pride in glacial movement

You know, sometimes I think about and write out these things and I’m like “Why am I even writing this?! Who will read this who doesn’t know this already?!” ¬†I think this because, for the most part, my readership seems to be other bloggers. ¬†And¬†in my experience, bloggers are much more thoughtful about their actions ad behaviors than the general public. ¬†I suspect¬†it comes from writing things out all the time; there’s deep reflection that happens both on the page and in the brain that makes you much more aware of what you’re doing and what goes on around you.

So I’m going to write this out regardless.

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I’m not exactly experienced in the horse world, but I’ve been around for enough years to see a few young horses work through several programs, and to be indoctrinated in the ways of Denney Emerson. ¬†I’ve also followed a few Rolexes, dreamed of jumping so high, and in the last 19 months, started working with a young horse almost from the ground up. ¬†Almost.

When I first started riding Murray I had dreams of doing the Young Event Horse series. ¬†Then I realised we would be expected to run Novice at 4 years old, and Training at 5, and promptly scrapped that idea. ¬†No way he or I was going to be ready for Novice at 4!! ¬†Then I thought I’d show Beginner Novice our first year out, and probably move up to Novice around June of 2015. ¬†And here I am. ¬†A month into 2015 with not a single BN show to our name (well, a derby), and no plans to move up to Novice at least until the end of the year.

And I’m pretty happy with it.

Don’t get me wrong. ¬†I had great hopes that Murray would be the second coming of Neville Bardos and impress us all with his naturally soft nature, self-carriage, mad hops, and quirky personality, all rolled into¬†a little dark back package. ¬†So I was, naturally, a little disappointed when Murray failed to live up to the outlaw’s reputation.


Boyd is Australian, I’m Australian… can’t you just see the resemblance?

So we spent all of 2014 developing relaxation and rhythm on the flat, and relaxation and rhythm when faced with jumps. ¬†We jumped 2′, 2’3″, and 2’6″. ¬†And then we hung out there for a while. ¬†Like, for nine months. ¬†And now¬†we jump 2’9″ and sometimes 3′ and even 3’3″ occasionally and that’s pretty badass.

cbed8-pony1So shiny pre-winter… fucking winter.

Compared to professional riders, young event horse competitors, and even some of the teenagers around me, Murray and I are moving at a pretty glacial pace. ¬†Like… did we really just spend nine months jumping 2’3″-2’6″? ¬†Yeah, that happened. ¬†In that time¬†though, Murray went from being a little concerned about and confused by jumping to eager to jump and really, really into jumping. ¬†Like, drags me towards the jumps in my dressage saddle into jumping. ¬†Murray got strong, confident, and independent. ¬†He knows how to go when I pick a spot, how to ignore the spot I pick, and how to pick a spot when I don’t see one. ¬†He can pop up¬†high and tight from a deep spot or fly over from a little longer one. ¬†He rarely takes rails, doesn’t back off to combos, and will always save my butt (if I don’t screw it up too much).

Since I jumped 3’3″ in my lesson Thursday, do I want to run out to XC and tear it up around Novice and Training jumps? ¬†You bet your ass I do. ¬†But it is so much better for us to not do that — for both Murray and me. ¬†So I stay honest with myself and¬†remind myself¬†why we spent all this time doing things slowly.

You see, I honestly think that this long, slow learning period is key to our success. ¬†Murray is so strong and confident now that nothing really phases him. ¬†Because we’ve taken things so slowly, Murray doesn’t really understand failing at something he tries to do. ¬†When we go away from home, he can jump anything and everything I point him at, because I pointedly avoid looking at anything without an BN or I stamped on it. ¬†And I think that this makes Murray feel like a fucking¬†winner. ¬†Because he wins at everything he does.

So this weekend, I will take my 2’3″ and 2’6″ and¬†maybe 2’9″ classes and be proud of them. ¬†And Murray will get another win under his belt. ¬†And I’ll be proud of him, for winning, and¬†of both of us, for rocking the glacier.

Lesson Recap 1/29 & big girl news

First the big girl news: I applied for my first adult job yesterday! ¬†I had to write a cover letter and everything. ¬†I revamped my CV into a resume (more challenging than you’d think, when you’ve been total CV-oriented for the last six years), got some references, and put in for a job where I’ll be able to stay at my current barn for at least a little while. ¬†Boom! ¬†Being an adult.

Now, lesson recap!

Had a great pre-show lesson¬†Thursday morning, with yet another crazy twisty indoor course. ¬†Show is on Sunday starting at 8 AM, and our barn is just doing jumper classes. ¬†I’m going to start at 2’3″ and do 2’6″ and move up to 2’9″ if we’re feeling good. ¬†Which, after today, seems likely.

1-29We started with a red vertical, which I’m so glad I can trust Murray to take at an angle because it was off a tough turn and I saw some rough rides to it in earlier lessons this week. ¬†Rolled back to the sharkstooth and bending line in 7-8 to another vertical. ¬†Another rollback to a one-stride, then all the way around the arena to the fan oxer and a normal oxer 6 strides later.

Murray was, of course, extremely honest, and very careful. ¬†Out of many deep spots, he took down only one rail, and that one was actually with his hind end when I sat too soon. ¬†I was still a little bit all over the place, but Alana put up my stirrups so that I could sink down into my ankles better and use my knee angle more appropriately. ¬†This helped a bit, but I think the biggest part of me feeling “all over the place” has been that my form has deteriorated. ¬†Previously, I had a really solid not-quite-half-seat where my heels were at the girth and my seat just barely brushed the saddle with each canter stride. ¬†Now, when I try to approximate this seat my heels are a few inches back from the girth and I can get a little heavy in the saddle. ¬†I obviously just need to practice this more. ¬†Murray used to keep my honest by bolting and running out if I didn’t half this¬†perfect half-half-seat, but now he’s honest enough that he’ll go even without. ¬†Curse, you amazing pony! ¬†I was also throwing my upper body over the jumps too readily, a problem that always seems to rear its ugly head when we move up.

Here’s a video, not my best riding. ¬†Honestly, should really ride better at these heights (3’3″ on the fan and oxer), so¬†I’m working on it.

