Horse Life

Poetic Justice

Last week I had a fitter out to try new saddles on P. Due to Husband’s nonstop traveling mid-September through mid-October, P has been severely on the back burner- having a measly 4 rides in that 30 day period. But I’d already rescheduled with the fitter twice, so if I wanted to try new saddles, it was then or….not then.

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P says, “I’m free the 12th of Never-uary”

And in saddle #1 (which P clearly liked), we made it through trotting both ways and the left lead canter with no issue, but the right lead canter had him bunny hopping a few steps.

And I…well, sorta freaked.

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Because while that certainly could mean something as simple as weakness, it ALSO could mean suspensory. So naturally I went with the theory that HIS SUSPENSORY HAS DEGENERATED AND LOOKS LIKE SWISS CHEESE.

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If you read my post The Meltdown, this won’t have surprised you at all. For newer readers, I have this weird love-hate relationship with P where I routinely wish him death and misery, then when he blinks funny I rack up emergency vet calls.

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P and I…til the end

So

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I had the vet out. Who watched him race around the pasture, fancy as could be, then watched closer as he w/t/c on the lunge and then gave me his official prescription—

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TO RIDE.

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Yes, that’s right. After a solid year of injury after injury, where I had to do everything from hand walking to bandaging feet to putting in eye meds (not to mention chauffeuring him around the state to get ultrasounds, shockwave and eye surgery), a vet is telling me I need to ride my horse more.

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The look on P’s face was priceless:

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So I’m trying my best to fit more time in on him- right now he’s learning how to steer and stop off just the neck rope (and bareback because saddle fit woeZ), in anticipation of my December 2nd surgery. And then when we do “real work,” it looks an awful lot like the rehab protocol we followed last year.

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P loves me, I swear.

And in a little over a month he’ll be my sole focus, because Leo is heading to Florida for the winter with Trainer B since I’ll be out of the saddle for awhile.

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I will miss Leo…but I will not miss CLEANING Leo

It goes without saying that P is obvi back on suicide watch. We’ll see how this pans out.

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If I do stuff like this, he’ll never suspect anything is up, muahaha

 

 

Horse Life

Next Steps & Decisions

When the decision was made to enter Leo into the Windridge HT, my biggest dilemma was deciding who would ride him. Trainer B opined that I could do it just fine, but if I wanted him to do it, he would. I hate making decisions like that. I’m no good at it. For being as decisive as I am at home and in my job, when it comes to these horses, man, I can’t make a decision to save my life.

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In the end, I decided it would be in Leo’s best interest to have a pro ride for his first competitive outing. Leo’s a bit of a ball of nerves and I didn’t want my ammy nerves expounding his- I want him to find outings to be as positive as they can be. That tends not to be the case when you have someone who’s competed once in the last year to be sitting on you while vibrating with adrenaline.

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We didn’t BOTH need to be like this

Ad I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still suffer a bit from haunting memories of horse trials past.

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Either we went clear (and in some cases, WON), or…
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…we got ELIMINATED (note the placing before P decided he simply COULDN’T EVEN)

And the final reason was because of my hand. I’ve mentioned this issue sparingly in some posts, but I finally have a diagnosis (after nearly 2 years of MRIs, nerve tests, injections, therapies, etc) for why my right hand/wrist/fingers are failing to cooperate with me. And that’s because my radial nerve has decided it no longer has a reason to live and is choking itself on some scar tissue and, ya know, dying. In other words, I have a suicidal nerve.  I’m now past the point where there’s hope for anything other than surgery to stop the degeneration, and while I can will still ride until then, the uselessness of my right hand doesn’t make for the most stellar rider.

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Spooking horses typically result in a loss of the right rein.
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Which I guess teaches you to sit back while you fumble around for it

But the plan HAD been for Trainer B to pilot Leo around HT #1, then for me to take the reins (literally) for #2. So to prepare, I brought Leo along on my excursion to Carolina Horse Park the week after Windridge. I was already going to support and help some friends who were competing, and got Leo a stall so we could participate in the schooling day on Saturday. Our instructions were to trot all the Green as Grass (18″) and Maiden (2’3″) jumps and work on downward transitions after each fence.

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Pre-XC Schooling. Husband came with the fam and Leo’s side eye is spot on

And he was, in a word, AMAZING.

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If a bit exuberant after the first fence

He was just so game for everything, yet so rideable, that I never wanted to get off him. Even fences that backed off other horses with much more experience than he had (this was his 4th time seeing XC fences) he took without so much as blinking.

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This little jump caused a lot of grief for all those around us…but not for Leo

AND we jumped his first (flagged) BN fence AND cantered into water for the first time. It was so hard to call it a day, let me tell you.

