Monday, May 23, 2016

houston, we have a (stopping) problem

Basically we can't make it through a jump course lately. I am not entirely sure how to write this post, or what exactly there is to say (beyond that I am just very sad right now).

But I've been stringing you along and here we are, with a couple lessons and two more shows under out belts and still no real definitive outcomes. And a blogger has gotta blog so.... yea.

maybe figuring the selfie game out tho haha
So. To catch you up (on the off chance you haven't been perched on the edge of your seat, chewing your finger nails into tatters), last I wrote we had laid down a marginally successful lesson with Dan. Reestablishing FORWARD FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST and using the forward pace to carry us through dicier moments.

Next was lesson day with trainer P at OF (source of the arena jumping pics in this post). As previously mentioned, it was a net positive experience. But not without low moments.

pictured: fugly distance but still jumping
We coursed around 3' with mostly no problem. A couple fugly distances, but only two crashes. (I say "only" bc the crash is literally that common now...). And when it was good it was GOOD.

who said oxers were problems?
The crashes tho... I'm kinda stuck in this mindset of assigning 'fault' for a stop. Like, 'oh ok mare, fair enough, that was my fault.' The first stop fell into that category. Trainer P wants me to break out of that mindset tho. She says the horse needs to figure out how to get over the fence, even when circumstances aren't perfect.

And... while originally I wasn't sure I agreed, I'm starting to see her point. Because now Isabel is taking the "Ehhh this isn't quite right, we didn't get where I needed to be, so, NO, no jump for you" answer more and more often.

I get that this angle isn't perfect. But I have watched the full size video and studied the stills. We GOT THERE for this fence. The spot was there. The pace was there. Everything was there. And Isabel just straight up noped it. Had already jumped it once, jumped it again fine after that. But this time? Nope, sorry, triple bar is declined.

pop quiz: is that an event horse or a reiner?
(also, this is the hilarious picture i kept promising. funny, right? ...hahaha?)
All the same, tho, I left this lesson feeling positive. Sure, certain issues persisted - but I felt prepared to keep riding through them.

So I had what honestly were not unrealistic hopes for our h/j show the following day. Just get around the 2'6" division focusing on moving forward to the fences. Seriously. Guys. I do not think it is too much to ask that this legitimately schooled mare and I at least survive a trip at 2'6".

it's not like we haven't been working on it forever, or anything
It was not to be tho. The show was an unmitigated disaster. Sure - external forces added to it... And I can come up with excuses all day long. It was windy out... There were fewer entries than I expected; classes ran fast and we were super late.... I didn't have enough time to warm up...

Whatever. Does it even matter? It was a shit show. And I fell off a whole bunch of times. Because these jumps had an awful lot of fill, and I had been oh-so-clever and put open front boots on this mare who has learned to crash through stadium fences.

Only took a bloody blow or two to her cannons to decide that she doesn't like crashing through all that fill after all. And her answer: Stop faster. Stop harder. And.... I can't stick that.

there is zero media from that h/j show (bc miracles DO happen), so enjoy a similar view of crashing over even tinier fences at this weekend's show
We were officially that horse/rider pair. And literally every single rail bird had (UNWELCOME) advice for us.

"Go slower."   "Maybe try trotting your fences."   "Show jumping is about track and balance."

Idk, I can't even really remember what all everyone said because I was trying to as graciously as possible ask them to please keep their opinions to their goddamn selves. This is a small horse world, and obviously these folks only meant the best... plus we were very clearly struggling (hard to claim otherwise when you're literally covered in arena sand, jumping the jump all by your lonesome)... But damn. People. Cut me a break, please?

this is not the face of a mare who cares what you think, m'kay?
Anyway. Then I was off quite unexpectedly to Seattle for most of the week. Meaning I had to cancel on Dan pretty much immediately after begging to be penciled in for a lesson asap. Fortunately Brita kept the mare ridden for me while I was away.

Brita is pretty much just the best.
Then lesson day again with trainer P at OF. Trainer P had participated in much back and forth texting to brainstorm an APB game plan, from as holistic as possible a perspective. Including plugging the mare up to her eyeballs in feel good candy.

