Monday, January 11, 2021

Lesson 21 - The catch up - Part 2


I have ridden in my jump saddle three times so far with my new stirrups, I have to say, I expected very little. Gadgets and gimmicks are not something I buy into very heavily and for someone to say "This fixed all of my pain" was something I looked for, but I didn't necessarily believe it would happen. However, these stirrups have actually made me comfortable. I have done 2 light fitness rides, with two point, and not only did my knee not lock up, it didn't swell and it wasn't painful. 

Pretty stirrups, pretty snoot! 

I bought the Soft'up Pros and they feel legitimately solid. I feel extremely secure in the stirrups, there is no slippage at all and the stirrups are "right there" when I drop them due to how they connect to the stirrup leather. I am hopeful I will be able to start jumping again soon, and without pain, as one of the (many) reasons I didn't jump a lot this year was due to knee pain issues. 3 surgeries, arthritis, and lack of cartilage has really taken it's toll on me!

The TRILOGY SADDLE!!! After a deep clean/conditioning

Lesson 21 was Jan 3 and was totally focusing on bending. One of the issues I have is that with my logical brain, I have switches. On/Off. Left/Right. I have to ride with gradients, and after a year, things are much, much better but it is still a work in progress. I need to ask smaller and get bigger with my ask versus asking for (whatever) "right now". If I want a 10 meter circle, I need to start as if it is a 20m as I turn and then ask for a smaller and then smaller circle. Right now I have a tendency to pull/push/kick to the the movement as I am "riding the pattern" and not always the horse because I am riding X, then Y, then Z. Instead I should be riding to X, and then into Y, and then into Z. 

It seems to fit
Way more wither clearance than
any saddle I have put on her!

Riding. The art of realizing you are never doing anything right but we keep trying anyway. I will say these lessons have tremendously improved my skill and my relationship with Mia. A made a very accurate statement, Mia is a much better partner now even though she is not nearly as obedient as she was. We have taught her how to tell us when something is too hard or can't be done versus fighting me because she didn't know how to say she couldn't. As a result, she tries differently and sometimes says no, but is more willing to try. It was eye opening indeed.

It is so soft
Really digging it so far

On Tuesday, low and behold my saddle showed up! It was a lovely, unannounced surprise. That morning the tracking number showed "in transit", as it had since Dec 16th. After it was delivered, tracking suddenly updated to say on Jan 5 at 4a it was in a local distribution center and 8a it was out for delivery. I don't believe that, as it always, always takes at least 24 hours to get from the distribution center to my local office, let alone in a van to delivery it, but hey, my saddle came so I will take it. I also didn't get the email notification that I had signed up for for any of those updates, I never got any email update since the 16Dec email actually, but at least I got the saddle.

These long ass billets mean I don't have a girth that actually fits now

It was such a sad sight. It had been curled in a box for 30 days, cold and alone in a warehouse who knows were. It was dirty, dry, and super duper stiff. I brought it into my office to warm up and then spent an hour cleaning and conditioning it so that I could know every single inch of it. The saddle could use a dye job, as several places have brown coming through. It also has a small nick on a knee roll and by the seat. Other than that? I am extremely happy with it.

The only girth I have that fits is a 22" from my sale pile, and I need a 24"

The first ride was SO different from my Isabell. Despite there being a very wide gullet channel, the twist feels so very narrow in comparison which really helps this lady who does not have wide, child birthing hips. The seat is also much deeper, I am used to a scooped, but fairly flat seat in the Isabell. I wonder if I need an 18" seat versus a 17.5" seat, and it was awkward as I kept sitting on my jacket.
Feeling something touching my butt is taking some getting used to. The Trilogy also moved my leg forward, a LOT, without being in a chair seat. Take a look at the last picture. This last point was one of the biggest reasons I was saddle shopping is and is also one of the reasons I picked this saddle model to search for when I sat in so many saddles back in November. 
Sexy butt

A quick story, back in December when I was so mentally tired with my horse breaking, the quarantine, and my saddle not showing up, I stopped riding in my Isabell. I started riding only in my County jump saddle and just used really long stirrups. It wasn't easy, as my body really, really wants to be forward and with my legs high as the County wanted me to be, however my County is much more comfortable than my Isabell and I was mostly trail riding/walk/trotting. That was for about 2.5 to 3 weeks. I put my Isabell back on the weekend before my saddle randomly showed up and there was a significant, noticeable difference in how Mia moved. She was certainly more tense and short in her stride, something I hadn't really noticed before. Very interesting indeed! Perhaps she doesn't like the tree as much as my County!


