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Drumroll Please…..

First, thank you to everyone who made suggestions. It was really nice of you to take the time to do so. I especially want to thank Saiph who went above and beyond in making suggestions.

I really wanted to love the name Eeyore. It is cute and silly but it doesn’t fit the gelding I’ve grown to love so much. His registered name isn’t very helpful for a barn name which would have made this process simpler.

My feet were really held to the fire when Wyatt declared he had a new name for him and started calling him by it on the regular. As cute as it is to let Wyatt name animals in the house (Waggy Tails and Gizmo are thanks to him) I could not wrap my head around Starstream. Though unfortunately the big guy is starting to recognize it coming from Wyatt. He was this close to being called Star.

The name choices were narrowed down to two names that I kept going back to:

Cisco

Sunangel/Sunny (suggested by Saiph)

I played around with both of them all week but for some reason while both sounded awesome in my head neither sounded right as I called out to him or patted him with a “Good boy Cisco”

Which is why I delayed announcing his new name on here. I wanted to make sure it was right.

It was back to the drawing board and I started running every word that came to mind as a potential new name. I googled some more. I wracked my brain and then bam! It hit me.

Skeptical horse is skeptical

But first I googled the definition to make sure I wasn’t naming him something ridiculous. My original intent was to use the Spanish word but it doesn’t mean the same thing as in English and really didn’t fit him.

He doesn’t trust me in this

The word has two meanings and both fit us perfectly. I’m so excited!

1) sail about in an area without a precise destination, especially for pleasure.

Um…yeah. Pleasure is where it is all about and while I am working hard on learning and improving we have no set destination in mind

2) travel smoothly at a moderate or economical speed.

Heheheh…that pretty much sums up the big guy.

So what is this word???

Everyone….

Meet….

Cruise

(Cruz in Spanish, while pronounced the same, means cross)

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The First Time I’ve Felt Like A Real Rider

With the Big E side lined for a bit (he is feeling much better in his new sneakers up front and hopefully will get back to under saddle work with the boots on shortly) I figured I was out of luck riding wise. I mean, I could ride Gem, but the last time I pulled her out of retirement she was highly offended and it wasn’t worth the effort just to fight with her for 30 minutes.

Never fear though, Trainer wasn’t about to let me wallow in new-horse-can’t-be-ridden self pity and kept my lesson slot for last night. She offered up her wonder pony Misty for the night and I was…well…still not feeling it but game enough to go. I had ridden Misty once almost two years ago and the only thing I could remember from the ride was that she was hard to get going, couldn’t bend and it was a bit of a struggle.

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Not really feeli, ng it either

Except none of that was actually true. What really happened was that two years ago I was still on Gem full time and couldn’t ride properly worth my life so Misty responded in kind. Last night was a true testament to a whole lot of things.

We started on the flat and I commented on how I’ve been working hard with the Big E on using my outside aides in the turns instead of pulling on that inside rein. She smirked and said “Great! I have an exercise for that!” When will I learn to keep my mouth shut??

We started on a 20 m circle counterbent. It was hard for my to conceptualize this since I tend to be way too handsy and I was like “If I’m using the left rein to bend her left how do I get her moving right?” The key here was to really use that outside rein to keep her looking left (we were going right) and my outside leg to push her right. I had to keep my body turned slightly inside to look around my circle.  It took a few circuits but eventually it all clicked and my grin was from ear to ear. Once I had established that I was to bend her properly to the inside, but was not under any circumstances to pull on that inside rein. I needed to keep the feeling of her bugling into my left/outside leg and rein.

First time experience #1: really feeling that “filling of my outside aides”.

It felt amazing. I’ve never truly had real bend before and certainly have never had a horse go in an actual frame and wow. Just wow. Trainer was a little shocked at how well we went around and I got the most praise I ever have from her. Misty looked like a real dressage pony and I have never, ever been able to do that before. Certainly not the last time I rode her.

From there we worked on the same concepts at the trot. I have a harder time convincing my legs to work at the trot which stems from me weighting them too much to post, but we worked on this and since I had that feeling from the walk to strive for it got better and better. We worked on the sitting trot a bit too and I think Trainer was surprised that I actually can sit the trot pretty darn well. Spend enough time jigging down the trail and you learn that skill. Ha!

