Thursday, November 30, 2017

Stranger in a strange land

AKA How the fuck is a western saddle supposed to fit????

I dreamed about this last night.  I watched youtube videos about western saddle fit for HOURS.  How can this be so hard?  I can fit english saddles without breaking a sweat.  I figured a saddle was a saddle and that I'd have enough basic knowledge to fit this saddle with at least some confidence.  I can tell if an english saddle is good within a couple of minutes.  Wither clearance, shoulder angle, rocking, bridging, balance.  Done.  I should be able to do that on a western saddle, surely.


Let's discuss some details of western saddles I never realized. 

One:  No flocking.  I never really realized that there is no flocking on a western saddle.  That means the little tweaks and adjustments I'm used to are impossible.  Instead, you use your saddle pad.  That 1" saddle pad that feels ridiculously thick?  It's taking the place of the 1" + of flocking under your english saddle.  Your saddle pad is a crucial part of the saddle fitting equation.  Uhhhhhh, what?  My english saddle brain is spazzing out.  Theo's jump saddle is so well fitted I could use it with no pad at all and a loose girth with no real problems.  It's not going anywhere.  Now I'm learning about getting close and then fine tuning with the right saddle pad.

Not a good pad, likes to try to escape

Two:  Saddle pads are not frivolous and easily changed.  These things are beefy and do not fold or bend easily.  They are expensive.  They don't go in the wash.  You don't collect a dozen just 'cause.  You have a saddle pad that is broken in to your horse's back and saddle.  You use that pad.  Done.  You might put a show blanket on top for fancy occasions, but it's very thin and just for show.  My brain hurts.
New (expensive) pad

Three:  Western saddles are long.  So long.  Usually the whole 'not off the last rib' thing is something I don't have to worry about too much.  That is no longer the case.  My short backed horse is a problem in this dimension.  I have a 16" saddle and I'm watching his loins very closely.  I'm having a lot of trouble with pulling my saddle too far forward because I'm so worried about how long it is.  And directly related to this, where the hell is the front of my saddle?  I know its that concho, but I cannot seem to get this thing settled right where it belongs.

Pretty sure this is shoved right up on his shoulders

Four:  Freaking heavy = difficulty in checking the fit.  It's actually really hard to work my hands up under there to check for clearance and bridging.  Is it evenly squashing my hand the whole way?  I dunno, I lost blood flow to my fingers up at the shoulders.  It's also really hard to get my pad up into the gullet because it's also heavy and trying to lift the whole rig on a 16h horse is enough to make my bad shoulder send up distress flares.  I need a stool.  I wish I was joking.

Booty shot (using a stool)

Five:  Flex tree means the cinch loosens after mounting.  The saddle settles bit more when I climb on.  I can't figure out how to tighten my cinch from the saddle.  You can see where this would be problematic.  Slipping saddle pads are my life right now.  And when I tighten it up enough to keep my pad sorta in place?  Theo hates me and I end up with it tight over his shoulders (also see point number three about putting it too far forward because I'm worried about his loins).

Seriously, how could this thing ever be tight on his shoulders?

I still haven't made up my mind about this saddle.  I have a new saddle pad on the way to see if having a nice, thick, wool felt saddle pad fixes the slipping issues.  Theo's back is pain free and he's moving well, so I'm not too worried about him for these test rides.  I carefully palpated his back last night after riding and he just made happy faces and dozed, enjoying his massage.  I'm worried that I'll sink a bunch of money in a new saddle and then a month from now find out it's making him lame.  Because that's how these things work.  And there are no western saddle fitters in my area at all.

Wither clearance?  What's that?

In an attempt to preserve my sanity, I'm taking Theo, his new saddle, and his new pad to my Saturday clinic early so I can have multiple western riders help me out with determining whether or not this saddle is okay for him.  My friend from my drives to SC with the princess is now the barn manager for this facility, so she's offered to pull out a bunch of pads and help me.  By all accounts, the saddle sits too low over his withers, but it's got the right angle for his shoulders.  I get on and off, it doesn't move.  No rock or roll or slide.  Walk, trot, canter, it doesn't move.  I ride with or without stirrups without a problem.  Not very good at cinching my girth yet, saddle doesn't move.  Saddle pad disappears, but the saddle stays put.

The more narrow saddle fit his withers better but was pressing in on his shoulders (too narrow an angle, didn't follow his shoulders). 

 Medium tree that I took no pictures of because I was convinced it was too narrow

Or at least I thought it was.  Maybe it was too far forward and I should have kept it?  UGH.

I've also sent an email and a million pictures to the saddle expert I've been working with.  That poor woman will be earning her commission the hard way on this sale.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Product Review: Bit Butter

Background:  When I was first enlightened to my horse's complete lack of connection in August, his dry mouth and locked jaw were pointed out to me.  Loudly.  A lot happened in those two months, some very difficult, some very helpful, all very enlightening.  At the time, I was desperately trying anything that would possibly help make my locked up, dry mouth horse relax.  I won't mention how many loose ring snaffles I now own or how many things I bought.  It makes me sad.  A little jar of Bit Butter ended up in my locker during that frenzy.

In the end training and an appropriate loose ring fixed the dry mouth problem. Go figure.  But that little jar of Bit Butter did not go in the discard pile.

Theo is very sensitive about the corners of his mouth, insisting on long rubs after rides and getting cracked skin when the air is dry.  Going in a loose ring seems to increase the likelihood the corners of his mouth will get dry/chapped.

The Product:  Bit Butter is beeswax, cocoa butter, and mango butter mixed with some natural oils.  It's marketed for softening the unresponsive corners of your horse's mouth.  You massage it into the corners of your horse's mouth and apply it to the underside of your horse's bit.  It's all natural and edible, so you can use it as well.

Review:  It's chapstick for horses.  Pure and simple.

It smells like cookies.  Straight up cookies.  Or a Yankee candle.  I love the smell and so does Theo.  His ears perk when I open up the jar and that smell gets loose.

It also tastes fantastic.  Both Theo and I use this now that it's winter.  It's a solid chapstick for me and seems to serve me well on cold rides.  It's thicker and more like a coating than what you get with human chapstick, but I find it keeps the cold temps from destroying my lips.  Theo will lick it off my fingers if I give him a chance and sucks his bit in with enthusiasm when I use this.  A bit too much enthusiasm.  I have a scratch on my noseband from him pulling too much of the bridle in.

This stuff is magic on the cracked skin around Theo's mouth.  He loves it when I rub this in and I'm able to keep the area from drying out or cracking preemptively.  I also use it on his bit to prevent any friction between his sensitive skin and his loose ring which he plays with a bit.  I have seen a small increase in foam when this is used.  It won't fix a dry mouth problem, but it will encourage a horse to work the bit because it's tasty and slides nicely at the corners of their mouth.

