Thursday, May 30, 2024

puttin' on the ritz

It isn't exactly ideal to ship out for lessons two days in a row... But then again, it was also quite convenient not having to unpack the trailer in the rain after our jump lesson with Sally, knowing we'd be going right back out again the next day to see dressage trainer C!

the countdown til the move is on, but in the meantime -- we're fitting in lots of adventures with our favorite barn mates!! this time = dressage lessons with Amy + Punky!!
Amy and I have had this lesson on the books for a few weeks now, and we were both pretty excited. And ya know, now that the cat is out of the bag re: moving my horses to new barns in the next couple weeks, it feels important to soak up as much fun with my best barn friends while we're all still housed under the same roof.

mare showed up for our turn too!
Doozy was an absolute super star waiting for our turn, including loading politely back on the trailer without the aid of a second human during a brief rain shower. We've been getting more serious about stripping away reliance on external help for loading, given the impending change in circumstances, and so far so good. 

insert random flashback to the horse i bought in August 2023
Then the sun came out, and Amy and Trainer C moved to the outdoor to finish the lesson with a little test riding. So Doozy and I meandered over to hand graze until our turn. Good mare.

it never looks how it feels, not gonna lie
Admittedly, once it was our turn, Doozy lit up a little bit, as is her way... I gave Trainer C the rundown on our last month of work -- namely that it was mostly downtime, but that we'd been working on homework since picking back up about a week ago. And that it was going really well!

her moments of bracing+racing look... honestly pretty mild to the camera
So Trainer C opted to guide us through a continuation of progressive exercises aimed at bringing Doozy into better balance and posture. We basically did two main big stints of work -- one of which is captured almost entirely in the video below. One direction per stint, tho, so if you're confused as to why we're tracking left in all these photos, it's bc that's what we have on video.

tho, obvi haha... not every moment looks quite so lovely either LOL
We started with some work on spiraling, with Trainer C reminding me to be really precise on my outside aids in the work. In other words, now that we've established bend to the inside, with a neutral consistent outside rein, it's time to stabilize the outside aids even more -- and reintroduce staying straight on the outside aids. 

she's definitely figuring it out tho
As we spiraled in to a smaller 15m circle, she reminded me to keep ourselves equidistant all the way around from where she stood stationary on the center. Then, very gently, feeling like I could actually counter bend at any moment (so as to not "fall" out), start pushing with a leg yield feeling back to the full 20m circle.
we're both focusing so hard here haha
We repeated this a few times, then would find a good moment to leave the circle and continue travling straight down the quarter line, aiming to slowly, oh-so-slowly, leg yield back to the rail. 

mare can walk tho
It's crazy watching the video bc it felt like Doozy wanted to Blast Off! into trot as soon as we hit the straight line. Felt like we were jusssst barely contained. But ya know. Doesn't really look it. Go figure lol. 

not quiiiiite so sure about the lateral stuff yet tho LOL
Tho Trainer C definitely saw it, and worked on coaching us into containing all that forward energy. We'd get into one end of the ring, do a circle or two to again establish straightness on the outside aids, and then come down the quarter line for a leg yield. 

Tho, given Doozy's proclivity for zipping on down the line, Trainer C instructed us to come down to walk half way through the leg yield -- but while still actively moving laterally -- and then pick up the trot again.

honestly can't wait until we have enough tools to properly channel this trot tho
I'm not gonna lie, this was really hard work. Doozy is without a doubt the hardest horse I've ridden, it feels like every single step takes careful management. Tho, interestingly enough, it really doesn't look it in the video LOL. But I was absolutely puffed after a bit of this work in each direction. 

in time, tho, all in good time
A couple times Doozy wanted to blast off into canter, as she does, but Trainer C more or less said she wouldn't let her call the shots at this point. The mare knows enough now to start learning how to cope better with being "contained." Yes yes, the running is fun. But ya know. Sometimes ya gotta earn it!

