Thursday, March 28, 2013

This is why I stay in love with thee.

Oh Steady has made my year.  I don't know if I am easy to please or just crazy, that one fabulous ride in nearly 4 months can leave me on cloud nine.  But either way it was and it did.  I had a jumping "lesson" really we didn't work on a whole lot but I did have eyes on the ground.  We set up some fun little jumps.  Steady was being a saint.  Cool, controled, 'Steady' ;).  He had a couple jumpy moments when the cats were taking turns jumping off of the side rails of the arena.  I can't say enough about how great he was.  He picked up every lead with no bucking.  Really big stuff.  It was sooo fun!  All his jumps were perfect.  My position over the fences was great.  This was the first time that the  instructor had seen me ride and she was giving me tips on my lower leg and how I needed to use them more as shock absorbers.  And how when I turn I am making to much effort withmy hands.

She was completely right and I should have cared more but what she didn't understand was that I was so happy to be having the ride that I was having that my legs could have over my head and I wouldn't have cared.

The biggest glaring issue to me is my inability to turn my horse to the left.  Ahhhh details, details.  Something to work on but right now I am going to revel in my super cool, fun horse.  Ok in reality we still did not get through an entire ride without any bucking.  In his defense it was not his fault at all.  Though against the barn rules, two of my friends had let their dogs loose.  They were playing in the arena, both puppies(one is Hank, my corgi's brother!) one of them was a big puppy.  On my approach to a jump I saw them getting excited and so did Steady and as soon as we landed they made a bee line for us.  They chased us until someone got a hold of them.  Steady obviously did not appreciate the chase and took off and bucked/kicked at them.  But as soon as they were caught he politely came back to me.

Today will be the half lessors first ride.  She has been on spring break all week so I have had Steady to my self all week.  I think she will be happily surprised that my sane fun horse has returned to his body and he will be completely different horse than she had when she tested him out.  I can't lie and say I am not jealous of her time with him but for all the benefit I am getting out of the situation I know that it is good and temporary.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Trying to keep up and keep my sanity.

It's been an busier week than usual.  Steady is finally settling in nicely.  He is eating again and making friends in his pasture.  His pasture is probably 5 acres or so that he shares with 4 other geldings that is surrounded by woods on 3 sides and adjoined to the next pasture.  The place is quite lovely.  I really would like to take pictures and feel flaky that I have not but I am telling you that even just trying to keep all the plates up in the air this week has been nearly impossible.  I had another lesson on Tuesday and I audited a clinic on Friday with Mary Wanless.  I don't know how many of you are familiar with her or her dressage training methods by they are quite intriguing.  Her entire philosophy is based upon bio mechanics and the riders ability to ride balanced and correctly in turn will make the horse go correctly.  After riding for over 2 decades and not being that shabby of a rider attempting to delve myself into this extremely deep and detailed method of dressage training I feel like a complete nincompoop and that I am literally starting at square one.  It is almost depressing yet I am still drawn to it, intrigued by it and want to learn more.  I cannot go into much detail about it but Mary sells many DVD's and books that will explain it far better than I can.  I will though, try to keep updated on my lessons and that way I can dialogue the process from square one with a newbie.  But that must wait until my next lesson post.  The only other reason I am a bit put off about going full on dressage is the utter snobbiness within the sport.  I am self confident enough and always have been that I have never had the need to pretend to make others feel less intelligent or capable than myself in order to feel superior or better about myself and have also am almost repulsed by those that do.  If they only knew that their demeanor and attitudes make them seem insecure about themselves than actually make me believe they are superior.  So I am intrigued by the sport and will choose to tolerate the people that I have to in order to learn.  This is the biggest reason I am an Eventer and not Hunter/Jumper like I grew up doing and loving simply because of the people within the sport.

My rides have been progressively better and better which is really nice after not being able to ride for so long because he was a monster.  That is up until today.  It was his first day being ridden in the outdoor at the new place.  There were probably 5 other horses in the arena with us and Mr. Princess just was over zealous about every damn thing.  We attempted trot poles that turned into jumping the first one then decided to just jump that last two together then canter off like a freight train.  So we resorted to a lot of walking and halting (pretty much all we are capable of doing in our lessons right now anyways)  I kind of regret not taking the opportunity on this rare lovely day when the others went for a jaunt around the perimeters.  I think it would have helped Steady and would have made me less frustrated after our ride.  I can say that he was not a monster by any means I just could not get any nice relaxed work out of him and that was what I was wanting.  I also feel like I have never used so many different muscles when riding than I have learning this new method and it is exhausting.  I feel a new sore muscle every time I ride.  If nothing else I am getting a good work out.

