Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Good Lesson

Yesterday was really frustrating for me; due to oodles of rain and snow, we had to go ride in the bubble. The lady whose lesson I was riding during was on a green horse and her steering is primitive at best on a trained horse. This translated to Izzy and I being able to work on virtually nothing because the green horse kept careening around and we had to get out of the way.

Grrr. Cranky Bandit.

Today we had a lesson and since it was abysmally cold, no one came out to ride with us. That was fabulous, except Izzy wasn't super sure she was brave enough to do the bubble by herself. Hence, there was much galloping and snorting and looking, though she didn't actually spook while I was on her. (Probably because I told her I'd picked out her replacement if she pissed me off.)

When Cathy came in, Izzy almost ran her over because she thinks Cathy will protect her from all the scary monsters and feed her cookies. This is an erroneous assumption and I'm not sure how she came to it. Anyways. I wasn't sure we'd be able to do a lesson since Izzy was such a mess.

Thankfully, I was wrong. Cathy just had us quietly start working. We were walking, but she pointed out that Izzy focuses better at the trot, so we moved up. We did a couple big circles both ways and Izzy and I were NOT communicating well. So, quietly and easily, Cathy just had us shift from big circles to doing figure eights with ten meter circles, which held both of our attention. We did a lot of bend/counterbend exercises, where we'd do correct bend for half the figure eight, then hold that bend for counterbend on the other circle. After 5 or 10 minutes, we both started settling in enough to do some simply leg yields and canter work.

It wasn't a spectacular lesson, but it was really good for me to learn some exercises that Izzy and I can work on to calm her down when she gets worried.

Did I mention that our first show is a week from now? Whee! Training 1 & 2, here we come!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Have a Plan

Due to spectacularly unspectacular weather (ie, it's snowing and hailing right now), I have been engaging in one of my worse hobbies: online horse shopping. I mean, let's face it. I can barely afford one horse. I cannot even dream of affording two, and I have no plan or desire to sell Izzy. She's finally getting to be fun, instead of a project, and I like that.

With that in mind, I settled on this horse: magical pony I want.

She's perfect: over 15.3, not a dark bay, a mare, and not really wanting to race. Also sound.

Alas, I have neither $2000 lying around, nor a trailer to go get her, nor the money to afford her when she came home. I can come up with plans to get cheaper things like bridles and occasionally saddles, but this is out of range.

Too bad. She looks amazing.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Half-Assed Attempt at an Interview

Ha! Enjoy my pun as I interview Lee, owner of Pixel the mule and currently featured on the Ansur website in their quest for a new saddle. (The clinic was great and I have a write up coming. I haven't forgotten my Woff fans who want scans, but I only have so many blogging days and lots of awesome topics. Hang in there!)

So, meet Pixel.
Although Pixel has an adorable face, her typing skills aren't super great, so I interviewed her owner, Lee, instead.
Here is a picture of Pixel and a woman I presume is Lee. I'm not sure because I kyped the picture off the ansur website and I've never met Lee in person. Following is our interview.

SB: What is your background with horses/mules?
L & P:I have ridden all my life, literally. My background is Western, working ranch horses and associated events like barrels, etc. I consider myself a darn good hand with young horses, breaking and training. About 15 years ago I found myself able to have horses again after a work/school hiatus, and I wanted to try something different, especially since I didn't have cows to chase around anymore...
My first love was jumping, but eventually I got hooked on dressage. It is the hardest I have worked on horseback in my life!

SB: How did you and Pixel end up together?
L & P: I have always been intrigued by mules but never have even been around them. I got this idea in my head that I wanted a "dressage mule", so I started shopping aided and encouraged by my enabling mother....
You can imagine that not many warmblood mare owners breed to a I searched far and wide. Finally I found a WB mule baby in Texas. We met halfway and switched $ and mule in a Wal-Mart parking lot! And the rest is history, as they say.

SB: Why a mule?
L & P: See above. Why not?

SB: What are your goals together?
L & P: I would LOVE to take Pixel to some rated dressage shows one day and really piss off some dressage queens...
But the main thing, I would like to have the experience of training a different kind of equine; I feel that my training methods will work with Pixel despite all the mule folks warnings that they are sooo different. And so far so good! Her response to our methods has been better than I even expected.

SB: Why did you decide to go treeless?
L & P: It was a no-brainer for me; I am an Ansur saddle user from way back, I have had Classic, Konklusion, and Carlton, and now the Excel. Mules are notoriously difficult to fit with saddles, they have a lack of shoulder definition that allows the saddle to slide forward toward the neck (not good); some mules have no withers and a long flat back. I am lucky (I think) and Pixel has a good wither. I have a crupper which I will accustom her to just in case, but so far I haven't had any problems with saddle stability. I thought an Ansur was a logical choice, and I was sure it would work. Hence I bought the Excel. Of course, I use it on all the youngsters and some of the trained horses as well!

SB: Of all the treeless options, why did you settle on Ansur?
L & P: Frankly, it is the one I am familiar with. I have never had a reason to shop elsewhere, though I have seen other options and monitored discussions. Not even an Ansur works for every horse! I keep an open mind. In fact, I use a treed saddle on my big WB dressage horse, after years of Ansur saddles, because I as a rider need more support with him, he is a very difficult horse to ride.

SB: Is there anything you would change about your much-anticipated excel?
L & P: Not so far. I know that when I first sat in it, it felt wide. But that is after my highly structured Custom Advantage. And after a few minutes it feels just fine. I have had it only a short time, and the weather has been ridiculous for riding, esp a teenage mule...

