The struggle bus life

Even with longer daylight hours, it has been a major struggle to get out to the barn lately.

 

My husband does construction for a living, so his hours are all over the place, especially with the weather starting to improve. Typically, I go out to the barn after he gets home and after I’ve prepared dinner. My cut off for leaving to go to the barn is 7:00. Not because the barn closes, but because I just don’t like to go any later than that. The barn is busy on weeknights with riding lessons, so there are usually other people there until 8:30, sometimes even later.

In February, I managed to ride once a week. Not ideal for improvement by any means, but that’s what my life allowed. Last week, I finally made it to the barn on Thursday and by 1:00 am Friday I had the stomach bug that my son had on Wednesday. Lovely. Saturday brought another road trip, so riding was out until Monday. I got in a short ride after Manny’s and my Magnawave session, but I didn’t get nearly as much accomplished as what I would have liked to. My husband got home late last night, I think he has plans tonight and tomorrow is our 9 year wedding anniversary. With only so many hours in the day and having to prioritize what I do in my limited free time, it’s been tough. I’m hoping I can ride once more before the weekend. Then get back to more consistent riding next week.

Our trainer has been gone showing and she said to keep jumping while she’s gone. Well, it’s been 1 1/2 out of the two weeks she’ll be gone and we’ve gotten in to flat rides. Life is rough sometimes as a working mom and adult amateur rider. Even still, I’m grateful for every minute I get to spend in the saddle.

Silvio Mazzoni Lesson 2/9/2020: the riding part

Picking up where I left off, I arrived at the barn in plenty of time to get Manny and me ready. Thankfully he wasn’t covered in dried mud this time. There was a lady there who rode in the clinic that also brought her MagnaWave machine. I decided to try it for myself and Manny before our ride since the cost was extremely reasonable. I was up first and it was a strange sensation to say the least, but my lower back felt better after one session than it has in years. Manny wasn’t able to get an extremely thorough session due to time constraints, but he felt a lot looser warming up than what he typically does.

I walked around for about a minute or so, then went to the center of the ring to introduce myself and Manny to Silvio. He asked what we did and I told him we’ve been together since the end of October, we recently started jumping and we hadn’t done much course work yet.

He had us go walk a couple laps, then trot. Once we had done that, I came back to the center of the ring to get instructions for our next exercise. We’re lucky to have a good sized indoor arena that allows for a full course of jumps, plus some room for flat work. I’ll save all of you from my terrible drawing skills, but here’s the gist of the course: Up the center of the ring through the grid, circle right, up the outside line (6 strides), circle right, down the diagonal fence, down the long side, around the end and circle left, one stride to a 4 stride on the outside, circle left, over another fence on the other diagonal, down the long side, around the end and over another diagonal fence, down the long side, all the way around the end of the ring, down the other diagonal almost entirely and over the last fence.

We started this exercise at the trot with all the fences being poles on the ground. Manny loves jumping and generally isn’t spooky, but he hadn’t seen the poles since they had been repainted. He was looking at all of them the first time around between his legs. It was an interesting feeling. I also for the first time in my life forgot where I was going over a course of ground poles. I guess to be fair, I haven’t jumped an entire course of jumps since 2016 and there were a lot of ground poles in this exercise.

Once we had gone through at the trot, we went back through starting at the trot and asking for the canter over the first pole in each part of the exercise, including the circles in all 4 corners. Manny was less reactive to the bright paint colors the second time around, but he started anticipating the canter transitions and in typical Manny fashion, his head went straight up in the air. After one time around, Silvio left the arena to go get something. At the time I wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but he came back with a de Gogue. I hadn’t ever ridden in one before, so I was a bit skeptical. Since I was paying Silvio for his opinion, I went on my way once the de Gogue was properly adjusted and I had gotten back on.

We started the same exercise over, starting at the canter over what was now a course of small jumps. This time Silvio told me to land in two point after the fence and to sit down only for the simple change (if necessary) and for the circles. I would estimate the circle was about 15 meters and it was tough to ride. Between asking for the canter, trying to keep him between my reins and straightening out before the approach to the fence, there was a lot to get done in a short amount of time. Silvio told me more than once that my hands were too close together, particular in the circles. Even though it felt weird to widen them, it made a big difference.

