Monday, April 30, 2018

The Very Best Lady

I'm a little bit struggling with blog content right now just because things with ZB are so good. 
our take on handgrazing
I go to the barn. She whinnies at me like an actual Disney horse. I pet her and kiss her and feed her cookies and we toodle around and everything is awesome.
champion trail lady
We've been exploring the ditch bank together. I know from ZB's previous owner that she tends to be a bit herd bound, so I'm getting her confident going out in groups and working on installing buttons in the arena, and eventually I expect to have a calm, confident partner on solo trail rides.

And she might be that now.
tour guide!
But why go alone when you can take a friend?
she actually thought up this one
Even when we're hanging out at the barn--I try to find unusual things to address like standing on a random board or climbing in the sand pile or moving jump standards and opening gates from the saddle.

And like.
I can't phase her. Lil lady is brave and smart and curious and wonderful and I don't even get worried about weird shit anymore because I know we're going to be fine and we'll get through everything together.
I mean sometimes I get all serious and am like "ZB WE DO THE DRESSAGES" and she is like "HOKAY MUM I JUST BE PERFECT THEN" so like after 20 minutes, I'm thrilled and then I feel like we pretty well covered everything I expect out of her right now.
whoops apparently no recent dressage media
She's a nice moving little lady with a solid go button and she's 110% try every single day, so she's a total blast to work with. The other day we did w/t/c transitions on the bit and some baby leg yields and yeah color me impressed. She's already borderline the best dressage horse I've spent time on and she makes it so much fun.
I did get a text from trainer the other day telling me that ZB had been naughty. APPARENTLY she tried to stop and visit every time a new friend came in the arena.


I'd plead innocence on that one, but my barn buddy was sitting right there and almost fell off her horse laughing like "GEE WHIZ I WONDER WHO TAUGHT HER THAT".

So uh.

i taught her other things too ok?
The snow is melting off the mountains and I'm lining up people to go trail riding with. It's weird for me to be excited about attacking new challenges and not think I might die, but here I am and it's a total blast.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

hellomylivia hop: What I Didn't Know I Didn't Know

Olivia started this with one of the coolest blog posts I've read in a while and then Liz pitched in and now I want to give it a go. Here's what I would tell myself as a brand new adult amateur horse owner who just got handed the lead rope to the hellmare and all the things that followed:
aw look how i'm not on her

1) You have no idea what you're getting in to.

I rode as a kid, on lesson horses and half leases here and there. I worked hard and cleaned stalls and did 4H and never had the newest, nicest, or best, but I read everything I could get my hands on, spent every moment I could get at the barn, rode anything anyone would let me, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
best old man horse

2) You have no idea how much you need this.

Horses and horse people have been a driving force for good in my life on so many levels. The people I've met and connections I've made have shaped the life I lead today in more ways than I can count. No matter what was going on in the rest of my life, I was always surrounded by passionate, intelligent, driven women who became role models to me whether they knew it or not.

possibly our best jump lesson ever

3) Even your lowest moments will shape you in positive ways.

When I had my wreck on the hellmare and was too afraid to keep trying but too stupid to quit, I found a community of people to ask hard questions and help me find perspective. When I lost Cuna, I was surrounded by once in a lifetime friends who carried me through dark times I couldn't handle alone. When I had to let go of Courage, I was again among incredible people who helped both of us find a resolution.
and this is how you jump a bank with 3 broken bones
which is apparently a thing i can do
4) The horses are pretty great too.

Every one of them has something to show me and learning to listen and communicate, shape behavior and respond, has been transformative in my life. To me, it's not about the shows and the ribbons and the outfits. Learning to connect and trust another living being is a truly amazing experience and to me it makes the blood, sweat, tears, and dollars all worth it so many times over.

I love how horses can continue to evolve with us. My goals and approach now are completely different than they used to be. I'm more relaxed and more focused. I never expected to be where I am today, but now that I'm here, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Here's to the horses that made it possible.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Birthday Girl!!

