Monday, June 29, 2015

Dollars and sense

So the saddle fitter came out.  For those of you betting that the affordable, adjustable saddle wasn't going to work out?  Ding ding ding, collect your winnings!

You know it's going to be a bumpy ride when the saddle fitter looks your horse over and goes 'oh dear, he reminds me of my horse and the reason I became a saddle fitter'.  Theo's magnificent shoulders lead to a broader and longer then average wither.  Behind those are the dips that were trying to fill in, followed by a back that is completely flat.  It never comes back up, which is why a curvy tree rocks on him.  Even my magical Passier Precision that fits everything isn't suited to him because the panels lift up in the back.  TBs typically have a curve at the back of the saddle, but mi papi takes after the draft side in this area.

He's filled in behind the shoulder since this picture was taken and it's made his back even flatter.

All of this is pretty common fare in the dressage world, so that fitting should be easier.  He needs a saddle for a flat backed horse.  Done.  In the jumping world, however, things are a bit more challenging.  This is my shopping list from the saddle fitter as I venture back into the saddle shops to find a better fit.

Can you hear my bank account sobbing?  I can.

When's the last time I had a close contact with a 3" rear gusset?  Never.  All older saddles are out for being too curvy, since TBs were all the rage.  French trees are generally out since they're typically curvy.  My Wintec is out for being too curvy.  She was able to pull some of the wool out where it was over stuffed in the panels at the waist and swapped me to a medium gullet, which improved the balance and significantly improved the weight bearing area on the panels.  The panels under the waist were so over stuffed that it was almost like it bridged.  All of the weight rested on a thin line rather than the whole panel.  It still rocks a bit, but saddle pads have us as close as we're going to get.  I'm going to be using the Wintec as a fill in until the new saddle is located, then I'll sell it off to recoop some of my losses.  It will fit other horses better now that it's been fixed up.

Fun fact about Wintecs, for anyone considering buying one:  Flocked does not mean what you think it means.   When the saddle fitter got it open, she found that the flocking was stuffed into little cases that are shaped like CAIR panels.  They basically take the same little panels and stuff them with synthetic wool instead of plastic bags of air.  The saddle had three separate cases of flocking in each panel, leaving the exact same pressure spot potential as the CAIR system and cancelling out the entire reason I wanted it flocked.  It also makes the saddle very difficult to adjust by a saddle fitter.  The panels are overstuffed and harder than you would expect.  I expect the stiffness is because the flocking is in those little cases and can't shift around like it's supposed to.  So not at all pleased to discover that 'flocked' with Wintecs doesn't mean what you think it means.  Also, having a saddle fitter adjust your flocked saddle voids your warranty.  Fun fun.

After the last grid lesson on Saturday, neither me nor mi papi wants to go back to jumping in the dressage saddle.  Trainer A is doing grid work with us where she changes the heights of the verticals with each pass.  Theo is having to sit on his butt and focus to make it work when all of a sudden the center vertical goes from 2' to 3' and the distances are short.  Staying out of his way while this is going on is a challenge and if we were doing that in a saddle with a high pommel and cantle?  I'd probably be straddling an ice pack right now.  We're both better off with a saddle that's less than perfect, but at least suited for the job.  I still have his dressage saddle that was fitted to him for flat days and I'm hoping to get something more appropriate on him quickly.

Don't tell anyone, but I'm looking at getting a promotion at work.  I may be celebrating with a new jump saddle.

Also, quick plug for Kate Howe at Shedrick Saddlery.  She was fantastic to work with and very reasonable in what was possible and what she recommended.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Saddle fitting woes

I knew going into this that the whole 'total fit system' didn't actually mean that the Wintec 500 Close Contact I ordered would actually fit every horse.  I did figure that we could get it close enough and that it could be changed as mi papi's back changes.  I heard that he'd used a Bates saddle in the past and they have the same tree as the Wintec saddles.

After three fitting sessions and two rides, I'm calling in the professionals.  I got it close enough to jump in, but it can't be my day to day saddle.  The cantle pops up.  I know that's an issue jumping saddles in general have, but I don't want to worry about Theo's back getting screwed up.  Using the risers in the back and popping in the medium wide tree got it close enough so I don't have to jump in the dressage saddle anymore.  Hopefully a professional can fluff and sort the rest of the issues out.

But I did get to jump in it, and you know what I learned?  You pick up some sucky habits fast when your jumping saddle isn't appropriate.  I stand up on my toes over fences now.  SERIOUSLY!?!?  I've never ever done that before, but I caught myself doing it in my last jumping lesson and Trainer A called me out on it.  I need to nip that in the bud right now.  Like this week.

