Weekend Happenings

I’m suffering a bit from the blahs right now. I’m not in the holiday spirits and lacking motivation about pretty much everything. Mostly I’m just in need of time off of work and am looking forward to 18 days off work (I’m including weekends) as I took the first week of January off in addition to our week closure between Xmas and New Year. Hopefully, that will help me relax and recharge.

I also was able to find Nay Nay’s winning race from 2014

I did have a fun weekend. On Saturday, I visited Northview Stallion Station with a friend for their open house (I’ll post about that tomorrow) but with the weather being gross (super windy and overcast), I just decided not to ride. Sunday I was feeling anti-social and decided on an afternoon ride to avoid barn company…

Subi napping and Nay Nay standing guard
My favorite boys

And everything looked good. I arrived to an empty barn and was 3/4 tacked up when I was joined by a fellow adult rider. And then another adult and her daughter, home from college. At that point, my quiet ride turned into a mini riding party. It was fine. Nay enjoys riding with Fiona and Houston, they’re his buddies at the barn, but my attempt to be anti-social was thwarted.

Thankfully despite my wishes to be anti-social, Nay was in a good mood and super relaxed. He offered me some nice trot work and a lovely canter. I’m still cantering solo inside, but he picked up both leads and forced me to push him around the ring. I’m enjoying the cluck, push, and squeeze to keep him going. After everyone else had warmed up, we took turns jumping. I was low energy so I didn’t plan to do much, but Nay was thrilled to pop over some fences and show off. We started off with trotting the 2 outside singles to the left then cantering the first one.

Next time around? We took on the inside single, cantered the outside single. Trotted the inside blue jump. Nay landed the lead but as I hadn’t jumped the crossrail this direction, I brought him back to the trot, planning to trot the other single. He had other plans and picked up the canter again once we were straight which is how we found ourselves cantering on the wrong lead to the outside single. We ended with the other outside single the other direction.

One course from this weekend

After that, I think I ended with something very simple, but I can’t remember and I have no video proof.

At this point, I let the daughter of my riding buddy hop on Nay for a few minutes just to see how he’d look/go with someone else. She’s a strong and competent rider who can ride anything and everything. Nay was less than impressed but a good boy. He was a bit quick at first at the trot but quieted down after a few laps. At the canter? She struggled with leads until I explained that he REALLY likes you to exaggerate your aids and bring your outside leg way back. Immediately? Canter on the correct lead. He was super quick to the right (he’s quicker to the right with me, but not quick) but if you play with your fingers, he’ll slow right down. To the left, he was much more manageable. She trotted him over a crossrail and hopped off. Definitely agreed he has springs over jumps.

It was good for him to have someone on his back and for me to watch him with someone else. He definitely prefers me and all my bad habits. And that’s OK. It’s also nice to see that he doesn’t miraculously go better with a better rider. But, he did ok too. I’m his person, but occasionally I might ask him to letter others hop on.

The goodest, goodest boy

Sunday marked Nay Nay’s 2 year anniversary. If you had asked me earlier this fall, I’d say we were a mess. But right now? We are in the middle of some of the best rides we’ve ever had.

The changes I wrote about last post are really paying off even though they’re not even a couple of weeks old. But Nay is a different horse. I can’t even describe it. He’s relaxed, happy, and just… zen?

First time on bareback! He didn’t care. I fell off the mounting block the first time I tried to get on…

After a good weekend of rides where I even had to grab a crop because I COULD NOT KEEP MY HORSE GOING (one reminder and that was done and over with), I sucked it up and texted my trainer last minute to see if she had an opening for a lunchtime lesson the next day.

Despite being colder, despite riding inside, despite being in a lesson (I tend to be nervous for lessons), I had the exact same horse I’ve had for the last several rides. My trainer was shocked at the difference. It’s been at least a month? since our last lesson? Nay was relaxed, stretching for the bit, and slow. And me? I warmed up walking around without stirrups so I could force myself to sit IN the saddle vs perch ON the saddle.

Post lesson goodness

I explained the bit change (I had to remind her which bit she switched me to) and she couldn’t argue with how relaxed he was. And after a nice time trotting around where we focused putting my leg back on and messing with my hands, we worked on the canter which was even better? I need to lean out a bit in the corners and such and apply a little outside leg to the right in the corners so we don’t get stuck, but he never tossed his head once and had “never looked more calm or relaxed, ever.”