SB: If you and Pixel could have one crazy adventure together anywhere in the world, all expenses paid, what would you do?
L & P: Wow. That is a tough one. Partly because I don't know what she is going to be when she grows up, so how she will do on trails, out with other equines, at shows, away from home, is all a mystery for the future...I can best answer that in a couple of years. I think that we are already on a crazy adventure together! and part of the fun is not knowing where it will take us.
So there you have it! I'm definitely not a mule person, but I do think Pixel is cute and I love irritating the warmblood-only crowd... besides, Pixel has just as much warmblood in her as Izzy does. Think of that.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Dressage: French for "make me feel like a bad rider". Courtesy of Shannon.

Thanks for the perspective, everyone. I laughed a lot.

I've been wondering, though. Izzy doesn't feel quite as pushy and forward in my jumping saddle as she did in the dressage. Now, this could easily be because I let her go more forward in the jumping saddle and don't ask for as much and am not aware of how pushy she is OR it could reflect a saddle issue. I'm just kicking this idea around, so bear with me.

The Ansur KonKlusion has a gullet. (Oh, and the website appears to have new pictures. Sweet. So wanting one.) Admittedly, mine is an older model with the older pommel style and the trauma foam system on the bottom may or may not have collapsed. I'd have to get with Jean to figure that one out, and it's hard when it's all done online. So. Izzy has a wither rub. Yes, there are pommel issues with my saddle, but when we used the sheepskin lined pad with a slight lift pad, her spine stayed nice and dry.

Yesterday, I used the Ansur Classic, which is a gulletless model. We incorporated the same padding arrangement and had all the forward/not forward issues. When we were done, her spine looked the same as the rest of her back, as far as moisture was concerned. This could be causing the issue, I guess. Fortunately, regardless of which saddle is causing a problem, the pad on order *should* take care of the issue.

Now that I've laid it all out like this, I've talked myself out of this theory. Izzy loves the classic. It's the first treeless saddle she went in and she's totally fine with it. It's got to be my riding that caused our issues yesterday. The wither rub still needs to be dealt with, but I don't think the forward was a pain issue.

I didn't ride today. I felt exhausted when I got up this morning, then went running and cleaned all the pens (like 20 of them) and Izzy was spooky and silly on the lead. Thankfully, it started raining when I turned her loose to play in the arena, so we just did some groundwork and then I put her away. It's good to get her out like that, though. It's a good basic reinforcement for her and it reminds me of why I like her so much; she really has the most adorable personality. Oh, and when she knows what I want, she usually does try really hard to do it.

Funny story: My sister who's in college is home for spring break this week. Tuesday we went on a day trip together, so I didn't go out to see Izzy for the first time in several weeks. Wednesday I was running a bit behind, so I didn't make it out to feed before my lesson like I usually do. (The horses were still fed; it's just that Cathy did it.) Izzy was slightly miffed with me for not seeing her, so she made me wait a while before she'd come up for the halter. Silly girl. I think she's jealous.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Some Things

So. The never-ending dilemma that is Izzy goes on. We had a dressage lesson today in which I realized I suck at riding (read: go to my hands too quickly and give up on my seat, resulting in her ignoring my seat most of the time anyways). We did use the new saddle and a different padding arrangement, but I don't even know what to think about it. I'm ordering this pad (from a cheaper company) and hoping that 1) Izzy will like it 2) It will solve our rubbing problem and 3) because we have a treeless saddle, it won't create pressure points alongside the withers. #3 is conjecture (as are 1 & 2, I guess). I know this type of pad is recommended against in the Pain Free Back and Saddle Fit Book because it can create pressure points, but the book also says that treeless can relieve some pressure points. It's really hard to read between the lines of books on treed saddles and try to adapt solid advice for something we're not really using (ie, a tree) to fit a princess pony.

If Izzy asks you, tell her the pad cost oodles of money. She likes things that cost oodles of money.

In other news, I've been putting in some quality riding time on Cassie, Izzy's mom and an OTTB. I love her. I always have. She is completely ruining me. I enjoy aspects of Izzy's warmblood side, but more and more I'm realizing that I'm just more of a TB person. I love their sensitivity. I love their personality. I love their willingness. I love their athletic ability. I even love the stupid things they do at shows. (And yes, I know all about those.)

I know I'm struggling with Izzy right now and I know Cassie is basically an ol' broke mare I can just jump on and do anything, but it's hard. I mean... I'm really out of practice at jumping. Cassie LOVES jumping, so I've been riding her 4-5 times a week, partially to help Cathy by getting her ready to lease out, but mostly so I can practice. We do a day of dressage, a day of dressage with a few jumps, then two days of dressage and then another jump day. It's amazing practice. Cassie is so light and forward and responsive and willing. There's no "I don't want to" temper tantrum. There is precious little fussing. For the jumping, I just try to stay out of her way and focus on my flaws and she goes. She doesn't care what the jump looks like or where it is.

Sigh. I miss her...

On Izzy's really bad days, I scheme about people I know who are connected at the track. I'm thinking mare, 15.3-16.2, color not important, chrome not important. There have got to be dozens of them. Then I remind myself that I really do love Izzy and there is ABSOLUTELY no way I can even dream of affording two horses and I don't want to sell Izzy...

Someone make me love horses that are only half TB again.

