Thursday, April 2, 2015

How To: Not Giraffe

Its been a hot minute since I've had consistent coaching on a regular basis. We're talking, ohhh about 6 years, give or take a little. I used to have two amazing coaches throughout high school and I lessoned weekly. What a treat that was!

After high school, I couldn't afford to lesson on the reg, thanks to college and all the expenses it entails. Broke bitch status continued throughout the wonder years and even after graduation I could only get a lesson here or there when we were really having issues. Ballpark, I think maybe a grand total of 6 lessons over the past 3 years. 

Seriously, those of you that lesson regularly, SAVOR IT! I might give my left tit for  the chance to lesson weekly again.

That being said, I was beyond stoked to find a trainer in my area that I meshed with AND specialized in OTTBs. I will FULLY disclose, I was skeptical at first because I had never heard of her before but I didn't judge too quickly. Her facility was amazing, I had an excellent referral and my first impression of her was fabulous. What. A. Doll. Just picture like, the cutest & sweetest horsewoman you can muster and that is my new trainer. She's a gem! I hope I can continue to afford bi-weekly sessions because we galloped through so many barriers last Sunday. 

For one, B loaded and unloaded like a semi-normal equine. That alone was an absolute victory in my mind.

I will admit, I was extremely discouraged when he began executing classic Bacardi misbehaving and evasion techniques the second we stepped in the indoor. I wouldn't say it was equivalent to the fuckery in the field, but I was unable to get him to calmly even walk in a straight line. Like, could I at least get one lap without a snort or jig?

In his defense, there was an extreme amount of commotion going on; construction in the barn tack room, the wind was howling outside, another horse in the arena and the ring was full of scary jumps. But still, Giraffing and spooking were not okay. We are brave eventers, dammit!

I was preparing to put foot in mouth and let everyone tell me how wrong I was and this horse is practically impossible/useless. Close to tears and I hadn't even been in the saddle 3 minutes. Awesome.

Perfectinstructorlady came in and immediately put us on a 20m circle. I was all like, but he's spooking, but frame, but tempo, but engagement, but giraffe and she was like, stop it and ask him to MOVE. She completely ignored his spooks when the sand hit the barrels and just said 

"Push HARDER, forward, engage his brain. He lacks consistency"

Once we got a really forward, but awful trot, we then started asking him to move his shoulders in and out of the circle, and only his shoulders. Which, by the way, is NOT easy on a green, massive bodied OTTB. Inner thigh burn.

I was still like, but frame, but engagement, but proper bend, but tempo, but giraffe and Perfectinstructorlady told me to ignore it for the time being. This might have been even more difficult for than than asking him to move his shoulders in and out of a 20m circle for 15 minutes straight.

I think Bacardi struggled with the concept of this exercise more than myself though. You could almost see the toggles in his brain flipping about. 

B was completely distraught with the fact that we were ignoring his now minor flaws and working through a problem by continuously asking him to move his shoulders in and out in and out in and out. I think it was mentally killing him that I wasn't giving up. He was so offended that we were asking him to do SOMETHING with that beautiful body of his, for once.

t was also killing me to not concern myself with the fact that surely he looked like a giraffe traipsing around. Killing me. 

And then after 25 minutes of shared frustration...engagement. Relaxation. Responsiveness. I was able to move his shoulders freely, and he executed perfect 20m circles on the bridle, through the contact, STRAIGHT and 100% listening to me.

I wish I could describe what I was doing with my seat, legs & hands during this exercise so everyone can understand, and I wish I could convey the 180* difference I felt in my horse. It was in him all along! I just needed to unlock his brain and find a way to communicate with him!

So we tried in the canter. It was a bit more difficult in this gait, especially since we haven't cantered since October, but the effort was A+

After all that,  I addressed all of my fears and concerns that while he's big, beautiful and bouncy, he has a  hair trigger when it comes to spooking, especially over fences & it worries me he will never be a successful eventer.

So Perfectinstructorlady asked if it would be okay to trot over poles. She wanted us to begin at ground zero, literally, and work up. Sure, he can jump 3'6, but to what end? (Taking it slow is so so so difficult. And I thought I WAS already taking it slow with crossrails and tiny verticals.. Apparently not).

At this point, we had only worked for about half an hour so I was like, well, we can try, but he usually spooks at them and refuses the first few times.

He of course, did. So we ignored it, and kept pressing him forward with lateral movement. Sounds contradictory, but it kept his brain unlocked and concentrated on what I was asking and not the horse eating thing on the ground. B realized that it wasn't the pole that he was bothered by, in the end, it was that the ride r(me) was justifying his concern with more concern and attention to said pole/spooking. 

Eventually, we had him trotting on a 20m circle over 4 poles, no problem. He didn't even bat an eye at the last two. I was ecstatic. I could've cried! WE did this, TOGETHER!

Look at us, two spazzes getting along.

I'm hoping the next few lessons  (bi-weekly hopefully!) will progress as far as the first. In time, I KNOW this horse is going to be something someday. And I just knew all our issues revolved around that damn field. 

Le tired ponykins

.......Until next time.