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Leo: Get off. Me: No

So two days later, when I was staring at the Rider blank on the entry form for the upcoming HT, I couldn’t understand why I found myself in the same dilemma as before. Leo’s already done a HT, we JUST had an incredibly successful XC schooling, he’s never stopped at A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G….there seems to be no reason why in the world I was still hesitant.

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Because this was FUN

But I am. And it’s ridiculous. I’ve done 99% of the riding on the horse, and 99% of THOSE rides are outside of lessons (aka, unsupervised). I clearly haven’t messed the horse up yet, and doubt one weekend would do that, even if I were to ride like a total monkey.

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Especially if I could ride like this monkey. Great balance, sir

And it also makes no sense that I would be more nervous to show than to school. Schooling at CHP, which I’ve done twice now with Leo, is not exactly a chill environment. It’s actually fairly insane, with hundreds of horses/riders of all levels congregating at one facility and schooling the same 50 or so jumps during a single 6 hour period. That schooling day has made even PILGRIM melt down. If Leo & I can handle that atmosphere, we should be able to handle anything.

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The horse can fall asleep anywhere, it seems

So in a nutshell, I KNOW I’m blowing this way out of proportion, but I seemingly can’t do a thing to stop myself.

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Bless both Husband and Trainer B lately

And after talking with Trainer B about it, I decided he’d ride Leo again. Then I hung up the phone and immediately felt sad. I almost called him right back to go, “NEEEEEEVERMIIIIND!” but figured I’d sit on it for awhile longer. And after getting home and staring some more at the entry form, I finally submitted it under Trainer B.

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Then I went upstairs and tried on my show clothes.

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Let me tell you, it’s SUPER fun being Husband right now.

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He loves when I take him out for his birthday at my favorite restaurant to talk about horse shows. You can see it in his eyes.

 

 

 

 

Horse Life

Things

I’ve been on the blog struggle bus for some time now- reading and writing. Husband, who told me when he took this job that, “it’ll be a night or two traveling some weeks,” has spent approximately 2 days at home in the last 3 weeks. That means I have 1.5 hrs at the barn after work (a TRAVESTY) before I have to get kids, get home, microwave them dinner, do reading with the kindergartner, attempt math/science nonsense with the 6th grader, etc. The upside is my house remains sparkling clean because we aren’t home enough to mess it up.

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This is what I show my kids when they complain that I don’t heat the frozen chicken nuggets all the way through

P has been a pasture puff since his diagnosis of thin soles until he gets pads next Tuesday. because 1.5 hours is simply not enough to get both horses tacked/untacked/ridden, and there’s no point in risking a bruise. Let’s be real- if I were to put a saddle on him, he’d likely find the pointiest rock on the way to the arena and pierce all the way up to his coffin bone. So we trick him by using a bareback pad + the Tiniest Dictator. Works like a charm.

Leo has also been on his own set of adventures, such as jumping all the BN/N XC jumps at Trainer B’s, his first oxer, and…AND….the rolltop that haunted P’s nightmares.

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The grief this jump has brought me…
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…has definitely left lasting effects
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Like that time P had to be CHASED over it

But Leo gave it no more than a cursory glance the first time over it, and then the second time didn’t even blink. He didn’t stop at a thing or even try to, not even the big coffin ditch.

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First time over the real ditch (the one furthest in the picture) and he nailed it!

And at home when a horse at the barn refused to go over this tarp repeatedly, Leo was all, “What’s the problem?”

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But the last couple rides he’s been a little more reluctant to go forward, even on Monday after having THREE DAYS off (I totally wore sticky breeches and they totally weren’t needed). No lameness, just a little fussy about staying in the trot/canter. So the vet was out today to do shots/Coggins for everyone and I asked her just to do a general check to see what she thought. And after watching him go around the lunge line, felt he was a bit stabby with his hind legs, likely indicating sore hocks. So he’ll be getting hock injections in short order. I also had him on a 30 day trial of a joint supplement, and the not-so-stellar rides happened after he’d run out and been off the supplement for about a week. So he’s starting back on it tomorrow to see if that helps any as well.

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I tried “Round the World” on Leo the other day and he was soooo unimpressed

And he looks even better than before, thanks to a tail makeover! After attempting to dye P’s tail and it turning PURPLE, I was so nervous.

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Before
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During- before attempting this, I danced in his stall waving plastic bags for at least 5 straight minutes
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After…heart eyes

Hopping off now to go read y’all’s blogs!

