Desensitizing: What are MY Spooks?

Desensitizing: What are MY Spooks?

I got the idea for this post off of The Timid Rider’s Desensitizing the Rider.

We talk about our horse’s needing desensitization all the time. It’s rare that we talk about the desensitization we as riders need.

Before we bought Beau, I was the crazy rider. I’d ride anything you put in front of me, and I’d pretty much do anything I was told. I’ll still pretty much do that, but I’ve learned from my big spook of a horse.

I’ve actually become a bit of a nervous rider. While I was reading Heather’s post, I started to think about what worries me when I ride.

Riding alone – I ride at odd times, and I’m usually the only one on when I ride. I’ve been limiting myself by thinking about what would happen if I fell when I’m alone.

The far end of the outdoor – Beau has started doing this spinning thing on the far end of the arena. I can push him forward through it, but it usually results in bucking or running. It’s made me hesitant to work on that end; I need to work on it more.

Three-quarters of the way down the far long side of the indoor – I know, so specific. But I hate that spot. Beau has spooked there like 5000 times and it either ends in him bolting or bucking or me on the ground.

Walking away from the barn on the driveway – this is probably my most frustrating fear. He won’t ride in a circle away from the barn. He either ends up half-rearing (which is a hard no for me) or nearly running into the cars parked at the end. I try to work on it after every ride in the outdoor.

So, I think these are good things to work on “desensitizing” myself to in the upcoming months.

What would you want to “desensitize” yourself to as a rider?

 

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3 Months Later…

3 Months Later…

I can’t believe I haven’t posted since May. I guess I really just haven’t had the motivation.

Quite a bit has changed – the primary of which is the start of school. For the summer, I had a flexible schedule internship that allowed me to pretty much ride whenever I wanted. It’s weird to be back to having a scheduled life.

Now, I’m balancing 15 credit hours of schoolwork, working, riding, volunteering, and seeing if I can add in a club or two. It’s a lot, but it’s the way I like it!

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In addition, Beau has a brand-spanking-new Stubben dressage saddle. It is absolutely gorgeous, and I love it. I’m actually struggling to force myself to jump (which is something I never thought I’d ever say, ever). It puts my leg in a longer position that helps Beau understand what I want, and I’m using my whole body more to ask him for movements.

To go with that, I found a pretty ThinLine dressage girth online for 25 bucks. It’s a little small for Beau, but he seems comfortable in it. It’s a nice girth until I can save up for one a bit bigger.

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Beau attended his second show at Pure Gold, which went well! Considering the last time we were there he was a bucking bronco, I am incredibly happy with our second place ribbon (should’ve been a first, but there was a bit of rider error on the jump off!).

He also went cross country schooling with my dad at Bath, which resulted in a funny fall video (no one was seriously hurt) and a search party in the woods. Luckily, he came home with not even a scratch! (Plus, my dad falling off was totally karma for going without me.)

Part of the reason I’ve found my horsey mojo again is I’ve signed us up for a Waylon Roberts clinic at Stone Gate in a few weeks. I’m SO excited; I’ve been trying to get into one of these for years since my friends started going. Waylon is a Canadian Olympian and 4 Star eventer. From what I’ve seen of friends’ videos, he like challenging riders and throwing odd lines and obstacles at the horses. It will also be interesting as (on my current schedule) it will be mine and Beau’s first time on XC together. I know, I call myself an eventer and have had Beau for 3 years and I still haven’t taken him out. Yay for the new trailer!

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Good news, I took him out to our back pasture to ride and he was very responsive if just a little slow. Which, in all honesty, I’d rather he be until I get my confidence back up.

Speaking of confidence, mine has been up and down. I’m doing everything fine, it’s just riding alone has made me a nervous rider. I’ve taken too many falls to be brazen when I’m riding by myself. However, my jumping confidence is doing well, although I haven’t done too much of it lately.

All in all, I’d say the past three months have been good. Nothing special, other than my saddle (hooray!), but good and generally quiet. I’ll take it.

Here’s to pushing myself in the school year!

Review: IRH IR4G Helmet

Review: IRH IR4G Helmet

Today I’m going to write something I never thought I’d write in 2018: I love my IRH helmet.

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When I first started riding, I rode in the old clunky model IRH, which was probably a little too small for me and definitely not my favorite aesthetically. But it was safe and relatively comfortable and protected my head from the umpteen amount of falls I took while learning to ride.

I moved from that IRH into an Ovation that I loved, then into my first Charles Owen. I’ve ridden in a CO for about 4 years, so I was surprised when the tack store representative suggested the new IRH – and that it fit perfectly.

My CO always pinched at my temples, but I figured that was just a downside to riding in helmets. My IRH – no pinching! This is because IRH helmets are Oval-shaped while CO helmets are round. (Do you want an article on the difference? Let me know in the comments!)

