RtR

RtR

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Separation

Since it's been so long since my last post, I'll start this with a quick catch up. After Turf Paradise finished in the spring, we went back to Colorado for the season at Arapahoe Park. We had a very good meet there and then opted to go to Zia Park in Hobbs, NM, instead of Phoenix, where we also had a good meet. There aren't any dressage barns there, but I found a nice western barn to board at. Little did I know, it was exactly what I needed. The barn owner/trainer is an amazing horsewoman and an even better person, now she's one of my dearest friends. I ended up leaving Hobbs with a completely different mentality about riding and now find more joy in it than I ever have before. We are currently in El Paso. I don't have much love for the city itself, but Sunland Park Racetrack is clean, nice, and feels much safer than when we were here the last time. I'm boarding at a friend's and am really happy there. The night the last load of horses arrived, Indy kicked the living hell out of Summer. At first we thought that she broke his hock, it was just horribly cut up. The vet stitched him up the best he could, saying they'd probably only hold for a few days. They lasted a week. So begins the saga...


This is CD. He's pretty much the coolest horse ever. The little firecracker would squeal at the flag when he started working it. He wasn't hard to ride on the flag, but he'd get down and hit it when we worked cattle. He's quick! I came really close to eating dirt a couple times and have never had more fun almost falling off!

When your horse literally almost kills your other horse, it makes you angry. It was Indy's fault that I was standing there crying as I knocked on the vet clinic door at 7:30 pm on a Saturday, interrupting their Christmas party. It was because of her that my heart sunk as everyone in the clinic turned their back to me, clearly not wanting to be bothered, while Summer bled all over the place in the trailer.. None of the emergency clinics had returned my calls. This clinic was my best and only option and it wasn't looking like they were planning on helping my horse. It was beginning to look hopeless, all because of Indy.


The stitches go along the inside of the hock too.


Before the stitches ripped out.

Fortunately, my friend showed up. Her husband had given me the vet's number and when they hadn't answered my knocks or call, he called the owner of the clinic, who wasn't in the room full of vets ignoring me at the time. The on-call vet finally opened the door and she was PISSED. 


I got to ride my friend's awesome QH  jumper while she was gone for Christmas. He's 17+ hands of awesomenes and you'd have a hard time believing he wasn't a WB if you saw him in person.

I stood there sobbing and apologizing, telling her I didn't know where else to go and that it really was a real emergency and that I certainly didn't want to be there interrupting their party. My friend stood her ground with the vet a bit more than I did, telling the vet that her husband was on the phone with the boss and that they needed to come out and help my horse. Then the owner popped his head out and saved me. We had used him when we were in El Paso before and had had a good relationship then. He's a good vet. 

Even though I know I wasn't wanted there, him and another vet were very kind. He offered us food, saying there was plenty. I couldn't eat, but it made The Fiancé happy. The on-call vet warmed up and started being nicer. She was fine by the time Summer was finished with X-rays and sewn up. She had been up for an ungodly amount of hours, so I can understand the grumpiness. Long story short, they got Summer patched up the best they could and he stayed at the clinic overnight. That left Indy.


I still love the heifer.

I was a little less mad at her once I learned that Summer's hock wasn't broken. At least, I got to the point where I quit threatening to kill her. She was just being a horse. I still gave myself a day to cool off, and to recover from the mental exhaustion from the night before, before riding her. Riding exhausted and infuriated is never a good combination.

That first ride was a tough one, mentally. I was still mad, but I knew that it wouldn't be fair to ride her angry. She obviously wouldn't understand why. The entire time spent tacking her up, I drowned out any thought of Summer with what I wanted to accomplish that day. Her first ride at a new place is always a challenge, my mind stayed on what excercises we needed to do to keep her focused. It was hard to separate the past from the present. That's where maturity comes into play because ten years ago, I probably wouldn't have been able to accomplish that. Detaching myself from the personal aspect and approaching that ride from a professional perspective was the only way we were going to get through it without a meltdown. 








The moment I got on her, she wasn't my horse. My goals and dreams with her in the future no longer mattered. I wanted to work towards developing a horse that anyone can ride, that people would actually want to ride. One that was getting ridden hard enough to not have the energy to do nasty things. There was no more making excuses for her, absolutely no babying. She was going to work in a respectable manner. Key word WORK. I went from being the owner to being the trainer, no longer stressing over the injury that she was given way more than enough time to heal from. She became a job, not my pet. 



Don't mind my hands. My neck injury had flared up and was bothering me really bad. I didn't have much strength in them to keep the reins from sliding some. We're still working on her not swinging her haunches in. We have a ways to go, but she's getting a lot better about it.

