Thursday, March 31, 2016


I like math.  There's only one answer and everything balances out.  This is probably why I was good at chemistry and physics in college, too.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  As one side goes up, the other side goes down.  Equilibrium will be attained.

When I was younger, I bemoaned my lack of funds.  I couldn't buy the horse, the tack, the lessons I needed.  Now, I can buy those things.  But all equations must remain balanced.  In exchange for having the finances and access to the things I need, something else has to go down.  In this case, it's time.  Work has been kicking my a$$ for about a week now.  Usually being a corporate analyst means that I don't have fire drills or emergencies, but lo' and behold, I got double smacked.

When the CEO of your company wants a slide, you produce that slide.  It doesn't matter if that means you work Easter weekend and stay online till 10pm three days in a row, you get it done.  It was so bad that I had to hand off babysitting the project for a couple hours on Tuesday so I could have my lesson, then took calls while untacking Theo and then went back to work till way too late at night.  And it wasn't just me, there was half of my team and a whole parade of execs involved in getting these two stupid charts done for a meeting we had zero warning on.  But it's done now, and the follow up fiasco from me having to make up for the lost three days is also done now.  I'm finally caught up and can relax for the first time in a week.

Poor Theo got some extra days off, including yesterday and possibly today.  Last night I had to stay up and get today's presentation finished.  Today?  I'm depressurizing.  A week of going all out has left me with a head that feels like it's stuffed full of cotton.  I'm kind of missing his school horse schedule since he is now almost completely dependent on me for exercise.  Oh yeah, there's that part of horse ownership.  Forgot about that.  But tonight, I'm not subjecting him to my stressed out, freaked out, overloaded, desperate for control mind.  I'm cleaning my fish tanks.

Fish tanks are great for people that want to micromanage.  Unlike mi papi, my fish complete support me micromanaging my water chemistry and feeding schedules.  I have a controller on one of the salt water tanks that lets me adjust temp, light schedule, and pump settings from my computer.  I get email alerts if any of the sensors pick up something going out of whack (temp, pH, or salinity).  I have line charts of my pH over time so I can try to manage the daily swings.  Have I mentioned how much I love numbers?

So instead of taking out my desperate need for control on my poor, stubborn, occasionally violently resistant horse, I'm rearranging my tanks, giving them a thorough cleaning, and doing something about the phosphate levels in BOTH salt tanks.  So much algae.  The weather is gorgeous so I spent this morning checking in with the poultry.  I may zip out the barn tonight, depending on my pressure levels.  The weather is too nice to miss.

At least for a few days.

Aimee!!!!  This is your fault!!!!!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I am the worst DQ ever.  Just had to get that out of the way.

Yesterday saw the return of the figure eight exercise.  We're working hard on being able to change the flexion back and forth and hooking that into the idea of changing leads.  Specifically, changing leads over fences.  The idea is that if we can get it over fences, then we can get it over poles, then he'll have the idea and we can introduce it on the flat.  It's a good theory and a fantastic check for our progress on making him even and forward.  It also has the side effect of improving our simple changes when I botch the change over the jump.  That happens a lot.
For some additional fun and entertainment, Trainer A decided to decorate the fences.  One got some barrels, one got a really gaudy blanket I donated to the barn, and another was set up with the blue tarp like a liverpool.  Theo's grown up so much that I decided to not let him have a peek or warm up over the scary fences individually.  Trainer A added the decorations once we were ready to start and mi papi jumped them cold.

I'm so proud of him, he jumped every one on the first attempt.  He did put his head between his knees to get a look at the liverpool in mid-air, but that was pretty adorable and he didn't hesitate so I was happy. 

We got our changes from right to left (even over a ground pole one time, progress!) but not left to right.  We've never gotten it left to right.  He prefers to land on the left lead and doesn't really get what I'm after when I start trying to ask for the lead change. 

My last round and I was determined to do better on my changes.  Trainer A told me I was making it too complicated and that she wanted me to do exactly one thing at take off:  cue with the new outside leg.  Out of habit I do the rest, so I needed to try to keep it simple and not throw Theo off balance with my hula dancing while trying to set up the change.  Way too much thinking and wiggling going on.

First one was right to left.  Nailed it.  Second one, left to right.  Got it behind but not in front.  I fixed it and then turned to number three.  I was fussing with the bend and didn't get my line right.  I knew the distance was borked as soon as we were out of the corner.  Well done, Catie.  I could either come back and add or move up and take the longer distance.  Since it was the liverpool jump he was still eyeballing, I wanted to ride in with a very forward feel.  I'm also a card carrying member of the 'when in doubt, leave it out' club.  I sent him forward with a big squeeze, keeping in mind his history of sucking back or flat out refusing fences that he's eyeballing.  But somehow, I just knew he was going to go over it even with my screwed up approach.

I should have remembered the canter lengthening practice we'd been doing.  Unlike the past where Theo would lag, then go forward when asked to move up to a jump, he surged forward right off the mark.  One, two, three, LAUNCH.  The distance was on the long side but not a flyer since we'd made up so much ground.  Theo snapped his knees to his nostrils and I swear his belly was around the tops of the standards.  That pony has some springs!  It was like he was suddenly shot out of a gun, ka-pow!

I heard an enthusiastic 'nice ride!' when we landed with the correct lead.  It took a second to get him back, he was very excited about how big and powerful he was.  We came around to jump four and he was right up in the bridle.  That helped a lot because I could focus on straight with forward already in place.  Three, two, one, new lead!  Theo landed on the right lead as naturally as anything.  I whooped and jumped off of him while he was still trotting to give him cookies and loosen his girth.  Finally, after months of trying, we got the left to right change. 
Trainer A was very pleased.  She spotted some things since she was watching from a different angle than usual and noted we drift out when coming to a fence on the left lead.  Once he was really rolling, I rode him very straight (because he's a lot of horse when he's up) and that made the change easy.  So it's not so much about getting the change as it is about getting him truly straight to the jump.  It looks like he has the idea now.  Ugh, more straightness work.

