Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Legacy of Fear

I don't know when, or why, or how but somewhere along the line between riding Seneca, her retirement and finding Fox I became afraid of speed.  Years ago before she became a pasture puff I had no problem cantering Seneca at home. In fact, right before the seemingly endless rounds of vet visits and time off, I was beginning to work on cantering fences. This precipitated the whole saddle fit debacle where I realized that my current saddle did not quite fit Her Majesty.

Later that year I did my last XC schooling with Seneca where we actually cantered a XC fence.  This was a big step for us and I hoped a bright spark for the future. Except a month later Seneca began the rounds of on again off again lameness that was the downward spiral towards her retirement.

Enter Thrill Factor, aka Fox, the slowest, most unmotivated OTTB on the planet. Which makes his registered name completely ironic. I loved him from the moment I saw him.  He was absolutely not what I was looking for. I wanted tall, elegant, flashy.  He was a small, decent mover and a very strange, ever changing chestnut color. But he was slow, quiet and a snuggler.  I think the snuggling is what really sold me.  He's very vocal and always comes to the fence when I walk out to see him. And off the property he behaves like a plow horse 99% of the time.

Yet I had this mental block about cantering him. Part of it is that he's hard to motivate in to a canter. Except that one time in front of a BNT when I was only asking for a trot. So at home for the last year I almost never cantered and only cantered occasionally when off the property.  He would trot nearly any kind of fence without looking twice at it unless I was nervous about it. Then it was more of a "are you sure Mom?"

But last week I was on vacation to do clean-up of the property after the nasty winter we've had. Which provided me the opportunity to ride my horse multiple times in a week. So I worked on letting go of my fear, of putting my trust in the red pony and just dealing with whatever shenanigans he might pull.  Except there were no shenanigans.  He gave me the canter fairly easily on both rides.   The first ride I only asked him for a few strides of canter a couple of times to see if the button was there. If he would give me the canter without doing anything naughty.

The second ride I made him give the canter for a lap of my make-shift arena. In both directions. Which he did, even though he tried to drop out of the canter a couple of times. I was so very happy with just those few moments of the ride. I mean he gave me other good things but I struggled with cantering Fox.

I'm not even sure why other than I hadn't cantered him consistently for a very long time.  He would occasionally give me the canter after a fence and I would praise him and ride it out when he did but again he's very lazy and getting the canter after a fence wasn't a given.

So where do we go from here? I'm working on arena exercises to strengthen Fox's topline, doing our dressage circles of death, and we will be working on cantering ground poles soon. I am tentatively planning on doing one of the War Horse Series shows this summer. I say tentative because I plan a lot but often the execution gets muddled.  I'm also planning on taking Fox to some lessons with a local eventer and hopefully some dressage lessons again with Sprieser Sporthorses.

Until then keep it between the flags!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

You Do What You Gotta Do

So as my work life becomes more complicated, I inevitably get more stress in my life. Which means I need to ride more, groom more, be with my four legged stress reliever more.  So how do you make more time in an already crazy busy life? Sacrifice, my eventing friends, sacrifice. 

A very long time ago I was in Navy Boot Camp. Your sleep deprived, often sick with respiratory illness due to the close quarters and your day is schedule to within an inch of it's life. You have no privacy and no freedom.  It's just something you have to endure. Towards the end of Boot Camp there is an event called Battle Stations.  Basically you stay up all day, then when you should be going to sleep you go out and play war games all night, literally, you don't get to sleep until the evening of the NEXT night.  During Boot Camp I was a notoriously slow runner.  We would be in the drill hall doing aerobic exercises, then you pause and do a lap around the gym, come back and do more exercises.  By the time I got done doing my lap, it was time to do a lap again.

During Battle Stations, back in my day (They have an animatronic ship made by Disney now), you sprinted from each of the different buildings where various events were held to the next.  The worst was from the tunnel that passes under a road to the pool building.  It was a really long distance.  And as I stated I was a slow runner.  The rule was you had to stay in front of the last RDC (Recruit Division Chief), if you fell behind the last RDC you failed and had to return to your barracks building, wait 24 hours then try again.  After experiencing the first half, and coming up on the dreaded run to the pool building, there was NO WAY I was going to re-run Battle Stations.  So I made it my absolute mission to stay in front of the last RDC. Which is what I did.  On that last long run we lost half the girls in my Division. I conquered Battle Stations, got my Navy Ball Cap (the symbol that you were now a real sailor versus the Recruit Ball Cap) went to the celebratory breakfast and then went back to my building for the day's activities.

