Blog Hop: Equestrian book collection

Amanda over at $900 FB Pony started this blog hop right when I was organizing my bookshelves and well, who am I to resist such an obvious sign from the universe?

Obviously you can guess I am a huge fan of reading just based on the fact that I have bookshelves in need of constant organizing and over the years a little chunk of my collection has grown to include books related to horses. I mean, duh. So without further ado I present, my treasures:

This stack will only grow larger as time goes on I am sure of it!

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Puppy paws not part of the reading material

The Complete Training of Horse and Rider in the Principles of Classical Horsemanship by Alois Podhansky-Written by the former director of the Spanish Riding School this little book is DENSE. But so so much good stuff in there.

Hunter Seat Equitation by George Morris- I don’t even need to say anything about this book. It’s filled with fundamentals that can carry over into much more then hunters.

The Principles of Riding by the German National Equestrian Federation-This one is one that I keep coming back to over and over. It’s easy to follow, the text is well organized and broken up with super helpful diagrams. A favorite by far.

The De Nemethy Method by Bert De Nemethy-It’s out of print and hard(ish) to find but was worth all the effort tracking down a decent used copy that was also affordable.

Centered Riding by Sally Swift-I tend to kind of forget about this book and then when I do pick it up and flip through it, I always get something super helpful out of it. I need to read it more thoroughly and more often!

Cavalletti for Dressage and Jumping by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke-I have a small arena and while it technically has lights for winter, they are pretty dim so these exercises are perfect for breaking up the winter doldrums of slogging around in the dark and rain for 3+ months.

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World Class Grooming by Cat Hill and Emma Ford-Ummmm I am OCD about grooming and I love LOVE this book. Love it.

The Riding Doctor by Beth Glosten- This book is all about the biomechanics of riders and how you can improve your posture and the horse. Beth is local to me and I took her rider pilates class for years. They were so beneficial to me and it made a dramatic difference in my riding with just a couple 30 minute sessions a week. While I desperately miss her classes, this book does an excellent job of explaining the exercises along with anecdotes about her clients and how their horses were improved.

Straightening the Crooked Horse by Gabriele Rachen-Schoneich and Klaus Schoneich

Lunging by the German National Equestrian Federation-This is more like a little handbook but still very well laid out and useful. Pretty much all the books that the German National Equestrian Federation are worth adding to your collection.

Horse Conformation Handbook by Heather Smith Thomas

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How Good Riders Get Good by Denny Emerson-This book…was not for me. Denny Emerson is an extremely knowledgable horseman and eventer. Just….it felt very much like a “quit your bitching and sacrifice everything in order to ride, family, friends, finances be damned” and I just can’t live that way. I think that if you want to ride for a team and at the elite level then yes, you do have to do those things. Idk, I was hoping for more riding help and less life choices advice.

Blythe Tait’s Cross Country Clinic by, shockingly, Blythe Tait-Great troubleshooting for issues that may crop up on xc.

Winning with Frank Chapot by Frank Chapot

Illustrated Horsewatching by Desmond Morris-full of pretty pictures.

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And my crown jewel. This missive is just incredible and I love it. Gives no help with riding or training whatsoever but does give an awesome history on racing in America complete with tons of photos.

So am I missing anything really cool?

Tell me how you REALLY feel

Phoebe.

My girl.

My sweet sweet, desperate to please pony. The mare who has not once ever pinned her ears at me or another horse. Never has she tried to nip me or even threaten.

Until last night.

She was clearly having A DAY. She got some hay when I got home from work and then I went back outside to tack her up and throw her on the lunge before I decided how much riding I would do. The little grey devil gave me her best attempt at #mareglare and threatened to nip me! To be clear, her attempt was pretty mild. I mean the ears were kind of back? And the nipping was about a mile away from me, just for her this was some serious grouch face.

Image result for stephanie tanner how rude gif

Phoebe was just on one all night too. It wasn’t a matter of anxiety or spooking at stuff, she was just plain old pissy and not focusing on me or what I was asking. It took some effort to keep her out on the circle, when she knows damn well that turning in and getting too close to me is NOT OKAY. She even included some of my favorite moves of hers that I haven’t seen in awhile, such as bucking the stirrups literally off of my saddle. Yep, was not going to be a good day to try and push anything so we just had some reminders at the mounting block about how nice horses stand still and don’t swing their hindquarters out, I hopped on and we stood there for a minute until she softened, then She got major praise and I got off and called it a night.

