Friday, August 30, 2013

Gus is a fun guy. Or not.

As the heat has increased, I have noticed how humid our tack room stays. And how the still air never circulates.

I was worried about my saddles. It never occurred to me to be worried about my riding gloves!
what exactly is this reaction to my riding gloves?
So, one day, I noticed a reaction on one of my hands.  After riding the next day, it was worse!

Cat Scan! ;)
Suddenly, the trend set in. I ride in my gloves, I get a rash/reaction/thing. So, I decided to try riding without my gloves.

Oops. I should have known better.

Duh!  Riding with gloves all the time = no protective calluses...
I finally dug up an old pair of crochet-back gloves.  I am spraying Tinactin Powder Spray in my leather gloves.  I am also treating my hand with Tinactin twice a day.  It seems to be helping.

less angry-looking
I’ll avoid riding in my leather gloves until it quits being so hot and humid.

Gus, feel free to depart my presence and do not return to haunt me!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

We want to win a halter!

So, I entered to win a new leather halter for the Psycho Mare!
You can enter here:

As you can see, we don't currently look the part of Seriously Fancy Dressage-and-Eventing Pony.
...And we would like to change that!

We think a brand new leather halter will help us pull off the look we want!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


We finally had a lesson with DQ after our massage. She could see the difference, too!

In our lessons, we have been working on the most basic basics, so our lesson looks like the endless 20-meter circle around the instructor. The connection at trot was so consistent this time that we moved on to riding the long sides and long diagonals! Hooray!

Again, she gave me more canter to work with, but she is just not accepting the outside aids. To set us up for success, DQ had us start with a little bit of haunches in then make the canter transition from the walk. We made progress in explaining to Psycho Mare that we want her to accept the outside aids. In true Psycho mare fashion, however, she stepped into counter-canter. Kudos for me, as I have been riding this mare consistently enough that I could tell DQ exactly *why* she was picking up the wrong lead. Regardless, we made more canter progress than we had made in a little while. At least this time she maintained the gait long enough for DQ to see what evasions she normally throws at me when we are working in general.

At the end of the lesson, we discussed my ‘homework’ (I always ask for homework). We have instructions to work on leg-yield in earnest! She also advised 15-meter canter circles and more haunches in.

She looks so excited about it, doesn't she?

Psycho Mare has really been relaxing into my massaging efforts!  Her head gets droopy…  Her eyes get sleepy looking… She sways in time with my massage strokes!  MT advised DMSO with my massage efforts, and she seems to have accepted it pretty well.  She had reacted a little to Absorbine, so I’ve been experimenting with other stuff.  Bigel Oil went over nicely, but she REALLY seemed to like the Equi-Spa Cool Muscle Wash!

let's get some muscle on this butt!

I'm interested to document any changes we get over the next severl months.  Hope you enjoy butt shots!
just relaxing - we don't work hard ALL the time!

Friday, August 23, 2013

There is always something to work on

I learned many years ago that one of the best things you can do to improve your riding is to ride many different horses. I still find this to be true. Sometimes, it is a challenge to find different horses to ride. Preparing one horse for competition is a time sink time consuming. Where does one find time to ride more horses? Owning more than one horse (heck, owning only ONE horse!) can be a serious drain on resources. So, if you don’t have more than one horse to ride, what do you do?

I con friends and family into letting me ride their horses. Lucky for me, all the girls at the barn just love to play this game called ‘musical horses.’ It is like musical chairs, but without the music and without the mad dash to grab anything we can get our hands on because said music stopped. I love to ride, so I will happily throw a leg over anything. All horses have something to teach me, and I am eager to learn as much as I can.

One of the horses that I have the pleasure of riding is a Paint mare. The first time I rode her, she was much more interested in backing up than walking forward. As I pushed the issue of moving forward, her favorite evasion was/is to pin her ears, snake her neck, and pop her shoulders up in a threat to rear. As a result, I spend much time on the ground working on her outlook and mentality. I am always elated when a horse accepts my invitation and TUNES INTO ME! I can insist and reprimand all day long, but the horse must ultimately decide to seek my direction or tune me out.