The first chance they got, two girls in my Division who didn't pass that night, and hadn't been very nice to me during the rest of Boot Camp, came over and asked me, sort of snottily.  "We just want to know, since you are such a slow runner, how you passed and we didn't."   Keep in mind, the entire division was made up almost entirely of babies straight from high school.  I was 25, married and had already lived out in the big bad world, with it's bills and crappy jobs.  I turned around, looked them in the eye and said "I wanted it more than you did."

So here we are, if I want to ride, I have to really, really want it. Because making time in my day to ride means giving up sleep and time spent with my daughter. Some days I will have to get up at 4AM, so I can ride before work.  I will have to get up early on the weekends that my husband closes at his store so that I can ride before he goes to work.  If I want it, I have to really want it.

Here are my motivations.  Between now and July/August, the Navy will be convening it's selection boards to decide who gets to be a Chief (E7, the next rank I need to achieve).  This is the time of year that I call The Circus.  Because it starts in January when we take the exam, then we have to wait to see if we made a high enough score to move on to the second phase. If we make the second phase in March then we have to wait until July/August to find out if we have been selected for the next rank. See?  A big, ugly circus that goes on for months.  On top of this I am now in charge of not just all the enlisted personnel in my depart, but two other divisions within that department.  Yippee! More work. 

Plus I'll be going in to what is called "My Window" in May. It means I can start trying to choose orders, or extend with my current command.  I don't know yet what I am going to do.

So there's all that craziness.  And then there is the goodness, something so great I can't even express how excited I am.  Kim Severson, 4* Eventer, and Olympian is coming to our little Eventing No Man's Land!  She's going to be doing several clinics here. That if nothing else is getting me out there and riding, no matter the weather, or hour of the morning. Yesterday it rained almost all day, after raining most of last week.  Usually I would take a pass on riding, because my pastures become a slippery swamp when it rains that much.  I sucked it up, brushed the mud of the Red Rogue pony and we walked for 30 minutes, doing nothing more strenuous than dressage circles of death, spiraling in and spiraling out again. I really want to ride with Kim.  She has been on my Dream to Ride With list for a long time.  Can't WAIT!

Keep it between the flags everyone!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Learning to Live Between the Lines

Can’t believe I’ve left the blog undone for so long.  So let me fill you in on everything that has happened since June.  Well her Majesty, the High Queen tried to kill herself off for the second year in a row.  Last year it was Potomac Horse Fever, this year is was the mystery injury that seriously if it had been any deeper she would be dead.  I found her Majesty not quite right, and her girth line looked weird from a distance so I went out to check on her.  And found, way underneath, where I can’t even imagine how she did it, a massive wound.  So deep I immediately knew it was beyond my skills and called the vet.

Despite the High Queen’s snobbishness she actually is really good about being doctored.  Even with just local anesthetic she stood still as a statue while the vet stitched up the muscle (yes, it was that deep) then the skin.  We left a drain in and I had my marching orders to try and keep her Majesty quiet as possible.  So the boys went out in separate side pastures, and I tried to keep Seneca secured in the run-in-shed. Which worked for exactly three days and then she refused to stay secured.

She’s healed up fine and is back to bossing Cowboy around.  Fox is back to living by himself with nose over the fence privledges.  This because Seneca’s injury was the second nearly life ending injury that has happened when Fox has been in the pasture with other horses.  The first was Cowboy’s infamous skull fracture.   I don’t know if Fox was really involved with Seneca’s injury but I’d rather not take the chance.

My riding has been inconsistent at best.  Life has just been really hectic and I can’t bring myself to ride if I’m the only one home with my daughter.  I keep thinking that if my daughter was napping, and I had a bad accident where I was unconscious who would find her? Who would even know she was in the house?  So I just can’t do it.

And with Superhub’s super awful schedule now I just don’t get to ride a lot anymore. I’m trying to be okay with this. Most of the time it feels like I really don’t have a life anymore.  Or rather I don’t have the life I once did.  From time to time if its not my turn to pick up my daughter from daycare I’ll stop and window shop or stroll through the local tack shop. I get to relive a little bit of the life I used to have.

Don’t get me wrong I love my daughter but I miss my old life or rather parts of my old life.  Retirement from the Navy seems to get further away every year. I chose to add an extra year so that Superhubs could go back to school and dump the retail job.  He’s going to be a Physical Therapy tech which I think is really cool.  We are hoping he can start classes next fall.

So really all my equestrian goals have gone out the window.  I ride when I can but I’ve put showing away for now. What will the new year bring? No idea.

Keep it between the flags everyone!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Goal

Originally when I made my riding plans for this year the goal was a big dressage show that is going down in the middle of June.  But as it grew closer and closer the situation became more and more obvious.  We weren't ready.  We weren't ready in the "my pony can't canter" a circle way.  

