Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Importance of Being Earnest

Greetings and Salutations to all of my Bastian's adoring fans. It's been a few months since our last post-honestly there wasn't much to report and it's important for me that each blog post be original and contain something new and exciting. So buckle in kids, here we go... ;)

Honestly, things got pretty rough there between March and the middle of May. I was on a slow downward spiral of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. Seriously though, I was not at all mentally in the game. I was letting Bastian get behind my leg; that totally makes sense because if he's going slower it won't be as scary. WRONG. I was finding silly reasons to not ride, for example if he blinked three times while I was putting his bridle on. Okay, maybe it wasn't that silly, but it might as well have been. He would blink and I'd be like "oh, he's not feeling 100%, I think I'll just lightly lunge him." WRONG move again. I was questioning everything, including whether or not I should even own Bastian (or any horse for that matter).

I saw what was happening and I did nothing to stop it or change it. I was creating Bastian's lack of confidence, I was making him spooky because I was spooky. He was NEVER like this before. N.E.V.E.R. Never. Get it? It was me. I'm known a lot of different horse people in my life and like many of you, I've met the horse owner who is scared of their horse. They make life dangerous for themselves, their horses, and for the rest of us equestrians who happen to be around them. Horses are dangerous-it's as simple as that. In order to lessen that danger, one has to act confidently, calmly and logically. If you take away any one of those three elements, you start to increase your chances of getting seriously hurt. I was still calm, but I had abandoned confidence and logic. Bastian is an amazing horse, he wants to work and he wants to do well, he tries very hard despite the mixed messages I give him to figure out what I want him to do and he does it. But he needs my confidence-as soon as I start to question whether or not that one corner of the arena is really safe to trot through-I mean a bird might fly down from the rafters or maybe the light coming through the window might shift and it could cause problems...he tunes in and says, "OMG, mom thinks this corner is scary and if she's worried, then I better be worried too...oh my...bird! Duck and run, duck and run!"

I always swore I wouldn't be one of those riders and when I was a kid, I definitely wasn't. I did all the crazy stuff that horse kids did, but I was never afraid. Over the past several years, I've fallen and had some major injuries, but I was never afraid to get back on. I analyzed what happened (logic) and then made sure to not do it again. For example, I was jumping 2'9" in lessons with Kristin at one point-it was amazing,

(A classic example of a fence I WILL NOT be jumping)

but if Bastian over-jumped a fence I would completely lose my position because I had no leg to balance off of and I would sometimes come off. Therefore, I no longer jump very high because the chances of him over-jumping a 2 or 2'3" fence are way less likely. But something shifted after I fractured my hip last November and I spent every ride between December and mid-May waiting for the Boogie man to jump out at us. I was seriously considering parting ways with my beloved B permanently. I was ruining him and he deserved to live a happy life running XC with some kid who had more balls than brains, not with me turning him into a spooky-mooky.

I gave myself a time limit. I also can't stand when people are faced with important, life-altering decisions and they just keep putting it off. Guess what folks, it is never going to change until you make a decision (for the record, deciding to do nothing does not count as decision). So I said you either get it together, or take up a new hobby, under-water basket weaving perhaps? Happily, I can report that I never made it to the final days of my time limit. Here is how it went down:

Riding Quest Stables hosts clinics with a fabulous clinician, Patrick King. (Whom I highly recommend by the way) I signed up to ride in a 1-hour private on Saturday. I started riding, pussy-footing around the arena as usual and hoping that Bastian didn't decide to spook at something stupid, causing me to fall off. Long story short, (too late!), I ended up having about a 20 minute psycho-therapy session with Mr. King. I explained my mental anxiety and he asked me why I still rode. That is a complicated answer. The short version is this:

1)I love it

2) I've spent so much of my life doing this, I don't know how to do anything else

3) It's my own form of freedom-I walk, slowly, with a limp. I can't run, jump, stand on my tiptoes, skip, jog, or do anything of the things that a "normal" human being can do anymore. When I ride, I get to forget that because I can trot, I can canter, I can jump and (I know its cheesy-bear with me!) I can forget for a moment that physically I am broken and damaged beyond repair.

