Friday, April 29, 2016

Male Seeking Soulmate

The other day, I wondered what it would look like if Courage tried online dating. We all know he's a character, and I think it would go a little like this:

Fabulous, fun loving guy searches for height-challenged curvaceous soul mate. 

I'm reformed speed demon learning to love suburban life and luxuries. My idea of a good time is a walk in a safe, well-lit environment, culminating in a review of local theater while enjoying a sampling cookies. The finer things appeal to me--I'd rather shop all day than get dirty. I give great feedback on fashion, style, and art. I love big curves, fun accents, and hard things. Just don't ask me to belay you--I have a deep-seated taphophobia.

Snapchat me! I'd like to check you out.

M seeking M/F/other for romantic relationship or friendship.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Winning, Losing, and Riding: Thoughts From a Former Kid

I recently ran across a personal situation in which a kid was pursuing a complex sport that the parents knew next to nothing about. The situation reminded me strongly of my own childhood, so I wrote a note to the parents in hopes it would help them clarify the situation, their roles, and what was in it for their child.
unrelated attractive pic

1) There's nothing wrong with being hands off as a parent. 

To this day, my dad doesn't know what color/gender/type of horse I had or even really what we did with it. He and mom made sure I got where I needed to be when I needed to be there, but it was on me to arrange transportation for my horse, make sure I had the correct equipment, was adequately prepared, and knew what forms to get to what people. 

This was hard for me. I was a really shy kid, and it terrified me to call people in my club each week to ask for horse hauling. The net result was that I learned to develop working relationships with adults who could help me. I learned to network and find creative options. I learned to be grateful for the kind people who were willing to help me, and I learned how to verbalize what I needed and when I needed it. 
2) There's nothing wrong with losing. 

This is one of the most important lessons. Whether or not I was a good rider at home, I wasn't a particularly good rider at horse shows, especially at first. Part of that was riding borrowed horses, part of that was not having much show experience, part of that was nerves. I lost a lot. I lost in horribly public and humiliating ways. I not only got disqualified in all the usual ways, I invented new and creative ways to lose. 

I have lost far more horse shows than I have ever won. I learned far more from losing than I ever did from winning. Losing taught me that preparation is everything. Losing taught me that life isn't fair. Losing taught me that no matter how embarrassing and horrible a loss was, the sun still rises and life goes on. Losing taught me to be humble. Losing taught me how to empathize with people who struggle. Losing taught me to take what I'm handed and keep on trying, no matter what. 

Winning feels good, but feeling good isn't really something most of us need a lot of practice at.
shake it off
3) Preserve your relationship with your kid.

As I mentioned, my parents knew nothing about my sport of choice. I'll probably never forget the day my mom tried to rush me getting ready for a lesson and put my saddle on backwards right when my instructor walked around the corner. Thanks mom. ;-) I really appreciated my non-horsey parents though. In my observation, the parents who knew the sport forwards and backwards were frequently the parents that sabotaged their own relationships with their children. 

My mom knew to pack food, sit here, and not talk to me before classes (I knew to be polite and keep my distance when I felt stressed). My dad learned how to memorize courses and talk me through them before my classes so I wouldn't miss basic things. Beyond that, they were hands off and we were stronger for it. They didn't pick at me, share my stress, or try to control me. They knew I was prepared and they were there to cheer for me (loudly and inappropriately, always), make sure I was fed, and be supportive, no matter what. 
It was important that they were there. One of my clearest memories is at one of my worst horse shows ever--I'd fallen off TWICE in front of everyone. I was hurting and humiliated and disqualified and I wanted to pack up and go home. My Dad came up to me privately while I sat on the (hateful) horse in tears and wanted to sink through the ground. He told me that he didn't care if I ever rode well or ever sat on a horse again after that day. Life was bigger than horse shows. He cared about what kind of person I was and no matter what, I couldn't quit right then. I could quit tomorrow. I could quit next week. But that day, no matter what, I had to finish what I had started. 

