9.29.2016

Year Four

1

There is something sustaining in the very agitation that accompanies the first shocks of trouble, just as an acute pain is often a stimulus, and produces an excitement which is transient strength. It is in the slow, changed life that follows--in the time when sorrow has become stale, and has no longer an emotive intensity that counteracts its pain--in the time when day follows day in dull unexpectant sameness, and trial is a dreary routine--it is then that despair threatens; it is then that the peremptory hunger of the soul is felt, and eye and ear are strained after some unlearned secret of our existence, which shall give to endurance the nature of satisfaction.”  - George Elliot, The Mill on the Floss

September 2015


We started off our fourth year together with little in terms of direction, but with determination to make some big changes.

October 2015


We continue to aimlessly wander. Lack of communication cuts away any progress. A failed clinic leads to more stress that I attempt to abate with a solid mantra of fun. Deep introspection reveals a complete disdain for my paltry riding and the way I've handled (and who I've trusted to handle) my horse's training.

November 2015


After a series of interesting events, I stumble across the stable of my dreams and put in my official 30 day notice at my barn. We focus on calm, stress-free rides with established goals. I sell the Albion and we finally make our move to the new stable.

December 2015



We start taking lessons with a new instructor that we both really mesh with. We pick up a new farrier. Our second lesson goes very well, with much improvement. I purchase a new dressage saddle.

January 2016


Our third lesson becomes our last lesson for the winter as our instructor heads down south for winter training. I manage to sell the Hastilow. We experience communication issues and Fiction refuses to follow directions.

February 2016


We take a lesson with a different instructor but ultimately decide to not continue under her tutelage. The new saddle arrives. We experiment with a PS of Sweden bridle and fail to understand the hype.

March 2016


Fiction gets his first ever body clip and we experiment with Aculife Equine patches. We head off to our first show of the season where Fiction performs like a complete tool in the arena but a saint in the warm-up. We jump a few things for fun and our Instructor finally returns. Fiction turns 8.

April 2016


We get in a last minute lesson before our second schooling show. Fiction is a gentleman in warm-up but a nutcase in the arena. We head off-property for a trail ride at Instructor's farm. Our third schooling show yields positive results but is far more exhausting than need be.

May 2016


Instructor hops on Fiction for the first time. I contemplate ending our relationship.

June 2016


We have a good lesson and some good rides. I haul by myself for the first time to our fourth schooling show. It's hot and Fiction performs admirably - our best tests to date. We pull Fiction's front shoes.

July 2016


I spend most of the month catching rides while Fiction adapts to being barefoot.

August 2016


After a vet assessment, Fiction gets shoes put back on. Fiction bucks me off for the first time. I visit the chiropractor and discover some issues with my neck. Fiction gets a few training rides.

September 2016


I spend most of the beginning of the month pet-sitting and vacationing, so little riding is accomplished. Fiction continues to get training rides. I see a big difference in how he responds to my leg and carries himself. There is still a disconnect between us - our relationship is more professional than a partnership, but it is workable and I no longer find myself dreading my rides.

See previous years here.

9.18.2016

Many Stories to Tell

5

So I've been a bit busy lately but I have a few awesome posts coming up. Until then, here is a bit of a preview.

I did some traveling~
And met some cool people!

8.31.2016

Puppies

10

Our (rather, my mother's) latest dachshund litter arrived Sunday morning around 1:00 am. Three of the four puppies were born breached (so frustrating - it's really hard to wiggle their shoulders out while praying they don't suffocate). The single male puppy was the only one that experienced complications (breathing), but we worked through it (never thought I would suck fluid from a puppy's nose with my mouth!).


All four are now incredibly healthy and strong. I have never seen puppies quite like this. They are gaining weight quickly and are exceptionally mobile.

Mommy dog is the best mother we've ever had - she's quiet and content and doesn't mind people handling the babies.

From left to right: Spartacus (only male), Pax, Aurora, and Flora.
One pup is already spoken for (red female), but the others are available to approved homes, show or pet, depending on quality of the pup assessed at 12 weeks (comes with contractual obligations, etc). Exceptional breeding - mother is a champion out of a grand champion.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how they continue to develop :).

8.30.2016

Riding the Waves

14

I used to be an incredibly detailed life planner. In fact, I needed the planning to keep myself sane. I needed structured living.

However, as I grow older (and not necessarily wiser), I've come to realize that no matter how best laid out my plans may come to be, they never usually make it to fruition.

