Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Just summering around

This summer has been chock-full of the following:

Trail rides

Tried to capture the doe sitting in the beans with just her head and ears showing. This is not the first time we've come across her doing that. 
Also, I spent this ride bellowing my lungs out in a play-by-play showtune-style song so all the deer would get the f*** out and not spook RedMare. 
It worked. 

Shadow rider!



Sporting Kansas City Stadium

Most delicious brunch in KC. 

And snuggles, wine, and lazy evenings. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

My Horse is a Rockstar

She's a People Pleasing Rockstar, that's for sure. I didn't realize (for various reasons, including that I skimmed through these blog posts) that you could take a quiz to determine your horse's personality type, as written about by Dessa Hockley in her book, "Is Your Horse a Rock Star? Understanding Your Horse's Personality." Sprinklerbandit and Bakersfield Dressage have written about this, along with a couple other bloggers I thought.

Anyway, I took the quiz for Dramarama/Little Miss Drama/For Your Entertainment/Lil' Miss Firecracker/Explosivity/I.Can't.EVEN/Hadassah (seriously, I need a show name for her) and.....

Your horse is a ... SEAF - The People Pleaser

Soft, sensitive, and very sweet describes this horse that will try and try to please you. They like to be told exactly what you want and then have you help them perform it. This is not your go-it-alone type of horse. They need you for support and can get very rattled if expectations are too high. This horse is in your life for the relationship.

SEAF = Submissive, Energetic, Afraid, Friendly. Reading the subsequent chapter and personality types, I'm pretty surprised with how accurately my training thoughts and her training tips align. Now, That's not to say this won't apply to many other personality types but it's fun to read along and nod at almost every sentence. It also reaffirms our training over the past year - we've broken down all the aspects of jumping and built up her confidence with grids. Also, repetition is key with her - she needs to know what the job is and if she's doing it right. Once she understands what to do, she tends to enjoy it or at least relaxes a bit. 

Here are some of the major take-aways from the free chapter you get after taking the quiz:

They try so hard but worry so much

SEAF’s need constant input and assurance that they are doing everything right

They are emotional, expressive and fairly feminine, similar to the SECF’s (Goddess)

A somewhat conflicting characteristic that shows up occasionally (in small herd situations) is the desire to be bossy and controlling even though they are Submissive (CHA-CHING)

They need you to have a quiet, consistent program and be understanding and fair with them. Keep your expectations low. They are insecure, so they need a confident, relaxed rider on whom they can rely. If their rider gets nervous, tight or tense, they will respond likewise by getting nervous, tight and tense

If left without input, before long, their busy mind will send them rushing off in some direction that will take their rider totally by surprise

Because they are trying so hard, riders think that they have got it and proceed on to more advanced work before they are ready and eventually the horse derails. They are dealing with fear and energy, so it is your job to slow it all down until they understand.

Some riders will think that they can lunge or exercise this horse to get him to quiet down. As the speed increases, the internal chatter increases until nothing is making any sense and you both feel frustrated and upset. That is why the canter can take a long time to develop in this personality.  (YES!!!!!)

 But we must understand that no amount of love is going to make them feel safe. We need to take their hand and guide them through life. This is why the confident rider who can tell the People Pleaser where to place every foot has success with this type. And when the rider does it in a quiet way that is constantly reassuring this horse that he is doing everything right, the SEAF will blossom and shine

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

When your horse is THAT horse and you're THAT rider at the show.

And now I present the finale.

After tacking up, AC headed off to stadium. I had untacked but before she left, AC recommended we school in the empty dressage arena (there were two but one was no longer in use). I tacked back up (this time with protector vest since we were xc schooling after AC's stadium round) and went to mount up.

Did I mention I just bought an Ecogold Triple Protection Pad? Well, funny thing - it adds a bit of bulk initially but you can still tighten the girth appropriately. Only, in order to have an appropriately tight girth, you have to actually tighten it. I did not. I tightened initially but didn't do that second check. You know, the one where you get the girth tight enough?

Here's what happens when you don't tighten the girth enough.

You go to mount up but the saddle slips as you sling your leg over. Your horse will buck because she's a redheaded devil-monster dragon-mare with need for delicacy and will politely tell you to f*** off because HOW DARE YOU LET THE SADDLE SLIP, YOU DIRTY PEASANT! 

You'll then land on the asphalt (but thankfully wearing your vest) and watch as your horse sets their own Preakness record running around the show grounds with the saddle under their belly. You will plead with the show gods to not let her ruin anyone's warm up and then helpless gaze on as she mysteriously avoids main warm up areas. "Praise Jesus" you will think. Right before she jumps into the one dressage ring still running classes. And someone is in there. On their horse. Riding their test.

And your horse is in there too.

(I'm going to let that soak in a bit).

