Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Girl's Gotta Have Shoes...

Even fancy horse shoes don't cost this much!
And I don't mean Louboutins.

Miss Kelly's feet have been something of a special case lately.  She's basically always been shod all around, and she has basically always forged to an extent.  As of late, she has also taken to pulling off her left front shoe.  In the five weeks since she last had a pedicure, she has pulled that shoe two or three times.  I'm guessing it's probably largely an issue of coming back into work, as she doesn't forge as much when she is in good shape and/or when she is using herself better while working.  In the meantime, however, we really can't have her pulling her shoe every other week, because a) That's a pain in the ass, and b) She starts to tear up her foot.  No bueno.

After the last time he re-set her pulled shoe, the farrier considered trying a different shoeing technique and asked me if I was familiar with flip-flops.  My exact response was, "Yup!  I live in them in the summer!"  Ummm... turns out that wasn't what he meant.

He described to me a half shoe in the front of the hoof with a flexible pad on the back.  He said that he thought it would prevent her from pulling her shoe when she overreaches, as she would step on the pad, which would then have some give, rather than the heel of the shoe.  Bonus: this setup would also help allow her heels to expand, which is something we've been working on (as was the farrier in Georgia).  It seemed like it was worth a try.

Fancy pants shoes for a fancy pants pony!

So Kell Bell got her flip-flops last week.  And they sound *exactly* like human flip-flops.  It, of course, remains to be seen how well the setup works for her, but she doesn't seem to mind them.  After looking at them, I had some concerns about how to keep the hoof under the pad clean, and wondered whether thrush might be a concern (we've been working on clearing up her thrush, as well).  I asked the farrier about it; it turns out the pads actually have anti-microbial properties, so worsening thrush shouldn't be a concern.  He also suggested using a hose to clean out the feet and get under the pads, rather than a hoof pick - but also warned to be careful doing this, or I would get wet.  Definitely a learning curve here, as I haven't yet managed to not get myself wet.

She's still barefoot behind (originally tried to help combat thrush and also to save money... shoeing costs in NY/NJ are no joke, y'all), and the farrier thinks she's fine to stay barefoot in back as long as she's comfortable.  Overall, her feet are looking great, and the thrush has cleared up fairly well.  There's still some going on in the right front in the collateral sulci near the heels, but it's much better.  I think it shouldn't be too long before it is cleared up entirely.

And now, a brief video about flip-flops for horses:

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


About three weeks ago, Kelly had already made some improvements in fitness and remembering her training, but it was made clear that we still had a LONG ways to go.  A turn on the forehand was a messy affair, she was ducking behind the bit (though that had improved since her arrival), she was falling out of a leg yield, her hindquarters were swinging out to the left... even though her fitness had improved, she was still lacking in strength and balance (no surprise, considering how long she'd been out of work).

Willing to try to do what I asked: absolutely.

Able to do it correctly: not particularly.  (And we weren't really asking a lot!).

I will, therefore, leave it to your imagination what it was like the three weeks before that (I mostly spent that time hacking her at the walk and trot to start bringing her back into shape and encouraging her to reach for the bit again, rather than duck behind).

Of course, we don't get better at the difficult things by doing only the easy things.  But we can try to make the difficult things easier.  My instructions three weeks ago were to only leg yield at the walk until that was satisfactory before trying it at the trot.  So - we REALLY had a long way to go.  But Trainer L said, "she'll get there," and made no indications that Kelly would benefit from Working Student (WS) also riding her, so I took this to mean that Trainer L felt I was up to the task.  (Perhaps I'm grossly overstating the trainer's meaning here, but it makes me feel better, so I'm going with it).

Life, however, is a bitch, and about one week later, my husband and I had to go to California for his mother's funeral (pancreatic cancer is also a bitch, by the way).  I asked for Kelly to go on the fancy walker-exercise machine during this time, so that she would at least be doing something, even if it wasn't that she was getting ridden.  The walker apparently worked, because she didn't lose a lick of condition while I was gone, and in all honesty, probably improved.

This weekend was a bit eventful.  Kelly is still not really used to sharing the arena with other horses, as she has pretty much always been ridden alone.  And because, during the week, I ride at night (you know, when it's dark out and you can't see much out the windows of the arena), this means that on the weekends, Kelly gets very distracted and sometimes upset at being able to now see what's going on *outside* the arena.  Also, she doesn't like the chickens.  So our ride on Saturday was almost entirely at a walk, convincing her to relax.  Seriously, it was about 50-60 minutes of just walking.  It worked, though, because the next 20 minutes or so of actual work were lovely.

