The Little Guy

I have never been “the little guy” in any group.  I’m an easy 5’10” and wear heels for work a good portion of my life.  And I was almost 5’8” in 7th grade, so being the giraffe was always in the cards.  In line with that, since I can remember I’ve been riding large horses.  To some degree it was the hunter/jumper complex that bigger is better.  The rest was simply finding a horse that my 36” long inseam didn’t miniaturize.

My history is a series of 16hh+ horses.  As follows…

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16.2hh gelding

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16hh+ gelding

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16.3hh gelding

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17hh+ hand gelding

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PC: She Moved to Texas, her wonderful Simon

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16hh+ mare

I remember that buying O, at 16hh was considered “smallish” for me.  You can see in the picture just above that obviously the mare was plenty big.  But it’s a culture thing in Hunters.  People seem to love the giant, rolling stride horses.

Buuuuuuttttttttt…..

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Then I started riding this mare.  Dee is just over 15.1hh (I think), and while I love to call her shorty/mini/pony/hony there is nothing this little horse can’t do.  Our lessons do nothing to challenge her; she’s sporty, clever and cute on the flat.

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15.1 rockstar

And in being so, she has totally changed how I see horses.  How I see any future horses.  I’m not going to shrink anytime soon, so being tall will always factor into my rides.  But, if that means that maybe I just need to be more careful with my upper body at the fence-I don’t see any problems with that.

So for the first time in my 20-odd years of life, I’m the little guy.  Or rather, we are.  I’m choosing to embrace it, laugh at it, and then continue on my merry way.  I have no great ambition to challenge the bigger is better hunter complex, except in my own mind…and perhaps those who love this little horse as much as I do.

More like a Hunter

Lately our lessons have been less like a marriage counseling session-and more like a team effort.  I know what buttons Dee has, and usually how to push them.  She has responded so well to being in a more intense program and is fit as a little bay fiddle.  Lately I’ve been riding with two jumpers, but feeling more and more like we look like the hunters we are supposed to be.


Lead changes? Sure.

Comfortable jumping a large variety of obstacles?  Sure.

Getting the step?  Hells yeah-Hony has a great stride.


We’ve been spending a lot of time working on making a decision and then smoothing it out.  Making a choice is hard-making it look like you did it on purpose is even harder.  

And guys, we’ve been jumping things with a little more height and I have to say that I’ve so missed that little moment, where you collect them back before jumping forward?  You jumping people get it, it’s just this perfect little launch sequence.  Plus Dee is such a little boss that I get to do what my hunter soul truley desires, which is to stick my butt up over the fence’s arc and pose.  Ha!

We’re working hard, and things are coming together.  December horse show-I’m coming for you!

Getting to Know You…

…getting to know all about you!  Or rather Deedee.

In the first month of my lease I’ve learned quite a bit about this little mare, and had a really good first few weeks as a pair.  Like awesome actually.

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Fatty mare can fancy prance

Having something nice to ride, enjoy and who doesn’t give a rats about what we do everyday is great.  Want to walk around the property and play in puddles.  Dee says sure.  Want to work on upward transitions?  Dee says sure.  Let’s jump today!?  Dee says, which one is first?!   She just does her job, and is happy about it.

Some fun facts:

  • She’s still got a little too much junk in the trunk, the saddle slips badly.  I had to get off twice to reset my saddle in my last lesson.
  • She hates the wash stall.  As a horse whose owner tormented her with roughly 1000 beauty sessions, I have no idea how this mare still hates baths. Or maybe I just answered my own question?
  • Deedee is barefoot and I love it!
  • Because she’s on a fat pony program she had to switch turnouts.  She is not taking it well, and still screams for her friends almost 2 weeks later.

 

  • She gives zero rats about the baby stroller  or my squealing, screaming occasionally slapping infant.

 

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Horse on one side, baby on the other.

  • She jumps a bit like O did.  Very round. So at least that part feels old hat!
  • She goes around like a much, much larger horse.
  • She drools ALL THE TIME.  Oh my gosh.  Such a mess everywhere we go….Drools.
  • Thanks to an idea from her owner, she has her own hashtag.  #DoubleDee.  Ha!

