Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Happy Gotcha Day!

Today marks the 3rd anniversary of Mia's time with me. Happy Gotcha Day!  She really has turned into a nice horse, not that I doubted that she would.  I mean, I literally picked her up out of a locked pasture with virtually no info.  And these were the sale ad pics.  Yeah....  
Who doesn't love a sale pic like this?
A nice blurry sale pic that would make anyone want this mare
When I insisted that they provide me with a conformational shot before I would agree to look at her, I got this.
Okay, not bad
I mean, yeah, she wasn't much to look at, but I thought she had potential.  Skinny necks can be muscled up. No hindquarters can be muscled up.  The crap feet can be fixed (I didn't take good pics of how bad they really were, you can see the right front in the above pic but it doesn't show the flatness of the rest of them).  Weight can be fixed.  And that TAIL can grow LOL.  She had a good base on her.

Seeing potential
Lunge test
 My only "test" was being ponied around her "pasture" and trying to lunge her.  And she didn't know how to lunge.  But she seemed very willing, very responsive and was calm.
First ride on Mia!
Even after the saddling incident.  The sellers were holding her by the fence while I started saddling her (with my saddle/pad and a old, unsafe girth they found) and she hit the electric fence.  She ripped out of the sellers hands and did a VERY impressive bronco impression for about 30 seconds.  At that point I decided I wanted a handler when I hopped on, especially because the sellers refused to get on her.  Safety first!

Very quiet for a horse who was a bucking lunatic about 5 minutes prior
Why yes, that is a cemetery in the background.  No foreshadowing at all.
The impressive part was that she let us catch her easily and then carried on like it was no big deal.  Now that is what I wanted in a horse!  And there was actually no need for the handler, she couldn't have cared about being ridden and was a very good girl.
Good pic showing the mess of a mane she had and how short her tail was.
She didn't know about anything but she caught my attention and I brought her home.  After running from the cops.  Twice.  True story.  It has been a long ride but so far it has been worth it. Happy Gotcha day Mia!

Go home?  I don't know about that.
The introduction was seamless
The old married couple ever since
Those who nap together, stay together

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

So I did a thing.... saddle!

I have been passively doing this saddle shopping thing for a few months now.  Because I am not anywhere close to a big stack store, it has proven a bit more difficult than I expected.  I contacted 5 saddle makers and only ONE was willing to come out.  The rest have said no or still haven't committed after over 30 days of back and forth.  Geez people, I have money I want to give you in exchange for that thing that you do for a living.  Why so difficult??
All together now.  Oooohhh....Ahhh.....
After CWD was out, I rode in the borrowed Innovation the next day.  With CWD fresh in my mind, I wanted to see if I loved the Innovation because it was such a shock from my Stubben or if it really was great.  Reading stories online, everyone seems to love the Innovation and is either a love/hate with CWD.  After riding in the Innovation again, I had to say, I really preferred the Innovation.

Looks like good balance front to back
At this point I had 4 different saddle resellers keeping an eye out on the 2 models I know I liked, a CWD SE02 with a 3C flap or a County Innovation.  The kicker is I want black or dark chocolate brown.  All of my tack is black, I don't want to have to spend another $500+ on replacing my bridles, girths and breastplates.

Very good spine clearance without gapping
I have auto-alerts set up on eBay, ETT, and 5 other FB groups to alert me if anything pops up.  For whatever reason, however, I just did a random search on some sites.  And I found it.  A 17.5 chocolate brown Innovation in a medium tree.  OMG.  The only concern I have is it has "whippy" panels, and I can't find anything out about these kind of panels on the Googles.  Just that it makes you closer to the horse.  Uh....
Why you no fit?!?!
I got the saddle last night and OMG the leather is so much more rich than anything I own.  *swoon*  THANKFULLY UPS decided to show up "early" and I was able to leave for the barn at my normal time of 530p instead of having to wait until when they normally show up, 630p-ish.  Woohoo!
After a thorough grooming (don't want to get the baby dirty), on the saddle plopped.  And I was crestfallen.  It isn't fitting :(  Obviously lopsided, gaping in the tree, Boo!  I started taking pictures to see how things looked and I noticed an....inconsistency.

