Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fairytales and Flying Changes

Great flat school outside in the field again.  Only worked for about 20 minutes, half of that being our usual walking warm up.  Trot work and canter work was very quick with two perfect flying changes, so I called it a day and let Soonie snack in the knee-high grass for a little while.  He thought that was pretty grand.

Pet Dragon <3

"Today was a fairytale..."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday 26 Apr 2015

I have no clever post title so that's what I'm going with!

I spent the last four days in the city, and didn't get to the barn earlier in the week either, so Soonie has had a full week off.  He did seem very happy to be groomed and tacked up, though, so that's good!  He did his cute funny-tongue-derp-faces which he normally only does when he's waiting for dinner to arrive, so generally I consider that his "Aww yea I can't wait" sign.  I do think this horse loves his work so while vacation is great, he's usually pretty happy to get back to his riding routine.

Probably because he knows he's getting carrots afterward.

We just did a light walk/trot flat school outside in the big hay field.  He felt a little full of himself (not surprising with seven days off and no lunging), but he settled in pretty well and we had about 25 minutes of great work.  We did lots of lateral work and circles, focusing on some of the points that Linda Zang made a few days ago, me focusing on "up and out" as well as riding his inside hind up through to his outside fore.  He felt like he had great swing and good energy (the tall grass probably helped there a little), and we finished the school with some stretching and called it a day.  I need to get video of him out there, because I really feel like he moves and swings so much more outside, and the scope of his stride improves noticeably. 

It was a lovely day for a ride, for handgrazing, and for horse love.  :)

Sweet sleepy lipstick face :)

Linda Zang and Cupcakes

Last Friday I had the extreme privilege of spending an afternoon watching Dressage guru Linda Zang teach several lessons at a private farm nearby.  It was a last second invitation and I am SO glad that I took the offer.  Linda is highly regarded in both Dressage and Eventing circle for her skill as an instructor, her accomplishments as a Dressage rider (taking Thoroughbreds to the FEI levels), and her status as an FEI "O" Dressage judge (one of only two in the US), and one of only six "O" judges worldwide that conduct judge seminars and educational panels.  She's like the Zen Master of Dressage in the States and sought after for her knowledge.

As you might expect, it was an absolute treat.  Linda is very down-to-earth, she is very pleasant to talk to, but is not afraid to be blunt and call you out for poor or ineffective riding when necessary.  No sugarcoating here, but still someone I could imagine clinicing with and getting so, so much out of it.  We saw three very different horses in the three private lessons:  first one was a big, young Hanoverian/TB gelding with spectacular movement, but not a lot of focus and still relatively green for his age.  The second was a six year old old-type Warmblood with less spectacular movement, but still very correct and well educated and obedient for a six year old.  The third was a little Thoroughbred cross mare, very typey-TB, with less natural dressage ability than the first two and by no means a big mover, but a confirmed Second Level horse looking to move up to Third Level.

Linda was able to make significant improvements to each horse/rider combo through her suggestions.  They were exact, timely, and very impressive to listen and watch the change occur.  Every great thing I had heard about Linda going into that afternoon was validated, and I really just enjoyed hearing her opinions.  I hope to ride with her one day as well, just for the experience and the input. 

Key points:
- Horse supples through the shoulder
- Ride the hind leg up to the opposite front leg (inside hind to outside front) to create the swing, throughness and connection
- Horse's energy should be up and through the outside shoulder, gently filling the outside rein
-  Ride through the inside and ride off the outside rein

I also found it interesting that she specifically said that it's good for dressage horses to spend a year or two as a quality hunter (with proper training) because a good hunter is allowed to come forward and go longer and lower, and the horse "learns to use himself longitudinally."  Meaning, and as she elaborated on, horses need to "start long and low, and you bring them up over time."  It is so nice to hear someone of her caliber support that theory. 

Interview with Linda Zang about assisting Eventers:

Great demo from the 2014 Thoroughbreds For All! event at Rolex Kentucky, where you can see a big change in the horse's way of going from start to finish per Linda's comments:

^ GREAT points in that video!

We were also fed cupcakes which made that just the most fantastic afternoon ever.  I look forward to attending more and learning all that I can from Linda.  Also, I'd be happy to return to that private farm because it was CRAZY GORGEOUS and the owners are incredibly fortunate to have such a property, their effort in planning and building is evident.  Seriously it was wonderful.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Flat Video and Progress Pictures - April 2015

Today was one of those rare days where Soon was "up" and a little full of it.  But to be fair, we had a very windy, cooler day, and everyone's a little crazy.  I snagged some video of us flatting and also pulled some screencaps.  From the video, you can see that he was tense and not swinging in the trot.  I also need to ride him more off the outside rein, as you can see he has a tendency to "cheat" and tip his nose to the inside rather than truly come through and flex at the poll.  We didn't do much stretching, because he got rushy, and him running around on his forehand is not a useful or correct stretch.  The little bit we did you can see he has a little more swing in the trot and he tracks up better, but he's behind the vertical and bordering on running, so I cut it short.

