Monday, February 28, 2011

Ground Work

Thanks for your support, all. I'm feeling a bit better now, so here's to hoping things continue to improve.

It was an absolutely beautiful day yesterday--45f and a light breeze with full sun. I had officially decided that I wouldn't even bother putting a saddle on Izzy until she saw the chiropractor, so instead we did some ground work.

We used her leather halter with a chain to give me a little something. I rarely have to use it, but every once in a while, Ms. Mare decides she doesn't have to listen.

Anways. Just putting the chain on was enough. All of a sudden, she remembered how to walk, trot and halt on the lead line, just following my body position instead of trying to run me over. Perfect. I did lunge her in the big outdoor arena and she was actually really good. Still better left than right, but not as bad to the right as she'd been before.

All set for chiro this morning.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Something else is wrong. I suspect Izzy's NQR in her left hind. She was ok going to the left, but had an absolute fit about going right and taking her right lead. This is particularly remarkable because She's a right-sided horse. Even loose, she was taking the left lead when going right, though she did pick it up on the lunge. That said, I could barely keep her out on a circle to the right because she kept leaning in like she was trying to keep weight off that outside hind. Oh, and she absolutely couldn't go straight to the right. She isn't off, she's just a little short on the hind, so I'm thinking she tweaked something.


I will call the chiro today and see what we can do.

I'm just feeling discouraged, though. Sometimes I think I should just sell Izzy to someone who could appreciate/use her more and buy something slower and stupider for myself to putz around on. Part of the problem is that I really can't afford lessons right now. I could maybe, but every time I have some money for it, I get to pay some other equine professional to fix the problem pony. I feel a bit adrift and I'm not sure what to do about it.

Part of me wants to explore other options. There is an eventing barn near me with some high-ish level trainers. Maybe I should explore either moving her there or taking some lessons (with imaginary money, at this point). I know a girl who's a really excellent rider and does some training--maybe I should see if she'd come ride Izzy a few times.

We could take more lessons with Cathy, but I feel like her teaching style isn't really the best for me at this point. She knows how to do a lot of things, but she's not always good at conveying the 'why' which is what I need. If I'm going to work on my own most of the time, I need to understand more than just the mechanics. I need to know the theory behind it so I can develop it more on my own.

Objections to my plans so far:
1) Money.
2) RE: the eventing facility. Pretty sure it's expensive. Plus, the trainer is not known for his kind and sympathetic understanding of horses. More like, most of them run like mad at every jump they see because they know they'll get whipped if they don't. Frankly, I like Izzy's jumping style and don't want to screw with it.
3) RE: the rider. I don't know. She's a rider and not really a trainer and she's pretty shy, so I'm not sure she's really what we're looking for. It wouldn't hurt to have someone more experienced ride Izzy for me, but I don't think it would help me all that much, and I'm the basic problem.

A very large part of me just wants to hunt down a full time good-paying job and move Izzy to some magical facility where a pro rides her a few times a week and I can take lessons like a typical well-to-do adult ammy. The problem? I don't think that mythical facility even exists. I don't know where I would send her. Oh, and job hunting right now? Ha. Ha ha ha. It's that bad.

So... any words of wisdom for the floundering adult ammy who feels like she's just screwing up her perfectly nice horse?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wondermare Expresses Her Opinions

Let's talk saddles.

Izzy has a Collegiate Alumni saddle. It's a close contact saddle with a convertible gullet designed for high-withered horses. I have the wide gullet installed, and it fits her ok with a front lift pad. Yes, it could be better, but she's happy and that's good enough for me.

When I decided to try out a treed dressage saddle so I could have some extra support, the easiest option was just to get the Collegiate Intellect saddle, which is the convertible dressage model. It fit her back remarkably well. That said, the regular width gullet that came installed was definitely too narrow for Ms. Mare. I tried the wide gullet out of the jumping saddle and had the same result--it fit ok with a front lift pad.

Then I tried to outsmart my horse (never do this): I went to the tack store and got a medium-wide gullet. My thinking was this: if regular is too narrow, and wide is too wide, why not just go for the in between size?

Answer: because your horse LIKES it too wide, dammit.

Yep, did the medium wide thing yesterday. No lift pad, just the fuzzy adopted sheepskin. Izzy had an absolute head flipping cow in which she informed me that she would under no conditions work in that saddle, thank you very much.

