Thursday, July 30, 2015

Triumphant return

There's nothing better than that first real ride after a lameness.  All of the questions about whether or not we're going to fix this, if it's going to become something huge and terrible, are finally done.  I didn't even have to lunge today.  I just tacked up, went down to the ring, and rode in my lesson like people do.

Lameness has a way of making us appreciate things.  I appreciate mi papi more when I'm aware that it's not a sure thing.  Since he did have about three weeks off, we're still taking it easy on him.  He didn't even canter today, but he did a decent amount of trotting and let me flop around in yet another no stirrup position lesson.  Trainer A is up for sainthood as she keeps repeating the same exercises over and over again, trying to make them stick.  They're getting better, she commented on the improvement in my hands today and was very happy with the progress in my position.  We had one pass through the trotting poles where I must have finally gotten far enough back because Theo bounced through them with some actual loft!  Then we stopped, because we were both fried in the 90 degree heat.

The best way to cool off in this kind of weather is to go for a walk.

Fortunately we haven't lost any ground in his courage when heading out.  He was even the lead trail horse when we bumped into some other riders, because someone else was nervous! 

If you look close in the picture, you can spot my new monogram tag hanging from the bridle.  I think it looks spiffy.

I got my entry for the show on the 16th submitted.  We'll do Advanced Elementary 2 phase, with the Beginner Novice A dressage test and 2'3" fences.  After that, Sept 7 is going to be our first attempt at a 3 phase.  I think I'll do the 'poles laying on the ground' division after hearing some of the horror stories of Theo's last attempt at cross country.  Evidently he snorted, spun, refused, and eventually galloped home with his rider clinging on.  Yay.

But for now, just a two phase to prep for and a lot of trail rides.  No need to work hard in this heat.  We need some rain, Mother Nature!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


What happens when you take a former h/j rider and convert her to eventing?  You get a lot of monograms in cross country colors.

This was my order from Swanky Saddle.  This includes 9 vinyl adhesive monograms, one big fabric one for a saddle pad, two monogrammed tags for my bridle and saddle, and four little tags for things like girths and blankets.  It makes both the eventer and h/j rider in me happy.  Color coordination!  Monograms!  What's not to love?

I'll start with labeling my brushes and boots with the vinyl monograms and see how they hold up.  If they work?  I'll order up another 10 and label everything in my locker. 

It's a simple fact of the horse world that stuff wanders.  I can't find a brush because it's identical to the one that three other riders use and they got mixed up.  I still have two right hind boots because a friend had an identical set of boots and we got them mixed up.  We should really trade back some day.  Sharpies are the weapon of choice for keeping stuff where it belongs (because really, how else do you tell apart all of the white dressage saddle pads in the trailer?), but I want to get a bit more stylish in my battle.  I will still lend my stuff out, forget about it, and not have any idea where it is.  The difference is that now I'll spot it when it zooms by in the ring.

More importantly:  Color.  Coordinated.  So much bliss.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

He's baaaack!

This is the look of a horse that's thrilled to be back in work.  No, really, he's thrilled.

This was after 30 minutes on the lunge, mostly  at the walk with about ten minutes of trot and a bit of canter.  After warming up, I put some side reins on him to keep him from looking like a distracted giraffe as other horses went by.  That's the random strap in front of the saddle in the picture.  I popped the stirrups off of my saddle since I wasn't going to actually get on.  Easier than tying them up.

My poor person's lunging set up will be going away soon.  I've located a lunging caveson that should work well and we'll get some Vienna side reins.  Toss on a surcingle and he'll look like a serious business dressage horse.  I may even use white polos.

As for Abby, I think she's gone.  Today there was no swelling and the split was larger.  I got a bit of ooze before the ride, nothing after.  Hot compress for about 20 minutes, a hot pink wrap with betadine, and he got to go out in the field with all of the other horses for the first time since the 4th of July.

Now that is a happy horse.  This field is called the Ritz and it's amazing.  It keeps going over that rise and there are cross country jumps tucked in around the edge.  All of the horses that can handle grazing get rotated on this field or another one just like it down the road.  There's a reason we have to keep an eye on mi papi's weight.

He made the whole herd go off and gallop around for a bit right after this peaceful picture, of course.  He just feels good and wants to share it with the world.  He's easy to spot in the field right now with that one bright pink foot.

Tomorrow will be on the lunge again.  Not sure about Tuesday, since I wanted to do a no stirrup/no reins lesson with a jumping chute on one of the school ponies.  We might reschedule that until Theo is ready to do it himself or I'll jump someone else before working Theo.  With any luck, I'll be able to ride him on Tuesday.  I'm counting down.  I've got a show on the 16th to get ready for!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Shoes, glorious shoes!

After spending nine hours at the barn, I'm exhausted.  How did I even spend that much time at a barn when I don't own a horse and I don't work there?

First I gave Theo a groom, then I grabbed the bambino for a jumping lesson.  He was wonderful, as usual, and the two of us are starting to really figure each other out.  Trainer A hammered me on my position some more.  We're now working on getting my toes pointed forward in order to let my legs wrap around the horse more effectively.  Ow.  Bob gave me some nice stretches over his back and did a good job jumping through the grid over something a bit bigger than he's used to.  It was a 2'3" oxer by the end and he had to actually jump.  I gave Bob a good groom, turned him out, then started helping the girls around the barn prep for a show tomorrow.

