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Not Starting Over

The rides since the show have been less than stellar. It seems that Frat Boy has reverted to his old behavior of cantering off to nowhere instead of doing the work I’m asking of him. It is frustrating to feel like all the hard work and hours spent over the last six months have been for naught. I had a lesson yesterday more to get an hour of trainer’s time to discuss where we are and where to go from here than for the actual riding experience. Don’t get me wrong. An hour riding with her is worth a whole month of me riding on my own, but I needed to vent/brainstorm with her about what was going on.

Posing all handsomly and behaving at the trailer

The major point I needed to remember is that while Eeyore is feeling an awful lot like his 2018 version, I am a completely different rider now than I was back in May when I had my first lesson with her. It is part of the reason he is currently pissy. I’m demanding more of him. Letting him get away with less. My expectations have risen and he isn’t so happy with that. Where a year ago I’d either let him canter around or end up just walking out of either fear or frustration, now I am demanding that he trot when I ask and remain in the trot until I ask something else of him. He would much rather get low on the forehand and blast around. No sir. We don’t do that anymore.

This turned in to a 90 minute battle on Saturday morning. A year ago, heck 6 months ago, I would have quit 15 minutes in and felt defeated. Saturday I kept going. Kept demanding he do what I wanted. I wasn’t asking things he can’t do. I wasn’t asking things he doesn’t know. All I freaking wanted was for him to trot around the rail without breaking to a canter. Simple stuff folks. It took 90 minutes before he did it. Ridiculous.

And then 30 seconds later he threw his bridle across the driveway

Sunday’s lesson started off really well. M grabbed a ride on a gorgeous draft cross at Trainer’s barn so we lessoned together. Typically riding with a single other horse makes Eeyore’s brain melt. He gets all creepy stalker like and refuses to pay attention to anything other than that other horse. But Sunday he wasn’t like that at all. Apparently something from the day before stuck and he sucked it up and behaved like a good horse. In fact, I got the best 20 m canter work to date on him in both directions. It felt amazing.

We then did some jump work in the arena. A simple cross rail coming off the rail across the diagonal, 5 strides to a vertical. As soon as we got jumping he lost his marbles a bit and it became a wrestling match to keep him controlled leading up to the cross rail. The 5 strides to the vertical came up lovely each time though. Once we had done that a few times and everyone was happy, we moved out to her field.

Came home from the lesson to a decorated house complete with snowflakes and a Christmas Goat because who doesn’t need a Christmas Goat?

That is when the wheels fell off and I once again had a monster under me who snagged the bit, dropped his front end and took off time and time and time again. From the ground he really isn’t going that fast. It isn’t a bolt. Since he lowers his front end though it feels a lot different on him. The issue is that as soon as I lifted his head and got him in front, he’d stop moving. He lacks adjustability and it is frustrating. On my part I really, really need to sit the frick up. He gets so very heavy in the front that I let him pull me out of the tack and that is a big NOPE. My biggest goal right now is to make it so that Trainer never has to tell me to sit up ever again. Or at least not 100 times in an hour lesson.

I finally got some control of my horse and we started jumping. Now I’m going to brag on myself here a little. Six months ago the “warm up” course she laid out would have given me a heart attack and I never would have done it. Actually, six months ago had he warmed up outside like he did Sunday I would have slid off and handed the reins to Trainer. I’ve grown though. Her warm up course was a vertical straight to a line of barrels (I’ve never jumped barrels before) that jumped into the grass dressage arena, a sharp left hand turn to a pile of cavalleti that looked scary as hell to jump out of the arena.

Went to see Charlie Brown Christmas at the Children’s Theater.

We came at the vertical and he wasn’t listening at all. I kept wrestling with him to avoid him hitting the jump on the forehand and we made it but then he got pissed and bucked on the back side. I had no interest tackling the barrels bucking, so I pulled him up. Trainer told me I could just start with the barrels but I said no. He could do this exercise and we started over. We did the vertical without issue this time and made it through the rest ok enough though a bit wild. The next go around he did the vertical fine but then had a bucking fit after the barrels, enough so that even the nonplussed Trainer made a comment at his bronco style, but this time I said screw you to him, yanked his head up and dug my heels in and forced his big orange butt out over the final jump. We came around and did it again no issue.

