Saturday, October 29, 2022

Got nobody to blame but me

This will shock no one other than me, but man, training level is hard. We schooled at Magnolia Sands on Tuesday and went over a decent number of training level questions. Magnolia Sands is a pretty compact venue - all in one big field, so there is a LOT to look at it one area. Good test for spooky pants here. Plus we'd only been once as compared to Majestic where he is basically at home. 

While warming up he was really behind my leg, just sticky and spooky as a consequence. Then I realized I hadn't put on spurs. Derp. I added those and he felt just delightful. We warmed up over a BN hanging log to a table, uphill to a house. He was a very good boy for all of that other than a hard spook left after landing from the table. Then log stack, downhill to a wedge, circle round to a LARGE feed wagon, through a keyhole. The wedge got iffy. I was riding him in his usual cross country bit, a french link three ring elevator, reins on the second ring, but we had added a curb chain. Which I could DEFINITELY tell and occasionally he protested a bit. I was trying soooo hard to be soft, but the wedge he was wiggling both ways and so I was riding in the back seat and never caught up to him over the jump. Sorry buddy. 

We then tackled a corner to the keyhole, circle around and go through the water, then turn left and come over the roll top at the waters edge into the water. The combination of the two of us has an issue with corners. It was what he ran out at at Rocking Horse back in April and my mind can't figure them out geometrically (yes it has been explained, no it doesn't help me magically develop the mental image of them and lines over them). We jumped it VERY much on the flat face and he wacked the back part of the corner on the way down because he was surprised by it. The keyhole turn I was botching pretty badly, but he was gamely doing it. The roll top into water we kept getting to tight. A couple of times because he was chipping, but a couple of times because that was the spot that was there. Ooof. We got the corner better on the second try, but I created the same rough ride to the keyhole. 

Then we did roll top, through water, up bank, to train. The first time up the bank he tripped/stumbled up, which seems to be a repeating thing for us too, but we got over the BN sized train. The second time was better but the roll top in got worse. We moved on to the line in reverse - train, right hand turn to down bank, through water out over roll top. He was sticky at the down bank, but went with kicking. I actually liked the ride out of the water - hands wide, funnel and out over the roll top - he probably appreciated that I was NOT pulling on his face. 

Next up was the coffin. It is pretty spooky, the ditch is at the bottom of a pretty steep hill and tends to surprise horses. Our two horses were no exception. After they were cantering over it nicely, we added in ditch, two strides uphill to roll top. Oof. Ben struggled with two strides in there, it is HARD to hop the ditch then power uphill in those two strides. We finally got it and I did very much appreciate my added brakes because a couple of times he landed and took off because he was spooking at what had just happened. I  was able to nicely sit back, quietly stop, then praise him like crazy. We then did the whole coffin - roll top, two strides downhill to ditch, two strides uphill to wedge. GOOD BOY!!!! 

JT pointed out at one point that I have to choose my battles with him spooking at things. While galloping between fences, I have to let him relax and just gallop along. If he spooks, he spooks. He doesn't tend to do the spinning, launch you off his back spooks, just bulge, pick up the pace, snort, stare etc. If I am relaxed and letting him breathe he is less likely to do that. After the coffin I practiced that a little bit and just took him on a tour around the field, softly galloping. He was very, very good. But also probably very, very tired at that point. 

We iced at the trailer for a bit and then headed home. He got his shoes redone that evening. My farrier pointed out if we're going to keep him in hind shoes, he'll need pads added for the health of his feet. Alright, what's $50 more... LOL. We didn't add them last night because he was short on time and I was digesting the extra cash, but we will next go round. 

