Friday, November 30, 2012

Anatomy of a Jump

I promised myself I would back off of this crazy post overdrive, but I had a jumping lesson today and for maybe the first time in my life, I'm quite pleased with how I rode over a giant oxer. Omg! Blogging time.

For the quick version, you can watch our videos here and here (or just hop over to the 'Keeping up with Cuna' page).

For the long version... wow. I've certainly never ridden a perfect jump and Jimmy Wofford would argue that it's never been done. That said, I've been around jumping and the works of J Wo and Georgie (as some eventers call him) to know what a good jump looks like. I haven't ridden many of them, mostly because my giant horse is only now getting to the point where he actually jumps with me... so there's that.

Anyways. I now have on video, one jump that I quite approve of. The first two jumps in the series (second vid) are not awesome, but we saved it. :)

So let's have a look!

Jump looks really big from this angle

Approach! We just landed from a one stride on a trot-in grid. We hopped the crossrail, cantered the 3' vertical, and are aimed for the center of a 3'3" oxer.

My hands are on Cuna's neck, giving him freedom. My leg is under me, my heels are down., my eyes are up. Cuna is getting ready to launch.

Butt muscles, engage! 
And we're off!

As Cuna brings his hind legs up under himself and pushes off, I've let the reins loop, but my hands haven't moved. My foot is more home in the stirrup than is necessary for arena jumping, but my leg is under me.

If you removed Cuna from this picture, I'd be landing on my feet. That means that I'm in balance over my horse and not hampering him at all. :D

My eyes and his ears are all business.

<3 this horse
Stretching! Cuna is pushing off his hind legs, sending his energy up and forward. My hands are still in the same place and my butt is out of the saddle, but my leg is still under me. My back is flat and my crest release looks good. :)

You can see Cuna's balance in the symmetry of his hind legs--they are evenly weighted. His knees are up and tidy, which is why he's such a safe jumper.

Flight! Cuna's hind legs have lifted off and I must say, we look great. :) His front end is square and he has room to spare, but he's not over jumping and wasting energy.

My leg is under me, my heels are down, my hands are quiet, and my seat remains out of the saddle, following his motion. Steph has been really emphasizing getting out of the saddle and allowing the horse to jump up to me, which encourages a round jump, instead of me sitting tight and scooting with my seat, which encourages nothing good.

Descent! We have hit the midpoint of the jump and are just starting to head down. My hands are still, my leg is steady, my eyes are up, and my seat is still out of the saddle. I ride in an XC saddle (it's what fits), so my butt is running into the cantle here, but I'm up off Cuna's back.

Doesn't his tail look great?

Tail cascade
Landing! Cuna has touched down with one front leg. My eyes are still up and we're both moving on to the next thing, but I don't love my position here.

I'm a careful XC rider, and it's showing--I've already opened my upper body and started to sit down on Cuna to get behind the motion. This is excellent technique for uneven terrain and solid jumps, as it keeps me in the center no matter what.

For show jumping, I'd like to keep my body angle more closed and my seat out of the saddle longer, which allows him to finish his jump and be more round through his back, which allows him to be more careful with his hind end. As it stands, this is improvement for me, but I'd like to be sharper and more polished.


Finish! As we canter away from the jump, we're both prepared for what ever is happening next. He's pushing off with his hind end and we're in a great balance. My leg/heels/hands have mostly stayed the same.

It's not perfect, but it's as close as I've been in a while. Other thoughts? I know not all of you are jumpers, but I'd bet you're all striving for perfection of some kind. How do you feel when you get soclose to making it?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Huzzah for BITS!

Thanks to all for some good boot advice and opinions yesterday! I'm not even to the shopping-  and trying-on- phase yet, so I'm sure we'll get to cover it again. I'm sort of surprised that only one person had worn the Volants...

Only the cutest horse ever

Anyways, many thanks to Ellie for the new blog header. Not only does she take kickass pictures--she also designs stuff for me. Winning!

As I was admiring all the rocking pictures Ellie has taken for me, I thought I might as well illustrate something near and dear to my little tack 'ho heart: BITS!!

I like them. All of them.

Here are some I use regularly with a description of their action and application.

