Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Franken-Bridle

The problem with Sparky breaking his *ONE,* *EXPENSIVE* bridle is that I need to replace it.  And Sparky's head is oddly-sized.  Now, if he had just broken the cheek pieces that would have been fine - I already have an extra pair.  But nooooooo - Sparky had to find a way to break the headstall.  So until that's replaced, no useable bridle.

I decide on a two-pronged approach.   1- I replace his crownpiece and at the same time, upsize his slightly-snug browband for a larger one to accomodate his big brains.  2 - I also purchase a second, less-expensive for daily use.  Though Sparky has an oddly-sized head, this one seems like it might work.

Of course, none of this is simple and straight-forward.  How could it be, when your pony needs a horse cavesson, cob crown, pony cheeks, and oversize brow?

I ordered a plain raised padded Dover Showmark for daily use; after chatting with a rep, it seemed a cob size might work, but might need pony cheeks for the buckles to be in just the right place.  I also ordered a plain raised padded oversize Edgewood browband and both a horse and a cob size Edgewood crownpiece from Just Bridles.  Truly, the cob crown seemed a little snug on Sparky previously, but I wasn't sure if it was because of the crown or the brow... so now that I have the opportunity, we'll find out and fix it.  

I received both the Showmark bridles and the Edgewood pieces on the same day.  The Showmark is very pretty and even has the new-fangled comfort crown thing goin' on.  The Edgewood pieces are exactly what one would expect from Edgewood. 

I fiddled around with the Edgewood pieces for a bit, and determined that the horse size crown fits the Sparkplug better than the cob, though the throatlatch is a bit long.  I'll get that trimmed down someday.  I also decided that I'll keep the cob size crown, as with the addition of that, I will now have a complete cob size Edgewood made from Sparky's cast-off pieces and the spare cheeks.  The oversize browband, however, was just plain too big.  And the horse size is too small.  Figures. 

The Showmark is possibly the most oddly-sized bridle I've ever encountered.  The browband and crown were a perfect fit for Sparky.  The throatlatch was, as always, too long.  The caveson was too small and the flash was ridiculously tiny.  And the cheeks - oh my gosh, the cheeks!  There is NO reason that either of my horses should need to have the cheekpieces on the top hole on a cob-size bridle - and yet, that was exactly the case!  So the Showmark bridle is going to be returned and replaced with a SmartPak Plymouth bridle.  For 1/3 of the price, I can handle a less-than-perfect fit (or, alternatively, can afford to buy different pieces to make it fit, or at least come close).

I've come to this determination about Sparky's head: he's oddly sized, but maybe in a different way than I realized.  I can't really mix-and-match pieces to make something fit because he's exactly in-between cob and horse size.  He's pony/cob sized in the length and under the chin and throat, but horse+ sized over the crown, brow, and nose!  (See picture above - red is pony, yellow is cob, green is horse).  You can't buy that - lol!  So the closest we're going to come for now is that I am just going to have to settle on adjusting straps on shorter/higher holes than I prefer (therefore having more excess strapage than I like)... and then it turns out that Sparky's current Franken-bridle is not that Franken-bridle after all.  It's basically a horse-size bridle with cob-size cheeks.  And the only thing left from his original cob size bridle is the cheeks.

One last thing: I'd like to put in a plug for Brita at Just Bridles.  She's absolutely awesome and is helping me brainstorm ideas for a browband that will both match the Edgewood AND fit the Sparkplug correctly, including even checking with Edgewood to see if they have a random irregularly size browband that just happens to fit.  This is why you deal with small businesses!   

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Perfect Day and a Far From Perfect Ride

I've been to the barn more this week than I have for the past several weeks, and yet I'm sure that I've actually spent less time in the saddle than in previous weeks!

Sparky is way out of shape and quite pudgy (my new favorite nickname for him is "Pudge," which I extra-like, because it's also a name for mashed potatoes, which I also love), so I've been trying to spend some time in the rather-hilly back pasture doing my version of "trot and canter sets."  This really just means that because I don't own a watch, we trot around the perimeter a few times, canter around then perimeter a few times, and then reverse and repeat.  We get the benefit of a big area to maintain our pace for a longer period, as well as the added effort from the hills and dips.

Since it was a perfect day weather-wise, I decided it would be a good day to go out to the back pasture.  We did this last week, and it went well.  The one change I made was to shorten my stirrups a hole - they felt a little long last week.

