Saturday, October 26, 2019

I bounce, you bounce, we bounce

Our mission to improve Theo's canter continues.  Weeks of focus are starting to pay off.  Trainer D has been laser focused on getting a bigger canter out of him.  She insists on that 12 foot stride every time and Theo is starting to wrap his head around that being his new reality.  We did grid work this week and he was confidently going through the exercise even when it was set a bit long.  When I ask for a canter, he's much more willing to go forward into the transition rather than doing a couple of strides mostly in place.

In my lessons with Trainer D, it's time to ignore what his head and neck are doing and instead focus on a willing, rhythmical, forward canter.  I'm off his back and worried about keeping him straight between my hands and legs.  Half the time I've got my hands halfway up his neck or buried in his mane, working on my still unsteady jumping position.  I'm strong, but I've picked up a lot of bad habits that I now need to break.  With Trainer D's insistence on a real canter, we've moved to a canter that averages 18.5cm in elevation.  We've got multiple rides at that elevation now so it wasn't a fluke.

When I ride in my dressage tack and sit down, that big, bouncy canter collapses.  I go from our new 18.5cm elevation to a 14cm elevation.  Hm, that sounds suspiciously like it's the rider's fault. 

Rider's fault?  Theo is shocked, this is his shocked face.

Today I rode in my dressage gear with the goal of keeping that big, forward canter with my butt in the saddle.  I warmed up by getting up off his back and developing the same canter I use to jump.  Put his head wherever, stay off his back, just develop the big bounce.  Once I had to canter established, I started to sit and establish a contact.  I sat softly to start and gradually added weight as I adapted to his bigger canter.  It takes a heck of a lot of hip movement to keep that big canter with my butt in the saddle.  I really had to focus on not squishing his canter but instead focusing on the up part of the stride.  Kind of scoop like ice cream and suction cup his back up with my butt and thighs, to use a visual from Mary Wanless.  Which frankly sounds very weird when you just type it out like that.  I botched it and had to get up off his back several times but at least I could get a feel for what I was working to maintain.  And get used to the idea that Theo actually can canter with that kind of movement.

Once I got it, I was able to maintain a canter at around 18cm elevation with my tush in the saddle.  There's a lot of work to do there, but it certainly felt a lot better.  I could get Theo on the contact while maintaining the bounce and the three beat canter.  Progress!

Elevation drifted down as he got more tired but he was pretty consistently up in the 18cm range in the canter, half pass work was the last thing we worked on and got us a big dip in elevation

His average elevation dropped to 14cm when I asked for the canter half pass.  That could be strength or I am sitting too heavy and squishing him because I'm overriding.  Like I do.  We'll see what Trainer Z says.

His flying changes are also benefiting from this new routine.  Our right to left change has become steady enough that he's starting to offer it on his own.  I'll hate that later but for right now, a drama free change is a win.  The left to right is sticky and he takes a pretty good bump with the spur to convince him to change.  The massage therapist was out today and working through his sore spots.  He had a very strong opinion about his left hind so not much of a surprise he didn't want to really bounce off that side. 

Tomorrow is our ride with Trainer Z.  I'm hoping she'll be happy with our progress in the canter.  We've developed some trouble with him anticipating in the trot and breaking to canter but what can you do.  There's always something you need to work on.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Double trouble

Who knew two bits could be so complicated?

I've never built a double.  I know how to build bridles so surely this couldn't be too bad.  Right?  It took some hunting but I found a bit that looked like his western dressage curb bit at a reasonable price.  $90 for a short shank weymouth and it comes with a bradoon?  Sign me up!  Pictured with my pelham for comparison.

Looked long and hard to get bits that will be familiar for him

I got the bits at Classic Saddlery if anyone else is looking for a set like this.  They also have a set with a longer shank.  Super quick shipping and great communication.  The bits feel light but nice.  They're not $300 bits, but they're nice and I am happy with my purchase.  They'll serve my purpose and are a great starting point for us.  No point in dropping a ton of money on bits when I don't know how he's going to react.

