Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Slightly larger XC course schooled!

It's go time baby.  With event camp moving from a "why god why did I waste the money!" to "we are totally going!" to "why god why did I enter I'm so not ready!"  I've been extra motivated to not show up looking like total morons.

So when I found out the Hoosier Horse Park had an open XC Schooling day I begged a trainer that has seem me ride to coach me and away I went!  You can't turn down a chance when the trainer has actually seen you ride and doesn't slowly back away from you.

I showed up a bundle of nerves.  I knew the starter fences were out, but they were MUCH MUCH bigger than the little logs at Dan Hobyn.  So after warming up by cantering around the water area wondering why I was out here (Stella mostly ignoring me) we walked around looking for something suitably tiny to jump.  I passed up the first coop, but it ended up being more inviting than the hanging log I ended up starting over.

Or I meant to stay, stopping over.  I guess when  you trot down the jump, staring at it, observing how large it is, your horse stops.  We also stopped for the first time at the next two fences we jumped, due to the same issues.  Yet when I actually listened to short suffering new trainer she went over!

Who woulda thought?


Here's the main field where we started jumping.  She is playing a bit after the second fence, which is why I came back down to the trot.  I think I'm getting left behind and she is expressing her disdain for my lack of skills.

One thing I had to adjust to, was that when we are on a trail ride we follow the horse in front.  Stella gets a little attached to her trail buddies and when we were out schooling she got a bit worked up when the horse we were out with would gallop away, or when she was asked to move away.  I focused on keeping her busy, and not letting her come back to her new friend right away.



This was a bit tricky for me, although Stella didn't stop at anything.  The first fence was on a hill and it made me a bit nervous, but the added "threat" of meeting this at the wrong distance helped me keep my leg on.  She jumped the rolltop with gusto.



This last clip tickles me pink.  It's so nice having a horse that does water, and knowing that the steps I took when I first got her were the right steps to take.  She happily enters any water, even water she has never seen before and didn't have any compliance issues when asked to trot or canter in it.  It was really awesome to blaze through the water and nail this fence from a gallop.  Even if she did play after, and I wasn't worried one bit by the jump up the bank.


Overall I was just tickled to death by her.  She isn't a horse that takes a joke, and if you have jumped the same coop 8 times in a row and on the 9th time stop riding because you think she's going to react to the horse approaching from a distance, she will oblige you and stop hard.  As I gain more confidence in her ability and willingness it's nice to see that she is a pretty brave horse that requires a brave partner.

Friday, June 9, 2017

World's smallest XC course schooled!


Tuesday, after my general sense of doom and gloom about being able to go to camp lifted, I had a fantastic ride Monday, and I decided it was now or never.  With the prospects of getting lessons with my trainer getting slimmer and slimmer (she's a very busy lady!) I've been stuck with jumping at home in my small arena.  I had not schooled XC since last June?  Or really done a ton of consistent jumping period.

The weather was finally great, it is staying light out until 9pm, and I have a fabulous XC facility 15 minutes away.  So right after work I loaded up Stella, grabbed my ground person, and headed out.





My goal was to re-familiarize  myself with riding in an open field, jumping some small logs, and putting together my own courses.  Stella has shown twice at this facility before and since I was just there two weeks before on Loaner Horse I knew everything was set up.

At first I thought that Stella would have company as there were lessons going on and people flatting in the jumping area, but as soon as I got on everyone left!  Luckily being all alone in the great wide open doesn't seem to bother Stella so away we went.

I kept it short, small, and simple.

Stella stopped at the two fences I assumed she would stop at, thus telegraphing with my body that she should stop.  Self fulfilling prophecy anyone?  Since she easily walked over both fences as soon as I removed my head from my butt it was a pretty good indicator that I'm still wussing out.  Once I came to terms I was much more determined in not making a problem where there wasn't one.

So, on the video you might hear some swearing when I decided that I could canter all the way across the field to a fence.  You might also hear me naming the fences and establishing some determination as a substitute for swearing to a fence.

Overall I had a great ride.  It was more about me doing something on my own, without guidance, and realizing that I was actually competent!  Well, semi competent.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Loaner horse


A couple of weeks ago Stella's now confirmed habit of abscessing in wet weather finally caught up to me big time.  We were going to miss one of my favorite shows.  A local pony club barn always hosts these awesome horse trials and combined tests a 15 minute drive from the barn.  It's a great facility for someone introducing a new horse to the show atmosphere.  The people are fantastic, the courses are always super easy, and I've never had a bad day there.

Alas, Stella wasn't able to go.

Luckily I know some really awesome people and one let me know that she was bringing a spare horse to keep a green bean company.  Spare horse was available to me to do whatever I wanted.

SWEEEETTTT!!!


As an added bonus loaner horse's owner also happened to be a local saddler dealer and came with an entire truck bed (literally, she had like 20 saddles) of demo saddles of which I could try any.



Isn't he adorable?  His name is George (Isn't that perfect?) and he's a foundation QH who used to do contesting and now is a beginner novice champion.  I had to reach way way back to my college days where we would show on catch rides.  You got 30 seconds to meet your new horse and get all the info you could, then it was into the ring.

