Monday, August 31, 2015

Memo Officially Missed

See, every time Courage and I have done well at a show this year, he painfully and unsightfully mutilated himself in the days leading up to the show. This is remarkable, because in general, he actually takes quite good care of himself.

I had signed him up for a show last weekend.

The show got cancelled for reasons out of my control.

Apparently he didn't get the memo, because he did this:
day 1

day 2
It's kind of a cool and unique injury--I thought he got kicked, but he was turned out by himself. Also, there is a corresponding mark inside that right front, but it doesn't have all the cool swelling. That could mean he put his leg through something, but A) there wasn't really anything to put a leg through and B) he is definitely not a horse that would handle a situation like that calmly. He'd probably end up removing his entire leg if that happened. What happened? I have no idea.

I guess I need to be really obviously clear to him that we are not, in fact, showing on the 12th and if he could just keep all limbs attached, that would be dandy.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Finding Our Way. Together.

cutest thing you've seen all day?
Courage and I have had our ups and downs, as I've attempted to document here. I'm not kidding when I say I was one missed trailer ride away from sending him out to be sold this spring. I was tired of his shenanigans and awfulness and I was ready to be done.

But there was a critical miscommunication, Courage didn't leave, and the longer we're together, the more I realize we're right for each other.

I was watching videos of us the other day, and I saw a striking comparison. Here's Courage and I a year ago. This is an fairly standard training day.

It's fine for where we were at and there's nothing terribly wrong with it.

But here's Courage and I in a lesson last week. Again, fairly standard training day for where we're at right now:

gettin' buzzed
He doesn't even look like the same horse to me. Instead of going upside down and sort of bouncing off the bit, he's learning to go correctly and trust the contact.

We obviously have a long way to go, but I'm really excited about where we're at and how much we've changed.

It's not just the material gains I'm excited about either. The other day, I sat on Courage with the reins dropped on his neck while an advanced dressage horse did a lengthen canter right next to us, and I didn't even pick up the reins.

It's not because I'm stupid. It's because I know him and we're starting to trust each other.

 To us, that's the most important thing.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gender in the Horse Show Arena

Instead of talking about how I'm super bummed that our schooling show this weekend got canceled, let's talk seriously about gender and horse shows. 

Everyone knows that equestrian events are the only international sport in which all human genders compete side-by-side on equal footing.

It's what's under them that I find fascinating. 

HORSES. Stop being pervs. 


being a good gelding
I've always thought geldings got the short end of the competitive stick, metaphorically speaking. I mean, let's face it: they never ever get to know what all that junk is for, but they still have to pack it around. Oh, and everyone's all:

"You can't beat a good mare"

"There's something missing from geldings"

"Geldings are reproductive dead ends"

And some people even argue in favor of stallions. I know I did in my stall-cleaning days. Those buggers are freakin' TIDY. 

I mean, I maintain that people tell themselves lies about mares to make up for the misery of owning them, but I realize I'll get some hate for that. I have no interest in owning a stallion for any reason, and I think most ammys are there with me. I feel like geldings get run down for not being "brilliant enough", 

Then the other day, I listened to a mare owner (the poor, deluded soul) explain to another how her brilliant creature needed special riding and care because of her giant opinion, all I could think was:

photo via internet

Thank you, Blueberry, for striking a blow for gender equality, common sense, and brilliance. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ode to the Trainer

November 2014
December 2014
February 2015
March 2015
May 2015
June 2015
August 2015
What is there to say? The change is addicting.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Teach Me Tuesday: Pony Rides

Pretty much if you have a horse, you've gotten the "can I have a pony ride" request for your horse.

And if you haven't, I want to know what planet you live on.


Anyways. I used to not ever get those because Courage was straight off the track and possibly not always the picture of sanity, but now that he's doing really well, it comes up fairly regularly.

There's definitely a side of me that thinks Courage is a fancy show horse and shouldn't have his training derailed, but I'm also actively pursuing a fun, broke horse, and a great way to do that is to pile a bunch of kids on and make him deal.