I helped braid Miss Thang and then helped shorten another mare's mane.  I noticed Miss Thang had loose nails in her shoes and, with closer inspection, found they were half off.  Emergency call to the farrier time!  After helping the mares primp and duct taping Miss Thang's shoes for safety, I got mi papi out for some exercise.  Today I put him on a lunge line so he could start feeling like he had a job again.  We worked for about 20 minutes, mostly at a nice swinging walk with a short trot in each direction to check for soundness.  He looked good!  On the way back up I let him graze while I enjoyed the amazing weather.

Word got back to me that the farrier would be out at 4:30.  No way I was leaving before that, so Theo grazed, got soaked, and got wrapped.  Now that it's just protecting the spot on his heel, it's not his whole foot being wrapped anymore.  More vet wrap, less diapers.

At 4:30, the farrier came out.  The masseuse was there at the same time, and the trailer was up next to the barn to load for the show, so there was nowhere for the farrier to set up shop.  That's how I ended up spending the better part of two hours holding horses.  All four of the horses going to the show had to be checked and two of them got their shoes done.  Theo also got his feet done, including his front shoes going back on.

I almost danced a jig.  His shoes are on!  No more cracking and shredding!  I can start trotting him again and maybe, just maybe, ride!

By the time I had Abby the abscess covered and Theo tucked in bed, it was almost 7pm.  Damn, that was a long day.  My Fitbit step count came in at over 20k steps for the day.  My feet are killing me.  But that's all secondary to the fact that Theo has shoes and is looking very sound!  Tomorrow, lunging!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pic spam

And just when I thought I was all caught up from my week off, I got a swarm of pictures!

Me and Theo at the little schooling show where he was a complete dork in the flat but very nice over fences.  Once he was done bucking and spinning through the warm up.

And here are the ones from last weekend with me and Bob doing the cross rails.  The best part about having both sets of pictures side by side?  I can see how much weight I've lost since I got back into riding seriously.  Go me!

Name needed

At this point, I think Theo's abscess needs a name.  We've been doing battle long enough that I think it's time we gave it a clear identifier.  Like Abby.  Abby the Abscess.

Today I was greeted with the news that the abscess had popped this morning.  Woohoo!  Theo was hanging out in a paddock, so I brought him in for a good groom and to check out the progress.  He was walking comfortably and stood in the cross ties with no trouble.  I whipped off the wrap to see where we were at.

Definite progress.  The skin has opened up and there's a hole for pus to escape.  It's a small hole that stops easily, but the pressure has dropped dramatically.  It's not done, there's still a pus pocket sitting there, but it's much better.  The soaking and wrapping will continue until the whole mushy mess is gone.

I'm concerned about all of this soaking.  It's hard on his foot to get soaked twice a day for a week now, but I can see the progress.  The vet was out to see another horse and took a quick peek.  He wants the soaking to keep going since we're almost through this.  I'll go along with it, but it's making me nervous.  Also, the other three feet need some farrier attention badly.  The farrier did another no call no show yesterday.  I'm a hair away from calling in the farrier I used for Fiona to sort out this mess.

After soaking, wrapping, and grooming, Theo went for a walk.  A little trotting showed that he's now about 90% sound and feeling rather frisky.  Soon, soon we should have his shoes back on and him back in work.

Though all of this hand walking is probably good for my waistline.

I reemerge

Work travel sucks.  Flying sucks.  All day meetings suck.  There's a reason I've been so quiet.

Way back on Sunday, I took Bob the QH school horse to a schooling two phase.  It was supposed to be an outing with Theo, but someone has decided they like being shoeless and out of work.  More on that later.  In the interest of not throwing my entry fee out, I took the bambino and we did the pre-elementary level.

Side note, I haven't done cross rails in competition since I was about 8 years old.  It felt very, very odd.  A walk trot dressage test and 18" fences. 

It was a blazing hot day with a high of 95 degrees.  Thanks, Mother Nature.  With minimal requirements and a well schooled horse, our warm up for dressage was about 15 minutes long.  I wanted to make sure we could stop without him throwing his head in the air and that I could, you know, turn.  He's got some odd buttons due to being a former western pleasure pony and sometimes we get our wires crossed and the steering fails.  To be fair, we'd only worked together for one lesson before the show.  That's not a lot of time to figure someone out.

I took Bob into the ring with a complete lack of nerves.  I didn't really care about the score, I was just there to knock off some rust and give the school pony a good trip with an experienced rider.  He was nervous in the indoor that he'd never seen before, but settled in to give me a nice ride.  We got a 35, not bad!

I spent most of the day playing support crew.  Trainer A was there with another school pony (Juice Box), putting miles on him.  He completed his first ever cross country test and we were all very proud of his achievement.  He definitely had the swagger coming back from the finish.  I also met a lady doing her first cross country with her OTTB.  She had the most amazing spurs I'd ever seen, custom blinged out and matched her saddle pad.  I need them.  NEED them.

