Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: Two Horse Tack Biothane Bridle, Reins, and Breastcollar

Click here to visit the website!
Have you ever considered using alternative tack?  I’ve always been attracted to the easy care of biothane.  When I saw it in purple one day, I jumped on it – just because I thought it would be fun!  I went for a set: bridle, reins, and breastcollar.
The first time I put these on my horse, I had EVERYONE’s attention!

The bridle is delightful!  With buckle adjustments at the bit and the cheek, I can really customize the fit of the bridle.  It came with a noseband, but I found that it didn’t actually seem to make any difference, so I started riding without it.  In an emergency, I discovered that the noseband was perfect for hanging a 5-gallon water bucket in a stall at a horse show!  If that doesn’t attest to strength and durability, I don’t know what would!!  Next time, I would get a separate full cavesson.  On the other hand, I feel like a horse is perfectly capable of riding nicely and on the bit without the use of nosebands or cavessons, so that is no real loss.  It just means that there is more of my pony’s delicate face to show off!

Fancy Pony is known for her adjustability in the neck, and the reins I need to free walk are much different from the reins I need for dressage work.  My reins came in a standard length, and as usual, we had moments where the looped end could fall around my toe (yes, this happened once on a hunter course – I quietly lowered my hands and swung them forward in time with the canter, never taking my eyes off of my next fence).  Since my reins have Conway buckles at the bit ends, I just punched a hole 8” up the reins and moved the buckles!  Wa-la! Now, they are 4” shorter on each side!  The material is easy to punch (as easy as leather, anyway), and I could not have made that simple adjustment on any of my traditional English reins!  I found these reins to be a perfect compromise between the smoothness of leather and the grip of rubber reins.  They don't feel bulky in the hand as some rubber reins do.  The don't slide right through my fingers like other plain leather reins, either.

Surprising to me, the breastcollar was the prize piece in this set!  I’ve never had a problem with my saddle sliding back, so I knew the breastcollar would be just for show.  Or would it?
Fancy Pony started taking control over the jumps.  Coach would watch her blow through my aids and charge into the grid, horrified.  She told me, in her tactful style, “If she were *my* horse, I would put her in a running martingale before that nonsense becomes a habit…”
So, I took my running martingale and put it on the biothane breastcollar in the schooling ring before taking it cross-country.  Every horse has a different shape, and breastcollars cannot be universal to them all.  The buckles on each shoulder let me find the perfect fit for my narrow-chested pony.  There is another adjustment near the girth.  The scissor snap on the wither strap makes the entire thing easy to put on without unhooking a cross-tie!
Functional and safe!

I could have ordered (and still might) a separate cavesson in place of the included noseband, which would give me more adjustability on noseband placement and would sit more traditionally under the bridle. I could also get these pieces in black or brown, which would look more traditional but still stand up to every day abuse.  I like how the material works against the skin like neoprene: it slides over sweat rather than stick to it.  Fancy Pony offers no complaints and charges around the cross-country course with confidence in our wild-colored biothane!

Cool confidence!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Clicker to Load

Cricket hasn't shown much interest in the clicker.  She seems like she couldn't care less if I click or not.  If she gets a treat or not.  She is completely nonchalant.

I found an opportunity to load her in a strange trailer!  I happened to have clicker and treats in hand, so I decided to use them.  I know from past experience that she will walk right up to the back of the trailer, but she doesn't want to put her feet in...

She finally put a single foot in, and I clicked the clicker... Right before she charged backward! *sigh*
She took a few moments to rear and swing and generally act like a fool...  At one point, she stood up and hit the bottom of her chin on the top of the trailer...
I made it a point to not have any tension on the rope when she went about with the acting out.  And she settled quickly with nothing to fight against!

Once she settled, she looked at me, studied the trailer, and made up her mind...  She CHARGED into the trailer!

I clicked!  She took a treat, but before she even finished it, she started getting anxious.  The more she danced in place, the noisier it got!  The noisier it got, the more paniced she felt!  Before she trampled me, I asked her, "What has you worried?"
She replied, "I don't know which way to go!!!"
I said, "Then, go backward."
She took a step back, her hip bumped the wall, and she glued that hip to the wall as she backed out!
BUT! It didn't take 40 minutes to get her in...  It took 10.
She walked in twice more, each time calmer than the one before.