I felt like we had a huge breakthrough when I asked her to walk around the arena and she decided, all on her own, that trotting sounded like fun! This was not a tense, fearful, or anxious transition. This was a “Oh, it feels so good to move!” sort of transition. That day, I watched this horse (that didn’t want to so much as march at the walk, let alone trot or canter) embrace forward thinking and relax into the canter as I sent her around the round pen! Later, in the arena, I got several canter transitions with a minimum of naughtiness. She maintained the canter long enough for both of us to just relax into it and enjoy the motion. I guess when you are moving freely forward, it gets kinda hard to balk and protest, huh?

With her new desire to move forward, I felt my shoulders come back and stabilize over my hips and my leg stretch down and around the horse. I could feel my sternum reaching up and forward. I was truly beginning to feel this concept of “up the body, down the weight.”
Psycho Mare gave me another breakthrough feeling. We have a new lease on the canter, and we have been working through the additional issues that are coming with that. Things like dropping out of the canter (I’m sooo tired!), speeding up in the canter (Wheeee! I feel so freeee!), continued protective behaviors on the left lead (Allow me to just set myself against your outside hand and fling my shoulders to the inside, will you?), and the related lack-of-response to the outside aids (I won’t come off the rail! Circles are stupid! Bleaeaeaeah!! – Oh, look! A jump! Let’s go over the jump, instead!)

Canter things are coming ever-so-slowly, but we have actually been able to practice more downward transitions from canter to trot when *I* want to do them. Most of them involve her dropping into it and running headlong onto her forehand, but we had one lovely transition that was much improved (despite her getting tired from so much cantering) and I was able to communicate that I wanted her to continue in a nice, forward trot. She remained relatively supple and swinging, so I encouraged a long and low type stretchy trot. She stretched toward my hand. I asked for some lengthening. She stretched her back as she filled my hand (I’m just not sure how else to describe this feeling). I fed another inch of rein, and she stretched toward that. She stayed long, lower, and stretchy for an entire lap of the arena! And this was on her stiff side!!

I gathered her back up into a working trot, turned down the centerline, rode all the way to the end, halted at ‘C’ (and she was soft and square!), dropped the reins on her neck, and hopped off. I praised her up one side and down the other, loosened all buckles, and walked her to the barn. I told her how wonderful and clever she is. I told her she is a rock star. I massaged her and pulled on her tail. (She is really getting into tail pulls!) I fed her treats. I tried to make her feel like a princess. We’ll see if she gets the idea…

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

5 under $50

I started thinking about this when She Moved To Texas ( posted her own list. She got it from The Polka Dot Periodical (, who is running a contest! Some things are awesome, but they aren’t an everyday sort of thing. So, I started by thinking about the things I use every day. Or, at least, things I use often.

Go here to for the contest details:

What it is: Sponge-Brush

Where to get it: Tractor Supply Company

What it cost: $5

Why I love it: I used to bathe with a sponge. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t impressed with the scrubbing power at my disposal. After a hard ride, I couldn’t always get all the sweat out with just a sponge. I soon changed my approach. Instead, I would get my bucket of soapy water (or plain water, if it’s just a post-work-out rinse), and I would dip a stiff brush and get to scrubbing! You have to dip a brush rather often because it doesn’t hold much water. In a pinch, I still do it this way. This sponge-brush thing I found at TSC looked like a pretty handy tool! I love it! I use it *ALL* the time! I am the envy of the barn! Well, OK, maybe not. But the other girls seem to think it is as cool as I do.
Brilliant, right?

What it is: JP KORSTEEL oval link eggbutt snaffle

Where to get it: SmartPaks! Or anywhere, really… eBay, Amazon, etc.

What it cost: $30

Why I love it: This seems to be a great general bit for almost any horse. I have yet to find a horse that *does not* like it (although, a few of them might like something else a little better). I like the eggbutt in general because it seems to be particularly stable on the sides of the mouth and doesn’t pinch. I love the oval link because it is about the same size and shape as the bars, and I am a fan of consistency. The copper link isn’t a concern to me one way or the other. Psycho Mare has gone in both (copper and not-copper). The only difference is that she catches the copper link in her teeth to give it one last suck before dropping it when I take her bridle off.

