Camel Horse

This is my… seventh? horse I’ve tried training. Varying degrees of prior training on those horses, but majority were either unstarted or very green broke.

Why is it that suddenly I have no idea how to teach Levi anything?

I’ve resorted to youtube videos.

How do you teach contact on a 10 year old horse that is dang sure the bit means pain? I’ve never dealt with this before, not to this degree.

I think I’ll have the vet out to do a thorough check of his mouth. His prior owner, my friend, had his teeth done a few months ago… but maybe something was missed? He’s not having any issues eating. The beefcake has put on about 200lbs since he got here. Never drops a lick of food. Chews fine.

I’m really struggling with teaching him that contact is not something he needs to fear.

I almost asked for ideas on FB, but I’m so frustrated by the “Did you have his anus waxed first?” type of unhelpful comments that I didn’t.

Old owner did it all. Chiro, massage, teeth, etc. and he was doing the same thing for her as he does for me.

For the last 2.5 months I’ve stayed on the path of letting him sort out his head and neck while trying to shape his body into the correct form (or as correct as I can get). He holds his head as HIGH as he can, in what appears to be the most uncomfortable position possible, and he doesn’t deviate from it no matter what.

I tried a new idea recently, thinking I’d just tell him where to put his head. Push him up into the bit and limit his forward. I was thinking if I made too high uncomfortable, and rewarded for lower/normal height, he’d realize that was his happy place. He simply ducked behind the bit. A nice false frame lacking any actual connection.

I immediately quit that.

He dropped right into a false frame, like he’d been trained for it. I don’t want to encourage that.

So now I’m back to forgetting the head/neck and working the body. I’m not sure what else to do. It’s always worked for me before. The fact that it isn’t with him is driving me nuts.

Usually by this point I can at least get a few strides of softer going here and there.

Not Levi. *sigh*

I’m stuck at this point in our training. Our leg yields are progressing okay, he’s getting better about moving off aa light aid (not great, but better), he’s getting more comfortable about moving shoulders and hips around while I’m on him, and he’s starting to understand the outside rein…. But, I’m limited when he refuses to accept contact.

He has improved some at the walk wth contact. I assume it’s because he tires himself out from the camel position at trot. He’s starting to touch the bit on his own at walk, and relax down.

Maybe he just needs more time.

Luckily, we’ve got plenty of time.

October Lesson

The October lesson was supposed to be the “Big” lesson. The lesson where I finally, after decades of hard work and heartache, learn how to do a &^%$#@! flying lead change.

My truck broke.

crazy laugh

In a desperate attempt to not throw away $60 for nothing, I raced to the barn and asked if I could borrow a horse for the lesson.

Luckily, they had one I could use. A lovely Second Level mare.

Even with the horse snafu, it was a good lesson. The mare highlighted every bad habit, incorrect riding habit, I had.

Actuallly, the mare tattled on me like mad. It was embarrassing.

In my defense, the saddle was too big, the stirrups too long, the mare unknown. But the fact remains, I have some really illogical, unhelpful, habits that are holding me back. *sigh*

Like, why does my right hand have to pull back when my right leg goes on? I’m going to duct tape my hand to the pommel. Grrr

We had some good moments, but no matter how positive a spin my trainer put on the lesson, I felt like a bright light had been shined on my deficiencies… and suddenly I realized HOW MANY of them there were.

I left feeling… sub-standard.

Leave it to dressage people to say a lesson was good because all our flaws were exposed. God, we’re a sadistic bunch, aren’t we?

Marking Two Month Changes

Well, it’s been two months since I brought Levi home.

My little ugly-duckling is starting to look more like an actual horse. Might turn into obese horse soon if I don’t cut back on the feed. Ha!

I’m surprised how much muscle he’s put on since he’s gotten here (considering I really don’t work him very hard or long).

I chopped off his mane.

Before (from Aug 8th):

After (this week):

 

I think he’s starting to look like a real dressage/eventing horse! 😀

Everything’s Fine. Eek

How have things been going since the last installment, you ask?

Everything’s fine.

I now have the most collected canter possible on Joy.

In fact, I can’t seem to get her unstuck.

We’re walk, trot, and bounce in place (then sputter out and fall to pieces).

I have completely lost the left lead.

I have no idea what I’m doing and have no business training a horse.

I have a lesson this coming Saturday, and the plan was to introduce flying changes to Joy. This has been my dream for decades… to learn how to teach a correct flying change. I’m on the cusp of learning… and I have ruined my horse’s canter 5 days before the lesson. Aaaarrrgghh!

Also, this lesson is the last lesson I can have this year. If we can’t work on flying changes this lesson, then I have to wait 7 months for my next lesson (and hope like hell the trainer still wants to train me and is still willing to come to our area).

