Thursday, December 26, 2019

Year End Review

Well the year is basically over. In some ways I feel like I’ve gotten really far with Curtis. And in other ways I feel like we’ve hardly moved on from where we were a year ago. I try really hard not to compare my process to those of other horse and rider teams. But it’s hard. It’s not like I’ve only had Curtis a year. I’ve know him since he was a baby and handled him all through his racing career and injury recovery.

Our biggest problem is tenseness. On both our parts. I’ve been trying to build my confidence all year. And during the last 6 months especially I’ve been trying to work on teaching  him to relax and that when you relax we all have more fun. 

Our 2019 show career was not very successful. I might have had to have a glass of wine to get through my tests without freaking out. We have a plan for next year which is quite a bit like this past year’s only now I have a routine to relax him (hopefully) before getting on to show. And now I know how effective extra magnesium and tubes of SmartCalm are so will be taking advantage of that. 

We went to USDF nationals at the horse park in November and all the horses in warm up had their shit together. No one was rank. And I thought as much as there is going on here, Curtis would probably hold his shit together here with other horses who aren’t acting like nut jobs. Only I don’t want to go to recognized shows until I know we can get through a test successfully and have our routine down and there is minimal tenseness and blowing up. But horses at schooling shows can be wild 😬

Honestly I am giving it another year. If we get to October or November next year and I’m still dealing with the same issues I’ll just ride him at home, trail ride and maybe I’ll keep taking lessons and train him through the levels but not show him. I understand giving him a grace period and is needing time to figure out shit out. But I don’t want to be still super nervous on a horse who is still blowing up at shows and unable to make it through an Intro test without a tanty. I’m all for moving up slowly but there comes a time when you have to decide if you’re the right team for shows. I am going to keep giving it my all to work through our many issues. But not forever. Curtis is a lifer though. Even if I don’t show him, he will always be in our family. And I do love the little shit to pieces. I really do. 

Sneaking a kiss to the horse who hates kisses 😘

On a happier note, all this lunging Carrie has us doing has Curtis getting hunky. And I can see the quality of his gaits improving as well. Due to my lack of freaking footing as usual I can’t always ride after I lunge him but when I do I can feel his trot getting bigger and floatier. He’s lighter too. He was never a really heavy horse but he is carrying himself better. 

I absolutely refuse to let him get scrawny again. The grain change alone has done so much for his body condition and the lunging has done more. 

My goal for 2020 is very simple: teach us BOTH to relax!!! No tension!!! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Lunging until I'm dizzy

Between lunging SJ and Rascal and working with the yearling (he still needs a JC name!) and working with Curtis, all I've done is lunge lately. The baby is a smarty pants and if it wasnt for my person's sliced fingers we would be riding him already .

As for Curtis, lunging him like Carrie said to do is hunking him up. I took him to T's to lunge and ride on a flat surface and we discovered he gets his leads better on a bigger circle. Which means I need to buy a longer lunge line. I dont know if my arena at home is even 20m wide.

When I got on to ride he was forward and relaxed and felt great. I haven't been riding much because by the time I lunge him and the baby I've spent 2 hours in the barn and my tiny human is done.

I don't even know what I'm doing half the time but he looks great and is filling out nicely. Where was this horse all summer? I switched his grain in late August and it has made all the difference. He's on a 1/3 scoop tribute seniority and 1/3 scoop of oats. And that am all change put some weight on him and is helping him bulk up. I wish I'd switched him sooner. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Back to basics and wardrobe change.... Sorting out Curtis

Went for a lesson Sunday and after telling Carrie how our shows have gone since we saw her last (2 months ago! 😬) and her seeing how tense we both were as his girlfriend left him in the arena all alone, Carrie asked if I lunge him. Yep and he's pretty respectful on the lunge. Do we at shows? No! I was told that would make him hotter. She said to get off and let's see how he goes and show me how to lunge him to eliviate tension on the ground.

She had me use sliding side reins which I need to buy asap. And push him out on the lunge. He was tense. You could see it and he'd come above the bridle but instead of lunging forward like he does with me at shows he'd hit himself and fly backwards, punishing himself.

As he worked, he relaxed and you could see him move through his back more. He endes up working down to being a more relaxed horse in all 3 gates to the left and we started over to the right. When we got right and started all over. Any time Waverly screamed I was ready to chase him forward before he threw a tanty.  and he would not canter right. He was very stiff and kept hitting himself.

