Friday, June 9, 2017

Back to my old dressage saddle

I'm finding it difficult to work on my dressage position in my jump saddle, so I went to the consignment store and took my dressage saddle back. I had a lesson in it yesterday and Pony was softer and more supple in the trot, but our canter work sucked. Because the twist is a little wide for me, I have trouble using my leg as I would in a saddle with a narrower twist. But I felt my balance was better. Sigh.

I'm working with The Saddle Geek to help me come up with some ideas so I don't waste money shipping saddles back and forth that will be for sure "NOs" for fit for either of us. I'm following a few leads to see what might be available and interesting.

Saddle shopping sucks!!!! If only my Baines had a narrower twist I would be so happy!

I'm about to go out for a schooling ride at home so we'll see if I do any better on my own today. Blah. Some days I feel like I can't ride for shit. I guess that's how it goes with a green horse, yes? I have to remember back to when I was struggling with Mac when he was green and couldn't canter in a balanced manner under saddle and remember how far he came. There is hope, right?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Canter breakthrough!

As I think I mentioned, I'm hitting the pause button on jumping right now to focus on improving canter work with Princess Fancy Pants. I haven't worked on it a lot because it is the gait that most aggravates my hip, but now that I've been feeling a lot better, it is time to get more serious!

Last week I had a lesson on Monday where we worked on some good exercises with shoulder fore, serpentines, shallow loops, trot-canter transitions, and adjustability at the canter. It was a good lesson and Trainer is very good at picking out what my body issues are that are contributing to any difficulties Pony has. For example, in picking up the right lead canter I get all twisted about and make it harder for Pony to bring her inside leg underneath her, so Trainer has me focus on weight in my right stirrup and looking over Pony's left ear to straighten myself out - and it always works.

I unfortunately wasted a homework ride by trying a saddle I didn't like, but did get in a schooling ride on Friday. Again I focused on transitions, loops, and serpentines. And when it came time to canter, I got some very good transitions in their promptness. I've learned to take what small successes I have and build on that. For example, when Pony is really on her forehand at the canter, it is a tough ride; so when I got a canter where she was a little above the bit, I was ok and happy with it because it didn't feel like she was dragging me around. The quality felt better and it was something I could work with and build on. And when I got a prompt but above the bit canter, I was pleased with the promptness, so I didn't worry about anything else and called it a day and went for a walk.

That served us both well because Saturday's lesson was awesome! Trainer and I talked about a little schooling show coming up so we ran through Training level test 1 and 2. They weren't pretty but they were acceptable enough that I've got a foundation to build on and a concrete goal to work toward. Canter transitions were much improved and by the end of the lesson the right lead canter was hugely better than the lesson previous. Since Trainer is good at picking out my crookedness issues, I actually feel better after lessons and my hip doesn't bother me as much, so that makes me very happy!!!

Pony is coming along very nicely. She learns so quickly and is so sensitive . . . that can work for me or against me, so I must help Pony use her pony-powers for good!

Yesterday we had a lovely trail ride and Pony wanted to trot and canter a little bit so we did. And we did the water crossings and sniffed cow poop (the cows are out now, but we didn't see any on the ride) and saw an owl and had a lovely morning.

Pony gets her chiro/body work today so she'll have tomorrow off then I have a chiro on Wednesday; next lesson is Thursday and I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Metal and the engine

Hmmmmm....what could "metal and the engine" possibly mean? An engine is made of metal - is that it? Nope. I'm talking about metal in the mouth (bit) affecting the engine of the horse (haunches).

I'd been riding Pony in a loose ring double-jointed snaffle, which she seemed to like enough, but it is a pony bit and I think maybe a bit too small for her mouth now (width-wise) so I thought I'd try something else. My friend was sending me some bits that she had for her smaller horses and until they arrived I tried a couple other bits.

First off, I thought I'd like to try something other than a loose-ring bit to see how Pony likes that, as she plays with a loose-ring a lot. I wanted to see if it was the loose ring's "play" that made her play with it or if it is the mouth piece or something about my hands.

I have an eggbutt Myler snaffle that I tried on her but it is too wide for her mouth. Tried it once and decided I didn't like it.

