Monday, 28 March 2016

Catch Up

At some point I hope to find a few more hours in the day so I don’t feel like every post is a catch up post!  But for now this one is :)

Irrelevant fat cat pic. 


1)      I sold my fugly saddle.  In three minutes.

I had been riding Apollo in it quite a bit lately (because I was sick of playing the traveling pants saddle game with the Verhan).  But he was kind of wild on our trail ride last Tuesday... and I can’t sit properly in the saddle because my legs are too long for it.  Enough is enough.  I don’t like riding it in and I felt like it was slipping around too much when things were a bit dicey.  I decided I’d rather just dealing with the annoyance of sharing the Verhan.  Luckily for me it sold almost instantly to a good friend of mine.

Bye Felicia. 

2)      Mystic Update...

Slow and steady progress on the canter is happening!  I’ve been taking a lot of the suggestions on my last post to heart (thank you!).  I’ve been riding her quite a bit lately and I’m having so much fun with her!  She has a few days off after a chiro treatment and I’m excited to get back to work.  I’ve set up a few trail ride "dates" for her and am hoping my husband can take some pictures of us this coming weekend.  We are going to two schooling shows in April.  One over ground poles on April 16 and one over crossrails on April 30

Yay for trail rides!

4)      Apollo Updates...

Apollo is yet again “too sound”.  Trying to slowly bring him back into work from his splint/check ligament issue has been challenging.  I decided to stick to walking only for most of March and gradually increase the duration of our rides.  And I opted to ride outside a few times because the arena footing is kind of deep.  He starts off really nicely but it kind of snowballs into a frantic trot-shaped-like-a-walk prance with Apollo ignoring my half halts.  It’s not very fun.  I was swearing at him last Tuesday because my arms and body were so tired... IS IT SO HARD TO GO FOR A WALK OUTSIDE WITHOUT PRANCING LIKE AN IDIOT YOU CRAZY OLD MAN?!?!  

His recent behavior has given me clarity on the following points:

1)      He needs to be ridden at least 4 days a week.  Probably 5 or 6 if possible.
2)      At this point I don’t think he’ll be a very fun horse for my husband to ride.*
*But this is part of his job in the family, so we need to work on this.

I’ve decided to take him to a competitive trail intro ride on May 14.  I don’t really care if I go or not so if it doesn’t work out I won’t be upset (this is the only attitude to have when trying to do anything with Apollo).  I would still like to get him off property to a show where we jump tiny things but I haven’t quite figured out when the hell I’m going to do that yet.

5) Henry Update...

The barnsby jump saddle from my aunt did not fit... at all.  I have one more saddle to try.  Coach D is on board to come and help us.  He comes home in 5 (!) days.  Holy crap!

This saddle is kind of our last hope.  This is a picture of him trying it on a year ago.  The shape was right but it was too wide (here's hoping he has filled out a bit since then...?)


6) Lesson Update 

After my lighter lesson schedule in March I’ll be kicking things into gear in April to get ready for show season (YAY! SHOWS!).  I will be back taking dressage lessons, Coach D lessons, lessons from Mystic’s trainer and I’m trying out a few lessons with another instructor at Mystic’s barn.


7)  Blog Update...

When I said my schedule is bananas in April.... I was not exaggerating.  I will be riding pretty much every day, sometimes two or more horses.  For once I have written a buttload of content in advance that will post automatically for me (if I did it properly...).  I wrote a little series on things I’ve learned in the horseworld that will be popping up on Wednesdays.  I also have been playing with my bunnies quite a bit lately so there will be a return of Monday Bunday!  I will be doing most of my blog reading/writing when I’m working at the gym on Friday/Saturday nights and that will likely be the only time I have a chance to catch up and write any other updates.


Thursday, 24 March 2016

My Secret Weapon is the Beach Boys

I have so much to catch up on I don't even know where to start.  I got some sort of overwhelming news today....

Let me back up a little bit!  I had a great ride on Henry last Tuesday.  We rode over obstacles and went for a trail ride by a creek. He's doing great, I'm so proud of him!  The trainer, RK, has really done a wonderful job.

I planned to ask RK on Tuesday what Henry's timeline was like for being ready to come home.  He beat me to the punch by saying "Well, his 60 days are up soon."

And I was like.... what?  60 days?  That would mean he'd come home on April 7....?!?!?!

I honestly had no idea he was only there for 60 days.  I thought he was there until he was ready to go home... no matter how long that was.  I asked RK if he could possibly stay until May 1st, to develop his canter work.  He could also use more work with the bit, he is okay with having it in his mouth but he's more responsive to a halter/hackamore at this point.

The trainer said he would ask his assistant, who does the bookings.

Trail pony!  

Today I got an e-mail stating that RK was too busy in April to squeeze Henry in.  He had some training slots available in June if I was interested.

