Middle School Bully.

Long time no post. That’s my new theme.

I just haven’t had all that much to say.

I’ve been dealing with the usual vertigo, migraines, and then someone pulled a shoe… So there was an unplanned vacation. And remnants of hurricane Ida rolled through and a tornado touched down in my small little town about 2 miles from my house. No damage here, but lots of damage nearby.

Despite all those interruptions, Nay Nay and I have actually made massive progress. While his left lead isn’t what I’d call reliable, it’s not a fight. We can and do pick it up every ride.

Since that awful lesson a few weeks ago, his lead has been pretty solid. In fact, I’ve found that as long as I set him up properly, he can and will pick up the lead. Shocking, right?

So what do we do?

First, it all starts at the walk and trot. In the (not so distant) past, I’d ALWAYS do a long warm up with lots and lots of circles, but my warm up wasn’t necessarily efficient. Now the goal of our time at the walk and trot is to make sure Nay is responding to leg/spur. If I use my left leg/spur, he’d better move over and off my leg immediately. It’s not a request, it’s a demand. If I ask him to bend, he bends. It’s amazing that once I stopped being wishy washy and started setting him up, everything else fell into place. So, at the walk and trot we established the correct shape, moving off my leg, holding the bend through corners and circles of all sizes, etc.

Nay Nay wearing orange fly boots
The side eye is everything

Next? I started holding a crop. I don’t NEED a crop, but the crop actually makes me more aware of where my hands are. It’s helped a lot. I stopped with the crop because I worried that Nay would get fast (I worry too much) but the damn crop doesn’t make him fast. Just like the spurs don’t make him fast. He doesn’t care. I use the crop more when he’s in the cross ties and won’t stop pawing. To him the crop is a tool, not something that tells him to speed up. So yeah. I find that I can use it against his neck as an anchor point when I need to remind myself hands to the outside and it helps with the bend and indirect rein. I also find that it helps me keep my hands closer together and lower. Why? I don’t know. I guess so I don’t have the crop swinging all over the place? Plus, if we do get into trouble, I can actually use it vs kicked or smacking him with my hand.

Finally, when I actually ask for the canter? 3 major things. Don’t rush. It doesn’t matter how well he’s set up if I rush, I will fail. Hands to the outside (Nay does start to anticipate at this point so we’re going to have to ultimately work through this piece). And finally, outside leg WAY WAY WAY back and tap with the spur. This is key. It tells him to get his back legs in and now is also his command to canter. At this point, most of the time if I just bring my leg back, Nay will launch into the canter. But the placement of my outside leg has been a game changer.

In my lesson yesterday, my trainer was actually impressed at how good his canter looked. Both leads actually. He fights going into the canter. Kind of a “I don’t want to! Groan, grunt, snort. Fine, I’m doing it, I’m so happy!” It’s funny. The fight is getting there. Getting to do what he doesn’t want to do. Once he gets over the hurdle? He doesn’t care. The fight usually makes you think, is it pain? But with Nay it’s more an attitude thing. He’s SO sound right now. We’ll get to this more in a moment.

We spent a little while cantering a circle over this tiny stone wall at the end of the ring. It was maybe 12″? But it was a good chance to work on maintaining the left lead and also the pace of the canter. Nay tried to play a bit in the corners (he was being a bit extra), but otherwise it was no big deal.

Next we worked on stringing together 2 easy jumps in a figure eight. First trotting and halting after each and then maintaining the trot throughout. We had moved down to the scary end of the arena (down by the road where people were mowing across the street), but generally while I care, Nay doesn’t. He’s a lot of things, but spooky isn’t one of them.

We walked up to look at the first jump which honestly pissed him off. He’s kind of over that practice. Lol. And then trotting to it he started crowhopping like a fool. It wasn’t the jump. Instead of continuing, I circled to get my balance, but I should have kept going. My mistake. But we reapproached, crowhopping and all, and popped over it. The jump was fine. He didn’t actually even overjump. He doesn’t do that anymore. And halted without issue. Then we tried to trot to the next fence and scooted and crowhopped and tried to pull out all the stops as we headed towards jump 2. We stopped and then managed to turn towards it, antics and all, and hop over it. Again, the jump was fine. It wasn’t the jump. On the landing, Nay got his head between his knees and had a party, but we halted. Rinse and repeat. Approach to the first jump the second time was fine. Turns out he wasn’t going to fight that one. And we halted and continued. The second AND third times to jump 2 were more of the same. He was slightly better on the landing the third time and I continued to hold a conversation with him hoping it would help (maybe it did? I was told to talk to him so I told him to stop being an idiot because I didn’t appreciate in the kindest softest voice possible). Finally on the 4th attempt we skipped the halt and maintained a better trot without any crow hops on approach or landing! The next time we added in a 3rd jump, trotting a broken line. We ended by holding the canter through the last 2 jumps.

He’s such a good boy!

In the end my trainer was impressed by how brave Nay has gotten over fences. Honestly? He LOVES to jump. I said that most of our issues come when we trot into things. He’s fine trotting but that’s when the crow hops happen or he anticipates. She said that picking up the canter is the thing that he fights so once he is cantering? He has nothing left to fight. Right now all of this is a training issue. He’s a moderate bully, kind of like a middle schooler. He’s trying to figure out what he can get away with. He’s trying to employ scare tactics to get out of work. He’s not trying to get me off his back. At no point in his crow hopping extravaganza was he ever trying to get me off his back. He wanted to get out of work. When we kept going despite the scare tactic? He stopped immediately.

Lesson here? Be brave and he’ll knock it off. He’s testing the waters to see what he can do and what he can get away with. He’s cheeky but he’s not mean. He’s not a bad bully, but he’s a bit of a bully.

