Thursday, November 27, 2014

TBT: Cuna-style, Thanksgiving-style

such a fun weekend
I'm taking a deep breath this fall and emotionally processing all the things that have happened this year. Part of that is just talking about Cuna again--remembering who he was and what he meant to me. So here's a quick look back to fall of 2012. Cuna was still in work and doing great at the show barn.

In September, Cuna and I road tripped it up to the mountains for some specialized instruction and (my favorite!) trail riding under the trees. I'm still sad that we only took pictures on the day with little jumps, but Cuna and I did some of our best work ever. I should have been a little more dorky and measured one vertical. I think it was 3'3", but it might have been 3'6". It was bar none, the most fun road trip I've ever done with a horse.

great outfits for both
November got cold fast. I didn't know it at the time, but we were in for one of the hardest winters we've had around here. I guess the snowflake polos were quite fitting.

Instead of worrying about that, Cuna and I were focused on developing really quality connection. I had to figure out how to ride effectively and he gave me some incredible work. It was just a taste of what a well schooled horse can do.

Cuna was really the first time I ever got to spend time on a schoolmaster and learn from the horse instead of constantly teaching. If you haven't done that, I highly recommend it.

Ever the gentleman
December was cold and miserable, but a friend of mine who hadn't ridden in years came out and hopped on Cuna on a horrible, windy day.

He was a fireball for me, but he was sweet for her and even put his little nose down like a proper dressage horse.

I know Courage is wildly more talented at dressage now than Cuna was ever going to be, but that's not really the point. Cuna certainly had evasions and definitely threw fits and always expressed his personality, but day to day, I just loved being around him.

He wasn't a horse to me. He wasn't even "the horse". Cuna was one of the strongest personalities I've ever encountered and we just clicked. Call it BFFs, call it bosom buddies, call it love: it doesn't matter. It was a meeting of the minds and melding of lifestyles.

He's why I can't stand to see ammy owners trapped with horses they're scared of and unhappy with. I lived and breathed that horse and thought about him all the time. I was never, ever afraid of him and we attacked new challenges because we knew we'd come through them together.

He gave courage to me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ride the Brain

That, and his stunning good looks.
One of the things that first drew me to Courage was his totally awesome mind. I mean, yeah, he's kind of an asshole, but he's a smart, laid back asshole. He doesn't get rattled about stupid things and even if he does get upset by something, he can usually keep it together.

All that said, I wasn't sure what he'd do with the indoor at the new barn. To my knowledge, he's never seen one before, much less worked in it. He's not used to the sound of sand hitting the boards or the feeling of completely restricted vision or even having to make turns in a much tighter area.

Not uphill, but helloooo stretchy giraffe.
We had our first indoor experience on Monday night. It was dark and I was alone at the barn, so it seemed like a pretty good time for our first excursion inside.

Because Courage hadn't even seen a saddle in over two weeks and I don't have a deathwish, I did spin him around on the lunge line first. He did a little giraffing and was a bit fidgety when I asked him to stand still, but otherwise surprisingly settled.

I was blown away when I got on (yes by myself oh well) and he retained everything we'd worked on in our last lesson with S. Damn horse. You bad.

Not quite this low
Our next ride was even more remarkable--Courage got to see another horse in the arena with us for the first time. Then the other horse left us for the first time. The rider asked if that would be ok, and I very honestly told her we'd find out.


Yeah, he didn't even blink.

I was then in the middle of a very productive ride when there was this horrendous commotion in the stalls attached to the indoor. We stopped and had a look, then just carried on working on stretching low and low through upward and downward transitions.

First ride. Looking so fine.
I was going to just keep going, but after a few minutes I realized that one horse had taken part of the panel fencing down and now was actively trying to get himself hung up in the cockeyed panel. That seemed a bit dangerous, so I called it a day.

We're still adjusting to the new barn and the new schedule and the new people and all that, but I am just so thrilled with Courage right now. It was a big step for me to move him away from our comfort zone and be responsible for his training without the watchful eyes of Redheadlins every single day.

What happens when the sun comes out. No shame.
Courage and I are in a really good place right now. He's accepting me as alpha and we're making great progress together. That brain I loved is doing exactly what I need it to.

I'm looking forward to getting on the schedule for some dressage lessons and seeing what the on-site trainer (C) has to say about Courage. Hint: she thinks he's just the sweetest thing.