The day after my instructor hopped up on Fiction, I headed down to the chiropractor for a visit. For a quick summary: I've had upper back pain since I was in my late teens. I saw a chiro once two years ago who mentioned my neck was/is screwed up, and treated me for my pain. New chiro took x-rays and actually showed me that my neck is in serious bad shape and is the cause for not only my chronic back pain, but also for my uneven shoulders and how my entire body leans/tilts to the right.

It explains so, so much when it comes to how I ride, exercise, sleep, and generally live my life. For reference, here is essentially what my neck looks like:

Hint: it's not the normal one.

Oh, and add on that I have severe rotation to the right - the most severe my chiropractor has ever seen.

There is a long list of problems this condition can cause, so I wont list them. Basically, it's unhealthy, and I love being healthy, so this is a big no-no in my book.

So I had a choice to make and I chose to forgo training (but not lessons) until next year in order to put money towards the 12-16 months of work it will take to fix this.

It normally would bother me, but Fiction has been pretty good the last few rides, even with me beating on him (not literally) much like my Instructor did. We can make it until he goes into full-time training next year (this will still happen).


In other news, this beautiful mug came in the mail and I am in absolute love with it. Thank you so much Teresa for hosting a very thoughtful contest. It's an honor to drink tea from this cup - I think about how similar our struggles seem sometimes and how much progress you are making and it never fails to make me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. Like everything will work out alright in the end.

8.17.2016

Trainer Ride

12

Tuesday I woke up feeling incredibly ill - stomach flu-kinda ill. I barely made it through work, unable to eat anything, and then dragged myself out to the barn to tack Fiction up before asking my instructor to hop on him in lieu of a lesson.

I'm glad I did. Her first words when she was done? "This horse is an asshole."

Yes, he is. I have a very deep love-hate relationship with him.


I love how effortlessly he can go into a pro-longed piaffe (untrained) instead of going forward when asked.

I love how beautiful his extended trot is, even when you don't ask for it.

I love how deeply he can get his hind end under himself when he is actively trying to avoid your leg.

I love how nicely he can turn on the haunches/leg yield/rein back....when it is on his terms, of course.

I love how incredibly athletic and talented my horse is.

What I do not love is how much of a jerk he can be - how he gives zero fucks about your opinion and will do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it.

This was her second ride on him and her first ride where she really pushed him.

What did they do? Oh, nothing more than 'turn this way, move off of my leg.'

That's literally it. Fiction tried every evasive maneuver in the book to get away from her leg and when she refused to take it off of him he threw massive hissy fits. It was rather entertaining to watch. I equate it to a small child kicking and screaming on the floor of a grocery when his mother tells him no, he cannot have that candy bar.

Someone got new boots. I'll review once they have some more rides.
After she ranted about just how much of a jerk my horse is, she then told me that she completely understands why I ride the way I do and that she really feels for me.

Thanks, I guess.

So we discussed training. Starting next week (hopefully), she'll begin putting a training ride on him 1x a week. I'll ride the 5x a week as normal (and take lessons every 2 weeks) and provide feedback to her on what is working/not working. Then, next year, he'll be shipped off for a month or two of full-time training.

I'm tired of playing nice. It's time for Fiction to shape up and stop acting like the a spoiled brat he totally is.

8.15.2016

Well That's....Different

5

Last Tuesday was chiro work. Jan was amazing and held him for me when I couldn't take off work. She told me the vet said Fiction's neck was in very bad shape and he was also out in his left hind.

I gave him several days off before venturing out to ride him on Friday. I noticed an incredibly difference in his movement - either from the chiro or just additional time off adjusting to his new pampered feet.

During chiro. Photo courtesy of Jan :)
It was so insanely hot and muggy (like 88* F and 100% humidity), so we didn't get to ride long. Fiction was lathered when we were done and I was drenched in sweat.

Saturday, piss-poor time management kept me from the barn :(

Sunday I headed out early determined to beat the heat. Was in the saddle by 8-ish. Fiction was a hyper little bugger so after about 25 minutes of fighting him in the indoor arena, I took him outside over the the the trot hill. Normally 2-3 times up and down the hill has him completely exhausted (it's a substantial hill). I figured I would put him through it a couple of times and then return to work.

First trot up the hill was great. Second time he gave me some trouble but ultimately quieted. Third time I opted to let him canter and he rewarded me by throwing a huge succession of bucks.