I dismounted, took her back to the barn, changed the gullet AGAIN (I am getting really good at it), and put the saddle on again with the fuzzy sheepskin.

Izzy had another cow. NO THANK YOU.


Back to the barn, remove sheepskin, add front lift pad.

And magically... that works for her. I don't know why, but she went forward nicely and behaved herself. We were bovine-less, except for the first few canter transitions. She didn't think she could do them, but she figured it out. Huh. After about a 20 minute ride, she was forward, soft, and stretching into the contact. Oh, and did I mention that we were even able to do some work towards our February goals? Yeah. They might not be a total fail this month after all. Hooray!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pony Love

I'm still blown away by the fact that I, SprinklerBandit, have a pony of my very own. She's what I always wanted for my whole life, and she's more than lived up to expectations and dreams.

Aimee & Izzy forever.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Option #3

In all fairness, I didn't consider option #3 when I left you with a poll. It's actually the most logical option. You remember that I mentioned how shocked I was that -my- tackstore, the one that never has anything worth having, was carrying something I was interested in.

Well, they didn't have it in Izzy's size. Of course. Fortunately, I'm pretty good at eyeballing her sizes so I didn't just buy one that didn't fit and then have to return it.

On the other hand, after scouring google while on the phone at work for hours yesterday, I found a second Micklem bridle available at the internet. So... yeah... used, super good deal, on it's way to me now.

I think I should get this tshirt:
Stacey over at Behind the Bit is designing them. Lots of fun options.

I'm kidding about the shirt for now, but how perfect would it be for me? Really? Yeah...


So. My horse. The reason I have this blog. I mean, I assume you read this blog to hear about the Wondermare more than to hear my prattle on about tack-whoring and whatnot. Never fear! I even have a picture today.

This is what we call the lazy man's lunging cavesson. Specifically, I was starting Izzy back in a bit for the first time and I didn't want to lunge off the bridle.

I disassembled my jump bridle, then put my leather halter over it. Voila! A lunge cavesson. You might also note the loverly sheepskin halfpad we are using. Have no fear! I didn't buy it. It's just that I am the only person in the tackroom at the small barn, and there is this sheepskin pad that has been sitting there always. Apparently, it was left by a former boarder. I'm thinking I'll adopt it. Poor thing needs a home. ;-)

Since Izzy had Monday off, she decided to play a fun game called "how fast can I run at the fence in the indoor arena". Also "how high can I buck while running". In light of those games, I decided that we would stick with lunging for her re-introduction to the bit. We warmed up both directions, and then I put loosely adjusted side reins on her. She doesn't wear them often (since they tend to make her a bit heavy), but she gave me some lovely work yesterday.

Can't wait to ride tomorrow... hate that I'm too busy to get out on Wednesdays.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Not So Formal

This is the barn lot on Sunday. Yes, more snow.

I hate snow.

Still, we're lucky enough to have an indoor, so we bundled up and got ready.

There's a reason I bought Izzy a fancy cooler this fall. ;-) When it's precipitating, I just tack her up, throw the cooler over her, and off we go.

Yes in a sidepull.

I'm still riding sans whip in an effort to accomplish my goal of getting her more responsive, allow her to heal thoroughly, and give her lots of room to make her opinion known on how she feels. So far, I'm pleased with the progress we've made. She is much more forward now that her face is comfortable. Can't really blame her for that.

As promised, here's our riding get-up as of late. We are stylin'. (Ha.) My inner matchy-matchy wanna-be hunter-princess is appalled. My inner eventer says, "Well, it gets the job done."

My oft-expressed tack-whoring self says "MUST HAVE MICKLEM BRIDLE NOW".

Excuse me while I beat the tack whore back.

Ok, so I do really want to try the Micklem, but realistically, I need to wait and take care of other expenses first. I'm sure we'll be sporting one sometime this summer, but in the mean time, I will find something else to obsess over. (And if you find a horse size one used, do shoot me the link. I'm currently emailing with the seller of the only used one on the internet.)

In other news, I have to go to the tack store today to pick up something that came in. Who thinks I'll be able to walk out without this?

Oh, yeah, it's just an amazing synthetic halter that looks like leather but it comfy and totally weatherproof. As in yes, I could hang it on the front of Izzy's stall and no, the weather would not damage it. Tekna ftw.

I have no idea why my backwoods tackshop is carrying something cool, useful, trendy, and inexpensive, but I like it.

Yeah. They're only like $30.