To be fair Phoebe’s in heat and has had less turnout then usual for the past few days which clearly has taken its toll! I just have to remember that when she has off days I still need to find something that she can do successfully and earn praise. All work and no praise makes Phoebe a dull girl and all that.

2017 Q3 Goals

Finally! Phoebe is home and it’s time to set down some real tangible goals for us. I count the first year of owning her as more like, rehab/downtime she never got from the track. Then the four months of training that was, well, it was what it was. So now we are shifting gears to “Phoebe is/will be a riding horse in full work” and that’s what the focus is going forward.

 

This face. Always in my business. 

 

By January 2018 I would like to accomplish the following:

Stand still at the mounting block-we were almost confirmed at this but it has been uninstalled during her time away.

Desensitizing ground work! Use Sheri’s son on the trampoline, riding his bike, throwing Frisbees, cones, pool noodles, tarps, etc. We live next to a park and Phoebe needs to just learn that various noises coming from a park/busy-ish road are no big deal and should be ignored.

Get off property-this doesn’t have to be under saddle trips, just want to get out and about and start learning that new places are boring and trailering is also boring.

Tie to the trailer-she may already know this one but it never hurts to confirm it.

Put my butt in the saddle 5-6 days a week-I am taking this one literally. If Phoebe is too up or I am just mentally not able to handle actually riding I won’t push it. But I WILL sit on her. Even if all I do is just mount, wait for a big calm breath, big pats, then dismount. It’s about the routine for both of us. The more often I can sit on her and have a positive experience the more we will learn to trust each other. So this is just about building those positive moments under saddle even if it’s just “good girl I sat on you and we stood there for a moment calmly”

Ride another horse once a week-Green horses can wreak havoc on your position, confidence, etc. So it’s important to me to make time for riding schooled horses. I have access to almost any horse at my lesson barn and can basically just text/call and either join in on a lesson or just hack around on my own. I also have Donny, Sheri’s older Conn/TB cross who I am able to ride literally any day or time I want. I’m lucky to have such easy access to trained horses and I need to take advantage of it.

 

I think that should keep me plenty busy for the next few months while staying achievable.

Looking in the mirror and the person staring back is me.

I think I have been putting some unnecessary baggage on Phoebe. We all anthropomorphize our animals to some degree and unfortunately I am guilty of that in a way that has been detrimental to both of us.

Derp pose. Also, whoaaa winter woolies are coming. 

I have this image of Phoebe as this super hot, reactive, spooky, anxious horse. And maybe when I got her that was true. When she had been injured in a less than ideal training program that put way too much pressure on her. But…that’s not really the case right now and I need to stop thinking of her like that you know? I’M the one with the anxiety now. Ok, I have dealt with anxiety my whole life soooo not like it’s recent or anything. However she’s been totally sane and good more days then not. Phoebe hasn’t really been nervous about the neighbors or the dog running around but I have.

That’s not to say she has magically transformed into some dead quiet mare, she hasn’t. There are still “special” moments, like all of last night for example. There were kids on bikes kind of behind our arena that you couldn’t really see since there are a few trees. So that of course warranted some seriously impressive snorting and giraffe impressions. There was also a mysterious chair on the lawn that WASN’T THERE BEFORE AND OH MY GOD IT MIGHT KILL ME. However the differences from before she went to training and now are pretty obvious. Her freakouts are shorter, way more controllable, and she mentally doesn’t check out so we go back to work or are able to stay on task and work through it.

Scared of the weird chair? Now you can live with it.

So what does that all mean for me? I’m the one having the issues basically. I’m the one who is nervous to canter, nervous to really insist on moving forward under saddle, etc. It’s me. Honestly realizing that has been a major relief. I can work on myself. As I said, anxiety has been an unwelcome guest in my life off and on for years now. I have healthy coping tools, I know when to seek help and there are resources/friends/etc at my disposal.

The plan right now is to just be kind to myself while at the same time sitting on my horse as often as possible. I need to realize that she is green, and green horses are changing constantly, and so far all of Phoebe’s changes have been for the better. I can’t sit on her and just radiate stress and anxiety when she is having a really good day, that would be 100% counterproductive. Like with anything, repetition is key. I need to have more positive experiences while my butt is in the saddle. And I need to be able to do that without unintentionally creating a situation where Phoebe bucks or bolts or what have you. So on the days when Phoebe is acting like the superstar I know is in there I will ride longer, do more, etc. On the days when no one is home, or when Phoebe is acting more tense, or just if I am in a bad head space, I will lunge and just walk. Or I will just mount up and sit on her for a bit. I won’t beat myself up about not doing more for right now. My anxiety, while triggered in part I guess by Phoebe (though I hate using that word, triggered) isn’t only about horses. It’s my brain chemistry and I am dealing with in all areas of my life, not just riding, so yeah. Being kind to myself while getting my butt in the saddle as often as I can. That’s where I am right now and honestly it kind of feels good in a way. My horse is young, she just keeps getting better, and we have nothing but time.