D'aawww. Photo by me.

We'll start with the most basic. This is an eggbutt. The mouth piece is a Dr. Bristol, so double jointed, but instead of a softly rounded bean, there is a flat plate for the center piece.

I use it on Cuna for dressage, hacking, and every day stuff. I use the eggbutt because Cuna is a nervous worrier, and he likes the stability that a fixed-cheek bit provides. I use the Dr. Bristol because he's built very long and heavy on the forehand with a low set neck, so it's incredibly easy for him to brace against me. The plate gives me just a little bite that reminds him to be soft without hurting him or backing him off the bit.

Photo by Ellie
Here's another look for us: a full cheek happy mouth mullen.

I used this bit CONSTANTLY when I started riding Cuna. The full cheek is fixed, which keeps it very still in his mouth, while the plastic mullen mouth is very forgiving. It's a very soft bit.

I picked it because Cuna and I were just getting acquainted. He is very particular about his mouth (fair enough, right?) and I didn't want to piss him off while we figured things out. It didn't give me a lot of brakes and we had no longitudinal flexion, but we also pretty much eliminated his trademark head tossing as an objection to the rider's hands.

A fixed cheek also provides some steering control by putting pressure on the horse's face, which makes it an excellent choice for young/green/obtuse horses as it gives them a bit more information and won't allow the bit to slide through the mouth the way smaller models can. Ever seen that happen? Yeah. Not pretty.

Fuzzy photo by me
A sort of bastard cousin to the full cheek is the d ring bit, commonly seen in hunter circles. It gives the stability of a fixed cheek like the full cheek or eggbutt, some of the steering control of the full cheek, but the smaller size and sharper look than the full cheek.

I think d's are pretty. They do have one distict drawback: those corners. Reins and/or cheek pieces tend to slide around them and then get stuck. I haven't seen a horse react badly to that, since it's a fairly small motion, but it's kind of a pain.

This particular full cheek is a single jointed slow twist. It's the go-to bit for one of the horses in the barn who has a lovely neck and well set head, but gets a little strong while jumping. She doesn't need to poll pressure that helps Cuna, but the corrugated surface reminds her to be soft without using leverage.

Photo by Ellie
Some of you remember Izzy... She is the opposite of Cuna. While she went fine in a fixed cheek bit, I always wanted to encourage her to chew the bit and salivate. To that end, I put her in a loose ring french link with a central "bean" and a copper mouth.

The loose ring gave her some motion to play with. The bean instead of the plate kept everything very soft to keep her from curling behind the bit, and the copper is supposed to encourage salivation. It worked for her.

Cuna HATED this bit. It was too narrow for his big, squishy lips, so it pinched him. Fixed cheek bits rarely pinch--loose rings can. To each their own?

Photo by me
Today, we played with a full cheek waterford. If you haven't seen one of these, well, they're pretty cool. It's a whole series of connected links that are softly rounded. It isn't severe, but it doesn't give the horse anything to lean on.

We borrow it from one of Steph's clients who has a green horse who is very stiff, but he curls behind the bit if anything touches him. It works really well for him, but Cuna?

Not so much. Although he liked the fixed cheek, he was pretty sure the mouth piece was just something to carry around and ignore. He doesn't lean--he braces. Not the same.

Photo by Ellie

That leaves us with my current go-to jumping bit. It's a happy mouth mullen pelham with connectors.

Cuna gets very strong while jump big fences and PARTICULARLY while running XC. It's his joie de vivre, what can I say? While yes, I agree that you should be able to ride any horse in a snaffle (and we have/can jump in one), there's no sense trying to beat the joy out of him. His passion is what makes him great--I just have to roll with it.

The plastic mullen makes it a nice, soft mouthpiece, but the curb action of the pelham gives me a little more control. Before you purists complain, YES, I know the connectors muddy the action of the bit, making it neither curb nor snaffle.  I know it's more proper to ride with two reins.

You know what else? Cuna likes those connectors. He dislikes the two reins. He apparently didn't read the book.

