Thursday 29 November 2018

Circle Of Struggle

Last night's lesson...did not go as I had hoped it would. But, it went pretty much how my brain thought it would. Stupid brain.

I showed up with dressage saddle in tow, and EC was like "Wait, our schedules are weird right now so you're sharing with F tonight and I think she's jumping."

Me: "I'm going to die."

EC: " It's just the circle exercise. I'll keep the jumps small."

We're probably all familiar with the circle of death. It's "just" a 20m circle! (with jumps)

Me: "Logically, I know I can do can do it. Emotionally, my brain is saying I can't. I can't jump horses other than Bridget."

EC: "It's just a circle. You can do this one handed, I bet. We'll start with poles. You'll be fine."

And so, we started with poles. And it was fine. When we moved up to canter Audrey was a little more onward bound than I'm used to, but we sorted it and did a respectable job, fitting in 5, then 3, then 4 strides as asked. I was like "Yep, got this. It's just a circle and we're just practicing our different canters. No big deal."

Next EC put them up to cross rails. Yours truly forgot to breathe over the first and held Audrey to her bounciest canter, thus ensuring we got what felt like the world's biggest and most show jumpiest crossrail. There was substantial hang time the literal sense for me, having been left somewhere far, far behind.

So, of course my brain was like "See! You can't jump! You're terrible."

This is the part where I'd like to say I told my brain to shut up, fixed my error, and rode super well and confidently. But no.

I repeated the above fail a few more times, with varying distances, levels of altitude, and explorations of the entire real estate of her saddle.

And so, we trotted the exercise.

It was marginally better, although I was still basically a frozen monkey.

We finished with dropping one side of the crossrails down, and trotting into each and cantering out until I could do that without scaring anyone too badly.

The best I can say is that it happened. I got it done. It wasn't pretty. I couldn't even find a balanced two point  - I think partly because I was so tense and in my head that I couldn't relax down into my heels.

And, oh boy was I hard on myself after. Torn between listening to the mean voice in my head that says I'm simply a useless and awful rider, alternating with being absolutely furious at myself for letting that voice take over and not kicking it to the curb.

I 100% know I can do that exercise. I did it bareback on Bridget a couple of weeks ago, over slightly bigger crossrails, even. I would expect a learning curve and some fails with Audrey. That's fair. 

What's incredibly frustrating to me that my emotional brain stepped in at the littlest hint of adversity (that first awkward jump) and pretty much ran the show so that I was borderline having an anxiety attack for the next 20 minutes while basically making my negative expectations of my riding ability a reality.

That was sh!tty.

Of course we can't end this post with that. So, on the plus side:

- The first part of the lesson with just the poles was great. Super helpful for me as far as adjusting the canter.

- When it got tough, I didn't give up, get off, quit, or cry. Even though I really wanted to do all of those things at one point or another.

- I was able to recognize I was having trouble confidence and anxiety wise and verbalize that to EC. (I found saying something hard because honestly, I felt embarrassed)

- I was able to utilize some of the breathing and focus tricks I've been reading up on in some sports psychology books and practicing in yoga.

-And so, within a minute or two, I was able to calm the f down enough to breathe and listen to EC's instruction and continue the lesson.

-It feels like forever (I do remember the last time and it was a xc clinic 2.5 years ago) since my brain was a jerk like that, so despite that rough lesson last night, maybe overall I'm winning.

-I obviously care very much about my riding and being better at it.

- Next week's lesson is dressage :D

Monday 26 November 2018

November Resources

I'm one of those people who is probably going to be a lifelong learner and library geek. Obviously, anything horse related gets high priority and I'm horsey media junkie too.

The problem with consuming so much content is that I tend to retain bits and pieces of things, and forget quite quickly what book it was I found so helpful, or where I heard or saw that super interesting thing. I think I'm going to start putting all my favorite resources that come across my path together here once a month. If nothing else, it gives me some reference points to come back to, but I also hope some of you might find these links interesting or have some suggestions for future reading or viewing for me :)

- Bill Steinkraus' Reflections On Riding and Jumping book.
  I've had this sitting around for a while, and finally picked it up. Like everyone else, I think it's great. Maybe nothing absolutely mind blowing, but one of those books with so much solid advice packed in that I think I'm going to come back to it. A lot of the things he writes  read as common sense, but they're actually so simple it's genius.