In a horrible way, she gave me the right mentality to actually accomplish what I want with her. Our rides are no longer spent with me wondering what she's going to spook at.  I'm done finessing around resistance. If Indy wants to flip her head and fight me, we gallop forward until she relaxes into my hands and gets over it. There's no more baiting me into a fight. Any antic she has thrown at me gets ignored and ridden through. She's expected to give me an honest attempt the first time I ask, not whenever she feels like it. She gets rewarded for the good, and the bad results in her working harder. Everything has become much more black and white. An honest effort is all that I'm really looking for while she gains her strength. Indy is allowed mistakes, she's allowed an opportunity to process things, and she's allowed a fair chance to comprehend what I want. She isn't allowed to flip me the bird and take over.


Being pretty helps.

My trainer in Phoenix would often say that Indy was lucky to have me as an owner because not many people would be as patient with her as I was. I'm still patient, but the days of worrying about what she might do and trying to prevent it are over. There's no more avoiding the things that piss her off just because my only goal is for her to have a "positive experience". 




We've had nothing but good rides since she almost killed Summer. I haven't had to deal with very many behavioral issues. Indy loves the part of our warm-up where I go into two-point and let her really gallop forward. We're doing more canter work than we ever have and it's improved immensely. She's happy in her work. I'm braver and more confident on her than I have ever been.




I'm proud of Indy every second I spend with her. The anger at her comes back out when I'm away. It comes every time I have to change Summer's bandage because you have to change a hock bandage frequently to keep it from sliding down. It hits me when I have to ace him to keep him calm in the stall because he hates being in a stall and gets frantic. I get disgusted with her while I'm hand-walking him and he seems so grateful just for the sunlight, when he puts his head against my chest for comfort, and when he's standing there drenched in sweat from stressing. I just make sure to separate myself from that anger every second I'm around her.

Has anyone else been in a similar situation? How did/would you cope with it?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Breeders' Cup Del Mar

I've been looking forward to going to Breeders' Cup at Del Mar for a very long time, since I knew that it would be held there, and it's FINALLY here! There are a couple of bloggers that I know are going. My plans have been a little up in the air, so if I haven't reached out to you, I will soon. If there are any other bloggers going, feel free to give me a shout. I'd love to catch up with you where the turf meets the surf!




The day after BC at Keeneland 2015


BC Santa Anita 2016


Bourbon BC 2015. Because bourbon.


Freaking love Tourist! Can't wait to see how he does as a sire.


Arrogate. No need to say more.


Gun Runner's on fire right now.


Gary Stevens BC 2016





Thursday, April 13, 2017

Siegfried Winkler Clinic

I have a hard time turning down an opportunity to ride in a clinic. I LOVE them! As much as I enjoy showing, clinics are even more fun to me. So, when a friend in my barn was bringing in Siegfried Winkler and needed more spots filled, I decided to sign Summer and I up.


Watching us warm up.

I was worried how Siegfried would feel about a green OTTB, but was assured that he is very kind and gladly works with all levels of horses and riders. My main concern was over-facing Summer and everyone agreed that Siegfried would not do that. With that in mind, I figured that it was only money and my pride at risk, I might as well give it a try
.
 
Summer was really excited about it!

Six weeks after his last race, Summer and I participated in our first clinic. Siegfried was amazing! He is kind and patient. He pushes, but not past your and your horse's limits. He points out everything that needs to be fixed, yet let's you know every time you and your horse do something correctly. There were lots of walk breaks in which he made sure that I understood what he was saying and why it was important. One thing that I really loved about him is that he taught everyone with the same amount of enthusiasm, it didn't matter what kind of horse the rider's had or what level they were at. It's very obvious how much he loves horses and his job.

I had only signed up for two of the three days, figuring that three might be too much for where Summer is at mentally and physically. He's still only four and I do my best to remember that. 

 
Working in the quality of the walk.

