Tag Archives: horses

Things I Love: Part 1

I’m pretty frugal when it comes to purchasing horse items. I’m typically two years behind “the hot new trend” as I want to see if things last, and all the hype sticks around. Therefore, when I do make a purchase, and I love that purchase (whether new or not) I feel like celebrating it and sharing my love for it. So, here are three new to me items that I am over the moon about.

1. You all may remember that Amanda C kindly gave me her Lund bridle when she upgraded to a new one. I had been searching for a bridle that would fit June and not having much luck. Her bridle was in excellent used condition and it fit June really well. In the meantime, Lund ended up sending me a pair of reins to match the bridle, which was great, as I was riding around in non matching, black reins (Horror!)

When I got these reins, I instantly fell head over heels for the entire bridle. I now had a really nice bridle that fit my horse well and as an added bonus, it had really nice leather and looked great too.

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stock photo from Lund

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Cute pony, cute bridle

The leather always looks cleaner than it is, and it’s really soft. Plus, at the price point of under $175, you honestly cannot beat the bang for the buck. Honestly, I just love this bridle. So much, in fact, that I chose to ride in it, rather than my other new bridle, to June’s first Arena Cross event.

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Ignore side eye, she loves it too!

2. IMO no bridle is show ready until it has a browband with some bling. I’ve always been unimpressed by pre made browbands, and could never find one I was really excited about. When I found out about Dark Jewel Designs, and that you could make your own browbands, I was SOLD. I now have multiple strands and multiple set ups. Amelia is great to work with and most recently really worked with me when I wasn’t sure what size would fit June and my bridle. We ended up on a cob size curved band with snaps. The great thing about the snaps is it is SO easy to remove the browband and change it out. Plus, it makes it a little bit longer so you can slip wider bridles through the sides of the browbands.

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I credit our lucky 4 leaf clover for the success we had last weekend. It’ll be our go to xc browband for a while

Dark Jewel Designs browbands range from over the top blingy to a subtle hint of shine. I have both ends of the spectrum and love them all equally. And while I really love the newest ones I have, I find myself still loving the ones I purchased a couple of years ago. They last and keep their bling.

4. My Secret Santa this year hit it out of the park. I mean Michelle got me some amazing things, including an adorable purple tote with June’s name on it and  something else I really ended up loving:

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The Tough 1 Great Grips Brush

Sure, its purple. But that isn’t the main reason I love it. I love the fact that it bends! It’s so great for cleaning legs and other parts of the horse that aren’t flat. It’s my go to brush right now. Is it fancy and soft? Nope, but it’s perfect for getting dirt and mud off. It wraps around the horses legs so you can clean both sides at once! Hello time saving tool! I just love this simple brush and am so happy I now have one!

3. My biggest purchase of the past year was my horse trailer. Going from a tiny two horse with no tack room, to a much larger two horse with a full dressing room was a serious upgrade for me. But, beyond the size, I can’t say enough good things about how this trailer hauls. Despite being more than twice the size of my last one,  my truck pulls it without an issue. Even with two horses in there this past weekend, I didn’t feel a thing and the truck chugged along nicely. It’s so spacious for the horses and incredibly inviting. I’m so happy I made the upgrade and just can’t say enough things about how much I love it.

 

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When I first purchased it. It now has a level hitch

The dressing room has four windows and is HUGE and I’m looking forward to setting it up for show season so I can sleep in there. For me, this trailer is everything I wanted, and I’m just so excited to have a trailer both June and I love.

So those are the material things I love. I have lots of stuff I like, but it isn’t worth raving about. These items make me happy, stand the test of time and in my opinion, were super solid purchases.

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Two Years Ago Today

It was two years ago today that I retired Georgie as my competition horse. Man that day sucked.

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Our last event together- Training 3Day at Rebecca Farm

Being where I am now though, two years later, I almost feel like it’s ok that it happened. Don’t get me wrong. I miss riding Georgie. Especially when it comes to how safe and secure I felt going cross country.

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But, I get to see her and feed her treats every day. I can hop on her once a week and enjoy being on a broke horse. I care for her when her junior lessee is out of town, and she still uses a bunch of the tack I had for her. Honestly, she is still a part of my life on so many levels. Which is what I had hoped for when I stopped competing her.