He's just so cute and earnest

I had pre-typed the above following the schooling - I can document better when it is fresh, but then in our jump lesson on Thursday, things fell apart. We warmed up alright, but once the jumps got bigger he started stopping left and right. And once he was stopping, I lost confidence and my reaction stopped being to put the spurs in when I felt hesitation, and instead to ride like he was going to stop. JT hopped on him and felt like he was not himself. The last stride he was hollowing and waiting for something to hurt. He was going with her, but no surprise there. I suspected saddle fit because he has been pretty sore of the left side of his back. We pulled the saddle off, and sure enough, light finger pressure elicited spasms of the longissimus muscle all the way down the left side of his back to the lumbar area. Oof. My saddle is still off getting panels replaced, so I'd been riding him in a friend's saddle that she uses on her TB as a second best fit. The fitter is 5 minutes down the road, so he came over and assessed. He looked at her saddle, looked at Ben's back, and took more pictures. Two problems - still too wide in the tree, so it is pinching right under the head nail and then not making contact anywhere else - and also too wide in the panels, so it is sitting off the muscles it should and causing pain. 

I'm kicking myself because I knew he'd been sore on his back to the curry, but JT rode him in this saddle while she had him two weeks ago and he got a good report from his chiro vet on his back, so I thought it would be okay. UGH! I put the health and comfort of my horse second to training and competition goals and am now paying the price. It is so hard to narrow down which saddle it is though - is it my dressage saddle that isn't a good fit either, but looks passable? Or is it the jump saddle we've been borrowing? Oye. My saddle will be back Nov 9th or so. Hopefully it will be right, but we're all still skeptical, fitter included (I guess skeptical would be the wrong word for him, but he knows it may take several iterations to get it right). 

We scratched the show this weekend and dropped to novice at the show Nov 5-6. He's getting a few days off with bute and massage. I packed his hind feet with Magic Cushion too in case the new hind shoes had any role in it. I'm going to test a few saddles today and if I can find one he likes and he is NOT sore on his back, we may try to jump Wednesday or Thursday and see if we can go to Rocking Horse. But if he is still saying no or is sore, then that is out too.

Monday, October 24, 2022

This and that

Ben and I have been gearing up for our training level debut together - this Sunday at the Partners of the Park schooling show at the Florida Horse Park, where he did his last event. Most likely it will be over the same course, so we're hoping to ease into our training level partnership. The weekend after that is Rocking Horse, which will be our recognized training debut. 

I ran through training level test B for the first time on Friday and was appalled by having to do transitions AT letters. Ugh. Okay, fine, time for me to grow up a bit. I keep struggling with the left lead canter transition though - it is at K after doing a 15m trot circle at E. It's in the same relative position in the ring as the right lead transition. However, I am not struggling to the right, but I keep shoving him downhill into the corner and chasing him into the canter to the left. We went back out of the dressage ring and worked on the left lead transition till it was smooth and lovely when we were ready for it, then brought it back into the ring and tried again. It went better, but still not as well as the right lead. Huh. Hopefully I'll squeeze in a dressage lesson at some point in the next two weeks to get JT's pointers on the test. The stretchy circle immediately after trot lengthening was also kinda tough, I really need to emphasize coming back from the lengthening to start the stretch. 

My difficulties with the test aside, he has felt FANTASTIC in our last few dressage schools. Just really through and forward and willing and so much fun. He's slipping behind a little bit, but he is also due to get his feet redone on Tuesday. I caved and put him in hind shoes at the beginning of September. Lo and behold he is not sore in his lumbar area anymore for his chiro adjustments. I don't understand it, nor does my wallet appreciate the $350 farrier bill, but if it makes him happy, what the hey. I've been trying to remember to do his hind leg stifle stretches AFTER riding instead of before. Humans they don't recommend stretching "cold", but it is much harder for me to remember to do after because I don't usually pick out his feet after riding (bad owner). 

We're without jump saddle at this time, but fortunately a very generous, lovely friend is letting me use hers on Ben when we're at JT's barn, so that is what we're going to use for cross country schooling tomorrow. 

