Thursday, June 30, 2022

throwback thursday

Sometimes with blogging, I feel like .... I've already written all the things. 

The hack I took last night? I've written about it before, multiple times. That flat ride? Yea, still working on flexion and softness, LOL, forever. The jump school we did where I was too complacent to dismount and reset fences to what they ought to have been? Yep, was yet another ride of bopping around too-small fences. 

In other words..... Nothing new and exciting to share, ya know? 

this photo is from November 2016 --- not a lot has changed!
If that sounds boring.... it shouldn't. I'm actually kinda excited right now. I feel good. I feel like we might actually be striking the cadence I've sought for.... years. We'll see, tho. More to come. 

In the meantime, it's no real secret that I'm a fool for nostalgia. The primary reason this blog still exists is bc I love stalking the archives. 

SO. For today's edition, please enjoy Charlie's second ever jumping lesson LOL (with bonus footage of his one jump from the first lesson at the end). 

This horse, guys. He's always been a very cool customer lol..... 

Friday, June 24, 2022

in search of sunrise

Happy Friday, y'all! TGIF! For any of you who have been following along for a while... it's not much of a surprise that I'm kiiiiiiinda a head case. It's part of my charm, I swear.

instantly snoozing the second i hop off after our lesson last week
But I wrote about how last week's CT at Thornridge was kinda proof that all my work on slowly tediously methodically trying to create a better mental game was finally paying dividends. 

sir. you are so #earthbound sometimes.
And guys. It has been a process. Probably will *always* be a process. Ahem. See blog title.... 

For real, tho. Who really knows what leads to a crisis in confidence. A million different personal factors. Everyone's story is kinda a little bit unique in that regard, I'm sure. But... As far as I can tell, the solution isn't really all that complex. Just.... long.

trit trot at tranquillity!
For me, it had to start by acknowledging the crisis, not stubbornly trying to push through when it clearly wasn't working. And giving myself space to step back and reevaluate. Bc .... most of my issues aren't really about the horse or the jumps or the ride or whatever, it's about some sort of vague existential sense of like, idk, failure or some shit like that. 

oooh actually jompimg!! just ignore the flying rail!!
Which in a way is lucky for me, bc once I realized that nobody else really cares the way I do about whether I succeed or fail, it became a lot easier to kinda start releasing those feelings and assess what it means *to me* to be successful.

i swear all the jumps were raised for our final course, but phone ran out of storage :(
I've always known that my confidence in jumping is a pretty simple function of making it feel routine and mundane. I was at my absolute best when I was taking two jump lessons a week --- it was like this glorious halcyon age during my Isabel days.... 

excited about finally seeing combos and oxers in these lessons with Kelly tho! 
That's not super realistic now for a lot of difference reasons. But finally finding new trainer Kelly has helped a lot. Sure, shipping out for lessons again definitely kinda sucks. But she hustles for us and that alone makes it worth it. Having a lesson on the schedule keeps me accountable, especially when I don't do much jumping outside of lessons.

video of a couple snippets here, sadly cut short from lack of phone storage bleh

But.... That actually takes me to the next stage in .... recovery? Now that we're feeling back in a regular groove, we've gotten our sea legs back, we've been back at shows, doing our thing, and feeling ok about it.... I'm ready to take the next step.

oooh jumping at home again!! 
Which, for us, means doing more jumping at home again. It's honestly something I've kinda not enjoyed for the last couple years bc Charlie can be an uninspired slug at home, and often requires a jump crew me dismounting repeatedly to reset fences.

yessir, much better with less splat at these big X's! 
Plus.... When I'm riding solo and not feeling super confident.... I tend to... Idk, it's hard to explain. It's like I let things slide until we have a big mistake. But the big mistake makes me feel more fragile, or like, "Damn see this is why I don't do this, I knew this was a bad idea!" And then I don't want to do it all over again the next week.

you'll have to take my word for it that all the jumps we put up to Nish height were too close to the camera to see
It's much easier when you've got somebody coaching you around. Sure, I still make the big mistakes in lessons.... But I've got somebody there whose literal job is to work me through it and help me fix it. 