Oh Slugworth (his new nickname), can canter, when I am really aggressive with him and in no way does the shapes we can make resemble a dressage-y circle.   So I had to come up with a new goal.

I still want to take Fox down to the War Horse Eventing series at the Carolina Horse Park, but that is way, way out in like October or November.   I needed something closer to pour my energy towards.

I'm listening to this audio book that talks about the Universal Intelligence, God, the Powers Above whatever you choose to call it.  The book says if you pour your goals and aspirations out in to the world in a verbal and or written way that the Universal Intelligence will answer you.  

So just as I was thinking about needing a goal to work towards, something fun but challenging that I could do with my horse that wasn't out the realm of possibility or hugely expensive.  And, the Universal Intelligence didn't answer, or maybe it worked through Facebook to bring me what I needed but either way I have a new goal.

Last year I volunteered at the long format Three Day Event at So8ths called The Heart of the Carolinas. It was absolutely the best time I've ever had volunteering, great people, fabulous venue, awesome food.  I really wanted to volunteer again this year but Dear Daughter wasn't sleeping through the night yet and unfortunately Superhubs is the worlds heavist sleeper so I had to stay home.  One of the friends I met last year, also went to volunteer this year.  And while she was there she and a few others decided to put a clinic together to be held at So8ths.  With a trainer that my friend has been raving about that I had been thinking about taking some lessons from when Fox was a bit further along in his training.

On top of a fabulous venue, and an awesome trainer the price of the clinic won't break the bank!  There is only one little hurdle.  Fox isn't cantering fences yet and I need to be at or very close to jumping BN height with him to not be a total embarrassment at this clinic.  Thankfully the clinic is in mid-August.  So I have around 2, 2 1/2 months to get him there.  If ever there was incentive this is it.

So Slugworth is the least motivated OTTB on the planet.  He just really has no desire to canter.  So I got some exercises to strengthen his hind end and on the advice of several people I'm going to attempt to take the slug out hacking by himself to see if this might get him moving a bit more energetically.   I've hacked him down the road to the next farm on his own and he's been great.  So hopefully he won't turn in to a raging donkey-beast on the farm roads which are safer for hacking on. I want happily motivated not seething dragon.  So we shall see this weekend.  In order to ride I've to get up early and be done before Superhubs has to leave for work.  Motivation, motivation, motivation.

Keep it between the flags everyone!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Worth It

Early this past Saturday morning I went about the usual things I have to do before getting on the road with horse in tow. I fed, let the ducks out, packed the trailer will all my mountains of stuff.  Seriously, why do have so much stuff? *cough, tack shops, cough* Tack shops are so evil!

Superhubs backed the truck up for me, I'm still trying to learn this one, but I did do the rest of the hooking up all by myself!  Then Superhubs went back in to the house to wrangle the baby.  I had my own toddler to wrangle as Fox decided, even though he'd been leaping in to the trailer for the last three weeks, that today he didn't particularly want to get in.  *Sigh*  Twenty minutes later he was happily loaded and eating hay.

We finally got on the road about a half hour after I wanted to be but we were going! I'd had to reschedule this lesson twice already, for good reasons, but still I had been looking forward to a lesson with my new dressage coach since early February!

Traffic was ugly in places, thankfully Superhubs was driving.  I tend to yell obscenities at the other drivers when I drive.  Superhubs on the other hand is usually more passive aggressive.  He just flips on the truly blinding light bar on the front of the truck.

After what felt like forever we were finally able to pull in to Sprieser Sporthorses! Absolutely gorgeous place! Superhubs trekked off to show Fox's coggins and with the baby napping in the truck I unloaded the red pony and tacked up in a hurry since we were already a few minutes late.  Evil freaking traffic!  Thankfully he was clean and I just need to pick his feet and brush him down a little.  Boots on, tack on, rider's gear on away we went to walk through the big barn to the gloriously HUGE indoor.  Seriously I felt like I was walking in to indoor arena heaven.  It's the biggest one I've ever seen at a private farm.

Then we proceeded to have our butts kicked by my new coach.  But I wanted that, we NEEDED that in a big way.  She was upbeat, positive, told me lots of good things but also hammered home the fact that I had been letting Fox be a lazy slug, therefore he had decided that was a good place to be.  I don't think Fox has ever trotted so fast in his life!  Our rides from now on will be a lot different that is for sure.  More forward, more forward, FORWARD!

My current goal is to be able to do the Training Level 1 and 2 tests by June and go to the big dressage show with my new coach and team at Virginia Summer Dressage which is going down in mid-June.

If we can get there, with a publically acceptable canter transition, then in the fall I'm going to try and tackle a low level horse trial at the Carolina Horse Park.  We shall see.