Carrie said she does this with horses she starts  to make sure they have a solid foundation and doesn't get on them until she can see from the ground a horse that looks like a nice boring but enjoyable ride. She said to build a routine at home I can take to a show. Lunge with the aliding side reins until he's relaxed and moving free then ride. She said for a while I'll be lunging longer than I ride. And once we take it to shows (schooling first for a few shows) we'll spend more time getting a rideable horse than I'll spend riding or in the ring. D told me later Carrie said I was very brave to ride Curtis the way he's been the last year. I don't feel brave. I need calming tubes of stuff for him and liquid courage for me to get me through shows.

I also asked her to give me an honest opinion on my set up. She said she's not a fan of micklems and she rides with a clinician who hates them. She said he's incredibly sensitive and the micklem is restrictive and I should try a basic bridle. Which I haven't used on him since he was a tiny baby. I borrowed one from T and he looks very handsome in it. We rode in it today and it's different but so far not better or worse. Carrie also said to try an eggbutt. She says they are a bit better for horses that are sensitive and avoid contact vs the loose ring which she says is better for horses that pull. So a new bit will be ordered with the side reins.

Of course a bridle won't magically change anything but a setup he's not 100% in won't help. And hopefully a winter of back to basics with a tack change will help me get a horse I'm not afraid will kill me.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

We bought a yearling!

We brought the trailer which was the first mistake as we really were planning to wait until Sunday when they practically give them away. But seriously though, how gorgeous is this kid??

Damsah 2018 by Mshawish (em-shah-wish). If you go by the book he's bred to run long on the grass.

He walked right on the trailer like a big horse too. Has a good head on him.

He's going to need a kickass name. SJ is calling him "Sprinklehead" but I can't imagine that being called as he runs down the stretch 😂

Twister is a babysitter again and I can't say he's thrilled. But he's the only one I trust not to beat the crap out of little Sparklehead. He's going about putting little shits in their place without going overboard.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Canter all day

Ok well trying to get more canter work in anyways.  Now that I'm done showing, the 3 days or so I ride a week I'm focusing on getting leads and an even, consistent canter. Someday we'll be able to show without dying being a possibility and when that day comes I want to be ready to ride a training level test immediately.

Curtis loves to canter and his canter is smooth and generally up hill. It's those pesky leads. We still have some trouble with the left lead. And he picks up the right every time but then gets stiff when asked to bend that way. So we're working on it.

I introduced simple changes which get better the more we do them during a single ride. And Monday with T's help to call out "wrong lead! Correct lead!" I was able to do a shit ton of transitions. And yes....and still cannot always tell if he's on the wrong lead. We've also done come hill work because we're both sick of the arena. He loves a good gallop, thoroughbred that he is.

Also we just got blacktop laid down so now I'll have a place to ride no matter how wet it gets this winter.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Burnt out

I'm not really sure how I can be burnt out when I only ride 1 horse a day and only 4ish times a week. In general though, horses and family combined, I've been on the freaking go for months. And I'm losing steam. We didn't go to Carrie's on Sunday due to multiple truck issues and as much as I needed the lesson I'm not really bummed out. We'll go back in a couple weeks.

And Curtis who was a beast right after I got home from NY seems a bit too chill lately and I think he is just sick of arena work. We have been galloping in the field to mix it up a bit and I didn't take him to T's on Monday. We were going to take a family trail ride yesterday but I talked my person out of it and glad I did because it was 95* and the horse flies were nasty. We went to lunch and the mall instead. A.c. everywhere while Curtis stood in front of his fan all day.

I know the good weather is very limited this time of year and I should be super gung ho to ride until the 6 months of monsoon season starts but I just took 3 days off because eh. After his awesome mini show ride a test thing I should be all gung ho but unless Carrie has a schooling show at her place this fall (probably wont happen until spring) I won't be showing again. The next schooling show is in Nov and Curtis would probably have to live at T's for a week to do that because of the crap weather we seem to get every fall.


And if I'm 100% honest I'd say maybe I'm a little burnt out because I've been working every day with this horse...and myself...and all we've managed to successfully do is not explode during a not real show at the end of the summer. I know every horse is different and my confidence isn't helping us along but I'm so worried I'll be starting from square 1 come spring 😑

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Shenanigans free "show"

So this week has not gone to plan. It rained like crazy Monday and Tuesday so in preparation for going to the ride a test I had to ride Curtis at T's and leave him there over night. Then I bring him home for 1 night and my daughter's nasty shitty appy beat him up. Luckily pretty superficial but Rascal is no long allowed in the same paddock at Curtis.