Well this is a great reason why you no fit....
Apparently mareface is very asymmetrical right now.  Holy crap!  I broke out my trusty Mattes pad and put 3 shims on the left, then reduced it to 2, and now it sits much better.  I am still not 100% certain that this saddle isn't too narrow, I am by far no expert.  Does anyone have any thoughts or comments?  I have emailed the County rep, again, to try to get her out here but I have been emailing her since August 30th and have yet to get an appointment so I am not holding my breath.  And my success so far has been subpar in getting anyone out....

Looking better
I rode in the saddle and it rides like a dream.  It is SO comfortable and I feel so damn balanced <3!!  Mia jumped well in it, though was a little quick.  She was also quick the last time I rode though so I am not sure if it was the saddle or her being quirky.  The whole reason we started with the pelham is because she is being quirky.

Looking much better
The pisser of the whole ordeal is that I bought this saddle and THE DAY it arrives, I see a black Innovation come up for sale in a MW.  I have been searching since June/July!  On the plus side, it is a 17 inch and after riding last night, I don't think I would fit in a 17", but what a big middle finger.  Ha!

Tree vs right shoulder
I am going to ride in this a few more times before I make a decision on whether to keep it or not.  Because I am gone this weekend and have a show next weekend, I will be riding almost exclusively dressage so I won't even be using my nice new saddle very much before the show.  Ugh.  So...what do you think?  Does it fit?  Thoughts???

Tree vs left shoulder

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Saddle shopping - CWD

With my very limited exposure to saddles to try, I wanted to have someone out as I find a saddle I would like.  I had been trying to get Prestige but they won't come out because I am "too far".  County can't tell me when they can come out.  Stubben has no reps in the area and I never heard back from Beval.  I was happy, then, when I was able to get CWD out right away.

SE02 with 3C flap
The only CWD I have ever ridden in is here at the barn.  One regular CWD and one monoflap.  The regular didn't fit Mia at all and I ended up not really riding in it long.  The Monoflap gave me great position so I wanted to try them out.  The reps are....okay.  The first one set an appointment only to cancel 24 hours prior because she got directions and I was "too far away".  Luckily the person she referred me to got me in within a week and they came out on Sunday.

SE02 with 2C flap
The appointment was for 11a, she texted me at 915a saying her ETA was 1115a.  Perfect.  Except she didn't show up until 1155a and didn't let me know or give me a heads up.  I was fairly annoyed.  The rep was nice though.  I was very upfront and told her I was shopping and was having other reps out, I wanted to try lots of saddles.  She used to work for Prestige and now works at CWD and has been there for 6 months.  Her speech was everything about CWD was technology, she probably used that word 50 times, if not more.  They put a lot of R&D into the trees, they own their factories and tanneries, they have top riders test their saddles.  She said the grain leather is what she recommends, calfskin wears really fast and the buffalo leather will wear like the grain leather.  She said it will take 10-20 rides to really start breaking in a grain saddle though, and to not be discouraged if I don't love it right away.  It will become grippy and develop a patina the more you ride in it.

CWD SE02 with 3C flap
She also talked about the leather pores being open, not sealed, and how I can only use CWD conditioner on it as a result.  It needs cleaned after every ride because it is susceptible to dirt/water due to having open pores.  Lady, that is NOT a selling point to a lazy person LOL!

Lots of rocking of saddle, eek
I rode in a SE01 and SE02, SE01 being a flatter seat, SE02 being a half deep seat.  We also tried the 2C and 3C flaps, 3C is more foward than a 2C, and determined I like the SE02 with the 3C flap.  The 3L flap is forward but longer, and I have really short legs and it didn't work well.  I also tried the carbon fiber 2G (SE25) and it is NICE but well out of my budget.  It is a $1500 upgrade just for the different tree.
The fitter stressed that the trees are irrelevant because the front of the tree is fully flexible and moves with the horse, and showed me the flex.  The important part is the panels that touch the horse and they are 100% custom.  There isn't a "standard " panel, each is configured 100% to the horse.  The panels are foam and are wider and flatter than "other" saddles which are to allow for more contact and less pressure points.  I told her the bad things I heard about foam panels and she assured me she had NEVER had those problems. maybe there are lots of people that are lying?  Everything I have heard is that, for long-term saddles, use wool not foam.  Foam becomes hard, lumpy, creates pressure points and disintegrates.  Wool may require some maintenance but can fit all horses.  Foam does not.  She disagreed.

CWD SE01 with 3C flap
She left 2 quotes for new saddles, both well above the budget I had told her when I originally scheduled the visit.  I also really don't have a desire to buy new, but at least know I know what I like if I decide to go used.