Keep it between the flags everyone!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Opportunities and Possibilities

Earlier in the year when I was looking ahead with hope and optimism I tried to decide what I wanted to do with the red rogue pony this year.  January 2016 (pre-pregnancy) I was putting down on paper how I was going to finally get to a Beginner Novice horse trial.  Well then the big monkey wrench got thrown and my whole season was gone.

It didn't stop me from buying a massive amount of horse gear or dreaming of the future. My pony got almost an entire year off, not that he complained, lazy beast that he is. But it put me back at square one again this winter.  How was I going to get from not even a publically acceptable canter to going Beginner Novice?  How was I going to get from my small dream of being able to ask for the canter and getting it, to the bigger dreams of BN, to the biggest dream (right now anyway) of completing a long format three day?

Well, when you don't know the way (women anyway) stop and ask for directions.  In rider land that means getting help from instructors, trainers, coaches.  Looking back on my riding education I realized I didn't have the best upbringing, riding-wise.  I had a lot of desire to ride.  I had a lot of teachers but no one that really stands out, except that one awful one that verbally abused me.

My best memories, the ones where I felt I learned the most were from a couple of people.  My old coach Chris, who I sorely wish had stayed out here on the east coast and Dom Schramm.  I had two clinics with Dom and I dearly wish that either of his two home bases were a manageable distance. They aren't though anyplace in Pennsylvania and Florida is not even drive it for a weekend manageable.  But thinking about how much I got out of those two clinics really got me thinking about the quality of education I want.

So, this Saturday I am sucking up the 3 1/2 hours, one way, drive to central Virginia to ride with a new coach. She is one of three trainers at Spreiser Sport Horses (you can read about Lauren on COTH where her blog lives) For the rest of this year, until maybe October or November, Fox and I will be getting our dressage on.  I have plans, if we can get the canter issue sorted, to take Fox to a multi-day dressage show in June. It will be one of two planned outings.  I'll try to go to some dressage schooling shows around home, when all the stars align(meaning, weather, husband to watch the baby and time to train the red pony).

The second outing is still in the maybe stages but I want to take Fox down to the War Horse horse trials in North Carolina and do one of the lower levels. I want an easy, stress free, confidence building outing.  Then we'll work on our xc and show jumping, plus the dressage because I actually love it. So that maybe, just maybe next year we can go out at Beginner Novice.

That's plan anyway and the dream.

Keep it between the flags!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

And We're Back!

No I did not fall off the edge of the planet, although some days if I could get a whole night's sleep I would volunteer.  Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. I'm going to try, I stress try, not to talk too much about the baby over here.  I'll leave that for my Eventer + Baby Makes Three blog.

So here is the low down on what's been happening around the farm since I went off radar last July.
Fox got a really long vacation. I was able to lunge him some but he's not easy to lunge so it was hit or miss.  Just before Thanksgiving I decided I was ready to get back in to the saddle. I had just had my check-up from the doctors and I was green lighted. 

Fox had other ideas.  I wanted to lunge the spunk out of him first, no need to eat dirt on my first time back in the saddle. I put on his boots, I prepared him for lunging and he was a raging donkey.  He evaded me, twice taking off with the lunge line in tow.  The second time bucking and flailing like a rodeo bronc.  And he killed both his hoof boots.  Granted they had dry rot from sitting for a long time but still, both of them?!

So he got another vacation while I sent the boots to the Farrier Fairy to repair them. I got them back sometime after Christmas and finally just got on him one day.  He behaved himself, mostly.  It never fails, every time I get on my horse, the neighbor on the other side of the fence starts doing something loud and obnoxious.  This person has an obsession with yard work and is constantly running some loud piece of equipment.  It took me twenty minutes of walking to get Fox relaxed enough to behave at the trot. Overall it wasn't a bad ride.

But I've forgotten that ride was not my first back in the saddle on Fox.  Prior to that day I had loaded up my red bratty pony and driven down to the big indoor that's about an hour from me, but free to use during the week.  Love that place!  The only caveat is that you can't get the arena exclusively if there are other riders already there or they show up while you are riding you have to share.  No big deal.  I ended up sharing the arena with three other ladies that day who were just doing some playing around.  Fox was his usual good natured self and we even jumped a baby vertical AND cantered off! That day was fantastic.  I'm hoping for more days like that.

Also my brand new, no one's butt except mine has ever touched it, dressage saddle finally arrived! I had ordered it back in November not realizing that it was being shipped from Italy and would be weeks and weeks away from actually having it.  But it finally arrived right before my birthday.  And I was sick as a dog when it arrived.  This did not stop me from tacking up Fox and slipping in to the saddle for just five minutes of walking and about thirty seconds of trotting.  LOVE!

Until next time, keep it between the flags!