I’ve now had this helmet for four months, so I have a pretty good idea of what this helmet is like.

In action (I really need some new pictures of me riding, this is the best I have!):

So, on to the actual helmet review of the IRH IR4G Helmet.

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The helmet is a soft black matte color with a hard shell (aka it’s not a suede helmet). It has a large vent in the front. The comfortable linings are replaceable to make the helmet slightly tighter or looser. It is also ASTM F1163-15/SEI Certified, so it’s ready to show in.

The snap is plastic, with a velcro “quick-release” adjustment system. This harness system is one of my least favorite parts of the helmet. It’s angled awkwardly so that it feels tight no matter what – but you do stop noticing once you start riding. The velcro adjustment system can be itchy as well.

I usually stop noticing this helmet once I start riding. It doesn’t bounce, shift, or sit tilted on my head. It has a good brim to keep the sun out of my eyes, but isn’t a wide brim – those are a bit too “space age” for my tastes anyways.

I ride with my hair down in a ponytail but you could easily fit a bun under the harness as well. I don’t recommend riding with your hair up due to safety concerns from recent studies – however, if you show with your hair up, make sure your helmet is fitted with your hair up too!

Overall, this helmet is comfortable on my head, vented and cool, and stylish. It functions well and keeps my head safe, which is my #1 priority.

Price: Dover currently has this helmet listed at $179.95.

Worth it? I definitely think so. I’m glad IRH has decided to step up their game to create a modern helmet that I can actually enjoy showing off to the equestrian community.

What helmet do you ride in?

One Wishlist Item Down!

One Wishlist Item Down!

Everyone, meet Brea. Yes, I did name our trailer. Yes, I picked Brea because it’s one letter different from Beau. Yes, I love it.

Trailer specs:

2018 River Valley

  • Custom built
  • Ohio made
  • 7’6″ height
  • 2600 empty weight
  • 12′ long
  • Step up
  • Straight load
  • Silver and gray two-tone

Extras:

  • Two saddle racks
  • Six-hook bridle rack
  • Blanket bars
  • Rubber mats
  • Spare tire

My parents and I made an impromptu trip to Equine Affaire in Columbus, OH this past weekend. It was our first time going, and, although we were all overwhelmed, we all loved it too. We had a blast walking around the trade stalls and picked up some small things Beau needed, then headed over to the trailer arena.

I was just getting discouraged when I popped my head in this guy (the 10′ long model of our custom version) and was pleasantly surprised at the quality and price. We had the chance to meet the owner of River Valley Trailers (previously Eclipse Trailers) and the owner of the dealership. Both men were extremely nice businessmen who spent about an hour total speaking with my dad. They listened and related to our equine experience and gave us the best options for our situation. I would highly recommend River Valley to anyone looking for a new trailer!

We also got a chance to watch Fantasia, the musical equine experience. It was super fun! Lots of different disciplines and riders coming together for the love of horses. That’s the way it should be!

Do you have a trailer/horse box/float? What brand?

 

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

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I know my posts have been a little melancholy lately, but I have good news. I have had two awesome lessons in the past two weeks.

They’ve both been focusing on the same thing: flexion.

Now, the first ride back, I wrote about how much we had lost that bend and how much I had to work for it and how he didn’t have the strength to hold himself in the proper position for long.

Each ride has gotten better. That first ride, it was a step or two. The second, it was a couple strides, but faster and easier. This third ride, it was a couple strides but even easier, more, and faster. It’s coming together.

I know part of it is because my dad’s been working very hard on it, but part of it is because I’m remembering how to ride him: what cues to use, how much to use, what he likes and dislikes.

We continued working on our walk and trot flexion in a circle. Forward and upward impulsion is the key. Keep the movement forward while the head and neck stretch down over the back. We were also working on our walk to canter transitions, which came out very nicely. He picked up his leads well and tucked himself under to actually use and carry himself.

This is the week for us to finally start working on a schedule again. My plans are to ride Tuesday (check), Thursday, and Sunday.

It’s finally starting to warm up here too, although 17th winter could be coming, who knows? My next mission is to transform Beau from winter yak to show-ready handsome guy. His mane is atrocious and he needs a bath, so as soon as I can his mane is getting pulled and he’ll get a bath once it warms up.

How have your rides been lately? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

The Difference is Noticeable

The Difference is Noticeable

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Tuesday, I had my first lesson since I broke my finger. It went as expected: Beau and I are totally out of shape. And Beau doesn’t even have an excuse since he’s been ridden 4-6 days a week by my dad and my leaser!

For our lesson (which I was SOO late to), Cori really wanted us to focus on bending and flexion at the poll. We started at the walk and moved to the trot. That’s all we did the entire lesson, and Beau and I were both feeling it by the end.

