You might think that's because it's cold AF and I'm sick AF and second winter is the f****** g****** worst.
That's a fact.
However. Champions are made in the offseason or whatever, so here's a medal-level breakdown of activities around here.
Halter-plate attaching: SILVER MEDAL
This could have been a craft project if it didn't involve the actual use of tools, but it did and since craft projects involve beverages and tools involve clear-headed-ness, it unfortunately does not get it's own write up. That said. I probably would have done a write up had I gotten to use my beloved air riveter because power tools are where it's at.
Oh and it's technically only silver medal level because I didn't have lock-tight for the chicago screws so I probably need to get some. Annoying.
Dressage-practicing: GOLD MEDAL
Ok yeah maybe we only did this once but 1) it was with a media person and 2) ZB continues to blow me away with her willingness and ability to retain information.
Indoor-arena-demolition-derby: GOLD MEDAL
Yeaaaaaaah so if I don't feel like riding (hello 14f this is why you have no friends), I just let ZB wander the arena and knock shit down while I laugh hysterically and take video.
Possibly I am no one's favorite boarder. Possibly I don't care.
Bareback-toodling: SILVER MEDAL
Yeah for real I need to do this more.
ha yes zb wins
Mounting-block-fixing-aka-horse-legos: GOLD MEDAL
For whatever reason, ZB's favorite thing in the world is to flip the mounting block over and push it around. I have thus far discouraged her from climbing up on it as well, but she'd be game for that too.
Snuggling-with-teeny-dog: GOLD MEDAL
Buying-stock-in-dayquil: champion of the world
Marathoning-entire-netflix-show-and-reading-two-500+page-books-in-a-weekend-and-a-sick-day: ugh yup welcome to my life.
Hopefully back to our regularly scheduled programming here shortly.
You know, after the next stupid storm dumps a foot of snow on us YES IN MARCH WTF.
I swore off all mares and especially black mares after the Hellmare. Mares were supposed to be loyal and personable and perhaps hormonal. I mean, I guess you could say she was personable in that she definitely hated me and made every day hell.
But now I have a black Zoebird mare.
What's better than a champion dressage baby mare?
Having that same baby mare be the sort of superstar that you can also hop on bareback and toodle around on because you're working late and it's dark and cold and saddles are the worst, man.
I've never had a horse like her.
Now I wonder how I ever lived without her.
and how it took me this long to get her a nameplate
I tell myself that toodling is to keep her brain fresh and give her developing body a rest, but it's as much for me as it is for her. I love sitting on her comfy back and just letting all the tension from the day melt away. I can't get over her wide-eyed, enthusiastic enjoyment of the world around her.
O HAI ZB
We've only known each other seven months now, but time loses a lot of meaning when you just fit together. I'm excited for our plans this year. I love showing up at the barn every day. It melts my (cold black tiny) heart when she whinnies at me as I walk up.
Let's just agree cold medication does not make organizing one's thoughts easier and bear with me as I try to put words in an order that make sense.
Let's also agree that trainer rides are THE BEST THING ever for working ammies because omg "phoning it in" would be a generous description of how I'd been riding the two weeks up to the clinic, but the combination of trainer rides and having a champion baby mare means it was actually a really good experience for everyone. WUT.
Soooooo we last rode with this clinician back in like... October? At that point, she said many wonderful things about ZB's ability and told me 1) ZB will be very easy to get on the bit and ride correctly but 2) she must learn to come up and over to the bit, never ever down. This is a function of conformation--if I pull her head down, she'll dig a hole to China she's so on the forehand.
This is a concept that I really stressed in my daily riding. That's why you saw lots and lots of photos like this:
I wanted her going forward with her head up out of the way of her shoulders.
Right of the bat, clinician was like "wow she looks like a different horse have you done turns on the forehand?"
I sort of made a croaking noise. (Answer: trainer has done them with her. Go trainer!)
The idea was to teach ZB that leg=stretch down. Thus, I'd ask her to stretch in the halt, then ask for a single step of turn on the forehand, then immediately ask her to stretch down again. The idea being that she'd start to anticipate the stretch and associate it with the leg. (omg let the anticipation work for you. horse nerd training brain loooooved this.)
Of course, there are other answers then the right answer and because ZB is a clever lady, she started offering those as well. I think my favorite quote here was, "You do the right thing and wait for her to come to you." The was no punishment or rushing and because ZB is a champion baby mare, she pretty consistently started picking the right option. (um swoon srsly can you ever she is just the best).