After repeating the whole series of exercises tracking right, we finished the ride with just a few short repetitions of a figure-8, mostly to give Doozy a chance to confirm that she learned the lesson of the day. And she did, good girl!!

she's getting quite good at traveling tho!
Watching the video is useful for helping me understand both some points of homework, but also areas where we're getting stronger. An exciting feeling! Homework includes continuing to work on sitting more on my left side, particularly while tracking left (a particular weakness of mine), and continuing to stabilize and lower that outside hand. And continuing to try to keep a lively nuanced touch to the contact, vs a dead hold. 

Areas of strength, tho? Doozy is developing rhythm! Sorta! Like we might *almost* be ready to try playing with the metronome again! I also feel like I'm seeing some improvements in my rider posture, or at least fewer obvious asymmetries. 

Plenty more to do, as always LOL. But feels like progress. We'll take it!! And we'll definitely be back for more, regardless of barn moves!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

jumping at kealani

We finally made it back to another jump lesson with Sally, yay!! And it was honestly really really great, maybe hopefully continuing on our recent theme of 'breakthroughs.'

back for another lesson at the beautiful Kealani with Sally C!
I actually hadn't jumped the horse since the Thornridge CT almost exactly one month ago... Recall I was out of town for a week, and then the mare kept finding new and exciting ways to get her best friend Rosette to kick her... Mare. Pls. 

this horse is an actual professional at the trailer now. 15min from unloaded to mounted, nbd.
But it was all good. I'd actually kinda waffled over maybe jumping a little bit at home in the days leading up to the lesson... But ultimately decided not to. 

wheeeee jompies!!!!
It felt like we were kinda having a good 'moment' with that whole 'inside bend' breakthrough, and also figured if we were gonna knock some rust off, might as well do so under Sally's expert guidance.

is it really 'counter bent' if it's 'counter canter' ?? #asking4afriend
And ultimately I'm happy with that choice. From the perspective of 'exercises' or whatever, it was a VERY basic jumping lesson. We exclusively trotted into single fences, one at a time. 

bold mare will be bold to the boxes
And honestly? That was perfect. Like, sure, we have cantered around some courses at competitions. But we've also made a few mistakes. Remember Doozy squirting out of the combination at Thornridge bc we got there a little bit forward and she didn't seem to quite have a confident answer? 

d'awwww lookie at her go!
She's a bold game mare, the jumping is easy for her. But sorta in the same way she doesn't really philosophically agree with... trotting... She kinda feels like jumping is maybe a task best done FAST. Except. Ya know. It absolutely is not LOL...

wait no omg not like that
And this ride was the perfect little microcosm of all of our schooling to date: She started out bold and easy, then grew strong. And then stronger. At first, even when she'd make a bid for the fences, they'd still come comfortably out of stride. 

lololol ok she mayyyyy have gotten a little fired up
But then as she became increasingly strong (and as I managed to somehow not really change anything at all whatsoever in my ride...), things got a little more frantic and a little less comfortable. 

pictured: fired up
Sally is the best tho, so practical. So methodical. She advised that we basically hold onto the walk until alllllmost reaching the jump, and then trot. And Doozy.... lapped it up, actually. She went for the fence, but held her trot, and then put all her pieces together for a lovely effort, vs just flinging herself over.

pictured: toning it wayyyy back down again, walking almost to the fence
Honestly it's all in the video -- you can see us sorta unspooling, and then see Doozy really just have one of those "click" moments after walking to the fence. 

turns out, she liked the balanced jump better than the fling, GO FIGURE
It also helped at this point in the ride that I remembered to try actually utilizing some of those buttons we installed earlier in the week relating to inside bend off inside leg. And I started sitting my trot on the approaches and using the bend to try to help Doozy hold a better posture. 

this horse, i swear, she really wants to be good -- the better i can help her find the comfortable way, the more she wants to go there
But honestly, the change was all her. It's like she felt the difference in how comfortable it was to jump from balance, and was just like, "OH, ok."

omg ok here's a little bit of pictorial proof of that whole inside bend thing we've worked on <3 <3
Whatever the case, I'll take it! So our last few efforts of the lesson were quite pleasant, and we were actually able to carry on canter in decent balances on the back side of fences, vs trying to pull a bolting mare to a stop.

