The Interlopers

Sooooo … you may have noticed (if you’re with me on social media) that I did something pretty much batshit insane slightly crazy at the show on Saturday. If you follow this blog and read between the lines, perhaps you saw this coming.

I got to the show venue in the dark, unpacked my car, picked up my number, and started grooming and tacking up Eli. I had to wait until there was enough light outside to start walking him around (mostly by hand). He jumped out of his skin a few times, as he likes to do, but then he gives a big sigh and seems resigned to the fact that we are going to be at this place for a little while. I held off on mounting up until a horse that was being longed in the warmup area left. By the time I got on, the rings were closed for schooling and being dragged. I am not too worried about that at this point because Eli has seen these jumps at least dozen times. The wet grass (from dew) in the warm up area did give Eli pause–he attempted one of his reary/leapy spooks and slid about 5 feet and froze. I couldn’t help but laugh. He settled right down after that.

He offered up some sass as we started working, but then again, settled right down after a few laps of canter. I popped over a few warmup fences, had my trainer watch us take the oxer and then declared we’d be doing the warmup class in the 3′ ring (I left Eli’s wraps on for this one). If that went “well,” maybe we’d stick around for the first division of the day in the 3′ ring. Which would be a hunter division.

Let me just stop here for a few seconds so you can all roll your eyes at me. In fact, I’ll join you.

You know what, though? Eli and I had a blast! I made the mistake of assuming the schedule had stayed the same, so we wound up doing a division that usually goes in the 2’6″ ring, a 2’6″-2’9″ hunter division. I thought the jumps looked oddly low for us. Normally the first division in the 3′ ring is a 2’9″-3′ hunter division. New for this competition year, the 2’6″-2’9″ division will go first in the 3′ ring at KBF-hosted shows. Good to know.

Now that that is out of the way, on to my hair-brained idea of taking Eli in the hunter ring.

He’s been quiet at home over fences, without being dull. He’s started to get lead changes much more now, and I can mostly get him to land on whichever lead I chose, provided I keep my shoulders square (I don’t sometimes and then Eli picks the lead after a fence). He moves pretty well. We have had our time in the jumper ring and he has been fantastic, but I have noticed he is *still* not really into efficient turns. So why not try him in the hunter ring? I knew full well we’d miss leads, and he’d probably run away with me a little bit, but I wanted to know whether there’s a chance I could recreate the Eli I have at home in the show ring, because if I could, then we should do the hunters, right? (Really, how many more times can you expect me to enter the same jumper division when we’ve done it for two years?)

ring 1 warm up from patentlybay on Vimeo.

(Warmup round, left polos on. Eli doesn’t like the sound system going off haha. I also added the last outside line accidentally–that was not part of the posted course. Oops.)

He did, indeed, run away with me a bit. We missed leads. We even had a rail because we disagreed about how many strides should fit in a line (no video for that one but I am sure you can imagine). He flipped his head a time or two (or eight). Trust me, I know our rounds were nothing short of a shitshow by hunter standards, but I also liked a handful of things from each course. Eli caught on quickly to what we were doing, and seemed to enjoy himself more at this show than any other. He relaxed enough to STAND STILL outside the ingate while I caught up with someone I hadn’t seen in years. I took him in the flat class and he moved well and didn’t mind the other horses at all. When we got home, in the early evening, Eli still seemed bright and energetic, like hey cookie lady, we could go again. Of course we got no ribbons in a division of about a dozen horses, but we had so much fun! I *want* to do this again (well, but the 3′ stuff next time). To the best of my knowledge, this was Eli’s first time in hunter classes and I can only assume his first flat class. I am sure some were shocked to see me and this horse doing hunter stuff, and thinking wtf is she doing??? He’s too strong! Yes, if we keep doing the hunters for this year, we have some homework to do, but it’s all stuff I am familiar with and can easily incorporate into our rides at home. It’ll mean trying out different set ups–clearly just a kk ultra and a horse that thinks he’s a jumper is not the right combination for the hunter ring.

ynp h2 from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Another thing about the hunters–I have complained before about over-longeing and doping and all of that, and I realize I am at a disadvantage in the hunter ring even on the local level because I won’t longe or give whatever/who knows what to my horse to calm him down. I am at a disadvantage because I am not a good rider for the hunter ring. I am at a disadvantage because my horse struggles with lead changes and new places and slowing down. But I’d rather show my horse on my terms and never get a ribbon than try to create something I can’t without cheating. I want to work at it to get good at it, so people can see that an energetic horse can be tractable and make a good hunter. I think many people already do know this, so mostly I am just doing this for myself.

Not at all tired!

It’ll be easy to convince Eli he’s a hunter–I think he likes to go that way and wants to go that way. I am a poor hunter rider at best, and my track record in the hunter ring is nothing short of nightmarish (and not for want of nice horses), but Eli’s the right horse for me regardless of discipline so maybe we can make it work. I am going to work on landing soft and on our leads. I am going to work on keeping Eli steady in the lines. I am going to try to keep my shoulders up, and therefore Eli’s, in the corners. I am going to work on smoother rounds overall over fences. We may never pull off a faultless hunter round, but at least we’ll have fun trying!

