I know I've been quiet - sorry about that. I started Accutane and it's pretty much zapped all of my energy. I find it hard to muster up the energy (or desire) to do anything!

Anyways, it's been a bit since I've talked about my actual rides. I mentioned that the first half of September was pretty much spent away on vacation, so we didn't get to riding until the second half. He had three trainer rides over the course of a month and a half and the lessons really stuck with him.

I have no new horse pics so enjoy this puppy picture! They have all found amazing homes and will be leaving us soon.
So sad :(
We took one lesson that was really hard on the both of us. Instructor took over about halfway through to demonstrate what she wanted me to do. After that we managed to get our shit together.

Each ride after that provided further progression. We've implemented a 'my way or the highway' style of teaching with Fiction at this point. He can throw as many fits as he wants, but in the end he has to do what I want, when I ask for it. And he cannot lay into my hands and fall on his forehand as an avoidance tactic.

At our last lesson on 10/11 we worked really hard on getting him to carry himself and stop laying into my hands. We focused on slowing down, dropping his head, and bending around my leg. Under no circumstances am I allowed to let him lean on my hands, which means half halts have to be quick, concise, and varied.

Also this is how the puppy's mother waits to be let out of her crate after feeding time lol.
I'm having a lot of trouble putting weight into my left seat bone. Fiction doesn't make it easy for me either. When cantering to the left he throws me to the right and I have to fight to really sink low into my seat and lengthen my leg. I have a bad habit of leaning to the right when applying my left leg as well. It makes sense - my right side is dominant and I tend to have my shit together in that direction. So, Instructor gave me a few exercises to use to help find my left seat bone.

Start these at the walk on a circle. Halt. Use left leg and seat bone to sidepass a few steps. Halt. Turn on the forehand 360 degrees. Repeat.

She also recommended that I do more work bareback to help get a feel.

My sense of feel has drastically improved under this Instructor. I can feel when my seat isn't connected enough, when there is more weight in one stirrup than the other, when my body is leaning or crooked, etc. It's just correcting these issues that is really hard.

I made the switch to a paleo diet a few months ago and I've been experimenting with various recipes. These paleo banana nut muffins turned out fantastically!
We've had quite a few rides since then. Fiction has been fantastic for the most part. I've implemented a lot of circles, changes of rein, figure-8s, and transitions into my riding lately. It's really helped to keep his focus and it's great bending work, especially since he likes to fall in on changes of rein. We're still struggling at the canter but we'll get there.

Anyways, lesson tomorrow! Here's to hoping I don't die from exhaustion, considering I can barely keep my eyes open while sitting here at my desk :(


2016 Survivor Run - 12 Miles


I love being in the saddle. Well, more accurately, I love trail riding for incredibly long periods of time. There is something super zen about it. To me, endurance encompasses everything I love about riding: long periods in the saddle outside over difficult terrain....with an aspect of competition. I always wanted to compete in endurance (and my original Arabian pony would have been perfect!) but by the time I had the means to do so, I didn't have the horse for it.
But, when I saw this fun 12-mile 'clinic' that was only a 2 1/2 drive from my location, I jumped on it and dragged Jan and Penn with me :).

The Survivor Run is an annual fun ride/clinic that is dedicated to survivors of cancer (the organizer's mother is a very dedicated endurance rider and recently beat cancer). It was very well put together and very well organized with multiple experienced endurance riders there to help out.

We left the barn around 5:30 AM, had an uneventful haul there (my second time hauling my trailer!), arrived around 8:00 AM, tucked the ponies into their stalls with soaked alfalfa and water, then headed over to the breakfast (included in the event price), where we sat for about an hour and listened to people go over the basics of endurance riding.

Then we collected the ponies and headed over to the initial vet check. Fiction checked in fine (all As, positive gut sounds, etc.) but the guy seemed freaked out by how much Fiction hocks in and I had to reassure him that Fiction has never interfered in the back, ever.

After we tacked up, we headed to the back of the line. Jan and I didn't want Penn and Fiction to start off at the head of the pack. I'm glad we stayed in the back because everyone took off galloping at the beginning and they had multiple horses get crazy.

The footing was atrocious - up to a foot deep of mud in some places and slippery in the rest. We did a lot of walking, some trotting, and just a bit of cantering. It was super interesting to see differences in the gaits of the endurance horses vs. horses taught dressage, especially at the trot. It was super hard for Penn and Fiction to trot through the woods because of how propelled they are by their hind ends and how large their strides are. Meanwhile, these little endurance ponies western-jogged the entire way through the woods with zero issues.

We ended the first 6 miles in the middle of the pack at about 1 hour and 12 minutes. Fiction came in with hardly any sweat and a heart rate of 51. He passed the vet check over with ease and we waited our mandatory 30 minutes before heading out alone.

