Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween everyone! Hope you all had a great weekend full of entertainment and whatnot. It was straight up gorgeous here - with rife opportunity for getting out and about for a little fun. Obviously with pictures. And masks. Naturally.

Charlie was perhaps not as enthusiastic as one might wish, when trying to create graceful and elegant fall pictures. lol

In fact, homeboy was basically incredulous that we could be standing atop so much green grass, and yet I wouldn't let him eat it!! Horrifying indeed!!

Big horse seems to always find a way tho lol. 

EXCEPT. Apparently in the eerie light of a full moon, his tastes shift toward something a little.... spoooooookier. Charlie wants braaaaiiinsssss lol.

Or cannibalizing finger puppets. Haha. Either will do, really. 



lol in all seriousness tho, hope everyone had a great weekend and a great close to October. Which means: You guessed it, a close to the 2016 Two Point Challenge!!

Get your final longest times in by tonight at midnight pacific - no ifs ands or buts! Winners will be announced on Wednesday!

I do not yet have Week 4 times for;
L. Williams
Liz Stout

Thursday, October 27, 2016

a strange anniversary

Those of you who have been reading long enough to remember (and hey, maybe even some newer readers!) must be sick and tired of me beating this same drum. But. My blog, my rules.

This week marks one year since failing to stick the landing after stepping out of my trailer, and breaking my leg in the process.

And wow. It just really sucked. And I have all kinds of personal feelings wrapped up in the injury - sometimes considering it to be a somewhat pivotal moment for me (considering just about every aspect of my life looks different now than it did then...).

Of course the timing was unfortunate as fall is maybe my favorite time of year to be out and about competing! Not that the injury stopped me from at least spectating lol, since I still managed to haul Brita and Wick to their awesome BN debut less than 24 hours after the injury. Pro tip: maybe don't do that.... Tho it was totally worth it haha. 

And naturally the injury couldn't stop us from some good ol' fashioned halloween fun. Who could forget this truly horrifying costume? I, for one, shudder every time I see crutches lol.

Mostly it was just a tough time for me bc spending time with horses felt damn near impossible. Getting to the barn was something I could do at most once or twice a week - usually to haul my barn mates to our weekly lesson at OF. And covering myself in barn cats as par for the course. Bc naturally. (also there are THREE cats in that pic - do you see them all?) 

At least being crippled opened my world up to certain amenities - like when Loch Moy loaned me a gator to "walk" the cross country course with Brita and Kaitlyn (they refunded my entry too!). 

It's funny looking back on that moment bc being a non-competitor at shows felt so alien to me, so unusual. And obviously after the way things unfolded with Isabel this year, I'm pretty sure I attended more shows this year as a spectator / provider of moral support (and/or transportation) than I did as an actual competitor. Ahh how things change...

Another fond broken leg memory was spending my birthday in the pet emergency room with my darling kitty Martini, who really really had to pee but just couldn't. Poor dude. Carting his ass up and down the stairs to my third floor apartment while on crutches just about did me in.

Fortunately he recovered just fine, and with a change of diet has not suffered any relapses. So again. It was worth it, I guess haha. 

The injury definitely came at a bad time for Bali. You all remember Bali, right? God how I loved that horse. Despite the crutches and impending winter weather, I managed to make it out a couple times to watch him and his lease rider lesson with Dan.

Sometimes I wonder if I had more saddle time with Bali, if he would have worked out for the lesson program. Given the result of his x-rays tho.... probably not. As it was, he ended up landing softly at an easy going trail home. Probably for the best. Le sigh. 

Anyways, I actually didn't even get to see Isabel every time I made it to the barn, since she was usually out in the field. She was sweet when I did see her tho. Doubtful that she missed the work... but maybe she missed the candy canes? lol.... again some of the parallels to today are remarkable. Mare still doesn't miss it! 

And as fellow equestrians, you all know how it goes. Getting back on the horse earlier than recommended and whatnot.... What can I say, I wanted to ride!! This was probably around 7 weeks post injury. 

And it felt GOOD. Never mind that Isabel was kinda rude and rowdy on the trail - up to and including actually running my bum leg into a tree... It just felt like coming home again, and was the shot in the arm I needed to stay patient and keep healing. 

