weekend recap: PONY CAMP!!

Last week and this weekend were a total blur. I didn’t get enough posts queued up, though I have a ton on my mind.  Last week I visited my boyfriend for three days, did a juicer photo shoot, and then came home for one night for a meeting with my advisor and (drumroll please) PONY CAMPING!!!!!!!!!

For the last three years, my trainer has arranged a 3-day 3-day camp — three days and three nights of ALL EVENTING ALL THE TIME!!!  We trailer up to our favourite NorCal XC facility (Camelot Equestrian Park, duh) and camp for two nights with our ponies.  We do dressage and stadium lessons, school the XC course, and a pace exercise on their 3/4 mile gallop track, and then a mini one-day event.  It is an absolute blast!!

This year, we had more horses coming than trailers, so trainer took two trips with the six horse and dropped some of us off on Thursday afternoon.  The five of us settled our horses in, set up camp, and then promptly headed out for a little conditioning/trail ride, as Camelot has not only a fantastic XC course but miles and miles and miles of trails! We actually didn’t go far, since none of us really know the trails, and we didn’t want to tire our ponies out too much before the rest of our adventures.

Murray sure knows how to power walk out on trails.  He blasted out ahead of our group and made things a little difficult for the slower horses who wanted to keep up.  I’ve never felt such a big, swingy walk on him.  Wish I could get that in the sandbox!

Friday morning the rest of our party — ten more horses and riders — arrived, and we commenced with dressage lessons.  Murray warmed up fine, and then decided that it was impossible to do any canter departs without bucking.

But we did have some beautiful, real dressage horse moments.

View this post on Instagram

Sometimes we can dressage.

A post shared by Nicole (@nicolegizelle) on

So I just smiled through our Murray Moments and mentally composed a thoughtful and strongly worded letter to the USDF requesting a “Entertainment” score on all dressage tests. With a multiplier of 2!

The benefit of going first is that you get to watch all your friends’ rides too!  I watched lots of great dressage lessons, and lots of tests, and got to hear all of Alana’s comments regarding geometry and corners and transitions.  It was extremely helpful.  And after dressage?  STADIUM LESSONS!  Well, lunch, a break, then stadium lessons.

We worked the baby horzes first, and I got to watch the adorable, adorable redhead in his third ever jump lesson!  So cute.

IMG_9015

Our lesson was pretty freaking fantastic.  We had some of our best equitation/jumping ever.

IMG_9513Our most perfectest jump ever, possibly? Over his shoulder but I don’t even care.

Murray also showed off his mad hops.  I realised how much lube my elbows must need because they appear to be basically stuck in a 90 degree angle.

IMG_9770Flying over 3′.

Murray also demonstrated MANY opinions and his best canter side pass and half pass.  Fourth level, here we come! Mostly it was about my right leg, and there was great shrieking and carrying on, but he also let me know, in no uncertain terms, whenever I wasn’t riding him absolutely right.

IMG_9670Lady, figure your shit out.

It was exactly what I wanted, lots of good work at BN and then some badassery over a novice course.  Such a great confidence builder.  And how can I not love this pony whose ears are pricked and locks onto every fence (well, except when I randomly hit him in the face)?!  Kid knows how to put his game face on.

IMG_9505Game faces on.

Friday night we all went out and had our hopes and dreams dashed when the Marie Callendar’s that we usually frequent was closed down for good.  Deep sadness.  Instead we went to Chilli’s where I ate too much and promptly fell asleep as soon as I got back to camp.  Oh, and Pigwink came camping with us so that was pretty much pure joy right there.  She makes a phenomenal hot water bottle.

11070178_10103460723449293_7907006224029865815_nI was clever enough to bring cold pressed coffee and the barn owner built us a fire!!