I'll be spending a lot of quality time in a half seat.  The rest of my time will be spent with no stirrups doing the chacha in the dressage saddle.\

The grid work went well, we did changing vertical heights and low, wide oxers to encourage Theo to balance himself and use his whole body.  Grabbing mane and not moving helped a lot with me getting my jumping mojo back.  My body had been fighting the dressage saddle so much that now I'm struggling to remember how to not move.

The first saddle fitter we contacted can't come out until August, so we're trying a couple more names.  There's no way I can go back to jumping in the dressage saddle now that I'm aware of the damage, but I can't damage Theo's back along the way.  Anyone want to start a betting pool on the likelihood that I end up dropping another grand or two on another Passier jumping saddle?  The local used shop has a Passier Wellington in my size . . .

Thursday, June 18, 2015

You can do it

Get your back into it!

Yeah, I had one of those lessons where I flop about looking like a fool and my pony trots around looking irritated and confused in turns while I gyrate and nearly fall off.  All of this just so I can learn how to sit the dang trot!

And then we started cantering and it was even weirder.  It didn't matter how far I leaned back, it wasn't enough!

Poor Theo, he was so confused by my bizarre behavior.  I felt like I was going to fall off over his butt and he kept breaking because I was trying to stay in the saddle and not actually, you know, riding.

I understood where we were supposed to be going but it still felt really, really weird.  Sitting gaits have always been a challenge for me because I spent so much of my riding career getting up off their backs.  I never spent any time learning how to really sit.  It's so much easier to get up in a half seat and just let the horse do whatever.  Now I'm walking around the ring calling out 'drop, drop, drop' for each time I feel my hip drop, meaning the hind leg has hit the ground.  I'm doing the chacha while sitting the trot (hip forward with the front leg, drop with the hind).  The canter?  I'm just leaning as far back as I dare and trying to not stick my tongue out for fear of accidentally biting it.  It takes a lot of focus!

Oh, and I had no stirrups.  Sob.

But I did feel like I was sitting deeper and mi papi seemed happier when I was moving my lower back to match him rather than just bouncing along.  He's really getting the hang of stretching forward and down.  Hopefully we'll be able to get his topline built up.  It's very angular right now and it makes getting a saddle on him very difficult.  A saddle fitter is coming out to give the new saddle a professional touch.  Theo's right side is not as built up as his left and he has that dip right behind the withers.  I definitely need a professional to get him sorted out.  His back is different after just one month, I expect him to look completely different by the end of the summer.  I expect I'll be good friends with the saddle fitter.

Tomorrow is the first jumping lesson in the new saddle.  Hoping for the best!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Photo Op

Got my pictures from the schooling show!

He certainly looks saintly and not at all like a pony that would misbehave for no reason in the flat classes.  Those fences are only 2'3", but you can see that he likes to get his knees up and use his shoulders.  Love it, but not fun in that dressage saddle.  Come on, jumping saddle!

But you have to love that face.  Such a soft expression and he really is pretty good with those knees.

Shopping spree, aka I Love Dover

It's times like this that I'm happy the hubby doesn't read my blog.

So I went to Dover on Saturday.  I love Dover.  There's something about it that smaller tack shops just can't duplicate.  It's over an hour away, and yet, I drive there.  It's like walking into the promised land.  The doors open and I can smell leather and wool and wood.  Everywhere I look, there's stuff that I really need.  I didn't know I needed it, but now I know that I need it.  Not want, need.  I spend quite a bit of time just petting all of the goodies, especially the tack and saddle pads.  I try to avoid going to the top level which is all saddles, but sometimes I indulge.  A sweep through the Bargain Basement is also mandatory, you never know what you'll find.  I once got a custom Grand Prix show coat in French blue with white piping for $90.  Buy of the century.  Over the years, I've found breeches, coats, shirts, jumping boots, blankets, girths, and clippers in the basement.

I never intend to buy a lot, but I always find a stack of treasures.  This is my list of treasures from today:

Kerrit Competitor's Koat

I'm in LOVE with this coat.

No, that's not me.

Machine washable, stretch, soft shell, zipper under the buttons (which are actually snaps), what isn't to love?  Especially at $120, which is a full $100 less than the RJ Classics soft shell I was petting and admiring.   With the zipper, I have no gapping issues.  I know it's hard to see in the horse photos, but I'm fairly busty.  As in a 34D on a 5'2" frame kind of busty.  A stretch coat with a zipper means I can wear a coat that actually fits my shoulders correctly!  It's also very light weight.  It's not fancy, but it fits me well and I think it's spot on for the lower level stuff I have planned.  I still have a black wool coat with brass buttons for the dressage stuff, but as I'm currently schooling Training level, this is perfectly appropriate.  Zip pockets, man!