It's a bit of a pain in the cold since it turns into a brick.  If you don't have a heated tackroom, you can scrape some out and warm it in your hand.  It's much easier to manage at room temps when it's soft and easy to smooth on the bit or the corners of your horse's mouth.

Conclusion: It's chapstick for your horse.  Useful addition to the tack trunk and a little jar will last a long time.  I use it on myself in winter and on Theo pretty much all the time but especially when the air is dry.  It's the kind of thing that's convenient to have on hand in case it comes up even if you don't always use it. If nothing else, it's a life saver when you're at a show and realize you forgot your chapstick.  It tastes awesome!

Monday, November 27, 2017


I'm working on finding a clever term for ammy adult horse owner paranoia.  Ammy-noia?  AAHOP?  There's got to be clever term in there somewhere.  I'm currently using Pony-noia.  I have always suffered from Pony-noia and the fact that Theo is both sound (KNOCK ON WOOD) and lazy as all hell seems to bring it out in me.

I also think he reads this blog.

Doodling during work meetings for the win

Vet visits don't appear to be on his agenda.  I went out to get him yesterday and he gave a big ol' head toss before trotting up the field to greet me.  Uphill, uneven ground, totally even and happy to do it.  Well okay then.  Put his spiffy new western saddle on and took him to the indoor for some work and to have his saddle fit checked.

He was downright lofty at some points.  Cantered without giving me a lot of havoc, still a bit resistant to those left hand circles but it was more of a 'ugh, mom, this is hard, can't I do a bigger circle?' then anything.  He really seems to like his new saddle, he moved very nicely in it.  No resistance, no tension in his back.  I'm losing my stirrups every time I turn around, but that seems to be a fenders thing.  They're pre-turned, but pre-turned for someone with normal length legs.  I shortened them up and boom, not broken in the right way for my little legs.  I'm supposed to use a broom to turn the fenders while my saddle is on a saddle rack overnight to speed up the break in process.

I also can't sit the canter in a western saddle right now. The western trainer thought it was freaking hilarious.  She's watched me ride for a year and I usually look very competent.  Some would even say advanced.  Suddenly I could not sit the canter to save my life.  The saddle is trying to suck me down into the 'pocket' where I'm supposed to be, but I'm fighting it because . . . I'm a spaz?  I dunno, but it results in some rather fantastically bad cantering.  She coached me into it, but I felt like I was laying back in a recliner.  So.  Freaking.  Weird.  Sure, a western pleasure lope I've done, but Theo's fairly active canter?  It's a bit different.

But it's so pretty.  And comfy.

The western trainer hopped on for a bit to take a feel of the saddle.  She really likes it and thinks it fits him well.  We had a disappearing saddle pad problem, but it was a cheapie pad from Tractor Supply I picked up because . . . well, there's no western tack shops in southern NH.  By halfway through the ride, I had to hop off and readjust.  Part of it was my cinch was to loose.  I tend to ride with my girth on the loose side, but that's not a good idea with a cinch and a 3/4" pad, I'm finding out.  I'm also playing with the rigging.  There's three ways to do the rigging (how the girth attaches) and I'm experimenting to see what papi likes best.  The front ring seems too far forward and pulls the shoulders down on him.  The back ring seems pretty far back on him.  I think I'm going to go for inbetween.  7/8?  I have no idea, I am so lost.

Western trainer is dropping off a thick wool pad for me to try out.  The one from Tractor Supply has that fake fleece on the bottom and is very slippery.  I know slipping pads is a sign of saddle fit issues, but a thicker pad should handle it.  Western saddles don't have flocking, so my only option is to take the best fitting tree I can find and then customize the padding, aka the saddle pad.  I've still got some time on my demo if it turns out to be a problem, but right now, I think it's a winner.

And when western trainer hopped on my horse, no spurs, no whip, and put him to work?  Mi papi shrugged and went to work.  Walk, trot, canter with a connection and a halt that she thoroughly approved of.  Even showed off his excellent turn on the forehand.  Turn on the haunches?  Eh, sloppy, but he did offer with minimal fussing.  She really enjoyed him and thought he was unusually well broke for an English horse.  She thinks western dressage will suit him, since he'll be rewarded for his generally laid back attitude.  I'm hoping that going into the ring with the goal of chill as opposed to trying to make him electric will solve some of our spooking and bronc-ing issues.

I was very proud watching him go for someone that's never ridden him before and has a very different background.  And he looked very sound and even and happy.  So I'm going to tell my Pony-noia to chill for a bit.  Instead of telling myself that his stifles are blown and he's going to be retired, I'm adding some SmartMuscle Recovery to his supplements to help him recover from work and writing up a schedule to gradually build his canter back up.  Clearly pony does not want injections.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Finding the line

Theo's canter has been rather busted for awhile now.  He had a nice canter in July, but then I started insisting that he travel on the contact and boom, canter went bye bye.  Like it's an act of multiple gods to keep this horse cantering long enough to get through the First 3 pattern.  It's starting to come back, but it's slow going.

Of course I start looking for a physical cause, especially as he's more resistant left than right.  His right hind has always been weaker and asking him to use his hind end more would bring that into sharper focus.  Okay, except that he's actually pushing off more evenly now than he ever has in the trot and walk.  You watch him go and  there's nothing there.  No lameness.  When doing leg yield down the wall, he'll drag the right hind slightly more to start, but it quickly catches up.  I have to think that a regular old 20m canter circle is easier than leg yielding down the wall. 

So what the hell is going on?  I can't use the whip to goad him on since that just makes him buck and break to the trot.  Today we were working on the idea that I squeeze and I keep that pressure on until he pushes, then I release.  If he wants me to quit squeezing, he must go on.  He did not like that.  It worked and I got some nice canter work, but he is still downright dishonest in his canter right now.  I can sometimes open him up on the long side, but getting him back is very difficult when he's just looking for an excuse to break.  If I take any sort of a break, he stops.

He'll do everything short of the hokey pokey to distract me from him bracing on the underside of his neck, disconnecting, and dropping his back.  If I let him travel with his nose out and hollowed, sure, he will keep cantering.  But connected and with his back up?  NUH UH.

So I keep thinking I should have the vet out, but at the same time, do I want to drop a couple grand trying to find a lameness that doesn't actually exist?  Inject everything and see no change?  X-rays and ultrasounds that will probably find something because they always do, but that something may not be causing him any trouble at all. 

I'm currently struggling to figure out how much of this is Theo reverting to the Thigh Master because this new way of moving is very hard.  I look back and remember that he used to be nearly impossible to get through Training 3 because he was so hard to keep cantering.  And then he got stronger and it was fine.  I'm right back at the start of that.  I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that something is wrong, but with his history and lack of physical evidence . . .