And since Misty isn’t Gem and tolerated my leg aides, I got to play around with when to use them. Trainer had me apply inside leg on the rise of the post and then at the sit and call out to her what I felt and how the response differed. It was a lot of fun and really eye opening to get to play with the aides like that.

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Look past the jump and you will see a circle in the footing. I made that circle. It is an actual circle. Even, round and symmetrical. Another first!!!

Next was canter work. Misty is a great pony to learn to canter on mostly because she doesn’t like to and uses any excuse to drop back to a trot. I have the tendency to lose my legs at the canter and each time I did so, she tattled on me by dropping to a trot. This reinforced a better lower leg position and also gave me plenty of opportunities to work on sitting deep and cueing for the canter.

First time experience #2: having a flowing canter seat.

Cantering always made me tense and while I can blame some of that on Gemmie my tenseness only made her worse so it wasn’t a good cycle. Misty is so well behave though that I felt super comfortable really sitting and driving her forward.

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With that I thought we were done. It was still 90F out at 7 pm and both Misty and I were drenched. Nope. Trainer pulled out a bucket of ice water to sponge Misty and then set up a cross rail. Time to get jumping! Besides the one foray out xc schooling with the Big E I hadn’t jumped since the schooling rounds with Gem in February. Its been a while and I was a little nervous. Especially since she set the cross rail at 2′ and from the back of a 13H pony, that looks even bigger. I haven’t jumped 2′ since last fall and that was only one time with Gem in a schooling jumper show.

But none of that matters when Trainer tells you to jump.

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The approach was a little tricky since it was set on an angle and was meant to get me planning well ahead and getting straight.

The first time sucked. I was defensive and nervous and Misty noped right out of that heaping mess. The second time we made it over, but I was again defensive and chicken winged my arms, pulling them up to my chin for no reason, and it was ugly. The third time I actually rode to the fence aggressively, put my darn legs on and released and it was so much better.

Then I thought we were done. Nope.

My biggest issue with jumping, aside from confidence issues, is in my approach. I suck at it. I get so focused on the jump, my stomach knots up and I stop riding which generally means we motorcycle around a turn, lose our rhythm and then plow towards the jump hoping for the best. And truly this wasn’t all my fault. Gem hated jumping and it took an act of Congress to get her over anything so my nervous focus on just getting to and over the obstacle were well earned. It still wasn’t helpful or proper though.

To work on that Trainer set up a 2′ skinny vertical with a short approach off the rail. Any hope of making it over required setting up a solid, balanced turn and keeping the momentum flowing. I admit to being skeptical that I was ready for this, but I gave it my best bet and we managed to get over fine although not pretty. The second time around something clicked in my brain.

First time experience #s 3 and 4: Jumping a skinny vertical and not focusing at all on the jump.

I stopped caring about the jump and rode just like I did when we were flatting. I balanced her in the turn with my outside aides, I kept my leg on and played with them ti get her moving forward out of the turn, I looked down my path focusing in the distance and let the jump come to me rather than string it down and freezing.

The jump itself became the non issue Trainer has been trying to drill into my head for near on two years. It felt AMAZING. And freeing really. I finally felt like I was riding the horse under me for the first time ever.

So then guess what? I thought we were done. My confidence was about the highest it could be and well why not stop there?

Nope.

Trainer added another 2′ skinny vertical one stride in front of the other. Gulp.

We approached. I did not let myself freak out and instead focused on the flat work. We approached. She took the first one fine but then the distance wasn’t right and we took a flying leap over the out. I slipped my reins and stayed on which was about the best I can say about it. Trainer laughed and told me I did it like a cross country rider.

We came back around after she slid the jump in a little and took it again. It was ok. I didn’t die nor was I feeling like I was going to puke. But it also wasn’t all that great either. I was being way too mobile with my body through it and trying to almost force it. Trainer explained that I needed to stop sitting so early and instead to maintain the two point allowing the motion of Misty’s body to open and close my hip angle.

