Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Last weekend, I took my pilfered camera to the big recognized dressage show that's local to me.
this blog is about me and my horse but since i took these pictures, i give myself permission to use them
I love hanging out behind the camera because I can take everything in while staying completely invisible.
i am trying to keep pictures anonymous though

I watched people ride beautiful horses. 

Looked at the fancy ribbons.

Enjoyed the flow of well-ridden tests. 

And I'd be lying if I said I wanted to do that right now.

Honestly, just being there made me nauseous. 
I'm struggling to put into words just how much I enjoy letting ZB be my safe space and my happy place. I show up and just enjoy every moment with her. 

There's no pressure. It doesn't matter if we accomplish something today or tomorrow or next year or ten years from now. 
outfits always matter
I love her bold curves and zero-shits-given attitude. My hearts melts when she whinnies her daily greeting. 

She makes every day a fun adventure.
she is her own lady
Objectively, I want to show again. 


Not today. 

Not tomorrow. 
matching sparkle hats!
From now until then, I'll just be enjoying my best lady. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

No One Can Even

Many moons ago, I bought a sprenger mechanical hackmore off of blogger Alanna for a song. When it showed up, I realized it was roughly moose sized (which had I actually read the ad, I probably would have noticed) and yeah, it was never going on a petite Courage face. 

But guess who is moose sized?!
best baby mare!
and yes this is the smallest adjustment
I spent all day Friday watching fancy dressage horses do their thing and yeah, showing still sounds nauseating to me.

So I went back to the barn and threw the new-to-me hack on ZB.
old SB would have been horrified by this look
We did a lap around the outdoor arena, during which I established that ZS Zoebird gave exactly the number of shits about it that you would expect.
And yeah. Then we just headed down the ditch bank in evening light for our first solo excursion. 
If it looks magical, it was.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Happy To Be Wrong

I've always watched people having fun with their horses and thought that couldn't be me because somehow I was stuck on this idea that the horse I needed to be competitive in the show arena wasn't the same horse that made me laugh back in the barn. 
dramatic spring skies

And for some reason, I was more focused on the competitiveness than the fun thing.

The whole point of Zoe is that I was really sick of that mindset.

I didn't get two shits if I ever showed again.

I just wanted to have fun.
Now I have this incredible baby mare who whinnies at me every day when I show up. 

She's game to try every day no matter what we're doing.
best evening plans
She has this beautiful attitude where she's calm and brave and sees new things as fun adventures instead of scary predators. 

Her response to changes in her home environment is to march over and stick her nose on whatever it is and smoosh it. 
her days of fitting through a people door are limited
It's funny how much she's changed my entire attitude. 

She's the most talented horse I've ever had the privilege of owning. I'm closer to my 10 year goals that I have ever been in my life. 

And they matter less to me than they ever have. 
hullo hing leg
Don't get me wrong--I still want to show. I want to get my bronze medal on a horse I trained myself. I want to run one recognized event above BN. I want to have a great outfit. Get a 70%. Know I belong. 

But right now?

It's rather terrible content for a blog, because I enjoy every damn day. I have such a good time. I'm not freaking out and struggling. There isn't really a compelling story line because honestly, everything actually is awesome. 
selfie game even on point
I'm really excited about the lessons we're taking right now because each glimpse at the potential ZB has makes me even more excited for our competitive future together. 
But I'd be lying if I said that was the thing I enjoyed most about her.

It's the every day laughs in the barn that make this entire relationship worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

We Take a Lesson!

One of my (many) favorite things about ZB is that she's pretty damn resilient. With Courage, I had a strict protocol for how many times I had to see a trainer work with horses EXACTLY LIKE HIM before I'd even consider riding with them and since most sane people don't ride horses like him, well, it got complicated.

But with Zoe? I found out a barn friend was organizing a clinic with a trainer I'd heard of but never ridden with and I was like "hey cool sign us up!" because I knew that hey, whatever happened, ZB would be fine.

Plus I definitely need lessons.
had to get an outfit shot
Anywhoodle. I'd never met this trainer before, but she got out of the car like OMFG I NEED THAT OUTFIT FOR MY HORSE so I figured we'd get along.

Funny joke.

Actually she was like "this horse is not a super baby. She can go to work." And then expected me to like ride and shit? Pro tip: riding is hard. Especially if all you do is toodle and goof off and you are a lazy ammy.

We took a lot of LOOOOOOONG walk breaks and yeah they were a lot more for me than for ZB. (Thanks to trainer for getting ZB in shape and trained and stuff!)
Really important takeaways for me:

1) Because of her conformation, it is WAY more important to get ZB up in front and then come onto the bit vs pulling her head down to the bit. This is feedback I have gotten from every single professional who has laid eyes on her, but it's always worth reiterating.

