Tuesday, April 26, 2022

LH becomes... MH... Aka Ben!

Through a series of fortunate circumstances, starting with connecting with Ben and his owner at all and ending with a "that is an incredibly sound horse" from his vet doing his PPE, Ben became my horse today. His owner is in California and his previous lease was in Virginia, so even him coming down to Florida was a nice connection of trainers and timing. I was looking for something to ride while Yoshi was recovering. A possible lease on an AMAZING 3* horse had just fallen through and then Ben's trainer from CA contacted JT to see if she knew anyone looking for a lease. JT asked if he was nice and got a resounding YES. So I connected with Ben's owner, and we arranged to have him shipped down. His owner said ideally I'd fall in love and buy him, but if not then JT was going to market and sell him for her after the lease.

He does have sarcoids, a known quantity when we agreed to the lease. But when he arrived sporting a grapefruit sized one on his sheath, I got cold feet about the potential of buying him with a known health issue. His owner and I still worked out lease terms though and the rest is documented here.

JT and I had been casually horse shopping and went and saw a lovely 5 year old two weeks ago. After I rode him I thought about what kind of incredibly thorough vetting I was going to put him through. And then thought about the panic that would follow spending that amount of money on a promising prospect. Now the horse market is what it is right now, and I am definitely not saying that gelding wasn't worth every bit of the asking price, but I started to have some major cold feet about taking that gamble again. This panic only worsened as I pulled up papers trying and failing to correlate clinical signs and radiographic changes of cervical OA. 

And I started wondering if maybe I was ignoring the very nice, sound thing that was right in front of me. In addition to being fancy as all get out and very capable scope wise, he is just a really nice person as JT puts it. Watching him go through all the treatment for his sarcoid on his sheath of all places and never once offer to kick any one of us in the head just made me fall in love with him. He's also not taken an unsound step the whole time we've had him. He's been running around novice for several years at this point, so he's doing the thing well and soundly. The sarcoids are a constant risk and at some point they may pop up in a very inconvenient spot. But I'm prepared for that and prepared to treat them as they happen. His responded really well to immunocidin injections, which his vet said likely meant any future ones would as well. 

After I tumbled all this around in my head for a while, I decided the known quantity was better than the unknown. He's a really cool horse who I truly enjoy just spending time with. And while his occasional spooks at silly things were off putting at first coming from Yoshi, now I just smile a little bit and coax him past it. I ran the whole thing past JT who also really likes him and she was completely on board. 

I spoke to his owner and told her the original plan of me falling in love with him had worked. We settled on terms and his PPE was on Friday. His vet reviewed his X-rays and compared them to the X-rays from his 2015 PPE. There were very few changes over the time span of 7 years, how cool is that?!?!  

Welcome to the family, Ben! 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Dependent vs. independent

  • Independence - Complete independence resists all support, preferring to cope with needs alone or even ignore them entirely
  • Dependence - You rely on your (trainer) to meet nearly all needs. When you experience distress, you might look to them immediately before trying to manage your emotions yourself. 

The above definitions are edited from a healthline article on Emotional Dependency. In my non-horsey life, I'm a small animal ER veterinarian. I am the adult in the room the majority of the time. Yet I am struggling with putting this same feeling in to practice with LH (and Yoshi a bit before him). Which is strange, because with Zinger, for the majority of his life, I did exactly what he and I felt like doing that day. We jumped, we dressaged, we hacked. And I stayed static at the skill level I had when I moved to college and left behind the days of consistent instruction. Complete independence clearly having its downsides. And maybe I'm remembering the start of that independence with rose colored glasses since it has been ::cough:: 15 years ::cough:: since I moved away to college with him in tow. Maybe I had these same worries and concerns as we left the realm of my childhood riding instructor's tutelage and moved out into the world but those concerns have now faded from my memory. Or maybe the bravado of an 18 year old with a nice horse meant that I didn't worry even when I should have. 

Under JT's training, my riding has come a million miles from where it started. Clearly there are a million miles + to go, as there always will be, but I am a much more skilled, educated rider than I was last June. But I have also developed a hesitation to jump or sometimes even really ask for more in dressage on my own. I've fallen into complacency and complete dependence on her training. 

JT is an awesome, amazing, compassionate, thorough, educated trainer. Her instruction even contains simple mantras that are nearly always true and in need of following like "stretch up, hands towards the jump, both legs both hands". I actually have not gone wrong repeating that to myself out on courses. I just want to make clear that she has not created what I'm about to discuss. It is not something her other students seem to struggle with, it seems a problem unique to me, therefore created by some internal factor, not by her. 

