Sunday 9/22: Sue rides. She called me on the way over because I guess Pearl’s been snotty about bridling for her lately? Told her how to buckle the halter around her neck so she could stay in crossties for the bridle, and also later put the jumping hack on her bridle so now Pearl’s got a Natalie bridle (bit!) and a Sue bridle.
Monday 9/23: Only a quick minute in between barn work and taking the cat to the vet, so popped her on the lunge because I couldn’t come out Tuesday and don’t like her to go that long without work, especially not when Sue’s riding her. For reference, this is pretty much her preferred natural way of going (plus a minor case of the snorties because much to her chagrin and my fascination, the Porta-Potty was being serviced)
Wednesday 9/25: Surprise jumping mini-lesson! Sue’s day to ride Pearl, but a trainer was out to see Remy and wanted to see him jump, so Christy enlisted a friend to be the over-fences jock. I took pictures. Is he not the cutest thing?
Then Christy got back on, and got some jumping pointers (we’ll make an eventer of her yet!) I said something to the effect of I am DYING to jump, and Christy was like well hey go grab Austin. Hell yeah! Slapped some open fronts on that cowpony (I’m a big believer in dressing up the horse to distract from the rider) and hopped on up. It was…interesting? Almost a throwback to the IHSA days, in the sense of get on a horse you’ve never ridden before and jump around. We did a brief flat warmup/get a feel for him and I was quickly reminded that I really haven’t ridden many horses besides Miss Pearl in the past year, and he’s quite a different ride from her. C’s main advice was you really have to ride his shoulders…which I’m really only just learning to do, so I was definitely trying but not exactly getting it. As a side effect of mostly just dinking around on Pearl, I really have very little leg strength to my name anymore…it’s only been the last, oh, couple weeks where we’ve been trying to give leg a meaning other than “forward” for both of us, and she has never needed much of a reminder in that department, ergo no leg muscles. I know I can’t expect to suddenly have legs of steel overnight, but it would be really great if I could summon them up at will. I’ve noticed over the years that the biggest indicator of me riding with my hands and not enough with seat/leg is my mount of choice will go around with head cocked to the outside, so…that was a thing that was happening. We didn’t spend a huge amount of time on the flat (getting dark) and hopefully Jamie and Christy weren’t cringing too much or if they were, at least managed to hide it well.
So, on to jumping for the first time since January! I was warned that he will duck out if given a chance. We just trotted an X on an angle the first couple times. All well there, so made it a little bitty vertical and started cantering to it. Right away the holes in my outside aids showed up to play. When coming to the jump off the right, we were almost jumping it the “wrong way”… fence wasn’t quite on the true diagonal, but we were coming at it such that we turned at the first corner rather than the second– a much more “jumper-y” turn that my little school-horse-riding hunter self is used to, and I was really not holding that outside (left in this case, once we started the turn) leg. J said to think of it like turning a bicycle, in that I need to turn with both hands instead of just hanging onto the inside rein. Something I am trying to correct and sometimes succeeding at on my own pony, but old habits will pop up right away on unfamiliar horses. I also got a “so you like to get tense with your upper body, huh?” If only I had a dollar for every time a trainer said that to me…I could take a lesson every day.
After a couple times of that, we turned around and jumped that fence the other way, so coming off the left lead going towards home. So, righty got a chance to be the outside leg. A little more successful because it was an easier turn to make, but also made faults more apparent because it should’ve been an easier, more straightforward turn. Which was good, because otherwise I’ll never learn, but still a good excuse (like I need one) to beat myself up. Got it more or less acceptable after a couple goes, so then added another fence…get around the corner, turn right up the centerline and jump a little vertical going away from home. Time for that “will run out if rider lets him” thing! Brain and left leg did NOT want to help me out here. With the aid of some circles, a pole on the left side of the fence, and a lot of “USE YOUR OUTSIDE LEG” we got it together. Here is one of the better trips:
Was it pretty? No ma’am. But I need to remember I’ve never ridden this horse before, haven’t jumped anything besides Pearl and Tommy in almost year and a half…and even though it sucks that there were “technical difficulties,” at least it gave me a chance to work through them. And in the end, I didn’t fall off, I didn’t yank on his face, and I didn’t get popped out of the tack too horribly, so pretty much a success.
Then J got on and played around…pony can jump! He’s not gonna be a hunter but he would make an adorable little jumper or eventer…he finds his own spot and he’s obviously got the flatwork, it’s just a matter of really riding him.
Thursday 9/26: Bonus tri-pony day! First I took advantage of the who-knows-how-long-it’ll-last bath weather and washed Pearl’s tail.
