Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Princess and The Pea

I have come to the conclusion that Stinker will be called Princess henceforth.  He has now expressed dislike for S's saddle.  I was hoping that the darling princess would tolerate this one until the end of December when I see the second saddle fitter.  I feel his pain, but on the other hand I am about ready to pull my hair out.

Such a cute face.

The Stinks was super girthy today, so I ran my hand down his back.  And sure enough the same spot at the base of the withers was sensitive.  Blah this is the reason I am selling my dressage saddle and I am no longer using it.  He seemed happy in the County Fusion, but now the pretty pretty princess says it is too narrow (I was afraid of this from the beginning, but he seemed happy so I rolled with it).

Why eat your food when you can wear it?

I am now up S*** creek with out a saddle.  Ok, that was a terrible joke, but it makes me giggle so it says.  I think my plan is going to be limit the number of rides until I can get a trial saddle.  But that is another can of worms.  I already talked about doing a Prestige, and now I am thinking about adding a Custom to the list of saddles to try.  Hopefully this plan will last us until the end of December, and I don't blow my budget getting saddles shipped on trial.

I tried taking a selfie with him and
he was less than impressed by the time I gave up.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Video Lesson #12: Onwards and Upwards

I had yet another video fail.  I changed a setting in hopes of improving the focus, but it had the exact opposite effect.  Oops.  Thankfully, I had white polos on the front and Stinker has white socks on the back, so the feet are still pretty clear.

The List:

The list stayed the same, because D wanted to see improvements.
25 Minutes Total
3 One Loop Serpentines Each Direction at the Trot
1 Leg Yield from the Quarter Line Each Direction at the Trot
1 Whole Arena Canter with Circles at A and C
1 Trot Lengthen

The Result:

The list stayed the same, because D wanted to see improvements.
25 Minutes Total
3 One Loop Serpentines Each Direction at the Trot
1 Leg Yield from the Quarter Line Each Direction at the Trot
1 Whole Arena Canter with Circles at A and C (Spoiler: we even got the left lead!!!)
1 Trot Lengthen (Sort of)

My Initial Thoughts:

The video is short.  I didn't realize they were doing double turn out, so they brought the horses in much earlier than I anticipated.  I waited to get on because I wasn't confident I could bring him back to me when everyone else went galloping out of his pasture.  That aside, I think everything else from the list was accomplished.
Me comments:
My legs are KILLING me!!!! My conclusion about my position is I'm trying to water ski. I clutch with my hands/arms and brace with my legs.  This really needs to change, because with the arms especially I am creating tension in him which he doesn't need any help with.

General comments:
We start off pretty choppy but I think it is still an improvement and at 1:15 he starts to relax and step under more.
1:55 (one loop L2) isn't as choppy as the first one, but there is still a long way to go as far as him stepping under and really stretching.
2:15 I like this short side.
2:30 (one loop L3) I didn't make it to X
3:26 (leg yield L1) he currently thinks me moving my leg means canter or he thinks cantering is easier than moving over. Basically nothing pretty happened in this.
4:00 (leg yield L2) this one is less reactive but still not there.
4:30 this was supposed to be a lengthening but I got sloppy with my aids and he took the open door.
5:10 (one loop R1) I am not sure why I have his head cranked to the inside.
5:40 (one loop R2) same thing
6:00 (one loop R3) maybe it is an effort not to lose the bend? No idea.
6:40 (leg yield R1) not apparent. I lost the left shoulder and he got crooked and there was no cross over.
7:05 (leg yield R2) we start crooked and when my attempt to straighten didn't work we circled. I have his head cranked weird and when he finally moves his haunches we left the shoulders and were really crooked.
8:15 (leg yield R3) we got a little fussy at the end, but it didn't escalate so I'm happy about that.
9:00 (leg yield R4) I actually like this one. He is not crossing over but he moves off my leg we stay relatively straight and there is no OMG haunches swing every where.
10:00 this was supposed to be a lengthening but I don't really see him stepping under any more. Probably because I am posting too fast.
10:35 (canter left)
10:40 (canter left)
11:15 (canter left) it was better than before. We are still fast and don't have great balance but it was way less terrifying than the other day when we were a motorcycle...
14:27 I am bearing down with my hands.
14:35 (canter right) I think we might have started wrong but he flipped it. It was more like a rocket launch than a transition. I think I'm gripping with my upper thigh/knee and he objects.
15:15 (canter right) this one is much better. And our down transition was much more prompt (quarter of a circle instead of the entire thing)
I do like that I am able to bring him back more easily. He needs to step under more but even that is improving. We don't get stuck nearly as much. Overall I am happy with the ride. The things that I am grumpy about are all me. Stupid legs. They lie to my brain about their location.