Yeah, he's sore some days.  He's working hard on new muscles.  But this is a bit outrageous.  I've ridden arthritic senior horses that were easier to canter.  And I watch him trotting around totally even and happy.  Ask for the canter?  NOPE, can't do it, won't do it, you're clearly asking too much of me.  Unless there's another horse in front of him, then he can magically canter for four minutes straight, no problem.

And yes, he had his Lyme titer pulled, he's fine.  Exposed at some point, but every horse in NH shows that.  Brand new shoes, all the good sups, saddles fit. 

Am I giving him too much benefit of the doubt?  Do I need to go back to where I was before and rebuild the canter?  Or do I need to call out the vet, knowing that it's going to be a very expensive wild goose chase?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The western saddle blues

AKA I do not know what I'm doing.

Theo's new western saddle showed up and man oh man, it's pretty.  Even the hubby stopped to comment on how attractive it is when it came out of the box.

The walnut color really suits him and the round skirt is better for his teeny weenie back.  So attractive?  Check!  And those stirrups are up short enough for me, so the fenders will, in fact, fit.  Which is a huge relief since I was thinking I would need custom cut fenders.  I did run them up as short as they would go and they were actually too short.  I'm three holes from the top.  Yay?  I'm calling that a yay.

Side note, if you're changing the length of the stirrup on a Circle Y saddle, the outside bit slides up to reveal the part that goes in the holes.  This took me fifteen minutes and some googling to figure out.  My previous western saddle had a buckle.  I flipped the stirrup over and saw no buckle, just a leather covered metal thing that went all the way around.  Took some fiddling to figure out that I slide it up and out of the way.  Then adjust to the hole I want and slide it back down till it kind of clicks into place.  Spiffy, but confusing if you've never seen it before.

Don't even get me started on my struggles with the cinch.  More cinch lessons are coming.

Fit?  Hell if I know.  You'd think I'd have a clue, but nope.  I took a lot of pictures and I'll set a second opinion on Sunday.  Initial feelings without the pad were 'yay, it has the right angle on his shoulders!'.

It's actually pretty similar to the angle on his jump saddle.

That also shows how freaking huge this saddle is compared to what I'm used to.  My second thought (after omg this thing weighs a ton) was 'oh, no, his withers'.

I can get exactly one finger in there.  It's definitely too low.  Enough room side to side and back, but at the highest point, it's definitely too close.  But the pad I was borrowing is a cut back, I decided to try that out.

Huh, look at that.  It's a standard 3/4" pad and I could fit my whole hand under there even when I was in the saddle.  So apparently not that big of a deal. 

View from the back:

Flex tree, so when I sit down it sits down.  Spine clearance even when I'm in the saddle, ran my fingers under the back to check.  Really can't figure out how to check for bridging with a saddle this heavy.  My attempts really pissed mi papi off since I had to wedge my fingers up under there like I was hunting for buried treasure.  I'll have to get it checked by some people that actually know what they're doing.  I'm so lost.

I took it for a spin and Theo didn't buck me off or tell me to go pound sand, so that's a good sign.  Fingers went over his shoulders without being crushed, so the wide seems to be the right call even if it requires the use of a cut back pad.

We toddled around enough for me to try it in all three gaits.  I feel very balanced in the trot, potentially in the back seat a bit at the canter.  That may be me fighting the wider twist that I'm not used to yet.  I've got ten days to see what's fit, what's saddle, and what's me.  I thought it was comfy and was very happy to have stirrups that fit me.  We did some work on his turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, and reinback so we can start working on the idea that randomly offering things to avoid the steps he doesn't like isn't a good option.  I had no spurs and no real plan, so we only worked for about 20 minutes, toddled a bit outside, and called it a day.  It's a holiday after all.

So it fits better than the medium, but not sure if it actually fits well enough to keep.  I've got my friend that knows western saddles available on Sunday and it sounds like I might have a western dressage clinic next weekend.  That will give me some experienced eyes to check and see if this is a winner.

I hope so, it's very pretty.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Little aches and pains

Poor Theo.  All he wanted was to be a bum in a pasture that terrorizes beginners into never asking him to do anything hard.  Instead, he got me.

He was sore after the Vitor Silva clinic, but that wasn't a surprise.  That was a lot of lateral and his booty was feeling it.  Then we had the Mary Wanless clinic less than a week later.  That was three days of carrying himself correctly and displaying forward.  He was a little stiff and sore afterward.  We had two rides working on stretching him out and he felt better.

Friday night I had an amazing ride.  There was a lot of activity in the ring, the wind was blowing, and pony came to play.  He warmed up, hit the bit, and worked hard for about 40 minutes including a five minute canter to help him rebuild his endurance.  Good gravy he was nice.  I was broken hearted that the ring was too crazy for video, but that commotion was what made the ride so nice.  I was using other horses as motivation so I could sit quiet and he just motored along under his own power.

On Saturday?  Sore again.  He worked out of it nicely, but he definitely had the look of a horse that had over done it and had some lactic acid to manage.  While grooming him I pinpointed where he seemed to be having the most trouble.  Thighs and hips, both sides, and a little behind the withers.  Basically his quads were sore like he'd hit the stair machine too hard.  Well, yeah, stretching under his midline and lifting himself would do that.  I had the customary 'omg he's blown out his stifles' reaction, but it's on both sides and he responded well to liniment and massage.  No inflammation, no actual lameness, just moving like a horse that might have been showing off for the pretty QH mare the night before and was feeling it.

So he got some banamine, a massage, and a stretchy ride.  It's actually the first time I've given Theo any medication since the abscess wars and even then he didn't get much because the lameness was intermittent and we were trying to track it.  Crazy, right?  I'm used to performance horses needing a bit of help. 

On Sunday he got a long hand walk on the trails.  High winds and dropping temps had all of the herd up on their toes.  Since I wanted him to chill and mentally take a break, I made it a mutual walk instead of getting on him.  If he spooks while I'm in the saddle, I react.  If he spooks while I'm on the ground, I stare at him and call him an idiot.  Sure enough, he spun twice.  Both times I called him an idiot and ignored it.  He's very polite (with a chain over his nose) and I can hold him with one hand even when he's on high alert.  He had a very nice stroll through the woods, power walking along and seemingly amused by my wheezing.  Pony walks fast.

After his walk on hills and uneven terrain, he got a thorough massage with liniment, some more banamine, and back out into his field.  Today he gets new shoes and I'll try to visit him for some lunge line work.  I have an offsite meeting so I have no idea when I'll get free.  Worst case scenario, he has an appointment with Trainer A in the morning.

