Friday, July 29, 2016

Cool things and sick things.

Olivia had a contest when she moved to her own website and of course I had to play along.  Then I won a prize of my choosing!  We could have chosen an earnet, a stall sign or homemade treats.  Mia has been without a stall sign this whole time and while she would have likely chosen treats, I requested a stall sign.  I gave Olivia completely free reign on the project, I told her "I would like her name on it, Mia.  If there was a graphic, something with a jumping horse or something with spots.  Preferably on the smaller side, less than 18 inches long."

Package!!!  Why you post upside down blogger?!
Man did she deliver.  Olivia actually sent me a message to "explain" why she did what she did before it arrived, which was really sweet but totally unnecessary.  I was just excited that Mia would finally have something with her name on it!  I mean, a GOOD horse mom would have already gotten a stall sign, you know, 2.5 years ago....
Not your typical stall sign.  Look at how awesome
Mia's outline looks on this?!
Low and behold this showed up in my mailbox and I was super excited to tear into it.  I almost, ALMOST forgot to take pics along the way.  I mean, presents?!?  How can one pause to take pictures with that kind of excitement?  I slapped my self control into action and paused to take pictures along the way.
Look at the detail of this.  How cool!
How cute is this?!?  Olivia asked to use my profile pic and I think it turned out so well!  She said it is not a typical stall sign because I currently don't have a stall (womp, womp, pasture boarder) and it works well because this is going in my "tack area" in the basement with App's stall plate.  And it even has a hook!  This is well made and I am looking forward to finding things to hang on it when I have my "tack area" fully organized.  Thank you Olivia for such a cool gift!  You captured Mia very well :-)

Ready for stuffs.  Thank you Olivia!!
The bad news is Mia is currently sidelined and not feeling well.  On Thursday she had a bit of nose crud, I just cleaned it out and didn't think of it because it was humid and kinda dusty.  The standard recipe for  nose crud.  On Monday the nose crud was more significant and she also had a cough when we were trotting around.  Not a bad cough, it sounded like a "round bale cough", a dry cough that happens when horses have their noses shoved in a dusty round bale all day.  Since they had gotten a new round bale on Sunday, I didn't give it much thought.  When I went out on Wednesday, however, Mia was a lot worse.  The nose crud was now in the "eww" category and she had a cough that I didn't like the sound of.  She coughed on the way to the barn, on the way out of the barn and while we walked around.  I had hopped on for a quick trail ride and stopped after 10 minutes as Mia just didn't feel up to it.  She was almost lethargic and after another cough under saddle, I called it a night. Technically we stopped after 5 mins, but then had the walk back to the barn.

I took her temp and it was 100.4.  High for her, but within the normal range.  I sent the vet a message asking if we could be squeezed in and I cold hosed Mia so she would feel better.  Or to make me feel better since I couldn't do anything else.  Dr M said she could be out Thursday so I took a half sick day at work and met the vet.  Dr M agreed the cough didn't sound good and that Mia was just chock full of mucus.  She is on SMZs for 2 weeks and some banamine for pain and to try to ensure she won't have feet issues as the toxins leave her system.  Dr M said it hasn't yet turned into pnuemonia as she doesn't have a fever, but it is a likely possibility with as congested as she is.  Dr M suspects she had a sinus issue that then got infected.  I know all about those lol.  Damn sinuses.

If Mia isn't better within 5 days, she will be thrown on steroids as well.  So I spent 30 mins yesterday grinding pills into powder and putting them in baggies so the barn can give them with minimal work.  I figured powder would be easier than convincing Mia to take a drink after each pill to ensure it goes "down the hatch".  Ha!  It was a joke people.  So the show in August  is a No Go for sure now, thankfully no entry fees had been submitted.  Here's to hoping for a fast recovery for my girl.  I guess App gets some ride time next week now.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Saddle test #4

So I rode in the last saddle that has been offered to me, a CWD monoflap.  So my basic google searches says it is a SE09 (monoflap) with a moderately forward flap (2A) and a 17 inch seat.  It was a little wide for Mia but a sheepskin half pad made things fit well enough.  The saddle was too small for me but gave me an idea of what it feels like.
Pic for reference
First impression?  It was too small lol.  The front knee roll kept digging into my leg, as did the rear thigh roll.  It got better after I lengthened my leg.  The saddle felt really square, I felt like I was riding a soft, tall, square pillow that was perched atop my horse, I didn't feel very "into" my horse like I do with other saddles.  This could be due to the fact I had to use a half pad, it just felt odd.  Not sure.  I got used to it, it was just odd.  I am assuming the twist was wider than I am accustomed to which is why it felt so wide and square.