He was right. I finished. It was horrible. It was years before I ever won anything and it wasn't until my adult life that I was really any good at much. I'm still not great at riding, but I 100% know that I am a stronger, better person for what I learned through participating (and losing) at sports as a kid.  

My dad still can't tell you what color/gender/type of horse I ride and that doesn't matter. The character lessons I learned from losing and trying anyways mattered far, far more to me in every aspect of my life than winning ever did. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Try and Fail: Follow Up

Because my addictive personality requires that I obsess over everything and because I realize I a little bit sounded like a princess in my post about Courage and I having troubles, I thought I would clarify a few points here. 
this is good
1) I have a plan. In consultation with an actual vet, Courage is getting his teeth done hopefully this week.

In fact, before consulting said actual vet, I consulted Dr. Google, DVM (through COTH, source of all knowledge), and ran across this factoid:
Teeth problems would (maybe) explain a lot of things. Fingers crossed on this one for sure.

1b) I have taken other advice under consideration--we're ruling out teeth first. Might be behavioral and we can address that as well. Might also be something much worse and scarier, but we'll cross that bridge when/if we get there. My money is on teeth.

2) The showing thing.
clearly not showing
I made a comment that there were no recognized shows for me if this doesn't resolve something like instantly.

That comment was made for a very specific reason.

There are two (count 'em) recognized shows in my area. One is in May, entries due ASAP and the other in in June, entries due shortly. So while I have no doubt we'll have this whole thing sorted out this summer sometime, there exists a very real possibility that it won't be sorted in time to make either show worthwhile for me. Plus, May show will be a very large chunk of change for me and I simply can't justify it if Courage is a wild card.

Which he is. More than normal. Right now.

3) We all know it's not proper obsessing unless it necessitates a tack change.
So we're trying that too. I can't make the dentist happen any faster than the current rate (glacially slow, if you're wondering), but I can try new toys.

How are y'all feeling about the drop?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Teach Me Tuesday: Blogging?

If you're an equestrian blogger, the odds are you aren't rolling in the sweet, sweet cash that your hobby-turned-profession dumped in your lap. You aren't famous, you don't have a reality tv gig lined up, and aside from the people you already knew, basically no one knows who you are. Or cares. (At least, that's my experience. Ymmv.)

But still. Having a blog is kind of cool and it a little bit changes the way you interact with the equestrian world. I mean, if I didn't need blog content in December, there's no way I would have been shooting pictures of a how-to on wrapping liners for the blog when it was 9f.

I tend not to tell people I have a blog. I do have a blog facebook page because it's supposed to be a traffic driver (or at least, it is if you remember to update it). Once or twice a year, I write a post that I feel so strongly about that I will also share it through my personal facebook page. My personal friends all know about the blog, but I hardly go around introducing myself as a blogger.

And regularly, I'm surprised when people (who I know peripherally) come up to me and are like "hey loved your post on XYZ". To me, it makes sense that all y'all internet folks read blogs, but it's a little strange that real, actual people do too. I mean, it's not like strangers are recognizing me and I'm turning down endorsements over here or something, but the fact that anyone takes the time out of their day to read what I have to say is humbling. It's not like I'm a really cool person or something, you know?
pictured: much cooler person. my horse.
So how do you handle that in day-to-day life? Do your barn friends read your blog? Do you link to it on your personal facebook? Do you hide it and pretend you're totally normal? Do you expect people to read it and have conversations with you about it?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Try and Fail. Repeat.

It's tempting to cherry pick good screenshots right now and pretend everything is rolling along fine, but it's not. Last week, my somewhat-icky rides progressed to "might as well not bother" levels of ick rides. I knew that Courage was WAY overdue for bodywork, so I just stopped riding until he could get an appointment.
but it is a pretty great screen shot
But that wasn't magic. Courage's body felt better, sure, but he was just.not.cooperating. Like. Forget recognized first level this year. We won't make it around training level at a schooling show right now. It's bad. Doesn't matter if I ride my butt off. Courage is not going to play.

And there's nothing like a series of shitty rides to make me feel like I'm just pouring money into a sewer because I don't like it weighing down my purse. I don't know if I can fix this. I especially don't know if I can fix it in time to make pouring $$$ into a recognized show next month worth it.