That said, we are going to try a different bit. Just an elevator for a little bit. Same double jointed mouth piece he likes, but our hope is that the leverage will help me when he gets his head down or when he gets super heavy. I also need to tighten his noseband again… Oops. I keep it really loose but evidently too loose.

Temper tantrums and left leads

Biscuit kitty
Maybe I should sell this one…

I’ve been stewing on how to write about my lesson last week. It was one of those lessons where you just want to sit in a corner and cry about being the world’s worst rider. Or turn your horse over to a pro and say, “FIX HIM!” Or post an add and sell him. It honestly… sucked.

Nay was quiet. He was happy. The lesson just sucked.

We had a REALLY nice warm up at the trot. Nay was listening to my leg. He moved off it. He moved over. He bent. He did EVERYTHING I asked. I can’t remember if we trotted both ways but I THINK we stayed left. The trot wasn’t the issue. In the past the trot led to a cruddy canter. But not now. I mentioned that Nay is better when I lunge first which led my trainer to theorize that the canter issues are either ME or that Nay is sore. I think that the issue is me. Nay happily lands left from jumps. He is perfectly comfortably cantering left once we pick up the lead. He just doesn’t want to pick it up.

Anyway, we go to the canter and it takes a couple asks but we get it. It wasn’t actually all that hard. Our focus was basically securing my left left to his side, pushing my outside leg back, and tapping my spur to ask Nay to bring his hind legs in (while bringing my hands out). And it worked. He got it.

And we cantered.

And then we asked for it again. And what do you know? It went even better! Nay was good. Tap for the legs and launch into the canter. Could we have discovered a miracle?

HA. No.

Nay Nay standing in cross ties in orange fly boots
He’s really lucky he’s cute
View from behind Nay Nay's ears
I do like these ears… and Chester County countryside

It was that moment that something clicked and Nay just decided that he wanted nothing to do with it anymore. He had enough. I was struggling with my body. I wasn’t leading forward (thank god), but was tilting in. Nay was sick of it and pulling through not dragging. The use of the spur was pissing him off as well. He knew what we wanted and wanted nothing to do with it. We added so halts and backs and circles in. I regretting my decision not to wear gloves (actually I didn’t until my lack of gloves were mentioned). I have the blisters to show for the lesson…

Eventually, I said out loud my fear. I’m not good enough to ride this horse. I can’t do this. He needs a better rider than me.

My trainer’s response. To ignore me. And tell me he’s having a temper tantrum of epic proportions and to kick him. Kick him harder.

So I did.

And he launched into a left lead canter. What the fuck?

He knew what we wanted. He just didn’t care.

So we cantered. And cantered. And cantered so more.

I was exhausted when we stopped.

We then tried to trot over an end jump which he tried to nope out of. Not the jump. My steering. When we finally got over it (I needed right hand then left hand with right leg — awkward approach) we landed on the damn left lead and continued over it to the left and the trot and canter about 10 times before calling it a day.

Turns out I needed to have a bigger temper tantrum.

View from behind Nay Nay's ears as we look at the end jump
And that damn end jump…

I needed to ride the next day but… life. And ended up not riding again until Saturday. Nay was up. Like run around the indoor up. I could have lunged but… I let him free lunge instead.

I got on and had a power keg under me. Despite all of that, he didn’t try and pop or do his vertical trot, but just wanted to go go go. So we trotted and half halted to the left over and over and over again.

Until he had enough and he decided we were cantering. I could have pulled him back but he picked up the most gorgeous left lead canter. Seriously.

So we cantered around for several minutes. Circles of all sizes until I needed a break. All while I questioned where the hell the canter came from. After a short break, I trotted and asked again. He briefly offered up the incorrect (right) lead but the second I brought my right leg back (way back) and tap tap, the left lead was there. We cantered, trotted, and leg back, left lead again. And again. And again.

We called it there because there was no reason to mess with my horse offering me exactly what I wanted.

I’m not sure if something clicked. I’m not sure if he understood. I’m not sure if I just got mad. I’m not sure. But Saturday was good. I needed good. It was a win for the day. I’ll take it.

The mental part

Nay Nay standing by brick wall/red gate jump
That red gate scares me but we tackled it on one of our recent rides. Nay Nay didn’t care. He said, “easy!”

I finally had my first lesson in… close to 2 months? yesterday. Last week was cancelled due to a medical emergency on my trainer’s part and I didn’t manage to reschedule due to… work. This week? We FINALLY managed to get a lesson in. Hopefully I’ll have a couple of lessons before the Pony Finals hiatus…

It’s interesting. My rides over the past 3-4 weeks have been great. Nay Nay has been a saint. Truly. He’s been quiet. And, if we’re being honest, he’s been a big old lesson pony, pretty much just carting me around. And yet we take a lesson and everything falls apart.

Why? Because somehow I overthink everything and Nay Nay feeds off of my nervous energy. Or at least that is my interpretation of it.

We have not missed ONE left lead in about a month and yesterday we struggled to pick up the left lead. I just could not pick it up. Why? No clue. We rode with 2 others in the ring and I think I was more focused on what they were doing than what I was doing. I really need to focus on myself, but sometimes it’s just hard. It’s not like Nay Nay was taking off with me or being stupid (he wasn’t), we just COULD NOT pick up the correct left lead. And then it got into my head. So, I’ll need to work on that. We struggled some to the right, but picked that one up a lot more easily? It seems with the right lead, as long as I can get him loose and bendy, we can USUALLY get it. The left? No idea. It’s usually just there unless it’s a day where it isn’t.

We worked simply with our outside line. Starting off just trotting the out on a half circle. Then, we tried to canter on the left lead over it. After failing about a million times, we just let Nay Nay canter into it on the wrong lead and then, thankfully, he realized how off balance he was and landed correctly and we continued and cantered over it a few times on the correct left lead.