Needless to say, I love bits. I've actually bought bits that I don't have a use for just on the off chance I need them in the future. What are you guys using? How often do you change bits? Anything cool I need to add to my inventory?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

These Boots are Made for RIDING

I rode as a kid, quit for most of college, then got my mare when I was a senior. I spent three years with her, and have now been with Cuna almost a year (yes, there will be a ridiculous anniversary post). 

In all that time, I have not owned a pair of tall boots. 

I like tall boots. I like tidy riding attire (sans coat--that's just asinine). At first, I was heavy and needed to buy special wide calf boots, so I put it off. I lost the weight and can now wear most standard sizes, but I really prefer brown to black. I can't afford custom, so I put it off. 

Currently, I can't afford boots at all, but I think next year might be my time to splurge. If I can't take Tredsteps into making brown boots (I am trying!!), I might have to give it up and go black. 

No sense doing that quietly. I'm considering these: 


Yes, the front zip Ariat Volants in black. 

It's for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I like the steps towards technological relevance that the equine industry is finally taking and I'd like to support it. 

That said, the enemy of progress is tradition and I do enjoy a pretty, traditional field boots. 

I'd love to just skip down to the local tack store and try a pair on, but that's not so much an option for me. 

Outside the box
I haven't consulted Cuna for an opinion yet and I'm sure he doesn't care as long as the holiday snowflake polos don't make a reappearance on his legs. 

Thoughts? Anyone else have a favorite boot? Have you tried the Volants on? Share! 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Jumping Stuff

I've been looking through photo albums of this year and the journey Cuna and I have been on together today. As if I didn't already completely adore my old man horse, just watching how the two of us have blossomed together has really made my day/week.

Screen cap! 

We had a jump lesson on Saturday morning. As per his usual, Cuna was awesome and I got myself sorted out. We worked on cantering up to oxers (bigger than I would like) and staying balanced together, which is something Steph's told me I need to work on, but um... hello, those jumps are giant.

The specific exercise was to have a pole two strides out. Then we moved it to three strides out. I had to make any and all changes before getting to the pole and then just ride steady and let him do his job. The overall goal was to begin teaching my eye what three strides looks like while encouraging him to get to the base of the fence.

On top of that, there was a cavaletti set after the fence to encourage him to place down and jump round instead of just flatten out and go for it.

Sound confusing? Good news!! I have video.

I was nervous--the rounds on video are over 3' oxers and we were getting close to them, eek! That said, Cuna was super and the fact that I did not at any point feeling like dying is excellent news.

I did make it a point to keep my hands up and together, and in the first video, you can see a lovely downward transition to trot. :D

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Let's just put this out there: I am not a handsy rider. It has taken me almost a year to lean to ride Cuna into a connection because I never actually give him any connection to start with. Yes, impulsion comes from the leg, but if there isn't a complimentary connection offered from the hand, the energy has nowhere to go and is just lost out the front.

From a few weeks ago

S, who gave us a few dressage lessons last summer, kept getting after me to pick my thumbs up and keep my hands together.

Believe it or not, this is a much improved shot of our progress. My hands are almost above his withers and my thumbs are almost up. In fairness, connection is hard for Cuna and we are still in the beginning stages, but still.

This extends to our jumping as well--when I need to half halt or collect after a fence, I'd go low and wide with my hands and use an ineffectual pulley rein. Cuna would plow around on the forehand and just get longer.

Hot mess.

Anyways, in our last lesson, we had a tight course of related jumps and I HAD to be able to half halt effectively coming towards home. After a couple of failed attempts, Steph finally told me to "lift my hands and use them together". I made it my goal, even if I did nothing else right.

You know what? He collected and his energy came up, setting us up perfectly for the final jump. Interesting. 

Because I love this shot
I haven't jumped since then, but I've been doing a ton of flatwork and focusing on riding him into the contact (that I provide) and then keeping my reins short enough to be effective. Last night we just did a short ride, but I kept my hands up and together. We had a lovely, balanced canter and then I asked for the downward transition without dropping my hands.



Steph laughed when I told her my "ground breaking" discovery, but I'm excited to apply it in our lesson today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


In light of the holiday, I thought I'd write a post about things that I'm thankful for at this point in my life. 

A year ago in November, I wrote the post "More", discussing where I was with my riding and my horse, the glorious Ms Izzy Mare. I was overmounted, terrified, and not materially improving. 