At the hottest part of the day, I tossed my saddle on Bob and went to the ring to jump.  They were pinning classes in the ring, so I let my pony doze while waiting for our turn.  I didn't want to do much of a warm up in the heat.  Evidently other people wanted out of the heat and they decided to skip the last two pinnings and just run straight through.  All of a sudden I was next in the ring!  I trotted off on Bob and did a one minute warm up with two cross rails, then went right in the ring to jump around.  Bob was, of course, a saint and we had a nice trip around the ring.  He seemed very happy to go out and do things with a confident ride and he certainly put in quite a strut with his second place ribbon in the victory trot.  Pre-elementary riders don't get to do a victory gallop.

There were a lot of pictures taken and they should be available soon.  My white horse was so white he looked pearlescent, I was very proud.  His braids also came out nice.  He tends to dive down in the front which lures me into leaning forward.  The consensus was that I'm very good for Bob, but he's terrible for me.  I was very tippy.  Overall, it was a good day and I enjoyed it.  Low stress, no nerves, mostly an occasion for me to find all of my showing stuff and get back into the groove.  The ladies from the barn were pretty new to showing and appreciated having some experienced advice on things like putting numbers on bridles and using hairnets.

 L to R:  Me and bambino, Trainer R, a young lady at her first show, and Juice Box with Trainer A

As for mi papi, he is still the king of the foot soaking.  While I was gone, the farrier looked at him again.  He stands by the 'knocked himself in the field' story.  Whatever.  The important part is that Theo is coming sound.  The pocket of pus that showed up  at the heel bulb has not erupted, but has also gotten softer and appears to no longer be putting the same type of pressure on Theo's heel.  My horse Allen had a neck abscess that dissipated rather than erupting and draining, so I know that's a possible outcome.  There was enough trauma to the hooves that finding a starting point to see if it drained out the other way is pretty much impossible.  It's nothing but holes and mess at this point.  I'm heading out this afternoon to see the state of things for myself.  I'm not sure if Theo has shoes on or not.  So long as it's not a pocket of pus trapped in his foot and it's found a way out, we should be good.

 Taken just before I left on my trip, showing the swollen spot and discoloration at the heel bulb.  Don't mind the poultice stuff all over the place, this was from rewrapping his foot.

I got a text yesterday that Theo managed to bust out of his stall and take six working students on a merry chase through the fields, bucking and snorting the whole way.  I think he's just about had it with stall rest.  I know I'm ready to be done with it.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Blog Hop: So Much Fail

Oh, heavens.  If I were judged only by one picture, I can't even imagine what they would think of me.  I dove back into the archives and dragged out some examples of me at my less than perfect.  As many people have said, we tend to post the pictures that make us look great.  The reality isn't quite so glossy.

As inspired by the ZBH Blog Hop, here are some of our moments of failure.  Some of these I've never posted before.  Enjoy!

Brakes fail.  WHEE!

 I swear, we're dressage-ing here, I'm not forcing her head down while she jogs along . . . FAIL.

Seriously, who let these yahoos out in public?  FAIL.

The jump was a little wider than we thought.  FAIL.

Steering FAIL.

Flinging my body about like I'm doing the grand prix and not a 2'3" fence.  FAIL.

I believe I can fly!  FAIL.  And Ben was a saint to get me over this thing.  My first trakehner!

This was a uniquely Fiona moment of FAIL. I saw my life flash before my eyes.

Flashback to my hunter days in the dressage ring by standing in the stirrups at the canter, putting my hands in my crotch, and holding my breath FAIL.


More of my flying FAIL.

And here's to many, many future pictures of me finding new and creative way to fail.  It's show time tomorrow!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Be careful what you wish for . . .

You might just get it.

Theo had his visit with the vet this morning.  Shoes were popped off and  he was poked and prodded.  The vet said probable abscess with a possible nail prick as the root cause.  Considering the trama his front feet have gone through in the past two weeks, I'm not exactly surprised.  We're on twice a day soaking plus packing his foot and bute.  Yay.  If he's not better by Monday, the vet's coming back out for some x-rays.

Fun fact, Theo was originally the vet's horse, or specifically, his wife's horse.  They've known each other a long time, so the vet was all over the fact Theo was lame.  Theo is usually sound as a bell.

Mi papi does not particularly like stall rest, he's used to being very busy.  He was ecstatic to see me, even if it meant I was sticking his foot in a bucket of hot, salty water.  As you can see in the pic, he was very confused by this whole thing.  He also amused himself by playing with me, the lead rope, and anything else he could reach.  A soak, wrap, and good groom were probably a wonderful break from the monotony of stall rest.  After soaking and wrapping his foot, we took a walk on the soft grass to get him some grazing time before the bugs drove me back inside.

Now it's the waiting game for this to resolve so he can get his shoes back on and go back to work.  He's going to be the size of a house after all of this time off.