And now I have this special baby monkey horse named June. Who is teaching me so much. And while she isn’t making anything as easy as Georgie did, I have to say, just like Georgie, she really does have a heart of gold. Sometimes I don’t verbalize how much I appreciate June and how much I love having her.

When I got Stella as a teeny tiny puppy, I kept comparing her to my senior dog Montana. Montana was the easiest dog ever, and I kept wanting Stella to be just like her. As a young dog, there was no way Stella could meet the expectations I had for her if I wanted her to be like Montana who I had had for many years. I worried that Stella was less than because she wasn’t Montana.

And look how that turned out. Poor Siri…

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The two that can do no wrong

So, while I may compare June to Georgie, or be sad that I don’t have a solid Prelim cross-country horse anymore, I realize that what I do have with June is pretty damn special. She makes me laugh and smile, but she also makes me ride well, and be incredibly thoughtful in my riding. Where Georgie was easy, June is a challenge. But it isn’t a mean-spirited challenge in any way. We probably match each other equally on a scale of who is more opinionated. And just like Georgie, she’s game for pretty much anything. I hope I can keep her curiosity and willingness intact, as they’re two things I really love about her.

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AND she looks good in purple!

So, while two years ago I was pretty much in shambles, I’m happy to report that time did heal a broken heart. Along with a sassy young mare named June.

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Chapters

This past weekend Sarah held some course work jump lessons and I signed right up! Sure, June and I are currently trotting poles to a cross rail, but I knew Sarah wouldn’t over face us, and I knew we needed to spice things up a bit as June is not one for constant repetition.

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She was super chill to tack up and on the longe. But I got on her and she realized we were jumping and I swear mare became a hot and sensitive beast. Now… I also realize the fact that she was calm until I got on her doesn’t bode well for me. Perhaps I made her a hot and sensitive beast? Maybe. But she definitely comes out of the gate raring to go, this one. This is so out of my comfort zone. A forward horse is lovely. I mean, I’m sure it will be, once I learn how to ride it. What I learned in this lesson, was that sometimes I just need to go with it.

Because June likes to take over to the jump, I came into this lesson prepared to do lots of transitions and keep things calm and her attention on me. She was great in warm up over the ground poles and settled in quite well as the lesson progressed. I wasn’t getting my typical June reaction, which has been, good for the first part, and then as things progress she gets more and more opinionated.

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There were a couple of moments where I had to tell her “um no” as she grabbed the bit and took over. But they were few and far between

And so, this is where I made my first mistake of the day. I didn’t read the horse I had. Now, it could have been that she was good because we were doing so many transitions and mainly working out of the trot. But it also could have been that she was good because of the work we had been doing and now was ready to progress. But instead of letting her canter to the jump, or letting her do her job, I got stiff in my body, constantly brought her back to the trot, and basically fought with her more than was necessary. I was unable to move forward with her, and instead just wanted to control every little thing.

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Meanwhile she just wanted to jomp jomp

I like to think of bringing along a horse as learning from a book. You need to know when to move on to the next chapter. When is your horse ready for you to move on, even if everything isn’t perfect. Or, when do you understand that they are ready for what’s next? I struggle with moving to the next chapter sometimes. I want to be as diligent and understanding of the current chapter and basically understand it to the nth degree before moving on. And this isn’t the most advanced form of horsemanship. Sometimes I need to take a risk and move ahead and use what we have learned to be successful with what we encounter.

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When she sees the jump, ears go forward

In this current lesson, despite Sarah telling me the same thing over and over, I didn’t relax my elbows and allow her to do her job. I didn’t see what would happen if I landed in the canter, re-balanced, and kept cantering to the next jump. I just kept thinking “Don’t let her take over, don’t let her go too fast.” Which was irritating, but understandable. I’m not used to a sensitive go get em, kind of horse, which June most certainly is.

All in all, the lesson was a lot of fun. I’m really excited to replicate it in my next lesson. I’m excited to allow June to canter and just see what I need to do in order to not pick, pick, pick, to the fence. Mare has zero issues jumping, so now, as we jump cross rails, is the time to get all of this sorted out. I’m really excited and can’t wait to work on something that is clearly out of my comfort zone.