George was a bit stiff to the aids but was very forward and willing to do whatever I wanted, and I strongly suspect that my decade of riding small bendy horses made getting used to his chunky body a bit of a learning curve.  I could tell right away that George was BROKE so we only warmed up for about 15 minutes before dressage for a fairly decent score (and maybe I ran over a cone because George got rolling downhill in the grass ring but who's counting).

Jumping was exciting and nerve wracking for me.  I can't remember how long it's been since I've jumped something else, let alone jumped a few warm up fences then laid down a course.  Luckily George was all business and once you got him pointed at a fence he took no prisoners.

We had a couple discussions about speed and general things like turning (again, there's a steep learning curve from a George to my soft mouthed turn on a dime bendy arabs) but I had a blast.  He was very honest to the fences and had a comfortable, easy to sit canter.

Overall, despite me really wishing that I was there on Stella it was a great day!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stella conformation update


I had to search way back to almost a year ago when I last took a conformation picture of Stella, I managed to snag a helper and got Stella to semi cooperate (with help of a mint) and we took about 30 photos of her in various stages of crooked before I got one that was sort of good.  I think I'm seeing some really nice progress in her weight, fitness, and where she's carrying muscle.  Her neck was one of the biggest negatives about her conformation.  I thought that it was short and tied in low, but she also lacked any sort of riding muscle and I hoped that over time I would be able to reshape her neck and muscle it up, drawing your eye away to where it ties in.  How does her neck look now?



Here's Stella a few months after I bought her, at her first show over fences.  This was May 2015.


This is June 2016



Here's the picture taken today, June 2017


I think we are going in the right direction!  Unless you look at her tail, that's definitely going in the wrong direction dang it. Stay tuned for future blog post, preventing tail rubbing and a future future blog post about regrowing the tail.  Sigh.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Bliss Saddle trial!



During my trip to Rolex I discovered that there was a new Indiana area rep for Bliss saddlery, to replace the old rep whom the company and many local riders had issues with.  The new rep has not only gone through all the training but is a local trainer and fellow eventer so she knows her stuff.  As it turned out she had a string of students at the show I just attended,  How not to prep for a show, and offered to bring several Bliss saddles for me to try even though I explained they were currently out of my budget.

How awesome is that!

While she was there she also checked out the fit of my dressage saddle, which sadly will never fit Stella so it's also up for sale.

I was able to sit in the Loxley Dressage, which, while being from their "lower end" line was of excellent quality.  The leather was super grippy and the saddle fit my leg well.  From someone riding in a lot of old school saddles the seat felt very cushy.  The panels had plenty of wiggle room to be custom fit to almost any horse.  I liked the placement of the blocks, and that they could move the blocks to suit me.  Big enough to keep your leg in place but not so big that I felt locked in, which I hate.  Stella went well in it for our trial and I think she was less girthy.


I sat in the Loxley Foxhunter on the fitting horse, but chose not to ride in it because I found the seat too confining for my taste.  Coming from a very shallow seat background I think that is probably my personal preference and someone galloping for hours over brush fences would probably like it.



I tried out the Liberty Eventer, which is an excellent option for someone planning on going over some drop fences as the shallow long seat lets you slide back enough to get your leg out in front.


I decided to ride in the Loxley Jump LX.   It fit me the best out of the box and was closely aligned to my modest goals while having a few extra options.   It has a cupped knee pad to add a little bit of extra security, and the pad can be adjusted to fit a rider's leg.





It also comes with a semi deep or flat seat, forward or short flaps, deep or shallow seats, as well as different options for blocks under the flap, I rode in the semi deep seat and it offered some extra security without feeling locked in.  As someone who is used to flat seat saddles I didn't mind the slightly deeper seat.  I think it's a good option for someone looking for an "average" type of saddle.  If you aren't doing big drops with super short stirrups so you don't need the longer seat and you aren't planning on doing hardcore foxhunting so you don't want a super deep seat.  With the addition of the knee cups it gives you some extra security for a bit of everything.


What do you think about the fit?


Monday, May 15, 2017

How not to prep for a show

Things were not looking too good for the May show.   I hadn't had a lesson with trainer since before the April Heartland show.  Trainer was quite busy that month and I work weekdays so it is difficult to manage a weeknight lesson, plus trainer is generally booked in the evenings.  When I finally got someone to agree to let me hog their weeknight lesson Stella promptly went lame.  I felt like a pain for all the arranging people did to let me join and then I wasn't able to go.  Boooo.

So I entered the show anyway.  Cause why not?  I figured she'd do her usual thing and be sound the week before.  Then we had 4 straight days of rain where the horses stayed in.  Like 7 inches of ridiculous wetness.  A local HT had to cancel XC and run their show as a CT, for the second year in a row.  Rumor is the show is cursed.  I lunged Stella on day three and from what I could tell she appeared sound.  I mean, in between the rearing and leaping and bucking and I didn't know horses could do that she looked sound.  So I gave her two days turnout, scheduled another lesson, then cancelled it exactly 5 minutes later when my BM texted me to say she looked lame again.

