Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I'm Using a F*cking Micklem

I've never been a huge fan of the Micklem for really shallow, insecure reasons.

I think they're hideous and gimmicky.

Bridles have existed for thousands of years. Mongolian horses didn't refuse to go into battle because their bridles were pressing on sensitive facial nerves. The Lipizzaners at the Spanish Riding School have been doing airs above the ground long before Horseware even existed as a company. I'm an irritating purist who doesn't think we need to reinvent the wheel. That's why I bought all my tack at the Amish place; quality at a great price and it's just tack. Nothing insane, no fads that'll be gone in a few months. Jeez, I'm boring myself just talking about it...

not ergonomic.

Me on a Mongolian horse. This was considered a 'fancy' bridle.
Runkle has been doing fantastically on the flat. We've graduated from the plastic bits finally and we're learning that the butt can be controlled and there are paces within gaits.

It's scintillating stuff.

What a happy pony to be doing the dressages
And while he has been going well I've still been meaning to try him in a Micklem. My trainer rode him in one ages ago, and I rode him in a drop noseband the week before I broke my pinky, so it was worth revisiting. He's just that ever so tiny bit tense and resistant, especially through the poll. He loves tucking behind the bit when the going gets tough. It's his safe place.

I grumpily fussed with all the straps and made a big show of bitching about how difficult it was to fit on him.

Have I mentioned
he also forces me to use an ear bonnet.
Buuut it wasn't really difficult. As I did up buckles and shoved straps into keepers it was hard to fit wrong. It was impossible to over tighten the straps and the bridle almost melted into his face. Usually tightening the figure eight is like wrestling an eel but not the tightening the nose band on the stupid Micklem.

I mounted and we started walking around and he was pretty relaxed and moved off nicely into the trot when I asked. And when I say nicely I mean he just wasn't lolloping along like a lesson pony. He was stretching out from his tail to his nose.

Stupid Micklem.

He moved within the gaits much easier. I could push him forward in the trot without him breaking into the canter. The most shocking part was he bent to the left, INTO my right rein instead of cocking his shoulder to give me the middle finger.

Stupid. Micklem.

At the end of the ride he was so low and deep in the bridle he nearly kicked himself in the chin.


I give up. I'll use the stupid bridle for a month.  I was giving my anti-Micklem diatribe to someone just recently, but I ended it lamely with "the prince wants what the prince wants". Maybe he'll grow out of it though!

Or maybe I'll just get a new browband chain from Dark Jewel Designs to make myself feel better.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Bitchy Teenager

I was complaining about how I had nothing to write about this week after a solid thirty minutes of whining about how my horse has suddenly developed opinions that don't align 100% with mine. It seems Runkle vacillates between scared and needing a comforting, confident ride and annoyed that he's being asked to do more than graze and torture his field mates.

I believe we've crossed over into the teenage years.

How many of you have dealt with this? It's a new phenomenon with me. Where he used to say "yes ma'am" when he got in trouble he's now saying yes ma'am, going into his room for time out but tying his bedsheets together into a ladder to escape out the window in the middle of the night to go drinking and defacing school property with his friends.

It's a little exhausting.

His biggest issue is he's not SUPER interested in going forward which, newsflash, I know since he failed out of racehorse school.

I ask him to move forward into trot and he blobs like goo into a shuffle and oh my gaaaah woman you're so terrible and annoying I don't want to do this you're the WORST.

This happens in real life.
Last week I had the pleasure of scoring a flat and jump lesson with Jill Henneberg and she kicked both of our asses. Before my jump lesson she kicked my butt for 20 minutes on the flat. It resulted in a fantastic jump lesson. He was in front of my leg, easy to turn and adjust and he was strong in the bridle which I like for jumping.

I promptly forgot about that and did a way too relaxed 15 minute warm up before my jump lesson on Monday. It's totally my fault, he can't remind me I need to warm up. And even if he could, I think he wouldn't. The ensuing lesson reflected this.

She also kicked our hineys on the flat as well, with 40 minutes of Work. Note the capital W. I was panting and sweating everywhere at the end (so was he!) but god damn if we didn't have three nice, forward, elastic, supple gaits at the end.

