Saturday, August 31, 2013

Shades of tan

You know you're a rider when...

The color of your arm is 5 shades darker then your leg.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dressage pit stop

On Sunday, the resident dressage trainer at my barn held a dressage schooling show. It was cheap and literally in the backyard so I entered. Sam and I hadn't worked on dressage since I don't know when. I can't even remember the last time I sat in my dressage saddle, but it probably was like December.
What's with all the scratching out?!
I know our last dressage show was Sept 30 of last year. It was a 2-day event and I had a total of four tests. My very last test last year was Training Level 3 in which I scored a 63%.

Over the past two weeks and exclusively the last week, Sam and I worked on dressage. First I had to get used to my dressage saddle. Seats me differently, uses a totally different set of leg muscles for me, just not fun. I kept switching back to my jump saddle and riding in that to see if it helped. Up until the last day, I was still undecided about which saddle to test in. 

There was definitely work to be done regarding right turns, free walks and the evil stretchy trot. Sam doesn't stretch during tests, he likes to looky-looky in a neutral head position. Honestly, he's not working hard enough to really need a stretch in this test. We also were fighting with each other about putting him together more and I had a few frustrating days.

If I think about it, in hunters I mostly point him at jumps and let him do his job. I am rarely giving input (at this point) and trusting him completely. In dressage, I'm constantly knit-picking EVERY single stride whether it's about his poll position, bend, shoulder position, speed, impulsion, etc. I don't think he appreciates that. He grinds his bit almost every time we do dressage, esp regarding lateral work. He grinds when he doesn't like to do something - though he does it anyway.

So, I decided to ride in my dressage and to get a nicely paced ride with lovely shapes and light connection - so as not to promote any tug of war. I got a nice free walk (for us) with some nice tracking up and decent stretch (tho inconsistent). But I totally blew our stretchy trot circle. A quarter way in I realized it was completely flat on top and I tried to salvage the second half, but it was only marginally better. Sam didn't stretch at all and I sure didn't help worrying about the geometry of the circle.

As usual, I only can focus on our flaws after we ride. I knew we turned a little early for centerline and we weren't as straight as we usually are. Our transitions weren't as smooth as I had hoped, though we hit them at the right spots where as during the week we were always too early or too late. I was pretty breathless when we were done - my legs were shot too. We're not used to riding 4:33 minutes straight. Hunter rounds are usually 50sec-1:30min. No wonder under saddles kick my butt, it's like riding a dressage test.

We got 3rd
We scored a 63.8%. I thought the scores comments were correct, even though I was riding for different results then the test required. I didn't like that our harmony score was 6.5 :( We have always gotten 7s or better for that. After you ride everyone asks how you did and how you felt it went. And I was trying to be positive and only citing the ugly stretchy circle was left to be desired. But honestly, I thought it went worse then I was letting on. 

But realistically, we don't work on any of movements and I definitely do as little flatwork as when I can (esp in trot). So it's probably good that at least we aren't any worse then we were last year. 

That night, after watching the video a few times, I felt better and better of how it went and what it looked like. Very typical of me. Riding it feels like a disaster because I tick off all the mistakes. But watching it, most of the mistakes don't translate into visual errors (to my untrained eye). So I always feel better after I watch videos. I should probably just do instant replays after I ride so I can more smiley to those around me.

Here's my test if you have 4:34min of time to kill.

Pretty sure I'm gonna hang up my dressage stirrups. I get way too picky about being perfect. At this point, it isn't good for my stress and my horse and I would rather be jumping anyway. :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dream Division

Lauren at She Moved to Texas started a Hunter Princess blog hop, so I'm jumping in!

Week 1 - What is your dream division?

Well, I guess I'd like to do an 'official' division, not 'baby' divisions. And that usually starts around 2'6" I believe. Then I'll feel like I've arrived.

I'm finally past nearly two years of 18" and just today, I registered for 2' - 2'3" division in October. YAY! It will be our biggest yet. Well, for me anyway. I know my horse as jumped at least 2'6" already. Here's proof:

My Sam & pro trainer of his previous owner, jumping 2'6" at a show. Pro is over 6' tall hehe.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My first, Solomon

My story goes like this.

As a kid, I was always horse crazy. My room was covered in all things horse, unicorn and pegasus. And I had a best friend who was too. I lived in FL in a bedroom community with lots of old people. There were no farm animals allowed in the city limits.

I think I had been a horse a few times for pony rides at fairs and a couple trail rides out of state. The very first horse I sat on was named Blue.

