Tag Archives: horseback riding

Horse Happiness

Yesterday I headed 4.5 hours (one way) to go see Junebug and decide if she was the horse for me. I brought my most trusted advisors with me, Sarah and Stella, and knew I wouldn’t go astray with them helping me.

Stella got car sick the entire trip up there, which made me feel like maybe we weren’t starting off on the right foot. But once we got there her spirits brightened and she happily ran around while Sarah and I met with Rapid’s owner/breeder.

We brought Junebug in from her pasture, put her on the cross ties and I got to grooming her. She stood and let me groom her everywhere as well as pick up her feet. She wasn’t antsy, or pushy, and literally just stood in the crossties.

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I also got right to work getting lots of pics

Next we took her into the arena, out of sight of the other horses. We trotted her around a bit so I could see her move and then I attached the lead rope and walked and trotted her over some poles. She was slightly distracted, but it really wasn’t until the other horses whinnied for her that she realized she was away from them. She still allowed me to lead her around and was completely sensible.

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We headed back out and I took her for a walk around the property and down the long driveway. She was slightly more interested in turning back to her friends than heading away from them, but was easy to handle and was easily convinced to go with me and leave her friends.

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So shiny!

As we were walking along I thought to myself, I’m buying a horse for her brain, everything is secondary and I need to remember that. When I got back to Sarah and Junebug’s owner, I found out that Junebug had only gotten out a few times in her 23 months. If mare is this sensible with that little handling, I feel like I am getting the brain I want.

Conformationally she is built uphill, has good bone and is the thick, stocky build that I like. I imagine she’ll grow to about 16hh. She won’t be built like a lithe racehorse, but I feel like her breeding will help with getting around xc easily.

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Lastly, after saying goodbye to Junebug, we drove over to go meet her momma. Her mom is a Quarter Horse who has produced some nice babies. Junebug’s maternal grandma produced lots of nice, smart, jumpers. I need to research the lineage a little more, but momma was well built and seemed sweet. Her full brother is a total sweetheart, with a lovely build and great brain.

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Cute momma!

And her Dad. Her Dad is who I hope will get us some nice dressage scores and will give her major athletic prowess. Her half sister has proven to be quite the athlete, so I’m hoping Junebug will also prove to be a great eventer.

As we headed home I started talk things over with Sarah and Stella. Our conversation didn’t last long, as it was clear she was a great baby horse for me to take a chance on! I’m currently figuring out when to bring her home and what our future will look like together. She will be 3 on 6/24, so we have some months of ground work and life experiences together before I get to riding her.

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Not a bad life so far

I’m obviously excited, and nervous, and anxious, but mostly excited. I can’t wait to start our future together!

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Plan #15

It’s been a whirlwind week. I flew to Florida for a conference, spent 4 days there, flew back for one night, and then flew to Seattle for a U2/Mumford and Sons concert. (With guest appearance by Eddie Vedder!!) So, I’ve been travelling a BIT.

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Drinking my favorite drink (or two of them) with my cousin while in Florida.

Somehow in between traveling I’ve managed to get some rides in on Macy. And, they’ve been pretty horrible. What I realized is, that after she spooks or is crazy once, the ride is over for me. I worry about her bolting so I tense up, shorten her and then neither of us can recover. I don’t want to get into every crazy moment she has had, or what she did, but do want to mention that I get why people keep horses that aren’t appropriate for them. I’m struggling with the idea of giving up on Macy and she isn’t even my horse. I didn’t buy her, invest a lot of time or money into her, and even having her doesn’t make me exempt from having to buy a horse in the future. So, really, I have it super easy with her and I am still struggling with giving up riding her. I can’t even imagine what it is like for people who bought a horse and are having this struggle. I get it.

In the past weeks I have realized Macy isn’t the horse for me and lately I feel more unsafe and frustrated than I have since the beginning. I let Sarah know and she totally understood. But then I kinda back tracked and was like ” Well, maybe we can see if I can make it work.” Because I just couldn’t give up, even though I wasn’t really enjoy riding her. It’s so messed up!

