Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What Do Wednesday: Straps &Things

If you are friends with me on FB, you've already seen this...but the the highlight of my week so far has been buying this beaut...

Oh fuck yeah. Bet you can guess where that went....

I'm still laughing at this and I'm sure the lady who made it for me is too. She simply couldn't believe it when I asked her to make it and asked me approximately 6 times if I was absolutely sure I wanted that. Yes ma'am, I do. Gimme that shit.

B is less than impressed, but its fine, because his human counterparts are still cracking up about it. Kind of ghetto still with the duct tape, but whatever, it matches stuff.

I've ridden with a neck strap for quite some time now, and its still habitual to put one on for every ride regardless. B has settled down quite a bit from his shenanigan days, but you never know when you could need it in an 'emergency'. Back in the day when he was a total asshat and would throw a rear coupled with a buck, I would sometimes use it to stabilize myself. Quite literally, save myself from his ridiculous oh shit moments.

A fond memory I have of one of our many winter rides together was when he pulled one of those, and then bolted and I was literally left hanging off his side. Without the neck strap I would've been toast. I tend to like the strap better than mane anyways,  and its always in the right place if I should ever need to reach down and grab it. Additionally, if somehow, your bridle comes off or breaks or your reins snap (has happened to me), the strap is there for whoaing and leading purposes. Trust me on this one.

Grabbing said strap over fence

Last ride I actually instinctually grabbed for it when his exuberance failed my strength and he popped me out of the tack yet again over fences (will I ever learn to ride this beast?). I like just knowing it is there, for any reason, if I may need it. Cool thing is it just chills when I don't use it (which is most of the time) and now looks extra sharp with the brass plate, despite the ghetto duct tape that I will be removing soon. Eventually I'll get a new old leather and replace it, since this one is getting ratty, but its my trusty tool.

So what I want to know this week is if you use an oh shit strap, or prefer mane? Or, is there a piece of special equipment you simply cannot ride without? Not talking about a breastplate or certain pad, I mean like maybe a fav pair of extra grippy breaches, or a lucky crop or even spurs? Tell me dear readers, what do?!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sunday Funday

I'm still riding my weekend high (lol equestrian humor) even in to Monday morning and it is GLORIOUS. Not only was this weekend beautiful (70's and sunny), I got to jump!

We spent the majority of the weekend cleaning up my parents farm (read: taking all my horse stuff from the last 18 years and sorting through it all/throwing away/cleaning) and breaking down the fencing so they can re-build the ancient barn. It was a ton of work, and I mostly just drove the four wheeler since I can't really lift much yet. Bangor was a massive help and after a Crossfit comp Saturday and working literally all day Sunday on the farm he STILL came with me to New Farm to video for me.

I'm keeping him.

Originally the trip to NF was supposed to be Saturday, but I was so effing tired and a rogue thunderstorm popped up around 5PM and prevented the exclusion anyways. 

 B was a little confused on where he was going late on a Sunday evening after dinner, but got in the trailer with no protest. I was super impressed with him on that one!

He was a bit looky when we arrived, but settled right in once we got to the arena. Guys, this arena. I could tell he was amazed with the footing at NF by the way he flicked his toes, and we warmed up with a few laps each direction and popping over tiny crossrails. If you had never known that B was barefoot, you wouldn't be as impressed as I was with how he was handling jumping. I seriously couldn't even tell; not one bobble.

He was absolutely lit too- so jazzed to be jumping again. I felt like he would jump the moon if I had asked him to!

Toe flick
I was struggling though, even he took to his potato sack rider in stride I kept the fences pretty low.  B was literally doing all the work for me and never once looking at a single fence. Even the super spooky liverpool and triple bar fan jump. I just clung to his back and pointed his face at fences.

Not a recommended method of training, but whatever.

Unfortunately, I had approx  only 2 min of video storage only phone, even after deleting half my apps, essentially my entire camera roll and text messages, so it was either get some video over the oxer, or some super far away, less interesting footage of the coursework.

I promise he was foot perfect though, despite my wayward riding skills. He was literally point and shoot. I had Bangor set the course to 2'6 and 2'9 (bless him) with mix of verticals and oxers, with a bending line (oxer to vertical) and two other combinations (verticals to oxers). B tackled it all like it was nothing and I was just along for the ride. I swear, he's on his best behavior, knowing that jostling spirals me into agony (anything to ride, amirite?). 