Oh. And Izzy and I are riding in a dressage clinic this weekend. I'm hoping to find someone with nothing better to do early one morning to come take pictures, but don't hold your breath.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Taking the Good with the Bad

Saturday was lovely. I was at the barn by myself and just enjoying time with Izzy when I noticed something.

White something.

On her spine.

Yes, she has a rub mark. Argh.
There could be multiple causes. She wears a medium weight turnout with a shoulder guard. Those could rub. It did show up recently and we just got a new saddle, which could rub. Here's my theory, though: Izzy has a preference for expensive things. She also changes her mind a lot. When we finally got the saddle issue straightened out (she's a treeless-only kind of girl), I used a front lift pad because conventional saddle wisdom said I should do so to even the pommel and cantle.

She hated it.

I used another foam pad for a couple months. She seemed totally comfortable until I started scoping out one to buy. All of a sudden, she hated that pad, too.

So I tried half pad #3. It's think foam throughout with a slight, slight rise in the front. I'd link to it, but I can't find one at the moment. Anyways. We've been borrowing Cathy's pad all winter long and it was great. She liked it. I liked it. She seems to do best with thin pads because that's how she likes her saddle to fit.

So. While ordering my dressage girth a week or so ago, I bit the bullet and bought myself the half pad we've been borrowing. Guess what? Rub marks!! I'm convinced it's related. We couldn't just use the same pad and be happy.

I know it seems logical that the rub marks came from our new saddle, but I'm convinced they're unrelated. Why? Because I don't have my dressage girth yet, so I've used the saddle on Izzy like 3 times. Also, I have a vague recollection of noticing hairs out of place on her back about a month or so ago. I thought I had just mussed the hair and the scurf was showing through, but I bet it was the beginning of a rub. Sigh.
"Ha! Fooled you. I hated that pad all along."

Izzy is very, very sensitive. I guess we all knew that. I told Cathy my suspicions about the rub on Sunday and she looked at Izzy for me. It took less than a second for her to smile and say, "Yep, just like her Dad." When I complained that I seem to have Cassie's absolutely most sensitive baby, Cathy pointed out that I had chosen Izzy (and technically, I did get my pick of the litter.)

I'm reasonably sure the mark is from the saddle and not the turnout blanket she wears; the mark is a couple inches below the pommel and her sheet doesn't sit there.

The most frustrating thing is that there is no easy way to fix this. With every other problem, Izzy has been extremely vocal about what works and what does not. This? Nothing. No unwillingness or lack of forward under saddle. No special sensitivity in that spot or anywhere else in her back. No indication of any improvement or lack thereof. Nothing. And of course, hair grows very slowly. So, if I fix the problem, hair will slowly, slowly come back. If I do not fix it, hair will slowly, slowly rub off. Huzzah.

The past two days I've ridden Izzy in our fancy, expensive sheepskin-lined pad which I've pulled into the gullet as much as possible. Of course, someone thought it was a good idea to not have sheepskin on the spin, so if it rides down at all, we're back to square one. Cathy recommended a half pad with a wither cut out (I'm thinking this in the 1/2") to use under a regular pad. Or instead of. I guess people do that too.

I'm not really sure what to do. I think a big part of the cause is that the jumping saddle I have is an older model. Ansur has since drastically improved the pommel design, which would be fabulous, I'm sure. Also, super expensive. I guess I could sell both of the saddles I have now and try to buy one jumping saddle used. Or I could sell my current jumping saddle to my eventing buddy (and her no-withered halfie) and try to come up with enough money to buy a newer saddle. (This might be my best option. Jean, what year did the new pommel debut?) In the mean time, we can focus on dressage and I'll just have to jack up my stirrups and pretend it's a jumping saddle...

Any thoughts?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Woff part 2

It's cold and windy outside. Izzy is feeling much better, so instead of love-y and snuggling, she was nutty this morning. Grrr. Instead of writing about how frustrating it was, I bring you part two of the Jimmy Wofford clinic.

In the morning lecture, we again followed a Q & A format. Here are some of the main points:

Horse Size
The optimum size for maximum athletic performance is 15.3-16.1 (you will all note that Izzy is 16.0). Optimal conformation is built uphill with a normal-to-long back, straight legs, and a good mind. There is an excellent article on conformation and durability by Col. Chamberlain.

The reason this conformation is desirable is that for most riders, it is far easier to put a long-backed horse together than it is to loosen a short backed horse. Lucinda Green would disagree, but she's hardly a normal rider. Bigger horses break down more easily and are more difficult to ride. There are more prone to health problems such as roaring. The short format event is even more intense than the old long formats. The last two minutes of XC are pretty much anaerobic exercise, and a well-conditioned smaller horse does better at it (at advanced levels).

As always, Jimmy loves his TBs. If a horse can't be a TB, he wants it to be at least half. He likes draft crosses, as long as the draft is several generations removed. With rare exceptions, half-draft horses are just too big and cumbersome to be really good at eventing. Again, here we're talking about Intermediate and up, I think. He doesn't care as much at the lower levels.

Helmet Zipline
During the showjumping for the prelim/training group, Jimmy had the riders do a combination while pretending to have a zipline attached to their heads. This was because horses jump in an arc, which is 180 degrees. They are only going forward for one of those degrees. The horse needs the rider's mechanics to be correct in order to perform at it's best. The zipline exercise gets the rider up and allows the horse to work underneath them.