Getting off the crutches to walk freely while still booted helped tremendously too. Especially since so many friends at the barn were helpful in bringing the mare in from the field for me (bc those fields were a touch too treacherous for cripples lol). Isabel obviously appreciated coming out for grass breaks too, given how unseasonably pleasant it was despite being winter

Then, of course, the moment I had been waiting for: finally ditching the boot to ride in normal shoes again!! Actually this was a little premature, since I ended up being downgraded to a different brace that fit into tennis shoes instead of going cold turkey on ankle support... All the same, it was a great day! 

Notice how loose that tall boot is on me? Fun fact: my calves are still wildly different sizes to this day. Crazy. 

dramatic reenactment
So. One long and meandering trip down miserable memory lane later, and it's the closing of another October. And I'm still not competing and actually still haven't really gotten back to where I was pre-injury. Lots of stuff changed haha, and this summer really didn't play out the way I had hoped after all that time off last winter.

It's cool tho. I'm not going to go all "things happen for a reason" on you. Bc for fucks sake, please don't ever let this happen to you lol. Talk about a stupid ridiculous way to wreck yo'self....

But idk. I feel more hopeful now than I have in a long time. So many things have changed since this time last year that I didn't necessarily anticipate, and who knows what will happen going forward. But it'll probably end up being ok!

(But seriously tho, don't be like me. Watch your step!!)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

2ptober Week 3: It's getting REAL

Important update for contestants: 

We are in the midst of Week 4 of the 2016 Two Point Challenge. That leaves just one more weekend to record your times (due before midnight pacific time on Sunday). But lo! October doesn't end until that following Monday.

And so. We are counting that as a Bonus Day. Meaning that if you haven't been able to meet your goal for either 2pt duration or improvement over the course of the past month, you've got one extra day to give it your best shot!

We therefore ask that your Bonus Day times are recorded in the comments no later than midnight, pacific on Monday, October 31. This is a firm deadline, as Megan and I do not want to recalculate final results once they are published.

And as a way to help you keep your eye on the proverbial prize, here's a quick reminder of our wonderful actual prizes, thanks to these awesome sponsors!

First Place Winners for each category:

- $20 gift certificate to your choice of online tack shop (Riding Warehouse, Smartpak, Dover, etc)
- 16oz bottle of coat refresher from Annie's Equine Elixirs
- Choice of coloring page from Nerd Horse
- Bridle charm from Straight Shot Metal Smashing

Runners Up for each category:

- $10 gift certificate to your choice of online tack shop (Riding Warehouse, Smartpak, Dover, etc)
- Choice of coloring page from Nerd Horse
- Bridle charm from Straight Shot Metal Smashing


Ok. Onto the good stuff: Let's take a look at how the competition is shaping up going into the final stretch.

As usual, these times are scraped from the comments on either my or Megan's blogs. If we missed something please let us know! And also please note that recording a time on your own blog isn't sufficient for collection purposes.

If you have a Week 3 time not reflected here, please say so in the comments and I will update the table and charts ASAP!

Rider Blog Baseline Week 3
Alli PONY'TUDE 7:21 15:04
Amanda Bel Joeur 0:47 3:05
Appydoesdressage Musings from LogDog Acres 5:06 7:09
Aryelle Horse Hack 1:47 2:03
Carey Me Jump Pretty One Day *3:23 *3:23
Emma Walk, Trot, Canter, Banter 1:54 4:08
Grace The Horseback Artist 2:20 5:25
Heather The Graduated Equestrian 5:15 5:15
KateRose Peace & Carrots 2:06 5:50
Kristen Stampy and the Brain 3:27 6:08
L. Williams Viva Carlos 2:53 15:42
Lindsey Redheadlins 10:08 10:08
Liz Stout In Omnia Paratus 1:17 13:27
LoveLaughRide Grain Before Groceries 4:40 6:02
Megan Howling Owl Farm 0:05 0:29
Monica How to Train your Dragon 4:27 5:04
Nicole Zen & the Art of Baby Horse Management 3:40 8:00
Olivia DIY Horse Ownership 0:44 0:44
outofashes One Bud Wiser 1:26 5:01
Sarah Three Chestnuts 0:33 25:17
SarahO Autonomous Dressage 2:25 4:02
Semi Feral Equestrian Semiferal Equestrian 2:36 5:06
Teresa Eventing Saddlebred Style 1:47 2:30

The charts continue to show serious improvement across the board. The average baseline for all 23 contestants was 3 min 03 seconds. For week 3? You all DOUBLED the average, which now stands at a full 6:49. That alone deserves a huge collective pat on the back - congrats!