Fucking rascal
Curtis has handled the complete lack of routine well. Trailered well to Lexington. Stood well at the trailer like a big boy. Then I gave him a syringe of Syncalm, which btw works amazing without have a dead head horse. I'm going to buy a shit ton more for trail rides and someday hunter paces and actual real shows.

So I got right on warmed up for 5 seconds then asked to go in because I didnt want the other 2 horses warming up to go and leave and him lose his shit. He was a little looky and my hands where nervous and all over and definatelh pissed him off. The judge (a grand prix rider named Judy) said at the end it was good buy she'd like to see more energy and QUIET hands. My hands. The bane of my dressage existence. But Curtis did so well compared to past being judged experiences that I decided to ride a 2nd test.

I kind of forgot intro a. I went over it super quick right before I went in and almosy did a free walk where I was supposed to change rein. But quickly remembered and picked that trot back up. Our 2nd time around was fantastic. For us. I'm basing my adjectives against our first outing in May. We have a LONG way to go but the judge said she can see that Curtis has a lot more potential that he showed last night. And no lunging and jumping through the test which is a total 1st.

Sorry it's sideways...

I am really super thrilled. Maybe it was the fact that there were only 2 other horses there and it was super quiet compared to a normal show or maybe it was the calming stuff he got 30 minutes before we rode or maybe he's just growing up? I don't care. It's taking us forever but we are at least getting somewhere.

We are supposed to go to Carrie's Sunday and I'm kind of getting burnt out and after this week I'm not sure I have the energy. We'll see though.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Back at it

SJ and I are finally healthy and I've started Curtis back into work. He's so happy. He really isn't a horse that likes to do nothing day after day. I do think some time off did him good because he put some weight on and has a new burst of energy. Which is great until I take him somewhere....

Yesterday we went to T's and he was strong and playful but making sure everyone knew how fancy he is. We had a couple of spooks just because stupidass and repeatedly kept looking at the standards T was trying to put away. But he felt fantastic.

Also I have a new saddle. It's shorter in his back which I think should make him happier but mainly it's a saddle that fits me better. And I'm probably preaching to the choir but having a saddle that fits you so that you're not fighting your body to stay upright or keep your legs back or keep your pelvic where it belongs is incredibly helpful. No it's not magic and I will always have a ton of work to do on my eq. But I feel more secure and I'm not fighting the saddle. It's another wintec, this time an Isabel. And I need a smaller gullet for Curtis but really it fits him pretty well because he's beefed up so much this summer.

There is a mini show every Wednesday at Masterson and I am planning on riding Intro B on the 28th. And then a lesson with Carrie soon after. And I'd love to ride another test in the fall but the shows are either too big or too far. So we may be out of shows  for the year...

Napping at T's after our ride
My wintec pro 18" is for sale if anyone is looking. $400 shipped.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Never flying again

After the show I gave Curtis 2 weeks off while I went to Buffalo to visit family. He had been working hard so 10-14 days off would do him good. We got home and I lunged him for 20 mins one day and he just galloped around me both ways like a beast. The next day I rode him and he was strong but behaved.

And now SJ and I have some nasty virus we must have picked up in the airport or airplane and I've barely left my couch in 3 days. It's making my asthma horrible and I haven't even made sure he gets his magnesium.

I'm never flying again 😩

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Attempt at being a dressage horse: 3.0

Took Curtis to another schooling show yesterday to actually show. So it was his 3rd trip to be judged total. November, May and yesterday. I love schooling shows because the judges are so lenient and are completely okay with things like silent ear bonnets, throwing your whip out of the ring mid-test, occasionally talking to the horse (yes, I need to quit that but he was naughty) and wearing a vest to make me feel better about potentially eating dirt. What I don't love about schooling shows is the rank horses everywhere. There is a giant xc field behind us and several people with really bad horses (ok, yes Curtis was this horse only 3 months ago) getting all the other horses worked up (we took Curtis away from the warm up and schooled him on his own where he wouldn't get horses pumped and people hurt....). One horse was being extremely common and the steward asked them to leave. That's how dangerous they were.

I learned so much about Curtis yesterday. Like nothing phases him....not bright red tents, car doors slamming, 500 kids screaming and playing soccer across the field, not people in tiny boxes watching you (he stuck his head in there to see if the judge had any food for him). What bothers him is in short, other horses. If they are behaving or walking he doesn't much mind. Get one acting up and he can't even. Even a good strong canter from another horse bothers him. I wish I could show him in blinkers. He raced in them. Clearly for obvious reasons.

all the tenseness. the braids make him look awesome tho

I also learned that Curtis only has 1 test in him.