Despite my whining, there was a lot to like about this lesson. ¬†First of all, Murray jumps big and is totally honest and takes it all —¬†long spots, deep spots, whatever. ¬†We got rid of the seemingly “decreasing” step that I felt last week, and everything came to us in stride, even when we did take deep spots. ¬†We only had one refusal, which was my fault, and otherwise I managed to stay out of his way. ¬†Murray was uphill, forward, and responsive, and we took the twisty, turny course really well. ¬†We also practiced including a jump-off course! ¬†I’ve never ridden a jump-off, so I had no idea what to expect. ¬†After my first round at 2’6″ I asked Alana for a jump-off and we threw together five more jumps that I managed to navigate to without losing any impulsion or attention from Murray.

It was also a fantastic lesson for confidence building — I love jumping big before a show. ¬†Knowing that we can course 3′ and jump 3’3″ with room to spare really makes me feel good for our anticipated classes.

Moving forward, here’s what I will be working on with Murray and myself:
– slow my upper body and separate my arms from my upper body (i.e. autorelease without throwing myself at the jumps)
– sink deep into my heels and keep them at the girth
– set Murray up for the jumps and let him move to them
– grids and poles

TOABH: Worth 1k Words

Worth 1k Words
Let’s share our favorite photos of our stud muffins. ¬†No limit.

I share pictures of my ponykins here a lot, but Beka has given me free rein to share more! MWAHAHAHAHA.

2012-6-1 2012-6Before he was mine

1463746_681994785174666_1547265509_nFirst XC together last November

Camelot Horse Trials -- but mostly tribulations!Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’m never letting you put your head down again.

2014-07-10 12.17.26Miserable in his practice braids

IMG_7815IMG_7816IMG_7817IMG_7818
Mad hops

2014-11-13 09.38.59 2014-09-25 13.03.23
We got 1/16th of an inch of rain and I had too much fun…

IMG_8458Galloping fool

14627101506_4b0c8518f2_oNot happy, Jan

2014-07-12 10.05.32Sleepy after dressage

IMG_3924Bieber hair

IMG_20141115_134950 SAMSUNGBooty call

IMG_7843Trying to be fancy

IMG_9338One of those 10+ jumper moments….

2014-09-25 13.04.12Ummmm did you take a selfie on my phone?

2015-01-21 21.23.00Babushka

the other half of equestrian fitness

There‚Äôs been a¬†bit of buzz in the equestrian blogosphere lately regarding fitness goals and a fitness blog hop to help us keep one another accountable.¬† I am all for using friends to keep yourself accountable ‚Äď just the other night I made a riding date with a friend¬†at 8:30 so we could both get a late night ride in when otherwise we would have just gone home! ¬†Since it‚Äôs January, show season is approaching but is not quite upon us, and with all this talk of human fitness on the table, I thought we might want to consider the other half of equestrian fitness¬†‚Äď PONY FITNESS!

IMG_5096Who doesn’t want to do gallop sets?!

If you‚Äôve followed Denney Emerson on Facebook for more than four months or so*, you‚Äôve probably come across one of his diatribes regarding the NOW NOW NOW attitude of, well, now, and how poorly that translates into horse fitness.¬† Denney‚Äôs philosophy is to take the long way to equine fitness ‚Äď thousands of easy miles, hundreds of moderate ones, and some intense ones over many, many years.¬† I love this idea, and I wish I‚Äôd been more rigorous about following it.¬† Sure, Murray has been in pretty consistent 5-6 day a week work for 18 months now, but that work has not had an overarching theme of increasing his fitness.¬† It‚Äôs kindof like the X-Files: monster-of-the-week fit into over-arching season-long plots that all fit into ten epic years of Mulder and Scully and the Black Oil mystery.

To say I’m obsessed with horse fitness is an understatement.  I think about it a lot and, even though I kinda suck at it, try my hardest to plan aspects of fitness building into all of my rides. My personal spirit guide on the journey to pony fitness is Equine Fitness by Jec Ballou.  There have been several reviews of it around, so I’m not going to say too much here.  However, it is well worth the $15 and can be at your house in two days with Amazon Prime!  In order to appreciate Ballou’s hard work and avoid violating copywright, I’m also going to try to avoid posting too much of the content here.  What I will do is post my program for fitness, and invite you all to follow along!

I think those of you looking to increase your own fitness might be surprised by how much the conditioning exercises in a rigorous fitness program will help.  I know that riding only one horse a day isn’t exactly the fitness workout of champions, but I certainly do a lot more walking and resting during my rides than I realized before I started this!

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Before you can embark on your fitness journey, you need to figure out your starting point and your plan.

Step One BUY EQUINE FITNESS!
If you can’t afford this amazing book, follow along with the many bloggers who write about fitness, and check out Ballou’s own equine fitness blog.

Step Two¬† Get yo’self a timepiece!
A stopwatch is essential in this fitness program.  I personally like this one:

300 Memory timer Stopwatch 470

You can program two different intervals into it and they repeatedly count down and cycle, so you don‚Äôt have to worry about keeping on resetting the timer — however, my familiarity with it is probably why I love it so much. ¬†However, any watch with at least one countdown timer function will do — and they can be had for as little as $15. ¬†I had originally used my eventing watch for this, but there just isn‚Äôt enough functionality (in a freaking $55 watch I expect a LOT MORE. Optimum Time and other watch makers ‚Äď get your shit together).¬† What I do is stuff my stopwatch into my iPod armband to stop it from flopping all over the place. ¬†Don’t want to spend money on a ¬†stopwatch? ¬†Just use your regular wristwatch! ¬†Just a little bit of mental meth math required (OOPS Freudian slip!!!).

If you don’t have a stopwatch, you need to make sure you at least have a watch or a clock in the arena to pay attention to.  I see lots of riders jump on, walk around a bit, trot a bit, canter a bit, do some changes if their horse has them, and then walk out of the arena 20 minutes later to cool down.  These riders seriously think they put in a 45 minute ride and wonder why their horse sweats so much during their actually 45-minute lessons.  Without a watch, and with our arena clock broken, you just can’t monitor your rides that closely, and cell phones are just not that accessible to me.

Step Three Determine your baselines.