For humours sake, we discussed what I would do if I didn't ride and I decided that I would become the crazy dog lady who sits at home and I would just play video games all day (which as a side note, now that summer is here, I'll be finishing Assassin's Creed and beginning Mass Effect..yup, I'm just awesome like that). Regardless, being the crazy dog lady who plays video games just wasn't appealing to me (I would also be rich....). So Mr. King told me what I needed to hear and then I rode.

What were his words of wisdom? I'll give you the politically correct version: "Get you head on straight and ride your horse." That's the PG version. It worked. He had me focus on riding-getting him forward and listening to my aids and riding correctly. Oh equitation how I loathe you! By the end of my hour, Bastian was FANTASTIC! He never once batted an eye or looked funny at a corner (we rode repeatedly through the 'scary' corner of the arena). This became my homework-just ride transitions. Count the strides, half halt, equitate, transition, count the strides, equitate, transition, rinse, lather, repeat. Honestly the hardest part for me was the counting (Masters Degree in English, remember? Failed college math 3 times? yeah, that would be me...). But every ride after that, transitions have become our focus and guess what, it totally worked.

Bastian is now in front of my leg 98% of the time (I mean, he is lazy and I get a 2% pass card because he ignores my leg a lot of time because it's all over the place). When he starts to lose his focus, I transition and he's like "oh, right, we're working, what's happening next mom?" Because he's forward he's steadier in the bridle, he's engaging his hind end more, he's basically been pretty awesome. And I am mentally there. I'm not checking out and hoping that it all goes to plan when I get on. I ride every stride. Sometimes I still ride those strides poorly, but I am riding them and that is half the battle. Make a decision, every step of the way, more leg, half-halt, outside rein, touch of the whip, wiggle the pinky...Assess, act, assess, act, assess, act.

I think I was riding in/watching a clinic with Stuart Pittman when I heard "a horse never minds a forward mistake." I've kept this in the back of my mind (even though I wasn't applying it)-forward is never wrong with a horse. Engage. Forward. Kick on. Go. Its good advice and Bastian and I have been living it the past few weeks.

My second epiphany was getting to have a schooling session and mini-lesson with Kristin Stein. I haven't ridden with her for nearly 3 years, since she moved her business to Akron, OH. She was passing through and I was able to set up a lesson with her. A., she was pleased with Bastian-I was thinking he was going to be super wonky and she was going to be like what the hell have you been doing, but she complimented him and was pleased with how he felt (yay!!) and B., she made me aware of the equitation flaw that was really causing me problems-I wasn't balanced correctly over my thighs. I was putting way to much weight in the back of the saddle and wasn't sticking with Bastian's motion and momentum, causing me to stress his already weak back and cause lots of not so pretty riding moments. After just a few minutes I was exhausted. Riding correctly is hard work. ;)

We also discussed how weak I was overall. I hadn't realized just how much of my core and back strength I had lost when I fractured my hip and spent two months on the couch (playing video games!). Up to that point, I had a fairly intense core, and then, poof, it was gone. So since my lesson with Kristin I have doubled up on my daily Core/Ab workout. The difference (after the initial three days of barely being able to move) has been phenomenal. I am slowly getting more stable through my core and that in turn is making me more effective while riding. My back is my weakness at the moment, there are some crazy crunches that Debbie Rodriguez makes you do on the SITS DVDs and my back muscles give a resounding no. But we're working on it.

This is a long blog post, I know, stick with me, we're almost done. Bastian has been and will continue to be an amazing horse for me. He has taught me so many things and through him, I have truly become a horseman, not just a rider. The lesson of the past few months is that you need to be earnest in your endeavors, you can't go in half-heartedly and expect things to turn out well. Be truthful in your riding abilities, realize the impact that your mental state has on them and act. Don't wait for bad things to happen, ride pro-actively, keep your focus. Earnestness results from showing sincere and intense conviction; be sincere in your riding and intense in your convictions that you can and will do it correctly.