The basic premise being that Isabel has lost confidence. And I was ready to raise my flag for the "mare must be uncomfortable" hypothesis.

Our lesson initially supported this theory when Isabel thought hard about stopping going into a grid, but kept on jumping anyway. "Aha!" I thought. "It's the bute - she feels good and now will keep jumping!"   "Now just to convince her owner to inject all the things!!!"

So we decided to keep the bute train rolling and go to our event this weekend as planned. (And if you want to judge me for illegally dosing my mare with bute at a starter trial... well... have at it).

opinionated mares, cold cheap beer, and friends who know all about struggling through adversity. yup. we were prepared!
Dressage was lovely, per usual. Mare was soft, easy, willing, got us tied for second, blah blah fucking blah. We know this story already. The mare is talented at training level dressage and quite pleasant to ride in it. Cool story bro, but will she jump?

Nah. Not really. Jumps were tiny too. It' been raining for something ridiculous like 20 days out of the last 25 or 30 and everything is just waterlogged. The ground is no exception. Footing actually held up pretty well - but they kept the jumps super soft all the same.

Cross country was modified too - literally only 8 jumps in a field. The true test of the day was stadium and they built a lovely course for us. And I got about 5 fences into the 11 and started thinking "Hey wow we are actually doing it!! We might actually make it!!"

Then... refusal at 6. That stupid tiny ass little red and white vertical in the earlier gif that she stopped at when I closed my leg to go. But I'm a good little monkey and only need to learn my lesson once, and waited for the judge to honk me back on course to continue.

Took another rail but mostly finished the course kinda ok-ish. Ok, except for this beauty at the final fence:

believe it or not, this did not constitute a refusal.
Like. Isabel. Jump that god damn mother fucking fence. Just jump it. It is right there. You are on top of it. JUMP IT. Ughhhhh.

Oh, and yes, I did in fact circle back to get through the finish flags....

Needless to say, I did not proceed to cross country. It's hard to verbalize just how frustrating and disappointing this is. Why won't she jump?!?

Lucky me, tho - because of the modified xc situation, they were technically running it as a combined test. So despite thinking I withdrew after my 12 penalties in stadium, I in fact only dropped to the bottom of the bunch and got a sweet ass pity ribbon (tho the 2nd place ribbon for just dressage was admittedly pretty nice).

best horse show prize evar?
And the MCTA stayed true to their nature as pretty much the best organization ever, recognizing our deep need for awesome prizes. Among my bucket of 8th place swag was this incredible HANDIHORSE ... thing!!!!!!

So. Perhaps it was all worth it after all?


  1. Oh Emma :( Horses can be SO frustrating sometimes. I have no good advice, but misery loves company. I just dropped my kid back off for training board because we can't trot without hysterics. And yeah, the 'helpful' comments from well meaning observers...just stop. Sigh.

  2. Argh. I'm so frustrated for you. I would have had a VERY had time being polite to people sharing unwelcome opinions. A few middle fingers may have flown! Huge kudos to you sticking through it. Bigger person than me! Y'all will get through this...somehow...someway...just drink lots during the in-between time. ;-)

  3. I feel your frustration... and while I don't have any useless or useful advice to offer you, I'll state for the record that da Bird has decided that his go-to "don't wanna" behavior is rearing like the black stallion. *sigh* Jerky McJerkface, who shoed properly last year and stood like an angel with no issue... fussed and popped up a teeny bit when I had to have emergency farrier pull shoes (because preferred farrier had a horse fall on him and was in hospital with drains in his abdomen) and I... let him get away with it because we needed the shoes off (clink clink at 9 weeks) and it was getting dark and raining and emergency farrier had to go to her real job and I felt I didn't have time to pick the fight and win it. So then Real Farrier shows up a couple of weeks later, out of hospital, at about 85% capacity, and horse is like "well, popping up a little worked with Emergency Farrier, so let's try it again... " and I can't ask my bust up Real Farrier to kill himself wrestling with my rearing jerk of a horse, so. UGH. (This was before farrier ever put a tool to the hoof. This was immediately after he picked hoof up and tried to put it between his knees in farrier position.) He got trimmed but has no shoes. Yes, reasonable choice, but horse is super clever and rearing up has worked TWICE for "don't wanna" and now I have a hot mess on my hands. UGH. I'm gonna have to fix it, but UGH. Not quite the same as your problem, but trust me, I feel your pain.

