I am having so much fun with Speedy now that we are "officially" focused on First Level. My gray pony may not have the big, expressive movement that the warmbloods have, but he sure is fun to ride.
At our lesson on Monday night, my trainer asked what it was that I wanted to work on. It's a little weird telling the teacher what you need, but JL has been a great supporter of my dressage efforts. She recognizes that my path is different from that of her jumping students so she tries to help me with the directives that each level presents.
Now that we're over the most rudimentary basics, meaning we can walk, trot, and canter with some semblance of a frame, she is leaving it to me to let her know what comes next. I reported that I felt comfortable with how we're doing with the 10-meter half circles and the leg yields. Our weak spot at the moment is the canter departure. We also need to slow down the canter so that Speedy can get off of his forehand.
JL had me pick up a trot, which by the way is getting really good. She instructed me to think about really slowing down his front end as I asked for the canter. At the same time, I need to be really strong in my back so that as he tries to shoot forward into the canter, I can resist the lengthening of his spine. I need to gently slide the rein (rock, sponge, whatever) to encourage him to lift up. And, I need to continue to slide (rock, sponge) as Speedy goes through the whole upward arc of the canter.
I tend to to want to throw his neck away as soon as he begins the upward phase of the canter. To help him go up, I need to stay with him all the way through the up and down wave of motion. That was a huge revelation. I only stay with him as he begins the liftoff, but then I let go as he arcs across the top.
Once I maintained the contact by being very resistant in my back, Speedy stayed round and less strung out. The result was a better canter that was uphill as opposed to the runaway wheelbarrow effect that we sometimes get.
I had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday morning which meant I got to be at the barn by noon instead of working. Riding in the middle of the week with no worries about the fading daylight reminded me of all that I have to be thankful for.
Or, in my world, the LLPOF CLub. I always tell my students to avoid being a member of the LLPOF Club, which is invariably met with nervous laughter. In reality, sometimes a lie is a good thing.
I do worry, about a lot of stuff, but I just don't let myself pick at it or follow the train of thought for more than a minute. If I let myself indulge in playing out every horrific scenario, the next thing I know, I've led myself to believe that the apocalypse is imminent which means I will be faced with deciding if I would ever consider eating one of my horses for survival.
Really. That's where my worries take me - eating my horse! I don't obsess about broken legs or colic surgery. Instead, I worry about the end of the world (with or without zombies) and having to barbecue my four-legged family - somehow the dog is excluded.
Saying I don't worry would be saying that I don't care. That happens too. Sometimes I really don't give a rat's ass about something, but most of the time, I care too much. All of which means that I have to lie to myself by saying, it will all be okay. I KNOW it's a lie because it cannot be okay when the end of the world has arrived. But strangely, the placation is consistently proven to be RIGHT a week later. No, I never remember that part, but I do accept the lie so that I don't make myself ill with the fretting.
When Speedy pulled a little butt muscle a few weeks ago, I was worried, but I suffered in silence as I tried to believe in the tenets of THE LIE. And you know what, it really turned out to be okay. Shocking, I know.
I had a lesson last night, which was totally awesome, but that's how I know Speedy is back on track. Over the weekend, I schooled him lightly at the walk and trot, but I avoided the canter work as I was worried about him being NQR. Bolting around the arena during turn out is what caused him to be ouchy, so it seemed prudent to get back to work slowly.
Because I am such a lying chicken, I waited to canter until I was with my trainer. My rationale was this: if I am riding alone, I am focused solely on what he is doing and how he feels. Every step feels wonky when you're looking at it that hard.
On the other hand, when I ride with my trainer, I am focused on what she's asking me to do and not worrying about how he feels. I just didn't tell her I was worried until part-way through the lesson. She hadn't seen a thing, but when I mentioned it to her, she had me do a few things to check him out. By the time we finished for the evening, we both agreed that he was fully sound.
Whew! The world can now continue to spin.
Money. Nothing can cause people to judge faster than knowing how much someone makes. We look at people and criticize them for having too much, or wonder what kind of poor choices they've made to have so little. Even Dr. Ramey just wrote about being "in it for the money."
