Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Best. Clinic. EVER!

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Last spring I saw all kinds of photos popping up on the old Facebook of my friends and their horses doing all kinds of awesome obstacles together. I got insanely jealous because I wanted to do awesome obstacles with my horse. So I inquired and found out that there was a clinician who has a barn not too terribly far from where we live that puts on super fun clinics...the only catch is that they are insanely hard to get into, mostly because they fill up as soon as they are announced. SAD FACE.
So I contacted the clinician and then I sat and waited...and waited...and then forgot about it... and then my friend messaged me that she got me and my husband into one of the clinics! HOORAY!!!!
It was in early October, when it was perfect riding weather since it wasn't super cold yet, but not tee shirt weather either. The kind of weather I LOVE riding in. October is the best most awesome month by far. I contacted the clinician about what I needed to bring. She said bring my horse and the tack I plan on riding him in, and she would take care of the rest. Ummm okay, sounds easy enough for me!
Turns out she has electrical hook ups for those with Living Quarters Trailers (did I mention that we have a living quarters trailer yet? because we now do!) and for those with out living quarters trailers she has an adorable bunk house. She also provided hay and stalls for the horses, and food and beverages for people. This is literally the best clinic ever since all of this, plus two days of ground work/riding are included for $100. We loaded up bright and early for the clinic and when we arrived, she had helpers show us where to put the horses, and then someone helped get our trailer hooked up. It was fantastic. We all met up in her heated shop for introductions.
Everyone had to introduce themselves, plus their horses and why they were at the clinic. The first person that introduced herself said "Hi my name is so and so and my horse is named so and so, and we ONLY do trail riding" the clinician stopped her right there and said "it's not ONLY trail riding. Trail riding can be one of the most difficult 'disciplines' out there if done correctly." I liked her already. The second woman introduced herself "HI, my name is so and so and my horse is so and so. He is a rescue...he was abused..." and then the clinician said something that I thought was going to make the owner cry. "I don't care if the horse was abused. I don't care if he is a rescue. This is a clean slate, that horse needs to learn that you are the alpha. He has gotten away with all kinds of bad behavior because he knows you won't step up to him, and that is why you are at this clinic." I thought the woman was going to start crying and leave. My jaw dropped and in my head I was slow clapping. She kept trying to make excuses for the horse and the clinician just kept cutting her off. Yeah I guess you could say it was rude...but I loved it.
Then it was my turn... "Hi, my name is K.K. and I have a 13 year old OTTB named George. The reason we are here, is because he is an asshole." Everyone started laughing. I also announced that he was a kicker, "so please for the safety of everyone involved, stay back from his hind end...because he is an asshole"
Then we went out and grabbed our trusty steads. We were all given rope halters, 10ft lead ropes and 'carrot sticks'  and went into the out door arena. The clinician followed the Clinton Anderson method. And say what you will about those methods...but they work. We all found our place along the arena fence and then we worked on personal space, and stopping and backing when asked. Now George is good-ish when leading. He needed improvement on stopping when I stop and waiting. So she showed us what she wanted and boom, we all got to work on becoming the alpha. The way she explained it was that in the herd, if the alpha mare wants another horse to back up out of their space, she doesn't stand there saying "can you pretty please with sugar on it back up out of my space? No? okay that's fine just keep coming up to me." The alpha mare gives off a little warning, and then if that doesn't work, a well placed hoof or bite does wonders to get that point across. The stick was what we needed to use to help let that horse know WE were the alpha. Now we weren't instructed to beat the horse senselessly across the nose or face....but a well placed "bump" to the chest showed that horse that you wanted him to stop, then and there. Not 3 seconds from now....but NOW. When we first got into the arena George was acting like a snot nosed teenager. He was being a douche to be honest. When we got to working, and I showed him that I meant business. He was all "wait. What?" And shortly...and I do mean shortly afterwards he was like "Yes ma'am!" It was like I had a new horse on my hands...all in under 10 minutes. The fact that I was showing him that I was the alpha, made him *gasp* respect me. We worked on going forward, and backing and listening skills. It was marvelous. After a while we worked on lunging, and lunging over obstacles. His lunging skills were awesome. Not sure who taught him to lunge, but thank you. You just point the direction you want him to go, and there he goes. Then point the other way and he switches and goes about his business.
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"Im gonna eat this fence to show you how mad I am."

Then we took a short break. The clinician had lunch prepared for us. AWESOME lunch at that. We all chatted about what we learned and then got a little break before taking the horses to the obstacle course.
Bring. It. On. Right away the clinician grabbed a horse and demonstrated the first obstacle. It was a small drop down pit with some logs and rocks in it. The horse just walked right though it. That wasn't very fun or impressive. So she asked for a volunteer horse. Everyone, and I mean everyone in that 20 person group said George. So she came and got him...he was a bit more *ahem* stubborn about going through the pit. And by stubborn I mean full on temper tantrum about not wanting to drop down 6 inches into the pit. He was rearing, and kicking and pulling back. But she kept after him, pressure when he wasn't responding, removed the pressure when he was doing what was asked. It took a good 25 minutes. And a few times she asked why she agreed to use George for a demo. But eventually he got it. And everyone cheered and that I think got a lot of people motivated to get their horses through the obstacles. He finally figured out what she wanted of him, and then he acted like he knew what to do all along. Brat.

