Friday, August 31, 2018

The Horse You Bought

I promise, endless Spud media is coming, but my previous blog post kinda sparked an interesting thought as a few readers commented on looking back at where we started. If anyone else wants to participate in this, feel free to make it an unofficial blog hop, haha!

And although my previous post looked like a whine-fest, I promise you it really wasn't. I suppose the "am I the right rider for her?" was a bit melodramatic, but it wasn't intended to be that way. It's more of, "do I have enough experience and expertise to bring this horse along in a way she should be brought along"?

A lot of my worries with Annie weren't something I considered with Suzie, simply because Suzie was a senior mare. As far as she and I were concerned, a lot of her behaviors were things that were not going to change and I could work on them to chip away, but the majority of them were ingrained in her. With Annie, I have kind of a clean slate. I don't know any past history on her because there isn't any - we are making it each and every ride. And that's kind of scary in a way. At least for me it is.

Exhibit A: Our first show wherein I did not particularly prepare the horse
and did a class we probably shouldn't have done. Mare was very
stressed and overloaded on that particular day.
So when we back-slide into issues we had earlier this year and late last-year (cross-firing, I'm looking at you!!!), I kinda hesitate and wonder what the heck I did to revert back to old habits. I have a pretty good idea as to why, but Annie can't exactly vocalize and tell me. I've taken a few videos of the behavior and the handfuls of clinicians we've seen this year have seen small glimpses of it and all of them seem to be on the same page.

What I do need to remember is the amount of time we spent creating this whole canter nonsense history - to the point where Trainer K could easily hop aboard and walk/trot/canter without any issues and when I'd get on a day later, all Hell would break loose and the canter would yet again be discombobulated. So, there is history between Annie and I.

And when things get tough? Things revert back to old habits.

That being said, I do have some things I'd like to get ticked away before firmly entrenching my opinion, so for now we'll keep moving along as we have been and get the little laundry list I have assembled cleaned off.

She's certainly a lot more relaxed in the Dressage ring. Still not where I'd
like her to be, but the change is there!
That being said though, this blog IS my sounding board. This blog is where I come to share and document things. Feeling tired from trying to develop a young horse is OK and while I wasn't expecting anyone to validate my feelings or ass-pat me, I am firmly OK being the person who wants to step back because constantly having to "ride" the horse is sometimes just hard. Annie and I have done a lot this year and we've worked very hard, especially the last few months in particular.

I was going to wait until January 2019 to do this post, but I think it's important for me to take this little trip down memory lane and I think it's imperative I do it sooner rather than later. I'm not going to do a giant post, but just a little "before" and "now" comparison to get the wheels churning a bit in my own head. A post full of media will come out sometime in January, during our Annie-versary (see what I did there?).

 As a reminder, I purchased Annie with "30 days" as a late four year old in January 2017. She had primarily been ridden in an arena and had never been exposed to trails, and had only been trailered twice in her life. Trainer K is quite certain she was never taught to canter under-saddle before I got her, and it seems kinda in line with her ad which stated "confirmed walk/trot". So... good on me for reading the whole ad? LOL

My first ride on her - January 2017!

^ Our first ride at Barn C. She was super, but clearly did not steer
very well! Bonus points for going around the arena like a
big girl with three other horses in there tho!
^ Forever working on our canter button in April 2017.
Mare was willing, but was very weak and struggled to
really grasp the concept.

^One of the most recent videos I have of Annie, doing
Training Level 3 for an online horse show earlier in August.

And a recent-ish (July) trotting photo from the Sven clinic we did.

I spent a lot of time over the last two days reflecting and kind of considering where we came from and where we are headed. And the significance of the journey is not lost on me - this is the first horse I've developed on my own (mostly) and although not all moments of the journey are fun, I have to appreciate them just the same.

Annie is a horse that was started late - her age is not lost on me, but there is something she doesn't have that a lot of horses her age DO have.


The first shows she attended were shows I took her to. The first indoor arena she rode in was the one I rode her in. The first jump course we did was the one I rode her over. The first clinic she attended was the one I took her to. The first bath... the first set of hot shoes... the first time in a straight haul... the first Winter being blanketed... 

One of the "first" conformation shots I got of her.
She used to just follow me around, haha.
While she is not a naturally spooky horse, all these new questions are confusing and she's just figuring out how to do the thing. There are also the moments of Mare Angst that sporadically pops up because, "Hey, this being a riding horse thing is hard work" and we have to go back to Square 1 and reaffirm that canter means canter (or trot means trot, haha).

The last year and a half has been full of adventure and learning lessons for me. As with anything, mistakes have been made, but Annie just keeps rolling along with the punches like a good horse does. 

We may be closing the chapter on the first half of her 6 year old year, but we are mentally coasting along in 4 year old land. Annie is also learning to use her body in new and difficult ways - something she has struggled with since Day 1 by not being a particularly supple and loose horse to begin with. I continue to plug away tho, in an effort to making her a more honest and well-working horse - which is what anyone who rides really wants. 