Before you can develop a program, you ought to know where your horse is at with fitness.  This will vary with the level of training your horse has, their age, and their breed.  In the first RRP TV episode, Dale Simonton (a rancher who works with quarter horses and thoroughbreds) says that in his experience, a relatively unfit TB is pretty similar to a fairly-fit quarter horse, so you’ll need to adapt your program to your horse’s needs.

 vs 
Shit just ain’t fair

I don’t have a heart rate monitor and it’s actually really hard for me to evaluate Murray’s breathing while I’m mounted, so I monitor his forwardness, willingness, and enthusiasm while doing our conditioning exercises.  However, this year I’m going to take baseline measurements to get a better understanding of Murray’s fitness level.  Increasing fitness should see, over time, decreasing baseline heart and respiration rates.

Do you and your horse trot consistent ten-minute sets during your rides? Awesome!¬† As per above, you‚Äôd be surprised how many horses I know that never do a full ten minutes of trotting during a ride, unless it‚Äôs a lesson, and possibly not even then. ¬†One of Ballou’s exercises¬†has you working up to ten minute trot sets in each direction, with a canter¬†break in the middle.¬† Yeah, it‚Äôs cray/awesome.¬† This, and more!!, is where we‚Äôre headed.

I wish I knew some kind of baseline fitness ‚Äútest‚ÄĚ for horses, but alas, I don‚Äôt (if you do, let me know!).¬† Instead, I‚Äôm going to start out with easy exercises from Equine Fitness this week and work up to harder ones and harder ones as the weeks and months progress.¬† I‚Äôm not too stressed if we start out easier than Murray needs ‚Äď easy miles add to fitness too.

My baseline fitness set includes two sets of 3 min trot, 1 min canter, each direction (no break in between sets). ¬†I’m going to monitor how forward and willing Murray is during these sets, and increase my program from there.

Step Four Understand your strengths and weaknesses.

All horses AND riders are asymmetrical, it’s a fact of life.  Murray, for example, is extremely left-handed and is much stronger through his left side than his right side.  Unfortunately, I too am very left-side-dominant when riding, and tend to drop my right shoulder and pinch my right knee, thus exacerbating Murray’s problems.  This means that Murray is much stronger trotting left, but has a much better right canter depart (because his strong foot is the one that kicks off), and he struggles to maintain the right lead on counter-canter.

foster_januaryBritt from¬†A House on A Hill made this ingenious comparison of her Foster’s¬†booty to look at his unevenness!

Different horses are asymmetrical in different ways; you can be stronger on diagonal limbs (right hind and left fore, for example) or through one side. ¬†Understanding your horse‚Äôs asymmetry is extremely important, and will guide the type, number, and repetitions of the exercises you choose to place in your fitness program.¬† Working the weak side is harder, and a lot of riders simply avoid the weaker lead or track, which is, in my opinion, exactly the wrong approach! ¬†¬†Ballou encourages riders to stretch and limber your horse equally, by understanding why one side is weaker than the other — is it due to shortened/contracted muscles on that side, or stiffness? ¬†I personally like to also work Murray’s weak direction more during these¬†limbering exercises (shoulder in, leg yields, spiral in/out) as long as he stays loose and doesn’t become resistant.

I love the routine of a fitness program, and would love to hear about yours too!  As I work through my weekly equine fitness plans, you can follow along and develop your own, and post it in the comments or on your own blog!  Together but apart, our ponies will all get super fit!

* There is also a cycle of Denney Emerson ‚Äď perhaps I‚Äôll write about¬†it sometime.

run for the hills! (weekend recap)

I had a lovely Saturday morning, updating my pony journal, planning our fitness program, and drinking pour-over coffee with my kitten.

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He is getting quite large. It’s sad, but at least he’s still a snuggler.

Milo also loves to play with Bolt, my roomie’s dog. ¬†They’re freaking adorable together.

bolt and milo on Make A Gif

My drive to the barn was rudely interrupted when a black Ford Explorer made a super questionable left turn right in front of me and slowly pulled out at like 35 mph on a 55 mph road, requiring me to slow down and honk, which I did happily. ¬†Unfortunately the driver continued at her glacial pace until the next stop sign, where I was gladly rid of her. ¬†Fortunately, Queen’s “Somebody To Love” came up on the radio so I could blast it and shed my sadness.

That is definitely a potential show name.

Had an uneventful but good ride, with lunging beforehand, and Murray was very compliant. ¬†I took it easy so I could have a harder ride Sunday with hills. ¬†Unfortunately, Murray may be moving stalls soon because his neighbor has been chewing on his neck, rather close to his jugular. ¬†So once the days get longer and more horses switch over to night turnout, I’ll switch Murray to some (hopefully) slightly less playful/bitey neighhhhhbors.

IMG_20150124_130840Are you sensing a theme here?

Sunday morning the Tule fog was super strong, and visibility was only about 50 yards. ¬†As I blasted my way down to the barn a CHP officer coming the other direction flashed his lights at me, for which I say “thank you, kindly CHP officer for not giving me a ticket!” ¬†Speeding. ¬†The crime we all commit.

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Anyway, got the highlighter pink pony out of his pasture (I will NEVER lose him, thanks to Schneiders!) and prepped him for HILLS. ¬†The fog had lifted somewhat when my friend and I pulled out, and it took us about 25 minutes to get to my trainer’s house. ¬†The property is beautiful — 12 acres of gentle hills, some pipe-paneled paddocks for the horses with nice shelters, and most importantly¬†no ground squirrel holes!!! ¬†Gallop sets, here we come. Murray grew to his full 16.1 hands upon seeing the earth-moving machinery at the back of the property (there’s a creek that runs through that needed to be fixed from a diversion, evidently).

IMG_20150125_104327The only time he looks big to me.

But he soon settled.

IMG_20150125_104111I’m just here for the food.

A pano of my trainer’s property, rudely interrupted by Murray pulling me away for more grass.

hills on Make A Gif

What you can’t really see is that there’s another gently sloping pasture behind the line of trees, and you have to walk down a steep-ish slope¬†and back up to cross the creekbed there. ¬†My friend and I walked Murray and Marco (her horse) around for about 20 minutes to start, though since Marco has a much bigger stride than Murray we got left behind and Murray insisted on trotting to catch up, and then spooking at Weird Ground.