Yep, my horse just crashed another rider's test. That's MY horse out there, well, in there. That's MY fiery redheaded dragon-mare. And I'm THAT rider, running over to the arena as quickly as you can when you have a michelin vest wrapped around you and tall boots on.

Blessed AC had gotten off Java and trotted her over to Dassah who was SO VERY glad to see her frienemy. The mother of the rider in the ring (you know, the one whose test was so ungraciously interrupted) kindly had the saddle off before I even got there and didn't say one mean thing to me. She asked if I was okay and helped me arrange the tack in my hands. Bless her heart. I mean it.

I begged forgiveness from the rider and she responded with, "Well, it was a hot mess anyway!" So.... I guess I'm thankful for her bad ride in some twisted way.

I apologized profusely to her again and again and then to her mom and then to the ring steward and the judge.

Dassah danced beside me as we walked back to the trailer. I'm not going to say she was proud of herself but she was a little obnoxiously okay with the whole thing. I will say I am proud of myself because I did not lose my temper or beat my horse.

Instead we tacked back up and found a much taller structure to mount from. Then we went into the empty dressage ring and walked around. I practiced my test and let her breathing recover.

The rest is pretty uneventful, respectively.

AC's stadium round was beautiful. We went xc schooling and jumped ditches, logs, coops, and did our first down-bank! I think the bank was a beg.nov or nov. level - Dassah needed a lead from Java once at the beginning but after that, we ran it several times without issue. We did one of those hill jumps where you trot up a bank, jump a log, and trot down the bank. It.was.SO AWESOME!

You might think we may have done too much one day. It is true we accomplished a lot. But excepting for 3 minutes in warm up, 2 minutes of dressage and 2 minutes in our stadium round, we really didn't do anything but attempt to walk. I had so much horse left after xc, it was ridiculous.

You might read this story in horror that anyone would lay claim to owning such a beast. You might wonder why I would keep such a drama queen when there are thousands of well-behaved geldings out there.

Here's the thing. I really do like this horse. We've gone through hell and high water. She.does.not.quit. It's taken 7 years to get to where we are (which, I know isn't much to speak of) but I started out as kid whose only equestrian tutoring was in 4-H and even then, I didn't have my first real lesson until 6 years ago. I was horse crazy as a kid, we had so many, but we only went trail-riding on our property.

I have dedicated these past 7 years to learning everything I can, absorbing everything I can, and attempting to develop a horse who really shouldn't exist. And aside from a grand total of 10 months, we've been doing this all by ourselves. I've overcome broken bones, fears, defeat, self-loathing, tears, and regret. I'm not saying that to be successful you have to go through what I did. And we are NOT successful but I am saying that our journey is completely acceptable. That in case this is your experience too, it's okay to have this experience. It's also completely ok if you don't want this experience at all. We are each our own person and our own experience.

I'm riding the horse I have. Even in her worst moments, she's all mine.

When your horse is THAT horse at the show

So we finished dressage and headed off to stadium.

Oh wait, that would be toooo smooth.

(also, so sorry no media. Like no media period. It wasn't the most media-friendly of days)

No, we did not go off directly to stadium. Instead we spent 40 minutes working on getting a flat-footed walk. I don't know about you but I do prefer my horse to walk when asked. You know, a nice four beat rhythm. We went behind all the trailers to a grassy area with enough space to walk back and forth without much turning. Only all we did was go in circles.

My theory on this (and I am an amateur, so take it with a grain of salt) is that I don't want to haul on my horse's face - it just breeds bracing, resistance, a dead mouth, and a complete tuning out of aids. And tight circles are more difficult for her so if she trots and I circle her, the idea is she'll get the message that it's easier to walk than it is to jig. So I asked for a walk and when she jigged or trotted, we turned in a tight circle until she was walking again. Rinse, repeat. ad naseaum.

Seriously, 40 minutes spent going in teeny tiny circles. I don't know about her but I did get dizzy a couple of times. I could have taken the advice of the dressage judge and lunged her but then I'm just getting her fit, not doing anything to address her tuning me out, and stressing her legs (which, I realize sounds contradictory but we did get to walk in straight lines, eventually).

It took awhile but he started listening to me - at about minute 39. I didn't haul on her mouth, I didn't hold her back, I just let her out on a loose rein and when she jigged, we circled. Not sure if it's clear enough but we circled a lot.

She was finally pretty relaxed and listening. I stayed on and we headed over to the stadium arena. It took about another 30 minutes before we got to ride but she did great. Called a few times and didn't want to stand still but listened and tuned her radio frequency to my general direction.

We jumped a couple times (vertical and oxer) with no issue and then waited for our turn.