eeeee lovely over the barrels to finish!
Doozy is so brave, none of the fill or anything bugs her. Sally even made us jump the barrels, which obvi I knew Doozy would do, but also said *I* didn't wanna lol. (Luckily Sally doesn't particularly care what I do or do not wanna do!).

quite pleased with this kiddo
I honestly think this horse really wants to just be a good girl. She wants to do the right thing. Seems to quite enjoy this game, actually. But she also just doesn't really understand it yet (esp when it comes to speed). Sally reminded me that it is part of my job to know more than the horse, and sometimes that means protecting the horse from their own instincts. 

Sally was also really realistic in her advice for me. I can get really preoccupied in thinking about how it *should* be, but she's always very quick to remind me that... Yea, ok, sure, but also ride the horse you have RIGHT NOW, to get to the horse you *think* you *should* have later. The horse is still just really really green. It'll take time, but that's A-OK.

clever girl <3
Doozy, for her part, was a super star. You'd have never guessed she had an hour-long meltdown last time she came for a lesson here. She's grown up and matured so much in the last few months. 

Like, even if maybe it kinda looks like we're still doing the same stuff under saddle, it FEELS completely different. Feels like the horse understands so much better now too, and like I have a little more say in the matter. 

Whatever the case, Sally advised to keep getting her out. Keep exposing her. Which, ya know, hopefully that's the plan!

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

the next big step

Charlie has lived at his farm since 2017, almost exactly seven years now. And it's been 10 years since I started shipping in for lessons here with Isabel. How time flies!

pictured: a group of silly boys looking restless in their hot buggy midday turnout
It's a lovely farm, with extensive grounds, riding facilities, turnout, and a lot of freedom. Plus all the other boarders --- they are some of my best friends! 

when you're dry lotted weirdly late into spring, even the trees start looking tasty i guess?
But ya know. As with all things, this place is run by humans. And humans will be what they will be. This multigenerational family farm is slowly, oh-so-slowly, creeping toward an eventual changing of hands, from one generation to the next. 

finally moved to the summer pastures (just behind the tree line) but... now it's hot buggy and miserable during the day... most local farms doing 12/12 turnout already switched to nights out, days in... but, eh, not here, where the changing of seasons is a perpetual unexpected surprise!
And.... There is a LOT of uncertainty with that, with a not unrealistic expectation of a possibly bumpy ride. Well. Real talk. It's been bumpy already. 

the herd is small enough that it's not unusual for all but 1 or 2 to be in for rides at the same time
notably -- the other geldings herd has something like 10 horses, compared to this group's 5...
Charlie spent some of his best years here, but if I'm honest with myself, his herd life hasn't been great for a while now. I used to always tell myself that, even if *I* wasn't happy with the care or management, at least my horse was happy! But... That's just not really true anymore. It's not the same farm from a decade ago, let alone 5 years.

trying to at least look semi presentable for first impressions!
Add in the difficulties with getting onsite lessons... and... yea. It's time. It's been time. So both of my horses are moving this month. Tho... somewhat gut wrenchingly, they're going to different places. At least for the time being. 

freshly shampooed mane = check
Charlie is moving first, hopefully in just a few more days. And he's moving with another horse from his herd. His new barn is very different -- much smaller, quieter, more intimate, but well managed with good casual vibes. I honestly can't wait!

clean + brushed tail = double check
Doozy will move later in the month. We have a few bits of unfinished business around here to button up --- including hopefully a few last hurrahs with all our favorite riding buddies! 

just a few more days, boys! (red head pictured here is moving with us)
I'm honestly excited, and maybe a bit relieved, too. It's time. Part of why I went out on a limb with a new horse this year was to push myself, ya know? To not get lulled into complacency or get so comfortable with the status quo that... maybe isn't really all it could be, ya know? 