Saturday morning I snacked on my homemade granola bars for breakfast (really good choice to bring those) and headed out to cross country!  We did reverse order for heat reasons, so started with the most advanced group and moved down to the babies.  Murray surprised me by struggling with the drop into the water, though we’ve never struggled with down banks before.  So we schooled that both up and down until it was pretty smooth.

IMG_0587You want me to do WHAT?!

IMG_0541Much easier this way.

Since during our last schooling I had so much trouble jumping off a galloping stride and following Murray, I tried extra hard to stay with him this time.  He was a fair bit more relaxed so was also more willing to add, which helped.  Camelot had dragged out some of their newer jumps too, so we got to try our hand at some of the slightly-scary Novice fences.  One fence did give us a spot of trouble, a ramped table that had dragons on the front panel.  It wasn’t quite full novice height, but something about it really gave Murray pause (perhaps the training and prelim fences to either side? perhaps the dragons?) and we had a couple of stops there.  We got over it more times than we stopped, though, and didn’t have a problem with it when we threw it into a course on the last day.

IMG_0667The terror!

Alana did have to remind me at the beginning not to get too over-eager with my stride counting to the fences, as I am inclined to throw my body at the fence when I start yelling strides (three, TWO, ONE!!) so I tried to keep my upper body and my voice quiet.  This time around, Eric Idle’s The Galaxy was my inspirational song.

It was a short-ish XC school because we did pace in the afternoon.  Pace gets its whole own blog post — it was so cool.  However, another overall really confidence building and fun ride.

IMG_0456

 

There was also some super adorable baby horse action on XC!

IMG_1031Dancer is six, but he just recovered from white line in 4/4 feet last year. I’d say he’s coming back pretty well!

There is something so satisfying to me about doing your own horse care and camping with the horses.  I love feeding and night check, and catching ponies all flat out and snoring.  I don’t even mind the noise they make in the night (though persistent screamers aren’t my fave), but I am a really good sleeper.  Sunday we did a mini-one-day event, keeping it light and easy for the horses who were all, as you can imagine, pretty exhausted at that point.  I would have racked up 20 xc penalties and 4 stadium penalties (both totally rider error — Murray was super game and honest otherwise), as well as some rather interesting comments on my dressage tests, since Murray bucked through the entire left canter circle.  No matter, we weren’t actually competing! One of my friends did, however, up the ante dramatically by bringing HORSE GLITTER!!! So even though it’s a bit blurry, I leave you with this masterpiece of a quarter mark. I am one hundred percent buying myself glitter for my first event!

IMG_1627

TOABH: Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

We’ve talked about what your horse doesn’t like to do, and I don’t want to confuse this with that.  I’m not talking about personality quirks or training foibles.  Tell me:  if you could change something (or things) about your horse, what would you?

Nothing, my baby is perfection!!  We are talking about my pibble, aren’t we?

IMG_6953

 

Oh we’re talking about the horse.  Okay.  Number one: feet.  Murray’s RF wants to be upright and his LF wants to be a pancake.  Not a fan.  I have legitimate concerns about his long-term soundness because of this.

2014-02-12 08.49.18

I don’t mind that they aren’t the world’s largest feet, but I would love for his front feet to be a bit more… similar.  His hind feet are, according to his farrier, lovely.  Fortunately, I don’t struggle with hoof quality, just shape.  Le sigh.

Murray is a pretty perfect size for me, but I might give him a touch more height or maybe some slightly sturdier legs.  Last year especially I was a little worried about the kid wandering around on toothpicks.  It’s a little less the case this year.

2011-9-1Twigs I tell you!!

The last thing I’d change is his scope.  I’m not sure where it is, but since I revealed last time that I’d like to do a 1* some day, it would be nice for pony to be able to come along and be competitive at that level.  That would be pretty badass.

And that’s it.

I know, I know, you long-time readers are like “you wouldn’t change his BRAIN? his weirdly sensitive GIRTH AREA?”

IMG_3745I am quite sure this is the Murray equivalent of the bird.