But if that's what it takes to make my pony launch like a rocket over a liverpool, I'll take it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Theo has had a field all to himself for most of the time that I've known him.  There was a short bit where he shared it with a Hafflinger, but that was temporary.  The rest of the time, Theo had his little territory with no company aside from the mares in the adjoining field.  Mostly because he's a big fat bully.  When he does go out in group turn out, he's a bit of a loner except for when he's inciting chaos and getting the school geldings to run around.

He has a new roomie.

Giving me some classic pony side eye

This little speck of adorable needed a neighbor for the times when all of the other horses go in due to weather.  Mi papi never goes in, since he has a run in and tries to eat the stall when he's in overnight.  I think he's part beaver as well as part Labrador retriever.  I didn't know he had a new roomie until I went to turn him out after dark and heard a whinny from his field.  I couldn't see who was out there and so went back to the barn to make sure there wasn't a lost pony in his field.  Nope, his new roomie was just happy to see him.

Not that Theo shares the affection.  He has been joyfully explaining to the roomie that everything the light touches is his domain.  The run in.  The hay.  The ground.  Everything is his.  That over there?  It's his.  And that?  Also his.  While his roomie calls after him when he leaves, Theo struts around because now he gets to be in charge of someone.  I think he's happier with a roomie.  That doesn't mean he plays well with others.  That's okay, I got an 'N' in that when I was in kindergarten, I get it.

Hopefully the roomie will get to hang out for awhile.  Theo really does prefer to have company and the roomie appears to be made of some very stern stuff.  According to the teens stuck helping train him, he could use some bossing around.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


I discovered something new today in my dressage lesson.  It was an ah-ha moment and something that I think will help me quite a bit as I move forward with Theo and we scrabble our way up the levels.

Theo's butt is a barometer.

Hear me out.  Today we were doing turn on the haunches and turn on the forehand.  Mi papi is the master of turn on the forehand, but turn on the haunches?  That busts a circuit in his little brain.  It's sticky turning right, but turning left?  Holy smokes, the pony seriously doesn't get it.  I can see the smoke coming from his ears when we work on this.  We've graduated past needing a wall and Trainer A helping from the ground to get some steps, but it's still rough and very dicey.  He really doesn't enjoy these lessons.

As we went and the pressure built, his butt dropped.  The closer we got to his threshold, the less horse I had behind the saddle.  As Trainer A put it, his croup dropped three inches while we worked on turn on the haunches.  He was seriously considering blowing his top at one point because I kept telling him to not swing his haunches when I wanted a turn on the haunches, but that's what he's good at so he kept offering it.  No, no, not what I want, try again.

It was a relief when we got some good steps and could call it a day before we dropped too far.

So as the barometer drops, the chance of storms increases.  Works out just like the real thing.

After our lesson, I took mi papi out for a nice mosey on the trails to convince his butt to come back up and to forgive me for pushing his brain that hard.  I also spent a good five minutes rubbing his ears after I got off while his head hung down around my knees.  I think he forgave me.

He's lucky he's so cute

Thursday, March 24, 2016


Most of the time, I'm Theo's support system.  He sees something scary, I pet him on the neck and tell him he's going to be okay, he takes a big, snorty breath and we're okay.  He's pretty willing to take my word for it when I say that the big scary thing isn't actually going to eat him.

It's not very common when we trade places.

The indoor ring was crowded with lessons so I went out to the outdoor ring by myself.  All of the horses were rather on edge with a twenty degree temperature drop, high winds, and a storm system coming in.  Theo was, as usual, minimally affected.  He wasn't particularly agitated on the cross ties and walked around the ring with the correct level of buzz to him.  A little edge with him is a nice thing most of the time.  He felt like he had just enough extra energy to make him even more fun. 

I turned down centerline and asked him to step over.  At this point I heard some ruckus and looked up to see a couple of horses losing their minds in turn out.  As I've mentioned, I have a phobia about horses flipping out in turn out while I'm riding.  I had a very bad fall as a teen due to a horse in turn out flipping out and my horse throwing me hard.  I saw the horse bolt, Theo's head popped up, and I bailed mid half passe.  I barely registered what was going on before I was standing next to Theo as opposed to sitting on him.

Theo turned his head to look at me in a befuddled way.  What the heck was I doing?  As I stood there waiting for him to follow the lead of the five horses in various fields acting up, Theo stared at me.  He didn't care in the slightest.  Huh.

I sheepishly got back on.  We went back to work and Theo snorted a bit because I was acting weird but he never actually did anything about it.  We even did our canter work while the outside horses were jumping about.  When they got really bad (rearing and galloping about chasing each other), we stopped to watch.  Theo never did anything about it.  He sat there and watched while I played with his mane and reminded myself to breathe.

It was kind of cool, in a stressful way, to actually stay on my horse while other horses were flipping out.  I haven't done that in years.  Maybe mi papi can help me get rid of my ridiculous habit of jumping off of my horse without warning.  Maybe.  It would be nice.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I'm the worst DQ ever.

On Tuesdays, we jump.  I share that lesson with the young lady working with a TB that has some over excitement issues when jumping.  It's a pretty safe bet that I'll be jumping every time and I show up with my jump saddle like clock work.  Sure enough, Trainer A was constructing an exercise for us while we warmed up our beasts.

My warm up has changed to something where we walk for the first 7 - 10 minutes, flexing in both directions and doing lateral work to get him stretched out and marching forward.  It seems to be working to get him in the right frame of mind and gets his muscles warmed up so he isn't too terribly resistant when I tell him to carry himself and, oh, I don't know, bend.

Trainer A set up the ring like this:

I really need to get the tablet back up and running

Yay, figure 8s forever and ever.