There's more I want to do, more I want to learn, and getting out into a new environment could be just the shot in the arm I'm looking for. Like, think about it: It's hard to go out among new people and be like, "Oh yea, I've done things, been places, I know what's up!" when I quite literally may or may not be able to reliably trot my horse around on a circle. 

oh icee, we were just getting to know you!
Maybe it'll be a reality check, right? Or just the motivation I need to be serious and disciplined. We shall see, right? -- it's (quite obviously) all still ahead of us. 

In the meantime, my head is buzzing with all the nitty gritty practicalities of having my horses in two different places. How to split inventory? What can be realistically divvied up, and what needs to be duplicated at each farm? I've always been that person who has everything, from power tools to charging cables to all the random hand tools and gadgets and medicines and spare everything in multiple sizes. 

But... Now all of that is going to have to get organized, assessed, and fit into new and different spaces.

here's to new open doors windows!
So, eh, definitely lmk if you have tips or tricks for keeping horses in multiple locations -- esp when it comes to what supplies and equipment to just buy more of to have in both places, vs what's reasonably easy to move back and forth....

Also let me know if you have any good tips for moving (horse) house. It might be easy to forget, but Charlie is my first horse, and he's lived at this farm for almost the entire time I've owned him. I, personally, have ridden at a fairly wide variety of farms, including drawing paychecks (in cold hard cash or in-kind credit, and everything in between), from half a dozen farms... But ya know. Every place is different. 

Success stories are welcome. Or ya know.... instructive nightmarish stories of "what not to do," or "dear lord that should have been a red flag!" are also always a good time (esp if they can help the rest of us avoid similar fates!)!! 

Monday, May 27, 2024

memorial pictorial ketchup

Happy long weekend for readers in the US, happy Monday to the rest of y'all. We've had a pleasantly quiet week around these parts, easing more or less gently (if somewhat damp from all the sweating...) into summer.

my sweet beautiful red mare. i swear, sometimes i really do groom her!
Last you heard of my intrepid red rockette, we had a dressage lesson originally planned as preparation for another show. She had been kicked, tho, so we missed other prep and I was on the fence about the show even tho it was a great lesson. 

stall noshies are best noshies
Well, she got kicked again, ugh (mare tho, really??), and this time was pretty sore. So. Eh. We took a little time off, and are just now getting back onto the weekly schedule again. 

oh yea... also, she got kicked AGAIN. this time a direct hit to her hock
It's honestly all good, tho. That earlier dressage lesson was really valuable and timely, esp with letting Trainer C sorta zero on in what she sees as our most immediate key issues. Number 1 among them? Inside Bend. 

"my legggg, it hurtssss" --- sad mare diary entry #1,034
And the second biggest issue? (at least from my perspective...) My outside hand's general fuckery. Bc as far as I'm concerned, these two issues are related. I think I've been riding Doozy fairly counter-bent mostly as an emergency braking mechanism, with that outside hand ready and willing to do whatever to bring that train to a whoa.

not a significant wound, but a big ol' hot swollen bruise right on the joint
It's really just in the last couple days that we've gotten back into daily schooling sessions again (vs general hack-abouts), and that's been my primary focus: inside bend. But always. 

in the meantime, somehow without any of us noticing, doozy turned into an extremely pleasant hacking horse!
I'm trying to keep my outside hand literally pinned to the saddle, and my inside leg straight down under me, but **on** the horse to push out for a leg yield feel (with outside leg also down under vs braced out in front doing only-god-knows-what), and inside rein just working that lateral supple --- keeping Doozy's nose visible to the inside.

she doesn't do the gates yet, but honestly isn't far off!
Sometimes Doozy wants to Ping! off the leg contact and shoot off... Often she wants to fall in toward the inside flexion vs staying up straight and moving off the inside leg... And occasionally she wants to go whole hog and exaggerate the whole exercise, falling wayyyyy out onto her outside shoulder with hyper inside flexion. 

she is, however, the "normal" one
My job, as it may be, is to basically not get distracted or baited by any of these slightly not-quite-right responses, and to just stay hyper disciplined on the one thing I'm asking for: inside bend while moving off the inside leg. That's it. Beginning and end. 