The longest time contest continues to be dominated by Sarah, who has logged yet another monster time. AlliL. Williams, and Liz Stout have some serious ground to cover if they want to catch up - and of course dark horse Lindsey is still technically in the hunt despite not recording a time beyond her baseline (ahem).

So I spy with my little eye a verrrry interesting final week unfolding for the title of Longest Two Point Time, and Runner Up. We shall see!

Sarah also is killing it in the longest time division (still, bc damn she is logging some serious mileage in two point!). Liz Stout is working hard to close that gap tho, and the perennial 2pt master L. Williams shouldn't be discounted either.

I'm still holding out hope for a good showing from Megan, Olivia, and Amanda tho. C'mon guys - you're all super well positioned to make big moves in this race, let's see it happen!

And. Ahem. Time for some public prodding:

Four riders still show no change from the beginning of October. Carey gets a pass bc she very unfortunately fell (puns) {too soon?} into the "broken rider" category. But Heather, Lindsey and Olivia. All three of you ride multiple horses on the regular. C'mon, what's up with that?!?

I'm either gonna need a doctor's note or a fresh 2pt time lol. Including today, you have SIX DAYS to beat your baseline time - let's see you make it happen!!! Y'all are bringing down the average haha.


Anyway tho. Stay strong guys. Less than one week to go. You can do it.

And I'd offer this final challenge to those of you who may not feel very close to the podium: See if you can hit the averages, either the average longest time (6:49) or the average % improved (223%). Either one is a major accomplishment!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

i'll take ya to school!

Just over a month into ownership, Charlie and I finally got to ride in our first lesson together. We rode with the farm's program director, trainer M (whom you may remember from lessons with Casanova).

Obvi his expertise lies primarily in h/j land - but solid fundamentals and concepts supersede discipline, imho. Good horsemanship and riding are good horsemanship and riding, period. So I was eager for M's input.

alternative title for this post could be "It's called ART, okayyy?" lol... anyway pics are unrelated. i wedged my phone into a standard to catch video (below) of a few passes over a teensy cross rail one night. but i can't help myself so in addition to the video you also get ridiculously blurry screen shots. sorry not sorry!

Two big takeaways:

1: I am on the right path with Charlie. The work I've been doing on my own is moving him in the right direction and I just need to keep on keepin on. Perhaps with slightly more firmness in asking for shorter response times, or being proactive instead of waiting for things to crop up (think: race horse power mode down the long side - slow that shit down before it even starts, Emma!).


2: Trainer M put us through our paces in a very effective manner, setting us up nicely for success through strategic use of exercises and figures, while actively managing the mistakes I know I'm making but haven't been able to resolve. And as a direct result, I simply rode better and with more confidence, prompting a very nice response from Charlie.

Funny how that works, no?

EAGER TB IS EAGER!! also mostly navigating the trot pole pretty well!

Anyway. Specifics:

  • When the trot is happening in a nice, balanced, soft fashion, add in three loop serpentines through the arena. Look for steady pace, straightness between loops, and balanced changes in bend.
  • Don't constantly circle, and don't constantly go straight. Use both to their advantages for helping balance the horse, as well as letting the horse find his own balance.
  • Be firmer and quicker with the rein aids when asking for slowing down or transitioning down. My goal must be to avoid teaching Charlie to lean on me. 
  • Use half circle turns back to the rail for our canter departs. Charlie responded beautifully to this, esp re: leads. (He has both leads but we occasionally struggle with picking up the correct one).
  • Furthermore with canter: focus on encouraging Charlie to have a mobile head and neck in the canter. Don't lock my elbows or hold my hands too low - encourage him to stretch and be soft and use his head and neck, rather than holding himself stiffly.

almost not losing that left shoulder out of the turn! almost!!