And gave her a lovely hack job bowl cut mane. Whatever, we’re not braiding any time soon and it’s so weird and scraggly I’m afraid to pull it.
Sarah was out of town, so I got to ride her guy Derby. Yay ride all the ponies…thanks so much, Sarah (and Christy for putting the bug in her ear)!
Word on the street is Derby is not the most forward of fellows, so I kept that in mind when riding. I’ve had it hammered into my head that the best way to reinforce this is to insist on it from the very start of a ride. I always feel awkward disciplining other people’s horses, but then I remember that it’s what I’d want someone to do were they riding/handling my horse, so Derby got a touch with the whip when he didn’t want to pick up the pace. And surprise, didn’t have to nag him after that.
I didn’t do a whole lot other than generally put him through his paces. I feel fairly confident getting on most horses and giving them a hunter-style hack, but as I’m still green to the whole dressage shebang I feel nervous about “training on” horses without supervision. So I focused on forward mainly, and remembering my outside aids through the turns, and making sure to do lots of said turns, asking for a little bend but not too much because I don’t want to get into rubber-necking territory. His canter felt a lot different than Pearl’s…more swingy or side to side with his shoulders, maybe? Can’t entirely put my finger on it, but in any case it was a good reminder to relax with my seat and follow his motion.
Pearl stood by the fenceline giving me dirty looks the whole time…don’t worry girlie, you don’t even know what’s in store for you! Had a little bit of time before our lesson, so hung out and
drooled over watched Christy ride Remy. Who continues to be lovely. We were chit-chatting and he thought he was done and then C was like hey, do you want to hop on him for a minute. You know, real casual, “hey wanna get on my fancy talented 3rd-level-and-counting for-sale-to-the-crowd-that-can-actually-pay-money-for-horses but hopefully doesn’t sell so he can stay lots-of-buttons 7-year-old?” Oh gee, give me a minute to think about th— YES PLEASE.
It was, in a word, holycrapthatwasawesome. As we were walking around Christy was all “So, what lateral work have you done? Ever ridden a lengthening?” My “lateral work” background is pretty much leg yield = going sort of sideways and uh sometimes my horse likes to think she’s a Standardbred? Instead of being like “dude, get off my pretty pony before you wreck him” the response was “Oh, this’ll be fun!” Understatement of the century. C told me he is very much a seat ride…excellent practice for me, because I am very much a leg rider. Holy wow, what a pleasure to ride a horse that has that many buttons and is just so pleasant and eager to please. We started off just trotting around…OK, now add some bend…and look, he does! Now do this with this rein and this leg (I REALLY need like a Lateral Work For Dummies chart… I can give the cues when told specifically, but when I overthink it or it’s not right in front of me I’m all like wait was it inside rein or outside?) and oh hey leg yield oops little bit too much that was almost a half pass. Make your post bigger and he makes his trot bigger and wow that is a big trot, oh so that’s a lengthening? OK now pick him up a little oh look medium trot. What. Canter was a great exercise for me because even to just pick it up I couldn’t rely on just press with outside leg with Pearl, I really had to ask and pick up my inside seatbone and something else in order to push all the specific tiny buttons that say “canter.” Remy was such a star…didn’t get at all flustered when it took me a couple tries, just was like “welp, when my mom does that this is what she’s asking for, so that’s what I’ll give you” until we got it. Then at the canter, I really got to feel how much I can control with my seat…the more I follow his motion, the more stride I get, and when I try to still the motion of my seat he shortens and up-pens to match. We even got to do like a little baby pretend canter pirouette and everything. OK, I’m sold, dressage is great. The idea of taking a horse and being able to teach them that every tiny shift of every body part means something…. if I had a sugar daddy I would totally make them sponsor Christy so she could show Remy at, I don’t know, Lamplight or Devon or whatever and be like hey look my horse is awesome I am awesome you should be jealous.
And then I had a lesson on Pearl, who is awesome as well! I warmed her up and then she got a nice round of Christy diagnostics with a side of buttkicking. To be detailed later but spoiler alert: pony is fancy.
Not entirely sure how she managed to do that between 9pm Thursday and 1pm Friday…best guess is she must’ve stomped a fly and landed on a rock? Not sore on it or anything, but obviously shouldn’t be walking around with a metal bar between her shoe and her foot, so into the stall she went. Called Joe and he thought he could come out that evening but ended up tied up so couldn’t come out til Saturday morning. Sue got a lesson on bridles and nosebands. I love how eager to learn she is. Sometimes it’s hard for me because she is vaguely the same life stage/skill level as Tommy’s owner so I sort of associate them with one another, but the difference between them is night and day. Sue obviously wants to work to improve her riding and horsemanship, despite having come to horses later in life. And she adores Pearl and takes care of her like her own. I really got quite lucky with this arrangement!
