6.23.2017

Bel Jeor Blog Hop: If your horse were a drink...

1

I haven't done a blog hop in a long time, but when I saw this one I immediately knew what Fiction was:

Soju.

If you're unfamiliar with Korean culture, you may not know what soju is or the kind of role it plays in Korean society. Soju is an alcohol produced from distilled rice/grains or ethanol derived from sweet potatoes. It is similar to vodka and essentially accompanies most meals in Korea - even during lunch.


When you go out drinking with friends, you can bet soju will be the first drink of choice. It's considered rude to turn down the first shot, and it is customary to continuously pour each other shots the moment the glass is empty. Soju is cheaper than water in some places and gets you drunk fast.

So why is Fiction just like soju?

He pulls cheap tricks, hits hard, and for some reason you just keep coming back for more. He exhausts you, makes you question your insanity, and break into tears of happiness or depression after every ride. He's a roller coaster that often leaves you wondering just what the fuck happened, why you're so sore, and if you're crazy for wanting to do it all over again.

When I want to quit him, I can't. When I don't want to quit him, he winds up giving me the nastiest hangover imaginable and the cycle gets stuck on repeat.

So yeah. Not the healthiest of relationships, but it sure keeps life interesting.

6.20.2017

Weighting Choices

12

Owning a horse takes a lot of decision work. For me, it primarily comes down to money. For example: chiropractic adjustment or super nice flysheet for 24/7 turnout? Flysheet won.

I have limited income and the majority of it is poured into my horse. I resent him sometimes for it, if I'm 100% honest, but at the same time I would be a complete introverted recluse without my horse and for that I am grateful.


Some things I don't question. When his allergies became so bad this year that he began hacking in the field, I immediately put him on SmartBreathe + horse cough syrup before every ride. In one week his coughing and nose dribble were completely eliminated. SmartBreathe works. It will now be my permanent go-to during the allergy seasons.

Other things I do. When he is perfectly sound with no back shoes, do I really need to spend $60 extra every 4 weeks for them? Or will they make him even more comfortable and I'm doing him a disservice by not having them on his feet?

At the same time, I already sacrifice so much for this horse, sometimes I feel like he needs to sacrifice for me.


Speaking of rider comfort, let me let you in on what will be changing for us when we move to Trainer's barn in August. Her barn is a working barn, so here is what will be changing:


    • No indoor arena.
    • Unlit outdoor arena (which makes winter riding a pain in the ass)
    • No bathroom.
    • No hot/cold washrack (though she is working to put one in).
    • No individual tack lockers
    • No lounge
    • No heated barn
    • Windier/steeper roads that may present a problem during the winter

But, we will be gaining:

    • Access to tons more trails
    • Access to Trainer for training rides/more consistent lessons
    • Huge pastures with small numbers of horses that are constantly rotated to ensure optimal grass growth (absolutely no over-grazing).
    • No children (this satisfies my inner grouch)
    • Peace and quiet
    • $100 less in board a month (for stall board - no field board offered)

He's starting to get a little chubby - all that grass I guess haha. We had to cut him back on feed.
The care will remain the same - sheets changed, supplements given, etc etc. This move was made with both Fiction's training and my comfort in mind. Having easy access to a trainer right now is essential to Fiction's progression, and I'm willing to sacrifice a lot of rider comforts for that. On the other hand, I will be gaining the peace and quiet I no longer have at my current facility. When I moved in it was a small barn with mostly adults. Now the barn is overcrowded, stuffed to the brim with boarders and people who now attend their regular beginner lesson program. This is the business model they chose to pursue, which is totally fine, but no longer fits me. When I constantly have to dodge people, search for open crossties, and work around multiple people in the arena, I get anxious and frustrated. Riding is my quiet relaxation time. If I'm not relaxed, I don't want to ride. I need a small facility of adults or goal-oriented teenagers in order to feel comfortable. Luckily, Trainer's barn fits the bill.

How do you go about making decisions in regards to your horse? Have you ever changed barns for your peace of mind, not necessarily for your horse?

6.08.2017

General Updates

6

It simultaneously feels like there has been nothing going on in my riding life and yet so many things have happened.

Fiction got a bunch of new clothes - new fly sheet, new fly boots (the Shoofly leggins work for his front feet only when combined with bell boots, otherwise they fly off of his feet no matter how tight), new Tekna halter & lead rope, new Majyk Equipe Dressage boots, etc.

