Spring has stuck around and with it has come the return of outdoor jump lessons. Saturday’s was fantastic, although we had a rocky start. See, to get from the barn to the outdoor, we have to walk through a regular man door. Archie has taken extreme offense to this specific door for months – he is CONVINCED it is a portal to hell. We’ve mostly conquered this fear until this last weekend where I managed to pretty much reinstall the ‘demons live here’ by accident.
We were walking out to our lesson and as I was going through the doorway, I tripped – really just stumbled because I am Very Bad at walking. No big deal, except I caught myself… on his rein. Meaning as poor Arch is walking through this doorway he already has lingering trauma with, his mom YANKS on his rein for no reason. He jumps forward, convinced this is The End and pulls away from me. A little freaked out and now loose, he decides to tour the farm solo. When I caught up to him, I was greeted by this:
Oh yes, he managed to break not only my reins (in two places), but also the cheekpiece on my nice Antares figure 8. I was not very happy. Am not very happy?
So, shopping I go for reins (should be easier than it is, but COB LENGTH) and and a new bridle. This is like when your parents go “Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, Happy Valentines Day, Easter, Arbor Day for the next six years.”
I’m almost afraid to say it out loud, but it feels like… spring? (We almost always get a shot of second winter, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but OMG it was 68 degrees yesterday OKAY). I went ahead and body clipped Archie last week because he was starting to get really sweaty on our rides and I am nothing if not lazy.
He was a little perturbed about getting a bath at 55 degrees, but hot water and a cooler and some bribery and he decided he’d cooperate. Of course, midway through his hindquarters my clipper blades (brand new ones) decided to just.. stop cutting? They were running and kind of cutting a tiny bit of hair, but mostly just grabbing it and not doing anything. In my desperation to try to get them to work poor Archie ended up with a rather, uh, checkerboard hind end. Less than ideal, but I was able to clean it up (more or less) with a new blade and whatever, it’s hair and it will grow out.
We took full advantage of the nice weather and have been riding outside. My trainer/BO is still down in Pine Top, so Saturday a few of us set a jump course and decided to play around. We had a handful of lines, crossrails mixed in with starter size and a few BN verticals, so perfect for getting sea legs back. Archie and I hadn’t jumped since the end of January and even before that, we’d spent the last four months stepping everything down to teeny tiny size to build our trust bank. We’ve been starting to add a little height back in and have been jumping starter stuff inside, but hadn’t jumped outside since the fall.
I definitely did not need to be worried – all our trust bank deposits have paid off and he was so happyto go jump around and play outside in the sunshine. It wasn’t perfect; I picked some highly questionable distances, made less than ideal decisions and generally lived up to my amateur title, but he never batted an eye. He did throw one tiny buck but it was coming off a vertical and absolutely a celebration more than anything (also he doesn’t really know how to buck and we’re going to keep it that way). I am absolutely beyond proud and happy with my little red pony.
Typically Monday is his day off, but yesterday was almost 70 so I ended up taking the day off work and headed out to ride in the afternoon. After four days in a row, I figured he might be a little sluggish or tired and was just going to walk around the big XC field. Archie, on the other hand, had other plans. He was AMPED (okay, as amped as a QH can be) and we ended up trotting and cantering around for 15 minutes until that became too much work.
Otherwise we’ve been hacking out, starting to add some conditioning work back in (although apparently unneeded…) and hopefully some jump (and XC?!) lessons soon.
I’ve spent the last month locked out of the blog for some unknown reason, but not bothering to actually do anything about it. February lack of motivation I suppose? But, new month, I figured I’d give it a try and imagine that – I’m back in. Which means I guess I should update the world the happenings of Archibald the Party Pony.
We started the year with Archie’s first Sharon White clinic. We did gridwork, courses and some great flat exercises. Sharon is always outstanding to ride with – she ‘gets’ horses, she’s patient and sets you up fot success.
A few weeks later Archie got to jump his first skinny and corner with me (maybe first ever?). Being the amateur I am, I rode like a nervous monkey, but he said, “Uh, this is what you’re nervous about? K” and carted my ass around like a schoolpony. Needless to say… not an issue. I was beaming ear to ear as we finished.
And that… was the last time we jumped. Over five weeks ago. He’s not hurt, I’m not hurt, nothing of the sort. Just some awful cold weather and weekly dressage lessons taking precedence. We realized the jumping is easy for Archie – he’s essentially point and shoot these days. The flatwork… not quite as easy. So, for the last month+ I’ve focused on taking flat lessons and the difference is already outstanding.