We came again, my brain was working so I actually listened to Trainer and it felt like I was flying.

First time experience #5: jumping a one stride 2′ skinny line

What an amazing night. Of course we couldn’t be done yet. Trainer never does anything with a single fence without building on it and that original crossrail was still hanging out there. The last exercise was taking the skinny one stride then cantering out over the cross rail.

I approached, focused on my turn and rhythm, held the two point and let Misty come up to me and then we cantered towards the cross rail. My brain focused, I sat deep in that canter and pushed her forward, I made the nagging fear in my head shut the heck up and sat back until that fence came to us then flowed with her and over we went.

Trainer was shouting she was so happy. It was the single best fence I have ever ridden and it felt so fantastic I can’t even explain it.

This entire lesson was so eye opening for me and so addictive. I can not wait until the next one.

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Bad Feet Are Driving Me Crazy

During my test ride and subsequent PPE I knew the feet would be an issue. He hit all the other marks though and I figured the risk was worth it.

If you remember, the very week I brought him home I had the farrier come out. He had lost his right hind in the pasture and half the hoof wall with it not allowing a new shoe to be put on. He was extremely lame after that. So much so I that I took him to the vet. A few days of bute and Farrier’s Barrier and he was back to good.

You get recycled pics for now. This was when

At that same farrier appointment, he had new fronts put on. I wasn’t that thrilled with how they were trimmed but they started from a bad place and were improved on to the extent they could be. With two front shoes he was sound over pretty much all terrain except the heavy gravel in the water complex on cross country.

This water complex. I really want to go back and

Well, dang if he didn’t lose his front left shoe in the pasture last week. It took a mighty chunk of hoof wall with it too. Knowing that we couldn’t likely get a farrier out soon, I had Dusty pull the right front and then he came up lame. Not as bad as on the hinds but lame nonetheless.

Sigh.

As of this post he is sound in the pasture but lame on gravel. I lunged him last night and he was sound but short striding on the front at the trot which had me cancel my lesson for tonight. Ugh. I hate canceling lessons.

My farrier is coming Friday anyway though I’m on a wait list to get in with another one that I’m hopeful will do a better job. I think this current farrier is doing the best he can but I want a second opinion. This leaves me with a bit of a decision to make and my gut is telling me one thing while my heart sinks a bit at the short term trade offs.

Eeyore is very skeptical about what is to come

Here’s the deal. I firmly believe that a barefoot hoof is the healthiest hoof. Endurance is a sport of obsession with all things horse care related and I did hours upon hours of research on the hoof, trims, barefoot, boots and shoes. I also realize that the Big E has crap feet that will likely never be able to handle work while bare. I’m fully ready to put shoes all around.

But form tends to follow function when allowed to and right now his hooves are all sorts of wonky shaped. I’d love to put shoes back on him this week. He’d be sound and happy immediately and we can get back to riding and training. I could lesson next week. Life could move forward.

Except that is only a short term gain. He’d still have wonky feet. Even the best trim can’t simulate how the hoof responds to barefoot use. I’d love for his left front to build a better sole and thicker heel. For his frogs to widen, his toe to shorten and his grooves to deepen and shoes aren’t going to do that. Barefoot will with time.

I want more of this.

The unfortunate part of leaving him bare is that it will likely mean time out of the saddle for a while. I’m going to try the cavallo boots I bought for his hinds on the fronts and see if I can ride in those for the time being. My thought process is that with barefoot ambulation in the pasture the hoof should start to grow out with a better angle, more support and a healthier overall hoof capsule and sole. Then if he still needs shoes for support, which I’m betting he will, at least the shoes are on a proper hoof instead of what he has now.

The timing is actually not that bad since it is already in the mid to upper 90s with no chance of cooling for the next two months. I don’t feel right asking him to work in 98F temps with high humidity. If I do it is at mostly the walk with some trot which he hopefully will start to handle pretty quickly anyway. Plus, between the right hind and left front hoof wall loss it’s not like he can even have a shoe tacked on with any hope of staying put.