Either way… I went from low 60’s to high 60’s at First Level this year with only 4 lessons from this trainer. Pretty darn impressive.

Back to the Slog

Levi was on the back burner until I finished the last show with Joy.

He had a couple weeks off.

Pulled him out, tacked him up. Didn’t lunge. Hopped on.

Meh, he was fine. A bit more balky at the start, but nothing terrible.

Now that he’s back in work he’s progressing quickly.

I broke down the idea of outside aids to him before the “vacation”. He kind of gets the general idea.

This week I introduced the concept of moving the shoulders and haunches independently of each other with baby Turn on Haunch and Turn on Forehand.

I really thought he’d struggle with the concepts a lot more than he did. Especially the moving the shoulders part. His understanding of outside aids is still really rudimentary, so I wasn’t sure if he was ready or not. He got it though. I was shocked. Haha

We’re still working on leg yield idea. We’re progressing. He’s not the most naturally gifted athlete. Stiff, crooked, unbalanced. In walk, we can now leg yield from center line to rail either direction, LY on a diagonal line, and I started the LY to decrease/increase size of circle (spiral in/out).

It’s all baby level type work with bobbles and issues. But I was really happy with how willing he is.

What else.. he still hates the mounting block. He’ll acquiesce with bribes, but he’s still pretty sure it’s “The Place Where Beatings Occur”. If i get too aggressive about making him line up and stand, he becomes a nervous wreck.

He’s not terrible about it. It’s just annoying that I can’t walk him straight up and mount. I have to guide him up into place, assure him he’s fine, allow him to assess the situation, and then I can mount. Once I’m on though, he won’t move. I have to boot him, or drag him off balance to move away. Which completely baffles me.

He’s got this really funny behavior in the pasture. I have run-in stalls and full access to pasture currently. Joy wanders out to the pasture first. Levi stands in his stall and yells at Joy to come back.

He can walk out to her. 🤦‍♀️

As the Judge Groans

Show Day…

The day started off with me waking up at 1:30 am for no reason and unable to fall back to sleep.

At 5:00 am, I braid up Joy and try a new technique I read about. I give her a thorough brushing, brush out her tail, and stand back to admire this glossy and beautiful pony. I almost take a pic of her, but decide not to.

I run inside to change and grab something to eat. 

It’s load up time (which is always kind of hit or miss with Joy). I run out to the barn to grab Joy and she’s COVERED in poop. Top to bottom coated in it. 

Now we’re running behind.  

It’s STILL DARK OUT!!!!

I grab the pony and head over to the trailer to load. The trailer is a black pit. Joy balks. 

I finally convince her to get in. My other horse, Levi, is hollering his fool head off. Joy’s hollering back. Everyone’s upset. I’m rattled. We’re late. I’m freaking! And our running lights refuse to work. Did I mention it’s still dark out.

Ugh!

By the time we pull in to the show grounds, it’s finally light out. I see SA there already. She was looking calm and cool. Her majestic mare was unloaded and calmly eating hay. 

We pull in and I feel like a too-wired coffee fanatic with a semi-feral pony. My heart is pounding, my hands are shaking, Joy’s screaming inside the trailer.

The slope on the parking spot was so great that I felt like I hurled Joy off a cliff to unload her.

It is at this point we realize we have lights INSIDE of the trailer. That would’ve been useful to know an hour earlier.

Joy was a ball of nerves. Her whinnies are ear shattering.  I decided to hop on and put her through a warm-up to settle her down. It’s either that or lose my hearing.  

Oh, and Joy’s braids are slowly popping out, one by one. 

First Level Test 3.

Why would a show host put Test 3 first thing in the morning?! So sadistic!

I’ve got my test memorized. My pony is responsive and feeling good. My body is working fairly well for the lack of sleep and earliness of the day. I’m a little tense, but I’m okay.

And then I realized I would have to approach the judge’s booth to give my number. The booth where my old trainer sits. The one I’ve burnt my bridge with….

Eek!!!

Wait… it was…. pleasant!

Whew!

The whistle blows! 

I entered at A.

First center line and I’m feeling okay about this. We’re fairly straight. Halt, salute. All good. Ask to trot forward and Joy decides she has the world’s worst itch that she has to scratch right at that moment.

We recover.  

I get to about the half-way point in the test and my brain blanks. What comes next?!?! Suddenly all I can think is ‘Please don’t let her blow the whistle for off course.’

Aaaaahhhh!!

Just as I’m at max freak out, I remember the rest of the test.

Whew!

Joy and I spent the rest of the test bouncing between stalling out and rushing forward, but we nail the leg yields and do passably well on the canter loops. Yay!

Then it was SA’s turn.