Our warm up was barely a warm up because of all the stupid ass horses and my main goal was to keep him calm and relaxed. While waiting our turn in the ring he stood pretty relaxed watching everything. We were both a bit tense but there had been no serious shit fits or antics.

We got in the ring and kind of fell apart. He was hardly listening to me, so I talked to him a lot which is a no no but the judge said she didn't count against me. But i got 3s and 4s so I guess she didn't want to make it even worse? We had one momo during our first circle at A and I was surprisingly chill about it. Told him no, put him back on pattern and kept riding. It was a shit test but compared to the last 2 shows it was a huge improvement.

We only had a couple of minutes until Intro B so we just stood around chilling out and maybe that was our problem.... he though he was done. Just trotting around near A waiting for the bell he was starting to throw shit fits. I know when he hollows and acts stupid I'm supposed to put my leg on and ride him forward into the bridle, but I'd put my leg on and he'd get pissed again because he kept throwing his head up and hitting the bit. Some of it was me (esp in test A) but some of it was him just being a dick/just being done. We had like 3 moments during B and though I was almost done and saluted, said thank you and got out of there.

Once we picked up our tests later that day I realized I should have kept riding. As bad as I felt it was he had 5s, 6s, and some 7s. Or maybe the judge just really liked her visitor from earlier (judge for test A was a different judge) or she was just more lenient being it's a schooling show.

I told my friend H about it and she said "My Sarah, you didn't tell him if you act like a shit you get to be done. You told him you're listening to him and understood he was fried and let him be instead of forcing him." Or something along those lines. She's right. Maybe someday we'll have more than 1 test in us but right now he can't do that. The warm up is it's own giant test for him and by the time we get through with the test he is mentally done.

I'm thinking the next show we go to, I find an empty field far away from any horses and warm him up and then just walk him to the warm up, check in and ride the test. Only give him limited exposure to the zoo that is warm up.

I paid the prereg for photos because I expected a bit better of a ride but hopefully she got a few where we don't look like half broke, fresh off the track idiots. But she did offer some good advice. She said while I'm feeding daily magnesium and even upped his dose quite a bit this last week, before we tack up I should give him a tube of calming stuff to really get him to chill. She also said if I'm afraid of his lunging and bucking I should be taking jump lessons on a steady school horse to learn to sit that movement and be confident about it. I'm such a nervous jumper so maybe it's not a bad idea. And also, I need to get my confidence back and my seat by maybe riding a school master or well broke horse. I'm thinking maybe it's time to pull Twister back out and take him places. Maybe even a dressage show. He can throw shit all day everywhere and we both know it won't go far and I never get phased by it.

Plus side of the day, he got on and off the trailer all day and stood quietly with a buddy in the shade on board as each horse had a turn at the dressage ring. Winning.

In the end I just need to keep going with Curtis. Because he was better. So much better. It's not great but it's slowly getting there. We got 5th place and I'm over at the office all excited because I wasn't the worse in the class for once in my life and then after I pick up my ribbon I notice the other 2 horses in my class scratched. So I actually only got it by default. But if anyone asks there were 9 horses in my class. And even if it was last place, to me it's a "yay we didn't die and did better than May" ribbon. We fucking earned that.

we all got ribbons!!

Monday, July 22, 2019

What a Monday this had been

SJ and I were up early and took the trailer to have her NEW TIRES put on. Which my person said should take 20 mins but took them like an hour. I should have walked SJ over to the dollar store but whatevs.

So we get home and I a quick U-ie and go to throw Curtis on and the mother fucker would. not. load. My person saw me struggling and came down and couldn't get him on.
SO like 4 years ago when he was racing he was great in the trailer until one night he just wasn't. No no reason anyone could decide. Just didn't want to leave the track and it took my person and his racing partner hours to load him. If I remember correctly it didn't take him long to bounce back, and really, he didn't have much choice as he was being trailered somewhere every other week. And since I've been riding him, he has loaded awesome. Going on and off like a pro every time ad last Sunday loading up to go to Carrie's he literally, no exaggeration, drug me up the ramp. He couldn't wait to go places. Then Sunday afternoon when we dropped Waverly off I took him off for 30 mins and then he refused to load again and he had to spend the night. The next day it took a while but I got him up with grain. Today he wouldn't load for anything and got really hot and stupid. My person ended up having to blindfold him and back him up.

