Thursday, September 1, 2016

Pushing It

Timehop kindly reminded me today that it is officially our 1 year anniversary at EME! I feel like its been longer, but it is definitely the best and largest use of my paycheck.  I have not regretted moving B there one time, even when I've been left with $2.87 in my checking account on occasion. WORTH IT.

I HATED spending 3 hours a day doing chores AFTER a full work day, only to never get done in time to ride. It was a bitch and I will fully admit that I LOVE handing over my money and never want to have horses on my property again. Nope, bai.  It was easy in high school when I got home at 3PM, but getting home at 6PM only to work  at the barn until sunset, no thanks. (To honor this decision, I'm using some of my fav photos from the past year at EME as text breaks.)

Sniffing the new place

It is also fun for me to look back where B was a year ago (spastic, insane, spooky, skinny brat) to now. Routinely when I can't sleep at night, I scroll through the gram or FB photos, reveling at his progress.

My absolute FAVORITE thing though, has been proving every single hater wrong. SUCKIT. I remember the days when people on Facebook or here on blogger would tell me to give up and sell him off, because "life is too short to be 'miserable'" Okay fam, I guess we all have different definitions of "miserable". Even though it was rough, & I sometimes wanted to give up because it was hard, I'm also not a quitter and I believed in the horse I bought (fun fact, I found his backstory from his first ever owner-more on another post there).

You mean, I LIVE here now mahm?

Looking back on the past year, and comparing it even to our rides this current week, the difference is astonishing. Emma said it best (FraidyCatEventing) in one of her posts re a hot mare she rode, so go there and read it.. But it was literally like riding dynamite and every single move you made elicited a reaction. God forbid your hand moved, or ankle twitched or you shifted your seat. I literally had to move at a snail pace training him, and could rarely ask for "more", because his comfort zone was thisbig.

Obtaining his trust has been the most difficult thing I've ever done (with horses) and has been a solid two year process. However, I think we've finally reached a point in this delicate relationship where I can finally start to "push" him and ask for a little more each ride, versus moving at an absolute glacial pace.

Second show ever

The fact that I did overface my horse (stupidly), came off and he still went back in the ring and jump 3 beautiful rounds speaks volumes to his improvement. I'm not planning on doing this ever again obviously, but still, you get my point.

Then, every single ride this week has been brilliant. Like Unicorn status. We hacked the first two days after the show, then came right back to jumping again on Tuesday. I was alone, so I didn't get any evidence, but we worked on this course. ..

After a solid warm-up, he was a breeze to jump. Nailed every lead, locked on to the fences and turned on a dime. I even practiced jumping fence 9 at an angle, and he was great.

(sidenote the the formatting is pissing me off, sorry Blogger is being extra retarded today)

I have noticed that B is still leery of lines and requires a slow and gradual warm up /height increase, but he has gotten much better about lines in general. I have to remember he's really only been jumping about a year, so hes still green AF. He still tends to rush in grids and hopefully Saturday we can work more on that, but I was proud of him for not running through the line on Tuesday. He was thoughtful and careful.

No scope, no hope

Then yesterday I went in to the barn, set with the goals of getting a really good flatwork session in. Generally, flatwork is where he gets the most anxious and tense, so I normally spend most of those rides catering to him and his anxiety, staying away from lateral work and any semblance of collection. LULZ.

Not exactly productive for training, but over the years we have slowly manages to add some tools to our kit. Like decent transitions up, mediocre transitions down, square halts, 10-15-20m circles with questionable geometry, flying changes (SOMEHOW) and the beginnings (very beginnings) of lateral work.  If he was having a good day I would ask for a little more and get a good response, but most days it was just goals of being relaxed and forward at WTC.

I'm not sure if any of you have picked up on it, but I've been riding almost exclusively in the hackamore and my jump tack since we "came back". I had a solid theory in my head that B is just one of those horses that hates bits and they only add to his fragile mental state. The second I slapped the hack on him for the first time (weeks ago) he was instantly better. Literal magic.

Considering I was laid up so long/we don't event anymore/had no dressage shows coming up I decided to keep him in it and ride in every ride with no bit.