So that’s where I am with the Big E. Barefoot by default basically for the time being and likely bare through next spring when hopefully he will have a new hoof grown out that will better take a proper shoe. The short term loss in the high heat and humidity for the long term gain in soundness and health is worth it. I could easily hop on him as he is right now in the arena and do walk work which at the current temps is all that is safe anyway.

We shall see how this journey goes.

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Moving Forward By Looking Back

Well, Gimpy is…gimpy again. He lost his shady looking left front shoe last week and since every farrier just assumes horse people don’t work full time day jobs, a rant for another day, Dusty ended up pulling his right front for me Saturday. He was doing fine with only one missing front shoe, but immediately became gimpy again with the loss of the other. As of today he is moving normally on soft surfaces and still pretty touchy on harder ones. I’m torn as to what to do about this, but again…another post.

For today, since I find myself out of the saddle yet again with the Big E (new name has been decided too!! I want to roll it around a day or so before it becomes real), I want to focus on a topic that has been running through my head an awful lot since bringing him home: our future and how to not completely screw it up.

It is amazing how the simplest things can make a huge impact. Getting the horses in used to be annoying as we hung all the halters on the fence post off to the right making it a task to unravel them all. I picked this halter rack up at a tack store and have loved it ever since. 

My experiences aren’t as vast and wide as a lot of other bloggers. I didn’t grow up in lessons, as a barn rat, or have a training program. I didn’t ride through college or go through the ranks of Pony Club. I was a self taught trail adventurer in my young days turned endurance rider in early adulthood and am now an event hopeful in my middle years. Gem and I came a long, long way from our dirty beginnings together and I am super proud of where we ended up, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t make a metric ton of mistakes along the way. And its those mistakes I wish to not repeat all over again.

Every 3 months I service people inside their homes that can’t get out or care. This month I found three little and very sick kittens along the way resulting in a pit stop to the Hubby’s work to drop them off. I may bring this little calico home once she is medically cleared. 

Hellomylivia (What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know) and May As Well Event (I Have Regrets) published posts a while back that stuck with me and now that I a starting a new journey looking through a new set of ears, I’ve been finding myself thinking along those same lines.

Here is my pledge to the Big E:

  • I will not let others dictate our path.  This is our journey and as such it will look a lot different from everyone else’s and that is okay. We will take our time, move up when we are ready and listen to those I trust while keeping in mind that progress is not linear. In the past I have let bad trainers push us beyond where we were at the moment or conversely let others talk me out of doing things I knew we could do. I’m sure glad I didn’t listen to all those who told me I couldn’t do a 100 mile ride after only doing two 50 mile rides. They were wrong and I knew it in my gut. Each person’s story is different and I plan to live my own.
  • I got a hair cut. I love my hair cut. It is so much cooler in this summer heat plus when it is down it looks no different so it remains professional at work. Next step will be to dye it fun colors. 
  • I will advocate for you at all times.  Why is this so hard to do? Bad farrier care has already wreaked havoc on the start of this relationship. You would think that having them at home would make all this super easy, but it isn’t. I will stick by what is right for you, listen to my gut and make choices that I feel comfortable with regarding basic care, advanced needs and our training. No gong with the flow because that is what others say is right. If it feels wrong, it is wrong.
  • I will be consistent with what I am asking of you. The biggest mistake I made with Gem was not being consistent with her. I’d allow her to ignore my requests one day and then expect prompt reactions the next. I’d let her break to canter and go with it on one ride and then insist she remains trotting until I ask the next one. It wasn’t fair to her and it didn’t get us anywhere as a partnership. Things started going better for us when I settled down and became very consistent that when I say halt I mean it. Now. Not in 5 steps. Like raising my kiddo, firm boundaries makes life easier. With Eeyore I have been working very hard at laying down the rules every ride and sticking to them. Hopefully it allows us to move forward in a better place.
Weekend evenings spent watching Wyatt fish at the pond
  • I will leave emotions in the barn. It can be really hard to not let the day build up and effect saddle time. I learned with Gem that if I wasn’t in a good mood I needed to stay far, far away. Eeyore is a lot more forgiving by nature but his stubborn side can get under my skin pretty easily. Losing my temper or getting frustrated never works and I am working very hard at letting things go in the moment.
  • I will have fun. No brainer, right? Yet it is so easy to put more importance on riding than it deserves. Let me explain that. I’m not a competitive person. I throw away any ribbons I win. I don’t have a full show season planned out. Heck, I’m still the Queen of the 18″ division. For me riding isn’t about anything but stress relief, exercise, fun and a place for personal growth. It doesn’t matter in my life if I ever jump 3′, learn the passage or move up the levels. When I sit down and take a long hard cold look at horses and my life, at the moment the only way they work is as once piece of the jigsaw that is my life. A tiny piece that fits in among the others but must remain in balance. A moment cut out of my day that isn’t about anyone else: no patient problems to fix, no dinner to be cooking and no kiddo to raise. In that 45 minutes all that exists is my horse and myself. There are times I get bogged down mentally on the fact that I am only doing 18″ fences. That my xc schooling is over logs on the ground. That I still struggle with getting the horse to bend properly. But then I realize that right now none of that matters. Eeyore is my escape and each time I swing my leg over him it needs to be, above all else, fun. And that is all on me. It is on me to shrug off the circle that he counterbends on and fix it and try again. It is on me to laugh off his rooting and boot his lazy butt forward. This doesn’t mean I don’t strive for more, that I don’t hold both of us accountable to perform at our best and grow. It means that I stop being so damn Type A about it all and let go and HAVE SOME FUN even in the bad moments.
  • I will allow for variety. Habits are good. They are also boring and can lead to both of us getting sour. It is easy to tack up and work on flat work in the arena at home and it is necessary to build the foundation. It can also feel a lot like I am drilling him as we circle for the thousandth time. I will get out the jumps from time to time. I will get out of the arena all together. I will hit the trail. Variety is the spice of life and all that.
I got most of this pasture mowed before the tractor overheated in the 100F temperatures. Honestly I should have paid someone to bale it for me. There are three unusued pastures right now that could easily be turned into hay if I can find someone to do it. 
  • I will not ask things of you that you can not perform. Fitness will be key with Eeyore. I got away with a lot with Gem based on her natural athleticism, but he won’t be able to come off a month long break and hit the ground running and jumping. In addition to fitness there is also the mental exercise and building on that solid foundation to reach new tasks. I will take it slow, be patient and make sure I set you up for success while letting you find your way.

I know I will make mistakes. I have goals and dreams of where I would like to see us by the end of this year, next spring and onward, but overall I want to plain old fashion do right by him and have fun. I think that if I can stick to my pledge those simple goals can be met.

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What’s In A Name?

Everything.

Eeyore is a cute name for a horse and at first I thought it described his laid back attitude, but the more I get to know him the more I dislike it. He isn’t gloomy, pokey or down.  In fact he is the exact opposite. He loves life, plays in the water tub and follows me happily around as I do outside chores getting in the way and demanding attention.

This is Wedgie. Trainer found her on the side of the highway two weeks ago. When she went to grab her, the kitty jumped into a crack in the cement barrier and was stuck. She called me in a panic, I passed it to Dusty and 30 minutes later Wedgie was retrieved unharmed from the barrier and in a cage at Dusty’s work while he worked her up for diseases. She fond her new home this week with one of Trainer’s boarders. 

Sure he isn’t a spooky or crazy horse but the Big E has a lovely forward walk and trot when he wants to and a zest for living it up. Well, until he decides he is done and then his stubborn side comes out. And believe me he can be stubborn. Yet even when he is being stubborn he still comes around eventually and is generally pretty amenable to most things. With a heaping dose of side eye.

Wyatt’s fishing obsession continues. He caught his own dinner Monday night. 

He needs a new a name.

And yet I’m having difficulty finding one that suits him. Liz offered up Tigger and it’s a good idea but I actually really dislike Pooh and can’t see going the next 15 years tied to that. Plus I believe in the power of names and I don’t need him to become a lunatic. He is only 7 which is still plenty young with some maturity yet to happen.

In keeping with the cartoon theme I was hooked on Olaf for a while. I mean it suits him plenty well. He is friendly, loves hugs, is quite literal about things and while he isn’t stupid he also isn’t the sharpest in my pasture either.

