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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Picture of the Day

Haha! A classic Picture of the Day:

GOGO THE VAMPIRE. Seriously, look at her going RIGHT for the jugular. You can even see her TEETH in his throat! This poor gelding's name is Joker, and this picture was taken in 2006, a few months after I had first bought her. We had all just gone back to school for junior year, and made the mistake of trying to put these two out together. Hmmm.... well you can see the outcome of that. This is why A) Gogo doesn't go out with geldings and B) Gogo usually doesn't go out with anybody at all.

I'd love for her to have a friend, but, well, this is what she does to EVERYBODY except Polly....

Friday, February 27, 2009

Patience, young grasshopper.

Oh yes, the title says it all. The current theme of my training is just exactly what you think it is: patience. The focus is on patience for myself, which in turn will instill patience in my young ward. We've come far in the past few months, and I am not about to let a few days of bad training erase all of that. So after the not-so-good ride on Tuesday and the really, REALLY awful ride on Wednesday (which actually was pretty good at the end, but...), I decided to drop the pressure way down and just do something relaxing on Thursday. So, during our lesson, we walked. We walked for an entire hour, just doing circles. That's all. And at the very, very end, we trotted for about 10 minutes. Nice, relaxed, stretchy trot. She started her champing nonsense about halfway through the walking - it's unusual, you can only see it on one side of her face. You could probably rip all you wanted on the left side of her face, but take a little bit more contact on the right side, which is her softer side? Gnashing at the bit when she's nervous. When we were walking, we'd halt. Gnash, gnash, then she's stop. Big pats. Relax. Then some more gnash, gnash... and stop. Big pats. Finally, she started to do it less and less. At the end, her mouth was quiet, and her transitions and demeanor were too. I stopped and got off, and she got today off to let that lesson settle into her head a little bit.

I wonder if she'd like a rubber/plastic type flexible mullen mouth bit. When she gets heavy on the left side, the bit can get pulled pretty far out of her mouth, and I wonder if then it doesn't pinch her when I take back on the right side, which then causes the gnashing. I think I'll see if I can dig one up tomorrow and give it a try. Who knows? Could be great, could be terrible.

I thought tonght that I'd discuss something interesting that I learned in my last equine business class. It's called a SWOT analysis, which is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. What you do is take whatever it is that needs an analysis (like your business for example, or in this case, my horse) and do an unbiased evaluation of the strengths of the thing, weaknesses of the thing, opportunities for the thing and whatever threatens the success of the thing. Here is a more detailed description of what a SWOT analysis is. I did one for Gogo last year, and have a new and updated one for this spring.

SWOT Analysis for Gogo Fatale February 2009

Dressage getting steadily better, rapidly improved in the past few months
Solidly working all 1st level movements with relative success and progression
Building 2nd level movements (renvers, travers, walk-canter-walk, collection, medium gaits, etc)
Extremely brave
Hardly ever phased by anything
Willing to jump almost anything; gutsy
Exceedingly scopey jumper
Attractive mover with three lovely gaits and a huge natural gallop
Getting a solid foundation of dressage put upon her
Has the speed and scope for mid to upper levels of eventing
Barefoot, great feet
Very athletic and catty jumper
Easy keeper with a fairly level head; doesn’t worry
Easy to take to shows and in general off property
Very sound (mild arthritic changes in hocks, have not bothered here since last July)
Always places very well at shows – getting more and more mature
Gets fit VERY easily

Fussy about contact sometimes - can get claustrophobic, champy with mouth
Neck a bit poorly set on – sometimes makes dressage work a challenge
Occasionally has 'mare days' and setbacks – but not as often as she used to
Moody sometimes – opinionated!
Can get hot, especially as of late
Sometimes green cross-country
Easy to get into dressage arguments with; holds grudges about fights
Gets very strong when jumping outside of an arena sometimes
Sometimes TOO smart for her own good... Gets mischievous when out of work
Hock arthritis already beginning, but not very advanced as of yet
Gets tense during dressage sometimes – hard to keep progressing
Prone to explosions when confused

Rated events
Rated dressage shows
Local jumper shows
Local clinics
Local instructors
Vicki (current dressage coach)
Auditing lessons/clinics
Reading material
Cross-country schooling whenever possible
Indoor arena to work with during wintertime
Ability to earn money – pay for shows, travel

Natural disasters
Weather-related events (floods, tornados, blizzards, etc)
Bad weather at shows – risk of slipping, falling, injuries
Other competitors with similarly talented horses
Seasoned horses/riders
Poor arena footing (currently NOT a threat! :D)
Equine sickness – infectious/non-infectious illness, physical trauma, etc.
Lameness/injury – esp. worried about hocks
Intelligence/bully attitude working against her – damaging
Lack of funds

I encourage everybody to do it for their own horse too, and then take a good look at it. Watch out for the things that are threatening, and have a plan and be prepared for them; have your eye out for opportunities and make sure to jump on them; enhance your strengths and make them even stronger; hone in on your weaknesses and work on fixing, minimizing or eliminating them.

As for tomorrow's dressage lesson? We'll be zoning in on our recent dressage weaknesses, namely the hotness and the tendancy to get nervous when she doesn't understand something. We'll just take things as slowly as we need to for now. For our Novice tests, we don't have to do anything more complicated than w/t/c, some two-loop serpentines, some diagonals, and some 20-meter circles. If that's what we need to work on for a little bit before we re-progress on to our more complicated 1st/2nd level work, then so be it.

Such is the way of life with mares, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tell me are you a badfish too?