I swear to god it has been life changing. I can even work on installing our sideways buttons without him turning into a firebreathing dragon (his normal MO).

He actually TOOK the bit from me yesterday when tacking up and he was instantly there when I picked up the reins at the walk while mounted. His walk has always been his most tense and WORST gait, and he is incredibly good at playing giraffe here. NOT TODAY FOLKS (well, yesterday).

I've been focusing a TON on riding accurately and correctly, which entails no wiggling in hands and riding from back to front with ENERGY. Warm up consists of buckle riding at all 3 gaits with the sole purpose of FORWARD. This has been brilliant for him, since he has a tendency to suck back anyways. Then for me, paying attention to my wayward inside hand--fickle bitch it is.

Once he was all loosey goosey and paying attention, I started asking for more collection and impulsion, something he rarely has been asked to do. He responded beautifully, so I began to play with changes of bend and leg yields. When he gave no tantrums and stayed soft, I was like OKAY, time for some actual work then and came up with these exercises....

Shitty circles drawn shitty, but they were 15m and not wonky

At first, he was slightly resistant to the halts every half circle and was a little confused on why I was asking this of him....of course when I actually rode them correctly from my seat and not my hands he would give less of a fuss and we learned together how to halt, move, halt. This was hard for him, but I was incredibly proud of his effort. He was loose in his shoudlers (rare) and forward (hard) and gave me a square halt almost everytime! If there's one thing we can do, its a square halt.

The other exercise was quite fun too, and it gave me a chance to practice my sitting trot and getting him to move sideways while staying straight. I hardly asked for much sideways, maybe 3-4 strides, to keep him sane, but he took it all with ease. The big big thing for him is to remind him everything is easier when you use you hind end to move vs. your forelegs.

I know all of this is boring and kind of easy for most horses, but the basics have bene slow to install on him. Fun things like this (sideways, collection, etc) have been difficult to ask of him in the past and FINALLY getting a relaxed response from him was magic. I was on top of the world with joy! Afterwards we went for a walkabout to cool off and watched the sun set.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What Do Wednesday: DIY

Very simple post today, with a simple question. 

I know quite a few of you that have used your crafty talents and actually made or modified some things for your horses. Amanda dyed her saddle (Carley dyed some things too). Emma made a hackamore (wicked cool btw) and Olivia makes a ton of stuff, most notably, bonnets!

I too have some crafty talents, and besides painting I really love to sew, especially  by hand. Machines are just too much to deal with and I can hand sew stuff while watching TV or listening to a book on tape in my BED. Its amazing. 

We all know matching everything is of upmost importance and is absolutely necessary, so my labor is definitely worth it.

Jk, but it is cute and I loved how it looked in the ring this weekend. Plus, I am now in a place with SIXTY boarders, so having all my stuff look unique and have my colors on it helps me 
1) keep track of it  
2) hopefully keep people from stealing my shit

The first thing I ever made/modified was a bonnet for Yankee. He has wee little ears and all the bonnets you can buy are way too big for him. I was broke and had no money for a custom, so I made a pattern for his ears with fabric, ripped the seams out of the ears on the black bonnet and then re-sewed by hand to his exact ears. Later, as in this year, I added the teal for B, but I sometimes throw it on Yanks when the flies are really bad. He looks dashing in it still!

I did the same thing for my Secret Santa bonnet I got last year (:D) in the ears, and then this year I added a string of red rhinestones to match his leasers XC colors. This was more difficult and I admittedly did a pretty shitty job, last second, so I will be redoing it, but it looked cute for one show

Mahm these rhinestones are not straight, this is unacceptable
Also, I added teal piping to B's fenwick bonnet (aka magical hat) by hand, after the trial and error with Yankee's back bonnet. With Yankee's I learned what stitch works best and how thick to cut the fabric. Most recently, I've been dabbling in adding color to my boring and plain Back on Track pads.

B was not intersted in photos, but sniffing the new arena and the dirt that is about to be replaced

This project has been a BITCH, since BOT pads are super thick. It probably takes me about 2 hours or longer per pad to sew, by hand. I generally do this on nights I have "free" (aka putting off homework), sitting in front of netflix watching shows I've already seen. 