We're less than two weeks away from our first (and likely only) show this season. We're headed to the Lake Erie Dressage Derby, where we will be showing First and Second Level. I'm pumped, it's going to be a hoot and they are offering TIP awards! I'm already starting to pack...I promise to update after the show! Until then, Bastian wants to remind you that all fan-mail that does not include mints need not be sent. ;)

P.S.~ if you have the chance, check out the play The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde-its amazing.

Friday, March 6, 2015


I hadn't realized how long it has been since my last blog post-I could have sworn I had posted something over the fall before I fell off the radar, apparently though this was not the case. For that I apologize. The past year and a half have made me feel like Sisyphus-I roll my rock almost to the top of the hill and then bamm, we crash back down to the bottom.

Here is the 30 second recap of last summer-fall: Bastian steadily improved, but not enough to get anywhere near respectable enough scores at the one and only show we made it to (WPDA Summer Sizzler in August). He simply was not fit enough to pull off Second level or our Para-test (Equivalent to Third Level). It was disappointing and frustrating to say the least. In September we got to ride in a clinic with Debbie Rodriguez, hosted by Uphill Dressage. The clinic was awesome and we learned a lot to say the least.

Look how cute he is! We still need more uphill and power from behind in our canter, but he is well on his way!

Fall-Winter Recap: We kept applying the concepts we learned at the clinic and I rode in lessons whenever my meager budget allowed it. Then on November 11th, Bastian decided the door, wheelbarrow, the arena dirt, the air, ???????? was scary. Long story short, I ended up on the arena floor with a fractured hip. For those of you keeping record, that is a total of 8 broken bones, 6 of which have been horse related, 2 of which are specifically attributed to my lovely Bastian. The silver lining? I didn't need surgery and by the week of December 22nd, I was back in the saddle.

Bastian's text messages to me the next day.....

Slowly, but surely, (mostly slowly) we have been rebuilding our muscles (my core strength is gone! :( )and our confidence. The weather has been a royal pain in the butt, along with a busy work schedule so I have only been making it out twice a week, three times if I was lucky, to work Bastian. But as of this week, that's all starting to change! Tomorrow's forecast is a high of 39 and the rest of the week is in the 40s. I am super stoked! And don't tell Bastian because I don't want him to be disappointed, but he might even get to be naked this week....shhhhhhhhh! I don't want to jinx it.

While there has been absolutely no progress on the Bastian fitness, conquering-Second-Level-moving -up-to-Third front. There have been some major changes going on. Some good, some sad. In February we moved to a new boarding facility. Bastian loves it there!

He has a huge, lovely stall and their indoor is filled with huge, lovely mirrors.

He has settled in very nicely. Perhaps the coolest part is that the barn is a mere 10 minutes from my house. I used to drive almost an hour! I love having the extra time to spend with Bastian and we've been spending it by bonding a bit more as I pick out his stall or just stand with him while he eats his hay and talk to him. I didn't get to fit enough of that in when he was at Kens- I was on such a time schedule with having to drive out there, chase him around his pasture, then drive back home that I was definitely shaving off the excess and didn't spend nearly enough time just being with my handsome man. And did you see, he gets a stall guard. Being the social butterfly that he is he loves this! And I have to admit that its pretty cool when I walk down the aisle and I see him poke his devilishly handsome face out his door.

The downside to all of this? I can't ride with Tawny anymore. She was doing such a superb job with Bastian and I and I definitely miss that. At the moment we're flying completely solo, which is kinda alright since I don't even feel like I'm to a baseline where we are fit enough to participate in lessons, but I miss her insight and her understanding of how Bastian and I operate, thankfully (hopefully!) I can still have her coach at shows over the summer. Right now in our lightened work-load state, I have to give total props to Tawny for teaching Bastian how to properly perform a rein back. He does it so amazingly well, I'm really looking forward to going to a show because I feel like it is going to be one of our strongest points in our test.

So here's to warmer temps, no freezing rain, and no more injuries. Hello 2015!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Slow & Steady Progress

Well, it seems (knock on wood) that Bastian is back to living up to his Luck Dragon legacy. Things are definitely on the upswing for us. In the past month we've managed to get the majority of his strength back and with all of his parts and pieces feeling 100% he has been giving it 150% in his workouts and all of our hard work is starting to pay off.