I also ordered a gel curb chain guard from Rider's Warehouse.  I want everything to be as gentle as possible and he uses a leather curb with his western dressage bridle.  Getting that cover on was a bit of a nightmare but with some wiggling and stretching I made it work.

And then I tried assembling.  Um, right.  How does someone put two bits on the same bridle?  I mean I get that the bradoon goes on one set of cheek pieces and the weymouth on the other and the weymouth goes in front of the snaffle but one is double jointed and one has no joints so it's really not that easy and all those straps and reins make for a hopeless muddle.

This goes on his head how?

Thank goodness for more experienced friends that will wade in and get you straightened out.   After a lot of fiddling and mussing while my horse was a saint, we got the bridle on his head in mostly the right way.  It's definitely a fussy business getting two bits settled.  The bradoon went up and down several times before we settled here.  The weymouth will probably move up one hole but the bits were starting to interfere so it stayed here for today.  Complicated!

Couldn't care less

Theo played with his two bits for a minute before deciding it wasn't even worth messing with.  His noseband is completely slack as usual, especially when he's getting used to having a bit more going on in his mouth than usual.

As for riding him with it?  It was so anti-climactic.  He barely noticed.  He trotted around like a western pleasure pony while I let him get used to the idea.  I left his curb rein loose even when I picked up a little contact.  It proved to be the perfect bit choice when he thought he ought to act up during his canter work.  He started to throw his head and dive left, I touched the curb, and he abandoned the idea.  The next time around he stayed on a nice soft contact without the dramatics.  #winning  #fallponybrain  #seriouslywtftheo

We worked for a total of fifteen minutes, ten of which was on the buckle while he adapted to his new rig.  I say adapted, it was mostly me worrying while he acted like he's worn this bridle all his life.  My friend was sure this wasn't his first ride in the double and when I assured her it was, she was impressed with how utterly chill he was.  No chomping, no fussing.  The only change we need to make is to swap to sugar cubes since he has a harder time working his cookies into place with the extra bit.  Not that it stopped him any but it's distracting for him when he's trying to get bits of treat worked free of his bits.

We'll keep playing with the fit and Trainer Z will be out on Sunday to weigh in on how everything looks.  But it's another milestone for us, he's got a double!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Barn tour

Since it appears we're actually going to be allowed to stay, I figure it's time for a tour of our new home. 

We'll start at the view from the parking lot with the indoor on the left and the main barn on the right.  They're about 10 yards apart which is nice when the weather is being very New England.

The indoor is about the length of a small dressage arena, but the big new outdoor should be ready in the spring.  It's a textile footing and quite fluffy.

It's an H shaped barn with two aisles and 14 stalls.  Big, airy stalls with drop downs to let the horses hang their heads out.

The tack room is tucked in the center with doors going to both aisles.  Heated, AC, and very cushy.  As Trainer Z said during her first visit, H/J barns know how to do it.  You can tell my locker is the one open because of the blingy browband.

At the center of the barn are the grooming stalls.  Two regular stalls on this side, one indoor wash rack with warm water on the other side.

Blanket system with the indoor wash rack in the background.

The feed room is also in the center of the barn (the middle of the H).

I keep my extra saddles and gear up in the hayloft.

If you walk out the back of the barn, you find a second cinder block barn with three shedrow stalls.  This building was original when the property was bought.  Theo and two TBs live out here.  The outdoor wash racks are also out here.  Theo decided to poke his head out and say hi for the photo.

The shedrow stalls look out over the sand paddocks.  Theo is currently in one of the sand paddocks since his grass pasture has closed down for the season and he's been spooking at the bridge construction which makes it hard to get him out to the grass paddocks.  It's plenty big enough for him to be dumb and he can touch/mess with no less than three horses.  He has buddies on all sides which makes him happy.  He's settled in very nicely and has kept his antics to a reasonable level.  This is from the entrance to his paddock and it goes down the hill and widens out.  He has a neighbor next to him and touches two paddocks at the bottom.

