Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Foot Stomping Hippo Tantrums

Well, its been a little over a week since we returned from the Horse Trial and the weather has been awful for riding.  Its been HOT and HUMID.  When I say humid, I don't mean 60%-70%, "Wow its muggy" humidity.  I mean 90%-100%, "It feels like I'm breathing hot soup" humidity.
I don't remember this moss and algae on my house yesterday...
So, there's been a lot of very quiet rides.  Riding to the lake at a walk, then walking around in the lake, then back to the barn was still resulting in a sweat drenched horse.  Even the velociraptors have been dragging their tails.  Yesterday, finally, the humidity actually broke ... to 65%!  After the past week, it felt positively chilly.

25 deg C, 65% humidity and I'm almost cold?

So, a great night to make the Hippo work for a living and the first serious ride after the competition. The big mare has decided that dressage is boooooring. I disagree, but she making it clear that working on rhythm, forward and relaxed needs some livening up. "Did you see that monster hiding inside the traffic cone?" *wiggle tapdance* "I'm sure I heard something dangerous outside" *zoom forward* "Have I told you about the dangers of barn swallows?" *twitch dodge*
Seriously, didn't you see that?
Short version, she's just screwing with me.  We both know it, which is why I've also set up some jumps to occupy her busy brain.  Low stuff, easy to blend in with the regular work. Good plan, right?

Someone has come back from the Horse Trial with higher confidence about jumping. Trotting fences is boring, let's canter! Zoom,WHEE on landing.  How about a RAMPAGE towards the fence?  Jump, land turn?  How about I start turning AS I jump? Sounds easier to me!

And if she doesn't get to do it her way? Stompity stomp stomp, pout, flounce around in a huff, act like a 1200lb toddler in the cereal aisle.  Because she knows what she's doing, and I am getting in the way of a good time.
I'm the unreasonable asshole dressed in black
Trust me, when I say that this is actually a good thing. She thinks jumping is fun and wants to get to the party. I just need to make sure she doesn't party too hard for her own good and stay on.  Let's just hope I can manage the 'stay on' part


Thursday, 20 August 2015

#TBT: Who Cut My Horse's Brakes Lines?

So, I've told you guys a bit about my old pony and my old hunter/eventer/13 years of trying ro squash a square peg in a round hole.  I haven't told much about my old event/dressage horse. What a mare. Three quarters thoroughbred and one quarter percheron, built like a rugby fullback and thought she was a race horse.  She wasn't that far wrong either.  That mare could GO!
Which caused the occasional steering problem...

Like many mares, and women, she had some rather firmly held opinions and resented being told what to do. (Get your knickers out of a twist.  We women hate being 'told'.  I know it, you know it, let's just sip some wine and move on)  There's an old saying. You can tell a gelding, but ask a mare and discuss it with a stallion.  Damned if it isn't the truth.

Go ahead, TELL a mare, I dare you

After moving the old guy on to a semi-retirement home that I wanted to move into myself, I started the inevitable horse hunt.

1) NOT A STOPPER (can't imagine why. hey?)
2) Eventing experience ideal
3) Decent jumping form
3) Accomodate the T-Rex's tail

Which led me to the eventing mare; solid, forward, not huge.  I try her out with my sister there. Its winter, we're in the indoor. Walk/trot/canter, jump a few things. Mare is taking me to the jumps, not stalling, YAY!

Barn Owner "She can ride, can't she?"
Sister "Yup"
Barn Owner "And no concerns jumping towards home? Gutsy"
... This is when we both should have paused for a second...

Ride mare a few times, like her, buy her, take her home.  Notice that she tends to 'build momentum" on course, but we're still in the indoor so no big deal right?  Then we move outside in the spring.
Bigger ring, more space, more ... ummm... momentum?

Mare has a philosphy "Sit down, shut up and hang on", combine this with an apparent lack of brakes in her snaffle ... and an irresistible love affair with the long spot. It was the beginning of some interesting lessons.
Otherwise known as the "Hail Mary Long Spot"
Which brings me to this:

Dear Eventing Snaffle purists, aka 'snaffle nazis', there exist some horses for which no amount of 'flatwork' will provide a ridable horse over fences once a jump appears in front of them.  I know you will squawk vocally that this is a rider issue. That all horses should be able to jump in a snaffle, preferably a loose ring, french link.  I would invite you to ask for the opportunity to demonstrate this miracle on one of these jumping 'attack machines', preferably XC.  I will cheerfully attend this demonstration, drink in hand as you waterski off into the sunset.

