Fess up. What's in your purse?
If you have two X chromosomes, you probably carry a purse of some kind. Recently, mine grew into a bag almost large enough to tote around a dead body. At first, I thought it was ridiculous to have so much empty space hanging off my arm, but you know what happens. Little by little I had less empty space.
I stopped by the pharmacy this week. When I placed my purse on the counter, it made quite the thunk. As I dug down through the debris, I heard a jingle sound that hadn't been there the day before. I reached in to grab my wallet and pulled out a hunk of metal instead.
I had tossed it in my purse so that I could drop it off at the barn later that afternoon. I forgot to make the delivery though, so it spent the night next to my keys and wallet. It's completely normal to pack around a bit in your purse though, isn't it?
Fess up. What's in your purse?
Obviously it wasn't an emergency visit. I don't normally do vaccinations in February, but since we have a mid-March show planned, I thought it prudent to get it done earlier rather than later. Both boys can get a wee bit puny after their annual vaccinations, so I planned the visit to coincide with the wet weather and far from the show date.
A few weeks ago, I realized that I hadn't driven my truck in ... several months? It took the engine a while to finally turn over, so I drove it around for a few days charging up its battery. After I made the vet appointment, I realized that I hadn't used or moved my trailer since at least September. Where does the time go?
I hooked up over the weekend and dragged the trailer out of the weeds and bushes to give it a once over. Everything looked to be in working order, but I drove it around the neighborhood to be sure. The next day, I decided to give Izzy a quick trailer loading lesson. To my delight, he hopped in super quietly after Speedy, and both boys stood like rockstars.
On Monday, both boys loaded confidently and we headed on over to Bakersfield Vet Hospital. I have an amazing vet in Dr. Tolley. His first question is always to ask about each horse. He knows we're there for vaccinations and dentals, but he also likes to know if anything has changed and what other "little" thing we might have going on.
On Sunday, after having been sound for a good six weeks, Speedy came out of his paddock a little ouchy. I immediately assumed it was the same old right front foot problem we've dealt with for the past few years. On a quick trot out on the lunge, he looked sore on the right. On Monday, after a trim by the farrier, he looked almost sound. What the heck? I explained all of this to Dr. Tolley who quickly put the pieces together.
He lunged Speedy to the right and noticed that Speedy was actually sore on the left on one of the bars of his hoof. Speedy came up quite positive to hoof testers, so Dr. Tolley poked around a little looking for an abscess. While nothing oozed out, Speedy was immediately more comfortable as Dr. Tolley shaved away some of his sole. Dr. Tolley's diagnosis was a build up of fluid on his bars which was trying abscess. Removing some of the sole released the pressure.
After that, Speedy got his teeth done and his annual vaccinations. After some poking around Speedy's sheath, right front tendon, and his eyes (an area to watch as there's a weird thing to keep my own eye on), Dr. Tolley gave Speedy a clean bill of health.
The big brown horse also got a once over. The sarcoid that we removed a year or so ago has left some funky scarring on his sheath, but Dr. Tolley thinks it's just that, a scar. As always, he advised me to keep my eye on it. We also discussed the possibility of ulcers, but Dr. Tolley didn't get too excited by the idea. A horse with free choice hay and 24 hour turnout isn't a likely candidate. We shelved the discussion for another day.
Izzy also got his vaccinations and the sharp edges of his teeth smoothed out. This led to a discussion about bitting. If you haven't read yesterday's post, check it out. I explained to Dr. Tolley the whole bitting saga we've gone through, and he listened intently. He said it was possible that the small points Izzy had formed since last year could have contributed to some bit discomfort, but he agreed that it was also quite likely that Izzy simply didn't like the snaffle.
We talked about his own opinion regarding bits and tongue relief, and he echoed my own recent conclusion that tongue relief is important for horses. He reminded me though that he rides well broke ranch horses that don't need the micromanaging that dressage horses do. He understands the needs for bits of all shapes and sizes.
