Friday, July 29, 2022

Eeyore Is Killing It

 If you thought I forgot all about my Orange Doofus, you underestimate my ability to over think as well as the level of anxiety that is constantly running through my veins.

I’ve been up to see him at his lease farm several times, cheered him on at a schooling show to a second place ribbon in a huge field, and spurs on him through my dentist who also services that barn and did Eeyore there right before she came to our barn to float all ours this spring. Plus the barn girls are super good at sending me all the videos and pictures I could hope for.

He has lost a TON of weight, sorely needed, and is pretty much the all star barn favorite, everyone fights to ride him gelding I knew he could be in the right situation. Which is basically the opposite of the situation he found himself living in with me.

All that good info doesn’t stop me from going off the deep end every once in a while completely out of the blue. What if they over jump him and he gets hurt? What if he has a career ending injury? Did I do right by him?

Then I remember that the day they came to meet him he came out of the pasture dead ass lame on one of his front legs (can’t recall which) and while he worked out of it he wasn’t all that sound to be honest. After being a fat pasture puff for months. So….honestly if he was lane as a pasture pet there really wasn’t much worse he could get being ridden.

Then earlier this week I got videos of him going through a grid looking like a super star. I noticed the final element was a pretty tall oxer and asked the height. 3’5”!!!!!!


The entire video looks awesome. He looks fit, happy and killing it. They said he has “one heck of a jump in him” and he obviously loves jumping.

They are hoping to take him to a schooling HT this fall. He was slated to go late spring/early summer but the heat has been intense and she wasn’t comfortable making him work that hard in the heat with how fat and out of shape he was. I’m hoping they take him as he loves xc more than anything. 

If they do, I plan to go cheer him on. I’m really happy that he is happy. I love that they love him so much. I miss him but honestly I don’t miss riding him so I think everyone is where they need to be at the moment. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

Once Again Looking For Opinions


What is that saying? Advice is what you ask for when you know the answer but don't like it? That defines my current situation. 

EN is a super nice person. She is someone I could see myself becoming good friends with. I think it would be endlessly fun to hang out with her in a non lesson capacity. I want to see her succeed in her business and life. 

First watermelon from the garden. Last year they all rotted on the vine. A patient recommended I apply powdered milk after planting but before flowers bud and it seemed to work!

I've learned so many new things in the short time I have been riding with her. Leonard and I can now reliably do haunches in down the long side, leg yields, pick up both canter leads without fuss, he has a half halt mostly installed, and my leg position has never been more solid. We are getting better at turn on the forehand, my reaction to spooks/nonsense has gone from screaming in mortal terror to softly correcting and/or ignoring and moving on and overall we are in a much better place than over the winter. 

It isn't all rainbows and unicorn farts. Some lessons she pushes us too much and both our brains melt. Other lessons feel like we didn't really do anything or get anywhere. It is a balance. I still feel like we are in the courting phase of our relationship. Sure I have been riding with her technically since February but Leonard had an entire month off in March for a leg cut and then we had all of June off due to EN being on vacation and me getting COVID again. So while technically it has been 5 months, in reality it has only been 3 months of active work. Given that, I expect a learning curve for both of us on how everything goes. 

A little over ripe but still juicy and delicious

So what is my problem?

There is a fundamental issue I am having that I am unsure we can move past. Maybe this is all normal and I have just not been riding with the correct people in the past and I need to get over myself. That is a viable option too which is why I am putting this out to the blogosphere for opinions. 

Ok. 

It all began during my very first lesson with her.  We were maybe 5 minutes in to the ride, still warming up, and she told me I needed to ride with a crop. Leonard was very behind my leg, not moving forward when asked and in general short strided. The addition of the crop as an aide helped to get him to understand that forward wasn't a suggestion. I've ridden with a crop ever since though I can't recall the last time I did anything with it beyond carry it. 

Lots of people ride with crops, so I didn't think much of it. I never had, but I also rode two fiery forward horses whose main focus was bringing them back and slowing them down. A crop wasn't necessary. 

Kiddo loves the garden, even in a summer downpour. He is ripping out the brussel sprout plants that dies in the heat wave.

Then a couple lessons later she handed me a set of spurs and said I needed to always ride with those. Leonard was being a tad resistant to lateral cues at the time and she said it would help make the concept more solidified. Again, lots of people ride with spurs and it did help with the lateral work. I had never had a quiet enough lower leg to use them before plus again Eeyore and Gem well...we never actually worked on any lateral work so who knows if they would have benefitted. I still ride with spurs most of the time. Some days at home I leave them off.

At this point we had been riding for maybe a month and I had two new riding aides: the crop and spurs. 

Then a couple lessons later she grabbed a different bit. I had been riding him in a french link full cheek snaffle. He has a super soft mouth. I had never had any issues with him not listening in this bit, but we had upped the level of work with newer and much more technical exercises which had led to him beginning to root and blow me off. Actually, thinking back it was the day we began to work on the canter strides over poles which fried both our brains. Anyway...she grabbed a two ring elevator/gag. He hated this bit, it was a bit much for him. While he did listen to my half halts better, he also sucked way back, became tense and resistant. She wanted me to start riding him in this bit full time. I did not. I continue to ride him in the full cheek snaffle to this day. 

The first stall is sorta our scarp wood/junk stall. Lenny had thrown his saddle pad into it from the cross ties, so I went to grab it. This little guy greeted me. 

Right before June, she asked to ride Leonard with her trainer to get some ideas to help with his straightness. I love it when a trainer rides my horse so that they can get a first hand feel for what I am working with. I feel like it gives them a better idea. Well...about 5 minutes into the warm up her trainer ran and grabbed a standing martingale. She said it was to keep his head in a box which in turn will keep him straighter. He fussed a great deal to begin with, but eventually settled a bit into it. They told me to buy one and use it for every ride. I did not. 

EN left for a long vacation right after which meant no lessons for a couple weeks, then I got COVID and took a couple weeks off myself. Last night I had my first lesson with her in over a month. We got to work. I was sooo happy with Leonard. He was being a bit spooky in the back half of the arena, but he listened. His half halts were amazing, the lateral work was spot on and we got our left lead perfectly. Yet for some reason she mentioned the martingale, asked if I was using it and when I told her no she insisted I get one. 

I will not be getting one. 

Looking at everything it feels like we are rushing to gizmos and gadgets at the first sign of any resistance from Lenny instead of like...you know...taking time to train him? The spurs and crop I was ok with since so many people ride with them, but looking back it seems that the spurs were awfully quickly added. I mean, we had only just started asking for lateral work. He had no idea what I was asking for. He is such a good egg who tries his heart out for me. Sure, the spurs allow for a more focal aid, but maybe had we taken more time to introduce the concept he wouldn't have even needed them. He is pretty responsive once he understands the question. 

Floof is the most needy dog I've ever had. Plus he hogs all the space. I don't mind though. I adore him.

The whole bit thing is what finally got me thinking about all this. I was not comfortable upping him to a gag after one inkling of resistance to a completely new concept that was above our pay grade how it was being introduced. Sure, the added leverage kept him from blowing me off on the back side but it didn't help him understand what I was truly asking. I was so thankful when we took a month off for me to work more slowly with him again. Wouldn't you know it - by taking a step back he returned better than ever. 

Sure, he has some straightness issues but he is an 8 year old OTTB who hasn't had to ever work like this before who is being ridden by a complete ammy. I could shove him in the martingale. He probably would go straighter since the gadget would force him to, but is that really teaching him how to use his body properly? A lot of people use them, so I assume it works but I'm not ready to add that to our tack. 

So...I don't know what to do. I am not going to keep adding pieces of equipment or using harsher pieces of equipment at every single sign of resistance to new concepts. I also don't want to be constantly fighting my trainer either. I'm sure on her end she doesn't enjoy having to work through things that she feels a piece of tack would instantly fix for a student who isn't listening to her. 

I think I may need to find a new trainer which makes me very sad. Thoughts?

 

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Holy Cow I Finally Have A Saddle

What an obnoxious few months of saddle searching this has been. The saddle industry has to be the most screwed up business model I’ve ever come across. Which is saying a lot since I own my own private practice in healthcare and wow could I blow your minds with the crap that exists there. 


That is a mighty good butt scratch right there

While there were a lot of WTF moments, two stood out the most. A local rep for a saddle company I really, really wanted to purchase from contacted me. I sent the rep the specs on the saddle I was looking for. They assured me they found an exact match and so I ordered it on trial. It arrived and was all sorts of wrong from the get go. I texted pictures with an explanation of what I was feeling/seeing. Said rep then admitted it was a completely different seat and panel configuration but figured I wouldn’t notice. Thank goodness the company has free shipping both ways and a generous 15 day trial. About a month later the same rep texted me this super odd text saying that this was so weird she was reaching out but she found another saddle that matched my requirements. Why it was odd to reach out to me to sell me the very thing I wanted I will never know. So I responded asking for pictures of the serial number on the flap and never heard back. After a few more failed trials on my own, I reached back out asking about this saddle and got the response that the saddle didn’t exist. While I was super excited about that particular brand, I try to avoid crazy so sadly I wrote the entire brand off.


Before I realized my right stirrup was 2 holes shorter than the left! No wonder I always felt like I was tilted left when I rode. 

The second occurred at a localish tack shop that people seem to adore but I hate. I generally avoid it like the plague but I had sat in a specific saddle of a friend and loved it. This tack shop was listed as a dealer so I drove up. I knew the exact tree and seat size I needed. The saddle fitter came over and I asked her for a 33 cm 17”. She pulled out a saddle and said here you go. I asked to see it and had to pry the damn thing out of her hands as she kept telling me it was exactly what I wanted and to let her put it up front so I could pay for it. When I finally got it off her I looked at the flap. It was a 34 cm 16”. I mentioned this and was told it was close enough. Lovely saddle fitter they have there. She did eventually concede to my point that it was both too wide for my horse and too small for me then tried to convince me to let her handle ordering a new one. Yeah - that’s a hard no from me. 

Oh! There was also the rep for another company who told me they don’t have any demo saddles to try and to just trust her to come measure and recommend a model I’ve never sat in or had on my horse and order it custom. Hahahahahhaha. Nope.

Seriously. This industry is awful.

Loved how my leg draped down his side in this saddle

But! I did finally find someone who was sane, trust worthy and had a saddle I liked. I know. It is a miracle.

Actually I happened upon it due to a friend. She brought over her Prestige Roma Jump to ride Hammy and I tried it on Lenny. It didn’t fit him the best but I loved it for me so I figured it was worth looking in to. That’s the saddle that took me to the tack shop. It turns out they discontinued the Roma a while back (so how tack shop saddle fitter lady planned on ordering me a new one I have no idea) which is a bummer. There aren’t really any used online or at least not in the places I know to look which is admittedly few. I’m a terrible online shopper. I did manage to find one, got scammed, disputed it with PayPal and got my money back. Go to hell scammer lady. I found another which did show up and was a great price but someone had ripped off the knee blocks which I hadn't noticed in photos and wasn't disclosed by the seller. I hate online shopping. Ugh.

It was at this point I said screw this noise I’m calling the rep. My patience was shot. Fortunately she was super nice, had saddles she could bring out for me to try, and was available when I was. All good vibes to start.

Easy position without fighting the tack. 

She immediately won me over when she asked to start with what I had and go from there. I love it when they are reasonable and don’t just try to sell you custom from the starting gate. The Roma I had didn’t really fit Lenny all that well. The panels were ok but his wither is so darn tall and long. The gullet was a pretty decent width for him but the channel wasn’t wide enough which was causing some pinching at the back end of his long wither. She was worried that widening the tree would make it tilt down in front and flocking would make it too tight. 

I’ll skip to the end for a second - we tried it on Hammy at the very end and it actually fit him perfectly. It didn’t even need any flocking changes so that was awesome. She emailed the company to see if we could ship the saddle to headquarters in FL to have the knee blocks added back on. If so, that will make that perfect.

She brought out nearly a dozen different saddles for me to see and try. All were either used demos or consigned saddles available for purchase if I liked them. I’m a big fan of buying used so this made me really happy. She ruled a few out just by sitting it on him and noticing the fit. A couple more may have worked for him but were in tiny seat sizes so we put them aside in a maybe pile. If I ended up liking them I could either shop around for it used or order new in the proper seat size.

Jumps set up for Hammy's height. It was too hot to worry about raising them for Lenny just to try the saddle fit out.

Two though were great contenders. I started with the Xperience jump saddle. Man was this thing cushy! It has some tech in the panels that absorbs extra shock for both rider and horse though to be honest I can’t recall what it was specifically. It had Velcro knee and calf blocks, that super awesome wider seat for butt comfort and fit Lenny pretty well. I sat in it and fell in love. He moved great, my leg sat perfect and unicorns farted rainbows.

She wanted me to try the other one to compare then suggested I try this one again before making a decision. I sat in the next one and hated it from the start so that was that. I didn’t even canter in it I hated it so bad. It felt like all the other saddles I had been trying: tipped forward, chair seat leg position and small which was a bit odd since it was a seat size larger than the other one.

She recommended I sit in the Xperience again to make sure but wanted to do some flocking adjustments first. I got back on but whatever she did made me feel like I was going to fall off his left side so I didn’t do much. We pulled it off, she did her flocking thing again, then I got back on. This time I did some jumping in it and it felt really great. Poor Leonard was over this BS though. He had been ridden four times in the 95 degree heat. Good news was that it was super secure and I was able to effectively use my lower leg to keep him straight when he was in noodle mode.

The saddle was over my make believe budget by a good chunk but I loved it, it fit us both, the rep is local so can do flocking adjustments as needed, and with the Roma fitting Hammy so well it saved me having to buy another one for him so I bit the bullet and bought this one. It is now the nicest saddle I have ever owned. In theory it should last for all of Leonard’s riding life as the tree can be adjusted up or down an unlimited amount of times by the rep so even if he adds top line or weight or whatever, it can still be adjusted to fit him. 

I’m sure you all know the relief I feel having finally purchased a saddle that I can confidently ride in knowing it fits us both. Now on to new adventures!





Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Happy Heart




Take a horse who has been on retirement for 4.5 years, hasn’t been ridden at all in 2-3 weeks and hasn’t seen a trail in over 5 years. Plop a 9 yo kiddo who has never been on a trail before on her. 

Ended up using Eeyore’s Aussie saddle for this. It’s a bit heavy and a tad long but Kiddo enjoyed the security and it fit Gem really well. 


Then add an overgrown baby OTTB with less than a handful of trail rides who also hasn’t been ridden in 2-3 weeks and hasn’t seen a trail in over a month. Plop a semi competent rider that has high anxiety on him. Set them loose on a technical trail with bridges, water crossing, trail traffic, road crossings, and hills. 


This baby goober was a really good boy leading the way


What do you get?


The absolute best day spent on the trail in my entire adult life.

Everyone enjoyed themselves. Everyone did great. Not a single hoof was put wrong. 



Hamilton was absolutely hilarious. He was in full blown “I hate my life, this sucks, that sucks, everything sucks. Why is life so hard? Why do I have to work?” mode on the way out. 

Heheheheh


He tucked in behind Hubby, who came to hike just in case things went sideways, and trudged at as slow of a pace as his long legs could handle. Which ended up being great since Gem has a natural 1.5 mph walk and this meant she could keep up without jogging or trotting every 5 strides. 




The loop was 6.5 miles. At mile 2 I stopped to discuss the situation. We could keep going and do the full loop which would likely take another 2 hours given the current pace. We have taken 47 minutes to go 2 miles. Or we could turn around and do 4 miles total with only another 47ish minutes back. Kiddo was starting to get tired, the horses were really sweaty and I didn’t want to push Gem too much since she hadn’t done even this much work in years. We decided to play it safe for everyone and turn around.

Kiddo led for a ways too


Hamilton loved this idea and proceeded to finally wake up. We walked back at 3-3.5 mph, shaving off nearly 20 minutes on the return trip. I was proud of him though. I could feel his desire to run back to the trailer but he kept a lid on it. He halted when I asked to let Gem catch up, when Kiddo asked to trot up a hill Hamilton contained himself to a nice trot instead of the gallop he wanted. Really, he behaved extremely well. 

We went over several bridges, cross a creek, had two different groups of riders come upon us, one we pulled over for and the other pulled over for us. Had four road crossings, a hiker with a dog and lots of up and down hills. I was super proud of the Kiddo and how well he did.

 


I’m not sure if or when he will ask to go again, but I’m game any time he wants. Gem still has a lot of ability in her and I wouldn’t be too hard pressed to try a LD with Hammy and Gem if Kiddo ever wants to. It would be a blast. 


Happy memories regardless of if it ever happens again. Gotta love these times. 

Monday, July 4, 2022

Blog Hop: 20 (Very) Random Questions

 I got this idea from Amanda at Breed Ride Event, but I think it came from another blog I wasn't aware of but will now look up and binge read. I'm not sure I'm the right person to go through these since I am pretty boring and cheap...but we will see. 

1: What is one of your favorite brands specifically for your horse, and why?

I find myself nearly always pleased with Absorbine products. Gemmie loves the lineament rinse after a bath, the hoof products have done wonders for Hammy's dry hooves and I just really have no complaints on anything I've used by them. 

2. If you were given a gift card for a tack shop with unlimited funds, what would you buy first?

New grooming supplies. I have one brush that I actually like. The others are decade old cheapo brushes. I'd love to get some really, really good brushes but they are so pricey and mine work that I never get myself to put them in the cart. 

Hamilton and Leonard love the pond access in the lower pasture. Unfortunately it’s been so hot and dry that their small portion is mostly now mud. 

3. What horse event/clinic do you really want to audit or participate in? (Events like Equine Affaire, or the LRK3DE, or even local events, etc)

Tevis. It isn't really spectator friendly but seeing the trails, feeling the atmosphere, gawking at all the various tack set ups. Oh it would be grand.

4. What is something your horse has taught you that you didn’t expect to learn?

Hmmm...Lenny is doing his best to teach me to quit being so Type A about cuts, scratches and dings. Gem never was hurt. Never even a scratch to worry about. If Leonard comes in for a meal not bleeding from some new area, it is a miracle  

Hamilton is teaching me to be more firm. Not mean or unfair. Just to say what I mean and then hold him to it. Since I tend to be more of a push over type rider, this is a big change. It is paying off though.

5. If you could take your horse anywhere, right now, to do anything, where would you go and what would you do?

I’d take Hamilton to the Big Horn 100 out west. It’s my dream ride.

Leonard. I don’t know. Really I’d just love to go to any schooling show in the area and see how we do.

6. What are your favorite colors to put on your horse? (think saddle pads, tack colors, browbands, etc.)

Hamilton looks really good in a dark forest green or royal blue. Right now all his stuff is green.

Leonard is harder for me to figure out. You’d think being grey he’d be super easy but I have yet to find a color that I really like on him. Red seems to be the best bet but that was Gemmie’s color so I’m looking for something else. He may just end up with black.

Explored a small town about 90 mins from us. A large building had small, DIY type booths with all sorts of neat items. Smack in the middle was a tack store! Snagged new halters to everyone.

7. What is your least favorite equestrian brand?

Stubben. I boarded Gem and Pete with a rep for almost a year and sat in dang near every single model they had at the time. I hated them all. It always feels like I am sitting 100’ above their back with too much stuff between me and them plus I fight a chair seat in them. Thinking maybe it was only Gem they didn’t work with and having Trainer AB push Stubbens, I tried again with Eeyore and Hammy and had the same thoughts so it isn’t a horse thing.

8. If you could change one thing about your discipline, what would it be?

I don’t really have a discipline at the moment. Endurance is great mostly the way it is. I’d love way less cheating on the international level but that’s probably any major sport. Eventing was pretty fun though I’m not really brave enough for it and the shows were hella expensive. 

9. Did you grow up in an ag/equestrian familiar family, or are you the first person in your family to step foot in a barn?

My Aunt and Uncle got me into horses. They had a farm 2 hours south of us and I’d spend every minute I could with them. May mum and dad are not animal people though my mum has ridden Gem on a trail ride once.

10. Do you like the bit that is in your horse’s mouth currently or do you want to try a new one?

Sure. Both Lenny and Hammy go in a French link full cheek snaffle. I don’t really know enough to tinker too much and they both listen well enough for where we are at to not worry about changing at the moment. EN wants me to up Lenny’s bit to a happy mouth two ring elevator but I don’t think I want to do that just yet. Sure he sometimes gets rushy and blows me off, but I don’t think it’s a bit issue. I think it is more of a pushed him too hard to fast issue and by slowing things down we will get there quicker than by upping the leverage.

Stumbled into an antique store and found this awesome horse stick. No clue what year it is from but for $25 I could t pass it up. The wither piece has a tiny level in it and there is a hinge to fold it in half. I used it in Leonard and he is a true 17.1H

11. If you could change one thing about your horse, what would it be?

Hamilton has a great big “I don’t wanna” in him and can throw a major temper tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. He will probably grow out of it, he is only freshly 6, but it would be nice if maybe he wasn’t so opinionated about having to work. His work ethic is pretty shitty.

Leonard would be great if he would stop always injuring himself in stupid ways being silly in the pasture. Oh and if he could hold onto weight a bit easier too.

12. What is one thing about horses you are weirdly obsessed with? (i.e wrapping techniques, footing, grooming, hair care, clippers, saddles, etc)

Saddle fit. Coming from endurance it always blows my mind when pretty much every other discipline follows a “good enough” fit rule. My non endurance friends and trainers all think I’m too picky but in endurance the fit can kill your whole ride. Having a saddle that is too wide and just using a pad to make it fit somewhat better drives me insane. 

13. What is the most advanced horse you have ever ridden, or what is the most advanced move for your discipline you have done?

Hmmm…none really. I’ve only really ridden my Aunt’s trail horses, Gem, and now the OTTB boys. 

14. What is your favorite type of reins?

No idea. I don’t like braided ones. I hated the biothane ones because they got super slippery when wet. I currently use rubber nubby ones which are ok. 

15. What are you a diva/stickler about in terms of equipment quality?

Fit. I like a saddle that fits perfectly, pads that don’t stick out super weird, bridles that sit nicely without being bulky. I don’t buy high end stuff and I don’t care how much something cost. I just want it to fit.

Sneak peek at the best part of my holiday weekend

16. What is your favorite barn hack you learned?

None that I can think of.

17. What is your least favorite piece of equipment and why?

Boots. All the lower leg boots hold heat in and newer studies show how damaging that can be to the tendons. I get that you have to do what you have to do and Eeyore wore them to protect his legs from another impact injury, but I think most people use them just because they are pretty or popular without having an actual purpose to them.

18. If your horse was a character from a Disney movie, who would they be?

Sorry, but I haven’t watched Disney in ages and have no idea who I’d pick. If Marvel counts, since Disney now owns them, Hamilton is most like the reborn teenage form of Groot. Sullen, doesn’t want to work but steps up when he needs to and is a really good guy deep down. 

Leonard would be Spider-Man: goofy, tried his best even though a lot of it sorta goes sideways, everyone’s best friend and really awkward.

19. If you could change one thing about the property you are at right now with your horses, what would it be?

Oh man. Well, we’ve done most of the major stuff on the list including putting in brand new three board wood fencing in place of the old electric tape around every pasture. The barn is coming along nicely with the only major project remaining being new stall fronts but that is just an aesthetic thing not a functional one so may never get done.

20. What is the purchase that you regret in the horse world?

The 3 Horse slant trailer I purchased in November 2020 and recently sold. Hamilton barely fit nose to tail in it and there was no way I could hang a hay bag for him. Lenny is even bigger and I wasn’t even about to try him in it. I haven’t figured out a good solution yet. I’d likely need a 4 horse head to head or a 2+1 but holy cow are those things huge.