He's also experiencing some nasty respiratory allergies, so he's on horse cough syrup before every ride and I fell back into the rabbit hole that is Smartpaks and put him on SmartBreathe and Smarthoof.

Finally, he now gets pour pads on his front feet because of his delicate soles. I had to pull his back shoes again (had in him all fours for training) because I simply can't afford $180 every 4 weeks right now. Luckily, he's always been sound with unshod backs.


Picking and choosing where money goes for this horse is astoundingly difficult. No matter what I do, whenever I cut back on something I feel like such a horrible horse owner for doing so. Still, I try to stick to my 'how would I address this problem if I was the one experiencing it?' motto when combating all animal issues. Hence the reason why I dole out tons of money for cat/dog teeth cleaning, a special low sodium raw food diet for the 13 year old dog with a heart condition, joint supplements for all animals except the cat, and now allergy meds for Fiction.

They can't treat themselves so it is up to me to provide optimum care within reason (the money in my account is pretty finite after all).

We had a lesson last Thursday. I have video and a recap already written up, so that will be around sometime soon.

I brought him back to my current facility on Saturday. It was a 5 hour adventure that involved two flat tires and a truck running out of brake fluid. Fun stuff.

Bane of my existence.
He seems to be doing OK on pasture board. He promptly lost two shoes his second night, but that was 100% expected and he was reshod on Tuesday. They fly spray him every day (sheet is on back-order, sigh), and check him over when they feed him, so I don't worry too much but I'm finding that I have a stronger urge to go out and check on him now.

Perhaps the biggest update that I have that will get its own post in the upcoming weeks is my decision to move Fiction in August. We will be returning to Trainer's barn as boarders this time around. A lot of thought went into this decision that I will detail later, but I've already given my two months notice to my current BO.

5.22.2017

Coming Together

3

Tonight was our third lesson during Fiction's training.

We had a great 10 minute trail ride followed by a very nice walk/trot/canter warm-up before we got right into it.

The points of the lesson were really simple, as all I am trying to do at this point is emulate what Trainer does when she rides him.

We worked a lot on shoulder-fore down the long side at the trot and canter just so we could get off the circle. He did very well. Much better to the left than to the right.

Then we returned to the circle to do some spiral in/spiral outs at the canter. He was absolutely fantastic to the right but we didn't manage to get video of it. We did get video of his left side which is a bit more difficult. Still - it's a great enough video to really show me how he reacts to every little thing that I do.


In the video you will see:
    • Canter to the left - spiral in and spiral out.
    • Spiral in, haunches first - spiral out.
    • Expansion and collection of the canter.
We have some bobbles and some moments of tension, but for those of you who have simply observed from my blog, let me assure you that this is miles ahead of where we used to be.

It used to be an absolute nightmare fight every time I asked him to do something simple like this. He would brace and bolt and throw himself to the inside and no amount of leg could get him back over. He would pin his ears and throw a hissy fit, get super heavy in the bridle, and buck.

Now he maintains a gentle rhythm and while he loses his balance from time to time or reacts/tenses up at random things (including things totally caused by me), he is calm, adjustable, and workable.

I have gaits I can work with instead of worrying about not blasting out of the arena. I'm not dying of exhaustion halfway through the ride. He connects through the bridle with little to no contact (mostly at the trot now - he still needs a lot of help at the canter). He moves off of the leg with very little pressure. He is no longer combative.

Sometimes it saddens me to have a 9 year old green bean (Trainer said she would still consider him green until his bobbles and periods of tension smooth out), but we're making progress. Two months of professional training was enough to get us over that speed bump we kept encountering. It won't be smooth sailing, but at least I don't feel like I'm smashing my face into a brick wall over and over again now.

5.16.2017

I need to have more faith in my own capabilities

6

On Saturday I rode Fiction and tried my best to emulate what we had accomplished in our lesson. There was no jigging and no craziness, but Fiction felt locked and unresponsive.

Lesson #2 came on Monday. Fiction warmed up calmly and remained calm for the most part throughout the lesson. No chewing or chomping, flailing, or bolting. It took about 20 minutes to get him to fully soften and relax, especially since there were various puddles in the arena that he was particularly adverse to.

This lesson built upon the foundations of the last lesson. Now that I know how to place myself, the next step was to get Fiction's body to move in individual pieces. We focused on keeping him bent in one direction but pushing his rib cage from side to side.