It's not unexpected that he'll have sore days as he steps up into this next level of work.  Those new muscles are being developed and shuffling is no longer ever acceptable.  Walk/canter/walk is now just part of his day, not something I do twice and reward.  I expect him to jump up into his transitions.  But at the same time, I have to respect the fact that this is hard and that sometimes, he's going to be sore.  I take an Advil the day after a hard work out, he can have the same.

I wish I got half as many massages as he gets . . . .

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Let there be media!

My lack of video has been bugging me badly.  Tonight I had an empty ring and no real plans for the ride other than to get Theo stretching after his post-clinic break.  This seemed a good opportunity to experiment with getting some video. 

Ever wonder what it's like to look between those super fuzzy ears and have all of that mane flopping around as you canter down to a fence?  Wonder no more!

I looked so ridiculous.  I was riding him with my left hand while filming with my right hand.  I was watching the phone more than my path, thank goodness my horse is a good boy and will steer with minimal help.  I was also in my dressage tack, but when it's a 2' fence, it doesn't really matter.  Jumping just perks him up.

You have to love a horse that will let you get away with stuff like this.  Canter down to a fence with minimal contact and a completely distracted rider?  Sure, whatevs.  Just another day at work for Theo.

For those that are curious what he looks like from the ground, I was able to get a little bit of video by propping up my phone on the arena wall.

He's a little tight in the topline after his two days off and jumping encourages him to brace still, but it is a decent look at how he's changed.  And a glimpse of our simple changes that are really starting to come along.

Now that I know this works, I'll have to add more videos.  I think keeping records is important. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Definition of insanity

I keep doing the same thing, expecting a different result.  I'm insane.  In this case I'm saddle shopping and I keep thinking it's going to go smoothly.  HA.

After my struggles with Smartpak and coming to the realization that my hard to fit horse needed more models to pick from, I branched out and started looking at other dealers of western saddles.  I stumbled onto  Since I'm specifically looking at Circle Y saddles, they're an obvious pick since they have hundreds of saddles.  And a ten day demo program!

They also have an option to email back and forth with a non-brand specific saddle person to help you pick out a saddle.  Their reviews are excellent and I found their expert to be very responsive.

This beauty is ordered and on it's way to me.

We're going to try a wide and see if that works for mi papi's shoulders.  He's a tricky fit with his beastly shoulders and high withers, so fingers crossed.  If it doesn't?  Back into the mail and we send out the gaited version that may better suit his short back, giganto shoulders, and high withers.  The nice part is that they have all of these models in stock and ready to go.  The expert thinks this saddle with a cut back pad has a good chance of working for him.  I think it's pretty, that's all I've got for a contribution.

Since it looks like my transmission survived the incident and I only need the cooler replaced, I still get to buy pretty things.  I really need a source of motivation now that the snow is starting to fly.  Buying tack = motivation, right?

And I get to buy a matching bridle!  And colorful saddle pads!  And a breast collar!  I don't need a breast collar but come on, if I'm going to dress him up, I might as well go all the way.  My outfit is still a complete mystery to me.  Helmet, obviously, but the rest?  I dunno.  There's a lot of spandex and rhinestones out there and I'm . . . not as svelte as I used to be.  Hm.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Cuz your man is back in town

Aside from all of the drama with my truck and going by my lonesome to a rather high end clinic, I had one important take away:

My horse is the freaking bomb and he is back, baby!

Seriously, he's back and it's wonderful.  He was a model citizen for his visit.  He may have tried to escape every time someone tried to feed him/water him/clean his stall, but that's expected when he's suddenly thrown in a stall for three days.  He was a little ticked off about the whole imprisonment part of the trip.  So much hand walking and hand grazing to keep him from tearing the tent stall down.  He would sit with his muzzle between the bars, trying to convince people to come rescue him.

But he stood when told, only had little spooks in a rather spooky indoor with an audience and a heated observation room over his head.  He stood in grooming stalls, completely ignored a stranger climbing up on a mounting block to rearrange me, and napped whenever appropriate.  Young horses pinging off the walls, warmbloods losing their minds in the cold and needing to be lunged, and then there was mi papi.  Snoring.  He cuddled anyone that came into reach and built up his own fan club.

I worked on me almost exclusively because Theo was already in good shape.  He likes to pop his shoulders, but I already knew that.  It's something we've already been working on.  He went about his business and I worried about my quarreling seat bones and wandering chin.  Mary had absolutely nothing negative to say about him and said she was impressed to see a horse of his type showing such nice energy.  Then she pet his neck and said 'she must be terribly cruel'.  Theo says yes.

I was complimented that I didn't have to kick him and that it looked easy and flowing.  He did some lovely strike offs from walk to canter and showed off his starter turn on the haunches.  He looked, acted, and moved like a confirmed First level horse that's schooling Second with some confidence.  He stayed on the contact and, for one glorious moment, we had an actual honest to goodness connection with him seeking and me feeling like I could push my hands instead of pulling while trotting around with his back lifted. 

It lasted about 90 seconds, but it was fucking amazing.

Of course I have zero media, but I could see him in the mirrors and I heard from the other riders.  Theo was calm, correct, and downright zen.  Two people thought I was a trainer.  No, not in a long time, but thank you for the compliment.  He only kicked out once and that was on Sunday when he was tired from using new muscles.  But oh, what a stretch he gave me at the end of that ride.  Muzzle to the floor, back flexing, flicking along in the trot like it was nothing. 

I'll admit to a bit of vindication when Theo was such a super star when he was, far and away, the cheapest horse in attendance.  His fuzzy legs, fuzzy ears, and pony style forelock looked very out of place, but once he was going, no one questioned him.

I guess I'll keep him.  At least for another week.

Mary Wanless Clinic: Day 3

Sunday morning was an early start.  I needed to get to the barn so I could try to arrange for an earlier ride time and get my truck towed to the shop.  I cleared all of my stuff out of the truck and loaded it into my trailer.  Then I got mi papi out for his morning hand walk so they could clean his stall in peace.  Apparently he was trying to escape when they came to clean his stall. 

I'm out handwalking and spot a big flat bed pull into the driveway of the house the barn owner lives in.  Whoops, wrong driveway, but a common mistake.  I see the driver looking around and I put my hand up.  I meant to signal I was on my way over.  He took it as 'hey, come over here'.  There's no route for a truck to come over.  It's their outdoor ring, a wide path for horses and wheelbarrows, and then their beautiful barn.  The driver took the wide path without batting an eyelash.  He barely had inches between his truck, the barn, and the railing of the outdoor.  One of the barn managers was standing there, staring in horror. 