Last week we took it easy mostly. We had a lunging day where we played a bit with hunting the jump (pole). I discovered a few weeks ago that he was not very relaxed on the lunge and that woah didn't work that well. So we purposefully had a VERY lazy, relaxed lunging session. It was fun, I could visibly see him relax after a bit. He is really very clever with his feet, and moving the circle around picking up our two ground poles at different angles was interesting to watch. He would scope out the pole and adjust his striding a ways away from it to get it right. He also very tidily trotted over the lunge whip where I had abandoned it and forgotten about it. 

He's been super careful and adorable with the GY's new corgi puppy who sometimes is not very aware of horse feet. Ben just puts his nose way down and kind of snuffles him and steps very carefully around him. He is not an incredibly careful jumper in terms of rails, but it is very interesting to see how precisely careful he is with anything on the ground. Maybe part of his spookiness? 

Today we hacked out to where they are harvesting some pines in the neighborhood. He was extraordinarily brave and watched them drop a few very large trees. But he also spooked/flattened himself to the ground twice when the neighbor ponies walked up to the fence while we were leaving the pasture. #horselogic

Also last week I introduced him to the balance pads. He kept shifting weight from side to side when they were under his hind feet - definitely more challenging for him than when they were under the front. I love that he is just barely downhill with the pads added in. 

In addition to remembering to do his hind leg stretches post ride, I'm trying to do the bladder meridian twice a week. There was a Masterson Method post on instagram where he said that for spooky or anxious horses, it is a very useful exercise done regularly to increase relaxation and trust. I have had to repeat the first side both times, he is so busy and engaged externally that I really don't get feedback on the first go round, but the second time he does seem to turn internally and lose some of the focus on the outside world - maybe that is why it is supposed to be useful?  

Mostly a rambling post lacking media, but I did want to get down some of what we've been doing lately. 

Friday, October 21, 2022

Gear Post 2022

Inspired by Emma's post, I'm cataloging the gear Ben and I are currently using. It's still a work in progress, especially saddle, but I'm hopeful we're on the right track. 

Starting with my feet because I'm actually pretty proud of myself on this one. I ride in paddock boots and half chaps. Ever since giving up the shorts and full suede chaps in middle school and high school, I've been a paddock boots and half chaps kinda person. And I've actually never strayed from Ariat half chaps - each pair has lasted me 6+ years, so why change it up? I do try to occasionally lesson in my tall boots and usually cross country school in them just because the feel is slightly different and I don't love getting to a show and feeling uncomfortable because of the boot switch. 

I did briefly try Dublin paddock boots, but I'm back to Ariats there as well. The Dublins I tried were... I think $50? And within the first month were sloughing the non-leather coating around the flex point of the foot at the base of the toe box. In their defense, I am not easy on paddock boots and (formerly) hosed horses and walked through tons of wet grass in them. And I didn't expect $50 boots to last THAT long, but a month? Out of irritation I ended up wearing them for about 2 years. Once they lost the outer coating around the flex point, they kinda stopped degrading there and the zipper and such kept working. Recently though, I got pretty sick of wet feet so replaced them with the $150+ Ariats along with a pair of... 
Xtra Tuffs! 

With the new Ariats

My friend suggested these - they're meant to be boat shoes, so they're waterproof and have good traction. If you're willing to get a funky color (Ms. GY calls them my mint julep shoes) you can find deals on them, these were $80. They do run BIG, I'm usually an 8.5-9, but ended up exchanging my 9 for an 8. But they're sturdy, comfy, and water proof. I've done a lot of walking in them and haven't gotten a blister so far. And for the first time I'm actually being good about switching into these out of my paddock boots right after riding so I'm hopefully prolonging the life of my paddock boots. <-- That's the part that I'm proud of, not the riding in half chaps LOL 

Continuing on the foot part, Ben goes in a short roller ball spur unless we're just hacking out. He is pretty twitchy about the dressage whip, so a spur to reinforce the leg aid works much better. 