  • Basically just be softer with my arms all around - and probably hold my hands higher than I want. And probably shorter reins too, ahem. 
  • Use more opening inside rein to help show Charlie the bend, while occasionally "bumping" on the outside rein to help with balance.
  • Widely held hands are good hands for green beans.
  • Re: the horse leaning on me, Charlie isn't very sophisticated or subtle yet. He's (very slowly) learning to lower his head and soften his topline, but he's bobbling between high and braced, and low and leaning. The telltale sign of leaning is if his rhythm changes tho. As I encourage him to soften his topline without penalty, look for a consistent tempo. If his tempo changes as he goes low tho.... get him back up off my hands. He's too big to carry!

So a very basic lesson, but one I was very happy to have. Charlie behaved very nicely for the ride and is clearly emotionally prepared to handle the lesson format. He was happy to walk calmly and relaxed while M and I discussed and reviewed etc, and happy to go back to work when asked. Good boy!

officially adorable. at least what you can see of it ;)

Plus. This horse, guys. He really doesn't seem to care about ANYTHING. It was stupidly windy out, but we braved the outdoor all by our lonesome anyway. Complete with random odds and ends occasionally blowing across the ground as we went, and a few jump standards that had been knocked down over night. Charlie noticed but cared not. I can live with this!

silly but oddly endearing video of us power trotting around the arena and occasionally jumping the cross rail. 

Anyways. After finishing up the ride (but not the chat), we talked a bit more about how to use certain exercises to keep setting Charlie up for success. The horse is a thinker and learner, so that can be used to my advantage. Trainer M gave me the following test sheet, which looks remarkably like an h/j version of a (prix caprilli) dressage test lol. Just replace "ordinary" with "working." 

His purpose was to give me exercise ideas (see: half turns to canter departs) as well as a 'proficiency checklist,' and it was a good reminder to think back over all the dressage tests I've done lol. Especially with this horse's weak hind end I've been trying to integrate some early lateral-type stuff at the walk. Mostly just playing around but Charlie seems to catch on quickly.

So I've been thinking back to the lesson ever since - and basically recreated it in its entirety for our next ride (with equal success!). And am just super happy to have that affirmation.

Charlie has made it pretty easy for me so far. It obviously won't always be like this, but I'm going to enjoy it while I can! (And I continue to count down the days until we can make it out for lessons with the rest of my coaches soon - can't come soon enough!!)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

a funny thing happened on the way to the forum

Another weekend, another opportunity to do all the things with Charlie. Poor guy, I was at the barn for the better part of four hours yesterday.... Have no fear tho - he spent plenty of time hangin in his stall eating hay while I was there, but I did pull him out a couple separate times to play.

Including. Ahem. Continuing with our ground work / trailer practice.

The ever-important Step 1 being: Start with a relaxed and unsuspecting ponykins. Check. 

A surprise twist for Step 2, though: instead of hooking the truck up to the tiny step up stock trailer, shimmy on over to barn mate's more generously sized chariot. (Used with permission, obvi).

Commence standard ground work routine, which has progressed very nicely to something that approximates lunging at the walk and trot (tho the trot rarely lasts longer than a circle), with the added bonus of lunging over cavaletti. Good boy, Charlie.

Move the circus out to the trailers and intersperse grazing breaks in with ground work on and off the trailer ramp. Horse is clearly unfazed.

Then. Ya know. Just nonchalantly put horse on trailer. Nbd. Then weep softly as the gravity settles in on what this implies. Commence calculating out all the financial acrobatics associated with the horse's more sophisticated taste in transportation. 

Note that the horse's preference between the trailers couldn't be more obvious. Sadness.

Let your mind go even a little crazier when this amazing 15 horse rig pulls up. Might as well go big, right?!?

Most important, tho, is the final step of full on anguish. Gaze wistfully out the barn door at the colorful fall foliage, and despair that money doesn't, in fact, grow on trees. 

Decide to start small. After two and a half years, the Dover trailer hitch cover has finally succumbed to the elements. This, at least, is a cost I'm prepared to cover. Le sigh. 


