Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A few things, as briefly as possible

I'll try to keep this brief, because Lord knows I can go on sometimes.

* My little mare is turning into a really nice ride. :) I have had several great rides in the past week, the sort of rides I could never have had last year. For example: I didn't get to ride at all during the week of Christmas. We did have a lesson on Christmas Eve, though, and I wasn't about to skip it. So I got Rev out, tacked her up, longed her a bit, and hopped on -- and she was completely ridable for the lesson. Com. Pletely. Then, on Monday, after not riding on Sunday, she was so good under saddle, so willing, that I just wanted to squeal and hug her neck like a kid. It was one of those days when all she has to do is exist to make me just the happiest camper in the world, and all I really needed was to sit on her to feel like we'd done something. So I pulled the saddle off and we hacked around a while bareback. I love getting to do that. :) And it's something I could never have done a year ago.

* I got a gift card to the FLTS from my best friends for Christmas. OMG, y'all. The Sprinkler Bandit and I went to the shop and absolutely banditized it. Okay, maybe not banditized, but I felt like I got a lot for the money. We traded a couple of things, and after a few more things moved from her place to mine (a great relief to her husband, I'm sure!), we're even on the trade of the Tipperary vest. The final tally, after trades and purchases, ended up being:

1 fleece jacket on consignment
1 pair of cedar boot trees on consignment (the woman at the register tried to insist that the boot trees were $20 EACH, not $20 for the pair. I was boggled. And glad I caught the error.)
2 saddle covers
1 bottle of Effax Ledercombi (more on this in a bit)
1 set of black ThinLine reins
1 pair Kerrits Sit Tight & Warm breeches
1 nibble net
1 Ultimate Hoofpick
1 royal blue grooming tote

So yeah. I am utterly thrilled with all of it. :) Of course, I need a new lead rope and completely forgot to get one -- ah well. They're inexpensive.

* 25 years ago, my parents gave me my very first piece of tack: a Courbette bridle. It was gorgeous, top of the line for the price they were willing to pay, and very well-made. I used that bridle up until two years ago, is how good it was. My father also picked out some leather cleaner and conditioner to go with it. He was the sort of guy who believed in buying something nice and then taking good care of it, so he got the best cleaners he could: Effax Ledercombi and Lederbalsam. I suspect that the fact that he spoke German and believed in German engineering and quality had something to do with it.

I hadn't bought another bottle/bucket of the Effax products again since -- other tack shops didn't carry it as I was growing up, and all I remembered was that it was in an orange container, smelled like something utterly delicious, and the package was printed in German. Once I finally made the connection, though, I wanted to get some for myself as an adult.

The smell of the cleaner and the conditioner evokes incredibly strong memories of my father and of the horse-crazy girl I was and remain. I was so unutterably thrilled at having My Own Bridle then, and I cleaned it as often as I could. I had finally become an official horse rider, because I had a durable thing as proof of my commitment.

Ledercombi smells, to me, like commitment, joy, and my dad's belief in quality -- and his desire to get me the right thing, the most effective thing, and the thing best designed to help me get where I wanted to be.

I cleaned my dressage tack this afternoon after I rode. I can't think of a better smell than the combination of warm, dry horse, leather, and Ledercombi. This is my favorite life ever.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yule eve

So as I mentioned before, I don't usually ride on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Something about getting a new week going takes me a bit, and seeing as we usually ride on every other day, including Saturday and Sunday, letting Rev have a weekend doesn't worry me at all. I wasn't sure I was going to get to ride tonight, though. I'd finished my Christmas shopping and had X amount budgeted for gas and food.

Then my cat got sick.

The vet bill? Was X - $2. Welp, okay, I had it, and I have enough in my pantry to keep me fed. Not so much in the gas tank, though, with how much running around I'd had to do last week. So I used the last of it to go to work yesterday and planned to work from home today.

My best girl friend Paypalled me some money on Monday, but it takes time to get from there to the bank, so I was ready to accept having to stay home tonight too.

However, in a Yule-eve small miracle, the money arrived this morning. :) I get to ride tonight after all! And I can go to the grocery store and pick up a few things like lettuce, bread, lunch meat, eggs, and Ramen! Life is so good.

Seriously, y'all, it doesn't take much for me to be a happy camper. Joyous Yule to you all, happy second night of Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, happy Kwanzaa, and have a wonderful secular winter celebration.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Little show

Well, the winter jumping show was a qualified success. :) Success in all the ways that matter, though.

Reveille was an absolute superstar! She loaded in the trailer with only one "er, I'd rather not," unloaded fine, and was perfectly content to stand tied and inhale her hay. The quasi-new place didn't faze her a bit. I went to put her on the longe line before our pre-show lesson, and her comment was "ho hum!" What a relief, completely. I'd come loaded for bear -- fresh vet wrap around my stirrup pads, neck strap, saddle stickum, running martingale -- but what I found was fluffy little squirrels. :)

After the lesson, that's when the "qualified" part of the success started. We had rafts of people entered in the ground poles class. Rafts of them. Juniors, seniors, green horses that needed experience, experienced horses with green riders, and so on. Just lots of people, and lots of rounds, because you could do a schooling round before or after your competition round. So the schedule got way behind very quickly.

I ended up dropping from Plan A, 2' and 2'3 jumpers, to Plan B, crossrails and 2' jumpers. Then, when it was 2:30 and we hadn't even started the crossrail class, it became clear that my friend, whom I'd caught the trailer ride in with, wasn't going to be able to ride in 2'9 until after sundown, and my classes weren't going to be much earlier. So Plan B became Plan C: just do crossrails, have a great round, and call it good. It almost became Plan D: screw THIS for a bag of soldiers!, but then I got a peanut butter sandwich and some juice, and I re-sane-ified.

Optimum time at this show for a 10-fence course in a smallish indoor arena was 1:47. The ground poles classes had the same time limit, and the riders hitting the time were having some trouble on course and going at a very slow trot, even a walk. So yeah. I knew going in that I was throwing the OT out the window and just having a smooth ride. I mentioned to my friend that with the way I planned to ride the course -- in a smooth, rhythmic, forward canter -- we weren't even going to break 1:30.

Yeah. I was right. 1:16. Heh.

So my lovely, forward, balanced ride with good position and patience earned me an official sixth place. Do I care? NOPE! :) Reveille was a superstar, we had the ride I wanted, and that's good enough. It's a great start to a successful 2012 season.

Now home, trying to rehydrate (idiot me!), and crashing out. More jumping fun in the morning!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

We had a productive ride last night! After the slight chaos that was our lessons last weekend, I went in with the goal of a calm, quiet ride with good lines and turns over the cloverleaf exercise; if she spooked, my goal would change to be keeping myself in charge, bending her away from the spooky thing, and insisting on my line, my pace, etc.

I also had in mind something I read on one of y'all's blogs (Little Red Mare, maybe?) the other day: the talk given by top riders on riding green horses. They all agreed that especially with a green horse, you set a goal, and when your goal is achieved, you stop. I don't know that Reveille is as green as the horses they were talking about, but she's definitely emerald at the center. :)

The other thing I did to give myself a better chance of achieving my goal was to put the running martingale attachment on. She'd been tossing her head to avoid contact again this last weekend, so it seemed like a good idea to add a little to the "plant your hands in her neck when she does that" solution. Tonight she started out tossing a little, but the hand-planting combined with the martingale took good care of that. I made sure to keep my hands as soft and my contact as consistent and elastic as I could.

Warming up slowly, until she has a nice, free, swinging walk, really helps us both. Even if everyone else in the arena is trotting already, I need to let Rev warm up at her pace. Pushing it leads to pissiness -- letting her free up her back and shoulder leads to a much more pleasant ride. An obvious sort of thing, but ... well, there you have it. Need to be sure to have enough time to warm up correctly.

The cloverleaf exercise went really well, which was a bit unsurprising after taking all those preliminary steps. Sit up and kick -- check. Straight lines that I choose -- check. Turns as balanced as we're capable of -- check. Soften hands on approach to pole -- check! That helped a lot. I even remembered which way to turn. ;) So all that, plus the fact that I couldn't find my inhaler yesterday morning and was having breathing issues, added up to a short-ish ride.

Short was a-ok, though. Reveille's attitude when we were riding and when we were done was soft, willing, and interested, instead of irritated and resistant. I wasn't sheepish or exhausted (despite my breathing hard!), and it was a good feeling. That's my main goal for the next few rides: that attitude.

And this morning? New winter gloves. SFLTS to the rescue! And only $15, too! Hooray!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Focus ... I might haz it

I'm pretty sure I have some focus around here somewhere, but I think it's lost under the idea of CHRISTMAS SOON. :)

If I were going to be able to ride tonight, I'd have to leave work at 4. Seeing as I didn't get in til my usual-non-ride-night 11, that's not going to happen tonight. Which is okay; I rarely ride on Tuesdays as it is. Mondays, almost never, Tuesdays, rarely. Wednesday through Sunday, almost always. Anyway, in lieu of a riding entry, here are a few randoms.

My SSG Winter Gripper gloves are about a ride or two away from giving up the ghost entirely. I'm thinking I want to replace them with a pair of SSG Winter Training gloves. One of my lesson partners swears by them, and it seems like the cloth gloves wear out pretty quickly, so I think I'll give them a try. The trick is, though, that they're close to $40 on Dover and Smartpak. They're more like $27 on State Line Tack and $30 on Amazon.

I could justify paying $27, even $30, but do I want to then pay shipping and wait a week or two to get them from SLT or Amazon? I can't count on my friendly local tack shop to carry them, either. And if they DO carry these gloves, it's a crapshoot whether they'd be in my size ... and if they DO have them in my size, I'm assured of paying the highest retail price possible. :/

As the Sprinkler Bandit put it, I've heard of places where they sell all kinds of horse things -- tack, breeches, boots, shirts, everything -- and you can actually try things on! Touch them! before you buy.

Some say these places lie in the lands to the east. Some say they are a myth.

Anyway, it's possible that the other, much smaller and yet somehow more productive for me tack/feed shop might have a pair, but ... I'm not holding my breath. I might need to just buy a cheap pair, because right now I'm feeling like expedience outweighs precision in the kind of winter gloves I buy. I won't be able to get to the FLTS before the show on Saturday, but the SFLTS is on the way home. I definitely need a new set before the weekend. Hrm.

The good thing about Amazon is that if I'm patient, I can get them for FREE. I'm a Swagbucks member -- it's turned out to be incredibly cool. I was really skeptical at first; you basically earn points, or Swag Bucks, for doing things like using their search page, doing surveys, watching videos, et cetera. It sounded like a complete scam. It turned out to be really useful, though, and easy. It's basically a mechanism for advertisers to get their ads in front of your eyes and to do retail surveys. Very little commitment on my part, and huge rewards. In less than 2 months of swagging, I've gotten more than $50 in Amazon.com gift cards. And I'm not really even swagging hard at it! I could work harder and get $75 or so in Amazon cards in a month.

Anyway, this is pertinent because ... Amazon sells horse stuff. :) Up to and including saddles. And FITS breeches. So I definitely plan on picking up a pair of FITS when I have the gift cards saved up -- FITS for free? Sign. Me. UP! So yeah. I could grab some gloves by the end of the month. But I do kind of need them now ...

Anyway, if you want to check Swagbucks out, do a girl a favor and use my referral link! :) Swagbucks.com I am really liking it. It made Christmas for several people on my list MUCH cheaper ... as in FREE.

Tack and breeches and gloves FREE. Just think of it. :) How blissful!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Evening in the Life

I have a text entry one down. For musings on what inhabits my cranium, see below.

But now, an Evening in the Life of Rinsie and Reveille: Pictures from a Friday Night.


I have to race the sunset to the barn, because Rev's on pasture and I don't like to catch her in the dark. I win the race this evening:


I get Rev in the cross ties and get her blanket off - dirty horse is dirty!



Some brushing takes care of that dirt. She's warming up her ocular lasers, though.


In the time it took for me to brush her, the sun has gone completely down and the full moon is shining gloriously.


When I come back in, Rev's ocular lasers are at power, and Grayson doesn't think I'm a threat.



Hazel the sometimes-evil barn cat examines the small pile of ash that was me, contemplating equine ocular lasers.


We ride, but I forget to take my camera for an ears or mirror shot. This is the result of the ride. I think we worked hard enough, eh?


Reveille is tired of the paparazzi now, and she would like some cookies.


I turn the camera off and turn my attention toward putting my horse away. You'll have to take my word for it, though.

I have a brain around here somewhere ...

I don't know what was going on with me this weekend, but I could not remember a course to save my life. I haven't been feeling good at all, which could be part of it, but jeez! The simplest things -- start here going this way, turn right, jump, turn right, jump, turn right, jump, etc -- were just giving me fits. Even more than that, just riding my dang horse was giving me fits! Reveille does not trust frosted-up mirrors. So a few spooks and a lot of tension later, I ended up asking MT to hop on her and school her a little bit. Granted, on a normal day, I could have gotten us through it. But for some reason -- actually, I think I know why -- I just couldn't make it over that hump yesterday.

The good part is that in the last 15-20 minutes of each lesson, my brain finally screwed in all the way and I was able to not only get the course right but also actually ride like I'm competent. Sheesh! Note to self: when at show on Saturday, keep Reveille moving forwardForwardFORWARD. To quote MT: kick 'er!! :) Both days, when we started jumping, we both forgot about the horse-eating frost in the mirrors. Change of focus on my part results in change of focus on her part, and she likes jumping way better than flatwork in jumping tack.

If I didn't know better, I'd suspect Rev was punishing me for the argument we had Friday evening: I wanted left bend in a corner instead of falling over her shoulder, she didn't want to bend left or I wasn't asking correctly, so we did very small circles, which pissed her off royally. Enough that she objected by lifting her front feet off the ground a ways. Hmph! I decided I need to change my approach, so we went around with me thinking only about keeping her neck and shoulders straight in front of me and keeping elastic contact. THAT worked WAY better.

Anyway, I know horses don't think that way. If they did, we could apologize!

So tonight is a rest night for Rev after getting ridden five days in a row; hope she chills and relaxes some. And I hope I do too.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pictures, sort of.

I apologize in advance for the poor quality of the pictures -- I forgot my regular camera and only had my phone camera, which is craptacular. Still, I have some pictures! I might even have better pictures tomorrow, but we'll see. Pictures in the barn are difficult at best, so I'd need sunlight to get the full pretty-ness of the bridle and the mare.

Anyway, without further ado, pictures!

I forgot I had this one on my phone -- I think it's cute. I was playing around with my phone camera, trying to get a good picture of us. I look at it now and laugh at how similar our expressions are. A friend says "You buy what you are" in relation to horses, and I have to agree! Short? Check. Brunette? Check. Smart? Check. Stoic? Check. A little on the lazy side? Check! Not impressed by pictures? CHECK! Chubby? Check, check. ;)


Here's the signature Five Star Tack silver Celtic cross! Seriously, this bridle looks SO good on her. The proportion of the width of the straps to her head is just perfect. I will probably need to shorten the cheek pieces and put a few holes in the flash, but still. PERFECTION.


Margie was trying to help get Rev a little more interested in pictures by snapping carrot bits while I stood near Rev's head, trying to get the picture. Rev seems to know that she never gets carrots with her bit in; she was kind of puzzled and nonplussed at this whole endeavor. She kept stepping forward to keep her head at my shoulder -- good girl! That's what I want in general! -- but it did make pictures a little tougher. Still, you can see the pretty bridle in this shot. :)



Meanwhile, I've got a sinus/bronchitis thing going on at the moment. I should be wise and not go out in the cold (very COLD cold) to ride. However ... I need to ride. And I told Margie I'd be there, so. I'll bundle up and carry my inhaler, which my doctor, with a concerned expression on her face, told me to use every four hours for a few days instead of "only occasionally when you're short of breath." At least the pulse oxygen meter didn't make alarming beeps this time when the NP put it on my finger!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Afterthought

Also -- just because I'm thinking of it: among the barn chores I want to do this weekend is Clean Out Brush Caddy. To include Clean Brushes.

The trick is this, though: how long does it take brushes to dry? Assuming I had permission to leave them in the heated tack room vice my unheated tack locker, of course. In my tack locker, the answer to that would be "until summer." They'd freeze solid, and I'm certain Reveille would not appreciate that in the slightest. If said permission wasn't given, I'd need to bring the brushes home with me. Which might be an option, actually. Probably the best option.

And one of these days I ought to get myself a royal blue brush caddy. The one I have is green. As I recall, my options were green or red when I bought it, so ... yeah. This, however, is so far down on my list of priorities as to rank with Pedicure. ;) I.E., "nice, fun, and wholly unnecessary."

tl;dr, I know. :)

You're right; I haven't updated in way too long. Let's rectify that. :)

Not much is going on, really, which is why I haven't updated. I was kind of frustrated last week because I only had one day available for riding -- work, haircut, game, et cetera. So I rode, but I would have liked to have more than one day to do it in. We'd started practicing counter canter in our dressage lesson two weeks ago, and although we could do the exercise okay, I wanted to get better at it.

The exercise was, like soooooo many other things horse-related, deceptively simple. Canter along one long side, make two good, balanced corners into and out of the short side, then canter one loop (KXH) off the second long side, returning to the second short side with a good, balanced corner in. Do this a few times, then do it on the other side, looping FXM. We were better on the right lead, only falling out of the canter once or twice. Once I figured out how to use my outside leg and seatbone a little better, we improved.

Still, I really felt and continue to feel like we need more practice. I need more practice.

The Sunday lesson after that was an indoor jumping lesson, yay! :) I had a great time, even if it'd been a while since we jumped and I was a little creaky. Reveille is a star, for sure. The primary things we worked on were me getting to soften my contact correctly three or four strides out from the fence -- more like three, sometimes two, in the indoor arena. Reveille really prefers that I soften quite a bit on the approach, but I absolutely have to be present and firm with my seat and leg. She has a cute jump, and I can really affect it with my riding. So that was fun. We did a few really tight turns, too, that made me really glad Rev is a sports car of a horse. :)

So one ride later, we had another lesson, this time doing a hurry-scurry pattern over ground poles. (Looking around Google, it seems like "hurry-scurry" isn't quite the right name, but *shrug*.) It's a cloverleaf pattern, basically. Put four ground poles in the middle of the arena in a + shape, with about two feet of space between the inner corners. Track left; trot (or canter) over one of the poles; track left and make a small, balanced 3/4 circle; trot over the next pole, going perpendicular to your last track; repeat until you've made two complete cloverleaves.

This looks easy. Don't be fooled. It's quite difficult to maintain pace, balance, rhythm, smoothness, bend, and position. Once you do, then you canter. :) So my takeaway from the lesson was twofold: first, no floating hands. Shorten my reins enough to be useful with small motions, then plop them on her neck and leave them there. Guide her with my balance and seat. Basic idea, right? Harder than it seems. Second, work on smoothing everything out. Make the lines straight, the turns balanced and even. Again, harder than it seems! Must practice this too.

I didn't do a lesson on Sunday, owing to feeling crappy, and didn't ride yesterday for the same reason. So more to be posted later, eh? :)

Incidentally, that "more" will include pictures of our NEW FIVE STAR BRIDLE!!! Matt sent it for Christmas, and I am utterly ecstatic. It's gorgeous -- the Waverly fits Rev beautifully, and the proportions are lovely on her (big ol') head. She's got a clunky head, all the better to hold the brains, but elegant, slim bridles just don't look good on her. That sort of thing makes her look like a draft horse with an Arabian-style bridle on.

So. Pictures soon. Of lovely horse in lovely tack!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Perhaps disjointed.

I can't vouch for the coherence of this entry -- I have several thoughts piled up, and they probably won't come out in any real order or relevance to each other.

Five Star Tack is having a Black Friday sale! OMG. OMG, OMG, OMG, et cetera, ad nauseam. Seriously, though, this is exciting and torturous at the same time. I have wanted a Waverly dressage bridle for a while now. It's the one with the integrated crown, which I think is really desirable, and I'll be honest: the silver Celtic cross is awesome. Plus, Five Star gives back to the horse community by donating portions of sales to things like the True Prospect fire rehab fund, CANTER USA, New Vocations (from whom I almost adopted a horse), et cetera. Plus plus? The leather is high-quality, the craftsmanship is lovely, and it supports a small business. Plus plus PLUS? Five Star Tack sponsors Sara Mittleider! That grabs my loyalty right there. :)

So that's the exciting part. The torturous part? After one of my cats was so sick this month and his resulting vet bills, I can't afford to buy it. Even on Black Friday sale. ACK! I mean, priorities, right? I already have a bridle that fits Rev and that I like. So I'm not trying to ride dressage in a halter. But ... but ... ack, want! Alas. Some other time. It's also on my Christmas list, so maybe it'll work out anyway. I'd sure want my family to know it's on sale, though. *grin* No use not saving money on something expensive.

And of course, I'll need a set of Nunn Finer Soft Touch reins to go with it, and a new bit. I've discovered that the bit I use now is a Danger bit -- the name being a bit of a foulup between German and English. Anyway, I'd love a second one to put on a second bridle, but I'm not sure I want to spend almost as much on a bit as on the bridle, yknow? That's a $100 bit, not even counting overseas shipping. So I think I'd like to put her in a mullen mouth for dressage. I really need to give one a good college try, though. Must see if I can borrow one or get one on trial.



Reveille seems much more present when we work. It's not at all that she's perfect, but she just seems to have her brain engaged a lot more these days. Granted, I could be imagining things; it's been known to happen. I start thinking I feel something but it's all in my head kind of thing. Whatever the case, I feel like she's just more there, more with me. And if it's actually real, I don't know why it is. It could be any number of things -- she could just be growing up. She's fully seven now, and this is about when they start to grow a brain, says TW. It could just be a function of time and mileage.

It could also be because of the work Doug Hannum did with her, too. Almost like she had a headache for most of five years and doesn't have the headache any more since he rearranged her TMJ and her poll and her hip. (I don't think she literally had a headache, at least not how humans understand them. Maybe more like something NQR, uncomfortable when working?) I do know that her attitude under saddle changed the day he worked on her.

I suppose it could be because we're learning to work in the draw reins, too. Those really do help her with her outline, which helps me ride her more effectively. I find it so much easier to ride her these days, now that I have access to her back and her shoulders, yknow? So much easier to send her forward and get energy going. I think a winter training in the draws and developing her neck and topline is going to be huge for us.

Anyway, whatever the cause, it makes me happy. Little mare brain is engaged, and that's a very good thing.



Makes me wonder if the brain engagement will persist through jumping, too. We haven't jumped in a good long while now, because we've moved to the indoor arena, where we can jump but it's easier to focus on dressage. Anyway, I wonder if her brain and attitude will continue in the jump tack ... and I wonder if the confidence I'm finding will stretch to cross-country next spring and summer. I really want it to. I want to eat up the dang course!

And after dinner out with friends last weekend, which included a beer with dinner, I suddenly realize why there's some self-medication going on before xc at events. I should probably be ashamed that I don't drink often enough to remember this, but oh yeah -- alcohol DOES relax the body and get some of the shrill, anxious voices to shut up in my mind. Come on, self, it's only accepted wisdom ... so yes. Packing myself some plain porter for the next show I do, whenever that is.

Oh wait. Yes. The North Wind Jumper show. I heard mutterings that MT is going to be teaching at the show, and therefore there will be trailer/s going from our barn. Which means I can likely go! Hehehe. :) I'll doublecheck with MT and TW this weekend, but I think I will do it if I can catch a ride. Fun!



I am really grateful for my little horse -- she's turning into a wonderful little creature. We're managing a reasonable approximation of a leg yield these days. It needs plenty of work to be a real leg yield, with tempo and consistent angle and relaxation through the neck/back/poll, but ... we're getting closer. This stuff has always been a challenge with my girl.

And today, I got to spend hours at the barn, just playing equine beauty salon, longing, and then riding. And getting to see the oldest barn daughter, who is a riot and a half. :) She's coming back to the state -- yay for being within a few hours, but boo for the circumstance. I'll be glad to have her around more often, though. Things are louder-faster-funnier! with her around.

At any rate, yes. Pony time. I lurves it. Rev's tail is all brushed out, she was curried to within an inch of her life ... and then I rode her and got her all sweaty. Heh. Ooops.

Monday, November 14, 2011

So I only got to have one lesson this weekend because I had family shindigs going on all weekend.

However, I am so, so glad I got that lesson in! I've been feeling a bit clumsy and slightly lost with the draw reins -- I mean, I can use them, but as MT pointed out, I sometimes get them bound up or put on wrong or whatever. I am really encouraged by the progress we're making with them, and I think a winter of training with them will help us a lot. Still, it was good to get a lesson with them.

The things MT pointed out for me primarily during the lesson were tempo and bending. Tempo because Rev's trot would get muddled sometimes, especially when I needed to shorten her because we were coming up on Linda or Margie's rear and in corners. I think one of the things I'll work on this week is that clear, steady tempo, keeping it through corners, circles, lengthenings, shortenings, et cetera.

As for her bending, the draw reins and the work Doug Hannum did on her poll give me a chance to really work that through. She was really counterbent through quite a lot of the lesson, up until the end -- it makes sense, because she takes a while to work into bending, but I'd like to be able to ask for it and GET it, yknow? So lots of +1/+7 on either side in the walk and the trot, suppling, spirals, and figure 8s/serpentines. It's really got to come from my leg and seat more than my hand, and that'll take practice practice practice.

Anyway, speaking of Doug Hannum, he had another look at Rev yesterday and pronounced her good to go until he comes through again. The adjustments took and held, so now we get to work with them and remuscle her -- and me! :)

I really wish there were someone with that kind of magic hands/knowledge for riders, too! I mean, I'm sure there is, but I wouldn't know where to start looking. My left SI joint is out, out, out ... and lord is it giving me fits. Once I'm up and warmed up and generally moving, it's okay, but if I sit for long or stand for a while, the muscles surrounding that hip and the back side of my pelvis twitch and ache. I should really go back to the chiropractor, for sure. But it's so expensive ... !! Blah. We'll see. I'd rather spend money on riding lessons and things for Rev, but I suppose that it doesn't do any good if my own body is rebelling ... and during this last lesson I had some distinct moments of "ow ow ow! ack! this weight aid hurts to apply!"

So we'll see. I also need to make sure I know when the farrier's coming -- should be in a week or so.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New hero. (Longer than I expected.)

Let me warn you now: I am going to gush in this entry. A lot.

Doug Hannum is my new hero.

It's late, and I'm really tired, but I wanted to get this down before I went to bed. Doug Hannum, the equine physical therapist/bodywork specialist for the USET, is in town to give a speech at the Idaho Dressage and Eventing Association's annual banquet thingy on Saturday, and he's working on horses while he's here. Given Reveille's stiffness in general and to the right in particular, I thought I'd like to have him look at her, just to see what he'd say.

When I first decided this, I honestly expected that he'd poke and prod, pronounce her just fine, and tell Gary to have me keep working at riding her. That there'd be absolutely nothing to do for/with her and all her problems are my fault. TW, however, said that he's been really helpful to them and pointed out things that they wouldn't have thought of, so one never knows.

(I feel odd calling him Doug, because my respect for this guy is huge, and yet I suspect he'd rather that than Mr. Hannum, even from some girl in a blog! Anyway. On with it; I'm tired) Doug and his coworker/partner (COTH uses the word "protege," but I am oddly uncomfortable with that word), Grant Showalter, arrived today, and they were out at the barn when I got there. So why not just do Rev right then? I felt odd just walking up and saying 'hi, I'm your next appointment,' so I asked TW for an introduction, and that was my first Really Impressed Moment. When he came to shake my hand, he took his hat off to greet me. Wow. Now THAT is a gentleman.

When I brought Rev in and gave him the basics, he was a gentleman to her, too. :) His comment to her when I told him that she's half Quarter Horse was "Oh, well, you're a GOOD breed then!" Heh. He commented on her barrel (half QH!), and then started poking and feeling around. He identified immediately that she's really stiff in her poll -- yep, that she is -- and that she has some TMJ issues. He also pointed out a hot spot in her left hip. And then he started actually working on her. That was REALLY cool to watch.

Rev's expression for most of it was really relaxed, like she enjoyed being massaged and manipulated around. A few of the things he did got her to flinch at first, like working on her hip, but as he progressed and as the soft tissue got back in line, she went back to relaxing. She started licking her lips and chewing several times as he worked on her. The only things that got a surprised or alarmed reaction from her were when he worked on her hip, when he moved her front legs in huge circles quite quickly, and when he worked on her TMJ/jaw issues from the inside of her mouth. Heh; I can't blame her for that. It was wild to see her expression change, and it was even wilder to see how her hindquarters and loin changed from before to after! I wish I had pictures -- I could see a difference.

Doug also made a couple of comments that made me really proud of my little horse -- he was impressed with how stoic she was through the whole process. She didn't freak or panic, just -- as TW said -- took it like a man. :) GOOD HORSE. Good little mare. :) He also commented that my saddle fits, and that she's not got a shape that's super-easy to fit. Yay us! Yay MT for helping me find the right saddle! Thank you, Collegiate adjustable saddles!

So! After he was done, he said it was okay to ride her, and that I should ride her on a loose rein for 15-20 minutes. Then, he said, her 'computer' would reset itself, and she should be a whole 'nother horse.

Even after watching the coolness of the whole thing, I wasn't really expecting huge results. Mostly because I always figure that her problem is primarily me. ;)

Boy was I wrong! Holy crap. HOLY CRAP. She was somewhat herself for the first 15-20 minutes, but more there, more present, if that makes any sense. And then. AND THEN. Seriously, I thought she was going to poop, her back changed so much. And her neck! OMG her NECK! She suddenly brought her neck up and round and long, and her nose came in. Suddenly she wasn't going like a pony any more. I halted, thinking I was going to have to clean up a pile ... but nothing happened. We walked on, and she kept that frame! OMG.

I am utterly astonished. Utterly. Without anything other than horse knowledge, experience, and his own two hands, Doug Hannum completely changed my horse. What's more, he's a friendly, funny, gentlemanly fellow who is obviously a consummate horseman. I feel hugely fortunate to have had this chance -- thanks to the IDEA and to TW and MT for having him here.

He's going to look at Rev again on Sunday, see if everything held. I hope it does -- I want to keep THIS horse around forever and ever and ever!!

I need to put this guy on my Christmas card list. That is some serious magic he's got there.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Three and a half minutes

So TSB and I went and rode ponies and took pictures and videos last night. :) In the cold. And I got to see her new digs -- very nice! Definitely nicer, if farther away from my barn, than the last place.

I worked Rev in our new draw reins. I'd ridden Saturday, but before Saturday it'd been a week since I'd ridden ... which means that we had rather a fighty, stiff ride. She'll insist on counterbending, only bend in the walk, avoid the outside rein, avoid my inside leg ... just about argue anything. It wasn't our greatest ride, but then again, at least we've (knock on wood) left the bucking phase when she's feeling fighty.

As usual, getting her to move forward and keep contact is priority one. Beyond that I'm interested in getting her into a submissive frame. And bending -- lateral submission.

Thus the draw reins. Teaching tool, not forcing tool!! I think we're improving, so far. We definitely have things to work on, but that's what the dressage lessons are for, eh?

All this to preface this video. :) It's an extremely accurate picture of where we are in our training right now: starts awkwardly, I look bigger than I am, has some really nice moments, and then one or both of us loses balance, and we lose our contact and roundness. I'm actually pretty happy about my position in this video; I feel like my leg is solid, I don't fling myself out of the saddle to post, etc. I -- as I mentioned -- need practice with my hands and my elbows to be soft and elastic, to encourage contact. But overall, I don't find anything egregious with myself in this video. You can see that the draw reins are relatively loose, too. Which means you can look at the pretty bay horse. ;) She's got a nice active trot going, and she can really get a nice frame for several strides, too. We desperately need work on our corners; that's tonight's focus. I like the relaxed look she has through her back and tail, too. Even though she does keep trying to go with her nose out, like a pony.

Anyway, here's three and a half minutes of trot work, tracking left. You may very well find this astonishingly boring -- the best stuff is in the last 45 seconds. If I knew how to edit video, I'd cut it for you. :) However, I don't, so feel free to let it load, then skip to the end.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Too few degrees.

Well, you're right. I shouldn't have gotten up early, bundled up, and gone out in the 24 degree weather to ride this morning. I am now paying for it with a headache and snifflies.

However, I'm going to do it again tomorrow, except for the getting up early part.

And we had a good time. :)

My lesson partners and I had agreed last week that we'd get together and ride at our usual time, so I had an appointment to keep, y'see. Plus, I really, really wanted to check on Rev, make sure she was warm and dry (she was, but I'm not satisfied completely). Plus plus, I knew I was flirting with disaster -- not riding my 7 year old for a week? Horrors!

So longjohns, winter breeches, layers, layers, and layers it was, and off I went. Twenty. Four. Degrees. That is NOT ENOUGH DEGREES. Especially not for November 5!

Anyway, we played with poles today. I set them, and I don't think I did a very good job -- it was passable and ridable, but it was definitely practice on turns!! Reveille was quite good, especially for it being a cold morning and her having been unridden for a week. She proves her sports-car-ness in the indoor, and I'm getting better at riding more balanced turns. Better doesn't nescessarily mean good, though ... more practice necessary.

I was really impressed with ME's older gelding, too. Her younger gray horse is resting after sarcoidectomy and getting his hocks injected, so she brought her best friend horse. What a good fellow he is! Exactly what I consider an ideal older guy: been there, done that, long-time partner, loves to work even if he's stiff sort of fellow. I hope Reveille has an attitude as good as his when she's 20+. I suspect she'll be the long-suffering attitude sort, one of those "*SIGH!*, a kid? again?" sorts of horses, one who'll tolerate a rider as long as the rider isn't egregious, and then once the rider gets egregious she'll dump them and make them try again. :) I do think she'll be suited for a schoolie some day, but I don't plan on selling her or getting to that point anytime soon.

Anyway, I digress. I am going to have to ride her face off tomorrow, cold or no cold. Illness or temperature. What I would have liked to have done with her today would have been to hop on, go outside, and gallop around the outside arena several times, put a few poles in her way, et cetera. However, too cold! She would have liked a gallop, I think. So tomorrow we're going to break in the NEW DRAW REINS THAT FINALLY ARRIVED! And the sheepskin pad! Man, we get the best swag from The Sprinkler Bandit. ;) Anyway, yes. Focused workout for us both tomorrow, and maybe afterward I'll plop the jump saddle on and let her gallop outside. If it's not frozen, and if she still needs it, and if I feel up to it.

For now, though, warm fire, blankets, fluids, DayQuil, and episodes of The West Wing. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Not much to tell

There hasn't been much going on this week, horse-wise. I haven't been feeling 100%, plus I've had things going on at home, so I haven't been out to ride.

Which, of course, makes me feel terribly guilty! Even though most of the barn is at Galway competing and the barn would be quiet and deserted, I feel guilty. My poor little mare! She must miss me! Gah! Get out the cat o'nine -- or at the very least the wet noodle. Plus, it's snowing today. Not a lot, and it switches from snow to rain and back, but still. I know she's a horse, and a tough horse at that; no hothouse flower she! Still and all, I have this burning need to go check on her, make sure she's warm and dry.

BUT.

I have progressed beyond just not feeling 100% and am now full-blown sick. I think it's just a cold. It better be just a cold, because I got a flu shot a month ago! Anyway, I'm sniffly, sneezy, coughy, headachey, and am now doing the chills thing. So no going outside for me. I already went for medicine, kleenex, soup, and other essentials, and I am not leaving this house again today unless I have to.

BUT! I miss my mare. She must miss me! Fret! Fret!! (I know. Logic does not apply here. You're right.)

I'll make up for my lack of posting soon, and I'll do with with lots of pictures.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A good ride last night -- we worked in the draws, and it ended up being a canter-heavy ride. Why? It was there. On Saturday, MT had shown me how to do a walk-canter transition, and I thought I might try it a few more times, just to see if I could do it with good balance. And we did! Fun! Much easier when she's collected, off that outside rein, and moving well forward. I also practiced lead changes through the trot -- we got one flying change, several rider losing balance moments, and quite a few simple changes.

But the highlight of the evening came after I was completely done. When I went out to my truck to go home .... only to discover that I'd locked myself out of my truck. In freezing weather. UGH!

I have to give props again to Schneider's Saddlery, though! I have a SSTack wool cooler for Reveille, and I got myself all bundled up in it to wait for help to arrive. :) I can't say I was totally toasty, but I was sufficiently warm to not worry too much about it. Except for my toes. Rubber boots are cold, even with wool socks on.

I now have a truck and house key in a key holder hidden on my truck. This is so not happening again. :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Oh right - I have a blog.

Which means I ought to, yknow, write in it and stuff. :)

I've just been busy, honestly. Work, friends, riding, animals ... all that kind of life stuff. I've been riding Rev in the draw reins more; I think we're up to five rides in them total. I'm looking forward to switching to one dressage lesson and one jump lesson soon. I feel like I'm getting some things right with them, but I know for damnsure that I need more instruction to get the best use out of the tool.

I've also started doing stretches on the ground with Rev -- taking a piece of carrot and getting her to stretch her neck all the way around to her hip to get the carrot, then doing it on the other side, and I try to get her to round her neck all the way down and under to get a carrot from her chest area. I'm not having much luck with that one right yet, but I'm keeping at it. Then horsey-sit-ups, running my thumb or a hoofpick along the big muscle on her hindquarters, and then under her belly. Once we've repeated each stretch twice, I do her favorite thing: pull on her tail. That is SO funny. :) She seems to really enjoy that - she engages her back muscles and just lleeeeeaaaans into it. And if I don't do the stretching, she starts volunteering to do them, trying to curl around to either side. I imagine she's looking for carrots, mostly, but she does seem to enjoy stretching. Hehehe.

I also have to put out a big thank you to Schneider's Saddlery (http://www.sstack.com)! Rev's new light blanket is seriously awesome! It fits beautifully in a 74 (Rev is 15 hands and has a chunky butt and average shoulders), and I am really pleased with the quality. The attachments are reinforced, the straps are sturdy, and the hardware seems good. I've read some reviews saying that the hardware has broken within the first week, but mine hasn't. Rev lives outside 24/7 with now three other mares. I'm happy with the construction and the weight of the fabric, in 1200D. I could have gone for 1680, but I chose the lighter fabric, and we'll see how it does.

Overall, I like this WAY better than the Weatherbeeta Orican and Landa I've had in the past.

Anyway, tonight's plan involves a more strenuous workout in draws, and depending on how it goes tonight, either hack tomorrow or a less strenuous draw workout. Saturday is a jumping lesson, then dressage only until the barn gets back from Galway around 11/8 or 11/9. And THEN we move to one jump and one dressage lesson. Woot!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Le pant, le puff ... and holy crap.

Le pant ... le puff ... Man, I cannot slack off on the exercise ever again, can I?!

I had the great good fortune to squeeze in a lesson after Rev got her shoes on. I am SO glad we did -- it turns out that, as I suspected, what I thought was right in my own rides was actually wrong, and I got to experience right today. MT put draw reins on Rev, rode her a bit in them, and then had me use them for the last part of the lesson. HOLY. CRAP!! HUGE difference! I felt her back round up under me! Just wow. That's what it's supposed to feel like, what good riders with good horses feel all the time! I was able to move her forward and keep contact, even though I kept losing it.

So MT said at the end of the lesson, "Well, I think a set of draw reins is in your future." I can borrow theirs until I get a set of my own, which I should be able to do soonishly. Now to practice with them!

Anyway, I have to get back to being really, really friendly with the elliptical, the balance ball, and the bosu ball. I have been slacking, and I need to get back on the wagon, hardcore. Must increase my cardio fitness and my core strength -- it'll help my riding immensely. I know this. I really wish I had a workout partner close; that would make getting to the gym much easier!

Also, the physical therapist for the US Eventing team, Doug Hannum, is going to be in town in about a month. I think I'm going to have him look at Rev; she's so very very stiff in her neck and on her right side. Maybe he can offer some suggestions about what's causing it and how to address it. Yes, it's true that every horse has a strong side, but Rev is a little worse than that. Not much, but enough that I'd like to see what I can do. I'm actually kind of excited!

So yeah. Le pant, le puff ... but wow, I am so glad we had that lesson!! SO glad. :)
This weekend's rides, and therefore today's entry, postponed on account of stomach flu, which apparently ran through a few people at my barn before it got to me. Alas.

But the farrier's coming at 1 today, and I am feeling good enough to ride, woot! :) So maybe an update later.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pretty good ride last night -- a little unfocused on my part, just because it was late, I was tired, traffic was bad, et cetera. I almost didn't go to the barn, but I kicked myself and reminded myself that I'd regret it if I didn't. Plus, I'd gotten that same, odd, physical feeling of I want to be on my horse! earlier in the day.

Rev is doing well stretching down and into the bridle. Consistency and bringing that into a contact is what we're working on now.

So in the face of the unfocused ride last night, I have some plans on what I want to work on tonight. Here's the plan:

* Stretch her neck by hand, from the ground.
* Warm up WTC on a very long rein, like we have been doing.
* Spiral circles each direction in the trot, working on regularity and contact/bend.
* Shorten and lengthen the trot, working for better push from behind, leading to better contact.
* Work simple changes in the canter, working on balance and response time.

That oughta keep us busy, I think. My lesson partner has been working her horse's simple changes, and the improvement is both huge and obvious. I need to get Rev going on those, with the idea of learning to get flying changes from her eventually. MT can get them, so I know she does them, but I don't know how on a physical level. Intellectually yes, physically no.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What's up.

First -- sending all my love to Andrea and Gogo. May Gogo's last day be full of love and carrots, and may her passing be swift and painless. May Andrea remember all the good days, the triumph, the joy, the peace, and the love. May all pain slip away as Gogo crosses the bridge.

That said, I'm almost embarrassed to say that life for me and Rev is pretty good. We had another good ride on Friday, and then a jumping lesson on Saturday. I'm ... working at it. I guess it feels a lot more rocky than it looks. I felt like I was flailing and flopping all over the place, but my lesson partner said she thought I'm riding so much better, more with Rev, tighter in the tack, et cetera. MT wasn't unhappy with us either, and we did have a few really good jumps. Still, it feels like I suck.

ANYway. After the lesson on Saturday, I was really, really sore. Much more so than usual. And exhausted. Really, really sleepy -- I bailed on the Saturday D&D game early and was asleep before 10.

Given that, then, imagine my surprise when my phone rang on Sunday morning and I discovered that it was ELEVEN THIRTY!! ACK!! My alarm is set for 7 on weekends, so I can be at the barn by 8 and ready to ride at 9! ACK! So I struggled to the surface of consciousness, declined an invitation to the Renaissance Faire ... and discovered that I felt really, really bad. I took my temperature; 102 degrees. That explained it all! No riding, just back to bed.

Feeling much, MUCH better today. I felt better yesterday, but it seemed like a good idea to stay home and not go out in the cold and wet for one day. Today I'm ready to ride! However, I have plans with TSB to hang out at her place, admire the new hand-me-down TV, and watch Burghley 2006. :)

Also -- Is it Friday morning yet?! Or even Thursday? I am ready to click BUY on the light sheet I want for Rev, and I can't do it until I get paid. My poor mare! *fret* I might add some lined stirrup leathers to the order, but we'll see ... *fret*

Friday, October 7, 2011

Imaginary progress, like imaginary friends?

Well, if I imagined it yesterday, I imagined it again, even better, today. Definite stretch into the bit, definite push from behind. On one spiralling-down circle, I thought to myself "this! remember how this looks and feels! this is a good vision to shoot for!"

My mare is so awesome. She's the best little bay mare ever. (Izzy, of course, is the best big bay mare ever. And Penny is the best little chestnut mare ever. Obviously.)

Maybe we're both learning something?

Anyway, it was a great evening. Good ride, chatted a bit with friends, the Red Wings won their season opener, and the Boise State Broncos beat the pants off Fresno State. And I had a delicious dinner ready to go when I walked in the door, and The Walking Dead on DVD. I'm not entirely sure how this gets any better. :)

(Incidentally, did any of you have imaginary friends as a kid? I had three: Baseball Man, Football Kid, and Jack. The funniest thing about this is not how they were when they existed, but how I explained it to my mother when I didn't have them any more. See, Baseball Man stayed in the house in Pennsylvania when we moved away, and Football Kid and Jack got married and moved out for their own life together. My mother said, she reports, "Oh! I didn't realize that Football Kid was a girl." My answer? "He's not! ...Jack is!" Jack, for the record, was always male; they all were. ;) Completely egalitarian kid, I was, before I had any idea what gay meant.)

I think, I thought, but I don't know.

I think I need to start with the one-jumping-lesson-one-dressage-lesson plan sooner than I originally thought.

I think this because I thought I had a great ride last night. I felt like Rev was really active, really forward, and we started to get some good bend, even to the right. And she was on the bit -- not necessarily in the outline I want yet, but on the bit counts for a lot. And on the aids in general.

What this means is that I was probably doing it ALL WRONG. *laugh* I don't have a good enough grasp of how we're doing to know when it's right. I don't have a mental picture of what a good outline looks and feels like from her back. I can close my eyes and see/feel what she normally does, how she looks, but that's not where we need to be going. That picture of where we're going is what I need to hold in my mind and strive for. But in order to really have that picture, I need to get it at least once, for a few minutes. You wouldn't think that would be so hard, would you? And yet ... and yet.

Still, I had a good time last night. Forward! Whee! And I felt like I was riding well -- changing my seatbones deliberately, aware of balance and weight aids, getting response when I changed my aids.

I am so taking her winter blanket out with me tonight, dirty or not. She was shivering when I brought her in!! HORROR! DISMAY! Bad horse mom! Bad!

And I got compliments on my dot boots. *grin* DOTS!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Retail therapy for the horsey set

Is it time to go yet? I wanna ride.

However, because it's been raining, I also need to get to the Evil Empire this evening to pick up mud boots. The muck boots (neoprene type) I have make me just miserable and I hate them, so I am getting a new set of plain rubber boots. I really ought to get the plain black and green kind for $18.


But ... DOTS! I love dots! My inner three-year-old is throwing a fit about wanting DOTS. :) But they're six dollars more.



The killer in all of this is that I technically have the money to buy Rev a light turnout, which she needs. But if I do that, I'll have $20 to put in the gas tank of my Dodge Ram 1500. Which won't get me far. So I had better be responsible and squash my inner horse-indulger-and-worrier: Rev is NOT out there freezing to death. She is a HORSE, and horses have winter coats. She can wait until the 14th for a light blanket. YES SHE CAN, self. It's far better to have the gas to get to work to earn the money for a blanket and to get myself out to the barn to put a warm wool cooler on her before I groom her so her little self can be warm. ;)


EDITED TO ADD: Ah, screw it. I'm getting the dots. The little teehee! I'll get every time I wear them is worth six dollars.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gogo Fatale: Boosting the signal

One of the eventing bloggers out there, Andrea, has been struggling with and documenting serious lameness issues with her wonderful horse, Gogo Fatale, for several years. I haven't been following Andrea and Gogo Fatale's story on Eventing-A-GoGo for long, and I've never met either, but it doesn't take long to get attached to Andrea and her mare. Gogo has such a huge personality that it's impossible to not love her, and Andrea is so devoted to her horse and her sport that it's impossible to not empathize with what she's been going through.

I'm still hoping that Andrea and her team of vets find a way to pull Gogo out of her lameness and help her become at least pasture sound, comfortable and able to live a happy, retired life. Even as I hope, though, Andrea is facing the awful choice that faces all animal owners at one time or another. It's too soon, it's too sad. But it's looming.

The Sprinkler Bandit and several of her friends have decided to get a fund together to get a memorial gift for Andrea as she faces this uncertainty. This is sort of a pay-it-forward email, as one of TSB's friends was going through similar issues with her own horse, Denali. If you read Andrea, and even if you don't or didn't until today, and if you would like to contribute any amount (none too small), please PayPal to rehabdenali@yahoo.com.

We're all eventers together, and more importantly, we're all horse lovers together. I can't imagine what Andrea must be going through, and I wish I could do something more substantial to help. As it is, she and Gogo have all my thoughts and prayers, and a contribution to the memorial gift fund.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cross-country, with pictures!

So Rev and I did a little bit of cross-country schooling on Sunday/ Woot! It's the first time we've done xc since I fell at Rafter K, and I was a bit nervous. Still, I kept telling myself that dude, this is Reveille under me! we're going to be fine! And we were. I have a couple of new issues to fix, namely my new tendency to balance on my hands and therefore hold Rev in too tightly and my reluctance to get Rev moving fast enough on course.

The Sprinkler Bandit was kind enough to come take pictures and even a little bit of video, for which I am hugely grateful. I see what I need to do to fix my hands and elbows, I think, and I can make some real changes, knowing what I look like in the irons.

Before we get to the pictures, I should just say that the barrels kind of worried me. According to Rev, blue barrels eat horses. However, she did them just fine. It was all in my head. :) As usual. And I would also like to register here that we're doing really quite well. Way better than I ever thought we'd do. *grin* If you had told me a year ago that we'd be doing this, I'd have thought you were being overly kind.

We started in the arena, jumping the same five-fence exercise I posted about earlier. From Rev's feet, this looks like a gallop, but I'm pretty sure it's just a canter:


Landing from one of the diagonal lines -- I like how close I am to the tack here:


And then we went out to the xc field and started jumping. This is actually our last run at the barrels, and this was -- despite the evidence -- our best jump. TSB says she took this one a split second too soon. We were attacking the fence, we were together, we were on pace, it was awesome:


MT discusses things with us, and Rev both listens carefully and makes sure I'm listening:


And then we wait for our next turn. Rev finds this boring:


We get to go again, and we jump the rolltop about 20 meters per minute (mpm) too slow, evident in my position here, but not so much Rev's legs -- GO REV!:


I have no idea exactly what 20 mpm feels like, so I kick on and go ... uh, faster ... and the jump improves for both of us. This is my favorite shot of them all:


Then we wait again, and Rev snoozes:


And now the video! I am trying in this video to really soften my elbows and get some pace going -- you can see my elbows flapping as I try to break them free. I didn't get the pace quite right, but ... the next couple of times we got the pacing better!




Thanks, TSB, for the photos! This will help a LOT!!

Friday, September 30, 2011

And in other news

I love it when Reveille's in the mood she's been in this past week: totally rideable, totally willing, and open to working as a team. :) On Monday, when I started out longing her, she had this workmanlike attitude, the one you want -- like "Okay, fine, I'm trotting, I'm cantering, I'm walking -- let's go do something now, okay? Just get up on my back!"

And yesterday, I was practicing two-point to settled to sitting, and at the same time practicing bringing her back and sending her on in the canter. I absolutely adore her bigger canter, especially when she's working like she was yesterday. I ask for the canter, ka-da-bump ka-da-bump we canter. I shift my weight a bit; she shifts her balance and gives me her ears, yes? I'm here? I ask for more canter, and it's so fun to hear her footfalls change. Ka-da-BUMP! ka-da-BUMP! Same rhythm, but more authority and bigger strides. I shift my weight and stop some of my hip movement, and she comes back to ka-da-bump canter again. Love it. :)

So yeah. Good little mare. :) Love the little mare.

Lessons from C and B.

So I do a lot of scribing for dressage shows. The whole goal when I started out scribing was to learn: learn what judges look for, learn about building blocks for success, see some good rides and some bad and learn the difference, et cetera. I think I'm in a constant state of success in achieving that goal. Every show or informal Test of Choice night I scribe, I learn something. Whether it's about judges' expectations or showing technique, whatever I learn is invariably valuable.

Some things I learned at the regional championships this last weekend:

* Basics matter. It doesn't matter if you're doing Grand Prix -- if your walk rhythm gets off and starts to look like a pace, you're not going to get a good score. Rhythm is one of the very most basic parts of the Training Scale, and basics matter as much or more at high levels as they do at low levels.

* Every level is hard, when that's the level you're legitimately at. Even at Grand Prix, you need to be doing the movements well. Sure, you have a piaffe, but is it a good piaffe? The point of this is that every level is hard, when that's the level you're at. This is something I think I knew but am just now really internalizing.

* Relax. Breathe. It's really, truly okay. You'll have a better test and a better score if you just ... ride. Without stressing. This is something that I think will take my entire lifetime to understand at a gut level and put into action. It might also take some Ativan for a while ... ;)

* Really use your time well when you're circling the arena, waiting for your bell. Don't just wander or do funny little figure 8s. Establish a good, strong trot or canter rhythm. Halt. Check out the judges' booth; greet the judge (or the scribe, if the judge is busy writing). Make this a focused preparation time. It's like the cars on a rollercoaster going click-click-click-ENERGETIC-PAUSE up to the top before swooping into the free motion of the ride.

* Shoot for consistent 7s, and then ride your best from there. That seems to be how you get 8s and 9s -- by being consistently good and then having even better moments. If you're all focused on getting 8s, it seems to really rush and push the ride, and the ride starts to fall apart and not be smooth any more.

* Understand your test. Understand not only the directives for each movement, what the judge is actually grading on, but also what the judge isn't grading. This is something MT talks about at TOC nights: he only scores the movements listed, rather than what happens in between. If your rhythm bobbles a bit between movements, get it back then. Don't wait until the next movement, because it'll reflect negatively in your score. This is really critical, I think -- it's the difference between memorizing the movements of a test and really understanding the goals of the test. I think it'll be worth it for me to talk to MT about tests well in advance of riding them, study it from this point of view before I focus hard on remembering the moves. I also suspect that remembering the test will be easier when I understand it completely.


That's the point of view of a Training-level rider scribing through Grand Prix, anyway. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Product Review: New and Improved Davis Splint Boots

I already own two pairs of Davis Manufacturing's splint boots. After using, dirtying, and tearing a set of generic tack shop brand fleece-lined boots, I wanted something that was easy to clean and didn't use plain vinyl on the outside -- something that was stronger and would stand up to use. The Davis boots are made of a stronger PVC, lined with cushioning rather than fleece, and looked easy to clean, plus I liked the idea of the Shock Absorption tubes. I was not disappointed in the least! They have held up beautifully, are quite protective, and they clean up easily. I'm confident enough in these boots that when we had a hangup over a cross-country fence, I didn't worry too much about Rev's legs because she had her splint boots on. I just stayed out of her way and let her sort out her feet. Here's a pic of Reveille in her white Davis boots on that same day:


So when I found Davis Manufacturing on Facebook and clicked Like, I was happy to tell them how much I like their products.

And I was even happier when they offered the opportunity to test out their new, improved splint boots! I love the non-improved boots, so the improved boots are something I'm VERY interested in!

The boots arrived in the mail yesterday, causing me to scare the corgis with a loud "EEEEEEEEEE!", and I was surprised at how gorgeous they were just coming out of the box. They're shiny, sleek, and obviously made of pretty stern stuff.


They're smooth on the outside, rather than showing the support tubes in their contours from the outside. They're so glossy! I would SO put those on Rev for a show. Flashy. From the inside, the support structure is obvious. There's an air support tube in the center, over the splint bone. It doesn't seem to have the other two tubes that the original splint boots have, but I suspect they're there and I just don't see them:


When I took them out to the barn, I showed them to everybody, and got the appropriate "ooh, nice!" from folks. And they even garnered an unprompted "Hey, whose boots are those?!" So they're definitely attention-getting. I think it's the shiny.

They fit Rev nicely, not too long, not too short, and just wide enough. Rev is a sturdy-boned girl, with average horse length legs, and the Medium fits her well. The improved boots are made of less pliable material than the originals, so they didn't mold precisely to Rev's legs, but they did contour well. (The picture I took of this came out terribly; my apologies.) It was easy to adjust them to her legs with the velcro loops.

Which reminds me: one of my biggest boot pet peeves is when the velcro crumples and the metal anchor gets wonky on its binding. I want the boot to fit flat and square without any strange pulling, with the pressure evenly distributed. The usual neoprene galloping boots you can get anywhere are really susceptible to this, but the Davis boots don't do this at all. Maybe it's because this pair is newer, but it seems to me that the improved version is going to keep its velcro flatter than the original set.

Boots on Rev, ready to go:


And a close-up of the boots on her legs. (I probably should have borrowed a gray horse to take this picture on, but alas. You'll have to cope with the gorgeous bay mare!)



So off we went to longe in the sandy, dry indoor arena and then ride in the sandy, wet outdoor arena. Rev didn't show any discomfort in the boots at any time. Because we're eventers, I also made a point of going through the water jump a couple of times, just to see how the boots would do when wet.

When I took the boots off after our ride, there was no grit underneath them. The PVC and cushioning fits closely enough that it keeps everything out (though I wouldn't expect 100% exclusion all the time), but it didn't bind or rub any of her hair. Her tendons were only slightly warm, about as warm as her muscles. I might think they'd be hotter if I were riding in the heat of the day in the dead of summer, but I wouldn't worry too terribly much about it. The boots rinsed clean immediately, and there was no evidence than anything had shifted or had any change due to water. Her legs were quite dry, too!

Verdict? I really like these boots! As soon as Davis releases them in colors, I am SO buying a set in royal blue, and I'll recommend them to anyone. The only concern I'd have would be the slight lack of contouring, but that's a minor concern.

Wishlist? I wish Davis would make open-front boots. I'd want them to be the same material as the splint boots on the outside and the inside, with either air support tubes along the tendons or a harder composite material, and thin elastic in front, like the EquiFit T-boot. If Davis made that kind of boot, I would be all. over. it.

Thanks, Davis!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Life.

Gah! Since when does life get to interfere like this?! Grrr. I have been SO busy at work that I didn't get out to ride last night. Doesn't the universe realize that I NEED to ride? My horse needs to be ridden, and I need to ride!

Sigh. I hate this working for a living thing. Where's my independent wealth?

In all seriousness, though ... sigh. I miss my horse.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I was a little surprised this afternoon by a very physical feeling of really wanting to be in the saddle. Very odd. But fair enough -- I do want to ride! Now! Sadly, I am still working and will be for at least another hour.

I ran across this thread about crockpot recipes to make riding nights easier on the Chronicle of the Horse, and I am now absolutely BRIMMING with ideas! I also found the crockpot blog (look left) on this thread, and just wow. I lurve having something good to come home to, and in the absence of a boyfriend/husband who cooks, I think my crockpot will do fine. Must pick up some coconut milk and ginger on the way home so I can start this!

Anyway, just posting so I don't get any guff from TheSprinklerBandit. ;) Really looking forward to riding tonight. I miss my little mare, and it's only been a day since I saw her.

Monday, September 19, 2011

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing

Sunday's jumping lesson went better. Not perfect, and some of the same problems, but better than Saturday, as usual.

Homework? Practice over poles. Pace pace pace pace. Straightness -- if she pops her shoulder in one direction between the poles, circle her off to that direction to correct the pop. And practice between two-point and sitting. And practice softer hands through the lines.

And gym work. MT says "cardio, cardio, cardio." Okay, can do. :)

Also, in the immortal words of Louis Armstrong, "Work that rhythm with all you got." Yup, that's important too.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Zen and the Art of Jumping (long)

or, Overthought and Underpaced: Why I Love My Horse

So it's been a really stressful last four-six weeks around the Rinsie household. I've been sick, my girl dog has been sick, and I've been entirely off my game. I've been riding and enjoying it, but I haven't been hitting on all eight cylinders. My head is either completely not in the game, or it's too much in the game, and neither is a prescription for riding success.

This week's lessons are about focusing on a line, really riding that line and keeping rhythm and balance, and did I mention the line? The exercise MT set us really exposes all the weaknesses of both horse and rider. It's a series of poles on the ground or verticals, and MT teaches that it's a canter exercise, not a jumping exercise (drat you, blogger! Here, have a fancy Paint image):




So we'd go through, first starting with 3 2-3-4 1-3-5 2-1. The goal is to keep straight and keep rhythm, kind of like a grid, but with anywhere from 2-4 strides between fences in the diagonal lines, something like 6 between the horizontal lines. Okay, easy enough course, but I was all over the place, balance and position wise. Poor Rev knocked a bunch of the rails down because I wasn't doing anything to help her. My head was not really in the game for the first two runs. My stomach was kind of angry with me for the Chinese food the night before, and my brain was somewhere between ACK and derp. Un. helpful.


So our second course was 5-4 1-3-5 4-3-2 5-3-1. This time I got the LEG ON TIGHT message, and the jumping got easier. But we were still getting really awkward in the lines, like trotting, jumping from almost a standstill, balance getting a bit awkward, etc. Sigh. My head was way too in the game for this one -- I was really focusing on Getting It Right. Didn't help. Narrating just gets me to overthink everything. MT asked me to work on letting go of her face and not slowing her down over and between fences -- fair enough. Overthinking=going slow, when you're me.


The last course was 4-5 4-3-2 5-3-1 2-3-4. Yoiks! Tight turns after the third and before the fourth lines. And this time, MT told me what I needed to hear: I was so underpaced that Rev was having real trouble and that I carry a stick for a reason. So this time, I focused on keeping her moving forward. And holy crap amighty, it worked! We jumped like we know what we're doing. Until the end, when we did fine but not great. Rev can handle those turns pretty well, so it's not a huge deal, but I could have done better. And she got a nice, even 3 strides between the fences on the diagonal lines, a nice forward 3. Good girl! Good me. Anyway, my mind had both calmed down and woken up, and I was able to really pay attention to riding and pacing, cantering FORWARD.


The whole point of recounting all this is the mindset that I managed to achieve in the last go-round. I've read it written that "there are only two emotions that belong in the saddle: patience and a sense of humor." I'd add to that that a sense of Zen and mental balance is really important too. There's a particular mind feeling that I get when I ride correctly and even well, and it's like balancing a lever perfectly on a fulcrum. It's difficult to achieve and can be broken, but it's also relatively easy to maintain with little work. It's the fine line between laser focus and relaxation.

Sort of like the mental equivalent of Sally Swift's concept of soft eyes. You take it all in, even though you're not trying so hard, and yet you're focused on your goal and the path you're going to take to get there.

I don't think I can state how grateful I am to my horse for putting up with me until I reach that point. Not just for the hour span of the lesson, but in general. Getting to that point improves absolutely everything else in my life. The stress that'd been jangling in my brain and in my muscles dissipated more easily, and I was feeling MUCH better about everything when I dismounted.

I told TW later that my life would be much harder if I didn't have a horse. Seems counterintuitive, but it's true. I wouldn't have the opportunity to reach that point or feel that in harmony with another creature. When I did martial arts, sometimes I'd notice that I'd achieved that point -- it'd surprise me every time, too. It got me thinking about what it means when people say "leave it all at the door, don't bring it onto the mat." I don't know that I can explain it, in aikido or in the saddle, but it's definitely true. It takes a bit to get to that mental balance, that Zen state, but once you're there that's all there is. There is you, your motion and your study, and everything else just drops away.

I'm so grateful to Reveille for helping me reach that point today. I needed it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Non-traditional family

I am pretty sure I don't need to explain this to anyone who reads me, but I just kind of want to state it.

So my little girl corgi, Annie, has been having some problems lately -- stomatitis, which is just Latin for 'mouth infection.' It started a month or so ago, got better after steroids, got much worse, got better after antibiotics, got worse again, and that's where I found myself yesterday. I called the vet as I drove into work, just to see if I could pick up another course of antibiotics, and he ended up referring me to a specialist, a canine dermatologist. She's the only board-certified canine dermatologist who practices in this area, and she's only here 3 days out of 60, on average. As luck would have it, yesterday was her last day here for this cycle.

So my vet got us worked in to see the specialist, but I had to go get Annie and turn around RIGHT THEN so I could get her there in time to catch the vet. So I ran to work, got my laptop, turned around, drove 15 miles home, got Annie, turned back around, retraced my path plus 5 miles, dropped Annie off, and came home to work from home. Four hours later, I went back to the vet to talk to the specialist and pick Annie up. So I put something like 80-90 miles on my truck last night and had a really chaotic work day to boot. All to make sure that my dog had the best care available.

I think my mom and my boss think I'm kind of nuts. I could be seen as blowing off work -- but the truth is I don't, and I'm not. I managed to get 8 hours in, but I did it around the needs of my kid. See, the animals are my family. I would go to great lengths to keep them healthy -- financially, effort-wise, and time-wise. It doesn't make sense to people who don't have pets, or who consider their pets inferior auxiliaries. But to me, these guys are my kids. They have fur and tails, but they're family. They depend on me for everything -- food, water, general health, medical care, and emotional care. And they mean as much to me as anything else. It's no different, in a lot of ways, than my coworkers who have kids or grandkids who need them. I'm lucky that the animals don't always need to be shuttled around during the day, and I'm lucky that most of them don't need much, vet-wise, but if they need it, by god I will provide it. They're not human kids, and I don't have any illusions about that, but they are still my family.

Annie's doing okay -- I have her on a new antibiotic, clindamycin, and the specialist wants to rule out food allergies before we go to the next round, which would be treating for an autoimmune condition. So she's eating only fish and potato food, with no treats other than the prescription kibble or actual potatoes, and we'll see if that has any effect. I strongly suspect, though, that this is going to be end up being autoimmune. Which is its own set of difficulties -- she'll need another medication added to her regimen, and it'll be expensive. But I'll find a way to make it work. She's my kid, right? :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Better!

Well, the weekend went much better. From jumping lessons (shortening my stirrups affected my riding more than I thought!) to watching a cross-country lesson from Rev's bare back, it was a good weekend.

Shorter stirrups meant I had to ride more from my seat and less from my leg. And my thighs were much sorer than they are normally! I just -- just now, as I type! -- made that connection. Derp. ;) Anyway, we finally got our act together in the last line or two, and I was a little sad that we couldn't go again, just to really really do well. But apparently it looked good, so we ended there. Yay.

And I really, really love riding around bareback on Rev. Sometimes I suspect that that's what it's all about, just riding and bonding. She's got a very comfortable back, too. :) When we moved to the cross-country field, though, she was eating and generally making a distraction, so I went ahead and put her away. No need to disturb someone else's lesson just so I can amuse myself with my horse.

This week's practice: ride in my jump saddle in short stirrups!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Some days.

Some days I have really disjointed rides. Tonight was one of them -- I just couldn't seem to get myself together, I was stiff and sore, and I need to see my chiropractor and my massage therapist like nobody's business. Rev was herself; I wasn't doing her any favors tonight, for sure. She was counterbent no matter which direction we went, at first, and then eventually I was able to get some semblance of bend from her. And eventually she rounded up, but when I'd try to do such radical things as steer, she'd bring her head back up. Sigh.

Some days I think that this would be so, so much easier with a horse that was actually bred for dressage. Or at the least a Thoroughbred with a smaller, finer throatlatch.

Some days I think maybe I should give up on this eventing thing and just go be a jumper -- I think Rev would make a fine hunter or jumper (but I am so not going near hunter-land!!), and I know I can do the jumpers.

But no. I want to event. Reveille is entirely capable of dressage -- I've seen her do it! I'm entirely capable of dressage. This was just a bad day. It wasn't even a bad ride, to be honest -- we had good moments. And everybody stayed on her own side of the saddle.

Some days, though, are harder than others.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Birthday girl

Reveille turns 7 this month! I don't know exactly when, so I've nominated 9/15 as her birthday. This means I've had her for four and a half years -- she was 2 coming 3 when I bought her.

*shakes head* All things considered, we're right on schedule, training-wise. If I were TD, Rev would be going Training already, but ... I'm not TD! Still, I'm really delighted with our progress, and we're just going to keep going.

I wish I had a better picture of her when I first got her -- I do, somewhere, and I'll find it eventually, but here's what I have:



And here she is a couple of weeks ago:



Same horse, but big difference! She's much more solid, much more ... well, mature! :)

Winner!

Oh my goodness. We have a WINNER of a bit! The double-jointed, medium weight, loose ring snaffle is the right thing. (It's mostly like this.) It was obvious almost immediately when I mounted up last night -- Rev's neck and jaw were softer, I had more in my hands, and it was easier to get her and keep her round.

Don't mistake me here -- this is not to say that it was easy to get her round. Or that she stayed that way all ride. Just that it was easiER. Much, much easier.

She didn't have the muscle bulges behind her ears that spell resistance as much, and she didn't root around against the contact. She wasn't even in the contact, but then again, my hands weren't perfect. Better, but not perfect.

Still. YAY!! Winner winner chicken dinner!