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The Winter That Never Ends

I wanted to title this post “What it Takes to Travel to a Lesson During an Idaho Winter,” but that seemed a little too lengthy.

Remember how excited I was to get June and I out of dodge and down to Gary’s for a lesson? Well, in my temporary excitement, I forgot what it would actually take to get to that lesson. So, here’s a recap of this past Friday and Saturday for you.

Friday PM I drove my truck to the barn to hook up my trailer. I had asked a farm manager to clear the snow in front of my trailer, and they did, which was GREAT. But the snow was still up over the wheel wells. So I started shoveling. Thirty minutes later I hopped in my truck and hit the gas. The truck fish tailed and the trailer barely moved. I shoveled some more and realized that my Trailer Aid ramp was frozen to the ground and obstructing the trailer tire. I picked at all the snow and ice around it but COULD NOT get it unfrozen. So, I cleared all the snow and ice as best I could and gunned it. We got over it. I hoped that perhaps being out in the sunshine would help unfreeze it and that HOPEFULLY I wouldn’t need it on my trip. My block that the hitch tongue lies on was also frozen solid to the ground, but that was less of an issue.

Since I hadn’t used my trailer in a few months, I wanted to take it to the tire place and get air pressure checked. Everything checked out ok and so I drove it home and quickly realized, that with all the snow we’ve had, it wasn’t going to fit in my driveway. Shit. I considered driving it the 30 minutes back to the barn, but was too stubborn, and instead parked it on the side of the road outside my house. Now, I live on a REALLY quiet cul de sac, and there’s probably only 10 houses with full-time residents. But I still texted my neighbor and asked if everyone was going to hate me for this. His answer was pretty funny.

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Neighbor Brad keeps it real. And no, it didn’t work even if I parked my truck behind his car

So, I spent most of the night waiting for an angry text from a neighbor. In their defense, the road is narrower than usual because of the snow, but there was still PLENTY of room to get around the truck and trailer.

Apparently I worry too much, because I didn’t hear a peep from the neighbors and at 8 am I was off to the barn to get June. She got her Ulcergard, and Purina Outlast, then I wrapped her rear legs and put shipping boots on her front legs and we loaded up.

Now, something to note about Idaho. I live in the mountains. But much of the state has a desert landscape. When you get out of the mountains, it’s possible not to see any snow. In fact, about an hour away from us there is literally no snow on the ground. Boise, where my lesson was, typically gets very little snow. So, in theory, once you get out of the mountains, it should be smooth sailing in terms of winter driving.

One other thing to note? There are two ways to get to Boise. One is over a couple of mountain passes, the other is not. Guess which way I chose to go?

In my defense, it was not snowing at home. Ok, maybe it was A LITTLE BIT. We were scheduled to have a storm beginning at 5pm Saturday night, but there were no reports of snow before that.

About an hour into my drive it started to really snow. I’ve decided that weather reports are just stupid.  The roads started to get really crappy. And just before I had to go down a mountain pass, the visibility got shitty. And that’s when I realized I had been gripping the steering wheel so tightly I could barely unlock my fingers from it. Pulling a trailer in the snow is one of my least favorite activities.

But then, you get down the last pass and you’re back in the desert. It’s like the horrid winter driving never happened. So, lucky for me, the last 40 minutes of my drive were easy peasy and I was nice and relaxed by the time I got to my lesson.

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Siri immediately found a dead bird when we arrived and I got to pry it from her mouth. Fun times!

I had left with plenty of time, and even with the tough road conditions, we still had about an hour to get ready for the lesson. And while we went into the lesson calm and relaxed, the lesson itself was not great. June was a friggin rockstar. She was calm and there were zero shenanigans. She went right to work when I hopped on her back and while she was a little distracted by being in a new place, she was really quite good. I told Gary I’d like to work on trot poles to a jump and getting her not to take over. I felt in a new environment, it would be nice to see how well this was solidified.