First we trotted through the exercise with ground poles to get the idea of the exercise.  Then we trotted through with the fences at 2'.  Then we cantered through with the fences at around 2'6".  Theo hasn't jumped in about two weeks so he was all about this exercise.  I've also swapped to a small Prince of Wales spur after I found a rub on Theo from my longer, roller type spurs.  I also took my spurs away last week to remind myself to keep control of my leg.  Riders that don't have control over their legs don't get useful, helpful tools that make their horse go.  Hopefully that reminder and the shorter spur will prevent any more rubs.  The sharper feel of the PoW spur certainly keeps Theo up and in front of my leg, though he does throw in the occasional buck in protest.

There was no bucking today, just a lot of forward and locking onto fences.  We haven't jumped outside of a grid in a long time so I was relieved to discover I haven't lost my ability to ride down to a single fence from an angle off of the wall.  I think it was halfway through this exercise when Trainer A started to say 'shorten u -- never mind' that I realized that all of that grid work has completely changed the way we jump.  I sit right to the base of the fence now and Theo comes out of the corners with his shoulders higher than his hips, sitting down in preparation for the question.  His ears are pricked, his engine is engaged, and I can adjust his stride with a shift of weight or a half halt. 

It's so weird to jump a course with my butt in the saddle, but I can't argue with the results.  I'm certainly not getting in the way, judging by the way he jumps.  He tried to take over at one point and I had to half halt him back to get his mind back on our game plan instead of barging about like a loon.  Setting him up to land on the correct lead was the real challenge, particularly when he dislikes landing on his right lead.  By the end we had it, swapping leads as needed through the exercise.

So for all of those years where I refused to believe the idea that jumping was just dressage with hops in the middle, I apologize to my poor, frustrated trainers of the past.  I get it now.  Perching and floating doesn't work as well as sitting down and managing the horse.  It's just a hell of a lot harder to do.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring in New England

No, Mother Nature, this isn't cool.

I guess it's a good thing I spent Saturday outside galumphing about because we won't be doing that again for a bit.  I guess it's also a good thing mi papi's snow shoes weren't prematurely removed, like I was considering doing.  That's New England for you.  Wear a dress on a nice day for March 20th after taking your horse out on trails that are in solid shape, get out your snow shovel on March 21st.  Happy Equinox.

I guess this is her way of suggesting that Theo and I get our butts back in the arena for something more productive than soccer games.  With Trainer A back, it's nose to the grindstone time.  One month until our first show of the season.  Entries for the recognized shows start in one week.  I need to figure out what tests I'm going to do.  I'm thinking Training 2 and 3 at that first recognized show because Theo has no show record.  Well, he has no record of successful completions.  He kind of jumped out of the ring in his one attempt at going to a recognized show, back before I met him.  I'm glad he didn't have a horse ID yet.  He can start his new ID as a blank slate and we can pretend he never did that.

It's kind of fun to go into a dressage show with the goal of 'No E'. 

As for the schooling show, I'm kind of leaning toward Training 3, First 1.  We've got the moves for First 1 and I think he's developed the carriage they'll be looking for.  It would be a good baseline.  On the flip side, I remember Theo's first outing last year.  I spent an evening with a heating pad after all of that bronc'ing and spinning.  I could very well be striving to simply avoid elimination yet again.  But I suppose it doesn't matter which test I'm doing if I'm going to be demonstrating airs above the ground.  Or I'm just making an excuse for myself to move up sooner.  I might be a bit eager to move back to First.

I don't know why.  That just brings us closer to the sitting medium trot hell known as Second.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Show pony

You know you're starting to make real changes in a horse when the teenagers that would previously dodge having anything to do with him start talking about how much he's changed.  Miss Thang's rider stopped to give Theo a pat and said 'oh, wow, look at that neck!'.  A different teen was watching him work today and said 'wow, he's just fancy now!'.  His former owner's husband commented on how much muscle he's picked up.  Everyone was surprised when Theo came cantering off of the trail to cut through the Ritz with his ears up and absolutely no kicking (the very last spike on the chart).

400 mpm baby!  Yeah, I was surprised, too.  He hit his stride while we were out and was very happy to keep cantering with no management from me.  The stronger and more experienced he gets with uneven ground, the less I have to manage his every step.  We had just one serious trip once we were out on the trails and he recovered nicely.  He's still a bit more pokey going away from home, but we had a fantastic, willing canter down the rail bed on the way home.  I was able to get up off his back in a half seat, keep my reins short, and just enjoy the beautiful spring day while he powered along with pricked ears.

I take back everything I said about him not being fit enough.  I still didn't really get his heart rate up today.  I guess I'm going to have to branch out and find more places to play if I want to truly open him up or do hill work to get his heart rate up into the 60 - 70% range.  I don't think I can get much higher than 400 mpm on the rail bed without endangering walkers.  You can see on the speed where we had to turn around or stop to let people pass by. 

All of my work is paying off, though.  I did some ring work before I headed out to hit the trails and Trainer R saw me working the canter.  Her exact words were 'his canter is sweet, three beats and everything!'.  The best part was that I wasn't kicking, nagging, or begging.  I was just sitting there, working on keeping my keister in the saddle for all three of those beats.  She's always razzed us on his canter and it's tendency to go four beat, so it was fantastic to hear that.  We worked the counter canter in both directions and his simple changes on a four loop serpentine.  I really, really think he'll be ready to debut First level this year.  We'll do Training for the championships, but I expect to knock off the First level scores I still need.

On Monday we have meetings to lay out plans for our first couple of shows.  Entries open on the 28th.  The show season is coming up very, very fast all of a sudden.  I still need to go shopping for white breeches.  I don't wanna, but if I'm going to play with the big kids, I need to look the part.  White breeches, stock tie, matching spur straps, the whole bit.  Theo's already set with two show pads, a saddle, bridle, and girth.  Time for me to catch up with his wardrobe.

