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.