Just much ... much faster

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Who Delivered The Launch Codes?

Well, the Hippo and I completed our first Horse Trial this weekend.  Happily, this old T-Rex managed to keep the Hippo between herself and the ground at all times, which is always a cause for celebration!

Luck wasn't really with us for the dressage phase.  It ran in an indoor arena the Hippo hadn't seen yet. Open doors, hidden sounds sources, strange environment and an inexperienced horse equalled a horse on high alert.  But, we worked through it and completed so its all good in my book!

The hippo seems to REALLY like big open spaces, it might have something to do with the fact she doesn't feel restricted by walls . She can stretch out and get loose.  That was when I figured out something might have changed during our cross country jumping warm up.  We hopped a couple low x shaped jumps.  Hmmm, a little more oomph than usual but not a bad thing.

Then we jumped a spread fence annnnnd blast off!

Yup, kind of like this..

Next thing I know I'm squawking profanity as I feel myself nearly shot clear of the saddle by the power in the jump underneath me.  Holy shit, where did THAT come from?!

(All praise extra sticky deerskin seat riding pants AND neck straps AND sticky stuff to glue one's boots to the saddle.)
My deerskin breeches may get a shrine 

Evidently someone delivered the launch codes to the Hippo's jump capability. Make no mistake, this is awesome. Its also a little (lot) disconcerting to be headed to my first cross country course in a decade on a horse that has discovered its fun to jump WAY UP over fences. Off we go to the cross country field.  (Did I mention the big mare jumped her first XC fences the day before? Yeah, no big deal.)

Count down from the start box ... 5... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Go! Good luck!  It doesn't matter that we are walking out of the startbox, a gunshot of adrenaline hits my system.  Its XC, GO!

Walk out, trot to the first fence.  Hippo is befuddled.  Where are we going?  Why are we leaving everyone?  Is that log important? This field is huge!  Did you say something about a log?  Did you mean look at the log? Where'd my buddies go?  Oh crap, you meant THAT log?

(wiggle, wiggle, steer, steer, cluck, jump, we're over) This continues for the first 1/3 of the course but, god love the Hippo, she still jumps everything. By the 1/2 mark, it clicks in.  OH, you point and I jump.  Got it lady!

Just in time for her to lock onto the series of fences heading downhill. Sit up sit up goddamnit sit your giant head back in case she ... guess who re-reads the launch codes? Even from a trot, she jumps the fence like a monster! Immense power but holy crap!

Deploy launch!

From that fence onward, it was just point, sit up and squeeze.  No rush, no hesitation, just a chill feeling of "Got it lady, let's do it"

The best feeling XC round of my life, but do I ever need to take up jogging!

However, falling off on XC from lack of oxygen is WAY worse

Thursday, 13 August 2015

#TBT: Leaving Room For Interpretation

Oh look, its thursday!  Time to dive back into prehistory again.

One of my favorite sayings is "What I said and what you heard weren't the same thing".  This proves true repeatedly when you start learning to ride ... scratch that ... during your entire riding education. Its understandable when you think about it.

A rider is trying to coordinate their limbs (all 4 of them) and balance on a moving surface, while coordinating the horse's limbs, and trying to hear what their coach's instruction over their own struggle to breathe at the same time.   It might be easier to juggle pitchforks and flaming torches while reciting Shakespeare, on a surfboard.  So, a little mis-interpretation at the time is understandable.
Friggin' Amateur
Just a sidenote, but I refuse to adapt to this 'trainer' shenanigans.  If you pay the person to educate your horse, they are a trainer.  If you pay them to educate you, they are a coach.  If their primary job is to teach you, they are not a trainer, unless you are a seal...  Unless you happen to be a competitive horse riding seal, at which point, carry on! (And send video, I'm begging you, because I need to see this) Rant over and back to your regularly scheduled T-Rex

The truly epic incidents tend to happen when your coach isn't there, you're riding independently and have had time to process.

One of these incidents was back when I had my first pony, the aforementioned 'perfect pony'. There were two instructions at work that day.