Ohhhhhh Gogo. My silly little mare was moderately lovely yesterday, with some evil tossed into the mix. I love her little spunky side, but I hope her little bits of nonsense don't make any sudden appearances in the showring this coming summer. Our dressage was momentarily interrupted yesterdayby some wicked bad bracing and head-in-my-lap nonsense, although there was no rearing. I think I was getting a little in her face, and it irritated her, so it's quite possible it was my fault. She settled down and eventually gave me some pretty relaxed work, but it was nothing stellar.
And today? OYE. I think after I rode Rena yesterday (which was after Gogo), I got into a Rena mindset, and got on Gogo this morning in the same kind of mode. Which doesn't work. With Rena, you need to get up in her face a little bit, to actually make her go somewhere. If you get up in Gogo's face, she tells YOU to go somewhere - like to hell! She started off pretty relaxed, but like I said, I think I was overriding her, which pissed her off and led to an enormous, half-hour long fight which only ended after I halted and stood and relaxed with her for a long while. Then, we walked. We walked on contact, quietly, for another half-hour, with about five minutes of gentle, quiet, stretchy trot in there, just to chill the hell out. And the MOUTH NONSENSE! After she got tense, it didn't matter how relaxed she became, she was still champing her teeth LIKE CRAZY. We halted for five minute, so long that she started to close her eyes (she was pretty tired by then), but what did she continue to do? Champ, champ, champ. Nonstop. IT'S DRIVING ME CRAZY.
Tomorrow's plan? Get on, do something relaxed before the mouth stuff starts, get off. That's all I want to do. Ugh, today's ride was horrible. AWFUL! On the plus side, I did have an amazing ride on Rena later, so that made me feel slightly better. But not much.

Two not so good dressage rideas in a row are not helped by the thought that the opening date for our first event is now less than a month away, and our first actual show of the season is in a little over two weeks. It's just a schooling jumper show at Mount Holyoke, and we're only going so I can cruise around some full courses with her (which I can't do here), but it's our first technical off property activity done under a judge's eye of the year, so it counts for something. From what I hear about Area I, you need to get your entries mailed ON the opening date, or else you are not going to get in. It's interesting too - Connecticut law sates that you must have a rabies certificate with your entries (for CT shows only). I've never heard of that before. I checked up on the results from last spring's King Oak H.T. and wow... there were SIX different sections of Open Novice. SIX. With between 20 and 25 people in each. That's between 120-150 people doing NOVICE ALONE at ONE SHOW. HOLY CRAPPERS.

Gogo got her feeties done the other day! Again, no good or new pictures, but her feet look pretty damn good if I do say so myself. One thing is happening though - she is wearing her feet almost too fast due to all the work on pavement we've done lately. Around the toe area, especially on her LH, she's worn a little bit past her wall into her toe callus, which tells me that we need to get out and do some damn x-country schooling on softer ground instead! I don't think we need to go out and invest in boots just yet, but I think I'll be a little more careful about how much pavement hacking we do. All I did for her trim this time was pretty much tidy up her heels and roll each foot. It literally took less than 15 minutes to do everything. Easy!

Check this out: USEA Gives Amateurs a Boost Towards the AECs. This is a great concept, especially for someone like me who shows in the Horse division instead of the Amateur division. Professionals can - and do - show in the Horse division a lot, so this is totally helpful for me.

And here's a little clip of munchkin eating a yummy cookie the other night after her trim (and vacuum, and scrubdown, and general cleaning up cause she was muddy!!)

Hopefully tomorrow will be better than these past two days.

PS - Hooray we're going to Rolex! Or well, my fiancee and I are going to Rolex. I'd LOVE to mean Gogo and I are going to Rolex, but, well, I think we need a couple more months training before that happens ;)

PSS - Gogo came in from turnout today not only covered in mud, but also with a funny lump on the back of her SDFT on her LF. Nooo bad lumps! She's not lame, and it's not hot and not reactive to any sort of poking or prodding that I did, so at least there's that. It's not a swelling of the tendon. It was poulticed and wrapped today, so I'm hoping that tomorrow it's all gone. We'll be keeping a seriously close eye on it though.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thwarted by Georgina Morris

Ugh! It's been busy around here. I was supposed to have Friday and Saturday off, like I always do, but alas, I was called on Friday night to say that I would in fact me working on Saturday because the part time girl was hung over and couldn't come. Awesome.

Friday was my regular dressage lesson, and in all honesty it was pretty much exactly like everything else I've been blogging about for the past week! She started off a little tense ("her eyes are popping out of her head!" said Vicki) but I eventually turned that little bit of tension into some brilliance, which included at the end of our session some incredibly free and up trotwork, which I would not be afraid to call actually collected. I'm SERIOUSLY not okay with people calling this trot or that jog collected when it's not. Even my work that I feel actually is somewhat collected I'm not willing to call collection most of the time. But in this case? Totally was. And it felt awesome. She felt powerful and easy, and so free up front. We also did some rather stellar lateral work, some more counter canter (with success! Vicki had me doing it by just moving my shoulders where I wanted to go, and she stayed straight without changes! Hooray!), and some trot and canterwork that I wouldn't be afraid to call real mediums.

Saturday was little girlie girl's day off. She was supposed to get handwalked twice for 20 minutes each, but since she got turned out for about 8 hours and I left the property long before she came in (they let me have half the day off since it was supposed to be my full day off, yay!), she did not get her second handwalk. She also did not get trimmed as I had originally planned - I was exhausted after going hiking up the local mini-mountains all afternoon and felt it would be better to trim today, after we go for our hack on pavement and she does a little self-trimming.

