Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bootcamp Begins!

I'm naturally a very driven person who tends to be a little high strung. Which, whatever. That sort of personality is why I can have a horse as an adult--self aware enough to work on my own, motivated enough to make it happen when things are hard.
and i use dik dik pics as emojis

I aspire to be honest in this space, so without saying anything negative about past four legs, let's just agree that the level of explosiveness I have dealt with in the winter especially took it's toll on me.

In a twist I hadn't thought about, I really don't ride in the indoor arena at all except in the winter after work, when I am usually alone. And the weather is bad.

Which means I'm addressing demons I'd completely forgotten about.

With a four year old.

Who has limited buttons.
sometimes you gotta gallop for SEVERAL STRIDES

That has made the past couple of weeks interesting in that WOW I did not realize how far behind the curve I am mentally.

I think the whole thing shows up in an even more ridiculous light because of how completely and utterly non-plussed Zoe is by all of it. Like. I mean. The indoor arena footing got redone. There are now dressage letters on the wall and (gasp!) a black mark where a tractor tire grazed the wall. Most other horses in work are apparently losing their shit over the offending mark.
it's over there somewhere

And has ZS Zoebird so much as batted an eye?


She has not.
oh look a mildly interesting tarp billowing in gusting wind

What's more, I'd say she's been foot-perfect indoors, but that would be leaving out just how incredible the little lady is. Not only have her feet been perfect, but she's totally willing and on-task and just... wonderful.

I mean, I gush over her, but that's because she's pretty freaking amazing.
also totes adorbs


I certainly have my issues to sort through and I will, but they're the sort of thing that take time and patience and repetition, which again, is fine. It's just not the best for advancing Zoe's training, because she already understands how to toodle around on a long rein while mom remembers how to breathe.
meme via Courage Has Opinions

I was planning to stick Zoe in pro training starting next month, but our trainer had room in her schedule to start this month. It's turning out to be a great arrangement--Zoe gets competent, focused rides twice a week by my trainer. I ride on the weekends and as I have time during the week. If my brain needs to toodle or do groundwork or whatever, it's fine because I know the training is still happening.

And the less pressure is on me, the more I'm able to pull it together and actually have a good time. I'm learning that when I ask Zoe to go, she puts her little head down and just motors and you know what?
closest thing i have to riding media right now haha

It's pretty damn fun.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Baby Mares: They Grow

dust. the season before mud.
I've been in absolute tack ho hysterics lately because it seems like nothing I own fits Zoebird anymore. Which like. Babies grow, I get it. But also she is four and sure people TELL ME that drafties grow through their seven year old year and yes, I've formed her life/training plan around letting her growing body develop, but also like the horse is four. How much is she really going to change?


I'll just wait for y'all to quit laughing uproariously.

Okay. So. I was cleaning up my phone pictures the other day and I saw this:
is a baby!
That's a baby Zoebird the first day I ever met her. Look what a leetle beebee she is! 

Annnnnnd here's Zoebird playing in the round pen last week:
And like. That isn't a fat horse you're looking at. Mare is solid. She's muscle. She's pretty fit. She was in great shape when she came too--nice weight, glossy coat, all that. 

It's just that in four months (I counted), she doesn't look like the same horse anymore. 

You can see it under saddle too:
one of her first rides
I think that was like... first few days of August? 

Annnnnnnd here's October: 
Oh and if you're wondering what a curvy girl looks like without all the tack, well, brace yourself:
that's real round

boss corgi needs more coffee
So uh. 

That existential scream you just heard was definitely someone else saddle shopping. 


Monday, November 20, 2017

Houston, We're Out of Pixie Dust

If you've known me for ten minutes, you know I like tack. I like buying tack. I like to turn over inventory quickly. I like playing with new things. I like knowing about lots of different things.

It might surprise you to know that there's one piece of tack that I've had my entire adult equestrian life without replacing or selling.
2011 on the Hellmare
It's a super basic Nunn Finer hunt breastplate.