Oh - and don't forget to get your Week 3 2ptober times in to either me or Megan before midnight tonight!!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

2ptober: Week Two Analysis

Another week, another Two Point Challenge update. Per usual, your weekly longest times are due to either Megan or me in the comments section of our blogs by Sunday at midnight pacific.

The following data was scraped from said comments, so please let us know if there is an error!

I'm excited to see the field spreading out from Week 1 (the gray bars in both charts). While initially most riders clustered in the 1-5 minute 2pt duration segments, now the longest times edge ever upwards - with more riders logging more and more minutes in position.

Nice work everyone!

Even better - competitors are collectively improving their ability to hold the two point position, after setting baselines at the beginning of this month. Many have doubled their time entirely! And fewer riders are left in the "No Change" category.

(**Tho seriously folks. Aside from those of you in the broken rider / broken horse group, we will absolutely be calling you out if you're not able to improve on your initial baseline after a whole month!!! C'mon, make it happen!!!! Do it for the priiiiiiizes!!).

Three Chestnuts has blown us all away by rocketing into the lead for both races with her incredible jump to 12 minutes!

Remember tho - there will be FOUR unique winners for the contest, limit one title per contestant. So don't be dismayed by those impressive numbers bc there's still plenty of space for new front runners to get into the mix!

Blogger Blog Baseline Week 2
Alli PONY'TUDE 7:21 7:21
Amanda Bel Joeur 0:47 1:50
Appydoesdressage Musings from LogDog Acres 5:06 6:16
Aryelle Horse Hack 1:47 2:03
Carey Me Jump Pretty One Day 3:23 3:23
Emma Walk, Trot, Canter, Banter 1:54 3:18
Grace The Horseback Artist 2:20 2:20
Heather The Graduated Equestrian 5:15 5:15
KateRose Peace & Carrots 2:06 4:08
Kristen Stampy and the Brain 3:27 5:28
L. Williams Viva Carlos 2:53 9:39
Lindsey Redheadlins 10:08 10:08
Liz Stout In Omnia Paratus 1:17 3:47
LoveLaughRide Grain Before Groceries 4:40 6:02
Megan Howling Owl Farm 0:05 0:16
Monica How to Train your Dragon 4:27 4:27
Nicole Zen & the Art of Baby Horse Management 3:40 8:00
Olivia DIY Horse Ownership 0:44 0:44
outofashes One Bud Wiser 1:26 3:12
SarahO Autonomous Dressage 2:25 4:02
Semi Feral Equestrian Semiferal Equestrian 2:36 4:46
Teresa Eventing Saddlebred Style 1:47 1:47
Three Chestnuts Three Chestnuts 0:33 12:36

For instance: Lindsey, L. Williams, Nicole and Alli are all in striking distance to the longest time prize - with LoveLaughRide and Appydoesdressage both in contention too. And remember - in past years both the eventual winners and runners up have have logged times of 20+ minutes. Let's see it happen again!!

The first place prize for most improved may look like a runaway win for Three Chestnuts, but I wouldn't be so sure. It's early yet, and a couple riders are poised to show pretty major improvements - especially Megan, Liz Stout, Amanda, and outofashes, naturally with L. Williams high in the hunt too.

So tell me - you think you got what it takes to make a move for the title? Or put in a podium placing?!?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

transformative grooming + Horze body brush review

Charlie is a pleasant horse to groom. He seems to enjoy his spa time in the cross ties and usually stands pretty patiently. Some areas are more ticklish than others, but generally he seems to be pretty OK with the whole grooming process. He might even kinda like it!

This is definitely good news for me, on two fronts:

1: As we all know, I'm basically living out my 12yo daydreams by finally having a pony all of my own. Spending hours brushing his mane and tail is a very critical piece of that little puzzle lol (plus Isabel was always tolerant at best, and moderately hostile at worst, when it came to grooming).

And 2: Wow Charlie's coat was a hot mess when I met him last month.

my three essentials + bonus scritchy mitt
My actual grooming routine has honestly not deviated very much over the years. The standard arsenal includes 3 tools:

- I like a full size old school hard plastic curry comb (the war-torn, battered and bruised black curry in the above shot).
- A body brush with medium bristles (hard to describe exactly what I look for - it's very much a "feel" thing).
- And a basic hoof pick + brush.