The Galloping Seat
Apparently, there are nuts running around teaching people to straighten their legs when galloping. This is bunk. Bend your knees to absorb the impact on the movement. Horses do not run a flat line. They must make constant shallow arcs over the ground, so they go up and they come down. If your knees are straight, you force the horse to lift your entire weight with every stride.

Unorthodox Riders (I'm looking at you, P. Dutton)
Yes, they're out there and they ride at high levels. Yes, it is frustrating to be an instructor and have your students watch them. They get away with this because they have such an incredible sense of timing and balance and where the horse needs them to be.

Remind your students that they do not have those natural advantages. Direct them towards riders with excellent basics like William Fox Pitt and Pippa Funnell.

Remember, it's better for you to learn the hard way then be naturally good.

We did a long section on the different riding positions within the disciplines and how they related to the terrain. It was fascinating. It's also largely illustrated in my notebook, which means to actually explain it, I'd need to either become a paint whiz or use a scanner. Let me know if you care enough to see it all.

Basically, don't follow fads in positions; they are just exaggerations of reality. All you really need are a vertical stirrup leather (in relation to the ground) and a straight line from the elbow to the bit.

Posting at the Canter
This is a bad habit. To correct it, put a glove under your butt and keep it there. Or put your reins in your outside hand and your inside hand on the cantle under your butt. You will learn to relax your back and sit.

There are three things you need to know about riding dressage
1) Have a good position
2) Have a good position
3) Have a good position
That's all there is to it. ;-)

Distances to Fences
Don't worry about distances yet. Also, don't tell your students to not worry about distances. That's like saying, "Don't think about a white horse standing on a hill." Obviously, you have to think about it. Instead of stressing over distance, focus on rhythm. Use gymnastics with related distances to get both horse and rider used to the proper distance.

The horse will learn faster than the rider will. For the rider to start learning (when they're well along), have them ride a gymnastic with a specific distance, say three strides. Have them say, "Land. One, two, three" in rhythm with the horse. When riders start to understand distances, they always want to move up for the long stride. Teach them that a long three is the same as a short four, which is probably preferable.

And here's Jimmy favorite quote for the weekend: "And adventure is what happens after things start going wrong."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Izzy the Incredible

Izzy and I had another lesson today. It was fabulous. (Sorry. I'm out of school, out of work, and the weather is nice outside. My life is fabulous.)

We did our first little tiny jumping course over trot poles, cross rails, and a fun little vertical (that was on a related distance to one of the crossrails!) Big stuff for us. My jumping position and confidence is a bit better because I got my old girl out yesterday and jumped a few little things. That was super fun.

Izzy trotted over everything like it was nothing. I just had to focus on keeping the rhythm and keeping her straight while staying out of her way. She came in to the cross rail on the line, landed cantering, and headed for the next jump. I went, "Oh crap she's never cantered a jump before she can't do this" and gave a big half halt. We had a rub on the tony vertical. Cathy pointed out that it was my fault. I should have just let her canter and keep the rhythm and she would have been fine.

Whoops. Minus 1 point for messing up my poor horse.

I kept thinking about what Jimmy said. "If you want your horse to jump like a pony hunter, you need to ride like a child." That means stay out of their way and go with them. Don't try to fix stuff. Just hang on.

And magically, when I can do that, it goes really well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

At Least There's Always Western Pleasure...

Izzy got her shots on Friday after I rode. She got Saturday off due to a freak snowstorm and it being freezing out. Sunday we just did some basic mounting/dismounting manners style work, mainly because of this:

Yep. The Bubble of Doom was down for repairs over the weekend. Weird, huh? It's way different then this, which is it's usual look.

Note: The above picture was taken several months ago. So, yesterday I got on Izzy without really thinking about it. We walked off. When I picked up the contact on the right rein, Izzy threw her nose to the right and almost fell over she ran back wards so fast. What? Yeah. I didn't really know what to do with that. I'm pretty familiar with her evasions (as I'm sure you all know), but this isn't one I've seen any hint of before.

I decided not to punish it because I knew about the shots and I knew she had a fairly adverse reaction to them. I know it's a bad idea to let a horse who constantly tests authority get away with something like that, but I thought it could be pain related. Cathy came by and watched us a little bit. She agreed that it was probably residual stiffness/soreness from the shot, so Izzy and I had a hacking day. Think really long reins, just plodding around. We did walk/trot stuff on the buckle, but she absolutely couldn't canter. We tried.

So I guess if eventing doesn't work out for us, I can sell her as an appendix western pleasure horse.

A little bit of pain seems to do good things for her, though. She was soooo incredibly mellow today. We were riding during our eventing buddy's lesson, so we did a lot of standing and watching, then going out and doing something, since Irie the halfie is still pretty green. Izzy was a doll. When we were done, I got off and could just cuddle with her. Awww. Her neck was definitely better, but not back to 100% yet, so we played hunters and just went forward on a pretty loose rein. She was lovely.

Here's a picture of her wearing her new boots on a walk we took on Sunday.
PS I loaned my jumping Ansur to my eventing buddy and completely ruined her. Now she wants one, too.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Brief Aside

Alas, I'm on a computer but I don't have my clinic notes handy. I'll post part two next week. Thanks for the feedback! I've not written a thorough clinic summary before, so I wasn't sure how to go about it.

Yesterday was awful. It was cold and the wind was blowing ridiculously hard. I did get Izzy out and ride outside. She was good-ish, but definitely on edge. I scratched the original plan of ending the workout by trotting over poles and crossrails with our eventing buddy and just put her away. Better to end on a good note than risk something major going wrong at this point.

