Friday, April 29, 2016

My Sanity

Work has been stressful at best this week and this face is pretty much the best thing ever.

He is always happy to see me and while we haven't been doing anything besides putz around, it is exactly what I needed.

He may be a weirdo, but he is my little weirdo and I couldn't be happier.  Sometimes you just need a little weird in your life to make you laugh.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Who To Cheer For?

I am obscenely excited for Rolex (well as excited as I can be since I will be watching it from the couch and not in person).  I am still overly excited for it.  Especially since some of my favorites will be riding.  I thought it would be fun to make a list of my favorites and why I like them.

First up, my absolute favorite (possibly because she is the only one I have actually met) Sinead Halpin.  I absolutely love her and played it way too cool when she stayed with me and didn't even get an autograph (why in the hell didn't I get her to autograph the bottle of wine we drank???).  Oh well I have the pictures and memories.  All fan girling aside, she is an amazing rider and teacher.  I will absolutely be cheering for her and stalking her ride times so I don't miss anything.

Next up is Elisa Wallace.  I love all the work she has done with the mustangs and her vlog.  Everything is so chill and laid back.  Rumor has it there *might* be a clinic with her in the area this fall (now to find a darn horse I can ride in it and keep everything crossed that it actually happens).  She is another one that I will probably embarrass myself fan girling over (oh well).

Meet Woody (I am terrible at selfies).

Finally, I am a little ashamed that he isn't an American, but Michael Jung.  I absolutely adore the mare he is riding (sorry Sam, but girl power wins this one).  Not to  mention he is a hell of a rider and I would love to see more of his training program (darn Germans and their secrets).  He is so accurate in his dressage tests and doesn't leave points on the board.  He is a top show jumper (seriously look at his FEI record) and a cross country machine.  Not to mention tough as nails (who rides when they know they have a broken leg...the Germans).

Stinker and his bestie (who always hides him)

I will of course be cheering for all the Americans and pretty much any horse that makes me go ooohhhh pretty (so basically everyone), but these are my favorites.  Who are you cheering for?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Clinic Time

My favorite dressage judge (the one I visited in Florida last Dec) was in town judging a schooling show and she came by the farm for a day of lessons Saturday.  She hasn't seen Stinker in person since late last year when she had us take a few steps back.  Because I am needy I made her look at him untacked (I have been sending her photos) and she was really happy with the way he looked.  This made me feel so much better, because it is one thing for me to think he is doing better and another to have a trusted outside source confirm it.
I drop all contact (from the beginning of the lesson)

I went all out for the turnout for our lesson.  Poor Stinker.  He got a bath (I fed him his timothy while he was drying so he partially forgave me) the morning of and I got all my tacked cleaned.  Well I forgot about my boots but they had been cleaned a couple days earlier, so they didn't look too bad.  Then I actually used a white saddle pad (second time ever) and put white polo wraps on (first time ever wrapping all four legs...side note I suck at the hind legs).  Stinker looked so dapper and of course I forgot to take pictures, so you will have to look at the GIFs from the video.
Nothing mind blowing, but I think he looks damn good!

I figured that it was going to be one of those lessons where I was so excited to show off our progress and all the wheels would fall off.  Especially when I thought about how much I had changed up our routine (bath, wrapping, generally taking a long time to tack up, etc.).  I was pleasantly surprised.  I got up there early enough that I was about to walk him for about 15 minutes (I have discovered this really helps him with getting straight and thinking about stretching down).
He is starting to get neck muscles

The focus of the lesson wasn't anything that I haven't done/been told before, but it finally clicked in my brain.  The whole goal is to get him stretching and using his body correctly.  Since he likes to brace the under neck and get short the goal was to make him long and loose.  We even got to work on this in the trot (it is basically a jig, but that can build as he learns to stay relaxed).  It was all quite simple, I rotate my inside hand so my fingers are up and open it (like I am opening a door) to ask for inside flexion.  I have been doing this for some time now, but the key part I was missing is I have to keep connection and feeling him in my elbow regardless of how long my reins are.
Tired pony at the end.