I always enjoy my visits with the vet. Dr. Tolley is always interested in developing the doctor/client relationship. The more communication between vet and owner, the better off the horse will be which is always his number one priority. And if that means we chit-chat about bits, he's happy and interested to do it.
Anybody else use their vet as a sounding board, or I am just a weirdo?
In December, I did a review of the Mylers' book, A Whole Bit Better. Mine is an updated and revised fourth edition, copyrighted 2004. It's a great book but has since been revised again. In 2010, the book was republished under a new name, The Level Best for Your Horse. I just got my hands on a second edition, published in 2016.
It's no secret that I am a Myler bit fan. It's not that they're necessarily the best bit brand around, but they are nicely designed and constructed. I also appreciate the many options that the Mylers build into their bits. You can get the same mouth piece with different cheek pieces for example.
I wasn't sure that this re-written version would offer much more than was in the copy I already had, but some of their newer mouth pieces weren't in my book, and I wanted to read about them. With a purchase price of $13.95, less if you use a Riding Warehouse coupon, it was worth the risk.
I am glad I bought it. One of the things I most respect about the Myler brothers is their ongoing effort to learn more about horses and how they work. Since writing their first book, the Myler philosophy about tongue relief has evolved. They've always been huge proponents of tongue relief for horses, but now they've gone on to say that, interfering with a horse's ability to swallow impedes his overall balance and motion. Tongue relief remains the underlying principle of the Myler Bitting System. It's about understanding your horse's personality so you can give him as much tongue relief as he can handle.
They go on to explain that when they first assigned levels to their bits, they focused on a horse's training and his abilities. Could he do this or could he do that? Now, they've expanded their philosophy to focus less on the horse's ability and more on the horse's disposition. In the preface, the Mylers say A horse's disposition is perhaps the most important consideration in bit selection. I love this way of thinking.
The book has a number of chapters meant to be read: "Bitting for Communication," "The Anatomy of Bitting," and "Basic Bit Knowledge" for example. The true value of the book though lies in its encyclopedic structure. Interspersed amongst the more "wordy" chapters are those that have detailed descriptions paired with illustrations explaining how each mouth piece and cheek piece work: does it apply tongue pressure, how much? Does it rotate onto the tongue or not? Does it collapse on the bars and tongue, and if so, to what degree?
Reading through the book prompted me to stop and reconsider what I am using on Speedy and why (a boucher with a French link mouth piece). I have some more thinking to do for sure.
As I continue to search for the best bitting situation for Izzy, I read what the Mylers now have to say about this particular correction bit: If the horse is relaxed, the tongue can pass comfortably under the wider opening. The pronounced corners of the port apply two points of pressure on the tongue for increased control. The result is a mouthpiece that offers maximum tongue relief for the horse, but very good control for the rider.
That is exactly what I need for Izzy. But.
The correction bit isn't legal for dressage, mainly because of the curb action created by the Kimberwick cheek pieces. So even though Izzy is going super well in this bit, and even though the Mylers have designed this bit for long term use (unlike their other correctional bits), Izzy needs to eventually transition to the show legal bit.
So back to the book I went. There are four basic levels in the Myler Bitting System that recognize stages of learning balanced with a horse's disposition: Levels 1, 2, 2-3, and 3. Izzy, for example, should probably go in a Level 1 bit (most of the snaffles), but with his disposition, he needs a Level 3 bit that gives him the greatest amount of tongue relief.
The Mylers are now recognizing this need and are finding ways to guide riders in selecting a bit and cheek pieces that take into account a horse's disposition. I bought another bit - a Kimberwick MB 33, to help him transition to the legal Level 3 bit even though he might not be the trustworthy, finished horse that typically goes in that level of bit.
This bit, also a Level 3, should be the perfect transitional bit for Izzy. The mouth piece is nearly identical to the legal bit. The port is only slightly higher at 1½" and only slightly narrower which still gives him ample tongue relief. But unlike the loose rings of the show legal version, this bit has Kimberwick cheeks which will give me some mild leverage as Izzy's still learning to behave himself. Right now, I still need that control.