IMG_20150125_112944

On our way through the creek back to the front pasture, Murray decided walking downhill was too damn¬†hard for him and leapt up and bucked and bronced all the way down and back up the slope, spooking poor Marco and proving to me that we needed to work. ¬†The antics continued, but were relatively harmless — lots of jumping up and bucking at the prospect of a controlled pace down any kind of slope. ¬†I just kept my reins loose, looked the direction I wanted to go, and let Murray work¬†it out. ¬†I’m really proud of us for this (ok, mostly proud of myself!) because the¬†snorting and grunting and bucking and lack of steering¬†would, in the past, have completely panicked me. ¬†But since Alana taught me¬†how to deal with trixy ponies¬†(stay soft, don’t scream at him with my body, just stay on task, etc.) I find them funny rather than worrying. ¬†Murray eventually properly settled once we got into a pattern, and we got down to work.

We did 20-ish meter trot circles on a¬†steeper and gentler slope in both directions and then cantered the same area. ¬†I also let him gallop around a much bigger area and it was soooooooooo fun! ¬†I’m also really proud of Murray for getting his ish together, which he has also struggled with in the past. ¬†We are both going to have buns of steel if we keep this up, because I two-pointed basically the¬†entire time. I don’t know about you guys, but my leg is always wicked¬†solid when we’re out away from home, and my poor ankles were completely numb by the time we were done.

IMG_20150125_122711California Coastal Range in the background…

All in all, probably 30 minutes of work (trot and canter with long walk breaks) and 15 minutes of warm up and at least 15 minutes cool down. ¬†A great first step in our fitness program, and an excellent booty workout for the pone. ¬†We’re planning on doing it monthly, so with any luck Murray will be super¬†bootylicious come Summer!

7 tips for being a better competitor among friends

I am a crazy competitive humanoid, probably thanks in large part to my upbringing with a crazy competitive mother.¬† My boyfriend thinks that there‚Äôs actually a huge hole in my brain regarding working on and in teams, because I only ever did individual sports (swimming, gymnastics, math competitions ‚Äď oops not a sport) growing up, and resultantly kinda suck at team work.¬† Because of this, I can really make riding hard on myself, as I‚Äôm constantly doing what I shouldn‚Äôt be doing, namely comparing myself to other riders around me.¬† However, being super competitive isn‚Äôt really a healthy way to interact with your friends¬†and can quickly land you at the bottom of your social¬†pile. ¬†Ask me how I know.

Competing against your friends can be both a blessing and a curse. ¬†It’s great to be surrounded by friendly faces, but both winning and losing are bittersweet. ¬†Regardless of your level of competition or familiarity with your competitors, good sportsmanship is extremely important, and can really make the difference between a good show and a bad show. ¬†With show season right around the corner — my first show of the year is a week and a day from today! — I’m sharing some of the strategies I use to make myself a better competitor and friend.

  1. Congratulate your friends on their rounds and rides ‚Äď good or bad.

Last summer, at Murray’s and my first horse trials, I was beaten by 0.4 points by my friend R on her mom’s 15 year old Arabian trail horse, who was a last minute show sub when her horse went mysteriously lame before the show.  I had moved up from last place after dressage to second after cross country, and there were 8.4 penalties between us and the blue.  R was a super good sport about it, and we joked all through dinner about how her horse would probably crash through every fence as his jumping career was limited to trails and shits and giggles prior to his entry at this show.  Murray and I put in a double clear stadium round and watched as R rode her round.  She and her horse took down two rails, and knocked the last rail on course, but it miraculously stayed up, keeping her the blue and me the red.  Though I would have loved to come home with a blue ribbon at our first show, R did an incredible job that weekend through every phase, and I congratulated her about it repeatedly and we laughed together about those 0.4 points.

Camelot Horse Trials -- but mostly tribulations!
Pretty in red.

Congratulating your friends on their rides is one of the first steps in sportsmanlike behavior, even if you don‚Äôt believe it or feel it at the time because you‚Äôre burning up with hatred that a 15 year old Arab just stole your blue ribbon.¬† If you pretend you are something enough times (in this case, happy for your friend who won!), eventually you‚Äôre going to start to be that thing.¬† And if that thing is kinder and more sportsmanlike, I‚Äôm not sure there‚Äôs a problem with that.¬† Whether you compliment your human or equine competition, there‚Äôs something to congratulate after every round, even if it‚Äôs just making it out alive. ¬†‚ÄúGood ride!‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúGreat round!‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúCongratulations!‚ÄĚ are all you need say.

On a similar note, wish your competition good luck as they are about to start their round.¬† I was blown away when I was visiting a rated event and saw competitors wishing one another luck as they were about to enter the start box on cross country.¬† You would never have seen me wishing someone good luck as we stepped up to the diving blocks at a swim meet, and certainly not as I was about to listen to the opposing team at a debate (not a sport but something I also relished winning in middle school).¬† This sport is too dangerous for people not to have good luck and good rides when doing it ‚Äď so build yourself some karma and be a good sport.

IMG_0939Even when teenagers beat you, say congratulations anyway.

  1. Graciously accept comments or compliments after your ride.

There is nothing worse than congratulating a competitor after a round and hearing them respond¬†‚ÄúOh that was such an ugly ride,‚ÄĚ or even worse, ‚ÄúMy horse was TERRIBLE.‚Ä̬† You do not want to be the person who blames their horse for a bad round, especially when he doesn‚Äôt deserve it.¬† (This is not to say horses don‚Äôt have off days, but it‚Äôs not their choice to be at a show, it‚Äôs yours.)¬† So when someone congratulates you on your ride, open your mouth, and say ‚ÄúThank you.‚Ä̬† You can add more if you would like, some excellent suggestions include ‚ÄúI had a great time,‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúShe tried so hard for me!‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúWe just moved up and I‚Äôm really proud of us.‚Ä̬† If you can smile and mean it while you do so, all the better.

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Did you maybe have some rails or a refusal in your round and accidentally scream ‚ÄúDICKHEAD‚ÄĚ when it happened?¬† Did you get penalized in your dressage test for your horse kicking out as you tried to pick up the canter right in front of the judge?¬† Did you have a sweet runout at the water in cross country, nearly shooting you over to the novice down-bank into the water and narrowly avoiding crashing through a flag by hauling hard right?¬† (Definitely none of these things have ever happened to me‚Ķ)¬† Despite any of these things, appreciate that someone is congratulating you on the good parts of your ride and accept the compliment on behalf of your horse, if not yourself.