So the first month is in the books.  Cheers to month two!

Mare Crush Monday

Apparently I have a type.

Bay.

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Look another bay mare with white socks!

Mare.

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Droopy lip, derpy ears.

Cute ears.

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Great sense of humor.

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And extremely tolerant.

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Why walk to turnout when the mare will tote you along bareback.

Meet Demelia.  Or DeeDee.

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Me and the Dee 

She belongs to some friends at the barn, and lately has been attending our trainers version of fat camp because the girl has got a little too much junk in the trunk.  What does that mean for me?  I get to steal her for ride or two during the weeks her Mommas can’t work her enough.

She’s a 10 year old American Warmblood, sweet as pie, fancy, and puts up with whatever shenanigans I’ve thought up that day.  Also, no, I did not grow, she’s just a bit on the shorter side.  Don’t let her size fool you though, this little lady steps around the children’s hunter ring like a walk in the park.  I’m loving the chance to ride her, and hopefully get to know her more this summer while we both enjoy an increase in our cardio workouts!

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Humbled, A Showing Story

After I had cried out my anger and frustration about how pitiful I rode during our schooling, I had a few hours to get a grip on life.  By the time I was called to get into the tack again, I was in the mindset of “hey, how much worse can it get?”

Well folks, turns out a lot.  Also, sorry because I haven’t had time to update videos because of life.  They will be debuting in all their refusal glory later this week.

Anyway…..

Trainer had advised me to get into the 2 foot hunters so that I would have one class before my 2’6” classes to O to see the course again.  Not that she doesn’t see and jump these objects ALL THE TIME, but hey, we were being careful.

Course numero uno:

-We stopped at the first jump

Staring down the scary jump that she sees 4-5 times a week.

Staring down the scary jump that she sees 4-5 times a week.

-We stopped at the 8th jump (previously had been the crossrail of doom from schooling)

Stoppy McStopper Horse.

Stoppy McStopper Horse.

-We stopped at the 9th jump (we only made it 2-3 strides down the line before she said “hell no” to this one.

-As we trotted out I actually apologized to the judge.

-The jumps she did go over, she jumped cute and quiet.

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So basically I walk out and say WTF horse?!?!  My trainer said I gave her the ride she needed, but she just isn’t getting over herself.  Awesome.  I get off, and wait another hour plus until I ride again.

"I cannot brain today," says O.

“I cannot brain today,” says O.

It’s the flat classes first up.  I freakin’ love flat classes, and at this point I am looking for a beacon of light anywhere.  I hop on, walk horse into ring with 14 other horses for the under saddle.  I walk out with a 2nd place.  She was lovely.  We were beat by a fancy little pony.  I can live with that.  Ten riders stay in the ring for equitation.  I pick up the 2nd place again.  Also-my sitting trot is great because my horse softens and coasts across the ring like the grown up, trained horse she actually is.  Internal fist pump of glory.  At least I look okay while we stop at all these jumps?  Right? Right.

Sitting up

Looking grown up.

Looking grown up.

My 2’6” over fences were a blur.  There was a warm-up, two under saddles, and 1 equitation.  We had stops in everything but the equitation.  And with over 20 horses in the classes I knew I was out of the ribbons. I used it to school, and actually circled and came back to the line from hell in one of the classes because I HAD to get her to do it twice in a row.  No one seemed to care, but people did stay back from the railing as we got close.

Stop 2

We=scary scary.

But we did make it around the equitation round.  No idea what the difference was, I felt that I rode it the exact same I did all the other times I was trying to get her over the fences.  This time she played along.  We took a 5th.  Oh and got both our lead changes.

Funny lead change snaps from the video:

Sassy mare

Part of lead change

2nd part of lead change

So looking at my ribbons, two reds and a pink, you would actually think it went pretty well.  That said, I know it didn’t.  I do not want a stopper.  And in my mind I’m simply waiting for someone to officially title her that.  After a 12+ hour day, and several drinks, I poured myself into bed in order to get some sleep before the finale of the weekend dawned: the judge was staying to clinic us Sunday.  I had a feeling it was going to get interesting.