That clicker got her thinking, and thinking got her in the trailer.  It isn't about the treats.  I was astonished how quickly it made a difference!  Who knew?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Canter - Cross-canter - Canter

It's like a canter loop, right?
Not counter-canter where you bend the other direction without changing leads...

We're talking about cantering on the correct lead in front and the wrong lead in back.

That can't be comfortable...
No, it is not comfortable.  Not for me.  Not for the horse.
But Cricket has been insisting that it is the only way she can do it...

She is very stiff through her back, perma-bent to the right, and has no idea how to connect from the outside aids.  So, we work on suppleness...  And seeking connection...  and the outside aids...

And a transformation is happening!  We managed to work up to cantering an entire lap of the outdoor arena!  Except it goes like this:
Canter a stride or two - swap behind for several strides - trot a step and pick up the correct lead again before proceeding around the arena

I find that I have to ever-so-lightly support the bend with my inside rein.  At the same time, I have to open my outside rein away from her body to lead her back toward the rail (without losing the bend).  I have to pulse my inside leg with each stride to keep her from swapping those hinds...  And coach noticed I turn my hips hard to the outside to keep her on the rail...

So much work!!  But, she's getting better at holding the lead...

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today?
Today is a gift. That's why they call it the present.     -Babtundi Olantonji
After our bout of on-again-off-again Not-Quite-Right-ness, you can imagine how grateful I am each time I saddle up and Fancy Pony is comfortable!

When riding dressage, it is easy to get caught up in micromanaging your horse's movements - quality of gait - balance - what have you.  To counteract that tendency, I try to warm up once in a while with NO DEMANDS.  Warming up is about getting the muscles and joints moving and fluid, right?
I take my reins in one hand at the buckle and hold the pommel of my saddle to avoid undue influences.  My only requirement is that my mount stay in the gait I have dictated.  The rest is up to them.  They choose direction, even!

So, after a few walk laps and long diagonals, I picked up the trot.  Fancy Pony lifted herself and floated away, carrying me along for the ride!  I reveled in the feeling of freedom!  She took us around the arena.  She took us across the diagonals.  She took us in circle and serpentines.  Then she took us over cross-rails!  It was totally her idea, and it was smooth as silk.

Then, we cantered...  She was quiet, slow, loose...  Swinging through her whole body...  Previous incarnations of this exercise featured a horse falling on her forehand and racing faster and faster as she tried to catch herself.  I laughed out loud as we cantered and cantered - and then she took another cross-rail!

That was to the left...  To the right, she was fast!  Not out of control, but on the verge of losing her balance and falling completely on her forehand.  When she took the cross-rails, she landed on the left lead.  Even if she was going to turn right, she landed on the left lead...  Eventually, I picked up my reins and micromanaged to get a right-lead landing.  It took 3 tries and required that I ask for bend - bend - bend through the body with each stride to the base of the fence.

I guess I know what we will be working on, now!
Without this periodic experiment, I wouldn't realize this was happening...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

24 Hours - Saddle Up for St Jude

Over the weekend, my barn hosted a 24 hour ride-a-thon for St Jude Children's Research Hospital!
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.  -Mae West
(Have I mention that I love my daily calendar's inspiration?)

I didn't make it the whole 24 hours...  But, there were still adventures!

I rode a total of 17 hours.  I totalled 14 of those hours on the Fancy Pony!  She stepped up to the plate and never complained.  She even happily drank water with her bridle on!

We entered a costume contest.  I wore a big fancy renaissance-inspired dress with dagged sleeves and draped the mini-train over Pony's butt...  She never even noticed!  We even jumped like that!!  Maybe I should start calling her "honey badger"?
My team mate wore her rennaissance inspired garb with a long cape draped over her Arabian's butt...  That mare didn't care either.  When we WON best team costume, we took our victory lap side by side and jumped a little jump together, in tandem, still side by side...  Somewhere there are pictures, and I WILL share them when I find them!!

Another game we had fun playing was called "Turtle Hurdle".  There were 3 cross-rails, a bridge, then 3 more cross-rails.  We were timed.  We placed 4th because Fancy Pony was convinced that the bridge was a jump and couldn't figure out how to put her feet on it...  It was really funny watching her try to figure it out, though!