She enters the arena looking poised and elegant in her maroon jacket and matching fly bonnet.

And that is the exact moment someone wanted to talk to me and I missed the rest of her ride. 

I caught moments of it. She does a better lengthen. Her canter is better. I can’t tell from my view point, but her centerline and halts look better.

The scores take forever to come out, and it’s a hike to go get them, so I have no idea how I’ve done by the time the second class starts.

I’m pretty certain at this point that the whole thing is moot. I didn’t feel like the first ride went very well. There’s no way I can beat SA or SC’s highest percentage scores for year end awards (I had NEVER gotten a score higher than a 63 all year). It’s hot, I’m tired, and I can barely remember the tests.

First Level Test 1

Why am I always first to go?

Another braid popped out.

I put my game face on. I enter the arena.

Our trot work goes okay. Again, our canter work was lacking. 

We get through it. The test seems easy in comparison to the first ride. I’m tired. Joy’s tired. Some good spots, some bad.

I noticed Joy HAD to take one final step at EVERY SINGLE HALT at this show. 

At this point, I’m still under the impression that I’m just putting in the face time to get the Year End Reserve Points spot because SC didn’t show up. 

We finish the test and I hop off. Joy’s soaked in sweat. Lathered. When I scratch her neck it turns white. It’s hot and she’s been working on building her winter coat for a few weeks now.

I pull her tack, hose her off and cool her down, and then run over to the office to scratch the last test.

When I tell the office manager I’m scratching the last test, she screeches “WHAT?!?!”

I thought “Oh, how sweet, she’s worried about my pony”.

Instead she says, “Your going to win High Point if you do the last test. Get back on your pony!!” She said it with such conviction and authority that I damn near ran back to tack up my pony. lol!

I take a moment to consider how much I love ribbons, but I love my pony more and she’s been so good that I’d rather we end the show season at this point.

I tell her again I’m scratching, hand her my bridle number. 

Results:

First Level Test 3: 67.361% – https://youtu.be/VXihZHfaCYE

First Level Test 1: 68.793% – https://youtu.be/Cr-OQoPuNzE

Plus….

We won Champion High Percentage and Champion High Point.

I found that twist highly ironic.

The final scores for all the riders:

One last thing.. and more important than the show…

SA did really well with her mare. She has a horse that I highly doubt anyone else could’ve gotten to this point, and even though I have no doubt SA will be able to move the mare up the levels, she will always struggle with this mare…  And, this is the first horse SA has trained herself. Joy is my fourth I think.  SA is not only a very talented rider, but a great sportswoman and wonderful friend.  She’s someone I feel really honored to be able to compete against, and she’s a strong competitor who brings out the best in me.

At the show, we parked next to each other. After SA’s second ride she tells me that some jerk bystander (not riding) made an extremely rude and derogatory comment about her size. I mean, horrible comment. SA took it in stride. I lost my shit about it. SA rode her final test (Test 2) after the comment. I can’t even express how much I admire her. 

While she was riding her final test, I reported the jerkoff to the show managers and they scurried him off the show grounds. 

For everyone else out there showing or riding, and you’re not feeling the most confident about your weight… You’re amazing! Go ride, and I’ll flying tackle the basement dwelling jerkoffs when they show up.   

The Twists Keep Coming

It’s T minus 1 day ’til show day.

We’ve just received word of a Judge change for my classes.

The new judge is the old trainer I had a seriously bad falling out with….

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu *k!

The show Saturday, the one where everything rides on me scoring well, just got harder.

As someone who already turns into a ball of nerves wrapped in anxiety on show days, this new development adds an extra special sauce of EEEK to the experience.

Will I be able to hold it together well enough to pull out a passable rendition of First Level, WHILE being judged by the old trainer I pissed off?!?

Will I forget my all of my tests and be DQ’d for off course, sending myself into a humiliation spiral for our final show?!?

Will the judge spit on us as we turn at C?!?

Stay tuned for more of “Avandarre Really Knows How to Burn a Bridge”.

….

I’m eagerly awaiting how all this plays out on Saturday! 😂

The Twists, the Turns!!

Its T-5 days til show day.

That’s right. I entered one last show this year. I had no intention of showing for the rest of the season… BUT…

I found out I’m in the running for Reserve Champion at First Level (Year End Awards)!

Plus I need 3 shows to be eligible for year end awards.

My two main rivals are SA and SC.

Now, SA has busted butt this year to clinch the Champion spot for points. She’s attended every show and earned 47 points! Plus, she’s a mere 1% off the high Percent Champion with a 68%.

SC has only been to a few shows (like me), so her points are lower (26 points), but her high percent is 69%, which puts her in lead for Percentages.

