Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Making Luck

"But probably, if I had to pick one thing that I had to hang my hat on, I would want the horse that I was going to buy to have a face that I would enjoy seeing poked over the stall webbing every morning, waiting for breakfast." ~ Jimmy Wofford 

Have you ever had one of those rides that seemingly went great and yet left you feeling... less, disappointed, sad or just something you can't put your finger on? That's the kind of rides I've had over the last two days. I think the trouble is the knowledge that we are still struggling with the same things we've been struggling with since I've been home.

The other thing, I think, is yesterday my trainer said to me, "don't take this the wrong way but you guys looked better last week." Going backwards was so NOT on my to do list. So we worked on it today and it was better but still lots of room for improvement.

The issue I am talking about is Loki's lack of adjustability and his preference for running around on his forehand. It's so easy for me to get lazy and comfortable and let him get away with it but hopefully we "lit a fire under my arse" to start working harder and being faithful to ride correctly each ride, each stride. (Look at that I made a rhyme :D )

So in that vein I made my own SWOT which I first saw over on Viva Carlos. I'm hoping I can motivate myself, to see the good with the bad, etc. So here goes:

Strengths:
  • I love my horse. I know that sounds silly, but really I really love my horse. I love riding him and working with him even when we have a "bad" ride/day.
  • Loki is sound, has good conformation and physically capable of doing the things I ask. He is a pretty good jumper when he uses himself and could really do well in dressage with more training.
  • Time: I have lots of time to ride right now and spend practicing and getting things right. Plus we don't have to be in a hurry to meet any goals. Loki is only 6 there should be plenty of time.
  • Loki has excellent ground manners and can load/clip/stand with the best of 'em.
  • Loki is not spooky and typically settles into new places/situations pretty easily.
  • I have a great support network between my husband, sister, friends and trainer. 
Weaknesses:
  • Adjustability! We need to do lots of transitions between and within the gaits and just continue to work on this. 
  • Downward transitions! It sometimes just feels like we have mushy brakes. We do stop or slow down but there is some short circuitry in the way sometimes. This goes along with the whole adjustability thing.
  • Getting Loki more consistently off his forehand. He can do it but he really doesn't want to do it and will take the easy way out if I don't demand it. 
  • Tack: I still could use a new saddle but it just isn't in the budget right now so we are making do. 
  • I haven't run since we got back from Japan and it is starting to show. I need to get back to a regular workout schedule.
  • I don't have a trailer.
  • I can't seem to keep my shoulders back consistently when I ride whether it is jumping or working on the flat my trainer is constantly telling me to get my shoulders back. 
Opportunities:
  • Right now I have the ability to ride several different horses as much as I can fit it into my schedule. This will hopefully help make me a stronger rider.
  • My sister is letting me borrow her trailer. This has been wonderful as trailering fees with my trainer have all been raised and my budget hasn't. 
  • Once we move into our house, which will be very soon, I should be able to get back to having a more consistent schedule which should include working out. 
  • New barn friends that like to trail ride. Nothing better for de-stressing from arena work like a nice hack in the woods!
Threats:
  • Finances. We are still adjusting to our new budget that comes with being back in the states. I can't complain b/c I still do more than most but I am going to have to seriously cut back on lessons/shows/clinics/new saddles/etc. 
  • I could potentially need to find a new barn. Nothing to state publicly but the possibility is there and I really don't like it.
  • Fear or dwelling on the what if's. I am bad about this and need to work on focusing on the present.
Overall I think mostly positive. And I need to remind myself that having Time as a strength is HUGE. Most of our weaknesses should be solved just through time, that's my hope anyways.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Whirlwind

Wow, time really does fly sometimes!

I meant to write a before post but I just ran out of time. My husband and I went on a short vacation to visit some friends. First we went down to Virginia to see some friends who just adopted the sweetest little boy ever. We only had time to stay one night before we were off again in the other direction.