 

 

Horse Life

Suicided

Much like a recent news cycle, it happened. Shortly after coming off of suicide watch (obvi way too early), and being left alone for longer than he should’ve…

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I will never not laugh at this picture

…Let me back up a bit. After P’s trip to Trainer B’s on September 2nd, the next day we went for a relaxing hack around the farm…where he, of course, twisted a hind shoe off (HOW?).

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So that got him out of work on September 4th, then he had his tootsies done September 5th and later that day I rode him in the jump arena for 45 minutes, where he was perfect. Then September 6th he had his teeth floated, which earned him another day off. Leo & I went to Trainer B’s September 7th, which got him another day off, as I had familial duties to attend to when we got back. September 8th I didn’t ride at all, so when I arrived at the barn after work on Monday, September 9th,  I was ready to tackle riding both horses that day and being productive.

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The vet came out yesterday and blocked his feet, which instantly improved everything, so she took some x-rays of his feet and declared him thin-soled and needing pads stat.

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No idea what I’m looking at here
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But the vet hasn’t steered me wrong yet
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So I’ll believe her
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Pads it is!

Then she made a comment about his hind end and asked which leg it was that had the injury. And when pressed, said the possibility of reinjury was in the back of her mind because he seemed sore. But then said of course he could be sore because of THIS:

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That’s where Leo decided to kick P this past Sunday afternoon, after spending 30+ minutes in the arena alongside each other with no issues. Why? No idea. P was literally minding his own business with Husband and Leo turned himself 180 degrees specifically to kick him. So then I had to hand Leo his ass because sorry, I don’t do kickers. P has never kicked a horse a day in his life and (for once) did nothing to deserve it.

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Especially after P toted around a sword-wielding Tiniest Dictator

So P is on Bute for a couple of days with walking under saddle, and getting pads next Monday. And then we’ll re-check the hind to make sure nothing is amiss there. So in the meantime, I’ll be mildly freaking out. NBD.

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Sword-testing P before the T.D. got on. As per usual, it was a non-issue

 

Horse Life

Double Trouble

I’m running like a week behind here. The struggle is real right now.

When I was at Trainer B’s a few weeks ago, I mentioned my saddle fit woes with P and that I was concerned that perhaps it didn’t fit Leo either. I showed him how I put the saddle on- up pretty forward, then pulling it back until it settled, and he noted that it was still sitting too far forward on Leo’s shoulder and to pull the saddle back even further. Since P has massive shoulders as well, he said to try it with P and see what happened.

Whelp…

That’s the first normal trot I’ve gotten out of him in a year.

Almost like he was trying to tell me something with this:

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Yeah, I suck.

So we had normal rides all that week, which led to him getting on a trailer to Trainer B’s with Leo on Labor Day. His first trip back there since July 2018.

Leo went first, while P stared at us from the stall at Trainer B’s that we stuck him in, weaving back and forth like a psycho. Apparently he thought all my threats to leave him with Trainer B had finally come to fruition, because when it was his turn, he turned into a looney toon while Leo walked away and into the stall without so much as a backwards glance at P.

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Pilgrim 100%

He leapt besides me as I led him up to the arena and turned into a giraffe when he spotted people, yes, PEOPLE, daring to also be on the grounds. When I first got on, I felt like I was on a ticking time bomb, as he was so jacked up.

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He started off just trotting around like a jackhammer, and we worked on flexing him one way, then the other, to get him to use himself properly so he could start to rebuild some muscle.

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He had some nice moments for sure, and Trainer B noted his trot has gotten much fancier. Maybe the Foot Hole was the key?

And while his canter is not nearly as smooth as Leo’s, at this point I will take P’s canter transitions over Leo’s.

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So relaxed on P

 

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And then there’s Leo coming out of the start gate. Note: These have gotten much better, but still not as nice as P’s

But I’ve always had to work pretty hard to sit P’s canter. He’s a great galloper and it’s so easy (and fun) to just get in half seat and zoom around, but sitting always has me feeling like I’m being tossed around like a salad. For the longest time I thought it was me, until I started riding other horses and having no issues. Sorry P, it’s not me, it’s you.

I’m sure much to P’s sadness, he won’t be frequenting Trainer B’s as often as before, but it was great to have someone who knows P evaluate him and give me some homework. P’s quite a bit more advanced in his training than Leo, but not in as good of shape as Leo is. So both horses are doing a bit of the same thing for now, with P just a few steps ahead.

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While I’m used to riding 2 horses back to back, 2 LESSONS back to back was a whole ‘nother bear

And Leo? Leo got to go work in the big boy dressage arena and start to put together elements of a test.

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And while there was some giraffe-neck happening, he tried his best to cram his long, gangly body into 20(ish) meter circles, though he was sure to let us know it was VERY VERY HARD.