Yesterday I brought her in for my lesson and she was cuckoo bananas. She was tied in a different spot than usual and was so distracted and antsy. I was worried she would pull back, or trample me, and so I was tiptoeing around her. Sarah came over and let me know I can’t do that. Got her to pay attention and Macy didn’t like it, pulled back, broke her halter and galloped around the arena.

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How she reacts to me reprimanding her

I want to take a moment and mention something that happened while Macy was being a wild mustang. There were two other horses present. Both OTTBs and both, ironically, from the same breeder. One was getting acupuncture and one was being ridden in a lesson. When Macy had her meltdown, neither of them flinched. As she galloped around the arena, they stood still and waited for us to catch her. When Macy was caught they went back to what they were doing as if nothing happened.

So, props to those two OTTBs. And seriously, I am looking into who the breeder is and if he has any horses off the track for sale….

Ok, so Macy. Sarah hopped on her to show me a couple things to work on and then I got on. We ended up having a lovely lesson. Mainly because Sarah was there to guide me. I learned the following things:

  1. I need to keep Macy’s brain engaged every single step of the lesson.
  2. I need to be active every step of the lesson. If she gets the frame and bend I want, I need to keep working in order to maintain it.
  3.  If she spooks once, or even worse, if I THINK she is going to spook, I can’t get tight and lose the elastic connection. Because when I do that, it makes things worse.
  4. If she wants to spook, or does, get right back to work. Stop it before it escalates (if possible) but don’t get her short and tight. Get her back into that deep frame. (And when I say spook, this mare rarely just spooks, the spook leads into a bolt, head tossing bonanza)
  5.  I don’t trust Macy. I wouldn’t let go of the reins to even pat her when she was good.
  6.  I should not be riding this horse by myself. I haven’t ever been in a full lesson program, where all I do is take lessons and never ride on my own, nor do I want to be. But with Macy, I am doing neither of us any favors by riding alone without Sarah guiding me on staying relaxed and getting us through the tough spots.

 

So. By the end of the lesson I realized what I wanted to do. Showing is off the table completely. (Despite getting into an over subscribed recognized show, I scratched.) I won’t be riding Macy unless in a lesson. I’ll be doing that twice a week. I will continue to ride her with supervision because the lesson was actually really fun and I learned a ton. Once I learn how to ride her reactivity, I think I can ride her alone again. But that might be months from now. And that’s ok. Some of you mentioned that you worried a horse like Macy would make me lose my confidence. And I think that’s an incredibly valid point. I think that if I continue to ride her the way I was, when I free rode, that could definitely happen. With showing off the table I have no goals I have to meet in order to feel prepared to run her at Training. I can just learn and enjoy. I also realize Macy isn’t my long term horse. But my long term horse is going to be a young, green, unbroke horse, so I better get used to a little crazy in my life.

So, this is plan #15 I believe, and I am excited to give it a go. Plus, I’m going up to see Junebug Tuesday so I have something to look forward to 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lesson That Never Ended

Alternate titles: The First Time I Fell Off Macy, Lessons within the Lesson, or, my favorite: The Sh*t Show

Tuesdays lesson was set up for disaster from the beginning. I had asked for a jump lesson and we decided days ago to go out into the new jump field and hop over some of the xc jumps that had recently been placed out there. I told Sarah I wanted to see what Macy was like jumping out in the open.

It was so windy. I mean so so so windy. I couldn’t keep the end of my reins from flying all around. But, because we are eventers, and because I am stubborn, I thought, “It’ll be fine, I need to practice jumping in a new place with less than ideal conditions. What will I do if it is windy at a show? I’m way too cheap (and proud) to scratch.”

That was MISTAKE #1.

Macy was on fire from the get go. I couldn’t hear a thing Sarah was screaming at me, so it looked like I was just ignoring her. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating to know you are not doing what your instructor wants but you cannot hear her and change anything. On top of that, the beast you are riding is trying to gallop back to the barn and/or feels like she is about to EXPLODE internally.

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A moment that looked nice

Then, when I could actually hear Sarah, she was telling me to kick Macy forward, but it is petrifying to kick a horse forward (or do anything other than grip uncontrollably with every body part) a horse that you think is going to EXPLODE.  Or it is for me at least.

This was when I realized riding Macy, a hot unpredictable TB, was MISTAKE #2.