At this point, I was so overwrought that it barely registered.  Of course the tow truck is driving through the middle of the very fancy barn where I will never be invited back.  I pointed out where my truck was and he hustled right off to load it up.

I'm standing out there watching my truck get loaded on a flat bed when I get told that no one will trade ride times with me.  I was the last ride of the day and my emergency pick up didn't want to wait until 5:30pm to pick me up because he still had to haul me home and he gets up insanely early on Monday mornings.  How could I ask him to lose sleep on top of driving down to pick me up as a favor?  I gave up, told him to pick me up after lunch, told the organizers I wouldn't be riding, and hid in the observation room while crying.  Because really, talk about a waste of a clinic.  And it's not a cheap clinic.

One of the organizers found me, freaked out, and tried to make it better.  They offered for Theo to stay an extra night.  Which really didn't help because my ride works on Mondays and that would mean Theo spending another day in a stall.  What if I had a shipper move him on Monday?  I don't know any shippers and I'd have to do it all on the phone from a distance which is terrifying.  Okay, maybe a friend could pick him up on Monday and I could just leave my trailer with them until my truck was repaired?  They're not used to working with people that aren't independently wealthy, I guess.  Yes, I have to go home and go to work in the morning, it's important.  And even if Theo stayed the night, I still need a ride home.

She eventually got someone to trade ride times with me and while it was still going to be late for my ride, it wasn't bad.  I had my trailer completely packed and the plan was for Theo to carry his tack to the trailer after his ride so we could leave right away.

After that kind of a morning, I zoned on the couch and tried to convince myself not to get a migraine.  It mostly worked and I was able to mount up in a generally acceptable frame of mind.  I'm glad I was able to get that last ride in since we were really trying to dial in the combination of keeping my zipper and chin over the middle with both seat bones sharing the back.  Because once I have both of those things?  I'm not collapsing to the left.  It's a correction I can manage on my own.  It's very hard right now, both of my hips were screaming after my ride, but it's a missing piece that's plugging in.  Canter left my right seat bone was off doing it's own thing.  I have to kind of aim it at his left shoulder to keep me in the center.  Then I drop my right shoulder a bit to keep my zipper and chin over his spine and pop, I'm in the middle.  Our canter felt much more organized without me ping ponging around up there.  I felt more plugged in, which was lovely when he decided to spook at a falling broom in the corner.  Theo relaxed and gave me more of his back once I was settled in.

We also started working on how to inflate the right side of Theo's back so that he's more even.  While keeping my seat bones close to his spine, I have to draw more of his barrel to the right.  Like there's a suction cup on the inside of my thigh and I can kind of pull him over with my leg.  It's tricky, I don't have it, but it's a concept for me to play with over the winter.

And then I bolted out of the arena, threw my horse on the trailer, and got hauled home.

I just got the message that my truck blew it's transmission cooler.  $1,600.  Then they can drive it and see if the transmission is okay.  Plus $400 for the tow, but at least that's reimbursable through my insurance.  All I can do is cross my fingers and hope that the actual transmission is okay and we don't have to pay for a new one.

On the bright side, Theo is home and safe.  The trailer is safe and at the barn.  The truck is in the hands of a shop that I trust to not screw me over.  I'm at work, at my desk, safe and sound.  I have lots of sore muscles and some new concepts to work on.  So it certainly wasn't the worst possible weekend.  I didn't end up on the side of the road with a dead truck or anything.  It also wasn't the best weekend.  I did feel like I missed out because I didn't get to watch as many rides, I didn't get to go out to dinner with everyone, and generally was stressed out.

Going to a clinic like this by myself was challenging.  Everyone else had an entourage to take pictures, carry things, be supportive.  I was totally on my own and that seemed to weird people out.  I got a lot of compliments on my nice horse, my riding skill, etc., but I was definitely the odd one.  Also the poor one that had a backyard horse.  Not an easy weekend, even without the truck problems.  I'll have to think long and hard about whether or not I'll try to go next year.  While the progress is great, it's expensive and being completely on my own took a lot of the fun out of it.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Mary Wanless Clinic: Day 2

Trailering isn't all it's cracked up to be.  Saturday morning I got a lesson on how quickly complete freedom can become complete panic.

I headed out of my hotel this morning thinking about managing mi papi and life in a stall.  I was worried about him overheating since I blanketed him so aggressively (a Baker blanket and a medium weight turn out with a neck rug). 

By my second stop sign, I was only thinking about how I would get him home.  My transmission wasn't acting right and slipped twice when I was at stop signs.  My 'service engine soon' light came on.  What the hell?

I completed the twenty minute drive to the farm and called the hubby.  I also texted Trainer A and told her to alert her dad as he was the only person I knew that could haul a goose neck.  If my transmission is slipping, I'm not going to try to haul my most precious cargo.  It was scary enough trying to get around without the trailer.

Fun fact, Trainer A's dad runs a GMC repair shop.  I own a GMC truck.  A couple of texts and I was told to check my transmission fluid.  Yup, it's low.  I located an auto parts store and headed out after the lunch lecture (and a long hand walk/hand graze for my horse that's convinced he's in jail).  At the auto parts store, it occurs to me that I can get my error codes printed.  This is what I get.

That's freaking terrifying.  I went back to the farm with two quarts of transmission fluid and a funnel.  I added a quart, but something was bothering me. The hubby is good at truck maintenance.  Why was my fluid low?  I climbed under the truck and saw this.

Mother fucker piece of shit.  I've got a leak.  And guess what I learned when I sent the picture to Trainer A's dad?  Transmission fluid is highly combustible.  Like diesel levels of combustible.  So not only did I run the risk of my transmission acting up, there was the chance of it igniting on a hot engine.

I called in the rescue crew and arranged for being picked up.  Fortunately I'm only 1.5 hours away from home.  A tow truck was arranged for my truck and another truck arranged to bring my trailer and my precious cargo home.

Oh, right, I'm at a clinic with my horse.  As my hubby said multiple times, I need to get something out of this weekend.  And my session with Mary yielded the usual plethora of observations.

I need to weight my seat bones 50/50.  That's much harder to do when my horse isn't 50/50.  Theo tends to have his right side more stretched out, extended, and not tight.  I need to make his right side as high and tight as his left side.  I shouldn't feel like my right side is just falling off the right side of his back.  If it is, I need to make his right side tighter and higher to support my seat bones as I pull them in to his center.  He likes to bait me, lure me to be less effective.  Also, my seat bones don't like to share.  When my left seat bone comes in to his spine, my right seat bone gets shoved off.  It's like managing temperamental twins.  Share already, damn it!

