Tuesday, January 31, 2017

When you post a horse for sale

There's a lot of talking about it leading up to the event, "oh, well, we have been thinking about this or that" and then you gather the information you need, and then eventually you finally start putting ads up places.

And after the monotonous flurry of posting it, you sort of sit on your hands and wait for the emails to start ROLLING in.

Hah! If only it worked that way.

Anyways - that's what I'm up to.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The ol' wait-and-see

My lovely vet came out on Thursday to check out Kat's whole "being lame" and weird lumps.

The lumps (which to be honest I was the most concerned about) the vet glanced at, shrugged, and said "they're hematomas probably from kicking the wall. Standing wraps on both sides so she doesn't hurt the other leg and give it a few days."

Easy! Now to proclaim there's an abscess in the other leg....

Hoof testers galore and no sensitivity to them, so probably not an abscess on that front leg.

I felt much like this cat. "What do you mean let's start blocking the leg..."

We blocked the back half of the hoof and she came up sound.

Then we did x-rays, which revealed nothing more exciting than a sub-par palmar angle. So we'll put wedges on her to correct that.

After chatting more about it, I guess there's one of two things going on. 1) She's got a bruise in there that will just take some time to heal. 2) She's damaged something deep, which would require an MRI to adequately diagnose.

I'm feeling a bit morose, but am committed to staying positive for this thirty-day stint of stall rest. She's getting ten minutes of hand walking twice a day, so I'm bridling her up for one of those and practicing square halts and not leaning out of the halt. I'm also considering clicker training her to sidle up to the mounting block and maybe some other silly tricks so that she doesn't absolutely go insane with boredom.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

(The sadness of the title is not indicative of the content of this post.)

Freddie came to Fresno because he is firmly in the resale horse camp and so the more miles he can get with me, the better it will be when I go to sell him.

Let's recap his training so far so that these photos will adequately impress you. Freddie is five, has mostly been trail ridden, and at this point has about 90 days of dressage training on him, 60 of which occurred before I bought him. I've jumped him at least once probably most days I've ridden him, but he has only about 4 official "schools" on him, where we tried low courses or grids.

All of this to say: I might not be selling him.

Just kidding. But the above photo is as we approached the first fence of the day, his first cross country jump ever.

And it pretty much sums up his entire day. "Oh, we're doing a thing now," and he just rolled with it. Ears up, good attitude.

His form improved tremendously as the day went on, as did his confidence.

My favorite part of the day was how many of these photos I'm smiling in, especially after the nightmare with Kat.

His canter continues to need a lot of work, but as the day went on and he relaxed a bit I started to find the best quality I've had from him so far.

He's just so easy going and willing to please that it makes me feel like a genius.

He didn't think the water was a big deal at all, although he did threaten to JUMP in at one point.

And neither going up nor coming down were cause for any concern at all.

And even when I brought him to a ditch with ZERO real preparation, he popped right over it, no questions asked.

These aren't even all of my favorite photos! I have to save SOMETHING for y'all in this rain when I write about books or other boring things.

Anyhow - I love my baby horse and I'm really glad he came along. It made the drive home much more sweet and significantly less bitter.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Love is not a victory march

I borrowed a trailer from a trainer friend and high-tailed it out to the Fresno County Horse Park on Monday with Kat, Freddie, Gus, and Danny all stuffed in there for an adventure.

The goal was to assess how ready Kat was for training, and to play with some of the questions that would be posed to us in competition.

The other horses were really just a dressing on the day, more of a "hey if we're going to haul this far might as well bring as many horses along as possible."

The result was not what one might have hoped (on the primary goal front, that is.)

Kat warmed up fabulously. Hot? Sure. EXTREMELY forward? Yes. Was it like riding a powder keg? Absolutely.

LOL @Kat for that face
But she felt unbelievable. I felt like I could have ridden for days, skating across the ground without touching it, turning on a thought -- she floated.

My glee boiled inside me - we were ready to attack this course with everything we had. The kids followed me out and I selected a supremely innocuous intro level jump to hop over a few times on the way out to the start box. I surprised her with it a little and we skated to a halt in front of it. Weird. I brought her around again and we leapt over it, only to hit the ground and bolt.

"Okay," I told myself, bringing her around to try it again, "we have takeoff."

Except I couldn't get her back to the jump.

She baulked. I kicked her. She reared. It started as a little rear, but only got worse. I sent her forward to take her for a bit of a canter, thinking she just had too much energy and needed a bit of a stretch out, but she grabbed the bit between her teeth and bolted around the entire park, pulling up only when we approached the trailer and her friends. Then the rearing continued.

I decided to preserve my back and lunge her, even lunging her over the offending jump to remind her to stay steady over the fence.

Pony club gives me an F for protective legwear and for any lunging sense whatsoever

And then I saw it, and it only got worse.

The head bob.

Switched directions - much worse.

I got back on, thinking that since her legs were tight and cool I shouldn't let her finish with a rearing bolting fit, but she IMMEDIATELY started rearing again and there were at least two where I thought to myself, "please, please don't fall on me."

I declared defeat.

I threw her on the lunge line Tuesday to check her out and the above is the result. She's not super off on the big circle but I definitely can see it, but everyone can see as I bring her in that she's very lame there.

Probably an abscess! I thought to myself, thinking that this terrible awful no good behavior had to be caused by pain.

