Monday, November 28, 2016

A Non-Hopping Blog: We're Getting Somewhere and I Like It

There's a blog hop going around now that shows striking before-and-after shots of the horses of the blog world we all know and love.

That's great. Love that hop.

But I always think that to participate, one should have "arrived" somewhere, you know? Like JenS had Connor from when he was a teeny baby and now he's showing recognized. And Carly knew Bobby as the muleish baby, but now he's a muleish dressage horse who has moves and stuff.

I thought about doing a progression of fails, but people think I'm down on myself or my horse or something when I get too involved with that.

Or I can do this:
 But all that really proves is that Alyssa has always been pretty freaking amazing, since she took both shots.

I've been chatting with Emma lately, and she reminded me that I have this giant backlog of text and image-based media called a "blog" in which I can actually check up on my progress from year to year.

So I looked.

Here's Courage in February of 2016:
rope halter tells me this was a subpar day
And here he is in October of 2016:
tack tells me i need to be better about taking conformation shots
To me, that says a lot, but it also misses a lot. Yeah, Courage is turning into something truly beautiful. I'm proud of him and I'm excited for what we do together. (It's cool y'all--we're back on the upswing.)

What a before and after doesn't show is the ugly we went through to get here.

when he decided he was uncatchable

when we started bolting every diagonal in every test

when biting Lindsey was the best plan

when we opted out of cantering
I take a lot of pictures (you might have noticed) and sometimes it's tempting to create this perfect online image where nothing ever goes wrong and Courage is always perfect. That's not realistic. Sure, I can cherry pick those images, but what's the point? Courage is a real horse. I'm a real person. We have good days and bad days.

And while yes, I can definitely tell you that Courage is improving on the whole, we're far from "arrived" and the struggle actually is real.
so real 
But thanks to that giant media backlog, I can review stuff like this. Here's Courage in January all animated and prancing. Look at his slack topline. Look at his leg movement. Look at the quality of the canter. There's some nice moments in there, sure, but this is about as animated as he's ever been so that's the absolute nicest you'd ever see at that time.

But hey! There are magic phones in the future (aka now) too, so I took another video the other day. I was just videoing some free lunging to catch his movement right now, but then he got "wild" and I was laughing too much to stop. Regardless. Here's current Courage:

Now maybe I'm a little too obsessive for most of y'all here, but I see a different horse. One whose normal trot is hella better (and the animated trot at the end is pretty damn fancy). I see a horse who canters in an entirely different way. I see a horse learning to use his body and not just careening around with his back totally stiff.

And one thing I know for sure about Courage is that he has to learn how to do things on his own before he can start to offer it under saddle.
didn't have this last year

So yeah. We're in a hard place in training and no one who watches us is like "mind.blown. olympics are calling and only you will do."

But we're trending in the right direction, taking small, incremental steps, and what the hell. I believe in the little guy. I believe in us.
this is old style courage bucking. it fixes nothing. the kicking out is new this year.
I mean, I'm dorkily excited about his bucking--Courage has always been so stuck in his body that he does not "self correct" issues. Where a normal horse is like "my back is tight/stuck. I will roll or buck hard to fix it," Courage just sort of stays tight. It's bad. I dunno how he's doing on the rolling front, but learning to buck could be a game changer for this horse. Not even kidding. At a minimum, it means he's learning to use his body in a whole new way, which is AWESOME. Potentially, it also means he's learning how his body should feel and taking steps to keep it that way himself. Omg. I will take it.
uhhhhh yeah don't overthink that
Just hopefully not under saddle because DAMN SON.


  1. Now I am worried Stinker will actually learn to buck one day... Courage has changed a ton in the time you have had him! I also love Alyssa's photography.

  2. I love how weird and wacky horse people are, because not only are you excited about Courage learning to buck, but now you've explained it in a way that will make all of us excited for you also 😂

    In all seriousness though, good work. You guys are amazing, and inspiring. The difference in those two videos at the canter... Wow!

    1. Yeah I was trying to look at his trot,but the canter is REALLY obvious. Haha maybe next year it will be rideable?

  3. If bucking is a sign of talent I'm screwed - Taran can barely do a dolphin leap without falling down.

    1. Lol no not a sign of talent. Just that the lack of bucking and rolling in this particular horse is a warning flag that things aren't well, so I get stupidly excited when they start to improve.

      That said, most good Grand Prix jumpers seem to have a wicked buck. ;-)

  4. Photography is better when you have an attractive model, such as Courage ;) I believe in you guys too!

  5. i'm a massive believer in the small incremental steps forward, and in looking beyond the day to day ups and downs to see the bigger trend. and yea, Courage's gaits in the latest video definitely show a horse more educated about (and comfortable with!) using his body well :D

    1. I mean, I realize I'd be light years ahead if I just started with a horse that could already move.

      But I didn't. So.

  6. I'm with you..."we're trending in the right direction, taking small, incremental steps." In my case it's 2 steps forward, one step back. I guess that's the beauty of's like painting a masterpiece. Slow and one day beautiful.

    1. Very, very slow and you definitely have to step back to see the beauty most days, but it's still there.

  7. Replies
    1. Haha we're such a soap opera sometimes. Thanks for sticking with us.

  8. If it wasn't for the increments I wouldn't believe I was making any progress at all.

  9. I totally get this. It's so hard to show before and after shots of your partnership and where it started and what it's become. I have one meltdown picture of Brantley but since I was on my own for so much of it, I had no one to really capture the trials and tribulations of the blood, sweat, and tears. Only words. At least he was a scraggly nasty lanky looking thing when I first got him and it's such a difference now. But still, I totally get it and I've loved following you on your "Courage"ous journey <3 I can't wait to see what 2017 brings for you both as a team.

    1. I'm lucky to have so much captured on camera--the good parts and the bad.

  10. Ooof, good thing you figured out that he needs to work things out on his own before putting him under saddle. Hey, as long as he can get there, right?

    1. That's the idea. He's definitely making me a better and more intuitive horseman, that's for sure.

  11. Don't let anyone else's blog fool you -- between the "before" and "after" it's been ugly for us all!

  12. Replies
    1. Not gonna lie, after massively shitty ride no. 538 in a row, I get off and am like "goddamn that neck tho". It doesn't feel like we do much right, but his body is definitely changing.

  13. Progress is mental and physical and I think you're both progressing hugely in both regards!

  14. He's really developed nicely! My baby horse showed me he's learned how to buck with a human on him today. My bruised butt says he's quite good at it...


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