Talking about our incomes makes us uncomfortable. Other than the whole being judged aspect, I don't know why that is. Revealing how much we spent on something is just as disagreeable.
It was horribly difficult to report how much I spent every month in 2012. I wrote 13 very detailed posts reporting every penny that I spent on my two horses. I did that series to hold myself accountable; I really didn't know how much I was actually spending each month. I also intended the series to be educational. Most people who don't yet show think that only the very wealthiest can afford it. I wanted to illustrate that showing horses can be done on a budget. While my intentions were good, it still felt like I was getting butt-naked each month.
I find that I am once again about to be in the awkward position of being metaphorically nude as I discuss my finances with the rest of the world. Obviously, I could just keep it to myself, but frankly, I am going to need some help in finding the right horse. Being transparent about my budget might help me make some connections that I might otherwise miss.
Doing so however, reveals an awful lot about myself that I don't necessarily need everyone to know. When we state our position so publicly, we invite criticism with judgement not far behind. Most of us love to offer advice, but when there is a dollar figure attached, the opinions can get pretty passionate.
I've already (patiently, I might add) listened to what I should do in searching for a horse. I've also been advised not to by from this type of seller, but rather from that one. I've also sought counsel from my two trainers. Their advice has been spot on which is why there is no pony suddenly filling up Sydney's recently vacated stall.
I get that readers, acquaintances, and plain old busy bodies just want to offer their two cents worth, but when you offer me that advice, please remember that I have owned quite a few horses in my lifetime and only one of them didn't quite work out. I trust my instincts, I just need help making connections to honest sellers.
I am working on a post that actually reveals what I am searching for and what I can afford to spend. If only I could just add a few details to this pony and hit print!
Yesterday was the first day that Speedy has been worked in the arena in almost two weeks. At the walk, he was fine, but when I asked for the trot, he was completely funky in his way of going. He felt stiff in the shoulders and almost lame in both front legs. Sheesh!
I got off and did a trot in hand, but I couldn't find anything specific so I chalked it up to being off the playing field for so many days. It has been nearly two weeks since he was asked to work.
After goofing off for a few minutes trying to figure out if he was lame or not, I finally tossed in the worry towel and asked him to get in front of my leg. Presto! Problem solved. All of a sudden he was balanced, and moving out really nicely.
I didin't want to over do it so we worked briefly on leg yielding, 10-meter half circles, and some trot lengthenings. I can't say they were any good, but Speedy loves trying them which gives me the giggles. We might not have had everything together, but we certainly had fun.
I untacked him in the arena, which I do quite frequently, to let him roll and get a drink. In stead of taking care of business, he found a feed pan left out from when my barn owner had turned her horse out earlier. He worked that for quite a some time while I put my tack away.
But then, as I hoped he wouldn't, Speedy gave a loud snort, launched into a bucking fit and kicked up his heels. I grabbed my halter and caught him before he could do too much racing around. He's just now back to sound so I didn't think ripping around the arena was the best idea.
My lead ropes are all quite long, so I jogged and cantered him around with a long lead rope. He enjoyed himself immensely, but all the while I was praying it wasn't too much wildness too soon.
Like I said yesterday, I can only do what I can do, the rest is out of my control. He had a lot of pent-up energy that daily walks was just not taking care of. Packing him back into his stall and paddock would have been like trying to re-cork a bottle of champagne.
After his playful shenanigans, I hand walked him for a while just to make sure nothing tightened up. When I finally tucked him away, he looked sound and happy, and the truth is, he looked really good while he was playing.
Worrying about things just doesn't do any good. If he's still sound today, we'll work, if not, we'll go back to trail riding. Things always work out in the end.
I've been writing this post in my head all week, so it was funny that Lauren, of She Moved to Texas, kind of blogged about the opposite side of the coin in her post, "What It's Like Being an Anxious Horse Owner." I am not an anxious horse owner myself, but only because I work my butt off to not be so.