Temper tantrum

Now that my little temper tantrum is over, life continues to chug along.  The vet's been called to check out Theo, since this is looking like more than a passing bruise.  I'm still thinking abscess and it would be great if the vet could open it up and relieve that pressure.  My horse Allen once blew out an abscess at the coronet band and it was a mess, so I'd rather not have it go that way.  But no matter what the mystery issue is, professional help is on the way.  I'm optimistic that it's just something that needs some TLC and we'll be back in action soon.

In the meantime, I have an entry fee and such for this weekend with no pony.  Rather than just write it off as a sunk cost, I'm taking a school pony to go flop around and have a good time.  His name is Bob.  He's a very light gray nearly white quarter horse that I usually call Bambino (Italian for baby).  We've gotten to know each other over the months because he's a bit of a squirrel on the ground.  He's head shy and I've helped a lot of beginners get his ear net on.  He will also be a jerk at hoof picking when the kids are timid.  In the saddle, though, he's a super star.  He's a younger horse, probably 10 years old or younger, with a solid work ethic.  I think we'll have fun.

Bambino with one of the beginners he lovingly carts around

Small problem:  WHITE.  I am going to have my hands full getting this school pony back to some color that I'll feel comfortable taking out in public.  I'm going to zip out today and pick up some Quick Silver to help me in my fight.  I'll also pick up some black yarn.  I said I was going to braid for this show and by golly I'm going to braid!  Bob's got a cute neck, I think some braids would really set it off.  One of the other adults is bringing Miss Thang and we are both going to braid on Saturday afternoon/evening.  I wonder if my neck cover will fit the bambino . . .

I've got a lesson with him tomorrow so we can get to know each other before I do a dressage test and jumping round with him in public.  He and Theo trade saddles, so I bet my jumping saddle will fit him.  Since the dressage saddle in the picture is the one that's still out for repairs, it would be nice to have my own saddle fit him.  Just one less thing to worry about having ready.

It's a good thing my base personality is very laid back, occasional temper tantrums aside.  Nothing is a certainty with horses.  I'll have my fingers, toes, and occasionally my eyes crossed while I wait to hear what the vet thinks is going on with Theo.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Reality check

It's easy to get carried away with things, at least it's easy for me.  I got back into riding and almost immediately stumbled onto Theo.  We hit it off, I got a half lease, and away we went.  After so many years of horse ownership, I'm used to having a single partner.  Catch rides are fantastic, but you still have that horse that you consider to be your partner.

Theo had his check up with the farrier this morning.  Farrier said that, based on the position on Theo's heel where he was sore, he'd knocked himself in the field.  He was fine for turn out and to ride.  I got the text and zipped out after work.  I've got a show this weekend and two days off was plenty for a pony with so many opinions.

He looked uncomfortable in the aisle, like he was shifting his weight off of his heel, but I told myself to stop being paranoid.  I tacked up and headed to the ring.  At the trot, there was no way to deny it.  Theo was head bobbing lame still.  I don't ride head bobbing lame horses that I know aren't arthritic or fighting off any kind of chronic issue.  This is an acute injury, so I got the heck off of the horse and led him back up.  I had to describe the situation several times, each one including replying to a variation of 'but the farrier said'.  Yeah, I know, the farrier said he's fine.  I say he's not.

If I owned Theo, I'd be buckling down for the hand walking and soaking and everything else that goes with a hoof injury.  Instead, I don't see him again until Saturday.  He's not my horse.  He's a half lease in the school.  He's managed by the barn, not me.  My opinion on treatment isn't really needed.  I don't have lessons or lease days until Saturday, so I'm at home, twiddling my thumbs and thinking far too much about whether or not I have a show this weekend.  It's bugging the hell out of me.  I would rather be carting around the hot water and fighting to keep his foot packed and wrapped.  At least I'd know what was going on and be part of fixing it.  Instead, I guess I'll see how he's doing on Saturday.  I hate it.

I know I moved too fast, got carried away and forgot that he's not actually my horse.  Saddles and fly sheets and grand plans that are all based on a horse that, in the end, I have no control over.  It really smacked me in the face today and I had no choice but to stop and look at the situation.  A lot of money and time being invested in a situation that is transient.  I don't even know what the plan is for that foot, or if he's on any meds.  Most riders would prefer it this way, knowing that if the horse goes lame they'll just ride someone else for awhile.  I feel like I'm clawing at the inside of a cage.  I can't help but feel like I made a huge mistake buying the new saddle, considering he went lame before I could even have a second ride in it. 

It's going to be a long couple of days.  I'm bummed that yet another show has been canceled for us, and we don't have another opportunity until September.  It's sinking in, once again, that I don't play well with others and sharing is a bad idea.  I just don't know if I'm ready to fling myself back into full fledged horse ownership.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Limbo lower now

Oh, Theo.  The slightest inkling that we might be doing a cross country lesson, he comes out of his field limping and looking pathetic.  It's the left front again.  It looks like that bruise isn't done making us crazy after all and the granite our state is so famous for got him again.  He's back in a stall, gorging on hay, and the farrier will be checking things out again tomorrow.  Hoping that it's not an abscess from his shoeless adventures that's deciding to show up now that we have a show coming up.

Horses, huh?  Such a predictable hobby.

