Best Lesson We’ve Had Lately

Eli and I were due for a fun lesson where everything mostly clicked. We got to jump some short courses and practice some questions I haven’t had to answer in a long time. (Or more like: give *hunter* answers to questions I wanted to answer with my jumper brain.)

Friday evening, I wound up cutting our ride short because the light was getting too low. There are arena lights, but they are getting rewired and only one was working. That wouldn’t really help Eli’s apprehensiveness at dusk so I dismounted. I wondered which Eli I would have on Saturday.

Early Saturday morning, Eli got a massage therapy session and some Quia-cal, then turnout. He was out when I got to the barn, just kind of snuffling the ground. I went up to the arena to watch lessons. My trainer *called* me a while later … I thought, oh crap, Eli injured himself! Nope, just started panicking in turnout and got himself all hot and blowing. I went down to the barn to cool him out — which took walking, a rinse, and drying in front of a fan — and let him chill out in his stall for a few minutes while I pulled my tack out.

At this point, I figured he might even be too tired for our lesson. He actually felt quite lovely under saddle and we did quite a few transitions as we warmed up: Eli seemed very focused and relaxed.

Review forthcoming …

Once we started jumping, we just had a really fun lesson, practicing pieces of a course before stringing it all together in a couple different ways. I made A TON of mistakes. Eli saved my ass more than once. But overall, once we got to the complete courses themselves, none of the mistakes were major and Eli seemed so happy to be jumping around. He felt so rideable I think he must have been having fun with me … maybe while rolling his eyes a bit the few times I used his neck as a pillow in the air. (I really wish I had media for y’all!)

Approximations, as I do not remember the exact order, but we jumped all these.

The red jumps were two consecutive easy 4s, the blue is the 2-stride, the pink bending line is an easy 6, and the white a Swedish.

I do still need to work on a couple things:
1. Use my right leg. Like. At all.
2. Do not slice the first fence of a bending line in the hunter ring. (Ha. Duh.)

Eli got another shampoo bath and I slathered poultice on all four of his legs. He has been on the HALO for about a month and a half now, and I’ve used the Quia-cal 3 times … would y’all be interested in more in-depth reviews? I am not sure we have enough experience with either just yet but I have been thinking about getting my thoughts so far on them down on paper.

Some storms came through Saturday evening, so riding on Sunday was out, but Eli got his mane shortened and a nice long walk/graze in the fields. And storms came through AGAIN Sunday evening, but I am hoping I can ride in the field after work before the sun goes down.

Rides This Week

First off, riding in daylight — and even better, at sunset! — has been pretty sweet this week. I haven’t done a whole lot with Eli other than just w/t/c and popped over some x-rails. He can get a bit twitchy in low light, so I have just been letting him get used to the change. He’s been simple!

He also got shoes yesterday and felt great under saddle. I made it out to the barn while the farrier was still there so I was able to chat with him about the progress of Eli’s RF and then just in general about his conformational challenges in his hind end (his hind shoes wear a bit oddly). The farrier also used copper-coated nails this time around and we talked a little about the benefits of those, too. Eli is on a good path right now, so we’re sticking with it.

I also had a pretty good mail day earlier this week. The French link is for later — I think it might be a better bit for showing than the HS Dynamic RS. I will probably try it Sunday if the weather holds up. I wore these Roeckl Madrid gloves last night and, much like every other pair of Roeckls, I LOVE THEM. I’ll be posting a full review next week.

Yay it’s finally FRIDAY!


My Spring 2018 Equestrian Style

If y’all don’t realize by now that I LOVE CLOTHES, I might consider you illiterate. And as the seasons change, so do the styles. While I am obsessed with the Gucci FW 2018 collection, it’s not practical for riding (I am not being totally ironic here — I really am obsessed with it and I think the collection and its inspiration are pure, badass art).

But there are some ready-to-wear picks for this spring that I’ve had my eyes on — not all are necessarily “new” for spring but I wouldn’t mind if any of these wound up in my riding wardrobe between now and June.

I do not wear riding tights. I haven’t seen very many that I would be willing to wear, either, until I picked up on Botori via Instagram and the look left me wanting a pair. Tights with actual knee patches and a phone pocket? Yes! I can definitely see myself wearing these.

