Friday, August 26, 2016

Redneck Jomps

Thank you all for your kind words re Yankee. He is my special boy and I love that he is loved by everyone! Even though Yanks is Best Pony, doesn't mean I find Bacardi any less adorable, sweet or fun to ride though. Our relationship is still just fairly new and not over a decade long.

He was a gem yesterday too, despite the resurgence of disgusting summer heat.

I will do my best to recap without sounding like a boring 3rd grader, but I am having a hard time braining today and it most likely will still be rambling garbage. Apologies.

ALL our jumps are at New Farm and the farrier prevented Supertrainer from hauling horses over there for a jump sesh pre-show, so I was left a little concerned about going in to a show with only one schooling session. Luckily, its the two foots division and will be a literal walk in the park for B, but I still feel a titch weak and not 100% confident in my abilities.

I spent the entire drive to the barn wondering what I could dig up to jump so we could at least get a few more hops under out belt. I started off with some chairs and a board thing from fence building, but while walking back through the barn to tack up I saw our jump blocks hiding in a corner! MUCH better than some ratchet chairs! I set them up behind one of our logs, to create a makeshift oxer. One jump, thats the best I would get.

Whhhhheeeehhhaaawww lets git it

Our ride started off with a slight miscommunication, that could've been bad but turned out hilariously.

After our-warmup, we approached the jump for the first time, only the log and no "oxer". Meaning, it was a super tiny warmup log and should have had no issues with it whatsoever.

Well apparently, my fear of XC resonates across all disciplines, and even though I was technically trying to practice for show jumping, the fact I was jumping a wee log in a field meant it was time to ride like shit and brace for impact.

Being the good pony B is, he was headed straight for the log. Meanwhile, I was unintentionally telling him to turn left and NOT jump the jump. He ended up half jumping it, kind of sputtering out last second, landing with his front legs folded and on top of the jump. He stood there for a second, baffled, and then lost his balance and started tipping forward and down. I too, was falling down with him, thanks to momentum and gravity. He finally wrangled a leg out and propped himself up and away from the log so fast that I was essentially catapulted up and literally only saved myself from rolling off by grabbing my trusty neck strap. LUCKILY, B didn't bolt off like he would've in the past, and I was able to right myself once he stood up fully and stopped moving.

After realizing I almost fell off B for the first time ever, I sat there trying to figure out what the fuck actually just happened and laughed it off. Circled around and popped right over it.

Dumb. So dumb.

Down a pair of jump boots though. Luckily it wasn't his leg that got torn to shreds, and I am thankful I opted for full coverage boots instead of regular open fronts. God, I would've killed myself if my stupid riding had hurt my  horse.

Moving on from that, I worked on maintaining tempo and energy, through a figure 8 exercise, jumping the "oxer" in the middle of the 8 each pass. This helped with balance, tempo, engagement and flying changes as well as gave me time to concentrate on my position.

At first, I was still struggling. I feel so floppy and insecure, even over the small oxer that B was barely jumping. It was getting frustrating. My hands kept floating around his ears, I kept jumping ahead and slipping back and it was just a mess.

Still jumping ahead

When you've got nothing left to do, jack your stirrups up, amirite?

It worked.

I felt so much more secure and unmoving with my stirrups up, and less apt to jump ahead of the motion. Granted, its very difficult to practice when your horse isn't really jumping and kind of just gliding ACROSS the fence, but it was still good practice.

I was nervous to put them up, fearing it would strain the ligament and muscle across my back into my hamstring, but I had no issues.

Its funny, because every single coach I have ever had has preached how shorter stirrups lead to security blahblahblah, and yet I had not thought to do it yet with B. In fact, I had intentionally been jumping 1-2 holes longer with him, so I shouldn't have been asking "why does my position suck" for the entirety of TWO fucking years. How dumb. To be fair though, he used to be a dirty stopper and then bolt, so riding extra short made me feel quite insecure with those shenanigans. Now though, I think I'm ready to graduate back to short stirrups.

We will see if I can memorize my courses tomorrow, but otherwise I feel prepared for this schooling show outing. I am notoriously god awful at memorizing more than one jump course, so we will see if I can keep my shit together and remember FOUR. Thats 3 too many.

Fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Horse of a Lifetime

Somehow, until about lunchtime yesterday, I completely blanked, thanks to a busy day and all ya'lls wonderful and thoughtful responses to my WDW, on the fact that yesterday was Yankee's official 6 month post-op anniversary.

Feels weird to say anniversary in this case, but since I am celebrating life, I am OK with it!

Thinking back to how I felt 6 months ago on that very day was almost too painful. I don't know if any of you have ever gone through the physical and mental torture that is colic surgery, but I feel like I barely survived the stress of it. No exaggeration.