Disclaimer: Both SA ad SC high scores were from a specific judge at the show I was going to go to but decided it was too hot. Now I wish I’d gone.

SA is a hard working, very dedicated young lady who has worked tirelessly for every gain she’s made this year. She’s improved immensely.

In the two shows earlier this year where I competed against her, I was able to beat her.

But SA’s improved a lot over the course of a year. Will I be able to beat her again at the last, and final show of the year??

Or, will SA finally crush me under her heel, proving that she has overcome training and horse issues?? Will she wave the blue ribbon at the last and final show??

SC, the far better rider than both SA or myself, chose to step aside this show.

SA and I will battle it out beteen ourselves this show.

If I beat SC in points, it’ll be a hollow victory. One earned by forfeiture rather than skill and talent. SC could’ve easily beaten me on points this show.

Will I be able to top SC’s incredible high percent at my final show (a score I’ve never gotten close to in all my years of riding? Or will SC hold on to her title of High Percentage Champion for First Level?

Who will win? Who will lose?

Tune in next time for “As the Judge Groans” to learn how it ends!!

** I really like SA and SC. I couldn’t be happier for their success this year.

I also really like how much they challenge me to become a better rider.

Hopefully no one takes this post too seriously. It’s tongue in cheek. I’ll be happy if I stay on and no unplanned ring depatures.

The Levi Saga

I cantered Levi for the first time a couple days ago. My understanding about his prior training is a bit iffy. When I first talked to the prior owner, she had mentioned that he only canters a few strides (at most) and getting anything more from him was a huge struggle. She reminded me she used spurs on him.

Combine that with the fact that his steering, the first couple of weeks I had him, was nearly non-existent and that I work him in an open environment (no fences to stop us if he decides he no longer wants to be there).. it made me leery to try upping the speed without a more solid base in place.

I finally felt like I had the basics in place to try a canter. I’ve only seen him canter 2 strides under saddle. That was all the prior owner was able to get him to canter while I was there. She did say later that he had been sent to some kind of a trainer, and the trainer cantered him. I don’t really have any more details than that.

He picked up the canter well. No theatrics. He stayed in the canter well until I asked him to turn. Then he’d drop to a trot. Kind of expected, since his balance and strength are still really poor.

He’s not exactly the best mover out there (hahaha), but he’s got a willing attitude about it all.

He can’t hardly bend to the right at all. He’s so incredibly stiff and crooked. I’ve almost got a leg-yield installed, and I’ve been spending a lot of time on trying to lengthen the left side so he can bend right through his body. He’s super happy to bend his neck instead of his body, but that just contorts him and throws him off balance.

He’s just starting to grasp the concept of “outside aids”, in a rudimentary kind of way.

I’m also trying to teach him that “contact” is not bad. He doesn’t trust me yet. I have about 8 years of his history to overcome before he’ll accept the idea of concept. I just started on this recently, so he’s still all “Ahhhhhh!” about it.

Anyway, I’m pretty proud of the fact that I could sort of steer at the canter, that he kept the canter as long as he could (balance wise) without requiring me to work to sustain it, and when I re-asked for the canter he hopped back into it as soon as he could. I was really pleased with that!

I think he’ll make a fine low-level eventer. 🙂 He sure is a lot of fun to ride, and super comfortable. Can’t say he’s my first choice with that neck, but he makes up for it with his sunny disposition and positive attitude.

Levi Update

Levi, the new horse, is doing well. He’s been here 4 weeks tomorrow.

So far I’m still working on installing steering and Go buttons. The steering has improved drastically over 4 weeks. I no longer fear we’ll go blasting out of the arena every turn.

Go button is still really sticky. Getting better. At least he’s stopped trying to bash in my face with his poll every time I ask for any forward movement.

He’s pretty fun to ride actually.

For the last 8ish years I’ve been skating through shows/clinics without washing a single horse. I wish to mourn the death of my care free show days now….

[mourning not having to bathe a horse]

I’d also like to point out that I have been long mane free for at least 2 years, and then this lug comes in with a long mane. It’s already tangled and knotted. Have I mentioned how much I hate long manes? Great for running braids, but a PITA every other day of the week. The second he’s paid off I’m whacking his mane off.

I started Levi over ground poles the past 2 weeks. Mainly because I’m bored of doing circles, but also because he has to pay attention to the ground and it seems to make him remove his head from my lap.

If his head gets any higher I’ll have to reclassify him as a giraffe.

….

I’m sitting in my riding pants, dinking on my phone. I really want to ride today, but I’m so exhausted. Bone weary exhausted. I feel like lead. So… here’s my shout out to all those AAs still getting out there, still riding, even when you’re exhausted. You’re my heroes, and I’ll try to be more like you.