Unfortunately, I am not sure when our next show will be. There are shows in April and May that I REALLY want to go to, but because of some non-horse-related circumstances, showing in April is most definitely out and May is a maybe. I am planning on the June show for sure, at least for now.

Rain Date Pregame

The weather still looked pretty iffy on Thursday and Friday, although the rain chances lessened as the week wore on. Thursday brought 40 mph winds, so trying to jump anything in that seemed a bit dangerous to me, considering the fences were blowing over.

Friday morning it rained a little, but the footing held together and I jumped Eli around in preparation for the show on Saturday. He actually did really well, until I decided I wanted him to jump a certain jump a certain way, and I got really picky and fried both my brain and Eli’s, to the point where we could not get a good approach or good distance to the jump no matter what I did. I ended with cantering around on a looped rein so that we both relaxed before ending the ride. I only have video of the good part because my camera wasn’t fully charged, so it shut off after 19 minutes of film. Perhaps not being able to relive the horribleness is a good thing.

short course from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Eli got another bath and I wrapped him up for shipping, planning to meet him at the show before sunrise on Saturday morning. I am not sure it’s crucial at this point to get him in the ring prior to the classes starting, because he has been at this venue a number of times now, and my trainer and I are trying to convince him it’s his home away from home so he doesn’t have to jump out of his skin at every little noise. He doesn’t think twice about the jumps, just the stuff outside the arena. Even so, I wanted to walk him around and let him take everything in first in the morning.

Tomorrow, I’ll post about how the show went for us!

Weenie Wednesday: Fire Zone

Conrad’s perspective is low to the ground, so sometimes I sit next to him on the ground and try to see what he sees.

Pretty sure he sees invisible squirrels.

Hopefully the warmer weather brings more mild walks our way.

And sometimes I don’t realize what’s in a picture I take of Conrad until I look at it later. 

Short and Sweet

Eli spent the weekend giving off hunter vibes again, and we had a great lesson on Saturday. No video, but I am pretty sure I have mostly internalized the “soft” ride he prefers. I just have to remember to do it all the time. 

I thought I might try trimming his tufty ears with safety scissors …

He isn’t a fan of having clippers in his ears. Turns out he doesn’t appreciate scissors for kindergarteners near his ears, either.

It was a neat idea that didn’t translate well for us, although I did manage to get much of the tuftiness gone. Just not all of it. 

I got a little video from Sunday, although the screenshots are more fun because video of flatwork is boring. I think warm weather helps a lot to keep Eli in a good mood–I am glad the first day of spring has arrived.

My Favorite $20 Shirt

You might have guessed by now that I love clothes. Riding clothes especially. My wallet is less enthusiastic about them. So obviously not everything I wear involves $200 breeches or $150 sweaters, because I am a public employee among other reasons. I find quality, inexpensive things to wear as much as I can, and there has been one shirt that I have more than one of and it’s worth mentioning to anyone who loves color, and plaid, as much as I do.

The Dickies Women’s Long-Sleeve Plaid Flannel Shirt

I get them on Amazon. I have three. And for around $20, I don’t feel all that bad about it, considering how often I wear a plaid shirt (almost daily, to work and/or to ride in). They are soft. They wash well. The arms are just barely long enough for my longish appendages. They are lightweight and thin enough even to wear in early summer in Texas. I typically wear a women’s dress size 4, and get this shirt in a size medium.

If you like a nice plaid shirt, but don’t want to drop $148 on one from Rails, Dickies provides you with an admirably economical option. Perhaps a green-themed plaid for St. Patrick’s Day? (I took these screenshots directly from Amazon. Apologies if this offends anyone’s intellectual property sensibilities or rights. But they are closely representative of the plaids in my closet.)


A Mental Health Day

Self care. We have all heard or read this phrase. We’ve encountered it in the layers of Facebook pop-psych click-bait, also in more clinical settings, and even casually dropped from the lips of a suit in line at the Starbucks around the corner from the office. We are all under societal pressures: we’re Americans, and we do anxiety like no other nation. Self care comes in when you need a day to yourself away from all the anxiety, or even an hour, indulging in hot cocoa, or a pedicure, or a trip to the dollar store for stupid pet costumes. Self care in America, to a certain extent, means consumerism. It means drink more artesian water. It means take a hot yoga class at the studio that just opened. It means gather ye rosebuds from Home Depot. It means spend money. Why? I don’t know.

I am not going to say I have found a new path of self care that involves spending no money, because my self care involves horses, and horses eat gold bullion and crown jewels. They sleep on platinum pharmaceutical patents. We tack them up in rare earth tax returns.

I am going to say, self care sometimes means taking care of something else because doing THAT makes you feel better. Taking care of my horse makes ME feel better, and I would rather this than have a stranger shred my feet with hot bubbling water, emery boards, and orange sticks. My me time is Eli time. He gets apples, grooming, exercise, and a good roll and I feel recharged.

What do you do for self care? Are horses or any animals a part of it?