So mi papi went into a stall after a good brush down and I got out Miss Thang yet again.  Today was a flat lesson due to some passing thunderstorms and I threw her dressage saddle on.  Trainer A had plans for my stirrups and they didn't involve actually staying on my saddle.  It's for the best, I've been in my jump saddle so much lately, but that doesn't mean I'm bouncing with excitement.

Miss Thang is supposed to be learning to be a hunter, so most of her ride was spent being ploppy while I dealt with my continuing efforts to become a dressage queen.  It really doesn't matter how far back I lean, it seems I need to get back even further.

But I did have a moment where I actually understood some of what she wanted.  She said that she wanted my hips in front of my shoulders, which is what I hear all the time.  This time it was described as my hips bouncing up and forward as the horse trots instead of letting my hips bounce back, which will put them behind me.  Huh.  So I had to get back far enough to let my hips bounce forward instead of bouncing back, which automatically puts my shoulders in front of them.  Add this to my previous chacha lesson and I had a couple of moments where I was actually staying in the saddle instead of catching air.

This all sounds crazy, but keep in mind everything is being exaggerated to cope with the fact I'm a recovering hunter rider that feels completely in balance with my derriere stuck out behind me.  When I look in a mirror I see that my shoulders are just barely behind my hips, but I feel like that cartoon.  But the important part is that I felt what Trainer A wants, so I can start self torturing between lessons.  Assuming Theo decides he wants to stop stubbing his toe every time we suggest galloping in the open.  Weenie.

We did discuss my idea to chase the Bronze medal, and she's on board.  She agrees that Theo can do it, even without the stunning trot.  Sure, we'll never be awe inspiring across the diagonal, but I only need that 60% and I get the feeling that his collected work will look very nice when it's ready.  We nail a couple of halts, I get my rider's score up, and we'll be in business! 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Testing the steering

Today's jumping lesson was all about getting us ready to go to the show next weekend.  We've been working so hard on our grids and gymnastics that I haven't seen a course in a month.  Time to fix that! 

Trainer A was all about tight turns since our show is in a rather small ring.

No, the drawing isn't to scale, because I can't figure out how she got everything to fit in there.  Most of the roll back turns were 12 to 15 meters.  The orange dots are the part of the ring she blocked off with cones, just to make our lives more interesting.  The jumps ranged from 2' to 2'6".  #2 was the plank fence, #3 was the barrel jump, and #6 was the one stride set a bit short.  Notice the turns at #3 to #4  and then at #5 to #6?  Whee, roll backs!  Nothing like a 15 meter turn, one stride straight, and then a one stride combination to make sure you're very balanced.

She also took some video of us trotting around for me to have as a reference.  Behold, mi papi!

That is actually a vast improvement.  He's almost tracking up even though I'm not kicking.  I love a little natural forward.  He's becoming such a stud muffin.

Tomorrow is a spa day to get all of the prep for the show done early.  I also need to actually look at and possibly ride through our dressage test.  After I find out which one we're doing.  I think it's Beginner Novice A, but now I'm wondering if I read that wrong.  Details, details.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Light bulb

Theo and I have been working together for just under two months at this point.  We've learned a lot about each other in that time, but there's a lot we still have to figure out.  I stand by my theory that it takes about a year for a rider/horse pair to really lock in, so we're only 1/6 of the way there.  I still don't know how Theo will react to things, and it doesn't help that Theo is changing very rapidly.

He's gotten more mellow, more chill about life while also getting stronger and more enthusiastic about his work.  We were in the jumping field tonight and he needed to wait while Trainer A grabbed a pony to ride down with us.  He stood and watched the cars go by with me sitting on him, completely unaffected and surprisingly patient.  I tried to get a picture of him on his best behavior, but ended up with the trainer photo bombing the shot.

Oops, hey, teach!

She's on Juice Box who is a fun, fun pony that needed a ride away from the kids.  He was ecstatic to go gallop around and jump a bit.  Theo and I weren't jumping since he did get injured over the weekend.  It was more about getting him out of the ring, working on some uneven ground, and getting in some serious hill work.  There's a pretty steep hill on one side of the jumping field and we spent half of our lesson working on that.  First we walked up and down, working on keeping Theo balanced and on his haunches.  Then we trotted up and down, keeping mi papi nicely balanced.  I was honestly shocked at how well he took the rebalancing half halts and his willingness to sit on his butt on the down hill.  Mister Klutzy actually trotted down the hill in a way that made me completely comfortable after a couple of reps.

After a break and some work at the canter on the rolling part of the field, we had him canter up the hill in a short frame.  He really had to sit his butt down to keep a consistent rhythm up the hill without pulling himself up with his shoulders.

The wild thing was that, instead of shutting down as the intensity went up, a different gear showed up.  After the first two reps cantering up the hill, Theo picked up the canter from the walk and hauled us up the hill with enthusiasm.  The light bulb turned on and the infamous thigh master suddenly realized he was having fun.  I wasn't kicking, I was just balancing and supporting while he cantered around the field and then up the hill.  His shoulders came up and I thought 'holy crap, he feels like an eventer!'.  He had a blast in the jumping field.  I never saw that coming. 

