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Monday, 20 November 2017

Take this Waltz


I had a really interesting (read: slightly sketchy) ride on Mystic about a week and a half ago. 




It somewhat mirrored this scary ride I had about a year ago (TLDR; she was panicky/jumpy/bolted into the path of a truck).  And I’m going to admit something that I’m not proud of about that ride last year – I was incredibly mad at my horse.  As we rode along that day I tried to make her circle/stop/chill the fuck out with increasing intensity… with almost no success/improvement throughout the ride, in fact it got worse and worse.  I was mad at myself too, that I wasn’t a good enough horsewoman to get a handle on my about-to-explode-volcano of a mare.  We were fighting each other at every moment and I was not winning.  I can remember how frightened I was as the oncoming vehicle locked up its brakes and I made eye contact with a terrified looking driver.  I hopped off and walked the rest of the way home, in a strange state that hovered between shock/anger/fear/frustration/embarrassment.     
  



I read something around that time that essentially said: “horses misbehave for two reasons, pain and fear”.  And it got me thinking.  My best guess was that the saddle I used on her that day was uncomfortable. 


I pooled what remained of my nerve and rode her bareback, she was 100% fine and back to her normal amazing self.  That saddle was sold and we have been hitting the trails almost exclusively bareback ever since.  We have encountered moose, loose cows, angry neighborhood dogs, horses galloping up and down the fenceline, people shooting guns on nearby properties, chainsaws, random wildlife popping out (birds, squirrels, chipmunks) at inopportune times, sudden weather changes (snowstorm/windstorm etc), farm equipment/hot tubs/other weird things being hauled down the road, motorcycles, cyclists and pretty much every random thing you would prefer not to encounter on the trail.  And Mystic has not taken a wrong step. 




I rode her on November 11th & November 12th.  On November 11th we were constantly getting splashed by oncoming vehicles (first time we’ve ever encountered that…. super slushy snow eek).  The first time one passed I grabbed some mane and braced myself, she didn’t even flinch.  After a few more vehicles passed I stopped grabbing mane and just gave her a nice pat every time we were passed.  I felt like luckiest human being on the planet to have a horse like her.  I almost cried driving home, I was so incredibly grateful for Mystic.  If someone offered me a million dollars for her I would have no, slept like a baby and never thought of it again. 




November 12th was a whole new ballgame.  She was fine at first (on the property she lives on) but once we got off the property she was not herself.  She pooped like 3 times in the first five minutes down the road.  Her back felt tense.  She was lookier and spookier than I have ever known her to be. 
I thought about what I’d learned the previous year.  Pain.  Fear.  And I decidedly to take a different approach. 





I spoke calmly to her and stroked her neck.  When she had a more calm moment I rewarded her heavily and told her what a good girl she was.  I made extra effort to “sit chilly” and reminded myself keep breathing.  Although I found myself being a little worried about her state but there was no longer any anger/embarrassment/frustration.  I ride with my friend C whenever I ride out and she didn’t say anything (on either scary ride) to make me feel bad about myself or my horse, she just asked me what she could do to help.  I wasn’t angry at Mystic, I knew she was scared and was doing her best.  We made it back to the property in one piece and I gave her lots of pets and carrots. 



When I stopped for gas on my way home I heard there was a cougar sighting in the area I was in.  That seems like a valid thing to be afraid of!  Not sure if that’s what was troubling her or not.  And I will never know. 




But I had a pretty big breakthrough about my own riding/journey with horses.  I come from the old school of “you gotta show him who’s boss!” attitude.  And while in certain situations that attitude has its place, that’s not how I look at things anymore.  I want to be my horse’s partner.  I want to be the safe place when they’re afraid.  On my first sketchy trail ride I was getting mad at Mystic for behaving badly, whether she was in pain or just afraid… how would that help?  If you are afraid/frightened and someone yells at you – would that help?  Or would you feel resentful of them?  That kind of dynamic doesn’t sound like a partnership to me.   I hope in future when I’m struggling with my horses I will be able to check my ego at the door and listen to them.