I have a couple D-ring bits, but they are definitely too big for her mouth as they were Tomato's bits (Colin's big TB that passed away a few years ago).

So I went off to the consignment store to see what they have. Found a simple plain snaffle with a small D ring. Now, mind you, I have never been a fan of the plain single-jointed snaffle because of the way I think they work, but I know some people swear by them so for $15 I thought I'd give it a shot.

Before I rode Pony in it I ground-drove her and double-lunged her in it just so she could get a feel of it. Interestingly, when I first put it on, sans reins, when she was chomping/moving it around in her mouth, she moved it to a position that it wouldn't be in when reins are attached - she rotated it down in her mouth, which I thought was interesting.

There were two takeaways from my experiment with this bit, and both reinforced my position that I don't like a single-jointed snaffle. The first is that for the two times I rode her in it, without even having real "contact" (just a light contact at the walk down the trail), her hind end sort of gave way....don't know how really to explain it except to say that one hind foot seemed like it got stuck in a hole or something. It didn't happen throughout the whole ride, just once or twice when starting our walk. She hasn't done that before and so I was wondering if she hurt herself somehow in turnout. Once we started our ride she didn't really do it again.

The second takeaway from this is that she was chomping the bit a LOT - just about constantly - with the single-jointed snaffle in. I haven't really noticed that before as a constant. She's done it here and there (last time I noticed it was at the little show and I think she had to pee because after the class where she was chomping, she did have a big pee and then didn't chomp anymore). Of course I wanted to make sure it wasn't my hands and that I was hanging on her or anything, so I spent most of the ride on a loopy rein walking and trotting around and doing transitions and figure 8s, checking in with myself and what my hands were doing.

Those two rides were on Friday and Saturday. Friday I actually was trying a new saddle (that I didn't like) so didn't even really ride, just wandered around a little bit.

The next day, Sunday, I put my friend's bit on my bridle. It is a Myler D-ring comfort snaffle. When I first got it I thought it would be too small, but I put it on and it fits just right. We went for a trail ride and had a nice long walk for over an hour (crossing both waters - yay! - well, jumping one and walking through the other). It was such a nice relaxing trail ride. No wonky steps, no chomping at the bit, just walking and taking in the sights and sounds and enjoying the day. Then yesterday I had a lesson and again no wonky steps or chomping at the bit. We are working on the quality of her canter and good departs and did some really good exercises. I'm focusing on dressage at the moment as I want to get her canter better before going back to jumping and cantering courses.

I've got another saddle coming on trial and fingers crossed that we both like it. I've tried two County Competitors now and know I like the seat and Pony fits in the wide tree well. I just had to figure out the combination of tree size for Pony and seat size for me. This one checks the box for both of those criteria.

So I stick to my guns about the types of bits I like. The metal in her mouth does affect her engine!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sad news

It has taken me a week to be able to post this . . . we lost Paddy last Saturday. Paddy was my 20-year-old TB and Pony's friend. I had Paddy since he was 7 and we had many fun adventures together. From eventing to dressage; from galloping down the trails to jumping with no bridle; to camping trips and giving pony rides to visiting guests, Paddy was my partner and friend. He was retired and lived the good life at home with me as long as I had him.

Sadly he colicked last week and an emergency trip to the vet's complete with a full diagnostic workup indicated he would not make it. We put him to sleep so that he wouldn't suffer any more than he had to from this acute onset. Paddy always had trouble with the spring weather changes. In the past I kept an eye on him and he'd always come through a gassy sort of episode. But the week before it was in the 80s for a couple days, then back down to freezing overnight and I guess it was too much for his system to handle this time.

I will always love and miss him.

Here he is with his sister-friend.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The saddle search

I'm on the search for a new (used) dressage saddle, since I've definitively decided that my current dressage saddle contributes to my hip pain.

I went to the two local tack stores that I know consign used saddles - both to check how much % they take when they sell you saddle, and also to see what they had available.

There was a decent selection of high quality saddles at one of the shops so I got to sit in a Bates, Albion, Neidersuss, Passier, Stubben, County, Schleese, and Prestige (I think that one was actually my old saddle that I sold last year!). For the top contenders, I just sat in them. For a really long time. Just sat there reading on my phone. I wanted to see how it felt if when my butt was in the saddle for a while, because sometimes it will feel okay on my hips at first, but then they start to ache. I put back the Bates and the Albion after sitting in them for 15-20 minutes, and then put the County on the stand and sat in it. Heaven! So I took it home.