A glimpse into how I get Beau to flex:

Get him forward. No, more forward. Add some more inside leg. There. Now tell him what I want with my hand. Inside hand goes back to the outside of my thigh, keeping consistent pressure until he releases, bends, and stretches down. Then wiggle the fingers, while keeping them closed, to get his jaw to unlock and his poll to drop and relax. More inside leg. Keep the contact. Straighten with the outside hip and leg. Keep it, keep it.

Frustrations:

It was definitely frustrating to see how much we’ve lost in these 3 months. We had really been clicking before my break, with my dropping his head and keeping the contact. Now, I feel like I’m back to dealing with a giraffe again. A very cute giraffe, but still.

It’s awesome that I have my dad and leaser to ride Beau. They’re great. They keep him worked and sane, and they push him to new heights with the jumping. But my dad (love you!) doesn’t like dressage and hasn’t taken a flat lesson in months, and my leaser is much happier going fast and jumping (both of which are fun, and I definitely don’t blame her for!).

Beau is a hard horse to get to “dressage.” He fights everything and because he’s gotten away with using himself the wrong way for so long, he doesn’t have the strength or knowledge to use himself properly. Since I’m the only one who really works on it on a weekly basis with the help of a trainer, our progress has definitely suffered.

My wake up call:

Not only did my trainer point out that he’s looking skinnier and more undermuscled than normal (hello, heart attack, I like my horse fat, thankyouverymuch), she also said pointed out his “U” neck again, which just two months ago I was noticing how much better it had gotten. Getting him to stretch forward and down is definitely a priority to build that muscle, as well as keeping an eye on his weight.

Time frustrations:

Right now, my days to ride are Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Wednesdays and Sundays being open to whoever has time to ride. Tuesdays are now lesson days, with me literally running out of class to make it as on time as possible. Thursdays and Sundays are taken up by my service at the moment, and my dad has been riding on Wednesdays. Which means I’ve had one day a week to ride. Which sucks.

Especially now that I’ve had my lesson and have things I need to and want to work on, I want to be at the barn. But I can’t because my schedule and Beau’s other riders make it difficult.

Positivity:

But, I’m staying positive. I’ve only got this week and next left of service then I can go back to riding at least twice a week. We’ve started looking for the perfect trailer. The spring show season was posted, and I’ve got a dressage show, work day, and combined test to hopefully prepare for.

Beau and I, although out of shape and dealing with a hard lesson, had a good ride in that he was listening and willing to try and do what I wanted. By the end, we had a couple of good moments, and I’m confident we can work back up to where we were.

Keep an eye out for more posts as we gain back our skills and fitness and move into show season!

 

First Ride Back!!

First Ride Back!!

 

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Yesterday, I had my first ride back on Beau after re-breaking my left pinky finger. Overall, I’d consider it a good-but-not-great ride! I was extremely happy to have a “boring” ride, as I was pretty nervous.

We did walk, trot, and canter both ways, and Erika even convinced me to pop over a teeny-tiny crossrail. I guess I am that crazy rider who jumps her first ride back!

Now, just because my ride was boring (read: SAFE) does not mean it was boring. Beau tested me on everything. Now, one of the things I tell every rider who gets on Beau is that he will test you. I’ve worked hard for almost three years (whoa!!) to get his respect and obedience under saddle. He seems to have forgotten who’s in charge, but he’ll remember soon enough!

When I say he tested me, I mean he fought me on everything. Beau: Can I get away with this? What about this? This? This? These things included everything from stopping in the middle of the arena, giving me the slowest trot of all time, and my least favorite, falling in.

But it was still a very productive ride because it gave me confidence. It let me remember where my body parts need to go, how my muscles need to move, and what I need to think about.

 

Being back to riding has rejuvenated me. I’ve been bingeing horse YouTube videos, coming up with blog posts non-stop, and thinking up exercises to try with Beau to get ready for the show season!

Stay tuned for more updates from me and Beau!

Let’s Talk About Nerves

Let’s Talk About Nerves

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Tonight, I’m riding Beau for the first time in almost two months. And I’ll admit it, I’m nervous.

I have a very large, sometimes spooky horse. I feel like that’s all I repeat on here, how Beau can be a lot to handle, and how I handle him. But, eh, here we go again.

It’s over 50 degrees today! It’s sunny and balmy, but with sun and heat comes spring fever.

I plan to keep my ride simple today. Walk, trot, maybe a lap of canter if he’s being good. So, there’s really nothing to worry about, I can do that in my sleep. But I still am. So, let’s talk about what I’m doing about it.