With Yoshi the hesitation to jump on my own truly made sense. I had not brought along a green horse since doing bits and pieces as a teenager, sometimes with more or less success. Every time we jumped, Yoshi was learning something. Under her guidance those were the right things. He would have been an easy horse to screw up because he learned so quickly and was so willing. If he thought that he was doing the right thing by rushing and flailing that would have become our de facto way of existence. Instead we carefully progressed and he learned how to use his body properly over fences, something I would not have been able to teach on my own. 

I know, this is an old picture, but I will never stop loving it and being so proud of the horse there

LH is a slightly different story though. Dude is educated. He's also been doing the thing for a solid 7 years over fences in the ring if you are counting his prior hunter training. The likelihood of me making or breaking the horse in one jump school is about zilch. 

"As long as you compensate me with carrots after you F up, I hold no grudges" 

Yet last week when my jump lesson with JT got rained out, and I set out to jump on my own the next day, I was chock full of anxiety. Where did this come from? Who was this person who couldn't hop a trained horse around a course without a trainer holding my hand? I got through it, in part due to LH's generosity in one line that I really botched, but I've been trying to figure out what's going on in my brain. 

Going back to the work environment, while I am perfectly capable of being the adult in the room, I'm also perfectly content to acquiesce that responsibility to someone else. I think this is what has happened with jumping in the past 6 months. I have acquiesced decision making responsibility to someone else and then stopped paying attention  to how those decisions are made. The initial part of my anxiety on Friday came from doing something foreign. I haven't jumped LH on my own, so it was a new thing. Okay, NBD to overcome that one. But the mechanics of executing a jump school on our own... Yeah, that's where I need to pay much more attention to what JT is setting up, doing, teaching. The order things happen in. How to school a spooky jump on its own and then as part of a line. 

So on Friday after I got over the tacking up in jump tack and heading out to the jump field, there were a lot of pause points. First, figure out what we were going to jump. There are always new and different courses set, so I didn't even have to move jumps, just pick a height to jump and an order to jump them in. Uhm. Cue internal panic. "What height do I jump? What does that even look like from the ground? Where does that come up to on my leg? Where's her stick to measure with? But do I start at novice height? Sometimes we jump higher, should I do that for a few? Or should they be relatively uniform like a course at the show?" Okay... I muddled around with jumps for a bit, moved a few up to what I thought was novice height, chickened out on making anything much bigger except one swedish oxer that I'm pretty sure I left at training+ height. Wasn't sure on that one till I rode to it and it definitely looked big and LH definitely jumped it big. When JT schooled someone else a few days later most of the jumps were left at the height I'd set, but the oxer was put down. Oops. Anyways, jumps are set, now get on horse. Warm up. Start over cross rail. "Got it, we go back and forth over that until we're getting a nice jump from a steady pace. Check."

Then there was picking a course to ride. "There are bending line options, there's a straight hunter course option, there's a combination of those two things, wtf do I do? I also want to jump the skinny gate. But I should definitely start with that on its own so I can get a good confident ride to it. Phew, that went well, okay now I have to pick a course again."

And so on... once we'd done two courses relatively successfully, I quit. I have learned the lesson of quitting while you're ahead, thanks age and a tiny smidge of wisdom and life experience for that one. 

How do I fix this dependency? Where is the perfect middle ground between dependent and independent? I have some thoughts, but am curious if anyone else out there reading has struggled with this or something similar. If you have what techniques have helped you deal? Both mechanics of the schooling itself as well as those thoughts and emotions. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Dressing LH with a side of DIY dyeing

LH's special tongue habit (ie always waving a nice hello with his tongue as he goes around the ring) needs a properly fitted flash for shows. I disagree with the idea that the flash "stabilizes the bit" so I am calling this one what it is - some judges will mark down for the tongue out and I would prefer not to lose those points. I ask LH to keep his in his mouth for roughly 2.5 minutes every 30 days or so. 

Anyways, small explanation aside, Yoshi's tongue truly was an expression of tense hands or a bit/bridle he didn't like. He ended up loving an "FSS monocrown crank" with no flash. Actually, I never tried a flash on him, but since his tongue expressed feelings, I didn't feel like it was right to smoosh it into his mouth. If he trotted down centerline with his tongue out and the judge somehow missed the other signs of tension, they would have been right to dock him points for it. I also hate the way flash tabs look when they're empty. 

So for LH, I ended up buying a used Frank Baines event bridle with a detachable flash. It has now become a moot point because we also have a dressage bridle that has a flash that he'll go in at shows, but that makes it even better that it is detachable. I've never had a bridle with a detachable flash, and I actually love the design. 

Slide the flash piece through a very not noticeable opening in the layers of the noseband

And now you've got a flash attachment!

I don't particularly care for the way the noseband adjusts though. The noseband strap fits through the crownpiece in a way that seems very comfy for the horse, but means if you're trying to adjust it on the horse you have to adjust the buckle on the left side and then fidget with the strap till it hangs evenly. It is also harder to even out if the noseband gets crooked.

