Sunday, March 30, 2014

...or Bucking Machine

Today's lesson was not quite as awesome as Friday's.

Also, no new pictures still as our photographer had LASIK on Thursday and barn dust is not the best thing for recently lasered eyes.  So I am going to practice embedding gifs, one of many things I have no experience with.

We did manage to ride outside today. It was a little windy but otherwise nice. Everything started off nicely enough, Fawkes was relaxed and moving well.  Warmed up over some cross rails and 2' verticals, then trainer started raising everything to about 2'6" and having us work on small courses. It was a very equitation course set up out there, no lines, just fences all over the place.

One of the jumps was on the quarter line, going away from the gate into the Scary Corner of Doom.

The first time over it, he was a little squirrely, but did ok. The second time through, neither of us saw a spot and then at the last minute I tried to force the chip and he decided to launch. He landed....decidedly unhappy. Dropped his head, humped his back, and attempted to buck through the whole corner.  Thankfully, he is a terrible bucker.  But no big deal, right? We will just try again.

Started the whole course over.  Came in to the same fence at a beautiful distance, hit it perfectly, landed, and bam.  Head down, full on on rodeo horse.  OK, not really cause he still sucks at bucking.  But he kept trying to drag his head down and get his hind end up.  I am not sure if it was him remembering the previous bad jump, the hated end of the ring, or some combination, but we were clearly not on the same page.

It was only *that* jump too, every other fence in the ring he was fine over.  Spent most of the rest of the lesson working on jumping and then recovering. Alternated trotting and cantering fences to keep him from getting too hot.  Lots of circles before and after jumps.

Did a whole course with trot one fence, canter next fence, trot next fence, etc.  It worked really well as I could feel Fawkes want to get crazy but the slow trot fences kept him quiet.  Ish.

On the plus side, it was a busy Sunday morning and I got lots of compliments on my riding, so I will take what I can get.  And I have to laugh because Fawkes sure does keep me on my toes!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Jumping Machine

It has been a good week in horsey land.

Adorable pony didn't want to pose, but is still super cute.

On Wednesday we were able to have a lovely ride in the outdoor.  Thank you Mother Nature for sometimes letting us escape the indoor.  Fawkes was almost lazy he was so relaxed and when those days happen I do not look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth, but just go with the flow.

Love the perspective on this one.  Also demonstrates my inability to get my ankles away
 from his sides but let's not quibble. 

We had a nice hack and played around over the poles to work on rhythm and striding.  Also got to have an interesting chat with the eventer at the barn.  He told me that he is very pro bringing other people with him when he schools cross country, goes to lessons, etc, and said he has room on his trailer and can take us along.  This was very unexpected but I am super excited.  I had sort of resigned myself to not being able to event given the dual problems of no trailer and no cross country course nearby.  So this could be a game changer!

Outta my way, cameraman
Then got to have a wonderful jumping lesson tonight.  We did a straight 4 stride line, an in-and-out, a bending 4 stride line, and some single fences, all in different combinations.  I had one miscue at a tiny little cross rail and Fawkes got confused, stopped, and then walked over it.

He was all...."um, is this what you want? Cause it's weird, but I'm game."

That is miles away from the horse who used to stop, panic, and then run out several more times for good measure.

We are both happier because as my base gets more and more secure, I feel better letting go of his face.  Funny how that works.  I am totally sure the two are unrelated.

We went over more fences tonight than we have in quite a while and besides the one goof up, it all went really well.  My main takeaway from today was more right leg.  Generally, no matter how much right leg I think I am using, it isn't enough.  I can't compensate by pulling on the left rein.  Believe me, I have tried.  If it were possible I would have succeeded by now.  I have lots of evidence he just gets more crooked.  And I have to be very gentle with the right rein straightening because to Fawkes, that is a damn good excuse to slide further right.

So. Right leg, more right leg, and then some more right leg.  But with tact, because nothing in riding is ever simple.