I do know that my best attribute with this horse is that I have a really good feel for what he needs in a given moment (not just arrogance--verbatim quote from a respected clinician regarding our partnership). Instead of feeling burned out by what looks like a disappointing failure to reach a goal of over a year, I choose to focus on the horse I have right now.
a magnificent unicorn
who learned how to move his back
by kicking the wall
and leaping off the ground
I'm pursuing some other avenues this week to see if I can find a root cause for the yucks or if Courage has decided just not to play for the present. In the interim, we're trying other stuff.
so cute amiright
You know. Like when it drops 40 degrees Fahrenheit and blows in a storm overnight, so I decide it's a great idea to start riding Courage in a hackmore with zero stopping power. Yes, on the same day I took all the leaping pictures. I'm not just crazy--I knew Courage needed some play time, and once he played, I just kinda knew he was going to be fine.

Which he was.

It was actually very interesting--Courage has been hollowing and inverting and fighting me with the bit. Take that away and after we got past his initial "um wtf lady" response, he was fine. Nose poked out like a hunter, yes, but poll a little below his wither with lots of licking and chewing. I let him worry about him and I focused on re-training myself to ride completely from my body (and turn right).

It wasn't magical either. We didn't even trot. But hey. I'm of the opinion that horse training is less rainbows and pixie dust and more wet saddle pads and putting in the time anyways.

That's where we're at. It's not pretty. It's not very good. It's definitely not linear.

But I'm enjoying having a horse I can hop on and do dumb stuff with on a cold spring day and not feel like I'm going to die. If the rest comes later, great.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Behind the (metal) Scenes

I assume you saw the most kickass thing done in show clothes (yet) last week. CONTEST IS WIDE OPEN, SO GET YOUR ENTRIES IN.

What you didn't see is how we got to that level of awesome. 
it all started with pink day...
So I got to Alyssa's house first. She made me sit very still and not talk for a loooooooong time.
but i kept taking selfies anyways.
Then she and Lindsey got to work.
fun times!
wheeee makeup!
 I got bored and wandered around the house taking very metal selfies.
what is happening in this picture
all your soul are belong to us
 Eventually they got bored of me being antsy and made me do my hair.
yes that is her bored face
In case you were wondering, this is what scary Lindsey looks like behind the scenes.

Alyssa didn't take any sass.
my face when Lindsey told me to take my crown off
Then things got a little crazy.
we call him Director Goat
he's very metal
Alyssa busted out the big camera for non-selfie pictures, which you have already seen and will most definitely see again.
takes two goats to direct a red head
this goat also a makeup artist
Lindsey got to run the camera for Alyssa's pictures. She had excellent supervision.

Alyssa is the real metal fan among us, so she was probably a little frustrated at how long it took to get this picture:
wait how do we do metal hands again?
The whole thing was amazing and we are definitely plotting more shenanigans in the future. 
you'll never see us coming

Thursday, April 21, 2016

On Making a Trot

One thing that stuck me when I read a clinic write up on Charlotte Dujardin a few months back was her assertion that a horse needs a good walk and canter, but that "[she] can teach the trot". My first thought when I saw that was "well good for her, but we can't all be Charlotte".

Of course, I have the horse that I have and I'm not trying to make it anywhere in particular. I didn't exactly run out and buy a purpose-bred dressage horse with big, lofty, desirable gaits. Courage is perhaps a better-than-average mover. Cute, even. Not world-beating by any stretch. Frankly, that's fine with me. I can ride him. His movement doesn't scare me and on the occasions I've sat his trot (mostly to ride through spooky stuff at this point), it doesn't bounce me out of the saddle.

His trot is fine. He doesn't have a bunch of suspension and he likes to be tight in his back. Whatever. It's rideable. On account of me-not-being-Charlotte, I like rideable.

And that's just what it's been. I'm an average rider with some issues. Courage is a better-than-average (no, not biased) horse with some issues.

And then we started learning our trot lengthenings.