The second ride in the Trilogy was much better. I wore less clothes and felt that I "fit" in it better. I also had significantly more control over Mia. When I put my leg "on", Mia moved. I was also able to engage my leg from my thigh a lot easier, something I have always struggled with. Even in the right lead canter, our worse direction, I felt I had more control and Mia seemed to respond to my seat much better.

Ignore the whale like-appearance, the jacket was not flattering. 
Look at the difference in leg position!!

I have a lesson tonight, which I think is the big test. Let's see what A has to say about how Mia moves and how I ride in it. I do plan on having the Pivo out for the lesson too! Fingers crossed that this makes as much of a difference in my dressage as my County did for my jumping. If it works, the next step is finding a saddle fitter and getting dialed into Mia so we can be fabulous! 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Lesson 20 - The catch up Part 1

Wow. I really dropped the blogging ball. Lesson 20 was really a not-lesson, as I was paying for A's time and opinion in a consulting session about saddles. A brought out 5 different saddles to try on Mia. They are not ones she has for sale, but just ones that were around the barn so we could see if Mia liked any of them. If the Trilogy falls through, we would then have some saddle models to start looking at! There were two immediate No's, the tree didn't fit Mia well at all. That left a 1980's model Passier and 2 Stubbens.  

So much riding, so little treats

The Passier was old, hard, and quite uncomfortable for me, but Mia really seemed to like the saddle. She moved freely, happily, and forward in all three gaits. Personally it felt like riding in a bareback pad with stirrups. I made that comment during the ride, and while A thought that was a good thing, I am not quite sure it is. I will definitely be looking for a newer, softer Passier if I go that route! Mia did not, however, move well in the Stubbens at all. I had to really force the issue of trotting, and we stopped before we went a full circle as it was clear Mia didn't like the saddle.

After that lesson, Mia's left front swelled up and was lame. We suspect it was the residual affects of the right front being off for so long and the left front compensating. That JUST cleared up when we had Lesson 21 and Mia was lame again. We did a short, mostly walk lesson where we focused on bending and trying to fix some of my bad habits. Mia's left hind popped an abscess about a week later so I took the holiday break to do basic walk/trot fitness. Maybe I was bringing her back too quickly each time, maybe she needed more basic level fitness? Or I was in a huge mental funk and didn't want to work hard, either option is possible.

That was definitely an abscess

Around this time is when my bad knee decided it was unhappy when riding, and would hurt/swell/lock up even during a trial ride. Even with drugs. Off to the interwebs I went to find recommendations. Perhaps some new stirrups would make life easier? After searching (dozens of) forums, threads, and groups, there were a few stirrups that were always recommended. Composi, MDC, and Freejump. I expected to see the Bow Balance in the list, but they rarely ever came up! Disappointing as someone at the barn had Bow Balance I could have asked to borrow. I know 2 different bloggers use and love their Freejump stirrups so off I went in search. It took weeks to find one for a price I was willing to pay, as they are damn pricey, and even then they were much more than I really wanted to spend. 

I don't hate the blue

Queue the post office being the post office, things took weeks to arrive. The stirrups I bought Dec 12 arrived Dec 30th.  The saddle I bought on Nov 18 that was shipped with Priority? It didn't arrive until Jan 5th. By Jan 1, I had all but given up on my saddle! When it arrived, it was the saddest saddle you had ever seen. Cold and stiff from being folded into a box for 30+ days, I spent a good hour cleaning and conditioning it after moving it to my office where it was warm. The result? I am very pleased, very pleased indeed.

Can I be warm and be on a budget? Yes!