PC Pinterest somewhere. I’m bad at this. 

But I don’t know. I’m not really feeling the cartoon character vibe.

What I really want is to go with a South American theme as a salute to the South America shaped blaze on his face. It’s the first thing people mention when they see him. I can’t find anything along those lines though. I can find a list of Spanish names but he isn’t a Miguel. I already know two Rios so that isn’t going to work tho I like the name. He needs something just a little silly and full of life.

If you hadn’t seen it before, now you won’t be able not to. 

I’ve been doing some research and love the tradition of the alebrije, the brightly colored and fantastical spirit animals of Mexican folklore. I was first turned out to this tradition when I saw the movie Coco, one of my favorite cartoon movies of recent years, and became obsessed with the Day of the Dead tradition. In the moive, the main character’s alebrije is a rather Big E like dog named Dante. This would probably suit the Big E well except there is already a well known blogger with a Dante.

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Dante. PC the internet

Of course, Mexico isn’t in South America either so there is that. It is a rabbit hole folks and I am lost down in it.

After hours of scouring the internet and wracking my brain I am at a loss. This is the reason Gem and Pete kept their original names. Other pets have included: Hero the corgi, Bones the mutt, Smokey the grey cat, Echo the calico cat, Waggy Tails the berner, Einstein the boykin and Gizmo/Wyatt the guinea pig. I’m fresh out. But the Big E needs a better name and he needs it soon or he will end up being the Big E for forever.

So bloggers…any suggestions?? I’m really coming up short here. Any ideas are welcome! If I wasn’t putting all my money into the Volunteer Challenge I’d offer up a prize, but I can’t so just know any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

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The Three Rides Eeyore Gives

Eeyore (still working on new name) has three very distinct phases to his rides at home. I’m working hard at trying to figure out the best way to handle each and hoping with time they merge into one flowing ride, but for now our rides have very distinct chapters to them.

The warm up: At the beginning of the ride Eeyore is his touristy self. He looks around, pays minimal attention to me and screams for his friends. He is pretty amenable and generally offers up a fantastic forward walk that is fun to ride. Of course it comes with some downsides mostly his inattention and he tends to offer to canter a lot when walking or trotting.

Honestly this phase doesn’t bother me and is becoming shorter and shorter with every ride. He isn’t being bad. His head just isn’t in it yet and I can understand that. I mean it’s not like he decided it was time to exercise at that moment. I’m slowly learning how to get his focus on me and generally start off with a nice marching walk around the arena both directions on a loose rein but with a firm sense of where we are going with each step. From there it is on to a lot of changes in direction at the walk eventually working up to the trot.

The real work: Ah. The lovely center of the ride. When Eeyore is focused and game to work it is a pleasure to ride him. We walk. We trot. We bend. We work on geometry. Last night I returned to the Jumping Exercise book and set up the ground pole chute to work circles and figures eights at the walk and trot. He is light in the bridle, rhythmic and overall amenable to life.

This part of the ride is why I bought this horse. Unfortunately it leads to the last phase.

The quit. Once Eeyore perceives he is tired it is game over. I say perceives because he was quite capable of a 2 hour cross country school so I am no longer thinking that 45 minutes of walk and trot work in large circles and figure eights is tiring him out.

He has figured out that dropping his head gets him nothing but sent more forward and is now on to trying other ways to tell me where I can stick my ideas of work: curling behind the bit, cantering at the merest suggestion of leg, refusing to bend away from the gate, forgetting what a transition is. I have to laugh because his attempts at evasion are in the toddler stage compared to The Queen herself. Sorry buddy, but these antics won’t get you anything.

These phases played out last night pretty clearly. Once we began canter work he decided he was done with me and done with this whole riding horse thing. I switched to tons of walk trot walk transitions, threw in random halts and quit once he gave me one final circle away from the gate without breaking to canter or walk.

Really the only phase that bothers me is the last one. Once he mentally checks out I’m not really sure how to get him back. He just plain is done and I’ve never dealt with a horse that gives up. More fitness will help. More time figuring out his life with me will help. Perhaps changing it up with some jump schools at home versus flat work will help. I think though that deep down he is a quitter which is new to me and something that will take time to figure out how to deal with.