I had to grab the oh shit strap a few times simply because my core strength in nonexistent and he jumps me out of the tack when I am healthy. Boy has some hops.

Per usual, his left lead was a little more "problematic" at first (stiff) than the right, so I tried to approach most of the fences off the left lead and after the first course he seemed to loosen up a bit more and his changes were less jostling.

Forever too tall for anything I own

I almost wish I had video evidence of the coursework, because I don't think anyone would believe me on how magically calm B was going around.

This, being the horse who used to refuse everything at LEAST once and fling himself around the course at mach speed.

After two courses I called it a day with courses since neither of us have really jumped much in the last 6 weeks. B has been jumped by L twice, but I was erring on the side of caution.

I am not exaggerating in stating that I was flopping around like some useless cucumber in the saddle, so I was hella impressed with my horse for putting up with it and jumping all the things. 

After coursework, I wanted to see how he would do with a little bit of height and eventually got the oxer up to 3ft. Despite what it looks like in the pics, I can assure you that it was 3ft. Damn giant horse and weird camera angle.

He was perfect. 

I think maybe it is time to admit that he is growing up and I shouldn't be surprised by his good behavior anymore and instead come to expect it. B will be 8 in January, which is just a few short months away it seems and I feel like 8 is an unacceptable age to throw shenanigans.

I do think though, that training him at a glacial pace has been the major key in his progress. It was pretty difficult sometimes when I saw my friends competing up the levels with horses younger than B, but my sanity was kept knowing that this is what he needed in the long run.

Even after the majority of 6 weeks off of jumping he came back full throttle with an actual fire in his heart to attack the fences with gusto. He was quite literally just stepping over the jumps and having a ball.

me forever getting left behind by his giant leaps

I think maybe it might finally be time to start making the move up to the 3ft divisions. I know he can do it, he's been able to do it physically since before I bought him. But now I think  he is actually MENTALLY ready to move up. I think with the addition of the hackamore in our tack arsenal and taking it painstakingly slow with height, we are finally, 100% ready to attack the 3'3 and 3'6 divisions.

Granted, that means taking the winter to train over that height, but come spring I think we might be more than ready to finally jump some REAL fences ya'll. Maybe then too he might actually start trying and lift those knees up for once.

This weekend there is a small schooling show with 2ft divisions offered, and I MIGHT go since my entire barn is going. I'm nervous about my riding strength, but 2ft is literally a giant snore and in the past B has simply stepped over those fences. I think it would be a walk in the park for him, and a chance to show one last time before winter sets in.

I am shooting very high for the 2ft jumper division at a recognized show here in November, but we will see if that will cost me an arm and a leg to enter. So this might actually be my last chance to get out before the winter indoor series.

Guys, I am really excited about this. While I'm a pansy over XC fences, I am bored to tears in the 2ft jumper divisions. Praise the lort at this revelation.

Also the best part, B trailered WITH boots on. This is a legitimate, massive huge deal. AND he backed off the trailer. Revelations all around!!

Here's to progress and a great week ahead!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Body, Y U Do That

This week has been the slowest blur ever, but a happy one. I haven't been this busy in forever, but I am SO grateful to be back at the gym and riding along with everything else.

This week, V is on vacation, so in typical fashion, I've been doing almost too much physically in riding both boys and Crossfit.

Finally, I dragged bribed a friend to come video for me in an attempt to document my glorious floppy return to equestrianism.

You know how when you're doing something and your like

And get all excited to watch yourself in the video and document your fucking awesomeness and then reality hits when you hit play and you're like

Yeeeah. That was me. I REALLY thought I was doing good, like honestly 100% was actively staying aware of my body and working to keep things in proper places. Especially keeping  my hands where they were supposed to be and my hip angle just right. I was riding around like, fuck yeah hips. You're amazing. Knees, I love you. Calves, keep up the good work. Shoulders, you fine bitches, ILY. Thumbs, god, you're fabulous, keep doin you. And then, the video proved I was lying to myself. Its fine though, thats why we document right? To build and improve?