I have been letting him out too far and losing the connection when he stretches.  By keeping him connected and to where I can feel him in my elbows I don't leave him up to his own devices.  I also am to the point where I can push and act for more.  He trusts me and I can push with out him losing all his marbles.  I need to always be asking for something and not let him cruise around as much.  I am so happy that everything is finally starting to click in my brain.  And the best part is I was able to recreate everything on Sunday (this never happens!).

Full video if anyone is super bored at work.

Friday, April 22, 2016

March Video Lessons

March was a bit rough, because we had a two weeks off due to the thrush (which is doing much better).  Without further ado, here are the four videos.

Video 1:  03.06.16

My Thoughts:
I thought this one was a decent ride.  I did feel like I was getting dumped off to the left and I never really got him straight, which is why I was struggling to get him balanced.

D's Thoughts:
When D watched this video she told me it was time to lose the draw reins (I had already taken the other one).  Basically, we are getting boringly consistent and it is time to lose the crutch.

Video 2:  03.13.16

My Thoughts:
This video was a little short and weird (soloshot had a glitch and I cut five minutes of sky out) and it was getting dark, so the quality is crappy.

He started out tense, because he was being an asshole at the mounting block and I got after him (so obviously the world is going to end).  I was trying to walk him forward and he decided that forward was not ok (aka the halts were not asked for or encouraged).  The halt at 1:40ish was the first one I asked for.  Also he felt a little off and I think I see something.  Despite the appearances, I was trying to get him to lower his head, but I think we were both on the struggle bus.

D's Thoughts:
You did a nice job through the walk and even once you started trotting of managing him.  Give the guy some props his feet hurt but he was still trying.

Video 3:  03.28.16

My Thoughts:
This is the one where I freaked out about him being lame and the reality was he was just sticky and a bit crooked since he had two weeks off (face palm).  I also didn't take the draw reins off until the very end (I meant to take them off half way through).

D's Thoughts:
D's take on his hind stepping short is that he is actually trying to step longer, but I am not capturing the front enough, so he is driving out not up and that makes it feel shot.  Basically, I need steadier rein contact to box the energy slight more (I start doing this better at 13:26).

He is looking better every video (YAY!!), but I need to make sure I have control over the outside.  I am still losing it a bit and he spins out on the circle (mainly to the left).  At 17:54 I get a good correction.

D suggested that I shorten my stirrups a hole (I tried that for an April video).  She also suggested that I start squaring off my turns.  So I move the front end in front of this hind end.  And also to do some dramatic counter bending.  I need to be more dramatic about it, so I get a quicker response.  Also, when he tightens up in the trot, hollows, and brings his head up I need to start pushing him up and over.  No more halting.  I have to think leg on and forward but grab the energy with my hands and make the neck let go.  It is going to be chaotic for a while, but he needs to learn.

Video 4:  03.31.16

My Thoughts:
I forgot to take the draw reins off, but I did make an effort to keep them really loopy and not actually use them.  I think I used them about twice.  He was leaning really hard on my left leg (theme of the ride), so I tried leg yielding him off the left.  Then we spiraled in and out at the walk (both directions).  I am still not getting him as straight as I want him.  The haunches are still right and the left shoulder is braced and leaning.

When we were going right, he was fussy because I was trying to counter bend him to get him to step the left over to the right and actually get him straight instead of braced.  I also thin I am sitting unevenly or collapsing my right side.  Ahh the end I tried playing with some leg yields, but he started getting fussy and was trying to pull to the rail.  He had to walk straight down the quarter line and just settle.

D' Thoughts:
He is well aware the draw reins are loose and is taking advantage.  It is going to feel like you are going back to square one, but you still need to have the same rules apply.  It gets better at 12:00, and the trot is better than the walk.  The walk will be hard but it is good to see more relaxation.

At 14:00 we get much straighter and my position is more correct.  Sometimes he is resisting the straightness, but I am staying consistent so he gives.  He never gets all out of whack.  She says I am riding really well and he is mad because I have the shoulders in check.  16:32 I took too much to the inside and we got a bit backwards.  17:36, I counter bent him and got him straight again.