After our ride I untacked him and hand-walked him up the road.  Let him graze a bit here and there to make expanding our horizons an enjoyable experience.  Because my freak horse actually prefers ring work over trails and we need to fix that, stat.  There were some spooks at neighbor kids playing basketball and some rogue goats (I mean, really? Free range goats in suburbia? ok) but he held it together.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

That's why we don't take a week off normally

Spoiler alert - the problem was not the horse.

Well duh, nothing this cute can be bad (Lie)

Finally got out to the barn to ride last night after way too much time off.  Luckily, I was able to get one of the trainers to ride him on Sunday so he didn't just sit the whole time.  Still, to be safe, I turned him out first.

I dream of boarding somewhere that he has actual fields to go out in all day, every day.  Sadly, that isn't a real option here, so we deal.  Fawkes actually handles it very well, but does love his chance to play.

After some fun, we got down to business.  Holy shit, did my body object.  You wouldn't think one week off would be so terrible but my ankles beg to differ.  So it was a very exciting ride of transitions, two point, knees bent....YAWN.  Luckily, a wee pony came in to spice things up.

He is at the barn on trial and was being test ridden.  Maybe 10 hands tall and cute as a freaking button.  Too bad the horses were all WTF is that thing???  At least it gave me an opportunity to work on Fawkes instead of just myself.  I really do think we are making progress, just sooooo painfully slow.

On the flip side - he used to be a 6 ride a week horse or he would be awful.  It is nice to be past that!

Friday, March 21, 2014


A virus is running through the barn, so all rides and lessons were cancelled from Wednesday through tomorrow.

Luckily, the virus doesn't appear to be very strong and the sick horses have been recovering well. Fawkes has been fine, but we were all asked not to ride much to keep the stress level low and hopefully help the virus clear out faster.

Wednesday I hopped on bareback for awhile because nothing will keep me moving slower than trying to prevent Fawkes' withers from breaking me in half.  It was actually an interesting challenge.  I spent a lot of time just "listening" to his back with my seat and moving with the motion.

Then we did leg yields in both directions.  He was super responsive even to my right leg, which makes me think that his unwillingness under saddle is not just general one-sidedness.  Need to ponder that more.

I left him on a loose rein and used only my seat and leg to change his path.  Amazing how much you feel the effect of shifting your weight on their back when the muscles respond directly under you.  So while slow and probably painfully boring to watch, it was a neat exercise.  Except for halt.  Could not get the pony to stop sans reins.  Clearly a signal we both need to clarify.

Took a hand walk afterwards to graze on the first blades of spring grass.  Eating helps ease the fear of leaving the comfort of home.

Since we are still on "quiet time" I chose to go to happy hour today instead of ride.  Fawkes approved of my choice.  I stopped by on the way home to say hello and he was blanketed, buried in his hay, and mostly concerned that I wasn't going to make him leave his comfy pen. He tolerated my hugs and kisses and happily said goodbye.

Have people in town visiting this weekend, but will hopefully at least get to ride and then get back to work again next week.  This enforced break wasn't bad though, I do forget that just enjoying your horse is good for the soul too.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New shoes and feeling good

Fawkes got his hind shoes put on yesterday which is great because hopefully that means we can trail ride again soon!

I am out of new horse pictures, so this post will include random shots of my trip to Belgium last April.
Look! An impaled fly on a pin!
I pulled them for the winter since I don't ride as much when the weather is awful and the deal I made with my farrier was no trail riding or if I did and Fawkes abscessed, I wouldn't whine about it.  I was too cheap to get trail boots and we don't trail ride alone anyways (for reasons such as: one time, we got t-boned by a mountain bike and I got dumped and it was nice to have someone there who could have called 911 if needed), so skipping trails for a few months wasn't that big of a sacrifice.

Bar (Poechenellekelder) with delicious beer (Kwak!)
and CREEPY fucking decor.  That's ok, I don't need to sleep. Ever again.

Farrier said I might want to consider an iodine or keratex or durasole treatment as Fawkes' soles do seem a little soft and that probably explains the quarter flares.  Although those were all rasped off and no big deal. Will have to think about if I want to go that route, haven't ever had to do that before.