Has anyone else seen the previews of the PS of Sweden spring collection?  I'm going to be so broke!  There's a reason I don't have nearly as nice of a wardrobe as my horse.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Get fit, Theo

Theo's heart monitor arrived and after work beat me up for a couple of days, I finally got a chance to use it.

So, so easy to put on, by the way.  One pad under the saddle, one pad attached to the girth, done.  Bluetooth picked it up on my phone and away we went.  It was a breezy but sunny day so I went into the outdoor so I could get a clear look at the data.  Working in the indoor can throw the speed off sometimes.  Not a surprise when in the country in NH, reception is always a bit hit and miss.

How fit is Theo?  Here you go.

An hour of work and he didn't break a sweat.  Sigh.  But on the plus side, my canters were faster than the last time I rode him in the ring by about 30 mpm.  Progress!  I'm seeing now why his cardio isn't improving.  We never get his heart rate up above 60% of the maximum.  The highest we got was 127 bpm.  His resting is about 46, by the way, and he got back to 55 bpm in about five minutes after we stopped cantering. 

The very end of the chart when we went completely still is when he decided his ear itched and he managed to take his bridle off.  Yes, that's a thing he does on occasion.  It doesn't even freak me out at this point, though everyone around me was rather shocked when they noticed Theo was standing about with his bridle and fly veil on the ground.  Mi papi is a dork.

So we need to up the anty a bit in his work outs, at least for a couple of bursts.  He's not getting that out of breath and he's clearly working within his current fitness level.  He's just a lazy bum, which was what I figured.  Since he had his shots I mostly took it easy on him, though I did insist he canter along like he had somewhere to be.

Poor Theo.  He's been caught fibbing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

While the cat's away . . .

The mice will play.

We're on day four of Trainer A's vacation.  Theo isn't too sure what to think of me unsupervised.  Instead of a lesson yesterday, he had some ground work.  I had him in a surcingle and triangle reins, working on his transitions while having absolutely steady contact.  He gave me some lovely stretching over his back, stepping up underneath himself and releasing through his sides. 

Then he gave me a scoot at the canter, like we've been encouraging.  Cool, let it all out, mi papi.  Right up until I trip over my own feet in the outdoor, fall on my face, spook my horse, and send him careening up to the barn in full lunging gear.  Fan-freaking-tastic.  Fortunately he went in a straight line up a wide path and no harm done.  The girls at the barn grabbed him and I made the walk of shame to retrieve him.  And explain what happened.  No, Theo did not freak out and get away.  I fell down.  All on my own.

Does that count for my horse fall total?

I got on him bareback to cool him out and ended up showing some kids that it's possible to trot and canter without a saddle or bareback pad.  Theo thought I was a dork.

Today I decided to give him a serious business dressage school since the vet was out for spring shots and I'm sure he'll be sore and/or feeling icky tomorrow.  It's ridiculous the number of shots a show horse has to get.  We also did Coggins and the pull to have him tested for Vitamin E and selenium levels.  He looked like a pin cushion, both hips and both sides of his neck got hit.  And one right up the nose.

He was a bit resistant when we started, heavy in my hands and kicking out when asked to canter on, but once he was mentally with me, he gave me some nice work.  I'm still working on increasing how long he can hold his canter.  His strength improved more than his cardio this winter, so he has to build up some endurance.  We did connecting circles, flexing one way, then straight, then flex the other way.  That broke up the resistance and got him to stop hanging on my hands.  Some half passe at the walk to get him the heck off of my leg and then we lengthened across the diagonal.  Spiffy!  Also some practice free walking and doing the stretchy circle.  He has to learn to not dive down at the first sign of a release.  Forward and out as well as down, mi papi.

And then we played soccer.

He's getting the idea.  Of course I couldn't record video when he had the idea enough to chase the ball and shove, chase the ball and shove.  He was considering trotting and I wanted to keep both hands on the reins in case he got too wound up with the fun.

Theo says:  Hurry home and save me, Trainer A!  This woman is crazy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Shopping run

One of my horse friends just completed her MBA so I took an afternoon off to go celebrate with her.  Beers were on the schedule, of course, but horse people can't celebrate an achievement quite like other people.

Dover run!

Just when I was done bragging about having Pelham Saddlery within driving distance, I also have a four story Dover retail store to get lost in and lose all of my savings.

First thing I saw, C4 belts!  Big display right up front, never actually handled one of these before.  Huh.

Show clothes!  My friend is the one that just got the WB dressage horse from a client and is showing this summer for the first time in years.  At first she was horrified by all of the color options in dressage now, but after meeting a Grand Prix coat in a gray-steel blue with a blue velvet color and some blue piping to go with her chestnut, she's coming around.   She is NOT okay with the ruffle shirts or snakeskin printed breeches, though.  Just no.

We were both equally horrified by this bridle.  Really, who needs craft herpes in your tack room? Yes, the nose band and the reins are glittered to go with a cheap, tacky looking multi-colored browband.  Hideous, and I'm usually pretty open-minded on these things.

I was pretty good, for me.  I got two dressage pads, a pair of schooling gloves, and a loose ring bit.  Those were all on my list.  One of the pads I found in the bargain basement for $25 is white and has silver crowns embroidered on it.  I love it.  The other is a nice, quiet plum color with gray binding.  I also found an Ice fil show shirt for $20.  On the way out, I had to get this.

I didn't own any purple belts, it was past time to fix that with the amount of purple I wear.  I'm still getting used to the plastic thing, but I rather like it.  I think I'll get some more.  Nice to not have to worry about buying the right size.  We'll see how it holds up once in use.