One year in 5th grade, the parks & rec of my city added horseback riding lessons to their list of offerings. It was after school, once a week for an 8 week session. It was a 40 min bus ride to the facility (which is still around btw). It was very pony-club like and I remember I learned all the parts of tack and how to store them (like bridles). It was english, and I learned to ride a white pony named Jenny. I remember there was a 'performance' day at the end for parents and I'm sure somewhere my mom has pictures of me on Jenny and I think we may have 'jumped' a trot rail.

Thereafter, I had a few other opportunities to ride horses for probably a total of 5 times. So I definitely don't consider myself a re-rider.

Fast forward to my late twenties, the summer of 2002. My husband and 3 kids had just build a house on 5 acres that winter and fenced it for horses. I had a friend of a friend who was a rider help me find a suitable horse. lead me to my very first horse, Solomon and he was only 5 miles away.

Solomon was a 13yo Thoroughbred and had been apparently sitting in a pasture for some time. He was snatched up by a local dressage trainer, got a few miles and was advertised as great for a beginner. And he really was. Totally calm and laid back 99% of the time. It was a great fit. I started learning dressage on him because I figured it was like ballet, a good foundation for whatever direction I went in.

I have no idea how tall he was, I'm not sure I ever measured. He was tattoo'd on his lip so I know he was raced, but it wasn't very legible, so I never found out anymore about him. But he was sweet and friendly and it was hard not to love him right away.
Woah, I'm not sure you can get a dressage noseband that skinny nowadays.

I literally have a handful of photos of him. I'm not a big photo gal and even less so before my phone had a camera.

I had Solomon for about a year and had a local dressage trainer come give me lessons at my house once a week. At some point he developed some kind of nerve issue in his neck (or it had been there all along and resurfaced with work) and he would sweat while standing doing nothing. And then I noticed he never laid down anymore, something he enjoyed every day. The local vet recommended a specialized facility 40mins away. I borrowed a friend's trailer (didn't have one) and couldn't load him because he couldn't lift his hindend into the step up. Which would explain why he didn't lay down.

I found another friend who had a lower step on her trailer and with great difficulty and shoving, we got him on it. He was evaluated for a few days and they knew there was something in the neck but didn't know what or why and it obviously affected his hind end. I could have paid for further testing by sending out samples to CA, but the expensive outcome would likely be, undetermined. 

Because I live in an area with coyotes and because he couldn't lay down anymore - a thing I know he loved everyday - I decided to put him down. It was over the phone so I never got a last goodbye. They offered to send me his halter, but I said no - kinda regret that now. I did approve for him to be donated for vet school use.

It was hard but I just felt he couldn't be a horse standing still, not really moving. Missing out on the things he enjoyed. 

It often doesn't occur to me that my first horse was a beautiful, elegant bay with a hint of a star and soft eyes. And that I owned an OTTB (Off The Track Thoroughbred) - an acronym I had never heard of until just a few years ago. 

Always remembered, my friend.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


I found my AWOL pad! It was behind all the other pads on the upper shelf in my locker. The baby pads are thin and a little slippery so not surprising. I'm happy!

What a supermodel

Sunday, August 18, 2013


When I'm not thinking about my arms, they are still chicken wings. I'll figure it out eventually.

But the important note about this post is that I am easily jumping 2' high x 2' wide oxers with ease and no scariness. This video is from today. Yesterday I jumped a different oxer that was 2' high and 31" wide.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Oooo, ahhhhh

My favorite pad company, Lettia (by UnionHill) is now making 1/2 pads. They are very inexpensive with a cute fur trim, but uses CoolMax as the underside - which is probably why they are cheaper then average. I have several of their square pads with the CoolMax and find it to be very nice for my horse.

Most of the time people don't use their fleece 1/2 pads directly on their horse's back - so they aren't getting the benefits of it anyway - so why pay for it?

I haven't seen these in person, but I'm very excited for a nice alternative. And because their pads are such a nice quality, I imagine these are as well.

You can buy them direct:

Speaking of pads, my newer CoolMax ICE baby pad is MIA :(
I love this design of the girth strap, btw. It lines up so nicely.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Barn Tour - Aisle C

And now we begin with a tour of my barn. I love my barn. It has lots of lovely amenities, friendly boarders and very little drama. There's 37 horses at our barn and the property is roughly 20 acres. All the horses seem happy at our barn.