I had a long chat with Trainer while M tackled the exercise. These hi-jinks are unnecessary and growing old. Because all I do is wrestle with him before jumps, I’m not able to see a distance, correct our canter or basically do anything except wrestle with him and get his head up. Its annoying. And no, he isn’t in pain. Our last exercise was an up bank, three strides, down bank and he happily cantered that no problem at all. I don’t know what is going on inside his head.

I love when he gets the brow band sweat. He looks like an 80’s aerobics instructor.

At the end, Trainer handed me a new bit. Way back in May she had put us in a single jointed french link snaffle saying that she likes that bit for all new horse/riders. Its simple, easy for the horse to understand and she can figure out what is a horse versus rider issue. She said it is time to try something else to help give me some leverage when he is being an idiot yet not be so strong that he backs off. She gave me a rubber mouth single jointed pessoa bit and told me to play around with it and see how he reacts. Its too narrow for his huge mouth, so I need to pick up one soon. The hope is that it catches his attention a bit more and gives me a little more oomf to pull him up off his forehand without making him suck back and ping off the bit.

She also said we may need to add a dressage whip to my arsenal but I’m not ready to die yet so I’m holding off introducing that to him. The theory here is that he uses any rein aid as an excuse to stop moving his feet which is not the correct answer. Because he is so heavy in the full cheek it can take a lot of rein to get him up, so I’m not really able to be subtle with my half halts which he doesn’t listen to any way and I’m 99% sure I’m doing wrong. The use of a dressage whip may help with the idea that he can come up and rebalance but still move forward and stay in front of my leg. I don’t know. I’m willing to play with just about anything and Trainer hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

In the end the lesson wasn’t that bad. We managed to jump everything including our Grand Prix bank complex and I had some amazing flat work in the arena. Honestly a few months ago I would have been thrilled with it. Now though I’m wanting to move beyond “survival” and get into the nuances of doing it better with more skill. I need to keep in mind that I’m not starting over where we began, I’m asking for more and better and that takes time to get Eeyore to adjust to. He didn’t wake up and realize the rules had changed, so I need to make sure I’m clear and consistent with him.

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6th Annual Thanksgiving Waterfall Hunt

A coworker innocently gave me a book of 50 waterfalls in SC, southwestern NC and eastern GA for Christmas in 2013. The following Thanksgiving I started a tradition of choosing one and finding it in time to get to my mom’s for dinner.

Getting everyone to stop and pose is an issue I always face

This year we headed out to find Pigpen and Licklog falls, two falls in close proximity to each other and in side creeks that feed into the gorgeous Chattooga River.

Pigpen Falls

The weather was gorgeous as always. Low 40s and brisk to start and climbing to the low 60s to finish.

Waggy even got to come this year and managed the 2.5 mile hike well

Over the last several years it has been interesting to see how our little group of hikers has changed. Dogs have come and gone, last year my mom joined us and this year we have M.

We couldn’t get everyone in the picture which was sad as I like the dogs in it as well

It’s a tradition that I really hope we continue to do though eventually we will have to get creative and camp the night before once we run out of those within 2 hours of our farm.

Licklog Falls

We learned the first year to always pack Wyatt a full change of clothes and a towel as that kid refuses to stay out of the falls. I don’t mind. It always makes me smile.

My favorite picture of the outing

I think M enjoyed the tradition as well. She was certainly impressed with the beauty of the falls and the river.

The Chattooga River

Our only issue was helping Waggy make the steep climb back up from the bottom of Licklog Falls. The book had described it as a steep scramble and they were not joking.

It was super steep and I was proud of Wyatt for navigating it on his own

Dusty waited at the bottom and then attempted to get Waggy up. Even with four legs she never really understood how to make them all function together and it wasn’t any better missing one. So Dusty picked her up and scaled the hill carrying her.

Waggy generally hates to be lifted up. This time she gratefully took the ride to the top

We headed back to the truck with the sun warming our backs and my heart full for another year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!