And it's magical.

I swear.
2012 on Cuna
I bought it to match a bridle I no longer own.

I used it when I worked in a busy training barn.

It fit literally everything from ponies to giant Irish draught types and everything in between. It's classic. It's super adjustable. It's sturdy.

2014 on C-Rage
It's just a solid piece of tack that's good to have around. 

Naturally, when I got Zoebird, it went on her too. 
2017 on ZB
I like having something to grab on babies and the adjustability meant I just changed a few things and off we went. 



Zoe is no wilting Victorian heroine. She's bold and strong and intelligent and well, she has curves that she is growing in to. 

You think I'm joking. 
she's a lovely lady

In the last two weeks, we went from a 48" to a 52" girth.

And the other night while tacking up, I saw this:
look past the haircut
Look close:
uh oh
If that looks like a Zoebird lady who is about to bust out of her horse size breastcollar to you, then yeah. We're on the same page. 

Apparently the magical Nunn Finer has finally run out of pixie dust. 
nope that is definitely not her bum peeking out of an 84" quarter sheet
Any recommendations on a new breastplate? I need size "real big". 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Training the Not-Hot Horse: Brain Problems

Fall weather is here. It's great, because I LOVE cloudy days and rain and cooler weather and pumpkin spice and hot tea and basically everything about it. 
Mirrors are amazing

After spending a good number of years on hot, reactive horses who, well, REACTED to wind and weather and things blowing around and strange noises, I'm realizing just how much baggage I drag in with me on any given night. I get tense. I spook at noises. I look for scary shadows.
ZB don't care. ZB is STONE COLD.
It's definitely a conscious process as I start to re-program myself to ride Zoebird. We've done a couple sessions in the indoor that were just groundwork or lunging, because I needed to know she'd be ok. (ZS Zoebird gives Zero Shits, obviously.) I have to remind myself to breathe, relax, look where I'm going, and just ride like it's any other day.
the great thing One of many, many great things about Zoe is that she's such a solid citizen. Gusting wind and pouring rain and creaky indoor noises and dark shadows and missing a day of turnout?

No problem.

It literally is any other day to her.
For real. I turned her loose in the indoor (since no one else is crazy enough to ride on nights like that), and we just practiced our round pen ground work while she was foot perfect.

Then we saddled up and had a lovely ride, once I remembered to sit deep, not brace my knees, and keep breathing and moving. I mean. It was fine when I wasn't doing those things, but she isn't worried, so there's no reason for me to be.
unrelated selfie because the light is terrible at night
It sounds real weird to say I'm rebuilding my confidence on a four year old who was only backed this summer.

But I am. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Unexpected Bonus

I know I've said this a million times, but Zoë is unlike any horse I've ever had before. That's a good thing. I was definitely ready for the new challenges, but they are still challenges. 
um never had a horse let me do this before <3 
For example.

I started a new job last week, which is fantastic. However. It's mentally a lot of work to learn a whole different way of doing things.

Plus daylight savings time.

Plus fall/winter weather arriving.

All of which equaled not necessarily wanting to saddle up and go for it after work in the dark on a baby.

Especially on a baby who is a little bit coming into her own and enjoying the fall weather. Nothing she's doing is bad or unmanageable, but it means I need to get on and ride or like, not.
smooshes gotta smoosh
Here's the fun part though--Zoë starts bootcamp next month, which means I'm totally not worried about the riding. I can not ride from now till December and she'll still be #Zoëfabulous, because that's the kind of lady she is. Or I can get on her and toodle and have her be absolutely foot perfect, then let her tear around the round pen after and see what a smart baby knows when she's working and when she's playing. (Did that too.)
such a fancy lady!
Oh yeah. Round pen.

We hadn't actually used said implement since Zoë graduated to the big arena for canter practice. It's out of the way and I hadn't really thought about it and I'm not really a "round pen" person in terms of wanting a horse to pointlessly run circles.

