Ever have those rides where you’re like, well damn, that’s the best that’s ever been? Where you can really look at it and see improvement, know you couldn’t have done that (or at least done it as well) x amount of time ago?
That was this weekend’s lesson.
It. Was. Awesome.
We don’t often get to have courses set in our arena, due to the sharing of it we do with lots of other disciplines, but leading up to our CT next weekend (!!) we get one to school over. It was a total freakin’ blast too.
Was it perfect? Oh absolutely not. Among other things, I:
Forgot to rollback the first time through
Tried to make a turn to the first jump that the laws of physics do not allow on the second time
Completely lost all pace down the first line at one point… like, I think we were moving backwards?
Put 6 in the 5, like almost every damn time, even when the 5 was RIGHT THERE and SO PRETTY and DAMNIT HOLLY RIDE
Am physically incapable of keeping my leg forward
But, when I think about the fact that I’ve been riding this horse since mid-July and hadn’t jumped a course in 10 years until the last few months?
Feels pretty damn perfect.
Nothing felt big or intimidating or scary, which is a fantastic feeling. I have so much trust in this horse, more so than I’ve ever had, except with Lucy, who is basically the exception to all rules ever.
Our first CT course back in August (at crossrails lolllzz) was a little bit of a hot mess – I leaned, he ignored me, we had no half-halt and we kind of just ran around on the forehand over small bumps. We had a rail. At 18″. Due to Doc being like, “Woman. This is THE DUMBEST. NO. I AM NOT PICKING UP MY FEET OVER THAT. It does not deserve my respect.” 4 faults… at crossrails.
We r gud eventers guyz.
But this… two months later (almost to the day actually) and things were so much better. I (sort of) remembered to sit up, we had a half-halt (!), we did not careen around anywhere, I was able to have input and it really felt like, whoa, damn, I’m doing the thing.
In case you like watching starter level courses for some reason?
Sit the eff up Holly. Collarbone. UP.
Leg. Underneath. Self. Forward.
Better collection/pace – get the horse underneath himself so he’s not just pulling himself over with the front. Fine at this level, but let’s fix it now.
Ironically for a blog named for mares, there’s another important guy in my life (sorry mom, he has four legs too). Fin (formally Bluefin Tuna Dog) is my Jack Russell Terrier/Corgi mix – colloquially known as a ‘Cojack,’ which I think sounds like something that plugs into a television. And today is Fin’s 7th birthday!
He came to me January of 2017 (literally on New Year’s Day) from the Carolina’s Russell Rescue. He had been surrendered by a family who said he was, “aggressive because he barked at and chased squirrels and rabbits.” Yeah.
I took one look at his giant, oversized ears and fell in love. I call them his radar ears. He’s almost perfectly half-JRT, half-Corgi – colored like a Jack, body/tail/ears of a Corgi. Personality swings wildly between the two.
He’s the best snuggler, the worst co-worker (I work from home, he sleeps on the couch), and yeah, we love to chase squirrels. Who doesn’t? Fin’s interests include: destroying stuffed toys, eating a variety of vegetables (carrots, squash, plain lettuce, spinach, green beans), stalking squirrels, rolling around in the grass, lounging in his swimming pool, playing with his Doberman best friend and going to Starbucks. Basically the bougiest dog of all time, right?
For a dog who should be the dream horse person dog, he despises them and does not get to go to the barn or any horse shows. Fine by me. Less fine when at my parents’ house and he is forced to see Lucy and Sancho the Mini Donkey.
Fin is the world’s biggest wimp and in our time together has overcome fears of the broom, the pantry door, my purse, the kitchen timer, the bathroom and most brilliantly, the hardwood floor. Yes, the floor. We are still working on all types of weather events and precipitation.
He has more coats and jackets than I do, courtesy of the clearance room at Farmhouse Tack.
If we’re being honest, it’s Fin’s world and I’m just living in it. Happy birthday buddy!
Last weekend’s dressage ride was one where we had multiple disagreements about things like, “Why can’t only 3/4 of the circle be round and the last 1/4 be a dive straight across?” and “I decided I’m done working so I am exiting the arena.” Super awesome.
I couldn’t. Doc couldn’t. Finally, I trotted a halfway nice 20m circle and called it a day. No point in staying on just to argue if we weren’t going to get anywhere.
The next day, C took Doc camping with her family and some friends, meaning my next ride was my lesson last night. I was anticipating something better than the week before, but not entirely sure exactly what I was going to get. I probably should have ridden in dressage tack (God knows we need the help), but I also needed my 2ptober baseline beforehand, so jump tack it was.