There are a whole heck of a lot of paddocks, including the round pen we use when Theo's just catching a break between appointments.

And finally, if you go down the hill and across the bridge that's being updated, you get to the grass paddocks.  The first picture is of the sacrifice paddocks that are smaller, the second is a shot of Theo out in one of the big fields.

Theo's settled in like he's been here his whole life.  He's very much part of the herd here and that apparently means everything to him.  He's happy to go out with everyone but equally happy to come in when the rest of the herd comes in.  He had to have his first day locked in due to weather on Friday and he handled it with no reaction at all.  No horses went out so he just nommed his hay and sat with his face out in the crazy wind and rain.  Being in a shed row stall means he has lots of things to watch and all the fresh air he could want.  The top door is only closed when the weather is extreme, like during our wind storm where we got two inches of rain and wind gusts up to hurricane force.  Whee.

The move has been nothing but good for us.  I'm looking forward to a more relaxed winter with our new accommodations and all new adventures with our new friends in 2020.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Power steering

So Theo was a bit of an ass on Sunday and decided flexing either longitudinally or laterally was not on his agenda.  I don't know why, possibly because he got Saturday off and subsequently decided that aliens were actively circling the indoor and he needed to look at them.  It could possibly be the long string of rides in his jump tack.  Maybe the massage the day before?  Who knows, but he decided that he wasn't taking any input on his head, neck, or shoulders.  Sure, bro, you go do that.  Only not.

Unrelated cute picture of the resident chicken helping out my farrier

I said stop looking out the door every time we go by and that apparently made him decide that looking out the window was the only thing with any meaning in his life.  This ended with him tearing through the left rein and making my shoulder fail for the first time in two years.  Ouch.  The next day I showed up with my pelham in hand.  No more nice jumpy tack for you if you're going to be a problem child.  He was in a plain loose ring snaffle when we had our argument, not even his NS Verdenbind that usually keeps him from getting ideas.  With my shoulder in pain, I skipped right to the pelham.  We're not reverting to the dark days when the left rein being torn through my hand was a daily occurrence.

He promptly decided to follow up on his previous work and haul on the left rein.  I picked up my curb rein and he promptly changed his mind.  Nope, not mucking around with that, thank you very much.  I let the curb rein go slack, picked up a nice connection on the snaffle rein, and we carried on with our day.  He tested it a couple times, just to be sure, and I picked up the curb as needed to tell him that my left shoulder was off limits.  He sighed and went back to work.

More unrelated media of the other assistant my farrier picked up for the day

He was so much FUN in that pelham.  I played with some of our lateral stuff because he was staying right where he belongs with zero effort from me.  It kept him from looking out the window every freaking lap and he actually kept his head right around vertical without regular reminders.  I even got him to sit on the right rein correctly because he, for once, had no interest in bickering with my left hand as a way to distract me from the fact he's also laying on my left leg.  It completely broke the cycle of bickering between us.  I set my hands, he set his face, and I kicked his booty right up between my hands.  I could really get him in front of my leg because he wasn't trying to go above the bit to get out of using his back.  It was like someone had turned on the power steering.  I felt like I could whisper and he would answer.

Now it's not a magical perfect thing.  He's not good in a fat, fixed cheek snaffle and that's what I end up with when I drop the curb.  I can't get off his face enough for him to be truly comfortable.  And when I jumped in it the following day, he started out fantastic but got pissy when he got tired because it was too much bit all the time.  It's never a real snaffle, even when I tied my curb rein off so it wasn't even in my hand.  But man, it was nice to have a ride with zero bickering about what frame I wanted and whether or not his shoulders were available for me to manipulate.  If only I could do that with a loose ring snaffle to drop back on.