Occasionally, other tools find their way into the mix. Like a shedding comb in winter, or that scritchy purple mitt above, that I bought for Isabel but have LOVED for Charlie (great for legs and contoured surfaces that need attention). Or maybe a damp rag for particularly static-y days.

"whatchu doin back there?!?" - Charlie
Usually, tho, it's just those three standard old faithfuls and heaping helpings of elbow grease. I'm a big believer that the best thing we can do for a horse's coat is curry curry curry. Then some vigorous swipes with the body brush, a couple flicks of the hoof pick, and voila! Groomed horse!

In my experience, the hard plastic curries seem to work the best (and are often more palatable for the sensitive skinned beasts, somewhat counter-intuitively bc one might think the softer rubber or jelly curries might be preferred... but again, that has not been my experience. ymmv).

Charlie on day 2 with me
And man. Charlie has needed a LOT of currying. You can sorta kinda see in the above pic, but he was basically covered in those weird tiger stripe sweat marks all over his neck, shoulder and back. It might look like the marks would just brush right off.... but... nope.

Tho they did start disappearing after the first week or so, and his incoming winter coat has all but done away with them. Really, tho, it wasn't a good look at all.

I suspect the source was a lack of focus on invigorating the skin and hair follicles, and by bathing instead of grooming. Or maybe he was basically just out in a field not getting groomed at all for the couple weeks between his last race and when I adopted him? Idk.

do you see the mark? better view here
Another mark that has proven more difficult to eliminate is on his left hind quarter. And I've never seen anything quite like it. There's a strip of flesh from the point of his croup down to almost his stifle where he.... sweats. A lot. If he's sweating anywhere, that strip of flesh is also likely sweating.

It basically has permanent salt crystals crusted onto the skin and hairs. To the point where the section is clearly demarcated by a thinness in his coat. I had seriously hoped that careful and thorough grooming mixed with his winter growth would fill the spot in... but so far no dice.

new favorite brush
On top of those two issues, Charlie also experiences some minor fungal issues. A brief flirtation with rain rot. Some scabs that grew funky and resistant to healing. Weird scaly scabby spots here and there. Nasty flaky armpits. Basically, I've fondly referred to him as my darling bucket of fungus. It's sweet, I know.

So we groom. A LOT. I'm finding that in addition to my beloved hard plastic curry, a new player is emerging as a favorite tool: a Horze body brush with natural mixed boar bristles (basically this model, but minus the "deluxe" crystal strap - mine has a plain strap but these same bristles).

smoother glossier coat
I've always been somewhat aggressively focused on pure functionality, and have never been able to swallow the idea of very expensive brand-name grooming tools. Like, they are attractive to me bc I love both gadgetry and grooming, but I've just never pulled the trigger when the cheaper generic tools have gotten the job done well enough.

And perhaps maybe that's what this Horze brush is - the cheaper-but-still-brand-name knock off of a higher end grooming tool. But whatever. I just gotta say: I LOVE this brush.

I think it's the natural bristles that make the difference, honestly. So perhaps any brush with these type of boar bristles will achieve the same results. Plus this brush has exactly the right combination of bristle length and stiffness, that je ne sais quoi quality we all know and love in our favorite brushes.

Charlie approves
Whatever the case, this brush has been in heavy rotation ever since I brought it home a few months ago. First with Isabel and now with Charlie. And I just really really like it.

Something about how smoothly it glides through the coat. Summer slick or winter fuzzy, this brush easily swipes off all the dust and dander, while leaving the coat feeling glossy and clean. It's oddly satisfying lol.

horse also looks oddly satisfied lol
So we curry curry curry - bringing all the dirt and grime and dander and loose hair up to the surface of Charlie's coat. Then some vigorous swipes and flicks of this body brush. And just a few short weeks later - Charlie's coat is blooming and the winter fuzzies are growing in full and healthy and looking repaired from whatever damage his coat sustained this summer.