During the magazine race, I gathered my dress into my lap before racing down, hopping off, grapping my page, and hopping back on...  I dropped the dress as I sent Pony back 'home', and as the dress fell around her while we were cantering... She bucked!  It was coming to get her!
...Oops...  Guess I should have warned her...

Then there was an Egg and Spoon game!  We walked around and I tried to find my soft joints...  We trotted in half-seat, and I meditated...  We cantered, and I was amazed at how smoothly Fancy Pony made the transition and how collected she cantered...  Then, they announced, "We have a winner!"

What do you mean??
I thought, "No, we don't...  I still have my egg!!"
And when I looked over my shoulder, the rest of the field was standing in the middle....  We WON!  Oh, Pony, you are the coolest of ponies!  How did you know how to pull that off??

After the games were over, I went back to play on the bridge.  It took many minutes of centering Fancy Pony in front of the bridge and sitting quietly while she pondered it...  Finally, she shuffled close enough to bump her legs on the edge...  Then, she stepped on!
Oh, how I praised her!  We stood half on the bridge while I made such a fuss over her, and she took a breath and committed to hanging out there all day!  We walked off the bridge and reapproached.  She took it like she's been doing it forever!!  We got so good, we could walk half-way on, pivot the haunches around the corner, side pass to the other end, pivot the haunched around the other corner, then walk across it!!  WOW!  This pony...

Could she get any cooler??

Monday, May 19, 2014


The Fancy Pony is a wonderful creature!  She is willing, forgiving, and above all, tolerant.  However, like many of us, she has her own baggage…

Once upon a time, Fancy Pony ran with all of the other foals her age.  One by one, the others left, and she was left all alone.  When I say alone, I mean that she was the only foal left her age.  She was surrounded by the rest of the herd, which included other horses of all ages – including the ‘old mustang mare’ who taught her everything she knows about how to be top dog horse…

Fancy Pony was distraught that her bestest of friends left her.  She was sure that they must have sailed off the ends of the earth to their certain demises…  She spent a good chunk of time (measurable in weeks) being uncatchable by one of the savviest horsewomen I know.

In large open spaces (sometimes even in the small space of her paddock), Fancy Pony will sometimes refuse to be caught until she is herded and cornered.  When she is finally caught by these methods, she is tense and ready to flee at the slightest provocation.
I follow Bad Eventer and have been mesmerized at the unfolding of THE PLAN (parts 1, 2 and 3).

The turn-around in Klumsy is just incredible!  I want to have THAT tool available for the horses that I work with!

I have a good grasp on Operant Conditioning, I think.  I have created or changed associations for my pets based on conditioning theories.  I have even applied them to my horse.  The Old Man would come *GALLOPING* from the back of the pasture if he heard my whistle.  All I had to do was stand at the gate and wait.  I allowed him to associate coming to the whistle with dinner.  I have never applied this theory with the clicker.  I wanted guidance on how and where the clicker fit in.  Thanks to some helpful people on the internet, I was directed to some great DOG training sites that talked in detail about clicker training, and a light went on for me!  Suddenly, I could see some real possibilities!  So, I did what any knowledge-hungry student would do…  I immediately bought a clicker and started priming all the animals around me!

While I was priming Fancy Pony to the clicker, I only clicked if she was standing perfectly still in the cross-ties… Suddenly, she went from shifting occasionally to standing like a rock.  At attention.  Square.

An opportunity came to let Fancy Pony run around like a wild beast in the outdoor arena.  I jumped on it!  While she was left to run free, I walked up to her to touch her and try to teach her that I’m not trying to catch her *every* time I approach.  She quivered, but she stood and let me just pet her neck.  I walked away, and she went back to racing around like a thing possessed.

When it was time to catch her for real, I grabbed a few treats for one pocket, and my clicker for the other.  I admit that I was a little discouraged when she walked away from me.  Twice. Neither time did she even look at me.  Finally, she stood at a halt and gave me 2 eyes and 2 ears.  I clicked the clicker!

I took 2 steps toward her, and she took 2 steps toward me. *Click*

I stood still, and she took 2 more steps toward me.  *Click*

I remained still, and she took 4 more steps toward me.  *Click*

Four more steps, and she was in my pocket! *Click*treats*

She stood quiet and relaxed as I threw the rope over her neck and haltered her.  No stress.  It was like magic!