So. If you think I will emerge from Flynn's Saddle Shop without one of these beauties, take number 1. If you think, on the other hand, that my inner tack whore will seize control of the $30 of cash in my wallet and emerge triumphantly from the store with said halter, please choose number 2.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Starting Over

I just deleted my whole blog entry.

Why? It was rambling and not getting to the point. If I'm bored reading it, I figure you probably will be, too.

Here are the highlights:

1) The dressage saddle is working nicely
2) I'm riding Izzy in a dressage saddle with a sidepull (hilarious looking)
3) Wondermare is still having a head tossing conniption about riding
4) The conniption subsides after we've worked for a while

Now, letting the tack whore out.

In light of the head tossing and general facial sensitivity, I want one of these:

It theoretically removes common pressure points and is super comfortable for the horse. I can believe it. Plus, it's a tack related solution, and you know how I love those. ;-) I'm sure it would look amazing on Izzy/in my apparently massive headstall collection.

Basically, it combines what I like about flash nosebands (bit support) with an interesting design, but doesn't crank the horse's mouth shut, which is what I don't like about flashes. I actually think the throatlatch is in a more sensible place, since the conventional location means that either it's too loose to do anything or it's so tight it restricts breathing. And hey, some people dress them up with fancy browbands.

So... it's a thought. I will continue doing research and see how Izzy does today in our first venture back to a bit.

I will also try to remember to get some pictures of Izzy in our ridiculous sidepull setup.

ETA: I thought I made the picture into a link. Apparently not. For anyone interested, it's a Rambo Micklem Competion Bridle and can be found here, among other places.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Izzy Pictures!!

The Wondermare is still on break. I'm thinking we're going to hold off on riding seriously until Monday. I want to give her plenty of time.

Yesterday, I spent a good long time grooming her and polishing her up, then I took pictures.

Look how cute she is! I did a more thorough mane pull than the first time around. It's still not perfectly even and show ready, but it's a lot closer. I stood on the mounting block this time so I could actually reach the upper part of her mane. It's soooo thick at the top that it's ridiculous.

I also broke out the desitin that's 40% zinc oxide. For those of you who are like me and not into (human) babies, this is apparently diaper rash cream. As per farrier directions, I am applying it to Izzy's frogs 3x a week. It's supposed to help them do something important that I can't think of right now. Izzy did not like the smell at all. I also had trouble getting it off my hands, so I think I'm in the market for some latex gloves. Yuck!

Another headshot. I was on my own and it's hard to be handler and camera person as well as artistic designer of all the shots. I try having other boarders help, but they don't want to be in the picture, so they take it and, well, horse pictures are an art in which few are well studied. You know?

In my spare time yesterday, I was leather halter shopping. The one Izzy has is a little too big, plus I got it used for $20 about two years ago, so not very pretty. I like pretty. There is a side of me that really wants to get her a "pretty" leather halter, but I'm not even sure what that looks like. I'm not wild about crystal studded halters and/or fancy stitching.

I'm thinking we'll just hold off til the tack store has a sale next month and see if we can't get something they have in stock and just put a nameplate on it. Maybe that will help us overcome the nameplate jinx (which is that every time I put a nameplate on something, that thing goes horribly wrong).

Oooooh she's so pretty. I would really like to do some conformation shots soon. This was the closest we got, and obviously, it's nothing exciting.

Also her tail is a wreck, but I'm thinking it's a wreck best approached with shampoo and detangler. When it's warm. I can't wait to bang it off! She's going to have a super sexy hock length tail, because, you know, we jump such massive things that I need to keep it from catching on them. ;-)

This looks like it should be the cover of a book. Or maybe the header of a blog. Hm... the great question: do I try it myself or just call in the super awesome blogger header make Denali's Mom?

Hm. Yeah. I'm no artist, but I actually really like this photo.

I'm going to try and make the header, then throw up my hands in disgust and email it off. This is a job for someone with skillz.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Despite not actually having any time to go to the barn yesterday, I went. I had too--Izzy just got her teeth done for the first time ever and we had a new saddle to try on.

I was surprised when I saw her. She was very perky and she had eaten every single wisp of hay in her stall. All winter long, she's just kind of eaten sparingly except when it was really cold. I let her play in the indoor, then brought her back and groomed her thoroughly. I should have taken a picture--I'll try to do that today.

She was shiny.