I decided that on Sunday I should probably get on her early, well before our lesson.  This was a good call, as she again started out very distracted and anxious, but with some quiet, patient work, she settled in and gave me some very nice work and was ready for the lesson.  What I found in our lesson is that I had a much stronger horse than I did three weeks prior.  I had a horse who could produce a pretty decent shoulder-in.  I had a horse who could perform a much better TOF.  I had a horse who was pretty consistently accepting of contact (no inverting or ducking).  And I had a horse who was now an equal-opportunity thrower of the haunches to the outside!  (Doesn't sound like improvement, but it is).

The canter still needs considerable work, as Kelly still lacks the strength and the balance to hold it well.  But this situation is actually a very good example of why I ride where I do - there are a lot of trainers and riders who only have one tool to answer a specific problem in their toolbox (every problem looks like a nail when all you have is a hammer, as the expression goes).  But this isn't the case at this barn.  To help improve the canter, Trainer L originally suggested only cantering about five strides before coming back to a trot.  But this wasn't working; if anything, it was making Kelly *more* anxious and the quality of both the canter and the trot was suffering.  So Trainer L suggested another tactic: rather than coming back to a trot, keep going at the canter.  As long as she was relaxed, just keep cantering on a generous (though not huge) circle and asking her to bend.  This, paired with lots of transitions within the trot (posting to sitting, baby lengthenings to baby shortenings), began to produce a much better canter.  The transitions within the trot also served to help Kelly to better engage her hind end.  We ended the lesson with a better horse than the one I started with that day.

And last night, for the first time in quite a while (not since Lovely Rider was riding Kelly), I felt Kelly actually engage and really use her hind end at the canter.  It was only a couple strides, but it's all about those little moments, and building them up bit-by-bit into bigger moments, and bigger moments, and bigger moments.


Friday, January 6, 2017

It's Been A Minute

So, it's been a minute since I last posted.  This is not because I haven't tried; looking at my dashboard, I see several started and then abandoned blog posts.  I think that partly, my heart just hasn't been "in it" when it comes to blogging about horses that are not my own.

BUT!  Things change, and good things come to those who wait!  I am pleased (haha, more like ECSTATIC!) to share with you that the lovely Grace Kelly has now joined me in New York (well, technically, New Jersey) to advance her education.

Lovely Rider did, of course, a lovely job with Kelly during the time that she was riding the mare.  Lovely Rider has now moved on to adultier things, like dream jobs, so Kelly is now relegated to hanging out with me again.  Hopefully, with the guidance of the amazing trainers I've been riding with while I've been living in New York, I will be able to build on the fantastic work Lovely Rider did with Kelly.

Kelly has already been here for three weeks, and they've pretty much been the best three weeks of my NY life.  She is so smart and willing and happy to work... I have just fallen in love with her all over again!  She was out of work for a while, but has very quickly started to come back into shape and pick up some new things/remember old things.

I am SO excited to have her here, and I look forward to *actually* chronicling our adventures together!

PS - For those interested, Star and Sparky are both doing well in their lease situations.  Both are in different places than when their leases began, but I am very happy with their current situations.  They are having fun teaching kids to ride and are well-loved and appreciated!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Oops! I Did It Again!

I bought another saddle.

I didn't really *need* to, but I needed to.  My lovely County Conquest (which was actually up here for a little while) is just far too wide for the horses I've been riding - so much that I was beginning to doubt that I even liked my saddle!  I just felt like I could not get my leg on the horse.  It turns out that I'm okay with a wide twist only if it is on a wide horse.

There was a Butet I was riding in, and it was okay for a while.  It certainly worked better on the narrower creatures than my County.  Over time, however, it became less okay, and I really felt like I was fighting to keep my leg under me.  The flap was not a good fit at all, either.  But I made do.
Eventually, I was looking one day at the used saddle selection at Beval.  They didn't have what I thought I wanted (a narrower County), but the lady working there had me sit in some different things.  One was and18" Premium Butet with a 2.25 flap (compared to the 17" 2 flap I'd been riding in) for the bargain price of $5700.  Not happening.  She then asked me if I'd ever sat in a CWD, and I replied that I hadn't.