Jiminy grazing in the backyard
Update on Jiminy… He let himself out in my backyard the other day.

Next, we trotted in and cantered out of the line the other way and landed on the right lead. With all the issues I’ve had with the right lead, I don’t know that I’ve actually ever cantered in this line, but we landed, held our canter and cantered the line once or twice improving our landing and corner the second time through. Can I just say how much I adore this horse? He is SO STABLE over jumps. He doesn’t care if I miss a distance, he doesn’t get upset if he gets hit in the mouth, he just wants to jump. He is starting to understand what holding means and is happy to go for the add (even though he loves the long one) if I ask. And he’s just getting so consistent. Cantering in to a jump with him no longer feels scary like it used to now that his canter is getting consistent. And, all those trot fences are starting to pay off with his consistency at the canter.

Nay Nay and Subi at the fence
Friends one minute, biting each other the next… Subi doesn’t appreciate Nay’s insistence on dunking his hay in the water…

Having conquered the line to the right, we did the same to the left. Trotting in first, landing correctly, and cantering in. Trotting in was lovely. Cantering in was nice too, but whether it was me or Nay just getting tired, I don’t know and we took the rail down over the in. I’ve noticed that sometimes Nay gets a touch lazy over the smaller fences and doesn’t always pick up his feet unless I really add leg at the base. It’s not because he doesn’t know how, but more because it’s small and why put in effort? He usually clears the boxes and doesn’t bother with the top rail. Raise the top rail or put 2 rails up? No issue at all. But less and he puts in minimal effort which means I have to work harder…

Nay Nay in the paddock
This horse has too much personality. I think I’ll keep him…

All in all, it was a good lesson. I just need to focus on me and not everyone else in the ring. I seriously found myself staring at others when I should have been looking between Nay’s ears. Not good, not good. And the one time I did focus 100% on me, I almost crashed into another horse… So then I became even more hyper aware of the others… Why is this sport so mental? I’m so convinced he’s going to react when lately he really doesn’t care. Nay LOVES summer heat.

close up of Subi's nose
Subi doesn’t want to be forgotten!

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that all my problems this lesson were self-inflicted… We’ll see if I can improve from here…

Lesson recap — the one with the dead horse.

Not too much going on here. Or at least no media. I’ve ridden and failed to charge my pivo since the battery died 2 weeks ago… Great, right?

Our rides have been pretty consistent. Nay has energy and I’ve had to pretty much ride through it. The deal is he needs more work than I’ve given him and I don’t currently have the time to fit in an extra day or 2 right now. Honestly, 2 days/week of PT is really helping out my schedule… I’ll get there eventually. But, we’re figuring it out.

Right now I lunge and/or free lunge pre ride. Saturday I free lunged and he was good but still felt like a canon about to explode. I wanted to pop over a couple jumps and, well, Nay launched into jumper mode. Up and down motion vs forward. So, I hopped off, lunged (30 minutes INTO my ride), and then got back on. He was an angel, shrinking back down to his normal size…

Sunday I rode with friends. He was quiet on the line, but a bit bothered by one horse we were riding with. We worked through it but we did canter a bunch of 10 meter circles to get over ourselves… After that? Much quieter. Honestly? It was more theatrics vs anything else, but based on where my friends were standing, Nay’s attitude, and his… exuberance, I felt the 10 meter circles were safer than trying to pass friends and risk kicking. Nay isn’t a kicker… most of the time. Unless he’s pissed off or feels boxed in. He was MUCH better over his fences (we just trotted some little stuff) and didn’t fall into jumper mode. Supposedly he actually resembled a hunter?

Which brings us to the point of this post. The dead horse.

I got out early on Tuesday for my lesson with a goal to lunge. I started to and had a quiet horse. But, see, things don’t go as planned.

I plan for a lot of situations.

But does anyone plan for a dead horse? Or, more accurately

A horse being gelded outside of the barn during your lesson?

So, here I am, holding Nay when suddenly a horse is sedated and on the ground, then on his back with legs flailing.

Nay’s response?

WTF? They’re MURDERING HIM. HORSE MURDERERS.

My trainer was not in a rush and suggested I lunge some more. Now Nay had energy and I got some good work out of him at the trot and canter (we’re still working on the walk). Increasing and decreasing circle sizes and transitions. But, he put his energy into that.

By this time the procedure was over and the horse was lying “dead” on the ground. We let Nay glance over for a moment or 2 before I hopped on and we began our work at the far end of the ring, away from the corpse.

Honestly? He was good. We had some really nice trot work, even continuing down close to the dead horse area. Cantering was decent, but to the left, there was a lot of enthusiasm. Enthusiasm similar to Sunday. So, lots of head tossing and all that. It turns out that, at this point, I need to just ignore this and let him toss his head and make whatever fuss he wants to make so that he can establish a pace on his own without me micromanaging. I sometimes get too involved and my trainer just wants me to let him take care of himself. Part of it is he’s looking for me to take the control and is becoming dependent. A few rides with me just not riding every stride should take care of this. As I was reminded, all he does is toss his head. He doesn’t move his hind end AT ALL. So, unless he takes off, let him figure it out. Like everything else, this should be short lived. We actually held the canter for a while, including several trips over an awkwardly placed pole, maintaining the lead (pole was across the center, but at an angle).