Then we just chatted about Nay. Whatever changes I made I need to keep. I told her in addition to the bit, I just cut rice bran and the flax and am basically letting him eat as much alfalfa as he wants (she didn’t know if too much alfalfa was making him uncomfortable, but he’s eating more than he was before when he was super grouchy and my vet told me to load up on alfalfa for his ulcer history).

I ended up bring up the weight comments. Not directly the “you mentioned he looked thin” part, but that I was receiving mixed advice and losing my mind. She looked at him and said he looked great (which he does). And said that everyone’s opinion is based on discipline. In general, for a thoroughbred, he’s fat. For an eventer, he might even be considered overweight. For a hunter, people would probably try to get 300lbs on him (I said I doubt they’d manage and she agreed but said that wouldn’t stop anyone from trying). But that from a body conditioning scale, he’d have an excellent score. So I’m just going to leave it as he’s fine and I’m not trying to get him to be hunter obese.

Best ears. Standing by the one jump we didn’t jump!

After all that we did a little jumping. I have not done more than trotting some singles in months. Well, I cantered one fence off a circle, but other than that… But we just started by trotting a pattern of basically every fence in the indoor. So outside single around to inside single, inside line (trotting both fences), outside single, inside single (the other direction). Then we repeated this, skipping the last fence. The second time through the goal was the hold the canter any time possible, basically, canter if we landed the lead. The only time we cantered was the inside line. Final time? Trot the first jump then simple change and canter the rest, trotting into the line. I blew the turn for the outside single so I circled, but we did everything. All of our distances were long cantering in, but we had a steady pace which was the goal so we ended there.

My trainer was actually thrilled. Nay has a history of going long, especially when out of practice, so the long spots didn’t bother her. He didn’t care AT ALL and didn’t speed up on the landing. Just jumped and continued on. The point of the exercise was just to jump and not change anything. Not micromanage. Not ask him to lengthen or shorten to get a better distance but to hold a steady pace and not change anything. He did and going long didn’t bother him one bit (me? haha, but it was fine).

Seriously, who is this horse? He was so relaxed and happy. I just can’t!

A bunch of little updates

I have a light morning catching up on email and monitoring chat before I’m off to a funeral (my husband’s uncle who I only met once), so I thought I’d post a few little updates.

Subi:

Subi looking out his stall window
Best old man

Thankfully it appears he’s come through the cellulitis scare relatively unscathed. We just needed to do the high sweat for 2 days (thanks to me buying enough material for 2 additional days when things looked pretty bad Saturday) and a few extra days of standing bandages. He was VERY against antibiotics and bute (but appreciated the flavored bute being force-fed vs the antibiotic/applesauce force-feeding) but got better with each day. By the last of the 7 days of antibiotics, he was a gentleman about it. Angry, but a gentleman. FYI drenching syringes are the best. He went off his feed for pretty much his entire course of antibiotics but it’s Subi. I’ve learned not to worry about stuff like that. He had hay, carrots, and peppermints, and whatever grain he chose to pick through (he started to eat a little on day 5). He’s back eating again and cleaning his bucket.

Jiminy:

Someone got clipped on Saturday and was both incredibly well behaved and incredibly poorly behaved. He loved the attention and he loves getting clipped, but his timer ran out plus I clipped his legs. He had some crud I wanted to get after (turns out it wasn’t on his skin, but I couldn’t know that with yak hair)… I probably should have put him away and finished the legs another day, but… Anyway, I ended up breaking out my small clippers (Jiminy hair has a habit of killing ALL my clippers). Thankfully my wahl 2-speeds were up to the task and didn’t crap out like my Andis 2-speeds… Anyway, we pushed through someone may have gotten to celebrate with a poptart… The other boys ONLY like the brown sugar poptarts so I have a box of some crappy flavor that only Jiminy will eat. He gets them VERY occasionally (usually a half a poptart at a time — 1/4 package) as a treat.

Nay Nay:

I’ve ridden a grand total of once since my lesson. Between Subi and work, I also had emergency dental surgery that sort of knocked me out of commission. And then the weather turned cold and I just didn’t feel like riding Monday or Tuesday of this week.

Nay Nay grazing outside the indoor
super skinny thoroughbred.

