Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Cripples & The Saint

First off, thank you to everyone who responded to my last post! I LOVED reading them! Also, I find it ironic, because the subject matter is relevant to today's post.

Secondly, this past weekend absolutely wrecked my back somehow, and took me 2 steps back and I spent the majority of Sunday softly sobbing (yes, actually) and laying on the floor with my feet on the couch. It was pretty terrible.

I would love to say my back has majorly improved, but it hasn't. (There for a few weeks I felt a massive improvement, but right now I almost feel the same as when it happened.)

So logically, I rode Yankee on Tuesday.

It was 100% unplanned, obvious by my total lack of riding clothes, but was actually pretty fantastic while it was happening...if you can look past my absolutely disgusting floppiness. Its def the worst its ever been, hilarious because I just talked about it in my past post. 

I beg you to please ignore everything that is my legs & ass flopping about and only focus on how gorgeous and lovely Yankee looks. Its 1000% obvious that I have lost all riding muscle/ coordination, and based on how my back felt the second I dismounted, definitely not ready to ride again anytime soon. Whomp whomp. My right leg was flying all over the place guarding my back, and on any other horse would  most likely have distracted them to the point of confusion, lol. Thank you Yankee.

God, hes pretty
The reasoning behind all this suffering was the fact that I had gotten a text earlier in the day from his leaser stating that he was lame and she was concerned because they had a recognized HT this weekend. I had an inkling he was either being lazy, or was actually slightly sore from stomping flies all I headed out immediatelyt after work to check it out in case it was more serious.

What colic surgery?

I've noticed from recent observations that V doesn't always ask for the most impulsion, and sometimes this  creates what I call "backwards energy". When riding from the hands only and not much leg, there is no real energy coming through and sometimes, especially at the walk, can create false lameness. Or, "a hitch in yer gitalong". Yankee also will take advantage of green riders (ask my mom, haha) and feign exceptional laziness to the point of concern, so I thought if I got on and demonstrated how to get him moving, that would really help V in the long run with her flatwork!

I knew I shouldn't have gotten in the saddle, but it needed to be demonstrated and I needed to make sure he wasn't actually lame. Ten minutes tops is what I told myself.

The second I hopped on him he started his old lazy routine; dragging his feet and actually feeling slightly off behind. Classic, Yankee. You almost fooled us.

With the help of Mr. Tappy, I woke him up and he marched off perfectly fine.

Once he realized who was on his back, he got right to work and was exceptional. He was forward, light and mostly straight. I could feel right away what he has been getting away with recently, and it took a bit extra inside and outside leg to keep him moving AND straight. After about 3 minutes though and a few transitions, he was foot perfect.

I ran through a few collections and extensions (as best as I could ask for) as well as walk to canter transitions. It felt so lovely to be back on Yankee again and I loved every second of my 7 minutes that I rode him. I also really hope it had helped V see  what he's capable of and how to correctly ask him for "more".  They left today (Thursday) for another event, so I'm just hoping things go well for her and I'm hoping I get some media! I can say though that I won't be riding again anytime soon. *sadface*

I posted the video at the end, if you care to watch me flop about. Yankee truly looks lovely, so if you're about videos, you might enjoy it!

Afterwards, I hosed him off, stuffed his face with cookies and moved on to Bacardi. Not before linimenting my own back and sitting down for about 10 minutes, hah.

B has been sound at the walk going to and from his pasture and has been less "campy" in the crossties, so I wanted to see how he looked at the trot and canter on grass. I tossed the side reins on for funnies, and out we went.

At first, he was mostly more tense than anything, but REALLY moving out nicely. Everyone was getting turned out, so he was majority distracted as well as stoked to be out and about again.

After a few minutes, he calmed down and relaxed across his topline a little, and then a little more. Still not 100% consistent, but I was more looking for forward at this point in time. 

Prepare yourself for super interesting, earthshattering, never ending lunging pics. Its all you'll be getting for a while.

After he relaxed his neck a bit and starting really pushing from behind and rounding  his back, I asked for the canter. Considerably more stiff in this gait (mounted or not) he was struggling a little even on a large circle to maintain the canter. The good news is he didn't seem footsore, only a little weak. 