The first threw me on his neck since I was already up out of the saddle to give him his back (relatively steep hill so I never ride it sitting on him). Tried to recover but the second buck quickly squashed those dreams. So I concentrated on how to fall properly and in a direction away from his flailing hooves. The last thing I needed was a hoof in my face. I used the third buck to push myself away off of his side. Amazing how the brain can make a 5 second situation seem like forever and give you enough time to process a good course of action.

I picked up a new saddle pad on Saturday. I now officially have TWO :)
I hit the ground hard. So hard, in fact, that I couldn't get up straight away. Fortunately, Fiction immediately stopped and looked at me with his classic 'wtf mom I thought we were playing why are you down there?' face. Unfortunately, the horses in the nearby field were freaking out and running so I had to force myself up to collect his reins to keep him from joining them.

Nothing was broken, thankfully, but it took a good minute for the use of my right arm to return (landed rolled on right shoulder, so shoulder/arm took the brunt of the hit). I walked him back to the indoor arena and proceeded to ride the snot out of him for another good 30 minutes until he was completely drenched in sweat. Cooled him down, hosed him off, treated him with liniment, and tossed him in his stall for dinner.

This was a first for me. First time I've been bucked off a horse (I've always stuck it, thankfully), and first time Fiction has ever displayed this sort of behavior under saddle. I'm 100% certain it wasn't malicious or an indication of pain. I simply think he's feeling good & had too much energy that he wanted to express.

He was, unsurprisingly, still relatively hyper in the shower stall.
Anyways, I made a diet adjustment and took him off of Empower (it made him super hot the last time he was on it, but he also had ulcer issues at that time so I thought I would try again). And for a little while we'll see if lunging before riding can take a bit of the edge off (not horribly optimistic, but in this heat and humidity it will probably help since he gets tired quicker in the heat). We have a lesson coming up on Tuesday but I may have our Instructor sit on him instead.

My mother laughed and my father congratulated me with a pat on the back (glad to know they care haha). I've been pretty lucky throughout my riding career - only a very small handful of controlled falls. This was the first fall that hurt. I'm pretty banged up and my shoulder isn't too happy.

We'll both get today off as Fiction gets a massage and I'm not sure my shoulder is up to a ride just yet.

8.09.2016

Time Off = Hot Hot Hot

10

There is one thing about Fiction (and thoroughbreds in general) that I admire and love but also hate with a passion: his energy. I've very rarely seen this horse tired when mounted. On the ground he looks like he could fall over from exhaustion at any moment, but the second you get on his back he is raring to go. At events he would sleep in his stall and then race around like a maniac on XC. When XC schooling, he would gallop for hours without a care in the world.


When you pair this energy with a sensitive horse that blows up the moment one seat bone shifts too far to the side, or one hand gets too heavy, you get an insanely hard ride. I'm a shitty rider. The only thing that has saved me thus far is the never-ending patience I have developed to deal with his bullshit. And, luckily, Fiction tolerates my shitty riding enough that we can actually progress now, rather than shooting backwards every time we try something new.

I've been on his back three times since he got shoes on. Rides have been short and sweet - about 30 minutes apiece. He's still a bit short strided on the right front, but that foot was the most traumatized and is still a bit too small/at a weird angle, so it's understandable.

Fiction never forgets how to do something. What he does forget is how to do something nicely. As in, how not to be an asshole. So the last three rides have been lessons in patience.

Yes, you must move your haunches in on a circle and then out when I ask.
No, you may not blast off at the canter.
I don't care if you want to go fast - if I say slow down, slow down.

Etc.

To his credit, he's been a very good boy. But, then again, I'm riding completely differently. The lessons on Merlin completely revolutionized my seat. My stirrups are now two holes longer and do not feel foreign at all. My legs now wrap around Fiction and I can effectively use the inside of my calves rather than my heels. All three seat bones are connected to the saddle. Fiction can no longer pull me forward, no matter how hard he tries. I feel secure and comfortable and in charge and I'm pretty sure Fiction isn't a fan haha.

A rare moment of bed sharing.
With how much energy he's been expressing in these short rides, I intend to boost them up to 45 minutes to an hour just as soon as I get in a bit better riding shape. Being pretty much out of regular riding for a month really deteriorates your core! As it is, he's being consistently heavy in the bridle and it takes a lot out of me to keep him contained. Perhaps some hill work or canter sets might help express some of the energy without thoroughly exhausting me. We'll see.

Pretty boy has a chiropractor appointment today, so he'll get a few days off. Then next Monday is his first ever massage. After a month of being barefoot, I'm sure he's sore in a multitude of places and I want to make sure everything is addressed before asking serious work from him.