Monday, December 11, 2017

#Zoefabulous

I can be a little bit partisan about my horses, as in I always assume they are the best and get a little defensive if people imply they are other than perfect. This particularly applies to the special ones (Cuna and now Zoe).
SMOOSH

Example:

Me: How is training going?
Trainer: Well her steering isn't very good so we worked on it...
Me: 11/10 I can get this horse in and out of more places than any "fancy dressage horse" in this barn right now.
Trainer: ummmm ok?

Cough.

Possibly a recounting of actual events.
what no it doesn't count as me having 5 saddles in the tack room if i don't actually own all of them

However.

I also think that 1) a horse that can only be ridden by one person isn't really trained and 2) all people should appreciate just how fabulous my Zoebird is.

Hence, the past week has been marked by this:




Zoebird has been #Zoefabulous because who are we kidding, she always is.

And that's not me being partisan. It's just the truth. Ha!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Saddlessssssss

I sort of doubt Roxie's mom quite knew that she was adopting myself (and now Zoe!) when she initially was like "come ride my Roxiecorn!"
the Roxiecorn herself!

Hahahaha but now she's stuck with us. Joke's on her.

See, all my horses ever prior to Zoe were 50% thoroughbred or more. Which is fine. It just means that the same general sorts of things worked for them.

Pro tip: approximately 0 of those things work for a Zoebird.
i mean i guess if you duct taped like 3 ottbs together, you'd almost get this wide
And you know. Because I'm way too ocd to let things be "just ok" and must always tweak and get them to "quite good actually", I can be a little high maintenance.

I mean. Y'all ought to be REAL DAMN IMPRESSED that I have gone this long with a black bridle and brown saddle.

Anyways. My saddle doesn't fit. My back up saddle isn't something I want to ride in every day if I don't have to.
a very cute 4

HOWEVER my baby mare is four and basically just doubled in size in four months and, oh, I know NOTHING about saddles wider than like medium narrow.

That makes buying things kinda disingenuous, given her rate of change, as well as expensive because I have no frame of reference for what I'm looking at.

But also I can't just not have a saddle.
i'm really not a great bareback rider

Naturally I texted this entire monologue to Roxie's mom and then started sending her saddles I found for sale online like I DONT KNOW WHAT ABOUT THIS.

Lucky for me, she is a total hoarder who basically still owns every saddle she's ever liked. Also lucky for me, she was willing to loan me a few to try on Zoe. (There is a rather hilarious story about picking them up that involves me mocking her geography skills but karma getting revenge whilst I steered (with no brakes) my motorized toboggan through a mountain pass in a snowstorm, but that's another story for another day.)

She sent me this to-die-for totally gorgeous brown Albion in xtra-super-duper wide, then a slightly wider basic black saddle, then the super wide Roxiecorn saddle.
i really need to get a pic in better light
but then i might never give it back
Three options. Then I can try them all and play with them a bit and at least start to get an idea of what I'm looking for with my baby mare. Makes sense.

Ha ha ha.

First night at the barn, I just reached in the car and grabbed the closest saddle. It was black. I thought it was the less wide one. I set it on Zoebird.
the problem with the dark is bad pictures

And um.

You guys.

It looked real good.

I threw some fittings on. Lunged her. Sat in it. Really liked it. Puts me in a good place. Fits her really well. Maaaaaaybe needs a thin little half pad, but seemed pretty ok without it.
look! riding media!

I looked under the flap to check which saddle it was.

cough.
well that's real wide
Yeah the Roxie saddle. The uber wide one.
why am i surprised?
i shouldn't be surprised
Of course, the fun thing with babies is that if they're not done growing at 4, they're probably not done growing at 4.5 either.

But.

At least we have a starting point?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bootcamp Begins!

I'm naturally a very driven person who tends to be a little high strung. Which, whatever. That sort of personality is why I can have a horse as an adult--self aware enough to work on my own, motivated enough to make it happen when things are hard.
and i use dik dik pics as emojis

I aspire to be honest in this space, so without saying anything negative about past four legs, let's just agree that the level of explosiveness I have dealt with in the winter especially took it's toll on me.

In a twist I hadn't thought about, I really don't ride in the indoor arena at all except in the winter after work, when I am usually alone. And the weather is bad.

Which means I'm addressing demons I'd completely forgotten about.

With a four year old.

Who has limited buttons.
sometimes you gotta gallop for SEVERAL STRIDES

That has made the past couple of weeks interesting in that WOW I did not realize how far behind the curve I am mentally.

I think the whole thing shows up in an even more ridiculous light because of how completely and utterly non-plussed Zoe is by all of it. Like. I mean. The indoor arena footing got redone. There are now dressage letters on the wall and (gasp!) a black mark where a tractor tire grazed the wall. Most other horses in work are apparently losing their shit over the offending mark.
it's over there somewhere

And has ZS Zoebird so much as batted an eye?