So we give pony rides sometimes.

How else do you address the pony ride issue of horse ownership?

Monday, August 24, 2015

3 Awesome Things About My Entire State Burning Down

1. Epic smoke/dust+sunrise pictures

That's all I've got.


Unless you count considering taking up smoking so I at least get some sort of buzz out of wrecking my lungs.

Someone remind me what rain feels like? Does it still do that out there?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Bright like a Diamond

DQ practice
Earlier this year, I purchased the consummate sparkle browband to go with my PS of Sweden dressage bridle, and I adore it. I mean, the thing almost glows.

(Sweet picture of myself and Jodi at Racing to Ride provided by Jodi. Yay blogger visit!)

Of course, due to being a dressage person now, we obviously need ALL THE SPARKLES.

so fancy
Hence, Courage got a custom bonnet with navy trim and white piping and a double line of sparkles. It's very fitting.

(You want? It's like $42 shipped to duplicate via FUN Bonnets. Love them.)

But that wasn't enough. Let's be real: there's never enough sparkles.

I've known the face behind Topline Leather for a pretty long time now, but her gorgeous creations are much too $$$ for my poor self.

But when she came out with swarovski skull charms, well, obviously I had to hop on the band wagon. (I never used to be in to skulls before Beka. You guys have gotten to me!!)

So I guess you might say that's a lot of bling, particularly when it's paired with an alreaady-chromed face.

But wait, there's more!

he is obviously thrilled
It's my birthday later this month.

It was Helmet Awareness Day not that long ago.

You can see where this is going.

I talked the wonder hubs into buying me the sparkle Charles Own for my big present. I thought about going more "conservative" and staying with the black sparkles, but let's be real:

There is nothing conservative about bling. Wear it proud.

PS If we ever do make it to the hunter ring, I'm SOL on helmets. Oops.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back on Track Dressage Saddle Pad Review

Back on Track products have been all the rage for quite some time now. I've been slow to jump on the bandwagon because it's a very expensive bandwagon to be on and I had enough of those already.


I snapped up a pair of polos a couple months back because a local friend was selling them for a steal and I wanted them. Then I found another pair for another steal.

And that set forced me to jump on the Back on Track band wagon. Courage is a princess OTTB who likes to stock up random legs willy nilly, have massive overreactions to tiny cuts on the regular, and generally get odd fill in odd places that make me not happy. I found that with the Back on Track polo wraps, the random swellings would go down faster and stay tighter than leaving the legs bare, using boots, or using standard polos (to ride. Never leave polos on overnight).

it does look lovely in action
THAT fascinated me. I mentioned my impulse buy of a Back on Track saddle pad a couple weeks back. I figured that Courage has a lot of miles on him and any little thing that might help is worth exploring. I love how it looks. I love how it's cut. I love the color. It sits great under my saddle and doesn't shift or bunch,

Honestly, I figured that even if it didn't have magical properties, it was still a very nice pad and I was enjoying it quite a bit.

Back on Track Dressage Pad in Navy
Retail Price: $90
What I paid: $90 and they threw in free polos

clean, tight, and rubbing

But then I saw it.

Courage was developing some thin spots in his hair, which is normal for his princess self in the summer. What wasn't normal was the very-odd placement.

I didn't put two and two together until after a hard ride the other day.

Oh. Oops. Sorry buddy.

huh I wonder if he's asymmetrical

I maintain that this is a very well-made pad, but the binding on the pad is more nylon than cotton, and it completely disagrees with Courage's very fine hair and low tolerance for anything strange.

Big sigh here. I'm very disappointed. I'd like to just say "oh, that's Courage, but I've never had problems with him rubbing in this location before and I've used all kinds of pads on him and never seen something like this.

I was hoping to come here and write a super positive review. I was really excited to try this pad out in the colder months, when it can take Courage a while to get warmed up.