The leather was really grippy and it did a good job of not letting my leg swing around.  The digging into my leg via the rolls helped with that as well lol.  Over fences, again, my leg didn't MOVE and felt amazing.  I guess when you go from a fairly inexpensive Stubben to one that costs 4-5x more you should expect to feel a difference but I am just surprised at the amount of difference.

The saddle owner took it as an opportunity to watch me jump and even set some jumps up and directed us over them.  LOVE!!!!  She is really big on having a true dressage canter into the jump (which we are working on) and said I should let her go more after the jump bc she is being so good.  Lol.....well....the reason she is being so good is because I have been riding in the pelham for a week and she has been "educated" on more proper speeds over fences and in the canter.  I am stopping after jumps to instill into Mia that she should expect to stop and to continue should be abnormal so stop galloping.  The saddle owner really enjoyed watching us jump though and was really impressed with Mia.  No matter where she was put to a jump, she will go over it and will gladly drag us to fences, regardless of size.

This concludes the saddle tests for now, I think I will call a saddle rep or two to try some saddles out and go from there.  Unfortunately there seems to be no tack shops around here that sell used saddles (or new ones for that matter) so I need to find one and go internet shopping.  Here's to hoping I can have some trials.  Right now I am leaning towards the Innovation, though I haven't found a single black Innovation out there.  If you hear of anything, let me know!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Saddle test #3 and some jumping around

4 off the floor!
Saddle #3 was short lived, it fit Mia pretty well but I didn't like it, it didn't seem to fit me very well.  My legs were too long but when I shortened the stirrups, I was out of balance.  I jumped a little crossrail and while it was okay enough, I didn't like the balance and I didn't feel as secure as I did with the Innovation and CWD or my Stubben.  Off it went back to the tack room, I didn't even take time to grab a pic of the model.  (I need to do that for reference....)

Boring warmup over baby fences that were already set up
I threw my Stubben on went jump schooling, I have to say I am loving having the pelham.  When Mia doesn't come right back, I can lightly apply the curb rein and she will immediately come back and within seconds she is back where she needs to be without yanking on me.  So much win!  AND since I have my normal snaffle rein, I can ride and not dull her to the new aid.  Yay!

I don't have a lot of time to type out my entire ride but I DO have media.  I am sure that makes up for it.
Now my new favorite picture of us
Thoughts on the ride?  Mia was fantastic.  She was speedy a few times and the pelham brought her right back.  She didn't spook or refuse a single thing, in fact, she did a great job of dragging us to the fence.  It was the first time I jumped with people from the barn which was awesome, though it was more like I jump and they walk around with me.  Hey, I will take it.  SO was taking pics and I had some bonding time with barn people

Our attempt at a "thru the ears" pic.  Would would be great,
if Mia wouldn't fight so hard and swing her head over the jumps lol
The one jump I was so proud of was my new favorite jump pic.  Mia was fantastic.  It is by far the biggest XC jump we have ever jumped and it is in the "front" of the barn on the trails.  We have never trotted up/by it during the trail/condition rides as I didn't want Mia trying to go over it without my wearing my vest but I was ready this time. I pointed her to it, gave her a little boot to increase speed and Mia just drug us to it.  Absolutely drug us with afterburners on.
Trying to slow Ms Speedy down, good example of rein handling
The ladies from the barn said I really need to SLOW her down (lol a theme over everything) and I got her into a dressage canter for the 2nd attempt and Mia jumped it much better.  They said it is a good thing that she bolts towards the jump for the last few strides, she is really shifting her power to the rear and bringing her hocks under herself to jump and I shouldn't discourage it too much.  Makes sense, just need to take care of the bolting after the jump issue.  Baby steps right?
Did you notice something?  I got with "the times" and
am wearing a Kastel sun shirt to be fashionable :)
Up next is the last saddle to try out and then I have to search for more saddles to try.  I am excited to see how it goes!  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Saddle test #2

I had no idea I would suddenly be granted access to other people saddles just because I mentioned saddle shopping, how awesome!!  After I tried the Innovation, the other barn owner surprised me by offering up her CWD.  (Disclaimer: I know very little about CWD's!  Any info I type about the actual saddle may be wrong).  It is a SE02 with a 3C flap.  From some Google searches, a SE02 is a half deep seat and a 3C is a forward flap.  It is foam flocked, my first experience with one, and it was odd feeling just how squishy it was!