Someone's getting fat < 3

To the right was another, predictable, story. This has always been his worst direction, and even with the LF being his worst foot, to the right has always been much harder for him. It wasn't great. 

In addition to giraffing, he tends to fall in severely going this direction (mounted or lunging) and will take considerable time to readjust from being off. He's been sidelined almost as long as me, so I'm honestly not surprised.

Behold, my gorgeous giraffe
Slowly but surely he got a little less tense and starting giving to my "half halts" at the trot going left. Still going forward wonderfully though and didn't look at all footsore, which is all I really wanted.

The canter left was the worst. He was so stiff, he almost looked like he was leaning to the outside and cantering with his butt in the circle. I think with time he will get back to straightness/fitness and not impersonating a 2x4. Again though, still going forward nicely!

I was tickled that both my boys were moving so well, despite my agony, I went home happy.

Wednesday's are long days at work, so I usually don't make it out to the barn on the long ones these days with my ole grandma back... I also don't feel comfortable lunging him  just yet on our hard arenas (summer can end any day now) and I can't exactly work in the dark. Plus, my back is lit after 10 hours at work and I kind of want to die by then. I also thought B might need a day to recover. I definitely needed one.

Thursday though I dragged my hurting' bum out to the barn, despite the 92* temp with 65% humidity (it was as disgusting as it sounds), and got B out for another lunging session.

He wasn't thrilled.

Mom, its hot. Can we not.

He was much more stiff today, and what looked like a little more footsore than he was on Tuesday. I'm not sure if its because it had JUST rained and the grass was wicked slippery and he was tiptoeing around trying not to fall, or because he bugs were attacking us in full force, or the heat, but either way...he was moving just slightly less fabulous. Since it was so hot and he wasn't moving out as well as Tuesday, I kept the session brief, but we both were dripping after 15 minutes.

He moved better to the left again, per usual, but was visibly more backed off than previously. I noticed it occurred more where the grass was shorter and the ground was harder, which made sense regarding his footsies.

Long grass= better
My phone ran out of storage about 30 seconds in to me filming the left, so we sadly don't get to see him giraffe to the right. I did manage to get a bomb photo of the storm clouds moving out though.

Overall, I wasn't really sure if he was actually lightly footsore, or if he was just tiptoeing in the slick grass, but I am still happy with his progress. I am hoping to lunge another week or so, every other day and then maybe add in 1 hack a week. That's of course presuming I can handle it, but we will see. My friends volunteered to hack him more often too, so thats legit. #PassthePony

Lastly, here's the short video of me riding Yanks the other day. It took literally 3 hours to upload, so you better enjoy that shit.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Do Wednesday: Fixing Flaws

This week's post stems from me repeatedly raking through old pictures to remind myself, that yes, I am an equestrian and that yes, I did actually ride once in a blue moon ago. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of photos.

Love me some throwbacks

I actually spend far more time doing this than I care to admit, but it got me thinking about things..and trends. Specifically equitation trends. Not specifically worldwide trends, but personal trends.

Since I tend to admittedly focus on the negative (I'm working on this, okay), I notice right away my giant obvious flaws throughout years. My wayward, drifting inside hand. My tendency to jump ahead. My other tendency to look down. My stupid thumbs pointing inwards on occasion. And the big one, closed hip angles.

Looking down, per usual

Generally this might be good thing, over fences specifically. But I'm talking about closed hip angles on the flat. As in, a dressage saddle. It is seemingly impossible for me to open my hip angle and keep my damn knee and leg back where it belongs. It just wants to live up front with the breastplate. this also leads to slumping forward and looking like a literal sack of potatoes on the saddle.

Oh look, every single flaw in one picture!
This post will also be extra relevant when I come back finally and re-live the feeling of muscles atrophy and uselessness as a rider from weeks of non-use.

For real though, I feel like sack of useless muscles and bones at the moment, and miss the gym and riding more than I can describe. Actual torture.

The point being, I know my riding won't be up to par for a while, but I hope to focus on my strength and get back to tip-top shape soon enough.

Back to my main point.