Gary had us work on transitions in the trot and we were getting what he was asking for. Was she perfect? No. Is she a 4 year old? Yes. But, I was pleased with her trot work. He then asked us to canter right and we didn’t get the correct lead. Second time we got the correct lead but she immediately broke. He then had us stop and discussed my position and aids.  I did what he had suggested and lo and behold we got the lead, and kept it for 4-5 circles before doing our downward. We then went left which he was pleased with.

And then right again.

June really struggles with keeping the connection, and not running through her outside shoulder. If I can keep her shoulders straight we can get the lead. If I can’t, she either swaps or breaks. It’s a timing issue and something I need to work on. So, he asked us to go right and she swapped after a couple of strides. And then Gary asked if he could hop on her. And I thought “Great, this is going to turn into a right lead canter lesson. This is exactly what I didn’t want.” But, I wanted to see what he would do to resolve the issue, as I am a visual learner, and so I said yes.

He struggled a bit to get her on the correct lead on a small circle. In the end, he was successful, which was great. I learned that his hand was closer to her shoulder than mine had been and that he counter flexed her when asking for the transition which was helpful to see from the ground.

But then he proceeded to keep riding her. He did a bunch of work in the trot. And he kept going and going. And then pulled her up and said “I think that’s good for today.”

Um. Ok.

I have a gazillion thoughts about this. But here are two:

  1. I just drove through a snowstorm to have you ride my horse. I appreciate the work you did in the canter, but then I never got to get on and practice what you taught me.
  2.  Yup, my horse has a nice trot and you can do lots with it (counter flex, lengthen, come back, go forward). Who do you think got her to that point? Why are you showing me all she can do in the trot?

I think I was just pissed that I drove 2.5 hours for someone else to ride my horse. ESPECIALLY when Sarah already does this for me in my own barn. I needed to work on me. Hopping on my horse and riding her isn’t going to fix her issue. I appreciate that he got on her for the canter, I honestly do, but I was really hoping to get back on her. And, I had asked to work on something completely unrelated to this, because I KNEW we weren’t ready to have a lesson where we are doing canter work.

Blerg.

When I got outside, it was snowing again. Yay!

But this time, for the drive home, I was smarter. This time, I took the slightly longer way  that involved zero mountain passes. And we had dry roads and smooth sailing. When I got home, I got June unloaded and then went to go see if I could get my Trailer Aid out of the ice. Apparently, when you have a high of 20 degrees, things aren’t going to unfreeze. So, I found the pick ax, and started chipping away. Which resulted in this text with Sarah:

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So, yeah, a pick ax is a life saver.

Which is good to know, since the snow storm they predicted, is certainly here. We’re supposed to get 2-4 feet of snow, and it won’t stop snowing until Thursday. I’m so over winter.

So, all in all, things aren’t easy in Idaho right now. But what’s that saying? About that which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger? I’m stronger than I’ve ever been right about now….

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Trot Poles are our Future

I assume it’s the same for anyone starting a baby horse, but figuring June out has been so eye opening for me. I don’t know how I would do it without the expertise of someone who has gone through it before, as things are constantly changing. Then it’s sealing in what you want and having that be the expectation. And then things change again. And while this could be the same pattern in horse training in general, I’m finding that with June, since she has no base of knowledge to work from, we’re both figuring out what we want together, even if what we want isn’t necessarily the same.

I would like this ALL THE TIME

June’s connection has become so much more solid. We’re now working on not running through the outside shoulder and keeping her straight. We can keep the connection and stay straight on circles and in corners, but I work so hard on accomplishing that, that sometimes we lose our rhythm, and June quickens. On the flat, we’ve come a long way. We can canter in both directions, picking up the correct lead, but again, that falling through the outside shoulder is still a struggle. And June is far weaker going to the right, so there is a lot of swapping behind when I ask for connection in the canter. But, we’ll get there!

A slight tilting of my upper body and it all starts to fall apart

Our last few lessons we’ve concentrated on working over poles to a fence. As I mentioned in my last post, this usually starts out fairly easily. Losing the rhythm, and June taking over, usually happens as the exercise, or the jump height, builds. I’ve never had a horse as sensitive as June or as opinionated. She epitomizes “give an inch she’ll take a mile.” And while I love her work ethic, and her attitude of being an over achiever, sometimes I want to sit her in the corner and remind her she doesn’t know how to do EVERYTHING better than I do.

