Surprise, Surprise

I really do not like surprises. I’m supremely spooky (no seriously, I spook…any one of you that have met me in person know that I spook EXACTLY like a horse) and am easily overwhelmed emotionally so for the love of all things furry and four legged, don’t try and surprise me.

I will, however, acquiesce to unexpected surprises from my horse.

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I had a big, long post about last weekend 90% done, and then I hit a button and it all disappeared…so, I’ll be combining yesterday’s ride and last weekend’s ride into one big post about being pleasantly surprised with how quickly things seem to be falling into place with Sirius.

Both weekend rides have been a big change from the previous ones. I could attribute this to the bit change to something he likes better, the groundwork, or him just finally understanding his new “rules of the road”. It could also be because I took a good, hard look at myself after one of our tougher rides at the beginning of the month. I felt the familiar anxiety bubbling in my chest, very similar to Simba, over how to “handle” this horse — meaning, how to fix and “perfect” him. I realized that the amount of pressure I was putting on myself, and by proxy, on Sirius, was unfair…mostly to him. I was asking too much, too soon, and I needed to chill the fuck out.

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So, I chilled the fuck out and broke down what I wanted from him into even smaller steps. For example, he has been allowed (and I contributed to this in the beginning!) to pretty much run like a bat out of hell up every hill he sees. I was beginning to fight to make him walk, or at the very least gait, up the hills he’s used to running. It turned into a battle up every hill and neither of us were pleased at the end of the ride. So, I changed my approach — I asked for a few moments of his attention and to make sure he was “checked in” before allowing him what he wanted, on MY terms. Plus, it meant we got to run and we both love that because this horse has turbo boosters on his ass. He was happy he got to run, and I was happy with the little bit of attention he gave me before I let him loose — both happy! It also meant he was more willing to come back to me when I asked him to, instead of fighting to break through my hands.

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I also just…rode. I stopped trying to make every second a training opportunity. Yes, I want to better my horse and myself. Yes, we have things that need to be worked on. At the end of the day, though…I just want to ride, and he just wants to play. He LOVES going out. Loves it. His ears are always forward and he never, ever says no to exploring or going somewhere new. We had fun and that was more important. He wasn’t allowed to get away with bad manners or

Based on this, I’m chalking up most of our success of the past two rides to my mental shift. I really needed to take the pressure off of BOTH of us, and learn to work with him, specifically. He’s such a different animal than I’m used to. I knew he was going to challenge everything I’ve done up until now. Simba was a bully and you had to bully him back to get your point across. Sirius isn’t. He occasionally will give you a flippant answer when you ask him something, but if you get after him, he’s apologetic and quits almost immediately. I’ve realized that if he doesn’t quit, I’m asking the wrong way and need to reevaluate my questions. He is challenging because I have to basically restock my proverbial toolbox, but he isn’t actually overwhelming. He is a joy to work with and I need to remember that.

Despite all of this, I was still surprised at just how quickly this horse has picked up on the things I’m asking him to do. When I figure out how to get my point across to him, he “gets” it almost immediately. We do not have any head slinging, panicky circles at the mounting block anymore because implementing a “stand” cue has helped immensely. He is already lunging really well and is super soft on the end of the line 90% of the time. Flexing in the halter is not something I need to even consider drilling — you pick up that line and his nose is to you in a millisecond. He is ridiculously smart, probably smarter than I am, and that is going to be both fun and tricky to work with. Hmm. Tricky. Maybe some trick training books are in my immediate future…

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What is most surprising, however, is just how quickly I’m becoming attached to him. It’s not the white hot, almost terrifying attachment I had to Image, but it’s there, slowly revealing itself as time goes on. I just wanted another horse so badly with Simba that I forgot that this is what it’s supposed to feel like: the little jolt of excitement and happiness when you get to go ride or see your critter, the having to remind yourself that people don’t want to hear every little detail about how perfect he is when people ask about your horse, the realization that this horse is yours and that you’re HAPPY he’s yours, wanting to squish his wittle face every time you see him…

THIS is right. I’m terrified of owning a horse and fucking it up again, but even with his greyness and littleness and goofy mane and inability to contain himself around hills…he’s mine and I’m so happy he’s mine.