Yes, I have tiny flaws that are easily fixed with practice (looking up, thumbs, inside hand) and constant self reminders, but my lifelong and biggest struggle has been feeling comfortable in a dressage saddle. Really, having a wide hip angle at all. Even in a jump saddle, I tend to close in on myself more than I should. I really work hard on things like my hands (since they like to live in my lap), and generally those self reminding sessions stick.

The best period of time we ever looked on the flat. Winter 2013

Coming from hunterland at an early age, the perch and pray/& or jump massively ahead position was engrained in my muscle memory for, apparently, forever. The single most difficult thing of my riding career has been transitioning from hunter crouch to a dressage seat. Thats like 40* of hip angle and my body wasn't (and still isn't half the time) ready, 11 years later.

hip angle, WYD?
Even though I know this issue exists, its still difficult to combat in saddle. Muscle memory is a bitch. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about.

Monica, WYD
I'll be riding, thinking I'm driving with my seat, shoulders up, effectively using my body to ride...when actually I'm curled up like a baby, flopping around, surely giving my poor horse mixed signals.

Literally, what is this? What is this position??
I used to blame it on Bacardi, since he is massive and all his gaits/jump kinda throw you around.

Classic getting thrown about by exuberance
I don't even want to talk about my jump position on him *eyeroll*...but now I am aware that its an actual weakness within my own body and not entirely B's fault. Even on Yankee, who is much smoother to ride than Bacardi, I still do it.

Therefore, for the sake of my horse and my riding, I began looking elsewhere to try and correct my hip angle.

Literally the worst. I can't believe I'm positing this.

This adventure led me to crossfit. Yes, yes, the cult. I won't spew my koolaid on you all again, but if you're interested, I detail my crossfit journey up top in the tabs on my blog.

Crossfit not only works with gymnastic movements, but also entails learning how to weightlift. Weightlifting is an integral part of crossfit, and learning how to lift properly is a lot like learning to ride. It requires exceptional body awareness (check), tenacity (check) and the desire to succeed (check). You don't necessarily have to be strong to weightlift, you just have to want it! Crossfit lifting combines Olympic lifting with strength training and promotes speed, power, coordination, agility, accuracy, and balance.

Bangor demonstrating strong hips= strong lifts

a few days pre back injury (cause: horses) . I can assure you those abs are now gone
Sounds a lot like what you need for riding right? ;)

Learning to weightlift was incredible for my hips. A lot of lifts (literally almost all of them) focus on the hips and use them to generate power for the lifts. My absolute favorite lift, the clean, focuses almost entirely on hip power.

Practicing close grip overhead squat; a modification for my elbow/shoulder injury (cause; horses)

In other words, opening that hip angle to generate lift to get that bar moving!

1 week ago, practicing a  clean with a PVC & on power opening my hip angle.  Notice my feet are off the ground. Its all I'm allowed to do *sobs*

Crossfit and weightlifting have done incredible things for my body, and I will never stop. I could go on and on about the positive affects its had on  my riding.

My position gets pretty good...

....right up until it doesn't get better and gets worse again, lulz. Story of my life.

HAHAH, what?

However, thats not all! I have more tools to help!

Yoga has also been a staple in my life for about a year now. You can thank Bangor for this.

I generally focus on Crossfit yoga, called ROMWOD, which is a quick, daily yoga session you can run through in about 15-25 minutes. I try to do this almost every day (well, except for right now, for obvious injury related reasons) and if I skip a day or two, I really do feel a difference in my body immediately.

I also really enjoy hot yoga.

Crazy, coming from someone who despises summer, but hot yoga is glorious.


A session leaves you feeling satisfyingly sweaty. Like all your negativity, french fries and shame have been sweat out through your pores. Its amazing. Not only that, but you feel so bendy and stretchy.. simply delightful.

 Seriously, if you ever feel this sick urge to feel your hip flexors almost snap, try yoga. It'll be amazing I promise.

Right now, I can't do any of it. But as soon as I have the go ahead, I will be diving back in...slowly and carefully, haha!

Now since I said I'm working on being more positive, I also want to take a second to praise myself on things I do well.

