinking I needed a warmblood and then I saw the one I used to own and watched her go around. And yeah. She's still gorgeous. And fancy. And all that.

Oh, and she's 100% still evil and I don't miss her for a second. I didn't want to ride her. Or see her. Or pet her. Or anything.
enough about that bitch. let's talk about this guy.
And I guess in a really odd way, that sort of put it in perspective for me.

I can't afford a made horse, which means I have to make my own.

Making my own is going to mean bumps in the road.

The bumps I had with the hellmare made me want to quit riding entirely.

The bumps I have with Courage are confusing and confounding, but he's not trying to kill me.
um plus how cute are we?
 And the more I think about it, the more I'm ok with it. All of it. Courage had to learn to do all the movements in the tests slowly and at home. Now he's learning how to put them all together in the dressage court and it's hard for him. It's going to take time and patience there just like it took time and patience at home. He's still my horse, the one I can't wait to see and enjoy figuring out.
well. most of the time.
We're not brilliant this year. We're not even very good. It hurts my pride to get terrible scores because I know how much better we're capable of, but the only way to prove that is to keep working.
enjoy the journey
One day at a time.

PS does someone want to buy me nice show gloves? Size 8. In case you were thinking that my sad, dead crochet gloves need to go.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

We Go to a Horseshow, Part Twoooooo

Yeah so. That happened.

And by "that", I mean a big overnight temp drop from 101f the day before to 66f at my ride time.

So that wasn't super awesome.

What was awesome was that Courage loaded up and went to the show, unloaded, was sort of ok, and ended up being w/t rideable in the warm up. It wasn't great, but it was ok. (Also there was a crop duster plane flying overhead, so that's cool too.)
and i like this picture
What was less awesome was how Courage was like NOPE CHUCK TESTA in the arena. That first lengthen diagonal in first two? Yeah bolted it again. Last time we did that, I blamed myself for pushing for more power. This time, I was literally like "we will just trot around this corner and ignore the lengthen part", and C was like... well, like this:
but we stayed on our line of direction, so that's cool
The canter was semi-rideable, which was great. It was maybe the first time we picked up the right lead at a show without me just chanting "please don't bolt" over and over. There were moments in the trot that didn't completely suck. But most of them did (completely suck). It's really quite horrible. You can watch first two here if you're mega bored. Or just want to be catty. Whatever.


I didn't feel like I was being tense and making him worse, but I'm not ruling it out. I mean, I remembered my tests. Well, there was one trot transition I did at C instead of M and got a 3 for, but in general I was thinking and managing the horse under me. Lindsey doesn't think I was breathing, which I suppose is possible.
also apparently i desperately needed to shorten my reins
Courage was just SO.TENSE. in the arena, complete with a 180 degree pre-test spook at nothing (?) and just being so tight through his back. So tight. Losing rhythm. Up periscope. I tried looping the reins to give him somewhere to go, but that just got us worse charging-forward-out-of-balance and starting-to-panic, so.
stride two inches long
The judge nailed me to the wall for not riding forward, which was fair, because I didn't. (In fairness to me, that's because Courage couldn't handle it, but she didn't know that and can't/shouldn't accommodate it.) She loved Courage and said he had a lot of potential. (Which I think is true and is why I'm busting my ass for this damn sport anyways.) She gave us two 58s, which was fair given our (lack of) performance. Just once, I'd like to get a "tactful ride" comment or something instead of straight up "ride your nice horse more forward you useless lump of shit" because well. Sigh.
but we got satin so yay satin!
I don't know where I'm going with this. It wasn't a great show. It wasn't even a good show. I got off and was like "lulz so glad not trying to show recognized", then got home and had an email from the recognized show next weekend that they'd found my unsubmitted online entry that I bailed on because $$$ and they were like "hey thanks for the entry you'll get ride times ASAP".

And then I had some margaritas and decided it was a sign and what the hell.

Because let's face it.

Either I'm locking up and riding like shit and screwing up my horse

or

He's locking up and going like shit at shows because he doesn't get out enough

or

I don't know, I'm cursed and will always suck at shows.
like the only moment that didn't suck
And the only way to settle that is to go do a couple opportunity classes and see what happens.

Or maybe that's the margaritas talking.

Maybe they're on to something.
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