Well fuck.

Henry has no tack of his own yet.  And I have the busiest month of my life planned in April (more to come on that tomorrow).  The timing couldn't be any worse.  Coach D may still take the ride on Henry eventually, but she's had a few health issues lately and due to that I'm not sure how interested she is at this point.

I spent most of today hyperventilating at my desk.  Frantically booking a hauler and making sure it was okay that Henry move back to Apollo's barn ("home").  I had to stop myself a few times and make myself listen to "Don't Worry Baby" by the Beach Boys.  That song is my chill pill.

Prescription to chill.

My aunt was passing through town last week and left me an older barnsby jump saddle.  Hopefully the saddle gods will smile down on me and it will fit him nicely.  I do have another saddle that belonged to my other aunt (exselle AP) which might work too.  Hopefully we can figure something out.

So Henry comes home on April 2.  And then I will have three horses to ride.  Part of me is jumping for joy.  The other part of me is terrified that I'm not ready for this.

Our selfie skills still need practice too.

More updates to come tomorrow! In the meantime I will be listening to the Beach Boys on repeat :)

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Rebels Without a Canter

Mystic is exactly the horse I would have created for myself.  She willingly moves forward but is generally a more “whoa-than-go” type.  I have no idea why I’ve been riding forward/hot-ish horses for my entire life.  I actually prefer to travel at a leisurely pace.  So I’m pretty much in heaven to not be barreling around an arena...half-halting for my life.  

I even find myself liking that she’s a smaller horse (15.3hh).  Something about her size is less intimidating to me.  When she has thrown the odd buck in (usually when her noodley rider is off balance or doing something wrong) it doesn’t really rattle me.  Usually I just laugh, apologize and carry on with whatever we were doing before I mucked it up.


Our canter work is pretty mediocre.  If she comes out of the field with a lot of energy and I haven’t ridden Apollo/worked out before riding her...it’s decent.  If she has been running like a maniac in the field all day and I’ve worked out and/or ridden Apollo beforehand...it’s fugly. 

I can pretty much get her into a canter, on the correct lead.  Sometimes there is a ugly transition but it’s a real canter after that.  But maintaining the canter... very challenging.  Particularly for me, as I don’t recall any time in my life when I’ve had to provide encouragement to maintain the canter.   Usually I’m more like “half-halt, eaaaassy, halt-halt, STOP YOU FLAILING FOOL, half-halt”. 


I find that I end up riding really strongly through my seat and not using as much leg as I should.  And when my leg is on it ends up being more of a constant squeeze than a bump (which is probably easy to tune out).  I think I also revert a bit to my bad habit of not being elastic enough through my shoulders and elbows. 

It's even more of a struggle if there’s other riders in the arena.  I’ve gotten really used to riding in arena by myself at my other barn...so avoiding other riders is actually a huge challenge for me.  So I have to focus on my elastic arms, correct amount of leg aid, and not running into anyone... that’s a lot for me. 

I’ve been reading a few articles on the Meredith Manor website to help me.  I really like that the articles are short and concise, and I find the different contributors explain things in a way that very easy for me to understand.  Some books/other online resources are super wordy and my brain cannot brain that.

Thanks for taking a crap and then standing in it, cheeky mare.


I’d really like to wow Mystic’s coach when she comes back from her trip next month.  She has recommended improving both our fitness and for me to improve my leg strength with a few specific exercises at the gym for canter improvement.   This is my 10-point plan of attack for our canter:

1.       Do the canter earlier in the ride.  I leave it to the end a lot and I think we’d both have more energy to do it correctly if I didn’t leave it for the end.  We’re also usually done after our canter work is finished and she gets pretty lazy if I try to do anything after the canter work, I want to break that habit also.

2.       Carry a crop.  I have never worn spurs but I have used a crop on Mystic before.  I think if I apply my canter cue/leg aid and she’s sluggish it would be a good source of encouragement!

3.       Canter every ride.  As I mentioned in #1 I usually leave the canter until the end of our ride.  If I’m pressed for time or it’s getting close to the barn’s closing time I sometimes leave out the canter work.  Not practicing it every ride does not help!

4.       Breathe. I stop breathing sometimes at the canter because I’m focusing on trying to get my body parts to do the right thing (which makes my body tense and possibly even more useless).

5.       Canter on the lunge when possible.  I think this will help Mystic find her canter groove.

6.       Kate does squats, lunges, and thigh abductor/adductor exercises at the gym to improve leg strength.  Also core strengthening exercises (ie planks) are a good thing for an independent seat.

7.       Pick a specific canter departure spot and a specific end spot each ride.  Increase slightly each ride. I think if I have a better game plan about when and how long we will canter for it will give us a chance to practice precise transitions and gage our improvement (ie two twenty meter circles, increased to three the next week).  Right now I feel like I just pick a random spot and canter whenever we can for as long as we can...not really ideal.