I had to remind myself to really let go of the outside rein when he bulged to the inside and to apply apply the outside leg, as his bulging throws his shoulder inside but his rib cage outside. It seems completely counter-intuitive and almost like I'm thinking backwards, but it works to bring him back into proper alignment.

We did canter this time. To the left his canter departures were instantaneous and amazing. The canter itself felt correct, collected, and powerful. We had some issues with straightness due to the puddles, and I had to remain vigilant to ride him properly with every step.

To the right the canter was a bit of a crapshoot. Fiction decided he wanted to leave and kept trying to shift his way towards the exit. It took way more leg than I had to keep him straight and I overcompensated with my hands. We worked on dropping pressure from the reins to check how well connected he is - one rein at a time - and then fixed what we felt when he offered a response.

It was a good lesson. I have video that I'm going to try and upload sometime this weekend.

We discussed putting him into training for an additional month but Trainer said she thinks I'm more than capable of continuing his education as long as we boost lessons to once a week rather than once every two weeks. That would require trailering to her place either every week or every other week, depending on her schedule with my current barn. Then, further down the road, if we decide he needs another crash course, I can send him back to her for a little while.

In other news - his Shoofly Leggins do not stay on, which is a real bummer. We're not sure how they keep coming off, but I'm starting to think he's just too rambunctious out in the field for them. I may be offering them up for sale here shortly.

5.11.2017

Some things wont change

2

I rode my horse for the first time in 1 1/2 months yesterday. I didn't go in with any grand delusions. I know how damaged Fiction is. It takes a long time to fix a ruined horse.

Fiction was quite uppity. I don't think he gets enough outside time at the training barn & he is now quite fit, so he's a lot to handle. That will never change.


We spent the entirety of our 45 minutes lesson doing the following:


    • Walking. Extremely slow. As slow as I could get him to walk. Then, at the walk, isolating the left seatbone to push him over, followed by the application of the left leg to continue to push him. Then straighten the hips and let him walk forward. Repeat 10000000 times both directions.
    • He is not allowed to jig. Shut it down immediately.
    • Same concept at the trot - posting only. Keep the trot dialed way back. If he freaks out or bolts forward or breaks into canter, no matter the reason, shut him down immediately and return to walk.
    • Keep loop in inside rein, outside rein elastic. Keep feet flatter with weight rolled into little toes to open up the hips.

Fiction is an exceptionally sensitive horse who is also a complete brat and a bully. It may seem like I am anthropomorphizing him, but he does have a unique personality I have never encountered in another horse. 80% of the time he is relatively willing to listen and do what you ask, though he will attempt to bully his way out of it and take control. If you remind him that you're boss, for the most part he will accept it. 20% of the time he will tell you to fuck off and will require a hard reset. This is Fiction and this will never change. What will need to change, however, is how we approach our partnership moving forward.

While his personality and work ethic have not changed, there have been some clear changes in capability. He's consistent in his rhythm and his entire body works together now instead of in disjointed pieces. He feels so darn powerful - it's like riding a gigantic warmblood. Before it felt like we were just playing at dressage, whereas now he actually feels connected and through.
Trainer let me know that during my lesson I rode Fiction better than I've ever rode him before, which was a super nice compliment. However, she did discourage me from showing him this year, save maybe for a schooling show in August before I pop off to Asia. No big deal. Moving forward, our rides are to be simple repeats of the lesson combined with trail rides. No canter work at all. We'll see how it goes.

5.02.2017

Nothing New

3

Nothing new to report, really. Fiction is doing very well. He's putting on a lot of weight and muscle.


I went out to see him and gave him a part-spa day complete with a good curry, liniment rub down, mane and tail conditioning, etc. He also got to try on his new Shoofly Leggins. I nabbed them as alternatives to the flyboots I was using before, as these are not tight around the legs and since he'll be out 24/7 I wanted something loose and airy.

I'm still working on getting him a new flysheet. The cat had to have his teeth cleaned, so all my pennies went to that. Needless to say, Cooper wasn't exactly happy with me when I picked him up yesterday evening.


We should be having a lesson this weekend (fingers-crossed). Then Fiction gets his feet done on the 8th by a temp farrier.

4.21.2017

Difficult Decisions

16


After asking a week or so ago, I finally got confirmation last night. When Fiction returns from training, he will be moved to 24/7 field board.