D's Thoughts:

Our trot was stickier than it has been especially at the beginning.  D thought we evened out a bit after about three minutes.  She also busted me on leaning forward in the trot which I hadn't been doing.  Maybe because I was fussing with my leg I forgot the other half of me?  D also thought that my legs looked a bit better (I think she is being kind, but hey I will take it).

Initially, D wanted me to push for more crossover with the leg yields just to get a reaction.  But when saw the leg yield at 6:50, she realized we could get lots of reaction from the leg.  I knew going into the leg yields that I wasn't getting much over and they were staying really shallow.  My line of thought was I know he can shoot to the side and cross his legs, but it lacks control.  So I thought I would start with the control and add in the more dramatic movement when he was used to my aids.  Basically I wanted to start small and build up rather than start crazy and try to control it.
Her words of advice with the leg yields were that I am on the right track I just need to keep practicing.  They were much better than last week mostly because I was better connected to his hind legs (YAY!).  This also made him work harder which is why we appear sticky at times.

The one loops improved from last week.  Above I commented that I had his head cranked weird in multiple places, and that is because he is bracing in the right shoulder and loose in the left shoulder.  So what I need to do is be more proactive on the left side.  It is the same thing that I see in the canter. When he gets like this in the one loops, I need to either circle left or bend him left then bring him back right.  Overall, I just need to keep making him more flexible and this will help with the weird twisting.

The lengthenings were total crap (my words not D's; she is much more diplomatic).  He was stuck in his choppy trot so he had nothing to extend on really.  I need to have a better trot in order for this to happen well.  At one point, I took a break and gave him a pat, then picked up trot again.  This is the kind of trot I need to have in order to be able to lengthen.  And I really should have it all the time.
Why can't we look like this all the time?

The left canter, while less than ideal did happen.  Which is a huge improvement from last week when he would only hold it for a couple of strides.  It was even a huge improvement from Sunday when we motorcycled around everything at more of a bolt than a canter.  D was pleased that I was able to get the lead and complete the pattern (it was a little iffy on the whole pattern thing, but she didn't call me out on it).

The right lead canter got picked on a bit more.  I need to have my outside aids on more.  I admittedly was very lacking in this department.  I also, need to stop driving!  Even in two point, I was driving him forward (hence the rocket launch) and he needs more breaks than gas.  I am to start trying to lean back a bit every stride and hopefully this will get me off the gas pedal.
Overall, I am to give more forward in the trot.  I am holding back too much, so I need to give and encourage him to stretch more.  I am under strict instructions, not to dump him (she knows me too well), but to give slightly and if he takes it give some more.  If he goes into saddlebred mode, I am to take it back and repeat the process.  I just need to play more with pushing him forward into the contact and relaxing myself.


Minus my major goof with the technology, I am really proud of this ride.  He watched his pasture mates gallop off to the barn and managed to keep his marbles together and give me a decent ride.  Sure we have tension and get choppy, but we also have some nice moments.  He gave me everything that I asked for and worked his little butt off.  When I have his brain working with me instead of panicking, he tries so hard.  When he gets stressed out his brain shuts down and that gets difficult.

I really feel like we are finally developing a partnership.  I am getting better at reading him and know when to say hey buddy you are fine before he gets himself into a mental bind.  And he is learning that even when I tell him no, that it is fine we will just do it again.  Hopefully we can keep this progress up until December for the boot camp.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn't lose his marbles in a new place and I am able to keep a lid on things.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hi, I am a Tack Addict

I have come to the realization that I have a problem.  A tack problem.  I am doing my best to manage it, but then I see something pretty and I get it.  I am actually a little ashamed of it.  I keep things at my house, so no one realizes how much crap I have.  Until the pest control guy walks into my "empty" bedroom that is stuffed with horse stuff and he asks, "so you ride horses?"  I realized he honestly thought it was plural, not just one little Stinker.

This is to come...hopefully before Christmas

Right now I own three saddles, with a fourth one being made.  This is not counting my western saddle that is at my parents.  If it isn't in the same state as me, then it doesn't count.  Granted two of the saddles are being sold, but that will still leave me with three saddles for one horse.  I think that is part of the reason, I like hanging with eventers, even though I am more of a dressage queen.  No one frowns at you for having three saddles for one horse.

