Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sensitivity and Reactivity

I had a very eye opening lesson yesterday.  Trainer was kind enough to borrow a horse from one of her clients so I could ride something that wasn't Stinker.  The borrowed horse is still quite young, but he is a total champ and made some things quite apparent.

Who me? Reactive?

I absolutely adore Stinker, but I also won't try to convince anyone that he is a straight forward ride.  Not only is he quite sensitive, but he is also very reactive and is prone to over reactions.  He has made huge strides forward, but the borrowed horse demonstrated that we still have a massive distance to go.

Dis is my thinking face

Moving forward leg acceptance is coming back to the forefront.  I can put my leg on Stinker (that used to result in a meltdown), but it is more like a light brush and doesn't leave me with anything to use to press him into the bridle.  I mostly ride with my seat and thighs and don't do much with my calves, because they cause reactivity. I can leg yield Stinker really easily with my thigh, because he is so sensitive and it is great.  On the flip side I can't use my leg because he tends to hollow upward which is not great.

The borrowed horse reminded me the benefit of being able to push a horse forward into the bridle instead of coaxing and praying a lot to get the horse into the bridle.  It was also really nice because the borrowed horse made it very clear that it wasn't just based on sensitivity level (he is a sensitive fellow too) and that Stinker is still over dramatic with his reactions.

React? Never

I have also developed a horrible habit that Stinker and I kind of cover up together.  Stinker likes to let his haunches trail in on the right side.  I am now riding with my hips in such a manner that I am always pushing the haunches out to the left.  Stinker is getting stronger and straighter and I am still sitting the same way, so I really need to work on getting my right hip forward and open more.

This lesson came at a perfect time, because I have been thinking about what goals I want to set for next year and it really helped to solidify some basic holes I want to get filled.  I am so thankful that trainer has enough faith in my riding that she is willing to turn me loose (in a carefully supervised manner) on her client's horse.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to hop on some other horses periodically, because as trainer said I need to be reminded on occasion what a horse feels like.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Holiday Ho-ing

This was my first year that I wasn't traveling for the holidays and I have to admit that it was really nice.  I had another great lesson on Saturday then went for a short road walk on Sunday.  I was going to ride on Christmas, but got tired and lazy so Stinker got the day off.

Road walking

It was really nice to have a nice quiet Christmas with my parents.  We did some puzzles, watched some football and had a seafood dinner.  My family doesn't really do presents, so I bought most of the things I wanted in the post Thanksgiving sales.  I got a second Kerrits jacket because I wanted one to wear to work and my old one is too gross from being licked (looking at you Stinker).

I also bought myself a pair of Dublin boots.  The first ones (different brand) wore out in a year and I replaced them with unlined rubber boots.  They were great for the south and the summer/fall here, but not so great for my freezing little toes.  I actually have been wearing them to work and doubling up on socks, but they might get swapped to barn boots once we start getting snow.

Post lesson roll

My one surprise gift that was perfect was my brother got me a down vest.  It is lightweight and has a hood.  Sadly, it is some Japanese company and my attempts to google it have been unsuccessful.  But it is pretty awesome, and I am having a hard time trying to decide if I want to keep it for work or make it riding wear.  I really want to get a second one so I don't have to make that decision.

He wanted no part of the Christmas selfie

I got a few other things like wormer, adequan, and other non fun things.  Of course, I couldn't resist the Dark Jewel Design and If The Bonnet Fits sales, but I don't have them yet so I am pretending like I didn't go too crazy.  Hopefully, this will keep my tack ho card intact for awhile because I am currently pouring all my extra money into lessons before trainer goes on vacation.  I am really behind on blogging about my lessons, but I will probably lump them all into one post.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Presents! (aka Blogger Secret Santa)

I absolutely love participating in this.  I always find new blogs and it gives me an excuse to shop, so what isn't to love about it?  Tracy does a fabulous job organizing it every year.  This year I got a present from EquiNovice.

