Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Epic Pony Weekend: Dressage Time!

first level by spring? i think yes
My stated goal for this whole weekend shebang was to get epic dressage pictures (as epic as training level can be, anyways) in the field. Given that my saddle got sent away with the saddle fitter on Saturday, that seemed to be out the window.

Until Redheadlins lent us her fancy French thing. Oh my.

Courage warmed up quite nicely in the arena. I got to play with my imaginary show warm up a bit and see how he did with it.


best picture


No really. Whether it was me riding like a (training level) badass or the big, open field that let him roll forward, or the fact that he's really starting to get this dressage thing DOWN, I don't know. But it was great. Courage was balanced and listening and solid into the contact and it felt so good.

and this sweet twist in my shoulders. whoops.

I had a half halt off my seat, I had just enough weight in my hands. I was sitting up, intermittently looking up, and having a great time.

We rolled right up in to canter, which was just so fun. Up and down the little hill and all around the field and I wanted to play flying changes SO BAD, but I don't think training level dressage horses are supposed to do jumper changes.

Haha oh well.

I didn't know how the right lead would go, since it's been hit-and-miss lately, but it was fantastic. I should not have worried.

We made several lovely trip around the field while I grinned like a happy idiot, which I was.

Then Redheadlins recommended that Alyssa and I canter around the field side-by-side on our OTTBs while she photographed the aftermath.

I didn't hear that sinister note when she said it the first time... haha.

most fun on horseback
Anyways. Because why the hell not, Courage and Bacon cantered around the field (on the right lead no less) and it was ridiculous.

As in, you thought I had an idiot grin before? No. Now I had a whole new level of it. For about three strides, Courage asked if we were racing. When I said no, he just cantered like a perfect riding horse and OMG guys he is just so cool. And so is Bacon, but that's Alyssa's story.

love this shot of everyone. especially prisoner.

And yeah. Everyone needs solid pony friends and a perfect vacation barn, because that was way too much fun. Can't wait to do it again!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Epic Pony Weekend: Failsauce

magic blanket ftw
Saturday of epic pony weekend was 90f. Which like, WTF WEATHER IT'S LATE SEPTEMBER. Oh well. I pulled Courage out of his stall and threw him in the crossties to wear the magic yellow blanket for a while.

It's supposed to have magnets or something I think. Anyways. Theoretically, it soothes sore muscles and after two days of jumping (and since I was a little crippled), I figured Courage needed all the help he could get.

As I got him set up, I took a close look at his now strangely larger and lumpier hock, and saw this:

good job, horse.

Yup. Nasty ol' cut inside the hock and another gash running down his cannon bone. Y'know. Cuz that's cool.

all work needed ottb approval
In better news, I had scheduled the saddle fitter to come out and look at him and his dressage saddle that day. Fun fact: I have literally never used a saddle fitter before because bfn DOESN'T HAVE ONE. Until now.

I had a couple mini strokes over what the whole shebang cost, but figured it was worth the money to get C checked out. After all, we can't have a dressage princess OTTB with a sore back.

It was a very interesting process--the fitter took tracings of Courage's back in three different places and then measured them. She said he wasn't sore at all and that the differences in muscling were not concerning at this point. She also verified that his right hind is the weakest--slightly asymmetrical over there.

She also put the saddle on him and took it off and screwed around with it and measured stuff and we nerded out about tack together, so that was cool. Her analysis was this:

1) My saddle is very nice quality and well constructed.
2) It actually fits my horse very well.
3) The flocking is like WAY super dead, which makes the bottom of the saddle rock hard and lumpy.
4) Rock hard and lumpy is not super desirable.
5) The sweat marks I was freaking out about aren't a super big deal (given his conformation and lack of back sore-ness).
6) We could probably fix it with some minor on-the-spot flocking adjustments that would involve adding new flocking to old flocking as a stop gap until I could afford to do a full reflock.

not gonna lie. this was scary.
So she went to adjust the flocking, but the port was in a weird place and she's like "do you mind if I take your saddle apart a little?" and I'm like "uh are you sure you can put it back together?"

She seemed confident.