Then there are halters and boots.  First the halters, I use one.  I use the same one for Pongo and Stinker (which is way too big for Stinker, but I will use it until it breaks).  Once I realized it was too big, I bought another one that is the correct size, but figured I would use the other one until I needed it.  Then I have three that my parents brought me.  One is an old leather halter and two nylon halters.  None of which I have used, since I am still using the too big one...

I am coveting another pair of these.  I am super tough on gloves,
but these are finally giving out after two years of abuse.

Second boots, I don't ride my horse in boots.  He has crazy legs, if it doesn't hurt when he walks himself then they will get even crazier.  This is per D's recommendation, because she tried boots on him and went hell no.  I did use polos for the first time this week, but that was just so D could see his front legs better in the video.  So I have two sets of polo wraps (I want to get more from some of the sales that are coming up).  Then I have two sets of the Dover Dressage Sport Boots that I picked up last year on pre Christmas sales.  Neither of them have been on a horse.  Finally I have Premier Equine Boots that I bought when Stinker was having issues from the EPM and I freaked out and thought he wasn't ever going to be sound.  So the logical solution was to buy him super expensive boots.  These have been used three times.  Twice on Pongo (front and back) and once on Stinker (fronts only).  For the record I love these boots, but they do run big.  Oh and I am thinking about getting open fronts for stadium (you know because my horse jumps sooooo much....).

Love these boots, even if I have barely used them.

Then half pads.  I am not sure why, but I love half pads.  I am a little ashamed of this, but I have five. One of the Total Saddle Fit with the six pockets.  One fleece that is Dover brand.  One shimable Thinline.  And two Ogilvy pads.  Don't ask me how I ended up with two, but it involved a miscommunication and lots of confusion which resulted in me having two.  I actually do fairly well using these, I use three on a regular enough basis that they are out at the barn.

I am not doing too bad with saddle pads, but I am planning on buying more if I see a good price on them between now and Christmas.  I am also not doing too bad with bridles.  I have two, one black that gets used and is holding up well and one brown which has never been on a horse.  I also am doing ok on bits.  I really want to pick up another one.  I have a loose ring french link that I picked up off of consignment that Stinker gets ridden in.  I really want to get a eggbutt french link in the correct size (the loose ring is a little too big) and try him in that.  I also have a feeling that I will want another one that is a bit stronger when he starts jumping, especially on cross country.  My other splurge was a five point breast plate with a running martingale, which has not been used.  But finger crossed that it will be soon(ish).

Can't wait to try this.

I am starting to have a blanket problem.  I don't live in a place that gets cold.  People freak when it drops below freezing.  But...I am right now trying to stay with minimal blankets.  Every time I see this blanket from Dover, I want to buy it.  Right now I have two coolers (one wool and one fleece), a turnout sheet and a medium weight turn out blankets with a neck cover.  I think this should suffice, and honestly I really need to wait, to make sure he doesn't destroy these.
I want!!! It would look adorable on Stinker.

So yeah, the bottom line is I have a tack problem and I should be saving for the new (hopefully just new to me) dressage saddle, but instead I am thinking of what I want (or want more of) to pick up on some of the sales between now and Christmas.  Feel free to enable and leave me suggestions of what you want/want more of.  I don't think I have the self control to say no completely, but I can stick to a budget (mostly).

PS:  Sorry Dover, Smartpak, and County.  I used your photos, but I have given you a large chunk of change in various purchases.  I actually hate using any photos except my own and I feel super sketchy using these.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Regression Towards The Mean

I am stealing this from Megan, but it is quite fitting due to my last ride on Stinker.  In her post (which is much more eloquent than mine), she discussed how in order to have an average you have above average rides and below average rides.  Read her post, because like I said it is much better and has awesome graphics than mine.  I kind of touched on this in my last post, but I wanted to expand on it.

Horses are hard, and the more talent a horse has (at least I keep telling myself that), the harder they are.  Take Stinker for an example he makes me work for everything and if he doesn't appreciate something he will tell me.  One the other hand, Pongo is much easier.  He isn't as reactive, quick, or intelligent.  Don't get me wrong I don't think Pongo is dumb, but I am able to tell him do this.  With Stinker I have to leave the door open and let him figure things out.  Half of our issues are due to him over thinking things.  Bottom line, we have our ups and downs but we just have to sort out what we need to focus on.