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Had to scroll through 8 minutes of footage to get an unflattering shot of Leo

Then the next day, both boys went out on a 40 minute hack- Leo went first and we had an uneventful time. After riding sure-footed P for years, who has always handled changes in terrain like a champ at any gait, Leo feels so awkward and gangly, and definitely struggles a bit more. So I try to get him walking and trotting up and down the hills in the pastures at least 2x/week.

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Checking on P to make sure he hasn’t suicided himself the day after his field trip to Trainer B’s

Then P went out for his 40 minutes and at some point torqued his hind shoe off. Hands up if you’re shocked. No one? Yeah, me either. After taking him to Trainer B’s, BO and I put him on suicide watch , though, so I guess this was nothing in the grand scheme of things.

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But the joke was on P, because AGF was already scheduled to come out 36 hours later.

And, because I don’t have media of it (which sucks, because it was SO.GOOD.), a quick recap of Leo’s trip back to Trainer B’s this past Saturday where two things happened:

  1. I fell off him for the first time. I’d been dreading falling off him because he strikes me as the type who’d get freaked and run away. So as I’m falling, all I’m thinking is NOOOOOO, because Trainer B’s arena isn’t fenced in. Clearly I’ll never catch the horse. Imagine my surprise when Leo just stood there like a statue, looking perhaps a little perplexed. What a relief THAT was to get out of the way. And I clambored back on, then we continued on with great success (and I sat up when we turned after jumps after that).
  2.  We jumped 2’6″ jumps over and over (Leo’s first time jumping a vertical over 2′ and anything over 2’3″), and it was all over the crazy fillers that P would’ve (and definitely has) stopped at.
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My only picture from that lesson. Leo jumped this (with the top pole in the cups) like a dozen times and was perfection

Including THE gate…want to know how nervous I was trotting Leo up to the gate? You might ask: why in the world would a plain, nondescript tan gate have me so twisted up inside?

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In P’s defense, he’d only jumped this exact gate like 100 times. Sigh.
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What I show people when they ask why I don’t want to event P anymore.

But guess who didn’t stop at A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G?

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This face

 

 

 

 

 

Horse Life

Oh. Man.

My wonderfully talented photographer friend was with us at CHP for Leo’s 1st XC schooling and snapped some amaze-ball pictures of Leo. SWOON.

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I can’t remember if I had fun or not…
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Pretty sure I did, though

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Picking up legs is optional over little jumps
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Me: There’s a tiny green box that needs jumping. Leo: ON IT
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Wheeeee
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Nailed it
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I will never not want to canter this horse
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But we must turn…
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Back to smiling

 

 

 

Horse Life

Leo Survives…XC Schooling

Back in June, when Leo had been off the track for 30 whole days, I took him to Carolina Horse park for the weekend with P. And while he handled it as well as could be expected, by NORMAL standards, it was sort of a mess.

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How Leo looked at everything the last time

Since then Leo has had 23 rides at home and been to Trainer B’s 9 times for lessons, and in my opinion, has come such a long way. But the real test was going to be heading back to Carolina Horse Park for the War Horse schooling day/horse trial, because there’s A LOT going on there.

Friday morning we headed to Trainer B’s for a lesson (in which he was perfect), then left straightaway for CHP. My friend was showing there with her trainer and another client, so I stalled with them, and we had another friend coming in to help out, so a really fun group of day drinkers support.

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Did someone say wine?

Leo settled in nicely, then I went to go hook up my trailer in the campsite with the plan of hacking him around the grounds when I got back. Of course as soon as I got back to the barn the heavens opened up and it poured and stormed for about an hour, and I saw my chance of riding slipping away. I was sort of desperate to get on him, though, as I figured my best shot at a calm(ish) ride would be that evening when 1) It wasn’t super crowded, and 2) He’d already been worked that day. So as soon as it stopped downpouring, I tacked him up and we headed out.

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Leo willing himself to not be 16.3 so he can fit through the opening

 

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Leo: I iz a teensy poneh and can totes go under the rope

It was still sprinkling, there was a bunch of lightning and thunder, the wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted, but the horse was PERFECT. A little tense, but didn’t put a foot out of place, even when someone came cantering head on towards him. We lasted about 20 minutes before the storms came rolling back in for real and it became a little insane to be out there.

The next morning it poured some more, so everything became a sloppy, disgusting mess. It was the pre-horse trial schooling day, and my instruction from Trainer B had been to get him into the water complex, and also to get him over a few of the tiniest baby jumps IF he was handling everything well. There was a lot of excitement on the grounds, as it was a frigid 70 degrees after 90+ degree heat for the entire summer, and many a call of “Loose Horse” could be heard around the venue.