I think most riders would benefit from having this book on their shelf. It's a great resource to turn to as your horse becomes more finished and his bitting needs change. I also think more of us should have a better understanding of what our bits are doing in our horses' mouths. I know that I rode with a much different frame of mind over the weekend after having read this book. Knowing how to use my bit to give Izzy the tongue relief he needs will certainly make me a better rider.
I can use all the help I can get. Let me know what you think.
After the butt-kicking from the day before, Izzy was amazing on Sunday. I didn't lunge him because I don't want him to think that he needs to be lunged before every ride. The horse is on a huge turnout 24 hours a day which means he keeps himself moving throughout the day. It's also a bit of a walk from where I tack up to the arena, so he gets to warm up a bit during that time.
I tied Speedy in a new spot and asked him to kindly keep his marbles in his head. I hopped aboard Izzy and set off. As soon as were were clear of the mounting block, I did a quick check, asking him for a turn on the forehand. Oh, my! Was he ever quick to respond.
We did a few more turns in both directions, but this time I was able to focus on holding that inside front foot in place without taking a step forward. It wasn't done perfectly, but at this point, I am using the exercise for control much like I would do if I was doing groundwork.
From there we moved on to the trot, but unlike a lot of days, I was able to use the whole arena right away. For the month leading up to our last lesson, the one in early February, Izzy just got more and more rideable. I could put him anywhere I wanted at the speed I wanted, which was not the mach 10 he prefers. During the lesson, he was a raging lunatic, and for two rides after that the behavior continued.
The butt-kicking seems to have got him back on track. On Sunday, I was able to leg yield off the rail and back again. Speedy helped with that as he was tied right in the middle of the long side. Izzy was being so adjustable that I was even able to do the same thing at the canter. We didn't get quite as deep as needed for the shallow loop at First, Test 3, but we weren't too far off either.
On Monday, we did all again, and he was even better than the two previous days. I know there are many folks out there who question why I "put up" with Izzy's shenanigans. The truth is, this horse is really fun to ride. When we get past all of this baby horse stuff, he's going to be impressive. When he's listening, he's a naturally fantastic mover. He's elevated, swingy, and has power for days. This weekend, he gave me a tantalizing peek at our future.
His future self is worth the wait. In the meantime, I see a lot more turns on the forehand in his immediate future!
The 2017 USEF Rulebook says The purpose of this exercise is to supple the horse and teach him obedience to the aids.
Don't I know it. That's EXACTLY what I've been using it for.
In this exercise, the inside of the horse is the side from which the horse yields, i.e. the horse is flexed at the poll to the right, which is the inside, when the haunches move to the left.
Theoretically anyway. In reality, there might be some hopping around, pinning of ears, and then a stagger that is mostly in a leftward direction.
The horse moves around the inside front leg. The outside front foot steps forward and around the inside forefoot, which remains active in the sequence of footfalls.
Haha ... I can't tell what that outside front is doing as I am 100% focused on moving the haunches. At this point, we're going for MOVE rather than move correctly.
The hind feet move on a curved line, with the inside hind foot striking the ground in front of the outside hind foot.
Is a zig-zag okay?
I am kidding of course. When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here a few weeks ago, we did some interesting work with the turn on the forehand. It's not an element of any dressage test, but I am finding it to be a great exercise for willful, high energy ponies.
We all know that Izzy isn't the easiest horse to ride, but he's getting there. Before our last lesson, he was actually becoming quite the packer. I knew that wouldn't last, and I was right. With the recent weather, he's been ridden once a week. Of course he's being a jerk.
His sassiness has been coming through as balking and refusing to go forward. Once he does go forward, it's in a giant crow hop accompanied by a rear or a buck. Not exactly how I want to spend an afternoon.
During my last lesson with Chemaine, Izzy was being pretty cantankerous, so Chemaine encouraged me to make him do something, anything, as long as it was my idea. I am a pretty strong rider, but it's tough to let him go forward when he's getting ready to launch. Booting his butt to left or right solves so many problems; it's hard to buck or rear when your hind end is all crossed up.