Physically, she's changed A LOT.
She has certainly come in leaps and bounds, and that is not just in regards to being a riding horse. She is learning, accepting, and starting to mature into a horse I can be proud of. As always, the blips in progress and the laundry list of things to work on will never end, and it's important I don't dwell on them, but that I also learn from them and move on. 

Looking back on her first rides and even reading back on old blogs (remember how she didn't tie reliably? or how she didn't even know how to lunge?) makes me feel more humbled and appreciative for the progress we've made. It's all relative tho, because one person's list of things to be proud of will be vastly different from another's and as the horse matures and ages, the list will again change and mold.

We are all looking to turn out nice, rideable horses, and the thing with the journey is that no horse is the same. I know of several bloggers who have struggled with bolting, spooking, and even bucking as evasive techniques from their horses. And as we all try to figure out what makes our horses tick and how we can eradicate the unwanted behaviors, we all are kinda in the same boat just flying different flags. 

She finally learned how to stretch both undersaddle
and on the lunge line this year!
This is Year 2 both together and undersaddle, and although we've hit a bit of a wall yet again, I feel like the horse that is beneath me is a lot more in tune with what I'm asking and has a better understanding of those asks compared to the horse I was riding a year ago.

And that is something to be proud of.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Stepping Back

We are back safe and sound from the BVX and Spud did awesome - a post about it should be out sometime soon... but until then? No spoilers unless you're on my Facebook and/or Instagram, haha!

Following the Online Dressage show, I waffled between feeling pleased with the test and being too hard on myself. Which, surprise surprise, right?

Lately, I've avoided the riding arena - opting instead to hack out on the trails and roadways. I don't really feel motivated in the arena simply because I feel like we have mountains of things to work on and haven't made much headway in the most basic of principles.

Sometimes I sit back and wonder if I'm the best rider for my mare, or if she would be making better strides in progress with someone else?

And yet still, I press on and ride the horse - arena be damned.

It's hard when you have a shit ride out on the trails
and question yourself even more...
I just feel... inadequate.

I feel like we should be further along than we are; that we're struggling to master the basic concepts a riding horse should have and despite having a wonderful arena ride post-online show (with zero cross-firing or missed leads), I still can't help but think it's my fault. This whole bringing up greenie world is so new for me, and I constantly let these thoughts plague me:

I can't even isolate her hind-quarters.

We canter crooked.

We can't even trot straight down center-line.

She is STILL behind my leg.

We haven't practiced shoulder in, she probably forgets how to do it.

She isn't relaxed in those videos - she looks tense and annoyed.

We sometimes pick up the wrong lead still...

She redeemed herself tho - after over a week off and no prep
we went out for a 7k trail ride and she was super.
And all of these negative feelings manifest and breed together, until hopping up on the horse looks unappealing... and when I do? I opt for the easy option and trail ride.

Which, I guess isn't a bad thing, considering Annie can be a bit nervous on new and "harder" trails.

But still.

What about that canter?

What about the tense and fussy bridle connection? 

And what about her constant tail wringing? Is she broken? Am I breaking her? Will she ever stop?

What about the lack of forward we still have?

What about bending through all our corners instead of 2.5 of them?

I watch and rewatch the videos and my insides just cringe with the amount of
tail wringing she does... And no matter how many times I hear clinicians
tell me it's her protesting my legs, I can't help but wonder if I'm
doing something wrong?
I let the negative and frightening questions plague me, and instead of working diligently to surpass them, I either ignore them completely or go all out all day every day trying to fix them.

Which, once I had a good idea about the lack of forwardness and how to appropriately fix it, Annie and I spent two weekends filled with clinics and weekdays filled with schooling sessions really drilling the new change into her. And now?

I'm kinda tired.

Drilling exercises is sometimes needed, I guess, but it's also fun to just enjoy the horse for enjoying the horse. Twenty meter circles and centerlines be damned.

So, this works for us.
Before I get swallowed up like I did last year in comparing Annie to other horses her age (or younger) and pushing ourselves too hard and fast, I'm taking the time to step back. I'm not going to keep avoiding the ring much longer, simply because the year is ending fast and before we know it, we'll be under 4ft of snow.

It's just hard.

Bringing up a young horse is hard.

And I am so damn thankful for being able to share every minute with you guys - the positive words, relate-able blogs, and many words of encouragement keep me sane in this journey.

For what its worth, the mare has been (mostly) good (save for one trail ride wherein she could just NOT).

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Off To The BVX

I still have a back-log of posts I need to write, but will be signing off again to head to the BVX like I do every year.

We will be gone from Wednesday - Sunday!

And this year? It's the Potato's turn.

His show name is Fully Loaded.
Kinda fitting I think, haha.
(For those curious, I commissioned this pic and had
intended to put it on T-shirts for the BVX but didn't have enough time).

Wish us luck and pray Annie isn't too upset with me for not bringing her, haha!

(I did intend to write a big long post about why I'm taking Spud and not Annie, but it pretty much just boils down to the fact that it's Spud's turn to go this year. Annie will go again next year. We've done quite a few drives/conditioning, so he is ready to rock and roll!!)