This is a great brush. Especially if you're interested in trying out a natural mixed boar bristle brush, but don't want to spend a lot on it. Furthermore - at this cost it would make a great gift or stocking stuffer for your favorite horse buddies!

What are your favorite grooming tools? Do you prefer old fashioned simplicity? Or do you experiment with every new gizmo to hit the shelves? Are you loyal to one brand, or will whatever's in the sale bin work for you?

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

fat man in a little.... trailer

Or. Um. Skinny TB in a stock trailer. Whatever, you know what I mean.

Anyway. Perhaps you recall a few weeks ago when I wrote about bringing in a horsemanship professional to help install a 'self load' button in Charlie. His basic assessment was: Yes, he loved Charlie. And Yes, he was floored to learn the horse was only 6 weeks off the track. And Yes, we're working with pretty good raw material in this sweet bay gelding.

But. And there's always a "but" .... But we had homework to do first. Namely, some standard ground work, with a little desensitization mixed in for good measure.

Jim wanted me focusing on desensitizing Charlie to the stick ball thingy so that I might ultimately use it as an extension of my arm to ask Charlie to move forward. Not sideways, not backwards, and definitely not climbing on top of me. Forward. Preferably without pinned ears, bared teeth, swishing tail, or bunny hops.

You might also see how this fundamental work easily builds into other exercises. Like learning to lunge. And like providing opportunities to "drive" Charlie over or through obstacles, as Jim recommended to simulate the trailer loading experience. Elisa Wallace also did something similar in a recent video with her new OTTB (starts at around 2:45 in the video).

So we have been practicing. Not as often as Jim would advocate (he would say that if you only have time to either ride or do ground work, but not both, choose ground work. Fair enough but... well... I wanna ride), but usually at least once a week.

And this weekend I had all the time in the world to work with Chuckles on all the things. We did our normal ground work routine in the indoor, and then I got bold and moved it outside to the trailer (which I had already hooked up). And whadya know, Charlie has graduated to basically Step 1 of actually learning to self load. Thank the heavens!!

trailer = tasty snacks!
Charlie just got right on along to where most horses I've worked with start: get both front feet up and down easily, calmly, one foot at a time (no rushing or jumping!), back and forth.

At first, every step up effort is rewarded by promptly asking him to back off again and then stepping away for a brief bite of grass. Then you ask them to keep their front feet on the trailer riiiiiiight up until (but before) the moment they would start backing up themselves. Then again a little grass break.

Final tests at this stage are: Can the horse step up, then step back off, then step right back on again? Furthermore, can the horse start backing up, but then stop before they back all the way off and come forward again?

soooo close lol
Charlie made good progress on all of those requirements. It's obviously not really the whole kit and caboodle yet - obviously bc the horse never actually got all the way on to the trailer.

But hopefully that's the next break through. It's just kinda hard for big man bc he can easily reach the hay without much effort while only being half way on the trailer lol. He's just giant and my trailer is tiny. He did get one hind foot up once or twice tho, a very good effort.

And we found a positive stopping place where he seemed comfortable with the exercise and expectations.

Next steps are practicing until we get all four up - and then repeating those same sub steps. Being able to get into and out of the trailer slowly, calmly, one foot at a time. Being able to back off but then walk right back in again. Then being able to back half way off, then come all the way back in again.

Intermingled with those check boxes is mixing standing inside the trailer (as I will do until he's consistently getting all the way in the trailer) with sending him into the trailer while I stand on the ground.

eager to go somewhere to hack out for real!!
The final puzzle pieces are to start practicing closing the doors and maybe go for a little ride (just around a field or something - just long enough for him to think we're on a trip, then stop and let him chill for a few). When the horse can still calmly get in and out like this, while being sent in from the ground, I'll transition him to the driver's side - where he will travel once we're actually on the road.

And then: boom. We will be totally road worthy. A long, possibly over-complicated process. But it works, and in my experience does not leave potential training holes to be discovered at very inconvenient and inopportune moments. Theoretically at least lol.

Plus, I may be desperately missing my trainers and lessons and riding with friends elsewhere... but really, honestly, truly? We have all the time in the world and I have yet to regret being patient with anything trailer related.

Or. lol. Maybe I'll just buy a bigger trailer. Haha. Maybe.