And if someone showed up with a million dollars on November 12 I still wouldn’t have sold Mystic.  Sometimes she is my rock and sometimes I am hers.



Diamonds in the Mine (November 11 & November 19 Lessons)

November 11th Lesson


This was Apollo and Henry’s first lesson back after about a month.  October was pretty crazy and Henry’s cough came back earlier in the month.  I gave him some time off away from the dusty arena.  Then my coach was sick, followed by my husband’s cat going missing (he was found though!).  So we were severely overdue for a lesson!



Poofy unicorn pony






The plan until I go away for holidays in December is to get back onto our weekly lesson schedule.  I honestly don’t do a lot of exciting/groundbreaking things in my lessons right now (it would be more exciting to watch paint dry for ST).  But I find it keeps me riding more regularly to know I have a lesson coming up.  And even though we are saddleless wonders there are lots of little things we can work on. 



Apollo was first up and we did some walk/trot and then transitioned into our lateral work.  He felt a bit sluggish to begin with, I'm not sure if he was a bit stiff or just feeling lazy.  We are trying to perfect our leg yields at the moment.  He tends to drift through his shoulder and ST has been helping me be clearer with my cues and to raise my expectations of the quality.  We also have started learning turn on the haunches/forehand. 






Apollo starts guessing what I’m going to ask him before I even cue anything so it’s important for us not to drill anything.  ST thinks he’s very smart and sensitive.  His M.O. is to use speed when he’s flustered or feels crooked, it also usually unnerves me so I stop asking him to do whatever I was asking (ie take my leg off) so we are trying to un-train me in that area.








He looks like a chesterfield in his new dress






Henry was next and he was very looky!  On our previous ride the sprinklers dripped on us a bit in one corner and he seemed to remember that.  ST reminded me to breathe and ride him forward, eventually the corner of doom was a-ok.  We did some trotting and I didn’t feel like a potato as much as a normally do, so that’s a win.  I asked her if we could free jump really quickly.


And yeah….








He can jump I guess!  She said he would have no problem with the 1.10m classes if that was something I wanted to do.  I also felt like she was kind of wondering what I want to do with him.   Which is a good question… Hunters/Jumpers/Eventing?  I don’t know.  I’ll get a freakin saddle first and we can go from there. 








November 19th Lesson




Henry developed a bit of a weird skin funk on his back in the past week unfortunately.  He's doing much better now, shout out to my girl at Feeding My Heart to the Hawk for the excellent skin care tips!  I'm not sure if it's rain rot or what but it's much better (almost gone entirely), unfortunately on lesson morning one spot re-opened on his spine.  I decided just to shampoo and blowdry him (and do a tea tree oil/baby oil treatment) and to give him the day off. 


So Apollo got the whole lesson! 






Majestic post-lesson selfie








He was more zippy and a lot less sluggish than my previous lesson.  We worked on getting him to stretch into the contact more.  He walked and trotted really nicely to the left but to the right his trotting was super ugly.  He had the world's shortest neck and only wanted to canter.  Eventually with some transitions and circles he felt much better.  A few sketchy zoomy moments in there but nothing major.












We chipped away at our leg yield and turn-on-the-haunches.  Not lovely.  He spends a lot of time trying to predict what I'm going to ask him to do (before I ask him) so I need to work on doing a bunch of different things in different places so he can't read my mind/the pattern as well.... and hopefully waits for me to ask him to do something!  I like to tilt forward on him and drop my hands so I need to think about sitting tall, pinching my shoulders together, and lifting my hands when I ride him also.









Lots of good homework for us!  He is definitely feeling very sound and enjoying having a job.  I feel like a saddle will really help us.  I'm leaning towards a dressage saddle for him at the moment (but not buying anything any time soon).  I can keep my eyes peeled for good deals after Henry's saddle arrives as Apollo is fairly easy to fit... he's just super wide.