SE25 with 3C flap   <3
My overall thoughts on CWD.  Their selling point is #1 technology technology technology.  #2 is 8 of the 10 best riders in the world use CWD.  (She did not say WHO these riders were, or which discipline).  #3 custom, custom, custom.  Of these points, none of them are a huge priority for me.  I don't need a custom saddle, Mia isn't a hard fit and I don't think I am either.  I don't need or necessarily want the latest/greatest technology.  Time and fads will kill the majority of the players as the value of said technology will be deemed unworthy, unnecessary or incorrect.  So I am looking passively for SE02 but am looking forward to Stubben and County to come out.  I may even end up hauling 2+ hours over to a tack shop that has a bunch of saddles and trying some out there too.  What are your experiences, what do you like in a saddle?  Have you tried CWD?  Good?  Bad?

Saturday, September 17, 2016

PSA: Helmet Awareness Day

The Riders4Helmets campaign was founded in 2010 as a direct result of American Olympic dressage rider Courtney King-Dye's accident.  A young horse she was schooling fell, leaving King-Dye (who was not wearing a helmet) with severe head injuries.  The campaign has the aim of educating equestrians on the benefits of wearing a properly fitting, secured, and certified helmet.  This is the second year in a row I have now bought a new helmet for Helmet Awareness Day. But now I don't need any for another 4-5 years.  Right?  Lol.

My daily helmet is a basic Tipperary Sportage.  I used to ride in Troxels, and had several, but once I tried a Tipperary I have never, ever went back.  SO much more comfortable.  When my first Tipperary expired (you replace yours every 5 years too, right?) I went to the All American Quarter Horse Congress and tried on every brand and model I could find.  And I didn't like a single one better than my cheap Tipperary. Charles Owens were too round.  As were One K.  Ovations just felt...weird.  There were 3 or 4 more brands that I don't recall, I ended up with another Tipperary.  And another.

I think what I need to do is actually go into a fully stocked tack store and try helmets on again but those are woefully absent here in my new neck of the woods.  The closest is over 1.5 hours away! And sadly I didn't take the time to do it when I was in MI, you know, close to things.  Last year I replaced my show helmet with one of the snazzy looking T4s.

New(ish) show helmet
Sadly they seem to not be making them anymore, I was going to get one for my regular riding helmet.  My daily helmet is set to expire in February so I knew I needed a new one, thankfully Helmet Awareness Day does a great job of providing big discounts from retailers so I scored another Sportage for $63 from Equus Now, almost 25% off with free shipping!  Riding Warehouse is having a really nice 20% off sale as well (coupon code HAD20) and Dover is suggesting 50% off retail ('s Dover so.... compare and add in shipping cost) and lots more.

New daily helmet
The $900 FB Pony has a good write up already and you can go to riders4helmets to find retailers that are participating as well.  Protect your noggin, save some monies and buy a new helmet! I did!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Labor Day Weekend recap pt 2

After a quick lunch of a granola bar, Gatorade and a burger from the concession stand, it was time to go jumping.  The stadium round, honestly, looked uglier than I wanted but she went clear.  The course looked very easy but was full of 90 degree bends and bending lines.  Tricky!  They didn't trip Mia up even once but for whatever reason I am having issues picking a distance again and so Mia was meeting fences pretty close.  In warmup she knocked a fence down but then picked up her toes even when I buried her into the fence.  SMH.  That said, my position was still good.  So there is that little win.  You fix one problem, another pops up.  Sigh.

It was kinda amusing, it looked like they were going out of order and a rider said they just got on "the list".  Okay, no worries, I will put myself on the list too.  I walked over and said I was ready whenever and they said "Okay, have fun!"  Wait, now?!  Uh, okay.  Haha!  Yes, I was ready, I just didn't expect to go RIGHT NOW.  Sadly all video was taken by an 11 yr old and has that kind of quality so no video is being shared.  Unless, of course, you want to take a couple hits of Dramamine first?  LOL!  Even with some video stabilization it is very jerky and difficult to watch.

We went straight from stadium down to XC.  I really like this format as Stadium acts as a terrific warmup and really reduces the wait time for a short, one day show.  I expected to have a wait when I got there but one person left the start box as I walked up and I was the only other one there so after a short wait, off we went.