Anyways, always happy to get a report of good foot health and Fawkes is always equally happy to get 24 hours off post shoeing.
Not gonna lie, didn't understand the appeal of Manneken Pis
But got my tourist on and took a picture anyways

Rode tonight and just had a simple hack.  Still just focusing on transitions and equitation.  Fawkes had two really good walk/canter transitions and was very amenable in general.

He was pretty tough to get off my right leg for the first part of the ride, but once I got after him a bit, he gave in and then was fine.

I am starting to feel more comfortable with the adjustments to my eq even though they still hurt.  I need to ride like 6 hours a day for 3 weeks to break my body in!
They aren't lying about the awesomeness of Belgian chocolate.
 I feel like an expert because I am pretty sure I ate it all.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Excellent weekend

I really do not want to go back to work tomorrow.

Saturday was a great day skiing in the mountains.  Did 12+ runs, several black diamonds which is new for me, and we had really great snow conditions most of the day.  The weather was kind of nuts with alternating blue skies and snow squalls with zero visibility and high winds.  But that kept the snow great and kept us out skiing.

Which is all horse relevant, because I skiied so hard,  I kind of overdid it and was hurting for my lesson today.  We managed to have a great one anyways!

Not from today, but cute.
Hi hand, whatca doing in my lap?

It was a great day for a ride, sunny and warm.  We had our first outdoor lesson and Fawkes was feeling good.  The lesson itself was great because I am starting to not hear the same things from my trainer.

While she still has to remind me of some things (carry your hands, keep your knee bent, support yourself and get off his back), I am getting more new items and less repeats already.  We are getting into more detailed improvements while jumping small courses.

Today was an outside 4 stride line, to a single fence on the other outside line, to single fences across the diagonals.  The second fence in the line was a 2'6" oxer and the rest were 2'3"ish verticals.  This is currently where Fawkes and me (ok, mostly me) are most comfortable although we can go up to 3' before I start re-thinking my life's choices.

Primary take-aways were to use outside rein and leg to straighten him to the fences, not so much inside rein and my heel.  Princess horse objects to heels touching him.

There is also one end of the outdoor that tends to be spooky so for that end, we halted while facing it, then walked through it.  Did that a few times, then instead of halting we just came down to the walk.  Then the trot.  And finally, he cantered straight through quietly.  Woot!

Perfect horse was perfect- hit all his changes, got great distances, didn't look at anything and only got snippy when I made mistakes.

After riding, took the dogs to the huge dog park where J & I got sun burnt and they ran around like crazy and got filthy.  They are now looking a little sad post-bath, while I enjoy a beer and hope tomorrow is Sunday all over again.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Birthday Fawkes!!

Fawkes turned 10 today! :)

Say what?

We had a birthday jumping lesson, which he wasn't super impressed by and then birthday treats which made him much happier.  

While pain is still the name of the game for my ankles, my ability to get into the correct position was noticeably better tonight.   We started going over some poles on the ground and the first time, Fawkes wasn't paying attention and then freaked when he saw them in front of him and ditched out to the right.  

That got his attention and possibly even embarrassed him because he was perfect for the rest of the ride.

Imagine if this picture was in focus....

"Scary" wall jump is no problem.
Continuing to work on keeping my knee bent, evidence says there is some improvement but still need to keep focusing on it.

Birthday glamour shot!

Nasty foot chip documented.  Not bothering him at least but I will be
 happy to see the farrier Monday

Birthday alfalfa pellets, carrots, and peppermints.  Yum?

Fawkes approves, he only looks disgruntled because, well, that is his face.
And he was very focused on picking out the carrots first.
Love this crazy man!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Quick mid week ride

Stopped at the barn today for a quick after work ride.  My entire goal was to practice two point and trying to pull my ankles away from Fawkes while keeping everything else together.

It sounds so easy, the reality is much harder.

I miss you summer, come back soon.

First, I tried to turn him out and he immediately rolled in mud, got up, tried to buck and/or rear, slipped and almost fell.

It was not a shining moment for him.

That ended that so we went inside and I scraped a bunch of mud off of him.  Cannot wait until I can give him a bath.