Adorable wrapping paper

She had the cutest wrapping paper which I actually remember to take a picture of before I destroyed it.  Stinker got peppermints.  Then there was purple stirrup cover, a back on track ear fleece (which I am super excited about because screw the cold), an adorable tall boot riding ornament, and finally some super cute microbe magnets.  Thank you for the awesome gift!

The haul

In other news the Christmas miracle of the year happened the other night.  We had high winds the other night (30 mph average and up to 50 mph gusts) so there was a lot of flying dirt.  I decided to put Cowboy's fly mask on him, but he wouldn't let me get near him with it.  So I said screw it and put it on Stinker.  He immediately trying to remove it, so as I left I sent a text saying "What are the odds that I can find the damn thing in the morning?"  My guess was zero, but the next morning not only could I find it, IT WAS STILL ON!

Color me shocked.  That is the first time he was unsuccessful in removing something he didn't want to wear.  I guess because he couldn't use his mouth on it, he wasn't nearly so clever.  Maybe I should actually buy him one so he has time to figure out how to remove it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Just A Tweak

After a lot of back and forth and scheduling issues I finally got the saddle fitter out to double check the adjustments that my old fitter had done off of pictures.  Something had felt off and Stinker didn't feel like he was totally comfortable, but I couldn't pinpoint what was wrong nor did trainer notice anything.

He didn't think much of his hat

The fitter looked at the saddle and looked at Stinker and said things looked really good.  Especially when you consider all the changes had been made remotely.  He wiggled and fiddled and finally said that the left font pocket might need a touch more air.

Sunrise barn door

Stinker fidgeted quite a bit when I was tacking him up and got a little antsy at the block (standard signs he isn't totally comfortable).  He started off pretty tense but after a few circles he sighed and relaxed.  I guess the tiny bit of air made a big difference for him.  He has been really good since the adjustment and the fidgeting has decreased quite a bit.  It is nice that he lets me know when there is a little problem before it becomes a big problem.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Time Flies

Three years ago yesterday, D picked up the little Stinker and brought him home.  Part of me doesn't want to believe that much time has gone by.  If you count halt as a gait we are averaging a gait per year as far as training goes.  But really it is just a weird mixture of "has that much time gone by?" and "OMG what was life like without him??"

Little baby Stinker

It has been a roller coaster with him.  Between the EPM causing physical issues and his sensitive nature sometimes it felt like I wasn't going to get anywhere with him.  The first year I had him, I started wondering about soundness issues maybe two months in.  Then it was another almost four months before I could really start working with him.  And holy crap were we a hot mess.  I mean we aren't fabulous now by any means, but damn it was bad.

Not even the worst of them

At the beginning of year two I finally gave up on used saddles and got my saddle.  Hands down the best decision I made.  He finally started walking, the bolting decreased, and a line of communication was also opened.  I spent months and months just walking and asking him to stretch.  It was boring, but slowly he was putting muscle back on and the vet visits got further apart.  At the very end we muddled our way through our first schooling show.  It was not impressive, but he gave me the best work he was capable of and I got all the feels.

Not ready for intro A horse doing intro A

Year three was basically a hot hot mess.  I knew I was moving, either with the bosses (what happened) or finding a new job (not near where I was).  I was so worried that he was going to have a relapse with the EPM when I moved him.  I ended up giving him the high roller treatment for the move (seriously cost as much to move him as it did to move myself), but I don't regret it in the least.  The peace of mind and his comfort was well worth the price.

The changes he has gone through since he got here has blown my mind.  I can't express how much I love having all the trails and hills.  Plus being able to have him on turnout full time has really helped his brain.  He has packed on weight and muscle and doesn't even look like the same horse.

Every year has been a steady improvement and hopefully our fourth year together will be the best one yet.  He wasn't what I was expecting and yet he has been just what I needed.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Goal Wrap Up

I blew off the fourth quarter goals.  Mostly because I can't keep track of time and I totally forgot about them, then I got lazy and didn't feel like writing something up for the very end.  Also, this year turned out to be a hot mess for me personally so I was relieved just to survive and to have Stinker doing so well.  Overall, I hit most of my year goals for him.