On Saturday, I lunged him for 10 - 15 minutes because he'd been ridden only once in the past 10 days, and he hadn't been able to get his wiggles out because of the mud. He was a perfect gentleman on the lunge: walk, trot, canter with just the slightest of aids.
I hopped on board hoping for a quiet ride, but Speedy, who was tied to the fence, lost his marbles and starting blowing and waving his tail. I couldn't blame Izzy for going to DEFCON 1 without even a pause. Speedy was certain the Russians were coming, and he wanted Izzy to be prepared.
Izzy humped his back up and gave a slow motion whirl/buck/rear/spin that was worthy of a 10. Since it was so slow, I easily wrangled him back into line and then sent his butt twirling around his front end. It was the second time we've worked on the exercise, and to his credit, he knew what I wanted. In no time at all, he was doing circles around his own front end. Fifteen minutes later we had picked up a canter to the left and were rocking along pretty nicely.
We followed that up with a short walk break and then worked on the right lead canter. Last year at this time, we could not get a right lead canter. Six months ago, we couldn't hold a right lead canter. Now, we can get and hold the lead, but we're working on getting it soft and relaxed. We finished up with a loose inside rein and a big smile on my face.
I foresee a whole bunch more turning on the forehand!
I'm not Joanna Gaines or anything, but I can get domestic when I need to. I cook, I occasionally bake, and I correspond regularly with the folks over at Joss and Main. I also might have 1-click buying power with Amazon, but in my defense, you can buy anything at Amazon ... and I do. Did I mention that I also have a Platinum Pier 1 card? Yeah, that thing's awesome.
In late August, I called a realtor. Seven days later, our house was sold with a 30-day escrow. We flew into full house hunter/panic mode. Fortunately, the stars aligned, and we were able to move into our new house in mid-October.
I knew it was going to take a while to adjust and get comfortable in the house, and I was right. It's been almost 4 months, and I am just now starting to feel comfortable walking around in the dark. I still forget where things are though, and I often confuse one room for another, but it's finally home.
The house isn't "done" yet, and probably never will be, but we've made progress. Since it's raining cats and dogs here, and I can't ride or do much with the horses, I feel like doing some nesting. So with that, here's a tour of my favorite room in the house - my reading room.
This room could be considered a formal living room as it is immediately off the front entryway, but we don't have need for a second living room. As soon as I saw the space, I called dibs. Right away I knew I wanted two big comfy chairs facing the fireplace with a small table in between for a glass of wine or a hot tea.
I've spent more than a couple of Sunday afternoons sipping wine with a book in hand as I warm my toes by the fire. The chairs are also quite conducive for napping.
Behind the chairs we placed a large cabinet that I've filled with funky and eclectic items - an over-sized apothecary jar, an old baseball, a cement "K," and photos of us enjoying life. There's still room for a few more items, but I'm waiting to find things that speak to me, especially for above the cabinet.
On the other side of the room, I stuck to more of a travel theme. The photos on the wall are ones we shot while traveling. There's one of Michelangelo's David, my husband rappelling in Belize, and a cityscape of Florence. The cabinet is filled with travel guides, foreign language phrase books, photo albums, and books that we've read but can't part with. The globe was in my mother-in-law's bedroom when she was a kid.
There's a bit more that I want to do in there, but it's finished enough for now. Since heavy rain is predicted for the next several days, I know where I'll be spending them. Enjoy your weekend.
The 2017 USEF Rule Book has this to say about the simple change of lead: This is a movement in which, after a direct transition out of the canter into a walk, with three to five clearly defined steps, an immediate transition is made into the other canter lead.
It definitely sounds simple. I wish it was. Speedy and I have been working on it for a while. What I've found is that it doesn't happen if your horse is on the forehand, if your horse is using his momentum to drive the canter rather than using rear propulsion, or if you can't keep your horse's haunches under control.
Ask me how I know.
