Monday, December 19, 2016

12/16 Day 1: Progress Has Been Made!

Our adventure this time around started with absolutely frigid temperatures. Got to the barn Friday morning and it was 5 degrees out. I had already packed the trailer, but I found I had a problem: getting the trailer hooked up. I got truck backed up to it no problem, got the hitch on the ball no problem, then found I couldn't hook anything else up. The hitch was frozen in the "open" position, the blocks my hitch rests on were frozen to the ground, and my wheel chalks were frozen to the ground. Umm. I really should have gotten a picture of it all!

I had to get two buckets of hot water and a shovel from the barn to get everything unstuck. Poured the water on the ball, then on the wood blocks. The water was enough to close the hitch and get the pin in, but not enough to loosen the wood. I originally planned on hitting the blocks with the shovel, but then remembered, "durrr it's a shovel" and dug under the blocks and then pried the wheel chalks off the ground.

Penn only had to wear 3 blankets in the trailer to keep warm. The day before, when the high was 15, he was cool under his clothes- a puffy medium stable blanket (with belly band and hood) and his heavy SP ultimate turnout and hood. Umm. So at 5 degrees, and stuffing him in a metal box that radiates cold, he wore his BOT mesh sheet under both of those other layers. Good news, he was finally warm under his clothes!

Thankfully, literally digging out the trailer was the most eventful part of our trip out to GP Trainer's barn.

Post-trailer-unloading stare.

Penn hung out in his stall for a little bit after his trailer ride since we were nice and early for lesson this time!

This is the only one of Mikey's blankets I didn't sell- the medium weight stable blanket with belly band. It fits Penn much better this year! Just a little big in the shoulder and the belly band's straps are a hair too long.

It was finally time to ride! Mom took a lot of video, so yay, there's a lot to share. I tried to put it into smaller, bite-size clips, but there are a ton of them!

I told GP Trainer that Penn has been really good since I saw her. He's been consistently trying and hasn't said no. He's certainly said "I can't", but every time was with something that was legitimately hard for him. I told her that he came home and we immediately couldn't canter. It took a nosedive off a cliff, and if she hadn't warned me about that, I would have freaked out a lot more. I found that if I worked on the canter a bit before really working the trot, I got a much better canter (which aligns with him not being strong enough yet). I also told her I entered 2-3 and 3-1 at a show in February, where I found out she shares my logic of "It's not like eventing where moving up before you're ready might cause you to die." Plus it's at a schooling show in the middle of nowhere, so if we take a huge nosedive, it's not recorded anywhere (except here of course!).

Right off, the trot was awesome. She only had me make him cover a little more ground (and gave it a disclaimer of next time I see you, I'm sure he'll need to cover less, because horses), then called him a delightful animal and had only praise for him. I was super happy that she was pleased with him ("You look very smart, and by proxy, you're making me look really smart!")

Can I get a fuck yea? I wish it was better a better quality pic, but screenshot, you know?

The canter was less spectacular. She saw the struggles and said, "This is the part where it gets worse before it gets better." Wonderful. But it amounts to him just needing more hours of cantering, which you can't do in a day. She said he absolutely has a 4-beat canter right now, but he won't forever, just don't fear it. He's scrambling right now because his left hind leg is hitting the ground a split second before his right front because he's going "Jesus, how do I maintain an uphill balance and not fall apart or run a thousand miles an hour?"


Cantering to the right was a little better, but Penn had a lot of anticipation about it ("Patience is hard for baby.") She had some reminders for me to stay sitting on the back of my butt. At the end of the canter to the right she said, "So good news/bad news. The good news is he's improved dramatically since the first time I saw you. The bad news is I really don't have anything new to tell you, except, you're doing great, keep going." We had a laugh about it, but indeed, that's what lessons are for- making sure you're on the right track! I'd hate to spend 2 or 3 months working something wrong. GP Trainer followed that with the fact he just needs more time doing just this- endless simple canter exercises. She assured me that many of her horses, some who have made it to GP, just couldn't canter to save their lives for a year or longer at this point in their training.

UPHILL YES (darn screenshot being blurry)
Still 4 beat, but it'll get there. Put the body where it belongs first, then build the strength to stay there.

While we did a walk break, she dug up a post that she saw before and wanted to share:
The creative process (that also applies to horse training):
  • Phase 1: This is awesome.
  • Phase 2: This is tricky.
  • Phase 3: This is shit.
  • Phase 4: I am shit.
  • Phase 5: This might be ok.
  • Phase 6: This is awesome. (see Phase 1)

Next we covered a little bit more in the canter, and did a quick look at the walk. I've been slowing him down too much before canter- the walk has to have a happy medium between stabbing the ground short and walking him off his feet long. The next bit of video has some severe left lead transition struggles. She stressed to take my time, that it was OK we were struggling with this. She stressed "active sitting" and liked the next left lead canter we got better since it was starting to be 3 beat again, even if he wasn't quite on the bit. She said she's not worried about me not being able to get him on the bit, so don't worry so much about that right now, worry about the uphill.