I am incredibly hard to toss off. Yay stickability! Over the years, my lower leg has maintained solidarity over fences. This pleases me, lots. Lastly, my hands are very forgiving and I'm quick to soften right when the horse needs it. This is good too.

leg still there, even if upper body has peaced out

Always working, right?

So what I want to know this week is your strengths and weakness as a rider. It can either be position, or mental things, like bravery. I want to hear both, you HAVE to praise yourself too! Also, what do you do to help your weaknesses? Tell me dear readers, what do? I must know. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

August: 10 Questions

Another month, another blog hop! And since I'm not riding much, I have taken an obscene amount of time to answer these questions. So buckle in for a long one. If you don't, I won't be offended, but the hop questions are pretty good this time around!

1. What is your biggest source of caffeine that gets you through your day? (drink, not just brand)

Legitimately, besides horses, coffee is the one thing I am truly obsessed with. Not just your basic white girl starbucks coffee, but legitimate coffee. Like, have my own french press, learned how to cold brew, loves to explore different coffees, adores plain espresso, visits every hole-in-the-wall coffee shop everywhere I go, obsessed.

Normally, my everyday is (iced in summer) freshly brewed caramel drizzle from folgers, with a large dash of half & half, and a pinch of sugar. Honestly sometimes I don't even add sugar either.

Sometimes I get the fancy froo-froo drinks from Starbucks or Cavu, but they're generally too sweet and not enough bite.

I got my habit down from 6 cups a day to two. I didn't necessarily need the caffeine, I just LOVE the way coffee tastes. There's something wonderful and safe and warm (or cold!) about coffee thats incredibly reassuring. I do NEED one at least in the AM because I am a drug addict and get a headache if I don't have it, but generally I'm good for the day afterwards.

I just. Love coffee so much.

2. Do you honestly think your trainer is the best for you?

This is such an interesting question, because generally we are limited to what resources we have in the area surrounding us, and if we had nay pick in the world, wouldn't we all in theory want to choose that BNT that went to the Olympics?

From experience I can say that those BNT can be DICKS and while they're full of knowledge and experience, if they're set out to make you miserable, thats not someone I personally want to train with on the regular (yet did for years, wtf).

I truly believe there is a trainer out there for everyone and if you personally love getting thrashed about and talked down to every lesson, then have at those nasty BNT with world competition  experience, but I got zero out of it. I prefer someone that has knowledge and kindness and the aptitude to adjust to several type of horses and riding styles (timid, aggressive, new, old, experienced, green, etc).

I luff her

I am lucky that I live close to the heart of KY and OH which is lush with trainers and I've experienced many, ranging from the weird Clinton Anderson types, to the BNT in dressage and jumping.

 However, I truly DO believe my trainer is the best for me right now. The entire barn, including Supertrainer, also supplements with lessons from a BNT that specializes in jumpers and I adore both my trainers. Supertrainer is not only fun and hilarious, but she specializes in OTTBs and knows exactly what I'm dealign with everyday on my crazy goons. She has a way of teaching what I need for that day and the horse I have under me and I truly adore her! BNT is stern but soft all in one, and she really knows her shit. I've seen her teach everyone from the very green to people like Supertrainer and she's a freaking goddess.

Resounding yes, they're amazing.

3. One token of advice from a fellow rider/trainer/horse person that you still remember to this day?

"Let the babies eat grass."

As in, green baby OTTBs in my case. I was always 100% against letting my horses eat while tacked up because it was AGAINST THE RULES (who's rules? Equestrian rules, duh). However, she had a point. When horses eat, they lower their head, chew and produce saliva. All things we want to stimulate and in turn helps to relax a horse.

Alcohol also helps the human relax

I tried it on baby Yankee and it worked. If he was every jittery or nervous I would simply unhook the breastplate on one side an let him go to town, green stains be damned!

You will always see me at shows with my horses casually chowing down on grass, because lord knows they're high strung enough without trying to make them stand without having food shoved under their noses.

4. If riding meant costing your family so much money that they’d be basically on poverty line, or making your family terribly unhappy (if they were not supportive or understanding, etc.) would you still do it?

I simply would not have a family. I would kill them all for being so unsupportive of their queen.

Just kidding.