She has always stood and made me come to her, but this time, SHE came to **ME**!
That Bad Eventer…  She might be on to something!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cricket Learns Gymnastic Lines! (video)

She was fine with the poles on the ground, but when they turned into X's, Cricket became dubious...

Try, try again...

Until you succeed!  Check out that pony's confidence!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Playing Games

There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want.  -Bill Watterson
It was a late evening arrival to the barn, so I knew I would probably be short on time.  I was hitting up Fancy Pony for a ride, and my riding partner arrived!  Alas, her pony is currently on the mend from an unidentifiable something in a hind leg.  I asked her, "Do you want to ride with me?"
Oh, the look of longing on her face as she said, "Noooo..." followed by some excuses as her mom looked on with sympathy...

Long story short, she tacked up Cricket and rode with me!
Bonus, both horses got a longer ride for it!

Cricket has been cross-cantering behind.  Both direction.  On the lunge, as well as under saddle.
We are coordinating chiro and/or massage and considering a thorough soundness evaluation.

In the meanwhile, I've been focusing on teaching Cricket to stretch and step through with the hinds, move forward into the bit, and stay rhythmic and relaxed.  This is in opposition of her tendency to compress and suck back from the bit.  She has been picking up on it pretty well, and the longer we trot, the looser and more relaxed she gets!  I have not been cantering...  Strength and relaxation.  I told myself that if she ofered it, I would ride it, but that I wanted to focus on these other fundamentals first.  So, In our trot work, I've managed to keep her balanced enough that she hasn't fallen into the canter as I pushed her trot for more length.

So, as RP (riding partner), is tooling around on Cricket and learning her buttons and feeling for what I've been working on, she begins to play with the flexibility and elasticity of Cricket's gaits.  RP quickly pics up on Cricket's stiffness both directions, as well as her perma-bend to the right.  They trot over poles in all manner of configurations, and suddenly, Cricket offers the canter.  She did it for 2 strides, then RP pulled her back to the trot.  RP was worried that she *shouldn't* be cantering the pony, so I explained that I only wanted to if she offered.  You know, just to make sure that I wasn't forcing her to do it through pain...

Relieved, RP proceeds to canter Cricket all over the place!  This turned out to be an excellent opportunity for me, because I could see from the ground many of the factors at play, and which ones helped or hindered Cricket's canter issues.  But, *OH*, how I wanted to feel that canter!  I wanted to play, too!
Don't get me wrong, I was thoroughly enjoying my own play on the Fancy Pony, but I was still getting to know Cricket, and I wanted to hear her whisper those secrets to me that she was whispering to RP...  On the other hand, I was also thrilled that RP was able to enjoy this experience!

Cricket did her best to maintain her lead behind, but she would sudden;y hop-and-switch behind then swap back within a couple strides.  If she couldn't swap back, she would break to trot and resume with a united canter.  Cricket did all of these things on her own!  If RP held her to large, smooth, sweeping turns, Cricket held the lead.  If RP turned suddenly, Cricket swapped.  Cricket offered walk-canter transitions all on her own.  In all, Cricket looked thrilled to be cantering around so freely.  Well, free for Cricket...  For the rest of us, it was a canter like a pogo stick...

I set up a cross-rail for them to play over, and we addressed Cricket's boldness.  Yes, she stopped the first several times, but she never retreated or swerved.  She considered, then stepped delicately over the cross-rail.  The finished by cantering up to, then trotting over, the cross-rail!!

It was a game played for the sheer joy of trying new things.  Our enthusiasm carried over to Cricket, and she joined in on the fun!

I'm pretty sure Fancy Pony was jealous that she didn't get to jump, though...

Cricket with RP  -  Fancy Pony with me
What a lovely time!  I can't wait to show Cricket more fun games!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fancy Pony is Back in Action!

Life is simple.  It's just not easy.

It started with the ever-so-not-noticable not-exactly-a-limp in the left front.  I attributed it to the knock she appeared to have taken to the inside of her lower leg.  There was evidence (a wound), and she seemed to feel better and better as the wound healed or when the scab was soft...
Minor wound.  Probably kicked herself when she slipped in the mud in her paddock...