And here I am today with the bestest horse in the whole world, contemplating going to a show next month and jumping around the 3' class. 
So here goes:
1. I'm thankful for my awesome husband, who's put up with the whole horse process, from supporting me through the wreck with Izzy to talking me through selling her (again and again and again) to letting me spend time out of town with Mr. Matata and go to learn and show. He's never complained about the whole thing, though I know none of his friends wives do anything remotely as expensive or insane. 

2. I'm thankful for my incredible horse who has taught me an unbelievable amount in just the short time we've been together. Despite being one of the saltier creatures I know, he puts up with my quirks and makes me smile every time I see him. In his mind he may be the mean ass bastard, but in my world, he's the perfect dream pony. 

Since the corgi was featured yesterday
3. I'm thankful for my fuzzy lil' dogs. Their joy is infectious and their vigor impressive. Whether it's a ridiculous training run on a cold morning or a snuggle session while I try to cram in just another few hundred words for NaNo, they are the best. 

4. I'm thankful to be employed right now. It's not always fun balancing barn work and a office work, but it pays the bills and I really love what I do in both circles. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Hello blogosphere! It's been a while. I have been riding and Cuna is doing awesome. <3 him.

I have also been writing in all my spare time, housework time, cooking time, and shopping time, so yeah... I think I have used all my words. 

I haven't jumped much lately. After watching out last round of jump videos (available here), I realized how much better our new, connected canter was. And that I needed to develop more feel for that canter. Much to the giant red bambi's chagrin, we've done a lot of flat work lately in pursuit of a better canter. Also hacking. It's probably 50/50. 

Bambi face!! 

The result? 

Oh yeah, we have slobbers today. Cuna felt amazing. Forward, bending (for him), responsive, balanced. I was able to take the most forward, engaged trot on him that I've ever gotten. What a champ! 

I'm considering making it a goal to go to a schooling dressage show next year and doing training 3 and first 1. As long as we keep hacking away at it this winter, it's totally doable. 

On the other hand, that's a lot of time in a sandbox. We'll see how it plays out. 

This enterprise supervised by corgi
Back to the writing for me! I think I can hit 50k words by tomorrow night, but there's not much break time involved. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Conformation of the Event Horse: Thoroughbred Edition

I've been mulling this idea over for a while, and I think I now have a pretty cool progression to show as far as Cuna's conformation, how it affects him competitively, and how he's changed while with me. However, because I am an average student of conformation, I thought that I would include a perspective from one of my favorite experts, who also happens to be my favorite photographer, the wonderful EllieA. (All shots by EllieA.)

In order to illustrate how conformation and muscle structure relate to athletic output in performance, I've included a trotting and cantering shot taken the same day as each conformation shot. While Ellie is a smashing photographer who makes us look awesome, I'd say that the pictures were representative of where we were at in our training at the time.

Basic stats:
Hakuna Matata (Cuna)
17 years old
Thoroughbred (OTTB)
Career eventer


March 20, 2012
TSB: At this point, I'd had Cuna about a month and in all fairness to him, he'd been out of work all winter and the month he'd spent with me was not terribly intense. I was building confidence over low fences on the flat and he was toting me around. As an out of shape, unbalanced adult ammy, I was not the picture of balanced perfection.

EA: In this photo, Cuna looks like a horse just getting back into regular work. His overall structure is good, if a bit unbalanced front to rear. Ideally, the structure of a performance animal should be balanced, with equal angulation in the front and hindquarters. In layman’s terms, I'd like to see the shoulder angle (from the wither to point of shoulder to the elbow) match the rear angle (from the point of hip to stifle to hock). A horse built this way is generally a more stable athlete, less prone to injuries, and has an easier time with collection.

Cuna is built nicely uphill. He is straighter in the hind end (notice the straight line between stifle and hock), but has a nicely sloping croup. He has a decent shoulder, and is long bodied with a lovely long (some might say giraffe) neck. He is ever-so-slightly over at the knee. You can see the beginnings of muscle development in the shoulders and hindquarter, but his neck and topline aren’t quite there yet. I don’t like how his neck ties into his shoulder/withers in this photo… it looks abrupt and awkwardly set. You can tell he isn’t completely comfortable.