  1. Accept responsibility for your role in your ride ‚Äď be it good or bad.

Though I’ve definitely blamed Murray for a bad ride immediately after it, I know that in the end, I’m responsible for our performance.  And if we’re getting 45s in dressage (penalties… not dressage scores!!) it’s not because Murray wasn’t doing what I was telling him to do, it was because I didn’t tell him the right things to do.

By the same token, if I have a good ride, I know that it’s not all on Murray.  Sure, he is a super honest angel who will jump anything I point him at, but to get there he still needs someone to do the pointing.  Last time I checked, he can’t read a course map.  So I let myself glow a little bit even though I give Murray the majority of the credit.

DSCF0881It was an ugly fence, that’s for sure, but at least I got us ¬†pointed at it!

  1. Stop comparing yourself to your competition. Seriously, stop it.

Despite what the ribbons say, and the rankings, and the points, and the end of year championships, the person you are competing with most at any given competition is yourself.¬† You are trying to put in your best ride, bring the best out in your horse, and the only person whose performance you should be concerned with is yours.¬† Maybe other people have nicer horses than you ‚Äď nothing you can do about it.¬† Maybe other people have been riding for longer than you ‚Äď nothing you can do about it.¬† Maybe other people have ridden at a higher level than you and are at an advantage at this level ‚Äď nothing you can do about it.¬† Are you sensing a theme here?¬† If you stop comparing yourself to other riders, you can concentrate more on making you and your horse look like absolute BAMFs, which is what it‚Äôs really all about.

10169175_10203710065984964_5712793615560172615_nHe knows what his job is!

  1. Respect the judges’ rulings, even when you disagree.

Let‚Äôs go back to my most glorious dressage score: that one time I got a 50.¬† Yeah, it reads the same in eventing and dressage, don‚Äôt worry about it.¬† I didn‚Äôt get the most entertaining score in eventing or dressage because the dressage judge had a wicked hate-on for 5‚Äô1‚ÄĚ Australian girls riding scrawny bay thoroughbreds — I got it because we sucked and even then the judge was generous!¬† (And on the off chance that the dressage judge does have some kind of weird, discriminatory hatred for me, there is nothing to do about it, so there‚Äôs no point dwelling on it.)¬† I know nothing about the hunter world, but I imagine that hunter judges also make riders upset sometimes.¬† However, these people are officials for a reason, and regardless of what you think about their ruling, it happened.¬† And you should respect that it happened, no matter where it puts you in the standings.

Deriding a judges‚Äô decision is not only disrespectful to that judge, but it is also disrespectful to everyone else who was judged by them.¬† Inevitably, people were judged differently than you were, and to say that your scores were inappropriate also says that others‚Äô scores were inappropriate.¬† And yes, that means you‚Äôre diminishing the good scores as well as the bad.¬† So look for the good in any judges‚Äô decision and keep any negativity you might have to yourself ‚Äď or get it out quietly in private and never say it again.

dressage sheetThis judge tried to disqualify me for horse abuse (Murray threw an epic tantrum during the second canter circle, long story), but all of her comments on my test were reasonable, fair, and accurate — even if I didn’t think so while I was bawling at the time. (Also, my kitten kindly obscured the judges’ name for anonymity.¬†Thanks Milo!)

  1. Keep trash talk to a minimum.

This is not only polite behavior, because ears are everywhere and somebody will probably overhear things you don’t want them to hear, but goes back to something I touched on in number one: if you say something enough times, you’ll probably start to believe it.  And the things you might say in disappointment are probably not actually true.  Talking smack about your competition might feel good at the time, but it is really not a sustainable strategy long term.  And think about what you’re really saying: if you deride the person who won as having a mule-like horse that looks lame and can barely jump, what are you actually saying about yourself? Logical rejoinder: it’s that your horse did worse, moves worse, or looks worse than a mule who looks lame and can barely jump.  Don’t talk smack.  Just don’t do it.

murraySeriously — I pay more attention to this than trash talk.

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

I left little hints about this all throughout the blog ‚Äď it‚Äôs kindof my life mantra.¬† It‚Äôs hard, I know.¬† It‚Äôs taken me the last seven years to learn not to sweat the small stuff, with consistent coaching from my boyfriend, and I still fall into that trap.¬† But if you can let all the little stuff fall away from you, then you‚Äôre going to find yourself¬†having a much better time, and a lot less stressed out.

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Lesson Recap 1/22

1-22

Well, I’ve¬†got to hand it to our assistant trainer. She makes some interesting, challenging courses for indoors in the winter. ¬†The twisting and turning is not my fave. Not my fave.

This week’s jump lesson featured me flailing more than slightly, throwing myself WAY ahead of Murray¬†once, and my horse honestly, kindly, and genuinely proving that he is better than I am at stadium.

We started with the blue X rollback to the yellow, big bendy-line around to the lonely red vertical.  Then around to the red vertical in the middle of the grid on a diagonal, and a rollback to the grid, which was set as a two-two.

I was fairly¬†worried about the first rollback, as you only really had two strides dead-on to the oxer after the turn. ¬†And I’ve never really asked Murray to make such a crazy turn to a jump before. ¬†But he took it like a pro, and I tried out a couple of different angles of approach. ¬†In the end, it was easier to kinda let Murray turn himself than to fight with him about getting deep in the corner for a straighter approach.¬†Murray does this regularly when he has already memorized parts of a¬†course, which is good, but also bad as it also means I’m not riding as well or properly. ¬†But in lessons, I don’t really know how to combat that without a fight, since we typically jump the same lines a bunch of times. ¬†Certainly, I can insist that we do things my way, and when it’s necessary, I do. ¬†But if it’s not a big deal (as in this case), it’s just easier to let Murray think he’s running the show (or continue running the show, as the case may be).

