Friday, April 18, 2014


Wednesday, I longed Harley in side reins.  Warmed up without them over the X, trot and canter.  Nice work, good efforts.  Added the side reins, and sent him out.  Lots of transitions, LOTS of push forward trot.  Pretty stuff.

Last night, he was a turd.  Flat out turd.  I checked him all over for any soreness, and saw nothing.  He didn't want to canter-left, but instead just rushed out in a stupid racing trot.  He spooked at the wind, a bird, and then a few deer.  NOT a good ride day.  I ended up hopping off and putting him on the longeline.  Then he cantered left without an issue.  Dork.

Now, on to the torture sessions exercise new hobby.  What the fuzzle was I thinking?!  I've started ru.. ru... okay, I can say it out loud, I really can.   Running.

*gulp*  Running.
I have loaded the couch to 5k app on my phone, I already had fancy schmancy earbuds.  I even picked up a pair of overpriced running shoes.  I run nearly every other day, but with the show tomorrow, I'm going to have two days off of running this weekend.  I think.

I'm on week 2.  The app starts out nice & slow, goes easy, doesn't push.  But seriously.. what am I thinking?!

Oh yeah, here's why..

My friend Jennifer lost her brother in an accident a few weeks ago.  I later learned he is an Army vet.  I then asked my Marine friend Ben, "What can I do or have done to honor her brother?"  He said, "Why not run for TAPS like I do?"  awwe, geez.  Okay,  shoot,  That's what I get for asking, right? 

This means, as I start picking out 5k events, I'll be fundraising for TAPS in honor of Alan Chastain.  I'll post up the links when this happens.  Their wish for each runner is $500 a race.  That's $10 from 50 people, followers and readers.  We can easily do this, right?  

Monday, April 14, 2014


What I have learned lately:

The "squeeze, kick, WHIP" lessons have made Harley just a bit antsy when I'm carrying the jump bat in the jump saddle.  Oops, I think.

It wasn't the act of "going over little things" that had Harley upset.  It wasn't the saddle fit, and it wasn't me.  I set up an X on the circle, fairly large, to see what it would take to get him jumping and not stepping over.  He hesitated.  He refused.  He went around it.  He tried *everything*.  When he did jump, it was gigantic.  Enormous, freaked out, he did it with the biggest look of fear on his face.  We repeated that for quite a while before the quiet jumping horse came back. 

I can actually "STICK IT" when he tears off like a loon.  Last week, R came over to stand watch while I rode H over some X's. We had been doing all our work on a circle (not far to go when I'm looking around the circle mid-air).  This was the first on a line in quite a while.  Harley planted, jumped, landed, THEN took off.  I sat there, briefly bewildered.  "What the heck, I'm going to fa... screw that,  I see a corner.  I'm heading there."  As Harley realized #1 I'm not going anywheres, and #2 the corner fence was still there, he quit being a fool.  I hopped off, measured the ground poles I had set out after the X, and realized they were pretty far apart. 

Since then, I haven't lowered or raised anything in the few jumps I have set out.  I have sent him down the line, around the circle.  I am lucky to get a real jump, and since I have had all of the other rides alone, it's hard to hop off to adjust things.  When I dismount, I lose a LOT of his energy, forward, and willingness/eagerness to jump. 

We are mailing out registration for another show.  Scheduled for this weekend.  I'm technically already in the line-up, but I just don't want to jinx anything, so that's all I'm going to say about that.

As if riding nearly every day, some days both horses in one day, wasn't enough .. I've picked up another athletic sport muscular punishment hobby.  More on that soon.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

4.1.14 No Foolin'

Harley - brief longe to "test the mood" -- quiet.  I sent him over pole, elevated, pole at the trot and canter.  Perfect-O.  Little blurbs of break to trot, but he fixed himself and got the strides figured out.

I rode a while.  Aimed to ride some trot leg yields like I did at Laura's barn on Saturday - I should know better ... never ask for a leg yield when there's a jump on the quarterline.  I didn't exactly stop looking where I wanted to go, but more let my mind scroll thru the cues to figure out why he wasn't yielding.  And there it was.  The X, less than 4 trot strides out.  well, gotta do it now. I haven't asked for canter from the saddle yet.. he's had a very short warm up.. oooh boy here goes nothing.

Step Step.  Stinker.  Didn't even try to jump it.  So I sent him to the other X, set slightly higher.. .Half a jump.  We rode both X's a while, both directions.  Then I had to decide.  Will I hop off and raise the X, or will I set up a second one in line, or ride the pole, elevated, pole, at the canter on the circle.

Circle it is.  Entirely too lazy to dismount, and not wanting to disrupt the mojo we had going, I sent him at canter, rode one circle without the poles, and then went for it.