March trot
TSB: I probably never posted this picture before because it's not the most stellar trotting shot ever, but it's how we were working. Loose rein, in an arena, going forward. I was determined to learn everything I could from Cuna, so I neglected fitness work in favor of jumping small things several times a week.
March canter

EA: Much of what I discussed in the conformation shot holds true in motion. At this point, he hasn’t developed the muscle tone and condition to carry himself properly. In the trot photo, he is moving downhill, and not tracking under as well as he does in later photos.. His neck is kind of hanging there awkwardly and his topline appears underdeveloped. He has more reach in front than drive in the rear, and if you were to draw triangles between his front and rear legs, you’d find the rear triangle to be smaller. At the canter, he looks a little better, but you can still see the imbalance and his discomfort at being asked to be light in the front and track up in the rear. This is partially due to structure, and partially due to condition.


May 20, 2012
TSB: The next set of shots is from May, a mere 60 days later. I have to say, the first thing I notice is just how much I love Cuna's summer coat. He is fit and shiny, with ribs well covered in flesh. Cuna and I had progressed from putzing around the arena 5 days a week to trotting and galloping in the hills for fitness regularly.

EA: The change in muscle tone between this picture and the last one is dramatic. Everything looks “tighter” and more defined. Cuna looks much more comfortable in his own skin, and has a much softer and pleasant expression than the last photo. His shoulder and hindquarters have continued to develop and strengthen. However, his neck and topline are perhaps the most strikingly different part of him. His neck is well muscled—especially along the top—which helps it to tie into his shoulder/withers more smoothly. His topline shows obvious muscling from withers to croup. Even his abdominal muscles are showing definition, and his belly is tighter and more athletic looking. Really, his whole “framework” appears much stronger. All of these improvements will make dressage/flat work much easier and more comfortable for him, because he now has the physical ability to lift his front end and have it be supported through the topline and hindquarters.

May trot

TSB: I was addressing confidence issues over fences, so Cuna was coming off our first cross country schooling together (hot mess) and a two week jumping intensive to address issues raised. We were still a new partnership, but with consistent lessons and five or six days a week under saddle, we were starting to really do well together. Because the root of my issues was jumping, he and I spent lots of time with the sticks and did little-to-no dressage work in the proper sense of the word.

May canter
EA: Cuna is moving in a much better and more attractive frame at the trot. His whole front end looks smooth and efficient, and he is tracking up better in the rear, although not perfectly. He appears a bit stiff in the hocks, which would make sense knowing his age and work level at this point in time. His topline looks lovely, and he appears relaxed, happy, and workmanlike. At the canter, he looks much smoother and lighter in the front. His neck and topline are beautiful, and you can see the muscle development in his chest, also. He is in beautiful condition with a lovely, shiny coat.


November 12, 2012
TSB: As much as we loved our last barn, we moved with our trainer to a new place in a flatter locale at the end of October. We have taken several dressage lessons and worked hard on improving connection and engagement. That said, all of our trails are now flat, so that steady hill work that was a major part of our workload four days a week is no longer a regular thing.

EA: In this photo, Cuna’s condition tells me that he has experienced a change in the type of work he is getting. While he still has fairly even muscle tone, he has lost some of the dramatic muscling on his neck and topline. You can tell this by the way his neck and back tie into his withers, as well as the increase in slope from croup to tail. He seems to have kept similar muscling in the hind end, but perhaps lost some in his shoulder. His abdominal muscles appear even tighter than the last photo, though… this tells me that he has been doing a lot of work involving that area. He still has a pleasant, kind expression and seems like a very happy guy.

TSB: We are constantly improving--I can feel changes in how Cuna and I work together from week to week. It's exciting, and now it's documentable. We do spend more time in the arena now, working on connection (that elusive outside rein) and we've even developed some baby lateral motion. Cuna is not the most supple horse in the world, but the more we work, the better he is.