Okay, but back to breeches … I have, over the years, struggled with how the calves of breeches fit me. Either they are too short or too baggy. I have been on the hunt for a pair of tan breeches that fit my waist, AND my calf, aren’t too thick, and don’t raid my wallet. I may take a chance on these Equine Couture Beatta breeches. Review forthcoming? Perhaps …

But we can’t go topless on a horse. At least, I can’t. More like I won’t, really. I have been impressed lately with how RJ Classics has really stepped up their style game. Couple that with my love of pattern, and I am lusting after the Lane shirt. This pattern is definitely my favorite and so tasteful.

So this next one … if you are even remotely active on social media and you have an ex-racehorse, you are probably obsessed with this shirt that Mango Bay Design posted yesterday. If you want my world view on a t-shirt, this would be it.

Now that we are almost completely dressed, on to the accessories! Belt purses are a thing, have you noticed? This is one of those items that I have been on the fence about for a long time because I am not sure I really need one, but it would be nice to have my phone with me even while riding yet not shoved into a breeches pocket where it can (and does) bounce out and fly into the arena footing. I haven’t ever really seen one that calls to me until I saw this one from Asmar. I might be a convert.

We can’t ride without helmets. I love my GPA First Lady. I love sparkly things. What do you think comes next?

Last … is it possible to get excited about socks? For me, yes. Usually about socks with a cute pattern or print on them. Those are not the socks I am talking about today. Again, I ran across these on Instagram and these seem like the most well-thought-out socks ever designed for riders. The Achilles pad is especially appealing to me. Sometimes I am in tall boots for hours at a stretch, and my Achilles is the first thing to get ouchy from that. I think these socks could fix that issue.

What do y’all have your eyes on for adding to your riding attire collection?

Weenie Wednesday: DST

While equestrians are celebrating an extra hour of light in the evenings (I, too, am celebrating that part), most everyone else is experiencing some form of exhaustion from sleep disruption and losing that hour in the mornings. As am I. And my dog. Conrad just CANNOT yet.

I eventually got him out of bed for a brief turn around the cul-de-sac and some breakfast. I am sure he went right back to bed after I left for work.

Adjusting to Circumstances

I had a plan going into Sunday for what I would be doing with Eli after a less than enjoyable lesson on Saturday. I reviewed this plan with a trainer/Eli’s massage therapist. Something like:
1. Eli gets a massage
2. Eli gets some Quia-Cal paste and turnout
3. Eli gets to wear a figure-8 with a Beval bit configured for very mild gag/leverage action
4. Eli gets to work in the big arena on a loopy rein but every time he pokes his nose too far up and out (in a head-flip scenario) he would hit the gag action. Trot through some poles. How he will react to poll pressure, who is to say until I find out?
5. Eli gets a good curry and extra treats and hoof pampering.

(Talk amongst yourselves about whether or not I should use this bit.)

However, after I got off work and headed out to the barn a little after lunch, circumstances were such that the plan had to change:
1. Eli gets a massage. The barn skylights were getting power washed and there was an earth mover reworking the arena entrance. While Eli could have a massage, where would his therapist be able to do it in a quiet, calm environment? He’d need another massage the next day, anyway!

2. Eli gets some Quia-Cal paste and turnout 
3. Eli gets to wear a figure-8 with a Beval bit configured for very mild gag/leverage action 
4. Eli gets to work in the big arena fields on a loopy rein but every time he pokes his nose too far up and out (in a head-flip scenario) he would hit the gag action. Trot through some poles. Walk around a while. How he will react to poll pressure, who is to say until I find out?
5. Eli gets a good curry and extra treats and hoof pampering.

Figure-8 with after-market mod. Also, needs more oil.

Okay, we adapted. Eli got a little angry about the gag action, but shortly submitted to it, too. I didn’t pull, and he learned that head-flipping is annoying. We actually had a nice quiet hack and walk out on a long rein in the fields. And by the time we got back to the barn, the power washing was over for the day! (Horses were moved from their stalls when their skylights were being power washed.) The earth mover was still at work but Eli didn’t seem to mind it unless he was right next to it — it worked behind his stall for a few minutes so I nixed the idea of putting him back in his stall until the earth mover had passed.

The therapist and I agreed that a massage on Tuesday (today) would be more beneficial than trying to do that with the work that was going on. And I think he might like a little more Quia-Cal paste today.

I am sure anyone reading this can relate to the difference between how plans look in your head to how they play out in reality — how have you had to change plans to adapt to unexpected circumstances?

Extra points to Eli for not minding how windy it was on Sunday, too! He doesn’t ever seem to mind wind at all. But drizzle .. or a dog … forget it.