This has been a decision I've been mulling over for months. As it stands now, more than 1/4th of my salary every month goes to my horse. The rest goes to bills (student loans, car stuff, you name it). I don't pay rent and I've cut back on everything else that I possibly can (only $100/month for food if that, no eating out, no new personal items, dealing with severely scratched glasses bc I can't afford new ones, running tires down to dangerous thread levels as I push it as long as possible, etc). Scheduling a trip to Japan/Korea on a complete whim was, to be honest, me lashing out at not having an actual life outside of my horse. (A huge part of me regrets this decision, but another part recognizes it as partially necessary for my sanity - judge me as you wish).

In essence, it feels like I'm struggling to stay above the water with no long term plan in sight. Something needed to change. And if I've made sacrifices everywhere else that I possibly could, the only thing left was Fiction.

A part of me knows he'll be fine. He was 24/7 field boarded in Maryland before I bought him. The fields are OK at my barn (when it's not dumping rain), they supplement with hay in the winter, he has shelter, and I splurged this past year and bought him really nice clothes. Plus he runs hot and never seems to get too cold when he's outside. The other part of me feels horrible - like I'm taking his home away from him.

But if I want to continue showing, taking lessons, and providing my animals optimum veterinary care, while also moving ahead in my personal life, this is a necessary change. So, if anyone has experience field boarding and wants to share any helpful advice (like managing flies/feet/winter, etc), please let me know :)

4.18.2017

2 Weeks Down

6


Fiction has been in training for two weeks now. Reports say he's doing well but I have yet to see anything in person and I have not been on him yet. Finances are prohibiting me from lessons at this time until I can figure out a way to both support my animals and eat. You know - horse people problems. (And the fact that the dogs both got intense ear infections at the same time and the cat desperately needed a teeth cleaning).


I visited him this past weekend on both Saturday and Sunday to clean up some bumps and bruises he got from playing out in the field. In two weeks he has put on a bunch of weight, which is wonderful. Trainer has found a diet that works well for him, so we can hopefully replicate it when he moves back.

4.03.2017

First Day of Boot Camp

4

On April 1st I packed up the trailer and took Fiction to his new home for the next two months.

He settled right in and began to dig into the enormous amount of hay they had piled in his stall.


Trainer sent me a report that night stating he enjoyed his nightly alfalfa and was doing well. Then, yesterday, she took him out under saddle for the first time on a hack around the property. She sent me another update of him enjoying his sloppy dinner afterwards and let me know he did really well. He was then turned out with the mild geldings and there wasn't a peep from anyone.

I'll be going out on Wednesday to love on him and replenish his supplements, and then hopefully I'll be out on Friday to watch her ride him.

3.22.2017

T-10 Days

8

Fiction leaves on April 1st.

I, admittedly, haven't been riding much lately. The past few weeks just haven't been too great for me. Fiction doesn't mind, I'm sure.

I went to a PBR tour and the pickup guy was riding literally the most beautiful mare I have ever seen in my life. I would have killed to own this horse. My potato picture just doesn't do her justice.
Our ride on Monday was pretty good. We had some fantastic walk work - lots of nice halt transitions, shoulder-ins, and leg yields. We went straight from walk to canter work since he was acting all upset at the trot. He was a bit nasty - probably from being off for an entire week at that point - but he responded well. We did a lot of trot-canter transitions.

Finished the ride off with some nice trot + leg yields down the long side. Some birds were fighting outside of the arena and thoroughly spooked him, so we had to work on circling in that one area until he calmed down. Didn't take long.

I spoke with our Trainer on what she has planned for him and clarified his diet, etc. I think she's honestly going to be surprised, as it seems she's still under the impression he has his rushing problems from before winter. We solved those so hopefully she won't need to work on that during her time with him.

The guy's gelding was nice too, but I was more interested in the accessories haha.
I'll still be taking lessons on him during his training, so I can keep up with his progress. Technically I'm more advanced than he is, but I can't seem to solve his mental barriers, so that is why he's going into training. Once we're over that hump hopefully we can just gradually progress upwards.

3.09.2017

Priorities

9

I recently posted about how I've come to discover that while horses are an important part of my life, they are not at all the most important part. That being said, I love progressing in my riding, and I love showing. I want to be known as a good rider and to do well by my horse, even if it takes us a while. In order to do so, I need to set us both up for success.

