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.  

Friday, July 5, 2019


Besides my bulk bag of super cheap magnesium oxide (for getting a chill pony), I've been thinking about adding some supplements to his tiny handful of grain. I ended up going the smartpak route and getting smart dark & handsome for his orange summer coat and the smart tendon for the heat he's been carrying in it the last month or so. I just got all the stuff in the mail today and I'm super excited. And thanks to being a smart perks member I got him some neoprene-free Majyk boots (for protecting his legs without adding more heat when he gets stupid on outings) which were on clearance with an extra code to boot (pun intended) and free shipping because smart perks. So seriously the free shipping on anything is probably going to get me in trouble..... $80 boots for $35. Honestly who wouldn't?

Orange gelding
sporting mare-glare

Monday, July 1, 2019

Best ride to date!!!!

I went 1.5 hrs away Sunday with T who was riding her mare and our horse adventure partners in crime, SJ and D, for a lesson with Carrie who T and D rode with last week. As usual I was a bit worried to ride in a new place. I've been there and scoped it out and it's a quiet farm, gorgeous indoor arena and even if Carrie's husband is working with a horse, the arena is big enough for there to be 2 things going on at one time.

I was going to let T ride 1st but then decided it would be better to go first because Curtis might get pissy if I'm just getting on and Waverly leaves the arena. I got right on after a walk around in hand and T walked next to us but he was pretty relaxed. Looking at things but not being reactive.

So we started our lesson. Carrie has you ride a diamond, not a circle or rectangle. The biggest thing about riding the diamond is about controlling the shoulders and making sure they are even and under him and he is turning from the shoulder and is even in reins and a bridle. It is very hard to ride the diamond but it definitely made knowing what Curtis was doing wrong easier for me to feel and then correct.

the dreaded diamond

So we walked for a minute on the diamond and she asked me to trot and in 30 seconds had me stopped to discuss my loud hands. I had a good feeling this was going to happen. How many times have I said my hands are so LOUD and have been trying for a year to QUIET them???  So what Carrie did was put a dressage whip in my hands, holding it in 2 spots shoulder width apart with my reins. I feel like my reins were too short but I was told to shorten them more. What does the whip do? I can't cross over his neck. I can't seesaw. I can't annoy him. I have no choice but to ride with my seat. Keeping my reins level and steady. So now I'm riding the diamond with a whip under my thumbs. So now I can basically only steer with my seat. I was told to turn from the hips, like riding a bike. Silke said something similar when I was riding Twister. If he brought his head up to resist, I did nothing with my hands but rode him more forward with my legs. Kick kick. Wake him up and make him march.

You can kinda see how
I'm balancing the whip

We started at the walk and then eventually did the trot both ways. The longer we did it the more relaxed he became. BECAUSE I WASN'T FUCKING WITH HIS MOUTH. I was riding from my seat. He was licking and chewing and lifted his back and tracked over and became round JUST FROM MY SEAT. He was LISTENING to me. Actually paying attention with out the adhd moments. His ears kept flickering back and forth and our transitions were better. And I forgot to be anxious, nervous or afraid. Actually, I couldn't stop smiling. I kept saying "he feels amazing! he feels so floaty!" Curtis is a smooth horse and enjoyable to ride but this was above and beyond. I couldn't believe how awesome he felt.

And then Carrie asked if I did much cantering on him. I admitted I do at home and T's but hadn't anywhere else in a very long while because I'm so afraid of an explosion. She said to trust her. That she could see how relaxed and happy this horse is and that under her supervision we should canter even just a few strides so that I got the confidence for it. AND WE DID IT. A few strides to the right and a whole diamond...yes, cantering on the diamond with the damn whip still under my thumbs because she said I was absolutely not dropping it for this because it would make it so much better. And she was right. His left canter was the best canter I've ever ever had on him. What an absolute confidence booster. I don't think I've ever been that confident and relaxed on him anywhere but home.

Carrie is super positive. She doesn't yell or insult. If you make a mistake or the horse stops doing as asked she says "it's ok" and to just try again. She says he is more likely to blow up with he's ridden hollow and with me in his mouth all tense. I really needed a lesson like this. I wish I could afford the time and money to go back weekly. I will probably try to go monthly though. Next time I hope to go right before the show. Meanwhile, I am going to ride the diamond and practice with the dressage whip to teach my hands to be quiet. It's going to be even harder in my arena because it tilts but I am going to make the most of it!!! It can only get better!