We refined my feel for a narrowed pelvis.  It's not a minor task and will take me awhile.  I'm taking notes to bring back to Trainer A.  Theo likes to turn like a semi and jack knife at his withers.  He doesn't like it when I straighten him out and tell him to turn like a bus.  As much as he doesn't like it, it's been very good for getting him even behind.  I'm also being told that I've started to drop behind and I need to advance my collar bone.  That's going to be interesting since Trainer A has been yelling at me for leaning forward.

So I trotted around, trying to keep my seat bones together, keep his back as a wide, even shelf, and turn him like a bus.  This will all be important because when I asked him to leg yield to get him off my leg, I immediately felt myself fall off the side of the saddle.  Ah ha!  We may have a clue on where my leg yield troubles start.

And then I limped my poor truck to the hotel, parked myself at the bar, and poured out my sorrows to a very patient lady.

Stay tuned to hear the final installment of As The Transmission (Doesn't) Turns.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Mary Wanless Clinic: Day 1

Despite my worries, I arrived at my clinic all of fifteen minutes behind schedule and with a full seven hours of sleep.  The hubby was done with his distillery showcase a little earlier than planned and I was able to get my own packing done before heading to bed.  By 8:45am, Theo and I hit the road.

I'm kind of glad I was running a bit late.  This was my first foray into Massachusetts with the trailer and the jaunt down 95 is no joke.  Especially not where there's construction and I had a bare few inches between my trailer and the concrete barricades.  YIKES.  The term Massholes is very appropriate for the drivers and Theo had a few less than ideal moments in his ride when I had to hit the brakes to avoid idiots whipping across three lanes of traffic (in a construction zone) to make their exit.  I'm so glad I did my trailer training in New Hampshire.  The interstates in Massachusetts are terrifying in a passenger car.  With a horse trailer?  I totally ordered a margarita at my hotel.

The clinic is a bit bigger this year.  More auditors, more people trailering in.  The parking is a bit nuts and I got some good practice backing in with the trailer.  I didn't manage to get into my assigned spot, but the lady I blocked in is also here until Sunday so it's all set.  We know each other, it's fine.  At least I turned around without help. 

The cold weather and high winds put a little extra pep into Theo's step.  He's in a tent stall this year and he spent about an hour figuring out that he wasn't going to die.  I'm glad I packed his turn out since he's not actually in a barn and it's down to 16* tonight with a wind chill.  His beautiful new Baker blanket is under his medium weight turn out with a neck rug.  Not that he minds, he has a beautiful young mare as his neighbor (he moved his hay to that side of his stall) and all the food he can stuff in his face.

For my ride, Mary remembered him once I said he was half Canadian.  She commented that he was much better at going forward than she remembered and complimented me on my insistence on him being correct.  He was also a very good doobie in the contact, keeping his neck long and his moments of resistance to a minimum.  I was genuinely proud to unleash his new trot in that fancy indoor ring, showing his progress.  Unfortunately, this means that all eyes were on the rider.  Clearly the horse was fine.

I came in with the goal of addressing my collapsed left side.  I've been riding like that for so long that I think I'm straight.  I'm not, so that means I don't know where the center is.  We started out with a check of my current status and I got another compliment for hanging on to what she'd asked me to do two years ago and sends her compliments to Trainer A for helping me hang on to the right things.  Woohoo, not having to start over!

When we started to address my asymmetry, my weight on my seat bones popped right to the front.  I tend to weight my right seat bone, but I'll ping pong around from side to side when turning.  That's incorrect, of course.  So she flagged me over and apologized because things were about to get crude.  I need to stay balanced and symmetrical over his spine.  Okay, yes, that makes sense.  The human pelvis tends to be rather wide and because of it's structure, kind of flops on either side.  I need to tighten up my pelvis, almost make it more narrow so it can stay tight and balanced over his spine.

I need to pull my asshole up into my buttcrack.

Yeah, that's a direct quote.  Followed by a discussion on whether a zipper, sutures, or super glue would be the best visual for me to think about tightening up my pelvis.  Theo voted for super glue.  No, seriously, she suggested super glue and he turned his head around and touched her arm.  So I'm . . . supergluing my butt cheeks together to keep from letting my asshole drop down and my pelvis get wide.

It's a strange, funny way of describing positive tension in the rider.  I'm taking control of my pelvis and putting my seat bones in the right place so they don't ping pong around and keep me off balance.  But suggesting that I should superglue my butt cheeks together is much funnier.

Tomorrow we'll start addressing the fact that I don't know where center is anymore with my upper body.  I can tell when I'm ping ponging in the seat and correct it.  I can't tell if I'm straight or not, and that's a problem.  I can't correct if I don't know where center is.  Mary said she has a plan, that she knows how to show me where center is, so I'm confident that I'll have new descriptors and exercises after tomorrow to take home.

Tonight I'm chilling in my hotel room, thawing out with the thermostat turned way up and recharging for tomorrow's adventure.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The art of procrastination

I travel with my horse a lot.  It's something I do.  Clinics, camps, shows, I'm totally comfortable packing up and heading out with my equine partner.

Keeping that in mind, it is a damn wonder I get anywhere with appropriate gear.  I am the queen of procrastination and this time I might have taken it a bit too far.  I leave tomorrow morning for a three day clinic with a big name clinician at a very fancy barn.

 Said fancy barn with the infamous Dorkzilla

Have I packed?  Not a damn thing.  When I left for work this morning, my truck and trailer weren't even facing the right way.  I hope the hubby has got them turned around.  I'm supposed to be there at 10am, so I need to leave the barn around 8:30am.  So far this is all pretty standard.  I pack up the night before, show up, throw the horse on the trailer, and go on my merry way.

Two things have derailed me.  One, Mother Nature is off her meds and the temps are plunging tonight.  We're getting down to 15* this weekend.  This necessitates some extra packing to keep mi papi warm, even if he's in a stall all weekend.  I had a mad scramble last night busting out the full winter gear, including his square cooler to go with the fleece dress sheet I was planning on packing.

Two, I apparently have plans tonight.  A couple months ago I agreed to go to a distillery showcase for the hubby's birthday.  There will be lots of fancy food and spirits and we'll be out until about 11pm.  I need to leave the barn at 8:30am.  I have not packed.  At least I'm the designated driver so I won't be hungover while trying to load Theo into his trailer.

If you're doing the math and coming up with the same numbers as me, you can see where I'm starting to regret some of my life decisions.

 And judging by my artwork, this is an ongoing situation.  I'm a very slow learner.  I am expecting to get up around 6am, throw everything horse related that I own onto my trailer, and sort it out once I'm there.  At least I don't ride until 4pm so if I'm running a bit late, I'll just miss lunch lecture stuff.  I really don't want to miss anything, but it's better than having the 9am ride time.  Though I'll be wishing for that ride time on Sunday when it's time to ship home.

