Thursday, February 11, 2016

Complete Hypocrisy

I have not had the best week in regards to mounted activities. February in  general is one of the worst months IMO. Looking back, I should have just taken the next 2 weeks off for reasons, mostly the ridiculous cold that has set in (it was ‐2 this morning, without windchill). It is a known fact that Bacardi is a wild thing the colder it gets, and I should have accepted it and let it be & taken the hit on my riding schedule/goals. But I’m feeling a ton of pressure with recent success to keep it going, show season coming up, etc etc

Searching for my sanity

Both times I’ve ridden this week have been flat sessions, and due to the cold snap, I *wanted* to keep it simple with halts, lateral movements and W/T transitions. That’s it.

Bacardi had other ideas and schemes though.

The first session he was lit about leg yields. The second day he lost his damn mind because the door was open. Holy Christ, his world was ending.


There is something about leg yields that he cannot wrap his brain around. I mean he literally crumbles in front of me when I ask for any type of sideways movement while mounted. Unmounted, its better, but he is still wildly offended regardless.

I’ve ruled out physical issues and tack fit because I’ve seen him do perfect leg yields in the field and I’ve even asked for them bareback, with no tack. He just literally cannot under saddle.

The best way I can describe it is that he gets “stuck”. Like he will freak out (no one can grasp how badly unless you see it in real life), tense up, toss his head repeatedly, prance, and hold his head high in the sky and then just jig in place. Or sideways. Or backwards. Continuously. As in, won’t stop for minutes at a time. I’ll just be sitting there while my horse is half rearing, running left or backwards and shaking my head. Once he finally stops moving, he flips his head up and down and side to side, and prances in place. Its literally like he  short circuiting. 

While this meltdown is occurring, GOD FORBID I touch him with any limb on my body. If I try and pet his neck to calm him down, that’s grounds for a full blown rear.  Which is the opposite of what I wanted. If I try and combat the rapid sideways running with a closed outside leg, he explodes up or forward.

There is no stopping or assuaging the meltdown. And it happens every.single.time., 60% of the time I ask for even just 2 steps sideways.

Other days, he will leg yield across the entire arena brilliantly.

It is most perplexing, as I change nothing about the way I am asking or tack used. Special, special OTTB.

Then theres the separate issue of the terrifying, horse eating open arena door.

For real, this is the special of the most special horse quirks.

B when I ask him to walk past the open arena door

Essentially, this issue boils down to spooking (in the rafters, bolt sideways) at said open door, taking 3‐17 laps at the other end to relax .5 levels, return to working semi‐normally and then go past it again just to repeat and

I make a point to stay relaxed and unreactive with this horse, but I sometimes reach a boiling point where I WANT to rip his face off with the bit because he is literally being the worst. Every movement, aid, sound is an excuse to fling his head so high it about smacks me in the forehead and then bolt. This is NOTHING to work with.

Generally, horses can “work through” issues with the rider asking them to move forward into contact. 

Forward is the key.

However, when B is having a fit, I can’t touch him. Like, cannot. If I ask him to move into the contact he does one of two things; jigs in place or backwards, or runs with his head higher than I physically thought possible.

After 45 minutes of this spooking dance and incredible tenseness through his entire body, feeling overwhelmed and entirely defeated, I threw my leg over, stomped back to the tack room and grabbed the first standing martingale I could find.

Going against everything I stand for, I slapped that bad boy on him so fast and threw him on the lunge line of discovery.

It took 25 minutes of reacting over nothing, hitting the standing, halting in confusion and being pushed forward again for him to learn that extreme head tossing is NOT an acceptable form of evasion.

Bacardi as JBeibs
And within that time frame I kept my cool. Never yanked on him, only asked him to move forward. It was a self‐correcting session & he learned QUICKLY that it is possible to move without ones head in the rafters.

Then, what do you know, he was a perfect angel for all transitions, gaits and halts on the lunge. Perfect, insanely, wonderfully perfect and fluid.

I still feel bad I reached the end of my patience, but I figure when the behavior is downright dangerous, something has to be done immediately to curb the behavior or it will only continue and get worse. I haven’t had him act this horribly in quite some time, and I was reaching the end of my comfortability. In the future, I simply will not try and ride when the temp is this cold, but for that day, I NEEDED the success as kindly & as quickly as of possible teaching him that I am not the devil or the cause of his anxiety, but here to support and teach him. But when he is so reactive to anything I do to mitigate his actions, nothing is learned. The first day, I left it alone and just got off once I got frustrated. The second day, I really just wanted to end on a positive note of some sort.

Its like once I forcibly & hypocritically removed the evasion technique, he stopped worrying about things in general and settled into the simple freaking tasks I was asking of him (WTC on the lunge). No sidereins, no collection, no fancy shit, just GO FORWARD.

I am fully convinced that all brain activity halts when his head is higher than his withers. More research to come. 