Speedy and I had a great not-so-great-ride the other day wherein we discussed each of these problem areas. In our last lesson, my trainer gave me several good exercises and at least one thing to think about: Can we half halt here? How about here? And now here? And what about here?
You get the idea. A bazillion half halts will get Speedy off of his forehand and driving from behind.
That wonderful turn on the forehand exercise, half pass style, is getting Speedy's haunches in line. He isn't thrilled about it, which tells me I am on the right track, but it sure is effective.
During a ride the other day, I finally made a connection: Speedy likes to carry his haunches to the left which makes getting that walk transition relatively easy that direction. Recognizing that helped me see why we struggle getting it to the right.
Once I had that picture in my head, I half halted my sassy pony about four billion times, shoved those haunches over in a turn on the forehand another four billion times plus two, and finished it off with a fairly clean canter to walk transition.
Take that, simple change. We're coming for you!
A hunter/jumper friend sent this to me a few weeks ago. I think it's pretty funny. I don't jump, but I do know what it means to SIT BACK OR DIE. The fetal position is just as "helpful" in dressage as it is over fences.
I don't use ear bonnets, but if I did, I know what I would embroider on mine: LET GO OF THE INSIDE REIN.
What would your message be?
Who knew there were so many images dedicated to the (equine) love of your life? Although, I am not surprised. For better or worse (and it depends on which one of us you ask), my husband knows that my ponies and I are a package deal.
He's okay with it though. He knows he's the human love of my life. There's even room for the canine love(s) of my life! When it comes to amore, there's more than enough to go around.
Have a very Happy Valentine's Day!
I can't really do a Pony update as I've barely seen my boys this week. It's pretty hard to keep me away from the barn, but a recent cold really kicked my butt.
It actually started at last weekend's clinic. During a pause in one of my lessons, I sheepishly admitted to Chemaine that I must be out of shape. I was huffing and puffing and feeling tired pretty early on in the lesson. That is not like me at all. My throat had been sore that morning, and I was congested the next morning, but it rarely goes beyond that.
I work in a germ factory though. Being surrounded by 10 year-olds creates a do or die response in your body. You either build a strong immune system or you're toast. This week's score? Kids 1, teacher 0. I got sick.
There are a lot of perks to my job - being able to leave by 2:45 each day, Christmas break, and having the summer off are just a few of them. Having to haul one's butt across town to write lesson plans when sick is not one of them. I know most folks think we simply turn to the next page in the book and assign # 1 - 20, but that's not how it's done these days. In fact, my kids only have a math book and a history book. The rest of the curriculum is written by me.
Not only do I write all of my own curriculum, most of my lessons are shared on the Google Drive; my kids all have laptops. So when I am gone, which is ... almost never, there is no page number to give a substitute. Instead, I drove thirty minutes across town each morning and opened all of the tabs on my laptop that the kids would need for their lessons - my computer is hooked up to a projector. Then, I shared all directions in the Google Classroom and hoped for the best.
I did manage to make it to work on Thursday. I spent the day cramming three days of missed lessons into one day. Then, I made more lesson plans for the following day because when it rains, it pours. I had to have oral surgery on Friday.
I am well acquainted with the oral surgeon as I've had several crowns, a root canal, and other unpleasant procedures done. This time, I needed a skin graft, and yes, it was as horrible as it sounds. Knowing that this procedure was going to be more scary than normal, I asked for anxiety drugs.
Let's just say that I slept really, really well on Thursday night. Best friend proved her worth yet again as she offered to chauffeur me to the dentist and later to the pharmacy to pick up even more drugs. The second batch wasn't nearly as pleasant as the first one though. Don't judge.
By Saturday morning, I felt like I had been somebody's punching bag. The cold/flu had passed, but I was left with a bruised and swollen mouth and directions to eat soft, bland food. The dentist didn't have to tell me to stay out of the saddle. There was no way I wanted those stitches to bust loose.
So there you have it: way more than you wanted to know about my non-barn life. I am ready to get back on schedule!