We drove north to Connecticut next. We opted to bypass going through D.C. and instead drove up along the coast through Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. As we were driving in Delaware a sign caught my eye.

Right on our route was this tack store that I've ordered from before and they were having a huge tent sale! So of course we had to stop. I did get a couple of things such as a lead rope, some gloves, etc. Of course you gotta get horses in on your vacation somehow. :)
They let you go through their warehouse! It was like I got to step into the pages of a horse catalog. So much fun!
My loot!
After that little distraction we headed on to a little place called New Haven, Connecticut. One of our friends is a professor at Yale which is located in New Haven. We spent one night and day there. It is a beautiful place and we had a short but great time.

Finally we headed to our final destination on this trip, West Point, NY. We went to another friend's wedding. This was also a great opportunity to see West Point where we will be in two years. Oh my gosh, it was ah-mA-zing! I have just a couple of pictures but honestly the pictures do not even begin to do the place justice. I can't believe we will be living there. It will be like being in a gothic fairy tail. The winters will be crazy!
The Cadet Chapel
Inside the Cadet Chapel where the wedding took place
Jay got to be part of the sabre arch for the bride & groom to walk through. It was pretty fun & cool
Jay and me at Trophy Point
There was also some horse investigating to be done. The big discovery was there is a very nice tack store.
Whinnies & Knickers will be my new local tack store in 2 years.
The two ladies working at the tack store were super nice and gave me a list of local barns to check out. Of course a whole lot can happen in 2 years so I know I'm jumping the gun a little bit but it was still fun to check things out. And it was a big relief to know that there seem to be plenty of barns in the area. Although, holy cow! the prices are going to be quite a bit higher than what I'm used to. Yikes!

I really wanted to get to Morgan Farms which is the home of the U.S. Army Intercollegiate equestrian team as well as home to the Army Mules but unfortunately we ran short on time. I did get to drive by it and see how beautiful the place is but I wasn't able to stop. You can find quite a bit of information here, though, and I have a feeling this might be one of the places I consider when I move Loki. It will certainly be the closest.
From the website. This is one of my favorite equestrian quotes and so appropriate
So anyways, I am quite behind with blogs/blogging, etc. I've tried to catch up as much as I can but we have another busy week coming up. Our furniture is supposed to arrive sometime very soon and we are doing the final walk-thru and getting the keys to our house tomorrow. So many things going on!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

First Horse

Several blogs I follow have done posts on the five horses in their lives. I'm sure most of you have seen one or two of them. I was going to do that as well and I probably still will but as I was thinking about this idea I just got stuck on the first horse.

The first horse or the Intro Horse:
We each came into horses in our own way, but it was always with a horse leading us. This might have been a friend’s first pony, or perhaps it was a draft horse on a farm you once visited. It might have been a real-life meeting, or an imaginary one.

I honestly can't remember a time when I was not obsessed with horses. Surely my first words had to have been equine related in some way, right? My mom says not but really it feels like I've had this passion my entire life.

My earliest memory of horses comes from playing with very old, plastic model horses. They were called Hartland horses and looked like this:

These were made sometime in the 1950s I think. My sister and I spent many hours galloping these horses all over our imaginations. Eventually we graduated to Breyer horses. (I'm sure you are all quite familiar with those!) I had and still have tons of Breyers. Most of them are boxed up. I plan to give them to my girls eventually. I still display some of my favorites, though.

Once I learned how to read a whole new horse world opened up. One of the first "real" horse books I read was Smokey: The Cow Horse by Will James. I LOVED this book and read it several times when I was a kid. I enjoyed it so much that I eventually tracked down and read several other Will James novels. The Dark Horse and Smokey were my two favorites.
