Fingers are crossed I get there on time with a saddle, a girth, a bridle, AND a helmet.  Anything more than that is a nice bonus.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Saddle shopping hell, trip 3

I do NOT know why I thought shopping for a western saddle would be easier than my dressage or jump saddles.  At least my horse is shaped like a dressage horse and isn't freaky looking at a jump show.  When I took Theo to his Vitor clinic, it was at a working cow ranch.  Everyone thought Theo was gigantic.  Everyone.  That should have been an indicator to me that he's not the typical western disciplines type.

He doesn't exactly look like a QH or a Paint.

Still cute.

It seemed simpler since there was just the two options:  semi or QH bars.  And clearly, with those withers, he needs a semi-QH bars tree.  Clearly.  Easy peasy.

So my saddle showed up and I, with great excitement, tacked my poor dressage horse up.  And realized I still can't tie a cinch to save my life.  Fortunately someone that knows western tack was there to help me check fit and help me get my tack on safely.  With her help, I was able to get things cinched up and hop on for a few minutes.  I'd already ridden him in a lesson, so it was strictly a test ride.  No need for a bridle.  We jogged and loped around with just a lead rope to let me steer.

The saddle fit me well and fit his back well, but was too tight on his shoulders.  I put my fingers under the front edge of the saddle and got a rather painful squeeze.  Damn it.  Such a pretty saddle, but no dice for the magnificence that is mi papi.  Back it goes to Smartpak.

I'm going to order up this saddle's very close sibling that comes in a round skirt since the saddle looks big on Theo's short back.  I'm also going to try a wide to see if we can give his shoulders some room without dropping the pommel right on his withers.  If that doesn't work, I have to start branching out.  There's a gaited version of the tree with extra room in the shoulders . . .

I hate saddle shopping.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Product Review: Haas brushes

Background:  I like pretty things.  A lot.  But with brushes, I usually just use whatever is in my bag and don't think about it too hard.  I've had a random collection of nylon and unknown bristles in plastic handles for most of my career.  The horses are clean and shiny, no harm, no foul.  Why would I drop a bunch of money on a fancy set of brushes?  Because I own a yak and my brushes are mostly patting the surface.  I need something more effective to get down to the skin or I get this 'dead zone' in his winter coat that isn't groomed and becomes a mass of dead skin and oil.

I stared at the Haas brushes for a year.  Literally a year.  Reviews kept saying they really got into the coat.  I finally pulled the trigger and have been using them for a month.

The Product:  Haas brushes are made in Germany from a company that is very old (est 1919) and well respected.  They're definitely more expensive than your standard nylon bristle brushes.  They use natural materials for the bristles and most have a nice leather strap on the back to keep your hand in place.  They also have fancy German names like Cavaliere and Diva Exklusiv.

I did not go buy the whole 'Black Pack' set of brushes.  I couldn't convince myself to buy in that much.  But I did use sample lists of brushes to piece my set together.  I went through Smarkpak and bought  the Der Gute curry comb, Schimmel stiff brush, Cavaliere body brush, and Diamond Gloss finishing brush.

 Curry comb:  This thing is magic.  When I picked it up for the first time I went 'ugh, it feels cheap, it's hard plastic, why did I buy this?'.  And then I used it and watched the dirt and scurf and dandruff fly.   I don't know why this thing works as well as it does, but it cuts through mi papi's ridiculous coat and gets right down to the skin.  I usually buy softer, rubber curry combs.  This thing puts them all to shame for brute dirt removal.  Theo tolerated it on his belly better than I thought he would, so it's clearly not rough or offensive, just effective.  This thing is only $6 and is worth every penny and then some.  Even if you think the rest of the set is overpriced and dumb, give the curry a try for thick coats that get dirty.  It's also perfect for cleaning off brushes as you work.

Schimmel brush:  I like this one a lot.  I don't usually keep really stiff brushes around, too many horses get offended, but this one is a keeper.  It's coconut fiber and no joke stiff, but Theo hasn't killed me yet even when I do the girth area, so it's not over the top (unlike the Mustang that actually has some wire in it, I'm pretty sure that is too much for any clipped pony).  It's fantastic on knees and hocks that are coated in dried mud/manure/I do NOT want to know.  It's another product that really cuts through the coat and gets the dirt up from near the skin.  I keep the curry in my left hand to clean this brush as I go because it's great cutting through Theo's winter coat and getting up the dead skin.  I scrape it with the curry and watch the flakes of icky fall to the mats.  This is the other brush I would flat out recommend.  Between this and the curry, I'm seeing a real difference in how clean I can keep my shaggy yak.  I mean horse.
Cavaliere brush:  I was very confused on body brushes for awhile with Haas.  I eventually figured out that the Lippizaner and the Cavaliere were the same brush, but the Cavaliere was smaller and easier for small hands to handle.  That works for me!  I like this brush, it's a nice body brush and does a good job of getting the finer debris off of my horse that is left by the stiff brush.  It's also the one that goes on his face and he approves of it for use on delicate areas that still need a decent scrub (mud around the eyes most of the time).  It's not stunning like the first two, it's just very effective.  If you already have an effective, well loved body brush, don't bother.  If you need a replacement?  Go for it.  It's nice, dense, should last a long time, and puts on a nice shine.

Diamond Gloss brush:  This is so the wrong time of year to test this brush.  I did give it a good work out after his last clip job to see it in action.  It's so dense that it feels stiff and not like a finishing brush.  It does put one heck of a shine on your horse.  I don't bust this one out much since it's November and my horse is actually a yak, but when I tested it, it got the job done.  Worth the purchase?  If you're show ring bound, yeah, I'd toss this one in the show bag to give me that extra hit of shine before I head in.  I find I stop with the body brush most days at home, but I suspect the finishing brush will be getting more use in the summer.  It really needs your horse to be most of the way clean before you start to get the effect.  It's so dense it just jams up with dirt, but if you've done your work with the other brushes?  Mirror like finish is possible.

Overall?  I'm happy with my investment.  I'm seeing a real difference in the amount of gunk hidden under his coat and I'm having an easier time keeping him looking reasonable in this very rough time of year.  I'm looking forward to putting these brushes through their paces next summer when I can really shine him up for the competition ring.

At least the curry and the Schimmel brushes should be added to brush collections.  Those things are magic for those that own yaks.

Tales of a klutz

Because seriously, this is ridiculous.

I'm sitting at my desk in my nice wool skirt and ballet flats, looking nice and professional, icing a swollen spot on the front of my ankle I got from tripping out of my horse trailer while at my clinic.  I slammed that tendon that goes down the front/inside of your ankle right into the metal edge of the door to the tack area.  I was wearing clogs, not boots, so nothing but chicken socks to cushion the blow.  Applying ice to get the swelling down.