The next 6 miles I decided to push him for a much more competitive pace - just to see how he might handle it. We did a lot more cantering, a lot more trotting, and even through in a gallop. Fiction definitely showed how fit he was by hardly sweating and handling it all with ease.

I got so amazingly close to these deer. They just stood and watched me - no fear.
Credit to Jan. I opted to walk him in because he was spooking and jigging and I wanted to keep him calm for the initial heart rate!
We shaved about 15 minutes off of our original time in the second 6 miles, which was admittedly a bit fast, but Fiction has huge strides, especially at the canter, and covers a lot of ground quickly. I immediately yanked his tack off, put on a halter, and headed over to the final vet check.

He initially checked in with a heart rate of 56 and dropping (he got very antsy and spooked right when we came in, so not sure if that played a part). The vet proclaimed he had swelling in his right front and left hind. I couldn't find any swelling in the front but did find it in the hind. Not really shocked - the footing was atrocious and at one point he was a jerk and tried to gallop off on me and his hind end went out from under him. Plus he swells easily - I never worry about it.

Credit: Jan. She was super awesome and held Fiction for me while I put away my stuff and cleaned the mud off of him!
Credit: Jan
They also said that he was negative in one gut quadrant, and then the farrier in the area gave him a B for movement (I saw and felt absolutely nothing, so not sure what the hell he saw), and proceeded to lecture me/talk down to me like I was a child on my shoeing choices (and my choice of farriers, despite the fact that I've been through 6 farriers with this horse) until I told him to shove it and walked off. It really soured me to the whole event (I've struggled for 4 years with shoeing Fiction - pretty sure I'm getting to a point where I know what the fuck I'm doing), and the vet even came over to apologize for the farrier afterwards.

Anyways, Fiction was perky, happy, and still quite energetic. He drank half a bucket, finished off some more soaked alfalfa, and nuzzled me for treats. I cleaned the mud off of him the best I could and then walked him around with his cooler on for a bit.

Credit: Jan. Penn loves his friend haha.
We then tucked our ponies back into their stalls and headed over to the awards ceremony/dinner (also included in the price! The event + breakfast/dinner + stall w/ shavings + t-shirt cost me $62). I won one of the 6 awards for most pink despite not wearing any pink? Not sure what happened there. Jan also won an award, which she traded for mine haha. They had same amazing prizes - a lot of which was donated, including 11 50lb bags of feed, gift baskets, gift bags, etc. Plus we all got t-shirts!

After that it was time to head home. We got back late and I fed Fiction his dinner and checked over his legs. His backs were still a bit puffy so I turned him out for the night to wander around.

I had a really great time and will definitely be going back next year. I have an endurance friend who will also keep me informed on some 10 and 15 mile intro fun rides next year for something different to do. I definitely wont be pursuing it competitively (which is honestly what this was a test for), simply because while Fiction definitely has the energy/endurance for it, he doesn't have the gaits for it. He's too powerful off of his hind end and too strong, thus the longer distances over rough terrain stress him far more than they do little plodding Arabian ponies. And he swells very easily in his legs, which my endurance friend told me will definitely set me back at vet checks.

Maybe one day I'll be able to afford two ponies - one dressage and one endurance :)


George Morris Clinic


So, I got back from vacation on Tuesday night, spent Wednesday chilling with a friend, and then headed to the barn on Thursday to bathe G's horse and prep for the George Morris clinic in Westminster, VA.

I don't jump anymore but the stories about George have always fascinated me, so when G got in to clinic with him, I asked to come along as a groom. It was an exhausting trip but I actually learned a few things and I enjoyed meeting George.

Some tidbits from George that may interest you/help any hunter/jumpers in their journey:

    • Metal stirrups w/ cheese grater pads are his favorite.
    • Medium length, heavy jumping bats are also his favorite.
    • Stainless steel bits only please~
    • Less is more (when it comes to tack and attire).
    • Rubber reins.
    • The path to riding well is first stable management, then walk/trot/canter basics, then small jumps/gymnastics (George considers even one jump a gymnastic), then parts of courses. Reserve full course practice for shows.
    • Five factors to jumping: pace, line, distance, balance, impulsion.
    • Always two distances to jump: long and short.
    • If the horse ducks, circle the opposite direction.
    • If the horse quits, use a spur or whip.
    • George apparently hates twisted snaffles.
    • Jumps are not taken at a canter, only at a gallop.
    • Ladies must always wear gloves, men it's optional (apparently hunter people know this. News to me).
    • Progression of intensity of aides is: leg, leg plus cluck, leg plus cluck plus spur, leg plus cluck plus spur plus whip.
    • Don't jump fences, jump distances to fences.
    • Bareback work should be walk, trot, canter, pop (as in, jump).
    • He loves thoroughbreds.