2017 Year Goals

  • Solid WTC (Kind of sort of.  We aren't solid in the canter, but we are cantering some)
  • Travel new places (Well I think half way across the country ought to count.  He did better than I could have hoped for)
  • Schooling shows (This was more to help prep for moving, and now he gets hauled to lessons 2-3 times a month)
  • Happy and healthy (So far so good!)
  • Improve my position (I am making some progress, but there is still lots of room for improvement.)
  • Get my stress shopping under control (Depended on the month.  I am just going to go with not thinking about this month.)
  • Improve my fitness (I alternated between stress shopping and stress eating and sometimes both.  Neither of which help the fitness)

I am still impressed that anything was accomplished.  Moving consumed a large portion of my spring/summer, then adjusting to all the life changes was challenging.  Hopefully things well settle down into a holding pattern this winter and next year will be a little less challenging.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Yesterday morning, I was slow and it was cold so I ended up not riding, but when I got home I realized I have another lesson on Saturday and probably should really ride my horse.  I don't have any lights, but the moon was really bright.  So I decided to see what happened if I rode him in the mostly dark.

Preferred evening position

Poor Stinker was very puzzled what the heck was happening.  He just wanted his nighttime hay and not to be tacked up.  I turned the barn lights off before I put the bridle on so he had time for his eyes to adjust back to the dark.  I think that was a poor choice because he got really nervous.  He was quite antsy at the mounting block.

Once I walked him out to the ring he went to work but was still quite tense.  My plan was to just walk him and get him settled and stretching.  It didn't take very long to get that accomplished, which was lucky for me, because my toes were freezing already.  So he got a face full of cookies and some extra alfalfa mix.  I was quite impressed with how well he worked in the mostly dark.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Weekend Whiplash

Saturday the weather was amazing and we went for a longer trail ride.  I haven't been taking Stinker out on the hills because his saddle has been slipping on the flat and I knew the hills would be worse.  But I decided if I got off him and walk most of them and did frequent adjutants he would be fine.  Plus I didn't think I could stand another ride on the flat parts since up in the hills are my favorite places to explore.

So off we went.  We climbed up to a new hilltop that I hadn't been on before and the view was amazing.  Stinker doesn't really understand the whole weaving around brush yet and he gets nervous and goes to plowing through it and not paying attention to his feet.  So I got off and walked him a good portion of the way home.  It was also partially because he has been a turd going home and wants to jig.  Handwalking is an excellent way to deal with this because I can force him to walk extra slow and there is no fighting or frustrations.  By the time I got back on him, he was more than ready to walk normally.

Overnight a storm blew in and I woke up to the sound of ice pelting the windows.  It kind of sort of snowed, but mostly it was windy and cold.  I thought I might have to blanket Stinker, but he was fluffy and sassy and gave no appearance of being cold.  Although he didn't appreciate it when I tried to use him to warm up my cold hands.  That resulted in much swishing of the tail and pinning of ears.  Sorry not sorry buddy.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Making The Most Of It

I seem to be very short on time of late, but I am getting to be a pro at 20-30 minute rides during the week.  I think it has actually been really helpful for Stinker.  Nothing gets drilled over and over again.  He has to go right to work and then we are done.  Considering how well he is going, I think it is much better than longer rides because I don't have time to get fixated on one thing.

I am still doing some trail riding, but I have cut way back since his saddle fit still isn't 100%.  Hopefully that will be resolved next week.  It was supposed to happen last month, but the fitter had an accident and broke some ribs and was unable to travel.  I can't wait since it feels unfair when things aren't just right.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Abort Mission

I am quite socially awkward and am terrible at making friends.  Basically, the only way I make friends is if a super social person adopts me.  So far this move I haven't found someone to adopt me.  It is doubly hard, because I am not boarding so I really don't meet people.  I decided to try and push myself outside of my little happy antisocial bubble and go to a GMO meeting.

Socks and I have the same feelings on socializing

It was not what I was expecting.  All the people were really nice and welcoming, but it was very different from the chapter I had previously been in.  The old chapter really wanted people besides the board members to attend and they brought in speakers and what not to get more people to attend.  This one was the board members plus a couple of people that were joining the board.  Whoops.