She always enjoys a good gallop around the arena. She’s definitely better at galloping than I am

Seriously, though. Our lesson was great. But it takes just one ineffective ride and it can spirl. One time, I let her rush the fence in the last stride. She was SO proud of herself and cantered off after the jump even though she knew that we land, take a few canter steps and then halt. The next time around, fire breathing dragon appeared. But it’s so funny how she does it. Over the poles it’s: perfect angel, perfect angel, perfect angel, and then the last pole to the jump it’s: MUST GET THERE NOW.

I was definitely more effective in my riding than I have been and shut her down a few times. But that one time, where I don’t catch her in time, and she gets over the jump in an on the forehand ball of not listening? That means we will have to work even harder the next time around.

But the good news is, June is a quick learner. And while she will continue to try some antics to get her way, (including snorting and bringing her head down as she does so in order to try and get the reins longer,) all in all, we’re making progress. I feel like we could trot poles to a fence everyday for 6 months before she gives in and stops trying to take over, but that’s not what we’ll do. We will keep mixing it up, lots of work on the flat, challenge her other ways and soon, hopefully, I’ll have a horse who is light and off her forehand to the fence every time. I mean, it will look lovely and effortless, but we all know, I’ll continue to be working my butt off every single stride.

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Pro Rides

Great news- June had her teeth floated, veterinarian found a couple of sharp points, filed them down, and in the two rides she has had since, the head tossing and rearing have ceased.

I hopped on her Sunday, not knowing what to expect, as she hadn’t been ridden since having her teeth done. I haven’t ridden her since Sarah started putting some training rides on her except for my lesson last Tuesday- where she was not feeling her best. Therefore, I hadn’t really been able to feel the work Sarah has put into her.

I went into this ride with a plan. I wanted to continue what we had started in my lesson last week and ride her as if there was no issue. If the head tossing started again, I would call it a day. But until that time, I’d be riding her as a training ride, not a plod around and see what happens ride.

From the moment I got on her back I was asking things of her. Go forward, bend, no running through your outside shoulder. I tried to remember everything Sarah has been working on. We had a really lovely ride. She tried a few antics to evade work but they were very short lived. She was so light in the bridle, so responsive to my aids and she had come so far in her connection and ability to do what was being asked. She honestly felt like she had been ridden by a pro for a month, not 4 times.

Totally unrelated we had a “free jump” day and June may have sailed over this 3’7oxer.

When I started the journey with June, I was hung up on me starting her. I wanted the journey to be about me and June, even if that meant we went slow and spent longer working through things. I didn’t want to put her into training with a pro, and felt like, with regular instruction, I could get June going how I wanted.

And then we had the Gary Mittleider clinic. And I felt frustrated and like I was in way over my head.

Pretending to enjoy ourselves

And in retrospect, maybe that clinic was a blessing. Because it made me realize that I can still have this journey with June be ours, even if a pro does put some rides on her. Helping me through issues doesn’t make June any less “a horse I started.” And, quite honestly, for a horse like June, having someone show her exactly what is expected is really good for her. My confusion led to her confusion. My inability to get her to do what I was asking led to her thinking it was ok to be heavy in the bridle or take over during rides.

So much fun but requires me not letting her take over

After just a few times of having Sarah ride her, I’m in a spot where we can move forward instead of work on the same issues. June is less confused, I have more confidence, and I now have a horse who I know is capable of what is being asked.

So, all in all, I’m happy I have an incredible friend and talented trainer to help me in this process. Someone who can hop on my horse and work through some of the kinks. I’m thankful that I’m not letting pride get in the way of doing what Is best for both June and I. I’m hopeful I can continue to enjoy this process no matter who is in the saddle.

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Getting to Know You

The best part of starting a baby horse has to be how well you get to know them. That bond that develops between horse and rider. Sure, this can happen with non baby horses, but for me, there is something about being the first to figure things out with a horse. All their quirks and opinions.

June is the first horse I have had who is excited to see me. She’ll whinny to me the moment she sees me and has a bit of a fit when I leave her in the indoor arena. Upon my return I am greeted by a very happy horse. It’s cute. I’m glad she likes me and that seeing me elicits a happy reaction, instead of an “ugh. you.”