And then of course we had Black Beauty.
I'm not sure how many times I've read this book. It was several, though. Later I discovered another fun little gem called Black Beauty's Clan which was a collection of stories about Black Beauty's relatives. I don't remember it as well but I do remember enjoying it.
And of course I can't leave out the entire Black Stallion series including the movies. I loved these books! although, I have to confess I could never make it through the three books that were about sulky racing.
Then there was television. I've already mentioned before how much I loved old Westerns when I was a kid. I'm not sure how that got started but everyday after school I would come home and watch reruns of Bonanza and the Big Valley. I dreamed of riding my pony to school instead of taking that big yellow bus. In fact I was so obsessed with the Big Valley that in 9th grade when we had a creative writing assignment I wrote my own episode. Of course I had to change some of the names to make it more my own but in my imagination I was riding the plains with Heath Barkley. Seriously just watch the first two 1/2 minutes from this clip and you'll see why I was obsessed. Edward Cullen who??? (Ha!)
I'm sure there were many many more "first horses" when I was a kid. We weren't dirt poor but we certainly weren't able to afford much time with real horses so I had to use my imagination with the help of these books, toys and t.v. shows. Do any of you remember a series called The Young Riders? It was about the pony express. Yep, I loved that one, too. (Although, as a kid I wasn't able to recognize bad riding and glaringly incorrect horsemanship which probably would have taken some of the enjoyment out of it for me.)
I can't help but wonder if that is why it seems like there are fewer and fewer young people really getting into horses anymore. When I was little it felt like you could hear about and see horses all over the place. My girls do watch My Little Pony and a very obnoxious show called Horseland but otherwise if it weren't for me I don't think they would have that much exposure to the amazing world that is horses. That makes me kind of sad.

Anyways, if you've made it to the end of this post thanks for coming with me on my trip down memory lane. Who knows maybe someday westerns will become popular again.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Riding Riding Riding

That's pretty much the story of my life right now with a few other fun things thrown in just to mix it up.

Right now I'm riding three different horses. My trainer hosts some of the Friends of Ferdinand OTTBs as they are waiting for their new homes. I've been riding two of them, Sir Edward and a mare named Ginny for the past two weeks. It's been great for me because I'm getting more time in the saddle and as each horse is different they give me different things to work on and challenges to overcome. Both Ginny and Ed are very green so we've mainly just been working on straightness and trying to find some rhythm. Ginny is all go go go and Ed is all slow slow slow, ha! Ed would make a very nice hunter. There is nothing hurry up about him (unless another horse trots or canters towards him then he gets a little panicky but we are working on that one) but he actually has very nice gaits and he has done really well over the small crossrails I've taken him over.
So tired after a hard work out.

I need to start riding my sister's horse, Zahir, a.k.a. Z, as well but he is at a my sister's place another 15 minutes out from where Loki is boarded and nearly 35 from home. I feel very guilty for not figuring the logistics of this out yet but hopefully I'll get my rear in gear soon and then I'll be riding four horses! Go me!

Selfies with a horse are not so easy to do!
Loki continues to progress one day at a time. I am reminded that the one ingredient that absolutely cannot be left out of the equation for training a horse is TIME! It's so easy to get impatient and think "he should have this by now." But, no really he shouldn't. It takes time to "make" a horse especially if you want to do it right. God knows I've already made plenty of mistakes but I hope I never let my impatience get the best of our training. So in that regard I continue to find as many opportunities to trail ride/hack as I can. I really think it is good for both of us. No nagging about this or that or working on the other thing, just good old fashioned fun.

Speaking of fun!:

All three kiddos enjoying the mini-scrambler

Love this close-up of Elaina really enjoying herself with her brother.
Other than the riding we've gone to a fair, gone swimming, played at the park and many other fun things. Summer is really flying! We finally move into our house on August 1st and we are super excited! I am supposed to do a schooling show on Saturday but right now the weather channel is predicting the possibility of severe thunderstorms so we'll see what happens.

Stay cool in this heat!

Friday, July 12, 2013

DON'T Be A Nag!