Monday, August 20, 2018

FSHS Online Dressage Show: Training Level 2/3

Following our erm... theatrical trail ride, Annie had a few days off as the temperatures sky-rocketed and my will to slap on some breeches and tall boots waned. I took the time to hang out at the beach one day, walk the dogs along the river, and even spend some time with friends.

Speaking of friends, a good friend of mine, Alaina, from Alberta came up to visit family and eagerly invited me to ride out with another friend, Heidi (she has the Spanish mare). Through the last two months, Alaina has tried to get me and Annie to participate in an online Dressage show that her horse club has running as part of a fundraiser. I declined the first few times, mostly because trying to set up a Dressage arena in the ginormous ring at the local grounds would be super frustrating and annoying.

Annie: "So I should buck her off at A so I can make a quick exit from the arena, right?"
Navarro: "You have to spook FIRST. Make it look like an accident."
However, the opportunity arose to ride with Heidi, as she was partaking in the online show and Alaina had graciously offered to video her. After thinking it through *cough* peer pressure *cough* I agreed but reluctantly offered that Annie had been starting to cross-fire again and it would be a mess and a half.

With the day of the tests approaching, I took the time to head out to the local grounds and work on our broken canter. After cantering circles upon circles, Annie finally got her fucking head back on and cantered like a normal horse. As per Karen's instruction from when this was happening earlier this year, I popped her with the whip every time she switched. I had some inklings as to why she was switching but regardless of those thoughts, I wasn't asking for anything super strenuous or crazy.

Anyways, we got her straightened around and I apprehensively got myself and Annie ready for the tests the next morning.

The next morning, I hauled Annie out the 45min to the TSC grounds and she was good to load and unload. She tied well, although looked around a bit before settling to munch her hay. I tacked her up in between chatting with both ladies, catching up on how everyone's horses have been and latest training woes. I took the time to try and make Annie and I presentable, but still used #allthepurple since there wasn't any required formal dress.

A screen shot of one of our tests during a stretchy circle.
Check out that purple!!!
I took the time to warm her up carefully and consciously, being aware that she typically sucks back in the TSC arenas. I wanted to take the time to school her and if I needed to boot her forwards, I would do just that. She was good tho - she felt slightly behind the leg but not nearly as bad as it was just a few short weeks ago.

Annie warmed up pretty well and although we had some minor issues in the canter, it was rideable and she got her shit together enough for me to willingly want to trot down center line. I went first, since Heidi would be doing First with her mare for the first time.

These tests were not familiar to us, as BC typically uses HCBC tests and all other provinces use Equine Canada/ USEF. While they have a similar vibe, they ARE different. Heidi and I have never ridden these tests, aside from briefly reading them the day of the show.

The first test we had almost completely finished, except Heidi read the test wrong and ended up making me go off course. It was an unfortunate mistake, but it also meant I needed to redo the test, unless I wanted to submit the off course, haha. We didn't have a terrible test and I was kinda sad we had to scrap the whole thing and start again. Alaina helpfully reminded me to use my corners and off we went, back in to re-try TL2.

Another screen -shot. Soon this will be
our regular trot. Unlike our "regular" trot, where she
can get kinda retracted in her throat-latch.
I rode and it felt good, aside from botching our first canter - we had just had issues with the canter in our warm-up that I stupidly thought she picked up the wrong lead... so I brought her back and asked again - she offered the wrong lead... I brought her back again and then she got it. Poor mare got pats for my stupidness. Ugh.

Otherwise the test went well, save for our second canter wherein she picked up the wrong lead first and then picked up the lead properly on the second try.

One thing tho, that realllly irritates me is just how much Annie's tail snaps around. Does anyone else have a horse like this?! It quiets down, but holy... it makes me look like I'm abusing my horse or something. She has always done it and it typically gets worse during periods of stress/annoyance/pissiness, and I know for a fact that arena gets her flag-tail flying.

Anyways, Alaina and Heidi asked if I wanted to do my second test right away or to take a breather. I opted to do TL3 right away and that's when the wheels fell off a bit. It was partly my fault and tbh, partly the horse's fault. We went into our first canter and she kinda fizzled down the longside to our circle and instead of getting her in front of my leg, she stumbled into a trot. I kissed her up into a trot, but she got the wrong lead, and then switched the front and left the back.

I called out "Going to do that test again!" and promptly went straight to schooling. Annie felt super pissy and after I asked her to canter again, she switched a thousand fucking times. I was so embarrassed to have my friends watching as I literally just sat as Annie worked out the #feelings she had. She humped up as she switched back and forth, and I just booted her forwards. She did flying changes, half changes.... I appreciated as Heidi and Alaina tried to call out things to try. I told them that it didn't matter what I did - if mare wanted to switch she was gonna do it. Heidi called out a few things to try and as I attempted (and failed) to do them, she called out, "Holy fuck, she's athletic Cathryn."

Yah, haha. Thank you.

Slightly retracted thru her neck, but otherwise
she's doing the thing, bending quietly and was very
nice to ride here.
After that, I went back to giving Annie taps with the whip when she changed and I didn't ask for it. Other than that? I just rode it. She got mad, she got frustrated, and finally she sighed and went back to our regularly scheduled program.