I also noticed that he ripped a reasonably-sized chunk out of the inside of his right hind. Not from his shenanigans, it wasn't that fresh.  Luckily, he was sound on it and we are getting a full set put on Monday anyways.  Guess he just wanted to remind me about that.

The ride itself was pretty mundane.  Fawkes gets to pretty much do what he wants within the realm of not getting way above the bit and keeping a rhythm.  I try and stretch out the mess that is my lower leg alternating between all gaits at two point.  With posting trot and breaks thrown in to save me.

My super cute good dog
It all went well so I quit after 30 minutes (so far to go to fitness).  Rechecked his foot which was still fine and put him away.

Yesterday it snowed here and I finally got a video of my crazy dog's frisbee dance.  She is such a weird animal but she keeps us entertained!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Finally got to test the outdoor

Dirty horse does a hand walking lap
Thanks to the confluence of daylight savings time and warm weather, I finally got to ride Fawkes in the outdoor for the first time at the new place tonight.  Woohoo!!

But first, jumping lesson happened on Sunday.

The ring was hectic, which I think is great for desensitizing Fawkes, but he definitely does not approve.  Add a relatively young kid playing with a puppy in the viewing area, and it was going to be another one of those days.  I swear I am going to send him home with kids and puppies and water slides and balloons and dancing bunny rabbits until he just gets over it.  Although that imaginary household would be a very strange (and awesome) place.

Barn cat Caramel is hilariously crazy

Lots of the same relaxing exercises as last time.  One decent spook where I got lectured for over reacting.  Yeah, that is one bad habit I need to work on.  Getting dumped over his shoulder a few times when he does his reiner spin and bolt has given me a couple defensive traits.

But as usual, trainer was right and me not reacting helped him not keep reacting.  More human abuse on the flat - really trying to get my ankles away from his sides but crap that hurts.  I toe out by nature and have bad ankles so it is basically all difficult and painful.  However, it is all helping solidify my base so whine less and work more.

Over fences work was great.  Did a line with a one stride to a three stride and then 2 single diagonal fences.  The only difficulty was getting straight to the first fence in the gymnastic (a-ha! that explains our crappy rides to the line last time).  Other than that, Fawkes was dead on.  Got his changes, great distances, and was super brave. Still spooky in the corner, but you know, just run past that and jump something, right?....
Watching the camera man
For Fawkes, we were working on keeping calm between the fences and not just building adrenaline and going faster.  And for me, staying in half seat and supporting him without driving.  A really good lesson and my legs hurt so much that pushing the gas pedal on the drive home made me wince.  That must mean I am doing it right.
Not paranoid at all

Tonight was all about just getting into the outdoor and not freaking out.  Not the most auspicious start as when we got there, a horse was having a bit of a bolt fest but we just sat in the middle and watched.  The crazy cat also ran around the ring for a bit and you could actually see Fawkes contemplating the danger of the tiny mountain lion.

Kept it super low key with lots of walking, some trotting, and a tiny bit of pole work to keep him happy.  Plenty of other horses were out there with us which I think helped.  I could feel his tension at this strange new place and he did a little nervous teeth clacking, but he kept it together.  I am always crazy proud of moments like that.
So cute, but that mane is a nightmare.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The other side of the coin

Had a jumping lesson on Wednesday and Fawkes decided he would finally show his spooky side to trainer R.

As is usually the case, I couldn't identify what made this night different than others.  Weather was fine, he had been turned out, etc.   Except for one thing.  There was an actual monster in the ring.  The kind of monster that a horse such as Fawkes just cannot tolerate.  The kind of monster that makes grown men quiver in their boots and grown horses head for the hills.

It was a 5 year old girl in a princess dress being ponied around the ring.


And while we are talking about it, that jump looks pretty sketchy too
By the way? I am already jealous of that little girl's life.

So we got to work a lot on dealing with and defusing the spookiness.  Getting me to not react and tense up is definitely a big part in ending the drama.  The primary spook zone was a corner, so we worked on being prepared, getting the correct bend before the spooky area and quickly rewarding him for obedience.  When he transferred his spookiness to over fences work (a specialty of his is getting spooky about one thing and then freaking out about everything), we made it boring.  Jump, canter 1900 circles, trot 19800 more circles.  Walk.  Jump.  Repeat.  Hopefully helping him learn to relax.