Not sure why my latest posts seem to be in the negative lately. I guess I'm learning a lot of things NOT to do! This one isn't a new one for me but just one that I have to occasionally remind myself about.
Ha ha! This really has nothing to do with my post but it made me chuckle!

It goes something like this. We are working really well. Loki is listening. We are trotting and I ask for the canter. The canter is actually pretty nice and relaxed and there is a semblance of rhythm and dare I say cadence(?) to his gait. I ask for the down transition which has been really sticky for us since the beginning and it takes Loki a little long to respond. When he does respond it's with a very quick and choppy trot. I half-halt... I half-halt again... and again... and... well you get the picture. This is what happened in one of our rides this week. Finally after being completely ignored for at least two 20meter circles I'm afraid I lost my temper a little bit and, well, I about yanked Loki's teeth out pulled him up really hard and gave him a big ol' growl. I don't like to lose my temper when riding but I have to admit it does happen on the rare occasion.

But you know what happened. The rest of the ride was amazing. We suddenly found our nice trot and were able to canter nicely again and the next time I asked for the down transition the response was, well, maybe not instantaneous but seriously a 70% improvement and the trot that followed was super nice as well. I wish I could have figured it out without losing my temper but lessen learned for me, at least.

So the point is DON'T BE A NAG! If your horse is blowing through your aids and ignoring you you've got to do something about it. Use the stronger aid instead of just repeating the gentle request over and over only to be ignored. (Hello!! That's rude!) Of course I don't recommend losing your temper to do this. It is much better to do it right away instead of waiting until you've lost your temper to find that stronger aid. Or, maybe, it is just asking in a different way but whatever it is do something different until you get the appropriate response!

I hope what I am saying makes sense. Of course you have to know your horse and what works for him/her and what doesn't. You should stay tactful as much as you can. And, it should go without saying that you should be sure that your horse actually understands what you are asking. In this instance Loki definitely knew what I was asking and he was either just being a bit lazy or had just zoned out but the bottom line is horses are just too darn big and strong to train them to ignore your aids which when you nag is exactly what you are doing. Hmmm, I wonder if that could have had anything to do with a little runaway incident we had a couple of weeks ago... Perhaps I need to remind myself of this one a little more often! It is much better to use a stronger aid once than to use a softer aid over and over and over... and over again. I think this is a very similar argument used when comparing a "harsher" bit versus a "softer" bit but that is an entirely different topic of which I'm not sure what my opinion is exactly!

Anyways, have a good weekend!

Monday, July 8, 2013

DON'T! Hold Your Horses


This was some great advice from my trainer in our last lesson.

Horses can be lazy in different ways. Some are obviously lazy as in you have to push, push, push to get them moving faster than a crawl. This is not how Loki is lazy but I am discovering that he does have a bit of a lazy streak in him. Loki has somehow sucked me into the fine art of carrying his front end around half the time!! The little rascal.

Seriously, I have been sucked in to holding Loki up way too much. This is how it works. We are going along at a nice trot we're even rounding a bit and stepping through when I notice that my reins get a bit heavy so I give a little half-halt and then let go a bit and Loki speeds up. Basically it is hold me up or I will get fast. Same thing with the canter.

So during my last lesson my trainer had me just completely drop him when he sped up from trot to canter. I let him keep cantering until all the sudden he realized, hey this is a lot of work and wanted to slow down at which point I said "no way Jose!" I made him canter a little bit longer and then asked him to come back down to the trot and got him at the pace I wanted and asked him to stay there. We repeated this exercise a few times before he finally started to get it.

I rode him again today and he was much much better at the canter. I am getting much better at not letting myself get sucked into holding him up. I just let him go and at the canter he just stayed at a very nice rhythm. The trot still not so much. We will continue to work on that.

Also just a thank you to everyone who offered advice on the saddle searching. I told my trainer I was not going to buy her saddle and I am back to riding in my old saddle. Having ridden in the other saddle for a while I was more aware of my saddle's shortcomings. But, now that I am more aware of them I am more able to counteract them. Basically I have to constantly remind myself not to grip with my knees or "knees off!" I think we will be okay in it for a while longer, at least until I finally find something better.