And yesterday was supposed to be the day we conquered the February jumping goal I set up - put up a gymnastic that leads to a big fence at the end, eventually getting up to 4'. Well, we *almost* got to do that. Unfortunately we were riding in the ring with Georgina Morris, which is a nice nickname for one of our boarders who also jumps and just thinks she needs to Help You Out. Especially when you don't need it. Georgina, right, I really can trot this crossrail without your constant coaching, all right? No really, I THINK I can manage it. Well, she was game for the plan at first, and as Gogo bopped through the gymnastic (which was a simple trot in to a crossrail, one stride to an oxer) easily, she raised it a little and raised it a little. And I mean, seriously a little. Like one hole at a time in the back, then brought it one hole up in the front. This was taking ages and Gogo wasn't even trying. We got up to 3'3" (which she insisted was 3'6" but it totally was not) and Gogo was still sleeping over it, and I was excited for more. And that's when Gergina put the kibosh on my plans - "Well, she's been so good and quiet and relaxed that that is where we're going to stop today!" Um... what? Why? She's asleep! I wanted to challenge her a little! "No no, you can't do that. You need to just stop where you are and call it a day." All right, I understand that you want to stop on a good note, obviously, but seriously? It's 3'3". I know she can do 3'3". I know she can do 3'6". I know she can probably do 3'9" (freejumped that easily but not undersaddle yet). Georgina! Why!

Argh. So I was thwarted, and I had to stop because the jumps I was using were Georgina's jumps, so I didn't exactly have a day. Pooooo.

The worst part? One of the other boarders had a friend with him who offered to take my camera and get some video of us. All you have to do is turn it on and press this button, I told her. Easiest thing in the world do to. So she does, and she films me, and I keep having to look over there and say no no, don't leave it running the whole time, just get little clips. She's not seeming to understand, and I get the camera back thinking I'm going to have to do some serious editing. What do I find? SHE NEVER TURNED THE CAMERA ON AND WAS "FILMING" THE ENTIRE SESSION WITH IT OFF. It's a DIGITAL CAMERA lady. IT HAD NO VIEWFINDER. What did you think you were filming????

So no video, no pictures. Bummer. And no challenge to Gogo either. Also a bummer. Ohhhhhh well. And now, off to smelly work... so exhausted. I just need some quality sleep already!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Picture of the Day

Today's Picture of the Day is Gogo in 2007, at our very first recognized horse trial ever. This is at South Farm, and we were 6th in the BN-H division. We had a very scary dressage test, but somehow managed to scramble around x-country and stadium clean and moved up into the ribbons. This was literally like 2 weeks after I got her back from Creeper Trainer. I had entered the show when I was still in NZ, because everyone had insisted that she was going SO WELL and was SO READY for shows right away, etc etc etc. I considered not going because of how insane she was when I got back, but I went away because I figured it would be a good experience for her, and it was. Gogo says, I'm just a 5 year-old punk, wheeeeeeeeeee!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lady Gogo's P-P-P-Poker Face

So you guys all immediately went and downloaded "Look Up" by the band Stars when I told you to, right? Of course you did. Now, also go download "The Whaler" by Thrice. No really, I mean it! PEER PRESSURE! DO IT!

Anyway, back to the sweet Crackermare. I've had two EXCELLENT dressage sessions with her over the past two days. And I mean REALLY excellent - like go out and win the AEC on your dressage score kind of excellent. I think that's what I'll call them from now on. Win-The-AEC-Rides.

Our lesson on Tuesday was just gorgeous. Our ride on Monday was outdoors and full of punkiness (which I already wrote a little blurb about), but I think it did her brain some good. Back in the indoor, she started right off being a hair fussy when I picked her up (we usually bomb around the arena at a trot and canter on the buckle for a few minutes to loosen up a little bit before starting real stretchy warmup work at the walk and trot), but quickly settled and stretched beautifully into the contact within just a few minutes. It's so amazing to see the transformation our workouts have taken over the past month and a half - she's gone from a horse that would take a good half-hour to 45 minutes to start correctly going into the contact (which would leave us with about 15 minutes for some real work... and sometimes she would really FIGHT me) to a horse that starts right off the bat stretching out and down for the contact, and while it takes a few minutes and some exercises to get her steadily where I want her to be, it takes about 1/16th of the time it used to. I like this trend very much. Plus, she's really developing something akin to a REAL NECK! Her neck still is, and obviously will always be, set on awkwardly (she didn't earn the nickname "The Ewe-Necked Wonder" for nothing), but her body has gone through quite a transformation since she's arrived here. We moved on from our warmup to do some pretty good trot and canter lengthenings (canter was better than trot, at the trot she became slightly unbalanced a few times and took some irregular steps), a bunch of very high quality transitions, a lot of serpentines (required in the Novice tests.... and a great exercise to work anyway, duh!), and some stretching down and coming back up at the trot. It's interesting to note that Gogo stretches WAY WAY better to the left than to the right. To the right, the stretch is far less consistant, and she tends to fold herself inwards and fall in on her right shoulder. We're getting there though! She definitely comes back up and goes back to work 95% better than she did before.

Yesterday, she was equally as good. I had kind of hoped she'd act up because one of the boarders we realllllllly don't like is a complete chicken and she was riding with me at the time, so we imagined that maybe if Gogo went leaping away across the arena and smashed into her this woman might hang up her britches forever and never come back, but alas. Gogo warmed up equally as well yesterday, and went right up into a nice stretching working trot. She got all goobery in her mouth too, which she doesn't often do. I kind of figured out the champing thing - it's when she's... well, not leaning, but sort of heavy in my contact. It's like she boings her jaw off of the heavier contact. I don't know, it's hard to describe, but if you lighten her in front it stops, even if only momentarily. Anyway, we went on to work some really awesome leg yields, transitions (our trot-canters are becoming less 'up' and more 'forward'), mediums (which literally felt like we were FLOATING they had so much suspension in them - definite mediums, they totally came out of a more collected trot, yay!) adding varying degrees of collection through shoulder-in/haunches-in exercises, and counter canter. Or, well, we tried to work on counter canter. Gogo has an ENORMOUS canter stride, so organizing it enough to stay balanced through the short side is a bit difficult for her, and unfortunately she already has changes through our jumping, so yeah. We'd get a good halfway through the short side in counter canter, and then, tada! Completely perfect flying change, every time, both ways. Like 10 times. No matter how dramatically my aids were saying HELLO PLEASE STAY ON THIS LEAD! That was the point where I just gave up and worked on shallow loops in canter instead, which were much more successful. We'll try and tackle that issue again today, lol.