Ok so I might change that girth area thing.  And his likely proclivity for ulcers.

But for real, Murray’s got a good brain buried beneath all the suspicion and generalized distrust.  He’s smart, he’s honest, and he knows how to work when asked reasonably.  He’s quick on his feet — a credit to both his feet and his mind — and knows what his job is.  If he didn’t keep me on my toes I would be lazy and probably wouldn’t try as hard, and we wouldn’t be where we are now.  Plus, it gives me a perverse sense of pleasure to know I’m one of the few people who can/wants to/will tolerate this bullshit for all the good that lies beneath.  I’m a masochist, I know.

Thank goodness he doesn’t have a pig eye!

the unsung plight of the show photographer

Saturday I did my first stint as a show photographer at a local event, trying to see if this is something I’d be interested in trying to make some money doing.  It was enlightening, let me tell you.  We all know that show photographers are facing all kinds of challenges these days — ammies shooting their friends with nice DSLRs, guilty! — but I feel like the public perception of those challenges has to do with photo sales, not the actual difficulty of the job.  And boy, is that job difficult.

Making cranky horses look good

As a photographer, I want you to look good. I want you to see your pictures and be inspired to pay me for one or more of them because you are your horse look fantastic.  I painstakingly select the best angle for the light, to make sure the background is pleasing and free of clutter, and time my shutter bursts so you and your horse look elegant and athletic.  You know what can ruin this every time?  A cranky horse.  Some horses don’t like dressage.  Some horses have a wicked game face.  Some horses pin their ears when they see the camera.  Some horses put karate kicks into the middle of their canter.  All of these things ruin a picture, and make me want to cry because I can’t control it.  And it’s nobody’s fault, except your horse who wants nothing to do with my photography.  He’s probably trying to save your money for use on him!

IMG_3747Excuse me, but no.

The dark horse/pale skin conundrum

Exposing correctly for dark horses is really hard in almost all lighting.  I love me some black or dark bay, but the details of a dark horse’s body get lost in the shadows very easily.  They also get these super bright shiny spots and highlights that sometimes look lovely and sometimes make them look terrible.  Without specialized editing, to get the details in a dark horse’s body exposed right, I usually have to blow out the background, which really sucks.  You know what sucks more?  Pale peoples’ faces get blown out even more than the background.  I can either see your gorgeous, smiling face or your horse’s — you pick.  I almost always pick the horse.  (Coincidentally, this is the exact same problem that people have shooting Jane Goodall with chimps!)  On the upside, your dark horse will make your whites look strikingly white, so you can get away with dirtier breeches!!

SAS_5323This picture can be edited to fix it, but I’m guessing this rider isn’t actually the colour of a porcelain doll.

High quality cameras are heavy

My DSLR setup weighs close to eight pounds with my heaviest lens on it, but even with my smaller lenses on it it’s close to five pounds.  And you know what humans are not evolved to do?  Stand in the same place all day long holding eight pounds up to their face.  The pain started in my lower back and throughout the day moved down to my upper butt and my feet.  At one point, my back cramped up — like when your calf cramps but in my entire back.  You know what you can do when your back cramps?  NOTHING. THERE IS NO POSITION THE HUMAN BODY CAN TAKE THAT DOESN’T USE THE BACK.  And honestly, no wonder I collapse my right side when I’m riding, I’m always holding the damn camera with that hand and resting my elbow on my hip for postural support!

SAS_7051A nice one because not all went poorly.

Squeezing one eye shut all day makes your vision go blurry

I don’t know if you’ve ever done it before, probably not, but you should try spending eight hours with your left eye squeezed shut.  You can open it intermittently, but you need to keep it shut for at least a minute at a time out of every two minutes.  After a while, your left eye will probably kinda forget how to function.  When you open it, you’ll have that weird, blurry, schmutz caused possibly by tears or dryness — it could go either way.  And then your right eye might start objecting too.  You can trade eyes looking through the viewfinder, of course, but somehow I’m way worse at everything with my left eye.