To the right, we struggle with a counter bend. Last week we discussed my need to pick up the lead a throw my head down to check, losing the canter, the lead, and ending up with the wrong lead in quick succession. Part of it is that Nay has developed this habit of throwing his hind end to the outside and once I feel that I panic and know I won’t get the lead. The advice I received was pretty much as follows: get the bend (if possible), outside leg/spur IMMEDIATELY followed by both calves. Only after we’re moving forward can I check my lead (I say this because I can easily feel the lead, but I NEED TO LOOK ANYWAY BECAUSE I NEED TO — don’t ask… old habits). Since I started doing this, our right lead success rate has improved dramatically. In fact, we picked the lead up Tuesday when we were counter bent (we had the bend, lost it, and STILL got the lead. Part of it was that I was confusing Nay by unintentionally pulling him out of the canter as he was stepping up into it. So, issue not fixed, but getting better? We had to work on bend in the canter, but it was better. I’m not sure why we’re struggling so much this way when we were so strong. Body work in the future? Need to find someone and $$ under a couch cushion. Pole work was harder this way but successful and we maintained the lead.

And jumping. This was hard. We trotted singles at the far end of the ring. Dead horse started to wake up so there was some action, but mostly Nay wanted to be a jumper and wanted to play. I struggled with the balance between slow and actually moving forward (vs up and down). We started with a small vertical off the left, landed, then approached from the right. We did that a few times, keeping the playing to a minimum.

Next? We did our stone boxes, landing and halting. First time I really struggled coming in as the balance between too slow (not stop slow but need put too much effort based on pace) and I want to bolt/side step/hop towards it. Then, based on too much jump, I didn’t quite release enough and we played on the landing. Second time was better paced but still playing coming it. But the pace allowed for a better jump, better release, and more control on the landing.

We called it there and decided we’d just live to jump another day.

Honestly? It could have been worse. After all? How many people ride with a dead horse next to the ring? By the end of the ride, the dead horse disappeared and Nay could NOT figure out where he went…

Who is this horse?

The many sides of Nay continue to come out. Green horses, eh? LOL.

We set a new record. 2 weeks in a row, 2 lessons in a row. Shocking.

Tuesday morning rolled around and Nay and I set out for another lesson. I’m enjoying morning lessons for now until all the kids are out of school. It’s nice and quiet with just barn staff and a couple of adults around. My kind of day. But, for 10am in May, it was also hot. And humid. 97% humid.

Interestingly, the heat and humidity didn’t seem to bother Nay. Thinking about it, he’s always had energy in the heat and humidity. This horse HATES being cold, but likes the heat? Of course, he raced in Florida so maybe my New York bred is just built for summer…? Who knows but last summer on super hot and humid days (I remember being told to try new things when it was hot/humid because he’d be quiet), he’d always have excess energy. Always.

This ride was no different. He was ready to explode like Sunday, but he was still more forward than out last lesson. No tantrums we had to work through at the trot which is always nice. And I skipped lunging because, heat. We’ll see how much lunging I do in the summer.

Prior to the start of the lesson, I mentioned to my trainer our left lead troubles. Basically, last year’s right lead issues have manifested on the left lead. Typical. We drilled that right lead and Nay, being a pleaser, thinks the answer to most questions is right lead. Warming up at the trot, we worked on the noodling that I’ve been fighting as of late to the left. In the past, we spent a lot of time pushing inside leg/spur to move Nay’s body over however, Nay has taken some of this to the extreme. Over sort of means exiting the arena into the grass or crashing into the light pole, or a bunch of other things. So, I was reminded that taking BOTH hands to the inside (outside rein against his neck) still has its place and suddenly? we’re not struggling to stay in the ring… Using the outside leg isn’t wrong either… Oops. When you ride in an arena without a fence, you realize that staying in the ring is hard sometimes… We never got a fence back when the ring was expanded last year…

Instead of going right, we first worked on the left lead canter. I trotted, was told to canter, immediately pulled back, Nay broke, asked again, and picked up the wrong lead. This led to a discussion about what happened. I wasn’t sure. I just felt discombobulated. It wasn’t even that I could tell I was on the right or wrong lead — I wasn’t thinking “what lead am I on” as I didn’t get that far in my thinking, I just tried to do collect and nope.

So we tried again. This time, my instructions were to canter and move forward BEFORE I worried about the lead. We again picked up the correct lead and Nay bulged all over the place. Once we established the canter (5-6 strides), I was allowed to touch my reins to correct the dive to the outside. We cantered once around and talked and figured out my issue. And Nay’s.

Basically, I asked for the canter and if Nay is set up properly (hind end to the inside), he’ll pick up the correct lead. If I feel him bulging, I immediately want to course correct. If I do so right away (because he feels out of control in all ways — speed yes, but mostly balance and steering), Nay thinks, “Oh! Right, we only canter on the RIGHT lead. I’m sorry!” And trots. If I canter a few more strides no matter how ugly it feels, he is able to establish the canter and then we correct the shape. Then once the shape is corrected (hands to the inside, outside leg, even cutting the corner some and staying closer to the jumps than to the grass to give us more space to make the turns), we can adjust the pace (close and opening my fingers seems to work well for rating the canter.

We did this a few times and worked on the right lead (and trotted too…). Nothing exciting that direction. LOL.

Jumping wise? Nay has changed from a quiet horse to a forward and BOLD horse over fences. I’m not really sure who he is except that I think he thinks jumping is FUN. We started off with the Astroturf brush box single to the left, trotting in and he jumped the crap out of it, almost jumping me out of the tack (theme). Being the good boy he was, he landed left and we cantered in a few times, trying to rate coming in. He was pretty good collecting once we were straight, but on the circle approaching? He wanted to get to that jump. On the final circle, he spooked at something and we had to halt/back and had a discussion (me, not him) about the necessity of halting immediately when stuff like that happens… It wasn’t a bad spook and my plan was to circle and keep coming, but my trainer’s point was he’s green and she wants the halt and back to bring his focus back to be. Point noted.

To the right? More of the same except I struggled with the rating and straightness to the fence as Nay REALLY wanted to go. We took a couple of long spots because I just didn’t collect hard enough (he was strong, not out of control, just strong and determined). Point noted.