We had some breaks to the trot, I need to work on keeping my leg underneath me while sitting the canter and of course work on getting a good bend but straightening out in time to approach the fence. Silvio also was saying hands higher at one point and I couldn’t understand what he was saying, so I walked. Once I understood, I picked the canter back up and went on my way. For anyone who doesn’t know, Silvio is originally from Argentina. He isn’t difficult to understand, but it takes a bit of getting used to when you’ve never ridden with him.

Eventually the fences were all about 2’0″ and we were getting the strides everywhere, getting the circles, but we were still having issues with cutting off our turn to the two diagonal fences. Our last course went well, but we had to fix those two fences. Silvio set a flower box at that end of the ring for a reference point for our turns and we finally got it.

As in any aspect of my life, I don’t always have a lot of confidence in my skills and my ability. I felt so unprepared for my lesson with Silvio, but it went really well. I’m so glad that I’m not only able to ride Manny, but that I got to borrow him to ride with Silvio. We have a few goals on the horizon for this year, but in the mean time we’re going to keep working hard and hopefully get a chance to show Silvio our progress next time he’s in town.

 

Silvio Mazzoni Lesson – 2/9/2020: the background

I have now been riding Manny for about 3 1/2 months. We still have a long ways to go (doesn’t everybody?), but our fitness has really improved in the last month or so.

Right before Christmas, we were supposed to have our first lesson, but Manny ended up hurting himself. Probably by getting into a pasture scuffle. It took two weeks for everyone’s schedules to align, but we had our first lesson the first full week of January. We’re trying to do lessons every other week, with the idea that in those lessons my trainer can give me some ideas of things to work on between lessons. So far it is working well, except when I ended up having a bit too much off between rides and forget how to replicate the position changes we’ve been working on.

Our first two lessons were primarily through a grid. By the end of the second lesson, we had a vertical and an oxer in the grid, instead of just poles and crossrails. During the 3rd lesson, we did a lot of really tough flat work before ending on doing two fences on a circle off the left and right lead.

I feel like an important bit to add is that I have only had 5 jumping lessons total since October of 2016. Dexter never learned how to jump while I had him, so I really haven’t jumped consistently since early 2014.

After my first lesson, my trainer mentioned that Silvio Mazzoni (who is her trainer) would be coming for lessons in February. At first, she said we could ride in a lesson with him depending on how we were doing. After the second lesson, I got a definitive yes. I was so excited. Then last week rolled around, I had my 3rd lesson and that ended up being the only day I got to ride last week due to getting sick on Thursday.

Since things did not work out at all how I planned and I am the person who likes to be over-prepared, I was really nervous for the lesson. My trainer and about 10 other people told me I was a good enough rider and that I’d be fine, but I didn’t believe it myself. I was so nervous before I left for the barn yesterday that I didn’t eat lunch.

I caught Manny, got him brushed and for once had a little time to spare. So we both got to try MagnaWave for the first time and OMG…I’m sold. I have a lot of issues with my lower back due to some minor injuries over the years and it was feeling particularly terrible yesterday. My back felt better after the MagnaWave than it has in years. Manny had an abbreviated session due to needing to get out to the arena to ride, but he seemed to really like it also. He was a lot more free through his back while we were warming up.

Next up….how our ride with Silvio went.

Blog Hop: 2010s Photo Challenge

Emily at May As Well Event posted a really fun blog hop. As we enter a new decade, I thought it would be fun to propose a challenge to you all! Let’s see ONE horsey picture for each of the last ten years.

2010
I have always relied on the generosity and kindness of others. As an adult, I’ve never had a lot of money to ride. Lady was a horse I borrowed from my friend Amy, who coincidentally owns Manny who I ride now. It’s crazy how things come full circle: riding a horse owned by Amy at the beginning of the decade and also the end.

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2011
At the end of 2010, I got my first horse as an adult. A chestnut Thoroughbred gelding named Joker. He had some bad habits that took quite a lot of time to work through, but he ended up being a really cool horse who would do anything. One of my best friends, Caren, was an eventer. So I started tagging along with her. This picture was taken after my first combined test at beginner novice. Both of these horses have crossed the rainbow bridge now, so it’s extra special.