Once the war was won, I stopped and chatted with Alaina and Heidi, mentioning that I was pretty sure what her issue was. Essentially, mare has done A LOT this year. Lots of hard clinics, lots of travelling, and lots of hard work. It may not seem like it, but we easily surpassed our clinic total from last year THREE TIMES OVER.

The last time Annie got adjusted was in the Spring and I had an inkling she was needing another adjustment, especially since she has had a long season of hard riding.

There were a few times, I noted, that she changed and I gave her a tap with the whip and she tried her damndest to change back but just couldn't balance herself to do it. This was momentary tho, as most of it felt like #opinions.

We did get to a common ground and once Annie didn't have so many feelings, we wandered out of the arena and lined ourself up to re-enter the Dressage court and do the thing.

This test was by far our best test we've ever laid down.

I was very, very happy with her.

I could talk and talk about it, but I think the video speaks for itself.

You guys, I've worked so fucking hard with this horse and the amount of blood, sweat, and tears I've poured into her finally felt worth it. Even if we had to have several minutes of beating before that, haha. She finally felt rideable in that arena and although she's a titch behind the leg still, I actually felt like she was a bit fancy for once. She was trying and I was happy with that.

Viewers will note I went off course again in this test, as Heidi read the wrong letter (haha), but I refused to do another go round since Annie was being so good. So sometimes you gotta take what you can get. I know Alaina was going to talk to the other judge (there are two) to see what they thought about the "off course" and if they would just ignore it or not. I don't mind either way, and do know that Alaina had judged our first tests and ignored the off course (kinda love online shows, haha). I don't remember the exact percentages, and I don't have the paperwork in front of me, so we will just leave it a mystery until we get both of my marks back. The show itself closes August 24th, so I won't post our results and test scores until then, but I wanted to still share what we were up to and the videos.

A blurry picture, bc my phone lens was full of condensation being in
my breeches pocket, ahha.
Of course, by the time I got home, part of me was already dissecting the video and how X, Y, Z wasn't perfect and WHY WONT HER TAIL FUCKING STOP and why did I ride my corner like that?

Does anyone else feel those feelings?

I made myself watch the video and then watch our previous dressage test from just a few short weeks ago, and holy shit... this mare has started to get her shit together. Sometimes we put puzzle pieces together and lose a few others, but we'll get there. It's a work in progress and I'm so pleased that we were able to put a nice test down. There are still a few things I want to improve on (as always), and we'll get there... slowly but surely, and together.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Annie's Alter Ego

Oh look, it's Bannie.
I've mentioned Annie's alter-ego, "Bannie", on this blog a few times. Ironically enough, I refer to Annie as "Bannie" when she is not only particularly bad, but particularly good. So... kind of temperamental extremes? Haha.

Anyways. I kinda figured we were due for a Not So Great Ride since most, if not all of our rides have been more or less pretty good.

Unfortunately, Annie chose what was supposed to be a relaxing trail ride for her alter-ego to suss out. And for what it's worth, the alter-ego that eeked out during the ride wasn't the worst of the worst, but it was probably one of the worst trail rides I've had on her, aha. Thankfully, she wasn't bad the entire ride and we managed to turn it into a good schooling session of sorts.

Green horses, am I right?

#2 horse in a 3 horse line up!
For the most part this year, I've gone for quite a few trail rides so Annie has been well-acquainted with what it's all about and although she has been a bit "too" forward during some of the unknown trails, she has been pretty happy to plug along. So despite the bumbling over rocks, branches, atv ruts, etc, she's been happy to wander along and figure out the whole trail riding thing.

Old logging roads are pretty easy to wander down bc they're wide and don't ask many questions. Going through the real narrow, over-grown trails can be a bit more... hazardous bc they ask a bit more questions. So, we've been plugging along with the varied terrain and awkward footing.

And most times, we trail ride alone or with one other friend. Annie has been good to both lead and follow, although definitely prefers to lead. I have been practicing, when out with others, to have her walk in the back and front. She can be argumentative about it, but we do work on it bc it's something we need to suss out and it's something she needs to get used to just 'cause.

We wandered over the highway quite a few times on this trip!
On this ride, another friend joined us, so the three of us set out and Annie was super duper with heading out. She was a little excitable, but nothing crazy and she settled into a quiet long-rein walk. The first portion of the trail ride was through the subdivision and then we had to traverse over the highway and onto an old logging road, following it along to a bridge where we had to time ourselves just right to trot across the asphalt back onto the side road. The trail head was back across the road, so we had to cross back over again haha, and then wander into the trees.

Not one of us had been down this trail in a few years, so we got confused and ended up going down the wrong trail-head and the horses kinda got agitated once the trail narrowed down and we ended up hitting a dead-end. The trail was very overgrown and not the greatest so the horses were not impressed and attempted to turn around a few times (we should've listened to their suggestions, to be honest, haha). Nicole's horse got kinda riled up when we went to turn back and I'm not sure if it spread across to the other horses. She ended up dismounting and leading AJ out, as he was the last horse in the line-up when we turned around to head back to the main trail.