Turns out, I did not need to be worried because apparently a few days in the woods (including a nice long booty workout the first day) had given me this very pleasant, fun to ride horse back. We did our warm-up and 2pt time out on the track (so much easier to 2pt when you don’t have to steer!) and then met C in the arena for our lesson. Doc was totally game to work, which was so fun. He just immediately settled into this great trot, really reaching and moving along so nicely. It was a huge relief, but also so much fun. I’m not sure we’ve had a ride yet where we didn’t have to work-work-work to get there, but just came out immediately there before last night.
After working on my own position for a bit (I’m seriously incapable of keeping my leg out far enough forward) and some solid flatwork figures, she set two ground poles for 4 strides. First time through, do it in four. Then five. Then three. Change direction. Repeat. Change direction. Five, three, four.
This should not be so difficult. For anyone who can feel a decent pace, it probably isn’t. Spoiler alert: that’s not me.
Getting four was manageable. The three we really had to push, but we got it. Five? Oh five.
We’d get the right pace, then go to turn a corner to go down the line and we’d pull a lovely drop-the-inside-shoulder, dive on to the forehand and lose all pace move. Back to four. Not even a pretty four.
Finally, C had me think about keeping my body still – occupying a “smaller part of my saddle,” with my movement being more up/down than back/front, to get the stride compact, but lifted. That made a world of difference in getting it established (plus, you know, shorter reins, cause my life). For the corner, focusing on holding with my upper inside leg, keeping my hands up, and pushing him around that corner (making it almost a square corner) to prevent the dive-accelerate move. We finally got the five both ways a few times and called it a night.
I’ve definitely got some work to do on stride adjustment this winter. Doc doesn’t actually have a huge stride, but he’s really, really good at pulling you forward so he can accelerate off his forehand, and I’m already weak at holding myself up and prone to getting pulled forward. It’s definitely a weak spot for us right now, making sure I stay up and balanced, so I can adjust and hold better. I know we can get over all the jumps at this level, it’s getting everything right in between them that is the challenge.
Contrary to what the title of this may lead you to believe, I am not a Game of Thrones watcher (is that a word?). I’m just a displaced Southerner freaking out of her ever loving mind about the fact that it is going to get cold even though it’s currently 92 degrees.
I mean, yeah the first four weeks of college football season are supposed to be about trying not to get sunburned too badly in the stadium because it’s still 97 degrees and you’ve been drinking since 8am for an 8pm kickoff. Wait, maybe that was just me. But that was in Alabama, not Indiana.
Needless to say, my wardrobe is not really prepared. This is where you come in.
I need ALL THE OPINIONS. Winter riding breeches, boots, gloves, scarves, how do you keep your ears warm, best quarter sheets, best excuses to give your trainer when it’s too cold to ride, favorite jackets, all of the things. I’m on a mission to stay warm warmish and I’m going shopping.
I guess my parents’ didn’t teach me super well, because while I won’t go get in a van for free candy, if you’re like, “HEY wine and ponies and puppies!” I’m like, OKAY LEMME BOOK MY PLANE TICKET. True story.
Also the story of how I basically sent Olivia a text like, “here’s my flight, THANKS!” and showed up at her doorstep. Okay, so more like outside in passenger pickup at Dulles, but basically the same thing.
But I don’t even care if it breaks every childhood stranger danger rule because we had SO MUCH FUN. I knew we’d be great when she picked me up and was like, “Sooo… we can go home… or we can go to the barn.” Uh, duh. Barn. Where I got to meet the cutest snuggly gigantic horse ever, Frankie!
Guys, he’s giant. Like, I don’t think anyone understands this, because you see Olivia on him and it’s like okay, sure he’s big, she’s tall, k. Nope. I’m like the size of one leg. Minus some draft horses, he’s legitimately the largest horse I’ve ever met in my entire life.
She schooled the humongous horse, we snuggled him and then she fed me Thai food.
AND THEN SHE TOOK ME TO WEGMANS.
If you are not familiar with Wegmans, you are missing out.
Saturday, first we stopped and she introduced me to Wawa. WHAT. Insanity. Gas station, but like… amazing. Coffee. Breakfast carbs. Ordering via computer to reduce the amount of actual human contact I have to endure.
Then we went to Middleburg, hereby known as Heaven on Earth. Seriously, the cutest town ever. All the pony things.
I made her try on Animo breeches, but they didn’t fit her (the shame, I didn’t start an addiction to $400 breeches). I sat in approximately 90382 saddles, of which I made her get 85% down for me while referring to her as, “tall friend.” (I’m seriously so sweet and nice of a person, right?!) I fell in love with every saddle I sat in that was more than $3000, because #champagnetaste #tapwaterbudget. We didn’t buy anything.
We drooled over properties for sale that cost more than I could dream of. I mean, it comes with 890 acres though? That’s a lot of bang for your buck.