Speaking of pleased, one of the barn peeps started wearing snow pants to work/ride in instead of bibs and said they were a game changer for her. Never one to refuse an opportunity, I found these white snow pants in the clearance section for 75% off. But....white? Eww? I researched dyes for polyester and settled on iDye Poly in Turquoise. While they didn't turn actual turquoise, IMO, I really am impressed in how they turned out. The dye was very even and looks like it came from the factory this way!

Boil, boil, boil away

The results are impressive, I do agree that the snow pants work just as well (if not better than) as bib Carhartt's. They are lighter, they have more flexibility, and are not nearly as bulky. If anyone wants some warm over pants, try some snow pants this winter! 

I like these, a lot. No more sweat pants as an overpant,
I am going with these!

The feedback I have on the dying process? It definitely needs to be done outside, and you need a big stock pot but less water than you think you need. The water went to the tip top of the pot when I had about a third of the pot filled with water after dunking my pants. My pot wasn't big enough to submerge the entire pants either, I did have to stir it constantly for 30 mins, which wasn't nearly as bad as you would think. I would also buy the next larger size pant if I did it again, however, because there is very minimal shrinkage during the boiling process. It isn't bad at all, but it is just enough to be snug in the hips and crotch when I am riding. I think they will relax and stretch a little, but these first few rides have been snug. And hey, having more room is never a bad thing. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Lesson 19 - I am a stormtrooper

 Our lesson went really, really well despite being 70 degrees in the middle of November. Mia isn't clipped, as she lives outside, and despite our efforts she was pretty steamy at the end of our ride. It also doesn't help that she had over 2 months off due to her weird leg issue. *shrug* Our focus was to reengage Mia, as she had determined that she rather enjoyed not doing the hard work and had a bit of an attitude when asked to do the work. 

The focus of the ride was to get Mia forward, to make sure I wasn't "fiddling" with my hands, and to find the balance of working while not letting each of us push each others buttons. A said she can absolutely see Mia pushing my buttons and I push hers, when we get in this situation, we need to redirect our plans to try to not push the buttons. When Mia refuses to move off of my leg, instead of smacking her with the whip, make a small circle or hyper flex. When Mia gets resistant, I need to not fight with her, but continue to try to flex and supple her and not get in a pulling match. At one point, she asked if I felt resistance and I said "Oh yes, I feel the resistance is strong today!" And as such, she then called me a storm trooper and I almost fell off of my horse from laughing so hard. 

It took almost 2/3 of a lesson, but eventually Mia got on board, was doing legitimate work and A said we were working at a solid 2nd level. We have some absolute brilliant moments, and the trick is to find ways to make those moments last longer and happen more often. One big issue she has is my saddle. I have a Wintec Isabell, a saddle I bought new in 2007 and have ridden faithfully in every since. I have been very, very passively looking for a new dressage saddle for the past 3 years, but my requirements is that it has to make as big of a difference as my jump saddle did. I do not need a new saddle that doesn't make a difference!

We talked a lot about mechanics and one of the key issues is the (older) Isabell's stirrup bars are almost 2" further back than most saddles to help put your leg underneath of you. This was probably very helpful when I started riding dressage, as many, many people ride in a chair seat, however at this point in my riding experience, my legs are too far back. I am on the constant strugglebus to keep my leg at the girth, as they are always behind the girth. It also keeps my leg fairly straight, more Phillip Dutton and I should be more Michael Jung. She is going to bring all of her dressage saddles out at our next lesson to see if any work better, I also went and sat in 18+ consignment saddles in 3 tack stores and really liked the feel of a Trilogy Verago. It was the only one that I went "Wow, that changed my position!"

And then, as things go, despite having saddles coming for my lesson, I accidentally bought a used Verago lol. I should have it next week, and fingers crossed it is as described! It is a 2008 model and needs to be redyed, but I got a really good price on it so it shouldn't be too bad even if I have to resell it. Fingers crossed. The one at the tack store was much too narrow, and this one may be a touch too wide but it may also be perfect.

Also in good news, I have my Pivo all charged up and ready to use in my lesson. Fingers crossed all goes well, it is quite wonky when the battery is low.   So far, the Pivo hasn't given me any major issues as long as it is charged up and I would love to get some media from when A says we are being brilliant! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Lesson 18 - Be careful what you ask for!