So she sat me in a CWD.  Let me tell you, that saddle was the most comfortable, cloud-like thing I've ever had the privilege of planting my butt in.  It wasn't what I "wanted," though, so I wasn't willing to pull the trigger.

Three days later, I couldn't get the darn thing out of my head.  So I went back to Beval, sat in a few more things, and ended up taking a different CWD (we'll call this on CWD #2) on trial.  I will admit, the original CWD did not feel quite as cloud-like when I sat in it that time, but I still felt I had to just "get it out of my system," so to speak.

I've been anti-French-saddle for so long that I had zero intention of actually liking the saddle or thinking the saddle fit the horses I ride.  But dammit, when I was riding in it, my leg (my right leg in particular) just went where it was supposed to go.  And I don't mean just in the right place, but also turned correctly from the hip down.  I've always had a problem with my toes wanting to super-point out, but riding in that saddle, the problem just disappeared.  It was in no way that the saddle was forcing my leg into any particular position; my leg just "fell" into place.

Well, crap.  All that was basically the opposite of my planning to hate it.

So I rode in it a few days more.  And then Trainer L said she much preferred that saddle for me than the Butet I'd been using.

Well, crap.

And THEN Husband pointed out that I was complaining much less about back pain riding in that saddle - even compared to when I've ridden in a County.

Well, crap again.

So then the only question was whether I wanted a more forward flap.  If I was seriously considering spending that much money on a saddle, I owed it to myself to try a more forward flap.  I returned CWD #2 to find something else to try.  As luck would have it, I did find the same model and seat size in a different flap immediately.

So I took it on trial (let's call this one CWD #3).  Between the more forward flap and a different panel configuration, CWD #3 rode a bit differently than CWD #2, but it also fit the horses better.  After talking with a rep from CWD, I learned that the panel configuration of CWD #3 is considered their "Pro Panel" - a configuration which works relatively well for many horses.  (CWD #2 was more built up in the rear of the panel - probably to accommodate for a very uphill build or some similar conformation).  The more forward flap was a better fit for my leg.  And Trainer L said she much preferred CWD #3 over CWD #2.

So I made an offer on CWD #3 and the seller met me near the middle (I was willing to pay the asking price, so any amount less was just a bonus).

And I have a new (to me) saddle sitting on the saddle rack.

POSTSCRIPT - I had my (serious) doubts about how well this saddle would work for a wider horse, especially when I saw the perfect sweat pattern on the one the TBs.  Amazingly, however, CWD #3 was not nearly as much too narrow for one the horses I sometimes ride (an Appendix QH who is nearly as wide as Sparky) as I expected it to be.  It looks as though a simple change of panel configuration would result in a saddle which would fit the Appendix.  The same has held true for the other wider horses I ride - the saddle fits them much better than I was prepared for it to fit.  So much for my preconceived notions about French saddles (well, CWD, anyway).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Clothes Do Not Make the Man... er, Woman

I've joked before about how even if I try to look like a Hunter Princess, I completely fail.  And it's true.  You can put me in the exact same Tailored Sportsmans, EIS, and Charles Owen as anyone else who excels at the Hunter Princess Look (Lovely Rider, for instance... who just graduated college this weekend!  Props to her!!!) and I just do. not. look like a Hunter Princess.  So clearly, the clothes do not make the man.  I would say woman here, as I did in my title, but I actually kind of hate that "changing the words to express gender equality" thing.  Not that I don't support the idea of women and men being equal and being paid equally for equal work, yada, yada... it's just that I think merely changing man to woman (or person) doesn't actually promote equality between the sexes.  And also, I don't like change, generally speaking.

Alright, so, I digressed a bit.  Back to the idea of "the clothes don't make the man."  Yesterday is a great example.  I was wearing The Trendy Breeches (TS Trophy Hunters), one of The Trendy Shirts (TS IceFil... I have an EIS, but I really don't love the fit), The Trendy Helmet (Charles Owen AYR8), The Trendy Brand of Half Chaps (Tredstep) and A Trendy Brand of Paddock Boots (Ariat Devon Pro VX).  And a hairnet.  Can't forget the hairnet.  (Honorary Big Sister Jen, what has happened to me?)  So that basically reads like a "Who's Who of Correct (and Expensive) Hunter Princess Apparel", right?  And I should totally look the part, right?  I mean, hell, even my spurs and spur straps came from Beval.  BUT I DON'T.