USDF Dressage Finals.
  Thank you, USEF network! I love watching the USDF Dressage Finals because it seems more like real people and real horses, quite similar to what I see at our regional shows. Inspiring, for sure. Loved the commentary, as it was never overly critical or "judgey", but still let you know why someone scored lower or higher. There are free fan subscriptions to USEF available quite frequently, and they include access to live streaming and on demand videos.

- Learned helplessness. Is it a thing in horses?
 If you click any of the links in this list, click the above. I think we've all seen it at some point, and the part about it potentially being a desirable state of mind kills me. Here's a good follow up blog too.

- Feed XL.
 I first read about this on LWilliams' blog and finally pulled the pin and bought a month's subscription in October. I found it very useful for putting together a balanced feeding plan for growing Sophie, now that she's got 24/7 pasture nibbles. I appreciated that they have even my local feed producer's grains and nutritional analyses in their data set.

- Westfalen NA.
What can I say, I bought a German Riding Pony just knowing I liked her but not knowing much about the registration or breed standards. Someone commented that since Ms Sophie isn't branded that she might not have passed inspection. I actually didn't care much either way, but this past month I took some time to research what her passport and papers actually mean.  No worries, she was inspected and did indeed receive a premium score, just the owner opted not to brand her. The above website isn't the greatest, but the info is there if you dig.

No idea why they thought that, doesn't this pony doesn't look fancy enough? LOL

- 2019 TestPro USDF App.
 Jen at Cobjockey reviewed this, and I think it's safe to say any of us Eventer or dressage riders who stress about forgetting tests might find this app useful! I'm trying to get a head start on the new tests as I haven't ridden any of them!

- Matt Brown's COTH blog A Case For Not Focusing On Your Goals.
One of the most potentially life altering things I read this month. If you struggle with maintaining a positive mindset and being kind to yourself, this ones for you. Emma wrote a great blog about this article, too.
It's the end of November and some of my flowers are beat up, but still blooming. Tough little things!

- British Showjumping channel on YouTube.
Boss Mare Eventing recommended this, and there are so many good videos! I've watched quite a few videos from the lesson series and they're excellent. I'm appreciating that the lessons feature real ammies with achievable goals. Watching pros is great and all and gives me lots of inspiration for the future, but often I get a lot more tips I can implement NOW from watching people who are closer to my level.

Sunday 25 November 2018

A Mare-y Week

If you recall, we left off with Bridget being Bridget - conveniently forgetting she knows how to go forward. I was being me, and got frustrated. We both know better.

The sign above the door to B's barn. I need one on the door to my house some days, too :D

B got a few days off, mostly because our weather has been horrible, but also partly because I needed a mental reset.  Of course, when I popped on her on Friday, she was super forward and pushy and motivated and I could barely get her to slow down and walk. The complete opposite to what she came out with on our no good, very bad ride on Monday.
So cute, so opinionated.

Ponies :) She's so funny. I did very much appreciate the peace offering and just let her blast around and have fun for a bit before we did a little bit of work balancing that freight train canter. She was amazing, so she got to go visit friends ringside.

I so wish I had video, but my horsey friend offered B a bucket of water and B attacked that thing I think thinking it was full of grain. Two giant shark bites of water before she realized and spit it out everywhere. Poor B, we seem disappoint her endlessly.

Out for a walk in the rain and wind.

She had a couple of more days this weekend of just walk/trot hacks around the neighbourhood to stretch her legs, because the weather has been so awful that left to her own devices she just hides in her shelter and doesn't move.

B feels this deeply.

And then there is Sophie, who also had a lot of feelings this weekend. She's got a gelding friend (who is very handsome but I think actually hates her) but she is in love and it's all very unfair when she has to be apart from him.

 Typically, she is aware of other horses, but is quite happy to hang out with her humans and head out for adventures without her herdmates. She found that s little tougher than normal this weekend, for whatever reason.

She had a farrier appointment Sunday, and so I arrived early to groom her and check in with her. That goodness I did, because not only was she filthy, but she had a ton of feelings about standing in the barn away from her gelding friend.

What a lovely sight greeting me at the gate.

I changed the conversation and put her in the round pen to burn off steam and remind her to focus on me. On one hand it was fun, on the other hand, apparently she's the type where letting her move only increases the excitement. Pony does not get tired, lol.