I technically know all this stuff, but damn Fawkes knows how to press my buttons and it helps me so much to hear it from the ground.  Also, keep putting more tools in the tool box.

On the plus side, he was dead honest to the jumps.  He wanted to channel his spookiness into running through the exercises (a 4 bounce cavaletti on one side and two one-stride fences on the other) instead of running away from the fences and that is a problem I feel much more capable of dealing with.

It was a trot into the one stride line and I could not for the life of me ride well into the first fence.  Nothing major went wrong it just always felt a little off.  Luckily we always hit the second and third beautifully.  If you can't start well at least recover well. I suppose.

R commented that she is happy with how my eq is coming along, so that is good.  I am still not sure I feel that different yet, but my body is always the last to realize things.  

While we never achieved full relaxation, we were able to get some good work done and I was pleased overall with where we got to.

After I hopped off, I asked the little girl if she would give my horse a treat - he would willingly let a demon near him for a peppermint.  He seemed less freaked by her after that although he still kept one eye on her just in case.

Freak snow storm dampened my plans to ride today, so will instead try for a double header this weekend.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Consistent Horse

It is possible that Fawkes is growing up.

Given that he turns 10 next week, this would be a "none too soon" kind of event.

Maturity has not generally been his strong point.
Photo credit to Elizabeth Lord, horse photographer extraordinaire.
However, lately he has been giving me some great rides even when my ability to get there and ride has been inconsistent.  Sunday's lesson was canceled due to it being all of 7 degrees and yesterday I couldn't get to the barn.  So I went tonight after not riding for 3 days.

And to throw into the mix, it was in the 50s today but as I got to the barn a cold front was moving in and the barometer was plummeting.  Several horses were quite feisty.  I let Fawkes run in the big turn out for 10 minutes and he had a grand old time. If I were braver, I would play tag with him like he so desperately wants.  But I don't trust him not to kick me in the face (refer to above picture) so instead I play "scary monster."

In this game I crouch on the ground and he walks towards me.  I jump and yell "blargh" and he snorts and bucks and "spooks" and runs around me, tail flagging.  We repeat until one of us gets tired.
The TB never tires first.  

It would be embarrassing if I had any shame whatsoever.

Anyhow, he was pretty up when I brought him in and tacked him up, but he settled right to work.  The actual riding is super boring.  Him staying in a general frame with a consistent rhythm, me working on my position.  Lots of pain and transitions and two point and pain.  Did I mention the pain? My calves and achilles-type area just do not want to stretch out lately.  Annoying but I am determined to get through it.

Canter transitions were lovely, schooled a couple changes and only had one late change.  Didn't push it, those are really just bonus material right now.  There were two offset poles on the ground and we had fun playing with them as a 4 stride bending line and 3 stride sliced line.  Not one thing to complain about, he was great - willing and focused.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bring the Pain

Rode the beast last night before the weather went all to hell. It was a good night for Fawkes, and tough for me since I was just working on keeping my knees bent and my core engaged.

Also did some two point torture and that definitely needs work.  I can go around about twice before we both fall apart and pray for death and the ring is not all that big.  Wow.
I hide my head in shame.  Aragorn, however, feels no shame.  Ever.

I think I need to get back into planking as that seems to be the fastest route for me to core competence.  Hee, I made myself laugh with my corporate buzzword pun.

One interesting thing that came up at the last lesson was that I tend to hit his back as he does canter departs.  I didn't realize I was doing it, but I have noticed that sometimes he breaks back to trot again before cantering off.  So last night I experimented with all upward and downward transitions in two point (hello core, help me out here?) to see if staying off of his back makes them better.  Of course it did.  As usual, pilot error.

Cleaned and conditioned my saddle and bridle which made my OCD happy.

Left Fawkes with his heavy blanket on for the weather transition.  In the 50s yesterday, today was 13.  Lovely.  Fawkes got today off as I went skiing, have another lesson tomorrow.
This was from a couple years ago.  Still hate moguls.