 With Mia finally looking and feeling better, it was time to work on me. To say my mood has been low would be an understatement. I work best when working towards something, I am very goal oriented and often struggle when I am not trying to achieve something. On the 19th, I pushed both Mia and myself with a w/t/c bareback ride for a full 30 mins and finished with riding the Novice dressage test. On Tues I asked for a lesson, and to bring the pain. I obviously need a system reset, and I wanted to to see what A could bring lol. Her reply? Jump saddle lunge lesson, no stirrups, over fences at the end. Well okay then, that does sound like an appropriate level of torture!


Someone is feeling MUCH better!

On Weds I rode even harder. I rode in the jump saddle with no stirrups and went over a small cavaletti. We rode for almost 40 mins and it was the very first time Mia has broken into a sweat since this ordeal started. I was quite pleased to see how secure I felt, however, and I felt ready for my lesson!

Thursday brought my lesson (I TOTALLY should have used my Pivo! I didn't even think about it!). I did warn A that I was pretty tight despite stretching due to the workouts I had done that week, including over 60 crunches on Tuesday. Abs were crying! Our lesson kicked off and we did all of the normal lunge line things. W/T/C. Again but with arms in the air, holding our legs up, legs back, hands on hips. I will say, cantering with no stirrups with your hands on your hips while you swing your body to look left and right was legit harder than I expected and was the only balance exercise I struggled with.


Mia was not amused with having to break a sweat. Notice no stirrups.

Mia was moving exceptionally well (FINALLY!) and we quickly started going over the small cavaletti. We found a hole in my training and suddenly I earned my stirrups back, balance was certainly not something to work on so time to work on something else! One thing I have always done, and have even talked about it on the blog, is I have loose hands going over fences. I have never wanted to jerk or grab their mouth on landing so if the horse needs it, on landing they can take as much rein as they want. (Sorry A!!) I do actually know this isn't great, especially over larger fences, but my horses have always been great about not taking the reins all of the time and when I DO need them, I don't slide them or I am a-ok jumping with long reins. A, however, was not okay with this. At all. I got a nice long talking to over this matter. Oops!

After I got my stirrups back, we started trying to install a new program for my arms. My hands have to follow the horse and I cannot slip the reins. The only way it "worked" was when I had my hands way up in a long crest release. I....I have never ridden like this. I have never ridden with a crest release at all, I only jump with an automatic release. Not only did it feel weird, it was quite difficult for me! Not only that, she had me imitating jumpers by pushing my butt up and out while doing the long crest release. Oy vey!!


Why is there a lump on your snoot Mia?

To say the lesson kicked our butts would be an understatement. I finally feel the fire in my belly again though! A said I have exceptional balance and balls of steel. Everything she asked me to do, I did without hesitation (except these changes to my riding style lol), including the time she set up a 3'3" jump. Which we haven't done since spring. The thing to work on is developing a following hand, I am not allowed to let my reins slip if I am not going over a drop fence. She says I probably drive Mia crazy with my constant rein futzing, as I drive A nuts and she isn't a horse lol. I also have excellent position in a saddle, but my two point without stirrups is non-existent. Hmm. Oh, and I am also standing on my toes in two point instead of sinking in my heels? Weird, as I have tons of pictures that show the opposite, but that could also be due to the lack of jumping this year? It is on my homework list!


Weird, hard lump on a soft nose - because why not? I think she just tries to stay broken.

Always something to work on, we are far from perfect My homework is to start bringing Mia back to fitness with lots of cross country or road work. Which is difficult since I can only ride outside 2 days a week now, but fitness is something we can do. I also need to put myself over some small cavaletti more to figure out this long crest release/following hand business. I think I have the perfect use for the Pivo tonight!

Monday, October 26, 2020

The follow up and outcome - All is finally getting better

What happens when your horse is NQR for almost 2 months and no one can figure it out? A lot of motivation loss, a touch of depression, a wonder of what you are even doing. Slap all of this onto the shit show of 2020, yeah. You get the idea. So what has happened?  Let me tell you!