  4. That Handihorse is horrifying. What a great gift!

    I'm sorry the jumping is not going well. :(

  5. Gotta love the rail birds (not). But seriously have you tried riding backwards. It fixes all problems... ;)
    PS that hand horse thing is fabulous!

  6. Sending you lots of hugs! Wouldn't it be nice to tell rail birds to stuff it!? Keeping everything crossed that you can figure out a solution.


    Hugs for the rest.

  8. HANDIHORSE!! That thing is so fantastically creepy.

    Lots of hugs. I feel you. There are no easy answers to this kind of crap. :(

  9. Man, that's really frustrating. :(

  10. Oh Izzy :( Don't you wish they could just talk??? And tell you what in holy hell is going on?

    Fingers crossed and hugs for you and the supermare.

    Don't you just love 'helpful' unsolicited advice? I once got absolutely parlayed by a 3 year old draft cross at one of his first shows. After I ascertained my femur was not broken and I could stand again, a helpful bystander proceeded to share what she would have done differently. I hated her for the rest of the day and secretly laughed when her own greenbean wouldn't load at the end of the day. Karma. She's a bitch.

  11. What the hell!?!! I know you will get her past this, but really you have put in so much time and effort this just sucks beyond all. Hugs.

  12. Oh man, that just sucks. So hard. I don't have anything to say other than I'm really sorry, and sending hugs your way.

  13. Sorry to hear you've hit a rough spot...I'd be so annoyed with all the opinions flying at me too.

  14. Dude, I have been there. It sucks, Im sorry :(

  15. I would have freaked out on the railbirds for sure! Fingers crossed you can get it sorted out. I know it's probably very frustrating as your hands are tied a bit when it comes to her care. At least you always have her best interests in mind:)

    ps. I've got a naughty chestnut you can borrow if you want!

  16. Bridget has been doing the same thing says it's because she's lazy and has figured out she can, which is totally uninspiring, I know. Sorry you've been having a rough go , fingers crossed things improve. Probably minimal consolation, but super nice job on the dressage!

  17. oh dear. dont listen to the h/j-ers their solution to everything is to crawl at it with no impulsion ;)

    im sorry things arent going well :/ i wish there was something i could do!

  18. Fiction went through a period of stopping when we were jumping. What worked best for him was a prolonged break. We figured we had been over-facing him and jumping him waaayyy too much. Maybe Izzy needs a break? She is a phenomenal jumper so things like this just seem so out of place :( I hope you can figure it out soon!

  19. This seemed really frustrating. Hope you can get her back on track easily enough.

  20. That HANDIHORSE is just awesome. HA! So sorry to hear about the issues. It really sucks when a horse starts saying No. It sounds like you have absolutely checked off the "does it hurt" box and "is it me" box and the "is it the equipment box". And she won't just TELL you. Have you tried free lunging her and chasing her over jumps? If you go back far enough in my blog, it is what I did with TWH when he started saying no. Convinced him that it didn't matter the size, I was going to chase him over it.
    That said, those kind of comments from railbirds is truly not helpful. Hope you can get her head back in the game.

  21. I'm really loving this term "railbirds". Adding that to the vocab!

    You got it girl! Frustrating as hell you you got it. You rode great this weekend!!!

  22. Ugh- I feel for you. Hope you're both able to get your mojo back soon.

  23. That's rough. I probably would have jumped to "She must hurt somewhere!" as well. Sounds like there might be something other than just saying no going on, but obviously I don't know the horse well enough to offer any specific suggestions, and you've got several trainers for that anyway. Not that I'm suggesting in any way that you give up, but i you need a different red headed mare in the mean time while Izzy gets herself together or gets better or whatever, I know a little Irish red headed mare you might like that's in VA...

  24. Sorry that you and Isabel are going through this, it sounds really frustrating. And it just sucks when something seems like an outlier and then all of a sudden it's a cycle. I hope something clicks for her soon.