Then, she was off in the left hind!  Felt like in her hip.  We deliberated that perhaps she was 'sitting' more than she was really strong enough to handle while trying to hide the 'offness' in the left front...  Muscle soreness made sense and she was leaning into her massages.
Not rearing.  Levade to puddle jump...

And, then!!  She wasn't visually lame or off on any particular leg... She just wasn't herself.  Once in a gait, she would plod along, but she wouldn't come together.  She couldn't be light in the bridle.  She was fine if I tooled around like a western pleasure horse.  We even chased killdeer around the arena like a cutting horse!
Yes.  I'm *that* cool.

I finally started making a connection...
You see, I've been treating a little bit of 'girth itch'.  She seems to get it every spring in the wet season.  At least, she had it last year about this time...  I've been cleaning it, and treating it with scarlex.  The girth doesn't sit on it, thanks to the offset design, but it does sit close to it.  After beginning another ride and finding the Fancy Pony not herself A-G-A-I-N, I decided it was time to change stuff around.  I grabbed the fluffy girth.  It's straight.  Nothing special.  When I put it on, it went *right over* the girth itch.  But when I got on, she walked right out.  She settled into the gaits faster, and the transitions in and out became quieter.  It was instantaneous.  I had my Fancy Pony back!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When you suddenly realize...

While I was helping Cricket and YR keep it together, Fancy Pony was giving Pony Rides.  All by herself!
Not everyone has their own helmet.

So, I loaned them mine!

Cricket started getting a little fussy (as she typically does when the box you set for her gets too small or compressed).  YR was getting nervous and wasn't sure how to make Cricket happy again.  I asked her, "Do you want me to get on?"
"Yes, please!"

So, I hop up and try to figure out what is bugging Cricket today...
She continued to be a little fussy, but quieted as I insisted nothing was changing and she could relax.
I 'put her in a box' where she will experience increased pressure from a leg or rein depending on how she evades with hips or shoulders.  Once she finds the edges, she tends to relax inside the boundaries.

Just as she settled, the wind blew and I realized...
...I wasn't wearing my helmet!

THAT was rectified immediately...

But, it really got me thinking.  AGAIN!

YR's mom commented, "Jacq is a real advocate for wearing helmets!"
And, I am!  To hear someone say it, though, told me that I really am making a statement.  My statement is being heard!

We all sort of noticed it at the same time...  I even said, "I just realized that I am not wearing a helmet..."
I felt so naked and exposed!
Later, I realized how much I **don't** notice my helmet!  I never think of it as too hot or too heavy...  It becomes a part of me as soon as I put it on.  And that is how is *should* be!

I put my helmet on, and go about my horse activities!  It doesn't come off until I go back into the barn.  And THAT is how I got caught riding without a helmet...

Monday, May 12, 2014

Baby Steps

Cricket and her girl:

They both look so happy!
I was pretty excited to have some company and to see Cricket looking so happy with her young rider!  Eventually, they want to jump.  We are slowly building Cricket's strength.  She is learning all about poles on the ground.  Eventually, I'll turn them into a jump course of ground poles and see how game she is!
Upping the ante:
These poles were terrifying when Cricket first saw them...
Killing time:
Isn't it liberating to drive your pony everywhere?
YR (young rider) is learning how to ground drive her horse!  She did this for at least 20 minutes straight and never once got bored!  She also trotted in the driving lines, which I hadn't done yet.  Of course, I was focusing on tinier details like correct bend...  They were practicing "go where I tell you."

While Fancy Pony was feeling better, she was not 100% yet.  She felt fantastic at the walk, but only OK at trot and canter.  I couldn't feel any definite lameness, but she struggled to balance and get connected in the bridle.  We kept the rest of the ride walk-only.  Fancy Pony also played "solid school pony" giving rides to new riders and she could not have been more perfect!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Save the Joy! | Medical Expenses -

Save the Joy! | Medical Expenses -

I keep forgetting to add the blurb to each blog post.  So, I suppose instead, you get a weekend reminder!  Can you spare $10?

Can you share our fundraiser with other enthusiasts?

Do you know anyone else who might spare $10?

Don't want to use the online payment system? 