like so --- but look at that good boy!!
And go figure -- that process works. Because now I'm kinda at the point where, if I'm going to be shipping out to lessons and paying that extra $25 for ring rentals etc, I'd like to skip the big mistakes, thanks, and get straight to the good stuff, ya know? Work on challenging ourselves and stepping it up, not like... Splatting over our stupid tiny warm up fences bc I didn't bother to get the horse in front of my leg in the first place.

tinkering with tiny twos! 
Getting more consistent about jumping on my own has other advantages too. For instance, unlike the overly orchestrated coordination of shipping out.... I can be more improvisational at home. Like yesterday, after it had rained the whole night before and all morning, I was like -- Ah, yes! Soft ground!! Today we jomp!!!

lol first time down this line i absolutely stuffed charlie into 6 strides. went back to fix it, but joke was on me bc i overcorrected and managed to stuff him again, this time in 5 lol....
homeboy can ADJUST (and emma needs to relearn calibration lol)
Bc obvi the other piece here that I always stress about is Charlie's soundness and fitness -- which are two deeply related but also somehow occasionally oppositional forces. Charlie must be fit to be sound, but it is absurdly easy to lame him in the quest for "conditioning."

And obviously worrying about my horse's soundness is yet another direct route to hell mental insecurity. I *hate* rolling up to a big lesson or show or whatever and being like, "eh I hope Charlie is physically prepared for this!" He obvi knows his job... But it's the practice that ultimately matters -- making sure he is physically conditioned to the speed and the effort and the distance and all that stuff. 

I feel like I've learned a lot about how to manage him over the years, tho, and especially about how to NOT overdo it -- tho we've certainly trended too far into under-doing it LOL. 

Idk, tho. Right now, in this exact moment, I'm feeling a strange but pleasant sort of calm about it all. About where we are, what it means to me, and what I want to do -- regardless of if it's "perfect" or whatever. And I like it! So here's hoping for a season of renewal after what's been an undeniably shitty set of years for like, wow, the globe LOL. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

it's thornridge ct time again!

In some ways we got off to a slow start this year, but finally things are getting into a groove. Which for us means getting back to all of our favorite horsey events --- like the Combined Test series at Thornridge Manor! 

i don't care if you get tired of this, bc i *never* will
They are doing a shorter series this year, which means we won't quite be hitting that monthly cadence you might remember from last year. Which, in my book is kinda a bummer, but oh well. 

oh my goodness our newest barn rat asked to come watch the show and charlie is obsessed with her
Maybe from your perspective it's a bit of a relief, since perhaps it can feel repetitive to read recaps from the same exact type of event over and over again.... But... Eh. Idk. It doesn't feel repetitive. Bc this, for me, is the stuff. This is IT. 

just trottin around on my 6-ish horse, doin 6-ish things.
Like... I'm not getting selected for any teams. We aren't building a record. The horse is not and won't be for sale, nor am I establishing a name as a professional. It's just me and the horse that I love, going out and doing the things that are enjoyable and fulfilling.

he's still enjoying going sans-spurs
I've written before (almost exactly 5 years ago) about "the journey" -- and how that can be a very changeable thing over time. For instance, at the time I wrote that post, Charlie was brand new and basically unknown, but for all the world seemed to have the makings for what I believed in my heart I wanted to do.

absolutely begging to itch his face. no sir, not yet!
It's interesting, tho. I wrote then that how I felt in that moment could be different in 5 or 10 years.... And here we are, 5 years later, and I DO have different feelings about what I want to be doing with horses. Like... My interest in pure eventing has been waning, tho I continue to love each phase individually.  

looookie we canter the other way too!
And so we adapt and evolve, right? Last year, my #1 sole focus was to just... start having fun again. Not get so stressed and bent out of shape at shows. Not be so worried or hard on myself. I just wanted to keep getting out there, doing the things we know how to do, and either enjoy them --- OR, decide that maybe those aren't the things we want to do anymore. 

dotting our i's, crossing our t's, gettin it done
And guys, it's so exciting! Last year's plan WORKED! My stress levels are so far down, and so are Charlie's. Being in a somewhat regular lesson program again helps too -- it's nice to know that we've got a coach in our corner, even when we still go to shows like this solo.