Oh, wait, that's a thing.  A very dressage-y thing.

Dorkzilla in his double

I might have ordered up a short shank weymouth so I can build Theo a double bridle.  Not as a show rig or every day rig or anything like that, but to replace my pelham as my 'knock it off' rig.  We're schooling Third so we're actually at the appropriate level to introduce a double.  He isn't at all strong enough to show in a double, but I think an occasional tune up ride would do us both good.  Trainer Z gave me a thumbs up on the idea of introducing this tool to the tool box and my friend is lending me Dorkzilla's old double to try.  I'm hoping some of Dorkzilla's crazy talent has oozed into the leather and will rub off on Theo.

I'm equal parts terrified and curious about this next step in our education.  I've got the hands for it, but the double is such a big kids dressage thing.  Even if it's a spectacular failure and he hates it, I'll get pictures of Theo wearing it.  He'll look so fancy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Return of the data

I finally remembered to charge my Equisense and get it back to work.  For awhile I didn't want to use it because I knew my symmetry was going to be bad and I knew my elevation was terrible with the hard footing.  Today I turned it on for my jumping lesson with Trainer D.

The jumping count is off because it didn't count the cross rail we had set up.  Apparently Theo didn't put enough effort into it for it to count.  And since we were only doing patterns for four or so jumps, with one not counting, Equisense didn't really realize we were jumping courses.  Oh well, not my focus with this tool.

What is up with our regularity though?  Canter makes some sense, we're still settling into our new jumping canter so things waver as he slows in the corners.  The trot was more of a surprise, but kind of the same story.  Go forward go forward go forward is apparently not good for our regularity scores since it's something we fade on and then get reminded.  Ugh.

Symmetry is holding steady in the green so that's lovely.  I made him canter his booty off with 22% of our hour long ride at the canter.  That's a big change from before.  We cantered for thirteen minutes total and it wasn't little canters.  Trainer D was all about the forward.  Pony was tired by the end.

The real surprise was the change in the elevation score.  We were averaging 15 cm or lower for the previous 20 sessions, all of a sudden we popped up to 18 cm.  During our ride we were as high as 19 cm which is average for the Equisense user population.

Looking at our trend of 20 sessions, that's a very big jump.  Our trot elevation looked good, too, though not as dramatic a change.  I was in a pelham today due to my shoulder bothering me.  I'm curious what this will look like when I swap back to my snaffle.  Probably about the same, Theo isn't overly fussed by his pelham.

It's been way too long since I used this tool.  It's really quite helpful when I'm trying to track our progress.  It also gives me confidence that we're on a good path.  I'll be very interested to see what our averages look like in a month when it's all data from the new environment.

Monday, October 14, 2019


And with a dull thud, the show season is over.  The leaves are falling, there's a chill in the air, and all the pressure I've felt since April is suddenly gone.

Last outing of the season, looking far less terrified of our Second level tests

My trailer is parked with no intention of moving it for over a month.  All of my white breeches have gone into storage until next spring.  Theo's hairy, dirty, and loving it.  The grazing pastures are already being shut down since the grass has quit growing and the ponies were already starting to chew at nubs.  We're down to 11 hours of sunlight a day with sunset at 6pm.  There's only a couple weeks left before the clocks change and we're riding in the dark every evening.  Gotta love sunset at 4pm.

I'm not even sure how he manages to get this filthy in 24 hours

This time of year is my favorite for riding but at the same time I feel adrift.  I'm so relieved that the season is over.  For us, it was an aggressive season with a lot of outings.  My weekends are now open and I don't have crazy wake up calls so I can drive hours and then try to not puke in front of a judge.  I'm throwing out the tattered, creased, and stained copies of my tests that were all over my truck, car, purse, desk, you name it.  But what do you do for motivation when you have no goal in front of your nose for the first time in six months?

Mostly this.

