Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Winter is definitely upon us.

Know how I know?

Its not the blistering temps, or snowstorms. Not the fact our horses haven't had turnout in 2 weeks or the barn doors are frozen shut. Nor the frozen feet or cold & runny noses.

I know because my horse has become a dragon for real this time.

Last time it got a little cold he played around in the arena giving me a little bit of hell, but was nowhere near as awful as last year.

I wish I could say the same for this week.

I want to start off with a disclaimer; they have been in for two plus weeks straight with no turnout whatsoever. I also had not ridden in four days due to the snowstorm frigid temps and schoolwork. So I know he behavior is half my fault. The other half is always a mystery.

Thursday I had finally been able to carve out time to come to the barn (and try on my Bday gifties!!) for the first time in what seemed like ages.

I knew he was going to be hell from the second I stepped in the barn and he was flailing his head around dancing in his stall.

Poor guy is going nuts.

Being a completely sensible person, I of course decide to still ride my fire breather, but choose to lunge beforehand.

This did nothing for him. If anything, he got more wound up because he just wanted to gallop in a 10m circle and I wanted him to behave on a 25m circle.

I'm so mean.

Despite his rearing and crow hopping fits, I decided to still try and ride him, hoping some rider instruction would give him focus and purpose.

This also was a dumb idea and I should have just waited until the lessons were over and turned him out in the indoor, but I couldn't wait until 9:30 PM to do so.

He literally could not horse on Thursday. Like, at all. Either he was hauling on my arms galloping in a semi-2m circle (we were secluded to the scary corner of the arena because lesson) spooking, or he was standing in place half rearing, half piaffing. Literally.. He paiffed for like 15 minutes straight.

 I tried lateral work, which only enraged him; I tried canter work which only made him explode; I tried I gave up and just sat there wanting to rip his face off for being a complete moron, but kept my cool. The second he stopped and stood still, I praised him and got off.

What a waste of an hour & half. It didn't help that the rain/snow/sleet on the roof sounded AWFUL.

Even after the ride he was still amped and would.not.stand.still in the crossties (hence my photo of the blanket in last post being half blurry)

Friday, for my B-day I had *hoped* he would settle a little bit, but that was a wasted wish.

There was a lesson going on, of course, and we were secluded to lunging in the middle of the arena in-between jumps and I could tell from the start he was soon uncomfortable in that area. I think he felt claustrophobic AF, as I would too if I were a giant horse being asked to lunge in a smaller area with jumps all around.

From the get-go he was racey and carried his head as high as possible, which is the opposite of what I wanted. The horse lessoning also kept hitting the jumps and Bacardi would LOSE HIS MIND everytime and would legit BOLT, taking the clanking as an excuse to runnnnn awayyyyyy.

I was getting VERY frustrated, just wanting to lunge my horse for a few minutes before I rode...but he was getting increasingly nervous as we progressed. I ended up just doing some lateral groundwork and calling it a day after he spooked from a jump pole falling and almost tearing my arm socket out and running me over. Also did not help in the last 15 minutes of work the food cart came around to feed the barn and he lost all focus completely.

This is what I've been dealing with

Not fun. Another waste of a day.

Saturday, Bangor came out with me armed with the iPad to video.

All I really wanted was some video and for my horse to just listen a little bit & get some OK training time in, thats it.

He was actually exceptional while lunging, but we were also alone, it wasn't raining, it wasn't feeding time and this was his third day out of the stall.

I had high hopes when he settled right to work on the lunge and gave me some calm and beautiful transitions with directions.

My high hopes were shattered when he started off flinging his head around in every transitions, every step-whatever and charging at the jumps in the arena each time I went down the centerline.

Which, in a good sense, leads me to believe he REALLY loves jumping now, but I also was not jumping that day and it was REAALLY annoying while trying to get some sort of sense of a good dressage training day.

UGH. The frustration with this horse sometimes!!

After about 30 minutes of tense, anxiety filled horsing around, I FINALLY got his attention with a little bit of shoulder-in on a 20m circle.

Truly, he was just a mess and you can see in the video exactly where he's carrying it.

I will say this week has been one of the worst as of late and I almost didn't want to post video evidence of how awful we were doing, but my theory is that you have the good with the bad and to not hide those bad days.

I also didn't realize how HORRENDOUS my equitation has become and I'm highly embarrassed that I look like an overgrown monkey on top of my horse. I'm hoping git was just my bulky sweater and brown seat patch on my breeches...but I'm pretty sure I was riding like shit. Doesn't help that I am incredibly sore from my knees up (THANKS CROSSFIT) but jesus, my shoulders. Please for the love of god try and ignore my position.

This video is the best out of the 3, and the funniest. I'm talking to Bangor, trying to tell him what exactly I'm doing, because he's learning dressage and its funny.

The links to the other two scary training videos are HERE  and HERE (Bangor's commentary is esp great in this one)

Overall, you can see that B is just a giant ball of anxiety. He's very unfocused and everywhere, apparent in his extreme lack of contact. I'll get him working and slightly relaxed through the back for like 10 seconds then he's like OH GOD WHATS OVER THERE and I got back to shoulder-in shoulder-out, please MOVE, half halt half halt, push with seat oh THERE we are...lather/rinse/repeat.