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Stoneridge Cross Country

Holy crap guys this place is amazing. Roughly 70 jumps from poles on the ground (yay!!!) through I don’t know massive height (I believe preliminary) with multiple banks, ditches, a water complex and terrain questions and all only 30 minutes of back road driving from my house. The owner is really awesome about letting people come as long as you ask first and have a ground person along. I hope to spend a bunch more time over there this summer and fall.

The view from my trailer. Gorgeous!!!

The Horse Formerly Known As Eeyore unloaded just fine and then proceeded to scream his head off looking for any friends he could find. When I went to the office to sign in and pay he lost his mind and began rearing, pacing and pawing at the trailer. I forgot how much it sucks getting horses used to traveling. For all I rag on Gem she is amazing at traveling: unloading, eating and napping immediately upon arrival.  I had to remind myself that this is only the second time I’ve trailered him since bringing him home and he has no idea that he gets to return to his pasture at the end of the adventure. It will take time for him to learn that and settle.

Showing him around before tacking up.

For all his fidgeting in tacking up he calmed right down when I mounted and remembered his lesson of having to stand to be mounted. Good boy! We then headed off up the hill to warm up.

And his brain melted out of his ears for the second time in a half an hour.

Grumpy ears as he learns that other horses are way less important than the monkey on his back

The other two took off to walk/trot/canter warm up and Eeyore could not handle this. He tried to take off. He tried to dolphin leap. He tried to tell me he couldn’t bend or turn at all. In turn I got tense, had flashbacks to my rides with Gem and forgot how to ride. It was looking like a very bad decision to do this.

Trainer is amazing though and had the others stop and come in to let me work with Eeyore. It didn’t take long for him to relax, realize it was way more work to fight and give me his nice rhythmic trot that I love so much. It helped that he warmed up on a slight hill and the effort plus the already warm day took the wind out of his sails in about 10 or so minutes. Eventually he learned he could in fact walk and trot nicely while the others came and went and did their own thing.

Sweating exactly 5 minutes after beginning warm up. I think I’m going to have to start making my homemade electrolytes for him on the regular.

From there it was on to a wide but not tall log on the ground.

Trainer was too busy teaching (how dare she!) and the other two were obviously riding so I have no actual media of me doing anything. You will have to take my word and enjoy the pictures I was able to snap from his back.

And immediately my stomach churned, my muscles went rigid and I freaked out. Baggage is a real thing. Plus, I kinda hadn’t jumped him since my test ride and was really feeling rusty. I approached at the trot, freaked out, yanked on him and got yelled at for teaching him how to run out. I tried again and we went over, jumping an extra foot in the air just in case. This wasn’t going well and I really didn’t want to be teaching him bad habits from the start, so I asked if the prelim girl would mind hopping on him and taking him over a few times. Of note, she has also taken Gemmie over things and I’m not so sure she was that interested in saying yes to another one of my rides, but she was too nice not to. She got him going over the log and a few other things down the hill then returned him saying “He was much nicer to me than Gem was” Yeah…hard to find another horse harder on you than my Gemmiecakes.

After that I got back on and pointed him at that log, put my leg on, swallowed my nerves and went over the darn thing. He was great, never even thought to say no and was easy to ride away after. Trainer had me go over it both directions a few times and then we moved down the hill a little to two skinny logs. The skinny logs really highlighted my inability to stay straight to the jump, look in the distance, and ride through the entire thing but we made it over each time.

We moved on to the bank complex next which was a really cool multi layered bank. The first time up the small left hand side we just walked, but he had this one down pat and was really feeling awesome. She had me trot up it several times but he made it so easy that we eventually cantered up concentrating on steering after. He was locked on and so much fun! Going down was pretty funny as he went to the lip trotting then jumped up to jump down. Way more effort than needed, but it was easy to sit and I didn’t feel unsteady at all. In fact it was this point in the outing that I completely relaxed and really started having fun for the first time on a course. He wasn’t spooking at anything, he was doing the thing and while it was not perfect it was really, really enjoyable.