All in all, still a productive school even though it started off with him trying to jump the ground poles.  Even when he's "bad," he's still very good in the grand scheme of things.  We're still working on the "up and out" concept in terms of his balance and outline - you should be able to see how much that outline has shortened and become higher compared to our other flatwork videos.

Flatwork March 2014
Flatwork January 2014
Flatwork September 2013
Jan 2014 and Mar 2014 Screencaps

I like this because you can't see me staring at his ears



AAAAND IT'S GONE.  Behind the vertical and on the forehand


Got his BOT sheet to make up for the lack of stretchy time

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Perfect Saturday and a whole ton of pictures

Looking good!
It was mid-70's, sunny with a slight breeze...aka my perfect weather day, and my horse was equally wonderful!  I know, I know....gag me already with the gushing, but seriously.  We had a lovely jump school today in the indoor.  I rode the lines quieter than before and he was totally tuned in to what I was asking.  He is so adjustable that I just have to give him a quick "whoa" over the fence and he lands thinking "quiet."  Which is nice, because I can steady better on that first stride and ride the remaining ones with a supporting leg versus landing quick and pulling to the jump (which is what I did in the last week's video, oops).

He looks so excited
The lines were perfect and even, he got under himself well and balanced perfectly on the short turns, and our rhythm was spot on.  I need to try to keep doing regular jump schools with him, about once a week would be good.  Today was the third time in eight days we've jumped, which is good to get us back into the jumping rhythm, and by "us" I mean me.  I need to get my feel back.  It's not so much the "eye" as many people call it, but rather my feel for the right canter that gets us to the right spots.  We were nailing it today and it just felt so great.  

Had to include this because...really

So after a very quick and very perfect jump school, Soonie and I went for a quick hack around the farm to enjoy the fine day.

We found the Four Ponies of the Apocalypse

Love flatting out here, can't wait to get some jumps set up

Soonie wanted nothing to do with the ponies when we walked by (I laughed), and afterward he got a quick bath and we spent an hour or so handgrazing.  He gets about 14 hours of grass turnout every night, but he was happy to be out in the sunshine with the gorgeous spring grass.  It made for some great photos and quality time.  Reminded me of how we'd always end our rides in Nebraska with hand grazing.

Perfection <3

Why he can't have nice things

There has been some rearranging of the turnout situations, and it's come to our attention that Soonie doesn't Share Well With Others.

Two additional geldings got introduced to his field (in addition to the other gelding he's currently with and his mare), and Soon spent about 30 minutes chasing the other two geldings around the field and trying to kill them, apparently. He takes his Thoroughbred threesome very seriously, I guess.

Soon's wild stallion stunt double
And there was some of this bullshit too

So, Soon has lost his mare privileges.  They split everyone up into mare turnouts and gelding turnouts.  But then Soon decided he might like to try jumping out of his field to get to the mare and was sizing up the fence line...

How Soon thought it was going to go
How the barn staff felt that was going to go
...so they yanked him out of there before he had the opportunity to try.  They banished him back to the front field with the Four Ponies of the Apocalypse, who proceeded to chase him and kick his ass, and he finally accepted his new position in life.  Yep, Big Bad Stallion got his ass handed to him by a couple of little POAs, and he spent his time on the opposite side of the field from them.  I'm headed to the barn to see how his solo night turnout went...BM is hoping after some time alone he can settle back into the gelding group and just be normal again.  Because he has always been the most neutral, non-shit-giving turnout companion I have ever seen, until his love affair with Maresy. 

I hate love.  I hate spring breeding season and the stupid thing it makes horses do.  We don't need horses getting possessive and injuring other horses, and I sure as shit don't need him attached to anyone, so here's hoping the issue is done and we can all move on with our lives.  

This is why you can't have nice things

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dear Horse

You are awesome and jumped around like a superstar tonight and I'm glad I pulled my head out of my ass and remembered how to ride to the jumps.  What a great ride!  Also, you are so sleepy and snuggly it kills me with cuteness.

That Lady That Feeds You Carrots After We Do The Thing

This was before the ride

Droopy lip

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Oh and...

Soonie and I finally got to flat out in the big field and it was fantastic!  He was pleasantly forward and swinging, and felt great out there.  Perfect weather for it too.  :)

Pre-ride nap

Add caption

I saw a horse flip over today...

