Friday, September 22, 2017

progress is not inevitable

We all know the daily, sometimes hourly struggle of what it feels like to keep pushing for more, and better. All with the abstract, hopelessly optimistic idea that our efforts will eventually be rewarded.

ah memories

And especially for those of us who have lately maybe not had the easiest run of things - for whatever reason - it's maybe important to take a step back and remember that even when things are hard, or even when the work feels... like a slog, or like droplets in a vast ocean... it's all adding up to something cumulative, something tangible.

*** Dressage *** 

mda schooling show

loch moy

fair hill


Progress is not inevitable. It depends on our willingness to roll up our sleeves and get it done. To not be afraid to work.

*** Stadium Jumping ***




loch moy





We may confront road blocks. But when that happens, that's the test. Not 'how do you feel when things are going good.'

The test is when you're out in the field and on the ground doing the work and things get hard. How do you respond and react?

*** Cross Country ***

loch moy

fair hill

schooling at OF

fair hill

Our response has to be to push forward with an infectious and relentless optimism. Not blind, but hard-earned optimism rooted in the stories of past progress and success. The stories that accumulate and build. That create a trajectory that's better.


first ride, first "before" picture

So for this Friday, I'm taking a moment to celebrate the steps toward a "better" made possible by every small and sometimes futile feeling of exertion over the past year. All those small steps that sometimes leave us wishing for more or faster results, but that all the same still bring us closer every day to where we want to be.

Aided, in no small part, by lifting many (or, uh, basically all) of the above words of inspiration from one of my favorite speechmakers in his latest discussion on topics much more far-reaching than our experiences riding and training horses. But it's funny how, philosophically, so many of the same ideas still hold.

Happy Friday, y'all. Here's to a weekend hopefully spent reaching as ever for more and better, and enjoying every step of the way!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

jumping lessons one month later

It probably wasn't super obvious, but yesterday's summary of our recent dressage lesson was actually a full week old. That's the way of things around blogs tho, I guess. We're always at least a day or two behind around here, if not a little more!

"i am fancy dressage horse, yes?" - charlie
In the case of Le King of Dings over here, that means he's often coming sound again right around the time I post about his latest lameness. Which was again the case this time around. His awful, terrible, no good bruise resolved itself enough for him to consider himself no longer crippled by Sunday. At which point he got a nice long hack (as mentioned yesterday).

"yes, i suppose i am."
Then Monday he got a reasonably structured flat ride - for which naturally I dressed him up like the fanciest of fancy dressage horses. White boots, fleecy bells, the whole nine yards. Bc obvi if he came up lame at least maybe ppl would be distracted by his cute outfit? Maybe??? lol....

He was sound tho. And quite good. Well. Let me temper that a little bit: he was sluggish and decidedly behind my leg for at least the first half of the ride. But he offered exactly zero dinosaur moments. And actually got right on board with my efforts to put him in front of my leg. Specifically: halt-trot transitions. Actually, he was so on board that he did a shockingly nice walk-canter transition despite me only looking for trot. Goooood boy!

he's also a fancy jumping blur too!
So I was optimistic going into a hastily scheduled make-up evening jump lesson. Which, if you're keeping track, is our first real lesson over fences in exactly one month. The last one being that hybrid stadium / xc lesson back in August. Then we were sidelined by that abscess for a little while.... tho at least we got one quick supervised school over fences in the meantime.

his middle name is "unimpressed"
Also in the meantime, Charlie and I had a few opportunities to go out and jump our own selves around - such as during that baller paper chase at Tranquility, and obviously during our recent competition at Fair Hill.

thank god for that star to at least sorta make sense of the blur!
And Charlie's just been jumping great. So well. I'm so excited for him. But simultaneously honestly I'm a bit caught up in the disappointment of wondering where he could be if we hadn't had such a crappy 6-8 week run of things. Between my travel, his aggravated splint, more travel, that abscess, then the recent fat leg... We've just missed a lot of time.

"we're gonna need a bigger fence!"
I know it sounds like a broken record every time I dwell on that.... But it's what's on my mind so it's what I write about. Like, included in that lost time are the opportunities to school new and interesting challenges, or continuing to expand Charlie's horizons with adding more height.