Next up lesson and clinic recap and how you can ride for 20 years yet still spend an entire hour lesson walking and halting.  Exciting stuff I tell you.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Adjustment period

We got all  moved in yesterday.  Steady didn't handle any of it well at all.  He was screaming and spinning in his stall the whole time I was there.  The security gaurd said he had the whole barn talking when he went through the barn at midnight.  The barn staff has been fantastic though.  Sending me texts and updates.  They went out and blanketed him because I was worried about him in the nasty rain and cold we had today.  They let me know that he did not eat either meal last night or this morning.  Which is of course not something I like to hear but definitely want to know.  I was worried about him all day.  They have a very large amount of turn out space and 4 separate pastures.  Then they have a smaller pastrure they call the holding pen.  They turn out newbies there alone the first day then introduce them to a friend the second then turn the new friends out together in a bigger pasture.  I did request they give him a buddy the first day because I knew bonding with a buddy was going to be the quickest way for him to adjust.  He was much happier when I went to see him after work.  He even munched up the remainder of his breakfast he had left. 

Best part about my whole day is I not only got to ride but I got to jump!  Something that never happens this time of year for me because of footing.  He was quite good.  He was calmer than I would expect for him going over his first jumps in months.  I just set up a small grid.  2 ft cross rail one stride 2'3" vertical.  I would have love to raise the vertical as we went but that would require me getting off and on each time and it being our first time over fences in so long I thought there was no need to push my luck.  The only thing I was looking for was a good rhythm and no rushing.  We can definitely use some work but I was over all happy with how he did.  Landing after the vertical we had to work on not rushing away.  One thing I am happy about is our turning seems to be getting much better.  He still drifts through the right but it is improved greatly!

I promise pictures of Steady in the new place and maybe even at some point of us riding or even video.  So far it has just been me working, fussing and worrying over the prince when I have been there.  Well actually yesterday we had our first mounted Pony Club meeting of the year.  It was so nice to be done with all of the book learning and get the kids on their horses.  They did really well.  Some with confidence issues worked well through them and others got to do some new stuff.  It was a long Pony Club filled weekend Friday we studied for our Regional Quiz.  Saturday was the actual Quiz we have been working toward and the kids did so great!  In their respective divisions we had a 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th.  Then as a team we had one team of four and one girl on a scramble team and both teams placed first in their divisions!!  I was quite proud of the kids.  Now to get their riding up to par.  I think we are moving in the right direction though.
Go Pony Club!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Moving day tomorrow!

Steady moves into the new place tomorrow.  I am excited and nervous at the same time.  Letting control of even part of his care is going to be very difficult and worriesome for me.  I think I am more worried about boarding than I would be about sending my kids to daycare(something I have never done and can't imagine having to).  Someone mentioned that I was brave for allowing someone to share my horse but that honestly is the least of my worries when it come to letting go of complete control of his feeding, handling, turnout, blanketing and every other aspect of his care.  Good thing it is less than a 10 minute drive from my house I am going to be a complete stalker.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

May I put my hand on your bum?

Probably the single strangest moment I have ever had in a lesson was this week when the instructor asked me this question.  "do you care if I put my hand on your butt?"  It was not those exact words but it was the question.  But it proceeded to an aha! moment.  I love basics.  I love breaking things down to their smallest most simple form.  I think it is the best, most effective and most impacting form of learning.  You could get caught up in the, "but we are past learning how to post" or "this is just too simple".  And yes that can be hard not to do.  But in the long run it will lay a foundation that is solid and based upon good basic principles.  I have been wanting to focus more attention on dressage.  I have felt I have just begun to scratch the surface of it and don't desire that my education on the discipline to be superficial.  I really want to understand it from the most basic level then build on.  It can be hard because I have ridden for so many years and changing learned habits that are necessary in jumping (my most learned discipline) and have been ingrained for decades.  Then to change or alter them for this new education can feel like I am going backwards. But I understand it is just the process and I need to embrace it and then keep reminding myself.  So I found an instructor that is local and lined up for a series of lessons.  One of my favorite things about the lesson and now I think every instructor should own some are head sets.  I don't know the cost on them but I imagine you can find them for a decent price.  They are essentially glorified walkey talkies.  But taking a lesson that I, not even one time had to strain to hear the teacher or say "what?" was glorious and unheard of.  Either I am concentrating too hard on what is being asked and couldn't quite hear what they say or it is too windy or I am too far away that I can't hear clearly.  But when the trainer is right in your ear, you hear every word loud and clear.  Then the same goes with me I can ask a question at a normal level of talking and not have to turn my head or stop to ensure they are hearing me.  And surprisingly they were not at all intrusive or obstructive.  It really is amazing!