IMG_8346This is kinda what you see when you open that squinty eye…

Other riders, spectators, the show venue, garbage, dogs, people, horses, the sun, and even plants are all conspiring against you

A well timed photo is a beautiful thing, that is so, so often ruined by a random rider coming out of your horse’s back like some kind of two-bodied centaurian creature.  Fo rillz.  Somehow all the jumps and angles that are best to shoot are always ruined by random piles of poles, a trailer full of jump standards, or a weirdly overflowing garbage can.  Your best pictures of every competitor will be plagued by dogs running through, people picking their noses in the background, some rider falling off in the warm up, or a flashy paint horse taking a pee facing your camera.  Murphy’s law, man.

SAS_7429Get out of my picture random paint horse!!

equine fitness project: week whatever & a weak hind end

Back in January I was pretty obsessed with getting on the fitness train with Murray hardcore, and I had a whole plan to do it.  Unfortunately, life got in the way (swollen knee, lame, out of town, horse fell down, horse got chiro), and Murray and I haven’t really done much conditioning to date.  I guess we did do some hills, which was quite good for us.  To try to make up for that, I’ve been doing extra long warm-ups and cool-downs (at least 10 minutes of walking, closer to 20 if I can manage it), and a long trot set before our last conditioning ride.

I mentioned back in week one that it’s important to Improve your piano technique with Hanon exercisesknow your horse’s unevenness, and both Ballou and other equine fitness authors talk about the importance of working the weaker side correctly.  My intuition, as a hoomin, is to just work the weaker side more.  I’m right handed and a pianist, so when I wanted to gain strength and dexterity in my left hand I just did Hanon scales and exercises with my left hand until it was ready to fall off.  Then I did them some more.  But this doesn’t work with horses.  Such muscle fatigue, depending on the person you talk to, just causes more compensating with the stronger side, stiffness on the weak side, and possibly even injury.

You can’t ignore the weak side, you just can’t approach it the way I’d approach my weaker side (work it hard, work it often, don’t let up until you get the results you want). According to Ballou, the best way to approach it is with a combination of conditioning and stretching exercises.  Stretching encompasses everything from shoulder in and lateral work to stationary stretches done from the ground.

How do I approach this with Murray? First is to know his weakness, and know it well.  (Know thine enemy!)  Murray is weak through his right side.  He struggles to bend right, but not because he is stiff through the left.  Kid can stretch both directions on the ground very well.  He struggles to bend right because his right hind is weak, and engaging it is a) hard, b) challenging, c) not intuitive, d) all of the above.

These are the exercises I can do every day (aka no need to trailer to some hills) with Murray to help strengthen his right hind, though I do them in both directions. I’ve obviously not been great at it lately, but I’m planning on incorporating at least two of these into every ride from here on out.  For all of these, I used Equine Fitness, my dressage trainer, or our equine masseuse to guide my way.

First position/shoulder fore/shoulder in — I try to ride around in first position all the time but I struggle with it — Murray doesn’t naturally follow my shoulders when we’re tracking right (because he doesn’t want to stay off my inside leg). Shoulder fore and shoulder in both encourage your horse to step under with the inside hind, and stretch and engage their lumbar muscles as well!  (Image from Sustainable Dressage, one of my fave websites!)

Faux turn on the forehand — Murray can’t do a real turn on the forehand because he cheats.  Instead, I hold him in hand and turn him in a small circle asking him to step over strongly with his inside hind.

Canter departs — Murray’s weakness really shows in his left canter depart (the outside hind takes the brunt of the force in canter departs).  For a horse like Murray who is in good enough shape to practice these, canter departs really help strengthen the outside hind.  They are always something I can work on — especially if I ever want that elusive lead change — but I must be careful not to drill because someone gets cranky when I do that.

