Failure

HELGA

I must fail if I want to succeed. And fail, I have.

Lotus MediaΒ once again impressed me by how quickly I had .mp4 files of old VHS-C tapes. I know the next two tapes I sent got to the company on Friday. I had files on Saturday. And again, I was happily surprised by content I had no idea existed. I will share bits and pieces of my own horses this week, but today is about a horse I “borrowed” one summer (I think?) while one of my horses was sidelined with anhydrosis.

Helga was a warmblood mare and for sale. I don’t know what her price was and I had zero intention of buying another horse, but I think we got paired up because maybe I would “amateurize” her a little. She could seem hot but truly wasn’t. She WOULD NOT if you wore a spur. She stopped a crap ton. We were not well-suited to each other, but she taught me a lot. Mostly about not getting frustrated and not giving up. I had to do a ton of emotionless riding on that mare.

As it happens, a very memorable lesson was on one of the tapes — a lesson on Helga. I hadn’t thought about this lesson in ages, and looking back I think I might have barfed after I dismounted, but the takeaway now for me is that every horse has a ride, and not all rides are the same. If I ever tried to ride Eli like I had to ride Helga, I might be dead. If I had ridden Helga like I ride Eli, she probably would have looked like and old, overgrown lesson pony shuffling along at a bare minimum of speed. You can even hear me at one point in the video bristling against the kind of ride the mare wanted, “I feel like I’m hanging on her face!”

I failed a countless and indeterminate number of times in this one lesson. So here’s the entirety of what was on the tape — no sugar-coating here. Jumping starts at 3:53.

Lesson with Steve from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Honestly, I want to barf just watching that. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to ride Helga, don’t get me wrong. And of course I learned so much from that trainer. But perhaps the most important lesson I learned from Helga, beyond the failure and beyond the ride, was that I LOVE THOROUGHBRED GELDINGS. I am not sure I would ever own anything else at this point. (Maybe a Trakehner. …)

Ouch

After Conrad’s spa day, I headed out to the barn. I thought I might ride Eli, in spite of the heat, but that plan changed. As I pulled him from his stall, I noticed blood dripping from his forelock.

But I couldn’t see a cut on him. My trainer was right there, so I asked her to check him out. We looked all around his stall for signs of blood, and couldn’t find anything. Then a working student mentioned Eli was flinging his head around while they were feeding lunch and he bonked his head on the cross beam of his stall doorway. My trainer and I thought this was really unusual because contrary to just about everything else, Eli is extremely polite during feed times. My trainer usually feeds lunch, although she didn’t that day, but she said he doesn’t really do that. He doesn’t paw, he doesn’t fuss, he doesn’t make a sound. He just stands at his feed bin patiently waiting for it to be filled with goodies. Maybe he flung his head for some other reason? Who knows.

I felt around his poll and sure enough as I brought my hand back down there was blood on my fingers. Ew. And ouch. Really, that had to hurt. I am sure Eli’s head felt achy. I decided not to ride and washed his forelock. Once clean and with the help of a stool I was able to find a wound under his forelock almost directly (but not quite) on his poll. Again, ouch. He was clearly tender there and not super cooperative about me trying to look at it. I managed to get some Corona in the vicinity of the wound, so hopefully Eli’s head is feeling a little better today.

A bridle’s crownpiece wouldn’t interfere with the cut in any way, but Eli may still be tender in that area today so I am on the fence about trying to ride this evening.

I guess Eli got a spa day, too, in a way? Probably a better choice than riding at that time of day, anyway.

Time Travel

We have the ability to take HD video at our fingertips today, but most definitely did not twenty years ago. Still, we managed to get film anyway, in a much more tangible medium — you know, actual film — but one that also breaks down over time fairly easily. So when I found eight VHS-C tapes while emptying the storage unit — tapes I had no hope of ever finding because I didn’t realize I even still had them — I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I figured the video quality would be terrible, the sound distorted. Even more inconveniently, I had no way of figuring out what was on these tapes. I used to have a VHS converter used for playing VHS-C tapes in a VCR, but that thing hasn’t turned up yet, nor a VCR. I started googling, asking for recommendations, and digging around on Amazon for ways to find out what was on these tapes. One was labeled “KBF June 2001,” three were labeled “horses” and four aren’t labeled.

I found Lotus Media via Amazon and hands down the company offered the best prices and the easiest process for converting videos. I sent the KBF June 2001 tape, and got digital video shared to my Google drive on Monday — Lotus Media upgraded me to rush processing for no additional charge, which I thought was brilliant.