It was pretty fun to see her really showing off and move - again, wish I had video but I was there alone and she's not totally solid as far as consistently knowing my cues so I need to pay attention and help her out a little if needed. At her age, I don't expect anything complicated, but I do want her respectful of me and of my space and to walk/trot/canter/reverse/whoa when I ask. 

It's exciting to me that even just kind of burning off steam in the round pen, her transitions up and down are usually very balanced. She knows how to step under and push and lift through her back and it's her preferred way of moving. She stepped into the wrong lead or a disunited canter a couple of times when my timing was off and I asked as she looked to the outside, but she just sat back and changed leads and sorted it without getting into a muddle. Pretty exciting for me as that balance she already has is something Bridget very much had to build strength for and be taught through hours and hours of repetition.

Princess is not pleased, even with her hay bribe.

Anyway...The farrier. S was a little terror. She just.could.not.focus. To give her her due, she really did try, but pony brain was well and truly fried and just kind of "done". Note to self : keep it simple...sticking her in the round pen to work a bit was fun and productive as far as that went, but it pretty much used up all available data space in the pony brain for the day. I really didn't set her up for success for a farrier appointment.

Awesome farrier was super patient, and had S trimmed up in 20 minutes or so, but there was a reversion back to kicking out with her back legs and generally being a bit pushy and ignorant and having a bit of a temper tantrum. On the plus side, it's been a few months since we've seen that Sophie - I had actually hoped she was gone forever! Fingers crossed we continue to see less of her in the future as she matures further (and I continue to learn to read what she's telling me a bit better and hopefully don't push too far past the line where it's a positive learning experience to where she's telling me her baby pony brain can't cope anymore.)

Somewhere out there her prince is waiting. Youd think she'd want to fix her hair first, lol

Friday 23 November 2018

Saving Money

My frugalness partly stems from desperation born out of the fact that I am certainly NOT a guru of having a budget and staying within it. So, let me suggest right now that you search out Amanda's "Finance Friday" posts at her Bel Jour blog if you want real advice on financial planning with horses.

I did a little spring fall cleaning at the barn today, and realized something: I'm unreasonably cheap sometimes. I thought it might be fun to share some of my more embarrassingly cheap habits along with some more useful, practical ones. Plus a short list of the few things I don't mind paying for.

Filed under "Why?"

- This cardboard bridle number from a show, that I reused 3 times. A cheap number holder is what, $2? And yet, I used this. And saved it, too, for an unknown future use.

- Friend with a sawmill: "Hey T, I will load up my giant dump truck and deliver shavings to you for $50". Me: "No, it's fine, let me just fill up all these old feed bags my other friend gave me and I'll store them in my car port at home. It won't look untidy at all, and it won't be inconvenient to take those tiny bags to the barn every day. Or to recycle a million old feed bags.  I'm saving $50 for a winters worth of shavings, after all!"
I didn't want to park here or anything.

- Multiple used saddles that theoretically should have fit. I've been lucky and didn't take a financial loss, but the inconvenience is ridiculous.  Lesson learned. When Sophie is grown, she is getting a mid priced saddle bought directly from a fitter or built custom. Still risky, but I'm done with guessing.

- The manure fork with the missing times. A new plastic fork costs what? And yet it's been a year now with the stupid broken one, waiting for it to "really die"

- Hay nets made mostly of baling twine. Another item that rarely needs replacing and is cheap, and yet I get all crafty with the baling twine and spend way too much time creating intricate repairs.

Filed under "I'm not one of the cool kids, but it's worth it."

- Buying pretty browbands to update my old bridles, rather than replacing them.

- I'm the person that bags up or throws in the trailer the clean shavings from when I strip stalls at shows.

- First aid kit made up mostly of generic brand drugstore items. Stored in a reused bag from a rainsheet I bought.

- I sweep out my hay room at least a couple of times a week and put the sweepings in hay nets for Bridget. I didn't realize this was cheap until I saw everyone else just leaving theirs on the floor and throwing it in the manure pile when they get a new load of hay.

- Bedding pellets from the hardware store. They're actually wood stove pellets...they take a little longer to fluff up than the ones marketed for horses, but they're half the price.
Mixed with about 10 bags of sawdust :)

- Bathing supplies that are actually just my shampoo and conditioner from home. Oh, and dish soap for grungy tails.
I buy sulfate/silicone free stuff anyway, might as well share it.