Flap captured for my future reference
I tacked up Mia and this saddle had a better balance than the Innovation and didn't need any front/back shims but Mia was very ear-pinny while tacking up.  She isn't normally grumpy so I kept it in mind as I started my ride, it may be an ill fitting saddle.  I am normally pretty good about figuring out saddle fit, but for the life of me I couldn't tell for certain.  It looked alternately too narrow in her shoulders by the tree and too wide other places  I am leaning towards too narrow though.

The saddle had fairly good balance as we trot/cantered around.  I had the same tippy problem in two point, but not as bad as when I was in the Innovation.  The weirdest thing about the saddle is that it "squished" or "whooshed" out air every time I posted, so it was a constant "pssh...pssh...pssh" the entire ride.  Maybe a foam flocked saddle thing?  No idea, no experience outside of this saddle with foam flocking.  Just odd.

I popped Mia over a little jump and, like the Innovation, my position was immediately more secure than in my beloved Stubben.  Apparently my little saddle has not been helping me out all these years!  I jumped a 2nd jump and Mia was good but a little squirrely.  Hey, she has been doing this, that is why we have the pelham!  I then put her over one of the bigger stadium jumps in the area and it went well.  I then put her over the 3'3" panel jump and the wheels fell off the bus.  Mia knocked down the jump pretty hard.  Odd....  I hopped back on and tried again and holy hell I almost came off.  Mia deer lept over it like it was four fricken foot tall!  I came seriously close to an unplanned dismount but saved it, likely due to the saddle keeping me in position.  Phew!

I was pretty surprised and a little shaken by her jump attempt, maybe she wasn't happy about the panel and was overjumping?  We went over a 3' skinny and again she overjumped it despite having a great distance.  I decided I wanted to live (lol) and popped her over the 2' starter jumps I had and even at a trot, she would massively overjump and was landing really hard.  After 3 mor attempts, I called it quits and swapped out saddles, I was suspicious the saddle didn't fit and Mia was telling me in a not so subtle way.  I came back out with my beloved Stubben and the first jump Mia overjumped a little but then when (I can only assume) she realized it didn't hurt, Mia the Machine came back.  She jumped everything beautifully and didn't knock a thing over.  The one jump that she got really speedy after, a bump with the curb rein on the pelham brought her right back.

We had a cool 3' Swedish crossrail, a 3'3" panel, a 2'9" skinny and 3 smaller jumps.  At the end, I even strung them together in a course and Mia was SOOO good.  No rushing, a nice collected canter and a perfect takeoff at each jump.  When she wants to work with you, man can you get crap accomplished!

So my evaluation of the CWD?  It was pretty nice!  It obviously didn't fit my horse but it kept me in position and I didn't feel like I was fighting at all.  That said, I am not sure it felt good enough to justify the significant cost increase for the CWD over the Innovation.  I am trying another CWD, a monoflap, so we will see what happens there.  The saddle model search continues!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Saddle test #1

So that happened faster than I expected, one of the barn owners offered me to ride in her saddle to try it out after I told her I was passively saddle shopping.  Since I want to remember all the opinions about the ride for when I actually plunk some cash down, you get to read about it.  Or skip it, your choice.  C has a Country Innovation and an Ovation.  For this ride, I tried the Innovation.  It didn't sit on Mia very well and we had to put a fairly significant rear riser on it, but it seemed to fit her withers well enough.  I put it on top of a big fluffy sheepskin pad to try to even out any fit issues and went out to the arena.
Flap captured for my future reference
The stirrups felt okay enough but my lower leg was swinging at the canter and when I popped over a crossrail.  I shortened the stirrups to the very top, 2 holes, and it made a big difference, my leg seemed much quieter and secure.  It was pretty easy to sit in two point in both the canter and trot, though I felt like I was leaning too far forward at times.  I definitely want to try riding in it again when I have someone to take some pics for me to evaluate.  I want to see if it is a balance issue or if it is the saddle.