After finding the piping fabric (walmart) and big ole needles that could handle the thickness (Michael's) and thread (wax thread or doubled up embroidery floss) I played around with a good stitch and where the fabric was easiest to pierce. I did my dressage pad first, and I'm still not 100% sold on the color combo. The stitches would be easy to rip out if I ever change my mind, but I definitely prefer the black and teal best. I chose black thread, because our colors are technically black and teal, and liked the contrast, even though it was on a white pad. 

After I figured that out, I did my black jumper pad, which was actually easier to sew than the white for some reason. I was able to do in one night and my fingers weren't too sore afterwards! After the success of that, I did one for my leaser in her XC colors!

I spy helper dog

Helper dog not included
THEN, because I am moving soon and already moved the horses, I have been going through my giant pile of crap that I have accumulated over the years, deciding what to throw out, what to keep and what to try and sell. One of my most favorite pads I tried to sell once, but it never sold, and I didn't have the heart to throw it out because it was almost brand-new and my parents bought it as a gift for me a couple years ago when I still evented... Problem was, the spine pressed down on B's withers too much since he is an actual shark, and it cause him pain when I used it. 

Then I thought, I BET I can sew in a wither relief. I grabbed the box cutter and never looked back. It sliced through the thick pad with no issue and after winging the measurement, I knew there was no turning back. After I cut it, I applied some glue I bought for fabric specifically, to the frayed ends. The intent was to keep all the padding and frayed shit together so that when I sewed the piping on everything would stay thicksolidtight.

After using the boxcutter
I then hand stitched (ALSO A BITCH) the opening with the scraps of fabric I had left to keep the glued edges from rubbing on the withers. You might not see the fabric while tacked up, but its really there just as protection for the skin. It took me almost an hour to do this small area, simply because that pad is SO thick. Not the prettiest thing in the world, but works for schooling.

After glueing and sewing

There are others things I have done in the past too, like sew up my own blankets, make stall signs, bumper pads for my trailer, & make my own polos and halter tube sets. Additionally, I wouldn't call this crafty, just genius, but I also use a pantyliner on the inside of my helmet to gather sweat and makeup so it doesn't ruin the helmet. Lastly, I am still working on making a cooler for winter. Its going to take ages, and all I have right now is the wool cutout.

Stained, painted and glued; The "Yankee" is now red

Did this using pool worm floaties and silver duct tape

So what I want to know is if any of you have special or fun DIY projects you've done for the barn or for your horse, and explain the process a little! please tell me, what do!?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Old Man

I wrote extensively about Yankee a few days ago, so this will mostly be a pic dump. He's been doing quite well these days, always the steady eddy of the barn. Its funny, because at 14 going on 15, I feel like I can finally call him the "old man" and besides a school horse, he is actually the oldest in the barn. Which is equally adorable and terrifying to me, since I've had him since he was 3....omg. I do love that he is RIGHT here with me though.

Anyways, besides wallowing in muddles like an actual pig, he's been flying high and fancy stepping in his lessons with V and Supertrainer.

Everyday with my boys.... 20 acre pasture and they decide to wallowing the one mudhole!
I was able to stop by last week and get a few pics of their XC school at New Farm (which I suppose I can now just call EME again since we are all moved in) and watch for a little bit. Due to my insane schedule and V's odd work schedule, I actually rarely see her ride!

EME has two MASSSIVE XC fields with jumps ranging from starter to Prelim, all built by hand and gorgeous. This spring a full water complex is going in too! Eventually the goal Supertrainer has is to be THE XC schooling facility in central Ohio and hold a few shows a year. I cannot wait for those days! The outdoor is simply stunning and the biggest I've ever seen. We are so spoiled!

I digress.

V and Yankee have improved drastically since I saw them in person last (a flat lesson with me) and the most notable thing I can see is V's application of half halts. Before, where there was literally none, she now asks and he listens beautifully. Even when Yankee is in attack mode....