What I would have given to have the safety and comfort of Georgie. Instead, I felt like I was going to fall off, be reared off (she never reared, just felt like it) or shook off by her enormously strong neck. I DID sit up and ride and TRY to make things better, but in order to hear Sarah I had to lean in, or cock my head ever so perfectly, and that would throw everything out the window. We did this for about 30 minutes but it felt like eternity. I was miserable and wanted to just throw in the towel with the mare.

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I’m not smiling

But I didn’t. And my intelligent instructor decided that yes, we would jump, but we would work on relaxing the horse (and rider) by trotting jumps AWAY from the barn.  Before we get into that, I would like to share two classic quotes from Sarah that I was actually able to hear  during the lesson:

“Well now she’s just being sour. KICK HER!” (When Macy was running through her shoulder and essentially trying to tear back to the barn)

“No, that’s just what she does. She’s a bitch.” (When Macy was not listening to a thing I was asking and was dragging me around the field and I asked if I was doing something wrong.)

So, we started by jumping a small barrel thing. It went fine. I actually think we did  begin to relax. I was able to work on my position. On the backside of the jump I need to stay up out of the saddle, continue to let my elbows move and ignore her head tossing, bolting, crap.

We moved on to the next jump. It was a narrow coop with two standards that had wooden cutout  watermelons on them. At the beginning of the lesson, all the standards had blown over so Sarah put each upright as we went to the jump. Same routine for this one, trot to it, land and halt.

Great! We trotted to it and about 3 strides out, the standard blew over, towards us, and Macy came unglued.

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Do you see where my foot is??

And I landed on the ground. Totally fine. But on the ground.

Macy took off and after making sure I was ok Sarah said “She’ll probably gallop back to her pasture. We can go get her there.”

MISTAKE #3: Don’t ride a horse whose owner knows where they run to when they have dumped their rider.  😉

Got her, got on her and came back to the STUPID watermelon standard. I made Sarah stand there and hold it upright. We got over it. Not pretty, but together.

I then jumped this stupid jump like 6-7 more times. It went ok, but Macy was getting agitated on the back side and making it tough on me. It just wasn’t fun. At all.

I felt like we had been out there for hours, but the lesson was literally 50 minutes long start to finish. I’ve never been so miserable in a lesson to the point that it felt way longer than it was.

When we got back to the barn and out of the God forsaken wind I was able to process all that had happened. I really don’t care that I fell off. I’ve basically been waiting for that to happen and know it will again. But I just wasn’t sure I had it in me to deal with the bullshit of the lesson. I hate spooky horses. I have a tough time with hot horses. Put them together and I’m clearly totally miserable.

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Looking sweet and innocent after the lesson

But then I realized that I’m completely starting over with Macy. Not only am I starting with a new horse, I am starting with a completely different kind of horse. And that isn’t going to come easily or without a serious learning curve. Do I want to take that on? Yesterday I wasn’t so sure.

Today the answer is yes. (Is this MISTAKE #4???)

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I do love this shot from the end of the lesson

I’ve already learned how to be a better rider in just the few weeks I have been riding Macy. I REALLY want to be able to ride a hot horse for the mere fact that it’s a great tool to have in my toolbelt in case of needing to problem solve for the future. But I want to do it on my terms. If its windy AF I don’t want to ride Macy in the wind in an open field when I KNOW she is going to be batsh*t crazy. I don’t have anything to prove with this mare (and she certainly has nothing to prove with me) and I’m not riding her so I can teach her a lesson or get her to be safe in situations like that. I’m riding her so I can learn from her. Safely. And see what might be fun to do with her. She’s not my forever horse, she is who she is, and hopefully with that arrangement I can still have a good time with her. Does that make sense? I guess in the end I feel like I need to change the way I look at my partnership with Macy and it may not fit into my normal plan. And I think that’s ok.

I’m still signed up for the recognized show in June, but honestly, if I get there and she is crazy, I’m not going to force myself to ride just because we are there and I paid for it. If I get to a lesson and she’s crazy, I may ask Sarah to hop on her and work her a bit for me. I just want to be safe and have fun. And I think it’s possible, and as I get to know Macy better, I think it will become easier.

So, that’s where I am today. And we’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings!