The over fence work seemed so much....easier.  I have had my beloved Stubben VSS since 2003 and it was 100 times better than the all purpose/no purpose I had originally.  It gives me a pretty decent position and it allows me to move and what not.  And when you don't have anything to compare it to, it works just fine.  But the just made it easier.  I didn't have to fight to keep my heel down or leg in place.  And I didn't move.  At all.  When I then went to the outside of the arena and jumped the 2 coups into the arena...omg.  OMG.  The feeling was amazing.  It felt so natural and comfortable.  Mia, of course, was thrilled to go over real fences after days of dressage and once she realized we were going for the jumps, I don't know if I could have possibly stopped her.  HA!  The girl loves to jump, what can I say.  The feeling over those fences though, I was so balanced and secure.  Really wish I had pictures, it is something I definitely want to have again.

So my first saddle test was a huge success.  I have access to 2 CWDs and an Ovation to try as well.  The saddles are pretty pricey, which sucks, but they are within the high end of the budget so I don't have to cross it out.  There is apparently a County rep semi-close to find the saddle type best for Mia and also an independent saddle fitter who is in his 70's, but has done fittings for olympian horses for a long time.  So I do have options when I am ready to pick one.  I can say though, this Innovation has impressed me.  So we will see, now I just have to try to find one in black in addition to the size and width.  Because in a perfect world, I would rather not have to buy ALL new tack.  Everything I have is black, all bridles, girths, breastplates and martingales are black.  But we will see.  Anyone selling one?!?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Working hard or hardly working

Mia had a really good ride for about 3/4 of our session Monday, though the struggle bus showed up when we tried to canter.  Our ride consisted of some serious dressage, let's go slow, let's have power, let's have balance, let's have the willingness to go forward and let's NOT pull my arms out.  This was mostly accomplished by the end.  We started out with some trotting and it actually went quite well.  Mia wasn't stiff through her shoulder and was soft through her poll, something we fight with.  I rode most of the Novice A dressage test when I asked her for a canter.  And the wheels fell off the bus.

The canter has been getting progressively worse since our last show, I have been asking her to collect more and to keep her head down more and the combination of those two is throwing Miss Mia into a tizzy.  I quickly abandoned the "ride a quick dressage test" to a "let's fix this canter issue".  She does not want to keep the lead in the hind, she wants to swap and then swap back.  I have done some canter/gallop conditioning sets but this is obviously not fixing the issue.  Still not 100% sure if this is a strength or disobedience issue, I have tried to approach it from both sides without resolution so far.  So I decided we were going to just try again.

I started asking for walk/canter/walk transitions.  Something that is hard because I haven't really schooled them much, but there is no time like the present!  Mia started leaping into the canter but I let her and immediately stopped her within 2-3 strides.  Eventually Mia stopped the leaping and was stepping into the canter and after 5-6 strides, I was pulling her to a stop.  This actually went pretty well so I figured why not canter longer!  *sigh*

When we started cantering longer, Mia got stronger and pulled harder.  A lot fricken harder.  Lots of transitions and a few pulling matches later, I was able to get Mia to actually sit on her butt and push into the canter and I actually felt her withers be up.  Win!  This is pretty big for her, and is where we were when we stopped dressage lessons last year (so long ago...).  So we changed directions and went to the right.  The right is way worse, it has always been her worst side.

This direction had even more pulling and antics thrown in, Mia was much more resistant to sit and push but we got it in the end.  My hands hurt, my finger was reinjured and Mia was not thrilled, but we got it done.  After I hosed her off and turned her out, Mia wouldn't even come back to me when I called her to give her more treats.  I think it is safe to say she was not happy with me.

I rode again yesterday with a similar plan but with the change of a bridle.  I found my copper mouth pelham in my tack trunk and put it on a bridle with a couple sets of reins.  Now if she pulls so hard to hurt my hands, I have a plan B to try to stop the behavior by using the curb rein.  It was amusing, we walked to the arena and she was 3/4 asleep.  I picked up on the curb rein to let her know it existed and Mia's eyes flew open, man was she surprised!  I activated the rein a few times when I first got on and Mia got her ducks in a row really quickly, things are looking up!

