Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Super-TRex: The Quest for Courage (or Balls of Steel)

Did I mention this yet?  I don't think I mentioned this yet.  In a fit of lunacy, I told my coach one of my winter goals.  Specifically the "holy crap, what am I doing, what's come over me?" goal of getting comfortable jumping low wide oxers.

Did someone say oxer? AIEEEEEE!

Seriously.  Back in, what was it ... April?  I'm pretty sure it was April. I took the Hippo over her first oxer and my first one in forever.  It scared the crap out of me.  The front portion of oxer was a 12" high cross rail, the back rail was 18" high and the whole thing was around 18" wide. We jumped it twice and that was enough for me until the end of July.  Then again, my maximum comfortable jumping height was 2'-2'3" depending on the day ....

Just in case you've forgotten, the Hippo has 2' high kneecaps.  So she was not the one with the problem. 

Of course, by the time the end of July rolled around, I started to realized I'd entered and paid for a competition that was guaranteed to have a couple oxers, at least.  For both of our sakes, perhaps it was a good idea to introduce the big mare to the concept.  We're talking about 2' wide, maximum but still likely to cause me to leap in to micro manage at the slightest hiccup. (Remember the STOP HELPING ... yup, oxers) 

And I was comfortable with it!

So I don't know what came over me last week.  Tuesday I was working with a friend on a combination and (dun dun DUNNNN) raised the 2nd fence to THREE WHOLE FEET HIGH! The horse doesn't care, at all, its just more fun than dressage in her mind. The next night? A group of us got together for a group schooling session.  By the end I was asking for the 2nd fence to be raised. 

C: How many holes do you want it raised?
Me: Two, no wait ... three's good. (Thinking that looks around 2'9", we're good)
Horse: Sproing!  No problem 

Me: Want to put it up a couple more?
C:  Sure! 
Horse: Ok mom, I'll give it a go!  

That one was a little harder, Hippo needs a bit more practise, no big deal.  Then I take a closer look, that fence height isn't 3'ish, its 3'6"+.  Then there was the lesson where my coach started working on the aforementioned 'low wide oxer goal', which finished off at 5' wide. I don't know how long this streak of courage, or insanity, will last.   That's like ... 3 jumping milestones in a week?  For both us at the same time?

Did we just do that?!

Inspired by sister in spirit, Wendy of Riding with Scissors, I've done a little shopping.  Some (literal) balls of steel, to help keep my nerves ice cold when my (metaphorical) balls of steel fail me or to celebrate when they don't. Cheers! 

Because we are ... well ... sometimes

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

How to Traumatize Your Horse in One Easy Step

Well, the Hippo has been continuing her campaign to jump instead of the push/lift/concentrate tedium of flatwork.

Flatwork: Hey look over there!  Did you see that out the door? *spook*  OMG, I heard something dangerous outside the door! *scoot*

Jumping: Hang on lady!  I got this.  Why you look at the door?  Seems fine to me!

We did have one legitimate day of terror after our new footing arrived.  All the jump equipment moved out the back door.
*insert scary ghost moans here*

So I ride down near the end of the ring to let her 'process' the changes.  Cue the peanut gallery thoughts, "You should have handwalked first, don't you know anything?"  If you think I'm putting myself in the path of 1500lbs of get me the hell outta here horse, you are crazier than I am!
Horse:1 Me:0

Horse:  *puffs up* * stands on tiptoes*  I must SNORT! and look suspicious ... and flex muscles like a competing bodybuilder.

Me: ... *looks at watch and yawns* *wishes that butt would stop going numb*

Repeat for the next 20-30 minutes, at which point, I completely traumatised my horse.  Can you guess what I did?  Huh? Huh?  Come on, guess.

I ... scratched her withers.

This ... 1500lbs of it
I guess she forgot about me up there or something.  How that happened I have no idea.  Seriously, I'm a t-rex, not a termite!  All I know is that when my fingertip touched her, I got this reaction "HOLY SHIT! What the HELL was that!"

Because ... wither scratches are HELLA scary.  That's why I love horses, I learn something new every day.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Why is the 'insert beverage' always gone?