On one hand it would be nice if all that improved mental state resulted in meaningfully different results... But.... Ya know, actually. The results kinda just are what they are gonna be. 

Could Charlie and I do better in the dressage? Yes. But... At a cost. In my experience, with my skillset and knowledge of myself and my horse, the cost of going from an average score of 6.5 at schooling shows to an average score of 6.75 is.... not worth it. 

So we are still just dinking around. And probably will continue to just dink around lol. Of particular note in this test -- This is the first time riding the 2022 N-A test where Charlie *didn't* melt down for the second serpentine when he expected to canter. Methinks ditching the spurs continues to be a good choice for the horse where he is right now. 

time for fun with shadowy pixely screenshots!
So dressage was straight forward, non eventful, obedient and steady and --- the best part --- over. Onto the show jumping!! 

gosh tho, not gonna lie, i really can make an ok pic when i hold mane LOL
I've already written a bit about Charlie being slightly bitchy and bronto-y in our lessons so far this year... So we've made a couple changes. Namely, ditching the spurs, and experimenting with a hackamore (all leather straps, no chain). 

d'aww he wore his happy ears!
Of course, the other key bit comes down to me as a rider. Dinking in dressage is one thing, dinking to a nothing spot at a jump is just not healthy lol. It's my job to guide Charlie into a jumpable canter, and it's Charlie's job to .... ya know, jump lol. And I admit to being quite black and white about his responsibility there in recent lessons. 

the course was basically a giant figure-8
For this show, tho... Idk. I just knew he'd be where I wanted him to be. Charlie knows the gist. He knows the warm up and the show ring and everything. I also think he's just generally more on his game when jumping on grass too. Like, it requires him to pay more attention and be more careful, plus he gets his beloved studs. 

wheeeee running home is our favorite!!
For my purposes, I made it my business to hold mane the whole way around. Bc let's be real. At a certain point I just need to admit that my equitation and bad hands ain't gonna fix themselves. Meanwhile, it's like everything just turns out better when I hold mane and kick on. Funny how that works LOL....

Naturally we still had two down (jump 1 and jump 2 lol) bc that's just sorta how we do -- recall the jumps are lightweight PVC. I don't even care, tho. The jumps we knocked were otherwise quite pleasant efforts that were just a touch on the long/flat side of things.

happy ponies back at the tailgate
And ya know, that was it -- we were done!! Finished the day with a 3rd place (of 4) dressage score, a 4th place ribbon after 2 down, and a happy horse and rider. I'll take it! 

random shot of barn mgr mikey bossing me around about how to unpack the trailer back home again
This show jumping round definitely felt a LOT better than our rounds at Tranquillity a couple weeks ago so that gives me hope that we're on the right path with my current style of riding and Charlie's current tack situation. Tho, of course, all are subject to change at any time lol.

all in a day's work!
So we'll keep carrying on. We are so friggin lucky to live in an area rife with all these fun local low key, low cost schooling show opportunities. And I'm so grateful to finally be really enjoying it again, even tho we objectively are still completely mediocre LOL. So. It's my absolute intention to keep making the rounds haha.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

again with the scratches

Not gonna lie, I hate writing this post every couple of years. But. Eh, the urge to document is strong. So: Here we go again with the scratches / mud fever / fungus amongus / ugh / bleh / fml.

this will be a post of decidedly Not Cute pictures. so..... please take a brief moment to appreciate charlie and royal napping together fully tacked and fully loose in the jump arena while we set our courses lol <3
(also, dear lord, charles.... suck it in, buddy!)
Long story short... Skin funk is just like, one of those things that happens. All over a horse's body, different species and varietals. Ya know. It's like, botanical or some shit. 

True story, I knew one aspiring horse woman who thought that if she was just good enough at grooming, the skin funk would never happen!! And... Eh. Mebbe that's true. But I legitimately doubt it. 

ok. onto the gnar. May 28, step 1 is admitting we have a problem
Charlie's sensitivities and vulnerabilities to skin funk happen on a very predictable basis. Specifically: 

- He's most susceptible to rain rot during his coat transitions, where he's shedding out etc and there's a lot of loose hair and growth all at once. 