After all of his fun, I hopped off and had him jump the ditch in hand since he has a reputation as being ditchy.  He wanted to stop, but he jumped it both times without too much fuss.  It did make him anxious, but it was manageable and his second jump was perfectly reasonable.  We walked around while the trainer put the adorable pony through his paces.  The gnats were bad and mi papi kept trying to rub on me.  I don't usually allow it, but the bugs were so bad . . .

He rubbed his bridle right off.  One minute I'm walking a pony, the next he's staring at me and I'm holding his bridle.  Fortunately he immediately started eating grass while I tried to stop laughing long enough to get his bridle back on.

After our rather intense ride, Theo got a bath and a massage with liniment.  I suspect he'll be a bit sore in the rump tomorrow.  He really gave me a great ride from a mental perspective.  He didn't fight, he didn't fuss, he just tried his big ol' heart out for me.  He's going to be doing a lot more time on those hills now that I've done them once and have a better idea of how balanced he can be.  Hill work will make all the difference as I ask him to lift up his shoulders.  Considering how much he's changed so far, I can only imagine the booty he's going to have by the time we're stuck in the indoor for the winter.
That big ol', big ol' butt, yeah

It's good to know that I can still be surprised.  I was sure that Theo would be less than keen on doing hill work.  I never thought I'd feel him hit the bridle and carry me forward to something like that.  I don't think Theo is what everyone thought.  At all.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Milestone #2

Milestone #1 was the first horse show.  It wasn't perfect, but it definitely occurred.

Milestone #2?  Getting a saddle that fits well enough that the saddle fitter pats it and says he's competely happy with it.

 Gary Severson, aka the Saddle Doctor of some Eventing Nation fame, was out today and took a look at my find.  We chatted a bit about the article going viral and the saddle I picked out.  I swear, everyone loves this saddle.  He did rearrange some of the wool to get it just right for Theo, but was very happy with the tree and overall fit.  He moved wool away from the shoulders to give mi papi a bit more space, whacked on the panels a bit with a wood beater thingie, gave the saddle a pat, and declared it very nicely balanced.  Houston, we have a saddle!

I didn't even realize how much that had been weighing on me, to not know if I had a saddle that fit him when I rode.  Now I know I've got a saddle that fits him and not only does it fit, it's a jumping saddle.  Score!

And with that last (huge, painful, beautiful) purchase, I have a base set of tack to use on Theo.

My locker got organized this week with some baskets and a drawer so my stuff actually fits.  The baskets get my polos and boots up and out of the way.  Note the large jug of treats to keep mi papi happy and working.

Now I get to move on through my shopping list.  Up next?  Lunging gear.  I need a caveson, surcingle, and Vienna reins for topline development work.  I've always wanted to learn how to do long lines, seems as good a time as any to learn.  I just have to figure our where the heck I'm going to hang up more tack . . .

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Chasing the bronze

The USDF's rider award program is meant to give riders a goal even if they don't have an amazing warmblood that barely needs to touch the ground in order to get across the ring.  Score over 60% and you're on your way, regardless of the fact that the winner in your class scored a 75% or something else insane.  I really like this program.  Fiona actually got a certificate of accomplishment at the Training level because of her multiple scores in the 60's.  The Bronze medal is the award that most ammies strive for since Third Level is achieveable even for us mere mortals with our flawed horses.

Even those of us with draft crosses that pull both front shoes, go foot sore, have pads added, and are now in a stall because their delicate tootsies need a break from New Hampshire's number one crop:  granite.

Good work, Theo.  Hand walking and bute are a go until his tootsies feel better.  Hoof testers didn't show anything specific, so we're hopeful it's not an abscess, just sore from being barefoot longer than expected.  Not that he minds being in a stall with a full hay manger.

There's no reason a sound, sane horse can't do Second Level, even if he is a bit klutzy.  I've schooled Second Level with Fi, so I'm aware of what the test calls for and how the movements go together.  Theo's already been introduced to a lot of the movements while we teach him to carry his own weight.  He's a cute mover and he's starting to handle the mental pressure well.  A decent work ethic is emerging.  There's really no reason at all that he can't be a Second Level horse.  Not this year or next year, but two years from now?

Next year:  First Level.  I think I need one more qualifying score since I ran Fi in the opportunity classes at her last couple of shows and those don't count for rider awards.  Also, mi papi needs some miles.  So my goal for next year is to get him going at First Level, ideally scoring over 60% in First 3.  It's going to be hard, we're going to have to bust our butts all winter, but he's got it in him.  Then we can step up to Second Level.

And who knows, maybe even Third one day.  Theo can get me the first 4 scores, I know it, and possibly all 6.   

I've been unofficially chasing my Bronze medal for years, but now I want to make it my official goal.  Hang it up on the wall, so's to speak. I know there are a lot of ammies out there like me that are bravely stepping into the world of dressage with their non-typical horses and with non-typical training and attitudes.  But we can do it!  Each of us will fight to sit back, will push for every inch of reach from our not so floaty partners, and will strive to nail those square halts to get extra points where we can!  We will ignore the fact that we can't remember which is tranvers and which is renvers, will practice in our jumping saddles when necessary, and will always be proud of our ponies for not executing airs above the ground during the test!