Half the barn left for Pine Top last week so we had the chance to ride with a local dressage trainer yesterday, something that I probably wouldn’t have done before our flatwork bootcamp. It ended up being one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had, just purely in terms of effort (Archie was SOAKING wet), but also by FAR one of the best. Little horse tried his heart out, even when things were hard and we made some great progress. He got some lovely compliments that had my cold little black heart beaming and we got some fantastic exercises to play with for homework. I’m hoping to make riding with her a more regular occurrence.
In between, we’ve been doing an awful lot of road hacks on the few days it has been sunny and warm enough to get outside, which pleases Archie endlessly. He’s the most reliable little hacking partner, happy to cruise on the buckle while I practice my American Idol audition from the saddle.
We’re both ready for some sunshine and spring weather and I’ve got many other things to write about that have been happening – now that I’m emerging from my winter hibernation, hopefully I can get back on top of it.
The great thing about it being the end of the season AND having taken all the pressure off Archie is when I went out of town for four days, I went “meh, he gets turnout, he’ll be fine” and just… left. I know my trainer would tell me if anything seemed off, but I didn’t think Archie would really care about having a mini fall break of his own.
To give some background, Archie isn’t hot. Or truly ‘spooky’. He’s actually super brave (almost… too brave, ahem, when he thinks he’s going to FIGHT xc jumps). What he is though, is a little ADHD. His brain goes Mach 1 at all times and he notices everything. A stream of consciousness from him would go something like, “What that? Why that person there? Who reset that jump? Why is that jump blue? What are the velocity forces of jumping an oxer? Do you like jumping oxers? That change in arena footing looks weird. Oh, a truck driving by. It’s black. Do you have a black truck? I think you need a black truck. White trucks are concerning. LOOK AT THAT ROLLTOP HOW DARE IT BE THERE I WANT TO BITE IT. I can’t bite it? Well, FINE THEN I AM LEAVING YOU ARE THE WORST MOM EVER I HATE YOU”
It’s exhausting. You have to maintain total neutrality amidst the drama. Once you’re jumping, his brain quiets down.. some. But flatwork? ADHD 1st grader at Disney World
When I got to the barn last night, I had a moment of “uhoh” when I realized it was 50 degrees, raining and my horse hadn’t been ridden in almost a week. So, I tacked up, threw him on the lunge line and figured I’d see what I had.
Well, what I had was a horse who was content to trot around like a show hunter, but had absolutely zero interest whatsoever in going any faster. It took everything in me to get him to go canter a circle and even that was a pathetic little canter. He kept looking at me like, “MOM Y THO?” so I shrugged, grabbed the mounting block and hopped on.
For as alert as this horse is about everything (seriously, his mind goes 150 mph at ALL TIMES), he was downright lazy. Tried to western pleasure jog around. Only wanted to walk. Cantering is like, OMG SO HARD OK.
I ended up with a quick 30 minute ride where I reinstalled the go button and called it a day, but I’m so happy that even after his fall break, a decent drop in temperatures and being solo in the dark (we were inside, but it was dark out) Archie is apparently mostly confused about why vacation is over.
I’ve gone radio silent as Archie and I learned each other. Sometimes, you just don’t have anything to say to the whole wide world as you go through the emotions of a new horse. And emotions there have been – like… all of them. I’ve been happy and proud, I’ve been mad, I’ve gone, “WTF DID I DO” and everything in between.
Things came to a bit of a boiling point a few weeks ago and I realized I was putting some artificial pressure on the both of us for absolutely no reason and it was… not good. For either of our mental states. Where did this pressure come from? My own head? Social media? Who knows. What I know is that I was pushing both of us too fast and it was not conducive to success. As it rarely is with horses. You know, still learning these lessons 20 years later.
We did a mini-derby at home at starter – and it was too much. Dressage was fine, the stadium jumps were fine, but the XC was just too much and too new. We LEAPT over things, we stopped, we spooked, I fell off, it was… a day. We ended on a good note and I went home feeling defeated.
So I made a very intentional decision to take all the pressure off Archie. All of it. If I got on that day and all we did was walk until he relaxed, so be it. Wouldn’t you know, within ~ a week it was like I had a new horse under me. It’s not saying he’s never going to be that horse, or go show or whatever – he totally will. He just was telling me over and over, “MOM I AM OVERWHELMED” and I didn’t hear him until he yelled at me.
Our big focus right now is just… relaxing. Every ride should feel like a happy nice hack. He’s naturally a horse whose brain goes 100mph (and like.. same) and when I was adding pressure to do this brand new thing in a brand new place in a brand new way he tried, but just said, “OMG I LITERALLY CANNOT EVEN” and his brain sent out smoke from his ears. So, we do everything at 0.8 speed – intentionally slow, working on happy, relaxed ways of going. Some rides we only walk and trot. Sometimes we add jumps. Sometimes we just hack around the fields. Whatever his brain tells me it needs that day.