Must. Run. At. Fences.
...he comes right back to her when she asks. Yay! Their partnership is solidly connecting now, and it makes me so happy! They warmed up of a few small fences and got right to work, since it was approx. 10 billion degrees outside with 100% humidity.

Once the fences got a little bigger I noticed both of them focus with laser precision. Both of them truly do do better over the bigger stuff. Also, I can she has been working really hard on her position and she no longer jumps ahead of him & keeps the solid contact he needs over fences.

I adore these two photos
I was thoroughly enjoying watching them together and felt like a total show mom, bustling around getting their pics!

They have about 6 shows left for the year, with 3 USEA events and then we will regroup for Winter Indoor Circuit. The next one is a dressage show on Sept 10th, which of course I won't be in town for. There's also a legit badass jumper show in KY the same weekend with New Vocations and I am bummed I'm missing it for a work conference in Dallas.

Anyways, cheers to V and Yanks!!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Tornados, Ribbons and Drama, OH MY!

The show Sunday might have been the most eventful schooling show I've ever been to, but it was fun as all get out. If you're friends with me on social media, you know the end results, but here you get a full blown report!

I want to say I rode well, but the simple fact of it being eleventy billion degrees, my muscle weakness, waiting for 6ish hours to show and only been riding for two weeks post injury....I did not really. I don't think going was a mistake, it was a schooling show, but I definitely learned some things.

Like, our match game is strong AF
First and foremost, I WISH there was a way to guesstimate how long it will be before the jumpers go, but without pre entries, there is literally no way to calculate approximate times. So we arrived an hour after the show started and that was about 5 hours too early. Que literally BAKING in the sun. I felt so bad for the horses, even though we were able to keep them in the shade and mostly cool.

B was a champ, even though I know he was hot, bored and wondering why we were even there. For the most part he chilled out and ate hay, but when the breeze stopped, he danced around a bit. I've been to much hotter shows, and the ring was partially shaded by trees, but I still debated just going home. 90* was hot for us Ohioans.

Despite the heat, it *luckily* cooled off a bit by the time jumpers started. It was easy to spot the storm rolling in out in the distance, but the breeze and temperature drop was nice.

I still felt like I was roasting when I donned my tall boots and helmet, and the warm up-warm up had us both soaking wet in sweat even after just a few minutes.

I signed up for 4 classes plus a warm up round, with the last class being a payback class, which I was excited for. Warm-up was first, and the organizer came around and asked us what height we wanted the fences. One of the girls requested 3ft, so they made several of them a good 3ft. I was anxious about that, since B does better, in his green stage, to warm up slowly. I take advantage of being able to enter to 2ft class first then increase the height to 2'9. By then all his jitters are out and he settles in. I had wanted to jump each fence on our course once before actually competing, since some of them were pretty scary  (flowers & barrels and brick walls, oh my!) but was nervous to face him with some of those 3ft fences right away.....

From the 2'3 class

I did it anyways. Like a fucking idiot.

He was incredibly looky and I could tell he wasn't 100% sure about trusting me with this; the footing was slightly slick from a storm the night before, and being barefoot means zero gription on the grass. He jumped a few of them, then flat our refused the barrel jump. Got it the second time, then refused an oxer with flowers. Got it the second time. We approached a panel fence and the last second (literally), he threw on the brakes and I hit the deck.

Yeah, I fell off. For the first time ever on B, and for the first time in like 5 years.

I stuck the landing, organized my limbs and got back on quickly. I couldn't believe it. How had that unseated me, but none of his asshole shenanigans ever done so?

Baby sticks
Once I gathered my thoughts, jumped the jump (at a lower height, bless the organizers), a few others and exited the ring (and hung my head in absolute embarrassment) I replayed it in my head.

I know he jumped it. However, halfway over it was like he just sputtered out (sounding familiar, *cough* last post, with the log *cough*) and landed on top of it and went down. As his front half went down, I obviously went with him and when he stood up, I LITERALLY got catapulted off and behind him, sticking the landing. Spectators say it was spectacular and brilliant.

LULZ. Moving on.