It's about 24", he jumps it like it's 3' because that's how Theo do

Regular jumping lessons are keeping me from just giving the pony a kiss on the nose and skipping the riding.  We do the big canter, jump the (little) jumps, and try to do the flying changes.  Theo's having his temper tantrum phase of training in regards to flying changes where he realizes the rules have changed and he throws a complete fit about it.  First I want counter canter, then I want simple changes, and now I want flying changes?  Clearly I don't know what I'm doing and he's going to make his displeasure at my incompetence known.  Prop and buck are a go.  Ugh.

It's a delicate balance between keeping up with my riding and not pushing myself to keep progressing.  I'm trying to embrace being a slacker since slacking off for a month is a good way to combat burnout.  And believe me, at that last show, I was feeling burnt out.  The idea of starting my Third level moves didn't sound appealing after busting my butt since February to survive my move up to Second.  I'm still feeling a bit burnt out.  I know I'll be taking a serious break in the winter when it's stupid cold and icy out so I'm not too concerned, but I don't want to get miserable and get into that bad head space.

Might be a good time to practice hacking outside.  We made it all the way around the barn and down around the paddocks last time without a melt down, it's progress.

The four beat canter

Theo is harder to ride in the canter.  At first he didn't want to canter at all.  Keeping him in the canter was an act of several gods.  Over time, that's gotten better.  He's now fit enough that he can do a working canter indefinitely without me dying of exhaustion keeping him there.  He used to have a four beat canter all the time but as he got stronger, it went to three beats.

Way back in 2015.  I do not miss the days when I had to basically throw things at him to canter through my Training level tests

Right now, in the collected canter, the four beat has made a reappearance.  It happened at my last show in my right lead canter for my medium into my 10m circle.  After the circle I was able to boot him up in front of my leg and fix it.  It's not particularly visible, we didn't get a rhythm or lateral comment, but I can feel it.  Trainer Z saw it but she's actively looking for it.  I've injected, massaged, chiro'd, saddle fitted, and supplemented.  The consensus is that any pain is well managed but that four beat canter will still show up (minus the resistance) because that's Theo.  He did it for years starting long before we met.  At this point, I think I have to accept that Theo is a horse with a canter that is prone to breaking down.  Verne Betchelder asked if there were any gaited horses in his background.  I don't think so, but it sure would explain some things.

What is whacky is that his canter usually scores higher than his trot.  Judges love his uphill canter, so long as he doesn't go seriously four beat.  They don't seem to notice if the rhythm breakdown is fleeting or minor.  Canter is his better scoring gait but it's the gait where we struggle in training.

This is Theo at his weakest, right lead collected canter

As we pursue his flying changes, canter quality is becoming a major focus.  He can canter around in a three beat canter all day so long as I'm not asking for real collection.  Trainer D hasn't noticed any issue with a four beat canter but she is very strict with him being up in front of her leg while not looking for a collected gait.  She's working on getting his canter as open and forward as possible.  Once I ask for collection, the rhythm will try to break down.  Now that pain has been ruled out, I suspect strength.  It's hard for him to collect his canter, so he goes back to his default four beat canter. 

One of our best technical movements (simple change) but yeah, he's weak

Most of this summer I would back off if he went four beat since I assumed pain.  Which was true and I have no regrets on backing off, but now that it's been handled, it's time to push through this and develop a big boy canter.

My plan is to spend the next three weeks jumping and doing a big, forward, three beat canter while taking a break from the dressage.  I mean, we'll still do dressage because that's what we do but it'll be more sprinkled into our jumping and strength focused rides.  Trainer D is on board and ready to spend the next month cantering, transitions within the gait, doing grids, and jumping as strength training. He's a horse that will only do things willingly when they're easy for him.  He needs a lot of cardio and muscle built up if I want him to canter collected without rhythm issues.  He needs more jump which isn't a set of muscles we really focused on this year.  We were all about getting him to actually use his topline and go forward.  So we got push muscles, we even built up some nice carrying muscles, but the jump muscles lagged behind.  We may need to muscle him up to the same level as a Fourth level horse to make him comfortable doing Third.