How I handle nerves:

  1. Bring a friend.
    Today, I’m bringing E with me. He’s never seen me ride so it should be a fun way to keep myself from overthinking. He likes asking questions, so I’ll be distracted by answering those instead of worrying about Beau. Plus he can photo/video for me!
  2. Visualize.
    Horses are unpredictable creatures. I think of the many ways my ride can go. If it goes well, I think of how happy I’ll be. If he bucks or spooks, I think how I’ll handle it. Even if he gets me off, I’ll think about how I’ll handle it. But always try to be positive.
  3. Listen to your pump-up music.
    In the car driving there, put on your favorite playlist. This is a tried and true way to calm your nervousness. It lets you relax because the sounds are familiar. Plus dancing is good for the soul!
  4. Take care of yourself.
    People (okay, me.) tend to skip out on eating if they’re nervous. DO NOT DO THIS. It will not end well. But if you eat and drink enough, you will be strong enough to do what you want to do and to do it well.
  5. Enjoy your horse beforehand.
    There is no rush to ride. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready. Take time to brush, pet, and just be with your horse.

I’ll update with another post after my ride. Wish me luck!

 

 

Going Alone

Going Alone

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Yesterday, I went to the barn for the first time alone since The Finger Incident.

It was 18 degrees, and I was not feeling it. But apparently I didn’t need that much motivation to go since it took one, “[Beau]’s probably missing you,” text from le garcon to get me to go.

It took a solid half hour for the shuttle to pick me up to get to my car, then another solid 15 minutes to dig out my car from the foot of snow Ohio decided to dump on us the night before.

But I was excited to get there.

I groomed him in his stall since he was munching away at his hay. It’s funny how much better he is with us being in his stall when he’s eating. He used to be so cranky when we first got him.

Then I put on his fancy halter (shout out to our awesome barn family!) and walked him down to the big indoor.

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Of course on the way down, he had to walk into the giant snowbank, but he was posing like he knew I was taking pictures (he probably did).

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Once in the ring, I took him off lead and let him roll around, and then we worked on walking and stopping off lead with me, which he was perfect for. The only thing he didn’t do was go over the cross rail, but he did go around to come stand by me. Good try, bubba.

Then another horse came into the ring (Otto, I think). It’s funny how much he changes with other horses. He was FOCUSED on this guy. I had put his lead back on but just draped it over his neck and worked to get his attention back.

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We did a bit more “off” lead work then moved to the hula hoop. He was looking at it for a second, but then decided it wasn’t worth caring about.

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So, he was a really good, relaxed boy, and it always makes me happy when he wants to follow me because he can.

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My one downfall was trying to get his blanket back on with one hand, but I made it work.

Then I got snuggles and he got a candy cane and a couple of his favorite dry cookies (aka not Stud Muffins), which are butterscotch.

It was a good day.

1 Month In: Learning to Love Again

1 Month In: Learning to Love Again

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As you might imagine, breaking my finger for the second time in six months because Beau can’t behave himself (just this time, first time was totally my fault) has given me some trust issues.

I’ve been to the barn about twice since I broke my pinky the first week of January. Never alone. Hopefully, that will change soon, as my leaser has agreed to switch days with me, which works better with my new semester schedule.

Beau is a good boy. He’s saved my butt multiple times over the course of our almost-three-year relationship. I really do love his cutie-pie face.

I remember hearing once that a good performance horse will always come with quirks, problems, or maintenance.

I suppose I lucked out with a horse that *knock on wood* has been lame all of 2 days, both because his feet were sore (shoeing/hard ground).

His quirk could be any number of things: his obsession with licking, his need to eat salt blocks in four days, his baby tendency to eat the cross ties when he’s nervous or worried.

Now while I’m not a huge fan of the word, “problem,” Beau definitely has his own set of issues. He would rather go sideways than straight, is      s  l   o  w l  y    learning that the bit won’t eat him if he accepts it, is protective of his food, and throws tantrums when he’s being turned out.

And yet, he has so much going for him.

He would jump 5′ everytime we rode if I let him. I’ve never ridden a horse that loves to jump so much.

He’s blissfully happy outside. As long as he gets turnout, he’s a happy camper.

He can do the dressage movements. He’s got an awesome floaty, extended trot, a good collected trot, and a great leg-yield.

What he can’t do, he tries to learn. Sure, he has bad days where he doesn’t want to move or throws tantrums. But the majority of days, he’s trying to figure out my awkward cues and more importantly, he’s already come so far.

Lastly, this horse has a heart of gold, the heart of a champion. He’s loyal, affectionate (read: will try to lick you to death), and knows his rider. For example, two weeks ago he carted around my muggle (non-equestrian) friend through a beginner ride with a slow walk and an even slower jog (perfect for learning!). Then last week he gave another friend who has a Thoroughbred of her own a much more forward ride and challenged her to figure him out. Because of this, I trust him.

Sure, I might catch a few broken bones in the process, but he has so much to teach me. He’ll push me, then he’ll love on me (so that I can’t even be upset!).

Mission accomplished: I’m ready to love riding again for sure. I see a trip to the barn in the near future!