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Unfortunately more than a few people experienced this over the weekend

So when I got on at the barn and walked him past mucho madness to meet everyone at show jumping and he DIDN’T melt down, I was so proud. He did have one moment when a couple horses came at him, but it was more of a “We gotta get out of the way,” spook than anything else. Unfortunately, my friend’s horse and the other client’s horse were having a rough go at life, so our XC schooling time got pushed back while the trainer could get on those guys for their schooling rounds. I ended up walking Leo across the street and just hanging out, letting him soak in the insanity that is XC schooling, and walking/trotting him around the field. AND HE WAS PERFECT. Yes, this is going to be a theme here, guys.

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THOSE EARS THO

By then everyone else was there, so we followed along while they jumped, because my main mission was water. He stood still while everyone jumped, and didn’t even flinch when a whole group of horses came charging around the corner and up the hill towards us like the cavalry (with the trainer hollering behind them NOT to do that). The only time he got upset was when we were in a little straightaway with woods on either side and my friend cantered off on her horse. There was much sideways motion and llama neck while I convinced him we weren’t going with them, but once they got back, I decided to trot him over the glorified groundpole that is the Green as Grass jump and he had no issues moving away from our group to do just that.

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Then we popped over a tiny coop, and on approach he was much more interested in the flag laying in the ground, and did a little pitter-patter with his tooties before popping right over.

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But came right around and did it again.

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And again.

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And the water? Oh…a non-issue.

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Then we hopped over a couple more little things:

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And then finally strung together a mini course…and he was an angel.

Heading back to the barns, I almost got off to walk him because I figured he might get a little anxious crossing the road and going through the trailers and barn madness, but my curiosity to see how he’d handle it all won out, so I stayed on. And we ended up splitting off from the group with one of the other clients so she could go back to SJ warmup and tackle those jumps again, and Leo this time was perfectly fine with the chaos. I got off him so we could be the client’s jump crew and he followed me around like a puppy dog, and stood like a statue while she jumped. You better believe he got praised like he’d just jumped around Rolex Land Rover for how incredible he was.

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Neither of us can believe how calm the other was on XC

He was so good I almost let Husband peer pressure me into entering the actual competition the next day.

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And the next day, despite being cooped up in his stall most of the weekend, was perfectly calm to walk around and graze, while I watched some dressage warmup and SJ rounds.

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Even getting my phone out to take a picture was not possible in June
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Not caring about the multitude of tents, nor the anxious horses that were spooked by them

And while I know that there’s still a long way to go, this outing really bolstered my confidence in his brain…not to mention I had SO.MUCH.FUN.

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PC: Eileen Dimond Photography

 

 

Horse Life

Adulting Sucks

 

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I had two massive grant proposals due on Friday the 16th and on August 5th the building my office is in informs us that they’re replacing the AC unit and will be closed from August 13-19. No access whatsoever. So for me, the grant proposals had to be completed by Monday the 12th, which had me working 12 hours a day at the office, then bringing my computer home at night to keep working.

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Me for 7 straight days

So I’ve been working from home this last week, which meant THREE trips to Trainer B’s for Leo, and BOTH horses getting worked every day. It’s been MAJIKAL.

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Not 100% sure Leo agrees with getting in the trailer every other day

Leo’s been coming along well, and I’m learning a whole new way to train an OTTB other than the “get on, ride, hope it works out” method of trainers past. It’s seriously been eye opening and with the help of P, I’ve been practicing using all my aids in a more coordinated fashion, timing my release of pressure, and just getting stronger in the saddle and on the ground in general.

Unfortunately, besides doing the back-to-basics stuff on P (reining back/halting off seat/bending, etc), P has most decidedly not been doing all that well. He’s been acting up in any gait other than walk: yanking his head down, going sideways, popping up on his front feet, a la:

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This happens basically every ride. Sign me up for the next rodeo, I’m a pro

So my first thought was that the ulcers are back. Makes sense, right? He’s had quite a life for the last year, inflicting trauma after trauma upon himself, and been on plenty of meds. So I called the insurance company and set up an appt for the vet to come scope him next week.

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I thought having a gray horse was bad…
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…until I saw this trainwreck…
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…and he wasn’t even sorry #noregrets

THEN…a few days ago after my ride on him, I noticed a small, hard bump at the base of his wither on his spine. I pressed on it and he didn’t flinch or move away, so I shrugged it off and when I came out the next day, it was gone. Rode, and it was there AGAIN after the ride. I figured maybe bug bite? Maybe it was there before the ride and I didn’t look hard enough? So I went out the next day, looked closely for it, felt his spine and there was no sign of it. Okkkk….rode for 40 minutes (hard to make yourself stay on that long when you feel all he wants to do is fly away out from under you), untacked and the bump was DEFINITELY there. I wish I’d taken a picture of it, but alas…nope.