Y’all.

Joker from patentlybay on Vimeo.

Many of you will have no idea just how precious this video is. I am obviously not really talking about me riding because who cares — I am talking about that gravelly but encouraging voice on the video, telling me how to ride. Hearing that voice again is indescribable! I have probably mentioned this in passing, and I am not sure I could really do the man justice in writing, but for about fifteen years I rode with the trainer behind that voice. He taught me so much, and gave me what I now realize were extremely generous, unlimited opportunities to learn as much as I could — and he gave similar opportunities to many riders. But he also passed away unexpectedly, and I had no idea until a few weeks ago that I had video of him, and of him riding, and of his voice teaching riders on horses from so long ago. The full video, about twenty-five minutes, is also on my Vimeo account for anyone to watch.

I hope the remaining tapes will also have similar stuff — and it’s funny how I recognize the horses almost instantly and easily remember their names. Seventeen years ago doesn’t seem so far away now.

The Hole in Our Flat Work

I rode with my trainer on both Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday didn’t go smoothly. I made too many mistakes, and Eli was irritated about that. We started great and ended without even being able to approach a low jump at the trot. My trainer said it was time for her to check in on my flat work with Eli. So Thursday we had a flat lesson.

staying hydrated in all this heat and humidity!

Eli flats very well, as far as responding to what I am asking of him. Our downward transitions have improved a lot. We have some bobbles at the walk, but Eli’s trot and canter are very pleasant to ride now. We can even adjust at the canter pretty well, too. We can change the canter step without speeding up — making the step cover more ground but not getting hurried.

But not so much at the trot. Whoops. Gaping maw, right there.

For the lesson on Thursday, we worked on changing the step at both the trot and canter. To make it extra challenging, my trainer insisted no sitting. So only posting at the trot and only in a two-point at the canter. The canter exercises actually went fairly well.

And then we had to trot on a very small step after cantering. Perhaps owners of OTTBs will understand my difficulties with this.

But we persisted. My trainer emphasized working in the same direction until I got the responses from Eli that we wanted. She insisted I stay patient, persistent, and NOT frustrated. She said to use circles to help Eli to understand what we’re asking now. Just keep asking until he gets it, then reward profusely. We finally got some relaxed, collected trot after cantering. But it took some time.

eating a cookie, wearing Gold Bond

At this point my trainer and I discussed what I’d need to do regularly, moving forward. We took a small gate at a canter three times to cement the illustration. My trainer’s expectations are for me to WAIT (how she is not tired of telling me this … eh, she probably is tired of it). Let Eli find the distance and let him make mistakes because that’s how he is going to learn. What I tend to do is pick our spots myself, which inevitably ends in me gunning it at some point, and Eli doesn’t really enjoy that. My trainer wants Eli to pick the spots now. Teaching Eli more collection in our flat work should give him the tools to pick his distances better. We all know he can move up very easily, but he has to be able to shorten his stride, too. My job is to provide support — shoulders up, seat out of the saddle, hands soft and following, leg if necessary. It’s not going to be an automatic thing so I have to be patient (not the easiest thing for me).

we have only one trot right now … and it’s not collected

Considering how much we had to work through these past two days, Eli is getting Friday off. I will just be flatting again by myself this Saturday and my homework is collection and transitions within the gaits. These are building blocks which are important to have in between the jumps, but I don’t want to drill. I will be giving him Sunday off, too.

I am also hoping by next week to get an .mp4 of some video from summer of 2001 — maybe lessons or a show? I cannot wait to see! Should bring back some great memories!

Saharan Dust

We’ve had a significant haze hanging over the area since Friday–so hazy on Friday that I decided not to ride. It’s also been very windy out at the barn. AND the water truck needed a tire repair so the footing in the arena was sandier than usual on Saturday morning. This culmination of factors meant I ducked out of a lesson after 4 jumps. Before we started my trainer even asked if I wanted to jump that day and my response was may as well try. But the dust in the air proved too much for my eyes and I had a hard time even seeing through squinty, itchy, watery eyes. I am sure Eli wasn’t enjoying that, either. Sunday was a little less hazy but no less hot so Eli got another break.

This made me think about another factor that affects our riding, especially in the summer, and that is air quality. It may not be much of a factor for rural areas, but suburban riding stables all over the country must experience this issue to a certain extent. When you have not only heat, but poor-quality air dense with particulate matter, do you decide not to ride? How do you decide whether to ride or not–is there a threshold of ppm that gives you pause? How often do you check the allergy forecast in your area?