She's always been soft and fuzzy, but part of the reason I have taken barely any pictures of her this winter is just that she didn't really have that healthy glow that I love about her. She looked ok and no worse than the other horses, but I knew/know that Izzy has amazing coat genetics and basically gleams in the summer time. I thought it was just winter gunk and junk, but I think the lack of gloss just came her her feeling like crap.

I didn't think that much could change about a horse in a day, but it definitely did. She looked (and I think felt) amazing.

After grooming, I pulled out the saddle. It's got a convertible gullet and has the regular plate installed, which I knew would be way too small for her. After all, her jumping saddle is a wide. I swung it up on her back and it sat there. Perfectly. Balanced. It follows the contours of her back nicely and had nice spine clearance all the way through. There was even pressure under the panels and she didn't make any icky faces, even when I girthed it up.

Oooooh... this could be good. I DID NOT have time to ride, but I couldn't just sit there and drool, so I grabbed my sidepull and took her for a quick walk around the parking lot. She was antsy about putting the sidepull on, but I think it's because the bridle had been hurting her and her mouth is still sore. Once she realized there wasn't a bit, she was fine. She also gave a tiny head flip while walking, but she didn't repeat it, so I think she's starting to figure out that things aren't going to hurt anymore.

Analysis from yesterday: Hm. It's a mighty good start. She was fine with the saddle, I LOVED it. It was shockingly high quality leather for being a cheapie saddle. Once I sat on it, it did sink down on her more than I would have liked. I'm thinking the flocking needs to be redone and I'm 90% sure there's no one in Idaho who flocks or reflocks english saddles. Any recommendations for the surrounding states? I can go to Seattle or Salt Lake pretty easily (since I have places to stay). Portland maybe... no where to stay, but it's easy to talk my mom into a road trip there and split costs. PNW peeps have any ideas?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More General Excitement

Since we all love to be well acquainted with our vets (ha!), Izzy and I were excited to meet Dr. Borders yesterday. He checked Izzy, agreed she needed work, and off we went. He gave her happy drugs--within a minute she was totally loopy. It was really pretty funny. Her lower lip was drooping and she had this goofy look on her face. I wanted to take a picture, but she's such a noble, beautiful creature most of the time that it just didn't feel right.

After opening her mouth and poking around, he looked at me. "Has she been having any problems with the bridle or riding?"
I told him about our various issues.
He frowned, looked back at her, then looked at me again. "Well, all horses are different..."
I just laughed. "Yeah. She has a really low pain tolerance."
"That's what I was going to say."

He did let me feel the points on her teeth, which I thought were huge and nasty and sharp, but he apparently didn't think they were quite worth the fit she was having over them. Oh well. The advantage of an overly sensitive pony is that she points out the problems long before they become serious.

After he finished, I get to feel inside her mouth again. Much better! I'm super excited to start riding again in a few days after she'd had a chance to recover.

Oh, and speaking of riding--I bought a saddle. It finally arrived yesterday. I found it online for a steal, so I figured I couldn't go too far wrong. If I don't like it, I think I can still make a profit selling it. It's a Collegiate Intellect (the convertible model) dressage saddle. I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised by the leather quality. I have a collegiate jump saddle and while it fits us nicely, the leather is crap. This saddle is all soft and pretty.

Depending on how impulsive I feel, I might run out and try it on Izzy this afternoon, but I really need to go straight home after work and get my house cleaned up for people coming over tonight. What to do...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Izzy the Wondermare

Several things happened before that have never happened in my entire life. I will list them in chronological order.

1) The farrier called Sunday night to schedule an appointment for Monday at noon. I showed up at 12.03 on Monday. They were already there. Yikes! I figured I'd have a good half hour to lunge Izzy before they showed up.

2) The wondermare had an abscess. For serious. I should have taken a picture. Dave found it when cleaning up her left hind frog. It was a nice, neat capsule that had already blown out on it's own. Did I mention that she was never off a single day? Yeah... magic pony.

3) In light of #2, I needed an anti-thrush treatment to clean up the abscess hole. I went to the tack store, and get this, left with MORE money than I went in with. Yeah. I made $41.64 on that trip and it included buying two things that cost about $40. Apparently, some of my consignment items sold.