No.

She has not.
oh look a mildly interesting tarp billowing in gusting wind
whatevsies

What's more, I'd say she's been foot-perfect indoors, but that would be leaving out just how incredible the little lady is. Not only have her feet been perfect, but she's totally willing and on-task and just... wonderful.

I mean, I gush over her, but that's because she's pretty freaking amazing.
also totes adorbs

Anyways.

I certainly have my issues to sort through and I will, but they're the sort of thing that take time and patience and repetition, which again, is fine. It's just not the best for advancing Zoe's training, because she already understands how to toodle around on a long rein while mom remembers how to breathe.
meme via Courage Has Opinions

I was planning to stick Zoe in pro training starting next month, but our trainer had room in her schedule to start this month. It's turning out to be a great arrangement--Zoe gets competent, focused rides twice a week by my trainer. I ride on the weekends and as I have time during the week. If my brain needs to toodle or do groundwork or whatever, it's fine because I know the training is still happening.

And the less pressure is on me, the more I'm able to pull it together and actually have a good time. I'm learning that when I ask Zoe to go, she puts her little head down and just motors and you know what?
closest thing i have to riding media right now haha

It's pretty damn fun.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Baby Mares: They Grow

dust. the season before mud.
I've been in absolute tack ho hysterics lately because it seems like nothing I own fits Zoebird anymore. Which like. Babies grow, I get it. But also she is four and sure people TELL ME that drafties grow through their seven year old year and yes, I've formed her life/training plan around letting her growing body develop, but also like the horse is four. How much is she really going to change?

Cough.

I'll just wait for y'all to quit laughing uproariously.

Okay. So. I was cleaning up my phone pictures the other day and I saw this:
is a baby!
That's a baby Zoebird the first day I ever met her. Look what a leetle beebee she is! 

Annnnnnd here's Zoebird playing in the round pen last week:
VA VA VOOM
And like. That isn't a fat horse you're looking at. Mare is solid. She's muscle. She's pretty fit. She was in great shape when she came too--nice weight, glossy coat, all that. 

It's just that in four months (I counted), she doesn't look like the same horse anymore. 

You can see it under saddle too:
one of her first rides
I think that was like... first few days of August? 

Annnnnnnd here's October: 
mmhmmm
Oh and if you're wondering what a curvy girl looks like without all the tack, well, brace yourself:
that's real round
IN FOUR MONTHS

boss corgi needs more coffee
So uh. 

That existential scream you just heard was definitely someone else saddle shopping. 

Definitely. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Houston, We're Out of Pixie Dust

If you've known me for ten minutes, you know I like tack. I like buying tack. I like to turn over inventory quickly. I like playing with new things. I like knowing about lots of different things.

It might surprise you to know that there's one piece of tack that I've had my entire adult equestrian life without replacing or selling.
2011 on the Hellmare
It's a super basic Nunn Finer hunt breastplate.

And it's magical.

I swear.
2012 on Cuna
I bought it to match a bridle I no longer own.

I used it when I worked in a busy training barn.

It fit literally everything from ponies to giant Irish draught types and everything in between. It's classic. It's super adjustable. It's sturdy.

2014 on C-Rage
It's just a solid piece of tack that's good to have around. 

Naturally, when I got Zoebird, it went on her too. 
2017 on ZB
I like having something to grab on babies and the adjustability meant I just changed a few things and off we went. 

Until. 

Well. 

Zoe is no wilting Victorian heroine. She's bold and strong and intelligent and well, she has curves that she is growing in to. 

You think I'm joking. 
she's a lovely lady

In the last two weeks, we went from a 48" to a 52" girth.

And the other night while tacking up, I saw this:
look past the haircut
Look close:
uh oh
If that looks like a Zoebird lady who is about to bust out of her horse size breastcollar to you, then yeah. We're on the same page. 

Apparently the magical Nunn Finer has finally run out of pixie dust. 
nope that is definitely not her bum peeking out of an 84" quarter sheet
Any recommendations on a new breastplate? I need size "real big". 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Training the Not-Hot Horse: Brain Problems

Fall weather is here. It's great, because I LOVE cloudy days and rain and cooler weather and pumpkin spice and hot tea and basically everything about it. 
Mirrors are amazing
Except.

After spending a good number of years on hot, reactive horses who, well, REACTED to wind and weather and things blowing around and strange noises, I'm realizing just how much baggage I drag in with me on any given night. I get tense. I spook at noises. I look for scary shadows.
ZB don't care. ZB is STONE COLD.
It's definitely a conscious process as I start to re-program myself to ride Zoebird. We've done a couple sessions in the indoor that were just groundwork or lunging, because I needed to know she'd be ok. (ZS Zoebird gives Zero Shits, obviously.) I have to remind myself to breathe, relax, look where I'm going, and just ride like it's any other day.
O HAI ZB INNA MIRROR
the great thing One of many, many great things about Zoe is that she's such a solid citizen. Gusting wind and pouring rain and creaky indoor noises and dark shadows and missing a day of turnout?