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So, surprises around every corner, and I don’t hate it. Well, I don’t hate THESE surprises. I do hate the surprise of my check engine light coming on randomly on the highway. I also hate surprise printer blow ups at work when I have a million reports that need printing. I also hate cancer and what it’s doing to a few really important people in my life.

And boys. I don’t like boys right now either.

Thank god for horses.

Up next…Sirius moves to Mason, NH this Saturday and I’m only a little freaked out about it!

AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD I WILL FINISH THAT POST ABOUT SARA BAREILLES IF IT KILLS ME.

 

 

*FANGIRL MENTAL BREAKDOWN*

GUYS GUYS GUYS LOOK

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I’ve been laboring over a post about meeting this woman for the past MONTH and it’s been really, really hard to get it written down in a way that adequately expresses how I feel…so until then, LOOK SHE NOTICED ME (and liked a picture of my doofus pony)!!!!! Sara shared a photo of her with a cute bay horse. I usually only use twitter to silently stalk celebrities but tweeted her back with a silly photo of Sirius. THEN SHE LIKED IT AND I WAS SO EXCITED THAT I TRIED TO GET OUT OF MY CAR WITH MY SEATBELT STILL ON.

#fangirlproblems

Okay. Serious (Sirius! Ahahahah that joke never gets old…) post coming up next, as we had a freaking fantabulous ride today and I am super proud of Little Grey!

Everything Changes

I’m adjusting to being a horsey parent again.

Part of that adjustment? GETTING TO BUY ALL THE TREATS.

Spoiled pony is spoiled because mama works for Dover Saddlery.

I’m hopeless.

It also means I get to smoosh this face whenever* I want.

That faaaaace!

(*only on weekends because fuck living an hour and a half away from your horse…)

It ALSO means an upward tick in my anxiety…because GOD FORBID I DO SOMETHING WITHOUT DRIVING MYSELF INSANE OVER IT.

!11!!!!1

I adore this little horse. He is funny and sweet with just the right amount of attitude and I am TERRIFIED of fucking this one up. He is solid and fun but he needs just a bit of work and it’s all stuff I’m not so good at. So, I’m doing my usual “well, we’ll wing it and see what happens” for awhile…which really means I’m going to obsessively read everything I can about how to work on his particular issues.

And I’m going to try to not drive myself into an anxiety driven panic because WHAT IF I CAN’T DO IT GUYS.

*flail*

Anyway. Here begins a whole new chapter for both myself and this little grey horse. Poor thing ain’t gonna know what hit him when the changes start coming rapid fire!

We started this past weekend. I had Friday off this week because I turned 25 on Monday. Dover is very nice and gives us all a day off each year for our birthday, and I was equally as nice and didn’t actually take Monday the 2nd off. I just started a new position in the company and it is Mach ten, all the time, and I felt bad making someone else do my job on Monday, when EVERYTHING is Mach ten, because Monday. So, I took Friday…and oh, what a glorious Friday it was! We had a lovely, lovely stretch of Indian Summer here in Massachusetts and it was in the mid-seventies. I woke up just an hour or two later than usual, puttered for a bit at home, and headed north to go ride.

One of Sirius’ issues is that he’s not overly fond of being caught. Once he is caught, he’s in your pocket for cookies and snuggles. Convincing him he does want to be caught, however, can take a few minutes. Thankfully, he’s discovered very quickly that I’m a stubborn asshole and don’t give in…so one or two times of “oh, you’re going to move away from me? Here’s a leadrope at your ass, please move faster”, he gives in and faces me. I do sweeten the deal with a cookie when I catch him, because I’m not adverse to bribing. He let me catch him relatively easily all weekend, which was an improvement over the first few times I went into his paddock, so I’ll take it!

Once I had him caught on Friday, I gave him a once over with a curry (“yes moar please”), the hard brush (no response other than an ear flick) and hit a few spots with Shapley’s Easy Out (“OH SWEET JESUS WHAT IS THAT SPRAY THINGEE OF DOom oh wait nevermind I’m over it”). Sigh. I own a grey.

I threw my saddle on and grabbed my training stick to go press some buttons in the ring before getting on. One of Sirius’ other “things” is mounting. Some point along the way, he became tense and nervous about the mounting block. 90%, in my opinion, is knowing that it’s time to go out and play, and we’ve all just been “meh” about correcting horses about anything this summer because WE just wanted to play too! I had a sneaking suspicion that if I worked him on the ground before asking him to stand still for me to get on, we’d have a much different response.