Essentially my whole lesson was getting my position correct and setting the rhythm for my horse.  I have a habit of just going with the horses rhythm and though I know that is completely incorrect I still fail in that area.  It doesn't help with a rushy horse.  She uses many terms like "bear down" and hold the bean bag between your legs"  or "keep the medicine ball in the center".  She is all about visual and mental concepts to help with correcting my aids.  I was really struggling to really feel like I was sitting correctly.  This is where the butt touching came into play.  She literally placed her hand under my butt between my seat bone and the saddle and asked me to sit how I would normally.  Then to arch my back then to find where by seat bones where pointing straight down(where she wanted them pointing.  What I found is that I 'point' my seat bones forward in my 'normal' seat.  Not correct and just having her hand there made me realize it.  I could really feel the bones moving each direction.  I had now idea nor would I have been able to tell you before which way they were facing.  I mean I would have thought I did but I was wrong.  It was really quite cool.  She also said that I sit much heavier in my right seat bone.  So interesting!  Those few minutes right there were worth the whole lesson cost.

One thing that is so opposite than anything I have ever done was she told me to not put my heals down so far.  To think of keep me feet level.  ???  That was a completely new concept and will definitely take some getting used to.  Then I wonder if that will confuse my poor little brain and uncoordinated self when I jump?  Her purpose was to not let me weight so much in my feet and to ride and hold my position with my legs.  Keeping more weight in my thighs and more of a wrapping leg.  These little things are slightly mind boggling to me.  You know how I can think I have been riding my entire life just fine without such minuscule attention to every single detail of my leg, weight, heals, butt bones, shoulders, forearms, wrists, hands, biceps, triceps.  But then again those are the reasons that dressage fascinates me so much.  When you watch it, when you watch someone really good and the almost unnoticeable movement on their part yet it controls each step, every ounce of energy in an animal 10 times the size it makes me want to know how.  Because I could just stay satisfied with 'this works and thus is good enough' or I can go deeper, work harder and be ever learning to, no never get 'that' good, but to have yet a deeper connection and understanding of these captivating creatures.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ha Old man winter and Mud Mess spring....I WIN!

It may not appear that I win if you look out the window right now.  It is mid-March snow is falling from the sky and a blanket of it covers the ground.  The tempuratures are right around freezing.  Cold enough to be fridged out yet the ground under that blanket of snow is a slopping muddy mess.  So it would appear that winter and mud season both are winning in this senario but I have a trick up my sleeve and I assure I am winning!  I am quite excited for some up and coming changes.  I am having some serious withdrawls from riding and all the nasty weather/mud just adds to it.  Without going into a big long story the short of it is that I met some great connections in the area.  Finally, it only took nearly 9 years but I have found and connected with some one in this area that rides something other than Western pleasure headless horses.  Some other great news, our 4-H group put together a dressage and jumping clinic for the kids and they actually got some people that knew what they were talking about to present it to the club.  We were able to lay down the very very basics of dressage and some of the kids seemed genuinely interested and a couple WP barn owners came up and asked about getting their kids some lessons.  I couldn't have asked for it to have gone any better.  Sorry the ADD got me there.  Back to what I was really writing about.  I met a girl who is a senoir at the local college(where the clinic was held) and is on the college team.  She was half leasing a horse that just was sold and was hoping to find something to half lease until graduation mid May.  It perked my interest and we set up a test ride for yesterday. 

Before she rode him I took a bonafide dressage lesson.  In my lesson (first time with this instructor) the instructor was working soley on me.  She is big on "centered riding"  basically if the rider is correct it then allows the horse to move correctly more easily.  So I am flopping around up there trying my hardest to do what she is asking and Steady was getting quite annoyed the whole time.  We were doing quite a few walk halt transitions and he is not a fan of a bunch of transitions.  His canter departs are awful right now and he has a bit of an attitude when asked.  All that to say that I did a really good job getting him nice and irritated for the young gal to get on him and 'test' him out.