- And he's at greatest risk for mud fever / scratches on his one white leg in late spring / early summer, immediately following the turnout rotation to overnight out / days in. 

step 2 is stealing borrowing drugs from the barn supply (don't tell anyone). except damn this is like a dog- or cat-sized treatment tube... not nearly sufficient volume for our needs, esp since it isn't even mine....
It's kinda an old wives tale that chromey chestnut horses are the hardest to treat and manage when it comes to skin conditions, and that was definitely my experience with Isabel vs Charlie. With Isabel, we endured a months and months-long battle with scratches that went all up and down her cannon.

The only treatment that eventually resolved her issues was vet-prescribed Animax, also known as Dermalone and Panalog (among other names, I think). We went through 1.5 big tubes (pictured here) of the stuff, and I held onto that other half-a-tube for legit years even well past expiry for Charlie's various minor outbreaks. Bc damn, it works. 

May 30. it's healing AND spreading at the same time. this is how fungus fools ya! 
That tube eventually ran dry tho... And what I need to do is just order more. Bc.... Being real with you all, I'm kind of set in my ways with how I treat these sort of skin ailments in horses. At the first sign of any sort of scabby grungy crud, I immediately break out the MTG.  

we interrupt this broadcast to show charlie's hooves at 5wks+ in May, looking quite good! Yay!
Because the MTG is just... my favorite. I just love it. True story, especially in the summer, I'll occasionally just rub down Charlie's entire legs (esp the hinds and hind cannons) with this stuff. Mostly to keep the skin happy but also maybe to ward off flies. 

back to regularly scheduled programming: i'd prefer a prescription tbh but have been too lazy to call one in. MTG is otherwise my go-to, tho. i know a lot of people hate this stuff... but.... WHY? it's so good!
I know there are a lot of haters out there, tho. A lot of folks don't like the smell. Or say it doesn't work. Idk. I love it. And in my experience, especially for stuff like rain rot or mild skin funks, this stuff clears it up usually in just one or two applications. 

The second it doesn't work, tho, I don't even mess around with anything else over the counter. If MTG doesn't cut it, that's when I want the prescription grade stuff. 

June 12 -- second eruption not as big as the first, and overall sensitivity far diminished. whew! still there, tho...
We haven't quite gotten there this time around, tho. Mostly bc.... Eh, while Charlie was *extremely* unhappy and sensitive at the initial outbreak (like, trying to kick my face in type unhappy), since we've been trying to manage it, he's been pretty nonchalant. And it *does* seem to be clearing up. 

June 14 --- looks so much better..... but for fucks sake, it's also still spreading. this is why this stuff is so gross guys. and why it's so easy to let the infections slide....
The worst thing about these types of infections tho is that they're sneaky and nefarious and always spreading and evolving and breaking out again right when you think you've got the thing licked. So idk. I might just call in for the good stuff anyway, since I don't really wanna steal from the barn's supply lol. 

manager mikey, supervising as always
Persistence is the name of the game with this kind of thing. Even if you're only treating every 2 to 3 days, that's still WAY better than like... not treating. Tho, yea, obvi I see the best results when I treat daily. Verdict's out on whether "daily with OTC meds" beats out "every few days with Rx meds" tho. Who knows, we'll see! 

How do you deal with this sort of thing? Do you let it run its course? Do you have favorite treatments? Does your horse just not have white legs, thus releasing you from this heinous seasonal ailment?? Or, maybe you're like my starry eyed barn mate above and manage to avoid the situation entirely bc of your perfect grooming protocols???? Do tell!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

circus bridle 3000

One thing I've *always* loved about horses is.... tinkering with tack. Taking apart bridles and putting them back together again is basically the best kind of puzzle -- mechanically satisfying and of course oh-so-horsey!

obvi the snackamore is for sharing snacks -- like fluffy sweet cupcakes!
True story, I always loved when we got new lesson horses into the program at the barn I worked at during college, bc that meant I got to cobble together new bridles!!!

hmmm, it's evolving tho
Oooooh and one time I totally took apart an equestrian teammate's mother's full harness during a leather-cleaning-fundraising-party and.... Yea. She may or may not have regretted my choices when she had to put it all back together again. Whoops!