<3 this pone







Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Hallelujah


Guess who has a custom saddle on order?



These guys!



 

I have no idea when it will actually arrive but it feels good to get the order put in.  Apparently it could be as early as late December but I’m not holding my breath, I also wouldn’t mind a bit more time to accumulate funds for the remaining balance…. :)

 

My saddle order was placed on November 9th, which is sort of a special date.  That’s the date that I sent an e-transfer to a complete stranger across the country for Henry five years ago.




I been reflecting a lot on how we’ve gone from unhandled/terrified weanling & noob weanling owner to sensible bareback citizen grown-up horse & slightly less nooby green horse rider. 






The journey between those two points has taught me so much about horsemanship and about myself as a human being.  I’m really proud of us when I think about it.   I will probably do a more in depth post in future on this when the thoughts have formulated more in my brain!








 




There certainly have been struggles, and we aren't perfect.  But if I could do it over again, I would do it all over again :)




I am so excited for 2018 and our new saddle!!


Monday, 6 November 2017

Avalanche

*Little bit of housekeeping first:  I'm going to title all my blog posts in November after Leonard Cohen songs/lyrics :)  He passed away November 10, 2016.  I loved his music, fiction and poetry, I was fortunate to see him at his last performance in my hometown.*










Thank you everyone for your kind comments on my post - My Greatest Fear.  It felt uncomfortable to write and I so appreciate the support.  I am still friendly with Coach D and maybe one day we will lesson together again.  Over our almost three year on-off student-teacher relationship she has never been anything but positive and supportive (save that one comment) so although I'm not immediately seeking her help with Henry, I'm not upset about the comment at this time.








Also thank you everyone for the bday wishes!  I had a great bday weekend (it included some pony photos, cupcakes, a cheese plate, a trail ride and a Stranger Things 2 marathon).












I want to give a few updates on some other things that were left hanging and post my goals for what remains of 2017.






Updates:


Horse Sharing (I had thought of letting a friend ride Mystic, which is weird for me because I am greedy) - this hasn't happened yet but I am still open to the idea.  There's been a bit of a cold snap recently I don't think my friend is keen to ride when it's -20.


Henry Custom Saddle - I am hoping to get it ordered this week. 


Mystic's Western Saddle - I sold it on the weekend.  I think I rushed into buying it because I just wanted a saddle so badly.  I didn't love riding it (it was too big for me) and I hurt my back trying to move it in and out of the truck (I have a horrible back and it was heavy as shit, like 40lbs+).  So no fancy diamond wool pad will be purchased to help it fit her better.


Horse Move to Cheaper Pasture - I spent a lot of time in the first half of October barn shopping.  Nothing really thrilled me.  I was trying to save money but I'm also very particular.  I think most likely everyone will stay put.  I would eventually like to bring Mystic to where the boys live, if my BO will give me a discount.  This means unfortunately that I won't have a ton of "fun money" for trailers and other big ticket items I was hoping to buy, but I can keep chipping away on those things.  I will still keep my eyes posted for the perfect spot.


Henry's Cough -  I didn't blog about this but Henry started to get quite a bad cough again and I gave him some time off (about a week and half).  Now he's 100%.  I think the weather changes kind of messed him up.


Groundwork - I am proud to say that I have been doing really well on adding more groundwork into all my horses routines.  Henry especially seems to enjoy it. 


Excessive Sleeping - I am still sleeping a lot.  But I'm starting to feel like a human being again.  I'm going to be adding a spin class to my routine and I hope it will jumpstart my energy levels a bit.










We only have 56 days left of 2017, where did the time go?!  2017 has not been my favorite year so far but I have a few goals to work on to finish up the year strong.