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Totally fine when a saddle isn’t on

So I Googled and read a few places that if the saddle is causing pressure somewhere, it can cause fluid build up somewhere else.

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Leo hanging with the kids

Then I went out yesterday, put the saddle on P with no pads and it seemed just fine. Even contact, no rocking— looks great. UNTIL I ran my hand down inside the front of the flap and MY HAND GOT STUCK.

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The Tiniest Dictator is seriously a horse whisperer

We don’t have a plethora of saddle fitters in the area, nor do we have any local tack shops, but I contacted the rep of a fairly newish brand I want to try, and I’m going to get in touch with a local part-time fitter who has worked with BO and some of the other boarders.

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Either that or the 1,000+ animals are just afraid of the T.D. That’s a totally realistic possibility as well.

My dear Volty has been amazing, and the thought of not riding in it makes me want to cry, but I feel like maybe this time, wool flocking is the way to go.

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Is the T.D. kissing Leo’s nose or whispering threats to him? We’ll never know the truth.

So we’ll see what happens. For now, Volty seems to be fine on Leo, though I’m not sure how long that will last, as Leo is changing shape somewhat. But I would also like to be able to ride P, and clearly Volty and P simply do not mix anymore. The ideal situation would be to get a saddle that fits both horses in a way that I could customize it further to each horse with a half pad. But damn, I’m seriously not looking forward to trying saddles. I’d rather get a new house than a new saddle.

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If P weren’t in his stall, you better believe he’d be running towards the T.D. as well. These two crack me up

Tomorrow (well, today, as I’m scheduling this to be published in the AM) Leo and I head BACK to Trainer B’s for the 4th time in 8 days.

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There will never be anything cuter than P and the T.D. Even if both are a little evil in their own way

And then Leo and I are going to Carolina Horse Park this weekend for some hanging with friends and *possibly* some official XC schooling. Because…

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Plotting together? Maybe

…we are tentatively planning Leo’s eventing debut!

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Horse Life

An Ode to the Horse Husband

Ah, Husband. Some of you have SOs who knew full well the crazy they were getting themselves into when they decided to date/marry you. That’s not the tale Husband gets to tell.

When I met Husband, I was finishing up college and at that point hadn’t ridden a horse in about 7 years. Horses came up from time to time in conversation, but as I figured my horse days were long behind me, it wasn’t a main focus.

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Now he says I look at my horses the way I used to look at him

We dated, I graduated college, we got married, I started my career, he re-enlisted in the Marines, we bought a house, we had a kid…something was missing but I didn’t know what it was.

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Then about 3 years after we first got married, one August day in 2010, I walked into a public speaking course, hating life because public speaking, while necessary for my job, was something I dreaded.

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But as introductions were made, one stood out to me- a girl who said that for fun she rode dressage.

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Now, I’d lived in NC at that point for 4 years and I’d never heard of anything remotely horsey, never even seen a horse trailer, so hearing the word “dressage” after 10 years was startling. But we talked, she invited me out to her barn to meet her horse, and 5 minutes after patting the ol’ guy’s neck, I decided I NEEDED my own horse. Stat.

Problem was….Husband was deployed to Afghanistan. He was infantry, so wasn’t on a base and could only communicate via letters (which took WEEKS to go back and forth) and the occasional phone call from a satellite phone. Sat phones were the bane of my existence during deployments. They only worked for outgoing calls, so I was at the mercy of waiting for him to call 24/7, and they were so unreliable that you never knew if you’d get 30 minutes or 30 seconds. So when that # flashed on my screen, I answered and without even a hello said, “Hey, I want to get a horse.”

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Husband off saving the world, not knowing what he was going to come back home to

But he said to go for it (because he had NO IDEA what he was encouraging), so a week before he arrived home, I’d purchased Jester for $700 w/delivery included, a basically unbroke 9 year old Paint/TB cross gelding. And Matt came home after a 7 month deployment at 6 AM, we took some pictures and immediately headed to the barn.

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7 AM
Matt & Jester
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Husband later admitted that he assumed having a horse was pretty much like having a dog that lived somewhere else. Sorry, Husband. I didn’t even really know what I was getting us into.

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Because the area was so decidedly non-horse friendly, I had no trainer options and instead, relied on Husband videoing on our camcorder so that I could later upload the video to our desktop computer and compare my videos to pictures and videos of professionals. THEN I would write notes of what I needed to work on, drag Husband BACK out to the barn the following day, and he’d simultaneously video while reading me my notes.