  1. If she does 'x', use your stick
  2. When you can't stop, point them at the wall.  Then they'll stop.

You might be able to guess where some of this is going... stay with me.

Pony does 'x', I use stick.  I don't remember what 'x' was. I do remember the acceleration underneath me, vividly. Pony shoots forward like the proverbial scalded cat.

Not good, need brakes.

No brakes.

Pony is galloping off with me indignantly, as she has taken great affront. So, I point her at the nearest piece of the fence line of the outdoor ring while riding in the (ever so classical and elegant) water skiing position.

Did you know that 'wall' and 'arena perimeter fence' don't mean the same thing to a pissed off pony mare?
I mean, I still don't but then?  Wow.

Because I sure did when I felt her front feet lift off the ground to clear the arena fence line, which happened to be between 4' and 4'6" high. To this day, I still don't remember why I used my stick. I sure as hell remember picking myself up off the ground on the wrong side of the fence line uncertain how I got there, with my pony standing beside me inquisitively.

The main difference? Mine jumped the whole damn fence, and I was a kid.
And to this day, I haven't used a fence line as an emergency stop, which brings me to my next favorite saying.

Pain teaches ;)

Again and again ... and again

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Festivus in August

which brings me to...
5 days and counting before the Hippo's eventing debut and the packing prep has started in earnest.  I just unearthed my old pair of white full-seat riding breeches. Oh boy, those suckers have seen better days. Son of a bitch, this means I need to buy a pair of light beige or white breeches without which one may not compete in the dressage or eventing stadium rings.  

Because, nothing says 'athlete' like the sight of white or similar shade spandex stretched for dear life across a middle aged ass. 
Just not in these pants...

Its a look that is barely passable on a runway model! Seriously, who's dumbass idea was this and WHY haven't we had this rule changed?  Riding is a sport that is primarily outdoors, in all weather, with mud and a propensity to end up in it. Seriously?

Tradition, tradition, screw tradition. If we were so traditional, we women would be competing sidesaddle. I don't see anyone clamoring to make THAT mandatory. So it's not about the tradition. 

"But, its just so elegant."  Yup. nothing more elegant than mudspattered white breeches as your horse galumphs through a puddle.  Never mind the washing and re-washing hoping the stains come out, if they come out.  Even better?  The sudden display of one's underwear to the judge when your breeches fo from white to transparent in a cloudburst. (Hey look!  That one's wearing a thong! With butterflies and little hearts!)

Of course, how better to showcase the green streak(s) of slime your horse managed to deposit on your leg as you leap on?  Karma's payback for every grass stain your mother ever had to despairingly scrub out of the knees of your clothes as a kid?

My solution? Conservative color breeches, short or long sleeve shirt with collar (solid colored if you want to be fussy), tall boots or short boots with half chaps of matching color in black or brown.  Clothing, 3 phases, done.

How hard is that?

But you know I'm right

Friday, 7 August 2015

Planning ahead? Just try it

It's a miracle! We've had some uninterrupted sunshine, although it is soon coming to an end. It feels like this hasn't happened since the meteor struck.

As you can imagine, time with the hippo on a long weekend was a priority. I mean, it's not like there's stuff I can/shouldn't have been doing around the house like refinishing that cabinet, or taming my out of control garden, or organizing the house. I've got skills but evidently they apply to everything BUT housekeeping. (I blame the tiny arms and large head, makes it impossible to get at corners)

See?  No can reach!

Hippo was in fine form, happy to dance exuberantly without an excess of drama.

Save the dramatic flourishes for your own time...

Of course, it wouldn't be life with the the T-Rex without the unexpected happening. The plan on Sunday was to ride the hippo to the beach with a few velociraptors. Set a time, meet, tack, head out. Simple yes?

Not so much. 

Arrive to find out hippo has a somewhat swollen hock.  Hmm. How'd that happen? 
Velociraptor #1 preferred to demonstrate her best impressions of a leaping antelope. Velociraptor #2 complained about a front foot, velociraptor #3 complains about a back one. 