It's just so much work to make him work. He's not offering everything to me for funsies out of the goodness of his heart and ... maybe I  am going through a whiny, petulant teenager phase because I can be lazy too.

It's not enough to go through the motions and make it out to the barn every day. I can't just tack up and do a hack around the property and be just pleased with the fact that he didn't spook and run off. Gone are the days where I'm happy with a ride because he turned left every single time I asked him to.

He's trained. He's not done but he's trained and it's time to start upping the ante. Expecting more not just from him but also from me.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Baby's First Horse Trial

Runkle was entered in the auspicious starter division at Flora Lea's August starter trials. I have a hard time facing off adorable little kids on even cuter ponies. How am I supposed to top that ever? They had BOWS in their pigtail braids. BOWS.

Our competition. wtf.
We didn't even have to leave the farm for things to start going sideways. I loaded Runkle up on a two horse, which he has definitely been on before and been fine with. Except Saturday. That was absolutely not okay and not allowed. He got on and started thrashing around like an eel, kicking behind him so violently that the other horse we were trying to load went "Are you insane? I'm not getting on there with him."

I pulled him off to load the other horse first and in the scuffle he managed to bash his head somewhere on the trailer. He skinned the top of his head and sliced his ear. Oi, horse. I do have a headbumper (bought for a horse at least a hand and a half taller than this monkey) so he might have to sport that next time we go out. Should be hilarious, I'll be sure to post pictures.

I'm going to call it his dunce cap.
Upon arriving at Flora Lea I walked the cross country course, unloaded, and took my horse shaped kite for a fly. Decided to scratch right then and there.

I have no illusions about my own bravery. I feel bad saying this, but I still don't completely trust Runkle. He's definitely athletic, and I can never quite tell how he's going to respond to certain things. For example: in my dressage lesson on Friday one of the kids who lives at the big house at the farm was running around. Normally a non-issue for Runkle. But on Friday the kid was dressed like Buzz Lightyear and that was terrifying to him.

But the longer we waited the quieter he got. Due to an unfortunate accident with another rider at my barn, I was coachless while a seriously injured horse was tended to. So I was left to make the call on my own. He's quieter. Should I try and get on? Do I think I can warm up and ride a test by myself?

After a bit of a kick in the butt perspective wise (thanks again,  Michelle!) I decided I would tack up and walk around warm up. We could do that, right? So we did. I figured I might as well warm up and pretend like I'm going to do the test. Easy. And we did that too. An hour after deciding to scratch I found myself trotting down center line. Go me.

Since no one died I decided to just go for it and try jumping as well. And not just stadium, but the cross country I didn't remember walking because I couldn't fathom making it that far. I should probably have learned by now not to bet against myself. Especially when even a little bit of that competitiveness in me rears it's smug little head.

Crossrails! We love crossrails.

We got eliminated on cross country at the 'water' jump. For starter you didn't have to actually go through the water, it was flagged so you could trot past it. Flora Lea's water is the least inviting one I've ever seen, so I don't really fault him for giving me a pretty hard no. But I sat there and talked to him and patted him as he took one step forward and four back until he walked past it.

I've gotta say, having a baby is turning out to be an ass-kicking course in horsemanship.

I've learned pretty immediately to swallow my own goals and pride to do what's Right. It's an easy thing to say on paper but more difficult when I miss the absolute crap out of cross country and am used to riding really trained, brave horses over training level fences. I have to make the decision about when he needs to be coaxed because he's genuinely unsure and when he needs to be smacked because he's acting like a stubborn, bellicose little pony.

But I'm having the absolute time of my life, so as challenging as it is I can't really complain.

Friday, August 12, 2016

One Year

Sometimes when I turn Runkle out at the end of the day I stay parked against the fence after I lock the gate. I watch him drink for ages. His ears twitch when he swallows, it's really cute. He rolls ungracefully, always making at least one full rotation all the way over so he can get both sides. Maybe grinds his face into the ground too. There's occasionally bucking and farting and galloping away.

Most of the time though, he comes to say hi where I'm perched at the fence. He ignores his friends and the chance to get muddy to hang out with me. He knows I don't have food. But I scratch his ears, face, crest, anywhere I can reach and that seems to be enough of a perk for him.

It's been a year since I bought this horse.

It wasn't the year I imagined at all.