lol the OG #sadmare in one of the earliest versions
Anyway tho. This strange fixation with gadgetry means that I have a rather large assortment of various mismatched strap goods. No bridle epitomizes the freak show quiiiiite as nicely as my hackamore -- which, of course, was fondly referred to as the "Circus Bridle" back during the Isabel days bc of it's many absurd iterations and evolutions

wasn't long before charlie learned to play in it too!
Naturally, Charlie inherited the hackamore too. It's generally our play time bridle -- for hacking out and galloping freely across open fields, etc. With Isabel, it was never ever a "work" bridle bc even with the curb wrapped up in fleece, the leverage was much too strong for her. But it was perfect for bitless wanderings and tasting tours of the countryside.

it's perfect for pacing and all sorts of fun adventures. pc Amy Flemming Waters
Charlie, on the other hand, has exactly zero problems with leverage -- and actually in some ways goes a bit better with it since he does love a little leaning. So while the hackamore has been, by and large, reserved for trails and travels etc, we've also played a little more purposefully in it too.

ha i even tried to make a hack-a-snaff double bridle for xc... but ooof guys, the hate mail was no joke
The cool thing about the hackamore is that... You just don't carry contact in it the same as you do with a traditional bit. Which, for me on my horse, has the effect of basically giving me *one choice* when I feel like I need to do something. And that choice is: add leg. Bc that's your most direct point of contact in this type of bridle. 

that time we acquired fun new tack to pretend play at race horses! pc Austen Gage
And ya know. It's generally accepted that "adding leg" is almost never the wrong choice when riding horses. Like, ok, sometimes it is --- as any of you who have had to deal with taking a nagging leg off a dead horse will be all too familiar... 

obvi our fun new pieces found a home on the circus bridle hackamore!
But in jumping, generally leg = good. And I like that the hackamore gives me that feeling while simultaneously taking away my (and Charlie's) ability to lean on each other via the bit.

and they've stayed there ever since!
Meanwhile, the hackamore is also a prettttty serious set of brakes. Esp for a tank of a horse like Charlie. The beauty tho is that it's like an anti-lock system. He can't just bear down on it, or lean into it. That's why it was such an attractive choice for xc all those years ago --- the idea was that I'd be able to let up on the e-brake and let him move on out, while still having confidence I'd be able to bring him back again.

have tack, will experiment!
Tho ya know. Time is a helluva drug, and these days Charlie kinda has the opposite problem -- I spend more time trying to get him up and going than I do trying to slow him down. 

including dressing it back up again with this beautiful custom snap-on browband from Amelia at Dark Jewel Designs (this particular one was designed for our berry outfit lol)
But since nothing really matters anyway, I thought maybe the hackamore would work for this too? Our last lesson was full of Charlie being a bitchy bronto, but then he was an absolute rockstar at the hunter pace (in his hackamore). So I thought, eh, fuck it. Let's do the little jumper show in the hackamore too, and see what happens? 

swapped out the cheek plates too for experimenting with a leather vs chain curb
Obviously I cleaned it up a little bit from it's ridiculous all-blue non-leather getup lol... Snapped on a nice browband from Amelia at Dark Jewel Designs, with one of my favorite custom bead strings that would work well with the reddish spare rubber reins in my locker. 

ta da! we'll see how it goes!
(for those curious, that's a Back on Track pad under the crown. it's nothing special, but nice to have cushion considering the leverage effect. you could get around that with a more modern padded headstall than this hunt-style Stubben)
And ya know, it basically more or less worked out at the show! Nothing obvious enough to make me feel any sort of feeling one way or another... Except that it might take some getting used to. Or ya know, it might end up not working. 

Charlie and I both love to lean, and at this point in my riding life I'm fine with a little co-dependence if that's what it takes lol. Tho... It did seem like there were a few moments in the show where the hackamore possibly interfered a little bit in how he used himself. That could just be a "getting used to it" thing, but just in case, I swapped the chain for a leather strap to give me a bigger margin of error. 

We'll see how it goes! If nothing else, it's fun to tinker around with tack lol...