I have a few years on Lauren. In fact, I probably have a few years on most bloggers. It's not like I am old per se, but I definitely don't fit the typical blogger demographic at 40 something. The older I get, the more I value the wisdom that comes with age. That's not to say that every old person has pearls of wisdom falling out of their mouths, but age does tend to bring a certain amount of erudition.
But I digress. One of the things that I have learned, especially when it comes to horses, is that worrying doesn't do any good. I call worry the what ifs? That's what worrying really is: What if this happens? What if that happens? The truth is, most of what we worry about never actually happens.
Controlling worry takes a lot of hard work and a bit of a support system. You can't just turn it off. If it were that easy, no one would need Zoloft or Zanax. For me, the solution is faith in a higher power. You can call it God, Love, the cosmos, whatever, but trusting in the blueprint of something greater than ourselves helps me to let go of the what ifs and trust that my path is being closely managed. With this mindset, I don't have to worry as I know my needs will be met.
Sounds a little out there …
Yeah, I hear you, but it helps me to let go of those debilitating what ifs like this last weak when Speedy was NQR in the hind end. After Sydney left, Speedy came up grade three lame at the trot after turn out. Instead of worrying about what to do and how long it was going to take him to heal up, I just changed my plans for the week to accommodate his level of alrightness.
Instead of schooling the trot and canter lengthenings, we did a 30 minute trail ride every day working on connection and halts. We also worked on leg yields. You can get a lot done at the walk. Each day I tested his soundness by asking for a few trot steps as we walked along the dirt road that leads back to the barn.
So here we are, Saturday morning, and I am 99.9% sure that I have a sound horse waiting for me at the barn. We did a lot of trotting around the neighborhood last night, and Speedy was rip-rearing to go. I guess my point is this: don't borrow trouble. Do what is in your power to do, and let the rest go.
Talk about a first world problem …
I have three $10.00 Reward Certificates from Dover as well as a $10.00 off promo code (CM14DTHANKS) when I spend $75.00 or more. The problem is that there is nothing that I need right now. The promo code expires at the end of November, but the certificates have a slightly longer shelf life.
I definitely do not need any more saddle pads or breeches, and I am good on bell boots and other leg wraps. My shampoos and conditioners are all new. I could maybe use some Effax leather soap, but that's not anywhere near $40.
There are two things I'd kind of like - a Goode Rider Regal Show Shirt and a new pair of Mudruckers.
The Goode Rider Regal Show Shirt runs $76.99. I love this shirt. I wouldn't have to wear a stock tie, and when coats are waived, it would be much cuter than a plain white shirt.
On the other hand, I need a new pair of Mudruckers, $74.99. I generally keep a "good" pair to wear to work on wet and rainy days or to wear to the cabin. When that pair gets a bit worn, they become my barn pair, and I get a new "nice" pair. I recently demoted my good ones to barn shoes which leaves me with nothing clean to wear on wet days. Yard duty (supervising the playground in the morning for 30 minutes), can get really cold without some warm shoes.
I do have a birthday coming up, and of course Christmas is also around the corner. There is no way my husband would buy me the Mudruckers. He hates buying stuff that is completely utilitarian. A cute shirt on the other hand is slightly more his style. I think a pair of purple boots are calling my name.
I have a hard time saying goodbye. When I connect, it tends to be for a very long time. This week, I had to say goodbye to a very good friend.
Sadly, I bid adieu to my last endurance saddle. It wasn't like I was ever going to really use it again, but having it helped me feel connected to a part of my life that was in many ways, defining. Not to be melodramatic, but riding your horse for 100 miles in one day does things to you.
It changes you. It changes the relationship you have with your horse. Doing three of them in a single year gives you a sense of what you're made of like not much else can. You're a bad ass; you rock; you're part of a very elite group.
And then a week passes and you're just a horse crazy lady who spends way too much time in the saddle.
I am not that crazy lady any more; my husband would disagree. He doesn't understand that I am a different kind of crazy lady now - there's a difference. So that saddle just had to go. I've been thinking about selling it for several years now, but I just didn't have a need for the money. Now I do.