After our little shopping spree, we had many, many beers in celebration of her smarts.  We also talked about the show season.  She may be shipping and stabling with us at the NEDA spring show, so I'm excited!  We haven't gone to a show together in ten years!  Of course, back then, we were both riding jumpers.  Things have changed just a bit.  But I promised I would keep my outfit appropriately monochromatic so she doesn't have a heart attack at her first outing in a long while.

But there's this juniper colored coat with white piping that would look very nice . . .

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Twinkle Toes

I am seriously the worst student ever.  Got these in the mail and wore them to my Saturday lesson. Trainer A had no idea they were coming.


Trainer A's Response:


Double take.

"Lesson is over.  Get out."

Mission.  Accomplished.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Fancy pants

Trainer A is heading out on vacation.  I know, I know, who authorized that?  Unsupervised for a whole week?   That's crazy talk!  But it's happening.  My lessons for next week have been turned into training rides for mi papi, one this week and one the week she gets back.  Because three lessons in a week is crazy talk and I thought she was over due for a look under the hood.  Theo's changed a lot since we started working together and aside from a few minutes trying out my jumping saddle, she hasn't sat on him this whole time.

I showed up to spectate.  Okay, I actually showed up because I realized late Thursday that my tack is scattered all over the place in a system even I can't fully understand or use and if I wanted her to ride in the potential new to me dressage saddle, I should get it out for her and put some stirrups on it.  Old groom habits kicked in and I handed her a fully groomed and tacked up horse.  I also dropped off a bag of meringues on her desk.  Bribery?  Absolutely.  I'm not ashamed.

I sat with my coffee and bacon and gouda kolache from the local bakery and watched her work.  It's the most yuppie horse owner moment of my life to date.  I was even wearing my River boots over my jeans and a polo.  Not ashamed of that either.  I work long hours wrangling data sets to earn the right to sip my coffee, nom my breakfast roll (still warm), and enjoy watching someone else explain the rules to Theo while he makes faces, kicks out, and protests the whole using his body evenly concept.

But guys.  Guys.  I own this incredibly lovely beast.

It was so fantastic to sit there and see him go through his paces.  When he really sits, I realize that this horse has a ridiculously short back and is just made for traveling uphill.  And unloading people, but that's what happens when they're very short coupled.  He really is all legs when he's moving.  No kidding he can sit and turn on a dime.  He actually stretched from his shoulder at one point and I saw a faint glimpse of a future medium.

Good grief, I own that fancy thing!

My homework while Trainer A is away is to work half passe, not leg yield.  Mi papi is the master of drifting and blowing through legs.  Leg yield makes that too easy for him, so we're going to swap to half passe for awhile.  Also turn on the haunches.  No more nagging him to get off my leg.  If he's drifting, walk, half passe, continue on.  I also need to work on the idea that when I get on, we have started to work.  No more lolly gagging about while I settle my gloves and gossip.  I'm on, we work.  Once he's on his game, he can stretch and take a break.  The mental difference was eye opening.  She wants him to march away from the mounting block so he knows this isn't one of his plopping school pony rides.

After this ride, I went and paid for that dressage saddle.  Trainer A is happy in it, I'm happy in it, and Theo moves great in it.  Being off of the saddle market is such a relief.

I think a weekly training ride may become a regular thing.  Theo loves Trainer A and worked his pony butt off for her.  She also mentioned that he feels different than he looks, so it will help her manage him in the future.  It's not in his shoulders, it's right under the saddle.  We have a disconnect between the back and the front.  The front is strong enough, the butt is strong enough, the connection right under the seat is too weak.  Time to work those abs and get that topline in order.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I Love Data: KER ClockIt

Seriously, it's an addiction.  My job is to analyze data.  On the weekends, I do data analytics competitions (  Many nights see me cursing at my homework as I complete my data science certificate.  Any time I see a chance to collect data, I jump on it.  I love wearing a Fitbit since I can track my activity, weight, and calorie intake over time all on one chart.  But what about Theo?

Behold, my latest addition to the training arsenal:  KER ClockIt.

KER ClockIt is an app I installed on my phone to help me keep track of Theo's workouts.  It uses GPS to track location, elevation, and speed.  You can also use a Bluetooth heart monitor to track heart rate.  I'm using the Sport version.  It's a free app, though there are extra bells and whistles if you get a subscription.  Fun features include the option to let your coach look at all of your reports and help manage your fitness work (if anyone wants to spy on Theo, just send me your username and I'll set up a connection).

The graphs are from yesterday's ride.  I turned on the app, put my phone in my back pocket, and at the end of the ride uploaded the information.  This is so amazingly helpful!  I now know how far I went (6 miles), how fast I was going (about as fast as a snail), and how long I spent at each gait (I swear we were cantering).

I do have to do some tweaking on the settings for what speed the app uses to determine the gaits.  Theo is dramatic, but slow.  I only hit BN speeds once and that was in his last canter out on the trails.  I spent about ten minutes at the canter during our ride, but his canter is more in the 200 - 250 mpm range right now and the default settings on the app register that as a trot.  I knew we were slow, but I didn't know we were quite that slow.  We'll work on that.  He's got long legs, he can canter at 300 mpm, especially out in the open.  He did take the bit and open up on that last canter, which felt cool.  Too bad I had to pull up before he could really get rolling, footing is still a little iffy with the recent thaw.  He usually does better after a couple of gallop attempts, so hopefully if I take him out to open him up as much as possible, he'll remember that he can, in fact, gallop.

This was kind of embarrassing.  These are the speeds I entered for Theo to get a more accurate view of time spent in each gait in future rides.  Pony is sloooooow.  They're in mpm.

I miss Fi and her 375 mpm canter and her 550 mpm gallop.