-Detangler/leave in conditioner that's again, actually just watered down human product.

I went crazy and bought this stuff once. It's amazing. Even more amazing is that 6 years later, with multiple refills of homemade conditioner,  the spray bottle still works great!

-Only blanketing if I don't have time to groom. In this climate, blankets aren't necessary if your horse has their winter coat and shelter. Blankets = $. My horses aren't kind to blankets. So, they each have a rainsheet I use only if I know the weather is going to be awful and my time for grooming limited. Oh, and I didn't clip this year - I have the time to cool B out and therefore save $ on clipping and blanketing.
This year's blanket

-Reusing the above rainsheets once they're old and not able to hold waterproofing. They're my stable blankets at winter/spring shows.

- If I don't truly need it, it had better be priced at <$100 and >50% off original price.  It would be better to not spend at all, but I allow myself one of these things per month.

Filed under "Not negotiable"

- There are a few things I do not cheap out or compromise aon. Good quality hay and feed being the first.

- Good vet, farrier, saddle fitter.

- Excellent coaching.

-A safe, healthy place for the horses to live.

And, that's about it?

Oh boy, reading this over, apparently I have serious issues with wood shavings, lol.


Wednesday 21 November 2018

Making a Plan (Or Not)

If you remember, I had a fantastic lesson last week on Audrey.

Then I came home, and had a couple of fun, easy, rides on Bridget. Then one no good, very bad, terrible ride.

The no good, very bad, terrible ride came about because I let myself get frustrated when Bridget said "Enough. I am not interested, nor do I feel like working today." Rather than changing the conversation, I decided to keep pushing, and we had an awful ride.

Post ride sweaty pony. She decided forward is dumb again, so we worked until she agreed she knows how to go.

I've mentioned over and over on this blog that Bridget does not like to feel like she's working. She cooperates if it's fun or interesting. She sees no point in working too hard, and will get very resentful and sour if asked and you cannot find a way of convincing her it's fun. I can respect that somewhat, being someone who is unhappy if my job gets repetitive or is full of the tasks I don't enjoy for weeks on end. And yet, I'm an exceptionally slow learner. Logically, I know pursuing dressage with this pony is not fair to her, realistically I still go into every ride looking for small ways to improve our dressage without her realizing it.

She has a new friend and he's adorable. She makes mean faces, but she hangs out all day with him so I'm pretty sure it's love :)

The disconnect between us occurs partly because I find dressage super interesting and exciting, but Bridget very much does not. She likes trail rides, I don't mind them, but find too many per week quite boring. We're both OK with a bit of jumping, neither of us are that interested in a steady diet of it. So, there are things we can compromise on, and we do of course have a lot of fun together. With that in mind, as you all know I moved Bridget home and out of training, signed up for lessons on my coach's dressage horse Audrey, and finally, bought Sophie as a dressage prospect.

It's such a great plan!

Unfortunately, 2 years waiting for Sophie to grow feels like a long time! Plus, my lessons on Audrey, rather than satisfying my urge to learn all things dressage, only add fuel to the fire. Sometimes that enthusiasm gets away from me and I practice at home and get a wee bit frustrated with my Bridget pony (and she gets just as frustrated with me!)

Almost as frustrated as when I put her hay in a net, lol. Also, this is late afternoon and the hay on her back was there from her breakfast, which gives you an idea of the amount of activity in Bridget's daily routine when she's left to her own devices :) (Oh, and the wheelbarrow tracks are from me mucking out 24 hours earlier...and yet they remain undisturbed. Oh, Bridget.

There are a few options here and a few resources at my disposal. So, in the interest of being fair to all of us, I think I need to change tracks. Time to come up with a New, New Plan!


Tuesday 20 November 2018

Banana Pony Adventure

Sophie got out for a group trail ride this past weekend (I led her while the others rode their horses, obviously!) And she was fantastic. I was a bit uptight about heading out with that group, to be honest, because one of the ladies is kind of into a different style of training and has opinions. So, even though I shouldn't get sucked into worrying about it, I really hoped Sophie would be a good girl so other person wouldn't feel the need to "help". It sounds silly when I type that out, but hey, sometimes my brain is weird.
And...I got no actual pictures once we left, even though I walked for 90 minutes with my phone right there in my jacket pocket.