 

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Keeping the Sanity

While I would love to give myself credit for how amazingly sane Macy has been acting lately, I don’t think that’s giving the full picture of what’s going on.

Sure, I think Macy tolerates me. Maybe even kinda likes me. She definitely likes that I let her get away with things Sarah NEVER let her get away with. And while I don’t always push her to her potential, or ask more and more of her, I do work her hard and expect her to work when I am on her back. Some days she is fine with that, most days in fact, but she does still let me know her opinions. But to be honest, her opinions have been far less dramatic recently, and today I rode her without draw reins. While I have ridden her without draw reins jumping, or hacking out, the thought of leaving them in the tack room for dressage seemed a bit risky.

But. She was perfect.

So, I’m going to give a shout out to some pharmaceuticals that I think are helping with her brain. And helping me enjoy this mare as much as I have.

Sarah has tried some calming supplements in the past. Nothing had really worked. In fact, the calming supplement from SmartPak “SmartCalm” made Macy even crazier. When she called SmartPak, they mentioned that yeah, that could happen in like 1% of horses. Oh Macy.

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Sarah telling Macy that if she doesn’t behave she’ll be getting draw reins again.

But something about having a baby and hormones changing seemed to make Macy more receptive to drugs.

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Macy on drugs that work

Sarah started her out on Regumate. It hadn’t worked in the past, but this time around it seemed to take the edge off. She was still a bit whackadoodle, but better. Because there was a positive difference, Sarah switched to the injectable regumate. There is some controversy over this drug, and how it affects horses, but so far Sarah is happy with it. And should it become banned from horses competing in recognized events we can deal with that.

Because what seems to have made the biggest difference is Quiessence.

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It’s like a miracle drug.

It has completely taken the edge off.

And while Macy will always be Macy, (today she wouldn’t let me groom her, so I had to let her gallop around for about 10 minutes) once she gets the ya yas out, she is ready to go to work. And doesn’t pull any of her crap. It’s not like being all wound up lasts for the entire lesson like it used to.

Um. Amazing wonder drug.

Now, we’re headed to a schooling show this weekend. And to be honest, I 100% expect Macy to be tense and slighty crazy. It’s who she is. But even if she is, the fact that I can enjoy her at home, safely, means the world to me.

So here’s to sanity for both of us, and enjoying the use of safe and legal pharmaceuticals!

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Meeting Junebug

As I alluded to in earlier posts, I have been considering adding a young horse to my life. There was one in particular that I have known about for a while, but never thought would be for me, as I already had a horse.

“Junebug” is a half sister to Sarah’s mare, Rapid. You know, the one I coveted after riding, and had so much fun on back in March? You can read all about my love affair here: Rapid!

Junebug shares a Daddy with Rapid- the USEF eventing sire of 2015, Riverman. Standing at Hilltop Farm, Riverman is a Holsteiner who has gone on to produce a lot of really lovely eventing offspring. You can read about him here: Whose Your Daddy?

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But where Rapid and Junebug part ways is with their momma. Rapid is out of a Connemara/TB cross and Junebug has a Quarterhorse momma. Now, at first, you may think, who breeds a Holsteiner to a QH? And I would be right there with you. Except that this mare had already shown to produce some really nice jumpers. And so, she was bred to a fancy Holsteiner.

And what resulted was a really lovely baby (or two! The bay is her full brother).

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Junebug was super sweet and well-mannered when I met her (considering she’s a baby) and I love her build. A bit stocky with a QH butt and AMAZING forelock and tail. (Which is equally as important as a good brain, lol).

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And she knows how to pose for the camera, also important

My first instinct was “YES.” And it still is. But with age comes patience. And since this would be the first youngster I’ve ever purchased, I wanted a second opinion. So, plan is for Sarah to head back up with me the end of May and we’ll play around with her a bit. And then, hopefully take her home. Her breeder is a good friend of Sarah’s and also wants to make sure this is a good match.

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In the meantime, while I think Junebug could certainly be the right horse for me, she is coming 3, so it would be a while before we did more than groundwork. And while Macy is also getting better and better, I just can’t help myself and am also looking into a couple of other going horses. What’s that called? Weighing your options? Or maybe just being impatient and indecisive…

Anyway, I’m glad you all got to see the adorableness that is Junebug and hopefully you’ll be seeing lots more of her!

