Friday, October 24, 2014

Clipping Shapes for the Non-Crafty

This is for the birds
You know that person in your life who is always making scrap books and home made cookies and probably actually creates pins on pinterest?

I am so not that person.

I don't craft. I don't art. I do respect those people, but I am not them and anytime someone starts talking about crafts, my brain checks out. I mean, my idea of "crafty" is how I have yet to have to host Thanksgiving. Winning.

Anyways. I had a super lesson last night (recap later) and afterwards Courage was hot and sweaty and muddy and gross. Cue clipping time.

He looks like a whole different horse
But you might remember how Courage rocked the stars and a chaser clip last year.

I loved the stars and the clip style worked well for us at the time, but I had a whole new design in mind and Courage is working hard enough that a full clip isn't out of place.

So that's all fine and good. But at this point you're probably asking, "SB, that sounds an awful lot like a craft project. How do you get the stars to go on?"

I will tell you. It's easier than it looks and even I can do it.

Crafters will probably make cooler designs

Herein lies the entire secret.

Make. Stencils.

I drew mine by hand on cardstock, which is what happens when you decide to clip at the very last minute.

Then you just use the masking tape to put them on the horse, and voila! Shapes! 

I don't love them as much as last year.

I body clipped Courage with my set of Andis AGC two speeds. They also did the design work for me.

That's pretty much everything I used.

Wait for it...
So. It was cool out. I clipped Courage' head, neck, shoulders, and mid section. Then I outlined his hip area so I'd know my parameters, threw a cooler over his naked self, and got to work.

I just masking-taped the stars on where I wanted them and clipped over/around them. Once I had the stars defined, I pulled the stencils off and finished cleaning up the area.

It does take longer than just clipping the hip like normal, but the stars make me happy every time I see them. It's worth it.

Ta da!!

I love it.

I'm a very tidy clipper, so I meticulously got all the lines out. In a couple days, it will look really sharp. Obviously, Courage is still growing hair right now, so I'll have to decide what to do next time I clip. I could keep the same design or try something new. :-D

Courage is now all set for fall riding.

PS  You might wonder why I left his legs. I did them last time I clipped him and at the end of it, we both wanted to kill each other. I maintain that unless my horse is going to HITS with a good chance of being division champ in 3' on up, he will just have fuzzy legs because HELL NO.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

In Search of Confidence: Building the Partnership

March or April 2014
One thing that I have found supremely frustrating this year is that Courage and I came out bold and happy this spring--we were jumping 2'-2'6" on a loose rein in a good balance.

Engage Flail Apparatus
And then the shit hit the fan and sort of just spiraled downhill. I've been working through this a bit lately just because it sure feels like we started taking lessons and that prompted the whole mess.

But I know that's not it. I even wrote an angsty post about it, but it annoyed me and I never published it.

Really, we were unlocking Courage's body and allowing him to use it in new ways. As a smart, athletic horse, he was exploring what that meant.

Baby steps
I mean, as great as our first picture is, Courage came straight off the track after 7 years of racing. He didn't know how to be a horse. He didn't know how to jump. He didn't trot on the bit and he had no freaking clue how to canter a 20 meter circle without losing his mind and flailing.

Early summer lesson
He tries hard and he loves being the best at things, but even a very talented horse has a learning curve. Despite his ideal conformation and excellent form, Courage had to learn to really power off that fantastic hind end of his so he could clear oxers and carry a balance forward.

Learning about bascule
He's easy to ride in the sense that he flails and dolphin leaps instead of rearing and bucking, but that doesn't mean he understands how to use that gorgeous body of his.

Truthfully, he's very difficult to ride because he is so sensitive, especially when he isn't sure. Our horrific XC experience at least led to time out of the saddle where Courage could figure out his own body.

And once he got it, Courage REALLY got it. The only limit was how much lunging I wanted to do and how high my standards were.

When I started riding over fences again, I had a horse who attacked the jumps but didn't necessarily have the flat work to be solid with a rider. 

The basics were in place, but it was more low jumps and steering so we could be on the same page. It didn't really matter that I had confidence issues, because Courage didn't need big jumps. He needed slow, steady repetition to figure out the rules of this great new game.

Scope much?
That's not to say he didn't jump big jumps--he got to address a few larger fences with a competent rider up. He wasn't (and still really isn't) ready to face down big grids, so we limited his exposure to big fences to simple questions that he understood with generous placing poles.

Mastering demons
Once Courage understood the questions, it was time for me to step up my game. No more crest releases and backseat event riding. Couage is a game and forward horse who uses the hell out of his neck and back and he damn well needs a release.

I'll be honest and say Courage is hands down the best jumper I've ever put time on. He's not just safe--he's talented and sensitive and scopey and if he needs me to ride better, then I owe it to him to step up my game.

