So You Want To Ride Better?

I could write an entire novel on the frustrations of riders that claim they want to get better, but never actually take the initiative to help themselves. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll limit myself to one post.

(For now.)

*Clears throat and steps up onto soapbox*

Suppose a person has a horse that they have deemed as “difficult”. Now I understand that difficult can mean something entirely different to every person reading this, but what I don’t understand, is that if you, and maybe only one or two other people think your horse is difficult, but the REST OF THE WORLD thinks he isn’t… who do we think is probably right? Do we think that three horse people are right, or that maybe 596 horse people are right?

Perhaps you are over-horsed or perhaps you have had a few rough patches with your riding. That’s understandable. We all have those days, and we have all sat on a horse and thought, “I should have never bought this.” But just because the going is uphill, it does not mean your horse is a bad horse or that you are a bad rider. It just means you have things to work on.

So your horse goes on the bit. He goes forward (when you let him). He can take a joke over jumps, and even if you catch him in the mouth and pull on him for let’s say, FIVE YEARS, the horse still wants to jump. He hunts his fences, and if you pull on him, he takes you to the fence by his mouth. No matter what weirdness you are doing up there as a rider, he always does his job. This is what we call a saint, people. Your horse is a freakin’ SAINT!

You do take lessons occasionally, but to no avail. It seems that your bad habits are here to stay, and generally speaking, no progress is to be found. At the end of the day, you feel like you’re letting your horse down. (May I take this time to remind you: your horse has no goals.) So now, you are at your wit’s end and have decided it’s time to sell him. You want him to be used to his full potential. But it’s heartbreaking because you love him, and you desperately want it to work.

So you take him off the market (for the third time this month). You reach out to the horse people in your circle and your extended circles. You have this great speech about how you really want to learn to ride your horse, and you think he is really great. You have no good help with him near your house, your family doesn’t support you, and since money doesn’t grow on trees, you can not afford to send him into training* and can’t even travel to get regular lessons.

*(Even though you were offered a seriously discounted price for someone competent to put some rides on him.)

BUT WAIT!

By the grace of God, a friend of a friend has noticed you! She wants to help you! Praise Jesus! Here is the answer you have been looking for! She has a ton of experience with training baby horses from the ground up. She is a great instructor. She knows all the steps. She can help you become that confident rider you have been wishing you could be. AND SHE HAS OFFERED TO DO IT FOR FREE!?

Holy crap! Did she say free?!

Why yes. Yes, I did. The friend of a friend has decided that your horse is a rockstar, and with a little of her help, you could finally be on the same page as your horse. You could be the rider that allows the horse to go forward. You would even allow him to jump! The horse would be so relieved to not have to drag you over the fences by his mouth anymore, that he would jump everything perfectly and fulfill your every dream! (Or something like that. You at least wouldn’t be at wit’s end every other week.)

BUT NO.

You tell her no! (Gasp in horror!)

You do not actually want help. Apparently.

What you want is attention. It is much easier to sit behind your keyboard and complain about your saintly horse on social media. You continue to list him for sale any time you are feeling emotionally unstable and need some coddling, then proceed to take him off the market as soon as your mood passes. The pile of excuses continues to grow. When a solution is offered, it is promptly ignored, because you don’t actually want a solution.

Insanity!! That’s what it is. Are you reading this and wondering what on earth this person is thinking?! So am I. So is the friend of a friend. This seriously hurts my brain.

The plea for help has to stop. You either want help or you don’t. If you really just want to go trail riding and jump 8″ crossrails on Sundays, then so be it! Your horse does not care. And nobody else does either!

In grade school, we had to stay in from recess one day, because a little girl was feeling left out. We told the teacher that we had tried to include her a number of times, and she never wanted to play with us. So, after awhile, we just stopped inviting her. So, our teacher told us we had to keep inviting her, but that it was the girl’s responsibility to accept the invite and to try to make friends too. The teacher’s instructions to the little girl were this: “Don’t sit out and pout”.

The same goes for those of us in the horse world. I know that motivation comes and goes. Trust me, I know. I sometimes go weeks at a time without so much as lifting a single curry comb, let alone looking at a bridle. But you know what? The motivation comes back. I go take another lesson. I cram in 15 rides on my long weekend and proceed to walk like a penguin for a week. But guess what? I get better because of it. No, I’m probably not progressing as fast as I could, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I have goals, and I’m working toward them despite all my own excuses.

Money is a problem for me too, and as you all know, Christian has pre-inherited my firstborn child, because I will likely never be able to pay her for all the lessons I have taken. But I don’t let money stop me. I went and got a second job. I take the free horses. I ride the dopey Thoroughbred, who, even though she’s 12, is just figuring out she has four legs.