Now here's an interesting (and probably completely ridiculous) connection Shannon and I made. Why was my horse so utterly perfect for two days in a row and so completly insane for the three days prior to that? Well, she loves to go to shows right, and always has her game face on when we get there? On Tuesday right before I got on, I put her mane back in training braids, because it's out of control again (when isn't it?). And then, she was perfect. And the braids were in yesterday, and she was perfect again. So we decided she thinks she must be all spiffed up to go to a show so she needs to behave herself! Ridiculous, I know, but Gogo really is that weird, so it wouldn't actually surprise me if that was really the case.

I've been countering her misbehaviors in a new way, which seems to be working really well. She usually fusses going to the right, and often times at the canter, which is where she likes to kind of dirt bike around turns and get unbalanced. If she fussed and was near the rail before, she'd get a correction on my left rein, which usually send her diving left towards the wall in a huge reary-leap explosion. Since that obviously wasn't helping, I've been correcting her occasional small fusses by half halting hard on my right rein instead, which has actually been totally successful and stopped the reary leaps before they even begin. Knock on wood, but maybe this is our answer for nipping this rude behavior in the bud before it turns into real, actual learned bad behavior. People here seem to think bad behavior of any sort is the end of the world, and I don't get it. When I got her back from Crazy Trainer she reared a lot, right? Well, she's a member of my family and I felt it was my duty to try and get her brain set back on, because I loved her and I wanted to help her to get back to the intelligent athlete I knew she was. And sometime last March, she did flip on me, and sort of self-corrected the rearing problem for the time being (it's only been a small, recent resurfacing of the problem, starting less than a month ago - she really hadn't done it for ages before we got here). I was chatting about it to Ted, our 84 year-old boarder who we almost ran over the other week when she was acting up a little, when another boarder happened to be walking past us. She didn't even stop to join the conversation, she just overheard me saying "... she flipped on me...." and added loudly, "And you KEPT her?" and kept walking right on by. Now, we love her, but really? Horses aren't expendable to me. Things like that happen sometimes. My horse is not malicious, she's not mean, she's not trying to hurt me - even then, she deliberately fell AWAY from me. And I landed on my feet, and she folded into a little ball beside me. She's just a little messed up in the head sometimes. She's incredibly talented and such a sweetheart, and she really IS my family. I'm not just going to throw her away because she's tricky sometimes.
What is WRONG with people?

On a not related note, did you guys hear? Bit of Britain is the new AEC sponser! Wellpride's time was up, and seriously, I cannot possibly think of a better replacement. Wellpride's been great, but can you EVEN IMAGINE the top prizes at the AECs this year?? I STILL have yet to spend my $100 I got from Bit of Britain for just being in 6th last year, and that was just them being nice and a regular sponser! First place got $1000! What are the prizes even going to BE this year? AWESOME, that's what they're going to be!

And now, it's time to go get suited up for my lesson. It's 21 degrees outside and the wind is howling, and I am SO GLAD I have today off.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Back from OH!

The title of this post is a little misleading, actually. I've technically been back from OH since late Saturday night, but I've just been too busy and exhausted to possibly contemplate a post. I'll go over the past few days...

Thursday-Saturday: Gogo had this time off as a mini-vacation. She's not actually had a real break since..... well, it's been a very long time. She's not had more than a few days off at a time since probably last January, simply because she just goes INSANE after having time off. Which leads to...

Sunday: I figured it was a very good idea to just lunge in the chambon today instead of getting on, and I was right. I could tell she was on edge and ready to jump out of her skin when I walked into the arena, so I told the other boarder who was riding that she might want to stay down at the other end of the ring for a little while! I walked/trotted her for a few minutes without the chambon, then went to hook it up, and of course, immediate explosion the second she walked off. Or rather, she walked off, and then broke into a trot, and then hit the chambon and lost it. She backpedaled, completely sat down and almost flipped over backwards, then managed to somehow right herself and went galloping off, head in the air and mouth agape at the chambon which was now probably digging into her chest and mouth, poor thing. A few more similarly unnecessary explosions later, she finally settled down, and was fairly good. I wasn't expecting any miracles, given her mild insanity!

Monday: Hack day! Sad to say, this was not the nice relaxing conditioning hack I was hoping it would be. Still fired up from her time off, Gogo was hot and spooky, going so far as to even go leaping across the road when a different colored piece of curb came into view - VERY scary. So I finally had to take up a tighter contact (we had been on a nice loose rein, but apparently that was not the good idea that it usually is) and do the rest of our walking and trotting as real connected work instead of just long rein hack work. Bummer. She was cheerful as all hell back in the barn though, so maybe it did her brain some good.

