After 11 days, the cold snap finally broke (30 degrees now feels like t-shirt, shorts and flip flop weather) and I was able to actually ride my horse. I knew ya’ll wouldn’t believe me, so I took a picture to prove it. And yes, that is breaking news in my life. Sad, but true.
All I did was a basic walk, trot canter each direction and I’m happy to report that Miles indulged in this endeavor. He was a little sassy in upward transitions to the canter, but it was really just pinned ears and a tail swish… no kicking whatsoever which I consider a win at this point!
Tonight an independent saddle fitter is coming out, so I’m excited for that (and keeping my fingers crossed that Miles behaves himself). I’m hoping to have a really good idea of what exactly I need to look for so that I can finish this saddle search in the next month. I also have a Prestige rep coming out on Sunday (courtesy of Wilbur&Emily!) who is bringing three different models for me to try as well.
That’s about the excitement in fly over country — TGIF!
It’s been more than a week since my last post, and for that I’m sorry. But I’m still alive and so is Miles.
Shortly after my last post, shit hit the fan. I had a short lesson on Monday (Jan. 20) which actually went fairly well — after picking up a dressage whip, Miles went willingly forward with no cow-kicking or bucking and we successfully trotted and cantered over a crossrail. Unfortunately, that’s the last time I was able to ride due to weather. It seems Polar Vortex No. 2 has hit the midwest and is sticking around… which really, really sucks. And is not conducive to riding my horse.
I also had a terrible week at work, which included some serious conversations with HR. So that part of my life is also currently in a downward spiral. And to top it all off I got selected for jury duty at the beginning of February, which means my already busy schedule at work now includes doing four weeks of work in two. Awesome sauce.
Anyways, I just wanted to pop in and tell ya’ll not to worry (which you probably weren’t, but I like to flatter myself) and apologize in advance for not posting much this month. I don’t expect my schedule to lighten until February, but I’ll try not to let it be another week until my next update.
Stay warm and give your horse(s) a kiss and a carrot for me!
After my terrible lesson on Monday, I stuck with my riding plan and gave Miles Tuesday off. I went out to the barn on Wednesday to see what I could see.
Mistake #1: I went out by myself because Sam was busy. And as it turned out I was literally the only person in the barn.
Checked the whiteboard to see if Miles had been turned out, but he hadn’t. No big deal, I thought, because there have been plenty of times I’d ridden him without it. I went to grab the beast and before I even made it out of his stall he tried to bite me. Fantastic.
Continued tacking, got on and did our abbreviated warm-up, which was okay. He cow kicked when I transitioned up to the canter, but whatevs. I went back down to the walk to begin bending, suppling and framing. And shit hit the fan. He balked at the walk, balked at the trot. When I put my leg on, he cow kicked. When I used my crop, he bucked. Super fantastic.
I was by myself, and I was scared. So I did what any other weenie amateur would do: I got him to trot one lap around the arena each direction (no bending, no nothing) but at least moving forward and not doing a Western Pleasure jog, and called it quits.
I figured that 10 minutes of “work” probably wasn’t enough, so I got the bright idea to let Miles loose in the indoor for a while. Since he was napping in the crossties and I’ve always seen him be super quiet in turnout, I brought a lunge whip with me. I turned him out and let him walk/sniff for a few minutes before I raised the whip. I was about 20 feet away and I just waved the whip in the air (didn’t touch him or crack it) and he TOOK OFF.
Mistake #2: Using a lunge whip. If you suspect your horse is wound as tight as a bottle cap, do not encourage running with a whip.
Head high, tail in the air, ears forward Miles literally galloped as fast as he could around the entire arena. I put the whip down, tried to get him to slow down because I was convinced he was going to kill himself – either by ripping a tendon or colliding with a wall during his hairpin turns. But he didn’t.
That horse galloped for a solid 5 minutes without stopping. At least I’m now 100% sure he has some Thoroughbred in him. I really wish I had some video for ya’ll, but I was so stunned all I could do was stand in the middle of the arena with my mouth gapping open.
I told my trainer all about my “ride” on Wednesday and subsequent running of the bulls. My lesson ended up being a private, and trainer started out with groundwork, getting Miles to respect her space, etc. Then I got on and we rode very briefly–walk, trot, canter–each direction, with no bending or giving. While he wasn’t exactly moving as forward as I would like, he did behave much better: no cow kicking or bucking.
While she’s not 100 percent sure of the cause, her opinion at this point is that he’s hopped up on grain and that he needs to see a chiropractor. So we’re going to try a multifaceted approach including cutting his grain way back, adding a B1 Thiamine supplement, calling the chiropractor and focusing on very short, happy rides in which I ask for nothing more than fairly forward and I stay up off his back, especially at the canter.