I feel like they both like me. Most of the time at least.

I’m slowly figuring out what June likes and dislikes. She’s pretty easygoing, but definitely has opinions.

I was reminded this week about how well I am getting to know her. She’s always been a hard worker. A “yes ma’am” type. Strong work ethic even if she’ll try to evade some things if they are difficult for her. So, when Sarah mentioned she was having some connection issues with her in her ride, I thought maybe something was off.

Omg I miss warmer weather and I think June does too

Since I was riding her in a lesson the following day I figured we would see how she did. Again, she was resistant to keep any connection, something that hasn’t been a problem. She was really tossing her head and being quite dramatic.

And then, I asked her to come up centerline and track left. She trotted a few steps, slammed on the brakes and gave her best Hi Ho Silver impersonation. Good thing she’s so compact as it didn’t really scare me and we continued on with the lesson. But this was her first time rearing.

We moved on to practicing Intro Test B for the upcoming dressage test of choice show this weekend. June got progressively worse. Head tossing became unsolvable. Then, we came up centerline for the last time. I had her trot/walk/halt at X. I kept the connection and was happy until she fell left in the halt. I put my left leg on and asked her to step over. Instead, she just reared. So, we did it again. Another rear. Third times a charm apparently because she halted and stayed straight. She got lots of praise.

But this was strange. June isn’t a horse who is naughty just to be naughty.

Sarah asked me when she had her teeth floated last. I couldn’t remember for sure, but knew it had been a while. We discussed that she may need her teeth done and that’s why she has become so resistant to contact.

She may have recently gotten a new blanket in which she looks adorable

So, the following day I called the vet and they confirmed it has been almost a year since her last teeth floating. For a baby horse, that’s probably too long.

We shall see.

My hope is getting her teeth done will solve this problem. My hope is I know this horse well enough to know something is going on to elicit this reaction.

We cancelled our dressage show entry as clearly her well being is my primary concern. Her vet appt is tomorrow so I am hopeful that my next June post confirms my suspicions and we have a happy and healthy pony again!

 

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Right Bend

Sarah has been working her butt off with June this past week and they’ve made some really great progress. At first, it seemed like June was going to be complication free, but that changed a couple of rides in, when June showed Sarah just how good she was at evading  the right lead. They worked through it, and despite the tough ride for both of them, I received this text from Sarah:

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Yes, Sarah reads my blog and yes we joke about June being a phenom

 

I only rode June once all week, which was in my lesson. During that lesson I could feel the work Sarah had put into June as she was clear and responsive to my aids. During the lesson Sarah had to keep reminding me to ask for right bend with her. Ugh. Everything about going right on this horse is a struggle. I tried to remember to ask consistently but the struggle is real.

In the meantime, while Sarah puts some training rides on June, I’ve been hopping on Georgie and schooling her a little bit. Some rides we work on flexing, some rides on going forward, and some rides I try to get her to get off of her forehand. ( I lack the ability to work on all of these things at once. Duh) Georgie has become very comfortable going along on her forehand, not bending and just loping around haunches in. And, for her current rider, this isn’t the end of the world. They’re probably both thrilled with the situation and have tons of fun together. But when I hop on her, I can’t help myself and I expect more from her. I ride her for about 35 minutes and am usually drenched in sweat.

The other day I got this text from Sarah after asking if the spurs I gave Georgie’s rider helped:

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So, that evening, when I rode Georgie we worked on going forward while maintaining right bend.

And then, afterwards, when I recapped the ride to Sarah, I joked that it was fun working through the issue, especially since I had probably caused it.

And then, it was like a lightbulb started flickering on and off in my mind.

Georgie has a right bend issue.

And now June has a right bend issue.

Clearly I have a right bend issue.

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Sarah had an incredibly hard time getting me to consistently ask for right bend with Georgie. But, I kinda think this was the wake up call I needed. Right bend issues have now become my number one priority!

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When Your Child is a Phenom

You’ve undoubtedly met the parent who thinks their child is a phenom. The parent can be seen speaking in a muted voice,asking lots of questions about the upcoming show schedule, taking up a lot of the trainer’s time, and always thinking one step ahead. (Forgetting that horses are fragile creatures, and that thinking one step ahead leads to heart break.) We have had a few of these parents in our barn and I just roll my eyes at them.