This is the best straightness she has seen from us (he is just grumpy about having to be straight).  I need to rewatch this video.  She also commented that my riding is much better on the difficult days than it is when he is behaving, so that is something I need to work on.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The End Of A Chapter

The Pongo chapter is coming to a close for me.  I am quite confident that he is going to get his own girl soon (YAY!).   They have started saddle shopping for him.  While I am a little bummed that I probably won't get to ride him any more, I am ecstatic that he will have his own person and be sticking around the barn.  I am sure going to miss playing with him, and if I could afford two horses I would have bought him last fall with no hesitation.  I actually got to watch them jump the other day and it was pretty funny.  They were just cantering around after a jump and one of the post college girls asked Pongo's girl if they could stop.  Pongo's girl said no and they kept going for another minute.  The girl wasn't phased and was smiling the whole time.  They also jumped a skinny!

I don't have new media, so enjoy some of my favorite Pongo pics

I actually had my first ride on my next victim.  Woody is a barn owned pony of unknown breeding (he looks like a quarter horse crossed with I don't know what).  He can jump like no other (has jumped fences in the 5 foot range, but lacks in some of the finer qualities (breaks, turning, non-giraffe).  He has not been in consistent work because the girl who leases him has been off at college and two he has dumped several students.  Bad lesson pony, needless to say I don't think he was that excited about me.

The one and only Sinead Halpin (love her!! and not just because she liked Pongo)

I was a little skeptical at how things were going to go at first.  As soon as I got on him it was apparent that all leg cues were go, turning and stoping were optional, and if he got told know he kicked up in the back a bit.  We started off with the basics to get him to start understanding what I was asking.  The first walk halt transitions were very rough (at best).  But I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly he picked up on the seat aids (yay for not having to pull on his face).  We then worked on moving off my leg without trotting, this was a bit more of a struggle, but we did ok.

When we dressaged

Then we moved on to trotting.  It got a little interesting, because I was in a jump saddle.  I already struggle with regulating pace, but in the jump saddle I was hopeless (I do better at the canter if anyone is wondering how I haven't killed myself yet if I can't regulate pace in the jump saddle).  I decided to drop my stirrups so I could have a dressage leg to get him to move his body and I have better control over pace.  I won't say we are ready for public consumption, but he did listen and start softening and accepting contact.  Not so bad for an amateur on a naughty pony who hasn't ever really been put on the bit.

I still get to feed this cute face cookies!

As our reward, S had us trot through some poles.  Once we could maintain a nice steady pace (yay he half halted) we were told to trot a cross rail.  I lined him up and as soon as he fixed on the jump he started pulling and speeding, so I asked him to turn.  He said, "madam I decline."  Luckily I won that one because otherwise we were going into the standard...oops.  We then proceeded to make a figure eight (well the shape wasn't really a figure eight but that was the goal) in front of the jump.  It involved a lot of pulling (sorry dude but turn means turn) and a lot of giraffing (thankfully I am tall otherwise he might have busted me in the face).  Finally he said yes ma'am instead of I decline, and he was allowed to hop the cross rail.  The backside got a little quick, so S had us do it again.  The second time only required one circle a nice balanced hop and a bit of canter down to a reasonable trot that was easily brought back to a walk.  Go Woody!

When we jumped the scary ditch.

This was actually a huge confidence booster because sometimes I feel like I don't ride very well.  Stinker does a number on my confidence and logically I know it is just because he is a hard ride, but logic doesn't always follow in my brain.  D said he was a harder ride than her upper level horses and I believe her.  So these small victories with Woody were just what I needed to feel good.

The other side of the scary ditch...I think he popped me out of the tack a bit (I have a total OH SHIT face).

PS There were three of these ponies to start with named Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye for Toy Story.  Woody and Jessie are still around the farm.

When my favorite boys met (and then promptly squealed because they should have been mares)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Awards They Should Give

A couple of weeks ago, Megan at A Enter Spooking posted about Realistic Awards.  I am totally jumping on the bandwagon and creating realistic awards for both Stinker and I (since I fail at adulting frequently).