Back when I was delusional (read: with my previous trainer), I went on shopping binges to fill gaps I felt in my riding. New breeches for shows in my show colors. New fancy air-vest. Expensive tack. Fancy bits. You name it, I probably bought it. I even fell into that Olgivy craze and bought a bunch of their saddle pads and half pad, all of which were completely useless in the long run (I don't even use a half pad anymore - no need with a properly fitted saddle).

I had some weird notion in my head that I needed these items. I needed separate show bridles and pads and clothing. I needed everything to match and look pretty. Why? Who knows. At that time I thought everything was going pretty well in our training, though I had no doubts about our inexperience. But I figured hey - if we're going to spook going into the dressage arena, at least we'll look good doing it!


And now? Well, I came to my senses. Sure, certain pieces of equipment are very helpful when it comes to riding. I know my properly fitted and maintained saddle not only helps Fiction move freely but it puts me in a nice, secure position. But outside of the essentials, nothing else matters right now. What does matter is the training, of both Fiction and myself.

We will never go anywhere without training. No amount of fancy tack or fancy clothes will get us our Bronze medal. No matter how desperately I want that $100 sparkly browband or purple Majyk Equipe boots or custom stock tie, I recognize that these are not the items that will help me succeed in progressing in my partnership with Fiction.

So as I stare forlornly at the thousands of dollars put away for Fiction's upcoming training while simultaneously yearning for a new bridle or new boots (mine aren't too far from kicking the bucket), I stop to remind myself of what really matters to me. Fiction and I could be the best dressed pair at the show, but without the training and lessons behind us we're just playing the role, not performing it.

3.06.2017

Winter Accomplishments

4

I know the winter isn't over yet, but it sure feels like it is. Trainer will be back for lessons starting March 18th and then Fiction will be leaving for two months of training at the beginning of April. This winter basically blinked past me. I didn't get too much riding in (lost shoe = one week of lost riding; perpetually battling a cold virus; accutane meds combined w/ no sunlight = complete exhaustion), but some serious accomplishments were made nonetheless.


Here is a list of things Fiction can now do that he couldn't handle at the beginning of the winter:

    • Poles. He no longer bolts through them or freaks out approaching them. He still eyeballs them warily, but we're getting to the point that they are nbd.
    • The canter. We can canter down the long side without blasting full speed. We can adjust the canter - collected, working, and, well, extended is another story unfortunately.
    • Trot transitions - 50% there. He no longer throws his face up as high as possible when asking for the transition, but he still does tense up.
    • Consistency - he remains relatively consistent in frame/relaxation at the trot, even down the long sides.
    • Warmups - warming up takes significantly less time. We can hop right into work with little effort.

So, while he's a bit out of shape and a little chubby (much preferred over too-thin), we've managed a lot this winter. Enough to be proud of, anyways.

2.21.2017

Equestrian Chill

7

Nothing new to report. I got halfway through bareback month before I had to retire back to the saddle. Fiction is too full of energy and I'm too weak from fighting off a virus + accutane that I need the security of a saddle.

We've kept to a steady schedule. Fiction continues to be amazing. Warms up immediately. Zero fuss. Yesterday we worked on canter extensions and collections on a circle, while maintaining loose and fluid contact. It was the first time we were able to achieve this without Fiction getting strung out. My seat has also improved - I no longer shift forward and then pop back (thus catching air) at the canter.

I wanted to briefly talk about just how much has changed over the past year. Yes, I've improved with my riding, and Fiction has improved with his training, but there is now a fundamental difference with how I approach my riding career that I believe has played an important role.


I no longer ride with a hard-set goal in mind or a thirst for competition.

Before, it was always Rolex this, Rolex that. That eventually melted down to potentially running Intermediate. Then when we dropped to Dressage - getting our gold medal.

Now? Maybe we'll eventually get our Bronze medal and then see where life takes us.

This isn't to say that I don't intend to show. I do. In fact, I have 3-4 schooling shows penned in alongside a handful of recognized shows, provided Fiction and I are ready for First. And I still love competition, but now there is no rush. No pressure. I'm riding purely for fun and enjoyment, with the added perk of showing.

I used to look at more dedicated riders with a sense of anxiety. Would I ever catch up to them? People say you never get anywhere without hard work and dedication. Am I dedicated enough? Will we ever even be able to show at a recognized show? Will anyone ever look at me and call me a good rider?