Happy early American Thanksgiving to everyone!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Teach Me Tuesday: My Love Affair

It's a holiday week (WOO WOO DAYS OFF), so it's time for a twist on Teach Me Tuesday. Here's something not exactly horsey that I absolutely love. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who has something to fess up to.

Last week, part of my barn duties entailed driving the tractor.

I love tractors.

It's something I don't talk about a lot, because it doesn't seem to be as much part of the common horse girl experience, but it's true.

It's maybe partially because I also have a real world job in the construction industry. I do all kinds of things, but when the heavy equipment comes out, things change.
also I love this picture

Not even kidding, there is this whole music video that runs through my head. It's like


Complete with crazy graphics and hip hop and gang signs and all that.

girl power on a horse show morning
Just when a job looks too big and heavy and insurmountable, BAM BITCHES FORKLIFT.

I come from a handy family and I take pride in knowing how to do things. I will judge you if you can't drive a standard. I used to be able to disassemble and reassemble the greater part of my engine in my old junker car. I can have an intelligent conversation with my mechanic, and I love playing with power tools.

Maybe it makes me weird. Maybe it's my western heritage. Maybe it's my job. I have seriously considered working to become a heavy equipment mechanic because OMG BIG TOYS ALL DAY. We'll see where that goes.

And don't even get me started on nail guns. They need a music video too.

So maybe not everyone is in to heavy equipment (get your mind out of the gutter). What's your non-horsey indulgence?

Monday, November 24, 2014

All Moved In

housework is better with a bonus dog
Despite my well-intentioned panic on Friday, the weather man was wrong (as per the usual, huzzah for being back to that!) and the weekend was downright liveable.

Or at least, it would have been if we didn't start it with 8 inches of snow. And ice.

But three days of almost 50f temps later, the roads are safe!

I ditched the housework and with the help of my wonderful BOs (miss them already, not even kidding), Courage got all moved in to the new barn on Sunday afternoon.

freaking enormous stall
I'm petty excited about the facility. There are maintained grass turnouts (didn't take a pic), a large outdoor arena (also no pic), a nice shedrow with a covered aisle (sensing a theme?), two horse barns (see pic!), and get this: AN INDOOR ARENA.

Courage lives in this huge stall. I should measure it. It's like... 15x15? Maybe 20? I don't even know. Massively huge. The attached run is pretty tiny, but it's enough to let him out in the sunshine on nice days.

He does have a very rambunctious neighbor who already tore a cooler of mine (bastard!), but there is now hot tape around the top of the fencing, so hopefully that's contained.

very impressed
After making sure he understood the stall essentials, I took him off for his first-ever indoor arena experience.

As you can see, he was wild.

We did a little groundwork. Somehow I have misplaced my fancy custom lunge line and since I don't know anyone, I didn't want to start out by borrowing, so nothing too exciting.

Not gonna lie, I really wanted to hop on and ride. I guess there is a limit to how many real life responsibilities I can blow off on any given day though.

this is me going minimalist
I put Courage back in his stall and got my stuff organized in the tack room. I'm trying the whole "less stuff" thing to see if that works for me. Plus I don't want to be the jerk that moves my fancy horse in with all my toys and then stages a hostile takeover in the tackroom. You know that person. Everyone hates them.

I tried to fit all my stuff (not including winter blankets currently in use) in one trunk, one saddle rack, and a couple of hooks. As you can see, I've already sprawled onto a second saddle rack for my cooler and quarter sheet, but I'm telling myself it's seasonal.

plus Courage got a girlfriend
There are a lot of great features at the new place and everyone I've met seems really nice. I'm looking forward to the shorter drive and extra free time to allow me to start running again. Or maybe clean the house. Or something.

I'm a little apprehensive about fitting in to a new barn group and there's a part of me that wants to go running back to our old barn, but I know this is where we need to be right now.

So. Here goes winter 2014. It should be interesting for sure.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Photo not current

Remember when I used to ride my horse?

I sort of do. I remember it being really fun.

that's why you have no friends, records
Anyways. We're sitting at over a week since the record breaking snowfall that shut down all important life activities (riding), and the roads are still dangerously slick.

Why, you might ask?

Well, everyone agrees that after our record breaking snow fall, we also hit record breaking low temps and I suspect, sustained said temps for a record breaking amount of time.