Anyway, I knew that I was having above average rides on Stinker the last few times.  So, I knew I was due for a rough one.  As much as we want them to always progress sometimes, we have those rides in which there is regression.  I attempted to film (technology fail) the ride for D, but I messed up the centering for my camera system and it resulted in the camera only occasionally catching his tail.  While it is a fabulous tail, that doesn't do much good.

Starting with the good, we actually got the left lead and managed to maintain it for a full lap around the arena including circles at A and C.  The bad, we were in more of a gallop than an actual canter.  The ugly, we had motorcycle turns the entire time.  We were even leaning on the long sides.  How is that even possible??  But we did get the left lead and lets face it there was a fair amount of bolt/gallop with the right lead for awhile.

This ride actually solidified something which I knew.  I need to desensitize my horse to my leg.  Yeah, that sounds really smart.  Maybe desensitize is the wrong word, but basically I need to be able to slid my leg back without it cause him to A) bolt forward or B) start going up and down.  If I prevent the forward I get the stickiness.

This will help to improve pretty much everything.  Number one the leg yield.  Especially when he is traveling from the right to the left.  This is the shoulder he likes to brace and bring his haunches to the right.  He has a minor meltdown every time I ask the haunches to move over, he tenses and gets sticky or lunges to the side.  As in covers the quarter line to the rail in three strides max.  So trying to work with that is not going so well.  Secondly, the canter transition will improve because it won't freak him out.  Third, I will actually be able to start working on straightening him.  So this needs to be a priority.

I still want him to be reactive to it, but in an appropriate manner.  Which lunging forward and/or prancing in place are not considered to be an appropriate manner.  Overall, I am still pleased with his progress and like with everything we will get there in time.  It is just remembering that things take time and not letting myself get discouraged that I am not there yet that is the hard part.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I Don't Share Well

So I have talked about how Pongo is now being ridden by another girl at the barn too.  I have come to the conclusion that I don't share well.  While she is an excellent rider for her age (12), she doesn't have the experience or understanding to keep him where he needs to be right now.  I have gotten spoiled having him all to myself because it is so much easier to make progress when I am the only one riding him.

Before our conversations were more of me saying do this and he typically would say ok.  Occasionally, he would give me some sass, but in general he was working really well.  I could get on him and he would start with some swing in his back.  He would always be a bit braced to the left, but it would take a couple reminders and he would give.  Then we could start getting him to lift and really push off from behind.  Depending on his softness I would start bringing his shoulders back into line.

Now, I get on him and his back feels like a board.  So, I say, "let's walk off and put some swing into the walk."  Pongo, "Ummm no I don't do that."  Me, "Ummm YES you do."  Pongo, "Ummmm not so much..."  Me, "Get it together dude.  You can walk forward and put some swing in your back."  Pongo, "Fine if you insist."  The last is accompanied with an eye roll I am pretty sure.  This type of conversation takes up the majority of the ride.  By the time I get him back to snappy responses and soft, I am exhausted so I push a little bit further and typically end the ride.  I find it very frustrating because I really want to move forward with him and I haven't been able to the last few rides.

On the bright side, I have a jump lesson on him tomorrow.  Hopefully the pain in my legs from today pays off tomorrow and we have a good lesson.  I am a little nervous, because we haven't jumped since the Sinead clinic.  I also am riding Stinker before my lesson, so I might be a little tired.  He has been a handful the last couple of rides.

This is slightly disjointed, but after my ride on Pongo, I messaged D and basically said I am sorry I messed up the horse (Stinker) you brought to me and that it is now nine months later and we are just getting back to where he was when you brought him to me.  D being the amazing person that she is basically told me to get my head out of my ass and I should never feel like I messed him up in the first place (in a much nicer way).  She kindly reminded me that he did spend 3 months off for EPM and while we should have gone through this stage earlier that prevented it.

Then because she is the smart amazing trainer that she is, she knew I was getting in my head and over thinking things and followed it up with reminded me that all horses have regressive stages.  Every single horse, and it is very frustrating, but you just go back to square one and build things back up.  Then one day, they go "oh yeah, I remember that" and you have another jump forward.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I have mentioned in the past that I live in the South and we have been freaking hot for the last couple of weeks (think 80s/65+). Poor Stinker has been sweating up a storm. I was hesitant to clip him because if he gets blanketed and it's too warm bye bye $$$ blanket. This week we were supposed to cool off, so I took advantage of the fact S and 5 others were at a show. The barn was super quiet and I clipped him Saturday afternoon.