 So after our ride a neighbor who is really great with horses helped me load him. She worked with him for a while. If he took his attention off the trailer she got after him and made him listen without getting him worked up and hot. I was really impressed. By the end of the hour or so we worked with him, you pointed and he went in. End of story. I'm not sure why his brain occasionally says fuck you to trailers, but it's not cool. But now I know how to deal with it in a positive and productive way.

Our ride started out with me wanting to beat him or shoot him but after a while he settled in and focused his little adhd brain on me. Our canter took a little work but felt really awesome. And at the very end he stood in the middle of the arena chill as can be for another 30 mins which is absolutely unheard of, so as mad as I started the day at him, I ended our ride pretty happy. I'm going to bring him over Friday afternoon before the show to work with him again on the flat. My arena is terrible and slanty and now the guys are here fixing the pond so that should be fun.

AND!!!!! I won the Riding Warehouse giveaway from last week so I have so fancy white show breeches coming to me and a new pair of paddock boots!!! So freaking excited!!!

As wild of a Monday as it's been, it's actually been pretty awesome.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

More amazing dressage instruction

On Sunday, D, T and I all hauled back down to Carrie's for lessons. Or as Carrie calls it "formal dressage instruction". Waverly was in heat and during the trailer ride Curtis decided he was in love. But he actually did awesome unloading and settling in to his stall. Even with all Waverly's screaming for him I was able to get on and warm up without it looking like T was taking me to a leadline class.

Whether is the magnesium or the constant trips off my farm, this kid has made a total turn around and even if he looks at things or gets concerned he doesn't/hasn't blow up. Carrie says a lot of it is how I've been riding him. Whatever it is, I wanted to cry happy tears again after our lesson because of how well we did and how I "did the right thing" when he needed

Carrie could see that I had been doing my homework, riding with the whip to teach my hands to be quiet and riding the diamond at home (which is SO hard to do in my slanty arena). When we started trotting she made me hold the whip to quiet my hands but after a few minutes wanted me to use the whip on the shoulder as a whip/aid instead of hand-quieting tool. I was nervous about this because my person says that Curtis never liked the whip. I used it a bit behind my leg to make him march in the walk and on his shoulder to help control it.

Curtis is right handed. going to the left he pulls to the right. Taptap on the right shoulder. And to the right he falls in, especially at the canter.  taptap. At first I was hesitant to use the whip at all but once I had him moving forward and he was relaxed I started using it independent of Carrie's instruction, knowing when he needed a taptap and giving it to him.

One of the biggest things Carrie told me this week, which makes perfect sense, is to be the sursingle and sidereins. My body should be still and constant. If he comes up and pulls, stay constant, "do the right thing" and ride him forward into the bit. Don't move my hands, don't pull at his mouth. Ride forward and let him come back to me. When his right shoulder inevitably drifts off the line of travel, use that dressage whip at his shoulder taptap.

We worked on coming off the diamond into a circle. She said after the diamond, a circle should be easy, which so far for me it is not. I'm a bit worried about my 20m circles in my tests but I'll just keep doing this exercise. For example, if I'm riding the diamond to the right, at the top of the diamond instead of going to the next point, I make a 10m circle to the right and go back on the diamond. When we came off the diamond, he would pull and try to lift his head and I'd have to push him back into the bridle with my leg. When that right should fell out, taptap.

Only media so far

Then at the very end when we were working on our canter, Carrie's husband brought a stud colt into the arena to longline in the corner. The kid was a kite. All 4 feet in the air, screaming at Waverly who was also in the arena walking around waiting for their lesson, and screaming at the stud colt. And I was able to keep Curtis' attention. I was getting after him, taps on his shoulder, a kick, whistling at him or a "HEY! NO! PAY ATTENTION!" I never get after him when we are someplace new. I hardly get after him at T's and he thinks that is his 2nd home. But I was confidently getting after him and making him listen to me even though there was a lot going on, drawing his attention.

It was a fantastic lesson. And I gave him a big hug and told him he was amazing. Carrie is amazing. What 2 lessons with her have done for my confidence is amazing. I don't have any media yet. D hasn't sent it to me, she's a busy lady. But I was afraid if I waited too long to write it up I'd forget the main bullet points.

One more thing..... I rode in those Majyk Equip dressage boots and it was 90* and when I took them off his legs were cool and tight. And we were both soaking wet. He's also been on SmartTendon for 3 weeks and I really think that's helping keep his bad leg from carrying heat. Recommending both, just in case anyone needs ideas for post-tendon injury boots and supplements.