But this is good information!  And it accurately tracked my time in the indoor arena, so that was a big bonus.  I now have a better idea of how long I can do a continuous canter on the trails.  About two minutes, end to end.  So if I want to really condition, I need to canter to the end, then turn and canter back.  Walk through the Ritz, up to the road, and back to the end of the trail to let him catch his breath.  Repeat.  The trick is doing it when there aren't a bunch of kids out trail riding on school ponies.  Theo is slow but big and looks very dramatic.  Also, brakes can get dicey once I actually get him up and rolling.  He's a big horse and goes in a double jointed egg butt snaffle.  I don't want to mow down a bunch of tots on ponies.

I'm looking forward to recording the information on all of the loops and variations we use so I can make educated decisions on what to do to get the type of exercise I want.  Hill days vs. gallop days vs. long trot days.  I also ordered a heart rate monitor so I can start to track his fitness that way.  Mi papi is excellent at acting like he's dying of exhaustion when he is, in fact, just lazy.  Some hard data will help me figure out his actual fitness levels.

I love data.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Spring is sprung

Spring is sprung
The grass is ris'
I wonder where the birdies is

~ A little diddy I learned from my mom who learned it from her dad

Horses react to spring in different ways.  Theo decides it's too warm for this nonsense and throws little temper tantrums.  We had some difficulty maintaining a canter in our lesson yesterday with the temps all of 57*.  It's kind of nice that he doesn't get spring fever like some other horses, but a little forward would have been nice.  I sounded like a steam locomotive trying to get him going.

As for the rest of the horses around the barn?  Spring Fever, baby!  I was cleaning up Theo after our lesson when one of the teens called down the aisle 'I think there's a problem in the Ritz'.  I looked up and saw a parent run past the door.  Aw, crap.  Trainer A was out with a trio of kids on a trail ride.  I literally drop everything and take off running through the aisle and out to the Ritz.  Three school horses snorting and wheeling with everyone on the ground.  WTF?  I got out there and took the last horse that was being held by a kid.  Fortunately Trainer A had a helper with her on the walk so the two most wild ponies were immediately grabbed by experienced hands.  I nabbed Bambino from his kid and told him to quit acting up.  He immediately settled.  He knows better.

Trainer A looks at me and asks how I feel about a quick trail ride.  It takes me a second to answer.  I know what that actually means.  It means 'will you hop on the horse that was just acting like a fire breathing dragon and inform him that it's not allowed'.  I don't really do that anymore, but I heard myself say 'yeah, let me grab my helmet'.  I fail at self preservation.  But it's the Bambino, not a big problem.  Trainer A was taking on Juice Box who is like the Energizer Bunny and the teen was taking on the cause of all of the problems who I will dub Spazz Pony.  Spazz Pony is sweet, but when he gets up, there is no down.

Poor Theo was still standing in the aisle, half brushed.  I chucked him in a stall, apologized, and grabbed my helmet.  Since we were still organizing, I took Bambino down to the ring to burn off that excess energy.  I forget what it's like to ride a nice, forward horse, especially after my tough ride with mi papi.  Bambino worked on his lengthen and shorten in the trot, then worked  his canter.  By the time Miss Thang was lunged and ready to go, he was blowing a bit.  Perfect.

Then Spazz Pony decided to spook at Juice Box picking up a canter in the ring and ditched his teen.  We had to pause AGAIN while someone caught the Spazz.  By the time he was collected, the teen decided no trail ride for her.  So we tossed Miss Thang between Juice Box and Bambino (Miss Thang's poor rider just happened to be in the ring at the wrong time and was drafted into a trail ride).  Considering the theatrics Miss Thang gave everyone on the lunge, I was mentally preparing my last will and testament on the way out.  But this is what happens when you know how to handle the naughty ones.  It's like teaching:  you try to escape, but you can never fully get away.  There's a certain responsibility that comes with having that skill set.  What was I going to say, no?  Nope.  So instead I girded my loins and marched out with the others.

It was great.  With confident, calm riders, all three had a lovely walk/trot in the woods.  We schooled past whatever it was in the woods that freaked them out and the two naughty ponies realized there was nothing to act out at.  At least not anything worth acting out when riden by confident adults.  It was Miss Thang's first trail ride of the year so it worked out beautifully that she had two escorts.  She had her happy ears the whole time.  Fascinating to spend that much time watching that mare trot from behind.  Her butt bounces a good six inches while out on the trails with her rider encouraging her to be quiet and calm.  Wow.

We put our horses away, then I pulled poor Theo out and apologized for my ding dong ditch maneuver.  He didn't mind, there was hay in the stall.

Today it's 70*.  Theo is going to do some canter sets to get us rolling on our conditioning work.  I want to do three minute canter sets in the outdoor, but we'll see if he can handle it.  They might be two minute sets.  Either way, it's the baseline and I can start adding on.  He really does need to be Training level eventing fit to go out and dressage.  Time to hit the hills and pray that the spring fever continues to pass him by.  He out bucks anyone but Miss Thang.

I'm also supposed to help breeze school ponies this week to help get the Spring Fever situation under control.  I need to get that last will and testament thing handled. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bravery and bribery

I'm a firm believer that horses are just as brave as we expect them to be.  I expected Fiona to be bomb proof and she was.  It took a bit of time, but she was the type to bravely lead the march over bridges and past absolute chaos once she believed that I believed she was bomb proof.  Theo is well on his way to being the same way, so long as I have cookies.

 I took this one while a contractor was in the corner installing new mirrors.  He had his truck in the ring along with a nail gun and a circular saw. 

The new saddle, we look like dressage types!

Theo helped the man measure some boards by shoving the tape measure around and generally being a nuisance.  A couple of cookies and he decided the power tools were really not worth worrying about, not even the air compressor turning on and off.  The second picture is terrible because he was being a giraffe, but check out his tail.

Theo and I are the king and queen of sucky selfies

I like it, it makes him look all sporty at this length.  He carries it up, so it's just above his fetlocks when he trots.  It came out shorter than I planned, but there were some technical difficulties while shortening it.