Anyways, We had a great week for the 4th but I've gotten very behind in emails, blogs and life in general. Hopefully I'll catch back up here soon!


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Are You Losing Your Hair?

Nope! Just pulling it out in fits of saddle finding frustration!

I don't want to spend a lot of time on this subject or on this post because I feel like the woes of saddle shopping have been covered once... or twice... ad infinitum...

When you have a pretty limited budget, ideally $2,000 or less, and are super petite with a need for short flaps and a desire for forward flaps... well you might as well be searching for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. (Unless of course you can afford to have a saddle custom made.)
My trainer found a devoucoux on ebay that was a little outside my budget but had the coveted 0AA flaps (that's short extra forward) that was available for a trial. So I went ahead and took the plunge and had it sent from California. I rode in it one time and it was okay but the right stirrup bar was just slightly bent forward, you couldn't even tell visually, enough that I could feel it rubbing just under my thigh. It might have been worth trying to have fixed except this saddle was an '04 and it was in what I would consider a very well used state and they wanted $3,000 for it. I know these saddles tend to be well loved but I just couldn't stomach paying that much money for it so I sent it back. I hope I don't regret that!
Then I went down to Lexington to meet with a rep for the Wise Equestrian Saddles. It's about a 2 hour drive for us so we, my husband and I, decided to make a family trip out of it and planned to take the kids to visit the Kentucky Horse Park. I had contacted the rep and he had what sounded like two very good possible saddles that were on sale, 25% off the retail price. So we headed down.

I'm not kidding the sales rep showed up an hour and at least 15 or more minutes late.
I'm not even sure I need to say anything else after that. WTH!!! Apparently the saddle business is booming and there is no need to at least give a courtesy "hey I'm going to be late" call to a potential client. On top of that the saddles were NOT what was expected at all. We only got to see about a third of the park due to waiting around for this guy to show up. Talk about being angry!! Needless to say I will not be attempting to purchase one of those saddles... ever.
And then we come to the saddle I've been riding in for the last week or so. It's my trainer's Amerigo Pinerolo. It's a monoflap, foward flap saddle that is just slightly too big for me. I've enjoyed riding in it and I do feel like it has improved my form especially over fences. My trainer wants to sell it for $3,000 with a girth and stirrup leathers.
I just don't think I want to pay that much money for a saddle that I might not be 100% satisfied with. It does fit Loki the best of anything else I've tried, although I do still need to use a half-pad so it isn't perfect, but I hate that it is a bit too big for me. What do you guys think? Would you ride in a saddle that was a good fit for your horse but not a great fit for you? I'm pretty sure it is more a cosmetic thing in that I don't think the size affects my riding.
I don't know... maybe it isn't that bad.
And then there is the price of $3,000. I don't want to pay that much if I can help it, although I think that is probably a little unrealistic on my part. A friend suggested that my trainer was asking a bit too much for it. But, when I look on Ebay and other used saddle sites I have to say it seems to be about average to maybe slightly higher than similar saddles. And when you factor in the girth and leathers... I just don't know.

And that is where it stands as of right now. I can't borrow my trainer's saddle forever so I will probably have to go back to riding in my Bates. I can't help but think maybe this isn't the best time to try and buy a used saddle right in the middle of riding season. Maybe I can live with my old saddle and just keep looking until the right saddle turns up. It's going to take a little magic I think.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th!

Just a quick note to say I hope everyone is enjoying the 4th. I'm especially happy this 4th because my whole family is back in the states to stay for a while! I am so much more appreciative of my country after living abroad for a while. There's just no place like home!

I do have a post coming up about my very frustrating saddle search. I never thought there would be anything horse related that I would hate to shop for but apparently there is.

Anyways, hope y'all enjoyed your day and have a happy weekend!