Then I realized that while someone people live and breath this sport, I don't. I love my horse and I love riding, but I also love a lot of other things. I love to hang out with my friends, walk my dogs, exercise, play video games, read books, binge-watch Netflix, travel....all of which also takes up time. I'm not the type of person to be out to the barn 7 days a week training, and that is OK.

I needed to give myself permission to be myself, and once I did I began to relax and enjoy riding for what it was to me: a fun hobby. And guess what? My relationship with Fiction is better than ever. He has become the biggest cuddle bug and seems genuinely happy to see me (something he did with everyone else but me before), while I'm content to snuggle him, stuff apples in his face, and chill on his back for some very zen riding (whether it's just a trail ride or actual work).

So yeah. I'm happy. Fiction's happy. And that's all that really matters anymore.

2.11.2017

Cantering Bareback + A Hack

8


Today we had our second canter bareback. I have video proof too!


While it doesn't look amazing, he's soft, off of his forehand, relaxed, and relatively balanced. Pretty much all I could ask for. The departures need work, but most of that is me. I still get very tense asking for the canter while bareback - you can clearly see it too. That's why this bareback month is more to concentrate on me than it is on Fiction.


After our ride in the outdoor arena, we went on a very long 30-45 minute hack, also bareback. My horse was absolutely perfect. So calm and relaxed. I had an amazing ride on the buckle with no worries.


As the days pass, Fiction continues to morph into a dependable, level-headed partner, and I am falling in love with him more and more.

2.09.2017

Wanderlust

7


So, I, uh, may have just impulsively bought tickets for a month long trip back to Korea & Japan in August. This will be my third time in both places. My heart lives in Asia, so excited doesn't even begin to describe my emotions right now.

Current itinerary includes lots of booze & clubbing in Korea, followed by celebrating my birthday with people I consider my second family in Japan. Oh, and climbing Mt. Fuji! <3 <3

I'll be chronicling my adventures here, of course, so expect non-horsey things during that stretch of time :)

2.08.2017

Quick Video

6

Unfortunately, things around here have been relatively quiet. I'm battling the Accutane meds again (at least I think that is the cause, though it is weird that it crops up now after 2 1/2 months of feeling completely fine) - constant exhaustion, lack of appetite, weird stomach sicknesses, etc. I dropped nearly 5lbs of weight in a month and it's noticeable. For now I'm dealing but it makes barn time hard haha.


Fiction lost a shoe last Wednesday and my farrier was on vacation. Luckily one of the barn owners does farrier work on the side and was able to tack the shoe back on on Saturday. But Fiction was a bit ouchy and I was sick, so I didn't ride him again until yesterday.

Since it's bareback month, the ride wasn't too extensive. Lots of walk work and a good deal of trotting. We're working our way up to the canter, but I want to fix my balance a bit more. Every time I lose my balance Fiction gets upset and shoots his nose up which makes riding him bareback even harder. It's a nice exercise for both of us - I can learn to deal with his movement without tensing up, and he can learn to relax a bit when I fuck up.

For a week off + being inside most of the day (the fields are shit), he was perfect. A bit less forward than I would like, but that was more because I wasn't pushing him (his trot while bareback is so hard to sit) rather than me holding him back.

I showed my mother this video (which is actually a video of his warmup trot - he only improved from there) and she looked at me and said, "What have you done with Fiction? Who is this horse?"


Exactly. I seriously couldn't have even dreamed about hopping on this horse after a week of no riding for some nice calm trot work bareback this time last year. And while we're not perfect by any means, it's really nice to be able to relax while riding, especially bareback.

1.25.2017

Who is this horse?

16

Fiction has undergone a transformation so dramatic that the past four years seem more like a dream than a reality. The once easily upset, tantrum throwing, run-away-from-all-my-problems thoroughbred has been replaced by a level-headed sweet creature that comes to me in the field, nuzzles me constantly, and acts like a gem under saddle.

Last night was by far one of the best rides I have had on him. And, probably the only ride where riding felt effortless. As in, there was absolutely zero fighting, very little fuss, and all of my aids were adhered to.

I couldn't stop smiling. It felt as if we had finally emerged into the sunshine after trudging along in the dark for so long.