So. I now have thrush buster for her lil' feets (ok, large, well-shaped hooves) and desitin (farrier's recommendation) to help make her hoofies pretty. We see the dentist today at 3pm. Cross your fingers for her that it isn't a major deal and for me that it doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

ETA: Just looked back at my January posts and noticed that on the 29th, she was fussy about going forward into contact, especially to the right. My theory is that since the left side of her face is the one that's messed up, taking extra contact on the outside (left) rein was not fun. Maybe that's why she's been so sticky to the right? I'm excited to find out.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Think I Found the Answer

Energy supplements are off the table. Here's why:

I rode Izzy Friday for a jump school. She was fabulous, as per the usual and I think I'm starting to catch up. She hasn't really wanted to go forward into contact lately, so I rode on a looser rein and just had her go forward, period. It seemed to work reasonably well, though she flipped her nose a couple times in the canter. I didn't worry about it too much--after all, I was intentionally asking her to do something she didn't want to.

Saturday she had off since I was volunteering at a show.

Sunday was the most amazing day we've had all year in terms of weather. Almost 60f, sunny, light breeze. The track is finally dry and had been worked, so I put Izzy jumping tack on her to go do some intervals for the first time this year. Unfortunately (I thought), the barn owners were doing a lot of work with the tractor and they had it right on the spooky road I'd need to go down to get to the track. I figured that spooky road+tractor would be too much for a pony brain, so I took her to the outdoor arena to warm up before we went to the track.

Now, some basic info: my jumping saddle is a collegiate convertible. As in, has a tree. It fits Izzy well enough. It's not perfect, but she seems to think it's ok and since there isn't a saddle fitter within 800 miles of me, I'm letting good enough alone.

She lunged just fine, so I mounted. Her walk was ridiculously slow and behind my leg. More than usual. I tried leg and whip and everything with precious little result. It was stupid walk or break to trot. Fine, I thought, we'll trot. She gave me a nasty head tossing transition to a choppy, ridiculously slow trot. When I asked for more, she started throwing her head and threatening to go up, a threat I always take very seriously from her. I tried a couple different things to get her forward and not-head-tossing. All failed.

Ok, plan B. I dismounted and unsaddled her. Since her saddle fit isn't perfect, I thought perhaps she'd changed shape again and was now uncomfortable. Usually, I'd expect her to start showing that when tacking up, but it was worth a shot. I looked at how the saddle sat on her. To me, it looked the same as before. A little too wide in front, but with shimmed with a pad that has a tiny front lift, fits reasonably well. Huh... We walked back to the barn. I put her jumping saddle up and pulled out our treeless dressage saddle. This is her happy place, so if there's a saddle fit issue, putting it on will correct the behavior.

She was fine. I took her out to the arena and got the exact same response--fine on the lunge, head tossing and rearing threats under saddle. Huh. I checked her back Friday and today and it was totally fine. No knots, no soreness. She's totally sound and even in all four legs. I had a brief chat with two of the other boarders. One mentioned that her horse flips his head when he thinks his browband is too tight. Despite the fact that she's gone in this bridle for over a year, she did just get a new dressage bridle with a roomier browband, so maybe she changed what she likes.

I switch the bridle. She's quite patient about it. Huh. It just doesn't make sense to me. She's been a little fussy about bridling, but I'd attributed that to the cold weather and cold bits of winter.

I decide to wait for Terri (hooray western trainer!) to go out and check our latest configuration. I had two thoughts: 1) she might be able to see a problem I'm not feeling correctly and 2) if Izzy does flip over on me, at least someone will be there to scrape my bloodied corpse off the ground.

As we're waiting, the other boarder and I start talking about Izzy's bit/bridle arrangement. Loose ring, double jointed, copper mouth, comfortably fitted. She walks over and starts feeling along Izzy's face where her teeth lay. Right side: nothing, no reaction. She went to the left side. About halfway up, Izzy opened her mouth and put her head up.


Tooth issues. We tried one more time and got the same reaction. Poor mare... it explains so much. She hasn't wanted to go forward into contact because, well, ouch. She went really nicely in the western tack because there was no contact and a minimalist bridle. She's just been picking at her hay because it hurt to eat. It might even explain some of her explosiveness lately--the only thing she's been eating well (other than treats) is her senior, which is grain based.

Huh. I thought she'd slowed down on eating because it was warmer and she didn't need it to keep warm. I was wrong.
Now I'm setting up a dentist appointment for my horse... it will be sometime after her manicure this afternoon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wherein Izzy Pulls a Pia Jr.