The West Coast is on fire

There are over 75 wildfires still burning in my state and that doesn’t include the fires in BC, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana and Utah. It is quite literally raining ash in Seattle and the surrounding areas and I am dying. The news is predicting many of the fires will be burning through October. Ugh.

Bored dog stuck inside

The big vet clinics have warnings out to avoid exercising your horses and I can’t even clean a single stall without having coughing fits to the point of near vomiting for over an hour after. So needless to say Phoebe and I have just been staring at each other with runny noses in boredom and frustration all week.

 

Put the treats here please.

Also I still have no internet, they came out but apparently there is something wrong with the wiring at the street? I don’t know, but supposedly Century Link will be out to fix it “soon”, whatever that means.

 

This post has been a whine. Here’s hoping for rain and internet by Monday.

Home again home again!

The grey lady is home! So far things are going super! But alas I am in the middle of unexpectedly changing internet providers so I am without access until middle of next week, when I will be able to give some more in depth updates.

Saturday:

Drove up to get her, none of my stuff was missing (yay!) and she loaded and hauled like a champ. Got off the trailer at home, stood like a giraffe for half a second, then just immediately settled in, ignoring Wake in lieu of hay. That’s my girl.

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Food > Wake

Sunday:

Lunged in surcingle and side reins, she was foot perfect, even with Wake and Donny pacing the fence.

Monday:

Auntie Jean comes for a massage, I unload to her about all my frustrations and disappointments, she tells me to go get my breeches on and ride. I do and for the most part everything is fine!

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Proof! All four on the floor and no shenanigans!

 

Tuesday:

No one is home when I get there so I tell myself I won’t really “ride” but I will lunge in tack and side reins and then do some stand still at the mounting block and getting on and off practice. She left my care pretty consistently standing still for mounting. She did not come back even remotely the same in that regard so whatever, just something I need to reinstall. Once I had schooled the mounting block and was sitting on her, she seemed so calm and bored that we just did some big loopy figures around the arena at the walk.

Good pony is good

 

Wednesday:

Went to the lesson barn and hacked Max around a bit. Ran out of daylight so Phoebe got the day off.

T-minus one day

I have sat down to try to write this for over a week now and am still having trouble articulating my thoughts about the whole sending Phoebe away for full training deal. I am picking her up on Saturday with pretty conflicting feelings. I’m attempting to break this up into more manageable topics both for ease of reading and to hopefully get some clarity for myself by simply writing it all out.

Cute horse is cute.

Lessons

I have now been up there a total of three times for “lessons” and I use the air quotes because they were not at all what I expected. The first time I discussed here. The second time my lesson was scheduled at 8:30am. Since my first lesson I arrived with plenty of time to tack up and lunge, and ended up waiting around for 45 minutes to even start tacking up because J wanted to do it with me (not a problem) I planned to arrive at my scheduled time. Except I received a text at 8:00am saying to get Phoebe tacked up, and considering I live over an hour away it was too late for me to get there any earlier then 8:30. So my lesson was cut short and once again I spent all of my riding time (maybe five minutes) on the lunge line.

The third and final lesson I had with J was last Saturday and I told her that since it was going to be my last lesson I wanted a few minutes to actually talk to J. I felt it would be prudent to have a conversation about where Phoebe was, and what the game plan should be going forward.

Once again my actual riding time was maybe 15 minutes and it was all on the lunge line. It doesn’t give the feeling that J has any confidence in me as a rider or Phoebe’s ability to keep all four on the floor when I was constantly on the lunge. I mean if J feels it necessary to keep me on the lunge line for my lessons then how does that prepare me for taking Phoebe back?