The red diagonal also worried me at first because it looked super steep coming off the wall, but Murray was like “no big”. ¬†That is the jump I kinda completely threw myself at one time, as I pushed Murray for the long spot ¬†but he chipped. ¬†And by “pushed” for the long spot I mean I saw a longish (but still good!) spot and said “GO” and threw myself at it, but Murray was like “noo, hoomin, we getting deep”. ¬†I managed to avoid doing that again. ¬†On the topic of adjustability, we managed to get 3-3 in the 2-2 line twice, and then get back to 2-2 so that was nice (but it wasn’t intentional the first time, and the second time I saw it would be shitty and just held for the three, and it was kindof a long two anyway). ¬†I’m not sure it counts as adjustability if it’s an accident….

Overall a good lesson but plagued by little issues that made me feel like I was a total spaz. ¬†I was riding in my show boots (taller and tighter than my everyday ones) because I left my others at my boyfriend’s house, and my saddle was kinda slick because I did a shitty job of cleaning it last week. ¬†This resulted in me being a touch uncomfortable, realizing my boots still need more breaking in, and generally being kinda all over the place. ¬†I couldn’t seem to get my right leg under me properly to push Murray off it, so the right-handed rollbacks and tight turns were tough. ¬†Murray was leaning his body in through the turn, and I kept leaning my body out to the left, which is not really an effective turning strategy. ¬†Part of this was because I know I have a tendency to lean into my right stirrup, so was trying to overcompensate and fix that habit by leaning left. ¬†Instead, Alana told me to pick up my right shoulder and stretch up through that shoulder, as it’s because of my shoulder collapsing that I lean like that. ¬†TL;DR – wear my show boots more, clean my saddle properly, pick up my goddamned hunchback right shoulder, and lean into the turns to pick Murray up through them.

IMG_9371You can actually see my right shoulder is forward/torso is twisted slightly left in this, which is BAD… (though this is not today’s lesson, and I actually think the problem has gotten worse since this day).

As honest as he is (and it cannot be said that Murray is not honest), I’m finding myself a little dissatisfied with Murray’s and my jumping right now. ¬†I’m struggling to put my finger on it, but I think it has to do with the super deep spots and then resultingly shitty jumps we get to so many fences. ¬†I am seeing deep spots, that’s for sure, but I’m seeing them deep because I feel like we’re not maintaining true “forwardness” to the base of the fence. ¬†Instead, each stride gets just a little smaller and¬†just a touch backed off. ¬†I’m not even sure this is noticeable to normal people, but it is not the forward attack machine I’ve had in the past. ¬†Maybe it is the attack machine and this is the more careful, smarter version of it? ¬†I also feel like he’s jumping like a downhill horse, which he isn’t, exactly, though he can certainly be very downhill at times. ¬†And I also feel like the middle zone of Murray’s butt muscles just refuses to fill in, even though we’ve been using ourselves more and working and jumping and ugh! just so much feels.

Whatever. ¬†I will jump this weekend to see what’s going on, and probably Sunday I’m going to trailer to my trainer’s new house (which is also a small horse property!) to do hills. ¬†That will build his butt up for¬†sure.

Hills And Mountains HD wallpaper for Standard 4:3 5:4 Fullscreen UXGA XGA SVGA QSXGA SXGA ; Wide 16:10 5:3 Widescreen WHXGA WQXGA WUXGA WXGA WGA ; HD 16:9 High Definition WQHD QWXGA 1080p 900p 720p QHD nHD ; Other 3:2 DVGA HVGA HQVGA devices ( Apple PowerBook G4 iPhone 4 3G 3GS iPod Touch ) ; Mobile VGA WVGA iPhone iPad PSP Phone - VGA QVGA Smartphone ( PocketPC GPS iPod Zune BlackBerry HTC Samsung LG Nokia Eten Asus ) WVGA WQVGA Smartphone ( HTC Samsung Sony Ericsson LG Vertu MIO ) HVGA Smartphone ( Apple iPhone iPod BlackBerry HTC Samsung Nokia ) Sony PSP Zune HD Zen ; Tablet 2 Android 3 DVGA HVGA HQVGA devices ( Apple PowerBook G4 iPhone 4 3G 3GS iPod Touch ) ; Dual 4:3 5:4 16:10 5:3 16:9 UXGA XGA SVGA QSXGA SXGA WHXGA WQXGA WUXGA WXGA WGA WQHD QWXGA 1080p 900p 720p QHD nHD ;HILLS! I am so glad we have access to them finally!!

breeches: the ultimate fit guide

As per the $900 Facebook Pony started and then suggested, I’m contributing to her series of breeches: the ultimate fit guide! ¬†With any luck, we’ll be able to make a useful series for equestrians of all shapes and sizes to be able to find and fit the best breeches for them!

The Ultimate Fit Guide, Elsewhere

The $900 Facebook Pony – Tailored Sportsman, Kerrits Sit Tight Supreme, Annie’s Equestrienne, Aztec Diamond, Animo
Bay With Chrome – GhoDo Pamelas

This was a very interesting experiment. First, I found out I have way more breeches/tights than I thought I do.  But almost none of them are the same brand, excepting two pairs of Kerrits and two different models of Equine Couture, one of which has now been discontinued (sad face).

Now, let me preface this by stating that I have a ¬†strange body for a short girl. ¬†I’m 5’1″ and 3’6″ of that is my legs. Observe (also, my bad posture):

size

Because of this, all breeches are a little higher rise on me than they would be on a more normally-proportioned human being, because there’s just not much space between my pelvis and my bellybutton. ¬†I’m also seriously lacking in the junk trunk department and, evidently, have kindof a weird posture when posing for pictures from the side. ¬†Without further ado, though, BREECHES!

horze

1 pair Ladies Bella Full Seat Breeches, dove, size 28.  This particular model is apparently made of bamboo and is EcoFriendly and no longer exists on their website, but there are Bella knee patch breeches that I imagine fit similarly.