Also, because it was what I found, the bridle is (was) oakbark. For some reason, I just hate that bright brown. It looks fine on horses in general, and it looked fine on LH's beautiful dark coat, but I still hated it. I also got him a fun browband off Amazon and bought that in Havana. And every time I put on that mismatched combo, I just cringed. In spite of the way my house looks, I apparently do have a sense of style/fashion (just hidden deep within that only emerges when it comes to horse things...).

Can't quite see the browband color here, but this shows the bridle pretty well


So, inspired by BreedRideEvent, I bought leather dye... and got to work. 

I'm a terrible blogger, so this is the sole picture I have of the process: 

I followed her steps basically, but here they are: 

1) Acetone on a rag to remove the waxy coating. Per her blog you can buy deglazer, but you can also use nail polish remover (acetone). We have a giant container of acetone, so I wasn't going to go buy something else. I should have checked this step in sunlight, because I think it is to blame for the slight unevenness of the finished product the first go round. 

2) Fiebling's chocolate dye for the bridle. 

I figured this was the color that matched havana (his browband and saddle) the best. Because it was a bridle and because we didn't have a foam paintbrush that I could find, I applied it by hand using a rag. SHOULD WEAR GLOVES FOR THIS STEP! It's still under my fingernails 5 days later... in spite of that acetone... I dipped the tip of the rag into the container and did my best to work it into all the crevices of the leather. 

3) Apply some kind of sealant. I used Obenhauf's heavy duty leather preservative. 

It was highly recommended on Amazon and people weren't wrong. After I finished, the bridle feels much nicer than it did before. It is soft and supple and... 

A very nice chocolate brown with a little ombre... Steps 1 and 2 should be done and verified in the bright sunlight

I redid a tiny bit on the noseband and the cheekpiece by just doing steps 1 and 2 on the tiny bit that was still too oakbark, and...  

No more ombre! 

For his dressage bridge, I got him a Premier Equine "diamante" because he is fancy and MUST sparkle. 

The joke is on me because the noseband adjusts in the same way as the Frank Baines. Must be a British thing. It does make for a cleaner look on the off side, so I can see why they do it. Noseband aside, I really like the bridle. This is my first leather goods purchase from them and so far I'm impressed. It was very, very reasonable price wise and seems to be good quality. LH does stadium and dressage in the same bit, and I am not switching the bit back and forth at home just so the bridle matches the saddle. Which means the Frank Baines is going to continue to be our daily bridle, so I won't truly get to test out the Premier Equine durability. 

But I will get to test out my dye job on the Frank Baines as he sweats and gets rained on. So far we are three rides in and there is no sign of fading or leaving dye on him! 

Unrelated update, Yoshi and his new owner are getting along superbly, and he looks fantastic. It makes my heart happy to follow them on facebook and see the spoiled life he is living.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

(Mostly) WW: Majestic Oaks novice course

With JT's help and a French link elevator 3 ring (reins on the 2nd ring though), LH and I tackled the novice course from their show this past weekend. 

We warmed up over a few jumps including this training level wedge, good boy! 

He was super and I actually rode (maybe that sentence should be reversed...) 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Rocking Horse part 3: Cross Country

Course walk photos:

Back side of 1- friendly house

2- friendly coop

Decently long gallop to 3- quail feeder

4 - mushroom table

5ab - bending line of ramps


Nice gallop to 6 - "triple bar"

7 - ditch, a pretty quick left hand turn from 6, JT emphasized making sure he had his eye on it so it didn't surprise him

8 - bench

9 - slope into sunken road, kinda in between those fences, we decided to trot into that one, it's not apparent until you're close that you're not going down the double down bank

10 - table

11a- roll top

11b - water

5-6 strides out of the water to 12 - roll top

13 - yellow hut

Long gallop up the hill, past some UL jumps to 14 - white table

Through the woods then a left hand turn to 15- corner, a very petite one at that, the wide side of this one was narrower than the table before

Gallop to 16 - table, not sure what they were going for with the XXX 

And done with 17! Log and box 

These photos almost didn't get put in, blogger was not cooperating with order of selection from my phone, but fortunately I'm back on my laptop and it nicely put things in in the proper order. 

LH and I got a slightly later start in the light, thank goodness. He got to finish his whole breakfast before getting on the trailer for a daylight drive through the Ocala NF. I got there in time to walk the course once more and cement it in my mind. My second walk on Saturday I was still looking at the map on my phone to tell where I was going, so I wanted to make sure it was there without any aids. My husband suggested the pictures last year to help with reviewing it at home, and they're a huge help. I don't post them here, but I sometimes also video JT's description of how to ride to something and review that too. 