Like in the case where she goes way overboard and falls out on the outside shoulder? Fiiiiine. Good girl, that is inside the line I've drawn. (And we'll refine later, right?)

the most pleasantest <3 <3 <3
I also keep repeating in my head advice from erstwhile coach Dan C, when he said, "If what you're doing isn't working, slow it down." Always good advice for Doozy, let's be real. But also good for me to remember that instead of just sorta spiraling into some weird pretzel-y tug of war at trot... Just come back to walk again, and reestablish the posture. 

shift gears to --- spring clean up! holy f'ing lord how did i get so many blankets?!
also. ahem. yes, these are CLEAN. i SWEAR. stop looking so closely tho omg
And guys! Omg, it's working! Absolutely ground breaking to find that.... inside leg to outside rein actually like, WORKS and stuff!

We had three rides in a row last week that kinda blew my mind, not gonna lie. Not bc they were like, amazing or whatever. But bc it finally felt like I could lay down some mortar on Day 1, put some bricks on it on Day 2, and by Day 3 --- we actually had a solid wall!!

just doing normal dooz things
The first ride really sucked, tho. Not gonna lie. Again, we'd had some time off, Doozy hadn't done any proper schooling in a little while. She was wild. Friends riding with us were cantering and doing things. It was stressful and hot and Doozy had a white lather on her neck despite us not doing anything more than walk and trot. Oh and I also damn near fell off at one point....

shifting gears again: it's the most wonderful time of the year, guys!! lookiee at all my pretttttiessss!!!
But it resolved well. And I reminded myself that what I'm looking for is a response, a feeling. It doesn't matter if that feeling comes from just walking. The feeling is what matters, and what I want to end a ride on. 

why yes, we are embracing a barbie theme this year, why do you ask?
The next ride was... very different. We rode in a different ring -- the dressage ring instead of the jump ring -- and we were alone. Actually, it was the middle of the day on a week day so the whole farm was quiet. And we just picked right back up where we left off the day before. 

poor Icee, tho, not his favorite time of year! it's hard being a svelte pelted Barn Panther in this humidity!
Doozy still sweated more than what was necessary, but seemed less stressed. Actually seemed to be thinking and thoughtful. Focused on ME, not the wider world. Obvi since we were alone I basically spent the whole time singing her praises and verbally encouraging her through every step (which she loves), but she really seemed to get it. 

turns out, tho, the heat makes this Icicle a Nice-icle!! we'll take it!
We actually **Trotted** OMG. Sounds stupid. Isn't tho. It's real, it's where we are, and we celebrate the trot, yo! Went through a few cycles of repetitions too, to confirm that the feelings were reproducible. Got canters on both leads -- including the right lead that's been a bit elusive with her kick-sore hock, and then a little more trot, and a LOT more praise. Short sweet, and done. 

speaking of nice!! look who showed up in one of my lockers --- hello snek fren, pls take care of the source of all those mouse turds!
Third ride really proved the whole concept. Which, again, is staying really hyper focused on extremely basic and gentle fundamentals: inside bend, moving off inside leg. Nothing more, nothing less. Not "on the bit," not leg yields, not shortening or extending a gait. Just.... Inside bend, moving off inside leg. 

a better nice tho --- cute pony frens 
And guys, Doozy clearly felt like she'd had a breakthrough. Like she's starting to understand that... Yes, I'm asking her to do specific things. But... It isn't really hard, and it's definitely not fast. She just needs to tune in, trust me, and try. 

doozy looking sweaty and tired after her 2nd ride of what was a 3-day breakthrough session
And the moments where she gets it??? Omg, GREAT!! She's obvi got a HUGE trot in there, but she also has a stretchy trot just waiting to be understood. And a collected trot too --- tho obvi will need a lot more strength and balance for that. 

figuring life out, learning lessons and stuff <3
Once this horse really understands that, actually, we kinda just wanna trot for the sake of trotting... I think she'll love it haha. But for now, we'll keep staying hyper focused on the basics --- and keep taking lessons --- and see where that gets us!

On that note, hopefully a few more lessons coming this week! Hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend too!