It was amazing here yesterday. Sunny, clear, slight breeze, and almost 50f. The outdoor arena was dry and had just been worked, so the footing was perfect. I turned Izzy out in the indoor. She was super lazy and would barely canter, so I tacked up and hopped on, omitting our usual winter lunging.

We started out trying to get her to stretch and work long and low. She was sticky and not forward at all. I kept at it. It's frustrating sometimes. I feel like I have to use my whip constantly, which is not the goal. I do a progression of aids--leg, cluck, whip--but at the beginning of our sessions, leg gets me nowhere. By the end, she's reasonably responsive. I just want her magically fixed now. Is that so bad? ;-)

I finally got her sort of stretching and we moved into the trot, then quickly into canter. I've noticed that canter tends to loosen her up, so I try to canter early, then come back to trot and work in it for a while, then return to a better canter later on. After a circuit or two of the arena, we dropped back to trot. Izzy remained her slightly sluggish self as we trotted by the end of the arena that is right next to the road. A car drove by. This happens all the time and never bothers her, so I thought nothing of it...

...until she started madly galloping and bucking down the long side of the arena towards the open gate! I lost a stirrup but kept me reins. I manage to snap my head back into the game about halfway down the long side, yelled at her, got her head up as she bucked one last time, and halted to regain my stirrup. As soon as I was situated, we trotted off. Then cantered. My logic was this:

1) If Izzy thinks trying to buck Aimee off is a good idea, then
2) Izzy may continue to run until her legs fall off.

We cantered and cantered and cantered. We worked on our transitions. We shortened and lengthened. We practiced staying balanced through the turns. We did big loops and small loops. We practiced going forward and keeping out balance up. Then we changed directions and did the whole thing the other way. By the time we were done, my black horse out in the bright sun was covered in sweat. She'd even foamed a little bit. She was definitely not worried about cars anymore.

And the funny thing? I wasn't worried about her. I wasn't even mad. I felt like we'd come to a good solution and I was pleased with my ability to stay on.

I know this probably sounds weird in light of the story I just told, but I'm wondering if I should do anything for Izzy, specifically as it relates to her energy levels. Since forward is so hard for us, part of me whats to give her some sort of energy supplement to induce forward. However, the other part of me wonders if maybe this is just who she is and besides, she obviously has enough energy to get some mighty bucks in on a pretty day. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Horse Trailers

I am officially summoning the wisdom of the horsey blogosphere. Please do contribute any knowledge you happen to possess. I am on a steep learning curve.

I am considering saving up this year and purchasing a horse trailer. I've been reading up on it a bit, but there is a LOT of information out there. So, if you're willing to help me out, please give input and qualify it by telling me 1) what truck you drive 2) what trailer type you haul 3) how frequently you use it.

Since I have one horse, I would like a two horse trailer. Since I've always used slant loads, I think I want a slant load. I would prefer a tack room over a tiny tack compartment (must accommodate my whoring tendencies). It must be bumper pull--the truck I have access to (newer Ford F-150 with tow package) has a bumper pull hitch and I see no reason to go to a gooseneck.

So... help me out. Steel vs Aluminum? Straight vs slant? Trailer height for a 16 hand horse? Width? Good manufacturers? Bad manufacturers? Any tips, pointers, ideas?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

An Excellent Ride

Yesterday, the wind was blowing so hard that I was pretty sure any attempt at riding outside would result in me literally being blown off my horse. That, or I would act as a massive sail, and Izzy and I would be blown over together. Either way, not a pretty picture. Since I was feeling super brave, I decided to nix riding in favor of a lunging day.

Until I saw how Izzy was going. She may only be 7 years old, but most of the time, she acts like she's 27. Calm, cool, unconcerned. After a brief attempt at lunging in which I could barely even get her to canter, I decided that maybe I could risk riding after all. I mean, we were indoors. What could go wrong?

Despite a long, easy walk to warm up, Izzy was rather stiff and definitely not forward. One of our goals for this month is to be able to do w/t/c transitions with no whip. Riiight. I could barely get them with the stinking whip. We fumbled our way through a basic workout. Nothing was really "good", but she wasn't bad, either. As we walked around to cool out, I let her have the reins to stretch. Her walk improved a little bit and I grumbled in my head about how I probably needed to just spend months getting her stretching down to the bit, since she wasn't wanting to take any contact again today.

She tried to stretch her nose all the way to the ground and fall on the forehand. I pushed her forward with my leg (and tapped with my whip) and kept the reins a little shorter so she could stretch into the contact.