My entire 'plan' for several years has been 'make him stronger' with slight variations.  Dressage = power lifting, apparently.

Verne Betchelder is back Nov 30 and I nabbed a spot to ride with him again.  I'd like to show some progress in our canter.  At least a little bit.  He's a great teacher but he doesn't like it when you're not putting in the effort.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Blog Hop: 10 Questions for October

Thank you, L, for the blog material while settling into the after show season doldrums.

1. What discipline do you ride? What would you ride if you could pick any other one?

I mean, it's easier to ask what discipline I don't ride?  

Right now I consider myself to be a dressage rider that also does equitation over fences and western dressage.  I'm quite content with this mix but if someone handed me a very classy working hunter, I'd head back into the hunter ring with no bitching.

2. How many horses have you ridden in your entire riding career?

I have absolutely no idea.  I have ridden so many horses, ranging from years to minutes.  I've always been the fool that will get on anything if someone asks.

3. Most bizarre activity you've done with your/a horse?

Walk.  Through.  Fire.  What could I possibly do to top that?

4. Do you consider riding to be your outlet? If yes, why?

Honestly, I consider it the opposite.  Riding forces me to stop living in my head, thinking about so many things that are still twenty steps away.  When I'm riding, I have to focus on the here and now, the way my horse feels, what is happening in my immediate environment.  It's the only time that I'm not thinking 100 mph about a dozen different things.  When I'm riding, my mind is quiet.  For someone like me, that quiet is bliss.

5. Have you ever read horse-related magazines? If yes, which one(s)?

I grew up on Equus.  I loved all the medical articles, especially when my pony foundered and I had an article that told me exactly what that was so I was less afraid.  I was an odd little kid.  I now read my local magazine, Equine Journal, and Dressage Today.  Online I read Horse Magazine.

6. Most memorable advice given to you?

Don't put a round peg in a square hole.  This was in regards to Fiona but it resonated with me right to the core of my riding.  If your horse hates something, don't freaking do it.  

The other bit of advice that was simply memorable was Greg Best saying 'it doesn't matter what bit you put in that horse's mouth'.  His comment was about my OTTB Allen's incredible power and my inability to stop it.  What it triggered was me putting away my terrifying leverage bit rig and taking my horse into day two of the clinic in a snaffle.  I think I scared the pants off of that man when I unleashed the Hellbeast in a snaffle and a martingale but it was the day I learned that I really could do it.  I didn't need the gadgets anymore.  It was probably the single most important event that happened in my education as a jumping rider.

7. Did you ever collect Breyer horse models or similar?

Embarrassing info time:  I used to go to model horse shows.  When I was in college and had no horse, I went to model horse shows with my string of model horses.  I even learned to do my own customs.  When I got Allen and lost interest in model horses, I gave my show string to a teenager that wanted to go to model horse shows but didn't have the funds.  No regrets, just handed her the whole set rather than let them collect dust in my house.  I hope she won lots of ribbons with my champions.  I'm currently shopping for an artist to do a portrait model of Theo for my desk.

8. Favorite "celebrity" horse?

Valegro.  Boring, yes, but when I saw that video of him doing a lesson with a ten year old, he became my absolute favorite.  What a kind heart.

9. If you could spend a day learning from any horse person (past or present), who would you choose?

Dr. Reiner Klimke.  I would follow that man around all day and just watch him ride.  I watch videos of him riding when I need to calm down.  Just hearing him talking to his horses drops my blood pressure.  Watching him on Ahlerich is a joy to me.