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And he did it all. Every time. No complaints. Even though it was mostly stuff like this thriller below- 2 minutes of counterbent trotting along the rail.

He came to my shows and cheered the loudest of anyone when I won a walk/trot class (I KNOW, that was what was AVAILABLE, ok?).

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Class sheet of the local horse show series in that area. Jester and I killed in the Field Hunter W/T

He agreed to trade in one of our cars in order to get our first truck. And a month later when we went on our annual family vacay to Michigan, agreed to take one of the days he could be spending at the lake to go buy a horse trailer….then drive it 17 hours home.

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It took 3 of my uncles to help park it because Husband & I had NO IDEA what we were doing
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But I was so excited

Then when I found a quasi-dressage trainer that was the closest available, Husband would drive 1.5 hours one way with me to video. And if the sun was in the way, he freaking BLOCKED THE SUN (1:11 of the video).

And when we decided to go for Kid #2, Husband respectfully requested that I not ride, as it made him nervous. So I agreed and, having wanted to try Jester in eventing anyway but not having facilities anywhere nearby, sent Jester to a trainer a couple hours away to introduce him to dressage arenas and XC fences. Unfortunately, a pasture accident a month into training left Jester with an irreparable broken leg, so Husband drove me the 2 hours to say goodbye.

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And a few weeks later, these momentos arrived, courtesy of Husband. I had no idea he’s gotten any of Jester’s tail hair, and he said he didn’t tell me because he didn’t want to upset me further.

A few months later the Tiniest Dictator came into the world and shortly after, we packed up and moved to the Charlotte area, using the horse trailer for storage, as I was horseless.

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But not for long, because while I was sort of looking, sort of not, our anniversary was coming and Husband had plans. He knew which one I wanted based off of how much talking I did about this horse so…

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Baby P face!

And resumed his Husband duties of videoing every excruciating trot circle and canter transition, still with no complaints. But this chapter is where he started inserting his own commentary (you know what I’m talking about if you follow me on IG) into most videos.

He makes me laugh when I hear a ridiculous accent:

He has the ability to make you sit on the edge of your seat. Will they make it??

Sometimes he ran into things:

He’s videoed more BN dressage tests than I can even give him credit for. And usually I wouldn’t even watch the video- I’d grab a screenshot or two and forget the rest.

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1 hr of travel time + 20 minutes of warmup + 5 minute test + 1 hr of travel time back = ONE satisfactory screenshot

And, oh yeah, he’s Super Dad. Usually while he’d be videoing, he’s also be wrangling control over a 6 year old and 1 year old. More than one dressage judge has heard him threatening our kids with bodily harm if they disrupt my test.

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Though sometimes he uses the horse as a weapon…

He continues to be baffled by the fact that I only want horse stuff for birthdays/special occasions. But he’s compliant.

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P loves going to shows with him because he knows Husband brings food.

And I love him going to shows because he’s an excellent…

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…Groom…
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…Drinking partner. Even at 10 AM…
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…Nerve dissipater…
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…Fence scale…
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…Horse show cook…
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…and Selfie taker.

The last 3 Father’s Days have fallen on horse show weekends..

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And there was that one year that we spent his birthday at Windridge and not only did he NOT complain, he came out for the dressage/SJ day to video in the pouring rain, and THEN he said that my winning the event was the best birthday present (which is insanely cheesy, can not possibly be true, but 100% how Husband is).

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When I said I wanted to buy a hammock so I could sleep in the horse area of my trailer at shows instead of stay in hotels, he found me a turquoise one.

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Then when I decided that sleeping in a hammock was NOT for me (after one night) and said I wanted AC in my dressing room, he took my trailer to the shop.

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THEN when I wanted the dressing room insulated so it held heat/AC better, he bought all the materials and got to work.

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Supervising

He’s even gotten in front of the camera a few times to help solidify our nonstop contest winning. It all started because I really wanted those free Kastel shirts but the contest was geared specifically for men. Luckily I have Husband.

It did take a *tiny* bit of convincing, though.

And that led to him playing the part of “Crazy Pilgrim” in our Triple Crown contest submission (which, of course, we won). Husband is at 2:18 in the video.

And most recently to our submission for some free Coat Defense, which…we won.

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And been a co-conspirator on other crazy videos we’ve done, like “Game Day:”

Because everyone should test to see how their horses handle getting beaned by a football.

He did the AM handwalking for me while P was on stall rest (and after this terrifying video, underwent an intense course on how to properly secure a rope halter):

And through it all has videoed pretty much everything- with his own twist, of course.

He rushed to the barn when P created the Foot Hole and offered more than once to do P’s midnight eye meds so I could sleep; and when I agonized over the mounting vet bills and seemingly never-endingness of the eye ulcer, he just said we had to do what was right for P.