When you're constantly just trying to "get back into it" tho, it doesn't make sense to always be pushing boundaries.

love how clever he's getting to the base!
So this lesson was nothing amazing or super ground breaking. Charlie was good, I was ok. We had mostly a good rhythm and still some green mistakes. I'm REALLY excited tho about how adjustable the horse is getting - in learning a half halt, but also in his steering.

he's a pro at bending lines now too <3 i didn't even know he popped a change in this line til i watched the video lol
We schooled around some lines and bending lines. A couple interestingly styled fences (tho we left out the skinny shark's tooth bc of needing to share daylight among lesson mates) and more technical turns. But yet I wished it could have been more. And honestly wished each fence was raised another hole or two. That they could have been 2'6 and up instead of 2'6 and below.

disappointed we didn't try the shark's tooth, not enough daylight :( soon!!
Which seems crazy haha considering my crippling nerves and anxiety just three months ago. But if I've learned anything, it's that confidence and anxiety are cyclical beasts. And I will take whatever good positive feeling comes my way, no questions asked, thankyouverymuch.

(imo, negative gnawing feelings deserve full dissection and analysis. i like to know those issues inside and out! the happy feel-goods tho?? no need to look that gift horse in the mouth!)

fan jumps are old hat now tho!
I hope that doesn't sound whiny lol. We aren't really in any rush to get any where, and we aren't exactly stagnating or anything -- obviously there's still a lot of work to do in improving my riding and getting Charlie more schooled, ever more trained.

dusky evening video here!

Maybe I'm just feeling greedy tho lol. I just want to get beyond this feeling of "getting back into the groove." It's cool tho. It's all ahead of us.

Our upcoming calendar has a lot to be excited about, and there are a few other ideas bumping around in my head for new ways to enjoy this wonderful horse of mine. We'll see how it goes! And in the meantime.... yea, we'll just be here, working on getting back into that groove. Forever and always lol.

How about you - have you ever had to deal with little nagging setback after setback, or feeling like you have so many goals allllmost within reach, but not quite? Or maybe you're more patient than me haha -- or you're better about not making too many concrete goals with your horses bc horses have such a knack for irreverence when it comes to our plans??

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

dinosaur dressage redux: elegance + a gif!

So my long time dressage trainer C spends one day a week traveling to other farms for lessons - including our new barn OF. While we weren't able to ride with her during the first month after our move, things are looking like we will maybe FINALLY be able to get on a regular schedule!

future elegant horse???
Even better - the dynamic has shifted such that she reaches out to us ("us" being the handful of riders at OF who lesson with C regularly) to schedule rides, instead of me needing to remember to text her about a lesson. Definitely makes it easier for coordinating purposes!

looking dubious tacking up. polo wrapped bc of puffy fungus-y legs. fungus was cleared just in time for the fat kicked leg. c'mon sir, get a grip!
Another cherry on top of this new arrangement is that a) I don't need to haul out to take a lesson and b) since trainer C is on the road instead of teaching out of her normal barn, she can charge us less while still pocketing more money since she doesn't have to pay out a cut for her barn. And I don't pay a ring fee. Saving on time AND cost??? Yessssss :D

blurry and dark but you get the picture
Oooh and one last benefit: so far we've scheduled things such that Brita does the early lesson and I arrive in time to catch the end (including taking video and media). Brita then has returned the favor by sticking around for my ride and taking more pictures! Yay dressage media!!!

still showing some bracing up front, but maybe getting moments of figuring out that his butt is actually attached
Lots of stuff to be excited about with this arrangement. Which is good bc the rides themselves have been challenging lol. I wrote about our lesson here, saying that it was a rough ride with us pushing the envelope for Charlie. And maybe pushing a little bit too hard, and he ended up kinda giving us the finger and quitting on the ride.

canter is so easy for him. wish i could sit up tho!
That's a big reason why I've wanted to get him more fit again, so that physically he's a bit more comfortable with an increase in work load. But he's also still got some emotional road blocks to his dressage training.

coverin' ground
Charlie can still be very resistant to being driven forward. And after he's figured out how to do a certain thing, when I change the rules on him (as in: asking for more) he can be.... a little defiant.

you put your left leg in, you put your right leg out, you put your left leg in and you canter all about
This crops up mostly with Charlie sucking back, sticking his head way up in the air and propping a little bit. Tho sometimes he mixes it up by kicking out too lol (such as in that glorious gif above, too bad there isn't volume on gifs so you could hear us all giggling at his "expressiveness" lol).

cute gazebo for background
That's been a bit of an ongoing challenge in our rides lately, which is frustrating... But the moments in between his outbursts are getting really good.