Unfortunately, I'm pulling it out of the regular rotation for now and I really can't recommend it. It's a shame, because it's a really pretty pad and other than that, I quite like it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Greed and Pressure

also this spring
Courage is a horse that responds VERY POORLY to pressure. I cannot emphasize that enough. I am the queen of toodling and lackadaisical "training", so he and I work surprisingly well together most of the time, but sometimes I get greedy.

And that's bad.

For example. Last spring/summer, the very notion of cantering on the right lead in less-than-the-whole-arena (let's not call it a circle) would cause a pretty epic flail-fit meltdown. It was hard and he couldn't handle the mental pressure.

this. this took months to fix.
There are two schools of thought on how to deal with that--one is "keep applying pressure until the horse gives it up and learns to deal". The other is "back the pressure off and make things easy to avert the fit".

I recognize that both are valid, but I tend to fall heavily into camp #2. In general, it works pretty well for Courage. There are certainly things that need to be ridden through, but if I just keep ramping up the pressure on any given ride, I find we take large backward steps in our training that can take months to correct.

best. ever.
All that to say. I had a fantastic lesson on Saturday. Trainer C rode Courage for the first 20 minutes, and I rode for the rest. We made huge strides forward in understanding balance and connection and I have been THRILLED to work through the exercises on my own this week.

Monday, for the first time ever, I was able to keep Courage up and forward and balanced around a right corner on the right lead canter for several strides, without the fence to "babysit" him. Not faking it. Not leaning. Not crooked. Not braced. Not inverted. Not running. It was amazing. I let him quit for the day after that.

it's happened before
So Tuesday, I got greedy. He did a BANGING right lead circle. (Not kidding. So proud.) He cantered up the long side in a LOVELY connection, with a little weight in my hand while coming from behind. We made the turn at the top of the arena, and it was JUST AS GOOD.

And then Courage was like "GTFO OF MY BRAIN CRAZY BITCH AHHHHHH CAN'T EVEN CAN'T NO CAN'T JUST CAN'T" and we went galleaping (it's our special gait) all the way down the longside into a cluster of horses and pedestrians who THANK GOD did not die or get overly offended while I yelled profanity at my horse until he slammed on the breaks at the gate.

nothing to see here
(Slight brag: I stayed in the middle with one stirrup and an old cowboy standing there was like "wow, I would have needed to grab horn for that and you don't even have one.)

And someone asks "what did he spook at? I didn't see anything."

No. It wasn't a spook. That's Courage under pressure. It's all good until he can't take it any more, and then we're just DONE.

he deserves better
I feel bad about it, actually. We've been a pretty great team lately. He hasn't been blowing me off like this and we were actually making a ton of training progress up til now. I mean yeah, Courage absolutely needs to learn to deal with pressure, but this incident was my error. Instead of rewarding him for a job well done on a task I KNOW is hard for him, I got greedy and kept pushing for more.

It doesn't matter that he's talented. It doesn't matter that it felt good. It doesn't matter that I think this should be easier for him and that he should understand this by now. I pushed him past what he thought he could do, and he checked out. That's piss poor horsemanship on my part.

Courage is a very cool and capable horse. That's never been the issue. The problem is that I tend to forget that his mental game is far more important than his physical prowess. Bolting sideways and leaping is him screaming at me that he can't take it any more. It shows a huge violation of his trust of me, which means that I have failed him, and not the other way around.

our entire world is built on trust
So we're back to square one, again. I need to make some big, solid deposits in Courage's trust bank. He needs a mental break so he believes he can do this again.

And then I have to remember not to get greedy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Teach Me Tuesday: Barn Dogs

To tell the truth, I have always been 100% anti-barn-dog as an adult amateur rider. I think they're underfoot, in the way, spooky, and an accident waiting to happen. It irks me when people brings dogs to horse shows because #1 it's a goddamn HORSE show, not a dog show and #2 I hate having my horse spook at dogs.