We are dressage riders, hear us whimper while trying to sit an extended trot!

Monday, July 6, 2015


Ever have one of those days where you wake up, look in the mirror, and decide you don't want to adult today?  I had one of those days recently.  I just didn't have it in me to be an adult.  Fortuantely I work from home, so no one cared that I was in ripped, baggy jeans and an Invader Zim tee shirt that I've had since high school.  When it came time for me to head to the barn for my lesson, I kept the shirt but swapped to breeches.  Trainer A promptly asked 'are you wearing an Invader Zim shirt?'.  Evidently I'm usually very clean cut in my presentation at the barn.

At one point, I rode at a barn where tucked in collared shirts were required for lessons.  Collared shirts, usually polos, were also required for instructors when working.  It seems the habit stuck.  I got caught up on my laundry today and took a look at my riding wardrobe.  I might as well be wearing a uniform.

Yes, yes, I have a section in my closet specifically for my riding shirts.  No, I'm not a perfectionist or detail oriented at all.

The light colored shirts on the right are my office shirts.  The shirts on the left are my sweatshirts.  The ones I separated out in the middle are my riding shirts, and they are all collared shirts in some shade of blue, green, or purple.  My breeches are all dark with contrast stitching (except the one pair of tan breeches I loathe but couldn't pass up on when on clearance for $15).  For me to show up to the barn in a graphics tee with a bright green alien dog was probably a bit startling.  It wasn't until I stopped and looked at my clothes that I really noticed how similar all of my riding clothes are.

I also appear to have a thing for plaids. I didn't realize this until looking at the photo.  Why do I have so many plaid shirts?

It's not necessarily a bad thing to have a uniform for riding.  I don't have to do any actual thinking when I dress for the barn, which is a good thing after a long day of work or before an early morning lesson.  It also means every thing matches without me having to do any type of decision making. 

I have the attitude that you should show up for your lesson ready to work.  It shows respect for your trainer.  You wear a snug shirt or tuck it in, your hair is neat, your horse is well groomed, and your tack is tidy.  I typically tuck my hair under my helmet, wear gloves, and use my white saddle pads (as opposed to the saddle pad with hearts all over it).  Having said that, I think I need to shake things up a bit.  Get some other colors in the wardrobe, and not necessarily wear something with a collar every single ride.  Theo would look stunning in some strong red and I actually look good in pink, even if I rarely wear it.  I could even use more royal blue, since that's supposed to be part of my cross country colors, and soft yellow works for me.  No orange, though, I draw the line there.  I'm too pale for that color, it makes me look unhealthy.

Maybe, just maybe, I should start busting out the tee shirts when I ride on my own.  I don't think I can unbend enough to wear a tee shirt in a lesson regularly, but what's the harm in wearing some Hello Kitty on other days?  Other than to my respectability as an adult that's supposedly a responsible member of society, but who needs that?

Saturday, July 4, 2015


Today's riding lesson had all of the markers of being a fun and important one.  First up, the demo saddle going out for round two and seeing if it was a winner.  Today was also forecast to be a lovely day with some clouds and a high of 73.  Trainer A texted me this morning to see if I could ride at noon so we could go out in the field and jump mi papi over some of the natural obstacles.  Of course I said yes and pulled my jumping vest out of storage.

It's funny, but it felt weird to get my vest out and dust it off.  The last time I wore it was when I did the Training level cross country with the Meathead.  It was a tough period for me and I had to take some anti-anxiety herbs to help me get around that course.  Ben was a saint for a lot of things, but cross country was not one of them.  I still get a little muscle weakness thinking about galloping down to that corner and feeling him drop off my aids and dive onto his forehand.  When I went back to riding, I didn't intend to go back to jumping and I certainly never wanted to go back to cross country.  Theo was supposed to be my dressage partner.

But adrenaline addiction is a hard thing to break and I have been happily jumping in the ring.  It doesn't bother me at all.  With Theo's little spooky issue and lack of confidence when facing something new, of course we need to get him out and challenge him.  It was my idea to have our lesson out in the jumping field.  The reality didn't hit me till I got my vest out.  I'm back to cross country.  I can only hope that it's a smoother trip than what I had with the Meathead.

Armed with the demo saddle, the jump vest, and my resolve to get back out in the open,  I retrieved my mighty steed.  Lo and behold, it started raining and I noticed something was a bit off when Theo stepped on the asphalt . . .

No front shoes.  He managed to pull them both this morning in turn out.  He must have heard us planning his jumping and galloping lesson and decided 'well, I'll just take care of that!'.  He is out of work until the farrier can come out, hopefully tomorrow.  Today was the Fourth of July, so no farrier available.

Papi went back into his field and I grabbed the one and only Miss Thang for my jumping lesson.  She recently had a career change from dressage to hunters and it made perfect sense for us to have some quality time together.  We did grid work and practiced her stretching out and doing a nice, smooth jump instead of collecting up and launching over things.  While Theo is unbalanced from back to front, Miss Thang is unbalanced from side to side.  It takes a lot of muscle to keep her steady between the aids unlike Theo, who takes a lot of muscle to keep his shoulders up.  My stabilizing muscles are killing me now, but we had a good ride. 