We had fun playing hunter horse at the Up & Over show at the Buckeye Horse Park in June, where Bastian strutted his Thoroughbred stuff and earned the Champion Ribbon for the Thoroughbred Not to Jump Division. Since then we've honed in on our weaknesses within the tests and on our basic weaknesses and just schooled, schooled, schooled.

Our biggest 'basic' weakness is straightness. Tawny has me focusing on keeping his shoulders and hips aligned and keeping the correct bend in the rib cage every step of the way and it has truly started to pay off. I am actually feel when he's out of alignment now-not something I could really do before, but all this work has started to make me much more aware of it. So everything we do has to be done straight. Bastian has started to pick up on it to and he has slowly started to correct himself, it's more difficult so if I'm not on the ball then it's usually his left hips that come 'in.'

Our weaknesses in the test are the mediums, extensions and the walk pirouettes. We are making solid progress on our mediums however and we'll just pretend that we're making progress on our extensions...lol. I think that particular movement is just difficult for him physically, his stride is naturally a bit more huntery-daisy-cuttery than dressagey, so taking bigger strides and reaching through his shoulders has been a challenge for him. On Friday when I rode, every medium we did felt amazing! I have no idea what they looked like, but he was rocked back on his hocks, he kept his poll steady, he was lifting his shoulder and he was straight. Again, I've gotta give Tawny most of the credit on this one as she has been super focused on that area since I put him back into training with her. Here is a lovely picture of him working to 'extend' those lovely front legs!

Our walk pirouettes on the other hand, well, they aren't small circles anymore! I'm hoping that instead of the 5's I scored before that I can at least bump those up to a 6s. Bit by bit we're getting better and he's been trying his little dragony heart out, making every ride fantastic. In August we're headed to the WPDA Summer Sizzler where we'll be riding our Grade IV Team and Individual tests. I'm excited to see the progress we've made since last year when we scored a 59%.....

Also on the Schedule is a trip to New Alexandra, PA where Bastian and I have signed up to ride in a Symposium with Debbie Rodriguez. I'm totally stoked about going! So although we really aren't competing this year, we are making a ton of educational progress so that we do finally make it to some shows in 2015 we are gonna be ready to rock it.

Finally, an interesting story about Bastian's Neue Schule Bit. I switched him to the Tranz Training Lozenge a few months ago and had noticed a difference in the feel of his mouth. He was softer and there was less movement through his poll, and well he's always been slobbery so not really a big change there. For the hunter show, wanting to 'fit in' aesthetically, I switched to one of my old bits for Bastian, a straightforward French link D-Ring. He was not a happy camper when we schooled in it for 30 minutes, he just wouldn't soften and kept bracing against it. So, long story short, I decided to forego 'fitting in' and switched back to our Neue Schule bit for the rest of the show. In the past I had always switched out bits without there being a noticeable difference in his acceptance of what bit I used. Bastian has become quite communicative in this past year and I tell you what, the more I learn the language the more we continue to improve. If you've been on the fence about trying out a new bit for you horse, I highly recommend the Neue Schule line, they are fantastic. There aren't many North American retailers, but Hastilow Competition Saddlery carries the full line, click here to check them out!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

3 Weeks and Counting...

This Friday will mark the end of a three week period where Bastian has been back to full work. He is such a happy lil' dragon right now. He has even left his precious grass behind and walked down to meet me even though I had no treats to offer him (trust me, he got treats as soon as we made it to the barn, I wouldn't dare to not provide his glorious self with treats). I can add that to my list of things that I love about Bastian. He's pretty straightforward, as long as you listen to him ;)

Thanks to Emily B. for taking care of and riding Bastian while I was away visiting my brother and his family in North Carolina. They really get along great and as we all know, its hard to leave our ponies in just anyone's hands when we can't be there. Emily did a great job with him!