Tuesday: Today, I was inspired to go outside and ride in the outdoor - the first time I've done that since I've been here. There were still some huge puddles, but those weren't a problem. Our outdoor is in a raised area (so why are there puddles...?), so that two whole sides of it are flanked by hills that fall sharply away, and it is not fenced in, so you kinda need to be careful with volatile bouncy tigger mares like mine, lol. She started off all right, a little kinked in her neck and back right in front of the saddle like she does when she's avoiding work, but she started to develop some swing through her back and all was looking up. And then she did something I don't think she's really ever done before... she grabbed the bit and started leaping and plunging and rearing on purpose, just to be naughty. Not because she didn't understand, not because she was frustrated. She was doing it just to be a wenchy punk. Bad mare!! She wasn't anxious or worried or concerned, she was just... being bad. A few thumps in the ribs got her going forward again after her little balky nonsense, and she then settled in for the rest of a very nice ride. She was still a bit on the forehand by the end of the ride - we never achieved the sort of lightness and freedom in her shoulders that I've been getting as of late - but I figured I wasn't about to push the issue since she was giving me such a nice workout anyway. Not to mention the fact that tons of birds were flying, wind was blowing, Amos was galloping around the field with his tail over his back, cars were zooming in and out, etc. She was focused the whole time, even if she was being kind of a dweeb during the first 20 or so minutes. The remaining hour? Pretty damn good!

Something interesting is happening to my horse - she is shedding out in a very odd way! Check it out - she's growing in what looks to be either more winter coat or perhaps the beginnings of a summer coat (notice how dark she is now, compared to when I first clipped her) and she's shedding.... only around her eyes. She's got raccoon eyes!!

That's her 'stop taking my picture' face. Ignore the sweat marks... this is post-workout. Her neck actually looks kinda.... fat here.

And also, we got the rest of our year-end awards in!!!! These are from Area VIII (for eventing); Gogo was the 5th place BN Horse for 2008, and I was the 4th place Adult BN Rider for 2008, and was Reserve Champion BN Adult Ammy BN Rider for 2008. Awesome!

One final thing: remember my post about Riding the Shod (and Previously Foundered) Horse? I've been riding Rowena (Rena for short) a lot lately, so I thought I would get a picture of her crippled self and her completely terrifying feet up here. She's an upper level schoolmaster - specifically to what level I'm not sure, but I know she was very successful to at least 4th level competition-wise and has her passage and piaffe. She's also totally crippled and I feel kind of like I might break her if I play around with some of the things she knows beyond little bits of lateral work.


... and her FEET. Twenty minutes after getting shod. SERIOUSLY.


It's been gorgeous here....

Gogo says, you wish you were here too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gogo the Lippizaner

I have had a pretty successful week thus far with Gogo. Actually, the week ends here - tomorrow I am headed to Ohio to spend some quality time with the currently far-away fiancee, and I won't be back until Saturday night, so Gogo gets a mini vacation.

Monday's ride was quite excellent. Gogo warmed up relaxed and quiet, and proceeded to give me some excellent trot and canterwork, including some shallow canter loops on the left lead, heading across the short diagonal, and maintaining the counter canter through the corner in a balanced and - dare I use the C word? - collected way. She was giving me the closest thing to collection in the canter that she's ever given me, really sitting down and waiting. Then, of course, going the OTHER way we tried to toss in some awkward flying changes in our shallow loops, and then did a horribly disjointed and awkward unintentional flying change coming across the short diagonal. Well, after that the rest of the ride continued to be very good, but she started clacking her teeth (which she seems to do about mid-ride for various reasons... sometimes tension, sometimes difficult work) NONSTOP for the rest of the ride. The quality of work was very high too, but UGH! That drives me insane. It's not visible unless you're right up next to her, and you can't hear it unless, again, you're right next to her, but I can hear it for sure and I can feel the vibrations coming up through the reins, and it DRIVES ME NUTS. She only does it at the trot, and does it in rhythm with her stride, like she's keeping her own tempo. When she is REALLY tense, she will gnash her teeth at the walk and trot very violently, which usually corresponds to an imminent Gogo Explosion, but something extreme has to be happening (like bears chasing us through the woods) for that kind of mouth action to occur. The rest of the time, pretty quiet mouth. Like during out warmup? Totally quiet mouth, totally relaxed work. The teeth clacking continues for as long as there is contact with her mouth at all once it has started - if you totally drop her, it stops temporarily - and it ONLY starts after something difficult has taken place. And at this point, I don't know what to do about it.

The next day was interesting - had a lesson with Vicki, and she started off HOT TO TROT. Some walkwork helped to quiet her down, and then she was very relaxed and quiet starting out in trot. We started harder work, and she was still excellent - leg yields, lengthenings, shoulder-in to haunches-in, tons of transitions. She was awesome, UNTIL I attempted to come down the quarterline in canter on the right lead. And she tilted in, hit my outside rein, and had a FIT - literally out of absolutely nowhere with NO warning did a serious of HUGE plunging rear-leaps, courbette style! Oooookay, back to canter, let's try that again on the next long side. Same thing, but this time more dramatic - several large rears which culminated in a huge literal courbette (reared and then LEAPED into the air!), then landing and doing a classic Gogo rear-and-pivot-and-shoot-off-180-degree-in-the-other-direction move. This almost took out Ted and Vista, the 84 year-old boarder with the 23 year-old horse, who hapened to be on the rail at this time right next to us. Yikes. I think I almost gave him a heartattack. Right then Gogo, one more time, and this time we will have better balance coming out of the corner. What do you know, a PERFECT quarterline, which we then moved into a few 20-meter stretchy circles where she stretched down and up and down and up again, perfectly. Mares.

"Volatile" I think is the perfect word for her.