HDR Pro MonoCrown Bridle

No, that's not Theo.

I wasn't planning on buying a bridle but I do so love to go upstairs to the tack section and pet all of the goodies.  While working my way down the row, I spotted this monocrown bridle.  I liked the padding, the leather was decent, and it had the dark color I wanted.  When I saw the $109 price tag, it magically appeared on my growing pile of purchases.  I wanted something I could use for showmanship and jaunts into the pleasure shows.  His current bridle is black with a flash loop that we don't use.  This bridle, combined with a new D ring lozenge bit, should give him the hunter look.  The leather isn't anything to write home to mom about, but the patent accents are surprisingly nice and add a bit of subtle flair.  I'll be curious to see how the patent leather keepers hold up.

Lami-Cell Halter

This one is Theo.

Since Theo is a turn out 24/7 kind of pony that wears a halter in turnout, I didn't want to get him a leather halter for day to day use.  I'll probably splurge on a show halter in the future, but for now, a nice break away halter.  I like the hardware on these, the brushed metal look gives it such a nice look and the clasp is easy to work..  I also have a soft spot for Lami-Cell since I used to wear their helmets and loved them.  I got a black with baby blue accents pattern, very flattering.  It's padded nicely and has the all important break away tab.

Weatherbeeta Airflow Detach-A-Neck Combo Fly Sheet

One heavily armored pony.

Since Mr. Soft and Delicate is clearly flavored like candy to horse flies, he needs a fly sheet.  This one had excellent reviews online.  Since mi papi is rough on his belongings, I didn't want to dump a lot of money into a fly sheet.  He's probably going to trash it after just one season.  The important parts are that it's white (heat control), it's soft, and it blocks UV rays to help with his coat bleaching.  The belly band is a nice thought, but the bugs seem to aim for his groin which is still rather exposed.  You can't have everything.  We'll see how long it holds up, but he does look like a fancy show pony right now with all of his armor on.

I also found a white wrap neck show shirt in the basement for $25 and got another bottle of fly spray.  Man oh man are the bugs bad this year.  I struck out on the show breeches since I can't justify $200 for my usual TS breeches when I'm just doing schooling shows.  The low rise thing is a complete pain.  I've been hoping for that trend to turn around but it looks like it's a permanent thing.  I tried the Treadsteps Symphony No 4 since it's supposed to be a higher rise, but it still didn't work out.  I'll probably end up saving up for the mid-rise TS breeches.

And finally, not purchased at Dover but it did arrive today, my new saddle!

Wintec 500 Close Contact Saddle - Flocked

I remember when synthetic saddles first came out.  They felt like plastic, were badly balanced, and generally sucked.  People got them because they were cheap but they rarely fit anything well and I sure as heck didn't want to jump in them.  The times, they are a changing.  When I sat in this thing in the showroom, I had trouble believing it was a Wintec.  It was soft, it felt balanced, it's appearance didn't offend me.  Sure, I wouldn't take it on the rated hunter circuit, but I'd take it to any horse trial.  It looks just fine.  It's the exact same tree as the Bates (in a synthetic) at half the price.  Time will tell if Theo likes it, but with the gullet system, riser system, and nice flat panels, I have very high hopes for this saddle.  Let's be honest, I love having less tack to clean, and my Wintec dressage saddle was such an amazing trail saddle.  If it helps me stick with mi papi's big moves over fences on top of that, I will be very much in love.  I tried it on him today, but I forgot to order the full gullet system and the medium was way too narrow.  It stood up off of him by a mile, almost like the steeple on a church.  I'll try to pick up the gullets tomorrow.  Fingers crossed!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Quack quack

This is not at all horse related, but my muscovy duck has new ducklings and I have to share.

When we moved to the country we decided we should raise some poultry.  We have some hens, some bantam chickens, and some muscovy ducks.  It's hatching season and our flock is growing.

Even the bantams are hatching chicks.  I have a trio of Nankins named Aragorn, Eowyn, and Arwen.  Go figure Eowyn was a mother before Arwen.

But it's so distracting having them around.


How am I supposed to work with cute like this in my back yard?

Friday, June 12, 2015


To answer my previous question, it was just my computer.  An add on that magically appeared on my browser.  They just keep getting more sneaky.

It's been a good run of rides with mi papi.  He's been marching along like a trooper and showing some real progress in terms of attitude and picking himself up.  I actually got to sit my canter instead of kicking and begging and cajoling him along with every step!  It's almost like he's suddenly discovered that he is, in fact, strong enough to canter on his own.