2) Because of her disposition, it's VERY important to put LEG ON for a correction and then take LEG OFF to immediately reward. She's not a hot horse, so she needs to be sensitized to the leg. This is not rocket science, but since she's also my first not-hot horse, it's a different way to ride.

3) Effective position matters--ZB is such a different shape to sit on that my lower leg likes to just creep waaaaay back, which tips my upper body forward, which throws me out of balance. Nope. Leg at the girth. Toes forward. This engages my seat bones and keeps me balanced and actually makes a big difference.

4) Take the time to be correct--when Zoe leans in, I like to steer her out with the outside rein for an immediate correction. It takes a couple strides longer, but she is educated enough now to ask her to step out with my inside leg/seatbone (especially now that my seat bone is engaged thanks to #3).

5) The seat is an aid. This is a funny one for me--I used to have kind of a hot seat, so when I was riding hot jumpers, I spent a lot of time training myself to remove my seat from the equation or letting it be neutral. Now I'm riding a not-hot horse and the seat is an aid, so it's time to learn to use it correctly.
By the end of the lesson, I definitely thought I would die of exhaustion. However. I went in needing feedback on how to ride my baby mare and that's exactly what I got.

Can't wait for next time!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Terrible Fives: Baby Draft Mare Style

So last year I get this absolutely fantastic baby horse who is the champion of all things baby horse. She's calm and honest and straightforward and adorable and sweet and fun and brave and yeah basically I think she's perfect.
can you even? you cannot.

But anytime I said, "she's four" to other people, I straight up got the JUST YOU WAIT FOR THE TERRIBLE FIVES.

Which like. 1) Whether or not I'm having fun with my horse does not impact the amount of fun you can have with yours, so chill TF out about that. It's not like there's a finite fun pile and my heaping portion is taking away from yours. 2) While horses certainly start to push boundaries once they understand them, the whole point of ZB is that she's not evil or fried, so while yes, some resistance is expected, it's not like she's going to turn into some horrific hellion harpie.
well i mean. this aside lol. 

Now my baby mare is the dreaded five. She's been in training for a while and she's starting to really understand what we're asking her and where the boundaries are.

I've gotten a couple texts from trainer lately indicating that ZB has been less than 100% foot perfect. Which is still like 95% foot perfect, which I think is pretty damn good.

But hey. After spending most of a week out of state, it was time to hop on and reassess what was going on.

If you're not a video watcher (like me!), here's the relevant stills:
Her good moments were really super. 

She was cracking me up. She juuuuust figured out how to put the pieces together in terms of canter being an expected behavior under saddle so now she's like "HOKAY MOM I R CANTER LIKE GOOD BABY" and then after 1-4 strides she's like "R BERRY TIRED PLZ TO STOP NAOW HOKAY". 

But like. Constantly. Before I snagged this video, I couldn't get ten strides of trot without popping into the canter. Also #babyhorseproblems, we can't really canter and steer yet. 
I mean, when your baby mare "acting out" is just her being proud of herself for learning something hard? 

That's basically the cutest thing ever. 

Oh and this is what her good moments look like right now:
omfg baby mare champion
I was going to write a sarcastic comment here about "too bad she's not more fancy", but again after almost a week out of town, I came home and got on my baby mare with zero prep and had a super excellent ride and yeah... ZB is the best. I adore her. That is all. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Oh the People You Meet

I always say that my favorite thing about blogging is the people you meet. 
and the shared love of Teeny
A while back, Leah forced me to be friends with Teresa because it was inconvenient for her to have to keep up with both of us separately (or maybe she thought we'd hit it off? I guess I didn't ask). We have since all hung out with each other (notably when I invited Leah to Karen's house before even meeting either of them in person) (or when I showed up at Teresa's house literally two hours after she moved across the country), but not actually all at the same time. Yet. 
Anyways. Point is, I totally crashed T's party last summer and had a perfectly brilliant time, even if she was tired to the point of being incoherent and her horse randomly got the world's worst abscess (tm). And because she is a super nice person, T was A-OK with me coming back to her house this summer. So I did. (Again with the "I show up at people's houses" thing. It's real.) 
and then i used my stolen camera to take pictures of them
This time around, Gatsby was not sporting the mother of all abscesses and I actually got the privilege of watching T work with him, both at home and in a lesson. And on the trail WE WENT ON A TRAIL RIDE OMFG (details later).  
loving the reflections here
and the outfit. 10/10 i am plagiarizing that.
Point is, a lot of adult amateur life can be kind of lonely--we aren't always surrounded by people who share our passions or goals and we can't always make our schedules work and obligations to real life are well, real. I know Gatsby through T's blog and through our messaging, but hadn't seen him in almost a year. What's more, Teresa is always riding him and doesn't have a handy media person, so she hadn't really seen him go either. 
also her house is basically a storybook
It was so fun to take the opportunity to capture this pair as I saw them. They're goofy and real and high achieving and funny and curious and personable. I also definitely gave T a hard time about her screenshots--she really wasn't catching what her little guy is capable of right now, especially as he gets stronger and more balanced.
white kickboards are apparently the secret to indoor photography
Gatsby today is 100% a product of Teresa's hard work and unwavering belief in him. She's an incredible horseman and an incredible human. 
and he has an incredible tail, even if i cut her head off
and verily, it was awesome
Even on the trail, I was impressed by the calm, consistent way the horses had been handled. Because the trails were bad.ass. but the horses were just super the whole time.