I stood there and tried to look professional as my saddle was in multiple pieces and I reviewed what she'd told me, which pretty well aligns with what I already knew/suspected anyways...

So I put on a (hypothetical) steel-toed boot and kicked my checking account in the crotch as hard as I could.

Which is to say, I told her to take the whole thing home and do the full reflock now. It's a good saddle. It fits us both. I want to keep it. It's worth the money to me to maintain it.

And hey. This is the first tine in the history of living in BFN that it's actually possible to do routine saddle maintenance. LET'S DO THIS.

That is the story of how I managed to spend a shit ton of money without even riding my horse one day.

brb have to beat down bank account again

Monday, September 28, 2015

Epic Pony Weekend: We Jump!

Pony friends are the best (only?) friends. Redheadlins, Alyssa, and I took advantage of a relatively free weekend to haul all the critters to one of the best little barns on the entire planet and play ponies like 12-year-olds ALL WEEKEND LONG.

It was the bestiest.

We all showed up Thursday afternoon and saddled up for a jump ride.

why helloooooo sexy neck
Courage warmed up well, but veeeerrrry looky for him, which is not terribly looky.

I probably should have worked him a little harder, but the course looked scary and I figured we were just hacking.

Then I watched Redheadlins jump a couple jumps (and Prisoner was WILD) and for some reason, that made me go "well hell, even I can do that".

And we promptly proceeded to demonstrate it.

i call this move "wtf horse". meme forthcoming.
Complete with the wild.

Whoops. Maybe could have left that part out.

Still. Courage was jumping in fine form, I was riding ok, and after we got one classy and non-wild jump, we called it a night.

I felt discombobulated and all over the place, but the pictures show that I actually rode fine, so yay for that!

can't complain
points for a great outfit
On to day two! We planned to jump again. I started by pre-emptively lowering everything in the arena, plus making the triple into a double and taking down the big, scary oxer.

Courage came out on his lazy hunter A-game, and we were off.

And by "off", I mean the little bay horse trotted and cantered around his first course of the year like a total pro. No rushing, no squirting off, no shenanigans.

one stride out!
There was one jump that he took a hard look at, but I put my leg on and we went right over.

AND. Perhaps y'all remember our disastrous history with grids and related distances. (No? Well. Take my word for it. Not our strong suit.)

Anyways. There was a wee little one stride set and once Courage was forward and jumping, I pointed him at it.

He was SO GAME. Right through it, no question. Seriously proud moment there. This horse couldn't deal with placing poles this time last year. He has grown up so much. :-)

You doubt? Oh yeah. I have video too.

And yes, that is literally the first time we have jumped a course in 2015. (If you're really in to video, here's our wild jumps from the day before and our schooling jumps from course day.)

All that to say.

Wow. I am really, really happy with the choices I've made with Courage this year. I feel much better about trusting my instincts to back off the jumping and do other things for a year, because that has completely changed our relationship. I have more buttons. I have a better understanding of my horse. I'm more able to be the rider that he needs.

The fences top out at 2', but I trotted and cantered around that whole course with 100% confidence. We are a team, at long last.

That alone is huge for me. Courage is not the easiest horse to ride or jump.

But we're getting there. (We're just also getting to first level dressage and OMG that excites me too.)

Anyways. You're welcome for Monday-Monster-Pony-Post, but I am really thrilled with my little man and WOOWOO there were still two more days to pony weekend!

Friday, September 25, 2015

It's Meme Time!

Sometimes I process the world by creating meme pictures. Here's a smattering of what's going on lately:

I don't know why kittens are so enormously meme-able, but that's how it works out. Pony weekend going on now, so expect lots more awesome fails in the near future!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Oops I Shopped a Little

Spending isn't "locked down" per se right now, but I'm generally trying to make more good decisions than bad ones (which is also my diet plan HAHA yeah maybe not the best idea). Anyways. I started asking people for input on show clothes, which is partially a fantastic idea because y'all have some great points and also fantastic because it's fall clearance time.