We ended with a new fence that my trainer wasn’t sure we’d be successful with. It was the in of the outside line. Just some boxes with a gate (though the gate might not have been visible at our height). 2ft-ish. Last year he’d have had a heart attack. This year he was pissed off I made him look at it (well, he refused to look at it). We paused in front of it and chatted at my love for trot fences. Yes, I’m strange, but I adore trot fences and I know everyone thinks they are hard, but I adore them, I’m confident at them, I can see distances to them, and if I’m nervous, give me a trot fence any day. I spent 6 months trotting fences on Subi 2x/week when I first got him (up to 2’6″) and I’ll pretty much trot anything. LOL.

Anyway, we trotted in and again, Nay jumped the shit out of it, landed left and continued back around. We very much had to worked on collecting because someone thought this jump was awesome… Once we landed wrong and I asked too late (hind legs were already to the outside). Once Nay even tossed in a full change on the landing to show just how special he is. And once I didn’t hold enough and we took a flyer. Really. And almost crashed into a standard on the landing (no steering — Nay doesn’t steer on his own). And somehow I managed NOT to fall off? I mean, I almost did, but I saved it.

And with that, I have a new horse. He says he doesn’t want to be a hunter, but rather a jumper. But whatever he is, he’s bold and brave and it’s very different. I’m also going to have my trainer hop on him at the start of my lessons here and there (thinking 1x/month) just to make sure I’m not screwing him up too much.

Maybe this weekend I’ll have media?

Everything old is new again

Well folks, we did it!

After 10 weeks off and way too much money spent on ulcergard, Nay Nay and I had our first rides back this weekend!

We started off on Saturday afternoon with me a nervous wreck and followed my vet’s plan for bringing him back. The main goal was to keep him as stress-free as possible. This horse is rarely ever UP (he just isn’t), but mentally is a worrier so we have a lot to deal with. Anyway, armed with tools, we headed out to the barn for our first lesson during Corona-Times…

img_3682

Someone has put on a good bit of weight! And his girth barely fits!

When I arrived, I was a bit dismayed to see so many people around (I have my own thoughts, but whatever). My county is still in the red but different barns are responding in their own ways. I already made plans to groom at home and tack up at the trailer so I tacked up, grabbed my gear back, put on gloves and found my trainer who told me both rings were empty (yes!), but that there was a lot of activity outside so her suggestion was we ride inside where Nay Nay was most comfortable.

Inside, I decided to lunge. He didn’t need it, but it was my way to just see what I was dealing with. 5 minutes of trotting (I even brought my own lunge line) just let Nay stretch his legs and see the ring again. Once we were finished, my trainer joined us and we got on.

img_3680

Handsome as always!

And things were… Fine. He’s very weak and I had to remember to SIT DOWN. Omg. 10 weeks off and I forgot how much this horse wants my butt in the saddle! But otherwise? No big deal. We walked, we looked, and nothing happened. If you all remember our first ride? This wasn’t it. At one point, Nay’s head was on the ground. We trotted around and there were a few steps of canter here and there when he was “inspired” by the other horse who joined us in the indoor, but nothing exciting. In the end? We even canter each way. It was an easy, unexciting, and overall boring ride. I could have done all of this outside of a lesson, but I need to make sure I didn’t die! I needed that ground person!

Because Saturday went so well and all dinner and breakfast were consumed Saturday night and Sunday morning, I decided to ride Sunday as well. We went out Sunday morning to an EMPTY BARN! My favorite! I again tacked in the parking lot (Nay was a little looky so we grazed first), then lunged again (this time I asked for more: walk, trot — large and small circles — and canter), before hopping on. I also set up some poles.

I had a quiet and distracted horse under me. There was a pony outside who Nay was a bit… obsessed with. So, it took a bit of work, but we got through it and by the time we were joined in the ring, were walking with our head low to the ground. On Sunday, his trot was nice and relaxed, but, I found that I need those spurs back because no amount of inside leg was helping me push him out going right! Still, Nay happily trotted over his poles and definitely enjoyed them (though I completely forgot to put my dismantled jump back together… oops).

And then we cantered. He’s weak and the right lead is bad (picking up the lead is definitely not there), but for 10 weeks off? It didn’t look ANYWHERE as bad as I anticipated.  I even have video.

We’ll try and ride sometime this week and take another lesson this weekend. The outdoor is supposedly getting expanded so it’s out of commission (I had originally planned to use it Sunday and found all jumps removed and no gate or mounting block so…  But a new larger outdoor is exciting!

First lesson in 5 weeks!

img_3046

Taking a vacation and making faces because Subi’s back smells like gold bond power

I’m going to split my blog into a couple of posts this week and start by focusing on the happy before I get into Nay Nay’s ulcer induced vacation. It probably comes at a good time with Corona-geddon, but still, no one likes to see their horses miserable. Hopefully, he’ll be feeling better in a couple of weeks and we’ll be back in light work. But, it the meantime, I’m going to take advantage of social distancing and self-quarantine recommendations and just stay home and pump omeprazole and alfalfa into his system. More to come…

But, before Nay Nay took a turn for the worst and scared me half to death by not eating either meal, we finally got in a lesson AFTER 5 WEEKS SOLO! This was our chance to see if all our hard work was noticeable or if I really screwed him up in that time… LOL

I got to the barn and it was pretty busy for midday on a weekday. Turns out all the college kids suddenly had time on their hands with our university closed to students (not staff… I was just off for the day) and decided to ride. Nay tried to take it all in stride in the outdoor, but as we walked around in hand, it was a little too much. So, we moved to the indoor for our actual lesson. **He did nothing wrong, but the goal was to not stress him out** Inside, instead of 3-4 horses canter/jumping every which way, we joined the resident western pleasure trainer (yes, I’m at a hunter barn that has a western pleasure trainer renting out stalls) walking around on one horse while his student jogged on another. Much more Nay’s speed.