The Bannie is happiest in the lead.
When we rejoined the main trail, Annie ended up being last and she DID NOT like that one bit. She started to play up - trying to walk beside AJ and Colby... trying to pass Colby... trying to throw her head in the air and ignore my rein aids and just blow past the other horses.

So I kinda... argued with her, haha. In hindsight, I am kinda like "Why did I do that?" but I am also happy I sussed it out with her, bc thankfully the two other riders I was with were cool with it and happy to oblige when I asked for more room, etc etc.

Unfortunately for Annie, I decided to go kinda above and beyond to duke it out and when she started blowing thru my aids, I made her walk back even further from Colby and it only (obviously) made her angrier, haha. So after making her hang back even further, I had a Hot Mess Express on my hands (duh) and we did some jigging, side-stepping, and even some pawing when we all had to halt for a few seconds. She was PISSED.

No photos of us in last place, bc I was concentrating on not
dying and being effective lol.
We had to halt again along the trail and Annie tried to lurch forwards when the other horses moved off, so I reprimanded her (too bad so sad, mare), and she gave me a half-hearted "jump" (rear). I spanked her, bc no thanks, and continued to ride her as she danced from side to side of the trail and just made it all more of an issue than it needed to be.

I ended up asking the people I was with if we could do some leap frog - shuffling horses along in the line-up so Annie would be first, second, third and back again. I wanted to be a bit more fair and a bit more thoughtful in my application of dealing with the issue. Holding her back and having her dance around like a fool wasn't fun and it wasn't teaching her anything. So leap-frogging along each place would give her boosts of confidence as well as teaching her she can't escape what she doesn't like.

It worked really well, actually, and she grew much more confident even in the middle spot. She was obv happiest in the front, so I rewarded her with a very loose floppy rein and she complied happily. When we were in the middle, I worked on slowing her quietly with my seat and encouraging her to lower her poll. And finally, we walked in behind and applied the same things. Asking her to slow without a death grip on the reins, asking her to lower her poll, etc.

The final stretch before popping back into the subdivision.
We practiced leaving a lot of space between us and AJ - I am happy
with her listening ears in this one.
It worked really well and we did end up having some good moments. We also paused along the trail several times to just stand quietly - the first few times Annie had been so riled up that she kept fidgeting and swinging her hips around like an idiot so we just kept asking and applying it so she finally sighed and gave in.

For the most part, her tantrums are short-lived and once she gets it through her head she isn't going to win, she gives up haha. Unfortunately, I didn't really help the situation by getting mad back, but I am glad I managed to salvage the last little bit of the ride and give Annie some good hearted schooling.

I thanked both the girls I rode with and both of them were more than happy to oblige with helping me school. We managed to finish the ride in just about 2.5 hours and went about 11km, so it was a good chunk of time.

Has no problem when her friends split off to go home, but just
doesn't like to be last. -_-

What about your horse? Do they prefer to be in the lead? Is this just a baby horse thing? What do you do in situations like that? I'm curious!!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Like Coming Home

"We're the two best friends that anyone could have!"
-Annie, probably.
(Also I haven't taken the decorations off of Spud's cart yet
so he was still very... patriotic lol).
Nothing is better than coming home from a vacation and finally getting your butt back in the saddle! I was pleased to find that Annie was not only sound, but her leg was looking pretty good. There was some residual swelling along her fetlock, as I mentioned previously in my last post, but part of me thinks it was from her standing around for the week I was gone. It had been insanely hot, so I know the horses weren't doing much aside from nibbling hay and standing around. 
Anyways, I lunged her briefly the day we got home and was happy to see she was good to go and took her out the next evening with a friend who drove Spud.

It was so hot that I opted to go bareback and Annie was a good bean - for not being ridden for over two weeks I couldn't have asked for a better ride!! We didn't go too far, but did the loop around the subdivision which is a nice 3.5km if you take the "short" streets (which we did).

An awkward bareback photo, but scritches for a good pony!

The day after that, I hacked Annie out with Nicole and her horses, AJ and Flash (she ponied Flash). Annie was VERY excited to see AJ and was a bit of an idiot, but wasn't anything unmanageable. Just mostly spooky, fast walking, and not wanting to halt. I'm glad that she is mostly reasonable when she is a turd-nugget, so there's that?

Again, because of the heat, we did the loop around the subdivision but did the long route (which had us double-backing down one street) and we covered around 6km. When we separated ways to go home, I used that opportunity to trot around a bit to play around with our forwardness. I was happy to see it was still there - mare moved off my leg promptly and was pleased to do so. I'm sure it had more to do with the fact she was PHYSCHED to see her buddies after so long (Nicole hasn't been home for a few weekends so we haven't seen AJ in a while). 

Looking pensive pre-ride, haha. 

The next day I opted to school her - we had done two days of little loops and I was happy to see the swelling was gone as well as she felt strong and ready to work. I didn't want to overdo it tho, obv, so we headed to the ring for a light hack of sorts. 

My friend visiting from Alberta drove Spud again and worked him in the large meadow while I rode in the arena. We didn't do too much, but I opted to push for a good ground covering gait above all else and we did some canter. 