Luckily, my horses have been actual fucking saints and put up with me flopping around in pure weakness. Sometimes I joke around and say that I'm riding like shit, but for reals this time, I am. Let me tell you, 6 weeks of doing NOTHING besides sitting at a desk all day and laying in bed afterwards until the sun comes up, means all of the muscles you worked so hard to obtain over the last year and a half DISAPPEAR.

At least I already feel little stronger, but that post about rider position is hitting me harder than I thought it would. Brick by brick.

My inside hand and hip angle struggles have only been exacerbated now though, and riding properly is apparently impossible.

Thank baby jesus that Yanks is a unicorn and pretty much does anything you ask, as long as you do it semi-properly. I wanted to build on what we had worked on last ride and he was pretty game.

Useless potato sack NBD for the Yanks
I always get a little flustered when anyone comes to video, because my phone generally only has 5 minutes of recording time because I was a total noob and only got 8GB instead of like a billion, and I am constantly deleting shit to make room for ponies. Therefore, I'm always like omg omg omg gotta get it in, gotta record the brilliance! And then I end up riding even more like shit. When will I ever learn?

Anyways, Yanks was great. We worked on a exercise similar to last ride except instead of counter canter, it was half pass at the canter. AKA, fucking hardest thing ever for my OG OTTB with a weak topline. He really tried though. There was the smallest of crossover and he at least maintained inside bend quite nicely. I am sure my wayward hands interfered a bit, so I was pleased with his efforts.

Sideways, my noble steed!

After the half pass, it was straight to a 10m circle, down to trot and across the diagonal in a medium trot.

Work that inside hind Yanks

He was a wee bit on the lazy side and trotting like a lazy asshole, so Mr Tappy had to remind the old fart that dragging hind legs and hallowing your back is not what proper gentleman do.

FINE, I'll do what I'm supposed to *tail swish in your direction*
After a few reminders, he was great though and stayed mostly through the contact and actively forward, again, despite my riding challenges.

Those feets < 3

After getting in the forward mindset, we worked briefly on renver and leg yields to finish up the ride. I was getting wicked tired and going fetal, so I knew it was better to stop before I truly started to unravel and ruin what we had accomplished that day.

Almost sad V is coming back because I truly love riding that horse and sometimes miss his buttons when I get on B, who has approximately 1/3 of Yankee's buttons, and they are still installing hahaha.

Speaking of B, he was quite stiff to the right yesterday, and the sand was drying up and he was like no thank you, so we rode in the grass.

Despite feeling our conditioning ride yesterday, he put in some good work on the flat. I was struggling pretty hard to keep up with him, already exhausted from riding Yanks, so I kept the ride short. We plan to jump tomorrow anyways, no sense in working him in the ground before then.

I felt like I was really flopping around on this ride, but he tolerated my busy hands and flailing legs and was almost a little lazy. Never one to really need much in the ways of leg, I would say he required a shit load of leg in comparison to normal. Mostly because he kept trying to sneak a shoulder in. Cheeky buggah. This of course made me extra tired, but he responded nicely and for the most part stayed in front of it.

I tried to canter him, but legit almost slipped off the side like an fucking greenie. His canter is absolutely massive, and apparently what little strength I have is not enough to sit it. Horrified and embarrassed I casually came back down to a trot and was like, this is where we live now. I asked B for a few more changes of direction and a bit more energy and we called it quits.

Practicing releasing inside rein to test self carriage

Overall, I could have been discouraged with how poorly I rode, but mostly, I am jacked I'm back in the saddle! I know in time it will come back to me and I just need to be patient...but its hard! I am so lucky that I have two fabulous horses to ride and spoil, and reminding myself at that really helps me stay positive. Hopefully in the next few weeks my core will get stronger and I can start seriously riding again!

Happy weekend ya'll!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Tootsies Update

My life has righted itself. I got back to the gym. I got back to riding. Life is making sense again despite the ever mounting bills, the impossible task of finding an apartment that allows dogs that isnt eleventy billion dollars a month, stress at work and constant grad school homework.

Despite all the stress in life, horses give me focus and B's improvement gives me life.

Super, incredibly boring to some, but I find this barefoot thing fascinating. It has been just under a month (shy by a few days) since I said fuck it to shoes and kept them off entirely. However, his feet have been mostly bare for the better part of several months considering keeping shoes on was impossible. 