He's gotten his fitness back fairly quickly and now we're just working on rebuilding that lovely hind end that we were working on over the winter. His back has continued to feel good. Unfortunately for me, one of the screws in my dressage saddle was stripped and we were unable to switch out the gullet. So back to the Hastilow shop my saddle went where this totally happened:

Don't worry, they're professionals.....and yes my heart definitely stopped beating for a moment. No one wants to see the Dressage saddle that they know and love in the same photo with a hacksaw....however, all is well and a new screw/part/thingie (technical term) is on its way over from England. Bastian is enjoying his jump saddle, but I am missing my Dressage saddle...

Our lack of dressage saddle has not stopped us from working on dressage-y things. We're working on straight, forward transitions and lateral work. I'm starting to feel like performing lateral work well in a jump saddle should be a Girl Scout patch or something. We're not doing too bad, check out our totally decent shoulder in:

Bastian has really been enjoying his jump saddle because we started actually jumping yesterday. We haven't jumped in months...MONTHS. Granted its just a X-rail, but we owned that X-rail yesterday and today we had an actual jumping lesson and it was fabulous. I was not disappointed by my saddle-I felt very balanced and correct as we tackled the 18" of doom. I look forward to jumping bigger fences as the summer progresses (and by bigger I'm talking 2' to 2'3" -yeah, I'm that crazy ;) ). Bastian is absolutely adorable when he jumps, his ears perk up and you can just feel him get happier. All of our dressage work has definitely paid off, he was super adjustable up to the fence and listened brilliantly to my half halts. We were both quite pleased with ourselves after our lesson today.

This weekend we're headed to the Up & Over show at the Buckeye Horse Park, we're competing in the Flat class divisions and Hunter Hack. There's a Thoroughbred Only Division on Sunday, which I am totally looking forward to. Hopefully at the next show we can actually do the 2' division. I'm pretty much sure at this point that we won't be going to any recognized dressage shows this year, so we're just going to play Hunter Pony a few times and keep our muzzles to the grindstone in preparation for Wellington next year, where we will hopefully be competing in our Second CPED***.

Wish us luck at the show this weekend, we're flying solo! (He's gonna be a fancy hunter.....)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

100,000 Piece Puzzle- -Dressage Horse!

Aye me. "The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity." -(Doug Horton)

I know I haven’t been keeping up with my blog, but there isn’t much to report. In fact there is pretty much nothing to report and there will be nothing to report. The past two months have been the equivalent of a long episode of House.

After getting his hocks done, Bastian’s back went wonky. I believe it was due to him getting his back out of whack chiropractic-ly. So I started with getting his saddle fitted, it had been over a year since I had the saddle and flocking checked. There was definitely some improvement and my saddle was due for a re-flocking. I also got him a jumping saddle, a lovely Hastilow Concept Reflex Jumping saddle……a work of art.

Look at that beauty! Its got a Bio-kinetic simatree, an adjustable gullet and moveable thigh blocks. Its amazingly comfortable and I look forward to jumping many tiny fences with it....lol. You'll have to pardon my black dressage leathers on it...it was the only extra pair I have at the time.

A week or so after getting the saddle adjusted I had the chiropractor out and put a gazillion ribs back into place and made some other adjustments. Bastian was very happy while was working, he kept giving little sighs and licking and chewing. After that he felt better, but he still wasn’t 100%.

Step Three was the Vet. Dr. Hill from Cleveland Equine did a fantastic job evaluating him. I had xrays done to make sure there wasn’t anything more sinister going on in his back and they came back lovely, his vertebrae were perfect. (I know, I’m biased!) If I can figure out how to get the images off of the CD I have, I’ll post pictures of those beautiful bones. I had his back injected and he had four days off.

When I rode him next he felt great, forward, willing to use his back and lift and super responsive to my half halts. Hooray, problem solved right? One would think so and had I not been dumb we might be both be happier now. Well at least I would be, he’s actually been pretty happy. I would have not had the two weeks of worry and depression trying to figure out what else I could possibly do for him and if maybe he just wasn’t cut out for doing dressage. Believe me, if it was a possibility I explored it.