I do recall she was more focused on where Spud was, so she got into trouble for not paying attention but overall, seemed like she was being pretty good (from what I can remember, haha). I don't remember a ton from some of these rides (bc they happened a week ago), but I do remember that I promised her if she was good, I'd walk her home and I did indeed walk home so she must've been pretty good, lol!

I ended up hopping off and taking this sun-glare photo bc it looked pretty.
I also ended up walking her home bc she did a great job in the ring.

Annie was given the next two days off as I tried not to die with the incessant heat and humidity (seriously you guys, it's bad) before we returned to the arena. I have wanted to put in some good schooling but I also didn't want to beat things into her - the Summer is coming to a close and we've completed most of our shows for the year. It's time to take a bit of a step back, leave the ring a little more (although admittedly I haven't been in the ring as much as I was last year) and enjoy the ride. So on a whim, I decided I'd limit my schooling to twice a week. Other than that, we trail ride, hand-walk, groom, graze, etc. 

She is clearly so excited.
I have to remember that despite Annie's age, this IS her second year under-saddle. Taking a step back to enjoy the horse and work on other things isn't a terrible idea, and although I've been pretty good about not getting too wrapped up in showing and circling round and round in the arena. 

Anyways, our second ride in the arena was short and to the point. There were people camping at the grounds and Annie was a bit spooky in the beginning, but otherwise didn't care. There were quite a few kids running around, asking me questions and running up and out of the show office so there was quite a bit of activity. I knew the people, as Spud attended their kid's birthday, so they were able to pet Annie and say hi for a bit before my ride. The ride itself was good once Annie concentrated on what we were doing. We spent some time at the walk because she felt a bit hot (she was NOTTT happy to be out solo-style after having company for the last few rides back haha). 

She settled quietly into work and we had some really nice transitions. We did quite a few trot-canter transitions because I've kinda glossed over drilling the transitions into her - we get one or two good trot/canters and I'll leave it alone instead of practicing them in succession for the opportunity to practice. If that makes sense?  I felt pretty pleased with her and didn't push anything since it started to get warm so we headed back to the barn. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Officially Official

Sorry not sorry for the vacation pic spam.
Following the show, I left Annie off for two days to rest and recoup. On the Monday, she grazed in the front field dragging her lunge line (like she often does). On this particular day, she seemed kind of disinterested in the grazing and more concerned about where Spud was, which is pretty unusual. Typically, she could give two shits, but I didn't pay it much mind since I was repairing the boardwalk at the back of the property that is used to dump manure into a large gully. I glanced over once or twice and she seemed fine, and with all the hammering I was doing I didn't really hear anything alarming.

When I came around to the front and saw Annie much closer to the barn, I thought it was a bit weird but again didn't really pay it much mind. I grabbed her, doused her in fly spray, dumped her mash in her bucket and left for the evening like normal.

Tuesday morning I rolled out early for a ride before the heat and found that Annie's leg had ballooned and was mildly lame at the walk.

After some searching around the area, I found a rope burn along her fetlock. I assume during the time I had let her graze in the front dragging her line, she must've gotten it tangled somehow and maybe spooked(?) and gave herself some rope burn. Fortunately, the wound was superficial but the swelling in the leg (as the days went on) suggested perhaps a mild tendon strain (from what friends and I assume was from kicking out at the line when it wrapped on her leg).

A very unhappy leg.
I realize a lot of people will shake their heads saying what I did was pretty stupid, but this is something Annie has done dozens of times in the front paddock while I do chores and even clean up my tack room in the barn. I have had the area in the front hot-taped for a while now, but was waiting on more hardware to complete the entire thing so I could actually leave her there to graze for a few hours a day since it is not attached to the other paddocks and I have no desire to fully fence it off (not my property). And, FWIW, I do feel stupid about it.

Anyways... I went straight to work on the swelling and wound which meant a lot of cold hosing (2-3x a day), as well as icing, poultice/compression wraps, NSAIDs... the whole nine yards. The SO and I were leaving for vacation on Saturday, so I had five days to get the leg to where I wanted it to be before I left. I had a friend watching the horses for us, but didn't want her to feel obligated to wrap my horse, esp if I could get the leg to a much nicer place before leaving.

Thankfully, I was able to get the swelling down and the wound was looking just fine. She was still lame at the trot when I left, so I made sure some of her grain baggies had NSAIDs in it but otherwise knew the leg would just need some R&R.

Prior to leaving for our vacation - looking much better.
Upon returning, Annie was 100% sound and although there was some mild puffiness in the leg (friends and I actually think it's moreso to do with standing around for 15 days straight in some very high temps since we have been having massive heat waves and since being ridden again, the puffiness is gone), all was well and I began riding her the day after getting back. I've been cautious about the amount of strain I'm putting on the leg, as I don't want any repetitive strain injuries but otherwise, it's business as usual.

But this post isn't all about the horse and both of our my dumb decisions.


It has been officially official for a while now (since mid-May, actually!), but the BF and I officially adopted Ella.

That foster dog I was supposed to rehome?

Yah, that one.

Roxy (L), who was adopted from this shelter 6 years ago
and Ella (R), the new addition.
A few friends have said they "called it" from the beginning and I hesitate to say they're right, simply because when we signed the adoption papers it wasn't 100% for my benefit. I mean, time changes things, but the whole kit and kaboodle was moreso done for the dog.