July 2015

July 2016
I didn't think I'd struggle at all with jumping an ex hurdle horse. I didn't think about the myriad of horse injuries he'd introduce me to. I didn't think about a simple fall where I landed on my feet resulting in me being grounded for two months.

I also wasn't expecting to win dressage. Like, ever. I hadn't imagined a horse who could make me laugh as much as he does every day. A horse that was patient and even excited about trick training. I hadn't anticipated that jolt through his body when he learned how to really use himself over a jump. Or how much I'd come to love his little fluffy black rimmed ears.

I wonder when I'll go through a year that doesn't see a host of changes I didn't anticipate. I really hope it isn't next year, because how boring would that be?

If you've been around me at all at the barn, you've heard me say (often with exasperation) that I am NEVER EVER getting a baby horse EVER again. There are a litany of things Runkle does to prompt this exclamation. I swear it happens three or four times a week. But this past weekend as I was sitting on him for his very first time in the start box, I realized I was living the best moment of my life. And only he could give me that.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

2016 Rio Olympics

This might come as somewhat of a surprise, but I think this is the best Olympics for eventing that I can remember.

Most of the time I feel like the Olympics are just a fun display to showcase the sport to other non riders. I don't usually feel like it's a true test of the best eventer in the world.

Not so in 2016.

The course is hard when WFP adds 20
Despite Team USA's inability to complete, I really think that our performance was extremely good. On a day when even the seemingly unbeatable German team is off the podium we have two riders in the top ten. Two. And Phillip Dutton is in the top five on his second string horse. And if Veronica hadn't hung a leg or if Loughan Glen had been feeling 100% we would have been in contention for a podium finish for Team USA.

Clark Montgomery & Loughan Glen
I don't think you can be upset with that.

It's easy to be disappointed, and to Monday morning (or Tuesday morning?) quarterback. But this is why they run the race. You never know who's going to win. It'd be impossible to know Loughan Glen wasn't going to want to play. I saw that horse go at Great Meadow - he was a demon on the cross country. Clark Montgomery basically sat there and hung on as his horse ate up a course that claimed it's own share of victims.

Lauren Kieffer & Veronica
And Lauren Kieffer and Veronica are one of the best pairs in the country. She's finished second at Rolex twice, to two of the top riders in the world. I do wish she had taken the long route but Veronica could have just as easily not hung a leg and saved time penalties that way.

I'm in no way comparing myself to a fantastic four star rider, but my second training I had the option of two banks. There was a softer one that involved kind of a wonky turn but went straight to a set of chevrons in the water, and a larger bank off more a direct route into shady deep water with a sharp left turn to the chevrons. I walked the softer bank, and my trainer said to stick with that unless I was having a really good round. She trusted my judgement.

Phillip Dutton & Mighty Nice
I was having a great round so of course I got cocky and took the big bank. My horse launched to China and I lost both my stirrups. Bless her she got me to the other side of the chevrons anyway. But if we had had a stop that would've been on me, and my choices.

Boyd Martin & Blackfoot Mystery
I'm writing this before stadium has finished so I'm not sure how this will end, but let's be real, we're eventers. We like cross country and stadium and dressage are those things we have to do to get to the cross country. Best of luck to Boyd and Phillip, I can't wait to see them kick ass.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

I Accidentally Turned my Horse into a Porn Star and Can't Fix It

So one of the first posts I wrote, and probably one of my most popular, was the one I wrote about Runkle's first sheath cleaning. Even non horse people like it, because it's funny to see someone squeam their way through a necessary but not oft talked about horse maintenance... issue.

The entry got a lot of hits, and it kept getting even more hits every day until it far surpassed my other entries.

I was excited that something I wrote was so popular and looked into the referring URLs to see where the traffic was coming from. That's when I noticed something disturbing.

Is that... German Google?
And then I saw the search topics.

Oh no. No. I just wanted to make a funny post about something we all hate.


I didn't want to make my horse an international porn star.

I feel like I discovered I was accidentally running a child pornography ring... OF MY OWN CHILD.


I tried changing some language in the post. It didn't help; I think I'm too late.

My horse is a European porn star.

I'm so sorry Runkle. Please don't press charges. Also don't leave for Europe to start a Magic Mike-esque show.

Coming soon to a strip club near you.