He is always happy to ham it up

They did try to con me into being the social chair.  I did my usual awkward turtle self and just sat there while they all turned and looked expectantly at me.  I think that was a pretty strong cue that they didn't actually want me as the social chair.  My idea of a good time is hiding and not talking to people.  Maybe hanging out in the corner with a random cute dog.  I also decided I don't drink enough to hang with the dressage ladies.  Hopefully, now that I have met some of the people I can get a little more involved and find another oddball like me.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Storm Prep

I am slowly figuring out what does and doesn't work for stormy weather.  So far there hasn't been snow, so I am using these rain storms as test runs for when it does snow.  The first time around I discovered that the horses can't be fed hay in their usual buckets and the stall I use for Stinker doesn't do well with high wind plus moisture.

I decided to try hay nets to see if that would reduce the amount of wasted hay.  Cowboy strongly objects to this.  The first hay net I hung didn't even last 2 hours.  I repaired it and decided to try again.  This time around it stayed hanging, but he ripped four massive holes in it in under four hours.  I am aware these hay nets aren't top of the line quality, but at the same time Stinker used one all of last winter without putting any holes in it.

My next problem was the amount of rain that blew into Stinker's stall.  We get high winds frequently and when you combine it with heavy rain, it isn't a pretty sight.  I decided the easiest thing to do would be to switch the empty stall and make it Stinker's stall so I would have more time to figure out the best way to prevent the rain from blowing in.

So much wet

This led me to discovering the automatic waterer in the empty stall doesn't seem to be working quite right.  I had previously had it turned off because it wasn't being used and it prevent the bowl from getting gross.  When I turned it back on it over flowed and made a big mess.  I am going to have to find the instruction booklet and hope I can figure out what the problem is.

I also got the ring drug and redistributed the footing.  The wind had blown it to one end of the ring, so I had to do quite a bit of shuffling to get it even again.  Then I got to watch the wind blow and move everything around.

I wanted to ride in it so badly

Hopefully I can get these little kinks figured out before winter hits and I am cussing up a storm.  Does anyone have a favorite tough hay net that isn't super expensive in case Cowboy destroys it?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lies Lies Lies

I had another fabulous lesson this weekend, but I realized my perception lies to me frequently.  And by frequently I mean ALL THE DAMN TIME.  I realized by glancing in the mirror when I think Stinker has his head really low, it is about the max I should allow it to be.  I am still weighting my right seat bone too much and collapsing through that side.  My concept of me sitting upright is improving but I still lean too far forward.

It is really interesting and annoying at how much my body lies to me.  But I also have plenty of things to work on this winter.  Hopefully I can make some improvements in myself over the winter and by next spring they will be my new habits.

The sunset plus fresh snowcapped mountains was stunning

I continue to be amazed at what a trooper Stinker is.  I had ridden him Wednesday morning before the storm came through.  It started raining on Wednesday and continued through Thursday evening.  Friday was cold and everything was sloppy from all the rain so I didn't ride.  Then I hauled out to my lesson on Saturday.  The indoor was super busy.  There were jump lessons, other dressage lessons, plus people riding on their own all happening.  I really haven't ridden with Stinker with much traffic.

He started off really nervous, but after a few circles he took a deep breath and went to work.  Trainer was so impressed, because she saw him not wanting to stand at the mounting block and being anxious to start.  Mostly we worked on me maintaining the contact and not throwing it away when he stretches for it.  I was rewarded with some really consistent trot work when I maintained the connection.  Funny how that works.

Always watching

We even did a tiny bit of canter the one way and holy crap it was good.  The rhythm was there, he was balanced, didn't zip off, and came right back to the trot.  I really wish I had it on video because one of the ladies that was riding was watching (I think she was watching because I made her nervous when I said he likes to get zippy) and said "Oh he is so cute!"  Which honestly I think that might be the first time I have heard that when riding.  Another lady was asking me about him after my lesson too.