The other thing is he’s just been weird? I mean, he’s been trying SO HARD to be good, but tossing his head like crazy at certain times. It’s not a tooth issue as those were done very recently, but it’s something he started doing more after we changed bits. The bit change fixed several issues. He doesn’t root anymore or do the drop and drag tantrum thing and because of it, our leads are SO MUCH BETTER.

That said, I think he hates this bit. Nay is very good at going with the flow, but he definitely doesn’t love it. I’m thinking I should put him back in the old bit and then use this one every few weeks as a tune-up? There are definitely great things that came out of it, but I miss the softness of the plain D. So, we’ll see. Obviously, if nothing changes, that’s not the issue. But, I’m not as relaxed with my hands with this bit because I don’t want to accidentally hit him so I think I’m inadvertently causing an issue too… Granted, the issues are exacerbated in the indoor where more steering is necessary…

Blanket Bars:

I’ve been trying to figure out how to hang/store my blankets. I wanted to get blanket bars, but several places were sold out, I didn’t want bars with bridle hooks (they’ll be facing Jiminy’s stall), I worried that the one on Nay’s door might interfere with the door opening, and certain places kept tacking on oversized shipping fees… Anyway, the cost for what I needed kept jumping to close to $100 OR I had to wait until places had them back in stock… So January. Yes, some were available now, but… I just couldn’t commit.

DIY blanket holders

I ended up going the cheap DIY route. I bought screw eyes, chain, and clips and for less than $30, I had 3 blanket racks for my boys. They may not be the prettiest, but they’re functonal. I can let out the chain if I need to hold more blankets, tighten the chain if I need to hold less, and unclip the chain if I don’t want to have anything on the stall/door front. It’s working out great so far. The entire thing went up in 10 minutes including the use of a level.

The Portagrazer:

Hermione snuggled in a heated blanket
Far cuter than a portagrazer

Early this spring, I bought a portagrazer from someone local for $75 and I’ve regretted it ever since. I hated the thing. I marked that as the worst purchase ever and I’ve been meaning to resell. A month or so ago, I filled it up and tossed it in the shed. Subi went to town. Then, after being terrified of the thing, Nay Nay fell in love too. While won’t use it in the stall, it’s super handy for an extra feeder in the field. Nay Nay spends half the winter (and summer) in the shed sulking because it’s too cold/windy/wet/damp/dark/light/buggy/hot/dry/whatever. He has opinions. I don’t humor him with hay. But, if I’m going to have the portagrazer, I’ll fill it a few times/week. I still find it to be overpriced for what it is, but for $75, it MIGHT end up worth it…

Rogue left leg

I had my first lesson back yesterday.

The day was GORGEOUS, especially for November. 65 and sunny. Seriously. Lovely.

Nay was pretty happy and I was…not. I was spooky and reactive to a reactive horse in the ring. I once point when Nay was looking in the direction on this horse but… past it, I mentioned my tension and fear and my trainer was honest. Nay isn’t even looking at the horse, he’s watching the horses in the field beyond the ring who were…drinking water. Yes, I was spooking. Typical me.

Things to stop doing:

  1. Spooking at horses in the ring. It’s bad enough when a horse spooks, we don’t need humans spooking too.

But whatever, this horse scared me. And I was bothered. My trainer basically told me to pick up the canter, she didn’t care what lead I got she just wanted to canter. I wanted to micromanage to get my brain focused on something. Anyway, the horse finished his session and walked and I relaxed (wtf Sarah), pointed to the corner, and evidently picked up the nicest left lead canter transition that my trainer had seen me do since we started having lead issues. So we cantered on half the ring (I refused to go down to the far end until I felt comfortable) and we had no issues (Nay isn’t actually bothered when horses leave the ring either) and that was that.

Anyway, supposedly I need to stop micromanaging because it’s driving Nay crazy. Shocking, right? Lol.

Things to stop doing:

  1. Spooking at horses in the ring.
  2. Micromanaging my horse. This drives him crazy and annoys him immensely. I mean, it annoys me when supervisors micromanage me…

But then there was the right lead. Before we picked up the right lead, I mentioned I’d been struggling. Not necessarily picking up the lead, but just cantering because my right leg feels weak. Supposedly this shouldn’t matter, but I continued that my left leg feels so strong that I feel like I am counter bending.