First up in third place we have....

In second place we have....

And finally in first place we have....

Friday, April 15, 2016

PS of Sweden Chameleon Narrow Revolution

As I hinted on Monday (or if you saw my Instagram) I got a bridle!!  I have been stalking the website waiting to see what the new bridle was and I liked the looks of this one. I wasn't too sure about the exchangeable noseband padding, but when they put it on sale I pulled the trigger. I figured that if I got it and hated it I could wait for the sale to end and sell it easily and not lose money on it (I don't hate it).  It was waiting for me when I got back from Denver last Sunday.  I had actually forgotten that it was waiting for me at the barn and was doubly excited when I opened my locker and saw it.  In fact I was so excited I didn't even think about pictures (#bloggerfail) until after my ride.

PS of Sweden Chameleon Narrow Revolution (from website)

There are a few things that I don't like about it. One, the flash tab is not removable. I was super bummed about that. Two I am not sure how the Velcro will hold up to my abuse, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. I didn't buy any additional padding colors because they only had boring colors (white, grey, brown, cream) plus Stinker has enough chrome and flash as it is. They are supposed to get some fun ones out in May, but I don't know if I will care enough to pay for the shipping on them.

So Handsome!

I do like the padding and wide crown piece. I have seen improvement in my last few rides, but I'm attributing it to our training not the bridle. I can't tell a difference in Stinker with the elastic cheek pieces/reins so I don't think it is magic and solve all problems. Overall, I really like the bridle so far and would buy it again at the introductory price ($287). I just looked at the regular price ($369) and went hell no. So the moral of the story is if you want one (I did) and you find it on sale get it. If not save your money.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


I can't believe it has been a year since I started blogging.  It is kind of funny, because I wasn't expecting people to read it.  I mostly wanted a way to keep track of Stinker's progress (little did I know shit was about to hit the fan) and if someone read it awesome.  Not only do people read it I think some might even like reading it (shocking)!  Anyway to celebrate I thought I would share some of my favorite things about blogging.

Enjoy some of the outtakes from trying to get a good shot.

1)  The people!  I have contacted a number of you for various reasons and everyone has been so nice and helpful.  It gives me hope for the internet.  Also, I love reading peoples comments, because I enjoying hearing other people's thoughts and partially because it comments give me warm fuzzy feelings.

2)  The journeys.  I didn't realize when I started how vested I would become in other people's journeys.  I get excited when my favorite blogs have a new post and reading about other people's struggles has really put mine into perspective (which I need sometimes).

Too tired.

3)  The writing.  I didn't expect to enjoy writing the posts as much as I do.  I get excited when I think I have a really good post that people will like or if I had a fun weekend that I want to share.  I don't feel bad about getting into the nitty gritty, because you don't have to read it if you don't want to.

4)  The accountability.  I have gotten into the swing of three posts a week (I don't know how you ladies do 5-7 posts, plus ride, plus work, you guys are awesome) and it gives me motivation to analyze my rides or explore random topics that pop into my brain (or buy expensive toys).

I can't possibly look at you right now.

5)  The new ideas.  I have gotten countless ideas from other bloggers.  New exercises, new ways of thinking about things I have heard a million times, new tack, awesome toys I didn't know existed (that should be a post).

6)  Exploring new disciplines.  I am still relatively new to English riding and personally focus on dressage and eventing, but I follow blogs that let me explore the worlds of endurance to hunters.  It is fun to see the different disciplines.

The hell beast mini decided to sleep right in front of the barn.

7)  The toys.  While my budget doesn't like this, I love hearing about new products and my collection has expanded quite a bit due to other bloggers.  I can usually resist one, but when multiple jump on board my curiosity gets the better of me.

So thank you all for making this past year of blogging so much fun.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


I have been feeling a little frustrated lately, because I don't feel especially effective with my leg when I am riding Stinker.  We seem to have two modes, ignoring and OMG it TOUCHED ME!!!!  Not exactly ideal.  I was trying to figure out how to make my aids more precise and subtle.  If it isn't precise he ignores it, if it isn't subtle he panics.  I was toying with the idea of spurs, but didn't really think that they would help.