DANG IT

Another call to my farrier with a good bit of begging and he came out to reset her hind shoes, finding an abscess under one which answered why she wouldn't pick up her feet for him the last time.  He found the remains of a front abscess and said if he beveled it she would be good to go.  So I packed her feet with the newly discovered to me miracle stuff Magic Cushion and loaded her up having not ridden her in over two weeks.

Friday night she schooled fine, except a wee bit fresh.  Considering things, I was happy to not get dumped.

Spent the night in my trailer with a lumpy sleeping bag (don't wash cheap sleeping bags) when it dipped into the 40s.   Popsicle eventer.  Eventer with trailer.  8am ride time.  No sleep for me.  Cold pillow.


Had an even fresher horse Saturday at 7:30 am for my test.  I spent most of my warm up in an indoor because it was so soggy on the grass and when I did head for the grass I had a behind the leg horse but I could tell she was being very careful of the ground.

What I really like about this season is that she's warming up great, with only a few minutes of SNORK!!! before she goes to work and drops onto the bit.  I can't hold onto it when we enter a new location like the show ring, but I am getting it more and more consistently at home and warming up so I know it's coming.  I actually got some pretty decent scores despite me squeezing her a bit too much and demoing and excellent canter entrance in our Intro test.

Oh well.

Show jumping warm up she was also quite unwilling to go forward but she jumped all her warm up fences.  I think that's the first time she hasn't stopped at the first warm up fence so I was thrilled.  Unfortunately over the last fence she left long and I got her in the face which caused her to slip on landing and then we had a rather dramatic melt down involving lots of head throwing, bucking, popping up, and general "I've been so good lady considering the circumstances but I'm OVER IT"  I tried to get her going again then just headed over to the ring.

I had a nice discussion with a helpful local trainer about what I should change about my riding on footing like that and was happy to learn my instincts were on target.

We made it over all of our fences!!!  No stops at the first fence, and no thinking about stopping to anything else.  We had some technical issues with steering where she still hadn't forgiven me for catching her in the mouth and wanted to leave the arena early but the actual jumping went great and we beat some cute kids on ponies for a respectable second place.  I got some super nice compliments about my riding from both long suffering trainer, another trainer, the judge whom I've lesson-ed with before, and a few friends who have seen some of my struggles learning to ride Stella.   The fences looked pretty small and I'm really hoping we can finally move up a level to a slightly less weenie division.





Thursday, May 4, 2017

All the Saddles

Another really awesome part about Rolex is ALL THE SADDLES EVERYWHERE.  If you want to sit in a bunch of saddles to see which ones with which options you like before you schedule someone out or purchase one sight unseen,  Rolex is the place to be.  Here are just a few of the saddles I sat in and my impressions.  I did confirm from several saddlers that I've had some trouble fitting saddles in the past because I have a long hip to knee measurement but short legs over all and a small size.  Which explains why forward flap saddles are too forward and regular flap saddles let my knee sit over the flap.

Bliss Saddles  have to be my favorite.  I sat in the Paramour last year and fell in love.  Like I felt like I could bang out a 4th level test and take a nap at the same time love.  The Paramour has this drop away option which lays your entire thigh right on the horse so you can feel ultra super close.  You also get lots of options like blocks custom designed for your leg in whatever size you want and plenty of color options.  Plus they had no issues when I explained I wanted a wide saddle and a narrow twist.  Sure, no problem!  They did have other saddles in their more affordable option.  I liked them but would list them as "average" as far as how I felt in the saddle.  I got to be realistic with my budget though.


Voltaire  The best part about Voltaire were the tall skinny hot French guys hawking the saddles.  Enjoy them explaining taking measurements of your leg in the saddle every two inches as they gently touch your thigh while softly muttering "bien d'accord merci"  $5,000 you said?  Here's my credit card.  They had a lot more jumping saddles than dressage and I'd describe the feel to me as "average."  They had the ability to completely replace the panels if you bought a new horse which I thought was a really cool option.



Stackhouse  I love the design of the stackhouse.  It's just cool looking.  Every saddle is custom made from scratch to each rider and horse and is adjustable.  Which I thought was great for buying new but harder if you were hunting used as you didn't know what the previous rider looked like.



County  County is a great option because they are everywhere and have some pretty standard options without going full custom so you can buy used, and they are more than happy to help you find a used saddle and fit it for you.

Custom  I initially liked the looks of the Custom saddles and have heard good things.  My biggest problem was that I found the twists to be too wide for me.  When I asked about the twist they said there was nothing they could do about it and the wider the saddle the wider the twist.  Which marks them off my list.



Southern Stars

I sat in a Southern Stars pony saddle a few years ago and really liked it.  The saddle below was their only option at Rolex and it DID NOT FIT ME AT ALL.  The knee block was at least 6 inches in front of my leg on a 17 inch saddle.  I asked the sales rep if there were custom options but that appeared to not be the case.  Disappointed in the service but at least I was able to write these saddles totally off my list.


There were several more saddlers there but I couldn't sit in all of them.  What are your thoughts?