I then tacked LH up and we headed to warm up. We intentionally left more time for a long warm up because the horses had been in the night before with the nasty storms. He wasn't at all jazzed up though initially. But cross country ended into the warm up area which end up making him a bit prancy and snorty. He does this adorable head shake and prance when he's excited and he definitely knew what was up. He warmed up really well over the log, coop, and brush they had. Then we headed out onto course!

The first 3 felt great, I was riding like JT had told me to - "don't trust him, ride positive" and he flew over them. He got a bit squirrely in the woods on the way to 4, but still felt solid over the jump. As we headed to 5, he got squirrely and wiggly and heavy. I didn't SIT up and half halt and instead just kind of continued to ineffectually pull. We made it over 5ab, but he was definitely crooked to both. This is when it kinda started to feel a bit out of control and I never made the choices to get it back under my control. 

5a - he's moving left, I'm looking right towards 5b, but not doing much other than pulling with my dang right hand

5b- he was pretty impressed by the looks of it and jumped the heck out of it

I kicked him forward after 5b, wanting to get that positive forward feeling back. But I didn't pair it with a good half halt. He jumped 6 a little wiggly and crooked and then needed a BIG woah to make the turn to 7, the ditch. He jumped the ditch fine, but then we wiggled our way over the bench at 8 again. He came back to me well to trot down the sunken road, which should have been a clue that when I meant it he responded to me asking him to woah. He also galloped forward nicely to 10, again, hints that if I rode like I meant it he was responding. 

11a was wiggly, but he went nicely forward to b. I felt like we were slogging through the water a bit, so moved him up into my hand, which meant that 12 rode the nicest out of any jump on the second half of the course. 

We wiggled our way up to 13, and I'm so glad I have these pictures of how NOT to ride. Xpress photo is pricier than some of our local photographers for single shots, but if you pre-order ALL the pictures they take then it's only $110 or something like that. So I did that and definitely got a lot of shots I wouldn't have purchased for the glamour of them, but that are so educational...

Try to pull horse straight with rogue right hand going UP while he's taking off (I guess that's better than back)... I promise you my left leg wasn't doing much here

Even in the air, rogue right hand continues to not release properly, good left hand though

Right hand still refusing to get it together, the next jump is a loooong gallop up a hill and actually a bit left before turning right

Then we got some pretty galloping pictures between 13 and 14....

This horse is unbelievably good looking!!! 

14 wasn't photographed, but we spooked at things all the way up to it. Again I tried to pull him staight/forward (how does that even make sense) rather than kicking him forward. He wiggled over 14 and then we spooked our way through the woods again to 15, the little corner. It is slightly narrower than the other jumps (I guess) and he slipped out to the right over it. We circled and jumped it on the second go round. Again, can verify there was no right leg engaged (or left leg for that matter) on our first approach.

It wasn't him spooking at that particular jump, it was the combination of him being a spookier, more sensitive horse than Yoshi (what horse isn't really...) and me not DOING THE THINGS JT has taught me to do over and over again. To get him to come back to me, I was pulling instead of one big half halt and then release, and I'm not sure I put leg on at all after the water. 

I was a bit mad at that point though, so I sat down and RODE to 16 and 17, so they rode great. Those were the jumps that JT could see from the warm up area. I came in disappointed, and she was surprised because the jumps visible from the warm up area were the jumps I rode him to, so they looked awesome. 

The frustrating part is that while he does know this job, I have to ride him to get it done. He's less straight forward than Yoshi out on cross country, but again, what horse isn't. Yoshi seemed to learn the lesson of jump the thing you're pointed at (or even near, see my falling off incident when he thought I wanted him to jump a jump sideways) SO quickly. He also was such a chill horse with a quiet mind that he wasn't really spooked by anything. 

To be fair to me, although I'm not sure I want to be, LH got strong out there in a way he hasn't while we were schooling. He was in the french link D ring, so we're going to try something with a bit more brakes and we're also going to string together entire long courses to simulate this while schooling. I also haven't ridden at this level in... 15 years. But to go from 4th after stadium to... 19th? UGH! 

And I KNOW how to ride better than I did out there. I KNOW to not just keep pulling and pulling but to sit my butt down, half halt and mean it, and then let him go forward again with leg ON. And he does need leg ON to do his job. 

We'll get it together, unfortunately with my work schedule my next try isn't until mid-May at Majestic (and if I can't get it together there were we school ALL THE TIME then I might quit... kidding... only kinda though). 

I might have eaten my feelings on the way home

This morning we're actually heading out to Majestic to run the course from their recognized (and then their schooling show this past weekend) like it is a show. JT is going to supervise from the golf cart, but I'm going to do the things she has trained me to do.