His mane desperately needed some maintenance and since I can't pull it (bc of big floofy braids) I braided and cut.
The ride started off great. After 24 hours in a stall (the fields are just so bad right now the horses spent the day inside), he was a bit stiff to the left in our warm up, but quickly worked out of it. We moved into trot and he gave me very little fuss in the upwards transitions (we've been really working on these since he loves to brace from walk to trot).

The trot was stupendous. He was forward without being zoomy. He was light on my hands with only a few half halts needed to keep his attention. And, most importantly, he kept his own pace, even down the long sides.

When we moved on to a set of six trot poles, spaced further apart than usual to encourage stretching, he balked the first time but went through. After that, he was pretty much ok with them, but I allowed him his head and back to do whatever he wanted with for the first 10 or so run-throughs before I started to encourage him to actually use himself over the poles rather than just traverse them.

This gigantic tub of a cat wanted to sit on my shoulders and practically refused to get off.
His turns to the poles were wonderful. Instead of turning like a freight train because he is so worried/anticipating going over the poles, he listened to my hands and legs and bent in a correct turn. His approach was far better than it's ever been, and after the poles he immediately came back to me and halted on a dime. As an added bonus, he even stood perfectly still and just watched me when I hopped off to adjust the poles.

Needless to say, he got lots of praise. After I hopped off I also noticed that his mouth was covered in thick white foam - a different type of foam than the thin white stuff he gets from time to time. I made sure to stuff a peppermint in his mouth almost immediately and gave him lots of face rubs.

After four years of struggle, I'm finally seeing the horse I've always wanted in Fiction. It feels amazing.

1.24.2017

Trekking Along

8

As you can tell, blogging just isn't a priority right now. Primarily because there isn't much to report.

I'm still riding 3-4 times a week. We've been working over poles every ride, save for the last two rides.

The ride before last it was a gorgeous day so Fiction got a bath and we went on a trail ride with a handful of other people. I think Fiction enjoyed getting out of the indoor arena for a while.


Then yesterday I wasn't feeling too well and it was pouring down rain (which eventually turned to thick, heavy snow), but I went out anyways to try on his new bareback pad.

After watching The Magnificent Seven, I arbitrarily decided that February will be bareback (and Western - thanks Jan haha) month. And, since I can't seem to ride Fiction bareback without dying (primarily from his bony back), I picked up a Best Friend Comfort Plus bareback pad.

He looks very unloved/unkempt in this photo, but he was dripping wet from the rain and this was the cleanest I could get him :(
I only rode about 20 minutes in it last night, but I can already tell that a bareback month is something I desperately need. For example - when going into corners, Fiction sometimes likes to throw his inside shoulder and lean in. The normal response should be to sink into my inside seat bone and push him back over, but instead I find myself leaning to the outside in some weird way to compensate for his leaning. I've known this was a problem for a while, but the saddle always saves me. Bareback, however, is another story, and I very quickly had to start correctly placing my body in order to keep from falling off. It made me much more aware of what my seat bones were doing.

The pad itself is super nice. I'll do a full review at the end of February.

Fiction seemed to enjoy the ride.
Aside from that, nothing else has really changed. I switched up Fiction's supplements in an effort to save money. He was on Exceed 6-way, but I swapped him to Docs OCD pellets (which Jan had amazing success with when Mikey was injured, but I'm just using it for maintenance/prevention) and Dumor Ultra Shine for some added yeast/omegas/vitamins. This drops my cost per month substantially.

Anyways, updates will probably be relatively sporadic for a while. They may pick up in April when Fiction is shipped off for training (and stuff is actually happening lol), but then again, I'm not sure if I'll be able to ride him much during this time, so who knows.

1.06.2017

2016 Blogger Gift Exchange

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I'm so glad I got to take place in the gift exchange this year, since I was unable to last year. Many thanks to Tracy for putting it together each year!

My package arrived a few days after Christmas, which was actually pretty awesome because who gets tired of opening presents?


My secret gifter turned out to be Kathryn from Incidents of Guidance! To be honest, I think the best part of this gift exchange is the introduction to bloggers I don't know. It amazes me sometimes just how large our group of equestrian bloggers actually is.

Anyways, Kathryn sent me some great gifts, including the book Master Dressage by Peter Dove (which I already started reading), a Strip Hair Saddle Pad Saver (which I am super duper excited to use, especially in the upcoming spring/summer months when Fiction starts shedding onto EVERYTHING), and some candy canes for Fiction. Fiction is absolutely addicted to anything peppermint flavored and he adores candy canes. Now his treats get to be festive for the better part of the year!