IMG_8458

Canter transitions within the gait — Cantering, which is already pretty fun, also stretches out the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, of both hind legs but especially the outside hind.  My masseuse suggested that I ask Murray to do a little collected canter, medium, collected, extended, medium during our canter sets to get those muscles limbered up and moving.

Toe touch stretches — Straight out of Ballou’s book, I like these stretches because they move his leg in all different directions.  You take your horse’s hoof and stretch it straight back as far as you can, directly to the side (think perpendicular to the direction of their body), and forward, all keeping the toe close to the ground.  You hold each of these positions for ten seconds, and repeat at least once.  Move slowly, especially in the beginning.  I’ve found Murray really appreciates these now, though he was fairly resistant in the beginning.

What are your favourite exercises and stretches for the hind end?  I want to learn more!

body shots (#iflmh)

If there’s anything I’ve learned from the SprinklerBandit, it’s that everybody loves a good progress post.  I mean for real, horses’ bodies change so much with work, and we have these neat little touch screen computers in our pockets at all times that can just CAPTURE THAT SHIT all the time.  So I try to do so.  Early and often.  Mostly I fail, but sometimes I succeed.

The end of this March is Murray’s and my one and half year anniversary, and also his birthday.  Six!  Six whole years old.  And this year, we’ve been hitting the dressage hard and I have been quite sure I’ve seen changes in his body. And I was right!  Check it.

(NB: Please forgive Murray’s semi-feral appearance at this time. Did I tell you about the Extreme Makeover, Pony Edition? TL;DR I pledged not to do any beautification of Murray after I clipped him until Spring so his transformation would resemble that of a magnificent swan. I’m coming to regret that but hold firm to the gunnels.)

First up, August 2014 til March 2015

2014-09-04 14.42.30IMG_20150318_171526

My greatest joy: THE LOWER BACK LUMP IS PRACTICALLY GONE GUYS.  Murray’s always had this little vertebral protrusion/lower back roach/lump thing, and I’ve practically covered it up with muscle this year.  I’m thrilled and elated.  Also, the dip between his withers and neck is reduced, he’s put on some neck bulk, and his booty! Oh that booty. Let’s take a closer look at that booty in a minute.

Now, May 2014 to March 2015

2014-05-05 15.55.01IMG_20150318_171447

I like these two because Murray is standing in almost the exact same position in them!  Ignoring the bloom and neatly trimmed mane, Murray’s barrel has deepened and rounded, and his shoulders have filled.  Also super heartening, his quadriceps muscle has filled in!  I scaled the two pictures to the same size and it looks like Murray also got taller and longer!  Oh, and his mane grew.

(Also, I’m not sure if any of you will have noticed, but his hoof angles have vastly improved since last May!  May was around the time the farrier incident occurred, and I switched to my new farrier. She’s done wonders for his upright RF.)

Now the booty shots.

2014-09-04 14.43.08IMG_20150318_165551
Booty booty booty booty booty everywhere!

HIS BOOTY WENT FROM ALL DOWN POINTY TO SLIGHTLY HUMPED IN THE MIDDLE LIKE A LITITLE HEART!! Look, the spine is actually the lowest point instead of the highest now!  AAAAH.  And I personally think his tail has increased in magnificence.  It’s almost, nearly, practically touching the ground now!!  BUT FOR REAL THAT BOOTY.

Ladies and gentlemen (BAHAHA who am I kidding? No men read this), that is all.

(Oh, and #iflmh = I fucking love my horse)

TOABH: DTR

Defining the Relationship
 
Snookum-ukums, where do you see this going?  
 
Let’s be realistic.  What’s the plan with your pony?  Is it a five-year investment with a return, is it until you move up beyond the Kin’s abilities, or is it forever*?

I must admit, when I saw the DTR acronym I definitely did not think defining the relationship, I thought “down to ride!”  I clearly have not been in enough relationships.