E-mail me: equinesnob at gmail . com

E-mail Bridget: titanpony122 at yahoo . com

We can post your off-line donation to the website anonymously even!

Joy is competing THIS WEEKEND at the Mill Creek Pony Club Horse Trials!

Thank you for your support!  We look forward to seeing this wonderful horse cancer-free!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Plan B

Fancy Pony was looking all sound on the lunge recently, so I swung up to ride!  I was so excited!  I was missing my Fancy Pony rides and all that she has to offer me... 
Shamelessly riding in all the mis-matched tack!

And she felt funny.  But in a different way...  The rhythm was even.
She was willingly going forward.
She was really quiet in the bridle!
None of the foreleg funniness was evident in the canter.
No, this time, it was the trot that felt funny.

I begged for eyes, and they both said, "It's the left hind."
I was dejected as I walked the poor girl back to the barn.


What luck! I have another horse to ride!
I pulled Cricket out of the stall (we're expecting her to move to a lot soon), and tossed her in the cross-ties.  I pretended like she was a perfect princess and needs no help.
...secretly, I wanted to know how bad she could get...
...I did absolutely nothing to set her up for success...

I brushed her down, picked her feet, and threw the tack on!  I tightened the girth and mounted.  Nope, no lunging today!  Let's just get to it!
She was comfortable with me on her back.  She stood stock still while I made sure everything was adjusted.
OK.  I guess I *did* set us up for initial succcess by starting in the upper-barn indoor area right outside of her stall... 
"Out the door!" said I.
"Oh, I can't go out there!" cried she.
"The world awaits us and we must make our appearance!" insisted I.
"Oh, it's so scary...  Please, hold my hand!" pleaded she.
So, I did.

Just in time, we make it out the door to get in line for a trail ride Coach is leading!
Cricket says, "Oh, look!  New friends!"
I hoped to use this to my advantage...
We had a moment before entering the trees where the downslope (2 steps worth!) and the new friends disappearing around the trees was just too much for her.

"Abandon Ship!" she cried!
Alas, I would have none of it.  With the reappearance of her new friends, we coaxed her down the tiny slope and into the trees we travelled!

Oh, the horrors of the mud!  She was trying to figure out how to jump a 6' swath.  We found a way around and saved that for another day.  There were a few more moments...  Oh, the bridges!  Dirt bridges.  How bad could they be?

About halfway back out of the woods, I knew the worst was yet to come.  A narrow strip flanked by a fence on one side and a drop off to a creek on the other.  I chose a time when she was being EXEMPLARY and dismounted to lead her.  Sure enough, when we got to the strip, and lost is twice and spun around to face the wrong direction.  She took any and all solace from my presence on the ground.  She was rather wild worried about the drop off... the horses ahead...  the wind...  her imagination...
Honestly, I was glad I wasn't on her back.  BUT, I was thrilled to have her out there in-hand with a group of other horses!

By the time we got back to the barn, we were back in familiar territory, so she was back to chill Cricket...
So, I took her in the arena for some trot work!
She was so willing to trot for me!  After a little bit, she even started relaxing over her back some and reaching into the bridle!  OH, how I had to focus on staying balanced, out of the way, and quiet as a rock with my hands!  As she relaxed into me, we went over to trot the poles we had been lunging over... And she pulled out a full stop to look at it! 

Each pole, she did it a little less, but she still STOPPED before going over.  Poles on the ground!
What THIS horse needs is CONFIDENCE!
So, we trotted out circle until it felt like a merri-go-round with no hesitation at any of the poles.  Of course, we had to leave the circle and change directions so we could challenge the new horse eye.  When I could trot past the group of horses gaggling on the fence, I knew we were getting somewhere and called it a night!

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Last week, we had some serious rain.  The paddocks became mud pits.  The ponies became ‘creatures from the black lagoon’ or perhaps ‘swamp things’…  Not that they care!  Oh, the joys of a good mud bath!

I had pulled the Fancy Pony out to curry the mud coating off before a proper grooming and ride.  Underneath the mud on her legs, I found a small wound.  Just below the wound was a small amount of puffiness (no one else seemed to be able to see it), but I felt no heat.  I trotted her in-hand.  I watched her.  I had several others watch her.  No one could detect any lameness… So, I booted up and rode, paying special attention to the rhythm of my gaits.  Walk and trot seemed perfectly normal.  The canter was like nothing she has ever produced for me!