Stadium went swimmingly. Again the Starter division was timed (wtf?) and it was interesting to see the number of riders that dropped rails. I seriously don't understand why a lower level division should be timed, it's just not appropriate. These kids and horses to not need to be pushed by a time limit - why put that sort of pressure on them and encourage poor performance?

Anyway, continuing our theme of time faults, we garnered 33 this time! No jump faults (woohoo!) and mare was a rock star the entire time. I thought some of the fences would spook her but she did great.

The course itself looked a bit like this:

You think I'm kidding....

Ok, FINE. in reality, it was a bit more like this.

Now, again, this was a Starter division. One outside line - period. It was like walking through a maze! Holy clusterup Batman. I did walk it three times and yes, three times is the key.

She wasn't quite listening to me the entire time but I kept her between my legs and made sure we had a controlled approach. She came back to me after every jump and that is what I was hoping to get out of this. This exposure is just what we need  - so I am thankful for these small shows.

We headed out of the arena and back to the trailer only to have AC wave us away from afar. She was just getting ready to start her dressage test and naturally we didn't want to risk Java losing her mind; she had been really good this whole time. We wandered back to the stadium arena and hung out until her test finished. (spoiler, she did great!)

Stay tuned for the finale, coming up next.

Monday, May 23, 2016

When I'm THAT person at the show.

So if you follow me on Facebook (this post) this post will be old news. If you don't follow me on Facebook (and most of you don't) then you are in for a TREAT!

On Saturday a local farm hosted a CT along with free xc schooling at the Dayton area Twin Towers Horse Park. AC and I decided to go so we loaded up the mares and headed over.

Hadassah and Java are not friends but they sure do love each other when we trailer off property. I mean, screaming for each other, totally ignoring all aids, and generally making asses of themselves. Actually, that's all Dassah, Java will whinny every now and then but she wears big girl pants the rest of the time. So I'm the one with the annoying redheaded devil-mare throwing the epic temper-tantrum

(aside, I just spent forever trying to find gifs that accurately portray the day. Only those gifs don't exist because our day was just that epic.)

I spent an hour warming up and it made no difference. She was completely zoned out and unwilling to engage. All she wanted to do was scream, spin, and tell me to eff off. At least she acknowledged my existence!

Finally it was dressage ride time - we did Beg. Nov A - and in we went.


It was like an alien took over her brain, hollered, "Yippee Ki-yay" and threw in a grenade.

It was a hot mess.

We even got a 4 on one directive.

A screaming, wiggly, resistant, braced, counter-bent, counter cantering hot mess.

Wait, I think our free-walk was pretty good. We might have gotten a six on it.

Oh, and sorry, this is going to take a while. I can't just sum it up, there's SO much to recap!

So anyway, we halt, salute, and the judge starts talking me. Which never happens, but whatever, so I walk up.

To make a long story short, she said, and I am not kidding/embellishing the following:

"You rode that well, you were very composed the entire time." (wow, that was nice, thank you!)
"They make legal drugs" (um, unexpected, and say that again?)
"Let's hope she can jump" (well, yes, but rude)
"How old is she? Oh, yes, definitely the legal drugs" (again, wtf?)
"You should just go lunge her until your stadium time" (jaw hit the floor. um, say what?)

Seriously, she obviously knew I was riding her well, and I think she thought she was being helpful but she could have just said the first line and be done with it. I didn't take too much offense until I got back to the trailer and could process what she said. Even now I'm not offended, just disturbed that that's the advice given.

Anyway, I stay on and go attempt to walk her some more. Only now she really wasn't walking at all so we did circles until she would walk. Then she would jig and we would circle. and she would jig in the circle. and we would keep circling. rinse and repeat. Finally she gave me a flat-footed walk and we went over to start our stadium round.

So yes, we were that horse and rider at the show. Only it was to get better! Stay tuned!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cutest little mare evah

Someone went xc schooling and was not the least bit tired when we got done.

This girl. right here.

So then we pulled a Denny and went on a short trail ride (at the walk).

(and yes, that's a Straight Shot Metal Smashing bridle charm. Put it on a year+ ago and haven't taken it off. I LOVE it. It's an owl. You should have one too.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Yo. A picture of my homies.

Because who doesn't want a dose of this McFurrySnugglewhumpsiousness?

Frank caught a mouse the other night and woke me up at 2am to a) show it off b) show that it was still alive and c) show us his mad play-with-mice skillz.

Of course he either lost it or tucked it away for another day because when I woke up (at a normal time), it was gone.

THEN the following morning he brought it in and left it as a present in front of our full-length mirror. In full-on rigor mortis (the mouse, not Frank). I was torn between begging Ollie to eat it and freaking out that he might.

And what did Ollie do? He just ignored it! Of all the times he's not interested in something dead!!!

 Frank was so bored with the whole thing that he couldn't be bothered to even look at it again