Not that I need to justify my actions with my own horse to anyone, I simply wanted to share and compare with others. What do you all do when a horse has reached his “brain limit”? Do you try and fix the issue and end positively, or do you leave it alone and hope its better the next day? Why?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What Do Wednesday: Bit Warmers

Another Wednesday, another day of me asking my readers What Do!

This will be an incredibly short post, since I apparently cannot human today. I had several ideas for other topics, but never got around to typing the posts, so this one will do.

For me, here in the "north", in Ohio, it can get pretttty cold. Like so cold. Not Canada cold, but still freeze your face, hurt your lungs, destroy your toes, cold. Last night the windchill was about 8*, but in the barn it was a balmy 23*. STILL COLD, but doable in the ways of riding. Even when I lived in MO, sometimes it got even colder, which is perplexing.

Be it that its the friggin arctic, I've constantly run into the problem of frozen bits.

And cold saddle. But thats another topic.

It has been a constant battle for me on how to warm the bit so it doesn't burn the shit out of my horses' mouths, but I had never really found a great way to do that until now.

I had tried everything. Putting the bridle in my jacket, setting it in warm water (if you can even find warm water), warming it up with my hands and breath (NO), and setting it on the tack room heater (the opposite of cold- BURNING hot), to name a few.

Nothing has really worked for me until I saw this handy little guy on Riding Warehouse over Christmas. 

Sorry such shitty quality

Essentially, it's a little pouch that wraps around your bit & is insulated. 

I've used it a few times now and I've decided I REALLY like this guy. The catch is that you have to "power" it with hand warmers, and if you forget to open them about 15 minutes before you need to warm the bit, this product doesn't work.

However, I've taken to leaving the hand warmers in my car, opening them on my drive to the barn, and by the time I get there, its nice and toasty. Then, you just stick it in the Bitten pouch and velcro it around your bit. BOOM. Perfectly warm in ten minutes.

Then, I take the hand warmer out and put it in my hoodie pocket while I'm riding for emergency hand warming. It amazing. 

Its like a two-in-one type deal and I'm in love. A few more steps/hassle than most people might like, but it gets the bit the PERFECT temp and then I use the hand warmer to keep  my hands toasty during my ride/untacking. I'm sold. 

So, this brings me to my question (for those of you that deal with it), how do you warm up your bits? What do?! Feed me your secrets, I must know.

Also sidenote, I got "bridle tags" (wine glass tags really) off etsy for my bridles and breastplates and for less than $5/tag, I think they're ADORABLE and perfect. Bonus deal. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

WTF Happened

This weekend was incredibly weird. For one, it was super warm, that even riding in a vest had me sweating (is it Feb?). For two, we simultaneously had the worst jump school of our career and the best dressage school of our career. It was odd and I'm still processing what happened. The will not be the most eloquent blogpost, typed at 6AM on a Monday morning, sorry.

Friday, I had a friend trailer over to my barn and we fully intended for some excellent jump schooling over our mini indoor XC course we had at my barn.

Fully intended.

Instead, I literally almost died on the way there in a car accident (like I don't understand how I'm still alive actually) and therefore I was incredibly rattled when I actually showed up to ride and it was a disaster. I'm pretty sure B was feeding off my anxiety and wouldn't even jump a crossrail. Cool.

So that was frustrating and non-productive, but completely my fault. I should not have even attempted to ride after my near death miss, and I really feel bad about that ride. Putting that behind us.

Saturday was magical and even though I had an all-staff meeting and a baby shower to attend, & my jump lesson was cancelled due to Supertrainer calling it off, I still wanted to get outside and ride, because beautiful in February.

Luckily too, there were barn friends there and barn friends that were willing to video...SCORE

I avoided jumping, because of the disaster the day before, and decided some light dressage work and a hack would be enough for the day.

It was slightly windy, and they had begun bringing horses in, so he was slightly distracted, but that really didn't affect him much.

For the first time ever, we schooled in a dressage ring and I thought he would be spooking left and right at the white rails. However, he was completely sane and perfect, like nothing had happened the day before.

I felt like I had the most incredible horse underneath me. He was responsive, light, forward and active behind. Kind of tense here and there, but for the most part, incredible.

Despite my horrible eq, due to the fact that I was exceptionally sore, he performed brilliantly. Nailing his changes (see video) and almost getting smoothe transitions everytime.

Also, never wearing that goofy vest again. Not only does it add 10lbs, it also makes me look like a eq isn't THAT bad. So try to ignore it.

The girl videoing for me kept saying, wow he look really good and I kept saying, "yeah I have no idea whats happening right now", hahaha.

Generally, he's a very good boy lately, but he never feels THAT great. Its like he was really strutting his stuff. I don't even know what else to say really because my mind is so blown, so here's some more pictures of the nugget.

Happy monday all!