Going back to the right, she stressed that I don't brace on the stirrups and make sure I'm pulling my belly button into my spine to help tuck myself and sit actively in the saddle (she hates the sinking metaphor because it doesn't imply an actively moving seat). She had me ever so slightly lift my feet out of the stirrups to help with that. Then came the spiral in at the canter. She had me do it more from the outside rein than the outside leg, which Penn promptly said "Do you want a flying change?" and got a little pissy that my answer was no. Just check out the very end of the next video for his thoughts on that!

His buck caught me totally off guard. He's never bucked under saddle, and Mikey hadn't bucked in a long time, so I wasn't expecting it. I pulled off his quartersheet at this point, just to make sure it wouldn't encourage him, and we went back to the canter right and spirals. I rode a lot better because I didn't want to be caught off guard again, and so he didn't once offer the same shenanigans.

She mentioned this time around that the biggest thing I can do is make sure that he goes straight out in front of me- straight in the walk. I promise we had straight before, but this new bit of uphill has messed with it! I have to equate it with a sending him forward on a straight line, yet still doing all the turns I want to do. That helps me get him out of the stuck walk and into a functional one.

We did a little more in trot after all the canter. I oopsed on my geometry and got a 4 loop instead of a 5 loop per her instructions, but we focused on making the turns from the outside rein (something I've forgotten over the past months), keeping him covering ground and forward, and basically just putting him where he struggles. She got me to lower my hands a bit, which I found really helped me get my elbows dropped, which helped me support him.

It became a very active process of sending him from rein to rein- he's in the outside rein on the turn, then when he's straight he's in both, then he's in the new outside rein on the next turn, and every step is a reminder to keep going inside leg to outside rein. It was a very active ride.

Then he got to stretch... and we had a good laugh about his "bloodhound impersonation" and how he's going to trip over his face (which he promptly did). She said one clinician said it was like letting them look for truffles, and I was like, he's past looking and he's digging, haha.

I love that GP Trainer stresses being patient, yet putting the horse where he struggles and basically waiting him out. Shenanigans are laughed about, ignored, and you proceed back to the task at hand. She stresses logging endless hours working on the simple things (correctly mind you), because that builds the strength for the big things.

I remembered to get a pic of the tack cleaning area.
My barn has a nice tack cleaning set up, but this one is wow.

Penn got tucked in, I cleaned my tack, and mom and I were at the hotel by 6. We went to IHOP again (we don't have one at home and we enjoyed the breakfast-dinner we had last time), got gas, and tucked ourselves in at the hotel, waiting for the impending ice storm.


  1. You guys look great :) Also there is an iHop but I believe it is in Greensburg or I think there is one in Pittsburgh.

    1. Thanks! But I don't count those iHOPs because I'm not driving over an hour for an omelette haha. This one was 5 min from the hotel!

  2. You guys rock! It's so nice to have a lesson that says "yep you are doing things right keep going."

    1. Without mirrors or weekly video, I only have my feel and gut to go on, so I'm really happy we stayed on track. I told her about the video from Dec 3, and he just looked so different that I knew he felt good, but some things didn't look quite right in the video, and I was second guessing everything at that point. My SoloShot3 should be here in March, so then I'll have lots of video to check myself with!

  3. Love that creative process lol. And also. Wow. Penn can buck, eh? Sounds like a great ride tho and I'm glad the weather didn't interfere. Yay for affirmation that you're on the right track. And even more yay for a trainer who can fill you in on what to expect about what comes next!!

    1. The creative process really spoke to me, haha. And she was like, it was just a cute little buck. I watched the video and was like, umm, at least he didn't get his head down because I would have fallen off haha. She's brought a ton of horses through these levels and beyond, so I'm very grateful for the "These wheels will most likely fall off and that's ok, keep plugging away and you'll find them again." It's why I really wanted her lessons to bookend a gap of time so I could see it through without other input. I'm excited to see my regular trainer soon though!

  4. You guys look awesome. So glad you have this opportunity.

    1. Thanks! I'm so glad she's 'only' 5 hours away, it makes progress faster!

  5. Man, I feel like we're at the exact same place. The wheels have all fallen off, and sure you can see what it's going to be like when he's stronger, but for now? It makes me wonder how we ever got this far!

    1. I swear, there are days where I wonder how both Penn and I manage to put one foot in front of another. And then we can turn in some good work... and then we're drunk again. Apparently that's the cycle!

  6. Lol. The creative process is right on. Also, Pig's canter devolves to 4 beat whenever we work on collecting it further or increasing the bend. It eventually always comes around, but it bugs the hell out of me when it falls apart like that!

    1. That creative process can take days to cycle, or five minutes. Playing fast and loose with that one!

      The 4 beat irritates me too, but I totally get why he's doing it, and why I have to let it be right now. It'll come around in it's own time. I just want that time to be now!

  7. Wow! Very, very cool. I'm really loving these posts and seeing all the progress you guys are making. It really makes me feel better that it's not just at a lower level that there are occasional struggles :)

    1. I'm pretty sure the struggles continue through the levels, they just change into new and different struggles, but they make you feel just as inept!