I've been through a lot of bullshit with this horse, but here's the thing: I've taken her ALL over the place and while I wouldn't say she's a "steady eddy" the fact is that this horse comes off the trailer pretty much like she is at home. Spooky, sensitive, but a phenomenal partner and when she understands the game she bloody comes out to play.

The horse loves to jump. Usually, the sass fades as soon as she realizes that we're jumping today.

That didn't happen Monday, and I'm extremely disappointed. I have an appointment with the vet for tomorrow, not only to help me decide whether it's yes abscess no abscess but also because of this:

And now readers, I'll leave the good for tomorrow, and will write about what the vet said on Friday. In the meantime, I'll wallow in the sickening feeling of happy-excited-loving-kindness draining into "what's wrong with my horse I shouldn't ride ever again I'm going to get fallen on."

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016: A deeper review

James Clear does this annual review every year that consists of three questions.
  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn't go so well this year? 
  3. What am I working toward?
I enjoy this so much that I'm going to answer these questions rather than setting formal 2017 goals.

What went well this year?

A lot of things went super well this year. As I looked at in my last post, there were some pretty fun and huge changes, primarily hinging around the purchase of the truck. It definitely required some financial adjustment but was so worth it. I spent more time in lessons and became familiar with educational frustration which I think in the end helped me be a better trainer myself. 

I read a lot. This is not a comprehensive list, but important books for 2016 include Tug of War by Gerd Heuschmann, The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh, Level up your Life by Steve Kamb, Antifragile by Taleb Nassim, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Connected by Nicholas Christakis, The Four Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey, The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin, Influence by Robert Cialdini, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, Thinking Riding by Molly Sivewright, The Road to Character by David Brooks, Coach by Michael Lewis, and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. 

The above books make the list because I have notes on them in my 2016 Bullet Journal, but there are others on my kindle and on my shelf and in my mind that I read -- as well as a tremendous amount of fiction. I learned a lot through these books. 

I did not take as many lessons as I did in 2015, but the truth of the matter is that I think I learned more in this year than I did the previous year for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I rode from a greater number of trainers, and I think that thoughtfully integrating their advice is very very good for me, but might be hugely detrimental to the wrong sort of rider. 

When we conducted an end of year look at all my students goals, nearly all my students had achieved the goals they set for themselves at the beginning of 2016. Maybe we didn't stretch far enough, but maybe we made a lot of progress. 

What didn't go so well this year?

I had two primary goals for 2016. I wanted to explore my strength, and to practice being a beginner. As further definition, I had intended to run another half marathon, hit some weightlifting goals, and to take lessons in at least three different sports than my own. 


This did not go well. 

I set foot in the gym twice this past year, though I did buy TRX straps and had a lot of fun learning to use them this summer. I increased the total weight of my kettlebell swing, though that's pretty much it as far as moving heavy objects around besides jump standards and grain bags. I think I could count every run I went on between my toes and my fingers. 

I did not do well with taking lessons in other sports. It, um, didn't happen. 

I did not blog as much as I wanted to, largely due to a lack of clarity in what I was hoping to find in my blogging experience. I love reading everyone's stories and I've come to love their horses from afar. I love the community. But I definitely battled a fear that I somehow needed to write something more impressive or educational, and that stopped me from writing about the more mundane. But I think that the mundane ends up being what's important for me in the end, and that's really why we blog. Or at least, why I'd like to blog. The posts I write that are 'educational' I want to be more of a clarification for myself, an exploration into something that will allow me to be a better teacher of the subject matter.

What am I working toward?

A four-horse trailer! 

Well yes, but also some other things.

I am, like everyone else who rides dressage seriously, working towards my bronze medal. I have unprecedented access to talented horses and shows, I'm riding with a trainer who will NEVER encourage me to move up a level but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt will help me improve more than anyone else I've ever ridden with, and my access to shows is phenomenal. Wow. I could literally be at a show 42 weekends this year, and never have to drive more than three hours from home.

I am afraid, though.

It's true.

I'm afraid of embarrassing myself in the ring, or being unable to show my horses off the way I want to. 

I have zero rated shows on my record in the dressage ring, and while I've shown extensively at schooling shows, what does that matter. Really. What does that matter when a new client is looking me up, or in terms of "building a resume?" Not very much.

And that transient nature of a score at a schooling show is comforting.

But it's time to take myself, my riding, and my horses seriously, even if that means royally messing up on my 'permanent record'. I've got a wonderful network of support (I'm looking at you, fellow bloggers), and I don't think I'll go totally ego-tastic and move up a level before the horses I'm riding are really ready for it.

I'm working towards more bravery.

Not brute force, 'that horse is a dragon but someone has to get it over the jump', bravery. The quiet, vulnerable type of bravery, where a bit of your heart gets overexposed and it aches a little but you know, you really know, you did the best you could.

It's so easy to hold back, to be willing to fail because "I wasn't really trying" or to take it all as a joke or to ride wildly inappropriate horses for the sport and blame it on them (I've done it, oh yes, talk to me about eventing a Fresian), but I don't want that to be the example I'm setting.

I not only want to be the trainer who stands in the pouring rain laughing with my students as each step is a splash, but I want to be the trainer my teenagers look at and see that authenticity and courage are possible. I not only want to challenge their minds but I want to be an example to their hearts too.

And perhaps it's a whole lotta words for simply trotting and cantering a few twenty meter circles in an strangely labeled rectangle, but the world is what we make of it, isn't it?