60581651043__697f7fae-cc7f-421d-ae14-91cb04311aa5

Nay Nay earthquake has arrived, taking down plants and everything else in his way

Very quickly? All was right in Nay’s world. We need to work on the outdoor and we need to work on crowds, but that day wasn’t the day. 2 quiet horses in the ring? Happy camper.

As we were walking, the phone calls started coming in announcing the end of the world (first schools were closing). So I started my own warm up. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been here for 5 weeks… And show off Nay Nay did. He gave me some of his best trot work ever. All of a sudden I hear, “Who is this horse? He is so even and balanced!” At some point we’re instructed to add in some figure eights, but otherwise, Nay just shows off what a solid citizen he’s become.

Next comes the message about USEF shows. So, follow up calls and text take place regarding that. I understand in a sense, but also, whatever. Short term plans were seeing who wanted to show this weekend who hadn’t originally planned to before no more points. Long term discussions were Devon points. Then, will there be a Devon? Nay Nay and I canter, adding circles and his left lead, which hasn’t been as great, was lovely. Then the right lead was pretty good, SO MUCH BETTER THAN 5 weeks ago, but not as nice as some of the other right lead canters we’ve had because, on a circle, I leaned it, and then we lost it… But, user error. Still, trainer couldn’t get over”his balance, consistency, and pace!”

Then it was time to really focus on me and we were asked about our over fences work. I explained that I really went back to the basics and stuck with tiny jumps and worked on asking at the base every time. Basically, micromanaging because he’s not consistent enough to get away without the micromanagement. And, he sometimes makes poor decisions on his own. [Leave me alone for too long and I get way too analytical!] I also mentioned that he loves the freaking straw bales of all things which is insane. “Have you cantered anything yet?” Gulp, no.

img_3077

It’s hard work being Nay Nay. You get hot and sweaty having to work really hard. It’s exhausting! Plus water sucks. Except when it’s mixed with dirt. Then it’s the best thing EVER!

So, the plan was to work on a figure eight. Trot down over the little plank jump (it was like 18″ around the corner and up over the pole. Next time, when I got back to the rail, ask for the canter and canter both a few times. And… we did.

Trotting wasn’t an issue at all. Cantering? Nay got pretty damn excited and launched himself over the plank because he’s awesome. LOL and then I had to work to keep leg on him while he tried to toss his head in celebration. It was cute. It took us a few times to keep the canter and canter the pole vs trot step/canter the pole but we got there. I did eventually have to hold a touch for the plank so that someone didn’t gallop, but he was very, very excited and happy. It was adorable.

img_3049

Fell better buddy!

Next, we were going to canter the straw bales. Right lead. I did interject and ask to trot first and approach from the LEFT LEAD and that was fine. See, I have to work too hard to keep him from drifting to the right and I just didn’t want to. So, we trotted it once, circled, and cantered up and over like he’s been doing it every day, cantered down over the plank, and then cantered up over his pole. And with that, Nay Nay cantered his first baby course.

You guys, the jumps were small, but he was awesome! He was so proud of himself! I can’t wait to ride again, whenever it is.

 

Weekend update, part 2

Following Saturday’s productive ride, I was all set for my Sunday lesson which would be my last lesson for 3+ weeks as my trainer is heading down to Gulfport with a bunch of clients for the rest of the month. So, I’m on my own until they all return. 

**all videos are from Saturday**

After such a QUIET and relaxing ride on Saturday, I arrived at the barn to… chaos. I barely found a place to park my trailer (along the driveway by the field behind another trailer) and brought Nay Nay into the packed barn. Who were all these people? Answer? Pretty much everyone trying to get ready for Gulfport OR doing what I was doing–getting in a lesson prior to Gulfport. LOL. Thankfully I found a spot at my favorite crossties (there was tack there, but the rider planning to use them was actually lessoning AFTER me so I was good to go). Nay was a little less gross than Saturday and despite a zillion people in the barn, he settled pretty quickly. He LIKES people/horses/activity in the barn, just not in the ring. I also had the chance to catch up with some of my favorite barn people I haven’t seen in forever which was nice too!

Thankfully, once we headed in to ride? The ring was empty.  We were joined by the next lesson but we each did our own thing. I know I need to work on riding with others, but today I wanted my lesson to be on other stuff and that it was. Plus, I needed homework. And homework I got! My trainer and I also had a chat about my opinion of my ride last week and I was reminded that it’s 2 steps forward, 1 step back and that I am constantly having good rides and I need to expect to have a few “bad” ones here and there. Manage expectations. Also a month ago I’d have considered that ride a good one. So yeah.

After Nay Nay investigated my trainer’s coat thoroughly (he gave it the sniff test because he’s a goof), we started off showing off how far he’s come with his spur training and OMG did he impress. He IMMEDIATELY responded to the right spur with NO STEPS FORWARD OR BACKWARDS and also moved over from the left spur immediately though took a step back at the same time (which was actually the worst he’s been for the left spur). Anyway, my trainer was impressed. From here we walked and applied spur to move over, check! And then applied the same lesson to the trot. SUCH A GOOD BOY! A few times he tried to move forward into the canter because he wasn’t sure and wanted to give the right answer, but if I asked again, made sure he had the space to shift over, he did just that. To the right, I was able to get the same response just by using my calf vs my spur. This horse wants so badly to give the right answer and retains everything. He lives for good boys and pats!