I even got to dabble in my not-so-secret old lady habit – antique shopping! In which I played the enabler and made her buy a gorgeous copper pitcher and bowl. They’re totally practical purchases though – you can put things like sangria in pitchers and candy or carbs in bowls.
We went to a winery. Where there was a mini-donkey just roaming loose. Uh, hello did I mention heaven on earth?
Basically we just played with the donkey for like 10 minutes and then we finally tore ourselves away to go drink wine. What a rough life we lead, right? It was also like 9839 degrees and I wore all black like the displaced Southerner genius I am. Not.
AND THEN. We went to the barn. And I got to ride Frankie.
If I didn’t mention he was giant before…
So giant. Also had to put Olivia’s stirrup leathers on the very top hole.
Other than being impressed by his size though, there’s so much to love about this horse. He’s so freaking cool guys. I ride like a very small sack of rice on a horse and he was like, “Yes, of course, I would be happy to!”
When I asked for fancy things, he did them. When I just wanted to toodle around on the buckle and pretend he was a western please horse, he was all about it. I made him neck rein. It’s really a miracle anyone lets me ride their horse guys. I’m a total weenie and felt entirely comfortable on him, like you could ask me to go do anything and I would have been like, SURE.
It’s so so cool to see how far Frankie has come since Olivia has gotten him and you can tell it’s been a lot of hard work, but man, he sure makes it fun. I totally would have horsenapped him, but he’s like, slightly too large to fit in a carry on bag. (I totally had him on my side though, I fed him ice cubes because I ignore rules because I was trying to win him over)
And then we went home and ordered Chinese food and sat on the couch because we are the same person.
Sunday, Olivia had a lesson (recapped here) and my main takeaway was a) she can remember a lot of jumps in a short period of time (I take like 8 years to learn a course) b) her assistant trainer is super awesome and c) she’s seriously a fantastic rider who does not give herself enough credit. Her leg does not move when she drops her stirrups. Her upper body doesn’t do any of the bizarre things mine does. She’s great at making adjustments mid-course. No wonder they’ve done so well this year – she’s got it.
We finished out the day pampering Francis (he was less than impressed with getting his mane pulled), watching her assistant trainer perform chicken surgery (just a small leg procedure), and cleaning tack (she cleaned, I sat and watched her like the super helpful friend I am).
It was basically the greatest weekend and I can’t wait for her to come visit Doc and me in Indiana!
I manage to end up with a lot of bruises. Mostly from really stupid things. Half the time, I can’t remember what they came from. September, however, was a particularly moronic month for me, so obviously the correct response is to share it with the entire internet, RIGHT?
Upper right arm/elbow + outside right knee: Doc is crosstied in wash rack, I’m carrying small bucket with ACV rinse. He steps on the hose, I push him off, he instead steps on my foot. Proceed to, “OW GET OFF MY FOOT” and manage to trip myself backwards. Our wash rack has a 6″ or so lip on the front of it, like a curb, which in my tripping, I fall over. Doc spooks (aka pulls back like, “THIS GENIUS AGAIN”), knocking bucket out of my hand, which goes flying. At this point, I’ve landed on the curb, horse is hovering above me and bless his sweet, wonderful, sane heart, realizes nothing is going to kill him and he should freeze before he kills the small human beneath his large feet. I am soaking wet and accumulate an upper arm bruise that looks like I got socked, along with the outside of my knee. Can’t raise arm fully for three days. Praise the Lord for heating pads.
Inside left knee: So I have a pair of Monacos that have been straight hell on Earth to break in. Everyone who is like, “oh so easy to break in, so comfortable!!” YOU. ARE. LIARS. Or mine are just defective. Anyways. I try to make myself ride in them once a week or so (and they’re getting there, I will admit), but they still haven’t dropped enough to fasten the snaps at the back of the knee. No big deal, I think, I forget to do the snaps on my schooling boots all the time. Well, post-lesson, I discover the snap somehow migrated between my knee and saddle and has left me with a quarter shaped disgusting colored bruise on the inside of my knee. Cool.
Outside right knee/lower thigh: Leaving the arena on Tuesday, stopped to grab my water bottle off the arena rail. Doc decides he’s done and leaving right now, thanks, nevermind to the small human on board and proceeds to turn my leg into the post. Thanks buddy.
Honorable mention goes to the 4″ scratch up my left calf I do not know the origins of and the cut on my lip courtesy dropping my phone on my face.
On the plus side, I did not fall off the mounting block this month.