10. If you could ride in any international arena in the world, where would you choose?

The Alltech Arena at the KHP.  Just because it would feel so grand.  True pipe dream?  Hickstead.  I've been watching those rounds for as far back as I can remember.  It would be a dream to ride in that arena, even if I didn't jump a single fence.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

GMHA Take Two

All I wanted for my GMHA trip was to not have bucking in my tests and no trip to ER.  I managed to achieve both.

 Spooking at a plastic sign but it made for a pretty picture

Friday was a quick lesson with Trainer Z.  Theo was feeling freaking fantastic after a chiropractic and some really good rides with Trainer D while my back was out.  He was very happy to work in the cooler temps and flicked his toes along quite happily.

Friday warm ups

Saturday was a bit tougher with a crowded warm up.  The sun came out, the temps spiked, and Theo melted a bit.  His 62.6% still got us a pretty yellow ribbon, but I knew we had some easy points to make up.  Like me remembering to ride the correct line.  Theo got a 7 for gaits, I got a 5 for accuracy.  Sigh.

My new unicorn stock tie

Sunday was Theo's third day in prison and it was starting to take it's toll.  He's much calmer in a stall at night now but being in all day makes him quite cranky.  Morning sessions of lunging do make a big difference in his rage levels and help him settle.  It was all working but he was showing much later than the rest of the group on Sunday.  They had to take off due to an emergency back home.  Theo watched the horses on either side of him load and leave.  He started biting his door and kicking.  Aw, crap.  I rearranged my timeline to include an extra lunge before his test.

HAHAHAHA omg I am so glad I did that.  Twenty minutes of snorting, bucking, tail flagging, bolting nonsense.  I took him straight from lunging to the warm up and spent another twenty minutes talking him into releasing his back and bending for me.  A walk to catch his breath, a couple minutes of collected work, and in we went.

It was tight over the back but we got a 61.4% with no bucking or explosions.  The judge really wasn't buying our mediums (and we had a weird break to canter in the 10m half circle) but the rest of the test was respectable.  I'll take it considering how much progress that is for managing Naughty Theo.  No spooking, no bolting, no nonsense.  Just not quite giving me his back.

The culmination of many years of work

Multi-day shows are still not his forte and I will focus on one days in 2020, but at least we made it through this one with no drama.  I hustled him home, tucked him in bed, and gave him a big kiss on the nose.  It was a fantastic finale to our first season at Second.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Dreaming of a cob

What kind of horse do I want next?

The obvious answer is purpose bred warmblood with dressage lines.  Trainer Z does have this luscious Oldenburg stallion at stud.  He has a performance record up to Grand Prix, is sweet as pie, and Theo approves.  That's a pretty special recommendation.  He's ridden and handled by ammies all the time, complete with teaching adult ammies how to do Grand Prix stuff.  He's got babies on the ground that look very nice. 

Hello, Muffin

But let's be honest.  When push comes to shove, what kind of horse actually meshes with me?  Not what I dream about but the ones that land in my life and stay because they work for me.  Based on time span of partnership, fun, and amount of progress made, I like them sturdy, stubborn, hairy, and smart.  Wicked smaht.

Left: My first pony and partner of seven years, Open Gates Secretariat, a 10h Sec A Welsh Pony (holy terror)
Right:  My partner of almost five years, Expect the Unexpected, a 16.2h American Warmblood (PITA)

I like to dream about big, beautiful warmbloods that float around and get an 8 for gaits.  Who doesn't?  I've ridden several and enjoyed them.  When reality hits, I realize that I don't want a 17h gorgeous beast where I'm forever struggling to keep up.  I don't need the intimidation that comes with having so much talent and always feeling like you're getting in the way.  I'm not going to the CDIs or the Olympics.  I don't need to be that high up in the air, either.  What I dream of is having another Theo but without the years of bad handling and about a hand shorter.  Maybe two hands shorter.  There's a lot to be said for being close to the ground, especially when there's no mounting block handy and your hip makes that weird noise.