That brain is going to be a positive eventually – he’s sensitive and smart and I have no doubt he’s going to be fancy and love the challenge of a full XC course eventually. Can just see him being one who is going to absolutely hunt down flags. But right now, our xc lessons are a nice Sunday hack – with some speed bumps thrown in.
And it feels amazing. For the first time, I have this happy, totally game horse underneath me and cantering around the field Sunday, I felt like I could have popped over anything out there. Those starter jumps he felt the need to jump at N/T height a few weeks ago? Loped over like they were boring AF.
It feels so good to have this happy pony under me and in a lot of ways, while the wake up call sucked, it was what I needed. Archie is going to make me a better rider in the end, for sure, but he’s also reminding me it’s okay to slow down in all aspects of my life. There’s. No. Rush.
(And don’t worry, he’s not particularly inclined to rush.. anywhere. Our XC videos he literally LOPES. Like a western horse. We’re gonna be the only people with time faults at like, Starter)
It’s been three weeks with Archie the Tiny Terrorist. (He’s not actually a total terrorist, but he is a small horse and the smaller they are the closer to the Devil so….)
We’ve established that tantrums only result in working harder, that I can’t steer and that dressage is like, really hard work. He’s also learned water is fun, banks are fun and the cows next door are not going to eat him (okay, the last one is questionable).
Archie has been a gem in our lessons while I have… uh, not. Turns out staring at the standards/jumps/taking your leg off and just becoming dead weight is not conducive to success. Oops. Fortunately, my trainer resolved this by having an entire lesson where two strides out from each fence she yelled, “ATTACK!” in my ear. Unconventional, but successful? I know what my next bonnet is going to say…
He’s also getting a training ride/week to just help things along. It felt like a good way to help ensure a successful start and it’s turned out to be a great decision. It helps reinforce what I’m learning in lessons, gives me good homework to work on during the rest of the week and gives me a chance to see that, yes, in fact, my horse can do xyz if I ride and ask correctly and insist upon it.
I recently acquired a Pivo and have been playing around with it as well – it’s worked well in schooling rides, but I have yet to get it to fully cooperate during a lesson, so my video over fences is severely lacking. I’m hopeful with some additional experimentation I’ll have success one of these days.
That’s essentially the extent of Archie’s first three weeks – not a whole lot of exciting stuff going on, but hopefully building a good foundation for the future.
If you follow on Instagram, you’re already well aware of this news, but it only felt right to write it all down and share here too!
After sending Iggy off to retirement (he’s loving it btw), I pretty much jumped into horse shopping immediately. I couldn’t stand the idea of being horseless. I also came to the conclusion that after two wonderful leases, I was *gulp* ready to buy something.
A handful of Facebook ads later, I had about nine horses to go through which quickly got overwhelming enough, a full on Google Doc had to be created to keep them all straight. I’ll spare you all the rest, but one in particular stood out: a cute 9 year old chestnut gelding doing the hunters located in… Kansas.
Well. I didn’t really want to drive 10 hours, but I also didn’t really want to get on a plane mid-pandemic. Which meant… social media to the rescue? I tracked down his previous trainer, who happened to be an eventer, and then a friend of a friend (okay, so acquaintance of an acquaintance?) who is an undergrad at KState went to go see him for me. She came back with good reports, the owners offered me a trial and so – he got on a trailer and came to Indiana.
And that’s how we meet Archie, a 9 year old solid Paint gelding, registered as Impressive Red Raider, but newly registered with USEA to show as Here to Party.
He hasn’t really been expected to have manners and behave like a grown up adult horse except for maybe 7-8 months of his life, so it’s not exactly surprising he thinks he’s a toddler. Add on to that needing teeth done, ulcers and limited turnout – I was willing to forgive some of the issues. Within a week of being at the barn, getting acclimated to turnout (on grass! with friends!) and being on ulcer meds, he was already a happier horse.
He’s an absolute JOY to jump though – and it only carried over into his very first XC school where he didn’t step a foot wrong. Everything I pointed him at, he was game and acted like he’d been doing this his entire life. I was about to explode with happiness by the end of my lesson. You know, just in time for him to trip walking back to the barn and pull a shoe.
So – that’s the latest chestnut gelding with a white face around here, and will be for a good long while. I’m excited to event him, we are already well on the way to get him happier and enjoying his job and of course – we’re really just here to party.