Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Long and Short

When I typed out "I've literally never had a bad ride on zb" the other day, it made me think. 

What is a bad ride? What causes a ride to become a bad ride? 

For me, a bad ride is emotionally turbulent, accomplishes no clear goal, leaves horse and/or rider more frustrated than when they started, or ends in injury for horse or rider. 

That's not to say that every ride has to be all-positive, all-the-time, 100% training focused. I mean, if you've been around here at all, you definitely know that I spend more time toodling than working my horse and I am 100% more focused on playing horse soccer than I am on going to horse shows. And while I certainly gush about ZB's (many) (many) excellent qualities, she's also a bit of a moose on the ground and not always the most motivated under saddle. 

Albeit a very cute moose

A bad ride is more than an "eh not feeling it, let's redirect and trail ride today" where not much is accomplished. I would actually call that a pretty decent ride as long as you identify the issue and make intentional choices to address it. 

One of those moments of clarity I found in between Courage and Zoe was this understanding that a partnership depends on being the person your horse wants to be with and finding the horse that you want to be with. It sounds oddly simple phrased that way. 

But like. 

It's not that every day is butterflies and rainbows. 

It's that when I'm toodling around bareback in the pasture on a loose rein on the first cold fall day of the year and my horse goes COMPLETELY TENSE OMFG WTAF IS HAPPENING, I choose to slide off, do some ground work, address where our attention goes and when, and then choose a successful note to end on. 

Could have been a bad ride. Might have gone ok. I addressed it in a different way. 

That not to say one shouldn't ride through resistance because you 100% should, some of the time. It's important to set yourself up to win the little battles so you never really have the big battles. The other day I hopped on and ZB was definitely "eh not feeling it" on the going to work issue. 

We started with halt/back/halt/walk transitions to confirm "you must comply in a soft manner", then added trot into the mix, which got the whole Going Forward/Stepping Under pieces engaged. Then lateral work for straightness, then figure eights with bend/counterbend for direction changes with consistent balance. 

And all of a sudden, I had this lovely, soft, balanced horse who was on the aids and I asked her to stay soft and step up into canter (vs hollow and run), and wouldn't you know, she did it. And we could repeat the transitions. She wasn't strong/consistent enough yet to hold it for more than a few strides, but for the first time, she totally got it. 


That wasn't the most promising start, but it became a good ride. 

I'll admit I'm 100% spoiled here. Ms. Zoebird has this ridiculous Disney horse attitude and shows up for work 99.99% of the time. She's good natured, hard working, and lovely to be around. She makes it easy. Even if she really just needs to OMG MUM G2G BUCK AND DO RUNNIN, she lets me know that's on the table and tries so hard to make sure I get off first. 

She's never going to be your international eventer and I dunno if she wants to dressage once the dressaging gets hard, but she's the horse that made riding fun again for me. 

People have bad days. Horses have bad days. 

If you're both having a bad day, it's maybe not the best day in the history of ever to get on. 

More than that tho--good rides are about good fit. Good goals. Good camaraderie. 

On a personal level, it has mattered a lot to me to take showing off the table. Instead of sort of patching together an uncertain partnership in pursuit of indifferent public approbation of my skills, I've gotten to zero in on the things I want out of riding and what I enjoy. 

It's not that showing is bad, because it isn't. 

It's that having a good ride is so much more natural when "good" is a finite term that I can see and feel and touch. It's that moment of appreciating my horse and knowing that I'm in the right place at the right time. It's the ability to take a day or a month or a season to teach her goofy things that make me laugh.

The other day, I wanted to win a shiny satin ribbon. I'm spending a little more time polishing show ring skills than I did before. I have a goal of taking a couple lessons to advance our skills that I think I can finally accomplish. 

Maybe we'll give showing a go next season. 

Maybe we won't. 

Either way, we have many more good rides to look forward to.  

Monday, September 28, 2020

That New Leather Smell

It's weird how our foray into learning western stuff re-energized me for all things horsey, but here we are. And like. I know I never stop going on and on about how great ZB is, but seriously she is the actual greatest and I love her so much. 