George showing that he was a pain in the ass in fornt of all those people/horses
Then she turned us loose into the obstacle course to try our hand at them. I think there were 20ish obstacles. Bridges, tires, wooden platforms, a giant three level 'podium', barrels, hills, boxes with logs, you name it, it was there. George was a bit of an ass for a few, but he really figured things out nicely. His hardest obstacles though, were the jumps. Now, for being the biggest horse there he was having MAJOR difficulty going over the jumps. He is 16.3hh and 14hh ponies were out jumping him. They were embarrassing him to be honest. My husbands 15ish hh horse was the cutest jumper I've ever seen. He would pop up, freeze his position, and then go up and over. SO CUTE! George on the other hand would lift one foot, then slowly drag it over the log or barrel, then he would be stuck straddling it between his front legs, and then look at me for help. then pull his leg back over. With some coaching, and bumping, he figured it out and jumped...horribly over the obstacles. his jumping leaves much to be desired. In fact, I can see why he failed as a steeple chase horse...and maybe that is why his owner had a complete disbursal of all his steeple chase horses and retired from the business. George is just an ugly jumper. There go all my dreams for Rolex. Flying out the window.  But we had a super productive day and I was glowing with how happy I was with everything that we accomplished.
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Like no air between that jump. None. His toes scraped the whole time.
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NOW he is picking up those feet.
Tired ponies.
This old man horse did so good!
So as we were getting ready to tuck our horses in for the night, the clinician told us to get a good night sleep because tomorrow we would be riding our horses...with just a halter on. Ummmm what?!Stay tuned for part two of this story...

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Come on man!! You can do better than that!!
Love this big creep!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I'm gonna try my hardest.

So basically, in the last few years, this blog has become set on the back burner. It sits there, I know its there, but I don't have the ambition to do anything about it. I am going to give it my best shot this year. I have a big year planned for the big grey thoroughbred and I. He doesn't know it yet...
Last year was my best year with the big grey thoroughbred. I didn't start out the year thinking that it would be. Can we be honest here? Yes, I think we can...I was pretty scared that I was done with him. Our first few rides of the year had me in tears. Big sobbing, hysterical, body shaking tears. I got on him in April. DUMB. My riding instructor always told me NEVER ride in April. But I didn't heed her advice and mounted up. DUMB. The ride started out great, and just as I started thinking, "GOD I LOVE THIS HORSE! HE IS THE MOST PERFECT AND MAGICAL HORSE IN THE WHOLE WORLD"... That's when he decided. "You know what? It's time that I must train for the Kentucky Derby! Never mind the fact I am a washed up 13 year old EX racehorse...I MUST TRAIN!" and there I was on a hot, prancing, fire breathing dragon. I hopped off and sure enough, there I was leading a unhandled 2 year old stud colt down the dirt road back to my house. He was prancing sideways, and snorting and screaming his freaking head off and I was in tears, swearing up and down, hating him and hating myself more for letting him get my number like that.
My second attempt was much similar and at that point my husband said "That's it. This horse is out of here. I'm not going to keep around a horse that you are too scared to ride." I was heartbroken, but starting to believe that maybe he was right, and it was time for the big grey thoroughbred to move on. Fast forward a little while, we sent Cash, our beautiful palomino to the trainer. We had been working our asses off on making sure he was going to be sound. He was diagnosed with Navicular. (F WORD!!!!) and we had been dealing with trying to keep him rideable. We had him adjusted, and we had special shoes, and we had injections and we contacted wizards and fairies and unicorns to try and heal him.  And he was sound and looking REALLY good, but he was bucking when we saddled him up. Yes we had some saddle fitting done on him and we got a saddle that fit him really nice. But when my husband threw his foot into the stirrup, we had a bucking bronco on his hand. So him not wanting to get hurt...and me definitely not wanting to get hurt... we shipped him off to our awesome trainer.
Fast forward 3 days after dropping him off "yeah, you guys need to come and get your horse. He is SUPER lame." F WORDS!!! That's nice. So glad that we have a spot booked at a hard to get into trainer for 30 days and the horse lasted 3 days. So we asked if we could swap out horses and bring George. The trainer said game on.
So we swapped out horses. There was a crowd waiting when the big grey thoroughbred showed up. Word got around that a 16.3hh, off track thoroughbred who won almost $400K was showing up that evening, so when we got there were folks standing all around, waiting to get a look at my handsome devil of a horse. And sure enough, fire breathing dragon stepped off the trailer.
We got a call a few days later from the trainer saying that the big grey thoroughbred was a LOT of horse. He couldn't get him to just walk out calmly when they went on group rides. Basically he said that the big grey thoroughbred was an ass. He wasn't sure he was going to be a good trail horse...ever. Heart. Smashed. There went all of my dreams of riding off into the sunset. But wait a second....rewind to the previous year...I did in fact use him as a trail horse... numerous times...and he was a rock star. WTF trainer? WTF. He did admit that the big grey thoroughbred was super athletic, and that he is a horse that needs a job.
A few days later, the trainer called with an update. He said they had started to break him down a bit. he was not walking calm-ish when they went out on group rides. He also said that George had also ripped down a sheet of plywood in his stall because he was bored. Awesome.
When we picked George up after a few weeks I got to try him out and he was a bit 'up' still but he was leaps and bounds better than when I dropped him off.
That weekend we went trail riding and he was fantastical. I had my horse back. HOORAY...We had so many awesome rides and adventures. I need to really write about them. Because they were magical. I only briefly talked about them last year. But Maybe if I do decide to keep up with this blog...I can fill ya in... But this year I am going to try and keep on top of things and keep this place updated. I have so many cool adventures planned.

But until they happen and until I can go back and talk about last years awesome adventures here are ..Pictures.
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My old western horse.

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Best ride with my best horse.
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He is a crappy jumper...

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We did a thing!!

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Riding in a halter and lead rope in an arena filled with horses. it happened.