On busy evenings, my current barn is really more dog park than horse barn.

And at first, I HATED it. HATED. No way around it.

Then I went to a horse show.

boss corgi investigates
And a dog trotted through the arena during a dressage test.

And I realized that even if it had been my test, my horse would have given no shits about it because he's so dog broke at this point that it really doesn't matter.

So while it still annoys me deeply when a dog blasts into the arena while I'm riding or pops out from behind the spooky jump pile, I'm learning to accept it. Life is unpredictable and the more prepared my horse is to face life, the better chance we have to succeed together.

Other thoughts on barn dogs, yours or otherwise?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Going to the Rodeo

Over the weekend, I hit a local rodeo with Redheadlins and Alyssa. It was super fun and low key. I was on foot and having a good time.

But the more I looked around, the more I wonder. I'm very particular about horses. I mean, when non-horse-people are like "oh the beautiful mustangs", I just want to gag. Do not like. 80% of the horses at the rodeo were solid, good-minded creatures that were quite pleasant to look at.

you should have seen them run barrels. omg.
A western saddle can cover a lot of ills, I know, but the horses were working animals first, competitive second.

In the team roping competition, the horses waiting their turn to compete stood in the arena. While the steer shot out of the shoot with two horses right behind him. Yelling. Ropes swinging. Music blaring. Dust flying. Cattle moving.

And not one of them moved a muscle.

looking the part
My first thought is, damn straight I want my horse to be like that.

The second? "I wonder if this is our world".

I've made no secret of my intense hatred of the ridiculous froo-froo tradition of dressing like upper-class white people in Victorian England to compete in our "sport". I get really tired of being put down by hoity-toity east coast elitists who refuse to expend half the effort I do to compete, but still think they're superior to me by merit of geography. I think all that is ridiculous. I want my horse to be a fun, all-around horse who does everything, which is never something you see in the dressage world, but is oh-so-common for rodeo horses.

can we make it happen?
I mean, there are obvious drawbacks, first of which is I can't rope for spit and have little ambition to learn (though the all-girl roping team was kick ass and I totally want to be like them when I grow up). I also don't want to fry Courage on barrels.

There are other outlets, though. Courage is good looking and good minded, and frankly, the idea of a cowboy-boots-and-jeans way of life is vastly more appealing than white spandex.

It's not a perfect outcome, but it's definitely kicking around in my brain now.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Much Video. Very Equitation. So Depressed. Wow.

There's nothing that makes me feel quite so incompetent as a rider as watching video of myself. Amiright? Like if I fall off, I'm all "eh, happens to the best of us", but when I watch myself floundering around on a horse in a video?

Yeah. It's bad.

I keep telling myself that video is GOOD and a TRAINING TOOL and we can use it to IDENTIFY WEAK AREAS and all that STUFF.

And those things are good.

It just doesn't make them any easier to watch.

In fact, the only thing that makes this experience bearable right now is meme pictures. You're welcome, internet.

You might notice these shots were taken on two different days. That's because after the humiliation that was video day 1, I rode my own pants off and fixed a lot of mistakes and had a really good ride.

Then I took a break, asked a friend to video, and completely forgot how to ride. At all. It was great. Like "oh Courage is tense and short? PULL REINS MORE AND TAKE LEG OFF OBV". Good job self. You really showed you there.

Yeah don't think that one is going on youtube at all.

But as horrible and humiliating and un-fun as this whole video experiment is, I do actually think it's helping. In between the moments of obvious awfulness, there are moments like this:

more stuff
It's really hard for me to watch that video and not feel rather intensely self-loathing. It's also hard to watch because lower level dressage is boring on a good day, so I guess if your videos are too interesting, that's also bad.

Despite what it looks like, I really think Courage and I are making progress. For serious guys. We have some moments that make me think our Big Goals might actually happen.

And someday, I will shorten my reins and quit rocking my upper body at the canter. Or sit up at the trot. Or... not.
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