Evidently, my right leg IS NOT weak, but rather my left leg is the problem. Turns out, my right leg is in the right place, but it feels ineffective as a result of my left leg. I’m riding off of the inside of the calf of my right leg and my toe is pointed forward on my right foot. This is good and correct. This is also why I sometimes have issues getting my right spur on vs left spur because my legs/feet are in two completely separate positions. Shocking, right?

My left leg? I’m riding off the back of my leg/calf which is causing my heel to grip into Nay’s side. I’m also sitting into my left heel which has caused my body to shift over to the left side of my saddle. This makes for my left leg to feel extraordinarily tight, but it turns out, it’s not tight in the right place. My left leg does NOT move. My right leg, on the other hand (foot?), does move/swing, but that is in part because I’ve shifted so far over in the saddle that I can’t keep my leg connected.

Things to stop doing:

  1. Spooking at horses in the ring.
  2. Micromanaging my horse.
  3. Riding with the back of my left calf and sitting on left side of my saddle.

So in order to fix this, we started by first having me sit in all different positions to feel the difference. This was weird. Nay thought we were crazy. We then also had me only focus on the damn left leg and pointing that toe forward which theoretically fixed the calf issue. Every few strides, I was to look down and I identify if I looked straight. Through all of this, Nay was very curious if he really should trot or just walk or stand still. But, he does understand a good cluck and shuffled forward even if confused by my ever-changing position… WTF Mom was his opinion of things…

My homework is to buy some velcro (or procure some from my basement because I’m sure I have some) and velcro my left stirrup to the girth for a few rides. The goal is the build some new muscle memory but also allow the stirrup to safely detach when necessary. I also need to shorten my right stirrup which has been feeling long thanks to sitting on the left side of my saddle. And just work on trotting and cantering until this feels normal.

Overall though, the comments were that Nay looked happy and relaxed. He does get a bit tense/reactive when we make tight turns whereas he’s 100% fine with all straight lines and sweeping turns. So, we need to look into that to determine if it’s an actual problem, muscle weakness, or just some overall body soreness. He’s not lame, just does some head tossing. He used to head toss a lot more but as he got stronger, he stopped so we’re guessing he’s just a little sore as he’s developing muscle. But, we’re also going to pull blood since I haven’t done that in a while and it never hurts to do a regular check for Lyme. And ultimately, if he needs some short-term maintenance, he needs some maintenance. Building strength and muscle is hard. Though fixing my position will help…

Addressing tension, stress, and…excuses.

Honestly, I don’t have any idea what I’m doing. And this is going to be a media-less post because I just don’t have any. I do have pictures of a new car because there’s an entire story about my car getting rear-ended by a Mennonite (and private Mennonite church insurance) as part of a 4 car incident), but that’s a story for another day…

Anyway, due to car-crap, work, and life, I rode Friday, Sunday, and then took a lesson on Tuesday (yesterday). Friday Nay Nay was pretty incredible. Nay was quiet. We were 100% alone which… isn’t safe, but, feeding time was soon and I figured if something was going on someone would find me. So bad, but since Nay was feeling so trustworthy, I did whatever I needed to do. My routine is that I do lunge before riding so I felt comfortable to get on but even trotting around, Nay was just… perfect.

After a nice trot, I actually warmed up over our boogie fence from my previous lesson first at the trot, then cantered it a few times. He was great. No crow hopping, no resistance. He was a tiny bit speedier at the canter, but mostly I think it was because I was a touch loose.

From here? We moved to the canter and cantered both leads. Then I worked Nay hard over the small fence at the end of the ring. It was tiny (12-18″ no standards) first at a trot, then cantered circles over it several times, working on maintaining a steady pace, shortening when I needed to, working on the turn, and all that jazz. Interestingly, while Nay bends SO MUCH BETTER to the right, I am so much more comfortable to the left. So the exercise was easy to the left, harder to the right. As a result, we worked harder to the right.

Feeling tight, we went back to the exercise from the last lesson (the rollback to the jump I warmed up earlier). The first jump wasn’t an issue, never is. BUT, Nay tried to pull his antics to the second, but I was tight, confident to the second (we DID jump it several times) and closing my outside leg, Nay groaned and jumped it without actually having much of a fit. We did this a few more times and the only issue was he was speedy on the landing, but no problem arose again with the approach. I THINK the issue is when Nay gets tired or decides he’s done? He says haha nope. But once he realizes he needs to work, he gives up. My confidence plays a role too.