Sweet mother of god, there's not enough coffee in the world. Screw TBT, I don't have the energy to mine the archives.
Ditto the coffee...
You know know you're in trouble, post-riding lesson, when you start with a quadruple espresso yet still want to stab your eye out with a spork to distract from the fatigue.  Never mind the unfortunate side effects that come with that much caffeine hitting your system that quickly. (sprint)

Why so tired you ask?  Well, my coach asked the infamous question last night, "So, what do you want to work on?" and like an idiot I responded, "Up to you".  Cue a mischievous gleam in her eye. This didn't bode well. Neither did the quick warm up and the infamous casual words "Come on over here for a minute."

DANGER WILL ROBINSON!  I know this trick, she's trying to get me in arm's reach.  Nothing good ever came from getting within arm's reach of a mischievous looking riding coach.  (Seriously, its a good thing y'all don't play poker.)

Did she say come here?

Me: walk horse to 10 feet away
Coach: No no, come here
Me: walk horse to 8 feet away
Coach: No, really, come here
Me: Do I look that stupid?

After a few token protests (I'm old, its expected) the stirrups are crossed and out of reach of my desperate little toes.

Time to die
Walk, trot (crap), walk, trot (crap, crap, bounce)
Turn by throwing one's ass to the inside, scramble quickly as one's right ass cheek ends up alone in the air with no saddle or horse underneath it. BOING
Stop, unclamp legs and ass to prevent bouncing. Rinse repeat.

Ok, This isn't going so badly, which (of course) means we are going to canter.  Cue the peremptory "I know I'm going to hate you in a minute" and off we work on a few canter transitions

Somehow this engages my inner 'fuck it' at which point I volunteer to jump the cavaletti ... without stirrups ... repeatedly (WTF?)

Which turns into jumping a low bounce combination ... still without stirrups ...

I mean, not so bad for a dinosaur who hasn't ridden without stirrups in around 10 years and hasn't (purposely) jumped without stirrups in 20.  Its going to be a looooong winter, I may need to start drinking before lessons.

Consciousness, balance, the ability to tame one's wandering bastard of a lower leg ...

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

All My Horse Wants for Christmas, Is For Me To Stop Helping

I disappeared for a couple weeks to prep for our (likely) last show of the season. But hey, new material right?

Choices, choices.  With the choice of a dressage show or a jumper show, I decided to take the lessons of the horse trial into consideration.  Jumps = more to keep the hippo's mind busy. No jumps = mental space to obsess over the invisible gremlins (with purple spots) she insists exist to terrify (entertain) her.  Jumper show it is, meaning work on courses and stretching our (my) comfort zone.

My current coach is a great fit for this horse.  There's no time for boredom.  Did the jumping exercise right once? Change it! Need her to focus?  Its a sea of poles for her to pick her legs through.
My job? Sit up, hands forward and leg.  How hard could it be?
Either you're new here, or you know this is a trick question.
I'm a fixer.  Have a problem? I like to fix it, fiddle with it and come up with a few options.  Broken piece of tack?  Here borrow my spare reins/stirrup irons, girth, helmet, saddle pad.  Something loose?  Here, duct tape.  Cell phone acting weird?  Here, I'll take a look.  See a pattern?

So, when we come cantering into a sea of poles with trumpets blaring, I have a tendency to try to fiddle and 'help'.  I also tend to get especially 'helpful' when there are spread jumps ... you know, oxers. 'Round the turn we go, 3 canter poles ... I fiddle, horse says "WTF?" and proceeds to canter through the poles like an epileptic spider due to my aforementioned 'help'.

That is help?

Coach:  Stop doing that.
Horse: Stop doing that.
Me:  I was helping!
Horse and Coach: STOP HELPING!

Right.  Sit up, hands forward and leg.  'Round the turn we go, 3 canter poles then same with a non-spread fence. Good stuff.

We got this!
Coach:  Yeah! Like that!
Horse: Yeah! Like that! 
Me:  Awesome!

All right, we've got this shit!  Sit up, hands forward and leg.  'Round the turn we go, 3 canter poles and a spread fence. I stare at the oxer instead of the poles, we get in funny to the first pole and....

Horse turns back into the epileptic spider over the poles, leaps at what seems like her only distance choice while I scream SHIT! at the top of my lungs as we proceed to bulldoze the top poles of the jump.

Coach:  Stop doing that.
Horse: Stop doing that.
Me:  I was helping!
Horse and Coach: STOP HELPING!

Funny thing?  When I stuck to the plan, the hippo sailed through without a care in the world.
I really need to learn to stop helping.