Needless to say, it's been miserable.

The 19f this morning felt positively BALMY compared to what we have been dealing with.

Herein lies the problem: because this isn't "supposed" to be a winter state, the county/city have basically just not plowed the roads.

Their rational is that it will melt eventually, I guess. Or maybe that magical snow fairies will clear it for them? Seems about equally likely around here.

 It's cool how no one in the entire city has to go to work or anything til the weather gods see fit to relent.

No wait. I mean IT SUCKS BALLS to drive in rutted ice constantly and rarely get to go over 20 mph.

my world right now
Oh, and that indoor I was talking about? My BO (she's the best) is all set to haul us there, but you know, not til we can reasonably expect to make the trip without dying.

Even if she was willing, I don't want my horse getting in a totally preventable trailering accident because I couldn't handle a few more days of coldness and misery.

smells like nirvana
The weather forecast (more snow, ho boy!) is making me twitchy. If we don't haul out this weekend (predicted high=38f on Saturday only), the whole world is supposed to freeze up again and I don't know when we'll get out.


When I write again, it might be from the comfort of an on-site indoor arena.

Or maybe I'll be bogged down in EVEN MORE snow and freezing rain.

Such choices. Much dilemma. Very shit.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New Horizons

If you keep up with my facebook or instagram, you've probably noticed all the cute snow pictures lately. I mean, how could anyone resist:
Lewis the Corgi!

Chaucer the beagle!

Chekov the bonus dog! (Thanks Jess!)

it isn't even sort of melty
There are even some cute Courage pics flying around (as if there ever weren't).

In case it wasn't clear--I don't live in a "winter" place. It is a totally freak thing that we got 8 inches of snow in mid-November and then the temps dropped below zero. It should still be riding weather for at least another few weeks.

But it's not.

And I'm shutting down on a level I haven't done before. I'm totally reconciled to the idea of taking month or six weeks off in the winter, but the idea of not riding until February or March makes me die on the inside, and that's the way it goes in winters like this.

Happy Holidays since it's apparently that time of year here
I'm sure you cold weather folks think I'm a wuss, but when the overnight temps are single digits and the day time highs are mid twenties and we're not going to see the arena again until February (at the earliest), well, I just can't do it. There is nothing in me that even wants to.

I don't know if I'm older or burned out from the last two incredibly horrible winters or what, but something in me just snapped last weekend.

I called up the riding instructor I grew up with who now has a lovely facility that's not too far from my house (but in the opposite direction of my current barn) and an indoor arena. She had one spot left and I snagged it.

I have really mixed emotions. I absolutely love our barn and the people are second to none. I will definitely miss it. That said, I'm going from one good place to another--the BO at the new barn was my second mom growing up and a dressage instructor, so Courage and I will take some lessons and ride inside and while it's still completely frigid, at least I'll get to keep progressing.

Deep breath.

I'm half tempted to start a countdown to the indoor.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Teach Me Tuesday: Horse Showing

Admittedly, dressage warm up was mostly ok
Here we go with another Teach Me Tuesday. I understand what horse showing is (I think), but I'm curious what it looks like for my fellow bloggers.

I like to think of myself as the sort of person who shows horses, but even if I squint a little, I have to admit that Courage and I made it to a grand total of one show this year.

And it was terrible.

plus technically one clinic I didn't ride in
There's lots of reasons for that--my car exploded, my job exploded, he's really green, etc etc etc. I was feeling kind of like a charlatan for thinking of myself as a "show person" when the sum total of my accomplishments for the year was one half assed show, but then I got wondering about it.

I'm a working adult ammy with no trust fund and a greenie. What does normal look like? Do you show? Clinic? Abstain? If you do, how often? To what end?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Let's Talk Hair!!

photo by Lauren - She Moved to Texas
I'm guessing most of you don't stalk my pony pictures QUITE this thoroughly, but if you do, then you've probably noticed that Courage's hair looks a little different than last year. It's not that I've forgotten how to turn a horse out properly. It's that I'm trying something new. Ho boy! Hair trend.

