Follow up to the wintery things

As you may have picked up, I live in Texas. Bryan Texas specifically. So mid-central-ish Texas. Sometimes I think of Bryan as an oasis for the middle of nowhere. If you leave city limits, you have about 45 minutes of driving before you hit the next watering hole. And I mean 45 minutes where the speed limit is 75 mph. So this might lead you to think there would be lots of country folks around. And I definitely think there are lots of good ole boys and girls floating around. However, you may also remember, I am a PhD student. So naturally, most of the people I interact with in my working day are not in fact “country people.” Ok, that’s fine. But I also teach undergraduates. Wouldn’t you expect at least half, if not most, students at an Agricultural and Mechanical school known for being exceptionally conservative to be “country folks” or at least have interacted with these country folks on multiple occasions. I mean everyone can’t be from Dallas suburbs and Houston inner-city.

Alright, there is the premise. On Monday I was teaching my students and I mentioned how pleased I was about receiving the Carhartt overalls/bibs. The class seemed flabbergasted, and asked me what I meant, and if I meant “bibs, like for babies?”

Whoa whoa whoa. So two words here: Carhartt and bibs. I guess I can understand ‘bibs,’ although I would expect people to think about ski bibs. But I thought everyone who was even remotely country knew about Carhartt… what was it called… Redneck Nike or something (from the recesses of high school days). So I polled my colleagues. I got mixed responses. Most knew one word or the other, but no one actually knew what I was talking about! This is so crazy to me!

I guess all this really means is I have a thicker country streak that I have previously acknowledged, and the people in this area have never had to dress for cold weather.

In other news, the overalls are AWESOME and I enjoyed their warmth. Even if no one knows what they are, my cold legs knew. More importantly, Robert will be competing at his first show next weekend (March 7th), and I think he’s going to write some teasers and thoughts about it. Stay tuned.

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Wintery things. Even in Texas

Winter weather isn’t something we hear a lot about where I live. Normally we spend all winter enjoying the sunshine while my family up north complains. Which isn’t to say we don’t see winter weather… its just fairly rare. So the weather in the next few days is calling for rain, but the temperatures are going to dip below freezing. Which means everyone is going to lose their minds.

I grew up with a smattering of winter weather, and I decided at a young age that wintery precipitation was just a nice way to be trapped in your house. We used to live in the middle of nowhere, down a mile long dirt road. My dad had a tractor which he used to plow the road, but there is only so much that can be done for ice. I remember being snowed in a few times for DAYS. Its always fun the first day or two, but then suddenly you just want to leave and you can’t…

So I always get a little edgy when the winter weather comes into town. I don’t want to imagine being trapped at home. Although that’s definitely a silly worry at this point because I would love to be trapped at home for a couple of days. So many little projects I could get done! And lets be honest, I can accomplish a substantial amount of work from home. I just had a flash that I should have accomplished more today. Oops. So much time browsing nothing.

Which leads me to the entire point of this post I suppose. I bought a pair of Carhartt bibs. I have been dreaming of a pair for several years, especially as I noticed my cold legs turn red. I always considered them too expensive, but I am a grownup now, and I can buy things ;). This is especially exciting because I currently have a subscription to Amazon prime, and I was able to find them on Amazon, use my credit card points, and then get one day shipping for $6.99. Because instant gratification. I’ll be warm for my chores on Tuesday!

Jellybeans zig zag training trajectory

During the Knots hiatus, I had one quick ride on Jellybean. It was the first time I’ve ridden her in… I don’t remember? I know I have ridden twice since I busted my booty. So I grabbed my lunge line and whip and headed to the arena. She was acting completely foolish. I was surprised by how much she wanted to ignore the lunging. Then again… its been awhile.

So a few gentle (ish) reminders about the need for attention, and Jellybean was walking and trotting and cantering and making transitions where she was supposed to. After the lunging, I made her stand at the mounting block and got on. As an aside, its so easy to teach your horse to stand for mounting. Consistency folks. Horses that wont stand to be mounted annoy me to no end. Its so rude.

We walked, we trotted, we cantered. We ignored the general chaos. We tried to buck Amanda off. We were slapped with the dressage whip. We cantered along. We stopped. All in all, fairly uneventful for a baby horse that has been ridden three times in four months. She’s definitely a smart girl. Ok picture time! Enough talk.