Murray’s and my relationship is a little complex.  I am having so much fun with him, he is teaching me so much (really, he’s immeasurably molding my riding abilities), and I am sure he will carry us both as far as he can go.  But I may have some aspirations beyond him.  Maybe.  Like Prelim. Or a 1*.  Or even a 2*.  I might be that crazy.  And I’m pretty sure that, talented as he is, kid can’t do a 2*.  So few horses can.

If I could do a 2* today, there’s no way I could afford to keep Murray. I am simply not in a place where I could keep two horses (let’s ignore the expense of doing 2* events!!).  In four, five, six years though?  When I’m mentally and physically ready to do those things, or have probably chickened out entirely and forever?  I might be able to have two horses then.  I would love to have two horses then.  We will see.

Regardless, after Murray and I have gone as far as we can in eventing (and I hope we will continue to event), I’d really like to see how far I can reasonably take him in dressage.  He’s not fancy or chromed out (I will wear bling to make up for it), but he’s got clean changes in there, and can definitely half pass.  That’s at least third level, right?  Maybe there’s a bronze medal in our futures?

If and when it comes time for Murray to leave me, I will enlist the help of my current trainer to find him the right home, or retire him.  She knows him inside and out, and even if she is not Murray’s favourite person, I know that she will do her absolute best by him.

IMG_8487

 

In other news, DIY Horse Ownership is having a 100th post giveaway on her blog!  Olivia makes these beautiful carved wooden stall signs.  Don’t you want one? You know you do!!  Go check out her post and enter the contest!

think, then do

I have this little problem with Murray wherein we’ll be cantering (or trotting) along happily, and I’ll think “I’ll transition to trot at A” and suddenly at K I’m already trotting (or walking) and I wonder exactly how I got there.  This really isn’t the world’s worst problem, to have a horse so sensitive that he can read my mind, but sometimes I really wish he would just stop reading my mind.  Doesn’t he know that I have to think through the test a little ahead to prepare for the movements?!

When I was riding MIL’s big mare this weekend, I encountered a very similar problem.  I would think about half halting to get her more round, and suddenly I’d be pitched forward and we were walking.  Same thing in the canter to walk transitions.  I’d think about walking, and suddenly we were trotting and not where I wanted to do my transition!

This revealed one thing immediately about my riding: my legs are sissy nimby pimbies that should be more effective communicators (my upper thigh-lower butt region is screaming today!).  The second thing, which MIL pointed out to me, is that when I think about doing something, my body weight shifts in anticipation of that thing. So it’s really the sign of a good horse that Murray (and of course her impeccably trained mare) is responding to those minor changes in body weight.  But to get what I want — which is a clean, forward down transition at a specific point — I must think first but keep my leg on, and then do.

This was much harder said than done. We practiced by working on some walk-canter-walk figure eights with Tiny, aiming for a single stride of walk between the circles.  As I would come around the corner and look at the center line, I started to think about walking and boom — Tiny was trotting (also not the goal!).  MIL coached me literally step by step, telling me to sit tall and keep my leg on and half halt and try again!  It was hard, really hard.  To the point where I was literally saying under my breath “walk, walk, walk” as I stretched tall but kept my leg on.  I could feel Tiny shift her weight back to her hindquarters under me in preparation for the transition, and then would come the inevitable trotting that meant I had to try again.

The problem at this point wasn’t thinking and then doing, it was committing to what I was doing!  I was so caught up with preparing for and keeping my leg on before the walk transition that I was failing to actually commit to the walk transition, so Tiny was doing exactly what I told her to, which was not what I actually wanted.  Commitment.  It’s important.  I finally figured it out, muttering under my breath and with some rather graceless half halts to get the “commitment” part down.  Thank goodness for schoolmasters!!