After a short amount of trotting, we quickly progressed to the canter and changed things up. We’ve been asking for the left lead canter in the same spot every time, but his left lead has gotten so reliable so this time around, the goal was to ask Nay Nay to canter near the in gate. This posed no issue and the left lead was pretty nice. He was forward, but not fast at all. I do need to work on not pulling out with my outside hand…

We also added in a nice large (1/2 the ring) circle at the canter. Unlike the last time we tried this, this time it wasn’t an issue at all and Nay Nay held the canter without an issue.

Before we cantered the right, Nay “spooked” at a pony butt standing outside the indoor. Pony was brought so he could see the mysterious butt but he wanted to stare (out spook was…staring). So, when we picked up the canter, we struggle a bit. When we passed the in gate, I was taken aback when he craned his head outside the circle to try and get a look at the pony butt again. This led to us losing the canter and then picking back up the wrong lead. We were instructed to KEEP GOING which we did and managed to hold the wrong lead all the way around. When we approached the in gate side, my trainer had me cut the turn a bit and shake my reins at him which actually allowed me to hold the canter. Then when we got to the far side, I finally was allowed to trot to change the lead and then did the same corner cut and rein shake before attempting a large circle at the canter. Interestingly enough, the rein shake really, really helped and the circle was great! We walked before we got back the corner and Nay Nay got lots of praise. He lives for this!

With this part of our ride over, we started with some jumping. Basically, we started by trotting back and forth over the dismantled jump location where we struggled a few weeks ago. Today it was just a few poles and some flowers, but trainer wanted to make sure there was no PTSD related to that location in the ring. Spoiler: no issues.

That said, that was the first jump in a line and heading away from the in gate, we trotted past a vertical with brown boxes a few times. As a result, once we were told to jump that jump? Nay Nay was a touch confused. First time he stopped having no idea where we were going. Second time he stopped because I didn’t really give him direction and say, yes, you need to jump this. The next couple of times we got over because I dug me leg/spur into him and said forward.

Lesson learned? I only get one first jump and I need to be definitive. We’ve done a really, really good job of training Nay Nay to the spurs right now so use them to say FORWARD. Right now he’s testing what he has to do and if I’m hesitant, he’s hesitant.

My homework for the next 3 weeks is to set up as many jumps the size of what we did and just practice moving forward over them. I need to make them small for me so that we can walk over them the first time if necessary. Now, as my trainer reminded me, technically he could have walked over everything the way they were set up on Sunday, but if I don’t believe it, he won’t. So, I’ll set them up small so I believe that we can and we’ll get over first jump-itis. Because when I’m confident, Nay Nay is confident.

Confident but bored ^^^

So much homework, but it should be fun!

Yay or Nay: Learning moments

I’m sitting at work on a Sunday night falling asleep–what better time to write a blog post? At least if I can manage without falling asleep. I’ve been here for 7 hours and it’s getting slower by the hour… 1 more hour to go. #librarianproblem #wintersession

img_2648

I think I just watched the radar on and off for hours overnight/early morning… 

I’m going to start by saying I almost cancelled my lesson on Saturday. The weather SUCKED. Nay Nay was a mess in the morning–stressed and anxious and highly impacted by weather changes because he’s a delicate little flower of a thoroughbred. Overnight and into the morning, we had… 2 inches of rain. So, I pretty much tried to hold off turning out the horses because it was so awful. To top it off, Nay has been pretty terrible about hay consumption lately. He’s been picking at it, but not eating enough for my comfort.

So, by the time I finally turned out, the horses had been in for about 16 hours and it was still pouring. Subi was… FINE. In fact, he didn’t want to go out. Nay was high as a kite and ready to explode (and hadn’t eaten much hay). I turned out were he proceeded to pace and paw for an hour. [I think he’s a little ulcery and will treat accordingly]

When my trainer messaged me to see if I could come earlier for my lesson, I basically said I think I’m cancelling. To that? She told me I could always ride Bob [I should blog about my last awesome lesson on him, but I sort of forgot to…] I ended up agreeing to an earlier lesson and I’d show up with a horse.

img_2650

He might be eating my elbow… who knows.

A couple of hours later, Nay seemed more like himself so I took him over and… he was pretty darn fabulous.

We walked, trotted, and then I found out that JIMINY has been escaping and my neighbor has been collecting him… (I knew he’d gotten out but he’d been in my front yard… NOT down at my neighbor’s across the creek — neighbor rents part of my trainer’s barn). Following this aside, we cantered. 2 times around left lead and despite losing the canter early on, we managed to keep the canter 1x around for the right lead with some strategic kicking. Seriously some improved cantering.

From here, the wheels came off a bit as we over faced Nay a bit for the first time. We started over a cross rail which we did a few times with no issue and then added in the inside line. This is where problems came. Not, “I’m being bad” but “I don’t understand” and “I don’t think I can” and “Do I have to?” So the vertical with flowers he did, slowly (my fault), but he did, but the next fence was larger and he was convince he couldn’t. We struggled. We crashed it a few times while we tried to get him to walk over it (technically it was big, but he COULD walk it). We added a crop. My neighbor came it and served as a side block for me and my trainer was my lead. It took a while (it really wasn’t but for me in the moment it felt that way, LOL) but with a lead, we got over and once he decided, he launched himself over it (and I almost fell off…) and got the biggest celebration ever after.

Since he got over, they dismantled it and made it small — basically just the little flower boxes and we jumped that 3-4 times. He did that with no issues, trotting in, cantering out and enthusiastically JUMPING the snot out of the flowers (the last time he was less enthusiastic, but we still cantered away), celebratory pats after each. We finished by connecting all three fences, trotting in, cantering out of each.

img_2470So, while I wasn’t sure where that screwy fences would lead us, Nay learned that when asked, we do stuff (even if I’m not so sure… LOL). He also figured out the whole jumping thing and pushing UP and OVER and AWAY from the fence as every fences since has been a true push over and away.