This handholding is getting old.

There were some nice moments....

...where he relaxed and handled life well. 

Right now, this week, the biggest issue has been holding ALL the tense-ness in his neck. Its just...awful. I really would like for him to NOT develop the underside of his neck, but the way he's been lately....

SO. I tried to get him to move forward. Sometimes, he would just rush and drag his hind end, or flail his face, so then I would utilize my seat and push a little in the sitting trot up into my hands. Once he was moving forward again, I would rise.

Kind of relaxed

Moving forward better
Essentially, the struggle is real to MAINTAIN this week.

As a pair, we haven't hit a training wall like this since we moved in. I know its the combination of being stuck inside, soreness for the both of us (will address in another post) and the cold, but DAMN it hits you hard when you take two steps back.

There for a while, he was blowing me away with his dressage and now I want to slam my head on a table repeatedly.

Canterwork was a bit better. The transitions were exceptionally FUGLY, evidence in the videos, but he settles into it nicely. Canter is his favorite gait and despite sometimes being behind the vertical...

....its the easiest gait to work within for us as a pair. He responds the quickest to anything I ask and he's the most adjustable in the gait. 

To the left he's been reluctant to bend, another thing I will address in another post, but I've found a combination of outside rein, inside leg/inside hand half halt helps him create and hold the bend.

Actually moving his shoulders

Maybe I need to let my stirrups down a notch or two too....

Overall, after some give and take both directions he was able to relax a little and I ended on a good note.

I know winter isn't the easiest for anyone, but I was really getting spoiled with some nice work from B and I'm really missing it, haha.


  1. Girlfriend, truthfully I do not see anything HORRIBLE or disgusting in these videos! Frankly you both look very nice. Sure, there are green MOMENTS. Like, miliseconds. However, that is SO SO SO normal!!! I think you are doing a fantastic job. And the red pony is looking fab. :) :)

    1. I really needed to hear this encouragement, and I thank you for it. I hate steps back. I know they're inevitable, but they still sucketh. Thank you!

  2. Dude there is nothing shameful in that video! Yes, he is a bit tense and green, but I am definitely not horrified! Go easy on yourself, you guys have made huge progress this year!

    1. I'm really hard on myself, it's hard! I may I have come off a wee frustrated while writing this post

  3. Seriously i'll send ya a video of our indoor on any given lesson day during winter. It's like a pinball machine with multiple balls going. I'm sure we missed seeing the worst of it, but many of us own horses that act the same in similar situations. I certainly do, and she doesn't get such nice uphill connection as you are getting in between crazy.

    1. Did you watch the other two videos hahaha. But yes Bangor also didn't catch/wasn't paying attention/ didn't know to video the craziness that was the explosions before these videos. Thank you though, I was feeling really discouraged about it

  4. I love the snazzy clip job! Try not to be so hard on yourself :)

  5. Yeah you promised fireworks and that was boring as hell. I never watch videos and I watched because I wanted to feel better about my pet dragon-pony. Poo. Anyways. He looks green. If he's been inside two weeks, green is best case scenario. ;-)

    And yeah. My rides are timed so I can turn C out in the indoor 3-4x a week. We lunge A LOT (and I hate lunging) and about half my rides are walking on the buckle and chatting because at least he's learning riding doesn't have to mean tension. So like. One day a week for 20 minutes, we might get some quality work done.

    Whatever. It'll get better.

    1. Oh we didn't catch the fireworks ;) I wish we had. I even said that video was the best of the 3!

      Either way it felt awful to me and looked awful in comparison to what's been going on. Winter is poop.

  6. my mare definitely gets more dull and loses some of her 'try' when we move indoors for the winter. maybe the space constraints, or the never-changing visual boundaries? whatever the case i always end up feeling less inspired... B looks good in the vids tho! sure, he's capable of more, but at least he's still trying!! ugh winter is just the worst tho...

  7. You guys look so great! Winter time is hard on everyone

  8. Poor B. I couldn't imagine living somewhere that there is snow and blizzards and they have to stay inside for days on end. I would go crazy just watching him go crazy. So grateful I live in the south LOL!!! I feel for you and B. That has to suck big time!

    That gif with the dog is so sad... is he dreaming or having a seizure?? Kind of freaked me out I'll admit lol.

    That really sucks that the dragon is back. The whole always lessons and feeding time at the barn must be so frustrating!! You pay to be able to ride in an arena and it seems like every time you ride there is something in your way. :( Stupid work schedules!

    If you are embarrassed of that video I should seriously never post video of me riding ever again! You are way too hard on yourself. If I was riding a fire breathing dragon I would be riding extremely defensively... seriously like clinging to his neck haha. He actually doesn't look nearly as bad in the video as he did last year. He's listening. Sure there are disagreements, but nothing I haven't seen from a bunch of other horses lol. I have seen a lot of horses that are way worse in the contact than he is and they weren't even green!! Don't give up! I, personally, am impressed by how far you have come with him. To me you guys look great!