Not gonna lie. This part was hard because it forced me to break my mental game down to it's minutest pieces and put it back together in a whole new way.

On the same page, finally
I can't just put leg on and take my brain off. I have to give Courage an educated ride and then he gives me his absolute best.

I have no doubt that Courage and I have lots of adventures and lessons to come. I"m hardly the world's greatest rider and he's still plenty green, but we're in a place where we can learn together and still have a good time.

Back to the calm

So did this summer's crap come from pushing too hard or would I have gotten through it sooner if we just pushed harder? I don't really know. I guess there is no way to know. I'm sue there are other ways to address the problems we had, but our way worked for us.

A big takeaway for me is that handling pressure is a trained response and in order for Courage to thrive, I need to be very in tune with how much pressure he's up to handling on any given day.

Note world's longest running attachment.

Truthfully, I just want to ride competently around 3'-3'3" courses on my fun, safe horse that I also trail ride and play on.

Instead of being frustrated by our set backs, I remind myself of just how far we've come this year. Yeah, the jumps aren't much bigger and we're a far cry from that 3' course, but Courage is stronger, braver, and more educated and I'm riding at a whole new level.

It just takes time. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Time of Year Already

He's pretty much like a super model
It seems disproportionately early, but the days are getting drastically shorter, the leaves are changing color, and even Courage is growing in a winter coat. I know I didn't clip him until November last year, but he seems to be adjusting to the Idaho climate (hella colder than California) and his coat is coming in a lot faster this year than last year.

Plus we should still have riding weather for at least another 6 weeks, maybe 8-10 if we're lucky.

That of course brings us to the real question of the day:


Do love the clean look of a full clip
I know I hemmed and hawed about whether I approved of doing designs last year, but I ended up coming down firmly on the side of fun for the first clip at least.

Aside from the fun factor, I think what tipped the balance for me is that designs and contrast opens up conversations with lots of people, horsey and otherwise, about clipping and horse care and OTTBs and I think all of those things are interesting.

I have a few ideas, though I doubt I'll top the blogger queens of clipping, aka MONICA and ANDREA!!!

Who else is kicking off clipping season?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jumping Skinny

You might remember two weeks ago when Courage and I tackled our first skinny jump like rockstars. I was pretty proud of him and then there were skinnies set all over the arena on Monday and after two days of flat rides, it was definitely time to try something new.


Note improved pic quality. YAY NEW PHONE.
After a nice warm up in which I reminded myself that my ass goes to the back of the saddle and my heels always only ever go down, WHILE MY HANDS ARE FORWARD AND UP, we trotted in to our first wee jump.

It's teensy, but that's not the point. The point is accuracy. Also the point is that at this time last year, Courage thought this HUGE and MENACING black tube was some sort of devilish apparition that completely blocked all forward motion and I couldn't lead him over it, much less ride.

And yeah, now it's not even worth jumping properly. I call that a win.

Loving my position here. Note ass out of saddle post-jump.
Next we moved on to the little rows of jumps blocks.

He's jumped these before lots of times, but never on a tight bending line and never so few at a time. In order to jump them well, I had to keep my hands really forward and my leg very tight and just stay in balance and wait.

It's harder than it sounds, I swear. Anyways. He jumped them super well and I was proud.

take off!
We cantered around (oh yes I canter skinnies NO FEAR BITCHES THEY ARE TINY) and Courage was being awesome aside from the one time that I pointed him at the narrowest jump we had, then leaned up his neck and took my leg off. Then we detoured because wtf did I even want anyways?

I don't know.

Anyways. I ended by cantering a sort of course, culminating in downhill (my kryptonite other than oxers and tall jumps) over the narrow barrels.

I was so thrilled with how I rode and how Courage jumped. He was soft and forward and balanced, which makes seeing a distance easy peasy and he's so athletic and brave that he really doesn't care if we're a little close or long.

He knows his job is to jump and I'm figuring out that my job is to steer and not pull on his face, and we're golden.

I dunno. I mean, I realize that thse jumps are not large, even for me, but I'm asking a more difficult question and Courage is emphatically answering "YES I GOT IT".

It's just so ridiculously fun to ride. Seriously.

I really love where the two of us are at right now. Heck, I even pretty much love my position in these pics. I'm finding the balance between giving the big release that Courage requires and keeping myself in balance in the saddle without ducking my upper body or losing my legs.

Maybe it's our classy new five point breastplate (thanks JenJ!) or the pretty boots or Courage showing off for the much-improved phone camera or maybe (dun dun dun)...

It's so very him.
It's that his cookie monster bonnet has finally arrived!!!

I mean, it's that or admitting that this ride has taken over a year of boring, slow, consistent training that only advances as fast as the horse is ready for it, even if that means time off for sore bodies and bad weather.