Sydney's stall is empty. I like to think it's just resting, gathering energy for it's next occupant. Yep. I am on the hunt for my next equine partner. I dig the Speedy pony, but I need two horses to love and share. One just doesn't fill me up enough.
I posted the saddle at endurance.net, and within three days it sold to a NATRC rider in Tennessee. I hope it finds a good life with her. While I enjoyed the saddle and am certainly sad to see it go, the money will be used to pad my new horse savings account.
Happy trails to you, endurance saddle. Keep your next rider as safe and comfortable as you did me.
Have you seen this recent article by David Ramey, DVM? While I like the guy (a lot), I have to disagree with his opinion on the efficacy of chiropractic adjustments. I know I feel better after an adjustment, and I know my horses feel better; I can see it on their faces.
The day Sydney left, Speedy ran like a wild man during turn out. The next day, he was obviously sore in his hind-end and over his back. I rode him lightly at a walk around the neighborhood for the next few days, but I figured an adjustment might help speed things along, so I had the chiropractor out on Sunday.
It took a solid hour of work before Speedy got that sleepy look on his face. The whole time the chiropractor worked, Speedy fussed and resisted and was just not getting the relief we were hoping for. My chiropractor worked his jaw, his poll, his neck, his ribs, his pelvis … and still, there was something hung up.
The chiropractor finally put Speedy back in his stall so that he could use the fence as a barrier for Speedy's sidestepping hips. He got Speedy to relax just a little bit more, and suddenly I heard a satisfying pop from his neck. Instantly, Speedy's face got soft. his lips drooped, and he got very doe-eyed. The chiropractor finally found the last little spot that was bugging Speedy.
I rode him again the next day, and he still ever-so-slightly stiff. In truth, he might have been sound, but I tend to be hyper sensitive to every footfall when there has been an issue. I did add some trot work out in the field near the end of the ride, and he felt pretty good out there.
I don't let myself worry about this kind of stuff, especially when he gets visibly better each day. As a precaution, I did cancel my Monday lesson; no point in overdoing it. I'll work him lightly throughout the rest of the week so that by this weekend, he should be back to fighting trim.
Yah for expensive, if not proven, therapies!
There's not much that I don't own horse-wise, but every time I start to think that there is nothing in the catalog that I need or want, I manage to find something else.
Leathers have never been one of my favorite pieces of equipment. I've even tended toward the synthetics because they don't stretch like real leathers do. On the flip side, they also tend to be thicker and harder to punch holes in. My most recent leathers are from SmartPak. They have holes spaced at ¾" inch increments, which I love, but they are thick. They are leather on the outside with a nylon lining.
I've been interested in the Webbers (Bates/Wintec), but I figured they had to be weird and clunky. (If they're so great why isn't everyone use them?) I had the chance recently to ride in a pair and while they are a bit awkward to get to length, I completely forgot about them once I was in the saddle.
Getting a chance to try them out sealed the deal. I decided to order a pair. The Bates version is similar to my SmartPak leathers - leather outside with a webbing core. They run around $75.
Riding Warehouse, my favorite online store and somewhat local tack shop, carries the Wintec Webbers for under $33.00. I was hoping that the Wintec Webbers would be thinner than the leather/webbing combo of the Bates, so that's what I went with.
Since Webbers are only one thickness they don't hang over your stirrup bars like regular leathers do. There is a loop at the top that slides over your stirrup bars. It was easy to do and seems just as secure as with typical leathers.
One complaint I've heard about using Webbers is the inability to run up your leathers. While it's not as convenient as with standard leathers, the Wintec Webbers do come with a hole near the top of the leathers that allow you to hang your stirrups in a very short position and then they can be run up.
Quite a ways below the "run up" hole are the holes for inserting the "T" that holds the stirrup to the right length. You just slide the "T" into the slot, turn, and the leathers are set.
There is a leather "cap" that slides down and covers the "T" and probably serves to hold things more securely in place.
With no buckle under your thigh and only one layer of leather, the Webbers really are more comfortable. It wasn't that I was bugged before, but the instant I sat in my saddle, I noticed how much smoother my thigh rested against the saddle. These really are an improvement over standard leathers.