See, I've been watching pictures and videos of the big jumpers who go to the cool shows. Beezie Madden comes to mind, but I don't know how to get my hands on non-stolen photos of her. Anyways. Courage and I are aiming towards the jumpers and within the jumper ranks, I was noticing a fun trend I wanted to try.

photo by Lauren - She Moved to Texas
Noted: all photos not of Courage are by Lauren from She Moved to Texas and are used with permission. She will probably hate me a little bit for taking a few that aren't as perfect as the others, but I'm using the ones that illustrate my topic the best. 

Point is, manes are moving in the longer and thicker direction, while tails are staying thick and getting shorter. It's trendy. It's modern. It's cool.

photo by Lauren - She Moved to Texas
It's also wildly practical. The tail is up out of the way looking fabulous and not collecting dirt. The mane is thick enough to hang on to (I do that) or help keep flies off (Courage likes that). It's not as easily braidable (unless you do dutch braids), but I also hate braiding.

There are a lot of different examples floating around out there. I don't actually care for the mane of the bay in the second picture--it looks sloppy and scissored, which is always tacky.

he's so attractive. can't believe he's mine.

I don't let Courage do tacky (unless you hate stars, which means you need to get over yourself).

Thus, I've been carefully growing out his mane while keeping the ends maintained for a tidy but longer and fuller look. At the same time, I banged his tail. I want to keep it at this length for the time being and let it get a little fuller. Come spring, we'll see if I want to grow more length.

I'll be honest: after so many years of short, thin manes, I wasn't really sure I could deal with longer hair on a horse of mine. But you know what? I kind of love it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Whimsy: What a Tack Ho Isn't

Just a few of my pretties
There are some fun tack blog hops going around right now.  I want to do them, but need to remember to take pictures for them first. Oops. Anyways. Before this gets too out of hand, I think we need to clear something up. From one tack 'ho to some others(and the rest of you):

Saddle pad collecting isn't tack 'hoing.

Really. Unless we're talking about trendy, pricey half pads then yes, you're all in.

also pictured: not tack
But other than that, no. Saying that a saddle pad collection is tack whoring is like calling yourself a clothes horse because you like towels.

Wtf. No. Towels (and saddle pads) are essential linens with a specific purpose. There's nothing wrong with having lots of them or only buying cute ones or having matched sets or whatever, but at the end of the day, you're collecting linens. Everybody needs linens. There is nothing excessive about having linens. Linens are a cushy part of life in a first world country. I love linens (or at least the ability to dry off after a shower). I am in no way knocking linens.

like this one time i bought a whistle bit for literally no reason
But linens aren't tack.

Just saying.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winter is Coming/Ok FINE it's here and I hate it

cray cray
So yeah. Remember how it was all 70f and sunny and perfect and I was having all the pony adventures? Since like.. ever?

Well that's over with.

Cold front rolled in yesterday. I was at the barn Wednesday morning and it was 19f and windy and horrid and OH MY GOD NO I'M NOT READY FOR THIS.

Courage is, though. I had all his blankets clean, organized, and ready to go. He's rocking his new smartpak deluxe with the neck and has another one in the wings waiting to go on him.

yay water frozen on my coat
I also have winter clothes. I knew I'd have to break them out eventually, but I was thinking we could wait til like Thanksgiving maybe? Something?

In case you were at all unclear on this topic:




I don't ski. I don't snowshoe. I don't like being cold. I appreciate that my lack of an indoor allows my horse a nice, long winter break and helps his mind and body relax, but if I could figure out a way to be warm year round, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

At least I have this to look back at.

I mean, as long as you completely ignore my position (sorry), Courage looks pretty kick ass. We've been working really har don our lesson homework, and I'm thrilled with how quickly both Courage and I were improving.

Farrier is out next week, so I'll have to decide whether I want to shoe one more round and cross my fingers it's not real winter yet, or just pull them and be done with it.

Part of me really wants to ride. The other part is like 9f isn't riding weather! (That's -22 to you Cannucks.)

So. We'll see how much tougher I get between now and Wednesday. Also how much snow we get.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Teach Me Tuesday: Bridle Love

Showing off his bridle
Ok, here's a topic I totally get. I ADORE quality strap goods. Like that feeling I imagine other girls must get walking in to a shoe store? That's how I feel when I'm looking down a row of fancy new bridles in a tack store. OMG. MUST TOUCH THEM ALL.