Nope, definitely the bonnet.

I love it.

So much.

I think I have another bonnet coming. What kind of magic will it produce?

PS We also trotted through 4 poles like a normal horse and didn't try to leap them one single time. That's big for us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Riding Light

My apologies for the somewhat random absence this past week. I kept trying to do mobile posts and I can only conclude that the blogger mobile app is possibly the most useless thing ever created. It. Doesn't. Work.

So anyways. It was a busy week and lots of things happened, almost none of them horsey.

However, in between trips out of town, I squeezed in a photo session with Ellie. Here are a few of my favorites.

Loving that sunset light
We see you

I really can't pick a favorite
He looks like a stock horse

Always wear a helmet when riding your ottb bareback for the first time
 Not only are they beautiful shots, but I feel like they really capture where Courage and I are right now. We've been together over a year, but it's just now that we're really connecting and learning about each other. I trust him enough to hop on for a quick bareback spin and he trusts me enough to not freak out when I climb on from the fence.

 I was excited about Courage last year, wanting to see how much he could do and how soon, and feeling like some sort of failure if he wasn't doing things unexpectedly early. Now we've settled into a comfortable rhythm together and instead of pushing the limits of his ability, we're just exploring what life together looks like and having a good time.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Teach Me Tuesday

Due to mobile blogger, I'll keep this short. Bodywork is one of those things that has so many definitions and adherents and looks so different to so many people.

I'm intrigued. What does it look like for you and your horse? Acupuncture? Massage? Chiropractic? Just for your horse? Just for you? Group sessions? On site? Hauling out?

What do people do and why? How does it help you or your horse?

Friday, October 10, 2014

In Search of Confidence: **** YEAH

He's pretty great
I've blogged for so long about my jumping confidence and lack thereof. I've gone on ad nauseum about how I'd had to remove all any shadow of pressure from myself, both by putting myself in supportive environments and then accepting myself for where I'm at and just being ok with jumping hundreds of tiny fences.

I've learned to separate out the naysayers and ignore the people who think my super talented horse should move along faster and jump higher. It's been a long, hard project. It was a little hard to even post my video from my last lesson because the jumps looked minuscule even to me.

But you know what?

It's worth it.

So, so worth it.

I'm developing that "dressage hunch"
I cleaned stalls this morning and stared at the jumps that were set from a more advanced horse. They were big for me and more technical than normal.

And I wanted to jump them.

Usually that goes away when I get on, but not today. I warmed up on the flat and Courage felt phenomenal. I hopped him over our usual teeny jump and he was great. I planned a flat ride, so I had no whip, no spurs, long stirrups, and no neck strap.

Early shot--he will get his knees up
 Hmmm.. I cranked my stirrups up and warmed up over the little jump both ways. Courage felt great and I was riding awesome. I had my heels down and my hands up and all motion was forward. I peeked at the little skinny set up.

We've never done one before, but I was riding really well and redheadlins was on hand to fix it if anything went too wrong. I walked to within a few strides so he saw it, then trotted over it.

BOOM. Skinny.

He jumps so well with a big release
Then we did it again with less me jumping up his neck and even more awesome. I was absolutely thrilled that I was able to give Courage that committed ride and he was so forward and honest....

And I peeked at the barrel jump with a rail over it. And I was still riding awesome.

And we cantered around and SAILED over it like total badasses.

We landed on the correct lead and there was a vertical set up on the next long side that we've jumped hundreds of times at lower heights.


So we just cantered down to it. Courage got a little crooked. I pushed my hands forward and kept my leg on.


It felt amazing. Courage landed in a perfect balance and cantered away softly and I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. Still can't. What a rockstar.

Courage felt awesome. I was riding well. Neither of us was stressed or worried or overfaced or tense. That's how I want it to be and it was SO MUCH FUN. :-) Oh, and then I went and measured the jumps because I'm the sort of nerd who does that. Barrels were 2'9" and the vertical was 3'. OH YEAH. That's the highest fence Courage has ever jumped and it couldn't have been better.

This is what I've been looking for all along.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Flatwork and Bodywork and Something Works

Daytime silhouette
Courage is a touchy guy, but he generally takes good care of himself. This past shoeing cycle was a little dicey--not only was I dealing with bad feet, but he just has some weird on/offness that looked more like body soreness than a deeper problem. I called our bodywork lady and got a time set up for Monday.

When she came out, she asked what specifically I'd been dealing with.

"He's funky about his right side," I said.

Funny shot, but I liked it
She started working around his poll. "Well that's why he can't turn right," she said as she got some big releases.

And then six inches farther back "and that".

Another six inches "and that".

And so on pretty much all the way down to his sacroiliac area, which was fine. Yay for good hips, I guess.