It felt way better than that

I had to laugh at the end of my lesson Trainer was talking to me about how he was just too tense still and was asking me about things I have done to try to get him to relax more.  His tension has decreased so much that I am fooled into thinking that he is relaxed.  Which in comparison to what I started with he has relaxed, but I do agree that there is still improvements to be made.  I will admit I did have a moment of "Seriously?" before I acknowledged that yes he has improved but there is still progress to be made.  Those darn lies will get you every time.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Winter Firecracker

Wednesday morning I snuck in one last ride before the storm rolled through.  Unfortunately, the wind had already started to pick up and Stinker was lit up.  We had a very strong discussion about the mounting block.  He thought standing was optional, I thought he was being a tool.  We agreed upon pausing the prancing long enough for me to swing over.

Best I could manage on my spinning giraffe

There was much prancing and giraffe like behavior on the way to the ring.  I figured I was going to be in for a long ride and I was just hoping to get him to relaxed enough to get some decent walk and call it a day.  Instead, after a few circles and a couple reminders the he can lower his head, he started stretching and reaching for the bridle way more than normal.

Much sass

The trot work was about average, but I was so impressed with how he harnessed the nutty energy and went to work.  Granted he was a butt on the ground and immediately went to chewing on Cowboy when I turned him back out, but I will take it if it means I can get a decent ride in as a storm is blowing in.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Data Data Data

I was originally going to sit on this for longer until I had a larger data set, but I couldn't stand myself. While my saddle was gone I got an equisense.  I have wanted one ever since I first learned about them last year, but struggled to justify the price.  Some how being sad because I couldn't ride made it a lot easier to justify #tackhopro

The app gives you a lot of information.  It breaks down your ride time into walk, trot, canter, and halt.  Records the number of transitions and jumps that you do.  Shows how long you spend going each direction and then breaks that down by gait.  Records the symmetry, which analyzes the half strides in the trot to identify abnormalities.  For example a weaker hind leg will alter the symmetry score (graded out of 10).  The frequency of strides per minute in each gait plus the regularity of them (hint jigging drops the regularity).  The elevation in all the gaits is also measured.

The app gives a lot of cool graphs, but I got side tracked by comparing lunging, long lining, riding, and my last lesson to see if there are differences.  I was expecting to see large differences between the ground work and the riding, because he still carries more tension with a rider.

First up, the differences in symmetry between riding and hand jogging him.  Because I suck at long lining and the programs requires trotting in a straight line I hand jog him on the non riding days.  He averages around a 7 which shows up in green so I am assuming that is pretty good.  It doesn't surprise me that the riding is lower (between 5-6), because I struggle keeping him working correctly on straight lines.

I am not sure what the elevation really tells me.  I did notice there is a drop in elevation when I am riding compared to ground work.  That doesn't surprise me because I am intentionally keeping him in a smaller trot to help his balance when I am riding.

The only other interesting trend I noticed was the frequency of the walk increases when I am riding (not surprising), but there is also an increase in the regularity (surprising).  Based on my understanding if your horse gets a 10 for regularity it is like a metronome.  So while his walk is a little hurried it is more consistent when I am riding.

I am loving having the equisense and I am (clearly) really excited to have all the data.  I also think it will be really interesting to see how the trends change over time.  Hopefully as he gets stronger and we make progress it will be reflected in the numbers.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Plugging Along

In the lesson last weekend we kept plugging along and working on getting him more consistent in the trot and started touching on transitions.  Stinker's idea of a transition is dropping his back, tossing his head up, and flinging himself into an up transition.  I have known all along that this is problematic, but I didn't have him mentally squared away to address the issue.

Transition into a giraffe

Previously, if I repeated transitions he would have a total meltdown which was totally counterproductive.  So I mostly ignored them when I was riding and only drilled them from the ground.  This lesson was focused on timing them better.  The timing is a challenge, because after a couple he starts anticipating and it gets more difficult to create good moments in which I can ask.

The whole idea is to have him nice and soft and reaching and then gently ask him to step up into the trot.  I struggle with finding the right amount of ask.  He is so sensitive that I keep over asking and surprising him which automatically sends him into giraffe mode.  The best way to ask is to have him walking on a small circle and then very carefully slide into a trot rhythm while asking him to stretch and soften.