The wonderful thing about “think, then do” is that it is a natural half halt — you don’t even need more rein than a steady contact!  Your body tells your horse to prepare for a down transition, but your leg says “not just yet”.  Your horse naturally collects himself, shortens his stride, and (ideally) transfers some weight back to the haunches.  Then, if you are quick and clever (quicker and cleverer than I) you can send your horse forward again with improved collection.  This is the badassery of dressage.

consistency is key

Last week’s jump lesson with Murray was filled with exuberance and joy for we jumped in the outside arena for the first time since December! Huzzah! Huzzah!  Murray was very happy to be outside and we jumped all around a relatively simple course, albeit with some new, scary filler, with ease.  Kept it lower, except for a hanging log that was a solid 3′ of terror — I was seriously concerned it would come down.  We jumped everything in stride, which was very comforting after our XC adventure left me a little bit shocked at how reliant I’ve become on the deep spots.  However, it turns out that deep spots are a function of the tight turns in the indoor and I can, indeed, still jump things in a gallop stride.  So fun!

The downside to the lesson was that it is clear that Murray is not nearly as fit as I had hoped he would be by, oh, March 16th.  Remember when I was obsessed with equine fitness?  Yeah, let’s recap that.  I got totally scrooged on my schedule for Murray by (2/9) him getting that puffy knee, and me being afraid to work him on it,  (2/23) stone bruise/whatever after XC schooling, (2/25) going to Italy for a week, and (3/6) him falling on his side and being both sore and then requiring a chiro (3/12), after which one is supposed to only do light work (w/t only) for at least four days.  Soooo that’s every week since I last did a timed gallop set.  Yep.  So we’re approximately up to, oh I don’t know, three and a half minute canter sets?  Fortunately, the kid is quite able to do long trot sets (we frequently work for 10 minutes at a go), but I usually only do 2-3 of these per ride, and trotting is not what one does on XC.

View this post on Instagram

Ever so slightly obsessed with my cucumber starts.

A post shared by Nicole (@nicolegizelle) on

I’m growing cucumbers!

Our dressage rides since my lesson have also revealed the holes that I’ve let re-form in Murray’s body this winter by not sticking to my tried-and-true exercises.  Last year I was obsessed (quite literally) with spiral in and out, especially to the right, and Murray got a lot more used to bringing his right hind under and pushing off of it through that exercise.  I’ve not done it in approximately five months (bad, bad Nicole), and Murray has been travelling haunches-in to the right for at least two.  I’m so annoyed at myself for letting such an important exercise slip — because what was I doing if I wasn’t doing spiral in and out?!  I hardly worked on anything new in the last five months (started the haunches in & my new lunging regime) sooooo there’s really no excuse.

So it’s back to my old favourite exercises, and reminding Murray that getting off my right leg is not a favor, it’s necessary.  Upside: Murray has put on a TON of muscle this winter (I should take some comparison pictures…) and his neck is getting huge.  Most impressive is the muscle he’s laying down in his lower back, which is obviously critical to dressage.

View this post on Instagram

Baby horse is suspicious of working before breakfast

A post shared by Nicole (@nicolegizelle) on

On the other hand, the little horse has been progressing in leaps and bounds since our first ride last week.  Every day he got quieter and more relaxed on the lunge line, and picked up on my voice commands excellently.  I even have him stopping out on the circle without turning in, which is something I’m literally still struggling with Murray to accomplish.  I’ve been keeping things light and breezy for our actual under-saddle work, and he’s much more relaxed and I actually asked for a little trot last week.

On Friday, as we did our post-lunge walk around the arena, little horse saw something terrifying (which I assumed was a flowery gate jump) and sat, spun, and tried to escape but was kinda confused about what direction he wanted to actually go.  I grabbed onto his safety belt mane, which is fortunately plentiful, and held on, and once he settled we walked quietly past the terrifying gate.  I realized then that it wasn’t the gate that was so horrible, but the aforementioned hanging log!  The way he was acting it was clear that there was something sick and wrong about that log.  I got off in the center of the arena once little horse had settled and walked him over to the log.  This precipitated much snorting, but the little one is quite brave and shortly reached out to touch the offending log.  Once he realised he could try to eat strips of the bark, little horse was over it and happily continued trying to explore the log for foodstuffs.