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43% Nylon, 26% cotton, 24% bamboo, 7% elastic (I think, faded label)

Measurements
waist: 14″ 1/2
hips: 18″
rise: 5″ 1/2
inseam to bottom: 28″

Features
sock bottoms
four pockets: two front (zippered), two back
belt loops size 1 1/2″
front zip, double hook closure

Stain resistant (on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being least resistant and 5 being most resistant): 2 (stain fairly easily but also wash out well)
Do they stretch out with wear? Yes, but they return to their shape after washing.
Are they stiff or soft out of the wash? Stiff-ish, but soften within one wear.
Do they dry quickly? Fairly, they do so overnight.
Are they thick or thin? Medium thickness. I wear them most in Winter.
# of wears, approx: Probably close to 100
Is there any fading? Not noticeably
Is there any pilling? Yes, between the thighs on the full seat suede
How well do they hide thigh cheese? Probably just fine
Any fit issues: These have always been really comfy to me, but they have stretched and sagged a bit over time.

goode rider

1 pair Pro Rider Full Seats, white ribbed breeches, size 28R.

IMG_9240IMG_9241

56% cotton, 38% polyester, 6% spandex

Measurements
waist: 15″
hips: 19″
rise: 7″ 1/2
inseam to bottom: 27″

Features
velcro bottoms
wide belt loops
single front zip pocket
front zip with double hook closure

Stain resistant (on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being least resistant and 5 being most resistant): 1. I wash them after every wear (do wash well)
Do they stretch out with wear? Yes, terribly.
Are they stiff or soft out of the wash? Fairly soft.
Do they dry quickly? Yes, overnight,
Are they thick or thin? Thinner side.
# of wears, approx: 5-10 tops (shows only)
Is there any fading? No
Is there any pilling? No
How well do they hide thigh cheese? I imagine just fine.
Any fit issues:¬†These breeches fit on the large side of a 28. ¬†When I was about 15 lbs heavier they fit me perfectly as my show breeches, but definitely didn’t look good for a second ride. ¬†They wash very well with oxyclean and there is minimal boot staining. ¬†Always need a belt.

(Incidentally, these breeches are for sale for $25 shipped in case anybody wants them. They were a good and faithful pair of show breeches for hot California summers! Just too big now.)

equine couture

One pair of Regatta Knee Patch breeches (size 28, pictured), in beige, one pair of Baker Soft Shell breeches (size 26), in steely gray, which are now sadly discontinued.

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66% cotton, 26% nylon, 8% lycra

Measurements
waist: 14″ 3/4
hips: 16″ 1/2
rise: 7″
inseam to bottom: 27″

Features
sock bottom
front pockets
wide belt loops
Regatta breech features a blue and red belt loop at back, Baker breech features a Baker plaid waistband

Stain resistant (on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being least resistant and 5 being most resistant): 1, but wash really well.
Do they stretch out with wear? Not much.
Are they stiff or soft out of the wash? Fairly soft.
Do they dry quickly? Yes, very.
Are they thick or thin? Thin.
# of wears, approx: 20-25 (mostly shows, some schooling)
Is there any fading? No
Is there any pilling? No
How well do they hide thigh cheese? Probably not the greatest, quite thin.
Any fit issues:¬†These are my favourite breeches, but I almost always wear the Regattas with a belt (the soft shells don’t need one becuase they’re so freaking tight they squeeze themselves onto me — that’s what I get for buying a size too small). ¬†However, if you don’t wear a belt with them (and sometimes even when you do), you will find that you need to pull them up a fair bit. ¬†My friends who have the white fullseat version of these are constantly pulling them up and annoyed about it, but I personally don’t find that to be a problem.

Kerrits

2 pairs Kerrits flow rise tights size small.

IMG_9247 IMG_9246

91% micropoly, 9% spandex

Measurements
waist: 13″
hips: stretchy
rise: 7″
inseam to bottom: 26″

Features
basically none — very basic

Stain resistant (on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being least resistant and 5 being most resistant):¬†4 — they’re black.
Do they stretch out with wear? Hardly.
Are they stiff or soft out of the wash? Soft.
Do they dry quickly? Yes, very.
Are they thick or thin? Thin.
# of wears, approx: 100+ each.
Is there any fading? No
Is there any pilling? Yes — mild pilling on thighs of both pairs.
How well do they hide thigh cheese? Guessing no.
Any fit issues:¬†I included these schooling tights because they’re my bread and butter in the summer. ¬†I’ve worn each pair probably over a hundred times — 4 days/week riding in 2012, and 5 days/week riding in 2013-14 and they are seriously holding up. ¬†Literally the only downside is that I sometimes leave a sweaty ass print on my dressage saddle.

farrier tales & that time I accidentally Parellied my horse

I adore my farrier. ¬†She is so great for me and Murray, and we blab and blab during our appointments. ¬†We very much share the same philosophy for shoeing — do as little as you need to — and she explains everything to me in great detail so that I really feel like if she told me I needed to do something for Murray, I would completely believe her (perhaps this is the long con?! kidding). ¬† Most importantly: Murray likes her, and she is GREAT with him. ¬†Oh, and my farrier is a LADY, which is not the most common thing in the world and I do believe in women being badasses so you know.

2014-02-12 08.49.18We are not in posession of the world’s greatest feet

However, Murray and I did not always have such a positive relationship with farriers. ¬†Doubtless the kid had all four feet shod at the track, but when he got to our barn he started out barefoot, just getting trims (from another lady farrier in the area, actually!). ¬†Eventually, he graduated to front shoes, and that’s where I picked up. ¬†After a couple of months of work, I noticed that Murray was wearing his hind toes down quite a bit, and asked my farrier if we could put hind shoes on to protect his feet while we worked on fixing the root of the problem. ¬†It got put off for two appointments, until I finally put my foot down and asked for them then and there, as I knew I would be starting to ask the kid to do some harder stuff in the coming weeks — running XC on harder ground, for example.

Farrier man was in a bit of a rush, and with some bribery and minimal hijinks we got on the left hind shoe.  By the time we got around to the right hind though, Murray was done.  D-O-N-E done.  He kneed the farrier in the chest three times, and ripped his foot away while the shoe had a grand total of one nail in.  He pulled back, I popped him with the stud chain, and he happily backed away from me, twisting the shoe in his foot as he did.  He backed towards another horse in the barn aisle, shoe all askew and weaponized on his foot, and the farrier yelled at me to just get Murray away from that other horse.  Fortunately, Lisa showed up at just this moment and managed to placate Murray into some kind of submission.  At which point the farrier man uttered this very final statement:

“I’m not putting hind shoes on that horse. If you want hind shoes, call another farrier.”