Anyway, Sophie was great and any worries I had were completely unfounded. She tackled the trail portion and the roads very confidently. She did well with our small group, and while she prefers to lead, she was ok following and being in the middle too. I was impressed with her!

She started out a bit excited, but within 10 minutes or so realized going out with other horses is exactly the same as going on a hack with Bridget, or walking with my husband and I. Fun, but not THAT exciting :)

Sunlight making her look summertime golden, despite her coat progressing ever closer to the ever lovely winter mayonnaise color.

She happily stomped through all the puddles, went past assorted vehicles, dogs, livestock, and bicycles. Such a good girl.

The only thing she looked at was a truck towing a huge fishing boat (with two quads on the deck) that drove up behind us to pass. She asked to turn and look quietly at that as it passed, and I don't blame her!

For kind of a hot, energetic pony, she's proving exceptionally sensible.

I never tire of taking pictures of Bridget rolling, sitting, or sleeping. She never tires of making me laugh with silly poses.

We were discussing pony personalities on our outing, and someone commented that Sophie seems like she wants to please and has a ton of "try". And, no offense, but Bridget seems a lot tougher in that regard. I'd agree with that evaluation. I very much appreciate both mares, but working with a cheerful young sponge brain pony is pretty fun.


Friday 16 November 2018

No Saddle November?

I'm taking a break from saddles. Long time readers know that I've gone through approximately 11 million saddles on B, had two saddle fitters involved, had custom alterations made, and spent ridiculous amounts of money. Yet we don't have a saddle that fits really well. Part of that is due to Bridget's ever changing shape...She's popped out some withers and a more dippy back these past two years, meaning my saddles that fit propane tank pony aren't suitable anymore. She's also quite fussy and never moves out as freely under saddle as one would hope, even with saddles the fitter has thoroughly checked over. In a perfect world I'd have the perfect saddle, and then I would order that same saddle in 2-3 different tree sizes for her, depending on her weight and fitness throughout the year.

Pony grew a decent set of withers in the past year! Some of it is missing topline, some of it must just be age related? My coach was mentioning they can "grow" withers through proper work as well, but I'm not convinced that's entirely the case here, lol

She's recently been making it clear she's unhappy with her current dressage saddle, and until such time as the fitter can take a look, I'm just not going to use it.

Bareback pads are the best invention.

 So, I'm having my own informal No Saddle November :) I have no idea when or how things changed, but I am perfectly confident and comfortable flatting B in a bareback pad. It feels like not all that long ago I felt too tentative to be really effective, but now I'm feeling pretty secure and school all the things I would with a saddle. The only thing that slightly worries me is that I like to warm her up and cool her down pretty long and low, and it's not so easy for me to get up off her back without a saddle. She seems very loose in her back and happy though, so maybe I shouldn't over think it. On the plus side, I am much more conscientious about making good, balanced, transitions, because no one needs to die via being shaken by a crazy pony trot :)

Love this mare, she's so fun.

 Anyway, we're having fun, and thats good, because having fun is basically Bridget's only purpose right now :) Spoiled pony, she's only 10 and basically just has to really work a couple of times a week when I want to practice concepts for my Audrey rides. Other than that, I just try to keep a base level of fitness on her via some light flatwork and stretching in the ring, after which we launch explorations of the neighbourhood trails to keep B entertained. I miss having bigger goals with her, and on my tougher days I want to call myself a quitter,  but this feels right for both of us. She's become a different horse (in a good way!) with the change in work and lifestyle and I'm happier just appreciating her for who she is and not feeling like I have permanent tickets for the struggle bus.

Also very cute.

Fingers crossed all this yoga and bareback riding pays dividends as far as my balance and coordination. I still have goals of mastering canter pirouettes and tempi changes with Ms Audrey, and she does so appreciate it when I can keep out of her way :) We're back at it with a lesson next week that I'm very excited for.

Bridget's other job is helping me tidy the barn

Fingers crossed Ms Sophie proves easier to fit. It would be so lovely to just be able to pop some generic sized, off the rack saddle on a horse and ride!

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Dressage Nerd

I think I've mentioned my goal of making time to study outside of lessons, so that I can optimize my lesson time by hopefully spending more time actually Doing The Things rather than having the concepts explained to me for excess amounts of precious lesson minutes.