She gets on and they look like a complete hot mess.  His head is a mile high in the air and either slowing way down and getting jiggy or rushing around inverted and she looked worried up there.  As I was watching them go round I was trying to figure out why he was going around like that.  He never does that.  Don't get me wrong he does plenty to evade but this was new.  I knew she had to have been doing something but it being the first time I have ever seen another person actually ride my horse I was trying to translate how I ride to this girl.  I mean she was a nice quiet rider.  She had a good light seat and quiet hands so I could see she knew how to ride.  I finally realized that her contact was either non-exsistent or yanking back.  I thought, yikes this is not going to work if that is how she rides.  I finally told her that she needed more consistent contact and to stop using her hands so much to stop him and just keep a solid contact with his mouth then push him forward with your leg.  In about 5 minutes they looked completely different.  She did exactly as I asked and they actually looked quite nice.  I think she was just nervous riding my horse as I am standing there watching her and didn't know exactly what was 'ok' to do on him.  Which I can completely understand.  Through out the rest of the ride I saw her have an issue with him and then she would figure out how to solve it.  Over all I was very happy with them together.  And now Steady will be on half lease for the next two months.

You may ask 'why' would I half lease out my horse.  I mean I don't share well especially when it comes to my Steady.  Well I am doing it to beat the nasty weather/footing and to get a jump start on the season.  A jump start for me at least.  See if I am working at home I am slave to the weather and mud.  With his exhuberant attitude lately I am not comfortable riding in my pasture like I normally do with out getting a few miles on him first.  I can't lunge in the mud and you can pretty much count out any cantering until some of this mess clears up.  So it really really limits what we can do in a short amount of time.  So now he will be at the college barn that is very nice.  It as a 100x200 indoor and a large outdoor arena.  I am super excited and can't wait to move him in.  Board is normally $300 but with her college discount and she is putting in a little extra since I cover all other costs I will have to pay a total of $100 a month.  That I can swing.  I will have to give up 3 days a week of riding but hey I think the extra help conditioning him will be nice.  He will get ridden 6 days a week which is not typical for him I usually keep it to 4-5 but it will be on nice footing and I will keep a close eye that he is not getting soured at all.  I love his work ethic and I want to keep it that way but I imagine he will do just fine with it.  I mean he didn't get burnt out on work with 8 years in the track life I think he will be fine with a little extra.  I also think it will be great for him to have another rider for a while because all he knows is me.  She is a good enough rider that I don't see her doing anything counter productive and really it is for such a short time I am not worried about that.  And I know how forgiving Steady is I mean he has put up with me from fat and floppy to fit and sorta still floppy ;) and all my mistakes in between.  They have 12 hour a day turn out and they take care of everything except the stall cleaning and her and I will share that.  Lily will probably be quite sad because that leaves her alone for that time but she will have to make do for now.  Eeeeee, I'm cited!

And for your viewing pleasure and daily dose of adorableness I leave you with this.  My heart and soul...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

It's just catch up time, I guess.

Lack luster title.  I have been hit or miss here lately.  I have been busy substituting.  I get called nearly every day and I hate to turn down work when in the back of my mind I think that come June I won't have an income at all.  But it is nice to have some money and think about actually being able to spend some.  I am making plans with some good friends for spending all 4 days at Rolex doing all sorts of fun and amazing things!  One of those things being shopping!  I am saving and starting my list now.  I am sending in my daughters first Combined Training entry.  I am so excited for her!  I gave her a lesson a week ago and oh my goodness, her and that pony look fabulous.  It is so exciting thinking about her/their future.  They will be making their debut in Green as Grass Intro test b and 18" cross rails.

I did finally get to ride Steady last week I trailered to an arena.  It was actually quite a nice ride!  I was SO happy to finally have been on his back with out some awful explosion.  I am planning to trailer in every free day I have.  Weather and as I mentioned before working is making it more complicated but it is going to happen one way or another.