Something of a resolution

So Knots and I took about a week and a half off. As I mentioned previously, I talked to a few friends about the situation, but mostly I just stewed on it. I was really trying to figure out why I was taking the advice so hard. I mean, Knots has never been anything close to a clean slate. (Fade to storytime….)

Knots was left at the farm. His owner stopped paying board, and he was left out for a few months before Maggie decided he needed to do something. Her son was drafted to ride him, and he cowboyed him around a bit. Knots is fast as shit. Like win a race fast. Its intimidating to watch, and a bit terrifying to sit on top of. It seems he was taught to stand and run. He didn’t accept leg or hand contact, and he would run away with people. I guess that’s called bolting. Anyways. He was ridden by Maggie’s son for awhile, and at some point I started riding him a little bit. Around this time Robert and I built some cavaletti and realized that Knots loved jumping. I started riding him more and he started calming down. He was able to be used in summer camp that year, and in the fall we started jumping more regularly. When winter came around again, we started taking dressage lessons and went to a show. Bam. He still wants to bolt in situations with new people and he is very uneasy in large groups. (As storytime ends…)

Trot poles. Our very first time. February 2013

I’ve been riding him for two years. And so I think the moral of the story is that I want to reevaluate my goals. I have developed a real attachment to this pesky mutt, and as soon as I accumulate enough money, I’m going to buy him. Whether he is good at dressage or not, we can continue improving. If we are safe enough to run around a novice course in December, that will be great. If not, then we will continue poking along until we can safely move on up.

In the meantime, I will continue getting Jellybean moving (I have a post about our last ride scheduled this week ;)) and working to fit in as many rides as I can around my schedule.

And so onto the next ride after the dressage lesson. Maggie has been putting in some time working with Knots when I have been working. So on Saturday I showed up to the barn and grabbed Knots with my cookie stash. We tacked up and I got ready to lunge him, only to realize my side rein donut was broken. How exactly have we gone through two sets of side reins in a year? I don’t know either. I will be saving up for a better quality pair in the hopes that is the problem…

Anyways, we worked on the lunge line with Maggie’s side reins and attempted to see some level of submission. I didn’t feel like I was seeing a lot, but I wasn’t seeing much active resistance. I think the side reins needed to be a hole or two tighter, but I was out of holes. Anyways, I lunged in both directions and then mounted. I decided I would ride with ‘side rein hands’ which is to say I just used the reins to put pressure on the bit if Knots was resisting and to have an extremely light contact if he was giving to the bit. I used my legs and seat to trot in a 20-30mish circle.

I was fairly pleased with the results. He was not extremely submissive by any stretch, but he was responding. I think this ride is something we can build on. Only about 100 more rides like this and I’ll have me a dressage horse :p

Eating my new boots

Recent challenges with submission

Before Rob and I traveled for work, I had a lesson with Sarah at her farm. Maggie and I hauled over and worked on our respective challenges. Knots and I were repeating our warm up from the show, having trouble differentiating between trantering and trotting. We were making incremental progress (and probably only because I’m an optimist) when Sarah called me over to talk about goals. I told her I wanted to be approaching 30s in dressage, and that I wanted to run Novice at the end of the year. We have touched around the idea that Knots MUST accept leg and rein aids, and at the same time, but we haven’t made it the sole focus of a ride. Sarah pointed out that acceptance of the aids (all of them, at the same time) was absolutely crucial if I was going to meet any of those goals.

And so she went to the barn and grabbed some side reins and a neck stretcher. I untacked Knots while she added a surcingle and the side reins and neck stretcher. We were worried he would react poorly to the side reins for the first time, so she moved slowly. She firmly established forward momentum. First the next stretcher, then the side reins, then an increase in pressure. Knots quickly accepted the pressure, but then started trying to resist. Sarah pushed him through his resistant moves, and he seemed to be getting it. She worked him in both directions, and he really seemed to be understanding what she was asking.

After the lunging, I tacked him back up and Sarah mounted and walked off. He immediately gave to the bit at the walk, so she tried a trot. Cue 45 minutes of resistance. It was really hard to watch. He considered lying down and thought about rearing, but Sarah was very quick to tell him no. In all, she was forced to take a single submissive walk step and call it a win. She came over and told me that I needed to choose between Knots and my goals. If I was committed to running novice in the late fall, I needed to ride another horse. If I was committed to the [slow] improvement of Knots, she would help me, but I should understand six months of daily work might not fix his challenges.