For tall boots, I have a pair of Ariat Heritage Contour Field Boots. I neither love nor hate them. The leather behind the laces has broken down after a relatively small number of rides, but it isn't visible so I'm not too fussed about it. I haven't tried on more expensive or more customized boots; there is a whole world out there I haven't experienced, but I have no reason to open that (expensive) door. 

Ft current tall boots, spurs, saddle + pad, breastplate, breeches, and helmet

Breeches... meh not a lot to say here. Like the boots I don't have strong opinions about breeches, which makes me a pretty poor reviewer of them. Somehow I've acquired a large number of hand me down tights, so I wear mostly those in the summer. I have various Smart Pak full seats bought on sale for lessons or schooling shows. For shows the Smart Pak show breeches seem to clean up pretty nicely and go right back to being white without any special treatment after use, so I have two white knee patch pairs. Plus, I have never bought Smart Pak brand anything at full price... I browse my size breeches every time they have a sale and will snag a pair if there's something appealing. 

Helmet is a One K Defender MIPS. I LOVED my goofy One K with the built in flip down sunglass shield, but they don't make those anymore and I had to retire that one since based on the amount of arena material in it, it hit the ground in some way when Leila and I somersaulted. The MIPS doesn't fit quite as well - slightly more oval than my head is, so I do need to make an Ocala tack shop trip to try on some other MIPS helmets. 

Show shirt and jacket are a work in progress as well. I purchased an AA MotionLite in the spring, but then we didn't make it to the May show due to the World's Longest Abscess. So I haven't tried it out yet, but I am excited about the prospect of being a bit less sweaty! 

I have worn Heritage Performance Gloves for as long as I can remember. They're reasonably priced and last me years. I think the last pair I bought was in... 2015-6? Mine recently became more hole than glove though, so I bought a new pair and actually went with non-black (I am boring). For shows I have a pair of black Roeckl Roeck grip gloves. 

Jade! It is a bit more green than this was photographing 

Moving on to Ben... 

He doesn't typically wear boots, kiddo is really very careful about where his feet are going. Out cross country, he rocks the same pair of Majyk Equipe cross country boots that Yoshi wore. 

The most handsome <3 

Saddle wise... well that's where it is a work in progress. He is too narrow for literally every saddle of JT's and the GY's. I have a Forestier Boekelo that a rep assessed last week. The panel change we did in the spring does not seem to be working and he's now got some atrophy of his trapezius muscle that makes me cringe every time I look at it. We have a plan though, saddle is gone and is having several different changes made (making the tree more narrow, cut out for scapula, narrower channel) and then we will check it. If those things look good AND make his back happy, we'll do the same things to the dressage saddle, a Forestier Aachen. 

I have loved the saddle since the moment I sat in it, so no changes needed for me. Hopefully we can make Ben love it too though. 

Until the saddles are fixed, we're using a shimmed Mattes pad from the GY's. I am so spoiled between them and JT, all are so generous with trying things, borrowing things, etc etc so that I don't have to buy things just to test them out or use them temporarily. 

He's not picky on the girth, so for dressage and jumping he goes in a synthetic, padded Collegiate. I did notice while JT was on him this weekend that the billet ends DO NOT want to stay tucked in to this, so perhaps I'll play with some of my other girths. 

He wears a PSofSweden breastplate for jumping. It is very, very pretty. Other than hating cleaning it, which I think is standard to any breastplat, I love it. Like all things PSofSweden, it is not incredibly adjustable and he probably could have gone with a cob, not a horse size, but it works at the horse size, it is just adjusted pretty high on all the holes and has to go around the girth with the leather loop, not clip onto the girth. 

For dressage at home, he wears the bridle that I dyed back in April. It has worn really well. I don't use it for shows anymore so the flash is never on it. His dressage show bridle is the Premier Equine one mentioned in that post. 