Then we had to overcome some mental obstacles on my part--I'd give up to easily (but she wants to look at that other horse!) or overcompensate and do too many other things. Since I was asking ZB to bend to the inside, she just kept taking a smaller circle and I was getting all pretzel-y trying to make it big. Clinician pointed out that "she's not going to want to stay on the smaller circle. Let her make the mistake and then let her learn to listen to your leg."
Oh yeah I guess that super makes sense too huh.
The funny thing about this lesson is how I'm describing it in so many complicated sounding steps, but the actual riding of it was very simple. Once ZB was stepping up with her inside hind and reaching down with her neck, if I rode consistently and correctly and let her come to me, she connected across her back from inside leg to outside rein.
Of course, leave it to me to find interesting ways to screw things up. The moment we switched directions, I started overbending ZB's neck, which would cause... nothing good, haha. (It's not like I have a massive amount of baggage about turning right. OH SNAP YES I DO.)
The next video is a long one, but we started really putting it all together. Basically, I needed to be aware that she's learning every stride. If she's pulling, I need to change something so she has more good strides than bad strides. "On the bit or on the buckle" is our new mantra. That means either I am expecting her to work correctly or she is free to do whatever, but no weird half assing things in the middle.
We didn't actually get to canter this time out, but we talked about how to transfer those same concepts across.
It was a really fantastic lesson for both of us--I've felt like Zoë was ready to take the next steps, but I wasn't quite sure what those steps looked like. Now I feel confident going forward that we can work on these concepts and progress. At no point did I feel like either of us was overfaced or out of our depth and there was definitely a huge change in ZB's way of going in the lesson.
1) Be realistic about your abilities + budget + goals.
I cannot stress this enough. If you want to run advanced eventing, do you have the mental and physical fitness, expendable income, and flexible schedule to allow it? And if the answer to those questions is "yeah maybe not", then what do you want? In the next 1-5 years. Realistically.
See, I kept picking up whatever just fell into my lap, which in my price range tended to be the the OTTB or OTTB cross. Which like. That can go well. But it can also go poorly. Right now, I'm chasing some non-horse goals that are important to me. I want to pursue dressage but I also want to straight up have fun and I need a horse that doesn't have to be ridden every day.
Rather than looking for that diamond-in-the-rough calm, straightforward OTTB, it was time to set parameters that matched my goals.
2) RUTHLESSLY EXCLUDE.
This is such a simple principle but DAMN it changes the way you look at things. See, I had a very specific list of what I wanted.
Then I didn't look at anything that was excluded by the list. Period end of story.
i mean can you even with that face
Obviously, the list has to be realistic. I'm boarding with a trainer who is FANTASTIC with young horses, so I was willing to take on something pretty green and therefore spend my money on better quality for my price range.
Instead of looking at everything with a pulse, I screened out the horses that were not what I want so that what I ended up with was exactly what I wanted.
It's so simple.
3) Source through people who understand what you want.
There are so many different types of horses and jobs for them and people tend to pick one focus and craft their skills and horses around that. That's why you buy event horses from eventers. That is a good thing. Let it work for you. I talked to people who were doing what I wanted to do and asked them to work their sources.
ride roxiecorn bareback through the fields?
sign. me. up.
Roxie's mom ultimately found ZB for me, but Leah ran down a promising candidate and the other front runner was sourced by a local lady who consistently produces calm, correct, fun horses. I definitely made some fun connections along the way.
Again, it's just so much easier to find what you're looking for when you're talking to people who speak the same language. "Kid safe" means different things to a rough stock operator and an ammy dressage lady.
You can't have ZB. You can use the process I used and find your own version.
I'm not feeling it on the horse showing front right now. I'm just not. I love riding Zoëbird at home and I'm excited about doing a series of clinics with her and I'm thrilled that I'm able to keep her in part training and that's all well and good.
But like. Nothing about a horse show sounds fun to me right now.
Oh and I've been watching Westerns lately and like.
godless. watch it.
I live in the west. And I have a ranch bred horse.
And that is a literal thing I can actually do.
SO WE'RE DOING IT. (Soon. Snow melting off the mountains as we speak.)
guys she's not even trying yet
Don't get me wrong here--ZB is a talented, good-minded, hard-working lady and the progress she makes in her dressage training every day is phenomenal. And yeah long term I want to get my bronze medal on her.
This isn't me abandoning those goals.
A huge part of getting Zoë to me was finding a horse that I could just flat have fun on. And y'know.
Whether it's our first outside right lead canter....
Or just hanging out with friends on a gorgeous day...
She makes me smile every day.
It's not a sayonara to horse showing. We'll get back to it. There are just so many other fun things to do right now.