Immediately, she came up.

Hum... I remember doing this in a dressage clinic last summer. We spent the next 5-10 minutes just stretching at the walk. She got more relaxed (in a good way) and engaged as we went along. Then I thought, "I wonder if we could do a decent trot transition now..." We tried one. It wasn't good, so we tried again. Much better. We did lots of walk/trot transitions going both directions. I focused on keeping the stretch down while asking for the transition.

Then I thought, "Well, might as well try some canter transitions." She was definitely more comfortable to the left, but we got some decent ones to the right. Then we did canter figure eights with simple changes through the trot. Guess what? I sat the trot. Reasonably well, even.

I'd say that was one of my best rides ever. It wasn't that Izzy was super amazing and I had some sort of glow afterwards; it was that we had a definite problem and I found a solution to which she responded remarkably well.

Two notes:
1) Exactly as I finished and dismounted, an annoying boarder lady showed up to ride. Do I have perfect timing or what?
2) Next time we do a dressage ride, we're going to start long and low and stretching for a long time. Let's see if we can't make the whole ride better.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Restful Weekends

Izzy and I had a nice jump school in the outdoor on Friday. I set a 2' vertical, then would not let myself get off and put it down to a crossrail even when it looked big. I kept reminding myself that despite her greeness, this is small potatoes to Izzy and I'm the one who needs to get over it.

Let me just say: I love my horse. She hasn't jumped a vertical since November, but she was in no way concerned about that teeny little fence that looked massive to me. I somewhat over-rode her into it the first time--about a stride out, I was like, "Oh sh*t jump!!" and I have no idea what my body did. Izzy just trotted up and plopped over it. I don't know what I would do without her.

Then I was able to reorganize. Ok, balance over my feet. Hands forward. Heels down. Steady pace. DON'T STARE AT THE JUMP. Leg on... and over she went. We cantered it a couple times, too. I really need to do this more often and set some placing rails so she and I can get used to seeing out distance better. Not that it matters at this height. She can and will jump it from a stride out (though she ignores me when I tell her to go too early). As we move up, though, it will become dangerously unsafe to be taking super long spots like this.

I am left wondering how in the world Izzy, who has probably jumped a total of about 20 times ever, is a total bomb-proof school master at this. She must get it from her super amazing mother, because I see the jump and am like, "OMG MUST DO SOMETHING" and generally do something stupid and wrong. She just goes straight(-ish), maintains a steady pace, and then jumps smoothly. Oh, and then calmly canters away as I scrape myself off her neck.

We will continue to work towards improvement in that area--I am doing lots of two point to help solidify my lower leg and teach myself where my balance point is. In our weekly rotation of disciplines, we switch back and forth between jumping single fences and doing some little gridwork to help teach her about her footwork and allow me to focus on staying straight and not falling off.

Here's Izzy on Saturday. There was a large collection of boarders out riding since it was the first nice day of the year. Most of the ones who were out are those who don't ride much in the winter, so their horses were a mix of out of control and disrespectful, so I thought it was best to just let Izzy have a day to chill in the turnouts. She certainly didn't mind.

I'm sure most of you who have boarded know what I'm talking about... Only one person was riding in the outdoor, since it was super windy, but that person is a dangerous rider on a pissed off horse. Oh, and periodically, he just gets off the horse and walks away. You know, to hang with the ladies in the indoor. Yes, AND LEAVES HIS HORSE TACKED AND UNSUPERVISED.

Not my favorite person to ride with, to say the least. Happy mare didn't mind. She got yesterday off completely since I had no time between morning commitments and the superbowl. Can't wait to get back out today.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Hurray for Outdoors!

For the third time this year, I was able to use the outdoor arena. Izzy is still going through this, "omg can see outside the fence" phase, which is kind of annoying, but ok I guess. Annoying because it's nearly impossible to hold her attention, ok because it does give us a lot of forward energy.

I had a dressage instructor tell me that we were only making progress if we were correct at least 50% of the time. I thought at the time that it was a stupid thing to say, because obviously, it's going to be less at first as we figure stuff out. I still think it's a stupid thing to say, but I do think that we are finally approaching that figure, as far as Izzy being forward and me being quieter and more in position. IN FACT, one time I checked my position after Izzy had an "omg PASSAGE the neighbor's horses are out!!" moment, and I was actually correct. Huzzah!