It's not that my coach isn't genius at explaining things, because she is. I'm just sometimes a bit slow on the uptake when I'm trying to ride and listen at the same time :)
Luckily, it's very easy to watch videos and read articles from the comfort of my couch, lol

Last weekend's study time involved delving back into the Robert Dover Clinic, reading some excellent notes from a couple of different Carl Hester clinics, watching a few classes from the US Dressage Finals, and finally, watching some YouTube videos of riders I admire, trying to see what aids they're using and how they're using their horses and their own bodies to make it all look so easy. I watched a couple of vlogs from Olivia Towers too, which were super neat because they involved some clips of schooling, test riding, lessons, and what she works on at the gym and in her mindset to help what she perceives her weaknesses to be.

And so, in my lesson this week when my coach asked me to go from walk pirouette to canter pirouette my first instinct was "Oh haha, you're so funny!" Then, a couple of seconds later, I was like "Why not? She wouldn't ask if she didn't think I could." Followed by some further confidence because I had just watched video of Carl and Charlotte introducing pirouettes, as well as multiple US Dressage Final tests with the helpful commentary explaining the good and not so good scores for the movement.

You probably wouldn't expect me to have mastered pirouettes in my first attempt from watching video. And, I didn't. There were some nice steps, some trial and error where I lost the shoulder and they got too big or  where I used too much outside aids and they got too small and hopping. But you know what? It wasn't all terrible either. I had a good visual in my head of what I wanted, and how to set it up, and for that, the video watching proved really, really helpful for me.

Taking the feel and tempo I've been learning to seek in collected canter, and combining it with the bend and aids from a walk pirouette, also very cool. EC is great at giving you seemingly non related exercises for months, and then boom you're putting them together and you're accomplishing a thing.

(And, WHOA, did I mention I did my first canter pirouettes!!!I don't know why, but of all the horsey things one could do, canter pirouettes and tempi changes are both serious Goals for me. So, bear with me, because I'm pretty excited.)

Final words of wisdom from EC (paraphrasing):

"As a rider, you get to a certain point where I am not teaching you anything truly new. Now it is just a matter of taking the basics I've taught you, and refining it all."

In other words, her nice way of saying don't over think it. Those canter pirouettes at their simplest are taking the canter I know how to create, adding haunches in, and placing it on a circle.

Once I got the feel, I practiced riding in and out of them as you would in a test. Again, certainly not perfect, or even complete 360s, but oh so fun to play with.

My aids need refining. My timing needs improvement. There are also millions of other little things I will be fixing or working on. But for now, just knowing I CAN Do The Thing is pretty darn cool.

Not sure this mare will ever have a collected enough canter to pull it off, but I'd like to try

I think another excellent goal to carry on indefinitely would be to continue to take advantage of available educational opportunities as much as possible. Kind of a no brainer, really, but it's easy to get lazy and be happy just knowing what you know. I'm finding online resources invaluable in helping me figure out some of the finer points of what I'd like to accomplish as a rider, and I'm finding a lot of the material is really inspiring me with new goals and ideas to try.


Tuesday 13 November 2018

Part Two

So...the spa day?

Here's the "after" picture, taken 24 hours later.
Wow, so proud. It's like a mud blanket.


Monday 12 November 2018

Days Like These

Being away Monday through Wednesday every week means I have a whole lot of things at home I want to catch up on Thursdays through Sundays.

Horse time being one of the main things, of course :)

It kills me that she's still got dapples. I don't currently own a grooming tool that can reach all the way through her winter coat, so we have to chalk them up to genetics.

Moving Sophie to the other farm is one of the best things I've done for myself in a very long time. Of course she is much happier with all that room to roam, but I'm so much happier too, knowing I don't need to worry about her. The barn owners are fantastic and zero drama. They love Sophie.

How could you not? Granted, she can still be a bit of a rule testing menace, but she's very sweet and super friendly. And so cute.

The full board is also a bonus...I notice the difference every Thursday night when I am cleaning paddocks where Bridget is still semi self boarded. Random pony fact, but Sophie eats and poops twice as much as B - my work and my feed inventory needs tripled when Sophie was boarded there!

On the plus side, she's the tidiest horse I've ever owned which is much appreciated. You literally just have to clean one tiny corner of her field. And, did I mention she's cute?