Today we had a bit of a tough lesson.  We went through the Intro C dressage test in the small dressage ring.  We would have been disqualified for leaving the ring, since he blew out through the left shoulder and zipped between the cones marking the ring edges.  It took several tries and some tough corrections to get the 20 meter canter circle to the right.  The light bulb did pop on (Trainer A said she actually saw the light bulb moment on his face) and he straightened up by the end.

Theo being Theo, though, I had to take a couple minutes and make up with him so he didn't continue to trot around the ring ticked off with me.  A cookie and telling him how smart he is got him back into his cooperative mind set instead of plotting my demise all around the ring.

We also started working on our straight halts by getting off the rail more.  Between the circles, the serpentines, and dodging the other horse in the ring, we were both feeling a bit off balance.

But the important bit is that his shoulders actually went where they belonged and he quit blowing through my outside leg.  Much easier to steer that way and less likely to get eliminated in the dressage phase!  Since I did drop off my entry for the first two phase of the season, that's kind of important.

I'm also beside myself excited that my jumping saddle has shipped!  I'm looking forward to not fighting my saddle to get out of the way while jumping.  I'll need it, since Theo does love to hop over stuff.  He did the barrels AND the scary plank on the first try this week.  Sunday is supposed to be our first solo trail ride, to work on his confidence.  I'm getting my jumping vest out of storage and dusting it off.  You know, just in case.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Art therapy

What do you do when your job is making you completely crazy and won't even let you go to the barn?


Also, is anyone else seeing some links on my posts that lead to nonsense?  I'm suspicious something has gone wrong with blogger, or I have malware on my machine.  I love the internet.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Evil genius

Three verticals, four poles.  Nothing higher than 2'6".  How could this ever be evil?

Easy when it's on two 15 meter circles and you're riding a draft cross with a rather large turning radius.  This was Trainer A's exercise for the day.  After a nice warm up on the flat, really getting Papi to stretch through his neck on both sides, we popped him over a cross rail and worked on him trotting right to the base and pushing off evenly behind.

Then we moved on to this exercise, which was not a walk in the park.  To do it right, it's two 15 meter circles that touch at the center jump.  There are poles before and after the two end jumps, set one stride away on those circles.  The poles did make it a lot easier, but man, if your geometery was off the distances went to hell quick.  Great exercise for catching a pair out.  Not so difficult that it's ugly because you're just trying to survive, the ground poles really helped with the distance to those fences, but little errors that don't cause a problem in a regular course are suddenly very obvious.  You screwed up, you got a crap distance to the center fence.  The down side was that if you got out of whack, it was hard to get it back.  I usually had to pull out of the pattern and start over, just not much time to make a big correction. 

We had some good rounds, we had some sticky rounds.  It was good for making me aware just how much managing his shoulders need.  If I didn't watch those shoulders, they'd run off to the outside and my steering would completely fall apart.  He's weaker on his right, so he usually tries to pop out the left shoulder and avoid really sitting on his right hind.  If I stay on top of it, he jumps beautifully.  If I don't, it turns into a choppy mess.  The great news was that after our work on the cross rail, I could get him to the deep distance so even if the jump wasn't right, it was a quality jump and not a flyer.

Even on the flat we're working hard on getting him evened up and getting that topline up.  It's starting to work.  The muscle definition in the last third of his neck is shifting away from the braced underside and toward a more filled in topline.  A lot of massage, liniment, and his new Thinline pad seem to be helping him get over his right side resistance.  It's going to be a long, slow grind to reshape that much muscle, but it's rewarding to see a difference already and it hasn't even been a full month of me riding him five times a week.

He has my sympathies on back pain.  I was putting on my spurs this morning and twisted just wrong.  I guess the hubby will be doing the heavy lifting and dishes this weekend, since something in my back hates me.  I made it through the lesson without it affecting me too much, but I think I'll be spending part of today flat on my back, trying to convince my body to not self destruct any more.  It probably didn't help that we got my Papi pushing off straight and using his shoulders well, that's a lot of movement to manage.  He's got a nice, natural jumping form.  Big Eq horse he ain't, since he uses himself so much I can't just sit there and look pretty.  Hopefully my jumping saddle gets here before he actually jumps me clean out of the tack.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Mail call

Guess what I got in the mail today.

I know how I'll be spending my weekend.  This thing is so spiffy!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


It's a day off from the barn, and yet, shenanigans.