View this post on Instagram

Sleeping beauty this morning!

A post shared by Nicole (@nicolegizelle) on

this little piggie

I have been sucking at posting this month!  This week there were extenuating circumstances.

Friday I was going to post about my lesson Thursday (super fun lesson! will talk about it later) and how much progress the Little Horse has been making and the glories of consistent work, but Thursday morning I found out I didn’t get the job I interviewed for.  So instead of writing I had a pity party with my friends and ate and drank my feelings.  It was the right choice.  Really, their loss, and the world continues to turn.

View this post on Instagram

Eating my feelings

A post shared by Nicole (@nicolegizelle) on

Eating my feelings

Friday after my rides (easy ones c/o Murray’s adjustment on Thursday) I drove down to my in laws’ place for a pizza party and Saturday pig roast!  We roasted two whole pigs two ways, one in a Cuban pig roasting box, and the other in a traditional Luau pit.

View this post on Instagram

Pig v pig.

A post shared by Nicole (@nicolegizelle) on

Ellie wants the piggie

The Luau pit piggie was so amazingly tender. If you have space on your property for a Luau pit you seriously should install one. For they are the bomb.  The cahachina pig was also delicious, and the skin was crispy which was a plus, but man, I can’t dismiss the pit pig. Sooooooooo good.

Saturday morning my amazing Jelinore Roosevelt caught her first ever ground squirrel (we hate them because their holes are big enough to break horses’ legs — nuff said) and got bitten on the face for her troubles.  Fortunately, the resident squirrel expert (giant Schnauzer) finished the bastard off, and Ellie got to revel in her glory for many hours.

Sunday morning I had a leisurely sleep in and worked my mother in law’s dressage ponies with her.  Amazing upside of having equestrian mother in law: getting badass lessons.  Everyone was a little neck sore from spring vaccines, so we just worked them lightly, and I got a lesson on MIL’s retired I2 mare.  Tiny made me look like an absolute child atop her (her name is ironic) and made me work my butt off!  The mare is way too smart to give you anything for fun, and really kept my accountable. Lots of good lessons there.

And now I am home, prepping for a quiet week (yay finals!) and lots of riding and several blog posts next week, and catching up on everything I missed this weekend!IMG_5281I leave you this picture of my magnificent pigwink wading in the river.

TOABH: Fail (ERMEHGERD!)

I missed the last two TOABH questions.  The one from two weeks ago I didn’t answer specifically to not jinx myself.  Last week I just didn’t make it after getting back from Italy.  I BLAME YOU, ITALY.  I had a perfect record!

This week, Beka asks us about FAILs.

We know what makes Thunderhooves happy, but what does he hate to do?  Let’s not ignore those times that you have whip out all the tricks or pharmaceuticals for grooming.

For the record, just like everyone else, this is what makes Thunderhooves happy.  It makes me deliriously happy too.

16019201964_b78d562d0c_k

However, there are aspects of this that also make Thunderhooves extremely suspicious.  Most specifically, my insistence that he listen to me, not gallop around like a crazy man, accept some contact, and actually, oh I don’t know, accept that I know what I’m talking about/planning on doing.

IMG_3747 IMG_3749 horze1Ok so this one was more of my fail, but I had to share it again anyway.

Also related to our travels and Murray’s failures is this.

IMG_20150203_205110

Oh and even though it’s not technically under saddle, I’m also going to count this (close to 90% hit rate on this one).

xtiesI just realised how unintentionally hilarious this picture is. It’s from before Murray broke the headstall of his leather halter, which he’s done twice (I just punch a new hole when he does), but after he broke the brass snap under the cheek. Oh child, how many places can you break that thing?!