Oh and also a stupid idea because of that last thing. Right?

first ever pair of new tall boots
I've been on a tall boots kick lately. I've worn my poor (used) Dehners into the ground this summer because my half chaps' zipper got mad about all the dust. I've really been enjoying them and I thought "hm maybe I should get new tall boots". I'm in no way ready for custom dress boots (no matter how beautiful they are) until Courage and I are at least confirmed 2nd level, so I just needed something basic and durable to get us from now until then. I think I'm probably two years out, if all goes well?

Anyways. Dover is having a fall sale and I was browsing whimsically and then Lauren was like GET THESE and sent me a link. $380 Mountain Horse tall boots with zippers in my (enormous) size for $170 shipped? (Props to Lauren for still talking to me after she and JenJ put the kibosh on the beauties at the top of the post and I pouted and called them dream crushers.)

You can't NOT do that.

So I did.

And that was good enough.

being a fatty ftw!
Except Lindsey was like "oh totes got a fab deal on half chaps at the SmartPak sale", so like an idiot genius tack ho linen collector, I got browsing over there and looking at show shirts. Some were on sale, but I wasn't wild about the pricing. Then I thought, "I bet Riding Warehouse would KILL them on pricing" and I skipped over there.

Guess what? They did.

Plus coupon code and free shipping.


The hemorrhaging of dolla billz must end now or my bank account will murder me in my sleep, but we've had a good run. Maybe, just maybe, next year I'll look respectable in the show ring. What a thought!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Polos, Boots, and Leg Protection

so fancy in white polos
As you may have noticed from literally every picture ever taken of my horse, I am a big fan of leg protection and rarely ride without it. What might surprise you is how much thought actually goes in to the whole process for me.

First off, I use leg protection on Courage for two primary reasons. The biggest one is that conformationally, Courage is VERY narrow behind. I tell people that his back legs pretty much come out of the same hole, and I'm actually not joking. Because of how close his hind legs are, interference is a fact of life for us. I think letting my horse interfere and hurt himself is a shitty thing to do, so he wears leg protection.

dressage: the bootless sport!
However, the second reason I use leg protection is a bit more universal--whether jumping or doing dressage, I'm asking him to do things with his legs that he wouldn't normally do on his own and the last thing I want to have happen is for him to sting himself and learn that obedience hurts.

Bear in mind--some noted professionals (Lucinda Green comes to mind) absolutely refuse to use leg protection and there are studies indicating that hear buildup is the number one indicator surrounding lower-limb injuries in horses. To those objections I say:
'1) If I could ride like Lucinda Green, especially on the caliber of horses that LG rides, HAHA well I can't. Just remember that far more noted pros boot up than do not.
2) This is a very valid concern, especially if you live in a hot place. I avoid riding in the heat of the day (flexible job ftw) and make my own value judgments. Your mileage may vary.

contrasting color polos for sportsball
You'll notice I haven't touched on leg support at all. That is for a very specific reason: I call BS on any and all claims that a few strips of leather or fabric or foam is capable of supporting ANYTHING on a 1200 pound animal. No. The physics literally do not make any sense. Stable bandages can help reduce fill in legs if wrapped correctly, but that isn't supporting the horse as much as just moving some fluid around.

Ok, so if we've covered why we use protection, next we need to cover HOW. There are two primary types of leg protection on the market: boots and wraps. There is a huge variety. Jumping horses primarily use boots--open fronts for jumping over things that fall down and closed front for things that do not. Dressage horses occasionally wear boots, but are most frequently seen in wraps. Let's talk about why.

open front jumping boots
When a horse is jumping a stadium fence (with rails that fall down), we want that horse to be hyper-aware that touching a pole is no bueno. Whether it's your 2' stadium round at a schooling show or the Olympics, your score is dependent on rails staying up. The configuration of an open front boot in this scenario allows the horse to feel the rail on his legs if he hits it, but still protects him from an interference injury on the soft tissue of his leg if he were to overreach or stumble.