The general gist of this lesson was pretty similar to the last one: Putting the horse more fully on my outside aids, connecting his hind end such that he can turn more like he's got "rear wheel drive" instead of always needing to drag his shoulders around. And working harder to make me sit a little more correctly.

picture will be improved with just a few more tweaks i hope!
Particularly: C wants me to get downright zealous about my outside rein, and simultaneously stop using my inside rein as a crutch. You can see in the photos tho that this is really difficult for me haha. I'd let that inside rein slip out... but would then hold my inside hand out and lowered to still hold the connection.

My outside hand meanwhile wants to be either right on his neck or bordering on crossing over... whereas I need to hold it further out over his shoulder. C encouraged me to press my dressage whip against my outside thigh to help the outside hand stay anchored in place. I must also start thinking about connecting the reins to my elbows instead of using so much hand movement.

i really need to stop using wide hands as a crutch 
Additionally, C took me to task for my lower leg position and use. She was adamant: I must rotate my leg so that it's not clinging with the calf/heel with toes pointed out. Rather, I must keep my toes pointed forward, finding my big toe in the stirrup iron. I need to be thinking about using my upper calf instead of my heel, and to use much more thigh instead of pinching my knees.

the pieces are coming together slowly but surely tho
This is really really difficult for me bc gripping with my lower legs is kinda like my security blanket.... But especially given Charlie's surliness about being driven forward, I need to be a lot more accountable and purposeful with leg aids rather than just constantly nagging at him...

The lesson itself kept us on a 20m circle the whole time, rather than doing any exciting movements or figures or anything. But I was able to get a much clearer sense for what the "feel" is that I'm looking for in connecting Charlie's hind end and getting him more on the outside aids.

look who's sound again! back in action with a lonnngg (and somewhat misguided) solo trail ride. atta boy charlie!
We also had to deal a little bit with going through Charlie's whole "dinosaur in tar pit" tantrum every time we picked up after a break. It's a behavior I thought we had maybe resolved a little while back... but now I'm recognizing it for what it is: Charlie's go-to response to any increase in flat work intensity. Whether bc the work itself gets harder or bc he's less fit. It's just something we'll probably always deal with in some form or another.

Per usual, consistency and routine are probably my best defenses against the antics. It's hard to keep the rules the same when we have so much unplanned time off.... but I'll do my best! And in the meantime, I'm SUPER heartened to see how much the quality of Charlie's work is improving. Obvi, again, there's a lot needing improvements but I feel pretty good about saying he's squarely within the expectations of a training level dressage horse.

And so the cycle continues. Charlie appears to have recovered from his poor puffy little bruised leg, so we are hopping right back into the action. Included in that is preparing for a new plan to help address rider fitness in tandem with the horse's conditioning. Stay tuned for related details (and a contest!) soon!!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

stuff i bought while my horse was lame (again)

Yes, my horse is lame again. No, I don't really want to talk about it. Yes, he will be fine, and no I'm not particularly amused that he came up lame on the same day that I joked about "jinxing" it.


ghost of sound horses past
He appears to have put a limb in the wrong place at the wrong time, most likely sustaining a kick to a hind cannon. And it's killing him omg. #dramaqueen

dat's a fattie, charles!
True to form, his leg blew up and he was quite pitifully ouchie on it. But... ya know. It's basically just a big tender bruise, so by day two he was much less sore even tho the puffiness persisted.

poor Cos wanted charlie to pay attention to her over the fence line in the worst (x-rated) way
So I missed yet another jumping lesson where there was an awesome course and very fun and interesting jumps to be schooled. Blargh. But like, cold hosing and wrapping are fun too, right?? ....Maybe don't answer that lol.

In the meantime, knowing that we wouldn't be able to ride in the lesson, I preemptively hit up all our local tack shops for a little retail therapy. Both the big box store and the independents (including my favorite consignment shop!). Much fun was had!

pictured: retail therapy
Tho actually, in reviewing the purchases, it's maybe kinda glaringly obvious that even in my "splurge" moments I'm still kinda hopelessly practical.