Sunday I wasn’t feeling it. He was a spooky mess, but we rode and everything was fine. I just wasn’t feeling it. We went through the motions. Just nothing to write home about. I didn’t push it, but it was fine. Nay did nothing bad, but I just didn’t enjoy anything (the days you ride because you should not because you want to?).

Which brings us to Tuesday. The weather sucked. Nay was a touch tight? I lunged outside and he was wild. Then we came in the indoor where my trainer was finishing a training ride and Nay proceeded to almost jump me off. Basically she picked up the canter and Nay decided to jump and spin and spin and jump. I hopped off and Nay Nay proceeded to stand like a PERFECT GENTLEMAN and try and snuggle. Bastard.

When my trainer finished her ride (filled with antics), I turned down the opportunity for a brief free-lunge/chase around the indoor and jumped back on. Obviously Nay had my number. We started off trotting and man was there tension and we were determined to ride out the freaking tension. We trotted. Faster. Faster. Faster. Nothing I did was fast enough. We got there. I had to stop pulling with my left hand (it appears I pull with that hand). But we trotted forever, ultimately at speed. Then we cantered, first to the right.

The right was interesting. Nay was still full of tension. We picked up the lead and held it until he decided that he wasn’t at all interested in the right lead and swapped and suddenly we were on the left lead. “I don’t care.” was my trainer’s view point so we continued counter-cantering for about 5-6 minutes as fast as Nay wanted to go. This tired the shit out of him and once we was quiet, I trotted a step and we continued on the correct lead for several more minutes. The goal was canter as fast as he wants on down the long side and allow him to collect down the short side.

We trotted a quick change of direction and cantered AGAIN, this time to the left. The left was… interesting. There was a touch of tension but this was my fault. I was pressing my spur into him (my saddle was moving a touch — I was using a fuzzy girth vs his preferred professional choice girth) so he kicked the wall and then had a tantrum… twice. But, the key with Nay is that, in this case, he WAS trying to do what I asked. Spurs (this time my left spur) told him to move his hocks over) and he did, into the wall. He realized that wasn’t the right reaction so he got upset because he wasn’t sure what I wanted. He may buck/crow hop, but he does NOT try to get me off. Never. That isn’t ever his goal. I’m not the stickiest rider, but I never feel like he’s trying to get me off. Subi? Yeah. Nay, nope.

So we kept the canter while focusing on the placement of my leg. OMFG. So hard. Basically overcompensating knee in, heel out. It was…extreme. But we got it. And eventually walked. We did finish with a few small jumps which were of no issue.

We stopped chatted awhile about anxiety. Mine, Nay’s. While I sat with my feet out of the stirrups showing how relaxed we both were…

My trainer brought up ulcers and suggested I either treat or scope. He’s lost some weight and is more reactive, but I think the weight is more due to weather and all the grass gone. I need to up feed. Nay tends to stop eating when he has a flare (he stops eating hay and/or feed and he’s still eating). He might just need winter rations to make up for less grass. He is much quieter outside of lessons vs lessons and he’s always reactive during rainy/gross weather. I’ll toss him on some ulcer meds (he’s on preventatives so I DON’T think we’re dealing with ulcers) vs scoping as he’ll respond in a couple of days if its ulcers.

The big problem is… me. I get crazy nervous for lessons. I tense up. I need to release tension because Nay feeds off me. We ride on our own, especially when the rings are empty? Nay is a puppy dog. No tension. Just a lesson horse. But, we warm up differently. We lunge, yes, but we walk around on a loose rein for a while until I want to trot (5, 10, 15, 20 minutes depending on the day). We trot FOREVER. 20 minutes, sometimes more. First slow. Then faster. Lots of change of rein. Circles of all sizes. By the time we move on, we’re both relaxed and happy.

It’s hard to do this kind of warm up before a lesson just due to real life (I usually ride during the day during my lunch break), but I’m going to see if I can get on and just walk around for 20 minutes and work on relaxing. I think my nerves are setting us both up for failure. For some reason, lessons make me nervous. They always have. Every trainer, every horse. Even lessons on RANGER ffs. And that horse was a saint.

So yeah. How do we fix me?

Unpacking the tantrum aka green horses are hard

Nay Nay looking at an arena full of jumps
Saturday was GORGEOUS riding weather

I’ve been struggling to blog lately. I’m not entirely sure why. Partially it’s due to health, I mean, everything is always due to health, but no one is reading this blog to hear me talk about chronic migraine and chronic vestibular migraine. But that’s all been in full force and I’ve felt like crap.

