Tuesday, February 3, 2015

10 Days to Thermal - Status Report

I realized I haven't updated on Prair (or me) in a while, which is partially because I have no great videos or pictures of our rides, but also because I'm still crossing all my fingers and toes that all is well and rehab is on track.  Somehow not-talking-about-it seems like it might help...

The next step in maintaining our "all clear" status is another ultrasound currently scheduled for February 11th.  It's a totally proactive measure, meant to see if any of the aggravation or tissue disruption has started to return after 5 weeks of working over (small) fences again. 

That said, Prair has been feelings really (really) sound.  There is still a subtle difference between her left and right leads, but now it's feeling more like normal horse-one-sided-ness and less like "oh crap what's wrong with the left lead."

The horses are scheduled to ship in 10 days, for a three week go down in the desert and Prair's name is still on the list.  Frankly at this point we've got enough sunk costs into the show that even if we can't show over fences I'll probably still ship her for some flat classes (lol) and general experience.  The Boy has his PTO approved, and my parents have rented a house for us all to share - so showing or not - the family is headed south, so the mare might as well be there too.
doing more of this would be fun
So aside from crossing all my fingers and toes, what have we been doing?

Well, Prair has been working her little fanny off with N and just being a stellar girl.  We're carrying her frame and balance a bit higher now, which is giving us much softer, rounder jumps.  This adjustment was relatively easy for Prair, but is proving harder for me to get used to.

Our rides together have been a steady progression, dotted heavily with idiot amateur mistakes. 

The theme of the last month has been for me to ride Prair like a finished horse, not like a nervous, bolty, green bean. 

Turns out when I ride her like she knows what she's doing, she... well.... acts like she knows what she's doing. 

The problem is I have lots of bad habits and I struggle to keep them in check.


N made the observation a few weeks ago, that the softer she rides into a fence with Prair, the softer Prair lands on the other side.  Most people would file this in the "duh" category, but when you've been jumping this mare for almost two years now (whoa), and trying to mitigate her taking off after every fence, it's very hard to tell your brain to ignore the PTSD and trust that she'll be good.  "trusting that she'll be good" is exactly the sort of thing I expect to do right before I get bucked off, or taken advantage of, or stepped on, or some other sneaky thing mares like to do when you're dumb enough to "trust they will be good."

Turns out though, Prair really wants you to just "trust" her, and when I ride like I'm holding the (god damn) cube, and soften my legs like I'm riding bareback - things go much better.

These two adjustments have made our coursework completely different from a year ago when we were prepping for Thermal.  Prair's landing soft, rebalancing easily, and nearly automatic on her changes (if I hold myself accountable and keep everyone straight).  Things fall apart when I lose my Cube-Hands and go back to fiddling with her head, worrying about distances and managing the front end more than the hind end. 

We got in a monster fight over a puny white gate last week where I could NOT find a distance to save my life and I actually pulled the mare up twice before we got over it. 



I was totally in my own head and got busy managing Prair's head and admittedly long neck, rather than riding the hind foot and really adjusting her within her stride. 

When I stopped being a moron, we did ok.

The struggle the last few weeks has been to find balance in keeping my hand quiet (and up) and my hips and thighs relaxed, without losing our impulsion and bounce.  It's a semi-consistent theme, but when I try to be soft and enjoy Prairie being relaxed, I often take it too far and end up with an underpowered, totally useless canter that gets us into trouble.

My other realization over the past couple of weeks has been that Prairie totally tattles on her rider.

Turns out, when you ride her well, get a nice distance with a good, powerful canter and don't get in the mare's way - she's lovely.  Beautifully soft and round and lovely. 

BUT if you fail on any of those counts, she will very quickly notify you of her displeasure by getting obviously tense and launching herself across the jump.  It's really easy for N to tell if I'm bracing, or fiddling, or doing any of my other bad habits as the mare amplifies all my faults. 


At least I'm getting a better sense of what it takes to keep her relaxed in her work, and she's making me a more honest and effective rider.  The shorter frame and more uphill balance is starting to feel normal, as is a quieter hand that lets my leg push to contact rather than fiddle around too much with my inside rein.  (I love that inside rein.  So much.  Such a tragic love affair..).

Basically we've got two (ish) more weeks of work at home, one more checkup to see how the LF is doing in full work, then three weeks at HITS to play around.

I'm hoping we get to at least be jumping 2-2'6" without risking the mare's soundness.  I'm slightly nervous about showing in a big, windy, outdoor since the mare truly hasn't spent time outside (aside from hand grazing) since JULY.  I'm told that if all looks good, then Prair can start being turned out again in March.  My vet is very cautious about unsupervised playtime before everything is confirmed to be healing well in full work....

So that's the Prair update.  We're doing well.  Prair's great, I'm learning how to adjust my mental approach with her and fingers and toes are still crossed that we get to do more than hack around at Thermal... 

The Boy is already strategizing how he will be snack dispenser, baby watcher, camera man and moral support at the same time... he's the best. 
Oh and seamstress, he also acts as seamstress.


  1. :D I am so excited for you!!! Three weeks and sunshine and riding and wow, you hit the husband jackpot. Keep us posted.

    Or at least text me palm tree pics.

  2. I'm SUPER excited for you! Everything crossed that Prair stays 100%.

    As for that inside rein, I know just how you feel. I LOVES me some inside rein - much to my everlasting shame!

  3. SO EXCITING!!! Keeping my fingers and toes crossed for an easy-peasy ultrasound, and then you can head to the desert! :)

  4. Welcome to HunterLand -- where we try to make everything look like we're not doing a damn thing. And on a finished horse that means knowing when to actually do nothing, which is hardest of all!

  5. Lol, some struggles are so familiar. My mare has done so well without me, I'm afraid I'll be a wreck when I get back on. It's hard to forget things like chipping or launching, it's ingrained in your brain, it's hard to trust they're gone.

    Also my DH found baby in carrier balanced out pretty well with camera bag on back ;) some husbands are such keepers!

  6. I want to be you. Post lots of updates so I can live vicariously!

  7. Sounds lovely, you will have so much fun!

  8. ::slides bottle of yummy wine and a glass across table:: Here's to the ultrasound that will confirm 100% soundness ;)

  9. woo hoo - good luck!!! i love your comments about trust too - it's a huge issue for me and my mare too, and i really struggle to just let go... but when i do she rewards the effort.

    also - every since you wrote about the 'cube' i've been trying to imagine carrying it while i ride. and it's been really helpful!!! so thanks for that haha

  10. Your husband is awesome. :D I'm glad everything is going well with Prairie! I know I'm way behind on reading your blog, but just wanted to say I'm happy for you! I can't wait to read how it all went.


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