The first day of the clinic was fairly easy. We just walked and trotted, as I told Siegfried that we hadn't done a whole lot of canter work yet. Here was the focus on day one:

  • Keeping my lower leg closer to the girth. I ride with my stirrups shorter on Summer, which jams my long legs up into my thigh blocks more, which causes my lower leg to come back too far. I can keep it where it needs to be, but it was something I wasn't even aware I was doing until Siegfried pointed it out. Keeping more weight in my heels and not letting them come up in the transitions was also part of this. He had me do this to help keep Summer more forward (especially when he tries to pull down) and to help with him wanting to drift over a shoulder.
  • Play with the bit and supple, don't hold. Summer steers pretty well, but not great. Sometimes, I use the inside rein a bit too much to get him lined out since he doesn't quite understand the outside rein concept yet. We worked on this a lot with supplying to the left and right.
  • Turning my shoulders to weight my inside seat bone to create bend. I was keeping my outside shoulder back too much, so when I was trying to get Summer to circle left or right, my shoulders were positioned as if we were going straight. #dumbass Between correcting this and the previous two issues, Summer's steering improved immensely.
  • Keeping my shoulders back. I do this well in sitting trot, everything else, not so much. Especially, when I'm riding green horses.
  • Downward transitions when Summer wants to start pulling down.
We worked on these things in the walk and trot, doing lots of transitions and introducing some leg yielding. I had a much improved horse by the end of my ride.

 

On day two, we worked on pretty much the same things, only we added canter work. Siegfried worked us both A LOT harder. Summer started out even better than he had ended up the day before. Having the time to process everything the evening after my ride really helped. We struggled with picking up the correct lead, especially to the right. Summer would pick it up when we were going to the left, but not when we were going to the right. Siegfried suggested that I should continue on and then change my direction to the right when he picks it up like that, just so Summer starts to associate going to the right with his right lead. I'm not too worried about it. At least he can canter on both leads, it's just a lack of understanding on something that we've barely worked on. My little guy is smart, I have no doubt he'll understand the concept soon. This is a short clip towards the end of our lesson on the second day:



This video makes me want to smack myself, but love Summer all that much more.

Summer was so good as far as behavior. He never set a foot out of place, even when a guy was cracking his whip while free-lunging his horse a hundred miles an hour in the pen next to the arena. He gave me 100% even when he was beginning to get tired on the second day. The improvement he made in two days was incredible.

I am definitely looking forward to riding with Siegfried again in Colorado. I was ecstatic to find a clinician that frequently goes to both cities that I bounce between throughout the year. Riding with him was one of the best investments I've made in my riding education.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Love At First Ride

Summer was trained by my good friend's husband. After the meet at Denver was over last year, his trainer decided to take a short break before Turf Paradise started. Summer had just broken his maiden and his owner didn't want to interrupt his training. The Fiancé and I ended up taking care of Summer for a few days before he was shipped down to Albuquerque to another friend of ours.



The Fiancé had me tack up Summer one day for him to ride. After being on him for a few minutes,  TF  told me to grab my helmet. I had SO much fun riding him! Afterwards, I said that I wanted this horse when he was done running. I didn't expect that would actually happen, or that it would only be a few months later, or that The Fiancé would agree  to another horse (especially since I splurged on a new pony-horse the month before that). The stars aligned and now Summer is mine.

This is a very short video from that day. Summer was three years old. I wasn't planning on riding that day, so please excuse the sloppy tank.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Six Things A New OTTB Reminded Me

Everyone, meet Summer Meeting. He is a four year old off the track thoroughbred by Cause Ur Mine (Giant's Causeway) out of a General Meeting mare. He last ran February 22nd, ending his career with 14 starts and 4 wins. Summer was a gift, both literally and figuratively speaking.

 
Summer AKA #themaskedbandit

I'll get more into the details of Summer in another post, but I wanted to talk about what it's like to be riding an OTTB straight off of the track again and how he reminds me of what is important every single time.

RIDING THROUGH 

When I first started riding Beefheart after he retired, I made a lot of mistakes. I didn't use enough leg, because he was naturally sensitive and forward. I didn't keep enough contact with his mouth, because he stayed in a frame and was super light in the mouth. Doing less seemed like the kindest way to start him out, but it certainly wasn't the best way to go and created a lot of issues down the road. I left a lot of holes in his foundation.

 
Love his sweet face!

My first ride on Summer, I tried to make sure to keep my leg on and to keep focusing on getting him to step up into a contact. If he wanted to drift over his outside shoulder, which is a pretty common problem with horses off of the track, I increased my aids to make sure that he stayed as in front of my leg as possible, focusing on keeping his hind end active without quickening. I'm lucky in that he naturally keeps a fairly steady rhythm and tempo. Summer still drifted a little on the circle, but not nearly as bad as he would have if I had taken my leg off and tried to guide him with just my hands. He didn't pull or get iron jawed and stayed in a fairly steady frame as long as I rode well enough (easier said than done). It wasn't perfect, but there is definitely a lot of promise there.

 
After a few more rides.

TRANSITIONS ARE MY BEST FRIEND

Here was another mistake I made with Beefheart. He did pretty good transitions from the get-go, so I didn't do enough of them. We would just kind of get into cruise control and go several minutes without doing a full transition.