Swan Neck Spurs from VTO.

Then I was looking through Austin's old blog posts and found one about swan necked spurs.  After pondering, and questioning her (thanks by the way), and running my scheme pasts S and D, I bought the spurs.  I figured that a $25 experiment wouldn't be the worst waste of money, because it would either work or it would be such a hot mess I would get $25 of entertainment out of it.  Either way I was ok with the money spent.

Ready for use.

The first day I rode in them, it was in a lesson with S, because I wanted help figuring out when I was touching him with them and maybe some help if there was a melt down.  He was super tense at first, but didn't over react which was a win to start off with.  Throughout the ride, he did settle and while it wasn't our best work it wasn't bad either.  I did think it was easier to straighten him and I can actually keep my leg long and use something besides my calf (I am not sure if that falls under tall people problems or short horse problems).

I also really liked the weight of the spur.  Like Austin said, I felt like the weight helped keep my heels down.  I haven't seen video of myself, so I might be delusional.  But for now I will believe it helps me with my heels.  As far as showing goes, I can't wear them for eventing, but they are dressage legal.  I figure that if I ever get to where I am showing eventing (that is a pretty big if for us at this point), I can survive one warm up and dressage test without them.  Or I could wear another style if I get that paranoid.

Stinker tried to yank them away from me.

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Decidedly Non Horsey Weekend

I had a whirlwind weekend that had very little horse involvement, so feel free to skip it.  My sister had her pro BJJ debut this weekend, so I flew out to Denver for that.  Friday was exhausting.  I was up for about 20 hours straight (mainly due to my insanity).  I drive for 2.5 hours to get to the airport so I can have a direct flight, which means I got up obscenely early.

My parents picked me up in Denver and we were meeting a friend of my mom's for lunch.  We ended up driving around for two hours (I was totally hangry at this point), before we found a place for lunch.  I was happy, because I got to have green chili.  Then we went and hung out with my sister for awhile, which was really nice because I usually only see her for an hour or so.

Ok I will admit I totally took this picture to taunt one of my friends since she was home writing a grant.

The fights were really awesome.  My mom sprung for a table and we (my brother and his family and one of my cousins and her husband) ended up being right where the people walked out to the stage.  I had no idea what was going on, but it was fun to watch and cheer.  I told my sister the next time we needed to have a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert at the table.  Unfortunately, my sister's match did not go the way she had hoped, but it was still really awesome.
She might kick my ass for putting this up here, but I still think she is a total bad ass!

The next day we had brunch with everyone and then went to the Museum of Nature and Science with my brother and his family.  I hadn't been to it in forever and it was really cool.  Then we went downtown for ice-cream and visited a game store.  My brother has a huge board game collection and I love playing with his family (even if he only lets me play them once so I can't get good at them).  After that I got to have Mexican food with one of my really good friends.

They had a whole section of Munchkin variations.

I flew back on Sunday and went straight to the farm from the airport.  I was really excited for multiple reasons.  One I missed my horse apparently I can't make it two days without seeing him, and two I had a new toy waiting for me.  I had a pretty good ride.  We just walked and worked on being straight.  We did have one moment that made me laugh.  He wouldn't get off my leg, so I touched him with my spur and he jumped like I shocked him and whipped me with his tail.  Seriously, he flipped that thing so it came over my shoulder and whacked my arm.  Oh Sinker.  It took me 18 pictures to get one where his ears are forward, eyes open, and no shadows.  I guess I shouldn't quit my day job anytime soon.

Sneak peek at the new toy!

Friday, April 8, 2016

April Conformation

We lost a little bit of ground this month.  Stinker had almost two weeks off because of his feet, but I am hoping that he will gain it all back this month.  Feel free to weigh in on his progress.  I am always curious about other people's opinions even if I don't agree with them.

Left side.  The neck is still giving me fits.