Monday, March 30, 2015


WHEW its been a minute since I've found an ounce of motivation or moments to blog. Last week was absolute hell on a personal level and I never want to relive it. That being said, I actually did quite a bit in the horsey realm.

First off, not sure if any of you noticed a lack of Yankee presence/updates at Texas Rose this weekend...buuuut his stablemate & show companion came down very ill with a pretty bad upper respiratory infection literally the day before they were supposed to leave. Horsebeasts have impeccable timing. The vet pretty much demanded that Yankee stay put for observation and that the show was out of the question. Its obvious all parties involved were pretty devastated with this news. Luckily, Huey has pulled through and finally is on the mend and it seems the farm has avoided disaster. Still rather sad my man couldn't strut his stuff after such a fabulous prep, but they'll get it next time!

On my end, in between the million things that involve a normal human adult life, I've been running aorund like a chicken missing a head. Spring, as we all know, involves a LOT of cleaning and dirt just seems to appear...and then never leave. I've taken getting up at the asscrack of dawn to get it all done, trying to enjoy sunrises and remind myself this is all a privilege...but its hard when you have 2 hours of chores on top of squeezing in rides and everything else.

Really though, riding fell by the wayside during the meat of the week. There was just too much to do in the ways of "admin work"& the weather was not behaving. Inbetween thunderstorms that made us lose power and SNOW I was just like, no. Nope.. I need more hours in the day, more energy drinks and a secretary.

Somehow, I got goaded into taking care of my dads new chicks. Last year we had some success with the meat chickens, and we still have 2 ladies that lived through the winter that give us beautiful brown eggs everyday in addition to the duck eggs we get from our ducks. Nothin' like free range duck & chicken eggs! This spring, round 1, we got both layers and meat chickens. Apparently round 2 will be the same. Far too many birds IMO.

lil nuggets
Dont let the cuteness fool you, they are a major PITA and they're already hideous and HUGE at 3 weeks old. Caring for chicks should legit be a full time job description between changing litter, cleaning water and feed troughs and keeping the damn things alive when the weather has a spaz attack and plumments to below freezing for several days. Over it.

Lilly did get ridden in the middle of the week because shes easy, no stress and I'm trying to get her fit for my dad. It was a nice break in the hectic schedule...even if she was a raging hormonal bitch thanks to spring heat. Still easier than my bucking bronc on his worst days though.

Bacardi took to self exercise during the week and subjected his mother to heart palpatations with mad frolicking throughout his muddy and flooded pasture. I couldn't keep him locked up though, I feel that would've been even worse.

HOPEFULLY we will get some paddocks made to help the pastures recover...AND if all goes well, we might get a new barn this spring. My feels. Cannot handle.

In preparation for our scheduled Sunday lesson, the nugget got to also practice loading.

B actually surprised me and loaded like a champ after a few tantrums. They were pretty spectacular too, including throwing oneself on the actual ground. Yes, he flung his giant body about in attempts to get out of it. I swear, he has Equine Asperger's. The discussion was the shortest yet at a record 27 minutes.

Cause for celebration

The next problem is getting the dingbat OUT once he's in. Before, its taken just as long to get him out as it took to get in. I won't go into detail, but the summation is, I stopped giving a fuck about all of it.

Before you judge or tell me this is dangerous, tell me to put boots on him, etc etc, please put yourself in my shoes. Trust me, I've tried it all. He plants his feet and wont budge, or gives me this face....

"DAFUQ?? You want me out now? But I JUST got in here!"
...and nothing will make him come out. Before, I've tried pulling him out. Ask me how well that works.  It generally involved him falling out and injuring himself somehow. (He also refuses to allow me to use my expensive, beautiful plaid shipping boots. Talk about a tantrum.)

So I just stopped caring. Flung the lead rope on the ground so I could catch it when he actually came out, and just stood there...while he gave me the face...for about 10 minutes.

Eventually he just backed out calmly and I grabbed the rope and we went on our merry way.

We did that 3 times throughout the week and nothing terrible happened. I was actually REALLY proud of him. You have no idea.

Saturday, Amy, from Slow and Steady (if y'all remember, I rode Steady at Team Challenge for her this last fall!) accompanied me on a lovely, but very cold, trail ride. It was probably the most fun I've had out on the trail in a long time. We got to canter on a "beach", tackled some giant hills, meandered through beautiful woods and she rode her daughters UHHDORABLE squee worthy Haffie and Lilly was a total gem. My dad will be really  happy with her once she gets back in shape.

The roundness in dat belly gives me all the feels
Precious ponykins
On sunday, Bacardi and I trekked over to Ends Meet Eventing for our intro/dressage lesson. I don't want to spoil the fun for my next post, but it was beyond spectacular. He also loaded both times in less than 5 minutes and got off in a reasonable amount of time as well. I can't wait to write up the summary post!

I'm hoping to squeeze in at least 2 ride on B this WEEK, one this saturday and hopefully one on Lilly but the forecast is looking to be absolutely dismal so thats highly annoying.

How was everyone's week? Are allergies absolutely slaying anyone else? Hope all the ponies in the blogsphere are doing fabulous!