I only trotted a total of about 5 minutes before tackling the canter as it was the main agenda of the ride and we started with the right lead first since it was the harder direction.  The ride was awesome, Mia really tried this time and didn't have a pulling contest with me a single time.  I was very careful to not activate the curb rein, riding with just the snaffle rein, and I was able to get Mia to sit and lift her withers each direction!  She can't do it for more than 3-4 strides before she gets strung out, but 3-4 strides of serious weight shifting is a step in the right direction.  The fact that I didn't need the curb made it even better.

Since Mia was SO good, I kept the ride short at about 25 minutes and let her do some canter/gallop work on the trails.  For this, I wanted to be able to use the curb rein and it worked SO well.  Each time Mia plowed forward and yanked the snaffle rein out of my hands, I activated the curb rein and she immediately rebalanced and started rating herself.  So much win!!  I am going to ride in this setup for a while, if nothing else I am going to use it as a "reboot" while we develop some new/better habits but I am so happy with her behavior.  If we can get this kind of work in a show ring... you never know.  Maybe we may break the 30 point mark in dressage!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Yet another recap post, because apparently I can't post regularly

Bad blogger here, unable to post regularly.  Whomp, whomp.  Sorry all.  The trails around the farm are still proving to be an AWESOME perk of the barn.  I am now to the point that I am working on rating Mia while we run around instead of just going at a full gallop.  I am going to try switching out from the snaffle to a waterford bit for more of this though, Mia is pulling hard enough she (I can only assume, based on the at-home diagnostics) bruised the bone in my ring finger.  Like, seriously.  The joints don't hurt, the muscles don't hurt, the finger doesn't actually hurt.  Flexing doesn't hurt, nor does bending or twisting.  But if you squeeze the very top/bottom of my finger (which was swollen), there is a very significant amount of pain on the bottom of the finger.  Ms Freight Train is going to be trying different bits to play with this pulling habit.

Mare is not amused.
Dressage has been going along fairly well, we actually had a really cool accomplishment early last week.  We were playing with the canter, trying to get her to really push and jump into the gait, trying to get the "up" without the fast and I was annoyed at something or other.  So I wanted something new, switched directions, cantered another circle and simply changed my cues and Mia gave me a flawless flying change.  FLAWLESS!  She seemed SO surprised about it, it was really neat to feel as she thought about what just happened.  She wasn't able to replicate it, she then was getting anticipatory and suspected we were changing when we weren't.  We were able to get 5 changes right to left (2 of which were good) and only 3 from left to right (only 1 of which were good).  We have now stopped them because she keeps swapping behind and I would like only one canter issue at a time lol.  But it was a nice distraction and really cool to experience her true surprise.
Ouchies that occur when one doesn't wear tall boots when galloping on trails
We haven't had any serious jumping sessions since the clinic in June, the barn just weed whacked all of the XC jumps (all 5 of them) so I think I will do dressage tonight, jumping tomorrow and maybe XC on Wednesday.  I had originally planned to do 2 shows this month but unfortunately that all fell part.  Real life got in the way and the first show had to be skipped.  No problem, I still planned on the second.  The second one I won't go into, but I didn't enter for reasons I have never used before.  Really strange and hope THAT doesn't pop up again.  So, no shows for me this month.  I am going to inquire about some H/J shows that aren't far away, a lady from the barn has gone to it before and I am thinking about trying that in the interim.  Right now, the next show is Sept 4th, plenty of time to work on dressage!

In better news, I am getting chummy with one of the barn owners and it is paying off.  She has offered to let me ride in a couple of her saddles to see if I can find one that I like.  I am SO excited about getting a new saddle and despite not shopping yet, I do have it on the to-do.  Riding in lots of saddles is the way to find what I am going to love!  The barn owner and I spent this past weekend at a racetrack as I taught her how to race.  She is going to be one of our drivers in our October race, she is super excited and I am actually kind of excited as well.  I certainly need friends in PA and this is going to be a good way to rapidly expand my network of people!  She has already introduced me to a small bunch of people as "The gal who events AND has a racecar!!!"  At this point, anything to get to know people lol.  I have been here for over 3 months and I literally know/knew only people from my barn.
"Racecar?!  Does Racecar require treats??  Because treats are just for me"
So yeah.  This isn't a super organised post, my apologies.  The past few weeks have been very busy as my mother visited, had the farrier come, had to drive to NJ for a time waster, go to the racetrack and go through normal life challenges.  The next 2 weeks *should* be quiet, because then the next 5 weekends are booked solid.  Let's see how much I can ride and then post about it :-D