Sep 29

This part you already know. Aug 29 the farrier was out. Aug 30 we went on a group trail ride that I will never do again. Sep 2 I had a lesson. As we warmed up, Mia's right front was clicking. Weird. I mentioned it to the trainer, A, and she watched us walk around the arena and listened to the clicking. 


Sep 29

We stopped, chatted, and Mia was dead lame when we tried walking forward. Her legs were all blown up in weird ways, as seen in the last post's pictures. Had the vet out Sep 7, she thought maybe a ligament issue, give her some rest, bute and poultice every day for 2 weeks. Done. That catches you up from my last post.


Hooves pre-trim - sent to farrier Oct 8

2 weeks later? The same. No change. Had the vet out again on Sep 21(?) and had a full lameness done. She said there is no way Mia had ligament issues, as Mia was basically asleep in the cross ties as she was being palpated. Hoof testers pinpointed nothing. Flexions showed nothing. Lunging showed her a .5 or .75 in lameness in the front, but there was nothing obvious. The vet said Mia isn't lame enough to actually diagnose even if we wanted to try more diagnosis like nerve blocks. She said the swelling was distal limb swelling and Mia was likely footsore due to a hoof angle being off. 


Hooves pre-trim - sent to farrier Oct 8

Since 2 weeks of rest/bute/poultice didn't fix her, I should ride conservatively until the farrier is out with the idea of riding her until she is fixed or broken enough to diagnose. If  the swelling doesn't get better after a trim, I should look at putting some sort of supportive shoe on like aluminum or pads. Perhaps Mia has some arthritis that is flaring up and some additional cushion and support would help. *sigh* Okay.

Can you see the issue?

I rode lightly this whole time, and since I couldn't do much, I might as well work on me so I spent about 4 weeks riding bareback. Mostly walk, some trot, mostly in the 20-30 minute mark, mostly in the arena since it is now dark at 630p which is when I get to the barn. I realized I definitely needed that, as my balance was good but some work at it was certainly needed and I felt much better about bareback riding after a couple of weeks. During this time, I would curry/cold hose/liniment/sometimes poultice her legs before and after every ride. Her legs would sometimes look a little better, but most times they looked the same. Swelling that felt thick, was always random, and didn't really go down.


How about now? Her camber is off!

On Oct 8, I rode and took pics of Mia's feet for the farrier so she could see the angles. She said Mia's angles looked fine, Mia had some toe to remove, and her right front needed to come down a little. Fine. For whatever reason, I happened to glance at Mia from the hind end and it was like the curtains parting, the sun shining in a spotlight, and the angels started singing. All of this time and apparently no one, not me, not the vet, no one at the barn, no one looked at Mia's hoof angles from the rear and that was where the issue was obvious.

Post trim, still have a way to go

Several trims ago, the farrier specifically said she was letting Mia's right front outside wall grow to counter something that was happening to her inside. I don't even remember what it was now. In the last trim, I was leaving and didn't micro manage, and didn't notice she hadn't really trimmed the outer wall. Professions are supposed to know what they are doing! This seems to have been the issue this whole time. Mia is traveling at such an angle, her legs became swollen trying to accommodate the slant. 

Oct 21 - swelling almost gone

The farrier was out Oct 10 and we worked on fixing this issue. It will take 1-2 more trim cycles to completely fix it, but I made sure to convey that I wanted Mia level again. Whatever she was trying to do had months to fix and now Mia needs to be level.

Oct 21 - swelling almost gone

There was a slight improvement on Oct 12 and 13th, and then I left on a 5 day trip. On Oct 19? Mia's legs are much, much better. The swelling is no longer thick feeling, it now feels soft and puffy! A huge difference and one I can live with. I fully expect this to take another trim cycle to fully resolve the swelling, as her leg structure has to accommodate the new balance and that simply takes time. The difference just 2 weeks has made though? I'm beyond happy. Mia is now forward again, something I noticed had stopped, and we even took a lesson on Thursday. More on that in the next post, and Pivo updates!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Not very superficial to me

 You know what they about horses and best laid plans, right? 

Thurs pm, left front

Thurs PM, right front

I grabbed Mia on Thursday, walked through the entire 5 acre pasture, brushed her, got on, walked about 5 minutes and the instructor came in. A watched us walk around for about a lap and a half because I mentioned Mia's right front was clicking oddly. 