Perfect.  Three times in a row perfect.  He added a short stride in before at least once, but he stayed in canter, rode them gorgeous.  Changed direction.  Broke to trot once, reached hard once, but still quiet.  The reach-hard trip over felt a little rushed afterwards, but he settled with a heavy sigh. 

So I started to think ...
The fitters had mentioned that, with his newfound muscles in the shoulder and his withers coming around, he might not need that front strap on the saddle to the girth anymore... They had suggested I experiment without it, and when I asked why, Louise said, "It'll smash the saddle down on his shoulders if he develops and you keep using it.  Very uncomfortable."

Maybe that's been it the whole time.  Perhaps Harley has grown the muscles required to hold the saddle down with the original girth straps 1 & 3, as opposed to the 1 & 4 we're using now (with the front strap I'm using attached to the front of the saddle tree instead of the middle like the normal ones are).  He has been known to "do what's asked but fight about it" when he's uncomfortable or in pain... Just like when his rear heels were soft & tender, and while he worked, he did it bucking & kicking up. 

Something to work on, and make a good effort at.  I've contacted the fitters in Scotland, and will adjust my ride plans accordingly based on their feedback.  Anybody else got some ideas?  I'm all ears.. well.. all girth straps, that is.

And of course, based on that ranting post I put up a week or two ago, it's also likely I'm not as secure in the jump saddle, Harley feels that insecurity, and he's relaying that message back to me by overjumping , and running off to "get it over with".  Maybe he feels my lack of balance... Hmm.. Perhaps some shorter stirrup flat work or some stirrup-less 2 point is in order... Hmmm... Still taking suggestions on any of this, too.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ending March

Last Thursday, H and I had a good ride.  Jump saddle, all work on the flat, no poles or jumps, just getting some forward without
Friday, was more of the same.  Nothing amazing, nothing disastrous either.
Saturday, I hauled to Houston, and rode with my friends Laura & Traci for a while.  I rode Harley, she rode Harley, I got back on.  Rode baby cavaletti trot to and canter to.  Even canter to with a ground pole.  As we started the canter, things didn't feel perfect, and I turned him in some circles to get a nice steady feel canter before I even looked at the jump.  When he did approach it, it was amazing.  Totally quiet, just like a stride.  Laura called out, "Ride like it's not even there.  These are super short, so no reason to over-prepare.  Quit thinking so much and just ride it."  Laura has seen Harley compete before, over a year ago, though, and she was impressed with the improvements we've made.  Quite the compliment there... :) 

After the two less than stellar jump rides I'd had, I expected some of his little fit to arise with Laura. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Total angel. Granted, everything was short, and small, with no opportunity to go any higher (at least not with what was pulled out to use), but he didn't do a single silly thing. 
Take home thought? He was super quiet over the cavaletti - especially after a long dressage ride. :) 

Then yesterday, I was worrying about what I needed to do in the ride.  Which saddle?  Which bit?  Would I longe him first?  Side reins?  What about jumps from the line?  Which height? 

And I decided to take it completely opposite.  I saddled him up dressage, in the myler combo bit, put on my helmet, and hopped on.  We walked all over the pasture, then wandered down the road a teensy bit.  He was quiet, and while observant, he wasn't overly alert.  Back to the house, followed by a U turn, and back down that road again.  Total ride, 25 minutes. 

Tonight, we'll just see. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

3/22/14 Lesson and Homework

Got Harley up and moving with the shorter reins, and had some decent work.  Must continue the emphasis on bend, and forward.  I gave him a healthy smack with the whip only one time, with a nice shot forward, and after, he wasn't as heavy to move out. 

Jump work was rough.  Really Really rough.  He overjumped a little X first, and I managed to get his attention back.  Second trip, he overjumped yet again, and burst out in a gallop I wasn't prepared to stay with.  After a short discussion, I hopped back on, and we backed clear up to trot poles.  Things were okay.  Ended each line of trot poles with a sharp halt. 

The X was set back up, smaller, then eventually raised back to where it was originally.  At best, we had one trip of a true jump.  The rest were trot-over steps, or a half-effort jump.  The complete opposite of what he originally offered.  I approached the line, saw a small X, followed by a stride and a vertical, and paniced.  I didn't see that happening pleasant, and didn't need any more bruises, so we called it a day.


Continue the bend exaggeration in the warmups.  Ask for forward, nicely once, then with the whip.  Insist on forward. Canter early in the warmup, which improves the contact, the bend, and the quality of trot.

Start with trot poles.  Gradually increase the height of the X until a true jump effort is reached.  Lots of energy heading in the trot to the line.  If he starts to get that "rush away" attitude, halt gently after the jump as soon as reasonable.  Repeat a few times. 

One day a week of longeline work on side reins. 

Find a safe place, and introduce him to the gallop with a rider.  We've not yet done this, at all, since I started riding him.  I've got a few ideas on where this might happen, but I'm not certain when.