There's a few entrances into the barn itself, six actually. The one closest to the main parking is my aisle way, named C. There's a people door and a garage door - and except in the cold, windy winter, the single car garage door is always open and this is the view a few feet in:

Aisle C, aka main entrance - Sam's stall is the open one, fourth one down
The aisle way is vacuumed everyday after dinner feeding. :)

The door on the left is a full service, girls only, bathroom. It has a toilet, shower, and sink. It also doubles as our kitchen and includes a coffee maker and microwave. On Saturdays you'll often find a box donuts on the counter in there. It's a long rectangular space with the toilet on the far end and the food stuff on the end by the door. We always talk about the sanitation of having food in there, but then we mumble about manure and look at our dirty nails and just say, oh well. :)

Just past the bathroom is a grooming rack (main rack 3). It's a really wide space with overhead lighting and a fan.

To the right just before the mailboxes on the wall is a door to the office which is quite a large space. It has 2 desks for the BO and BM and a separate tack room behind another door that can house at least a dozen saddles and does house BO & BM's tack and assorted barn paraphernalia.

Mailboxes are for payment to BO & trainers. We have an in-house dressage trainer who is also the BM. We have an eventer riding trainer who also has a beginner's lesson horse on site. And we have a 2x week drive in jump/longe/bareback trainer (my main trainer). There's several schedule boards for the trainers as well as the rotating farrier schedule that most of us use. The farrier comes every weds, you keep your horse on the schedule and he does your horse. You don't need to be there, a bill will appear at your stall. :)

Not pictured to the right and left of me taking that first photo is the first set of tack lockers (more about that further down) on the right and the first set of grooming racks on the left shown here:

Main grooming racks 1 & 2 - modeled by Sam
The racks have overhead lighting and fans. The rack shown at right houses a vacuum in the closed space and a hot/cold water hose in the back. Lots of hooks for bridles, halter and the like. Groom totes and blankets can go on the divider and saddle racks to hold your saddle. The mats are pressure washed on Sundays.

This is how it typically looks on a slightly busier day:

Main groom racks on a Sunday morning - Sam & my dog River
Saturdays are the busiest day at the barn.

Across from the groom racks is the first section of lockers. Every stall in the barn is paired to a locker which are approximately 3'x3'x6'. We are allowed to configure the insides any way we see fit. One lady had a HUGE chest of drawers that is on the back wall of her locker and she keeps all kinds of tack in the drawers.

Tack lockers for aisles C & A
Here's my locker that I configured myself. The shelf up top was the only thing I left in place from the prior owner. It was hard to get a good picture because I couldn't back up enough to get a good shot, so here's two shots:

Jump saddle goes in top saddle rack (I already moved it to groom rack). I use old fleece fitted saddle pads wrapped around the tubed rack to avoid indentations in the flocking. Seems to work perfectly. There's jackets, a show halter and pessoa rig/surcingle on left wall and bridles on the right wall. I use the shelf for clean pads (that's about 1/2, other half live at home) empty bags for blankets I have at the barn and some stable blankets/sheets/fleece - which I switch out seasonally.

I maximized space by using a 3 rack pad holder with moveable arms next to my saddles. It currently holds my bareback pad/cinch, fleece 1/2 pad and the current pad I used for the day. I also used both doors for whips, helmets, girths and 1/2 chaps. 

I have 2 sets of drawers (small one is under the blue basket) for strap goods, gloves, sunglasses (3 sets), standing wraps, spare stirrups, and misc items. The blue basket holds tack cleaning supplies, medication/pharmacy items and similar bottles of stuff. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

He was *this* furry

Here's why Sam gets summer clips. See all that wave... you don't get wave without having some thick hair. Remember, he's 1/2 curly horse and this is his normal summer coat.

Sam's summer coat
The following is typical of a curly horse in summer (possible this horse is also a cross). Similar coat to Sam's, but shedded out mane and tail. Sam loses some mane (which is thin and brittle already) but doesn't seem to lose his tail - not all curlys do.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer coat

I body clipped Sam this weekend. He was getting too furry for summer. So we did the 3 day body clip.

Day 1: Body, includes cleanup of cliplines
Day 2: Legs and face, usually I get front legs and head cleaned up
Day 3: rear legs cleanup and ears

Not only does clipping make for a less lazy horse in the summer heat (85-90 for us) but makes for a fast cool down with a quick rinse and scrape, then just a few minutes of dry time while munching some between the weeds. ;)

Day 1 remnants

Beautifully clipped
My trick for a completely smooth clip with zero lines are my small clippers that adjust and one of settings matches perfectly to my Lister Stars fine blade and I go over every line with my small ones. :)

Lister Stars, w fine blade
Wahl Chromado, w adjustable throw away blade