  25. Yikes! And wow, what a fantastic seat you have! In that nasty stop pic, I would have sailed right over her head, no question about it. And wtf horse, surely it takes more energy & athleticism to stop like that then it does to jump the darn fence?!?

  26. I vote just ride Handihorse from now on. Seems like a nice creature.

  27. This sucks a lot. I have thoughts if you want to hear them, and if you don't then just know that I feel bad that you're falling off and not having fun. The worst!

  28. Oh man, this super super super sucks and I am VERY sorry to hear it. I totally know how you feel, because this is basically how Gina behaves around stadium jumps.

  29. I think you may need more pie. And beer. And hugs from Idaho. Ahhhh, I am just so frustrated for you, so I can't imagine how you must be feeling.

  30. Omg. The handihorse is amazing. Def bring that next time we go get beers. Speaking of beers...

    Also, bute the horse in a starter trial. For realz. That's why they exist, right?

  31. :( What a rough weekend. We had a rough CT this weekend too (only it was dressage not jumping).

    Quick question - did this happen in both Bates and Hastilow?

    Either way, it sucks, and I am so sorry this is happening.

  32. Omg your hand horse! Glad you are able to keep somewhat positive about the situation. I'm pretty sure horses just get bored of doing good and just decide its more fun to be a brat

  33. Totally worth it for the hand horse. Sorry to hear about the troubles though :( I would have never expected it from you guys. I hope it's resolved quickly, and you get back out into the action!

  34. Convincing a horse that they need to go 'up,over, or through' is really frustrating. And omg yes I saw that horse hand thing at the art store the other day.

  35. Argh, so frustrating. :(
    1- something that stuck out to me is the flip flopping lead in front of the triple bar gif. I think she said right there when she flip flopped from right to left that she wasn't going to jump. She ended up sliding to a stop and turning left (the new front lead). Just something I noticed that might be worth a mention- insecurities sometimes come out in flip flopping leads before fences. I don't think there was anything wrong with how you brought her into either gif fences.
    2- I agree with Austen, bute/starter trials- it's why it's schooling. You're trying to solve a problem, you need a real life course to test, so hit up that starter trial.
    3- I love handihorse.

  36. First - what an amazing seat you have to stick with that refusal. I would have been a lawn dart. Second - that hand horse thing is crreeeepppy. And third - I'm sorry that you are going through this frustrating phase. It's so hard when they can't tell us what is going through their minds. It sounds like you are doing what you are able to do to see if it's health related for Izzy. Otherwise, I'd just be asking the same questions - is she doing this with your trainer too? Are you deep down truly committed to the fence? Did she do this in the K&M too? Good luck, and I'm just an email away if you'd like another person to bounce things off of. :)

  37. I am SO sorry to hear that you guys are struggling so much right now :( You have so many people in your corner, I know you'll both get through it, given time.

    Just know I'm rooting for you <3 <3 <3

  38. I admire your stickability - holy sweet mother of god you look fab!

    As a sidenote, I know what it's like to listen to all those rail-birds and seriously commend you for acting so professional in not ripping their heads off!!

    I know you both will get past this and get back to your regularly scheduled program, but I do have some railbird advice to give - mostly because I feel bad not offering SOME kind of advice haha!

    What about nixing jumping for a little while and seeing if concentrating on something "easy" helps her? I hope she returns to that game little mare we all know and love soon!

  39. I'm so sorry, Emma. I don't have advice to offer you but I have been there and I know how frustrating it is. I hope you can work with your team of professionals who know the mare and can figure out a way to get her back on track. This feeling really, really sucks.

  40. I'm sorry it's sucking so much right now. I don't have any real advice. But I do have a lot of sympathy for whatever that's worth. I hope you find a way to get her back to jumping.

  41. Ugh. WTF, Isabel? I'm sorry and I promise I won't give advice (rail birds...seriously), but I'm rooting for you guys. I'm sure this is just a phase and you'll be back to rocking it in no time. Who said horses were easy?

  42. Curses Isabel! As someone who recently went through this ALSO, I know there are solutions. Mine might not work for you, but I know you will get there. :)

  43. So I'm very behind in reading your posts and I'm hoping very much that things have started to turn around for you.


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