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2012
The first and only event I’ve ever done. Joker and I competed in Beginner Novice. Dressage was a bit rough, but it was my goal to score below a 40 (our score at the CT was above 40) and we did that. We had one refusal on Cross Country and some time faults. Stadium was an utter mess, but we were able to finish. We finished in 8th place. I sold Joker later that year.

 

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2013
2013 was a year of more borrowed horses. Shortly before I sold Joker, I began taking lessons at a local barn. Once I sold Joker, I kept riding there. First on a mare named ChaCha, then eventually on a gelding named Mars. I was able to borrow him for one show, which started off a little rough, but ended really well.

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2014

In 2014, my personal life really started to go down the tubes. I had a miscarriage in February and was subsequently diagnosed with a uterine birth defect. After my pre-op appointment in June, we went to look at a then unbroke Appendix gelding named Spencer. We bought him via a phone call on the drive home. He stayed with his owner/breeder for some training, went to another trainer for some additional miles and came home over labor day. We renamed him Dexter. He was the bright spot my life so desperately needed at the time. This was our first picture together.

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2015
On Christmas Eve, I had a bad fall off of Dexter, shortly after he came to live at my father in law’s. This was the point where I became afraid to ride him. I would occasionally suck it up and ride him, but I never fully regained my confidence while on his back. Since he was a green almost 7 year old, I didn’t sell him because I didn’t want him to end up in bad hands. We made slow progress and had some fun outings.

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2016
For living the first 6 years of his life on the same farm and never venturing anywhere else, Dexter was an excellent traveler. We had lots of fun adventures to local farms, a trail ride, a few local shows. Even with my terrible anxiety, he was always the best boy he could be. This was our first trail ride and solo too. My husband was kind enough to lead the pony while I rode.
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2017
2017 was the year of multiple falls and bucking incidents due to what we later found out was poor saddle fit. He would buck going up into the canter, or canter for a while, plant his feet and pitch me off. This caused even more fear issues. I eventually got a new saddle which made a huge difference, but my confidence was once again rattled.

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2018
2018 was a year of few rides. We had some decent rides, I stopped riding because of how hot it was outside and then I found out I was pregnant. I wouldn’t have had an issue riding in the first trimester, but I was so tired, then later completely miserable with morning sickness. So Dexter had the majority of my pregnancy off.

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2019
My baby, Hunter, was born at the end of March. I knew I needed to find someone to ride Dexter before I started riding again. In stepped a cowboy friend of a friend. The rides started off a bit rough after Dex had so much time off and I didn’t know if I’d get back on him again. I decided to list him for sale since I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride as much as he needed and asked a friend if she could take him for some more tune up rides after he came back from the cowboy. He was doing well and I did something I never thought I’d do: sit on my horse again. The rides were going well and I finally got an inquiry to Dexter’s for sale ad. A family came down to see him, loved him and made a full price offer on him the same day. He had a vet check the following week and then left for his new home. By all accounts, I should have sold him long ago, but my heart wasn’t ready. It was so hard to sell him, especially after learning to enjoy him again, but he couldn’t have ended up in a better situation.

This year needs 3 pictures: me riding Dexter, Hunter and I with Dexter and Hunter and I with our pony, Sassy.

 

 

Cheers to 2020 and a new decade!

The one where I have a stupid grin on my face

I mentioned Manny briefly in a previous post, but let me tell you a little bit more about him.

First off, Manny belongs to one of my friends. I remember hearing about him way back when I still took lessons there (2010), but I never met him until this year. I had originally stopped riding there when I ended up with another borrowed horse to ride at another facility.

Hye Mister Man aka Manny is a 2010 Thoroughbred gelding (Scrimshaw x Sparta) that was bought and trained for racing. However, he bowed a tendon at some point and never actually raced.

Fast forward to this fall when I was feeling sorry for myself and I posted on Facebook detailing that (I know, how old am I? Am I right?) and my friend said she had one for me to ride. I messaged back and forth with her, agreed on the finance part of it and then headed off for my first ride.

Even though Manny is a Thoroughbred, he’s not very motivated to move quickly. Ever. So being out of shape and trying to get him to move was a bit of a challenge. Manny had an unfortunate lease situation that was ended by his owner in an abrupt fashion due to poor horsemanship by the lessee. He wasn’t going to work as a lesson horse, so he was just sitting. He needed a bit of a slow acclimation back to work and an understanding by his rider that some days he’d need reassurance that everything was going to be okay.