Instead, I set jumps and poles and quoted Jimmy Wofford. It was fun, and I liked doing the ground work so I could get more of a feel for how to set things. It's much easier to set poles, watch horses go through, then reset without having to deal with leading a horse around. After we were done, I jetted off to our local tack store to take advantage of their amazing sale and the fact that my last treed saddle sold, so I had a tiny bit of money spend.

I ended up with some black Roma open-front boots and a set of black stirrup leathers for my new saddle. After finding those items, I forced myself to march to the front of the store and not even look at anything else. Yes, you will see pictures when I put them on Izzy. I would have done it today, but she got her shots yesterday and was sore and cranky today. Oh, and did I mention that it snowed overnight and is freezing and miserable now? Brrr.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Woff

(As an aside: Izzy and I had a wonderful ride today. She did one spook/rear thing that I rode her through and she was really, really good after that. Win in the dressage saddle!!)

Jimmy Wofford Clinic 3/6/10-3/7/10 @ Tulip Springs Farm

Let me just say that I was SOOO psyched to go to this clinic. Jimmy Wofford is to eventing what George Morris is to showjumping. (I read both their columns in Practical Horseman, and since the columns are next to each other, I imagine they're friends.) We came in Friday night and stayed at a hotel, then were off bright and early the next morning to find the farm. That ended up being a bit of a project... we somehow had the wrong address, but we'd left in plenty of time and ended up in the right place.

The clinic kicked off with a one-hour lecture. As a former college student and soon-to-be grad student, let me just say how refreshing it was to listen to a lecture I was actually interested in. I scribbled down notes because I wanted to remember, not because I wanted to know them for a test.

Jimmy looks exactly like he does in Practical Horseman. He's not one of those "take-a-photo-when-I-was-pretty-and-now-I'm-old" types. He's just very down to earth and very intelligent. We could have been friends, if I wasn't so intimidated by who he was and if he actually lived you know, on this side of the country. He doesn't really like to give long lectures; he had us ask questions and he inserted mini-lectures as he saw fit. On day one, we covered several interesting topics.

--Punishment for refusing a jump
According to Jimmy, it is a rider's responsibility to make sure a horse is educated about a jump before the rider ever punishes the horse for not jumping. If the horse does understand, it is important to punish "briefly, sharply, and savagely, but never sustained". However, if the horse is not educated about a certain style of jump, then instead of punishing, break it down. Take the most basic elements of the jump and slowly build it up. He also mentioned that this sort of thing is time confusing because it's so individual, so he probably wouldn't be doing any of it in the clinic. (Fortunately, it wasn't necessary.)

--See change as progress
Jimmy pointed out that too many people have a specific issue with a horse, say refusing for example. They work and work at it, and then the horse rushes the jump. Instead of being frustrated about this, Jimmy pointed out that this is progress. It isn't exactly waht you wanted, but it's a step in the right direction.

--Riding Position
There is no correct riding position in eventing, particularly the jumping phases. There is just what is happening right now and where you need to be to be most effective.

Although he laid out a very specific conditioning regime in his book and went over it with us, Jimmy stressed that he really doesn't want lower-level horses to be too fit. It's a bad thing if they're stronger and hotter than their riders. Oh, and he defines training level as "lower". Just so you know. He did recommend a rotation schedule for training purposes, though. It looks like this, broken down by days.
1) Dressage
2) Showjumping
3) Dressage
4) Canter/conditioning
5) repeat above cycle
He warned us to be careful of a day off, because this schedule will get the horse very fit and then they'll get "fizzy". (Fizzy Izzy as a show name, anyone?) 40-45 minutes of dressage is plenty. Don't attempt something you can't deal with in that amount of time or you'll just be frustrating your horse.

Interval training gets horses really fit, but it has the potential to break them down if it's not very carefully maintained. be aware that as you condition, your horse and his issues will change. Remember, change is progress.

He let us in on an eventing secret. There is a way to win every single event you attend. It's simple, really. Just win the dressage, have no faults on cross country, and go clean show jumping. Why is that so hard?

--Bitting and gadgets
Horses run away in three ways.
1) They invert. To deal with this, use a bit with a curb chain to bring the head down.
2) They pull. Think thick corrugated surface like a waterford. Don't use thin bits! They will cut the horse's mouth, and that kind of cut never really heals. Can you spell bit issue?
3) They pull down. This is what gag bits are designed for. They lift the horse's head. Always ride with a snaffle rein so you have something to go back to.

All things considered though, gadgets like the bits above just mask problems. Try to ride without them in lessons and clinics so you can improve your horse. Obviously though, you have to live through the short term to make it to the long term. Stay safe, but always try to be training your horse so you don't need the gadget.

A perfect jump is a perfect half circle. It has never been done. Instead, focus on this: approach, jump, land, and depart, all at the same speed. The underlying theme is balance. A balanced horse will jump well. Rhythm allows us to hear the balance of the horse, which is why it's so critical. If The Woff and George Morris stand side by side and watch a jump in which the horse canters up, jumps, lands and departs at the same speed, Jimmy assures us he will say, "Good!" and Mr. Morris will say, "No. No. No, Jimmy. Her hairnet was wrong."

Adjustability in a horse presupposes that the rider has good timing. Timing takes years and years and lots of gymnastics to develop. Focus on rhythm instead. Timing is important, but not yet. Basically, if your horse needs to be that accurate to a small jump, you have the wrong horse. And, if you've been admiring the pony hunters lately, remember this: to get your horse to jump like a pony, you need to ride like a child. That is, forward, not pulling, and going with them.