So I’m sure you are all wondering how I could possibly be dumb, right? (that’s sarcasm by the way….) I was checking for back soreness in the wrong way. I learned this because we had a follow-up appointment with the vet yesterday and when she checked for back soreness, there was of course, none. So she asked me how I was checking, I showed her and she very kindly explained that I was doing it wrong. In my defense, I was doing what I have seen everyone else do to check for back soreness. So the lesson here is just because everyone else does it, it doesn’t make it right! Lesson learned.

Bastian has been much happier since getting his back injected. He’s letting me catch him in the pasture again, he is generally just happier when I’m brushing him and wow is he starting to look great on the lunge. That’s all we’ve been doing for the past few weeks aside from the two times that I rode him. I’m anxious to get back to riding though and to break in my jumping saddle over some actual jumps…

In other news, our show season for this summer is pretty much null and void. All the money I had managed to put away to pay show fees this summer was spent on the vet and chiropractor. So I’m hoping to maybe go to the WPDA Summer Sizzler in August, but I’m not holding my breath. I figure time-wise it’s enough to get him to where he physically needs to be in order to compete at 2nd Level. Although this makes me really sad because I love to compete, I’ve made my peace with it.

Through all of this I have to give a huge shout out to the saddle fitters at Hastilow Competition Saddlery. They have been in constant communication with me throughout this whole process. I would send messages about Bastian’s progress or lack thereof and passed along the vet reports and chiropractor reports and we would discuss possibilities and ideas to try and get him back to 100%. That is customer service at its best. I couldn’t be happier with my pair of Hastilow saddles and how much better Bastian moves because of the ability to completely customize the fit. It’s given me great peace of mind to know that I can rely on their skills and professionalism. My horse is not an easy fit and they have worked relentlessly to make sure that he is happy and moving the best he can. If you haven’t contacted them about either a new saddle or getting your current saddle reflocked and checked for fit do it now! Your horse will thank you!!! Not to mention they have huge inventory of used saddles as well and deal with several different brands-not just Hastilow. Their goal is always to provide a proper fit to the horse to make them comfortable and happy in their work.

And I’m going to also suggest that you check out their inventory of Nueu Schule bits-I haven’t had the chance to try out my new bits for my double, but he loves his Tranz Training bit and has become softer and more responsive in the mouth. Seriously they put the Herm Sprengers to shame (in my oh so humble opinion).

These past three months have absolutely driven home the notion that riding is a comprises of many pieces and only when you have them fit together and working smoothly will it work. I count myself lucky that each of the professionals that I have aiding me in figuring out the puzzle that is Bastian are all fabulous. Each one has offered suggestions and when I passed that information on to the others, they took that information and used it to figure out the best way to help Bastian out. This type of holistic approach can be tricky, especially in the horse world. A lot of equine professionals have egos and are quick to blame other professionals. I feel lucky that I have some of the best professionals out there to consult with and that they are putting Bastian's happiness and my peace of mind first. Thank you!!!!

Until next time, enjoy the weather and make sure you get a good roll in when you need it!

P.S. Congrats to Emily and Pursuing A Dream on their very successful first horse show together-a sure sign of great things to come from these two!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Here's what we're not going to do...

Well, we're not going to win an Eq classes. Nor we will even get valid scores in Dressage until we get his wonkiness sorted out.

Bastian and I have been doing some more spring cleaning. He really felt so great last week after his hocks were done that I thought we had really nailed it. Unfortunately that did not last even one day. He was still uncomfortable and just not wanting to move out as much as he normally does. He was still reactive through his back, although he had not been at all reactive on Sunday. So we started by lunging and then I took his saddle back off, felt his back, less reactive-to no reaction so I re-saddled and hopped on for about 20 minutes, however he just felt stuck, especially on his right side. I feel a bit like I am on the verge of finding and hiring an animal psychic to communicate with him and tell me what his issues are. *sigh*

The next day he wasn't any better. I tried to lunge him on Wednesday and he was just wonky. He wasn't lame, but he wasn't right. Thursday and Friday he had off, and then finally on Saturday we took a really close look at his saddle. Emily, one of the saddle fitters from Hastilow came out and after some examination and discussion, added some flocking to the front of the saddle so that it was sitting more correctly on his back and we adjusted the gullet to a narrower version, his back has really changed shape over the past year!! Emily did new tracings of his back and took new measurements, I thought it was interesting that he changed an entire size over the course of a year with all of the more correct work we are now doing. So anyway, he had very little reaction in his back before I rode and there was no change after. Granted I only rode for ten minutes or less and I was trying to be overly conscious about not really sitting on his back, but he definitely seemed happier. She also brought me an awesome jump saddle to try and Bastian seemed to like that even more than his dressage saddle. He really would be so happy as an eventer! LOL.