At first they were rough, fuzzy at best, and had a lot of breaks into the canter. Which was fine. We were learning together.

Then they got a little clearer and a little better. For some mysterious reason, they actually got better to the right before they did to the left, but whatevs. They still weren't amazing. We were starting to get the idea.

I don't like to drill anything with Courage, so the day after a decent ride we either hack or throw him on the lunge for some no-pressure leg stretching.

wait WUT

I do believe that's what we call a "moment of suspension".

And there is such thrust! And topline is happening. And um did anyone else notice it's all in a halter where he can literally do whatever he wants?


That made me all excited and I wanted to see it under saddle, but alas, this has been the week of technical difficulties.
This is sort of a shot of it in our lesson, but all the actually good sections of video fell victim to a phone malfunction. Whoops. And then I had a really good ride with another videographer, but she was also kinda broken at the time, so the angle was no good. (As in all the good trot was from directly behind us).

I did snag a picture of Lindsey riding Courage, but my phone was not feeling the epic-dust thing, so you're welcome for the rather-intense blur.
So yes. The girl who LOVES trotting pictures is all excited because now there's a different level of trotting pictures available, but ALAS I cannot provide you with really spectacular trotting pictures at this juncture.
closer. still nope.

I guess what is a surprise to me is how much adding in baby lengthenings that are far from perfect has improved every bit of our trot work. Courage is finally understanding a really solid contact. He's moving his back. He's accepting a little pressure.

I'm not saying that he's Valegro all of a sudden, because obviously he's not. What is happening is that I'm learning I don't have to be Charlotte to teach a trot to a normal horse.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Demon Right Hand, Round II (at least)

Longtime readers might remember my ongoing problem with my demon right hand. I thought it sort of went away because yay! Not jumping! 

But I was wrong.

So wrong.
who's not surprised?
In a lesson last week, my trainer told me to change direction through the circle. I did my best, but Courage did this engage-power-skid sideways move and it looked more like the first ride on a three year old than like an 11 year old horse who's about ready for first level dressage after three years off the track.

Before I could say "wtf is his problem horse is obvi broken", my trainer was like "uh yeah let's do that again but like WITHOUT the death grip on the right rein".

I would have argued with her about that assertion, because I sure didn't feel any death grip going on, but given that it's been an issue for me before, eh... yeah. She was probably on to something. So we changed directions roughly a million times and I learned something very important:

I actually can't turn right.

Oh, and my body awareness sucks. Still.
but we look ok left, so yay!
I did finally sort of figure out how to turn right, but it went like this: "ok left rein up with contact. Then sit up. Then outside leg. Also turn shoulders. That includes right shoulder. Yes, right shoulder, right hand forward. That means do something with elbow. Soften with inside rein maybe? AH STOP GRABBING! BACK DEMON HAND BACK NO WAIT FORWARD THROW IT ALL AWAY JESUS TAKE THE REINS"


It sort of works, but it takes forEVER.


The lesson migrated from outside to inside, which means smaller space and less incentive to turn--I mean, the walls of the arena basically turn my horse for me. That's way easier than taking 5 minutes to make a right hand turn because I have to brain through the whole thing. Right? What could possibly go wrong?


Let me tell you what could go wrong. (boring video here. more if you click around)
Mighty C-rage buck
I could just keep right on pulling with my right hand while asking my horse to canter right.
Eventually my trainer was just like "two point around the arena in canter and FOR GOD'S SAKE STOP PULLING ON THAT POOR CREATURE" and C cantered around pretty ok. 

Of course. 

And I was like "obvi horse broken and unrideable obvi". 

So because I am the world's best friend, I made Lindsey come out and ride C and didn't tell her he was broken and totally unrideable. I did tell her not to pull with her right rein, because I'm not some sort of maniac.

Funny story: he cantered right like a totally normal horse (which I of course didn't take video of, but here's unrelated video from the same day).
look at the pretty picture!
So uh. I thought the reason we weren't quiiiite ready for first level was my horse's clearly insufficient training (done by me), but actually it's looking more like the weird demon right hand problem again. Any tips for an exorcism? 
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