Anyways, thanks so much Kathryn!

1.05.2017

The Little Things

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I left work 30 minutes early yesterday to dash out to the barn and hop on before the chiropractor got there. I only had time to set up five poles, so I raised the three in the middle to make it more of a challenge.

Fiction was prompt off my aids during warm-up, and very soft at the trot. In fact, it was one of the best trots he has given me in a long time. He was supple, calm, kept an even pace, and listened to my half halts.


We ran through the poles multiple times in each direction. He rushed a tiny bit going into the poles, and fell a bit on his forehand as he went through the poles, but his recovery time afterwards was pretty much instantaneous. He also only stumbled over the poles one or two times, compared to hitting them nearly every single time on Monday.

The ride was a vast improvement over the last. When I got off I noticed a nice foamy mouth and relaxed eye.

Since our ride on Monday, Fiction got new shoes with snow pads. His feet have finally progressed to the point that he can have the same size shoe on both feet (right foot was struggling to grow enough hoof), and I could tell a difference in his striding yesterday. The saddle was also reflocked, which gave a noticeable difference to my seat, and was probably vastly more comfortable for Fiction. I would like to think that both of these things contributed to our nice ride yesterday, though it is also possible that he's very quickly coming to terms with poles as the new normal.

Cooper did something he's never done before - curled up in the dog bed under my desk by my feet. It was kind of heart warming, for me at least, so here is a picture :)
After our ride, Fiction was seen by the chiropractor. This is the fourth chiropractor I've gone through, since the work is a bit subjective and I like testing the waters to find someone who's approach I agree with. Interestingly enough, this chiropractor found very little wrong with Fiction in comparison to every other chiropractor who has told me everything in the world is out on my horse.

He adjusted him at the base of his neck and his left shoulder, where he has felt a bit sticky as of late. And he evened out his hips (the right was dropped). That was it. Unfortunately, I won't get to test out the work for a few days, since the forecast is predicting super cold temps and snow. I physically can't handle cold weather (I freeze at like 65 degrees, seriously), so anything below 30 is exceptionally hard for me to handle, even with a bajillion layers. So Fiction will probably get time off until Monday, when temps go back up from the teens to above 30.

1.04.2017

January is Poles Month!

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Well, for us at least haha :)

While my Trainer is down south I need something to concentrate on that is simple for me but difficult for Fiction. That makes it easy for me to get motivated to do the exercise.

Modeling the BoT blanket he got for Christmas. He wears it overnight every night now.
So, for every ride in January, I will incorporate pole work of some sort. Preferably a new pole exercise each ride but I'm lazy so who knows if that'll happen. It doesn't really matter to Fiction - all poles are exceptionally terrifying to him.

We started off on New Years Eve with a set of 4 trot poles to a set of three trot poles down the center line. The goal was to maintain rhythm in the blank space between the sets of poles and to not rush the second set. Fiction, of course, attempted to rush the start of the poles, but since he can't rush through them he was forced to slow down. I don't like to half halt him too much before the poles because then he tends to hit every single one of them, so I half-halt till about a couple of strides out and then just give him free rein. My hope is that he will find his own pacing.

From a few weeks ago when he got his teeth floated.
The on Monday I set up a new line of five poles with two of the poles raised on one side. Fiction was absolutely petrified of the raised poles and actually dropped down to a walk in his first run through. He rushed these even harder than the other set, so we worked on coming to a halt in a straight line afterwards. There were many disagreements about when to stop, so I had to utilize the wall a few times.

Outside of the poles, he's a perfect gentleman. He's really figuring out his own pacing down the long sides at the trot and he's doing exceptionally well in the corners and in his changes of rein. I'm really pleased with the work he has been giving me on the flat lately, so I don't mind his llama rush through the poles as long as he comes back to me afterwards. He'll get there! That is what this pole month is for :).

Oscar the new barn corgi!
On Monday the saddle fitter came out and checked my saddle fit. I've had this saddle for a year and the wool had compressed along the spine so she added some in and fluffed it up. I quickly test rode in it and it seriously felt like heaven. It's amazing the difference a well-fitted saddle can make. I'm sure Fiction appreciates the extra fluff as well.

Yesterday he got his feet trimmed and today the chiropractor visits. I'm hoping to sneak a quick ride in before the body work, since he'll get a couple days off to recuperate.