He actually wouldn't open his eyes, was seriously committed to napping while I was taking the picture

For jumping he has a PSofSweden Athens bridle. Stadium, he is going in the Nunn Finer Oval Link Shaped Mouthpiece Cartwheel bit that we put him in at the beginning of August. Cross country is TBD at this point! 
Starting to wonder if the eyes closed after bridling isn't some other response, I'll have to pay more attention

Monday, October 10, 2022

Ocala Fall HT - Training level

Ben and JT were AWESOME this weekend. Lots to work on for Ben out on cross country, but overall a very good boy! 

Wednesday I practiced my braids and decided they were decent enough to be seen out in public. Saturday morning, he had civilized ride times of 11:20 and 2:30. I got started braiding around 7 and was done by 8:15 - woohoo! Which meant we arrived early because I had given myself 2 hours for braiding. We went and cheered JT on for her other dressage rides and then got ready. Ben warmed up super nicely but had some feelings about the banner on the fence by the judge's booth. The judge was really nice as JT made a couple of passes by to try to lessen the offense. Overall it was a really nice test. The offensive banner did lead to a "swinging neck" on the first centerline and an "above the bit" in the canter transition. Final score was a 30.8 which put them in 4th place. 

Then we hung out at the trailer for a bit and I tried to eat my oatmeal. Ben definitely wanted to participate in that. Some people might call it being a pest, but he's just so cute and sweet about it that I let him put his face all the way into my space while I sat in the trailer eating. I tried to let him lick the container, but the first thing he tried to do was take a bite of the glass pyrex. Oops. 

I popped him back onto the trailer into his box stall set up and he settled down to eat some hay. I heard him drinking a few times too, yay! At a past show, JT mentioned cleaning tack between rides to decrease end of day clean up. I brought a small bucket and tack cleaning supplies with me this time and cleaned his dressage tack AND oiled his show bridle which desperately needs it but keeps missing out since it lives at home, not at the barn. It did feel much nicer to just unload his dressage tack into the tack room, all nice and clean, at the end of the day. Then I wandered over and helped set up jumps for a few of JT's other rides and then headed back to the trailer to get Ben ready. 

Didn't just catch him blinking, he legitimately closed his eyes and looked like he was starting a nap after I bridled him

Ben warmed up as Ben does. The first jump he got to a funky spot and did an awkward launch. JT got after him a bit to jump like a real horse and the next couple of times he did over the ascending oxer. When I switched it to a square oxer he knocked the front rail lightly both times. JT made the (correct) decision to go in after the second time and he was quite careful the whole way around.

The stadium course was pretty challenging, twisty turny and then a triple of an oxer, one stride to a vertical, two strides to a vertical. JT got Ben over in that area as soon as the rider before her finished - look dude, three jumps in a row, you gotta jump them ALL! Then they jumped sooooooo well. Ben looked like he was a whole grown up horse in there! He did get bug eyed into the triple, but JT sat back and pushed him forward and he got it done and jumped CLEAR! Good boy Ben!!!! 

He got lots of carrots, a hose down, and then popped on the trailer with ice boots on while we walked cross country. 

Preeeetttty spooky second water combo - large roll top about 1 stride out from the waters edge

Through the water and out over a wedge

Whereas Majestic creates nice inviting move up courses, Ocala generally asks some pretty challenging questions at each level. Even their entry courses include faux painted sharks teeth and a few other challenging questions. 

There was a coffin combo I was too busy staring at with wide eyes to take pictures of, sizeable jump in, two strides downhill to the ditch, two strides uphill to a fairly narrow log that kind of angled towards a clump of trees shortly after it. 

Ben got home right at dinner time and got settled back into his fly sheet with neck cover to stay clean overnight. I bought the fly sheet back in April specifically for overnights before shows. It was $48 on Amazon and does its job beautifully. Haven't been able to really test durability, but so far so good. 