The weather has been rainy since.  This is a good thing.  We need the rain, and it's nice to see a green pasture starting in the back yard. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Quick Update

I owe more, but..
 Rode Mo a time or three, Still fun. Still reliable. Just out of shape. Longed him up & over the box. Trot JUMP trot. I often wonder, maybe Romeo is a jumper after all. I probably didn't start him correctly, but I bet it could be fixed.

 Harley got his jump saddle adjusted.  A bit of stuffing was all we needed.  Also had a neat dressage lesson with Ms. A. one of the fitters. Take home? Squeeze him forward, then kick, then SMACK with the whip. whip. Shorter reins, and insist on forward. 

 We had a few rides before and after the fitting. Trott and over an X. A bit of canter over ground poles (5 a few times, 3 others ) , and a few pole, X, pole. All canter on the circle.
  After the fit lesson, Harley and I had some good dressage moments. He still fights in the warm up, but things are improving.

Ready for our lesson on Saturday. Anxious to get back in the swing, and get back on the gymnastics. We are ready to let Ms. N. set the pace, and get our confidence back.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

No, Tell me What you Really Think...

I follow and read a LOT of blogs.  More than I've linked.  Here's what I've come to learn:

Some people blog as a "Here's what I do, what I think is the best way to do things, and you should learn from me".   Others blog as a, "Here's how it went for this ride, what I did well, what I was terrible at, and what I'll do differently."

Then, there's a mix of the two.  Usually someone who touts themselves as an "expert" in whatever field they ride in.  They're either pleasure princesses, dressage divas, reining-roping-racing runners, trail or endurance trotting, something.  These folks will blog about their adventures, or the lack thereof, and then delve into all the details so the 'rest of us underlings' might learn something from them.

My favorite has to be the blame-blogs.  You know .. "I had ___ happen in my ride/play session/groundwork stick training, and it's all ___ fault."  There's no possible way they could admit they can't ride, can't read a horse's mind, the horse is too much for them, or my favorite, *gasp* they need riding lessons from one consistent ride until your damn legs fall off and come back in two weeks for another round instructor. 

Here's my two cents, because those 28 few of you that follow me here, read what I post, sometimes comment, sometimes send me messages through email or facebook, or in person.  Feel free to share this post, comment here, email me, facebook message me, toilet paper the old oak tree in my front yard (if you can find it)..

If you have a terrible day riding, it's your own dang fault.  Fix it at home before you go anywhere and search for blame somewhere else.  (For the record, I had to censor that first sentence... that's how aggrevated I am.)  Quit looking for some karma-riding batshitcrazygoofball to blame your bad day on.  The horse knows what you want, 98% of the time.  They either choose not to listen because your cues suck, or you're distracted.  If you can't ride it out in your back yard, there's not much a chance the show ring, or competition field, or the trainer barn can repair it.  30, 60, 90 days with a professional will only fine tune the horse's skills, and if you can't handle the ride now, your horse will definitely over-react when the cues are less sensitive. 

Each of our disciplines have the good, the bad, the ugly, and the "holysh!t I can't believe they haven't banned that person for life".  Quit pretending you have the perfect sport and only *that other riding event over there* has the crappy trainers.  Quit stereotyping breeds of horses, or styles of riders.  Not all dressage riders practice rollkur, not all event cross-country horses are goofy and injured, not all barrel racers spur their horses bloody, and not all trail riding is benign.  That being said, not all western pleasure horses are forced to go slow, some horses LOVE to jump (pulling their riders to a jump if the rider isn't paying attention), some barrel horses live to run, and some trail riding is outright dangerous. 

If you're a quiet reader that isn't a follower, doesn't comment, and thinks I'm evil for picking on your or your best friend, that's your problem.  I've been blogging for quite a while, I comment here & there , and I'm reading enough every single day to see the trends.  I should say here, "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings or offended you", but I can't muster it today.  Maybe a few months from now, but not today. 

Here at work, we have a phrase with one of our instruments (a gas chromatograph), to "check the nut behind the septum".  It means, "Check the user before you blame the instrument."  So, I say here, "check the nut".

When I fall, I blame me.  I gave Harley more of a jump challenge than I could sit.  I hadn't sensitized him to gunfire.  I'm not as secure in my seat as I wish I was.  I tried riding him or Mo bareback and mentally wasn't in the game for it.  Other events lead up to my accidents, but it's not the events fault.  It's mine for not having enough years in the tack to stick it.  I'm getting there.  Thank you for reading while I win ribbons, tolerating the days I ramble on more than I post details, and for not asking too many "training technique" questions.  I'm no trainer, just a student that keeps on learning, and doesn't intend to stop.

I'm riding this evening... who's with me?