Which was, you know...ridiculous and completely preventable.  Thankfully the horse did not appear to be hurt and the rider was not on at the time.

People need a fucking license to be able to use draw reins.  I don't know where to begin with this post.  I think maybe I'll just say that I hate draw reins, I think that they should be reserved for people who actually have soft hands and understand contact, and those are the people that don't even need to use draw reins because they UNDERSTAND CONTACT.

Saw a young teenage girl (truck-in) who was apparently told by a former trainer that Maresy needed to be in draw reins, that the head had to be down, that you lower/widen your hands to get horsey's head down, and that riding backwards was ok.  Teenager brought horsey into an unfamiliar environment, horse was understandably excited and "up," draw reins went on and horse got increasingly backward.  Girl dismounted to lunge the horse, put the draw reins behind the saddle (!!??!!!), and 10 seconds later Maresy went up and over.  She landed on her side in the dirt, thankfully did not whack her skull on the nearby jump.  Situation was diffused shortly thereafter and horse appeared sound, at least from my distance.

JESUS H. CHRIST did no one TEACH this kid about draw reins or is it one of those "trainers" who slaps more shit on the horse, explains nothing, and tells the kid to keep kicking?

Kid was offered a free lesson by the resident trainer and hopefully she takes her up on it.  Horse just needs to go forward and kid needs to learn how to ride it without tying the head to its chest.

Personally I have no use for draw reins and I'm happy I'm in a situation where I never have to use them on my own horse.  Some may argue that "they have their place," but honestly I don't buy it.  I think they're a shortcut to proper training when someone isn't either skillful enough or patient enough to do it correctly. Worst case scenario, they fall into the hands of someone completely uneducated to their use, and horse splits its skull open. 

I just...I can't.  I can't.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Jumping horses over sticks is the BEST!

Why Today Was Awesome:
1.  It's Friday
2.  I got out of work early and went straight to the barn
3.  Barn owner set up a full course

We haven't jumped in over a month (?), but he was perfect anyway.  Distances were quiet (could be more open, but not a lot of room to work with in the corners), but he was super adjustable, willing, and reminded me that he doesn't care about filler (decorations/flowers/boxes, etc) at all.

Some screenshots of Soonie jumping cute and me looking like I know how to ride:

The long-ish spot and me trying to stay with him


So tiiiiiiiired...

Sunday, April 5, 2015


My bargain basement zip-up Ariats took exactly seven months to completely lose their shit.  The zipper on the left boot doesn't zip at the bottom, and comes completely undone before you even get out the door.  I need to take them to the local cobbler to see if he can install a new zipper AND a full length elastic on the inside to offer more "give" to the zippers.  I'd like these Ariats to stick around and be my schooling boots, but for the time being they're on the bench, and my 14 year old Ariat Frankenstein boots are back in the rotation.

And you know what...I still love them.  I've tried to retire these boots twice now.  They don't have the fashionable Italian tops of the new Ariats, they're a medium height to the newer Ariats in the tall height, so these look almost comically short in comparison, but they're so comfortable it's not fair.  That massive elastic was put in years ago in an effort to make an originally slim calf boot (from my high school and college days!) fit a now regular calf.  So not only does it work, but the elastic has held up well over the last several years and it makes the boots feel like comfy half chaps.  I highly recommend it!  So until I get the newer zipper Ariats fixed, I'm back in the old ones and I just wish these boots could live forever.  I almost don't want the zippered boots fixed, because I'm totally over the idea of zippers and it hasn't even been that long yet.


My custom (pull-on) Dehner field boots arrived back in August of 2014 and I have not had the inclination to do much with them, for no reason whatsoever.  I was so excited about them initially that it's pretty pathetic how I let them sit in a closet for the next seven months, but....whatever.  I remember when I initially tried them on that they felt almost a little loose in the calf and not as tall as I expected them to be (you know, the "I can't bend my knees and I never will again!" feeling).  I could bend my knees with only minimal discomfort, so I sort of freaked out thinking that they were too short.

I'm not completely convinced that they're *not* too short, but Dehner told me to go ahead and break them in and we'll see if anything needs to be adjusted or done over.  They're also missing the swagger tabs that I requested (my perfect boot experience was anything but), so the boots ARE going back to Omaha at some point, we'll just see after they break down if they're going to be obnoxiously short or not.  I don't love super tall boots, so if they end up not being fashionably tall, I'm ok with that, I just don't want them looking completely ridiculous.

I also don't love the painted-on look of the new zippered boots these days.  I do prefer a riding boot to look like a more traditional riding boot, but it's tough looking at these now having seen almost nothing but painted-on boots for the last year or so (mine not included, obviously).  I'm trying to remind myself that YES, they will be baggier above the ankle and that's totally fine.  No zippers means I won't look like the majority of riders these days, but I'm sure as heck not dealing with zipper drama anymore either.