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He lets P play with his zippers, which P appreciates

Every year for P’s birthday he buys decorations. The 2 years I was in KY over P’s birthday, he took the kids out and they sang him Happy Birthday and gave him treats.

2018:

2019:

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When I was in Nashville for a bachelorette party, Husband went to the barn and surprise-FaceTime’d me from P’s stall.

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Then I had this INSANE idea to get ANOTHER horse.

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Literally me after bringing it up in conversation with Husband

And Husband said, “Go for it.”

So I did.

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And Husband was there when I arrived back from DE with Leo in tow to video and snap some pictures.

And he’s still videoing the most boring things ever with his most expert commentating.

And I still have yet to hear him complain. Love you, Husband!

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Being the best Horse Husband ever is exhausting

 

Horse Life

Two Horses is a Game Changer

When I first thought about adding a second horse, I was concerned about a few things, mainly my perpetual shortage of time. P has always been a 6x/week horse and there were days where I had to rush to get him ridden between work and familial obligations. It’s especially time consuming when you board at an amazing barn with amazing people that you just want to talk to.

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But now that I’ve had 2 horses for a little over 8 weeks, I’m loving where I’m at mentally.

Despite the fail pictures/gifs that I routinely post, I’m very much a perfectionist. And exclusively riding P was hard because the only thing P is consistent at is being inconsistent. I’ve joked many times that owning P was the equivalent of owning at least 5 horses, since P is definitely a quad-polar and you never knew which personality you’d get on any given day.

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I will never not laugh at this meme

When P was initially laid up and I started riding other horses (shoutout to especially S, B & C!!), initially I brought a lot of baggage along each ride. I anticipated stopping at jumps, spooking, running off…all things that weren’t really there. And it took awhile for me to stop projecting P on these other horses (it also taught me to appreciate the really good things about P, like ground manners, trailer loading and his gait adjustability). But I learned some new tools and how to separate rides on different horses instead of treating them all the same.

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On his first XC course EVER, S took me right over a jump P had previously gotten us eliminated at
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No helmet cam of B, but he was great to ride at home
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C got me back jumping the bigger things

And that was something I desperately needed to learn before bringing home my very own blank slate. I can’t imagine getting on Leo and riding him the way I ride P. It would’ve been disastrous.

When it was just P & I, P had the power to make or ruin my day. If we had a bad ride, or even a bad part of the ride, I’d lament that I was clearly the worst rider in the world and clearly P was just terrible and clearly I should just never ride again. I’d dwell on it, vent about it to long-suffering Husband, think about it….yes, I’m aware of the ridiculousness.

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But Sunday I realized that no longer seemed to be the case, so I’ll use that day as an example.

Let’s start with a snippet from Leo’s most recent lesson we had on Sunday- first, justlook at that flying change and adjustability and try not to swoon:

Right now we’re working a lot on suppling Leo using inside aids and it’s so cool to feel the lightbulb click on with him. He’s not the most naturally relaxed horse and he gets a little antsy when he doesn’t understand something, but he tries so hard, which is all I can ask for.

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Trying, but just can’t hold it for too long

While the transition leaves A LOT of room for improvement…

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Like erupting from the start gate

…The canter itself is insanely nice.

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And SO comfy

Even when he jumps the groundpole:

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So needless to say, while it wasn’t perfect and everything didn’t majikally fall into place, the lesson on Sunday left me feeling practically giddy over the progress Leo (and I) have made. And when we got back to the barn I pulled P out for his 4th ride of the week- the first week since FEBRUARY that he’s been ridden more than one day of the week.

And…P was less than pleased at this obvious testament that his year-long hiatus was over.

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In other news…after 5 years, P STILL can’t figure out how to buck.

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And while one-horse-KC would’ve been distraught that my ride of the day was spent on the back of Free Willy and not on *real* riding, two-horse-KC let it roll right off her back because she don’t need no Pilgrim to make her happy anymore.

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mmmm-hmmmmm *snaps fingers*

For me, that’s a HUGE win. The mental part of riding has always been my nemesis. If things didn’t go to plan, I was a mess. And we all know how well horses and plans mix…

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About as well as my plan to put just one stride in between these jumps went…

But because everything hinged on the one horse I owned and rode, I put too much pressure on myself and on the horse. Which surely didn’t help us get further any faster.

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Story of my life

So while I’m still a work in progress, on Sunday afternoon, when I found myself laughing about P’s shenanigans instead of overthinking, I realized that FINALLY…I might just be on the right track.

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Proof P had some good moments. Building back up muscle is hard, yo