Whoops.  Snapped the screw on the scissors in half, had to start over with bandage shears.  His tail is just a bit thick.

As though the construction wasn't enough exercise for the pony brain, I tortured mi papi even more after we moved outside.  It was a beautiful, sunny day so we worked in the outdoor.  Then I spotted the flags along the end of the ring and, well, I'm a bad horse mom.

Moooom, stop!  The other horses are laughing at me!

Terrible, terrible horse mom.  But I bring the good cookies, so I am forgiven.  These things are amazing.

Pony crack

Picked them up at the tack shop at random and Theo will turn himself inside out trying to figure out what I want him to do in exchange for one of these.  I guess that means the training is going in the right direction when he will offer every behavior he can think of instead of trying to mug me.  For these?  I think he'd walk through fire.  Might be laced with crack.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

If it fits

I sit.

I know, lame.

Yesterday I got to go visit Pelham Saddlery.  This place is nirvana for riders, I swear.  Rooms of nothing but saddles.  This is half of the dressage room.

Seriously, there's another side to that, it's the center rack, and more behind me.  Hundreds of new and used saddles stacked up, just waiting for me to find a treasure.  It's actually pretty overwhelming.  I always end up standing in the middle of the room like a deer in headlights until someone takes pity on me and helps me out.  Fortunately, the staff is absolutely awesome.  I tell them what I know, show some pics of Theo, and off we go.  I sat in Albions, Trilogys, Ideals, Kieffers, and I don't even know what else.  They sent me out the door with three saddles on trial.

#1  Frank Baines Capriole, an older style.  It was well below my budget and looked, on paper, like a perfect match.  Alas, lack of front gussets had this one out of contention as soon as it touched Theo's back.  Too bad, it was way more affordable and it actually fit me well.  Such is my life.

#2  Adam Ellis Brio.  OMG this saddle is gorgeous.

I don't want a brown saddle since I already have black tack, but the leather is so nice and it fit my butt wonderfully.  It has the big gussets front and back, flat tree, and everything I'm looking for.  Unfortuantely, it was a bit tight over the withers, he probably needs a MW instead of a M.

It was close.  So close.  If someone with a flat backed horse needs a dressage saddle, consider the Adam Ellis.  Trainer A commented on how beautiful it was and the saddles that came afterward suffered by being compared to it.  It was also the most expensive, so I thought for sure it would fit.  No dice.

#3  Frank Baines Reflex Deluxe.  This is the exact tree of his current dressage saddle, just with some upgrades and a bigger seat.

So yes, it fits him.  The front gussets are currently the size of pillows, but so soft they just wrap around him.  He moved very nicely in this.  My saddle fitter will probably poke and rearrange, but it was clearly reflocked recently because it's very squishy.

The leather upgrade appears to be buffalo and it has the big velcro blocks and the front gussets are an upgrade.  So overall, a superior model to his current saddle that also fits my keister.  Trainer A was quite pleased with my position in this.  I have to push my leg forward now after fighting to keep it back in the jumping saddle, but that's actually a nice problem to have.  I remember to put my heels down and end up right at 45 degrees.  It's also a mono flap which is nice for my stumpy legs, I can feel Theo, though it's still a shock every time I lift the panel while tacking.

So this one looks like a winner.  I've got it on trial for a week so I can poke around and Trainer A can ride in it.  Theo's first training ride is Friday.  She said she was happy to see me in dressage tack again and I was happy to be in it.  Sitting trot in a real dressage saddle is a different business.  But that's 2 for 2 for Pelham.  I'll be eating ramen yet again for this since it was right at the top of my budget, but well worth it to have a dressage saddle of my own.

Ramen comes in a lot of flavors, you know.  I'm getting familiar with all of them.  At least I don't need a new dressage bridle in brown, I wouldn't even be able to dress the ramen up.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Horses as Characters: Yusuke Urameshi

This has been making the blogger rounds and I give Sprinkler Bandit full blame/credit for this post.

What over the top cartoon character best describes Theo?

I'm more of an anime buff, so I had to go with Yusuke from Yu Yu Hakusho: the juvenile delinquent turned super hero saving all of human kind, one rude gesture or profane comment at a time.

Why is Theo like Yusuke?

He has the bad boy look down.  The girls just love him on sight.

He can be very cute.

Then they actually ask him to do something, and opinions start to change.

He has a bit of an attitude problem.

Okay, a lot of an attitude problem.

And far too much hair.

But deep down, he's actually quite squishy.

Just don't tell anyone.

And he likes to take on challenges with excessive enthusiasm.

But seriously.  Attitude.  Problem.

But so long as he's learning to use all of that strength for the forces of good dressage scores, I don't mind a bit of rude commentary and the occasional outburst.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Life as an AA horse

Adult Amateur, not Alcoholics Anonymous.  Though there are some days that the second one seems appropriate.

When I was doing the professional thing, we used to tell the horses in training that they needed to be good so some sweet lady would buy them and spoil them rotten and never make them work hard again.  While we always say that every horse should experience being loved by a little girl, I think there's a lot to be said for being an adult lady's horse.

For one, there's more money available, so there's more things like massages.  Papi and Bambino both enjoyed massages this week after being purchased by their adult ladies.  Theo has also had a dentist visit, a chiro visit, and a saddle fitting in the past month.  He's also seeing a decrease in the number of lessons he teaches with a corresponding increase in rides from experienced riders.  Trainer A has a couple of training rides coming up.  It's certainly not a bad gig.  Kids have carrots and hugs, adult ladies have custom ordered tack and Stud Muffins.