I will say that this was my first custom boot experience, and I wore a pair of thick socks intentially thinking that would help me avoid recieving boots that were too tight...instead I think that threw off the measurements enough to make them feel loose at first.  To Dehner's credit, they have super customer service and even seven months later, are ready to take the boots back anytime to make adjustments and add the swagger tabs.  I just need to get these broken in first, so they can install the tabs and make any needed adjustments in one trip.

So here I am breaking in the Dehners.  They took a hot bath this morning and now I'm wearing the around until they dry in order to expedite the break-in process.  I'm debating taking them to the barn to check out Soonie, or dunking them again this evening and wearing them around the hotel some more later.  Not sure.  The Bathtub Method is way easier, though, so there's that.

Water up to mid-calf!

Hi pretties

They don't look as huge as I thought
First world problems, yes.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Blogging Crossroads

I'm somewhat unsure of what the future of War Horse will be.  I will certainly continue blogging (because I love my horse, and I love writing, so it's a natural combination), but I am beginning to wonder if I want to spend more time on the blog, increase its visibility, and cultivate more of a following.  I've been blogging since August 2013.  I have 200+ posts.

I have six followers.

Which, you guys/girls are awesome, by the way, so thanks for that.

Still, that's not a lot of people.  I should highlight the fact that aside from listing the blog in my signature line on the Chronicle of the Horse forums, and one listing on a horse blog website which I have since completely forgotten about, I have not promoted this blog.  I have not asked people to read it, I have not gone out of my way to bring it to people's attention.  I started it simply because I wanted to give myself something to look back on as Soon and I marched forward in our journey together.  It was strictly a training journal for my own use.  If people read it, fine, if they didn't, equally fine because I wasn't writing for the public.  I wanted to chronicle the highs and the lows, and have a place to post the thousands of pictures I take of him (honestly I probably take at least five to ten photos each day so..do the math).  And since not all of my Facebook friends want to see all those pictures, this was a natural outlet for my five horsey friends to get their Soonie fix from afar, without pissing everyone else off.

I've seen old horse forum friends start their blogs well after me, and in practically no time achieve horse blogland celebrity status for their clever posts, reviews, and innovative contributions to the blogosphere.  I wondered if I had the time, the energy, and the interest in doing similar things to increase this blog's popularity.  Honestly?  I'm not sure I do.  And I'm not sure how I feel about that.

I mean seriously how do you get that popular so fast

Why do I want more interaction and activity on the blog?  What am I hoping to achieve with that?  Do I want more people to swoon over my pretty horsey and tell me how awesome we are, or am I looking for actual, constructive critiques?  Do I want some hearty debates?  Do I have the time to do product reviews and write more on the issues facing the horse industry?  And even if I do, do people even care what I think?  What makes me so special?

I'm a former horse pro who now enjoys spending quiet days at the barn and rarely ever show.  In fact, I show so infrequently, that I still don't have my USEF Amateur status back.  Because I'm fucking lazy as shit.

Suffice it to say, I am at a crossroads.  I see some of the fun and popular horse blogs and can't help but want a little of that.  There is some really great content out there.  Meanwhile, I have this CRAZY AMAZING horse and I feel like the world should know that.  But at the same time, having that kind of visibility means that you open yourself up to all opinions, wanted or not.  And YES, differing opinions are extremely valuable.  We were discussing this at work not too long ago, and I remember this being said: "I never learned anything from someone who completely agreed with me."  And it's true.  But I pay professional trainers to tell me to pull my head out of my ass and ride my horse like a normal person.  So do I really want that on my blog, too?

YES PEOPLE wait...I don't know.

The answer is that I'm not sure right now.  And this whole post is really just me working it out for myself, like a demented sort of catharsis.  I do want to highlight (for the six of you) that this is NOT a rag on those with the popular blogs.  I admire the dedicated bloggers who go out of their way to provide timely, thought-provoking content to their readers.  Writing is an art.  Blogging apparently is not just an art, but in a way, it's a service to both the blogger and the reader.  The good bloggers are taking many things into account into their blog design and content.  So to them, I say good job, well done, and your readers appreciate it.

I feel like I need to think this through, because I don't want to promote something that won't contain reviews, or regular spotlights on other bloggers, or whatever else is popular and useful to readers.  I just don't know if I have the time for that right now with the rest of real life.  Worst case scenario, I continue blogging to myself about my horse and leave this as an open journal, which may or may not be read by another human being...ever.  Part of me is okay with that too.