First up, I got an update from the photographer from the show.  There are pictures of me and Theo!  I should have them soon and she keeps teasing me that there are some really good ones.  If I don't see them soon, I may have to go all hacker and snitch them off the barn computer.  Which sounds like an incredibly bad idea, but I'm very impatient.

Second, Trainer A took some video of my last jumping lesson.  She's going to upload it for me so I can share it with the world.  It's kind of terrible, since I'm still rusty, but I'm all about honest documentation.  I'm not chopping Papi in the mouth or falling off, so no reason not to share the current state of affairs. 

What is it with jumping?  It's the first thing to go when I take a break and it's the last thing to come back.  It's probably a case of my core strength not being there.  I'm trying a new work out series called Success in the Saddle with Debbie Rodriguez.  Holy mackrel, is she a butt kicker!  I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to get upstairs to my bed after all of those squats.  I do recommend the series for anyone that is looking for a work out with an equestrian focus and no fluff.  There are no dance steps or cheerful bouncing, it's just a series of body weight workout that makes you want to cry for your mommy.

And finally, I ordered a new tablet!  A Wacom Intuos tablet with software should be here soon.  I've really missed my doodles and it's almost impossible for me to get things colored in on paper.  I'm not exactly an artiste.  Until the tablet arrives, it's all black and white.

Me and Theo after a long, hard ride on Sunday.  We both felt much better.

Not that there's anything wrong with black and white, but I miss all of the colors.  Also, I've lost all of my pencils.  I think Peyton has been thwarting my art again.  She better not steal the new tablet's pen, those aren't cheap!

Monday, June 1, 2015

A changing perspective

I've discovered a few things that just aren't true anymore now that I'm halfway through my third decade of life.

1.  Sleep is optional.

HA.  This used to be true.  I used to be able to stay up late enough to braid ten horses and then show the next day.  These days?  I'm carrying around a coffee on a normal morning.  On show mornings?  I'm getting a shot of espresso added to my second coffee, since I drank the first one on the way to the Dunkin's.  Sleep is not optional anymore and may the gods help my husband if he mucks with my precious few hours of sleep the night before an event.

2.  Falling off is part of riding.

Don't get me wrong, this is still true.  It's just different.  I used to be so blase about falling off.  You hit the dirt, you dust yourself off, you get back on.  I have no idea how many times I fell off as a teen and in my twenties, I once fell off three horses in one day.  It didn't faze me much.  The last time I hit the dirt was very minor but I was still hobbling around the house the next day.  I can't even imagine doing half of the dumb things I used to do.  Riding a horse with a dirty buck is a teenager's game.  I don't bounce anymore.  I just lay in the dirt, wishing for an Irish coffee and a massage.

3.  Neon pink looks good on any horse.

Nope.  Just nope.  It looks good on an adorable pony, but I find my black and blue colors to be much more appropriate.  I sure as heck don't want to drag eyes over to me in the warm up when I'm already a nervous wreck and trying to manage whatever my horse is throwing at me.  I'll stick to subtle colors and just blend in quietly, thanks.  Besides, nothing says ammy adult like wearing black and blue.

4.  Riding clothes can be fashionable, people think I'm wearing fashionable clothes when I stop at the store before the barn.

Nope.  We look silly, especially with sneakers and knee high socks on.  We're just so used to it that we look straight at the cool socks and dismiss the rest.  Even before visiting the barn, when we're not covered in hair, hay, dust, and who knows what else, we don't look fashionable.  We look horse crazy.

5.  I could move up/win/qualify if I just had more money.

This one took a long time to get over.  Alas, it doesn't work that way.  I really thought that one day I'd have enough money to just buy the perfect show horse and win everything.  You'll never have as much money as someone else in your class.  Also, money doesn't save you from needing to spend hours in the saddle, carefully practicing everything you need to do in the ring.  A true push button show horse is like a unicorn.  I've heard a lot about them, but I've never seen one or ridden one. 

I make a heck of a lot more money than I did when I was twenty, but I'm not sweeping the blues anywhere.  Money helps, but it's not the only thing standing between a rider and their goals.  It's just the easiest thing to point at.  It's a lot harder to point at lack of time, lack of fitness, and lack of consistent training.

But on the plus side, here are some new views that I have:

1.  Brand new gear can make any ride better.

2.  Nothing helps buffer a bad dressage test like a really nice ruby port and some dark chocolates from Godiva while in a bubble bath.

3.  Being the adult in the group means you get to pick the music while driving to the show.

4.  Handing the reins of a horse that is doing a grand impression of a kite to a teenager and telling them to handle it is freaking fantastic.

5.  Getting to be the adult the kids run to when they need advice, even when it's not for horse related stuff, is very cool.

It all evens out.