But when it's late and I'm tired and forgot my lunge line in the tack room? Oh hell yeah I'm learning to be a round pen person.
In our clinic, I learned that the canter is the key to improving Zoë's other gaits. Getting the canter under saddle right now takes more brain cells than I can rub together on some work nights, but 10/10 I can ask her to be responsible for her own balance and do a bunch of transitions in the round pen.

Another challenge I've been dealing with is that Zoë's bugaboo is loose horses running around--if the pasture horses take off when I'm working her, she gets very distracted. She hasn't been naughty about it under saddle yet, but it's definitely a topic we come back to.
unrelated but how cute is she?
I really don't like getting after horses a ton with a lunge line and dragging on their face/mouth. I also don't like the idea in a big arena that she might learn to get loose under duress if I were to lose control of the lunge line.

But you know how to eliminate those variables?

Oh yeah round pen. NIFTY.

So yup. Put her in the round pen. Horse outside went a little nutso. Zoë was like WUT R THAT MUST CHECK OUT and I was immediately able to send her forward and put her to work and get her attention back on me and work through it in a couple minutes without ever pulling on her face or worrying about losing control.
you're getting weekend pics because 1) we are adorbs and 2) the lighting is hella better
Also cool is just dealing with Zoë's brain in these circumstances. She's a naturally forward going gal, but she's happy to come back when I ask her to. Instead of like. Checking out and leaving. (One of us has baggage. #itsme).
this angle hides how dirty her tail is
I'm definitely looking forward to being back in the saddle and doing the "normal" sporthorse training stuff, but I love all the value I see coming out of our quick evening sessions too.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Not Dead, Not Quite Alive

We got a perfect storm of daylight savings time (hate), winter weather starting (ick), and real life getting kind of nuts (ok fine I guess). 
such a lovely lady
I haven't gotten in the training hours I'd like to with Zoe. 
but our selfie game is pretty incredible
I showed up as it was getting dark while a storm was blowing in the other night. Even in the stall, I could tell my sweet baby mare was #Zoewild and all I really wanted was a proof of life photo, so after grabbing said selfie, I stuck her on a lunge line and watched her run like a loony. 

I mean. As much of a loony as a Zoebird can be, which doesn't even register on the scale of "horse I've had in the past", but I definitely respected the little lady's self-expression. 
mmmm that ombre' tho
When she'd gotten the wiggles out, we did a little ground work and called it a day. 

And you know what?

It was fun. I smooshed her smooshy face and she was friendly and sweet. 
unrelated adorable picture
She officially starts grown up training with my dressage trainer here in a couple weeks, which will be really nice for my very-full schedule right now. We have a clinic coming up that I'm excited about. 
saddle situation=not resolved
We aren't doing anything ground breaking or cool or amazing. 

And it's still fun. 

Every day. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Wherein Zoë Has An Opinion

Zoë is a fascinating horse for me--she is so cool, yet so different from any horse I've ever spent time with. She has this fantastic "let's do something" attitude. She is 110% try. And she's just so... straightforward?

This past week, I was stressed about things outside the barn and it definitely impacted me when I showed up. I was tense and spooky and not a great influence.

Zoë is a champion, so she still brought her A Game and was lovely.

But then Friday was cold and windy and blowing in a storm and I was alone at the barn, so the smartest thing to do seemed like putting Zoë on the lunge line and go a little forward. Every time I asked for an upward transition, she was a little resistant. Not naughty per se--just a little head shake and DONT WANNA and then she'd go.

Which. Eh? She's no self-propelled OTTB. She's certainly allowed to be a horse. Horses have opinions sometimes.

Then I asked her for canter and she gave an honest-to-goodness crow hop (!!) before setting out (and I yelled at her and made her RUN REAL FAST FOR A REAL LONG TIME because NO CROW HOPS).