I know y'all are probably beyond sick of hearing what a splendid lady Ms. Zoebird is. 

Buuuuuut here we go again.

I officially celebrated her 5th birthday on April 13th because I feel like I saw that somewhere, but after digging through her official binder, I can't find why I think I saw that. Regardless, it's an easy date for me to remember and now I have to tell people she's five. 

Add caption
She'll always be my baby mare tho omg. 
birthday cookies!
Here's what she's been up to lately:
western toodle pony!
Brave ditchbank riding pony!

Giving adorable pony ride pony!

rocking the outfits pony!

leading the trail ride pony!
crushing the dressage pony!
This little lady guys. <3 She is just fantastic every day and I am so lucky to have her. Can't wait to see where 5 takes us. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Vote for Your Favorite ZB Bridle

Here is a fact that often surprises people about me: as much as I love having ALL THE TOYS for ZB to play with, I actually super respect people who can have just one bridle and be happy with it. 

Sometimes I even pretend like I could be one of those people and consolidate (aka bring my spares home to stick in the bridle bag), but that generally lasts like an hour, because I find things I forget I had when I put things away so then those things go to the barn and it sort of spirals out of control from there. 

All that aside. 

Here's a quick rundown of the current bridle stock (not including one I got tired of looking of a picture for that does exist and presumably fits). Remember all browbands are interchangable. 

Which one do you think looks the best?

1) Retro Otto Schumacher White padded bridle 

 I picked this up a week ago (uh time flies!) for a killer deal. It's size 3, which fits everywhere except the cheeks. Because this is me, I stuck a different set of cheeks on it and here we are. The white padding is nice in a dark indoor. The leather smells amazing. It's in shockingly good condition for it's age. The price was such that I can abuse this as a schooling bridle and feel no guilt. It's a crank. It has a flash. i can take the flash off and leave the crank loose to minimize the amount of buckling I have to do.

2. Single Raised Tony Slatter Bridle (currently with Topline Leather browband)
This is not a brand I was familiar with, but a barnmate was selling it and let me try it on ZB and basically as soon as I touched it, I was sold. The leather is stunning. The fit is excellent. It's a plain cavesson, which is about the number of straps I have the energy for. If I'm being picky, the reins are a little short for ZB, but I haven't swapped them out yet because I like touching them. On the whole, this is an excellent quality bridle that is uncomplicated to use, and the single raised is classy on her.

3) Highly Custom Nunn Finer Event Bridle in black/stainless (also shown with Topline Leather browband)
This is the first bridle I bought ZB and I'll probably never be able to sell it because WTF cob size cheeks on an OS headstall. Well, and I'll never want to sell it because it's simple and classic and easy and doesn't have a crank or a flash and can be beat to death and still be acceptable in mixed company.

4) Large horse size Micklem with (different) Topline Browband

 In fairness to me, I don't actually own this bridle. A friend sent it to me to mess around with and either keep or sell. I could tell you a long story about why I've now had it for like 6 months and done neither, but the essential points are that 1) I still have it 2) I don't love it and 3) hey look something off the rack went on ZB somehow!

4) Mark Todd bridle with Dark Jewel Designs browband
 I've blogged about this bridle before. I hang on to it for sentimental reasons and i definitely expect it to be back in the rotation this summer. In a strange twist, it's the only brown piece of tack I own right now. Well, sort of co-own. It's complicated. But beautiful.

5) Red Barn Piaffe Bridle with Black Jak Refinery browband
I had a massive tack ho crush on this bridle for a long time before I bought it. It's a really fun design. It fits (in regular horse size wtf) and the self-colored padding keeps it just this side of conservative. If I'm being picky, I hate doing a crank/flash on the daily, but I also want to keep this as my show bridle. (Ignore that I'm not showing right now) (Also ignore that I loathe new leather and this needs to be broken in).

Help me out blogosphere! If I'm attempting to narrow down which one bridle lives at the barn, which one should it be?