You guys.

This dog is obsessed with me.

They came on vacation with us... lol.
Four plane rides in one week!
And I don't mean that in a "Oh my godddd she is my best friend!!"

I mean it in a "She ran away from Jamie and disappeared for an hour because I left and went to a horse show" and in a "She creeps me from the bathroom everytime I shower or bathe" and also in a "She'll stand at the door and sing me the song of her people when I leave her behind."

So. I just didn't think it would be productive for her life to have yet another change if and when someone decided to adopt her. She made her choice very clearly and I can't force her to go through another round of "getting to know you".

So, she stayed and we signed the papers.

We did a lot of this on vacation.
And then kind of a funny thing started to happen.

She started to do these little things Ty used to do. She would run back and check on me during hikes, she would lay at the foot of the bed (as opposed to up by my head), she would play hide and seek with me...

Whether or not it's because Ty came down in his All Knowingness and told her "Look, they signed the papers, so get your shit together" or something else, but it's a bit uncanny and weird for me.

I'm slowly starting to let her creep a bit more into my heart, but it's guarded and she knows that. Still, she gives me nothing but all of her.

Welcome to the family, Ella.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Timberland Schooling Show: Training Level

Following our lesson on the Friday, Cat (the Judge) advised me to wear spurs in the show ring. I had wanted to avoid using them, because I felt like when I did use them during my lesson, I ended up just nagging with them. I found it hard to keep Annie accountable as well as trying to do the lesson competently. In my head I knew that this whole Forwards Issue would be best hashed out between the two of us in the ring, alone. No time pressures, no skipping over things to work on other things, no pressure to be "perfect" - just me, the horse, and a tappy stick.

But, when the sun shines you gotta make hay.

Or do a low-key clinic and show your horse? Or something like that, haha.

So off we went - to the horse show, with no real expectations and no real agenda other than to school the horse and keep the Forwards Train rolling.

The show itself was going to be pretty informal; no placings and no ribbons - only percentages. Part of me had hoped there would at least be placings, but I kinda understood the reasoning why. The whole aspect of the show was for practice and placings didn't really matter. Although, I find it really interesting to see what other people score to get an idea as to how the judge scores. Since I was friends with the show organizer, I was informed the Judge was pretty fair across the board and most people in each division (W/T to 3rd level) were all in the low-high 60s.

The Judge, Cat Armitage, has a very large resume in respect to Dressage shows. She has not only judged a lot of high profile shows, but has scribed under very prestigious judges from all over the world. She's very well traveled, and seems to understand how to judge various breeds, which is kind of cool since we do have quite a few Andalusians in the area and they are often judged the same as the average horse - which, they aren't. I've seen a few friends get low scores because their horses are more retracted through the neck and paddle with their front legs - it isn't that it's wrong, it's just different and some people don't know how to judge that.

Jackets were waived, thank god.
Sneak peek of our TL 2 test.
I forgot to mention in my previous post that there was a Dressage informational session that I went to after my lesson. I popped Annie in a stall (the same very stalls she kicked boards down in last time we were there...) and stayed for a few hours to understand the scoring system, easy ways to rack up points, how to understand judging and what percentages really mean. It was very enlightening and at some point, maybe I'll write a post about it but I feel like if I blab on about it, this post will be even longer than it already is.

Annie did well hauling to the event and set to eating her hay quietly as I wandered around the grounds collecting my number and asking if the show organizers needed a hand with anything. They said no, so I went and sat in the stands and promptly regretted coming to a show in 27 degree heat (80F). It might not sound hot, but we are used to much... milder temperatures, haha. Anything above 25C and we friggen MELT here.

I watched a few of my friend's rides before wandering back to the trailer (after obsessively popping my head over the stands to check on Annie... who continued to eat at the trailer quietly) to get ready. And once I finally managed to slide into my breeches... more like shimmy because I was pouring sweat, we were ready to rock and roll.

I had planned on being on Annie 30min before our first test, and it may sound as though it wasn't enough time but already having a Not So Forward horse, a day of intense heat (for us) and needing to do 3 friggen tests, it was imperative I didn't use up all the horse I had.

I had already had it in mind that if the first two tests went well, I'd scratch my third. It's just TL, so it's not like it's asking much of Annie but I wanted to be fair, esp if she somehow decided to meet me halfway.

We warmed up in the open grass area and after a brief moment wherein Annie forgot how to canter on her left lead, we had a pretty nice warm-up. Unfortunately, she was not so responsive to the legs still but I worked with what I had and tried to keep things simple. Ask first then poke with the spur.

It worked well enough and Horse Show Buddy commented that we looked nice, which made me smile but also made me worry that by the time we'd enter the ring, I'd lose it.

And, we kinda did.

The judge rang the bell and we entered our first test - TL 1.