Stinker looking super cute in his blanket, that hangs too low but fits in the length...
Why didn't I get a normal shaped horse???

I was supposed to take before and after pictures, but I forgot on the before and I'm not sure I want the after to be shown before S touches up my lines. Basically I gave him a modified trace clip. I took everything off his next and the back half is a typical trace clip.

My pictures suck but you get the S clean up

I should mention that I have never body clipped a horse. I have clipped cattle for shows but that's about it. I was actually rather proud of the job I did, except for the fact someone broke the small clippers and all I had were the large ones. My lines were not pretty but it took my one attempt to realize I can't get a nice straight line, so I left space for S to clean up and make nice lines.

Why do you keep trying to walk away from me??? I just want treats!!!

Stinker was so good for the clippers. I am not big on the clipping whiskers and trimming up the tail like eventers like to do (I'm European like that). Not really but it sounds better than saying I'm too redneck to trim my horse and I think he is adorable in his feral state. He let me do his belly without an issue (even mess around between his hind legs). The only challenging part was his neck and that was because he is too curious. He kept trying to crank his head around to watch which doesn't work well for clipping.

Where Shit-ittens like to sleep

Granted it has cooled off (high 60s/high 50s and yes I know that is warm some places), but I was pleased with the result post ride. He was a little sweaty where the saddle sits and a little sweaty between his front legs (that didn't get totally clipped because he is narrow and I had 3" blades). But overall a huge improvement from soaked minus the top of his butt. And he has not ripped his blanket yet...I might have just jinxed myself with that one.

And when I wake them up to clean the stall...

I did have one person ask me what kind of cut it was.  I just said it was a modified trace.  They said that they hadn't ever seen one before.  I just barely managed to keep from smirking.  I did find a picture that made my clip almost legit, but they took the hair off the face too.  But hey I am the creative type riiiight?? And S didn't tell me it was horrible and needed to go, so I am good.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saddle Fitting Plan

I finally have a plan!!! I am selling my dressage saddle (also a jump saddle that I bought on impulse.  Note don't buy saddles on impulse).  So that leaves me without any saddle for Stinker until my jump saddle arrives (hopefully before the end of the year).  But S is generously letting me borrow her saddles until I can find one that works.  This is what I am working with.  Giant withers, lopsided shoulders which are actually fairly large, and when he moves super uphill.  Please note that Stinker is fed a large amount of food (more food than anyone else in the barn including S's 1* mare), he just runs it all off and is super picky about his grain.  I *might* be a little sensitive about his ribs.  I swear I try and I am pouring money into his food bucket.

In the meantime I am getting pictures and wither tracings for two purposes.  One, so I can send them to a saddle fitter that is coming during our boot camp in December.  I'm going to try saddles then.  Two, so I can look for a Prestige to get on trial.  This is per D's recommendation.  She started him in her Prestige, but I have never tried one.  Finally, the County saddle fitter will be back on Thursday and I am going to try more dressage saddles and hopefully ride him in a wider tree and see what I think about it.  The more I think about things, the less I like the narrow.  I rode in the jump saddle (N County Solution) today and it was really sliding back (like adjusted 4 times in one ride sliding back). The dressage slides too, but not as badly.

County Fusion Narrow

County Fusion Narrow

And for kicks, my current dressage saddle (Albion Legend Medium), which he has demonstrated he hates.  I think the Fusion looks slightly better.  It has much better rear clearance and his withers don't object.  But I am not totally in love nor am I totally convinced that the narrow is right for him.

Albion Legend Medium 

Albion Legend Medium

Finally the County Solution jump, which I have on order, but I am now doubting that it is the correct tree size.  I love the saddle and he has not objected and in fact has seemed quite happy in it, but it moves like crazy so something isn't right.

County Solution Narrow

County Solution Narrow

I feel a lot better about things now that I have a plan. And I am really thankful that S is so generous that she is letting me continue to borrow her saddles for several months. Now I just need to get my saddles to sell before December so I have more money to put into said new (hopefully just to me) saddle.  I also need to figure out how to convince the County saddle fitter to agree that Stinker needs a wider tree than a narrow.

Oh and since I put these videos together for the saddle fitter, here are short (1 min ish) videos of Stinker in the Albion and the County Fusion.  Sadly no video of the Solution yet.  Also, if you have any wisdom please comment.  I readily admit I have no fucking clue what I am doing here.