No problem.

It literally is any other day to her.
awwwww
For real. I turned her loose in the indoor (since no one else is crazy enough to ride on nights like that), and we just practiced our round pen ground work while she was foot perfect.

Then we saddled up and had a lovely ride, once I remembered to sit deep, not brace my knees, and keep breathing and moving. I mean. It was fine when I wasn't doing those things, but she isn't worried, so there's no reason for me to be.
unrelated selfie because the light is terrible at night
It sounds real weird to say I'm rebuilding my confidence on a four year old who was only backed this summer.

But I am. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Unexpected Bonus

I know I've said this a million times, but Zoe is unlike any horse I've ever had before. That's a good thing. I was definitely ready for the new challenges, but they are still challenges. 
um never had a horse let me do this before <3 
For example.

I started a new job last week, which is fantastic. However. It's mentally a lot of work to learn a whole different way of doing things.

Plus daylight savings time.

Plus fall/winter weather arriving.

All of which equaled not necessarily wanting to saddle up and go for it after work in the dark on a baby.

Especially on a baby who is a little bit coming into her own and enjoying the fall weather. Nothing she's doing is bad or unmanageable, but it means I need to get on and ride or like, not.
smooshes gotta smoosh
Here's the fun part though--Zoe starts bootcamp next month, which means I'm totally not worried about the riding. I can not ride from now till December and she'll still be #Zoefabulous, because that's the kind of lady she is. Or I can get on her and toodle and have her be absolutely foot perfect, then let her tear around the round pen after and see what a smart baby knows when she's working and when she's playing. (Did that too.)
such a fancy lady!
Oh yeah. Round pen.

We hadn't actually used said implement since Zoe graduated to the big arena for canter practice. It's out of the way and I hadn't really thought about it and I'm not really a "round pen" person in terms of wanting a horse to pointlessly run circles.

But when it's late and I'm tired and forgot my lunge line in the tack room? Oh hell yeah I'm learning to be a round pen person.
#effor
In our clinic, I learned that the canter is the key to improving Zoe's other gaits. Getting the canter under saddle right now takes more brain cells than I can rub together on some work nights, but 10/10 I can ask her to be responsible for her own balance and do a bunch of transitions in the round pen.

Another challenge I've been dealing with is that Zoe's bugaboo is loose horses running around--if the pasture horses take off when I'm working her, she gets very distracted. She hasn't been naughty about it under saddle yet, but it's definitely a topic we come back to.
unrelated but how cute is she?
I really don't like getting after horses a ton with a lunge line and dragging on their face/mouth. I also don't like the idea in a big arena that she might learn to get loose under duress if I were to lose control of the lunge line.

But you know how to eliminate those variables?

Oh yeah round pen. NIFTY.

So yup. Put her in the round pen. Horse outside went a little nutso. Zoe was like WUT R THAT MUST CHECK OUT and I was immediately able to send her forward and put her to work and get her attention back on me and work through it in a couple minutes without ever pulling on her face or worrying about losing control.
you're getting weekend pics because 1) we are adorbs and 2) the lighting is hella better
Also cool is just dealing with Zoe's brain in these circumstances. She's a naturally forward going gal, but she's happy to come back when I ask her to. Instead of like. Checking out and leaving. (One of us has baggage. #itsme).
this angle hides how dirty her tail is
I'm definitely looking forward to being back in the saddle and doing the "normal" sporthorse training stuff, but I love all the value I see coming out of our quick evening sessions too.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Not Dead, Not Quite Alive

We got a perfect storm of daylight savings time (hate), winter weather starting (ick), and real life getting kind of nuts (ok fine I guess). 
such a lovely lady
I haven't gotten in the training hours I'd like to with Zoe. 
but our selfie game is pretty incredible
I showed up as it was getting dark while a storm was blowing in the other night. Even in the stall, I could tell my sweet baby mare was #Zoewild and all I really wanted was a proof of life photo, so after grabbing said selfie, I stuck her on a lunge line and watched her run like a loony. 

I mean. As much of a loony as a Zoebird can be, which doesn't even register on the scale of "horse I've had in the past", but I definitely respected the little lady's self-expression. 
mmmm that ombre' tho
When she'd gotten the wiggles out, we did a little ground work and called it a day. 

And you know what?

It was fun. I smooshed her smooshy face and she was friendly and sweet. 
unrelated adorable picture
She officially starts grown up training with my dressage trainer here in a couple weeks, which will be really nice for my very-full schedule right now. We have a clinic coming up that I'm excited about. 
saddle situation=not resolved
We aren't doing anything ground breaking or cool or amazing. 

And it's still fun. 

Every day. 

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