8.       Lots of hacking to improve fitness!  The weather is super nice here right now and I think hacking is a great way for a baby pony to get fitter and see weird things.

9.       Try to get video.  I’m hoping my husband will help me with this soon.  Although I am already cringing at the thought of watching that video haha.  Video is such a helpful tool in figuring out what’s not working.

10.   Practice half-seat and two-point in trot.  I try to ride the canter in a half-seat, as Mystic’s trainer did. But I have never ridden in a half-seat in whole life so it’s pretty hideous (and I’m not very useful in that position).

Waiting for me at the gate <3 

I've already been seeing improvements with my current plan!  I welcome any suggestions to make our canter better :)

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Crazy Heart

This last week has been a whirlwind!  I have been working out and riding quite a bit and I've also picked up a few extra shifts (yay monies!).  This post is quite long as it's actually three half-written posts combined into one.

I had two visits with Henry this week.  He really seems to be thriving at the trainer's place now.  Spoiler alert: I rode him yesterday! :D   

I continue to be happy with my decision to send Henry to RK for training.  He’s a very patient and thoughtful man.  He’s more into natural horsemanship stuff that I initially realized but I think that might be a good thing for Henry. 

Henry’s training has been a lot different than Mystic’s training (which is all I really have to compare it to!).  And comparing Henry and Mystic to each other is also kind of an apples vs. oranges conversation.  She is a sensible independent mare.  He’s a wiggly noodle.  Mystic’s trainer is an eventer who is super brave and moves into the riding portion quicker than I expected.  RK is more natural horsemanship/trail riding focused and moves at a more relaxed pace. 

Le derp.

RK refers to Henry as an introvert.  He says that initially Henry would completely shut down (stop moving) when there is even light pressure applied through an aid.  RK is working on building up his confidence and trying to get Henry to “think through” rider aids/questions rather than just shutting down.  I’ve never really thought of Henry as an introvert.  He’s always untying himself and getting into trouble.  He’s also kind of a pushy busybody.  But when I thought about the first time I tried to load him in a trailer....it made sense.

I walked Henry up to the trailer... and he laid down.  He didn’t sniff the trailer or look inside.  He just said “nooope.”  I’ve loaded a lot of young/rude creatures into trailers.  I’ve have never seen a horse just lay down, at least not without trying a few other evasions first (like sideways or upwards!). 

Henry’s lay down wasn’t even a “eff you” lay down.  It’s just a simple “No, I cannot handle this. Goodbye.”.  He loads perfectly now but I think part of his nature is just to shut down when things are scary.  It couldn’t have been a fun start to life as a four month old colt in a feedlot (for at least at month or two).  So that could be part of where it comes from, or it could just be how he is.

I want to be riding a thinking horse that’s paying attention and confident.  So I’m glad that RK is working on Henry’s lack of confidence rather than just pushing him through riding training.   I said to RK from day one that I didn’t think Henry would be the easiest horse (because he’s quite strange in his way of approaching life) and that I was in no rush for him to be finished. 

My own personal feelings about Henry’s training were completely different than I expected.  When I decided to send him for training I was frustrated with him.  He was a bit spoiled and pushy, with an aptitude for untying himself/getting into various mischief.  I felt like I had failed to teach him to be a good citizen (and was kind of mad at myself about that).  I was happy/relieved to the pass the responsibility of training him on to someone else.   But my feelings have changed a lot since I first dropped him off.

Because I like lists so much, I made the one below.

Things I Did Not Expect During Henry’s First Month of Training ....

1)      How much I missed him.  Like a creepy amount. I flip through old pictures of him at my desk at work all the time.  When I walk into Apollo’s field my eyes would still look for Henry and my ears would listen for his flailing hoofbeats to come running up behind me when I was leading Apollo.  It actually surprised me quite a bit how much I missed him.

2)      I became a helicopter parent.  Remember how I said I was happy to pass the responsibility of training him on to someone else?  Yep.... but sending gigantic e-mails about his training/diet/blakenting is cool right?  And visiting once or twice a week when I planned to visit once a month...? 

3)      I got drunk on dreams.  Seeing how beautifully he moved after his osteopath treatment I started to have some crazy ambitions float through my mind.  Anywhere from prelim eventing to show jumping.  Yeah.... I don’t really know that I want to do either of those things.  But good idea to have ridiculous dreams for the horse I was planning to sell/share the ride on....??!!

4)      He still whinnies at me.  I thought that RK would be the center of his world (he feeds him now!) and he wouldn’t really respond to me in the same way.  But as soon as I say his name he whinnies and walks/trots/flails over to greet.  *ALL THE FEELS*

RK mentioned on Wednesday that I could come out and ride him on the weekend if I wanted.  So yesterday I did!