She was light and quiet in the bridle.  The canter was slower than usual and balanced.  She felt definitively uphill…  But there was just something funny… and it seemed to come and go…  It happened both directions…

Just for fun, I joined 2 other young riders practicing BN Dressage Test B in its entirety.  As in, we all rode it at the same time!  Three of us in a single file line!  Oh, how cool it looked!  The Fancy Pony was spot on and didn’t take a single funny step.  Hmmmmmm…
That yellow stuff isn't part of the wound...  The salve goop just smeared down her leg...
The next day, all signs of any puffiness were gone.  The small wound remained, of course.  Again, she appeared fine in-hand.  Under saddle, she was better, but there was just something…  Just in the canter…  Just a little funny…  This time, I left all leg-wear off to see if that made any difference.  She can be sensitive to things like sand falling into her boots.  We had cross-country schooling scheduled in 2 days and a schooling horse trial in 3 days.  I didn’t want to jump her if she was lame.  I didn’t want to miss it if she was really fine.  Oh, the agony!  This event had already been rescheduled once!  It was to be our first competitive horse trial of the year!  We were planning to debut at Beginner Novice!

Glory Days!  2 weeks earlier!
The universe was obviously conspiring against me.  As Coach was ready to remind me, you don’t want to take chances with limb lameness…  So, Friday night, I withdrew from the show.  Not because she was obviously lame, but because she was *not-quite-right*.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Meet Cricket!

Cricket is joining me for boot camp!
She is a 9 year old Arabian mare who was started for Western Pleasure (we hear), then worked as a Therapy Horse before trying her hand as a 4H horse for a delightful young girl.
They (Cricket and her girl) want to be competitive in 4H this year, so they have asked if I would confirm her basics.  I am honored!
One of those basics is loading in the trailer...  Which typically takes... A while... 

Who? ME??

I came along to help, and at the 40 minute mark, she finally walked onto the trailer breathing hard and dripping sweat...
I said, "Let's unload her and do it again a couple times..."
Typically, she only gets loaded when they have to be somewhere at a certain time, so at this point, the doors would have closed and she would have been on her way.
She walked right on twice more!!  I knew she could do it!

After an hour drive and a bit of grazing, I decided to put her on the trailer one more time "just for fun."
And she walked right on again!!
I praised her profusely and quit pressing my luck.

Unfortunately, she came out of the pasture with rain rot across her back.  Right.  Where. The. Saddle. Goes.

She didn't seem bothered by it during grooming, so I saddled up and warmed up on the lunge.  This horse, that takes an incredible amoung of coersion to get moving, couldn't stand still when I mounted.  I promised her that if she stood still, I would dismount and we could play more ground games instead.

She acquiesced, and we finished with some lunging over poles.

Iodine baths ensued!  What do you do while the iodine soaks for 20 minutes?

Hooray for long-lining!
I tried to focus on teaching her the basics of long-lining...

The inside hind is coming forward more!
Then I tried to get her a little more "through" her body.  She really would have rather visited with the neighbors...

how about we explore some bend and counter-bend?
She really prefers to live in counter-bend...

Time for my close up!
But, she is always ready to pose for a picture!

She's wickedly smart.  I think she has a ton of potential!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Noble Outfitters ‘Over the Calf Peddies’ Socks

The first thing I noticed about Noble Outfitters’ socks was ALL THE FUN COLORS!!  I couldn’t have decided on just one if I had to.  I was ecstatic when a pair arrived in my mailbox; they were “Lace”.  What a practical print!

The first thing I noticed when I put these socks on for the first time was how padded the foot felt!  It wasn’t big or bulky, and the socks don’t feel thick.  The foot and heel just felt cushioned.  Immediately following that impression was the cool breeze blowing over the tops of my feet!  THAT was a new feeling!  The top is vented to allow heat to dissipate.  It’s the sort of feature I would expect in a high tech sports sock.  Would is hold up in my riding boots?