I luff my dopey stick horse. Just look at that face! 💗

My parents come support me at some events, but if they can’t make it, I don’t tell a sad story about how I’m not supported. I’ve actually never once had a boyfriend come to a horse show with me, and guess what? I still go. He can support me from home, and send me the “Go fast!” text on cross country morning. That’s good enough for me. I don’t need somebody else to make me want my dream.

And I live in the boondocks too. You know how easy it is to lose motivation when you live in the boondocks? Its 90 minutes one way for a riding lesson around here. But I still go (when my truck isn’t sitting in the shop with its innards falling out.)

I don’t sit out and pout. And neither should you.

*Steps off soapbox*

Did this offend you? Good! You probably needed to hear it. <3

A Shallary Farm Update

There. I did it. I started riding again this week. I think I deserve a gold star. Seriously! Did you ride this week too? Gold star for you too, then. ⭐️

Sometimes, it is all I can do to muster up the energy to work two jobs and feed myself. Then I have to try to find the motivation to exercise five horses in 20° weather, on an overcast, breezy day, on a sheet of ice buried in a foot of snow. I mean, seriously. What’s not to love about that?! How could it possibly be hard to find the motivation?! But I did it, and that’s why I get a star. So there.

Of course, with some time off, the minis (Coco and Delilah) have gotten fat(ter), and the skinnies (Charlie Horse, Lottie, and Turbo)… have not. But they are maintaining their weight, which any Thoroughbred owner will tell you, is a win all on its own.

Now ask me how my legs are feeling today. Go ahead. I dare ya !

Jello. My legs are jello. And here’s why.

Coco is so thick, she literally looks like she’s pregnant with twins, which gives the ol’ inner thighs quite the stretch. We have just been doing some walk-trot-canter work and continuing to work her over her back and thinking of putting her front end downhill. Yeah. Downhill, dudes. You want to know what happens if you ask Coco to lighten her front end? It comes off the ground, and we are rearing. Rear-trotting. Rear-cantering. Doesn’t matter. She can do all three gaits without her front legs ever touching the ground. So, whatever you do, do NOT ask Coco to come up in front. It hurts the brain to think about that, doesn’t it? It basically goes against everything I was ever taught.

Christian has me ride Coco like she’s a water wheel. The energy is constantly recycled, and the back of the wheel comes up, the front of the wheel has to go down, and all of the energy is contained by leg and hand. It’s interesting; I had read about the energy being recycled and contained by the aids etc. in articles before, and had it explained in a number of different ways, but you don’t really get a solid appreciation for that feeling until you sit on something as well balanced and freakishly uphill as Coco. Now I get it. The front of the wheel must go down. Or we all die.

Also, Coco has been jumping the jumps in the field in her spare time. Two separate days now, I have witnessed her running around with the herd and jumping the jumps. The others usually run at the jumps but veer around them at the last second. Coco always jumps them. Because why not? She’s Coco.

Then there’s Turbo. I’ve been letting him be a bit lazy during rides because he’s not had any sort of real work in… ever. Probably never in his life, if the truth were told. So, we would do some work then let him recover and eat cookies. However, now he thinks it’s really fun to just walk whenever he wants and flail his head side to side in search of cookies. He requires much convincing with the leg to keep the forward happening. Turbo is perpetually exhausted. (We have that in common.) He says it’s really hard to stand around and eat all day. It really wears him out. Sadly for him, I recently decided it’s time for him to start being a real horse and started carrying a stick. The stick seems to help. I think Turbo is still rather perplexed at his new life.

Oh, also! He spent the night in a stall, which was super adorable. Pretty sure he had never done that before. I was leading him into the stall, and he stepped on the stall mat, which made a weird sound. Gasp! Turbo freezes. He looks around like- what should I do?! He slowwwwly backs his foot off the mat. I show him his alfalfa inside the stall, which he can’t resist. He takes this HUGE, tippy-toe, slow motion step over the width of the mat, and buries his head in his food. Phew! We about had an actual crisis on our hands. Those wild Thoroughbreds…

The most innocent face 😍

Then there’s the rest of the loons. They require a decent amount of leg-seatbelt to not get launched to the next county, which of course, makes my legs even more jello-ey.

Dilly Bean has just been exuberant lately, and I have to remind her that the human is indeed allowed to half halt, and her neck does not need to be 3″ long after said half halt. I should buy a neck extension for the red one. And only ride her in molasses. Solid training plan. A+.