A)      Polos that are a liner/bandage combination (consignment)
B)      Matrix dressage "liner" pad (consignment)
C)      Wahl mini cordless clippers
D)      Vet wrap
E)      Flat-backed wall mounting feed pan
F)      D-ring savers
G)     Tail Tamer brush
H)     Galloping boots
I)       Furazone
J)      Feed scoop
K)     Woof splint boots
L)     Hunt style 3pt breast plate (consignment)

Not pictured: Ice Horse ice pack (see below)

screwed into place bc sir likes to play with his food. we'll see how long this lasts!
Honestly I only decided to go shopping bc Amazon didn't seem to have anything that really fit my idea of a wall-floor-mounted feed pan for Charlie. He has to eat on the ground bc of his tie back surgery and tendency to aspirate food. And he has to have his feed soaked bc of the alfalfa pellets and to protect against choke.

But he also likes to paw all up in his food and fling it around his stall, then spend the next 20 minutes hunting and pecking to snarf up every last morsel. I honestly don't mind the pawing too terribly since he does in fact go find and eat it all... tho it's stressful when there are important meds in his feed.

when your tail is so luxurious you can't even see the wrapped leg behind it
The biggest issue tho is that his stall becomes a veritable fly haven with all the grain remnants everywhere. Like, it's buggy as fuck in there always. Same story at his last barn too - they'd routinely dowse his stall with Pine Sol just to try to control the bugs. It's nasty.

So my hope is that this wall-mounted, floor-level feed pan will resolve this. Except I'm about 65% skeptical that he won't just rip it right off the wall, perhaps taking down some of the boards in the process. And probably laming himself too just for good measure, bc why not, right?

this ice pack miiiiiiiight be filled with magic tho! i also like how you can't even tell that it's under the standing wrap on left
Speaking of lame, I also hemmed and hawed big time about picking up this freezer pack. I'm a big believer in just plain old ice - it's cheap, readily available, and I've got a great set of ice boots. But after going back and forth a little bit I finally bit the bullet, #splurge right??

And actually it made a huuuuge difference after just an hour on. The leg had been wrapped for two hours before hand (while the pack was chilling in the freezer) then I rewrapped it with the pack. It was super easy to wrap - you couldn't even tell it was in there. And then the leg came out looking actually leg-shaped after an hour (whereas it hadn't looked even a little bit different after 2 hours with just normal wraps). I like it!!

intriguing concept of a "liner" saddle pad!
Other odds and ends picked up were mostly all impulse buys. Like this white dressage pad. It's like.... the opposite of what we normally think of fancy pads -- most of which have all sorts of special built in padding.

This one tho assumes that you've already got a half pad that meets your needs, so the pad is extremely minimalistic breathable mesh under the saddle, and a nice crisp material that feels like it'll repel dirt and stains. It was an absolute bargain at the consignment shop ($10, tho it does not appear used) so perhaps it'll serve well as our new show pad. (if my horse is ever sound again wahhhhh)

really starting to feel organized!
And of course, with bringing all this stuff home it served as a perfect opportunity to check in on my new locker's organization protocol. And I'm pleased to say that so far I'm still feeling really good about the tack locker! Obviously I could fill whatever space is given to me (lol), but we're making do with what we got.

This hanging organizer is great tho, and holds most of my daily- or regular-use stuff that doesn't necessarily need to be mobile (and therefore included in my grooming tote for travel).

Hooks across top: extra bits, spare halters and reins, and Dark Jewel Designs hat

1st row of pockets: Mane 'n Tail shampoo, fly bonnets; polo wraps and ginger snap cookies.

2nd row: surpass and breath mint rolls; MTG and betadine sponge; keratex with brush; animax/dermalone and spare feed baggies; pair of brushing boots.

3rd row: Pair of brushing boots and pair of galloping boots; empty pocket (ooh the possibilities!); spare plastic bags; scoop; sweat scraper and bath mitt.

make good choices, charlie!
So ya know. In a way it's weirdly satisfying to get all my little odds and ends organized. To pick up all these new little extras for whatever may come in the future. I mean.... obviously I would rather be riding lol....

But at least it's fun to pick up new stuff with the prospect of future rides on my brain! I'm particularly excited about that hunt style breast plate lol. It's definitely the least necessary of all the purchases, tho I've toyed with the idea of popping a standing martingale on Sir Dinosaur Stuck in Tar Pits just to see what happens.

Mostly tho, the breast plate is for dress up. And I'm super excited about its classic look and brass hardware. Next time the horse is sound, y'all, there will be pictures!

me, wonderin when my horse will be sound again....
Until then, tho.... Wish me and my fragile little butterfly good luck in nursing him through yet another terrible, no-good bruise!!! Hope you all have a happy Sunday too!