Anyways, that was pretty tough to hear. It worked out that I had a forced week hiatus from horses, and I thought a lot about the situation. I talked to my friends and got some additional perspectives. I really appreciated Sarah giving me her professional opinions knowing I would be upset. Some of the other things I heard ranged from calling the advice overly dramatic, to saying why was I wasting my time anyways. One of my friends mentioned that I should just ride Jellybean, since she was a fresh slate. Another friend pointed out Knots didn’t like new people, and he was probably testing her more than resisting. I didn’t think about this as a crossroads so much as an opportunity to refine the course… but what is the course? To be continued

Show recap

At long last, I’m going to update you about our show experience. I’ve been putting it off until I was able to type it up on the laptop, but apparently that will never happen. So here I am on my phone. (Warning formatting problems may occur). I’ll put the photos in another post, since its tricky on here.

So the show was supposed to include Maggie, myself, Jeannette, and Katie. However, it rained and Maggie had drill. So off the three amigos went. Jeannette was kind enough to stuff all the ponies in the trailer and we were actually ahead of schedule for once.

We arrived and briskly walked the jumping course twice. The jumps were all the ones we practiced at the schooling. Some of them were even smaller than the ones from the schooling. I was feeling pretty confident walking the course. Its amazing what a difference some preparation makes 😉 The course was a little bit slippery, but I was hopeful it would dry out. The stadium course I was not so confident about. I planned on making some wide lines to avoid the sloppy footing.

With the jumping portion under control for now, I got Knots ready for our long dressage warm up. Rob showed up and helped me get ready and found me a much needed water. Then Knots and I were off to unwind.

He has picked up some weird new evasions of work. Namely, trantering. He doesn’t want to trot, especially on hills. Its easier to canter 😉 So we needed a longggg time to firmly establish that trot and canter were separate gaits. After about an hour of working, Knots was finally being responsive. He was also covered in enough sweat that I knew he was wishing we clipped him.

Eventually we trotted down the center line and completed our test. It was our best to date, even with a resistant moment to my spur and some broken gaits here and there. 49.5. Haha. I guess there should be. Side note about low standards or something, but I was so pleased with the test. See it here!

With that success in the bag, we took a brief break and then got ready for the jump round. People were talking about the sloppy footing, but Knots is plucky and we weren’t in a hurry anyway. We warmed up over some practice jumps. They were pretty awful. We were not getting good approaches, and I got left behind once. Which was awesome when I didn’t actually obtain coaching for this show…

Anyway, we jumped a couple more times with a more relaxed approach and got a couple of good spots, then we were ready to lurk about the start box. Jeannette went directly before me, and then we were standing in the box. Knots was oblivious to the excitement of standing in the box, although he was probably confused about my tension. Must be lions or something.

Off we went, over the first log, calmly over the second. Then to the almost combination, a step up and then about 6-8 strides (I don’t remember) to another log. Knots was building power (and stopping listening) before the step up and we argued about pace, which led to me getting left behind and jacking his mouth. I recovered and we jumped the log. Then it was down the hill to the fake ditch.

Again, Knots was getting strung out and we argued about balance before the ditch (BTW he couldn’t care less about ditches). We jumped that and headed to the railroad tie, with my focus on straightness. Then Knots started to pay attention more, as we started cantering up the hill. We jumped the ramp and then the table. Up to the barrel, through the water and into the stadium.

I was worried a bit about the stadium, since I lost my focus here last year. It was also sloppy and I was slightly worried about the height. But all those worries were for nothing. I remembered to steer, the jumps looked more 2’3″ than 2’6″, and Knots was fantastic in the mud. We finished!

I was exceptionally pleased! Great outing, and our first beginner novice, even if it was a small one. I took care of Knots, gave him a shower and some water, then left him to relax. I helped Katie get ready and then watched her have a successful ride.

Then! I found out I won a ribbon! Our 49.5 had us in last after the dressage, but the sloppy footing wasn’t ideal for most of the other competitors, and the time faults and scratches put us into third place! Knots was a champion mud horse.

The day was a raging success, Jeannette won the first place ribbon, and Katie finished fourth in her division 🙂 It was definitely a successful outing. Now we just need to work towards the next time!