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But then, I got June, and I BECAME them.

Except, my “child” is a horse. Which may be better? Or worse? Heck if I know.

I worry that June has too much talent. Especially for little amateur me. But then I get ecstatic about how easy the work we’re asking of her is. I laugh at how little energy she puts into jumping a 2’6 jump. I watch her trot and  swoon. Instead of listening to what Sarah is saying as she trots her across the arena, I think “man she is going to have a nice extended trot one day.” I’m insufferable when it comes to my phenom.

But then, fortunately, reality sets in. I get on my horse and she’s inconsistent in the bridle. I can’t pick up the right lead. Hell, I can’t even get her to trot over poles without falling on her forehand. My horse may be a phenom, but we’re not bound for the Olympics with me on her back. This team is as average as they come.

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Much talent. Much Phenom.

And, what I’m learning, just as those parents will have to, is that being a phenom doesn’t just happen. It is a hell of a lot of work, and more than just natural talent. It doesn’t matter if my horse came out of the womb doing pirouettes. If I can’t harness that, and work my ass off on all the other miniscule things that are important, we’ll never get around to actually performing pirouettes.

June is the fanciest horse I’ve ever had. And by fancy, I mean, she was bred to do the job I’m asking of her.  Even though the work isn’t as hard for her as it may be for other horses, it doesn’t mean she naturally engages her abs, rocks back and is light on her forehand. It doesn’t mean I can trot down centerline, and just sit there, hoping the judge will be dazzled by my horse’s incredible movement. Nope. Sure doesn’t. I have to continue to ride every friggin step. And lets not forget, June may be fancy by my standards, but there will always be a fancier horse and better rider out there. Always.

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Weird. I ride like shit, she goes like shit

 

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I ride well, she goes well

And this may sound obvious. And I guess it is. But up until recently, I’ve been half heartedly starting my horse. Dedicated to getting her ridden, but not asking for much. If she wants to pull through my hands I let her. She wants to be inconsistent in the bridle, that’s fine. In my mind, I shouldn’t have to work as hard  because she is a nice mover and talented. Image result for ridiculous gif

I’m not a naturally talented rider. I work hard and have good horse sense, which is my saving grace. But even if I was, I’d still have to work hard. Especially with a green bean. I watched Sarah ride her the other day, and she was working, working, working. Thinking, working,thinking, working. June looked great, but it definitely wasn’t easy. Even for a pro who is literally doing everything correctly at the exact right moment. So, ya know, like, the opposite of me. I kinda check out during rides instead of staying engaged mentally and physically the entire time. And that’s gotta change.

So, moving forward, every time we enter the arena, or have a lesson, we’re working hard. We’re only as good as the work we’ve put in. If June has phenom potential, well I better not look like I’m a waste of space on her back. My dream is to one day go Prelim with her. But for now, I need to concentrate on being able to do a 20m circle in a walk/trot dressage test. Cause hell, that’s going to take a lot of work.

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First Plan of 2019: Meh

In my Plans for 2019 post, I mentioned that our first big plan was a clinic/lesson with Gary Mittleider. This was our first lesson with an instructor other than Sarah. Going into the lesson I was feeling pretty good about things? I mean, I know June is a green baby but I figured we’d be ok with what was asked of us.

But then the lesson I had prior to this clinic put me in a horrible head space. June and I have struggled with the canter going right. In this particular lesson I COULD NOT GET THE RIGHT LEAD. Like, it wasn’t happening. Left- lovely. Right-unattainable. We worked and worked and nothing. To the point where Sarah said “I don’t know how you feel but do you want” and I yelled “YES” knowing that she was kindly asking if maybe she should hop on June and try. Not surprisingly she got the correct lead immediately.

This was tough for me. Not because I was surprised, I mean Sarah is a pro with lots of experience on baby horses. But because this was the first thing I was absolutely unable to do. And it was clearly completely my issue. I MAY have broken down a little post lesson and may have said “Why am I even starting this horse? I’m ruining her!” Dramatic? Yes. But I was feeling like shit and, well, maybe head space when starting a baby horse should be a blog post of its own.