Sunday he went cross country at 1 PM. This meant I didn't need to leave the barn till 10:30 for a noon arrival. When I put him on the trailer, he was spinning from front to back and wacked his face in the trailer. Ooookay dude, you get clipped in till the last second when I will free you to turn around to ride slanted backwards. I did that on the way home, and it seemed to work much better. This cut definitely would've healed without staples, but I'm feeling a little staple happy so it got two. 

Once we arrived he was just hard staring out to the cross country course the whole time. He did wander around a bit and eat some grass, but then would pick his head back up and stare more. Cross country was running early, so JT got him warmed up and then they headed out! I only caught the first three and then the last water complex. He spooked hard core at something coming up to the third, probably the random small tree and post that was nearby if I had to guess. Then looked pretty green through the water, which is fair, he is pretty green. About three strides before the roll top he saw the water and spooked enough that he wacked the roll top on the way over. He powered through the water and did the wedge decently though. The next jump was a sharks tooth that JT said was the only one he thought about stopping at. She didn't let him though and so he flailed over it a bit. 

They finished clear, but he got a "green and pretty spooky" report. We're going to try a few different bit and bridle combos to get him up off the forehand because when he spooks he barrels down into the hand and then continues to run scared for a minute. She recommended she take him out at training one more time. Which... I'm struggling with... for obvious reasons. My husband points out I should take the advice of the person I am paying. I just wanna go play though! 

Since they went clear, they finished 2nd in their division and high point TIP for training level. So he won $50 from TIP. How cool is that program?!?!? There were actually only 4 thoroughbreds registered with TIP for training level, so it isn't a giant pool to compete with for money and a super pretty ribbon. 

Overall a positive show. He jumped all the things and looked super professional in stadium. To be fair to him, he hasn't been out cross country since Majestic either, and especially as we make this move up happen, he is definitely a horse that needs to be going out and doing things. September just was not a month that I could make that work. October is much better work wise, so this week we're going to do a flat lesson, then get him out XC schooling somewhere new the next week. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

WW: Braids and Staples


First attempt at braiding in 15 years. Practice for this weekend when Ben goes out at training again at Ocala HT. 

Uncalled for practice stapling moving horse's face. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

A non-event

The track of Ian shifting further south left us up here basically untouched. It was about 12 hours of some gusty winds and not much rain. I feel for Fort Meyers and Sanibel and Captiva Island. My husband and I go to Sanibel nearly every year for a few days. Seeing the pictures of the destruction there is so sad.  

Ms. GY and I were supposed to go to a lesson this morning. I almost forgot to set my alarm last night and then was moving super slowly this morning. But when I pulled up (late) 15 minutes before we were scheduled to leave, ponies were still out and hadn't had breakfast. I was surprised because I'm usually the slow moving, running behind part of our duo. Usually I show up and all the gear is loaded, horses are done eating, etc etc I was actually kind of considered something had happened. But I let Ben and his buddy in since Ben is the world's slowest eater/gets a lot of grain, and then Ms. GY came running out. She had completely forgotten. We got the ponies and tack loaded up and then both of us looked at our temporarily abandoned phones and had a ton of missed calls from JT. A horse emergency at her barn had come up and she asked if we could reschedule or move till later that day. Since everything was already all loaded up, Ms. GY and I opted to reschedule to tomorrow and head out for a trail ride. 

We went to Watermelon Pond, part of Goethe state forest. It is all of 10 minutes from the barn and usually empty. Ben was, overall, a VERY GOOD BOY! He started out prancing and jigging, but a long trot got his head mostly screwed on straight. He did start the canter with a few giant sideways leaps over who knows what and then was pretty strong the whole time cantering. Funny enough I had grabbed his dressage bridle to trail ride in, but maybe should've stuck to his stadium bit/bridle. He was GREAT at the walk for the whole second half though. No jigging, just a big relaxed swinging walk. A covey of quail flew up right under his nose at one point and he barely spooked. Horse brains man, no rhyme or reason. 

It was a GORGEOUS day - 60s/70s, clear blue skies, drier than normal. Definitely one of the fall days that makes people love FL.