So anyways. We've been westerning. I dragged my moose sized western saddle out and I can't really tell if it fits or not. To trot around for 20 minutes, it's fine I guess, so we started playing with a little more complexity in our neck reining adventure. 


I decided to clean up my tack explosion area at the barn and realized that since I'm not riding often or hard enough to justify juggling two saddles and ten pads on one saddle rack and the top of my trunk, that I ought to just take the dressage saddle and to-die-for otto bridle home where they're safe. 

And then I tried riding in my jump saddle. 

I realized these things:

1) I hate my stirrup leathers more than life itself
2) Neither of my girths fit my horse
3) The girths are so bad I literally can't use my $$$ custom mattes pad that I impulse bought in a 'rona sale this spring

And see, despite my total moderation in tack purchases lately, I have (un?)fortunately cultivated a lovely group of very tack savvy friends. 

In less time that it takes to talk about it, I have:

1) Custom-made Gary Mundy stirrup leathers with my initials stamped in them on the way
2) 3 (count 'em) girths to try out
3) A bonus anatomic noseband that is oddly sized to mess with

Stay posted for the prolite vs county logic throw down

Well that is surprisingly perfect

Oh look it's the indoor time of year

I'm one of those weird people that like CANNOT EVEN if things aren't working. I didn't realize how much it bugged me that my tack wasn't quite right. 

Which is dumb. 

Because after playing musical girths and messing around, I got on with a saddle and rode like an adult and ZB was super champion of the world. Seriously. I don't know why she's like ROCK SOLID HOKAY MOM I BE GOOD GIRL literally every time I have EVER sat on her, but it's insane and amazing. Still. 

Seriously horse it's been over three years now and WE HAVE LITERALLY NEVER HAD A BAD RIDE. 

And I don't even feel like I'm jinxing it by saying that out loud. 

And then because I am a dumbass, I pulled her saddle off and walked away to put it on the rack with her loose wearing the fancy new bridle in the middle of the arena. 

And yeah it was totally fine she just stood there and watched me. 

when ur mum is a dum dum but u still love her

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Summer Fun

In the vein of "what sounds fun today", I spent a lot of time this summer in a distinctly old west style locale. 

Is that a buffalo walking down the street?
Yes that's a buffalo walking down the street.
His name is Jackson.

And I thought. 

Ms ZB is literally a purpose-bred ranch horse. 

Oh and she's looking completely fabulous

Why not teach her to western?

So one night, I googled "how to teach a horse to neck rein", read one of those horrible how-to articles on some random site, and decided to go for it.

Worst case scenario, we can't figure it out, I feed her cookies, and all is well. 
Did I mention she's looking fantastic? She totally is.

I mean, I don't have a western saddle that's moose shaped and given my status as a tack snob, I can't make do with the cheapest thing on ebay.

But also ZB is a literal couch and we have plenty of easy, slow work we can do before we need to, I don't know, zoom around and sort cows and rope a calf while practicing mounted shooting. 

Bareback it is! 

My preliminary research indicated if your horse was already reasonably broke and had a good idea of direct reining, the neck reining wasn't terribly different and horses usually picked it up pretty quickly. 

I'd call that summation accurate--ZB is one smart lady and as long as she stays focused on what I'm asking, she's quite lovely about the whole thing. It honestly wasn't much of a transition for her in terms of steering. (Now, in terms of how we pretty it up, I dunno. Might take some lessons lol.) 


Did you know that riding a horse is kind of like riding a horse and any imbalances, weaknesses, or flaws that you mask with your usual equipment might show up in a whole different way if, say, you dropped most of your tack and tried to provide clear, simple aids? 


I know that. 


I mean it's literally what I talk about when I transfer the skills learned kicking her ball into letting me pop on in a different setup and start muttering a different language and asking ZB to cooperate. 

But it's funny how much the whole bareback-on-a-round horse tells on my tendency to evaporate my right seat bone and curl up my right side when I'm trying to stay balanced and in the middle and strong with my core and consistent with my legs so I can let the reins mean something. (Pro tip: you honestly don't do a whole lot with the reins. It's really more how you ride OH WEIRD WHERE HAVE I HEARD THAT BEFORE). 

gonna be cowboys


Riding is fun, ZB is fantastic, hope your summer is great. 
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