And again. She's four. She's a mare. The weather was changing drastically. Her work has gotten a lot harder lately. She might be a little body sore. She might have popped a little baby attitude. Besides, it was a crow hop and it was not repeated. We're not exactly talking about a giant red flag being towed behind an airplane here.
cannot get enough smooshy face in my life

Later that night, I was texting a friend about saddle fit and hoop trees and how fast babies change.

And while everything that had happened could be quite simply explained by Zoë being a baby mare who's a little body sore and having a case of the dont-wannas on a crappy day, it just seemed like maybe a dark orange flag fluttering in the breeze. I haven't had her that long, but everything I know about her is that she's very, very genuine. She likes having a job. She likes going to work. She loves attention and people and cookies and everything about being an ammy horse.

For a horse like that, who does something out of character?

also she got her first hat from Leah and T 

On a hunch, I grabbed a different saddle I had sitting around my garage and headed out to the barn Saturday. I started to tack up normally. Sat her usual saddle on her.

Instantly pinned ears.


Took her saddle off. Put back up saddle on.

Pleasant ears.

Then took her to the arena and stuck her on the the lunge line.

Her first walk/trot transition was a little stuck and head shaking.

Then she went nicely forward and every transition after that was smooth and flowing, both on the lunge and under saddle.

Again. She's four. The weather just changed. I was definitely in a better frame of mind Saturday than I was early in the week. All of those factors could be are related. Further testing is required etc.

To me, learning Zoë's tolerance level and how she communicates is so critical at this stage. It allows me to make better choices going forward. If I'm going to cultivate her awesome work ethic and develop her trust, she needs to know that she can express discomfort and not have to work through pain.
Can you even?
You cannot.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

You Would NOT BELIEVE the Thing I Did at the Barn

Winter is coming, yo. As a working ammy, that means riding in the dark and cold and being short on time and needing to make the best of it. 

Normally, I'm pretty heads up about getting ready--I have blankets professionally washed and prepped before summer and I'm super organized.
that is not a clean blanket

Rehoming Courage meant not putting much effort into dealing with his gear. Then getting Zoe meant lots of trying things on and shuffling things around and buying new things annnnnnd the net result of that is that it basically looked like a hoarder exploded in my tack area and "my tack area" was becoming a majority percentage of a generously-esized (shared) tack room.

First things first.

I'd sort of tried a single blanket on Zoe a month or so back and squinted through the fingers I put over my eyes and was like "yeah maybe that'll work", but since winter is legit going to happen, it was time to find out if it would work or not.
yeah no
Courage was a 78" horse that had to spend a lot of time in 81" blankets because I already owned them and homeboy could deal. Zoebird is an 81" horse (right now) who really and truly doesn't fit in 78"s. Fortunately, my 81"s are pretty clean still because they got less use. The 78"s might be finding new homes.
81 is ok. she won't grow, right?
Then there was the slight issue of "someone exploded in the tack room". 

It probably took me a good hour and a half, but I trimmed stuff in the tack room down to the bare essentials in my trunk. 
a clean trunk always makes me think of the preternaturally organized Carly
I cleaned the trunk itself and reorganized what's actually in there so I can find/see it. I cut back to ONE set of boots, ONE set of polos, two helmets, and grooming kit essentials, plus ONE cooler and then I was even able to fit the wash bucket and clippers in the trunk instead of leaving them on the floor. 

And then... 

I wish I had a before pic for you. 
uh actually this was before it got really out of hand
plus you can't see the saddle rack(s)
I had a giant pile of saddle pads, two saddles, a ripped up neck cover, and god knows what else strewn across three saddle racks in complete disorder. Not including the strap goods explosion. 

And now we have this:
That's right. One saddle (the one that fits), the saddle pads I use with it, one girth, one breastcollar, one dressage bridle, one toodle bridle. And my lunge line. 

Everything else was neatly cleaned off, hauled home, and packed away for the winter. I'm not getting rid of it, but I need it not to be collecting dust and stressing me out at the barn for the next couple months. 

Bet you didn't see that coming. 
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