RK hopped on him in the round pen bareback first.   Henry looked so fancy!  He had one small spook (the crazy wind was blowing things against the arena's walls) but recovered well.  Then RK put the saddle on and showed me some of Henry's lateral work and trot.

Then it was my turn!


We just walked but he felt amazing!  He seemed to really know his job and I felt like he was trying his best to be a good boy.  RK put an english saddle on him for me.  He said that "since you trimmed his mane and tail, I figured you would prefer an english saddle...." which made me laugh!  

His movement felt lovely.  He has more spring to his step and more movement through his back than my draft crosses.    

I gave Henry many cookies and pats for being such a good boy.  I could tell he was pleased with himself.  Next weekend RK is going to take us on a trail ride, which I am super excited about!

I got a bit emotional as I drove away from Henry's barn yesterday.  It's been such a journey with Henry. To see him grow up from 6 month old untouched baby to an almost 4-year old gelding going nicely under saddle is nothing short of amazing.   There have been some tough moments but it's pretty cool to see how far we have both come :)

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Just a Little Bird Floating on Hurricane

Even though I didn't go to the show I’m still really happy with how most of February went.  

Going to the barn is no fun when your human doesn't let you run amok.

Here’s how I did on my goals for the February:

February Goals

1)      Practice courses seen at show (bonus points to finding/making fake shrubbery to jump over).  Check!

2)      Create a show mantra.  I did!  It’s actually my riding mantra now too.  It’s “smile, breathe, leg”. 

3)      Do all the things mentioned here to prepare for show.  Yes, everything but the bath and the show parts!

4)      Practice memorizing/learning courses (in lessons with Coach D). Check!

5)      Pop Mystic over a tiny fence.  Heck yeah!  We jumped a little crossrail about 6 times (3 times each direction) and then the trainer bumped it up to a vertical (18 inches-ish) and we jumped that 6 times too!

6)      Run three days a week. Womp womp.  Not so good on this one!  I ran twice the first week in February and that was about it.

7)      No pop, energy drinks or booze for Kate.  (show day is an exception, red bull gives me wings and I might need liquid courage...)  I am super proud of my success on this.  I used to drinks two energy drinks, two cokes, and one coffee almost every day.  I have never been a big drinker but when I drink anything alcoholic before bed I grind my teeth (so my face hurts/I’m crabby the next day).  I didn't weigh myself in February but I just did yesterday and I'm happy to report that my sugar detox helped me towards a 1.4lb weight loss! Woohoo!

8)      Visit Henry at the trainers.  Sure did!  More than I thought I would actually.

(ignore my weird voice pls)

9)      Participate in plank challenge at the barn.  Well... sort of.  I did this for about two weeks, and then I tweaked something in my shoulder.  So I took a day off... and it turned into the rest of the month.

10)   Clean and organize car and lockers. I got started on both and have made significant improvement, but they aren’t as tidy as I would like. 

February was a tough but good month.  I definitely got in a bit of a funk after Apollo’s splint cropped up.  But jumping tiny jumps on Mystic pretty much made my entire life. 

I’m kind of going the opposite direction from my super ambitious February goals for March.  In March I’m going to “keep it simple”.  As much as someone with two jobs and three horses can anyway!

My budget has been incredibly tight lately.  Mystic’s trainer is away for the whole month of March and Coach D is away for a week.  I’ve decided to take some time off from lessons.  Without Mystic’s trainer putting in one training ride a week with her I won’t have as much time to lesson with Coach D anyway.  I might try for a Coach D lesson later on in the month and possibly a dressage lesson too.  But for sure my first two weeks will be lesson-free.   

Posing majestically after our first ever hack last Thursday!

I mentioned here about the cost of improvement and how lessons were so valuable.   And they totally are.  But at the moment I think I can manage well on my own for a few weeks and the mental break will be nice for me and the herd (and my softly weeping bank account).

Mystic and I are both working on fitness; I don’t really need a lesson to do that.  Apollo is just starting back into light work so he’s not really ready to lesson at this point.  I think it’s the perfect time for a little break.  My bank account agrees!

So here are my simple goals for March:

1)    Work out every day.  Ok yes this is kind of a tough sounding goal.  I live 5 minutes from the gym that I work at.  Working out every day doesn’t have to be grueling.  I will have some lighter workouts and some swimming days in there too.  I have been finding my leg strength for riding has been really lacking (Mystic requires more leg than Apollo, and it’s super hard for me!).

2)    Get rid of excess stuff.  I have a lot of clothes that I never wear and horse items that I never use.  Time for some spring cleaning!

3)    Have fun with the herd.  This is the only horse goal on the list.  I want my focus with the horses to be fun, there will be plenty of hacking and creative exercises on our agenda!

The random title of this blog is a line from one of my favorite songs ("To the Dogs or Whoever" by Josh Ritter).