sometimes you have to use fluffy boots
So if we want the horse to feel stadium rails, why do we cover his legs for cross country? Simple. If your horse hits a stadium rail, it falls. If he clips an XC fence, he's very likely losing hair. It hurts. We don't want jumping to hurt. Horses do tend to respect solid fences more, but the higher consequence of hitting a fixed obstacle needs to be minimized. There are a lot of technical things that go into XC boots--air vents are becoming common and hydro-phobic boots are great innovations for a sport that guarantees encounters with water. I'll leave those descriptions to someone who actually events, though.

black BOT polos
And that brings us around to wraps. You rarely see wraps on jumping horses in the arena and should never see them on XC. Wraps are simply not as stable as boots. Fleece polos especially stretch when wet and tighten as they dry, which translates simply to the potential to slide down and trip the horse (bad) or tighten and injure a tendon (worse). Plus they don't have a hard shell like a boot to disperse the impact of a flying hoof. So what's the appeal?

Aside from being the classiest-looking option, polo wraps provide the most customized and flexible level of protection. They are my favorite for dressage for this reason. They're soft, which never impedes movement, they lay nicely around cuts and scrapes that might be aggravated by a boot, and they provide simple coverage to cushion incidental interference. Quite honestly, for dressage, they are my favorite. Especially with my narrow-behind horse, I love that they are almost flush with the leg and don't contribute to him tripping himself.

That said, polos take longer to roll and wrap and are a pain to wash. They take some skill to put on, though it's not rocket science.

dressage boots
There are also dressage boots, which are generally fleece-lined and have a softer shell. I do have a couple sets of these for busy days, but nothing beats the all-around protection of a polo wrap that covers the horse from just below the knee to just above the ankle.

And that's my basic philosophy of leg protection. Boots and wraps have a very specific function. If we're going to use (or omit) a piece of gear on a horse, I think we need to have a systematic reason for it beyond "they're trendy"*.

polo art!
*Unless we're talking about half pads, which I'm convinced are about 99% trendy anyways. Yes I have three.

PS I haven't covered bell boots at all. In my mind, they are shoe protection, not leg protection, and if you don't have a good understand of what I'm talking about, count yourself very lucky.

PPS As per the usual, I refer to all horses as he because I have a gelding and dislike mares. If that offends you, remember that mares offend me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Teach Me Tuesday: Show Shirts

not exactly show appropos
Ok y'all--I loved last week! I am definitely exploring coat options and reading feedback. It's nice to have an idea of what to look at.

So. In the continued interest of not looking like the hill billy cousin next year, our next logical progression is show shirts. For serious. I see so many pictures of all of you on these adorable shirts and I'm like "maybe shows wouldn't be so bad if I could wear that."

his outfits are fine
Help a girl out--What's the best value on the market? Long sleeve or short sleeve? Lace? Sparkles? Cute Patterns? Does the shirt exist that flatters those of us who are not a size zero? I'm planning on recognized dressage, so I need something legal. And cute. And not absurdly expensive (though I'm not in a rush and can wait for sales.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Saddle. Poo.

I guess it was bound to happen.

Courage has been offering really good work lately. He's built an honest-to-goodness start of a dressage neck. He's filling out and muscling up and yeah.

I've never loved the sweat marks under his dressage saddle. (Can you guess where this is going?)

because his neck isn't the only thing changing

I've sort of closed my eyes and pretended everything was fine for a while, but we recently got a classy new pad. I used it for like 5 days in a row, and there's no denying it.

The sweat marks are worse. Dry spots are larger.

I mean, it's not catastrophic yet. He isn't exhibiting signs of back soreness or objecting to the saddle/girth, BUT he is a total princess and I know the fit could be better. A lot better.

hot ass horse
And I know I'm money ahead to get out in front of this before it gets worse.

It really does make sense. Courage has added all kinds of muscle lately and we're finally pulling out of a summer-long awkward phase. (You notice how you haven't seen him without a saddle in months? Yeah, that's why.)

I tried to placate myself with a new, fancy half pad, but no. It's not enough right now.

it's a great outfit
We've officially scheduled an appointment with the saddle fitter. Fingers crossed she can make some easy tweaks, because this is one of two dressage saddles I've ever sat in that doesn't tip me forward.

Deep breath. Good news is, there's a saddle fitter in our area now. That's new.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...