Charlie Horse is jumping allllll the things, AND his stupid human has finally realized it’s okay to help him. I owe Delilah and Coco big time. If you don’t tell them what speed to get to the jump, we jump everything like it’s a steeplechase fence. I think my brain is finally putting it all together and has realized that I can help manage all of the horses- even the babies. (I realize they’re not actually babies anymore, but they have baby-sized eventing records and baby brains, so they get to be “the babies” until I say so.)

Yesterday, I made the mistake of setting fences after I caught Charlie, so he had to go around with me (because we still can’t tie the beast without him trying to kill himself). Every time one of the jumps moved or made a sound, he was getting more and more worried. Really, Charles? He gets this worried look in his eye, and his brain goes 9.0 trying to escape the trap I’ve set, which of course is not a trap at all.

So I led him over all the jumps at a walk. (18″! Biggest jumps he has jumped in over a year! Progress is being made.) He stepped over all of them, but still looked a bit worried. So I tacked him up and fed him lots of cookies. Back in the field, he was still looking at the jumps out of the corner of his eye like they were not to be trusted. I told him, “Fine. You don’t have to jump them today. You can do them tomorrow.” And with that agenda off my plate, he returned to normal horse. He was like, “OHHHH. So we get to do dressage today?!😃”

Sure, Charlie. Whatever. I don’t really care. It’s January. We literally have nowhere to be. His attitude was content again, so I thought he should at least do the three walk poles and step over the pile of poles. He walks up to them and stops. He says he can’t do it. He turns to look for a cookie. I pat him between the ears. He whips his head around the other direction. I pat him between the ears again. Still no cookies to be found. Charlie goes through the thought process and decides maybe he should try stepping over the pile of poles. So he does, and then brings his head around again to see if that was the right answer. Good, Boyfriend. 🍪 He is then all proud of himself, and proceeds to canter all the jumps and be ultra civilized. What a weird beast.

Lastly, Lottie jumped all the things too, but it’s not nearly as exciting, because she always jumps the things. What IS exciting, is that there was less flailing around, more listening, and actual good flatwork between jumps. A little heavy in the hand, but we are working on that. Better all the time. The stick-horse likes to jump. And she also likes her new barefoot life. This is her first winter without shoes. Happy wallet, happy horse, happy Shallary.

And with that update done, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go torture some ponies.

Turbo Goes To School

12/30/17 Turbo is officially one of the easiest going horses I have ever had the privilege of riding. He is a super quick study and is learning stuff left and right. Look out world, here he comes! Right after he finishes breakfast.

Here’s a list of things Turbo has learned in a mere 11 days at the Shallary Farm:

1) How to wear a blanket and not scoot out from under it when I take it off of him as though he is under attack.

2A) How to wear English tack, and he looks super adorable wearing it, if I do say so myself.

2B) He learned that not everyone throws the tack at him in a heap. He used to duck his back down and away when I would put even the saddle pad on. Now he just sleeps while being clothed.*

*And he has not been cinchy a single time with me. Not once! Happily, he appreciates gentle girth tightening. And girths with elastic on them. And not having to wear a tourniquet.

3) How to use a mounting block and not look so confused when the human doesn’t have to clamber up his side to get in the saddle.

4) How to back up. At first we couldn’t even do this from the ground, and definitely not when riding. Halfway there! I don’t think anyone ever told him that backing was an option.

5) How to maneuver consecutive trot poles, and that they trip you if you forget to pick up your legs.

6) That we don’t always just canter one lap and then stop. (Racehorse, much?) Also, the human is allowed to steer while doing said cantering.

7) How to canter over a pile of poles.

8) How to trot three crossrails in a row. We have steering and trotting and thinking. All at once!

9) How to jump a vertical! With an actual jump effort! So cute.

10) How to jump a skinny. What can I say? Most of my jumps were salvaged from a burn pit, and the poles are all rather short.

11) How to have some resemblance of contact and softening to the bit. Although now he has learned that when he lowers his head, he’s a “good boy” and it’s getting a bit out of hand. Now I have to tell him to pick his head UP! Overachiever.

12) How to stand. Why do none of my ponies arrive with this skill? They all insist that they have somewhere to be AT ALL TIMES. Then I have to install Lazy 2.0. Luckily, it’s working. Although, yesterday I did burp while he was standing, which he thought was the cue to start walking. It wasn’t.

13) How to not flail his legs around when I pick them up. And I am proud to report: the farrier did all four feet today, no problem!

And last but not least…

14) Like any good horse, he has learned how to nicker and beg for cookies while we are riding… and pretty much anytime he sees me outside. I’ve become his walking cookie dispenser, and he says he likes that very much.🍪