EA: Cuna is noticeably lighter in the front end than in any of the previous shots. At the trot, he shows marked improvement in rear flexibility and drive. He shows lovely engagement and is tracking up in the hind end very well for a horse of his conformation. I would bet you that if the photo was a straight side view, the triangles between his legs would be about even, front to rear. That is great. At the canter, he is using his front end well but doesn’t seem as strong looking as he does in May’s canter photo. At both the trot and canter, he is carrying himself in a decent frame, and looks much more comfortable using his body like this—something that is much changed from the March photos.


TSB: Working with Cuna has been a fun adventure. I didn't realize just how much he'd changed until I put all these shots side by side. Many thanks to EllieA for her insights!! Also, check out her blog for a post on our last photo session together. Super fun stuff. :-)

EA: It was very interesting to see how different types of work influenced Cuna’s muscle development, quality of gaits, and attitude. Generally, what I noticed in the conformation shots held true in the movement photos. Overall, I feel that the May photos show Cuna at his most fit. However, the November photos present a picture of a more supple horse that has an easier time staying collected and engaged. I am intrigued to continue following their progress!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let's Catch Up!

It has been a whirlwind weekend. I'm ready for Friday and somehow it's Tuesday. How did that happen?

Anyways. There is some uber exciting video of us jumping a giant oxer (3'3", y'all), but that is actually not the point of this post because I have something even more exciting to talk about.

What could possibly be more exciting than new Cuna videoes??



Our favorite Ellie came out to take pictures of Mr Matata and myself. As per her usual, she did a smashing job and I have a new set of favorite pictures ever. Winning!! I'll share some with you.

The cutest face ever

Holiday polos! 

Working on connection

Look at that engagement!! 

Check us out!! 

Most handsome of horses 

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Yesterday was my first time back in the saddle post-body-clipping. It was probably a whole 30f outside, so I thought it would be an excellent time to bust out the quarter sheet I snagged on ebay earlier this year. After all, I didn't want the giant heat-producing pony to get cold, right?

Magic butt rug ftw!
I probably need to quit doing this because it's going to come back and bite me eventually, but I assumed that a 17 year old OTTB with a long competitive career had worn a quarter sheet before and didn't really introduce it to him at all.

It's a super cool Bucas sheet that's fleece lined with a waterproof top and it's heavy enough that it won't flap. Perfect!

Cuna and I headed out to the arena. There were other lessons going on, so we worked in short sessions. We started out with the square exercise to build connection. I focused on holding my outside rein (thumb up, elbow bent) and turning Cuna around square corners from my inside leg.

He was lovely. Poll flexed, moving almost equally well off of both legs. Crazy.

At the next break, we picked up the trot. I focused on maintaining that leg-to-hand connection and the up transition was lovely. He was slow, cadenced, and almost floaty. He did try to duck behind my leg a little, but all I had to do was kick him on. Wow... Feeling good.

Then we rolled into canter. Instead of careening around at a near gallop, I had a little, almost mincing gait in a nice balance. His back felt humped, so I sat deep in the saddle and kicked on, and he was just great. I almost asked for a flying change, but since he and I tend to disagree on those, I left them for another day.

We came back to trot and did a little shoulder fore and leg yielding, complete with some lateral motion and no running forward or falling on my hands.

And I thought he wasn't a prancer

At that point, I called it a day. Cuna was literally prancing around the arena and being completely awesome. What more could I want?

I have no idea what the change was--either the connection we've been working on or him feeling good with a new hair cut, or even maybe just a weird side effect of the quarter sheet. Whatever it was, I'll take it!

Friday, November 9, 2012

And Then There Was None

I've been complaining about how difficult it is to keep a thoroughbred looking good lately. Aside from, "let's try and pack some weight on him cuz he's thin again" problem, he has that super fine TB hair. We'd go for a light ride, even in cool weather, and his super efficient TB body would sweat.

It's too cold to hose and his hair would look terribly, plus then he'd have buildup and it is almost impossible to keep hair on this guy to begin with. The funk on his back cannons has started clearing up, but then a different kind of funk started on the back of his hind legs. Ack! There is no winning a sensitivity battle with a red tb, folks.

Yesterday, it was finally time. I busted out the big clippers (and the little clippers) and went to town. My original plan was to do a body clip and leave his legs and head to help him stay warm and maybe keep some weight on.