And today, I just put her on a lunge line and let her spin in a halter for 20 minutes. Oye.... watching her go on the lunge without tack on is a bit painful, seeing as she inverts like a camel, drags herself around on her forehand (no matter what speed she's going), and goes around with her head so high that her face, at times, is literally parallel with the ceiling. I love my horse SO much, but oooooh she is ugly when she does that. She looks SO good in the barn, and SO good under saddle, and SO good lunging with tack, but without tack? Hmmmmmmm.

Oh Gogo, you are so silly sometimes with your special Lippizan leaps and llama neck.

I will be on a brief hiatus for the next few days, as I said before, so look for me at the end of the weekend. See you then!

PS: Check out this website. I know we just had this discussion about modern vs. classical dressage (and this is leaning towards the classical side for sure), but it had a lot of really awesome images and actual moving illustrations. Really interesting.

All right, now I really need sleep, because it's almost midnight and I have to be up at 3am. SIGH!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Gogo and the Ocean

Hahaha! So Gogo and I made our first trip to the Big Water today. The day was absolutely gorgeous, and as I walked outside I thought to myself, this will be a day to remember. The sun sparkled through my window as I cruised down the freeway, the radio blasting and the prospect of a day playing in the surf just ahead of me.

Well. New England beaches are not quite like other beaches. There aren't woods and trails and wilderness, there are houses right up to the waterfront and then, the ocean. She had never seen anything like it and was remarkably calm when we first pulled up and she peeked her head out the escape door. Of course, right as I was arriving a HUGE black cloud showed up and poured on us for a few minutes, but thankfully passed pretty quickly. I was disappointed that it was not the miles and miles of wooded shoreline I was expecting, and that the beach was about a quarter of the size that I had imagined it to be, but I was not to be daunted. The beach, the ocean Gogo! What do you think of that! She immediately set the tone by standing right up on her hind legs while I was tacking up for absolutely no reason at all. Literally, I wasn't even touching her when she did it. All right... well, on with the show.

The receding storm clouds.

Off we go down the beach. The sand! The.. well, not quite white sand, but it's SAND. And it's the ocean! The gulls were calling, the ocean waves were pulling at the shoreline. And Gogo... well, she wasn't so sure about all that nonsense. She wouldn't get near the water at first, and when a bigger wave would come rolling in, she would run away sideways from it. I finally got her feet in it, and she relaxed, realizing it wasn't going to eat her, but we did many a Signature Gogo Move - rearing and doing a 180 pivot on one hind leg to get away. That is her favorite evasion, all thanks to Crazy Demon Trainer. She's recently re-added it to her repertoire of Bad Behaviors, even though I thought we were through with it all. I REALLY do blame it on the Ultium for making her hot and irrational. This will also come into play later.

But anyway! Oh, the beach! I met up with a nice lady with a bichon who offered to take my camera and get some pictures of us:

Cheesy smile.
Gogo not wanting to cooperate.

And let's not forget the GOGO SIGNATURE MOVE!

AND some action shots:

And everybody gets at least one "oh shit!" moment:

This is why we use a martingale when we jump.

We gallop, we play, we streak along the beach like a blur and hug the lapping waves. The gulls swirl up and around us, and the wind whips our hair. We splash in the water, we dance, we laugh and we revel in the glory of the sea. We, after much joy, finally decide to call it a day and head on home after a morning full of fun and happiness.

And then. Then, we are walking back along the breakwall, like so:

And as you can see, she is suddenly being startled by something. Yep, a pit bull and another huge dog came bounding up over the wall directly at us just at that moment. What did Gogo do? A 180 and galloped STRAIGHT INTO THE OCEAN. NOT STOPPING. We were literally mostly underwater and swimming by the time I managed to get ahold of her again, and turned her around back towards the shore. WE WERE SOAKED.

All my tack, clothing, tall boots, and both of our entire bodies DRENCHED IN SALT WATER. Oh my god, it was a RIOT.

Oh Gogo. You are something else, that is for sure.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Continual Lunging FAIL

D'oh. Well, for whatever reason I continue to have lunging equipment failure. We had another wardrobe malfunction on Friday when I was lunging in Vicki's chambon. Like I said about it, it is THE most rudumentary chambon I've ever seen - it's just a piece of string with a nylon strap on it. I have to hook it up with double ended snaps to my surcingle! So off we go, we're lunging, we've been lunging for all of five minutes. I dunno if she did this on purpose, because it was hard to tell, but one instant she was trotting along and the next, POP! the ring on my girth that the chambon was attached to suddenly came flying off and cracked her in the face. She proceeded to do Very Big Trot for a few strides before realizing she had no need to be freaked out. It might have been partially torn out last week when she ripped on it freaking out momentarily, I dunno. It sure didn't give last week, but this week? Rrrrrrrrrip.

Well, I had certainly learned my lesson a few weeks ago on how NOT to lunge new-and-improved Volatile Gogo, so I just put her back on the lunge line and let her cruise for a minute. But she is SUCH A LLAMA when she's moving on her own that it just HURT to want her boinging around super inverted, and so I decided to try something I hadn't done in a long time. I dug out some sidereins.

Gogo the llama at Lake Erie, just so you know:

So sidereins. Put them on, walked off, she's cool, moved into trot. AHHH, Gogo said. Very VERY Big Trot and some panicked running at the canter, which is ALL just a leftover from her having such a mental breakdown a few weeks ago. She normally lunges in them just fine, but hangs around behind the vertical and doesn't use her body at all, and therefore I don't normally use them. This time, she was REALLY worried when we started out, I think because she felt trapped for a moment, like she gets sometimes. Then, she settled into them and gave me THE most gorgeous trot and canter - she actually was using her entire body fluidly instead of doing the whole put head down, move legs fast sort of thing that she used to do in sidereins. She had a few moments where she looked worried, but then really just relaxed and really used herself in full. Something else interesting to note - instead of curling behind the vertical or leaning on the sidereins, Gogo actually held herself up actual correct self-carriage. I was impressed... really impressed. I won't be using sidereins often, but it's interesting to note what kind of reaction she had to them. We finished with a nice, steady, relaxed siderein-y trot (had been doing lots of transitions) and called it a night.