Some horses think copper is really yummy!

What it is: DAVIS splint boots

Where to get it: SmartPaks! Or, again, anywhere…

What it cost: $30

Why I love it: It seems the biggest threat to our horses’ legs is impact. In my experience, it is impact from his other feet. I use these splint boots daily to protect from self-kicks during our rides. They claim to disperse the concussion incurred every time the horse places his foot on the ground. They are durable, easy-to-clean, and come in so many colors! I find them to be secure and non-irritating. They stay in place. These are my favorite all-purpose boot.

All the pretty colors!
What it is: EQUI-SPA Grapefruit Coat Refresh

Where to get it:

What it cost: $20

Why I love it: I picked this up from the business owner at her vendor booth at a dressage show. I liked the sound of ‘natural’ healthy skin support. I have always been a fan of essential oils and aromatherapy. Not only do I use this on my horse, I spray it inside my helmet to keep it fresh. I use it occasionally on my sheepskin pad. Periodically, I use it to freshen the inside of my gloves! I’ve even used it as a refresher mist on my own skin and face. I can’t say enough good things about this multi-use product!

And it smells AMAZING!
What it is: Nalgene (32 oz, wide mouth bottle)

Where to get it: Amazon or your favorite outdoors store

What it cost: $13

Why I love it: It is important to stay hydrated. We make sure our horses drink, but sometimes, we might forget about ourselves. I carry one of these with me everywhere! I have several colors. These water bottles are light, hardy, long-lasting… They don’t taste like plastic! They are (nearly) indestructible! They come in all sorts of colors! They survive daily trips to the barn and countless horse shows. What’s not to love?

Collect them all!

OK, if you don't think the nalgene counts as horse related, consider my bonus item:

What it is:  SSG All Weather Gloves

Where to get it:  SmartPaks

What it cost:  $24

Why I love it:  These gloves really are all-weather and all-purpose.  They feel good on the hand, and they don't reduce my sense of touch as much as a leather glove.  I can wash them in the machine and hang to dry.  Easy to care for, easy to clean, easy to wear.  Easy to afford!!
Again!  All the colors!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Schooling Show videos - for your viewing pleasure!

This training level test 3 was our first ride that evening.  You can see how much better she is working to the right than she is to the left.  (

Intro B:  (

And Intro C: (

Sweet Freedom! (of movement)

I’ve been fiddling with my saddle pads to make sure I have the best fit on the Psycho Mare. Since her massage, I’ve been doing lots of lunging (even more than we had been) and when I get into the saddle, I have only been working walk and trot (no canter). The idea has been for her to rediscover the fluid movement and balance that she naturally has at the canter.

Last night, she was a rock star! I’ve been throwing lots of poles on the ground and the occasional x-rail to lunge over in order to keep things interesting. Mind-numbing circles are useless, so I strive to keep our lunge work goal oriented and actively focused. Watching this girl canter over the jumps was encouraging! She didn’t rush the poles or the jumps. She was striding nicely and had stopped offering lead changes to the left. In fact, at one point, she was tracking right and picked up the left lead (she had been avoiding the left lead like the plague!). She promptly fixed her lead and calmly took the jump. She looked like a big horse!

Do you know what I mean by that?

Like a big kid!
She didn’t appear quick. There was a sitting and a lifting of her shoulders every time she took the jump. It was just-another-canter-stride. In the trot, there was no discontinuity (when you see the distinct trot in – jump – trot out). It was one fluid string of movement. She was seeking the jump out on her own!

Sometimes, she came into one of the poles at an awkward distance. She just put her feet down and kept on moving. Maybe she had a back foot on one side and the other three on the other side. I know for one, she had one front on the far side while the other three were on the near side. Most of the time, she nailed it, but when she didn’t, there was no fuss or lookiness or anything. She just cantered.

Her back started swinging! At no point on this entire journey have I seen her back swinging at the canter!!