Smart, stubborn, lots of hair, around 14.2h . . . that sounds like a large native pony.  Good news, I am still very pony sized and have lots of history with training ponies of various kinds.  I cannot resist a chance to get on a pony.

Left:  Me at 25 or so riding Tanks A Lot, a 14.1h Hafflinger cross pony jumper and some how I lost my hairnet
Right:  Me at 39 goofing around on a pony of unknown breeding that's probably around 13h and I've clearly given up on style at this point

I loved both of my Thoroughbreds with all my heart but I think I'm destined for a Welsh cob.  Like Cob Jockey's Welsh cob. Or Eventing Saddlebred Style's new baby.  I think the wheel needs to turn all the way over and land me with another pony that I can love on.  Hopefully I'll fall off a lot less now that I'm an adult and have learned how to kick effectively.  I'm deeply, painfully aware of the pony 'tude that comes with a lot of native pony breeds.

This looks so familiar.  It's me every time I try to hand walk Theo.

Terri dumped me three times in just one show, adorable little terror that he was.  Theo has me well trained for handling a partner with very developed senses of self preservation and fairness.  Tell a gelding, ask a stallion, negotiate with a mare, pray with a pony.  There are days when I think there's some native pony hidden in Theo's pedigree.

It's amazing how dreams change as you embrace your limitations.  I realized something while watching the very nice horses at the KWPN keuring.  I didn't want one.  I'm not competition focused enough to pick a horse specifically for showing in dressage.  I spend almost as much time jumping as I do dressage-ing.  I like western dressage, going for gallops on the beach, riding backwards with no saddle, etc.  There's a lot of different things I want my partners to do, up to and including walking through fire.

Mad man with a gas can in action

Theo's about to turn sixteen.  If I'm going to get a youngster, which is the plan, I need to get my butt in gear if I want to have someone of riding age when Theo is ready to step down.  I've never bought a horse with a pedigree.  Or a breeder.  This is a weird new world.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Heal thyself

I have joint pain and inflammation.  That's the kind of thing I've been managing for ages in my horses and it occurred to me that I should be able to manage that in myself.  Hell, it should be easier since I know exactly where it hurts and what makes it worse.

Wait, give myself a fraction of the care and maintenance my horses get?  That's crazy talk!

I've got myself on a daily supplement routine that echos what I've used with my horses, right down to having little baggies all set up so I don't have to think about it or try to remember things in the morning.

What's in there?
  • Glucosamine/Chondrotin/MSM joint supp
  • Turmeric
  • Devil's Claw
  • Probiotic
  • Multi vitamin gummy (because I'm an adult) that are hard to see because they're dark

The Devil's Claw stuff works surprisingly well.  Probably shouldn't be a surprise since it's the supp that allowed me to take Allen off of his maintenance dose of bute once he was retired from competition.  I take 960 mg twice a day.  The Devil's Claw doesn't upset my stomach while getting the job done (when paired with a lidocaine patch, it's not a complete answer to my pain management on its own).

The probiotic is something I've been on since I did my run of doxy.  Antibiotics are not picky on what kind of bacteria they kill.

The turmeric is because the hubby swears by it and he's a nutty mountain biker so he does have some experience with jarring joints.  It will reportedly kick in after about two weeks.  It's already in the cabinet so sure, I'll pop it in.  I'll skip the willow bark he uses, though, my stomach is way too sensitive.

'Gravity assisted' mountain biking at the local mountain bike park last weekend

The joint supp is the obvious one.  I know I'll need to keep taking it for it to do me any good, it's not going to make me feel better out the gate.  And it's just helping me not grind my joints down more, not really repairing what I've already done.  But MSM is another anti-inflammatory I swear by for my horse so in the bag it goes.

Maybe I'll learn from this and go see the chiro for myself.  I'm sure Theo would be pleased if I was a more balanced, supple rider.  His chiro noted a locked up spot in his back right under my right seat bone, the side where I'm having SI problems.  Hm, I wonder if that's related . . .