In the next 56 days I would like to:
1) Finish two books
2) Take 30 spin classes
3) Get back into the groove with ST lessons




My husband and I have booked a tropical holiday for late in December which I am SO looking forward to.  The last bit of 2017 is going to be the best bit :)



Monday, 30 October 2017

Apollo Appreciation Post



As of June 2017, I have owned Apollo for 10 years.  I wanted to write a post-celebrating our journey together back in June but things weren’t going well for me at that moment (broken nose and uncatchable Apollo returning from his failed “trail horse training”).  I just couldn’t find the right words. 

My favorite pic of us <3


Now as I celebrate my 32nd birthday (which was yesterday), I took some time to reflect on what Apollo and I have shared in the past 10 years.  He's been my horse for my last 10 birthdays, which makes me feel a bit old.






So here is my best effort to tell our story. :) Also prepare your eyeballs for photo spam because I found a whole bunch of the photos from his original sale ad (in addition to many old photos I had in my phone).

We don’t have an exciting show record or lots of satin (besides our sweet 4th place ribbons from a trot pole show in 2016 #baller) but this horse has carried me so carefully through some of the toughest days of my life, and I have learned so much by being his person.




It all started as I was gearing up to graduate college in May of 2007.  My loyal steed Blue had been diagnosed with navicular just before I started school in 2005.  He was on light riding duty for my two years of college, which worked great as I didn’t have a ton of time to ride anyhow.  But as school was coming to a close I decided it was time to start horse shopping for my next partner.


Original Sale Ad Photos






I found lots of potential matches but I kept coming back to this huge paint thing named Booger.  I actually didn’t like paints then (they looked too “western”) and I really hated blue eyes on a horse.  I wanted a younger version of Blue (tall dark and handsome TB-type).  Now I love paints but at the time they were not my favorite.


Blue + Apollo sandwich



Something about this guy grabbed me...




I decided the best way to get him out of my mind was to go ride him.  So I did.  First I went with my mom.  The sheer size of him was a little bit intimidating.  According to the seller a lot of cowboys had come out to try him but had been too afraid to actually ride once they saw him in person.  He’s actually only 16.2(and a half)hh but he is gigantic and has a higher neck set, so easily seems 17hh+.  A goat ran underneath him as we walked up and he didn’t even flinch, so I figured he must be quiet enough.  I hopped on.  We did walk/trot/canter…. At random moments that were in no way based on cues from me.  I was like “hmm maybe too big of a project for me”. 








But I found myself going out again, this time with my dad.  My dad rode him too and wasn’t super thrilled with him.  He found him quite forward a bit rude (and obviously greeeeeen). I rode him again too and had more fun than the first time.  I was a lot more assertive than my first ride.  But still felt like he was maybe too much horse for me.









I went again, by myself.  Rode again.  And made an offer, which was accepted.  He cost exactly what remained on my student loan (which I am still paying off hah).   I also decided to change his name to Apollo.  He deserved a more regal name.




OG Horse Loaf



We certainly have had our share of struggles since then… from saddle fit to poor instruction, alsike clover poisoning to hard-to-catch antics. 






But when I put Blue down in February of 2008, he kept me from completely falling apart.  I had to keep going to the barn to take care of him and had to keep going to work to pay for him.  Many tears were cried into his salt and pepper mane. 





After I witnessed a horrible mounting block accident and developed huge fears around the mounting block he stood patiently for me as I worked up the courage mount again. 







He has given me his best effort with a lot of instructors who asked us to do things that he didn’t understand or struggled with. 






He taught me everything a person needs to know about catching a hard-to-catch horse (starting with patience and humility). 











He has taught me to listen to horses and not just assume they are being “bad”, sometimes something hurts and they are trying to tell you the best way they know how. 



Being a big bro




He has made me a better horsewoman and a better human being.





I feel so blessed to be his person.  He has carried me so proudly and carefully these last 10 years.


Our first day together (with his image on a DQ cake)




I love you big pony <3



I hope we have many more birthdays together but I wanted to take some time to stroll down memory lane and appreciate my best friend.  I have some Apollo-inspired tattoo ideas in the works but haven't been able to commit to anything yet.  I hope that in 2018 he can finally come and live in my backyard!