After that, we jumped the vertical in the actual warm up ring a few more times and headed in for the 2'3 class. I could tell he was a bit anxious about it and I had to push him to a few fences, but we went double clear and won the class.

I was feeling terribly guilty though. I took my baby in a warm-up knowing I was over facing him and taking him out of his routine, and paid the price. I felt like I really let him down. At that point, I took him back to the trailer and stuffed him with cookies and he seemed to 'forgive' me a bit.

Our second class, 2'6, went MUCH better and he was much more "game on" this course. The course was odd, with some really wonky lines but he did as I (shittily) asked and with much more gusto.

6 to 7 was esp weird

Double clear, we went in to the jump off and killed it. It was a grass ring, and a bit slick, but he was listening when I rated and listening when I pushed. Our rollback from 5 to 1 was fantastic; he's really starting to move off the outside aids beautifully! It wasn't anything earth-shattering, but it was good enough for first place.

What that booty do

Turn N' Burn
I felt better; I could feel that he had forgiven me a bit and was much more apt to attack the fences rather than question them. I was so happy with the blues and couldn't wait for the last two classes.

Right then though, the looming storm came in like a fucking hurricane. I'm not joking, one second it was calm, then next, wind ripped through the venue taking the tents and chairs and flinging them all over. The jumps fell, tables flew and the horses were spooked. Hell, I was spooked. I dashed to the trailer on B, threw all my shit (chair, purse, grooming bucket etc) in the back of the trailer and galloped back to the barn.

We took one glance at the ominous sky and ducked in to the basement barn (PRAISE THE LORT for basement barns) for shelter. I felt safe in the basement, and the horses were just chillen in the stalls. My parents were blowing up my phone, letting me know there was a tornado warning and making sure I was safe. Which of course, only increased my panic.

Mahm, Y U so upset?
The show crew was running around trying to get their horses in and they essentially just let them all run in the barn. It was a hectic scene. Horses running in, chairs flying, trash scattered around, wind gusting, lighting cracking and B and I just standing in a corner, fully tacked up and sweating still. With the horses all in and safe, us humans jammed in the aisle trying to account for all cell phones. I found that really funny, but I absolutely made sure The Precious was with me before we even ran in the barn, HAHA.

We waited out the worst of it, anti was bad. I was a wreck because I HATE storms, but we survived.

Once the torrential rains let up we dashed to the trailers and untacked faster than I've ever done in my life, while also trying to remain calm. OF FUCKING COURSE this was the time B decided he wanted to be an arse and wouldn't load. I knew he was feeding off me, but C'MON bro, get in the fuggin metal box!

After 20 minutes of coaxing and him standing in the now resumed pouring rain, he got in and got to munching hay like it never happened.


The drama did not disperse though. Once on the road, I came to a blocked road, with no I had to back up until I found another crossroad. That was fun.

Then, I got some pretty bad personal news on the way home, mind you trying to figure out where I was amidst tornado watches, nursing a sunburn possible heat stroke and heart attack, and horrible rain... I had about had it, ha.

Once we FINALLY got back to the (NEW) barn, he wouldn't get OFF the damn metal box and I threw my hands up and said fuck it, stand in there IDGAF. I started unloading the trailer while B decided if he wanted to get off or not. Finally, he did and I tucked him in to his new bed at New Farm and wondered why I do this sometimes, hahaha. What a day!

It WAS really fun though, despite the struggles & I am glad I went....but I re-learned a lesson I should already have known. NEVER push your horse faster or farther than they are used to. Yes, he can jump 3ft easily. BUT, he has never once been asked to do it right off the rip in a new place with some scary fences. Never again will I do that for the sake of a ribbon. I feel terrible and I am hoping this doesn't manifest in an ugly way later down the road. However, shortening my stirrups was a good choice at least, as I never jumped ahead! I hope I can get the videos to post, but they take literally forever.

He was a good boy yesterday for our  post show hack/trail ride and didn't seem worse for the wear (he even wallowed in a mud hole inches big new pasture at New Farm, see above), but still. The guilt is fierce.

Sorry, B, you're a good lad. Thanks for the satin < 3

Adding the blues to our 2016 collection