I've got into a routine lately of spending at least a couple of mornings a week with Sophie, then popping back to town for an early lunch, then heading over to Bridget's barn for an early afternoon ride and barn chores. I'm usually done by 2:00 or so, which still leaves daylight for hiking with G or yard work. I'm pretty sure if I was retired something similar would be my schedule every day of the week!

So.Much.Hair. And dirt. And butt highness. I love baby ponies :)

Sophie got a spa day this weekend and got all clipped up, mane pulled, tail banged like she's heading off to a show. She enjoys being fussed over, so I wasn't torturing her as much as you might think. I am regretting buying a two year old because actual showing seems so far off. I still have a whole year to wait before I can even lightly back her!
I went a little overboard with the tail, but I kind of don't mind it for now. 

But, I guess it's a pretty good life when my biggest complaint is that I miss competing :D


Friday 9 November 2018

Learning The Most

The recent 25 Questions survey that was circulating had one question that I really wanted to write further on:

What horse do you feel like has taught you the most?

My answer was Bridget. Because she's been the toughest horse I've ever dealt with, and yet, on paper, we've accomplished the most together.

I've had a post sitting in my drafts folder for months now, a general outline of all the lowlights that happened through the years - everything from straight up refusing to move to rearing and falling backwards on top of me to going through a phase of refusing jumps so hard she'd fall down. Let's not forget that dressage show where the judge complimented my riding, but followed that up by suggesting I find a slightly more 'honest' horse.
Still having fun, though.

To sum it up, Bridget's default answer to most things she perceives as new or potentially work related has always been "NO!" There was always a pretty fine line to negotiating that NO into a maybe, without it escalating into something undesirable.

My moral of that post was going to be that most good horses are very much made through training, and that a lot of the near misses and Very Bad Things were my responsibility for pushing her past her imaginary line drawn in the sand. That the very bad days were far outweighed by days of slow and steady progress and fun outing and adventures.

At the lake, looks like I must be taking a pic for you guys! :)

I keep refraining from pushing the 'publish' button on that post, because no matter how I word it, I worry that it reads as a list of all the bad things about Bridget and my relationship. When, in real life, I feel like we have a really great partnership and I'm beyond happy with her.

I think this was the weekend where she figured out sliding to a stop and bucking on downhill canters or after drop fences was a great way to lose me and I fell off about 2x a day. But again, we still had lots of fun too, this is part of a lovely uphill line the trainer kindly suggested we finish the day with :)

These days, I get frequent comments from my riding buddies about how lucky I am to own such a good horse, one that's always so easy. Don't get me wrong, I'd never argue that she's not good. She's great and she always has been. BUT people seem to equate quiet with 'easy' or 'good' or 'well behaved' and that's really a big assumption. It was just lucky that Bridget's happy place was to stand around quietly because that fits people's expectations of a good horse. Push her outside of that happy place, though, and...well...things used to get a bit 'real', lol

I was not riding nearly defensively enough off this bank lol, pretty sure I end up sitting in the bottom of the gully in a couple more strides ;)

She used to get so angry at being asked to canter

Saying NO to something, back in the day.

This used to be her trotting face, lol - she used to get really pissy about moving faster than a walk. 

Anyway, I like that the question above rephrases it all as something positive: a learning opportunity, a chance to be better, a gift of knowledge to take forward to new partnerships.

This journey with Bridget has definitely taught me so much.

-I've learned that sometimes you can push quite a bit past what should be possible on paper.
-She's not inclined to work any harder than absolutely necessary, so I've learned how to keep it interesting.
-She's not overly motivated to please anyone, so I've had to find ways of making things seem like her idea or or benefit to her.
-She has days where it's just not going to happen. So, I've had to learn to listen to that and be patient.
-She's not super athletic, so I've learned a ton about conditioning and strength building. 
-I've learned about equine biomechanics, about where to place her body exactly, so we can show her how to do everything from lateral work to cantering.
-Mentally, she's very quick to give up. So, I've had to learn to break things down into tiny pieces, and to be quick to reward.
-I've had to learn to be very, very consistent and fair.
-I've learned to be persistent, to not judge progress in a linear fashion.
-I've learned that despite all your best efforts, sometimes things just aren't meant to be. And that it's no one's fault.

So yes, I think Bridget is a horse that's made me a far better rider, trainer, and person. I'm just glad she came in a cute, small, not so athletic package - it was pretty hard to hold a grudge or ever get nervous.