The calf of the sock feels thin.  Not quite as thin as stockings, but distinctly thinner than the foot.  Despite that feeling, they really have proven resilient!  No accidental holes from fingernails or over-stretching.  I had the opportunity to really put this sock to the test.  I was wearing is at a cross-country schooling when the sipper blew out after I mounted.  Coach taped my boot closed, and away we went!  I soon had new replacement boots with an elastic gusset down the zipper for a nice, snug fit…  And, I was worried about getting this boot zipped up even before I put my breeches on!!

I grabbed my thinnest boot socks (my new Peddies!), and slowly zipped myself into my new boots.  I carefully pulled my socks on all the way over my calf.  If I don’t make sure they are all the way up, they sometimes scrunch a little between my calf and ankle.  They seemed to smooth everything out under my zipper!  I wore another sock later in the week and noticed the zipper rubbed my Achilles tendon much more than when I wore my Peddies.  I look forward to wearing these socks each rotation!  I’m going to have to get one of every color!!

Overall, I think these socks are supremely comfortable.  They are priced about the same as most boot socks.  If I ever find them on sale, I will scoop up one of each of whatever is available!  When I take them off, they retain the shape of my foot and calf, but they wash up to look like new.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these socks to a friend!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sufficiently Demanding

An excerpt from:
Fox-Pitt Aims for Third Win at Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event
Apr 27th, 14

A total of 55 horses started on Derek di Grazia's cross-country course, and 20 finished without jumping faults or time faults. Another 10 horses finished with no jumping faults but with time faults ranging from 1.6 to 14.8, and 10 more finished with jumping faults and time faults. Ten horses were eliminated, and six retired on course.
Fox-Pitt answered criticism that, with exactly half the field completing the course without jumping faults, the course wasn't sufficiently demanding.
"I don't think any of us thought it was easy. There were still quite a few that didn't get around, and I think it's very important to strike a balance," he said. "The ground was perfect, and the result shows the quality of the field." Hopefully it set them up to compete well at the World Equestrian Games in France late this summer.

I have mixed feelings about this statement that the course wasn't sufficiently demanding.  I feel like, at the highest echelon of the sport, where the elite are competing, most of them should be able to FINISH.  I'm not talking finish with no jumping penalties.  I'm not talking finish under time.  I'm just talking about leaving the start box and riding across the finish line.  The courses are becoming so incredible!  How much should we actually ask our horses to do?

I feel like, if things need to be made trickier, wouldn't it be safer to do that in the stadium ring?
I may not understand the context of the comment, since I wasn't there for the discussion.  Admittedly, I would love to talk about it - in person - with William Fox-Pitt!

My first reaction, however, was that I felt a little punch in the gut.  How would he have changed the course to make it sufficiently demanding?

I always find myself cheering for a nice, clean run **EVERY TIME** I watch a horse go cross-country!!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Tacky Tack

Inspired by Cob Jockey and her post: Matchy Matchy

As much as I would LOVE to be in the "Everything matches, and even my practice gear/clothes are put together like a princess in a fairy tale" crowd, I just don't have that much to spend on my grear.

Nor do I have the discipline!
Let's face it, folks.  I love the FUN STUFF as much as I love the perfection.  Eventing is a great fit for my bi-polar equestrian desires.

I discovered pretty quickly that the animal prints that I might have put on the solid bay Old Man were not going to work on the Fancy Pony with her roaning, Sabino splashes, and high white stockings...

My priorities are as follows:
1) SAFETY and FUNCTIONALITY - does it fit and do the job it was designed to do?
2) CLEAN - or, at least, is it clean enough to work in?  The clean standard is higher for shows...
3) DO I LIKE IT - I am becoming the queen of mis-matched tack in training because I like it, but it doesn't actually go with anything I already own...
4) MATCH - obviously, not always a priority...

I want to be all put together for dressage and look like I belong there...

monochromatic color scheme
But, I love the fun stuff, too.  I have been caught schooling cross-country with a PURPLE breastcollar to hold my running martingale because it is the ONLY breastcollar I own that fits the Fancy Pony...
I really do like bio-thane...

I'm shameless...
I wasn't actually shopping for a new bridle, but when I saw this one, I KNEW it was perfect!!
New bridle for dressage - sticking to the monochrome theme...
I couldn't resist this be-ribboned browband in my favorite colors!  Nothing in this get-up is matching!!
The browband - the breastcollar - but the Fancy Pony rocks it!


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