Bastian also gets beaucoup points because we rode outside in the beautiful sunshine and the gale force winds. It was incredibly windy and although I was looking at everything and just waiting for a spook, Bastian could have cared less, he was mildly tense, but it was because I was tense, not because he was uncomfortable. So there you have it kids, pay attention to the flocking in your saddle and how your horse changes shape, it makes a huge difference. We're still pursuing a few other options in relation to his back discomfort so I need to give it a bit to make sure that we've solved the problem. Unfortunately, I had to take the Lake Erie show off the schedule, no way I'm going to a show with him being less than 100%. So our first show is looking like the WPDA/Grand Haven show in June and possibly the Grand Haven Schooling show in May.

So in the past three (almost four now!) weeks, I have ridden about four times, they haven't been long rides and they haven't accomplished anything more than confirming how Bastian felt on any given day. This is after Bastian and I parted ways, which has left me a little bit hesitant while riding-like I said, I'm looking at everything wondering if he's going to use it as an excuse to express himself rather than just have confidence in myself and in him. So I'm not 100% mentally back yet. Emily did a bit of video for me when I rode and while Bastian looks pretty good (especially considering that I'm not pushing him or asking for anything), he's moving and you can see that he feels comfortable and is willing to lift and use his back, I look fairly horrid. Part of it is three weeks of not riding regularly, we're just sloppy and out of sync, I've been doing exercises at home, but, they do not make up for time in the saddle as any equestrian knows. Part of it is my mental timidness, I'm hunching my shoulders and working my way slowly into the fetal position even though I know better than that. But it was not pleasant. My leg is swinging all over the place and getting in front of me, my hands don't stop moving, my shoulder's are rounded and hunched, my posting looks forced, I'm looking down (he does have cute ears-in my defense). I swear it didn't feel quite as bad as it looks, but I guess that's always the case. I need to have people video me or take pictures more often so I can see what I'm doing wrong and get it fixed. Provided that Bastian is up to it, I plan on making some serious progress in the next few weeks.

Bastian is also super happy to be naked. This weather has been great! (I'm ignoring the snow that is forecasted for tomorrow!)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Spring has finally arrived. For Bastian and I, March came in like a lamb and has gone out like a lion. We've been making some tremendous progress towards mastering 2nd Level. He's getting so much stronger, balancing back more and lifting those magnificent shoulders of his. Our turn on the haunches is getting cleaner and his barely-trot-lengthenings are actually becoming lengenthings and dare it say it, (dare! dare!) mediums. He has been loving his Neue Schule Tranze Lozenge Bit (which we got from my amazing sponsor Hastilow Competition Saddlery!!!) If you haven't checked out the info and research that has been done by the Neue Schule Bit Company, I highly recommend it. I just ordered the new bits for my double- they make a Weymouth just for Thoroughbreds!! Woot!

However, March was not without its difficulties. They were all linked together and has reminded me of how Bastian communicates. As long as I listen he'll remember to be the loveable dragon I've know for the past 10 years, although he maybe needs to simmer down a bit since his method of communication can be a bit, well, painful.