I wanted to ride this canter! I was trying out a different saddle, just in case it fit better. It didn’t. It looked great, but it turned out to be awful. For me, anyway. I went back to the barn and put my saddle back on her. As soon as I mounted up, I knew it was better! The horse underneath me did not need pushing or driving for every stride. She was ready to move out! When I asked for the canter transition, there was no fussiness or discussion about it; she just stepped into it! I was stunned at how slow and relaxed it was! Don’t get me wrong - it isn’t show-ready. But, it was more canter than I have had to work with in a while. When she lost her balance and fell out of it, she picked herself right back up into it before I could prod her about it! She still wanted to fall on her forehand, but I could still feel more reach in her back end. In fact, even when I just wanted to work on canter, Psycho Mare was really coming forward and asking to make a canter transition! There is so much less tension in my horse! I feel like I have to figure out how to ride her all over again (and I am beyond OK with that).

I know there is still some pain. I know there is still a knot. I can feel it. I can see it. When I first begin to work on it, she wants to kick me! However, within minutes, she is leaning into my curry and her upper lip turns into a finger.
I think we are back on track, folks!

Friday, August 16, 2013

If Wishes Were Horses – If Horses Could Talk…

There has been a little strangeness lately. You might recall a brief discussion about how she prefers the right lead, even when tracking left… Which was only somewhat odd, because she started out so reliable on her leads…

When I heard the massage therapist was coming to the barn, I jumped right on that and got her on the schedule! I couldn’t be at the appointment due to work, but I buzzed right out to the barn afterwards just in case I could catch her before she left… And I did!!

What she had to tell me blew me away. And lots of pieces fell into place.

MT (massage therapist) was able to work out a lot of stuff. You have to expect a lot of stuff to need work on a horse that has never had a massage. However, there was one area that she just could not completely release. The Psycho Mare had/has a huge, dense, ropey, gnarly knot in her left hip. When MT started working on it, I hear that the mare pinned her ears, screwed up her face, and kicked out HARD! Her only indication to me was less consistent connection to the left, and taking the wrong lead to the left (sometimes). Well, that and the head flipping and shoulder dropping at the canter. MT thought that this knot has probably been there for quite a while. Likely, before she even started under saddle. Despite this, she was doing less head-flipping and even slowing down her canter for me! She was TRYING to relax and balance!

I'm only doing this for you!
Last Monday, I pulled her out of her lot, and she was no longer roan. She was solid brown. The mud was *that* thick. So, I hosed her off (with soap, even!) before we rode. Usually she just gets curried and gets hosed *after* her workout. When I got to the part where I scape all the water off, she sucked down when I scraped down her back on the left side!! I was quite surprised, because she hadn’t been that sensitive or reactive when I scraped her *after* our rides…

MT wasn’t surprised. By working, she would have stretched and warmed the knotted muscles, in turn working and stretching over her back, so of course it didn’t hurt as bad!

I'm sorry I can't do it better!  It hurts!
At MT’s insistence, I pulled the mare out of her lot last night before she left. I could immediately tell that she was looser in her hip. She was tracking up right off the bat. MT showed me some techniques to help keep her as comfortable as possible though manual massage, tail pulls, and core activation. I want to have her back out one more time before we head off to the Pony Cup! I love her holistic, whole-picture approach to the horse. I love that she is knowledgeable about my sports. I really love that she will go over my entire horse with me and show me what to look for and how to help her.

I wish I had picked up on the subtleties sooner so we could have gotten this taken care of and started relieving her pain!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Try, try again... Fancy Pony!

Take two!

Pony can trot!

Pony can walk, too!

Look at me!  I'm such a pleasure to ride!


Fancy Pony!

Volunteer horse show photographer snapped photos and shared them with us later!

dressage pony can trot!

pony can walk, too!
Look at me!  I'm such a pleasure to ride!
Are you ready for this?

Silly mare.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Let me hear you!

a work in progress...

What differences do you see?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Consistency Anomaly

Consistency is coming!

LOVE these ribbons!  How fun!
We had the opportunity to ride at an air-conditioned, indoor venue (that typically hosts recognized shows) at schooling show prices!
For the first time, we went all out and I got to wear a show coat! All previous shows have been prohibitively hot. I got compliments on my grey jacket! I wasn't confident that the color worked, so I made sure to try it at a schooling show. ;)
I got compliments on my braids, too! They were just quick, rubberbanded braids. EVERYONE stopped to say how cute and adorable the Psycho Mare was!