Saddle fit

About halfway through her time J had mentioned that my saddle wasn’t fitting super well and was slipping back. I thought that was a little odd, it had never once slipped with me even through all kinds of lunge line antics. But, you know, young horse in work, back will change and all that. So I sent up a few different gullets and didn’t think about it much. J also mentioned that she wasn’t gaining muscle in her topline like she should, so we put her on a supplement and again, I didn’t really dwell on it. Until my second lesson where I tacked her up myself. J is using one of her own girths, one that is actually too big because she prefers it to mine. Ok fine, we all have our tack preferences but don’t you think a too large girth might make the saddle more inclined to slip back? Not only that but my saddle was made for the second and third billets to be the ones used and J uses the first and second. She also sets the saddle much farther forward then I do and farther forward then my saddle fitter recommended. The end result is Phoebe has been working in a saddle that used to fit her and now is pinching her shoulders and too narrow (J made it narrower to prevent the slipping). So of course there was a lack of topline developing and in fact her topline looks much worse then when she left my care and her back was in spasms. Not great. All of this is fixable of course and I already have Auntie Jean coming out for a massage next week but it’s still frustrating and annoying. To send a horse away and have them come back LESS muscled….

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See the atrophy behind the withers? :/

 

That is a shadow behind the wither, not color variation in her coat. :/

Communication/expectations

For the most part J did keep in touch with me regularly about Phoebe’s progress but looking back it was much more generic “good day/bad day” type stuff instead of spelling out exactly where she was/wasn’t with regards to training progress.

When I originally contacted J about full training I gave a brief overview of Phoebe’s history and included the fact that she had bucked me off three times and that they were very big bucks. I figure it’s best to be up front about what the issue is so J (or any trainer) can decide if this is something they are equipped for/want to deal with. Fast forward to my chat with J last week, I asked her if Phoebe had bucked under saddle and tips to deal with that if/when it happens again. J flat out said that she won’t ride a horse that bucks, that her body can’t handle it anymore and she sees no value in riding through them. That if she felt Phoebe might buck on any given day she would just get off and lunge instead. Which is fine, if that is your personal horse, and it is also fine to know your body’s limits and I very much respect that. However, why did J not tell me the first time I contacted her that bucking is not an issue she is comfortable/able to work through on a horse in training? That was the entire reason I paid for full training, because I wanted a rider who could and would RIDE THROUGH the bucking if needed because I could not! It makes me feel as though part of the reason there was so little progress was because J did not want to deal with/was scared of the bucking. If J had communicated to me in the beginning that a horse that bucks is not something she felt comfortable training then I would have happily found another trainer and had a different outcome, potentially one I would be more satisfied with.

Part of my frustration was due to the fact that J teaches differently then trainers I am used to. By no means am I saying she is a bad trainer/instructor, just that I am not used to her style, and of course she is not used to me as a rider. While I very much like to know the “why” J is more of the belief that the why doesn’t matter and that there is no room for “the horse should know/should behave this way because of x, y, z”. That it only matters what the horse is doing at that moment and how you can either correct the undesired behavior or reward/encourage more good behavior. Now that of course is a totally valid thought process and to be fair, one that has a lot of value in training horses, especially green ones. It’s just very hard for me as a type A person who desperately wants to know the reason behind every behavior but I think it’s an important mindset to have and that I need to let go of my ego about the whys and the shoulds. Just like in life right? Less ruminating about how and why and more being present and dealing with each issue as it happens with no judgment about “this shouldn’t happen” because ultimately that doesn’t matter.

Final thoughts or what did I get out of this?

I am in no way a professional. Not even a little bit. So I respect that someone I hire in a professional capacity has more knowledge then I do, I am putting my trust in their knowledge you know? J has a great reputation, I have had several friends use her and their horses always come back better for it. Her barn is in very safe condition, the care of the horses there is excellent. And yet. Phoebe has been there almost four and a half months and is not solid walk trot canter yet. She has not stepped over a single ground pole and has not been jumped under saddle at all. It has left me wondering a little, what exactly was worked on in that time then? And why did J say that she was ready to come back if she isn’t yet walk trot canter at the minimum? I understand that each horse is an individual and that they all progress on their own timelines, and I know that Phoebe is going to be one of the S-L-O-W ones just because of her anxiety. But I just can’t help these lingering thoughts like… why didn’t I communicate more clearly what I wanted/expected out of training and why didn’t J communicate more clearly about what was reasonable to accomplish in that time frame and what wasn’t? I’m not saying Phoebe isn’t improved or that she didn’t learn new things I’m just having trouble reconciling how much of my frustration is about my own ego and expectations and how much is valid frustration with the lack of progress.

Blurry shot of her “cool girl” sideswept bangs

J gave me the contact info of her working student who actually lives close to me and my long long time trainer who owns the lesson barn where I ride Max has also offered to help me when Phoebe comes home. So I have some really good resources and here’s hoping it comes together for me in a way that is productive and reasonably safe.