He was a bit of a kite on Friday, but I expected that completely: I am a new human asking things in weird ways and it was his Monday morning. He did, however, pick up on me asking him to change direction at the end of the rope VERY quickly. His “stop” response, however, needs loads of work, both on the ground and under saddle. I didn’t do much drilling of anything because we’re still getting a feel of each other and I really was simply testing him to see where he was at. What I really loved was that after a few minutes of “lsajhdflkjahsdfas WHAT”, I had an ear locked on me. The whole time. No matter where I was or what I asked, I had an ear. He had a mild meltdown over being asked to go to the left at one point (going to the left is definitely his Kryptonite), but I still had an ear. Simba spent the first couple of weeks trying to escape my presence when I asked him to do things that it took forever to really get his attention, so I was impressed and pleased to have him try and pay attention so quickly.

God this makes him look so narrow…he’s not *that* narrow, I swear!

We worked for maybe 20 minutes before I switched him over to his bridle and lined him up with the mounting block. He was a bit tense, but didn’t move as I swung a leg over. I settled in the saddle and he walked off, but we’ll get there — just standing for me to get on got him boatloads of praise. I’ll take it for now! I’ll definitely be starting each ride with groundwork, like I did with Simba, from here on out. I did it both Saturday and Sunday and it definitely helped.

We toodled in the ring for another ten minutes while I tested his attention with circles and bending. He needs to soften up, especially to the left. He has a tendency to really lean on your hands if given the option, and when he gets strong, he can really get to pulling. Needless to say, I’ve had to remind myself heavily that getting into a pulling match with a horse will not work for me in the long run. Translating this to the trails means we’ve done a lot of half halts and a lot of circles when Little Grey decides he’d like to continue being allowed to bomb around like a heathen (which I absolutely contributed to right up until he was mine…because, let’s face it, it’s fun!).

I then opened the gate — from his back, which I can do, because he’s fourteen-freaking-one hands tall — and out we went. He was much happier the second he realized we were trail bound. He really hates the ring. He’ll do it, but he doesn’t have the same joie de vivre he does when we’re out and about.

Exploring the trails. He’s super sure footed and I LOVE IT.

We had a really fabulous ride. I had a forward but attentive horse, one who quietly and promptly came back to me when I asked him after a run, who listened to my leg and seat, who walked on a loose rein, who did some excellent corto-canter-corto transitions. We went exploring on a trail I had never been on and found a super gorgeous pond. We came across B’s husband in the center of town (where I promptly got him mixed up with someone else and called him the wrong name…felt like a douuuuche!) and stopped to chat, and he stood like a gentleman. We both had a blast and when we came back, I sat in the field with him on the end of a lead line with his cooler on to let him graze. It was lovely and I actually cried a little.

Also Sara Bareilles dropped a new album so I cried a lot over that. But I digress.

Anyway! In stark contrast to Friday, I had an obnoxious beast on Saturday!

Groups — especially this group, because he knows them well and is super competitive with one of the mares — make him lose. his. mind. And then I went ahead and really frustrated him this week because instead of allowing him to run around like he’s used to, I firmly told him to mind his damn manners. We had temper tantrums galore! Fortunately, his temper tantrums are mildly pathetic — a tiny half rear, and once I put his nose to my boot and force him in a few tight circles, and he doesn’t attempt it again until the next time I make him mad. He is 9, and while he’s a pretty happy-go-lucky little horse, this “self control” thing is all new to him so I completely do not blame him for not understanding why he’s only now being asked to contain himself a little. He was definitely “getting” it by Sunday, but

Another issue we have been running into is bit rubs. I think we have it fixed now, but it was definitely contributing to his unhappiness on Saturday. My Mylers are just a touch too big for him, and he was getting rubs at the corners of his mouth. I may sell one or two to fund a smaller size, because outside of that, he works well in my them and I much prefer them to any other bits on the market right now.

I got off Saturday ready to break down the ride and figure out where things went “wrong”. He was never terrible but we had many discussions and not all of them were successful. By the end of the ride, we were both tired. Admittedly, I tried to pick too many battles to fight. I really should have made the decision (not let him, but made it my choice) to let him have a nice run, after he gave me a few strides of quiet and soft. I think we both would have been happier and a lot more would have been accomplished.