Personally I am counting my lucky stars and knocking on all the wood because B has hardly taken a a lame step or bobble since I stopped putting nails in his feet, and as of right now, his feet are doing great.

In need of a touch-up rasp

Some days they look pretty jagged, (like above), and others they look super smooth. As the nail holes grow out, his feet are starting to look a bit rough, but only on the edges. Underneath, magic is happening.

Behold, the tootsies.


I am literally mesmerized by them for some awkward reason, and have taken to staring at them on my phone during the most random parts of my work day. 

Boss: *walks in* Hey have you gotten any progress with the McCaughlin accou- what are you doing?
Me: *wipes away single tear, and hides phone* Just staring at my horses' feet, sorry
Boss *Looks at me questioningly* *quickly leaves*

For real though, I always forgot that horse feets are ALIVE and semi-squishy and really fucking cool and shoes are the actual worst.

I wish I could pull Yankee's shoes *le sigh*

Lets take a gander at these feets and their pretty drastic, yet small changes.

Biggest thing I notice, with my uneducated eye, is the frog expansion and the obvious, edges less jagged. Also, the foot is expanding slightly out and it almost has a polished look to it since every inch of the foot touches the ground with every step now. SO pretty. SO fascinating. 

With his problem foot, I see a MASSIVE difference in that frog. I mean seriously, look at it. LOOK AT IT. Its huge now! Those heels! That width! SWOON!

Also, not 100% sure if the flare on the outside edge is a good or a bad thing, but the farrier is rechecking him tomorrow (its been about 9 days since he was out last) to see if he needs a trim finally.

Regarding his soundness, hes been almost foot perfect. The indoor still gives him the ouchies, but the indoor turned to shit as soon as it got humid and the equipment was moved to the New Farm. I haven;t ridden him in there (no one has), but we have to walk across it to get to the outdoor. The outdoor has been wonderful for us, super fluffy and soft.

Two days ago he was ever so slightly tender because of the rain, but yesterday he was fantastic. We just went for a hack/conditioning ride beacuse 1) no jumps 2) ring flooded 3) he was a giant mudball

Yankee modeling his new look

We did laps around the field, 6 each direction, 2 per gait. and he felt incredible. I am still 1000% out of shape, so today we might either skip, lunge or just hack again because tomorrow we are hauling to New Farm to jump!

1 more week and then we move permanently! Stalls are being re-done as we speak! GAH.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What Do Wednesday: When to Quit

Yesterday was a dream, I think. Not only did I get LOADS of leads for my hunt for baby pics (thank you everyone), but I GOT TO RIDE.

I've ridden twice in the last 6 weeks, even though I wasn't supposed to, for about 10 minutes only  & it was absolute torture. Combined with being unable to work out as well, I was miserable.

I broke the fast yesterday though and not only went to the gym, but rode BOTH my boys.

Don't worry, I didn't overdo it like a typically do, and I actually feel fantastic today, just a little sore. Taking the day off to recoup, but hope to ride again tomorrow then maybe Saturday haul to the New Farm to jump!

My question today I might have asked before, and there is no real definite answer, more of an explanation of a process.

But first, a recap.

V is out of town so I wanted to get a solid flat school in on him. Yanks topline is looking pretty dreadful and is not developing as fast as I had hoped, post surgery. To combat this, I am hoping V is willing to either lesson with me once a week, or let me ride him on the flat. Shes still learning dressage, so its not her fault at all, but putting him through 2nd and 3rd level paces once a week might help build that muscle.


Yankee warmed up with a good marching walk, and we got to it right away since there was a storm looming. I played with the adjustability in his trot, working on collection and then extension and back and he felt quit supple despite the lack of muscle across his topline. Canter was no different and he was perfectly obedient and in front of my leg. To warm up at the canter and check his strength I asked for walk-canter transitions every 4 strides down the long side. He felt fantastic and stayed relaxed and ready for any command. Deciding to shake it up a bit, we dove in to my favorite canter exercise.

This exercise combines halt-canter, with 4-5 strides counter canter then back to the wall for a 10m circle to halt, turn on the haunches and halt-canter, repeat. Then flip the exercise for the other lead.