Yesterday, I had a lesson, considering the fact that I was supposed to have a lesson on Thursday but it was dangerously cold out and so we all went to Neptune's Diner instead of working (the boss included!) XD She felt a bit tense right from the get go, walk work included. It really felt as though I had, well.. worked her in sidereins. It wasn't that she was doing the whole sidereins curling behind the contact thing... but she was yanking (gently yanking!) on my hands, something she's never done before. Not hard, and not forcefully, but just pushing out against my hands in an unpleasant kind of way. It felt like she was testing sidereins for give. She was also doing the obnoxious thing she does when she is tense and feeling confined - clacking her teeth. It's not really all that visible (doesn't get sneer with her lips like a lot of horses that do this do), but if you're near her you can hear it. Drives me insane, because she doesn't do it when she's totally chilled out and relaxed. We did a lot of walk-trot transitions to start, just trying to give her something simple to focus on, and then we progressed from there to some shoulder-in, very steep leg yields, decent quality trot lengthenings (not as stellar as they have been), fabulous canter lengthenings, focusing less on the technical difficulty of each exercise than the ability to maintain relaxation. By the end, she was suburb, but still not totally without tension - the teeth clacking was still going on. Vicki said she looked excellent and I believe her, but I could still feel that she was holding it somewhere, even if it wasn't visible. We were challenging her though, working her in shoulder-fore or haunches-in through every transition between gaits and within gaits, which were all coming rapid fire. Vicki also had me do something interesting that was instantly successful - I tend to jam downwards a bit with my right heel, which makes my calf come off of her side a little more than it should. Vicki had me think about unweighting my stirrups during each downward transition - making the transition as though I were about to remove my feet from the stirrups, which put my calves on her more during the transitions - and VOILA! Instant amazing transitions. Love that! We also talked a bit about positive and negative tension in horses, and how you physically have to have some sort of muscle tension in your body to do anything at all, simply because engaging a muscle creates tension. Sometimes, Gogo has only positive tension in her body, and some days, like yesterday, Gogo borderlines on negative tension. It's a very fine line to walk. We also ALSO talked about the Comfort Zone, the Achievement Zone, and the Panic Zone. The Comfort Zone is where Gogo is doing exactly what she knows how to do already, and is totally chill about it. Pushing her into the Achievement Zone maintains that steady mental mindset, but goes into more challenging work and learning new things. The Panic Zone is when you push too far into the Achievement Zone and have a meltdown. Gogo's Comfort Zone is fairly small, her Achiement Zone is a very tiny area that you have to be careful to stay in, and her Panic Zone is HUGE. If you push just a little too hard out of the Comfort Zone, you'll zoom right into the Panic Zone. Again with the walking fine lines thing! In all honesty though, that's what makes dressage fun for me. I love being able to try and toe the line where I can, and feeling just when I feel to back off, or just when I can ask for a little more. That developing sense of feel gets deeper and deeper with every ride, and has been gettng deeper and deeper since I was the age of 7 and first getting on a horse for lessons. It never stops developing, and I love that.

Hooray Gogo's new supplements are here! She's officially off Cosequin and Mare Magic (and consequently, Smartpak) for the time being, and is instead on bulk raspberry leaf (which I found for $4.20 a pound.... two pounds of Mare Magic is $55.99. $55.99 vs. $8.40? EASY CHOICE) and ProMotion EQ, the joint supplement I talked about. She just started it on Thursday, so I'll give it a few weeks and keep you updated on what I see and feel.

And what am I doing today you ask? Well, the 95 thousand Pony Club kids are all coming in again for their 9am-4pm clinic, so jumping isn't going to happen. I wanted to go hack out.... and then I had a better idea. It's supposed to be 55 today, which is awesome. There is a beach about an hour away (a real OCEAN beach with real SALT WATER, not just Lake Erie!!) that allows horses on it in the offseason (which is right now). So, that is where we are headed! Oh my god excited. SO excited.

Pictures of the Day

..... which are NOT Gogo, actually.

I present to you Philippe Karl.

Philippe Karl is THE MAN. This has to be THE most perfect piaffe that has ever existed on the planet. It is feather-light, Karl's position is absolutely impeccable, the horse looks completely comfortable and happy with a very soft eye, the work looks easy for them both, and there is a palpable sense of power there. This is the ultimate in collection, a level beyond what most upper level horses will ever be capable of. This is so classical, and so correct.

Now, compare this picture for example. This is a piaffe achieved through rollkur (if you don't know what it is, go here and you'll see why it is EVIL) and use of mindgames and force. This piaffe is front-end heavy, without collection, and is letting the horse's truck completely fall through. The horse is triangulating with its front legs, is falling behind the vertical, has the curb rein cranked tight, and looks annoyed. I'm sorry, but I can't stand Anky. She wins, and that is so wrong. She wins, and everyone thinks she's the Queen so they should copy her methods. But just look at this piaffe compared to Karl's piaffe:

That's at the OLYMPICS. WINNING A GOLD MEDAL. Sometimes, words just fail me. I don't even know what to say.

Here's some more pictures illustrating why I hate Anky:

And here's some more illustrating why I love Philippe:

(Pretty sure this is a mislabeled passage...)

Absolutely stunningly beautiful.