That was the lecture from day one. I'll get day two next time.

In the mean time, here are a couple pictures from the showjumping, which was day one.

I so want this horse. He's a 16.3 1/2 Selle Argentine (Selle Fancais/ Argentine thoroughbred) who is an amazing athlete. GORGEOUS!!

Here is my one picture of Jimmy and the beginner novice riders. After the first few rounds of show jumping, I realized that I know none of these people and I'm not a great photographer. I'd be better served just by listening than by taking pictures.

Some important notes from showjumping:
Look at the top rail of a vertical, the front rail of an oxer, the back rail of a triple bar and the center rail of a hogsback when approaching to see what the horse sees. When the rail disappears, it's time to jump.
Count your rhythm up to the fence to feel. Count afterward to maintain. Several riders froze on the last stride and didn't count. Jimmy pointed out that when they quit counting, they quit doing anything. Instead, they needed to force themselves to ride the last stride just like they'd ridden the others. This is extremely important because of the technical demands of modern courses. They're basically one huge related distance.

And that's pretty much day one. It was fun to watch. (I so, so want to ride next year. Here's hoping we'll be ready and have $$)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh My

Izzy and I had another lesson today. I almost feel rushed; I've gone so long without lessons that having one a week means I don't have unlimited time to practice and perfect in between. Still, it's a good thing. We need all the help we can get.

I've learned that Izzy does much better if she gets to blow off a little steam before we settle in a work, so I've started just letting her go w/t/c both directions on a loose rein before I ask her to balance on come on the bit. This kind of lets her look around and get the willies out and then our ride is smoother. I thought that was why we were lunging, but I guess not. If she was living out in a pasture, I'd just give up lunging entirely.

Anyways. The lesson went well. We were more focused on jumping this week, so we skipped over the shoulder in and leg yielding so she didn't wear out too early. It was too cold and frozen to ride outside, so we were back in the Bubble of Doom. Cathy set the jump up on center line, which was fine except that the bubble is only about 20m wide. My turns to get into the jump had to be precariously tight. That ended up causing a problem because I couldn't get Izzy straight quickly enough before the jump and she ran out.

Fortunately, Cathy is pretty experienced with young horses and jumping (which is why we're doing so many lessons), so she just had me walk in on a straight line and halt in front of the jump. I patted Izzy and talked to her to de-escalate the situation, and then we were back on track. It's things like this that make me so glad we're with Cathy. I can see the temptation to just get Izzy going and ignore how tense she was, but once she understood that the jump didn't need to make her nervous, she settled right in. We had several lovely efforts.

Our biggest problem was me. I kept wanting to "help" Izzy over the fence, which resulted in me being ahead of her and in the way. Cathy (and Jimmy's ghost) kept saying, "Sit back and let her figure it out." When I did sit back and push the reins forward, she jumped very nicely and we were done.

I have one other problem: now that I have two beautiful saddles, I want to ride in both of them. I guess I'm doomed to riding two horses a day now. ;-)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Little Introduction

I am now the proud owner of one fabulous pony and two Ansur treeless saddles. You can say it. I'm a lucky girl.

Here's my saddle when I first got it yesterday. Note my stylish fleecy penguin blanket stand. I love penguins. The saddle is beautiful and in great shape.
Here is Izzy wearing the saddle after a hard workout. I tried to have Cathy take a couple pictures of us while riding, but they were alternately fuzzy or showing off some of my riding flaws, so you'll have to wait til I have better pictures. (In Cathy's defense, it is ridiculously hard to get good pictures in the doom bubble. The lighting is wonky.)

We had to borrow a girth and I used the leathers from my other Ansur, so they're brown. I really wish I could afford new leathers, a nice girth, and more flexible irons, but that's not really in the cards right now. I have about $100 to find a girth and maybe another dressage pad. I can borrow some irons and leathers and I'm pretending that my bridle actually matches.

The great thing about Ansurs is that Izzy loves them. There's no fitting problems and balkiness when I saddle up. She was very happy in it. She was also having a stupid day, wherein she spooks at absolutely everything and acts like a complete idiot. For whatever reason, I was having a brave day, so I lunged her, then just hopped on. She spooked all over the place at stupid things, and I thought back to the excellent blog post by tango dressage and went, "Hm, I will ride what she's giving me now."

So I did. Izzy would spook and gallop forward. I'd bend her inside and out to soften her. Izzy would spook in place. I'd spank her for getting behind my leg and ride her forward. The great thing was that Izzy was so "up" that she was really forward today. I used that. We didn't take many walk breaks, but we did lots of transitions and work that is hard when she doesn't want to go forward. In my lessons with Cathy, she's been having me give the inside rein and relax my body to get Izzy to settle. I tried this, and after a couple circles, Izzy actually relaxed a bit and quit leaning through my hands constantly. She listened to my seat nicely and gave me a little shoulder-fore while I released my inside hand.


So, all in all, we turned a bad day into a good day, all on a fabulous saddle.

Monday, March 8, 2010


The Jimmy Wofford clinic was amazing. I took copious notes, so I'll try to write a summary post of it this week. The only problem with the clinic was that Izzy wasn't there with me (and isn't a jumper yet), so I have the jumping bug in the worst way and there's nothing I can do. Ack!