It did seem to help.
It was probably forty minutes or an hour of solid working on the little bay horse, but it did seem to help him. He covered more ground where he stood and was willing to hold his back legs farther apart. (Don't misunderstand--he still is and always will be narrow behind. His back feet just don't have to be, you know, touching or something.)

After all the work she did, she wanted the little man to have a solid 48 hours of rest. Wednesday was his first day back. I took him for a hack in the field in his jump tack, figuring we'd just do some long and low at all three gaits.

Look at us not falling towards the arena fence.
My immediate impression was "whoa, don't remember his back swinging this much".

After a good long walk, I picked up the reins and Courage tried to stick his head up. I put my leg on, he went on the bit, and the rest of our ride was pretty much magical.

He really stepped things up to a whole new level. I haven't been able to get this kind of connection in his rubber mullen before. As long as I kept him forward, Courage was stepping up from behind and going into the contact like a pro. He moved off both legs and was incredibly pleasant.

I'd say he's pretty fancy
Courage is starting to feel less green and more like a horse that's just straight up fun to ride. I'm thrilled with my horse and happy with how I rode and completely jazzed for how he's going to look when this sort of correct work is an every day occurrence.

Yay for flat work and body work!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Perfect Sit of Sweden Bridle Review

the pretties

So go check out her blog and assign lots of blame.

Anyways. I own a lot of bridles (no shame) and I was sort of running out of things that interested me. Figure 8? own it. Plain cavesson? Have two. Micklem? Got it. Crank? Yes. Normal crown? Yes. Monocrown? Yes. Laced reins? Rubber reins? Soft grip reins? Web reins? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

So what's a tack ho to do when she has the shopping itch and all the bridles?

Courage needed it too
Why, shop overseas of course!

Amanda (the bitch) turned me on to Perfect Sit of Sweden with all her obsessing over the High Jump Revolution bridle, which I grant you is interesting and different at the very least. It didn't call my name, though. It was like the European version of a micklem, which is ok, but not like MUST BUY NOW sort of thing. You know, since I've owned two micklems and all.

But I got browsing around the site and ran across another model called the Flat Out Revolution.

Cavesson with flash detail
I can't explain what happened next. It just called my name and I needed it. I sold two bridles in record time and snapped it up.

Here are the things that I absolutely love about it:

Pretty details

so soft and wide
Padded crown (with mystery buckle? still figuring that one out)

love this feature
Snap-on browband that can be changed while the horse is bridled. Also if you forgot your fly bonnet. Not that I would ever do that.


Nifty martingale stops. I'm forever losing these or having them on the wrong set of reins. Love this set and the unusual design.

And that's not even including things like the easy-to-hold narrow rubber reins and the so-convenient snap ends on the cheeks and reins.

Or the total lack of the throatlatch, which I think is brilliant. Here's the thing with throatlatches: they're supposed to hold the bridle on when foxhunting through heavy brush or (maybe) if the rider comes off over the head.

still on the fence about the swoopy brownband
They don't. Even if we aren't talking about the resent spat of bridle-fails (srlsy all the time now), the mechanics of the throatlatch are such that if it's done up to prevent it from coming off, you are actively throttling your horse. Maybe it's different when you're galloping through woods with an open throatlatch, but if you want your horse's head down (ever), the throatlatch is not helping you.

Rant over.

Anyways. The bridle shipped to me this week and came with cool extras like a bridle bag, conditioner, and Swedish horse cookies, which Courage LOOOOVED.

now we just have to go to a show
I've ridden in it twice. I love how it fits Courage's face. I'm actually quite happy with the leather. I think it will soften up to Nunn Finer-esque levels when broken in. The clips are as-advertised. I emailed USDF and ascertained that it is legal for any dressage competition that allows snaffles and it's of course legal in the jumping phases of eventing or for show jumpers, though it would obviously be non-traditional for hunters.

Prisoner being adorable
The sizing is pretty standard. It fits Courage well--it came adjusted on the middle holes. I think I put the bit up one and the cavesson down one. For reference, Courage has a bit of a long, narrow head that is very, very cob sized and I bought the cob size model.

We also tried it on Prisoner. He's even more petite than Courage, so we shortened it up a little more. I'd say it's true to size.

It's fun. It's different. It wasn't even that expensive, coming in around $170 including shipping. I tend to be a buy and sell type of girl, given my tack ho tendencies, but I honestly think this on is going to be a keeper. I mean, OMG, if I don't use the flash, I literally only have to do one buckle to put my bridle on. How is that not awesome?

Noted: this is a first impressions post. I will do a more thorough write up in a few months when I've gotten to spend a lot more time with this particular piece.

Also noted: I have tried to answer any questions I've already gotten about it. I'm happy to answer more. I really quite love this bridle.
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