At the end of the lesson she made a comment that Miles seems to be a “glass is half empty” kind of horse and that once things start to slide downhill for him, the worse he feels. Well, at least that’s one thing we seem to have in common. Here’s hoping that both Miles and myself can work on shaking off these winter blues and remember that January means we’re halfway to spring, instead of three months left of winter.
I know you’re all dying to hear about Miles and whether or not he was the good twin or the evil twin last night, but you’ll have to wait until Friday. Sad panda. In the meantime, enjoy pictures of small, cute me (with horrible hunter hair) and adorable horses.
We did some schooling shows at home together, but never made it off the farm. Unfortunately my most vivid memory of Blaze is a bad one. A very bad fall I took off him, to be exact.
Blaze was lazy, so I always carried a crop when I rode him. But nobody told me exactly how to use it… just that I should carry it. So I was practicing picking up the canter in a lesson one day, but Blaze didn’t really feel like going faster than a trot. So the barn owner told me to use my crop.
So I did.
But I never took my hand off the rein. So you can imagine the scene that occurred: I’m hauling back on Blaze’s mouth (because I have short arms) whacking him with a stick and kicking with all my might. It was this moment that I learned if a horse can’t go forward or backward, he goes up.
Straight up in the air.
The offending orange crop
I remember being so surprised I couldn’t even react. That is, until I felt momentum going backwards. That’s right folks, Blaze flipped over backwards. Luckily I was able to jump off to the side and didn’t get crushed as 1000 pounds of horse crashed to the ground. I was fine, shaken up for sure, but no serious injuries. Blaze was also fine – got right back up and never took a lame step.
Who the fuck let me out of the barn with my hair looking like that and wearing a maroon sweater UNDER my show coat?! My inner hunter princess just fainted.
That fall was the one and only time I didn’t get right back on the horse; the barn owner wouldn’t let me because she was worried I had a concussion. I didn’t – never had any symptoms or anything.
That day I learned a lot of valuable lessons, not all of which I realized at the time, unfortunately.
Always wear a helmet
Never use equipment you aren’t sure how to operate properly
A good instructor is worth their weight in gold
Unfortunately, that’s not the most traumatic fall I’ve ever taken. You get to read that one in the next edition of FOO Chronicles!
What a beautiful rain coat…but at least there are pretty ribbons!
Anyone else sending a theme of chestnut quarter horse geldings with chrome?
Om nom nom nom… third place ribbons taste the best!
It’s official: I’m on a roller coaster with Miles and I want off. And I’m not talking about the double loop or the corkscrew; I’m on the Top Thrill Dragster. Let’s recap my week:
Thursday: I ride and Miles is terrible, horribly stiff and I freak out. I also lose my shit over his coat condition (See: Stressed).
Friday: I ride again and my friend N watches us and gives me some pointers. Miles is not stiff, and I’m starting to feel better.
Saturday & Sunday: I again ride both days, incorporating our new warm-up and grooming routine. I feel fantastic, albeit slightly bad for totally wigging out (See: Steps to De-Stress).
Monday: It all comes crashing down.
Monday evening I scheduled an extra group lesson to make up for the week the polar vortex took. I was pretty pumped and went out feeling great after my AHA! moments from the weekend. We started with a flat exercise and Miles was fairly grumpy, starting with his classic head in the air, I can’t move forward routine. I pushed him through it, and got him to canter. Halfway through a canter circle, he bucked. I stopped him, backed him and made him move on.
Next, trainer set out a small gymnastic — a bounce to start with. We trotted in and that went fine. She moved it up to a crossrail with one stride to a 2′ oxer. We went over, landed and Miles took off bucking, rodeo bronc style.
My life flashed before my eyes and I really thought for a second I was going head-first into the wall. Somehow (no idea how) but I stayed on and got him stopped. After that, I was terrified; totally shaken up. We trotted around for about 20 minutes while the rest of the group finished their lesson. I made Miles bend, circle and move up all in a frame.
One of the working students got on Miles and he was grumpy with her, even on the flat. She took him over a few jumps and after about the third one he landed and TOOK OFF running. She did that jump a few more times, stopping him hard when he took off and he finally did the jump like a normal horse.
So what the fuck happened? I’m still not sure. We cut his feed down, and we’re going to see if maybe the group lesson format isn’t really his cup of tea.
I’m going out to ride tonight, and I have a semi-private flat lesson scheduled for Thursday. Here’s hoping I get to ride my horse and not a bucking bronco.
Hi! I'm Tracy, a full-time marketing/communications professional from Central Ohio. Fly On Over follows my journey through horse ownership and as a working adult amateur trying to find success in the hunter/jumper show ring with my Thoroughbred, Miles.