Thurs PM, outside of right front normal

We halted and chatted with A for about a minute. When I asked Mia to walk on, she was suddenly lame. Seriously?!?  
Weds PM, Left front
Her ligaments were sort of thick and lumpy on her front right, so she was able to get out of a dressage lesson while also being "poisoned" with bute. 

Weds PM, right front

The rest of this past week has been identical. Mia gets bute 2x a day and poultice at night when I am out.
Weds PM, right front

Only the inside of her legs have this puffiness and obvious thickening of the ligaments. No real heat, no other swelling, and the outside of her legs look completely normal. 

Weds PM, left front

I had the vet out and Mia was completely non-reactive upon palpation. The vet said she would be very surprised if Mia tore or strained something because of just how completely non-reactive she was, but if Mia was still puffy in 2 weeks we can ultrasound her. *sigh* 

Thermal image, right front

The vet thinks it is her superficial digital flexor tendon and not her deep digital tendon. On the plus side, Mia isn't lame anymore on either foot?

Thermal image, left front

The concerning part of the thermal images is that it is obviously something going on in the tendons, especially the left front which was normal last Thursday. I am glad I snapped a pic on Thurs of the left front, as it looks so much worse now despite having a full week off. 

I am giving her another week off, why not at this point. I did take some video with the new Pivo, that will be for the next post! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Taking the plunge - I bought a Pivo!

 I did it, I bought the thing. I have been seeing ads for Pivos for a while. I have read several blogs from people who have gotten them, including Amanda at 900FBPony who has given the best insight IMO. Honestly? It was reading her posts and her overall guide that had me finally do it. I am hopeful I will be able to get good feedback, since I operate best that way. The ability to have decent video all year? Yes please! I tried using a remote and small tripod 2 years ago, but the issue was the remote only worked reliably at 25 feet away. Videos were okay enough, but it tied to one spot. Then I would (very often) do a thing only to find the remote didn't start the video. I am hopeful that this is the answer, because more video would be cool!

My instructor also talked about a Pivo, we had been having scheduling difficulties while I was "gone" from blogging and she had suggested a video lesson. I am not sure how much I need that, since I can see my flaws just fine thank you, and I think I would prefer having the instant feedback but it could be an option. Like a dressage test, there is only so much feedback you can get and improve upon after the fact. So anyway, it arrives this Friday. Fingers crossed!

This past weekend was cool in that Mia and I went to a hunter pace, the very first outing of the year. At the end of August lol. Mia loaded up with no hesitation and trailered like a champ. We were in the walk division with a group of 9 others that went from our barn. It was cool to be in a big group, which was a first for me, but it was also frustrating with some people having their own agenda. I do agree that schooling is required when a horse is being difficult, however there are some exceptions and certainly limitations. Some people on the ride lost my respect and that is really too bad. Overall, though, we had a good time and I enjoyed the ride. Mia and I jumped every jump we saw and she was a rock star. She was sticky to only one jump, the rest she was totally dragging me to in her excitement to finally be out and about! 

It ended up being a 6.7 mile ride, thus it was no surprise that the next day she was quite stiff so we just did a long walk ride. We were joined by a lady who is rehabbing her horse and they needed to walk for 20 mins so it worked out quite well. Someone to ride with when I am always alone? Yes please! At the end of the ride Mia was loose and swingy, so while we didn't work on homework, I think it was a very successful ride. We have our next lesson tomorrow and I am excited to see what kind of buttons we get to play with. 

I am trying to stay excited about horse stuff, which is hard when I am going to absolutely nothing this year. It is hard to have a laser focus when your goal vanishes into thin air. The barn had planned to bring a BNT in for a clinic, but even that also evaporated and isn't happening. I know this is temporary, and so many people have it worse, but sometimes it is hard to stay positive and upbeat when 2020 is such a....well you know. Everything is bad, getting worse, and pointing towards catastrophe. 

Here is to hoping for motivation and for the Pivo to help as much as I hope it will. If not, I will have one for sale in short order! HA! No worries, I do plan on reviewing this bad boy!