Good lord! What'd they do? Send around a memo? Whoever coined the phrase, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail" never had a horse.  With them, plan all you want, you still haven't got a damn clue what's actually going to happen.
Seriously, do they plan this?
Raptor #1 was definitely out. (We like her rider, we'd like to keep her in one piece) . Time to check the injured list.  Raptor #2? She's fine, no idea what that was about.  Raptor #3? Definitely stayed home to be replaced by his understudy.  The hippo? She didn't show any discomfort so it's the tough love, long slow hack for her

Off we go, eventually, for a steady trip to the beach. Sunshine, cool breeze, long slow miles of conditioning for all of us but what a production to get going.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

TBT: A Prescription for Success

Ahhh, Throwback Thursday.  Time to mine the vaults for a tale or two.  When you've been around as long as I have, its not like there's a lack of material. So, let's talk about competition nerves.

Anyone out there have them?  Because I do and always have. Historically, my competition nerves have been so bad that my coach started recommending that I 'drink something'.
... when I was 12/13
... with my family's support*.
Hell, my poor mother used to offer me sangria in an effort to help. Seriously, I was a nervous wreck.

Granted, in hindsight, my 'perfect pony' was actually a 5 yo appendix quarter horse, with limited training, no brakes, in its first year of showing over fences, in the hunter division. (Make it pretty and don't forget to smile!)  Oh yeah, and I was 12, and a goody two shoes.  No imbibing for me.
My brain as a child. I learned to drown that out in adulthood
Fast forward to converting to eventing with the Giant Chicken as an adult. Yes, still competing.  Yes, still panicky nervous. Yes, the money might be better invested in therapy.
Of course not! Didn't you read my post "We have a problem"?
Guess what my new coach tentatively suggested?  Alcohol!  Specifically, sparkling wine and oj aka Mimosas.  No hesitation in taking the recommendation this time, that's for sure.  (Though the laughter and enthusiastic embracing of the suggestion must have been unnerving.) Ah, mimosas, the nervous riders best friend. Because it isn't dysfunctional drinking in the am if its mixed with orange juice. Similarly Caesers or Bloody Marys but tomato juice, blech.  Plus, tomato juice and white breeches are a baaaad mix.

I don't have a problem
Welcome to the T-Rex XC course routine.
  1. Grab sippy cup (adult size) 
  2. Fill with mimosa (mostly wine, some oj for appearances)
  3. Start drinking.
  4. Walk XC course, muttering "Its not that bad" SCHLURP "It'll be fine" 
  5. Sober up for dressage
How the hell am I going to get a horse over all this?

*My parents were/are awesome. No one forced me to compete. The neurosis is entirely mine

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The T-Rex's Guide to Riding Underwear

Want a real topic to split the riders into different camps? Riding underwear.   Oh boy, does that one divide and conquer. It divides by discipline AND age at the same time.

So. Thong, brief, boyshort, bike short, head to toe body suit.  Let me provide you with the T-Rex's guide to selection of riding undergarments 

Are you young?  Slender? Not yet working on the sitting trot? Not yet read the classic equestrian literature, Riders?  Think that VPL* is a fate worse than death? 
  • Then you might want to consider the selecting the thong.  Just beware of those triple combinations when they emerge on course. T-Rex gently recommends the hunter/jumper ring.
    Young, fancy and your thighs don't touch.  You too will succumb to gravity and french fries (Mwahaha)
Are you in pursuit of that smooth, almost hermetically sealed look regardless of age?  Breathability be-damned?  Think that every lump and bump, in addition to VPL, must be conquered?
  • Then you might want to consider selecting the bike short or more extreme bodysuit.   I might recommend the dressage ring where you can sing the song of your people "Good lord, has my trainer finished warming up my horse? I'm already sweating to death"
    Seriously, who could do sports in this?
Are you less young? Perhaps you have a bit of a tail to contain? Started working more on sitting the trot and canter? Have you read Riders?   
  • Then you will probably have opted for the brief/boyshort** option for two major reasons:
    1. God help me if my breeches split on course.  NO ONE needs to see that
      The glare! My god, the glare
    2. A thong rasping away at the 'starfish' during sitting trot only needs to be experienced once.
      Yes, I mean exactly where you think I mean.
Because when you are out there on a jumping course, you don't need to feel either the 'letter in your mailbox' or the sudden and highly distracting draft. 

*VPL = Visible Panty Line
** Seamless is worth the investment to avoid similar abrasive qualities in nearby delicate regions