Sensory Overload

Saturday’s lesson did not go so well. Most of that is me failing in my responsibilities — I should have jumped Eli at some point during the week but I didn’t. He has been a bit “up” lately and he was not in the right frame of mind for jumping. I mean I could have got around okay and some jumps were fine, but I am getting a little anxious about this two-stride that has been set in the ring, even though we have cantered through it fine before. Eli and I both need a break from it.

difficulties from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Eli was fine to flat before jumping, and just trotting over a cross rail was okay, too. But I could tell he was very tense and I was losing his attention. This was affecting my own concentration, too. It was not a good combination. I am pretty sure he thought we should just be cantering the two-stride instead of trotting in and compressing for three. I really don’t want to jump it again as it is set.

remedial from patentlybay on Vimeo.

In all fairness, there was a lot going on this past Saturday — the barn and property are undergoing some major improvements. I am excited about these improvements and I think they will benefit every horse there. But it also means that on Friday and Saturday, big trucks with loads of stuff were driving in and out of the property — right past the arena — throughout the day. Trucks don’t usually bother Eli, but I think the volume of them and hissing air of their pnuematics was setting him off a bit and he spooked more than once. It was also like 90F on Saturday — the up and down weather can’t be helping, either, and I think Eli was irritated that he was sweaty and felt more tired from the heat. He did finally get a bubble bath, though!

The lunch ladies came by while I was hanging out at Eli’s stall

I regrouped and came up with a plan for Sunday and Eli will hopefully be getting a massage this week. I can’t say we are to the end of the improvements yet — this kind of change takes more than just a few days, but things are moving along and I am excited for more paddocks, more trailer parking, and permanent railing around both arenas, among other things. Eli hasn’t been the only horse out of sorts about the trucks and construction equipment — and honestly it makes me jumpy, too — but once everything is finished out the property will look great and be a little more horse-friendly as far as turnout time goes, which Eli will LOVE.

There’s No Straight Line to Progress

If you think I get a little effusive from time to time about how much I love Eli and how good he is, and how much I believe he is the right horse for me, you would not be amiss. All these things are true. However. …

We don’t always get along. He still bites. I hate it. For the most part, I can preempt it with pokes and redirection. But not always. I struggle with keeping my temper when he actually chomps down on my arm. I smack him for it, of course, but sometimes excessively. It gets my point across, but it’s not good horsemanship. Long ago, I used to groom him with a crop in one hand because he was that bad about it. I rarely had to use the crop — it’s a very effective deterrent, partially because I think Eli is genuinely afraid of crops. But then, training through fear is odious, and I don’t use a crop around him now because mostly he’s good. I don’t know if there’s a way to do this effectively any more, like we’ve come to a stalemate in this particular behavior match. Most days, he respects that I don’t want him biting me or anyone else. But we still have incidents — much fewer than in the past — that end in me smacking him 4 or 5 times (on the neck because I won’t smack a horse in the face ever) and putting liniment on my bruised arm. He stops trying to bite after this, at least for a few minutes. We can go for weeks in relative harmony while I am grooming him, but his personality is such that I don’t think I will ever “cure” him of biting completely.

sometimes it’s nothing exciting

Eli still has some truly choice moments under saddle, too. I don’t really mind when he tosses his head at a canter depart, or when he spooks at something coming up behind him. I just close my leg and get on with it. But again, every once in a while, closing my leg and getting on with it doesn’t always go smoothly. And sometimes I can’t even figure out what exactly is spooking him or setting him off. It’s not lost on me that these behaviors typically occur during the left lead canter. That is his weaker side, and he needs more help from me to keep a decent canter. Even though he wants to evade more this direction in this gait via spooking or breaking into a trot or hollowing out his back and trying to scoot sideways, the only thing that really works to address this is LEG. I use transitions, too, but leg keeps him straight and forward and coming up into the bridle. If he resists, I close my leg. I use my seat a little more. Do we end up with a perfect canter in 20 strides? No. But we end better than when we started and I do praise him excessively when he gets even close to what I am asking when we are riding through conflict like this. 10 steps of him listening gets lots of neck scratches and a walk break.

weirdo from patentlybay on Vimeo.

I get where Eli is coming from with much of his behavior. I think he had some questionable handling in his past that caused a lot of reactiveness and aggression. Now, I’m going for fair handling. If he has a day where he just can’t then he doesn’t have to. I’ve had those days, too. I see no point in picking a fight when on balance, the horse does what I ask. A lot.

But we still have the occasional departure from what’s desirable. What horse and rider pair goes the entire partnership with no challenges?