A legit post coming soon to a theater near you. Or maybe to this blog, if you're lucky.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Slutty A Go-Go

Ohhhhh Gogo. Somebody forgot to mention the fact to Gogo that mares reaaaaally shouldn't be cycling all winter long, because dropping a baby on the ground in mid-January is really just not the best planning. Nope, that evolutionary footnote went by the wayside with Gogo the second I purchased her, and she really has continued to cycle all year round for the past two years. And well, she's in heat again, now that it's early February. Surprise, surprise.

The good thing about Gogo is that being in heat really doesn't change all that much. She gets a little more distractable, she talks a lot to other horses (which she only does when she's in heat), and she, when in flaming ultra mega heat, flirts mercilessly with other mares. Yep, mares. Never geldings, only mares. One mare, in particular, is her lifelong super gay soulmate, and her name is Polly.

Polly and Gogo last winter:

(Me trying to keep Gogo clean for the show that weekend.... hence the Sleazy.)
The only mare - or horse at all - that she's EVER let come near her!!

Well, anyway. I guess I should catch up on the past few days! Last Sunday was jump day, as usual. I got up extra early in order to finish all my stalls early, and set up a really fun exercise:

And actually, that description isn't totally correct. The big X in the middle is comprised of four different jumps, which were not 2'3", but were instead set up on Bloks, which I think is very good for her because I've had her squiggle a little bit on occasion if there aren't standards. Although come to think of it, she was five when she was doing that kind of squiggling, so maybe it doesn't matter anymore. There was no squiggling for this exercise at all! It's a lead change thing - approach as indicated (say on the right lead), and land on the left. If you don't land on the left, or if your horse crossfires, make the change over the first groundpole. If you don't make it then, change over the second! A variation on this exercise (and the more 'proper' way to do it, but I did not have enough room to make it work) is to circle once you've gone over the second canter pole, then come back over it, then go to the first pole, and then take the fence away. Gogo was excellent about this exercise, excellent! She just 'got' it right from the get go. There were a few times when a few strides out she went wheeeeeeeeeeee! and pretty much doubled her stride to get to the fence, but that's what she does when she's feeling a bit fresh, so all you have to do is come back and go now wait just a minute, hold on, and she does. There was only one time where she landed from the left lead to the right (which is her harder way) where she landed on the correct lead, then crossfired over the first pole, then continued to crossfire over the second pole! Yeah, came back down to trot and tried that one again. For whatever reason, canter poles are hard for Gogo. She takes big, reaching lunges at then almost every single time, even when you ask her to wait. We'll keep working on that. The other thing we did do was approach the middle of the X of fences and take it that way, and HOLY CRAP! Talk about jumping me out of the tack, her jump over that was HUUUUUUGE! We did that a few time and called it a day. She also got her legs washed and her mane pulled, her favorite.

Monday was a hack day, seeing as it never ends up working out as a dressage day at all. We went around our usual 40-minute track up the long and gradual hills, trotting part of the way, walking most of the way back. The hills are great workouts, and she feels so fit and sound trotting out there. I'm not going to do any trotting at length on pavement, but small amounts are okay. It was freaking GORGEOUS out - almost 50 degrees!! - and the sun was shining. Aaaah, spring is almost here!

... OR NOT. The next day, Tuesday, we had a huge freaking BLIZZARD and most of our boarders had to cancel on coming out because they couldn't physically make it! It snowed like crazy all day and EVERY horse in the barn was kooky. We had a horse go THROUGH our PVC fencing (I have a picture, I'll post it later) and go running around the property bleeding, we had another horse break the the chain on his paddock gate (at a DIFFERENT time of day) and also go cavorting around, and my horse, as it turns out, is in heat. Gogo, really, in January? Well, she was awfully quick to meltdown under saddle, so we spent most of our time walking, and the walk work was all VERY good. Trotwork? Eh, not so much. She was also mega distracted by the fact that the hay guys were loading hay into the hayloft (which is very noisy) and the fact that one of the horses outside called out a few times, so of course she had to start screaming for whoever it was. She only ever does that when she's in heat! Wild woman. She also had a couple of mighty big rears for literally no reason at all that I could see. That's just what she does when she can't take it anymore... that's her escape. But really, I wasn't doing anything to upset her that I could tell. And also, I think it's more of her just acting out at harder work than anything, or her acting out at not understanding something - she just goes, I CAN'T! and throws herself around for a minute. Then, if you break it up into bite-sized chunks, she goes OH I GET IT, and the fussing stops.
Thanks to asshole trainer for teaching her how to rear. She hadn't done it in a long time, which is so weird, because the work she's done here has been BETTER than anything she's ever done in her life, WAY better. Then, she has these big explode-y moments literally out of nowhere, then settles again and is fine. Such a weirdo. She's so volatile sometimes. Before, all our work was either really good or, more often, really mediocre all summer. Now the work is AMAZING with, a couple times a week (usually not more than one or sometimes two), she BLOWS UP!

Crazy mares. And yesterday, her full-blown in-heat-ness did NOT affect her in the slightest, and Vicki said during our dressage lesson that that was the best she'd ever seen her. Powerful, uphill lengthenings, supple shoulder-ins, fluid leg yields bouncing back and forth between quarterlines, picture-perfect halts, some great stretching (yay!), some really connected transitions.. it all felt soooooo good. MARES!

Today we have another dressage lesson (yes, I'm writing this really early in the AM.... started last night, got too tired, finishing now!), and then Friday I'm either going to ride her or lunge her, seeing as Wednesday was supposed to be our lunge day and that obviously didn't happen. Which is fine... because she was great!

And whatever happened to the spring-type weather? Well, after the blizzard the temperature plummeted..... it's currently 2 degrees out with a windchill of -10. WHY. At least on Saturday and Sunday it's supposed to be almost 50 again....