So, I knew, going into the clinic with Gary, that the right lead canter was perhaps going to be an issue. But I decided to not worry about it. So many other things to work on! Right lead canter may not even come up. Cause, you know, there are so many times in clinics when you only go left. Uh huh.

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This was the fakest smile I have ever produced

For me, the toughest part about riding in clinics is that you are part of a group. Therefore, if something isn’t going well, or needs work, you can’t just stop the planned exercise and work on that one thing. There are other people in the group who can’t not progress with the exercise because of one horse. So, lesson number 1? We’re probably not ready for a group lesson. This exercise was advanced for where June and I are currently, and therefore, we really struggled. And instead of just working on what we were struggling with (which was a multitude of things) we would kind of just move on and make it work, and IMO that’s not really beneficial.

To start the lesson, Gary had us trot a ground pole on the right side of the arena, turn left, pick up the canter, and canter over a ground pole on the other side. Lovely, simple, and straightforward. But, June was SO distracted by the ghost at the north end of the arena that when we trotted the ground pole, she then spooked right and as Gary was yelling “Straight Line!” we were trotting like drunken sailors. I picked up the canter, got her to stop looking out, and instead look to the upcoming ground pole and we cantered to it. And then June decided she needed to show off a wee bit.

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Yeah yeah June, you’re super impressive

But what was worse was that she landed, and instead of coming back to the trot, just grabbed the bit and kept cantering. So, we got reprimanded for that. And did the exercise again. Again, unable to go straight after the ground pole, but this time we did just canter over the other one, and we did come back to the trot, even though it didn’t look pretty.

After the other rider went, he asked us to do the same exercise, but going right. We were ok over the ground pole at the trot and then picked up the wrong lead; Gary hollered just to keep going. And she did this AGAIN.

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If she would just listen to me, we could actually get to jumping things meant to be jumped

So, June was distracted and a bit eager for most of the lesson which was not helping. We did that line well enough (although always on the wrong lead) that Gary did set a couple of tiny jumps. And, well, things didn’t get better.

June ran at the jumps, and I wasn’t getting her to adjust at all. She was spooky and distracted which was making everything I was asking that much harder. At one point, things really just started to unravel. We  would start by going left, and then change rein through the middle of the arena. We were asked to pick up the right lead canter, make a sharp right turn and jump a tiny jump.

It was all fine until we would change rein and get ready to canter. There were horses tied up on the inside of the arena and I knew that if I got too close to them June would probably kick them. So now, I’m trying to pick up the correct lead, which I hadn’t done once in 45 minutes, turn, AND jump.

It got worse and worse. We never got the correct lead, and trying to turn your unbalanced green horse on the wrong lead, to a jump on about a 15 meter circle? Not gonna happen. At least with this team.

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This picture gives me anxiety

And it ended up looking like this

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Do you see me kicking like a Pony Club D1??

 

June was done. She would stop about two strides out and NOT GO FORWARD. So, we took another break. And I would love to tell you that it was all unicorns and perfection after that, but it wasn’t. Gary was great- he probably was as frustrated with the lesson as I was, but he chatted with me for a while afterwards and kept reminding me that the most important thing to have when you’re riding a baby horse- is a sense of humor. Mine was lost about 15 minutes into the lesson unfortunately.

We agreed that having Sarah ride June and get the right lead canter solid was a good idea. Lucky for me, Sarah likes June. Even better, she was willing to let me take her to dinner and construct a plan for June’s immediate future. I was pretty much ready just to give June to Sarah, but instead, we agreed on a training plan, and I think it’ll work out really well. We’ll both be riding her, but I’ll be working on refining what June already knows and she’ll help the progression to new things and getting June to really understand what is being asked of her.  I’m really lucky to have such an incredible trainer and friend.

So, 2019 plans didn’t start off with a bang. But that’s ok- baby horses will never make things a linear path. Actually, horses never make things a linear path. I still love this mare so incredibly much, and I’m hopeful we’ll be less frustrated with each other after a little reprieve.

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Weather has been so nice she got to enjoy a blanket free romp in the snow!

 

 

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