But it's become apparent to me that possibly not all equestrians are this way. I do love JenJ over at Wyvern Oaks, and she's in the camp of "one is best kthxbai" when it comes to my most favorite piece of tack. Her way isn't wrong (even if mine is so very right), but I'm just curious where other bloggers fall in the spectrum. 

because sex appeal
Do you want ALL THE BRIDLES? Do you wish you never had to think about it again? Do you only use them for their specific functions or do you sometimes put your horse in a figure eight because of how freaking sexy he looks in it?

PS For some more bridle nerdery, run on over to the Dressage Nerd blog to read about the mythic symbolism bridles can have. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sexy Weekend Pics

um yeah. Also he has great hair.
Can we all just start by appreciating how ridiculously sexy my horse is right now? His weight is perfect, his hair is great, and yeah, totally loving my clip job.

Anyways. It's been a doozie of a week/weekend and I am not exactly in fighting shape here, so when S showed up to teach us on Saturday I sort of whimpered and whined and then she rode C-rage instead of me.

We meet again upside down neck
Given the shenanigans lately, I just wanted another perspective on what I was even supposed to be doing with one fit, good looking, arrogant thoroughbred.

S honed in on our problems right away. She also said Courage is a nice horse to sit on. I'm a sucker for compliments, so I'll take it.


The red circle on the picture is where Courage holds all his tension. He has a short neck and the moment he un-relaxes, that spot gets tense and blocks up all his energy.

Cool fall pic to make up for no lesson pics
And that is no bueno.

It happens in the walk and trot some, but a lot in the canter. Because S was in the saddle, I had her work on it and talk me through what I needed to do to take the next step forward.

The essence of it is that we need to do 3 things:
1) LOTS OF CANTER. He can't improve a gait he isn't working in.

2) Longer neck. Courage has a short neck, but that's not the problem. He needs to carry it a little lower and longer especially in the canter and build the muscles that allow him to be strong in that frame.

ogilvy doesn't match pad. it hurts me.
3) Ribcage control. To this point, when I've asked Courage to shorten his frame, he's compensated for himself by popping his ribs out one way or another. That isn't useful.

Oof. After watching S work Courage for a while (a long while), I hopped on and got a feel for what she was doing. My favorite thing she said was when we were talking about teaching a skill to a horse. She pointed out that at first we reward the horse for a correct response by walking and releasing pressure, but "horses don't get motor memory by not doing something". (It's a double negative, but the point stands.)

Which is to say, it's time to canter and canter and canter and build strength, stamina, and correct muscle memory.

He was REALLY in to selfies. Like more than me.
I crawled into the saddle on Sunday and was presently surprised by how willing Courage was to rehash the things from our lesson. It's not perfect by any means, but I could definitely see the progress both in my riding and his responses.

So here's to a new era of rolling forward in the canter with effective legs (me) and improved straightness (Courage).

And all the things.

I know I sound a little more incoherent than usual. It's probably because I'm so excited for our longtime friend and photographer Ellie buying a mare from my barn and starting her own blog! Go CHECK THEM OUT!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Challenge Accepted I Guess

The best at a flash and his dressage bit
I'd like to say it's all been sunshine and roses around here, but that's not technically true at all. For one, the sun has disappeared and all we have and fluffy grey clouds and intermittent rain.

Oh, and also Courage is on a challenging streak.

See, his race trainer always comes out to see him and says, "Hey Asshole," and they get along famously. But here's the rub: he's serious. Courage is not the sort of horse who just tries and tries and tries all day and bends over backwards to please you. He is the sort of horse that takes pride in being the best at things, but doesn't like to be wrong when he's learning and does like to push boundaries and find out what he really has to do.

It's not bad, per se, it's just who he is.

His innocent face
Once he establishes that he does in fact have to do something, he's just fine doing it. He's a bit lazy, so he doesn't really push that hard in the summer when it's hot, but since we've recently switched to not-summer (it's a season here), he's pushing all the buttons all the time.


Don't get me wrong. He's not being terrible. I'm riding through it. We're getting a lot of that boring "training" stuff done. He's getting more consistent in the contact and stronger driving from behind. He's learning to accept me as alpha all the time and pay attention even when the brain gerbils are going ALL THE DIRECTIONS.

I'd even like to say that I've been all super gung ho and like DO ALL THE THINGS COURAGE, but I haven't. I'm riding well because I need to ride well and I'm appreciating the progress we're making, but I'm tired and I kind of just want to go for a hack without losing half the marbles.
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