The tiered bank complex. Eeyore and I worked over the far left portion going up and down. 

Let’s see…we wandered over to a second way beefier bank that was basically an elevated piece of land on all 4 sides so once you did the up you had about 3 strides I believe before the other side’s down. This was way too big for us so we just hung out and watched the others do their thing. Eeyore decided at this point that his new BFF in the world was the one OTTB and any time he would wander off to go do his thing Eeyore lost his marbles yet again trying to bolt after him. Silly guy needs to learn that other horses are not important when being ridden.

On the way to the water complex we ran into a nice little log that Trainer had me send Eeyore over, but it was a non event and I even got to let him canter for a while after just enjoying the feeling of a solid horse under me.

This being a non event is a great feeling!

The water complex was our last stop for the morning. By this point I was feeling pretty brave and marched Eeyore right on in. He took some huge drinks while the OTTB decided he hated water and refused to go in. I was content to let him cool off as long as he wanted until he tried to roll down on me! Nope, sir that is not going to happen! We practiced trotting through the complex trying to not lose steering or momentum and then Trainer had us work over the logs into and out of the water. It was so much fun!! He was pretty tired at this point and the base was gravel and I believe he was getting a tad tender on his bare hinds through the gravel so this wasn’t our best effort, but we went over and did the thing. We ended by going down the small hill over the log into the water, through it, then up over the log to exit and then away up the lane and over a log out of sight. He did ok until he realized we were leaving everyone behind and then we slowed to a turtle trot, but we still trotted and went over the log so it was a win.

The water complex had a lot of good options and questions depending on the level. We stuck to going over the small logs set on a  straight line just outside the water while the prelim girl did all the scary looking jumps into and out of the water. 

After that we were all done having been working solidly for two hours. I was so proud of him. Well, until I went to put his halter on and he nearly left me and then proceeded to have a fit when I disappeared into the trailer to put things away with him tied to the side. Sigh. I see me hooking the trailer up at home and tying him to it until he learns to chill out.

At the end of it all there were some great take aways:

Trainer made some observations about Eeyore:

  1. He is a tourist. He looks around, toodles about, stops to smell the roses, grabs a bite to eat. I need to work on capturing his attention at all times.
  2. He is very literal.  He doesn’t run out in the true sense of being locked on and going then saying no and ducking out. Ahem like some other bay mare we all know. When he did “run out”, mostly when working over the skinny logs, it was because I wasn’t steering well enough and so he kept on going where he was directed and then kinda twisted around the edge of the jump to get out of its way. When I had him squarely in the center he always said yes.
  3. That ignoring of the right leg/my weaker right leg aides results in a pretty solid right drift.
  4. He was enjoying himself. Especially after the banks he really started to light up and do some mini celebrating after. He feels super proud himself after a good jumping effort and wants to go play the game.

For my part:

  1. I have formed a nasty habit of looking down at my neck strap about two strides from the jump . This does nothing for me except forces me to look down, prevents me from steering and in general screws us all up. Thankfully Eeyore is forgiving and likes jumping so he went over anyway but this has to stop, Now.
  2. More leg is always the answer. Always.
  3. I need to drop my rein contact. Not completely as in throw him away but I get scared and immediately take to pulling. Not good. When I force myself to let go, Eeyore relaxes and everything is better. It will take a while to learn that I can let him go and he will behave, but hopefully we will get there.
  4. Look up, look away and plan for after the jump. I actually don’t have the bad habit of looking at the jump. Gem trained that out of me very quickly. But I do look at his neck (see #1) and that isn’t much better. Trainer kept telling me that once I plan my approach to the jump I need to forget it exists and shift my focus to what I am doing after. Basically pick a line, trot/canter it and the jump just happens to be in the way. At one point she told me to think of it as dressage with speed bumps. Plan my turns like I’m presenting down center line and forget the jump is even there.

The future is bright folks!! I won’t be out there conquering BN any time soon, but I do hope to maybe sneak in an amoeba or tadpole level schooling HT this fall and perhaps come out next spring at starter.