Fence 1 was a fairly big log, Mia didn't drag me to it so I bopped her with the crop.  I don't think she needed it, and she didn't, but I wanted her to drag me to fences.  Lol, I got my wish!  Up a big hill to fence 2, it was on the top of a hill and at an angle for a sharp turn at the top of the hill.  Mia couldn't have cared any less about it.  Over we went at an angle instead of changing her course.  I made her trot down the hill because the grass was longer and I didn't want her to slip.  Fence 3 and 4 were inconsequential.  The path to fence 5 had a drop bank and it LOOKED like we could have done it based on the flag, but it wasn't listed for BN and I didn't want to chance an elimination for jumping a harder jump so we went around it.  Fence 5 was an easy bank up, Mia likes banks.  6 was the ditch and Mia just bopped along as it is NBD anymore.  Ditches, we have made them our bitches!!  Fence 7 I met at a really bad distance (damn distances again) so it wasn't pretty, and I even considered falling off, but stayed on and clear.  I need to fix this, this is ridiculous.

Fence 8 she jumped beautifully, as was 9.  Fence 10 was through water and I KNEW we could jump up a bank out of water if we wanted.  So we did.  11 was up a hill, around to 12.  12 actually looked really intimidating from a distance due to how it is set up, it was just an oxer but parallel to a hill.  So one side was MUCH taller than the other side.  Mia didn't even blink at it.  Concern was unwarranted.  The final jump was just an easy coup and Mia was hunting for the next fence.  HA!  Even after we dropped to a walk she was looking for jumps.  The course rode in only 3 minutes, it wasn't even being timed.  It was a really short course but it amused me that Mia was looking for more fences.  She was ready to go!  By the time we got back to the trailer she had recovered in her breathing and had barely broke a sweat.  Fitness for the win!

Water jumps are NBD
We then waited for results.  And waited.  They didn't even post dressage scores until after XC was done but finally we ended up 4th of 8.  Middle of the pack, mostly I was happy with our dressage score of 33.75 despite the wrong bit.  I think we are going to try for ONE more show this year.  We are planning on hauling out for XC schooling this weekend again, we are certainly not just hanging out!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Labor Day Weekend recap pt 1

On Saturday, we had our lesson with the dressage instructor.  I was actually pretty excited about it (well, not the OMFG that is expensive! part) because the only other time I saw her, it was not long after being in PA and both Mia and I were not actually fit enough for a great lesson.  Mia also still had a long way to go to be okay with accepting the fact she was not retired.  With her now being in full work, and with Mia has been doing very well lately with our stretch down routine, I was excited to hear her opinion.

The lesson went very well.  She was very impressed with how far Mia and I have come in the 3.5 months since we saw her last.  She liked Mia stretching down and said when I was able to keep her there, she did a great job of staying engaged and round.  We worked on getting Mia to lift her withers more by having me sit BACK and really lifting my shoulders up.  And, of course, it did a good job and I could feel a difference.  Sheesh.

We also worked on getting Mia a little more accountable, again, on carrying us and the difference it brought when I asked her to really step under versus when she was toodling along.  The best thing she said though, was that I had college educated legs.  She said my lower legs and thighs are fantastic and are correct and I shouldn't worry about them at all.  YAY!!!  I need to fix my shoulders and back a little to match, since I work at a computer all day, I lean forward to "think" and apparently I do the same in the saddle.  When I am riding, I sit upright.  If I am working on something and am thinking hard while riding, I tend to slouch my shoulders forward.  Boooo.

On Sunday I loaded up and headed out with MC for our show.  It takes almost 2 hours to get there so I had to leave the house at the ripe ol time of 630a.  Overall, not too bad, it could have been worse.  Mia loaded right onto MC's trailer which was nice.  Last weekend she loaded well enough but MC's trailer has a ramp and it had really made Mia pause.

Little bit of sass/inconsistancy.  For honesty.
I immediately walked the XC course when we got there (SHORT COURSE!!) and then helped MC with her horse.  She was doing only dressage and needed some help.  I ended up videoing her first test and then called out her second test before literally running back to the trailer as I had 20 mins before my ride.  Ugh!
Who can start to look uphill in the canter?  Mia?!
Mia was a champ though, she took it all in stride.  We walked to warmup and Mia gave very little fight in the warmup.  She was forward, she was stretching down, but then she started being inconsistent and heavy in the bridle.  She was willing to do everything and did everything well but didn't want to hold contact.

