Tuesday, August 11, 2015


I've been riding a difficult, sensitive, very quirky horse for the last 10 years or so, which means I've developed several interesting habits/rituals that either comfort me as a rider, or actually work. My trainers have always humored me, and I'm sure thought I was a little (a lot) crazy, but hey- I took a dirty stopper who bucked after every jump up to 1.0m fences who bucked when he was pleased with himself.

  1. The "Thinking Cap"- Candy is a head shaker; more than likely it's due to a combination of facial nerve pain and allergies than actual flies, so he goes in a fly bonnet year round. I'm sure it doesn't actually help; maybe I just ride better because I don't expect spooky tom-foolery and head-flipping everywhere. It started with a tasseled fly bonnet, which probably drove him nuts flapping against his forehead more than the itching.
    Annoying tasseled bonnet

    Obese in a custom bonnet

    Borrowed bonnet
    It may also muffle sounds enough to keep him focused, but I just use run of the mill bonnets; no ear plugs or fancy sound-proofing bonnets, because...
  2. Constant conversation- I talk to whatever horse I'm riding. A lot. It all stems from chit chatting with Candy; it keeps me breathing and calm while riding, and it's satisfying to watch Candy keep one ear on me and one ear forward. 99% of the time it's encouragement ("10 more seconds", "Give me a little more step..." "Almost done!") and "good boy!", but also sometimes contains: "I swear to God...", "Figure it out..." "Pick yourself up...", "Jesus Christ, Candy.", and when jumping, "WAIT." Other horses seem to just ignore the constant stream of chatter.

    "Put your head down... Come on."

    Talking during a dressage test. Oops.
  3. The nose boop- let it be known, I hate schooling rings. Hate schooling jumps in a busy ring. When I have the opportunity to school fences before a show, whether it's the day before or the day of, if there are more than 3 people in the ring, I don't like to jump, and of course, in jumpers, you can't school fences anyway. I read a long time ago, somewhere, a show jumper (I think Rodrigo Pessoa), used to show fences to his horse, cluck, and that was all the prep he did to school fences. I adopted that with the King of Anxiety, Candy; I march him up to the fence at a walk (sometimes he squirmed and had to be leg yielded; sometimes he was fine), and he was not allowed to move away until he touched it with his nose and thoroughly investigated it. Then he got a pat, and we repeated at the next fence (no cluck- he once jumped from a standstill with that). It became a ritual, but it was a good way to gauge which fences he would balk at. He's so used to it that when he huffs and puffs, he slowly walks himself up to scary objects, boops it, and looks at me to see my reaction.
Overall, things have been pretty stagnant on the life front: Candy is in light trot work and doing well; not to jinx things, but he is due for a chiro appointment and may be getting front shoes. School just started and I'm already dying. Still trying to squeeze in lessons. No idea what the future holds!
What are your superstitions? (Help me feel less crazy)
-K & C

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