Also note the rubs on the back of my ankle.  Apparently my Dublin river boots are PISSED that they were ignored for six months and decided to punish me for the neglect by rubbing me raw after being perfect for two years.  WTF, boots.  The other ankle is worse.

But the long hem at least hides the bruise I got when Theo spooked and I whacked my knee against the barn door.  It did give me a bit of a limp.

That one is on heat therapy now, trying to convince the muscles to settle down.  And it's in the ugly green puke colored stage.

This is a day to day thing now that I'm back in the saddle 4 to 5 days a week.  I've got my groove back, my motivation is up, my horse doesn't want to kill me, and it doesn't hurt my face to go outside.  I'm getting my ride time in!

And limping into the office every dang morning due to various injuries that are only tangentially related to riding.  My coworkers are starting to ask questions.

Why so klutzy, mom?

Monday, November 6, 2017

A different approach

I get nervous when I'm riding with people that have a big presence.  Most of the people in my area know Vitor Silva.  He does a lot of demos up and down the east coast with his Lusitanos.  Like this one:

There's marketing to be concerned with, a brand image, etc.  And egos get big.  Trainer A enjoyed her ride with Vitor, but I still get nervous.  Will he help or will he just blow smoke up my ass so that I have a good time and ride with him again (aka spend more money)?

First, I made my horse presentable.  This meant shearing my yak yet again and learning a lot about how to keep clippers happy.  I can't keep buying new clippers and brand new A5s from Oster shouldn't be acting up!  My horse is a freak of nature.  But the new barn handyman gave me an assist with tuning up my clippers (including a lesson in the different kinds of phillips head screwdrivers) and we got through the project.

The magnificent tail was trimmed, the tack was scrubbed, and the trailer was hooked up.  I went with my chicken socks.  Bold, let's people know that despite my classical, conservative attire, I'm also fun.  Plain, brown vest, blue check shirt, grey full seat breeches.  Theo went in the silver clincher browband and a white saddle pad.  I wanted to keep things understated, having never met the clinician or visited the facility.

I got there early enough to watch two people ahead of me.  Theo was calling a bit in the trailer, so they offered me a spot on the high line.  I stared, then said nope, he's never been on a high line and I think that will go badly.  He's already in stud mode, I could totally see him rearing and flipping over when he realized he was tied and couldn't go anywhere.  Also, it was raining.  So they let me use a stall to keep him happy with a hay bag while I observed.

Vitor loves to use laterals to get a horse straight.  The first rider I watched was a working equitation rider.  Lots of leg yields off of the wall to center line in each direction, getting the horse stretched out and supple.  Then it was leg yield off the wall, half passe back.  Then canter, turn on center line, leg yield to the wall.  It all built up to her horse doing it's first flying change.  The rider was as startled as anyone when she realized what all of her previous work had been leading up to.  All of a sudden, a clean change on command.  It was eye opening for her.

Then he had a lesson with a nervous older lady and he turned it way down, working on position and just being able to communicate with her horse.  I went and tacked up my beast, feeling much better.  He never yelled or barked and everything he said made sense.

Stall time calmed Theo down a lot and he walked into the indoor like a civilized beast.  The high lines in the corners perplexed us both (and Vitor), but our absolute training on standing while I mount held and mi papi didn't embarrass me by spinning away in terror with me hanging off the side of the saddle.  A couple of walking passes and he settled right down.  Almost like he's done a few clinics in his life.

I told Vitor he was 13, gelded late, a former school horse, and currently going at about First level.  We're having major trouble with leg yield right and canter left, which seem to be related and I suspect come down to strength issues as he was recently informed that he had to submit to the bit.  Now he has to canter in balance and it's hard.  Vitor nodded and pulled Theo in so that he could take a feel.  This meant taking my whip and my reins so he could feel where Theo is currently.  I did warn him Theo has a strike in him, since he had a whip in hand and was quite close to those front hooves.  Theo was a gentleman and didn't threaten Vitor at all, which I took note of.  Theo is usually quick to make an impression on a stranger, but Vitor didn't trigger Theo's FU button, even when he had the reins and was making mi papi use his hind end correctly.

I will say it was freaking weird to sit in the saddle while Theo was put through his paces from the ground.  I kept wanting to participate, but nope, supposed to just sit there.  Might have to book some lessons on in hand work . . . 

Knowledge gained, Vitor sent us off to warm up at the walk.  Leg yield off the wall, leg yield to the wall, shoulder fore, counter shoulder fore.  Fortunately I've had enough feel beaten into my thick skull that I picked up the moments where Theo was straightening up quickly, so it became a game of Vitor showing me how to make Theo straight and me managing his parts as needed.  We trotted and did a LOT of lateral work, mostly leg yield.  He wanted Theo supple and soft.  He really, really focused on Theo having a long, relaxed neck and giving me his back.  Give him the rein so he has somewhere to go, set him up to succeed.  Don't encourage a short neck, a horse like him loves a short neck because he will drop his back.  The contact is light, encouraging him to step up into the bit.

We did leg yields for I swear 30 minutes, mostly at the trot.  Off the wall, off centerline, neat 10m turns at the end that required a change of bend.  When he laid on my left rein, I was instructed to use right leg, right rein as though doing a leg yield and force him off of that right shoulder.  He was to be symmetrical and light in the contact.   Lo and behold, it worked.

At the end of my lesson, I stepped him into the canter from the walk and it was no big thing.  Still a smidge more reluctant left than right, but it was balanced and chill and lovely.  Vitor said he saw no problem with the left lead and I wanted to cheer.  It's not really busted, he's not broken, he's just learning a new way of going.  Vitor encouraged me to come visit him at his farm to keep going with this progression.  Theo has the challenge of being started too late, but he's a good looking boy and he's a good worker.  He also offered to give me a lunge line lesson.  Whee!

I really enjoyed my clinic.  No yelling, no chasing, no fussing.  Yes, I was told to get him more forward and we worked hard on transitions.  I did tap him with the whip as needed with instructions to praise him, complement him when he did it right.  Theo is a proud horse that needs to succeed.  Despite getting after him to go forward, his approach had Theo more chill at the end of the ride than the start and that was nice to feel.  Theo was chewing and foaming away by the end of the ride, which was something Vitor was actively working toward.  Our homework is to do lots of laterals and when he is laying on his shoulder, think leg yield to get him straight again.  Keep his neck as long as possible while keeping him on a contact.

If you get a chance to ride with Vitor, I say do it.  He's approachable, happy to answer questions, positive, and classical.  He wants a happy, supple horse regardless of your background, tack, or level of experience.