I remember laying awake on the couch that night, staring at the TV, clutching Levi & (the dog) picturing all the horrible things that could happen to my sweet boy on the operating table, feeling like my emotions were going to suffocate me.

Then, I almost of felt a little silly for a few brief moments.

I was concentrating so much emotion and energy and time and MONEY into saving this one horse, who in reality is just a horse. What was the point of it, really?

You guys all know, don't you?

The rational part of my brain was trying to trick me into feeling guilty for saving him, knowing that I caused financial strain on myself and my loved ones around me...all for a horse.

But to me, he is not just a horse.

Yankee is my everything.

There is a part of my heart and soul living in the creature, and he is my true, unequivocal one love.I did not think it was possible to feel such things towards an animal, but he is more than that to me. I assume this is how it feels to love your own child, and in a way, I suppose horses are our children. Yankee the purest form of love I have ever experienced and he got me farther than I ever dreamed a poor girl from the Midwest could ever hope for with a $400 racetrack reject. I'm sure you all know what kind of disgusting sappy love I am talking about, if you've met your heart horse.


I know there is nothing that horse won't do for me and he has been my steady rock for almost 12 years. Through shitty boyfriends, literal poverty, college class struggles, trying to compete with everyone who has been handed everything, prove my worth, cars breaking down, struggling to make rent & figuring out my life in general... he has always been there as my reprieve.

Sure, he can't talk and tell me it was all going to work out and be fine, but he did always greet me at the barn with bright, happy eyes and the most adorable nicker I've ever heard. Even his sly and adorable way of begging for treats never upset me, it made me laugh. I could saddle him up and escape my shitty life and pretend it didn't exist for an hour a day.

First top ten finish at a training level event

He quite literally got me through the worst times in my life and was my reason for existing. He taught me perserverance, patience, humility and pride. He taught me how to work hard, budget and barter. He was always happy to work and had this joy for life that I could never understand, but tried to emulate. Again, he's a horse, but I see so many sourpatch horses that simply exist, and Yankee lived life everyday to the fullest. Even at almost 15 years old he still playfuly gallops around with the young bucks in the pasture, keeping up with the best of them.

So when I got that call that day, I was an absolute, unconsolable wreck. What made it worse was that he trusted me to leave him in the hands of someone else, across the country, and now I wouldn't even be there to say goodbye.

I was absolutely devastated. Thinking about losing him made me start to spiral out again, violently, and I was slipping away...faster than I had ever before. I was losing hope for life, yet again, and if I lost him I knew surely, this time I would not recover.

I could not lose my rock.

Luckily, he pulled through & I couldn't believe it.

Cant live without this face

The worst was not past though. It was literal agony to not be there for him while he recovered, but I luckily had some lifesaving help in the form of former barnmates who knew him when we lived in Missouri for college. Without them, I surely would've lost my job and income source, since I absolutely would have quit to go care for him. Since he was unable to travel for 6 more weeks, moving him to Ohio was not an option.

At this point, I staretd to receive some backlash from other bloggers, so called "friends" and other random internet fucktards, belitting me for ever leasing him out, not rushing to his side immediately for surgery or moving back to Missouri to care for him myself.

Why must people be so hateful?

Along with the internet idiots, the stress of those 6 weeks weas long and tumultuous. I woke up every day wondering if he would pull through. Luckily, as ever, Yankee seized every day and his caretakers were amazed at his quick revoery.

Oh boy did he look awful though. I literally cried over his pictures, blaming myself for this and wondering how he would ever forgive me or love me again. It WAS my fault, the internet idiots were right, right?

However, when it came time to pick him up and bring him home, I was beyond excited, but also gripped with fear. The haul was long and I was terrified transporting him would spiral him into colic yet again.

Again though, Yankee brilliantly hauled like a champ, even hopping off willingly at truck stops to stretch his legs and eat some grass.

Finally, after an 11 hour drive, thanks to traffic and deadly wind, we made it home.

Truck stop

I spent the next week stressed out to the max, checking on him every few hours, taking off work to check on him and getting up in the middle of the night.

Again, Yanks preserved. He literally was perfect. If anything, he seeme confused over all the attention and was simply wondering when he was allowed to eat grass on pasture again.

Mahm let me out

Finally, the day came where he had gained enough weight and his incision had fully healed to where he was allowed feedom yet again. Shortly after, he was allowed to return to light work (lunging). 30 days after that, he was allowed to be ridden, and 30 days after that, jumped.

He returned to jumping in June of this year, and by mid-August, he feels absolutely 100% again. No weakness, so stiffness and no lethargy. Yankee is wonderfully alive and loving life, as he always does,

And I am so thankful that he is still here. I can't imagine a world without him in it.

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!