I love to daydream. Also, regular dream because it means I’m asleep and I love to sleep. I also have incredibly insane, but also realistic dreams so I often wakeup unsure if something happened in real life or dream life. (Examples include, but not limited to: group of friends going on spring break together… to Costco, finding 150 wooden hangers, discovering a brand new fancy washer and dryer in my condo)
So when Olivia started posting about dream horse, it was like, oh, I’ve totally got this, because uh, that’s basically a repetitive dream that got me through grad school classes (mainly statistics HI MOM LOOK I GOT THE DEGREE IT’S TOTALLY FINE). It’s also more fun than the dream where I forgot to turn an assignment in senior year of high school and the Head of Upper School is scolding me and I graduated SEVEN YEARS AGO CAN THIS STOP PLEASE.
The problem when you ask me to design one dream horse is that I do not have one dream horse. I have lots of them*. I have many things I would like to do. But apparently this limits me to one singular horse, so ugh, fine.
So this dream horse is definitely a mare. Yeah, I know. But I love mares. Can’t help it. Always have, always will. They just understand me. Geldings are far too patient, far too easygoing for my psychotic self or something. Mares are like, “yeah, me too girl, let’s be crazy together.”
She’s dark bay with lots of chrome. I only want to have to obsessively clean like, 40% of my horse. But no blue eyes. Nope. Not acceptable. Flashy legs make my heart go pitter patter.
Athletic enough to go play eventer (let’s dream big like someday I’ll go training or something), sane enough to go bop around bareback. Pretty mover, great conformation, magical at dressage but brave enough cross country. Good feet. Likes being oogled and primped and color-coordinated within an inch of life. Totally a show off. Like, this mare is definitely in contention for a Bravo show.
Not so giant she makes me look like a mosquito. Big enough that jumps don’t look like actual houses. Wears a freaking medium NORMAL tree saddle. Loads nicely, stands nicely, not prone to doing stupid things like running away, rearing, bucking or kicking.
It would also be great if she would learn my courses for me, pay for herself and never lose a shoe.
Trainer has been on me about conditioning and let’s be real, I like any excuse to go gallop on our track and live all of my Thoroughbred series childhood dreams, so I’m not complaining. Our barn is a former racehorse training barn, so we have an amazing track to go work on. I like to do a lot of my warm-ups and cool downs there too, and Doc likes it because he’s far too good at sneaking bites of grass when I’m not paying attention. Like, dude, this is why you have to do so much conditioning work – ’cause you got a booty like some rap star’s girlfriend and you won’t stop eating.
I’ve been using the app Terra Map to help track rides and speed (I am incapable of distinguishing between fast, really fast, kind of fast and too fast). Mostly what I’m finding is that I’m the one in desperate need of conditioning here. Talk about some dead legs. Two point ‘tober, I am NOT ready for you. It doesn’t help that it’s 90+ degrees here and I’m very, very confused if I live in Indiana or South Carolina or what month it is. I’m trying not to complain because I’m downright terrified of winter, but also… I nearly killed the horse and myself on Friday.
We were doing this same ride routine, only it was 9am and somehow already Alabama-hot-and-humid and by the time I was done, I was pretty sure I was not going to live to see the next day. Not really that big of an issue (Go figure the fact that I lived down south for 7 years, I’m the world’s biggest baby about heat. And cold. Basically my body is horrible at regulating temperature)… except the barn’s water was turned off while they were repairing something. And my poor horse was drenched.
Twenty minutes of sponge/scrape with a glorious forgotten extra bucket of water, I felt comfortable enough to leave him standing under the fan (keep in mind, he could not have cared less this entire time and stood there eating breakfast, so I guess I’m just a paranoid helicopter mom) and downed like 94 gallons of water (jk the two water bottles in my car).
You win, Indiana September, you win.
We walked today. Nobody died. Tuesday accomplishments.
Once upon a time, I had a blog. And a retired horse. Then I went to grad school and then I moved… like, three times. And blog was no more.
But then here we are and it’s 2017 and I’m riding again and have a grown up job and there’s a new blog. Marescara, ’cause until this one, every horse I’ve had? Mares. Love ’em. And I’m 100% girly-girl and I adore makeup and own too many shoes and can have entire conversations on lipstick shades. There you have it.
So let’s catch up:
I’m (still) Holly. Since last time I: went to grad school, graduated, moved to South Carolina, finished a fellowship, went from human medicine to veterinary medicine, moved to Indiana (…yeah) and (the important part here) leased a horse. Yeah, back in the game.
The details? Doc is an American Saddlebred who is owned by my trainer, C. He’s all personality, takes great care of me, and takes all the jokes I manage to throw at him. And because I was inspired by all the other bloggers who are badass eventers, I said wait, that looks fun annddd… we’re eventing.
It seemed like the right time to write some things down, to see where we go and watch it all happen.