I am pretty sure the ground is sloped here, but I can't figure out a better place to take the picture.

His shoulders are so uneven, but I think his top line is improving.

Now for the comparison shots.  This month I am still going to compare back to January, but I think I will be dropping that and proceeding with just using February as my baseline.  I can't handle the scraggly mane and inconsistent location I did in January.

I think he looks way better in April (bottom), but January is a terrible picture to start.

He was trying to chew on his lead rope and looks a little drugged...

His neck looks better in February (top), but that was a lucky shot.

I seriously can not wait for him to shed out and be one color.

His back has more muscle, but he is still horribly uneven.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Clinic Report

We had a clinic this past weekend at the barn.  It was with a semi local upper level rider, and this year there are four horses that he started and sold at various points entered in Rolex.  I rode with him last August and really enjoyed it.  Unfortunately, the stars did not align so I wasn't able to ride this time around.

No media from the clinic since I wasn't riding.

I am not going to lie, watching the clinic made me really sad I wasn't riding.  One he really pushes you (without over facing you), two he really pushes the basics, and three it is super reasonably priced (love bang for your buck).  Pongo pulled a shoe in my lesson last Thursday and our farrier was out of town and we couldn't get the shoe put back on in time, plus the younger rider had dibs on him anyway.  I could have ridden Stinker, but I wasn't sure how well we would do with this particular rider.  So, I decided to pass.  In hindsight we would have been fine, but I don't feel confident in knowing if I am going to get the horse that is going to pitch a fit or not when I brush him with my leg.  Plus I feel like I have a really good system going with S and D so why rock the boat.

Gotta love the evening rides as the sun sets.

For stadium he set up a grid that looked really fun.  Everyone (S included) trotted into the grid then it was a short four (you really had to hold) to a long one.  The point of it was in order for the horses to hit every thing correctly they really had to stay on their toes and get rounder over the jumps.  This helped to teach everyone how to add strides without just pulling back and slow down.  It was all about building the jump and power in the canter.

For cross country it was a lot more of the same.  Everything was about finding the right canter where you can add strides without pulling and get the horses deep to the jump.  Most of the girls are on ponies (we have some kick ass ponies around the barn), so he was really pushing the basics so the girls will be able to maximize their ponies jumping abilities.

Overall it was a fun and exhausting weekend.  And enjoy Stinker and I doing our version of cross country.  He is a total XC machine.  ;)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Must Haves In A Barn

With lots of changes looming in the next year or so, I am starting to freak out about having to find a new barn.  The barn I am at is the only one I have ever boarded at, and while it isn't perfect it is pretty amazing.  I think it will be hard to find another one like it, but I am trying to put together a list of needs/wants to see if I am totally unreasonable in my desires.

Twitchy, my favorite barn cat.

Must Have

  • Proper care.  It doesn't have to be fancy but I need to know if I am not there my horse will get fed, have hay, clean water, clean stall, and someone will notice if he does something idiotic.
  • Turnout.  If he could be on pasture board and only be brought in for feeding/bad weather I would be cool with that too.  But he needs a large chunk of daily turnout.
  • Tolerant attitude.  Stinker is an acquired taste and I need some place that isn't going to get pissy about him.  D had to move him when she had him, because they were getting mad about him dumping his water bucket.  The barn that I am at now, laughs at my shame when he gets bored and turns on his water hose and floods two and part stalls.  Not to mention some people get poop face when they hear he is a Saddlebred.
  • No barn hours.  I didn't even realize this was a thing until I started looking at barns to get an idea of what is out there.  I need a place that doesn't care if I show up super early or late into the evening.
  • Ring for dressage
Angry mini post mane roaching with scissors....

  • Access to trails.
  • Stadium and XC jumps.
  • On site trainer I would ride with or a trainer that comes in regularly that I like.
  • Short commute.  It is unlikely that I will have everything like I do now, but a girl can dream.
  • Fun people.
I don't think I am being unreasonable with my must have or wants.  What do you think?  Am I forgetting something or being totally unrealistic?

Wilbur (I call him Bacon to irritate the girls)