Another perk is that adults are better at grooming.  Kids may love the process, but they can't reach everything and they don't really get into it.  They want a horse that's clean enough for tacking up and not getting in trouble at the start of the lesson.  Adult ladies, now they know how to groom.  Curry combs with long fingers and using your shoulder to really work into those hard working muscles.  I can spend an hour grooming Theo easily and he is usually sound asleep by the end of it, head hanging in the cross ties and eyes closed.  The school ponies love it when I help groom because I know how to get through the thick winter coat and find the itchy spots.  I spent fifteen minutes working on a pony this week and had an ankle deep pile of hair all around him.  He looked a bit drunk, eyes half closed and lip twitchy.  Kids are cute and fun, but adults know how to groom a pony.

Kids have unending energy.  I remember as a teen spending the whole day at the barn in summer and never getting tired.  My poor horse would have a lesson, then a couple hours off, then a trail ride, then a bath, then some time off, then maybe some more messing with him.  I loved to braid his mane and tail.  Fortunately he was a tolerant soul and would do things like lay out in the sun for a nap while I messed with his forelock.  My instructor would chase me off so he could have some peace, but I always gravitated back.  Adults have jobs, families, and responsibilities.  We don't spend the entire day at the barn very often.  We come out, groom, ride, snuggle, and go away.  It's a pretty fantastic deal.

Unfortunately, these great perks do come with some drawbacks.  Face kisses and baby talking are commonly a thing.  Hovering and trying to make sure everything is perfect for our precious babies?  Yeah, that happens.  Freaking out over the smallest nick or sneeze?  Oh yes.  Amateur riders also tend to do things like lose their balance or get nervous about dumb things.  And there's nonsense like this:

Welcome to life as an AA horse, Theo.  I'll order some more Stud Muffins for you, since you didn't bite me for my behavior last night.  I saw you thinking about it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Tack Review: PS of Sweden Tendon Boots

I wanted to make sure these were appropriately abused before writing up my review.  It is now time.
Background:  Theo is a princess and I'm a turnout snob.  This requires me to have cute brown boots that match my brown tack to jump in that also meet with mi papi's standards.  I had him in a set of open front leather boots from Dover, but they were hard leather and he didn't approve.  He showed his disapproval by trying to shake the back boots off at annoying times or refusing to walk after being tacked up.  I also noted some small rubs from the boots and decided they needed to be replaced with something softer.  I needed them for jumping in the ring, flat work, and occasional trail rides when I don't remember to change my boots.

Also, I take crap care of my boots.  Seriously, terrible.  I occasionally remember to hard brush them after a ride, then throw them in my locker.  

Product:  The tendon boots from PS of Sweden are a pretty new product for them.  They're sold as a full set and are an open front boot, the type that's popular with the show jumping crowd.  They're faux leather, either plain glossy or a crocodile print, with a teddy lining.  Nothing rigid in the boots.  They come in two sizes, cob and full.  They're held on with velcro.  I got a set in brown croco print to go with my tack and give papi a bit of style.  These do not have the metal tag the current version has, I got mine before those came out.

Review:  I got these for the introductory price for the set, so I really didn't have any worries.  For a full set, they're very cheap.  Even now they're just at $100 for a set.   I got my set at the beginning of December and started using them for pretty much every ride.

So shiny, so pretty, I thought they would stand no chance in hell of staying that pretty once they were at the barn.  White lining?  Ha!  They're not real leather and I figured they wouldn't survive heavy use.  But right out of the bag I noticed how soft and squishy the lining was.  They're shipped flat so I had to velcro them closed and let them sit for a day so they'd quit trying to spring open.

Once applied to Theo's legs, he gave his approval.  No protesting, no kicking out, no attempts to shake them off, and no rubs.  Five-six days a week for three months and still no rubs.  For that reason alone I'd buy them again.  He even protests having polos put on, but these he doesn't mind.

As far as durability, they're better than I thought.  After three months of use and an adventure through a bunch of mud puddles, I chucked them in the washer and even tumbled them in the dryer on low.  This is how they came out.

What do you know, they actually are machine washable!  I did them on the delicate cycle with cold water, so yes, they're still light tan on the inside.  You should have seen the state of them when they went in.  The terry bounced right back, though, and feels great.  That was my most pleasant surprise, that they're just as comfy for Theo after going through the machine.  I'm going to give them some fluffing with the hard brush, then they should be ready to go back to work until the next time I decide to go in the outdoor while it's soaked.

They do show wear from where Theo's kicked them.  Here's the worst of it.

 Yes, Theo does interfere and trip over his own feet, which is kind of why he needs boots.  On the inside of the front boots, the gloss is being kicked away.  The material is still sound, no ripping and you can still see the croc marks, but the shine is pretty much gone where he strikes.  Not so bad in the back (all of that strengthening is paying off!).  The stitching keeping the lining in place is also holding up. 

The velcro is holding up fine.  I do sometimes have the stop part of the velcro pull back, but its not common and Trainer A just pushes it back down when she spots it.  No trouble with boots coming off.  Have had some trouble with the front boots wanting to rotate a bit so the opening faces slightly to the outside instead of straight ahead.  They're flat when they show up and break in to the shape of your horse.  I think I put them on crooked the first couple of times and it stuck. Until they break in, they don't want to wrap around your horse's legs.  I'll keep a closer eye on the way they break in for future sets.

Protection wise, they're good for a horse that occasionally interferes.  There's nothing rigid to them and they soak up water like sponges.  Not for cross country, wet trail rides, or any situation where there may be a serious whack.  They're squishy, stylish, and comfy, not robust or hardy.  I love them for ring work, they shrug off most of the dirt and don't impede movement.  I don't use them outside of the ring except short trail rides when it's dry out.  I also get a lot of compliments on them, very stylish.

Conclusion:  Great purchase, very happy.  They're lightweight protection for ring use and fill that role perfectly.  They're wearing well, though the gloss is coming off in the strike area.  Machine washable without the lining being ruined or matted!  Not recommended for adventures outside of the ring, they soak up water like crazy and then sag.  I'll be adding a set of the dressage boots in white for formal occasions in the near future, much faster than polos and Theo much prefers the boots.