On a particularly windy and dismal day, Bastian and I had a rough time. Every know and again he gets a bit looky and his looky-ness is generally related to him not feeling 100%. I make it a regular habit to check is back for soreness and like all good horsewomen, check his legs and just generally make sure he's well. So I didn't find anything amiss before I got on. However, for whatever reason he decided to be a complete asshat that night. Everything was going great then he spooked at the wheelbarrows (which have been in the same corner for the past six months that we have been riding in the indoor). He did his classic duck and spin move, which I've gotten fairly good at riding, except for this time. He went left, I went right, my foot got hung up in the stirrup for about fifteen feet as he bolted until my leather slid off the stirrup bar (always ride with those down kiddos!) So I can now officially cross "having been dragged by a horse" off of my list. So I get back on, things are going pretty well-I'm not gonna lie, I was giving the wheelbarrows at the other end of the arena a wide berth- and I felt him starting to get tense again, we cantered by X on a circle and he pulled the move again and I completely gave up on him. I'm as much to blame for the second time as he was. So long story short (too late!) we had a glitch in the matrix moment, he went left and went right again. As in right into the dirt. I haven't been dumped more than once in one ride/day since I rode a lovely school horse at Wilson named Snoe-she had a penchant for dumping riders who got ahead over jumps and that was pretty much my cardinal jumping sin. I got on a third time, cantered (or loped, I was keeping him sooooooooo slow) one more circle to say that we did it and then I got off. Aside from a few sweet bruises and having to replace my helmet, no harm done.

Tawny was scheduled to ride him the next day and from the text I got afterwards, he was a complete BUTT. :( The next two days, he won't let me catch him in the pasture. He walks away from me and makes me chase him down through the muck and the mud. That right there is Bastian-speak for "something hurts and I don't feel good." I found a little bit of discomfort right over his hips, but only before we rode, after we rode he was completely fine through his back. So we did the lunging to warm up thing so that until he got his muscles loosened up I wouldn't be on his back making anything worse. Tawny rode him again and he was just being a butt again, so the decision was made to just lunge him until I could get some maintenance done.

So Bastian got his teeth done, and the dentist said they definitely needed it so that could have been causing him some discomfort and caused him to pull his shenanigans. I had also already started making plans to get his hocks done before all this craziness started, so Cleveland Equine came out and injected those puppies this past Monday. Bastian has been on stall rest since then (he finally gets to go back outside tomorrow!). Today was his first day back to riding, just 15 minutes walk and trot only. So perhaps against better judgment (and yes, there is a huge flow chart that goes into whether or not I get on my horse's back each time I ride) I took his new hocks for a test drive tonight. And I was rewarded by an amazing ride on the Dragon that I know and love. There wasn't anything particularly fantastic about his quality of movement-I didn't push him at all, we were going for calm- but he was unbelievably well behaved.

I was expected some fire breathing and just a general feeling of him being higher than a kite having been trapped in a 10X10 for four days. He was super lazy....I had to push him to get a nice swingy hunter trot and as soon as I started to half halt to transition he was walking. He didn't look at anything (I was looking at stuff, waiting for him to find an excuse to spook). So there you have it, Bastian-speak for "all is right in my body now." I know to listen to my boy, but I guess I needed to refine my listening skills. The only times he is every bad is when he is uncomfortable. Granted, he needs to maybe give me a bit more of a chance to translate the Bastian to human, its not like he comes with subtitles. ;)

So here we are. The last bit of spring cleaning we need to do is to get new shoes for the B-man. I'm hoping I can make it into the Lake Erie College Prix de Villes show at the end of April so we can get started on earning our Second Level scores. I want another week to make sure we've addressed all of his issues and then I'll send my entry in. Unfortunately, since its a team competition, teams get the first priority. If we don't make it in, our first show will be the Grand Haven Schooling show in May. Did I mention that I'm anxious to go to a show? He just feels so much more amazing than last year, I can't wait to get some judges perspective on him.

The final piece of good news is that towards the beginning of the month (on a really good day) Tawny was riding Bastian and she got a successful flying change each direction with him. He's got a super solid counter canter and very few people have been able to get a flying change on him, including a BNT-who was awesome enough to not push the issue and say he just wasn't ready for it. Which he wasn't, he wasn't strong enough or straight enough in the canter. So this gives me hope for getting to 3rd level this year and earning my last two scores towards our Bronze medal. I never thought I would get there on Bastian and I am humbled and excited that we're doing this together piece by piece.

Fingers crossed we get into the Lake Erie show!!