We head out to the pasture, and started out at a walk around the perimeter.  After completing one circuit, we moved up into a trot.  As we came by the trees, Sparky started to get a little "looky."  I remembered that the neighbors have cows and assumed that Sparky was just hearing them, but worried because he couldn't see them.  I mentally shrugged and thought, "No big deal.  He's seen cows before - he'll be fine."

We passed the treed area and move along our fenceline to where it paralleled the clearing in the neighbor's pasture... oh!  Here are the cows!  Sparky was still acting a bit spooky, so after we passed by, I brought Sparky back to a walk, with the intent of walking by the cows again.  It seemed it might be okay, but then one of the cows (calves, really) cantered up to the fenceline!

Thoroughly convinced that the zombie calf wanted to eat Sparky's brains ('cause they're so big, you know), Sparky politely tried to excuse himself from the situation through all means of attempted bolting, spinning, backing, hopping, and popping up in front.  I had him well enough in hand that he didn't actually run off, but I knew that I also did not want to stay on him.  Convinced he was about to be zombie-fied, it took a minute to settle Sparky enough for me to dismount.

My smart thought upon dismounting: unbuckle the reins.  I knew I would have more control over Sparky if I brought the reins back over his head, rather than leaving them around his neck as I usually do... but for some reason, unbuckling the ends seemed like a good idea.

I worked on the ground with Sparky for a while, trying to convince him that the cows really were not going to harm him.  Poor Sparky was literally terrified - every single muscle was tense, he was puffed up, blowing, shaking, snorting, and soaked with sweat.  Poor guy!  A few times he relaxed just enough to try to reach down and take a bite of grass, but as he rustled leaves and made noise, he scared himself again!

Eventually, Sparky started to calm down some, and tried to grab a bite of grass again.  But then, horror of horrors, one of the zombie cows (again, calves, really) came  running up to the fenceline again.  That was enough for Sparky.  He said, "Fuck this shit!  I'm outta here!" and took off.  I suppose I could have tried to hold him, but really, what was the point?  I'm brave, but I'm not stupid (I don't think, anyway...).  As Sparky ran off, I yelled to him to not break anything.  And I set off, at a much slower pace, across the many (15?) acre pasture back towards the little barn to retrieve my pony.

As I got close, I saw that there were no longer reins dangling from the bit... nay, there was no bit!  So much for my warning to not break anything.  Of course, for probably the first time ever, there are no spare halters by the barn with which to catch my horse, but then I spotted a random few straps laying on the ground.  So I walked over to those, thinking it would work for now to lead Sparky back to the main barn.  As I got closer, I realized that those straps were not so random after all.  Oops.  Reins - check.  Bit - check.  Cheek pieces - check.  Headstall - headstall?!?  *Sigh*

Who would have thought a cow (calf) could be so terrifying?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

All Grown Up?

So it would seem that perhaps Sparky is ready to be "that horse" - the horse that will go pretty much anywhere, do pretty much anything, and not get rattled by the occasional bad ride, bad spot, bad/scary/new fence, or llama.

Honorary Big Sister Jen recently took Star and Sparky to her place of employ to give lessons for her middle school IEA team.  I figured it would probably be okay... but part of me was still a little worried.  And I couldn't be there, because I was working!  In the afternoon, I received a text message from Honorary Big Sister Jen telling me that I HAD to call her as soon as I got off work!!!  Hmmm... so, as soon as I got off work, I called.

And Sparky was  perfect!  He nearly backed off the trailer without needing his driving reins (yes, my horse must be "driven" back off the trailer), and then clocked around with kids like he did it all the time.  He did, apparently, have one meltdown involving a llama, I believe, but (and this is a big "but") he recovered and carried on with his job.  He jumped everything in the arena (much of which he'd not seen before) and even swapped his leads during the practice equitation tests.  And finally, upon his return home, he backed off the trailer in a much more convential manner, requiring no driving lines at all.

I couldn't possibly be more pleased with my Napolean!  Apparently, Honorary Big Sister Jen told one of the girls that if I were there, I probably would have tears in my eyes.  I'm pretty sure she was right!  It's taken a very long time, but Sparky is finally turning into the horse I always knew he could be. =)

PS - Star was, of course, perfect as well. :)