 

 

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Making It Work

I’ve been so wrapped up in who my next horse will be, and what I can afford and want, that I’ve been missing out on what’s been going on right under my nose. That mare I was kinda scared of a few weeks back is turning out to be an amazing partner.

I knew something was up on Saturday. It started pouring when I had Georgie out for a walk and I still had Macy to ride. There was a roping clinic going on in the indoor arena so my only option was to ride outside. It wasn’t going to happen in this weather. But, I’d been on a work trip Monday-Thursday and Macy had gotten vaccines on Friday so I hadn’t ridden her in a while. And I REALLY wanted to. So much so, that I made the 25 minute drive back down to the barn after the clinic ended just so I could ride her. WTF. I wouldn’t even do that for Georgie (ok, I would, but Georgie is my heart horse.)

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Love this mare. But man she is filthy these days

The next day I decided to do trot sets around the property. It was windy as f**k. That kind of wind where you can’t hear ANYTHING, but you turn your head and it’s silent and you can hear perfectly.

Macy was tense, I was tense, there were plastic bags flying around and tarps blowing twice their height, but I kept trotting her around. We got to one section of the property, where the footing is near perfect, where I always let Georgie gallop, and I was like “what the hell..” and I got into two point and urged her on. She was as happy as I was to gallop. We did it again just for fun and called it a day. I needed to know I could gallop her and enjoy it. And I can. It made me so happy to be out there galloping on a horse that enjoys it as much as I do.

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She’s full TB, but that head SCREAMS Irish

The following day we did some dressage work in the arena. I was super stressed and frazzled from work, and as we got started a horse got loose and was GALLOPING around the arena. I hopped off Macy and she got frightened by the horse and got away from me. So… now two horses GALLOPING around the arena. We caught Macy easily and had someone hold her outside the arena while we tried to catch the other horse. If nothing else I am AMAZING at catching horses. Yet, it still took some time.

I figured Macy’s brain was shot but Sarah said she would be fine. So I hopped on her and she was a really good girl considering all that had happened and the fact that the horse that had gotten loose was now being lunged like crazy in the arena with us. It was by no means a perfectly loose and relaxed ride, but still, I was really proud of her. She hasn’t pulled the hopping and throwing her head shenanigans in a while.

Then today. Jump lesson. We were going to string some jumps together in the hopes we could go to a jumper show next week. I was nervous as it was only the second time I had jumped her AND we’ve never done more than jump and halt.

Um. She was foot perfect. So easy and relaxed and FUN. It was a total blast.

And while I KNOW Macy can be a brat and I am SURE we are not done with that side of her, I have to say, I’m REALLY enjoying her. She tests me as a rider and pushes me to ride well. I can’t daydream when I am on her and I need to keep her working. And when I do, she is great. She will always be a TB. She’ll always be tense when it’s windy and plastic bags are blowing around us. But, if I can come to accept that, and have my expectations be realistic, I think this could really work out.

So, I’ve kinda put horse shopping (beyond Junebug) on hold. And I officially want to see if I can make it work with Macy, at least in the interim. She has surprised me and I can’t thank Sarah enough for trusting me with her.

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Now sure, I am fully prepared for a “Macy was the worst horse ever” post in the coming weeks, but for now, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy her. And learn as much as I can. As for the show, we’re going to give it a shot. She is renowned for being HORRIBLE at shows, super tense and impossible in warm up. But, we’ll see how it goes. And maybe we won’t warm up, lol.

I’m excited about this partnership and where is may go. I’m so glad I’ve stuck it out with her so far and hope we can continue to have fun together!

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Maybe Macy

For the past 2-3 weeks I’ve been riding Sarah’s former 2* horse, Macy. Macy is a legend at our barn. Yes, she was a successful 2* eventer with Sarah, and then went on to have an adorable baby when she retired. But, it’s more her personality that’s legendary. When I first started riding with Sarah I started to hear stories about Macy. How she would kill you if you looked at her wrong while cleaning her stall. How she would bite you if you brushed her. How one time, at one event, she got away from Sarah and took off. She somehow ended up with half her body underneath a horse trailer. The stories don’t end, and so I’ve always regarded Macy from a safe distance of about 10-20 feet away.