TBT: When Goodbye is Right

Originally written for Horse Junkies United last year, and for the spicy mare I’ll never forget.

Me giving Mandy a hug

It’s funny in life that some horses seem to follow us, traveling in the same circles we do.  When I was fourteen I took a big step in the riding world, moving onto onto of my trainer’s own hunter/jumper mares.  Her name was Mandy, she was a tall, bright red chestnut mare with the fiery attitude to boot.  From the first moment I sat on her I was in love.  She taught me lead changes, took me over my first three foot jump, and instilled in me the innate ability to hold on tight-and how to let go.

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Together we battled through my high school stresses, and a bone chip injury for her.  She was the first horse who totally and completely had my heart.  Together we spent over two year’s showing, going out on trail rides, and simply growing up together.  A boy breaks my heart?  Ran to Mandy.  I get cut from the swimming team?  Ran to Mandy.  She was my rock, always there with her big brown eyes, waiting patiently to be scratched in her favorite spot right below her ears, never judging or turning me away.

When it came time for her to find another home, and me another horse, she went to the most amazing family.   Even though I cried into her neck holding on to her tight, struggling to say goodbye, I knew it was the right thing for both of us.  With her new family, she devoured hunter derby courses, sped around jumper classes as only a chestnut mare can (with ears flat against her head), and loved her new girl.  I watched from the other side of Facebook, cheering them both on.

When I returned to my home town after college, and found myself at a new stable, I was shocked one day to see a beautiful, and very familiar face in the stalls.  It was Mandy, and I could not believe my luck.  I took pictures, cuddled her pretty face, and always made sure to stuff a few extra horse cookies in her stall.  Mandy had found her forever home in the family after me, and I loved having her around, watching her sass her way around courses even in her late teens.

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That was several years ago now, and Mandy is prepping to make another big trip.  She is retiring, and going to be moving from our show based stable to a more relaxed lifestyle.   She was (and still is) one of the most opinionated, talented and honest horses I’ve met.  There is no other horse that could have brought me to where I am today in both my riding and in life.  While our first goodbye had hurt so badly, this one felt strangely right.  She deserves all the best a true retirement can offer her.  Goodbye pretty mare, you earned it!

 

Learning

Our lesson this week was wonderful. Not because we were perfect, because we were far from that. But the main point is we made several big steps forward in making O into a real hunter pony.

Things I had noticed lately, and needed to focus on:

Get me to stop throwing my upper body at her in the canter
Get her off her forehand (probably related to the previous item)
Utilize big half halts to control her new forward pace

O was feeling pretty fabulous about herself when we were warming up, but she was responsive and quickly softened to me on what seemed to be the 100th circle. We worked a lot on finding that sweet spot between “holding” and contact. Bottom line is that it needed to come more from my legs, less from my shoulders. I really need to work on that muscle memory. Homework for me!

The never ending list....

The never ending list….


We started jumping on a little skinny across the diagonal, it was only an X but had big scary flowers. We focused on her putting her weight in her hind end and really being light up front. We only had a few moments where we crashed through, and mostly because I didn’t ask clear enough for her to be light and quiet in front.

We moved on, jumped a 7 jump course with lots of turns and long gallop spaces. I got in trouble some for essentially trusting her too much and being too soft at her too soon….she would get in trouble when she responded with running through my aids and acting like a freight train. However, when I took better charge of the situation, she allowed me too, and we had some great rounds. We even had our first on course flying change (which she promptly took off running after, it was pretty exciting stuff to her). So I guess I’ll add that to our homework list too.

High point: I was really proud of her, we worked really hard, and she is getting so much more aware of my aids and what is being asked of her. The bonus was that she only really looked at one jump, even though they were all new, and she jumped it without too much hesitation. She just jumped it with her head between her knees watching it. Planks are scary, guys.

Low point: My horse was way better than me tonight.

O got major hugs for her hard work.

O got major hugs for her hard work.


My Dad came out to watch my lesson, newly adopted dog in tow. He brought me a drink, a snack, and most importantly treats for Olive. He’s the best. I thought so too, Dad was her new favorite person and she just stood and soaked up the attention and peppermints.

Sorry for the total lack in pictures. My phone and camera were MIA.