A quick rehash of my weekend: Izzy was psycho on Friday. She was so bad (in the bubble) that I didn't even get on. I just lunged her at a gallop until she would stand still for 10 seconds. Seriously. It took like an hour. I was so irritated with her that I didn't mind leaving her for two days on my horsey extravaganza. Then the clinic.

Fortunately, while I was gone, Cathy turned Izzy out with her half-sister and they had a wonderful time together. This is good for Izzy's turnout future because she can finally be with someone, so Cathy doesn't have to turn her out alone and waste precious pasture time. This must have made Izzy happy, because she wasn't mad at me for leaving her for TWO WHOLE DAYS when I came out this morning. She met me at the gate, then was fine to tack up. She was forward but quiet on the lunge, and amazing under saddle.

What a good girl. I had plenty of time after that, so I started the massive project that is pulling Izzy's mane. It was very long and thick. Now it's about 6" long and less thick. Hopefully after another session or two, it will be back to being respectable. Izzy is one of those wonderful horses who actually can't feel it when I pull her mane, so she's very quiet and nice about it. She's also good about clippers.

My saddle is supposed to come today. EEEEE!!! So exciting.

Did I mention my life is awesome?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I'm Not Complaining

I realize that many of you are trapped under feet of snow, so my little rain storm isn't really a big deal, especially since I have access to an indoor arena. Still, I love riding outside and having more space, and I am whining just a little bit.

Anyways, I was feeding this morning while Cathy went to check the arena to see if we could ride. Her analysis was that as long as it didn't rain, we'd be outside today. Hurray! She went next door to ride some of the neighbor's horses while I got Izzy out. I had barely picked out Izzy's feet when the rain started pouring down.

Yeah. We had an actual rainstorm here.

Off to the indoor we went. Izzy was a little silly about going over, but nothing too bad. She was decent (reasonable. It's Cathy's favorite word.) on the lunge, and then off we went. I tried to work on the things we did in our lesson, but I only had a few minutes to ride and I was steering around Cathy's training horse and a lesson for a very nice guy who I think was disabled. We kept it to walk/trot and I focused on keeping my hands very still while riding from my body. For whatever reason, Izzy was vastly less argumentative than she was yesterday, and it went really well. Maybe it helped that two other horses were in there with us. I don't know.

I got off when the other horses left. I don't Izzy liked being left, because she blasted out the door and almost ran over me. Grrr. I backed her up pretty quickly and made her go in and out of the claustrophobic box politely several times before I took her home. I get that it's cramped and dark and she doesn't like it, but that's no reason to trample me.

I ride again tomorrow, then I'm off for the weekend with a horsey friend to watch a Jimmy Wofford clinic. Woohoo! Here's hoping Izzy won't be too mad at me when I get back.

Funny story: Izzy gets bored in her pen, so any time I come to get her she meets me at the gate. Seriously. Even multiple times a day. I was gone last weekend, so she didn't get worked Fri-Sun. Monday when I came to get her, she hid her head behind her feed bucket and wouldn't look at me or let me put her halter on because she was mad. How dare I leave her alone! Poor pony.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I guess I forgot to sacrifice to the weather gods. Just last last week, it rained Tuesday night, so we were forced to do a jump-free lesson indoors. Guess what? The same thing happened this week. Fortunately, Cathy went over while I was tacking up and watered the arena so it wouldn't be as dusty.

Unfortunately, while Izzy and I were lunging, Cathy pulled the long, green hose out of the bubble. Izzy almost sat down and said SNAKE!!!! It took us a while to work through being snorty about that.

I rode in Cathy's dressage saddle again, and it felt really good. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that dressage is so much easier with a saddle that's designed for it. (My saddle is due here on Monday!!) The focus of our lesson was on riding from the saddle instead of using my hands, which was excellent. We did a little baby shoulder-fore and leg yields in which I used my hands to soften Izzy only and moved her over from my seat. Once I got back in the hang of it, I could see a definite improvement in her way of going.

Cathy also had me work on controlling my body to regulate Izzy's rhythm. Instead of tensing up and overbending her when she gets quick, I need to pull my shoulders back, keep my seat back, and regulate my rhythm. I tend to let her pull me forward and get in a tug of war. In the canter, I need to hold the outside rein, then soften on the inside to let her go forward and carry herself. We had about 3 strides of lovely self-carriage before she lost her balance.

All in all, it was an excellent lesson and the weather is beautiful outside. I'm just hoping that it's warm enough to dry the arena for tomorrow.

Oh! And while I was cleaning this morning, I realized that I totally forgot to put one blog on my list yesterday, so here it is:

A Work in Progress
Shannon and Spider are into dressage. And good at it. Shannon talks about the challenges of life and horses and gives excellent feedback on dressage issues.

Sorry anyone else I left out...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pony Adventure!

Izzy and I got invited to ride in a lesson yesterday evening at a new arena. It sounded like a great opportunity to get her out to do something, so I jumped on the chance.

For the record, all of the following were firsts.
1) Loudspeaker
2) Loudspeaker playing music
3) Arena
4) Dark outside
5) Riding under lights
6) Riding with 3 other horses

All things considered, she did remarkably well. She was a bit sticky about wanting to go forward, but she didn't have any major spooks while I was on her. She was a bit nutty on the lunge line, but she settled in ok. The biggest problem was that all the other horses were on edge because of something that happened earlier in the day out there, and she picked up on that pretty well.

Still, a pretty decent ride.