As I came around a bend, I happened to glance at her bridle.  ARGH!  She was wearing the HSS loose ring on instead of her copper mouth eggbutt.  Mia still doesn't like the loose ring and apparently I had used this bridle for App last.  Ugh!  MC offered to grab my jumping bridle but we were on deck and I just said I would suck it up.  I worked as hard as I could on keeping consistency and while the test went quite well, it wasn't as good as I had hoped.

I think we were generous in getting a 33.75, hey schooling shows AMIRITE?!  Mia was quite inconsistent in contact and a little wiggly at times but she stayed stretched down more than half of the time and she listened to my half halts, lifted her withers and didn't swap her canter leads a single time.  Progress indeed!

Roundy round
We put her back at the trailer and I went to find/walk the stadium course and grab something for lunch.  Next up was XC and we had nothing to lose!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Show prep and a lesson scheduled. Yes, a LESSON!

With our show on Sunday, it is crunch time to get Mia in tip top shape.  As well as me.  Sunday we rode in dressage and the ride actually went very well until the end.  I worked on getting Mia stretched DOWN in the bridle and it was a pretty good success.  Her walk/trot went quite nicely and the canter started off well before going downhill.  She reverted to her super heavy pulling on the reins, not listening to my leg and being a giraffe.  Ugh.  It required several stop/pull back sessions as well as lots of transitions to get her off of my damn hands.

GET OFF OF MY HANDS!!!  Mia says NO!!
She can go from butter soft to carrying 20lbs in my hands and it is so frustrating.  Especially when I am riding in the snaffle and not the pelham to remind her to get off of my hand.  We were able to end on a good note.  Finally.

Coming nicely!
On Monday we did dressage again and it went better.  Not great, but better.  Except at the end where she saw deer and could not Horse if she was headed straight to them.  At an angle?  Fine.  Away from them?  Fine.  Trot straight in their direction?  Full 4 leg stop and bolt attempts.  SMH.  Not like she lives outside 24x7 and sees deer on a daily basis in the pastures.  While her new stretched trot is coming along nicely, the canter really is where her wheels are falling off the bus at this point.  We had really good walk/trot work before adding in the canter and then it got rough.  Better than Sunday, but still rough.  Thankfully we didn't have any lead swapping nor any gait dropping, so maybe be thankful for the little things?  She has reverted to not being steady in the bridle with this new stretched trot though.  Unfortunately, only time will fix that and we don't have a lot of time before the show.  Baby steps.

Trit trots
We had a jump school the next night and she did well,  I set up a tarp over a 2'6" jump and she didn't bat an eye over it. Woohoo!  She did pretty well at staying collected in the canter over the jumps, which is progress, and the only issue she had was height.  I had 1 vertical at 3'3" and a Swedish oxer at 3' and she kept bringing both of them down despite being set up for them properly.  She kept knocking them with her front, she certainly wasn't jumping high enough over them.  When I would set her back off of the fence, she would MASSIVELY overjump and at one point I was considering the fact I may hit the ground.  Eventually I knocked the vertical to 3' and the Swedish oxer to a 2'6" oxer with a 3'6" spread and was able to go around without knocking anything.  I think I need to bring my tape measure out and lay out some grid work when I work on height.  But for the show, she is ready to go!

Last night I ran late and didn't get to the barn until 715p.  If I didn't have a show I wouldn't have ridden but I did so I grabbed Mia, threw her stuff on and thankfully she was awesome.  I was able to do a short, 25 minute ride without any hysterics or pulling.  Success!  We did a short w/t/c warmup and then rode through the dressage test and called it a night.  Such a difference from the last dressage ride!  For this ride, I can say the only issues to work on are the steadiness in the bridle, keeping her stretched down the entire time and keeping her forward in the canter.  Now if that maintains itself until this weekend, we will be golden.

Some good stuff!
Thankfully I have dressage lesson on Saturday, the first dressage lesson since May 14th.  I want some last minute tune-ups and I want Mia to be worked pretty hard so that Sunday she will be picture perfect.  I am surprisingly unstressed about this show, an oddity for me.  Hopefully I don't suddenly get stressed over it, but I am not chasing points and I am not able to prepare any better than I have considering the circumstances I have been given.  Keep your fingers crossed, show on Sunday!

If we can get this for the show, we are golden!