Do you like my shitty diagrams, hahah

Yanks was able to repeat this twice on each lead before he got tired and I really had to use my aids to keep him in front of my leg and keep the energy moving. Totaling 6 times, 3 passes on each lead I moved on to renver (REALLY hard) and traver to half pass in the trot. Half pass has always been more difficult for Yanks and he could only hold it for 3 strides, before falling in. He tried his heart out though and was foot perfect and listening to my aids even without spurs (I've needed spurs in the past for lateral work). After just a few minutes at that, I called it a day with him since I am 1000% out of shape and he is still building strength for the more advanced movements.

Bacardi was ever so slightly footsore because it has LITERALLY rained for 5 days straight. Its like a freaking hurricane or monsoon. With all the wetness, I was not surprised that his feets (took pics, next post!) were a wee sore. Also, mildly concerning, his stifle was clicking. It stopped about 10 minutes in when I asked him to back up....really hoping this isn't the start of another issues though.

Therefore, I kept our ride to a walk but worked on shoulder-in to halt, turn on the haunches/forehand and then simply changing the bend in his body along the long side (almost like renver) back and forth while still maintaining energy.

Lateral work used to really get his goat and it was almsot impossible to work more than 3-4 minutes with him at it before he checked out and started rearing. He hasn't reared in ages, but he would flip his head about and start to jig after his time limit was reached.

Flying change practice last summer

Yesterday though, he was great! I was pretty proud of him. #GrowingUp

So back to my point.

When do we quit in our rides? How much is enough?

For literal YEARS I would simply warm-up, do what I came to do and if Yanks was wonderful I would quit right there. For the majority of his younger life, he literally couldn't;t handle much, and I wanted to keep his baby OTTB training positive. Then he got older and I didn't change a thing. Normally my rides were no longer than 30 minutes. I never felt like he really NEEDED to be drilled and I love to end on a good note, and fearing he would get worse, I always ended them short unless we were struggling and he needed more time to get it "just right".

However, at shows we were expected to go for much longer than that I would notice he would lose focus quickly. His fitness was never an issue, just his concentration. It took me ages to make the connection between my ridiculously short rides and the fact that I would lose my horse after less than an hour at shows.

After that revelation, I tried to keep my rides a little longer, but still never felt he needed it. He knew his shit, there was no point drilling him. This lead me to a lot of creative rides to get that saddle time.

Then B came along and was a total shitshow every ride. Still trying to keep with my mantra of "end on a good note", sometimes I would be on him for over an hour.

To be honest, I never really felt like that got him anywhere, so I went back to what I used with Yanks as a bebe. We worked up until he started to resist. If he resisted right away, I dropped all initiative and we would toodle.
Sometimes even that was impossible so I would go for the most basic, dumbed down goal of the day. Usually walking two steps without bolting or rearing. Yeah, he was a hellion. Once we got that, BAM, I was off and he was done.

Walking is good
It took about a year, but B shows up to work almost every day now. I collect the reins up and he is THERE. So little by little I push him. If he responds well, I end the ride. If he resists a bit, I back off and ask for something simple and if he relaxes, we go back to the hard thing. 

So for us, its dependent on his brain and how much he can handle.. With Yankee, he always perfect and then its easy to get carried away with asking for more and more.

Being good is hard

So how much do you push? How far is too far in one training sessions?

Hard to quantify isn't it?

I think of it like a weightlifter. I would get absolutely nowhere if I warmed up, then quit, because my form was perfect. I would never get stronger in that skill set. Therefore, I push myself to do more. I fail a lot. But then, I succeed and get stronger...little by little.

Thats how I equate training new skills with my horses. If I give up too fast, they will never learn. Theres a delicate balance between too much and too little, especially with B. So generally, he gets ridden about 30 minutes, sometimes longer to work on physical stength things. His max brain capacity I've noticed is about 45 minutes though, so anything longer, despite how poorly he may be doing, I need to cut off there. Yankee is like the little engine that could and rarely gets stressed about anything but flying changes, so a happy 40 minute ride I think is sufficient for building muscle. I try not to drill the fuck out of him, since he is the solid citizen of my herd.

If you managed to stick through my incredible rambling post with no new pics, I want to know what you all do.

In your rides, do you often  push for more each time or do you just refresh old skills as a tune up and possibly throw in a few minutes of new skill? Do you ride for an hour no matter what? Do ou ever end rides early? Tell me dear readers, what do??

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