Cherry picked screenshots.
We had a nice straight entry, but it quickly went bad as Annie plowed into my hands and decided to stop... before X. The judge didn't ding me for it, but it was clear Annie knew the game of the Dressage ring and that we'd halt in the middle... or... close to? I wasn't expecting it, so we kinda floundered into a halt. From there, I'd say the test was OK. Annie wasn't really with me and had the "don't wanna" attitude so I ended up having a very stiff horse to try and circle at E. We fell in and out of the circle a bit, mostly bc she refused to bend around my leg and be a nice riding horse.

I think it was partially bc Annie thought we were done after warm-up and she just didn't wanna. I ended up having to jab her pretty good with the spurs more than a few times, but I am proud of myself for not sitting back and just letting her disobedience continue. Which shows for our canter - she didn't wanna so I spurred and off she went.... hurried, haha.

And from there, our transitions became El Poo Salad. Any down transition we had had Annie slamming on the brakes and me jabbing her back into my hands. I played around a bit in the ring with the amount of seat to use and the amount of forward I needed to get her having before down transitioning.

TL 2 free walk.
For what it's worth, I'm kinda disappointed in our free walk score. We have always scored 7-7.5 and an occasional 8 on it. This Judge just didn't seem to like the fact Annie wasn't really reaching with her hind end. I had a few people comment how beautiful it looked from the stands, so I'm not sure if that's a huge sticking point with the judge bc for me... a horse that is marching and extends their neck downwards is a good enough free walk for TL. But, I digress. It just made me try harder for my next tests.

Once we got things back together after the free walk, it started to flow OK but I still wasn't happy. Annie was resistant in the bridle and unhappy with being poked (maybe just GO then, mare?!). As the test depicts, she was not as supple as she could be and refused to bend. Bc... angry mare.

And with still being super behind the leg, we missed the turn down X for our final centerline and I kinda wiggled my way back to the center. From there, Annie shifted her haunches and although the halt was square, our scores clearly suffered for it.

It was decent enough for a 63% and part of me is embarrassed we're only in the low 60s, but I guess it's better than being in the high 40s and low 50s like last year? #weisnotgoodatdressage

Cat called me over after my test and commended me on making the horse accountable - or trying to - and that I need to prepare myself more with turns and such. Which, like, I tried to, but it's SO hard when you're riding a horse that feels SO fucking sticky. You'd think going slow would make her easier to turn, but we just don't have any oomph to power us through the turns or circles so we wiggle, fall out, etc.


I exited the ring and waited alongside the court for my next test. We had two riders and then would be back in the ring, so I skipped warming up and this was a very large mistake.

I had thought I'd save Annie's energy but it only made her think she was done so when we entered the ring for our second test she was NOT happy.

Looks like a nice trot - this was me trying to get her
ramped up to canter between C and M. 
This test rode OK, because I managed to get her a titch more forward but in my quest for forwards, mare got PISSED and ended up breaking to canter a few times in our final trot circle. Which, I was kinda annoyed with because Annie was just being dramatic about my leg and after leaping into canter once, felt like it would be liberating to do it again... and again. At the end of the test, Cat told me to not to pay much attention to the "3" I earned for the movement due to the disobedience because she understood what kind of demons we were playing around with and I made the right judgement call when she sucked back. Part of me was kinda upset tho because had we gotten a satisfactory number (6 or higher), we would've been close to a 65%. But, what can ya do.

Cat called me over at the end again and we talked about the fact Annie was more resistant in this test than the previous one, but also that I had managed to keep her pretty decently forwards. She also let me know I had only received scores of 6 and above (aside from the one 3). She was happy enough with our free walk to reward a 7, and I literally tried to push as much of a walk out of the mare as she'd allow. Thankfully, mare met me halfway and complied kinda... haha.

Cantering the other way!
That test also earned us a 63% and although I felt like it was worse than our first, I was assured it wasn't. It FELT like complete poo tho - Annie was NOT happy with me making her do the things in the heat, especially when we just TOOK A BREAK THANKS.

I wanted to just finish there, because I was sweaty and tired and frustrated and kinda embarrassed. Cat, however, gave me some pointers at the Judges booth and said, "Now apply it in your next test. Good luck." so I kinda was like... I guess I'll do the thing?

This time, instead of standing around I went back and stood until we were one test out and went back to work. Just walk and trot - getting her in front of the leg and pushing her into the hands. I didn't give a shit and it was time to grow up. She flicked her tail a few times and wasn't happy but kinda gave in and obliged... kind of.

Comparatively, this was our best test of the day. We didn't make giant strides (no pun intended) and only eeked out an even 64% but overall the quality felt better and it felt like Annie was with me more than in previous tests.

I rode my pants off and we had another break to canter at our working trot, but again Cat was sympathetic to it and we actually earned a 5 since I managed to get Annie on board with getting her shit together.

I was happy with this test and all the scores reflect that. We lost rein connection, but I kinda worked with what I had and tried my best to keep her from continuing to giraffe around the arena bc she was mad. But again, kinda hard to push the horse into the bridle when there is no horse to push?

Overall, I'm happy. Initially I was kinda let down but at the same time, it made me realize that if we are getting low 60s without forward, can you imagine what we'd get with forwards (and the subsequent steering abilities that come with it)?! So, it made me feel excited for the future and to keep pushing myself and Annie to get to where we want to be.