But seriously, minus the "must love dogs" requirement for a spouse, "must be OK with me spending more than half my salary on  horses" is another one.

Still working on Bangor loving my dog as much as I do, but if  there's one thing, he incredibly supportive of my horse habit. Not only does he take endless videos and pictures for me, but he also brings me fucking coffee to horse shows, so he's pretty much a keeper.

Ipad to record videos, to make me happy coffee to make me happy, and holding my horse, also to make me happy.

He also doesn't know that I'm going to put a tow package on his truck, but thats another minor detail. 

Incidentally though, I've pretty much lived on the poverty line for like 7 years BECAUSE of horses, so its nothing new to me. I do realize if I didn't own two horses and a set of tack (or 3) for each horse, I would be much wealthier...but I also would probably have 3 children and be a cocaine addict, so you know, trade-offs.

In all seriousness, having a family is important to me, but horses are also part of me and I am not willing to give them up for spawn. Therefore, holding off on procreating will ensure that my future family not only has equines and humans alike, but we will be financially stable enough to support it all.

5. Would you ride while pregnant?

Again, not having them anytime soon, but right now I want to say yes. Until its of course, too dangerous to. Like bloated to a balloon pregnant. But then again, riding in general is inherently dangerous, so the simple act of getting on a horse, regardless of what trimester, seems rather dangerous. But then again again, I love danger...and horses. So its like, I don't know until I know, you know?

6. How do you tell when a horse likes someone/has bonded with them?

Considering all horses are different, it really depends on the horse. Therefore I will focus on my beasts.

Yankee is a whore and will literally love anyone who has cookies, so theres that. 

You give me cookies now, yes?
I thought I was special, but no, he's just a hoe and will do anything for a cookie. Even under saddle, he's so freakin broke, he will do anything anyone asks. I am no longer special.

Its fine.

I only want food from you, human girl

Bacardi is like an angry teenage girl and is pretty particular who he will love on. I think by now he's realized that I am his person and he begrudgingly stands still for hugs and loves. I swear ONE time he nickered for me, but I think its because he was hungry. I still don't know. 

Food, now plz.
He too is a cookie whore, but he won't thank strangers (he slinks back to the back corner of his stall after ungratefully taking his cookie) for foodstuffs like he does the people he "likes" (myself, Bangor, my mom, and maybe a few of the barn workers). He "thanking" includes things like snuffles to the face and licking your hand or standing still for pets to the face.

7. Are horses capable of loving?

They say love is a human emotion that is used to described affection in other species. I am on the fence about the ACTUAL emotion of love. Love makes you do things you wouldn't do for others you don't love. Love is sacrifice, love is raw, love is hard and love is never-ending.

Can horses sacrifice? Will horses do for you what they won't do for others? Can horses understand what love actually is?

yes and no.

Yes, MY horses will be more willing to jump certain fences, cross that scary river or get on a trailer when others can't get them to do so. But is this love?

No... its familiarity. They know me and trust me.

I want to believe that horses can "love", but I think what they display is affection based on familiarity. 

 8. If you could have one horse from your past come back for 5 minutes, who would it be, why, and what would you do with them in those 5 minutes?

Spirit. Hands down.

RIP buddy

I love my Yankee and he is glorious in all things, but Spirit?

Man. That horse was something else. 

He didn't exactly show affection, but he would do anything I asked him, without hesitation. I don't think that horse refused one jump in his entire life. I felt 100% confident on him, despite his terrible dressage. 

 I would hop on him bareback and go jump the biggest XC fence I could find, just to give myself confidence again over solid obstacles... if only for 5 minutes.

9. Should a trainer also be a friend, or should it be a student/teacher relationship? 

I love my trainer, but I think it might teeter precariously on the friend/student/teacher barrier. I love that we can go to shows and have a good time, but we still have a professional relationship too. It works for us.

10. One piece of advice/training you were given by a trainer or mentor that you look back on now and view it as incorrect? 

Draw reins.

Neither of my horses will ever be ridden in draw reins if I can help it.

No secret that I think they are destructive tools that do nothing but teach a horse how to evade the bit by curling backwards. Horrible things even in the "right hands". Thats just my opinion though.