PLZ TO BE GIVING ME SNACKS KTHX

Sunday, I did just that and we had a much, much better ride. Working with him is going to take some re-wiring of my brain. Simba was very much a “I tell you to do this thing and this thing only” kind of horse, and he did well with that structure. Sirius takes more finessing. Simba required bullying from time to time, which I really didn’t like, but it was occasionally the only way to get through to him. Sirius does not — he requires firmness, perhaps, but never downright pushing around. I also made a change into a Paso Fino bit J had lying around. It’s thicker and smaller, and fit him much better, and he was a MUCH happier horse all around. I’m going to attempt to find one similar. I also didn’t put him at the back of the pack. He’ll learn, eventually, how to ride anywhere in the group, but he’s happiest up in front and I was able to get much more accomplished with a happier horse. We zoomed around a bit, mostly because Gema led the pack at a fast clip and we all had to freaking CANTER to keep up with this mare’s largo (she is a machine!). I also, stupidly, MTG’d his sad, sad little mane on Saturday. Ever tried to ride with rubber reins after putting MTG on a horse’s mane? Note to self: remember riding gloves next week…

Much quieter on Sunday. Three days in a row of work probably helped too!

I was dog tired by the time I slid off of him on Sunday, and zombied my way though cooling him out and putting him back in the paddock. I had ordered a cooler for him from work that I got to put on him on Sunday, and holy crap does he look cute all bundled up to his ears, peering at me hopefully for more snacks. Yes, he got snacks. Many snacks. Especially because he nickers for cookies and I’m a SUCKER.

WOOKIT DAT FAAACE

I barely made it home on Sunday before crawling into bed and passing out. I love, love, LOVE J and her crew and riding with them, and I’m going to miss them all very much when I move Sirius next month, but godDAMN I am not going to miss that drive. I know that I can stay with D, who is only a half hour away from J’s or with J herself, but I am very, very protective of my alone time and really prefer it to be in my own bed when I can (especially because starting this weekend, I’m house sitting until January, essentially).

Today on my drive home I finally had minimal brain cells to devote to assessing our weekend. He was stellar on Friday, a fruitcake on Saturday, and right smack in the middle on Sunday, leaning towards stellar again. I’m pretty confident this horse, with consistent work, will be a rock star. What’s more, I actually enjoy working with him. He’s not a douchebag. He can be a bit of a snot, but he’s not an all around jerk…and 90% of the time he’s super happy about everything.

So, one week into horse ownership again, and despite my own anxiety driven ridiculousness, I’m happy to be back. My life has changed dramatically in the past two months, and I don’t hate any of it. Sirius’ life is about to change dramatically as well…and, hopefully, he won’t hate it too much either!

We Solemnly Swear We Are Up to No Good

Yesterday was fantastic.

I rode a unicorn. A bouncy, fresh, naughty, silly one. I got to wear my Hogwarts cosplay in public and only be judged a little. We all laughed and whooped and ran around like fools and I had to pick up the pieces of Little Grey’s brain because I made him be polite and it was an amazing Halloween treat to spend it with good friends and excellent horses.
I also bought a horse.

So, without further adieu…everyone, meet Travesura Realizada, aka Sirius, formerly known as Benicio. I chose his barn name because he reminds me very strongly of Sirius Black from Harry Potter. Sirius is fun, loud, brash, fiercely loyal and incredibly big hearted…but he is also reckless and stubborn, with a tendency to act before he thinks. He chooses to do the right thing more often than not, but he’s not perfect. Neither is Little Grey…and that’s what I love about both of them.

“Travesura realizada” is the Spanish translation of “mischief managed”. I figured, seeing as I’m calling him Sirius, he should have a little bit of the Marauder’s Map in his name for good measure…even if I don’t think our mischief will ever be TRULY managed.

He will be staying at J’s through the month of November. Come December, he’ll be moving to a longtime house sitting client’s house, very close to my aunt and right on top of my favorite trails.

I am excited for and by this horse. He is just the right mix between challenging and fun. We have things to work on, but they are small things that will not take long or much effort because he is smart and wants to do the right thing. All of this combined makes me anxious to jump right into building a partnership with him, because I can already tell that he is the kind of horse to lock on to a human, and just get better and better as time goes on.

Not to mention, we are going to get into a hell of a lot of trouble together…

And it’s gonna be epic.

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.” 
— Sirius Black, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling