Monday, 27 February 2017

More Horsey Fiction Reviews

Subtitle: My Kindle account is on fire, because what else was I supposed to do while I laid around feeling sorry for myself this weekend? :)

I managed to read 5 books in about 48 hours this weekend. Horsey fiction, all of it, because I wasn't in the mood for anything too serious, and as we all know, it's my guilty pleasure. (If you're looking for more serious, I'm partway through The Hidden Life of Trees, and would recommend if you're a nature lover. I also liked The Opposite of Everyone if you're into strong and sassy female characters.)

Anyway, on to some short reviews:


Book: Rings of Fire, Karen McGoldrick
T's Synopsis: Final installment of The Dressage Chronicles
T's Thoughts: Easily readable without needing to start at the beginning of the series.The further adventures of Lizzie the working student. Fun, witty, light read, and well written. As always, there are parts that read like a mini riding lesson and the horsey details are perfect. I think this series got better as it went along, and this final book is the best of the series.
T's rating*: 4/5
Would Recommend?: Yes, especially if you read one or all of the rest of the series and enjoyed them. 




Book: Jump if You Dare, Hazel Beecroft
T's Synopsis: First novel, and it's super.
T's Thoughts: This one took what could have been a predictable premise (mom dies in a tragic riding accident, daughter is terrified of horses) and made it fresh and fairly believable. I liked the characters, the details were bang on, and the story and writing were both well developed. There's some romantic drama to keep it interesting, but it's not over the top. While some of the things were maybe stretching reality a bit (famous show jumper seems to have only one horse and it's boarded at  your average barn/riding school) I enjoyed the fact that while there was a new to riding character who (of course) has amazing talent, the competitions and things they're doing still seem reasonable for the timeline (ie they're not winning the Grand National or the Kentucky derby with 6 months riding experience ;) There's a sequel (Thrill of the Chase) that I started immediately after I finished this one, and I enjoyed it, but not quite as much.
T's rating*: 4.5/5
Would Recommend? Yes, my favorite of this week's read-a-thon.




Book: Courage, Natalie Keller Reinert
T's Synopsis: Eventing Series book three, and the best of the bunch.
T's Thoughts: Another one that's easily readable without needing to start at the beginning of the series. I've previously found Jules (the main character) a bit difficult to like, but she's grown up a lot in this one and is more relatable. I enjoyed how this one ventured off into TB race barn territory, I think those chapters are the best of the book. I didn't like how even though technically quite a bit happened. the characters still left off with what felt like all the same issues they started with. As always, even if I don't always love the characters or empathize with their actions, the writing is excellent and probably the best of any current horsey series. I'm sure I'll be reading whichever book comes after this one.
T's rating*: 4/5

Would Recommend?: Yep, it's good, but my least favorite choice of this weekend's reads.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Soon

This week, I have a bit of good news in my otherwise boring life.

Bridget has been handling some short rides with zero coughing and 10/10 energy and work ethic. She feels rested and ready to go! Obviously, I remain careful and we are still pending further vet visits, but it's a good sign.

Good news part 2: I bought a saddle! It's a new to me County Competitor dressage saddle. I think I found the needle in the haystack, since it was well within my ideal budget, has an extra wide tree, is the right seat size for me AND it has a short flap! So, fingers crossed no custom alterations required...this was the unicorn both fitters gave the "in a perfect world you'd find it" ok to. Now, I just need to be patient until it arrives...
The proportions look weird, lol. This is what happens when you have an XW drafty pony and a 5'2" rider.

Other positive news: While I haven't bought a jump saddle yet, I've sold some tack and now have a debt free (such a relief, owing money makes me twitchy) budget for one of those, too. And, thanks to fellow bloggers, I have 2 options to choose from that I think stand a very good chance of working for us.

Maybe luck will be on my side and spring eventing will be a thing?


And, because we like to keep it real in this corner of the blogosphere I need to add that I'm currently hiding in bed with a very sore back, needing some time off of my own. How did that happen? Oh, Bridget accidentally stepped on me. How? Well, I might have been like "Bridget NEVER does anything crazy on the trail. Sure, I will be the steady eddy company for you and hack out bareback on her. It's fine, we hack out without a saddle all the time. She's basically a mobile couch" And, then of course, the universe laughed at me and sent a random wolf dog to run out from the underbrush behind us, in the middle of nowhere. B tried to save herself us, and I slid off kind of under her and in the confusion she stepped on me. We finished our ride home, but poor B was pretty upset by that whole episode. I know they say horses don't have emotions like we do, but she seemed SO concerned about me.  I don't blame B, she's very "up" at the moment and the dog really did appear charging up behind us from nowhere on an unfortunately narrow and overgrown part of the trail. I suspect B heard, rather than saw him. (Re the dog, yes it's not cool he roams, but he is a giant friendly pyrenees cross who we do sometimes let follow us on our rides/visit the barn. Maybe today he heard us and thought he was being left behind? In short, it sucks but sh!t happens, he meant no harm)

New saddle can't come soon enough, though! ;)

Thursday, 23 February 2017

A Million Times Canter

Lesson number 2 on Audrey was proceeded by an excellent ride on my favorite baby dinosaur mare, Q.  I feel like I'm regaining my handle on all things Q and we're back in a happy groove. She's big and she's pushy and there have been times where I haven't been brave enough in the saddle to push back as much as I should. She's very kind so nothing bad comes of it, I just end up feeling like I could have ridden better.  She's decided I am one of her people (and she is not overly generous about such things) so lately I can do no wrong in her world. I've been pushing a bit more and seeing the rewards. Also, just that first lesson on Audrey has increased my confidence level so much and give me so many new tools to use with Q!
Obligatory cross tie pic of  pretty Q mare

Ride number 2 last night was Audrey. Audrey mare wasn't feeling the love for riding under the lights, so she was a bit more spooky and backed off  than before (the arena lights seem to make it so they are almost always making shadows in front of you. Shadow horses blocking our path are scary, says Audrey. I am a princess and I do not work after dark.) So,  job one? Getting Audrey in front of the leg. A task I'm actually quite proficient at due to Bridget. Where did this brave rider come from who is willing to gallop spooky Audrey around the arena on a loose rein to "warm up"? No clue, but let's hope she sticks around for a bit.

Almost the entire lesson consisted of canter.  Canter/trot 1 stride/canter transitions to start, followed by a brief walk break to plead with me to please, please please keep my shoulder back and STOP giving with the outside rein. Then, shoulder in on the circle,  in canter. Followed by more pleading re: that pesky shoulder.  Followed by collecting and extending the canter, and yours truly finally staying strong and tall in my upper body, putting the pieces together, and riding better. We finished with a tiny bit of collected trot, because A can pretty much sit and trot on the spot and give you that feeling of bringing the trot up and bigger but not making the strides smaller.  I can string together a few nice strides on Bridget, but it was cool to feel how much power I really need to create to help keep it consistent and balanced.
Princess Audrey

Another great ride. I feel like it's been a very steep learning curve this week! I'm incredibly grateful to EC and Audrey for the opportunity to get a better feel for what I can do as a rider to help Bridget out.

But, I'm missing my Bridget! She's been doing her best to be adorable and get my attention. I'm HER person, and Bridget is very funny about things like that. She's also been standing at the gate watching my every move with the other two and making nasty faces at them. Likely she's concerned they are stealing her treat supply and scratches,  but I'll pretend it's because we have a magical connection and she can't wait to get back to work. Fingers crossed she's feeling better soon.
B gets breakfast in bed. The horses all know the rules: stay away while I fill your hay nets, please. Except B, who gets to be teacher's pet. I let her visit while I do chores, as long as she's polite. It's funny to me that the other horses accept this as fair and continue to politely wait for me to finish, even though B is bottom of the herd pecking order and helping herself to breakfast first.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Who Can Ride My Horse?

Thank you to hellomylivia's post for the inspiration!


Two very different ponies...



Bridget:

Bridget sounds very much like Frankie. Technically, I think anyone with half decent skills could get on and stay there safely for a ride. I'd trust her with just about anyone. In fact, we trust her weekly with tiny children leaning to vault :) She's as kind as they come.

That being said...she's also a very cheeky pony. My list of people actually invited to ride Bridget is tiny. Riding Bridget properly is currently very, very challenging. EC has said in the past she's one of the tougher horses in the barn, which sounds weird, but in my experience is true. She wants to be behind the leg, she's very intelligent, she is naturally very supple (read: wiggly, if you let her be), and she really didn't come pre installed with any sense of rhythm. Also, she's not got the most honest of work ethics, so is always looking for a way out. See this post at A Enter Spooking for a great window into the juggling we currently got sucked into with B.  We're working on it, and making progress, but from experience I've learned this is not the time to allow any inconsistency. That person who thinks 'good enough' and lets her cruise around how she chooses really does us no favors. B is not overly open to the rules changing, and if someone inadvertently gives Bridget boundaries that she decides are the one true way...well we're in for a very long winter :) I think with time and further training I'll expand the list, but for now it only includes Favorite Working Student and trainer EC. The vaulting thing works and is actually beneficial to me, because EC is the person lunging her and she makes Bridget work very much like she needs to carry herself under saddle.


Ginger:

Ginger is just as intelligent as B, but she's also very reactive and very spooky, plus she's 6" taller and much more athletic. She also has a very good work ethic. She wants you to like her, she wants to be good, she's always thinking, always trying to anticipate what her rider wants. She's very easily scared or intimidated. She'd love to just have one fair and quiet person to rule her world and tell her what to do all day.

You'd think we'd be super picky about who rides Ginger, but actually, no, not really. They need to have an independent seat, be able to be clear and quiet, but mostly they just need to be confident and sure of themselves. So, along with the working students and EC, there are a few teenagers taking lessons on her. The teenagers are brave, they're big enough and experienced enough to handle a 'moment', and they also tend to be endlessly patient with her. Ginger is thriving. The more riders she meets, it seems the more confident she gets in herself and the less reliant she is on her favorite people to tell her what to do.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

OK, That Was Fun

Subtitle: Life goals reaffirmed: To own a fancy dressage pony, and to ride it well.

As you may have noticed yesterday,  I was slightly anxious about my ability to do the lovely Audrey credit. While those concerns are valid, they turned out to not be valid in the "you're gonna die and ruin your coach's fancy dressage horse all at the same time" way. So, we're already winning ;) (Also, I REALLY need to revisit those sports psychology books...I suspect envisioning all the things that could go wrong because you're such a terrible rider isn't a very healthy pastime.)

So, Audrey is amazing.  She's at a similar level of training to Bridget, except everything is just super easy for her. Collect, extend, changes, all there with zero difficulty and provided to you in very good balance. She's a huge mover, but surprisingly,  it didn't feel awkward, it just felt like a bigger, more balanced Bridget. I could sit the lengthenings no big deal, which made me happy because for some reason I thought that would be difficult for me on a big horse.
Can't you just see the similarities? lol

The similarities are there in other ways. Both are super bendy, both are really soft in the bridle, free through the shoulder and very loose through their backs. Both naturally move uphill. The differences include those more extravagant gaits, the much larger degree of natural talent, and the sharper reactions to your aids. Bridget tends to lose balance and run away out the front, Audrey loses balance and comes back towards you and turns into a big spring bouncing on her hind legs. Audrey's a lot more ambitious and quite willing to get creative about flinging her legs all over the place if she gets in a muddle. B likes to stop and think it over. Also, the whole attention span of a squirrel thing, B is much more naturally inclined to not worry about what every little noise or movement is.

What I learned: EC isn't lying to me when she says Bridget feels like a mini Audrey, and that Bridget could be a fancy dressage pony. I can feel the similarities, and this was a great insight as to how Bridget could feel with further training. Obviously, it will be a lot more work and strength building for Bridget, but the same feel is already there, if that makes sense.

More take homes:

- I'm still perfectly capable of riding hot and spooky.
- Collecting and lengthening on A gives the same feel as on Bridget, so proud pony rider/trainer moment there as I know Audrey is very correct.
- Audrey didn't tell on me once for my hands, which was excellent and means my hands are soft and steady and not doing anything too random or weird.
- I need to work on myself in the canter. Audrey says I am getting too light in my seat when I ask for more forward. She says that either means trot or change leads.
- I'm not consistent with my body in the leg yields.  Ours were great at the trot, but in the canter I was tending towards using too much rein/bend and not being clear enough with my seat. Same results as above, lead change or trot.
- Huge movement = increased fitness requirements. My "riding muscles" (abs and thighs) are a bit sore today, which hasn't happened in years.
-Even though I'm pretty sure EC will be fixing my mistakes in her ride tomorrow, I get to ride Audrey again Wednesday, and actually any time while Bridget is under the weather. Exciting!
- I really liked Audrey's build and height. She's small, maybe 15.3 and fairly narrow and feminine. After 14.1hh Bridget, bigger horses (looking at you, 17hh Q mare!) can sometimes feel a little weird to me. A is perfect. If I had unlimited resources, coaching,  and time, I'd have one like her in a flash :)

Immediate goals: Own that canter leg yield and shoulder in on Wednesday.

So, a very successful night. I think EC'S master plan was to let me decide for myself whether I want to go shopping for my own fancy Audrey pony, or whether I want to dig in and train Bridget to give me the same ride. I choose option 2, because I'm inspired and can feel we're really not that far off. While Bridget won't ever move as fancy as Audrey, it's still fun and I'm happy enough to stay more on the Cardi end of the spectrum! Also, since when do I back away from a challenge? Did you ever REALLY think I'd replace Bridget? No, didn't think so. I'm pretty sure EC knew all along it would never happen, too  :)

Picture I was just sent of Bridget and I from a xc clinic last year. I think we'll ditch the vest, change the tack, and do more dressage this year.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Even More Saddle Fitting

I didn't have access to Pony Club, or actually much horsey guidance at all as a kid, so if I have time I like to listen in on the rainy Sunday Pony Club style lectures EC organizes at our barn. It's for the kids, but us adults haven't been kicked out yet :)

This week, I was in luck, because the topic was....saddle fitting! Extra bonus, there was a guest speaker from Vancouver who is a UK certified master saddler. She currently creates custom tack and saddles from scratch and even makes some neat historical looking pieces for movies and tv.

It was super interesting to see how she creates saddles for horse and rider. She brought along a few different trees, which I thought was cool. Neat to see the skeleton your saddle is built on, and how if the shape is inherently wrong, all the gussets and panels in the world won't help. I found the saddles she's retrofitted most interesting - cool to see that there are a lot of things saddle wise that can be changed and aren't necessarily deal breakers if the saddle is good otherwise.
Our current saddle

After she was done fitting a couple of horses, she did a set of tracings for me. B was, of course a star, but was visibly a little uncomfortable about having to stand square for so long. We got curious about that and the fitter pulled out an infrared camera. Poor Ms B has some heat in her lower back that corresponded to a sensitive spot when we poked a bit. We're thinking it's the too big/too long saddle I borrowed last week. And, in related news, her left shoulder looks pretty ouchy, likely from my saddle. Obviously the camera isn't a legit way of finding or diagnosing things, but something to keep an eye on for sure, and her findings definitely correspond to what I would have expected. No matter what, I got a really detailed set of tracings for Bridget's back, and I'm hopeful that with this lady's talents added to our resources we'll be able to find something and even customize it a bit if need be. My task now is to find as many saddles as I can to try out and she'll come back to give input on them in a few weeks.

Random pics today. B's feet are round!


Since Bridget's already on light duty due to her cough, I'm not super worried about the bit of soreness we might have found. I'm hopeful a little time off is all thats required. That being said, I hopped on bareback prior to the fitter arriving and had a little dragon pony on my hands! She wanted to be quite rowdy and silly, so I'm hopeful that means she's continuing to feel a bit better. If not, the normal vet will be here in two weeks to check her over and dispense more meds if needed, and I've booked an appointment with the specialist vet ASAP for an endoscopy, which around here = in six weeks.

Not even tiny jumps until we sort this cough out


Since Bridget is off work, I'm riding the gorgeous warmblood mare Audrey for lessons. Audrey is a bit of an ADD princess and very quick/athletic (nickname = "Squirrel") I wanted quicker reactions, and my wish is coming true! I keep reminding myself that through a series of unfortunate events, I rode her once before...during a cross country clinic last year. Never mind that we didn't jump anything and just hacked around, ignore that part. It sounds super legit to say I rode her in a XC clinic, right? Like a dressage lesson could only be SO boring after that :) She's actually very sweet, this is going to be indimidating, but fun, I think.
Speaking of crazy, yet another pic of the BK hanging out in his beer flat

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A Wee Bit Ta Clarity

(The above title written in my best scottish accent, look oot Outlander  ;)

My office mate in my day job has the strongest Scottish accent I've heard.  He's a very nice man, so we're definitely guilty at times of chatting far more than we should, particularly considering we're both overloaded with projects.

We get along well, and I enjoy working with him. After a year, I can now hear the difference between beagle and bugle and bagel. (We had a funny conversation about foxhunting months ago, me wondering why on earth he thought I needed to take bagels ;) But, I have to admit, when someone else comes in to discuss a project, oftentimes my first instinct is, "Whoa,  they are so easy to understand!" I guess even though we sometimes chat the day away and I'm not consciously noticing the accent,  my brain is still using energy to "translate" on the fly, even though technically we're both speaking the same language (me much less poetically, of course.)


I'm biased, but B might be cuter than ever right now.


What does this have to do with horses, you ask?

Bear with me.

As you know, B's cough returned this past week. The vet has yet to come, but I still wanted to to try to get Bridget out for a walk today rather than having her stand around.  As you also know, we're currently in saddle purgatory. Thinking we were just going to wander around, I just put a bridle on her and decided to hop on bareback. A barnmate suggested borrowing her bareback pad, which made sense because I needed to go grocery shopping later :)

So, I hopped on. And Bridget instantly marched off, happy and in front of my leg. Obviously she was happy to get out, so I felt good about my choice to let her stretch her legs a bit. I also felt really comfortable. I think on some level I've been fighting the various saddles a bit, so it was super to be able to just let my legs hang where they wanted to go and sit where it felt comfortable.

B's cough was quite minor today, so I'm hopeful the hay soaking is going to help. Since she was feeling great in walk, we moved up to trot. And it was amazing.  So we cantered, and did transitions and just generally played with all the things in an easy and fun way. B was relaxed and happy and soft the entire time. Lateral work was no big deal, coming back and going forward in the trot brought no loss of contact or balance. She was working really well and in such balance that even though I had no saddle it was the easiest ride I think I've ever had on her. I didn't need my stick at all, and I could have left the spurs off. She was responsive and with me the entire time. Magic. I didn't want to get off.
Still sassy, tho


So, back to the wee language barrier thing. I think the saddles we've been using have been contributing to our own version of that. Without the saddle, there is no compensating or translation. We can have our discussions directly. No need for us to repeat ourselves, very few misunderstandings, and nearly instant comprehension and action. We were due for a good ride, so I'm not going to say the lack of saddle worked a miracle. I also didn't make her work very hard, so avoided any arguments there! I do think that our little adventure was very helpful in adding a bit of clarity as to where some of our problems stem from, and also some ideas as to what we'd both prefer in a new saddle (I think we're officially minimalists!).

So, for the foreseeable future, you will find me reenacting my childhood and cruising around on my pony without a saddle. So much fun, highly advise if you're feeling a little burnt out in your regular routine or your horse needs a bit of a time out from "real" work :)






Friday, 17 February 2017

Keepin' On Keepin' On

Things have been a little up and down in this part of the world this week:

Downs:

- A terrible ride on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

- Me, in tears, finishing the above Wednesday lesson feeling like I just can't even. Can't ride. Can't deal with the lack of forward, can't figure out how to fix this. Can't even think about the finances needed to potentially purchase a custom saddle or two. Can't remember the last time this was truly fun.

- What if there is something physically wrong with B? What if she simply doesn't like her job?

- EC, understanding, but also frustrated, I think. There's no quitting in this barn! Give new saddle and another vet check a chance, but also, suck it up, this is B and you bought her because she's so laid back about life. There will be no magical cure for work ethic beyond consistency and hard work.

- Discover Bridget's cough has returned Thursday, after over a year of health and us almost being convinced original vet was wrong about COPD. Cut ride short, feel terrible for being so frustrated with her laziness on Wednesday. Good thing the vet is already booked. Poor B. Poor bank account.

-Many sleepless nights worrying about all the above.

Bridget, waiting for dinner the other night. Also, the boys have been moved, so her blankets are surviving the night intact again!


Ups:

- Bloggers rule! A few of you have sent me links or contacts for  potential saddles for B. I have a couple of really good leads, and the saddle fitter is currently confirming specs from serial numbers. THANK YOU.

- EC rules. Gave a very kind offer for me to ride her very fancy (and forward) warmblood mare 'A' 1x a week to keep me sane/give me a better idea of what it is I am looking for with B. She's the same age as B, slightly further along training wise, and just super talented. But, apparently a very similar ride to B as far as how bendy/supple they are.

- Again, EC to the rescue. Currently building B a separate 'condo' so she can have soaked hay and zero dust while we wait for vet visit.

- And, again EC. Loaning me a gorgeous saddle to tide me over until I find the perfect one to purchase.
Not the actual saddle, but a look alike County Sensation. It's not to my taste to ride in/budget to afford, but oh my is it gorgeous and Bridget seems to like it.  The one pictured is from the Pelham Saddlery site if you're shopping.


-Our lesson I was so down about? I was riding Q mare last night and thinking the jumps looked a little on the large side. They were. And I wasn't afraid at all.

-Q mare. She was fabulous last night. Love her, feel very lucky to have the ride 1x a week.

-Ginger. She looked amazing in our lesson the other night. The goal is to take her young rider to Prelim eventually, and I believe they'll do it. I'm guesstimating their version of our course was set at about 3'6" and it looked really easy for them.
Big mare is so happy in her new job, which makes me very happy.


-My barn mates. Always so supportive and encouraging.













Monday, 13 February 2017

Ugghhh

The saddle struggles continue. XW saddles don't seem to be a thing you buy used, especially in jumping land. I've scoured the Internet for suitable prospects and come up with...1 dressage saddle. And the person is not willing to do a trial or returns. I think that might be a deal breaker...what if it's not as advertised or damaged or something?  My coach wants me to send them tracings and have photos taken with them and the saddle. Is that something that's reasonable to ask from your average private seller?



I went to the barn this morning for my lesson, vowing to put a positive spin on things. The saddle I'm using was just fitted, weve happily used it for years, so it shouldn't be THAT bad. I have a shock absorbing half pad, we're "only" jumping so it's not like I'm sitting on her back and asking her to be round. In other words, we can make due until the magical unicorn saddles we need spontaneously appear. Right?

A ha ha ha ha. Yeah, right. Bridget was like "Stupid human. I am DONE with you and this stupid saddle. DONE." I don't blame her. So, I vowed to never, ever put the offending saddle back on her. We used my coach's widest spare saddle instead, which is lovely but at 18.5" and a super forward xc flap, a wee bit big for 5'2" me and short backed B. It's also slightly narrow on Bridget, and eventually crawled up her shoulder and made her sad. (But not as sad as mine because at least it's soft and cushy and mainly just the big forward XC flap bugging her, not the actual tree points like on mine)

Current saddle all cleaned up for ebay

So, we had our lesson and I didn't die. I didn't ride well, but also I didn't ride super badly given the saddle is about as effective for me over fences as a big piece of foam strapped to B's back.

B was jumping poorly to start, inverted and up over her shoulder. EC says again, likely saddle related due to her feeling blocked in the shoulder. We finished on some nicer fences with the change in saddles, but she's recommending some time off from jumping until we solve things. We haven't properly jumped in about a month due to part of the arena being frozen, so at least this was a one off, and not a new normal. We don't want to get her in the habit of jumping with poor form when really she should be so good in her shoulders.

We tried a few more barn saddles on B, and none worked. Custom Wolfgang Solo was somewhat Bridget approved, but it was terrible for me. Antares jump saddle was heaven for me, much too narrow for B. Stubbens just don't come wide enough and are mostly too curvy. Pessoa, ditto, but the tree shape is also too much ^ vs the rounder arch we need. So, the elusive XW County is still the best option we've seen in person.

On the plus side, we have a new, independent fitter coming this weekend to do some measurements of B and hopefully come up with some suggestions. She mainly does custom saddles and alterations, though, so Im not sure how helpful she can be as far as recommending existing saddles. The original fitter is also coming back and willing to take a second look at B's saddle, but I think at this point I've lost the faith there. The timing of "hey, maybe B is unhappy with her saddle, let's get it checked" to "there's no way we can use this thing" seems suspicious,  given the excessive "No Way" reaction started the day after the fitting. Not blaming anyone, I knew the saddle was getting marginal, but also not willing to potentially spend more $ there either.

Cat picture so at least Emma will keep reading. BK loves this old beer flat so much we've given up and let him keep it as his bed. It's HIS though, and you are not allowed to touch him while he's in there, and especially not any of the papers or other treasures he's put in there.

My coach is willing to lend me her xc saddle indefinitely, and while its not ideal, at least I can keep on keeping on with the flat work. Also, it's a beautiful saddle worth twice what I paid for B, so there's that. Eye candy and super soft leather is always nice :)

Im trying not to get too panicky about time frames. Our big eventing camp is 6 weeks away, so a jump saddle before then would be super. In the long run, though, more flatwork is always good, and if I end up with a dressage saddle first, there are a few dressage shows we can go to this summer. Worst case there's always next year and my bareback skills get super strong - B is still quite young and obviously I'd rather she's happy and comfortable in her work than take any risk of making her sour or frustrated.

If nothing else, by next week I'm going to have some professionally done tracings and a good knowledge of what doesn't work of us. Look out, Jen the Saddle Geek, you're next.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Off Kilter

Kind of a weird day, not helped by our foggy, dark, ominous weather. Is it a dream or is it real? ;)
Spoiler alert: those are our tracks heading out to the arena this morning.


I got up early this morning, drove to work, and...the parking lot was empty and the building dark. Weird. After a quick check to confirm today is a weekday, and no, I had missed no calls, I was a little confused. Turns out today is a snow day, even though it's raining and the roads are clear. Those of us who do not read the company website in our time off were made apparent, as one by one we showed up to not work.

So, since I was up bright and early, in the neighbourhood, and likely using up vacation time (grrr),  a barn trip seemed like the thing to do!

When I arrived at the barn, B was nowhere to be seen. You'll remember she got moved in with the boys? Well, one of the boys has taken it upon himself to play wild stallion. Bridget is "his" and good luck convincing him otherwise. Jerk. Also, weird. Also, dangerous. After a quick chat with EC, it's been decided to arrange paddocks differently.  No more boyfriend for B, and none too soon, I've run out of blankets since he insists on tearing them off her all romance novel style. I joke, but I'm sort of angry about that because I'm in need of a new saddle, not more bills for new blankets.
Enough already.


EC recapped her training ride on B Tuesday (desperate times, needed a trainer intervention for our left lead canter issue) And, the news was good/not good. She couldn't get it either and was fighting my saddle too, so got off. On the longe with side reins,  zero issues.  So, definitely a tack issue.  This makes me feel good that it's not me, but terrible that we persisted with the saddle when B was trying to tell us it still wasn't working for her, professional saddle fitting or no.

A ride in EC'S (much too large for me, and slightly too narrow for B) jumping saddle this morning confirmed things. After one initial "No, I cannot, will not!" Bridget was a star and there were zero dramatics or issues. Canter both directions was equally awesome and the drifting right shoulder completely gone.

Lesson 16783256890653 learned from horses: Just because pony previously went well in a specific piece of tack, or just because it technically fits, does not mean pony is currently  happy with said piece of tack.

Since I'm a little desperate for positives today, the saddle I was using was trainer's County Stabilizer. That's a positive since I used to ride in one that fit me decently and I LOVED it. So, an option should we be able to find one used in an XW tree and a smaller seat. Maybe I just get a jumping saddle and make do with that. Hold off on the dressage until next year? I feel like the universe is rebalancing...needing two new saddles at the same time is my punishment for magically already owning a saddle that fit Bridget when I bought her. I knew it was too good to be true :)
Sorry, Midge.

Have a great Friday and enjoy your weekend!






Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Second Impressions

I'm sidelined again tonight due to our crazy weather. I first read the forecast and was skeptical, thinking our government weather forecasters were maybe trying to be exciting and interesting. I didn't blame them. I imagine their days are normally filled with tasks like attempting to find new synonyms for "rain". But, it seems our weather IS actually a little exciting this past week, so I am snow and ice bound yet again.


I'm feeling guilty for missing my lesson, so was just thinking through my homework from Monday. I realized I got so sidetracked by our saddle fitting issues I forgot to mention that parts of our lesson were REALLY  good. We've been trying to teach B to sit and really push from behind all fall and winter. We've been getting glimpses of good things, but no sooner do we get a glimpse than pony realizes it's hard work. And so we giraffe for a while, then we horse, but only baby horse. Then we get a glimpse, then the straightness is lost. Amd so on. It's cool though, because it's hard work and it takes time to build those muscles.

Anyway, on Monday I was able to get B super even in both reins, and the magic was happening. Real, honest suspension in the trot, just sitting there on tap whenever I asked. Like playing with the gas pedal on a hot car, where the front end comes up from all that power just waiting to be used while the rear end digs in waiting to see how brave you're going to be ;) I didn't want to break the magic, so obviously I only asked a few strides here and there and told her how smart she is.

 I needed to post about it, because it might not come back, but hey, at least now we have record of B being a super hot rod pony!
From: http://www.hotrod.com/articles/1303phr-2012-las-vegas-sema-show-muscle-cars/.
What you get when you search Bridget + Hot Rod. Its perfect.  If she was a car, she'd totally be this station wagon. 
In other thoughts, and on the "Second Impressions" topic, I've been rereading some dressage books. "Dressage For The Not So Perfect Horse" by Janet Foy, and "Real Life Dressage" by Carl Hester. (Sensing a theme, here?) Both are older books, and I remember really liking them both the last time I dipped into them (maybe 3-5 years ago). I've been lacking inspiration with my real life constraints and not so perfect horse, so it seemed a good time to pull these reads out again.


This time through, I'm still loving Carl's book, although I wish it was slightly more detailed.  Lots of good, solid points though, and wonderful examples of horses with vastly different conformation and temperament getting to the highest levels by using the basic training scale, always with an emphasis on happy equine athletes. Great photos too.

 "Dressage For The Not So Perfect Horse", I don't know. I'm not loving it this time. Its not an autobiography, but neither is it in depth training advice. I also feel like it's in need of some updates. Again, there are useful tips buried in the book, but it seems to lean more towards telling stories/reminiscing about past horses than actual advice or exercises used to help with any issues. I'm wishing for some more/better/newer pictures and illustrations, too. Still, if you want a peek into the mind of a judge, this might be a good read!




Monday, 6 February 2017

Crooked

I believe I've mentioned a time or two that my saddle needs constant adjusting because it likes to end up somewhere over Bridget's right shoulder every time it's needing a tiny adjustment in the flocking. Spoiler alert, it's hard to get balanced transitions like that.
This little saddle has served us well, but it's time to start shopping.

We had the fitter out again a couple of weekends ago and she added yet more wool to the shoulder in question, trying to balance things out. It worked temporarily, but the wheels fell off again tonight and I need to go back to some creative shimming. The key issue is that Bridget comes with two different shoulders: one side needs an XW tree, one side needs a W tree. It's just how she is. It's not going to change, its her basic construction. My 32cm Stubben is now borderline too narrow on the bigger shoulder. What ends up happening is the bigger shoulder pushes the saddle over, not in the rolling motion you'd expect, but by kicking the cantle out one direction and the pommel the opposite. To be centered, I end up sitting partly off the inside of the seat. That's not comfortable for me, either.  Here's a great article about this exact topic. It even has diagrams!

As it was explained to me, B is round, so there's not a place for this particular saddle to really "sit" on her. On round horses, if the fit is even slightly off, it's immediately noticeable. And trust me, we both notice.

Even Ginger notices. Drama of any sort is still quite interesting to her ;)

I learned tonight I am not physically capable of standing completely in my left stirrup, hanging my butt over the left side of the saddle, keeping my right shoulder back to contain Bridget's right shoulder,  AND still keeping my right leg effective in controlling the haunches for that perfect canter depart. It's ridiculously hard and confusing for all of us, and I'm waving the white flag. I'm not a trick rider.  I either still get carried over to the right and block the poor pony, or I end up winning the fight against the saddle but losing the outside shoulder.  Its stressing us both out. This saddle does not work anymore.

Even EC is saying it's time to get a different saddle for flatwork, and she's the queen of making things work.

The good news is that we tried a bunch of saddles the other weekend and did find one we liked. The bad news is it still wasn't quite perfect for me, and I'm nervous to buy one with the suggested options without actually riding in those options ahead of time. I'm fairly certain it will work, but not new, custom saddle certain. Used it will be, then if I dont love it it's not forever. Although, I guess anything beats needing to up my trick riding game just to get a balanced canter depart.
I'm shallow, because I wish I had liked one of the prettier saddles....this one is so boring!

So, if anyone knows of a new-ish County Competitor with an XW tree, 17.5 in seat, with a short, preferably forward flap, I'm in the market. It's time.

Oh, and obviously we'll be needing a new jumping saddle too...but my mind and bank account can't even handle that right now. Creative shimming may have to tide us over for our over fences rides for the time being.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Further Clinic Thoughts

My regular coach ("EC" for the purposes of this blog) asked me this morning how I felt the clinic went.

"It was OK", I said, "but I felt like I heard all the things that need improvement with no follow up as to how to fix them any differently. It's all the same things we are already doing...so I feel like I paid a lot of money to hear the same things and practice the same things as I do with you (for much less money)."

"But that's excellent!", she replied. My look of confusion must have been obvious,  because she continued, "If you're getting the same feedback and being given the same exercises you currently use that's good! It confirms that what you're feeling is valid, that you/we are correctly assessing where we're at with Bridget, and that you're doing the right things."

(I feel I should insert a note here, while EC is known more as an eventing coach, she has scaled back her own event riding to the lower levels "for fun" and now rides at a fairly high level of dressage. The clinician that came is a Canadian Olympian and coach of Olympic dressage riders. EC is her student, and I have been benefiting by her passing along all the things she is learning. Absolutely love having a coach that enjoys learning and passing along the knowledge. Anyway, back to our story...)

"So....my homework and take home should be to just keep on keeping on?"

"Yes!  She said after you left that with hard work there's a lot of potential there for you to achieve your goals with Bridget"

LOL, even if EC had zero riding or coaching credentials I'd probably still have to keep her around.  She's incredibly good at motivating me.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Not What We Planned

I had an excellent ride Wednesday night on Bridget, and a nice trail outing on Q mare too. It's so exciting that I have enough daylight to ride a bit outside the arena after work! Q also thought it was VERY exciting to be outside, but we both survived despite ourselves.

Although Bridget is not nearly as excited as Q about spring, she is in full shedding mode which I guess is as good a way as any to express her anticipation.

The dressage clinic Thursday morning did not go as I had hoped. B felt tired, and never really got into the game.  Not ideal,  because the clinician can only judge and work on what she sees, and what she saw was needing "more" pony and "less" rider motivation, but I didn't ever get a clear picture as to how we were to achieve that.

B is convinced all buckets contain food, somewhere. She'll happily investigate buckets all.day.long.

I gave Midge the treat of rolling around in the sand round pen and playing in the buckets for as long as she chose (one of her favorite things at the moment) and returned to the arena to watch a little more of the clinic. After some thought, I'm going to save my clinic $ for more lessons with my regular coach. Nothing wrong with the clinician at all,  I just don't think they are right for us at this point in time. Lessons are $125/45min and I just can't afford that if I'm not 100% committed and able to take advantage of the expertise on offer :)
A relatively small amount of snow on the coast creates chaos. Buried under the snow: the crocus and daffodil shoots I was so excited to see earlier this week.

This morning we had snow which shut down the highway, so no riding for me. My half hour commute to work turned into 2.5hrs of chaos like I've never seen. (It's a very steep, windy hill back down to the area I live, otherwise I would have turned around and gone home) I was very grateful for my truck, although hooking Bridget up to a sleigh would have likely taken less time and been far more fun!

Throwback to adorable baby Bridget in harness.

As a result of the unexpected snow, our clear rounds schooling event tomorrow has also been postponed. Disappointing, I was looking forward to it!Weather permitting, I hope to get to the barn and just spend some quality time with Ms B this weekend. Maybe a nice hack to put us both in good spirits?


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Pony Wheel Of Fortune



I've created the following masterpiece especially for Midge ;)