I rode this morning and she was fabulous. It was actually a big confidence boost for me to ride her through her stickiness last night because when she started to act silly this morning, I was like "pssh, this is home. It's no where near as scary as that other arena" and just rode her through. In fact, our little Halfie friend Irie had a pretty major explosion on the lunge line while I was riding, and Izzy just gave him a funny look and didn't so much as flinch.

I love my pony.

Also, thank you to all of you who gave me this award, including Nina and Sam, Denali, Frizzle and Salem, and Marissa and Tucker.


So, seven things about Izzy and I:

1) Sprinkler Bandit is the result of a misunderstanding in junior high. It stuck. Also, no one else on the internet uses it, so it's a convenient label. Also, my old mare LOVES sprinklers.

2) I don't consider myself a "horse mom". I know that most people do, but to me, Izzy (and any other horse I work with consistently) are partners, albeit subservient. Besides, if I was Cassie's mom and she had Izzy and now I'm Izzy mom, there are some weird family dynamics going on. Sheesh.

3) Despite living in cow country, I haven't the vaguest idea how one goes about putting on a western saddle. I tried once. It didn't work.

4) I ride english because when I first signed up for riding lessons, I figured that english saddles were lighter than western saddles. Hey, I was 9.

5) Whenever horse people come out to see Izzy, I feel like I need to give them a pretty massive disclaimer about how despite the fact she's barefoot and I use a treeless saddle, we're not "weird". You know how that is.

6) Izzy's pretty awesome. Sometimes I worry that she won't want to jump and thus won't be an event horse, but then I realize that even if she did, I'm ok with that. As long as she does trails, too.

7) I am an obsessive nerd. For reals. I love the internet because I can research the crap out of any purchase I want to make. It goes like this: I think, "Hm, I wonder what a new dressage bridle would cost." I google and check dover. "Hm, there is a huge price range." I narrow my options to horse size, white padded, no flash, and nice leather quality between $100-200. I check horse tack review, the COTH forums, and customer reviews. Then, I put it aside and think about it. I look at it online every day and wonder, "is this what I want to look at for the next ten years?" Finally, when I decide that I think yes is the answer, I go to our (one) local tack store. I examine the options, go home and repeat the process.

My 15 blogs:
I would call them favorites, but I like every one I follow. These are just the ones that I guess I'm most interested in.

Fugly Horse of the Day
When I decided to keep my training journal online, I googled "horse blog" and this was the first one that came up. I got to my current online community by checking every one of Fugly's commentors to see if they had a blog like I wanted to write, and then I "followed" them. I've since moved on from that method, but it provided me with an excellent start. Plus, oodles of horse people read this, so it gives me a bit of context for what's happening online.

Green and Green = Black and Blue
I found Denali through Fugly's comments, and I love watching their journey together. Denali's mom has a great sense of humor and I love reading about her life with and without horses.

Bay State Brumby
Lilly's mom takes tons of pictures and just loves her horse.

Horses of the Follywoods
Jean has three boys, all full of character. Also, she's an Ansur distributor who answers pretty much all of my questions. This is great, because I have a lot.

From Wingman to Witching Hour
Salem and Izzy have remarkably similar brains. Really. Though I must say, I like Izzy better. Also, they would have been name twins if I'd held to my original plan of calling Izzy "Salem's Lady". WHOA.

Tucker the Wunderkind
Marissa is what I want to be in a few years. Employed. Plus, she and Tucker are fun to read about.

From Racehorse to Showhorse

Izzy's mom is an OTTB, so I have a special fondness for them. This lady has two. Both are gorgeous and she takes amazing pictures of them. If she's not looking, I'll steal Ollie and bring him home with me.

Halt Near X
The title pretty much sums this up; subtle, horse-oriented humor. And I love it.

Tango Dressage Blog
I've discover this more recently, and it's excellent. A lot of thought is put into each post, and it shows. I linked to her post on riding the horse instead of riding the spook a couple weeks ago. That remains one of my favorite blog posts ever, because when I read it, something clicked for me.

Behind the Bit
Again, this is how I stay in the online equestrian loop. I mean, I didn't even know hoof surgery was possible.

A Year with Horses
Kate takes care of a whole barn full, and her slightly unconventional take on horsemanship has gotten me thinking many times.

I Will Jump Sweet Horse Jumps
She lives in another hemisphere. Her horses actually jump. 1.2 m is way higher than it really sounds. What could be wrong?

Dapple of my Eye
Rachel and Granite are pretty awesome. Plus, we're in semi-similar places in life, so I like to see how she fits her horse into her life.

High Tech Horse
This is Rachel's friend, Eva. She blogs because she has to, but I enjoy reading all the same. Plus, she might continue after the class ends. The suspense in killing me. (BUY BABY MORGAN!!!) Ahem, just my advice.

Someone doing what I want to do. 'Nuff said.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Shopping without a Budget

Our new saddle is supposed to ship out from it's old home today. It's black (of course), so it won't match The Most Beautiful Bridle in the World. I know what to do; don't buy a black bridle. I've found a couple that are pretty cheap, but I know I'd never be super happy with a cheap bridle. I've learned that I just need to save and buy what I really want or else I keep buying stuff that I don't want.

Oh well. I don't have the funds to buy a nice bridle right now, so we'll just have to enjoy our mismatched tack when the new saddle arrives. I'm sure that if we go to a show, I'll be able to borrow a black bridle until I can actually afford one.

Also, I'd post a picture of the saddle that the seller sent, but it seems unlucky to show off something not actually in my possession yet. Have patience.
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