After a few rides on Summer, he started to try to pull down on me. It wasn't bad and he wasn't trying to run off, but I could feel him just daring me to pull back on him. I tried to focus on keeping his hind end active in the gate we were in, but that didn't always work, so we started doing LOTS of transitions. A quality transition along with some well-timed half halts did the trick. I couldn't do too many. Again, it is all about being very conscientious to keep his hind end active in the transitions.

MIX IT UP

I was riding Summer in the arena one day and was getting way too caught up in the training aspect. The Fiancé stopped me and said, "Come on, let's go."

 He opened the gate and Summer and I followed him onto the track that goes around the outside of the property. We walked on it, then toodled around the trail course some. I trotted him on the track a little and then we walked around on it to get back to the barn. 

 
Car washes are meant for Summer.

Afterwards, The Fiancé reiterated the fact that even though Summer was dead fit for racing, our dressage work is a whole different group of muscles and riding in the arena for very long is tiring for him. He said I need to make sure to do lots of serpentines (rather than too many circles), both shallow and large in the arena, and that I need to do some straight work along with some shallow serpentines on the track every once in a while too. As much as it pains me to admit it, he's absolutely right. It's not right or healthy to take a horse straight off of the track and constantly hone on their training in the arena. Especially, with a horse as kind and willing as Summer.

IT NEVER HURTS TO KNOW HOW TO GALLOP

I really don't like galloping at the racetrack. It's not the horse, but the traffic that gives me anxiety. To me, it's about like driving on a freeway with way too many idiots and jerks. Yeah, there's a lot of people that obey the rules and pay attention, but it only takes one ignorant asshole to get you killed.

That being said, knowing how to gallop helps a lot when you're riding an OTTB. I never take a cross on one for training purposes, it could easily become too tempting to use it to force a frame instead of developing one correctly. However, knowing how to use one when things start to get a little out of control can come in handy.

 
He's so cute! Don't worry, I bought him a better fitting girth after having to make due for a couple of rides with this one.

Summer is pretty solid guy, he's not spooky and is rarely reactive. Still, he's only four and not entirely bombproof yet. The other day, a bird flew out of a barrel right in front of him. He ducked sideways and then bolted. I had just gotten on and was walking him on a loose rein when Tweetie decided to make an appearance. As he took off, I was still scrambling for my reins. He didn't go more than a half a lap before I got him to come back, but if I hadn't known how to take and use a cross, it could have been a lot worse. Summer had just raced less than two weeks ago and I would have never had the strength to stop him if I had just pulled back on the reins.

ENJOY THE PROCESS

I was extremely blessed to be gifted a horse with such a great head on him. It keeps it fun. It can also make it easy to put too much pressure on myself. He was going so well from the beginning that I started getting down on myself if I felt like he didn't make enough progress during our ride. I'm always proud of him, I'm a HUGE hardass when it comes to me. Trying be as perfect as possible can end up putting more pressure on him too though. Once again, The Fiancé chimed in and told me there is no pressure, just have fun with him. Damn it! Another time he proved himself wiser than I ever wanted to have to admit.

 
It's more fun outside of an arena!

*On another note, TF wanted to get on Summer one day to see what he felt like. He said that I've done a good job with him. The man doesn't say anything he doesn't mean, so I glowed a little with pride on that one.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAVE AN IDEAL HORSE

Summer isn't very tall. He's 15.1, yet he's broad and deep enough that my 5'11" frame doesn't look completely ridiculous and my long legs don't go down to his knees. I've never minded riding a smaller horse as long as they had some substance to them. When a lady at the barn told me that Summer was the perfect height for me, it made me chuckle a little. I just hadn't expected anyone to say that.

 
 He thinks that turnout is the best thing ever.

Summer may not be tall, but he is strong and athletic. He has a really good mind. He's EXTREMELY smart, but uses it in a way that makes my life easier instead of more difficult (unlike a certain elephant-horse I know). He's taken everything I've thrown at him in stride and has never lost his cool (the bird incident doesn't count since he went right back to his normal self right after). He may not have "10" gates, but he has solid gates that will be able to be improved because of all of his other good attributes. Summer is cute and he's fun. The horse is kind, willing, and forgiving. I may make a thousand mistakes throughout the training process, but he's not going to hold it against me. Summer is ideal in all of the ways I need him to be.

As the Oh-So-Wise and honest to a fault Fiancé has said many times, Summer is a nice horse. I guess I'll have to admit that he's right AGAIN.