Now, I will always joke that I am completely incapable of looking like a Hunter Princess.  And in reality, that's totally fine.  I don't spend the money on these things because I'm trying to look the part; I spend the money on these things because I absolutely believe that quality doesn't cost, it pays.  I've gotten far more use of yesterday's particular pair of TS than I have from any other pair of breeches.  A few weeks ago, Husband (have I used his real name here before?  I don't remember, it's been so long) actually asked if they were new.  Yup, three years ago they were new.  But yesterday, I looked at some pictures that Husband took while he was at the barn with me.  And the fact of the matter is this:

Right now, part of the reason I do not look like a Hunter Princess is because I am too heavy.

There.  I said it to the world.

Now, don't take this to mean that I think one needs to be model-thin to be a rider.  You don't need a thigh gap, or a cute booty, or impossibly long legs.  You just don't.  But you DO need to be fit.  And you DO need to be strong (not weight-lifter strong... but strong in your core).  And right now, I am not either of those.

My weight went up and down a bit when I was living in Atlanta (depending on what job I had at the time), but before I was married, I was at a pretty good "fighting weight" for me.  But after moving to New York, I didn't ride for a while, I didn't really work out, and I quit paying attention to what I was eating.  Consequently, I gained weight (big surprise) and ended up at basically the heaviest I've ever been and coming dangerously close to an "overweight" BMI.

I've been unhappy with my weight for a while now and had started taking steps towards making improvements.  I've been much better lately about watching what I eat and had lost a little weight - I'm starting to see a bit of a difference - but I hadn't realized what I looked like when I'm on a horse.  Seeing the pictures from yesterday strengthened my resolve to stay on track food-wise, but more importantly, to really make it a point to work out, get fitter, and get stronger.  It's not fair to me and it's not fair to the horses to have to lug around more weight than is really necessary.  And if I am serious about wanting to improve as a rider, then I need to really think of myself as an athlete.  And no serious athlete is okay with carrying around twenty extra pounds.  It's harder on the joints.  It's harder on the body.  And it's much harder to be effective when you're lugging around dead weight.

So today it starts.  I need better endurance so I'm not so dead after riding four horses (which I did yesterday).  I need better core strength to be able to support my position so I don't fall off during a spin and a buck (which I did on Saturday).  I need better leg strength so I don't get left behind on a horse with a big jump over an oxer (which I did last week).  I'm going to work out over my lunch break today (beginning a MWF schedule), alternating through cardio (for better endurance), core, and weight training.  And tomorrow (altering my usual T-Th schedule) I come into work early so I can leave early and ride two horses in the evening instead of my usual one.  I will go rock climbing with Husband at least one evening per week.  And I will continue to spend at least one entire day at the barn on the weekend, riding as many horses as possible.

I need to be an athlete so the horses I ride can be athletes.

And so my show coat fits.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I'll Keep You My Dirty Little Secret

PS - See those breeches?  Those are my wonderful, amazing, Tailored Sportsman Trophy Hunters in RUST!

Ok all, I have a confession to make.  I've been keeping a secret from you... but I can't bear to do so any longer.

I've been taking lessons.

I'm currently living pretty much in the heart of amazing hunter-jumper trainer-land, and I would be remiss to not take this opportunity to ride with them, learning as much as I can and really improving as a rider.

I am a good rider... but I want to be a great rider.  I want to be the kind of rider other people ask to have ride their horses.

And I'm now on the way.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Missing My Horses

I'm missing my horses pretty badly right now.  Both are doing well and their lessees (who are very sweet) are loving them, which makes me feel good, but I still miss them.  I can't help but see pictures and statuses posted on Facebook and think, "That should be me."

What makes this more frustrating is that my husband seems to think that now that both horses are leased out, I have no intention of having a horse up here!  For real?  We have discussed MANY times various options for me to have a horse up here, whatever horse that may be.  I can't be too mad at him, because overall, he really is supportive... he just tends to forget things sometimes.  But I still felt like kicking him.  Even if he does forget things sometimes, he knows how important horses are to me.

I'm thinking I might make a trip to Georgia soon to check in on them (and see my Atlanta friends!).  The trainer at Star's Lessee's barn also said that whenever I came down, she could have all kinds of horses for me to ride there, so I will probably take her up on that.

That's all for now, really.  Just wanted to get it off my chest.