I had so much help to make this show happen, and I just don’t know how to show my appreciation to everyone involved, so they get mentions in my blog!

My dad was amazing and used his truck to haul us to the show. He also retrieved the trailer the night before. He also took video of our tests and posted them to YouTube!!

My mom made wraps and brought lots of water to keep us all alive!

My friend and volunteer groom bathed and braided the mare while I slaved away at work. She also cleaned my tack and loaded everything I needed in the trailer.

My aunt showed up as well, to show her support for our endeavors.

I left straight from work and met everyone at the venue. I was scheduled to ride down centerline at 5:00 pm sharp!

The arena was running very ahead of schedule, so I actually headed in about 15 minutes early. I rode Psycho Mare into the corner and onto the rail to make her take a good look at the bleachers and audience. Hooray for having an audience! She decided that, ultimately, those people and bleachers were really no big deal. She was so chill after we ended our test (Training-3); she tried to exit at P by stumbling over the rail. Oh, mare. Exit at A. It’s easier. Really. My sources say someone in the peanut gallery commented, “She must be a jumper!” *giggle*

We took a few minutes to relax and catch our breath. Then, we put ourselves back together and headed in early again for our second test! Intro B. Leaving the arena after that test, I saw the look of bewilderment on my Aunt’s face. She didn’t get the memo that our hardest test was first. Ironically, it was also our highest scoring test. :\

doesn't care about trains and traffic across the concrete bridges right over our heads!

 We ALWAYS get noticed at the shows! My mom made a good point… In addition to singing praises, I should mention, “By the way, she is for sale! She could be yours!” Thanks, Mom! I should have been saying that all along!

More pictures to come and I’ll post the YouTube videos in a later post! I’m interested in your reactions to the grey jacket!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Sometimes, it feels like the wheels are coming off – that the entire operation is falling apart – that, perhaps, you have no idea what you’re doing and have no business going about it, because you don’t even know what you don’t know…

There is a danger in working under more than one trainer… It’s called ‘cognitive dissonance’…
Your reins are too long!
Your reins are too short!
Push your knuckles together!
Widen your hands!
Get your weight up out of the saddle!
Sit back!

DQ has been helping to drill my position. My core continues to get stronger and more stable, but when the mare drops her back, I fall forward. Every time. I noticed it. I even mentioned it to DQ. Knowing it is going to happen doesn’t do a thing for allowing me to prevent it.

We’ve been insisting on a higher level of work: sitting more for her transitions, pushing into contact, staying supple in the bridle…
Sometimes she throws this tiny hissy fit… It goes something like this:
- drop all connection and get above the bit
- oh, you’re still sending me forward? Then, I’ll just drop behind the bit!
- oh, you’re still not letting up? I’ll just throw my shoulders up in the air and make an upward transition!

When these things happen in my dressage lesson, I hear DQ’s running commentary, “Yes, that’s right. Good. You’re right, you’re right! Yes, exactly!”

Many times, I find myself praising the mare at the same time that DQ praises both of us. Nothing earth-shattering has been brought to my attention. Nothing that I should do or stop doing has been mentioned. Still, I find myself frustrated and full of doubt. I asked DQ, “Are you *sure* you don’t want to ride her?” She acquiesced.

I watched with eagle eyes as this FEI-level rider put the Psycho Mare through her paces. I studied her leg, her hand, her position… I tried to grasp her timing and feel. To my amazement, Psycho Mare gave her all of the same evasions. DQ would get her together and connected, then the mare would drop it all. What really knocked my socks off was the way that DQ was also forced forward in her position when the mare fell out from under her. All along, I was thinking that it was a personal weakness, but it really isn’t just me!!

The upshot of this marathon lesson:
Keep asking and insisting. We have raised the level of expectation, and now we must insist that she deliver. Keep asking, keep sending.

After DQ’s ride, I was able to keep her connected enough to actually have an effect on my position! I have all of the tools and I am using them correctly. I need to just KEEP DOING IT!
I have been validated. ;)


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