But it’s more than that. I just don’t know where I am riding wise? I’m in this new phase which, quite frankly, isn’t a lot of fun.

Things go great and then all of a sudden SOMETHING sets Nay off. A jump. A place in the arena, a horse in the field, being asked to move forward. And he has a fit and basically says, “No way in hell, bitch!” There is squealing, there is crow hopping, there is antics, but never, at any point, is Nay ever actually TRYING to get me off his back. Mostly, he’s aiming to STOP the forward motion. Somehow he’s gotten my number. Scare tactics work. Crow hopping temper tantrums when he’s tired and DONE working are his way of trying to get out of further work. I MUST have stopped at some point and walked to collect myself?

Nay Nay between the ears
Despite his antics, he’s always willing to go out and work

This all started a few weeks? A month or 2 ago? Sometime this summer. We had an amazing ride the day before and jumped EVERYTHING in arena. Literally. I cantered the entire course. Even the jumps that scared the shit out of me. He carted me over everything. The next day, I didn’t want to jump him, but I was planning to do my normal flat ride and jump 2 or 3 jumps just because I tend to pop over a fence or 2 most rides. We’re talking mostly 2ft. I cantered our easy 2ft fence and decided to do the “scary” 6 stride line which was a touch larger, but NOTHING hard. I didn’t ride to jump 2 and Nay said no. I rode back and actually rode. He decided he didn’t have to and stopped. We had some antics and I actually put on “Oh shit, I’m teaching my horse to stop” pants and smacked him and he jumped, landed, did a full change, we cantered back over and all was good.

Nay Nay and the "evil" yellow jump
The jump that caused issues for 2 lessons

Flash forward, we’ve had a touch of “Bully-behavior” since. Most notably, the damn left lead and that awful lesson. That said, the lead has been SOLID since. Both leads actually. I fought, I won. He’s fought the trailer a touch, but again, he’s at the trailer, he gets the F on. And he does. Sometimes he just takes 90 seconds vs 2 seconds. And after it took 90 seconds 2 days in row, I added a chain and now we’re back to 2 seconds (I’d practice at home but at home it is NOT an issue — we load all day every day). So, the answer is taking no shit the first time.

So, prior to the my most recent lesson, we had a jump issue creep up at this yellow fence. He was amazing all lesson and then we approached this random fence and he started crow hopping. Once he realized that he had to jump the fence even if he was crow hopping towards it, he ultimately stopped. So, after the lesson, we practiced circling and bending up in the corner towards that jump (SO MUCH WORK AND GROWNING) and then the jump was his reward for so much damn flat work. Never had one issue with the fence. He did try it the second day we tried this exercise at a different fence (previous day this behavior didn’t even crop up), but I was able to keep squeezing him forward much more easily than with the yellow fence. After 2 approaches he maintained his gait and all was well.

Nay Nay standing in front of a paddock
Sometimes he’s lucky he’s handsome…

Which brings us to the last lesson. Once again, he was PERFECT. Flat work, cantering a fence on a circle in both directions, etc. We worked on a bending line/rollback to the left and again, lovely. Then we reversed the direction and first jump, fine, second? the damn tantrum. Now, the fence was the SAME fence that we had issues with (same direction) way back this summer, but like 18″/2′ high. The first time I had to circle back, the second few times felt wildly out of control, and then we broke to a trot (but the trot was lovely). Then I we maintained a canter, but I involved too much hand… I finally found the right rhythm and we got it, but damn, this is hard!

Ultimately I can tell that part of it is mental (I was THINKING about the jump), part of it is just a random jump that Nay decides to just have a freaking tantrum. We need to push through it as he WILL get over it when I force him over. It’s not the jump. He has no concern about jumps. He is crazy brave over fences and doesn’t give a shit if I catch him in the mouth (SORRY!) though I’m pretty good about being consistent with my release. But, these baby antics are definitely something I’m learning from!