In conclusion. Blogging is awesome because you meet awesome people. Look for ZB updates soon!

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Very Best Lady

I'm a little bit struggling with blog content right now just because things with ZB are so good. 
our take on handgrazing
I go to the barn. She whinnies at me like an actual Disney horse. I pet her and kiss her and feed her cookies and we toodle around and everything is awesome.
champion trail lady
We've been exploring the ditch bank together. I know from ZB's previous owner that she tends to be a bit herd bound, so I'm getting her confident going out in groups and working on installing buttons in the arena, and eventually I expect to have a calm, confident partner on solo trail rides.

And she might be that now.
tour guide!
But why go alone when you can take a friend?
she actually thought up this one
Even when we're hanging out at the barn--I try to find unusual things to address like standing on a random board or climbing in the sand pile or moving jump standards and opening gates from the saddle.

And like.
I can't phase her. Lil lady is brave and smart and curious and wonderful and I don't even get worried about weird shit anymore because I know we're going to be fine and we'll get through everything together.
I mean sometimes I get all serious and am like "ZB WE DO THE DRESSAGES" and she is like "HOKAY MUM I JUST BE PERFECT THEN" so like after 20 minutes, I'm thrilled and then I feel like we pretty well covered everything I expect out of her right now.
whoops apparently no recent dressage media
She's a nice moving little lady with a solid go button and she's 110% try every single day, so she's a total blast to work with. The other day we did w/t/c transitions on the bit and some baby leg yields and yeah color me impressed. She's already borderline the best dressage horse I've spent time on and she makes it so much fun.
I did get a text from trainer the other day telling me that ZB had been naughty. APPARENTLY she tried to stop and visit every time a new friend came in the arena.


I'd plead innocence on that one, but my barn buddy was sitting right there and almost fell off her horse laughing like "GEE WHIZ I WONDER WHO TAUGHT HER THAT".

So uh.

i taught her other things too ok?
The snow is melting off the mountains and I'm lining up people to go trail riding with. It's weird for me to be excited about attacking new challenges and not think I might die, but here I am and it's a total blast.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

hellomylivia hop: What I Didn't Know I Didn't Know

Olivia started this with one of the coolest blog posts I've read in a while and then Liz pitched in and now I want to give it a go. Here's what I would tell myself as a brand new adult amateur horse owner who just got handed the lead rope to the hellmare and all the things that followed:
aw look how i'm not on her

1) You have no idea what you're getting in to.

I rode as a kid, on lesson horses and half leases here and there. I worked hard and cleaned stalls and did 4H and never had the newest, nicest, or best, but I read everything I could get my hands on, spent every moment I could get at the barn, rode anything anyone would let me, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
best old man horse

2) You have no idea how much you need this.

Horses and horse people have been a driving force for good in my life on so many levels. The people I've met and connections I've made have shaped the life I lead today in more ways than I can count. No matter what was going on in the rest of my life, I was always surrounded by passionate, intelligent, driven women who became role models to me whether they knew it or not.

possibly our best jump lesson ever

3) Even your lowest moments will shape you in positive ways.

When I had my wreck on the hellmare and was too afraid to keep trying but too stupid to quit, I found a community of people to ask hard questions and help me find perspective. When I lost Cuna, I was surrounded by once in a lifetime friends who carried me through dark times I couldn't handle alone. When I had to let go of Courage, I was again among incredible people who helped both of us find a resolution.
and this is how you jump a bank with 3 broken bones
which is apparently a thing i can do
4) The horses are pretty great too.

Every one of them has something to show me and learning to listen and communicate, shape behavior and respond, has been transformative in my life. To me, it's not about the shows and the ribbons and the outfits. Learning to connect and trust another living being is a truly amazing experience and to me it makes the blood, sweat, tears, and dollars all worth it so many times over.

I love how horses can continue to evolve with us. My goals and approach now are completely different than they used to be. I'm more relaxed and more focused. I never expected to be where I am today, but now that I'm here, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Here's to the horses that made it possible.
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