I rode again today. On the flat Saturday I was told to add/introduce spurs because I’ve been squeezing REALLY REALLY hard. Good news? He doesn’t care. Surprised. Lol. But, it’s nice to be able to start pushing him out with my leg a bit and actually get a response. I can feel the wheels turning and he’s SO HAPPY when he knows he gives the right answers (he loves praise).

His canter today was lovely. I lost the left lead the first time around, but then kept it a full 2x around so we’re making progress. And the right lead is getting stronger as well. I just need to focus on the point where I add leg approaching the corner vs in the corner (too late). We’re finally OK at the far turn, it’s just the turn by the in gate, but we’ll get there.

img_2664

Nay can be VERY cute… Jiminy is a brat. Subi is just perfect.

Since we weren’t alone today, we worked on a cross rail with flowers. It was a bit wider than I thought, but small in height. To the left? No issues other than staying straight. Nay gained confidence each approach and by our last attempt (#4) was locked on that jump and cantering away like a star. To the right? First time I failed to keep him straight and we wiggled right to a stop while he looked everywhere but the jump. BUT once he knew where we were going? He carried himself to that jump and jumped the snot out of it first time. He didn’t drag me or pull, just carried himself and pushed off and over like a star. My job was just to keep him straight (SO MUCH HARDER to the right). But, the change in his understanding of jumping from yesterday to today? Amazing.

I need to get new video soon of him actually trotting, cantering, and a real “jump.” I was in a rush so I didn’t ask the person in the ring with me to video, but she had nothing but compliments about what a nice mover he’s turning out to be. And is stunned at the progress he’s made in the last month and a half. She was there for his first lesson when everyone thought I was a crazy person with this anxious little OTTB…

So. There you go. I’m in love.

Yay or Nay: Conquering the outdoor

img_2538

It wasn’t always warm. Just a few days ago it was freezing and snowing… I may have just ordered him another of these in a heavy… 

Nay and I FINALLY got a lesson in this weekend…after not riding for a week. On top of that, the weather decided to go crazy here in the mid atlantic and Saturday saw temperatures in the 60s. In January. Personally, I HATE warm winter days. Perfect recipe for people and animals getting sick. And for migraines. But no one asked me.

Anyway, all week I was stressing about my Saturday lesson as warm weather typically means… riding outside. Now, I have nothing against riding outside, but we JUST got Nay used to the indoor and now we’re riding outside? So, me being me, spent Friday night tossing and turning, stressing about dying while riding my quiet horse outside. Typical.

img_2548

Not related to Nay, but instagram told me Horizon Structures was having a sale… on SUBI?!?!?! 

We arrive and the barn was chaos. Everyone and their mother and their third cousin’s best friend was there. I managed to park my trailer, but… Go home people. Nay was good to tack up in the driveway (he’s gotten SO MUCH BETTER) and we walked over towards the indoor (hopes raised) where my trainer was standing. She did give me the option but there were SO MANY PONIES (seriously ponies everywhere) inside so I agreed to go outside if she made sure I didn’t die. We then tried to spook at a stroller coming out of the indoor… lol. I’m telling out, it’s all my anxiety.

We took a semi private with another young horse, Wilbur. That said, Wilbur is now showing, jumping, etc. but still has his green moments. I started off by hand walking Nay around the outdoor. He didn’t care. Because, why would he? He was more alert, but that was about it.

Once on, we wandered. Wandering is our pastime. I tried to sit up and keep my leg on him and sit in the saddle vs on the saddle. He likes that. He slows down when I do all of that. After wandering for a while at the walk, we got the all clear to wander at the trot. The goal? Keep his brain busy with turns and changes of direction. For the first time ever, I was allowed to ask him to slow down and encourage the trot from his hind end (by sitting back, erg). Eventually, we added in a pile of poles. Nay loves his poles so this was fun for him. After successfully doing our poles both ways, we eventually walked and watched some jumping for a while.

img_2547

It also appeared my barn was for sale… 

So, when I first got on? There was no question that we were NOT cantering today. Yet the more we walked and trotted, the more relaxed Nay got. He spooked once at the very beginning because the wind picked up and a gate went clattering and he scooted into the trot a few steps but that was it.  So, after we trotted, my trainer told me, never mind, we will be cantering…

We started off with the left lead. The first time? Eh. Ugly. He didn’t pick it up right away and, instead of being patient, I added leg and he scooted into the canter on the wrong lead. So, it started off a bit quick (not fast, quick) and rushed. Since we don’t care about leads, he tried to canter around the corner but was distracted (horse was walking in when we were approaching the gate) and off balance and… yeah. So we went back to the trot and eventually walked and I got the talk… Basically, TAKE MY TIME AND STOP WORRYING ABOUT WHEN I PICK UP THE DAMN CANTER…

img_2555

He’s becoming such a good traveler!

As a result? Take 2 was lovely. Nay picked up a quiet, slow, and relaxed canter that we held 3/4 of the way around the ring.

Before we picked went to pick up the right lead, we watched some more jumping. Then, a pony went on a walk around the indoor arena and Nay lost it temporarily. [Lost it now means lost focus and ears super forward] With some direction, I did a little trotting to get his brain back in his head. And right lead canter? Our best ever. Quiet, relaxed, and slow. The comment? “Well, wasn’t that adorable!”

img_2557

He’s cute when he’s not poorly behaved (another post about worst pony ever title)

Not the most exciting lesson, by outdoor arena conquered! The worst part? My saddle just isn’t going to work, not even for the short term. So, we’re 2 saddles down, a few more to try (or, I listen to Emma, and go saddle shopping/trying courtesy of MD Saddlery). I need to look into consigning my Millers at this point because it’s just not working for me (it fits Nay relatively well, but my trainer is hating the position it puts me in). I’m just not tied to it anymore so it can go.