Monday, October 17, 2016

geese + grace + gorgeous skies (+ gushing)

AND. The the highly anticipated return of shoddily edited video and screenshots to 'Fraidy Cat Eventing!!! Because it's been way too long since we've seen some low-quality riding video and pictures!!

"who are you calling low quality?!?" - Charlie
Ahem. Sorry if I'm a little excited haha. One of the unintended consequences of changing barns is that I lost my carefully cultivated cadre of videographers. So fresh riding media have been hard to come by. But I managed to get a little in-hand video from Charlie's and my exploration of the mare's field the other night.

While this may be an h/j farm, they happen to have a smattering of xc jumps scattered around the premises. Including this adorable little bank they built into the mare's field last summer. I knew the moment I spied it from a distance a week or two ago that it would be seeing some action from Sir Charles.

And the moment finally came late last week, when I arrived before turnout and giddily pulled Charlie out of his stall to hand walk him up and down and all around the bank. Honestly? He cared more about sniffing all the mares' manure piles than he did the bank.

As evidenced by his, erm, less than graceful attempts at going down, caught on film. lol. And please to note - he had already been up and down a few times before I snagged this video.

Oh well - honestly I care more about his nonchalant attitude about the whole thing more than I care about masterful technique at this point.

so sad about how early it gets dark :( love the pretty skies tho!
Anyway, things have been good on the riding front too. He's still a different horse every day - tho his "range," as it may be, is narrowing. His spectrum of soreness levels is narrowing (except when he whacks one of his legs with another, ugh c'mon buddy!) and his various responses to the aids are becoming more consistent too.

blurry watercolor-esque skies partially help mask the inverted disengaged race horse lol
He hasn't actually gotten so stuck that I've needed the crop in quite a few rides now. The occasional nap is in there, but it's more halfhearted and he will eventually go off the leg (sooner rather than later, too).

He's also been reliably forward off the legs enough that I've been practicing working on the brakes. I kinda didn't want to focus too much on halting if it was going to cause a fight to go forward out of the halt, know what I mean? But that's been a nonissue so we've started lots of walk-halt-walks and trot-walk-trots. The downwards are still very slow to develop, but they happen. Small steps y'all.

still cute tho :)
Mostly the growing consistency just makes me hungry for lessons. It's been a month since I rode with one of my trainers, and I miss it terribly. I'm eager for help in developing a better contact with Charlie, since our current de facto way of going is inverted, disengaged, heavy on the forehand, and against my hand. Typical off the track stuff that will take time to sort... but yea. Lessons can only help!!

In the meantime we keep chugging away. And actually Charlie's canter has just been freakin' fantastic lately. God I just love it. Could ride it forever! He has both leads more or less easily enough (usually, tho sometimes he can be picky about one or the other) but tends to go a little nicer on the right lead. Especially when it comes to finding the ground poles. Which he canters like a goddamn professional.

target acquired!
We haven't actually cantered any jumps yet - preferring to trot our little cross rails - but I suspect it'll be a highly pleasant experience. Bc damn, I typically hate trotting fences but this guy just makes it so easy and fun!

yup i'm pretty much in love
Charlie hasn't figured out to try to rush to the fence yet (tho he can get a little strong in trot) but he definitely perks up when we start popping over stuff. And he always gives these tiny cross rails a cute little effort! I mean, obvi he's not really using his body very well yet but I still love how he snaps his little knees up :D

It just makes my cold dark little heart happy that Charlie's showing an interest in this jumping thing! The first ride where we hopped over some cross rails he could be quite wiggly on approach - but this second night (from the video) he was just about as straight as he ever gets lol.

so many pets for a good boy!
Part of me kinda wants to defend or explain away or rationalize why everything isn't really perfect or whatever right now (like I've already done a little bit in this post)... Really tho, I just couldn't be happier with this horse. Sure we have a LOT of work ahead of us, and I could use some professional guidance lol... But until that day comes, we are having so much fun and Charlie is learning the ropes!

workin hard and figuring it all out :)
Ahhh I just feel so much like a 12 year old talking about this horse lol. My plain but promising little big ol' bay ottb. It's about goddamn time.