I do think Miss Thang and I would have eventually learned to work together well, but even Trainer A seems to prefer the way Theo and I work together.  We just jive well and that's not true for everyone that rides him.  He has a long list of riders that have fought him and either lost or ended up hating him.  He's an opinionated pony.  I recently discovered that there are specific people he can't stand and will try to bite if he thinks they're not looking.  I'm taking it as a compliment that when he sees me, I get cuddles instead of being nipped.  I don't think he's in any danger of losing me to the beautiful warmblood mare, even if he does completely disrupt our plans by losing his shoes.  We'll just try again in our Tuesday lesson.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Champagne taste

It probably says a lot about me that when I noticed some soreness in Theo's back under the cantle of the Wintec, I bombed off to the saddle shop within 48 hours to see what I could find.  And find I did.  I love saddle shops.  Our local saddle shrine is Pelham Saddlery.  Hundreds of used saddles just waiting to be pet and purchased.  The employees are educated and helpful, which is fantastic when you're faced with walls full of saddles.  I got lost in the dressage saddles and had to ask for directions to the close contact saddles!

I gave my shopping guide a copy of my saddle fitter notes and we set to work.  Adam Ellis was a new name for me and the saddle I tried was close, but the mono flap look is still not something I'm used to in a jumping saddle.  The knee rolls also seemed a bit close for me, which is very bizarre when I'm so short.  I also sat in an Albion Kontrol and generally liked it, but the cantle was high and made me feel a bit trapped.  The Bates Elevation felt nice, but I still don't trust the CAIR panels.  How do I get that adjusted for my asymmetrical pony?

The winner was a Frank Baines Evolution.  The Evolution is the flatest of the Baines trees.  That, combined with big ol' rear gussets, long front gussets, and a seat that makes me feel like I'm sitting on a cloud, sold me.  Theo's dressage saddle that works well for him is a Baines Reflex dressage saddle, so he likes their saddles.  Alas, it meant I needed a new saddle and not a used saddle.  Don't ask what the price tag said, I might cry a little.  But damn, butt candy!

I zipped over to the barn even though it wasn't one of my days to ride to pop it on mi papi and take a look.

Of course it looks fantastic on him.  He's got expensive tastes.  The only thing under it is the baby pad I used to keep dirt off of the demo saddle.  Yeah, it sits like that with zip zero nada underneath it.  The panels are deep enough at the shoulder to fill in those dips.  It doesn't bridge.  When I saw the spendy saddle on him, I checked for straggling summer campers before cursing like a badly wounded sailor that just found out his life partner is leaving him for his parrot.  Why does it fit so nicely out of the box?!

Clearly I'm a masochist, because I got out the girth and wrapped the stirrup leathers so I could take it for a spin.  Love it.  Freaking love it.  Theo has plenty of room in the shoulders, not rocking or rolling, and my butt was in heaven.  Only amongst riders can I say that without getting a lot of weird looks.  I showed Trainer A my choice and she said 'it's a pillow for your a$$'.  That's pretty much it.  Mi papi tracked up nicely and used his open canter stride, so he seemed to approve.  I popped over some fences and was pleased with how it held my position, considering I was fighting with stirrups that had standing wraps wound around them.  Having a solid inch barrier between your leg and your flap is a bit of a problem.

Oh, and I was dressed for the office.  I was wearing dark slacks and a white shell blouse.  This wasn't a planned ride and I was lucky that my field boots were in my car, since I was wearing ballet flats.  I got a lot of double takes.

Now the question is whether I just keep this saddle or if I return the demo and order up my very own version.  In my dreams, I get this saddle in the darker havana color with the piping on the seat in royal blue (it's in red on the demo).  I'd also get the blocks with velcro so they're adjustable and I think I might get the short flap.  The price is the same, they don't charge for the custom options.  But this saddle is really, really close.  It hasn't been oiled and I rather liked this color on my dappled bay partner.  The rolls were there when I needed them over the scary panel jump and I don't look like a pony clubber.  I'll let Trainer A vote in my lesson on Saturday.  Resale value for a regular flap is better, so I'm leaning toward keeping the regular flap so long as it's not an issue for my position.  Also, a custom model wouldn't be in my hands until August.  That's a long time to improvise.

I'll do my jumping lesson with it on Saturday and let Trainer A have the final say.  As of tonight?  I kind of love it.  It was amazing to get on without any fear of the saddle rocking and rolling.  Speaking of rock and roll . . .

80's super star
I can get away with a lot after 20 minutes of body work.  Theo cares not after a lot of cantering and a vigorous rub down through his neck and back.

I hear from other riders that mi papi is still a bit of a puke with them, but I'm not sure if that's back sore due to rotating saddles or just him getting away with being a bully.  Six of one, half dozen of the other?  Either way, this looks like a really good first ride and I'm optimistic.  Update coming on Saturday, hoping we have a saddle!