Some interesting George sayings from the weekend:
    • "Black is beautiful." Not entirely sure I remember how this came about, but he went on a tangent about how he loves black people.
    • Europe has watered down boring fences. America has a nice variety of fences.
    • "That horse is lady broke." As in bucks, doesn't want to go forward, undisciplined. I had never heard of this term before this past weekend.
    • "Get rid of that bubble bit." When referring to a twisted snaffle.
    • Riders are self-ignorant and don't teach themselves. I noticed he has a tendency to make large blanket statements like this. If one person messed up, suddenly everyone was an idiot. "You people are so stupid!" was thrown around a lot.
    • Most tack and apparel made by people who know nothing about horses.
    • "You people missed the mark with these dumb half-breds. Half-breds think backwards and are spooky. Thoroughbreds think forwards." He really, really praised thoroughbreds the entire weekend.
    • Riders hate the short distance like Ebola, Zika, or AIDs.

One of the most interesting things from this past weekend was the presence of a male rider that they brought in to school clinic horses that were being particularly fussy. During every session George would direct him to hop on one or two horses that were having a particularly hard time.

The first horse he rode, he nearly fell off and the horse wasn't even being particularly bad. Another horse he rode he basically slammed into a fence and they nearly fell. He spurred another horse so badly he made it bleed and hopped off with the inside of his boot completely coated with blood (he pretty much marked up every horse he rode with his spurs). Interestingly enough, George only ever bitched him out for not taking the short distances (minus the times he practically rammed the horses into the fence).

I did a little sleuthing (as in, walked up to him and asked him what his deal was), and learned that George had just met him and had seen him ride for the first time on the first day of the clinic. Yeah. Not a single person was happy about that (nor about his riding), but everyone paid a lot for the clinic and they weren't about to excuse themselves over some guy very poorly riding their horses.

Overall the clinic was very interesting to watch. George was quite nice and dolled out lots of praise when people got his exercises correct. A couple of times he yelled at the audience to shut up, including an incredibly rude woman who answered her cellphone during a session. He was prone to generalizations - if one person screwed up, suddenly everyone in the class was an idiot. And he did move one girl out of the 3'6" session to the 2'6" session. His primary lesson was that of discipline - he stressed that this sport is entirely too dangerous to have an undisciplined horse and to be an undisciplined rider.

I didn't find him particularly intimidating in any way - I think a lot of the internet stories about him are wildly exaggerated. If you're in the hunter/jumper world and ever get the opportunity to clinic with him - jump on it! Or at least go audit for a day. If anything there are sure to be some moments of entertainment :)


Wild Ponies


In early August I spontaneously decided to book a trip to Chincoteague for a late birthday celebration. I originally intended to go by myself but ended up inviting my long-time friend T to go with me.

We started the trip off with hang gliding on Saturday. I'm petrified of heights and the plane trip up was by far the most terrifying thing I've ever experienced, but all that fear faded away the moment the hang glider was detached. My instructor did some awesome aerial stunts and then let me fly the glider for a bit. It was a ton of a fun and I highly recommend it to everyone!

The next day was spent biking around Chincoteague, enjoying local food, and hiking on Assateague in hopes of seeing some ponies. No luck, unfortunately, but we did get to enjoy the company of the local mosquitoes!

Monday morning we were up bright and early for a kayaking trip around the island waters. If you ever venture to Chincoteague, I highly recommend taking a kayaking tour. This is the easiest way to get really up close and personal with the ponies. We got within the regulated 100 feet of them. The ponies were super curious and friendly, so we had to keep backing away!

The rest of the day was spent exploring the island. Our trip was right at the beginning of the off season, so a lot of the smaller shops had restricted hours or were closed down for the season all together. Still, it was nice to wander through the shops. We even went and watched Sully at the local one-screen movie theater.

This was considered a single scoop. I couldn't eat all of it and people around me were getting doubles!

Obligatory beach jump picture.
Tuesday morning was a trail ride at a barn located right off of the island. The barn itself was in shambles, but the owner was nice and the horses looked to be in good shape. The ride was more for my friend T than me - he had never been on a horse before. The BO put me on a nice mare in some English tack named Lucy. T was put on an old retired Amish gelding who was 100% bombproof.

The ride was short but fun. Afterwards we headed to the local NASA visitor center to look around before finally calling the vacation to a close and heading home.

Note: They wrapped the horses legs in this fashion to protect them from chiggers in the woods. The wraps are removed immediately after the ride and washed.

They had a pet turkey. He was amazing. I want one now.
It was a great relaxing vacation. The island had a beach bum feel to it, so despite our various activities we never felt rushed or stressed in any way. The only thing I would have changed is our choice of accommodations. Normally I love camping but I was unaware of the mosquito problem. We got eaten alive the entire time. I hope to visit again but will most definitely be getting a hotel!