And then I started looking at his hind leg funk. And that stuff that always accumulates in the thick hair in a horse's forehead.

And I went, "FTS". (Um... "screw it" for the rest of you.)

Barenaked ponies
I clipped a front leg and immediately loved it. So much cleaner! Oh, and did I mention that my paddling horse completely coats his hind end in grime every time he trots in wet sand? Yeah... not sanitary. Then I went to town on his other legs, and that's where things went downhill. Being a red TB, he is as thin skinned, sensitive, and ticklish as it gets.

Oooooh boy. Probably took me an hour just to do his legs.

By the end, he just wanted me to leave and I thought we needed some time apart.

However, he looked pretty darned good. I'd like to do some cleanup on his face (almost didn't post this picture, but it's the best body shot). Otherwise, he looks most ok.

Racuna thinks you need to go away

At least, as ok as a non-drugged uber-sensitive hothouse flower can look after a go round with the big clippers.

He also debuted his sexy new winter blanket--chocolate and cream, obvs. He has a liner blanket, a neck cover, this blanket... lots of food. He'll be plenty warm and maybe, maybe I can finally get a handle of some of this weird skin stuff.

Feed this starving pony
It took more carrots than usual, but soon Cuna was back to liking me a little better. He does look profoundly goofy and I definitely miss his rich, red summer coat, but there is something pretty cute about this peanut butter brown color, too. <3

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


There are certain advantages to working for my trainer. Here are two:

Too cool to open her eyes

I got asked to ride a second horse today. Who? Well, around the barn we call her Pam, but horse show people know her as Nicely Dun, aka 'the mare who finished Aspen Horse Trials on her dressage score of 17'.

You read that right. 17.

She's 19, an Irish cross, and one super classy lady, much like her owner. When I was on her, I felt like I owed it to her to sit a little straighter and ride a little better because, well, she's Pam and that's how she is.


And then, because I'd already dirtied the tack, Cuna got to go in the uber-fancy jump saddle that I've been drooling on for the last... 11 months... or so.

It's a CWD 2G, and despite how ugly it is (hideous, it's like a stormtrooper saddle), it is the shiz as far as I'm concerned.

I don't like the logic of treed saddles, because my butt moves and my horse's back moves, but the tree does not. I appreciate that it distributes weight, but I don't think it's the be-all and end-all of equine technology.

Happy horse face
The the 2G came along. The carbon fiber tree actually moves with the horse, which is a little trippy at first. It is also the COOLEST THING EVER. Cuna went great in it, which I'm trying to persuade myself is because of all our work on true forward and connection, but yeah, I think he LOVED the saddle.

Tough beans for us though--it's new price is more than 50% of an annual salary.

And yeah, that's depressing no matter how you cut it.

Not depressing? 70f and sunny right now. <3

Monday, November 5, 2012

Catching Up

So cute

Hello Blogosphere! Pardon me if I'm a bit quiet this month--I signed up for NaNoWriMo and I'm staying on track, but that's where most all my writing is going. Not sure how anyone does this without a helpful beagle to snuggle them while they work.

Not her most enthusiastic face

I have been riding, though. Saturday I went to a friend's barn and rode dressage horses, which was fun. I actually haven't sat in a dressage saddle in like... months? Not sure how long, so it was definitely a different feel. I rode a cute, green OTTB mare named Sierra and then hit it off really well with this pretty thing, another TB mare named Nacho.

Nacho is a 3rd level dressage horse who now teaches lessons. I called her the Cuna of dressage. She was capable of very correct work, but I HAD to ask for it. Talk about reaching into the dark recesses of my jumper brain, wow.

I did eventually put some decent work together, but I earned every stride. Nacho is for sale. Anyone want to buy her for me?

A New Angle

And today, Cuna and I mixed it up and went adventure hacking alone. He was actually about 85% better than last time. Not sure if that's because he was alone and didn't have anyone to feed off of or because he's more settled in at the new place or because I've been making him march past the scary tarp every day, but it was actually a strikingly quiet ride.

We're hoping for a few more days of sun, but word on the street is that winter starts Thursday. Wish us luck!
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