So. Slow, steady progress. I like it. Also, I found out that one of the riders who I rode with in the show/clinic last year is definitely coming to Izzy and I's goal event to compete. Competition!! Well, actually, my goal is to compete at least a division above her. Wish us luck.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rethinking Smartpak

I believe I blogged before about why I use Smartpak for Izzy. Basically, it's cheaper and super convenient, since the feed/tack store is on the opposite side of the valley from where Izzy is. It's an extra hour of driving to and from, plus then I'm at the only viable tack store in the area which is never good when I'm already looking to spend money. You know how that goes.

Anyways. Through Smartpak, I got what I wanted (Ugard and an omega 3 supp) for way cheap and didn't have to pay shipping. It was a great system. The only problem is that now, Smartpak has changed their policies. They have free shipping for all Smartpaks over $40. I'm sure that's amazing for Denali's Mom and Marissa, whose horses are somewhat higher maintenance, but for Izzy, whose monthly total was $21, it's not as good of a deal. Oh, and they raised the prices on most of their supplements. I am not complaining about that--it's a business and they have to make money, BUT now instead of paying $21 a month, it's $32. That's $132 a year. I know, small potatoes to some of you (and not even a month for the Wild Pony Beast's Smartpak), but enough for me to explore new options.

Then again, Smartpak is super easy to use, I do love their customer service, and as one friend pointed out, "You could just increase your supplements until they cost $40". Haha, not likely, but it's a thought.

So. I am planning on keeping the Ugard, since it makes Izzy's tummy happy and is pretty inexpensive. What's your favorite skin & coat/omega 3 supplement?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February Goals

Izzy was kind of having a day yesterday, so we jumped through a little crossrail grid a few times and called it good. Instead of worrying about that, let's do a January goal wrap-up and make some goals for February.

1) Ride at least four days a week, even if it's cold. Do two days of dressage, one day jumping/cavaletti, and one day western. Any extra days can be used for whatever. (Hacking and trot/canter sets will commence when the weather is better and the track isn't covered in ice. Probably late Feb/Early March).

Semi-success. This was complicated by people visiting me and me visiting people. I nailed it the first part of the month, then got off track, but did well in the last week. We'll keep this goal for next month.

2) Focus on dressage--specifically lengthen/shortens for Izzy and position for me. I tend to collapse my shoulders forward and lose my seat. Focus on sitting up, driving with my seat, and looking where I'm going.

Success! I admittedly changed up the goals a little bit, but only to make them harder. I would definitely say that Izzy and I made progress from our dumping around barely pretending to do dressage to the work we've been doing. She is more balanced. My position is improving. Last time we did a dressage ride, I would check to see if my legs were stretched down with my heels down, and a couple of times they were! So, more progress to make, but we've definitely improved.

3) Trot/canter transitions. Work on timing, accuracy, and riding both gaits well.

Semi success. I sort of forgot about this goal until about a week ago. I wouldn't say we have "good" trot canter transitions, but they have improved. Specifically, all our work on going forward from the leg and me actually using my legs correctly means that when I have Izzy ahead of my leg, we have semi-decent transitions, better to the left than to the right. In order to improve further, we NEED a sitting trot.

Ok, so February goals:

1) Ride at least four days a week, even if it's cold. Do two days of dressage, one day jumping/cavaletti, and one day western. Any extra days can be used for whatever. (Hacking and trot/canter sets will commence when the weather is better and the track isn't covered in ice. Probably late Feb/Early March).

2) Sitting trot! We will practice EVERY SINGLE TIME I RIDE. English, western, bareback, I will sit the trot. Not excessively and not a lot, but enough to start getting my body used to the motion.

3) Dressage: continue to focus on my position, specifically long legs and erect upper body.

4) Jumping: continue working through small grids. Add in crossrails and verticals as we feel comfortable. Focus on giving Izzy a release over the fence, staying in balance, and keeping my heels down and leg effective.

5) Legs: continue to work on getting Izzy forward from the leg in all three gaits. W/T/C transitions that are freely forward with no whip. <--This one will be super hard.

This is kind of a lot of goals. I know. I tried to keep it around three, but I wanted to be pretty specific in setting my goals, which gives me specific things to work on, which makes it easier to gauge our progress. Obviously, I want to do other things, too. I am so tempted to put "shoulder fore both directions" on there, but the truth is, until I have Izzy really and truly forward, there isn't much point. So, we will work on it, but it's not a goal this month.

Any thoughts?
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