Nay Nay resting his head on a saddle rack
Heads are hard to hold up…

On a different note, we did switch his bit from a d-ring to a 3-ring elevator about a week, week and a half ago. My trainer requested the bit change as she wasn’t thrilled with his drag and drop antics at times. He’s light in your hand…until he’s not. So, we’d ask for him to halt and he’d pull you down. Then if you asked him to back, you’d have to back and lift. Having the leverage is nice when I need it, but I’m trying SO HARD to be vigilant of where my hands are and what they’re doing. Honestly? Nay doesn’t care about the bit. I may still try a happy mouth version to see if he prefers that and I do want bit guards, but knowing Nay, THAT will be what he objects to…

ROOTD
No riding photos, but here’s my ROOTD.. crappy photo, but…

It’s funny, I’ll have had Nay for 2 years in December, but I feel like I’ve only really had him 100% healthy since March/April. He was sort of healthy last year after we solved the ulcer/soy issue. But he still wasn’t eating properly. At the end of March, I finally found a supplement that worked for ulcers AND feed that he’d eat and he’s fatter and fitter than ever. I’m riding an entirely new horse. And it’s HARD.

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.

It’s all fun and games until someone needs…an attitude adjustment.

Well. Not really.

I’m trying to get back into the weekly blog routine. So here I am, blogging about pretty much nothing. But I’m blogging?

I left off with our left lead struggles. And Nay Nay’s temper tantrums. Since then? The weather has been been gross. We had heat wave #478932 of the summer. Nay got a few days off. And rain. I guess it’s the rainy season now? It’s gross. And now Ida is heading this way and 3-8″ of rain are heading this way tomorrow evening. Everything is muddy now so I’m sure more rain is exactly what we need…

OK. Real update.

Saturday.

It was humid as all hell but I decided to ride anyway. Due to the weather and the fact that it looked like rain (despite the weather app indicating only a 40% chance of showers) I decided I’d ride inside. And then the skies opened up. And stopped. And opened up. And stopped again. I decided to lunge and Nay seemed quiet. So I hopped on and he still seemed quiet? We walked around over some pole and everything was great…

Nay Nay and Subi hanging out in the shed
These 2 refused to leave the shed Saturday morning… It wasn’t raining. I had treats. Subi wanted to visit. Nay wouldn’t let him. It was a battle of the wills.

Until we were joined by a spunky little western stock thing. And Nay pretty much lost his shit. I managed to keep him trotting around on one end of the arena, introducing circles and controlling the crow hops, but every few minutes? Nay would explode and jump and spin. Over. And Over. And Over. We’d regain control and things would seem OK and then the crow hopping would start again.

After awhile I felt like we started to make progress and took a brief walk break. After all, Nay did what I asked. He moved forward. He trotted forward. And the crow hopping actually sort of kind of stopped. And then he exploded. It wasn’t bad, I mean, it’s Nay. He doesn’t do bad. But, I just was done. I tried to trot him forward but I couldn’t really get forward from the trot. So I gave up and threw him back on the lunge line and lunged the snot out of him. And then lunged some more.

Post-ride sweaty pony
Very sweaty pony

I did get back on afterwards even though Nay Nay was hot and sweaty and tired and his brain was spent, but I decided I didn’t care (judge me). My goal was to walk around on a loose rein. So we did. He screamed (his timer had gone off). I decided to push my luck and trot. So we did. On a loose rein. It was also nice, minus the screaming. Then, really pushing my luck, we picked up the left lead canter. First time. There was no screaming. I called it a day, hopped off, and Nay screamed in my ear.

Sunday? The weather was a lot nicer. I lunged again and Nay Nay was much quieter but also much more willing to move out (we were outside, his preferred place to ride). I probably lunged a touch longer than I should have, but after Saturday, I did want to push him harder than I had Saturday (lunge 1).

The ride itself? It was pretty good. I got on and Nay was quiet. He was a little resistant to bend, but generally good. And he picked up the left lead right away the first time. We struggled if I didn’t ask properly — he wants me to put both hands to the outside and bring my outside leg back — like WAY WAY WAY back. If I rush the transition? I tend NOT to bring my outside leg back. He also struggles with the lead when he gets tired. But, when he’s tired he gets heavy as well so I found that if I halt and back AND ask him to lift while backing? he figures out right away that getting heavy is way too much work for him.

We also worked on the right lead and while he was a bit confused (both leads? we do both leads?), we didn’t fight and got that one too while using the same tricks (while also then asking for the left immediately after to reinforce the point).

Hermione
All this talk about horses and not talk about Hermione?

We ended our ride with a couple of single trot fences working on either landing the lead or simple changes and just not getting super heavy. It was rough (Nay was tired so the leads got harder), but we got it.

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…