I came out in the evening for a lesson on
The Thighmaster Derby. Also To Be Detailed Later because as it turns out riding a bunch makes you physically tired and then you don’t have all night to while away on the interwebs but it’s actually really great because you’re not insanely depressed/spending all your waking hours thinking about being depressed. Cool, right? So I had my lesson and was happily hanging out at the barn on a Friday night with Christy because we roll like that. C was saying it was too bad Pearl hadn’t got her shoe fixed yet, because some of the things I learned from Derby would be great to apply to Pearl. Actually it was more of a “man I’m so disappointed you can’t get on Pearl right now, that would be so neat to try and feel the difference!” As in, a human being that trains people and horses is genuinely interested in seeing students improve and expand their skills instead of being like thank you for your check your time it up goodbye. The world blows my mind sometimes, man.
Anyways then she was like “well, I’ve got Austin and Remy left…wanna get on Austin?” More saddle time? Always! So, second ride of the day! It went better than last time, I think, but I continue to just not really…get him? I’ve seen C ride him, I know he can do stuff, I can kind of do stuff when I am told explicitly how, but I can’t really get him to do stuff all on my own. Yet. We worked on the same things I had with Derbs, moving his shoulder on a circle etc, but it was. not. clicking. C was very kindly giving me all sorts of pointers and demos from atop Remy…and I could not put them into action. I felt bad for interrupting her ride by being a thickie and was trying not to get (visibly) flustered. Finally she suggested if I wanted to work my body without overloading my brain I could just sitting trot no stirrups, so we did that for a good long while. It was probably cheating and the No-Stirrups gods are going to smite me for my unsatisfactory offering, because he’s really just so smooth and comfy, sitting or posting, stirrups or no. But I did get to catch glimpses of myself in the mirror and windows and tweak position and stuff, so it was good. At some point when I want to torture myself I’ll schedule a lesson on him, because I hate the “damn, I really can’t ride this horse” feeling blah blah negative self-talk conquering challenges blah
unless he sells and I’m off the hook until the next one comes along.
Then I hung out with my poor neglected pony, who was staring at me like “hello mom this other horse is not me I hope you know that.” Pearl and Liam have a lot in common…but they do have some significant differences. One of them being that while their respective
designated human slaves owners were doing aisle things Liam just up and walked out of his stall to raid the cookie stash, while Pearl slowly inched backward out of her stall in the throes of buttscritching. Love my funny girl.
Saturday 9/28: Barn Day with Carson! She got to rent a fancypants camera from school, so obviously that means pony videos. Which my computer currently won’t open, so I need to figure that out. The next step in Project Pretend I Might Show Pearl Next Year is to find a dressage-legal bit, which unfortunately my fabulous Sealtex/bradoon concoction is not. Raided Christy’s stash and found some potential candidates. As with all horses, the elusive “perfect bit” will somehow arise from the magical combination of favorite mouthpiece + favorite rings/sidepieces. Pearl seems to exhibit greater changes in behaviour based on mouthpiece, so that’s what we’ll tweak first. So, behind Door Number One was the Myler Comfort Snaffle, loose ring version. Mild, somewhat curved to fit the shape of a horse’s mouth, tongue relief, fairly thin. I’ve only ridden her in a single-jointed D before the hackamore days (and one ride 3 years ago of single-jointed loose ring which she liked even less than the D, so I don’t know if that means she didn’t like the movement or what) and now the mullen, so no idea if she’s gone in anything double-jointed or with a roller like the Myler. She was eh…not as good as she’s been in the mullen, but hard to tell if that was due to the bit or our newly prescribed haha you can’t ignore my inside leg program or the stiff breeze or the trailer-loading battle going on next to the arena or or or… I did note that it almost barely fit her giant tumor-lips…there’s a teeny sleeve around where the ring attaches so hopefully no pinching, but maybe it was just too much pressure on the sides of her mouth. I think Sarah’s got a bigger size of the same bit and has also kindly offered her bit library, so we’ll try that next ride. Which will also be a good test of how much of the fussiness was bit-related, because she is very anticipatory, so if she starts acting uncomfortable upon bridling, that’s pretty good bet.
Still trying to figure out the video situation,
Video! You can see that she’s got some moments of getting it, but is also quite fussy.
but she felt good, much more responsive to leg already (Carson remarked on this as well), and she looked damn cute as well.