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Who, me?

When Macy came out of semi retirement a couple of years ago, Sarah let me ride her. The lesson started with Sarah screaming at me “DON’T TOUCH HER MOUTH!!” Lets just say the lesson didn’t go that well after that. I did end up riding Macy in a TOC show a couple of months later, but I didn’t touch her mouth, so we didn’t really wow the judge.

With her baby weaned, Sarah decided to bring Macy back into some light work since she was seemingly sound and just sitting around in the pasture. And then Georgie injured herself. So, now we’ve got a horseless rider, and an experienced event horse needing to be ridden. Perfect match, right?

Well. Sort of.

Remember how I said I don’t love the sensitive TB? Well, I wouldn’t say Macy is really sensitive, she’s more just crazy. When she is good, she’s amazing. But when she is bad, she is not fun AT ALL. I’ve now experienced both. I experienced bad Macy on my own, riding along in the indoor and she decided she was DONE. She does this really fun thing where she throws her head in the air and unseats you by using her incredibly strong neck. Or, she will throw her head/neck and start crow hopping. You can’t do anything but try to get your seat back and wait for it to be over. And then, it’s over, and you’re back to doing shoulder in, haunches in, and a bunch of other upper level movements.

So, in last night’s lesson, Sarah broke out the draw reins. She saw how much I struggled with Macy when I was riding her on her own, and she is sick of the mare pulling that shit. I’ve never ridden in draw reins, and didn’t even know Sarah had any, so we spent about 15 minutes just talking about how to use them (and how I shouldn’t use them unless they are needed) and why it will help when Macy pulls her head tossing, neck strength shenanigans.

Lets just say I was really glad I had them for our lesson. I spent about half the lesson with them loose and untouched. And then, she spooked at nothing and proceeded to unseat me and pull her head and neck out and wham, hit the draw reins. Her reaction lasted about a quarter what it had when I rode her without them. She pulled some more shit throughout the lesson, the worst freak out was when we asked her to lengthen. I am posting the video so you get a sense of what it’s like, but also want to say I take full responsibility for her being disgruntled. Um, I’m pulling back and asking her forward and she had nowhere to go. Look how unhappy she is before I even get to the diagonal. The second go around was lovely. But this was not fun.

At the end of the lesson we had schooled shoulder in, haunches in and lots of leg yield. Macy is an AMAZING teacher. I could actually do these movements with ease- I didn’t have to ask for much, she is sensitive to my aids, and once I realized less is more, we really had some nice moments.

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But we also had 4-5 freak out moments. And at the end of the lesson, as Sarah was putting poles away, Macy spooked at the sound of them hitting the ground. Because she has never seen or heard poles before. Grr. And when I say she spooked, it’s a real spook. Not a one leg movement. An entire body bolting movement. It’s just annoying. I feel like I can’t ever have her on a loose rein. We tried to do a stretchy chewy and this happened:

So, I don’t want to make it seem like everything Macy does is bad. Because again, we had some lovely moments. And some of it was really fun!

Like this haunches in work!

But at the end of the lesson, I said to Sarah that while I liked Macy, I was also kinda scared of her. Sarah said she completely understood. Obviously Macy isn’t a horse for me to purchase or ride forever. But she is an incredibly talented horse that I could learn a ton from and potentially even compete this summer. She’s also free and a great option for me while I wait for baby horse to grow up. So.. maybe Macy is going to be my next partner in crime, even if it is just to learn from and become a better rider from. One of Sarah’s students once said about their current horse “I think of this as a business deal. I’m going to learn from her, she’s going to learn from me.” (Or something like that) And I think that maybe I need to go into riding Macy like that. I don’t have to fall in love with her, I just need to have a partnership that works. As long as I feel safe, and Macy is having a little bit of fun, maybe we can make this work.

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Fun. I need to remember this should be fun.

I want to thank Sarah for trusting me enough to ride her beloved horse and for also understanding my feelings about her. It’s tough to ride your coach’s/best friend’s horse and then blog about it, but Sarah has been amazing, and so far has agreed with any concerns I have about Macy, and has supported me through all of it!

So, for now, lets see how this plays out!

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