A little background on me: bringing horses back into work who have had a bad experience in some fashion or another is kind of my favorite. I got to ride two horses as a junior that needed to be brought back slowly: A WB cross who crashed through an oxer and liked to stop, then a freight train on a TB gelding who had some less than stellar rides by a former lessee. Then my own TB gelding I bought as an adult who had a lot of training holes and liked to hop up and down off his back end.

While I love Thoroughbreds, I can’t ride the extremely hot, sensitive ones because I have a lot of anxiety and they always pick up on it. Things without a doubt go south quickly.

All that said, Manny isn’t hot, but he’s sensitive. He is 100% my type of ride and I love him to pieces.

Now for the part where I have a stupid grin on my face:

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I finally got a picture with him last night and I couldn’t be happier with my new ride. I can’t wait for our first lesson next week and to plan our goals for 2020.

7th Annual Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange

Tracy over at the Printable Pony is kind enough to organize this gift exchange every year and I am so glad that she does. I just mailed my gift out yesterday, so my recipient should hopefully receive it by Saturday. I was a bit nervous to shop for someone who seems to have everything, but hopefully she likes the things I picked out. Fingers crossed.

This year my gift came from Michele over at Fat Buckskin in a Little Suit. I had read her blog some, but not a lot. Mostly I knew of her from other blogs I had read, but hadn’t interacted with her myself just yet.

To say Michele did a great job is an understatement. As soon as I opened the card that had a little chihuahua on it who looked almost identical to my dog Tank, I knew the box wouldn’t disappoint. I was right.

The box just got better from there. First up it was a very soft knit hat with a removable pompom on top. I now feel like an honorary #pomclub member since I’m not an eventer.

 

Next up was a stuffed black pony for Hunter that looks almost identical to Dexter.

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Then it was two pairs of fuzzy Horseware socks that are very soft and warm. I put one pair on after I opened the box and once I realized the picture was blurry, I was already wearing them. So only one pair is pictured.

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Then we had a candy cane full of Stud Muffins, which I am certain Manny will devour this evening.

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Last but certainly not least, a horse shaped cup with a straw. Hunter played with this last night, but hasn’t learned how to drink out of a straw yet, but I can’t wait until he does.

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Thank you so much for all the wonderful gifts, Michele and Thank you Tracy once again for organizing. Christmas is one of my favorite Holidays and this gift exchange is just the icing on the cake.

The wrong horse

I’ve never had to admit I had or was riding the wrong horse. The more time that goes by since I sold Dexter, it’s becoming more and more apparent how wrong he was for me. Does that make him a bad horse? Absolutely not. He has a lot of fabulous qualities and I believe the timing was right to sell him when I did.

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I never wanted to admit he was the wrong horse for me because I felt like that would have been the same thing as saying that I had failed. That I wasn’t a good enough rider to ride him. That I wasn’t good enough to bring along a green horse. I kept trying to convince myself I could do it. That I could and wanted to ride him.

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Truth be told? I didn’t want to ride him. Did I have the skill? Yes. Can I ride a green horse? Also yes. Despite our 5+ years of being mismatched, many days I loved that horse more than life itself. He was my best friend. The best thing I could have asked for happened before I sold him: I was enjoying riding him again. Which made the decision to sell him even more difficult. However, as I continue riding new horses and overcoming my many riding-related fears, I’m reminded that I am a good rider. That I can ride. Most importantly: I’m enjoying myself. Being in an environment I am familiar with and on horses I am much better matched to has made all the difference.

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Do I regret my time with Dexter? Absolutely not. Many good things came from it. What I do regret though is letting myself be in a situation where I had so many fears. Where I let my fears determine my worth as a rider and let myself believe I couldn’t ride. None of those things were or are true and I can’t believe it took me this long to realize it.

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Moral of the story is: you are not a failure for realizing you and your horse are not a good match. There is a horse out there for everyone, but not every horse is a good match for every rider. Learn what horses are your “type”. I most definitely have one and chances are most other riders do too. Just because you can ride a horse, doesn’t mean you should. At the end of the day, trust your brain and your gut feeling. Always listen to your heart, but don’t allow it to be the final decision maker. Finally, enjoy the ride.

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