I think I sorted out some of my pony club issues and realized it was actually one big issue that was getting me so down.  I was doing a friend favors by helping them get into horses and they were not taking my advice on many important things.  Two major things is they needed to do in order to ownn a horse.  3 basic things for the horse protection from the elements, hay and water that would not freeze over.  They politely refused to make those things a priority and it was stressing me out beyond words.  Then they said they had no intention of supervising their beginner daughter when she worked with and rode the horse.  I wanted to help, I tried to help but I cannot help facilitate a situation where a child is in danger and a horse is getting neglected. So I finally grew a pair and told them I did not support them owning a horse and they were on their own from this point forward.  It was hard to do but once I did it was like this huge weight was lifted.  The strangest thing about all of it is when starting out helping them I thought they are very well off and intelegent people that they would be able to afford and make good choices when it came to the whole situation.  And by well off I mean they have a lot of money but for some reason think that horses are going to be free to keep if they keep them on their property.  That is all on that topic because I could go on and on about how odd it all is but I have washed my hands of it all and now the rest of the Pony Club work does not seem so daunting.
UPDATE oon that situation: It seems my email had an impact and they have purchased a water trough, de-icer, hay and ordered a rain sheet and are putting up a shelter in the spring.  They are also having her daughter start lessons.  Wow who would have thought that getting ticked enough to fire off and email about how irresponsible they were being would have such a positive impact.  hmmmm.

And today was vet day.  Both Lily got were vaccinated, coggins pulled, dental done and I always love this time of year because I get to take advantange of Steady being sedated so I can at least get one good pull in on his mane for the year.  I spend the rest of the year just upkeeping with cutting.  But it really helps to get some of the thickness gone.  The vet remarked many times how Steady body condition looks so amazing.  Ahhh that feels so good to hear and just never gets old.  I guess because it was so much work to get him there.  Here is a picture of a sleepy yet less hairy Steady.  I wish I would have gotten a before picture because his mane was out of control.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A tack related post from a tack slut.

Oh boy I will suddenly get a large influx of traffic on here from that post title.  I have coined tack slut because I am the cheap and easy version of a tack whore.  So don't expect some elaborate talk about fancy stitching and baby soft leather.  But it will be about a few of my favorite items that I love.

I LOVE these fleece exercise girths.  I am NOT a fan of the white fleece ones.  I mean something white directly against my dirty horse?  No thanks I don't like washing my equipment that much.  It is bad enough that playing DQ for events I have to use a white pad.   And those are almost always made with brown and all of my tack is black.  And though not a tack efficienado I do at least like to not clash.  I learned to love them because it was the only girth that my sensitive redhead seemed to tolerate.  Then quickly grew to appreciate their functionality and ease of cleaning.  Throw it in the washing machine and the dryer for about 10 minutes then air dry the rest of the way and it is back to new.  They have fun colors, like a ton of colors.  BUT my only complaint is I cannot find one with a d-ring on it. Of course you can find the brown and white ones that have d-rings all day long.   But I need one in black with a d-ring on it.  I have had my brand new breastplate/running martingale that I have never been able to try out because I need a d-ring.  I am even thinking of taking one to a seamstress to see if they are able to attatch one.  But reguardless I will find a way because these are the only girths that I use if I have a choice. These go for about $25-30.

Next is something my friend introduced me to.  Whom also events her super adorable pony Moose, who also happens to have a blog, Moose on the Loose.  She used to work at the track and she introduced me to this...

Which I found with her in a tack store down in KY and now cannot find anywhere online.  And am kind of wishing I had bought 5 more.  At the time I purchased one to test it out I didn't know then that I would love them so much.  But it is a tack item that I LOVE and use every ride.  It is non-slip, no need to hassle with straps.  Super easy to clean, just spray off with a hose and let drip dry.  It is breathable for the horse so no sweating under the pad(except for under the saddle area) even on the hottest of summer days.  This ran me about $16.99

And the last item that I will feature that I love and use every ride is my thinline Trifecta with sheepskin roll.  I could not ride my horse without this piece of equipment.  He is hard(and that is putting it lightly) to fit and his back changes with even the slightest conditioning change.  So even if I dropped 5 grand on a custom saddle I would still have to use one of these.  I just make adjustments throughout the year by adding and taking away shims.  And thanks to Cuna's mom I have all the shims I need!  It has taken us from completely hollow behing the withers, to nice full topline and every stage in between.  When his topline is at it's best and fittest I take out all shims and just use the pad alone.  And of course this item too is low maintenece just throw it in the washing machine and hang dry.  I also put this in the dryer for just a few minutes to help the fleece fluff a little but that of course is not recommended and I only do it on low temps for a few moments.

These three things, none of which will break the bank, and all of which are 100% functional, practical and are easy to care for.  The most expensive is the thinline pad at around $130 purchase at Rolex two years ago and considering the amount of money that it can take to find the perfect saddle fitting situation for a hard to fit horse that is just a drop in the bucket.