I did find another farrier, of course.  And I love her!

Anyway, along the lines of this farrier I adore, I’ve worked really hard to make sure that Murray and she get along well. ¬†This involved a lot of stuffing cookies in his face while lady farrier worked on his less-acclimated feet (hinds) and distracting him or reminding him to be a good boy during shoeing.

So with all this treating, I figured I would just clicker train Murray a bit to get him to be better while I was grooming him. ¬†So every day, I pre-masticated a few carrots (read: bit up into tiny, treat-sized pieces), stuffed them in my pockets, and would click and treat him as I curried, picked, and brushed, targeting good behavior. ¬†Murray, unfortunately, would be super mouthy whenever I was near his face, and would practically try to crawl into my pocket to get to the carrots he could smell and sometimes even see. ¬†So I trained a “head down” command, and clicked and treated specifically for him keeping his head down.

magnesium
Yes you really must wear this baling twine

But instead of getting steadier and more reasonable, Murray got fussier.  He started to wander all around the tie when I was grooming, and repeatedly picking up and slamming down his front right foot, a behavior I had been specifically trying to train out of him!  He would put his head down, up, turn around to look at me, and then shuffle all around.  I tried to click and treat only for the good behaviors but there were so many bad behaviors in there that I felt like I was really missing the point.

And then I realised what was happening.  Murray, thinking that this was training time, was offering me every single behavior I had ever rewarded him for in an attempt to get treats.  He knew the treats were there, and he was willing to work for them.  Constantly.  Forever.  Always.  Just to get more treats.

I mentioned this to lady farrier at our latest appointment, and told her how I’d had to back off the clicker training because of it (upside: Murray is much more well-behaved during grooming now). ¬†She laughed at me and said “Well, you know, that’s one of the goals of Parelli! To have your horse to the point where they understand the game and are offering you all these behaviors to participate in the game!”

I was like UMMM WUT?

So there. I accidentally Parellied my horse.  No carrot stick or waving lead rope needed.

carrotstick

the six stages of the OTTB Connect cycle

I don’t know if any of you are members of the Facebook group OTTB Connect, but it is an ottb-centric group that can be a great resource for owners, afficionados, and admirers of thoroughbreds. ¬†I love OTTB Connect, as it is a great group,¬†and have really enjoyed being a part of the community. ¬†Just being around so many ottb lovers is wonderful! ¬†You can get a lot of useful information off of the group, and people are always eager (and sometimes a little too eager) to help. ¬†I found Murray’s full brother on there, and while I didn’t manage to help him find a new home, I gave his owner some useful information about what his potential might include. ¬†However, if you’ve been part of the group for any amount of time, you’ll probably notice that the content gets a little…. repetitive.


All that has happened before will happen again….

As if the search bar never existed, the same topics seem to come up over and over again. ¬†It’s kindof like the Wheel of Time, only a lot less long. ¬†Or perhaps the¬†Battlestar Galactica Cycle, without cylons or intergalactic travel. ¬†Regardless, there’s a pattern, and here’s my tongue-in-cheek interpretation¬†of it.

1. Can someone tell me about my horse’s pedigree please?

As though nobody had ever written pedigree analyses before, new-to-ottbs¬†owners are always eager to find out about their baby’s pedigree. ¬†I too was eager to know about Murray’s pedigree, right up until the moment that I realised he had absolutely nothing notable within three generations. ¬†Regardless of how big the name, and how much both racing and sport-horse analysts have written on the topic, no pedigree shall be left uncombed for notable athletes. ¬†And somehow, everyone is a great, great, great, great grand child/nephew/neice of Secretariat.

1391787763SecretariatPreaknessWhether or not they ran like Big Red.

2. Confirmation Conformation critique

Right after someone¬†finds out what important sires are in their pony’s pedigree, it’s important to understand what potential their baby’s body suggests — nothing negative, please! ¬†Confirmation¬†Conformation can tell you a lot about a horse, and if you ask enough people you’re bound to hear exactly what you want to! ¬†No need to focus on studied angles and lengths, even soft tissue is up for critique here, and somehow everybody’s topline needs improvement.

3. I need training halp my horse won’t do X

We all know ottbs can be smart, stubborn, and wily, and inevitably they outsmart their owners regarding at least something. ¬†Whether it’s teaching their rider that they don’t really have to canter because cantering will lead to bucking, or simply refusing to get in a trailer, it’s important to nip these problems in the bud. ¬†And if other ottb owners have some tricks that might work, we want to know about them! ¬†Guaranteed responses: give him lots of cookies, natural horsemanship, don’t let him be the boss of you, don’t beat your horse!, Parelli, carrot sticks, and logic.

4. People who say ottbs are CRAZY must be ON DRUGS

Look at my horse not being crazy! ¬†He’s so not crazy! ¬†Look he put his head down! ¬†Look I can walk around on a loose rein! ¬†Look I can ride him in my halter! ¬†I put my neonate on him and he’s so quiet he’s packing the kid around a 2’6″ course though my baby can’t even lift his head yet! ¬†WHO SAYS OTTBS ARE CRAZY??! THAT IS INSOLENCE!!!!!!!

bucking
Not the bucks of a wild, crazy creature. Not at all.

5. Transformation Tuesday!

These posts show what a little TLC can do to a horse.  You see weight go on, blooming, metallic coats, and happy chubby horses.  Horses that were sickly or lame that are now happy and free, running and jumping, living with friends.  Horses that sucked at racing are suddenly invigorated with new life and excel when presented with barrels or reining patterns or fences or a dressage court.  I love these posts, because I am a sucker for a happy ending.

6.¬†I hate my horse’s racing name what should I call her??!!

There are some for real dorky JC names out there (e.g. Hot Tub Aaron, Tommydelu, Ima Looking Cool?!), and I totally get the struggle about your horse’s name. ¬†The JC name gives homage to their heritage and pedigree, but do you really want to be walking into the show ring with Arrrrr?!¬†Somehow, other users of the group are supposed to come up with a good show name for a horse that they’ve never met and may never have seen (pictures, of course, optimal), that give a little bit of a hint to the horse’s¬†fantastic pedigree while alluding to his talents and complementing his colour.