Monday, April 9, 2018

How to Make the Perfect Ammy Horse

Zoebird turns five this month. (I'm committed to calling her 4 until her actual birthday. For reasons.) 

She's a big lady. She isn't particularly tall, but she's wide and strong and sturdy. 
and she looks so fetch in purple
She's in training twice a week, where my trainer puts w/t/c dressage basics on her for 20-30 minutes a ride. If they a miss a day or a week, it's not a big deal. It is important to me that ZB learn to be a solid equine citizen. It is not important that we hit a competitive goal this year. 

I'm at the barn at least four days a week outside of the trainer rides. I try to be sure Zoe has a solid day a week to be a horse with no particular expectations. 
hand grazing ftw
1-2 times a week, I try to get on and work on something productive and related to dressage. 
clearly i need lessons
Outside of that, I just don't worry about it. ZB is a big lady. She's growing. By all accounts, she has another couple years of growing to go. Her body is big, but her joints haven't closed. 
We spend a lot of time wandering around outside the arena. Learning to be completely relaxed in arena traffic. Playing with tarps and other fun toys and expanding her natural intelligence and curiosity. 
I want to have a solid show horse eventually, but I have years to do that. Right now, I'm focused on developing my very cool baby mare into the fun, safe partner I've always wanted. 
That looks different from day to day. Not gonna lie, it completely melted my icy black heart when a special little girl came to the barn and Zoe just put her head down and closed her eyes and let her forelock get braided. 
I'm in no hurry. Every day is fun. I look forward to just spending time with ZB and it doesn't even matter to me what we're doing. 
We have time. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Expert's Guide to Toodling

A large percentage of the time I spend in the saddle is what I call "toodling". I field enough questions about what exactly that means that I now give you the definitive expert toodling bible.
love this pic
What (is toodling):

Toodling is undirected meandering, generally on a loose rein, with loosely defined goals and limited rider input.

Why (is this different than hacking):

When someone says they're hacking their horse, they generally mean they are riding outside the arena in some sort of purposeful way. Toodling is in or out of the arena and while sometimes yes you're going in a direction with a purpose, you're also not hitting a step goal or fitness angle.
toodle time!
When (is toodling appropriate):

All toodles all the time. I mean, not really, but horses are pretty smart creatures. I'm all for a couple "work" rides a week, but above and beyond that, it feels like drilling to me and I find drilling intolerable. Toodling is a way to spend time in the saddle, but relax and rest sore muscles. It keeps riding fun and engaging on both sides so saddle time isn't always work time.
Where (does one toodle):

Anywhere, really. In the winter, we toodle around the indoor and smoosh things. In the summer, we go all over the property and should I ever get my rear in gear to haul out somewhere, we can do that too.
ditch practice
Who (should toodle):

I'm a highly motivated go-getter type of person. It is SO EASY for me to fixate and drill and push and suck the fun out of relaxation. (I'm terrible at vacation. Sigh.) I like to have a clear delineation for "this is fun and easy and simple and just be happy". If you're a person who needs more structure in your life or you're prepping for an imminent Olympics, then toodling is maybe not for you.

How (do I start toodling):

Slip the reins. Hold the buckle in one hand. Look at the world around you. Pet the horse. Wander the fields. Find a buddy to laugh with. Ride under the stars. Stop and watch the sunset.

Courage was a horse that was deeply sensitive to pressure--I probably had to toodle 3-4 times for every 1 time I schooled him. ZB is totally not worried about pressure, but I want her to have time to develop strength and recover, so it's probably more of a 1:1 ratio (counting training rides, haha).

As for the looming question, "aren't you a shitty trainer because you choose to have fun with yourself instead of actually teaching them something," well, no. Walking on a loose rein is a skill. Standing still is a skill. Boldly navigating terrain is a skill. Learning to not micromanage is a skill.
picking incredible browbands is also a skill
And that is how you toodle like a pro.
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