It sounds easy, but it is also a lot to manage.  There was a fair amount of jigging and I started riding backwards (because that always helps), finally trainer got me turning sharper anytime he jigged.  I wasn't allowed to change anything besides turning.  That really helped to smooth things out and we got some good (for us) transitions.

We also started tackling all the ways my body lies.  It is no secret that I have hip issues.  I didn't realize how uneven my hips have gotten.  It used to be that I struggled to open to the right.  Now I basically always have my hips over rotated to the right.  In order to sit evenly I need to think about my left seat bone more which seems to even me out.

Monday, November 6, 2017


So much of the horse world is about snap first judgments.  I am guilty of it.  I frequently make snap judgments on turnout and grooming and muscling of horses when I first see them.  In turn I have a horse who has consistently been thin with poor muscling and a distinctly upside down neck.  I was worried when I was trying to find a new trainer that they would take one look at him and assume it was from my riding/care.

Can't beat a good outfit for boosting confidence

After my first lesson new trainer did mention a few people that were closer to me as possibilities for me to try.  I choose to ignore that and basically begged for her to schedule us for another lesson.  I knew that she was going to be good for us, and I am a firm believer in riding with the best that you can afford.  I would like to think we are growing on her.

Who needs toys when you have feed pans

Stinker is such a character and he tries really hard.  The horse doesn't have a dishonest bone in his body and we have developed a relationship that allows me to say "it's ok" and he listens.  I would like to think that I am a good student.  I work very hard to carry my lessons over into my rides at home.  I listen and ask questions when I don't understand something.  I have a decent feel for the horse and I am willing to experiment with things.  All of those things together make me a fairly good student.

I still don't have things unpacked but they are at least neat now

I think slowly we are changing her perception of us.  She asked me how many rides I had gotten in since I got my saddle back.  I answered two.  She looked surprised.  I guess she wasn't expecting me to schedule things so quickly, but lessons keep me on track and keep me from running off the deep end of crazy.  Then she started looking at him, and asking what I had been doing with him.  She thought he had gained quite a bit of muscle in his hind quarters and he also pack on some weight (his girth is almost too small).

6 saddles for two horses #tackhopro

My hope is that we will be able to continue to build over the winter and keep changing the perception.  I am already counting down the days until the time changes again and thinking about our goals for next year.  This year was all about surviving all of the changes and keeping him happy and healthy, and honestly we have surpassed my hopes for this year.  He looks way better than I hoped for and is in a much better place mentally with full time turnout.

Friday, November 3, 2017

It's Back

I finally finally finally got my saddle back.  I was so excited to actually be able to ride.  It was also nice that Stinker was a trooper and went right to work.  I don't think the saddle is fitting quite as well as I want it too, but hopefully I will be able to get that fixed in the next couple of weeks without having to send it anywhere again.

I was very curious to see how he would do after two weeks of no riding.  I did do long lining and lunging with him, but I limited myself to 3 times a week and gave him a full week off at the beginning.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well he was working.  The trot is slowly getting more consistent.  He is still too inverted and hides behind the contact, but he finally looks like he is moving in the correct direction.  And to make things even better I got a video of some trot work.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Yes Dear

I am quite good at being super awkward and embarrassing the crap out of myself, but my latest one is too funny not to share.

Monday I was driving home and I had been talking to my mom and I wanted to get off the phone but she kept having one more thing.  I finally got off the phone with her and almost immediately it started ringing again.  I answered it without looking at the called ID.  First mistake.

Second mistake was me saying, "Yes dear?"

There was a long pause and then a decidedly male voice, "May I speak with blah blah?"

Of course I get flustered and start stuttering while frantically trying to see the caller ID to figure out who the hell I was talking to.  It was the farrier calling to schedule the appointment this week.

I stammered something about how I thought I was talking to someone else.  Duh.  He was very polite and didn't laugh at me while on the phone (he is a much better person than I am).  And thankfully, I was at work during the appointment so I don't have to see him for another five weeks.  Hopefully next time I can remember to look at the caller ID.