I gave it a test ride and loved it for me. I could use my leg properly, sit in the right spot, and it didn't bother my hip at all. Unfortunately it is too narrow for Pony. That, and the tree head is asymmetrical and the right side was steeper than the left side. Bummer. But at least I know what I like so I can look for it in a wider tree size!

Two of my friends have saddles for me to try. One is a County (same model as I liked!) and the other is a Schleese. We'll see if either of them work out.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Mounted water crossing!

We did it!

Yesterday we went for a trail ride and crossed the water while mounted! I did have a long lead with me just in case, but I decided to make it easier on the pony by only doing the flatter, wider, shallower crossing - that way she wouldn't have to stress about jumping the ditch.

We walked down to the ditch and the first time she stepped in and jumped out. And the second time, going back to the trail, she did the same thing. Then the third time she stepped in more and took a couple steps and jumped out. And the last time she stepped in, stopped and put her head down to check out the water and eat some grass. I gave her a cookie while she was standing in the water. Then she calmly walked out. YES!!!! Of course I gave her a cookie each time she crossed, but after the last time which was calm and quiet, I quit on that and continued the ride on the "home" side of the ditch.

We crossed over some cow trails to get to another ditch (this section has two parallel ditches) and then we had a nice canter up that ditch to head toward home. Such a nice ride. Such a great pony!!!!

Pony has taught me a lot about not getting greedy, not pushing too fast, and being patient and finding a way to break things down for the best outcome. <3 my pony!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Pony's first "big" show off property!

Yawn, I'm tired! Colin and I got up this morning at 4:45 to feed the horses, with the plan of being wheels-up at 6:00 a.m. to go to Pony's first "big" "away" show in mixed company (versus her first in-barn show a few weeks ago). Our morning routine went without a hitch and we got to the show grounds and parked at 6:30. I hand walked Princess Fancy Pants around the indoor and let her look at all the flowers and the judge's table before I went to tack her up for a 7:00 warm up. It was a cool, brisk morning, with frost on the ground. My feet and fingers were freezing!

We had a very uneventful warm up with just walking and trotting around the arena with new (horse) faces in the arena. We popped over a few jumps and called it. We were done by 7:20.

There was also an outdoor arena where people were warming up for the bigger classes, and then also jumps set up outside in the pasture. It was a beautiful place and setting for a show.

And then the waiting began. I forgot how much I hate this part of the h/j show world! Wait, wait, wait. Pony was very good in just hanging out while other people warmed up and while the first few classes went. She has declared a nemesis! There is a very cute small Welsh pony who is a bay with a blaze and stockings. Very flashy, very cute. As we were just walking around outside the arena, she pinned her ears at this mare and tried to lunge at her! Oh my! Pony does not want any competition in the cuteness department, that's for sure!



We signed up for just three classes in the "cross rails" division. One flat class and two over fences. There were probably 10 people in the division and the flat class went first. It was just a walk-trot class. Nothing exciting. I thought we did well, but the judge didn't pin us. Pony had to pee, I think, and was chomping her bit for most of the class, so I'm sure the judge didn't like that. But she went around very well and I was happy at how well-mannered she was in the group.



We went outside and Colin gave her a cookie. Then the next class began. Just a cross rails jumping class. Our goals were: straightness, rideability, breathing (for me), position (for me). The plan was to trot the course unless she landed cantering in a line and then she could canter out. Since we're working on the goals above, those came first before cantering the course (remember, we've only had four jumping lessons this year!) - that will come later.

I thought she did great! Most of the other riders were kids on ponies (I think there was maybe one other adult in the class - or at least she was an older teenager, I couldn't tell) and they cantered their courses.

Here's our first round.



And our second. She got a little playful after the first line, but that's okay - this is just for schooling!



No ribbons for Pony today, but I am so proud of her! She needs no prep. No lunging, no riding-down, no nothing. Just get on and ride.

Go pony!

Here's a screen shot from one of the jumps.