But first … I'll be at a clinic on Saturday and Saturday so you won't hear from me until Monday. Enjoy your weekend!
And the final day … Again, thanks to Tracy at Fly on Over
for providing the questions. Here are My (final) 5 Things
21. Favorite classes to watch: I really like to watch the level that I am working towards. Right now, that would be First and (someday) Second Level. By watching riders at these levels, I get to see how the movements should be ridden. I also watch the USDF video, On the Levels, for the same reason.
I also enjoy watching the highest level tests like the Grand Prix and Freestyles because that gives me a picture of what the ultimate dressage horse and rider team should look like.
And strangely enough, I adore watching show jumping at the Grand Prix level. In fact, it's what I watch every night when I go to bed. Those riders are simply amazing. Watching them helps me ride Sydney better when he's gone a bit coo coo for Coco Puffs. If they can manage a 1,200 pound dragon seven or eight feet in the air while galloping at 20 miles per hour, surely I can handle my own little monster while trotting 20-meters at C!
Hilda Gurney during her warm up ride. HDEC, March 2013
22. What’s in your cooler at horse-shows: Gatorade, water, lemonade, hard boiled eggs, sliced apples, string cheese, a sandwich, a bag of potato chips, and a coke for afternoon tests. Horse shows take a lot of energy, and sometimes I can't get what I need with my regular diet. I am not a soda drinker generally, but I've found that having a Coke before an afternoon test will help me get through the rest of the day, especially if I still have to drive 3 hours to get home.
23. One thing about showing (or riding in general) you wish you could change: I love how dressage shows are run. Everyone knows exactly what time their ride is so the sport suits my need for order and being on a schedule. With that said, the one part of showing that I don't like is coats. It is so warm here in Central/Southern California that I rarely wear a coat to ride in. On our coldest winter days, I usually wear a long sleeve running top with a fleece vest. Putting on a show coat, even a well-fitted one, makes me feel constricted and stiff. I would prefer to show in a fancy vest.
Maybe fancier, but you get the idea. Photo from Dressage Extensions
24. Your ringside crew: I am a one woman show. For my first few shows, a very good friend did come along to help me out, but who wants to continue doing 4:00 a.m. wake up calls? My mom came with me once which was really nice. But yeah. I travel alone. The upside is that I always meet really great people, and I've never not been able to find help when I needed it. Showing alone also lets me focus on just me and my horse without any other distractions.
25. Best prizes: one of the rules about endurance riding is that everyone who completes gets a prize. We got lots of cool stuff over the years: flash lights, laundry bags, travel mugs, buckets, belt buckles, t-shirts galore, sweatshirts, hay carriers, coffee mugs, and a variety of other things. Ride managers take pride in coming up with creative completion prizes.
Dressage shows are a bit different. Ribbons are obviously the norm, and at the beginning, I loved getting ribbons; especially the great big ones. Now, not so much. I can't say no to a ribbon, but I have also run out of ways to display them.
I've also won a fleece cooler, actually two if you count the one I won at an endurance race. I know there must be other prizes out there to win, but so far, the things I've won at dressage shows have been pretty standard.
Where do you put them all?
This was our first neck ribbon, RAAC 2012. We earned an even prettier one at the El Sueno Championship in July 2013.
And it's not just me who thinks so. Louisiana and I met up again over the weekend for a two-hour trail ride through Hart Park and around Lake Ming. She
even thinks my horses are awesome. And if she was only agreeing with me to be nice, at least she has enough class to pretend!
Lousiana showed up at the barn on Sunday morning, right on time. We checked the fit of Speedy's new girth
, and then finished loading her saddle and lunch. Both boys hopped into the trailer without any fuss and we were off!
My plan was to park at the barn at Hart Park, ride east around the lake, and then head back. The park has a great trail system that allows you to loop around on different trails. You might be able to see all the way across to where you just rode, but at least it's on a different trail. My only concern was that it is very a much a there and back
trail. I worried that as soon as we made the turn for home, Sydney's RUN button was going to be pushed; I needn't have worried. By the way, I took ZERO photos so what you see are satellite images of the area.
Click to enlarge
As we made the turn up the barn's gravel road, I was dismayed that some kind of cycling event was happening in the space next to the barn. Cyclists were riding a course that was marked by flapping caution tape. I eyeballed the trail and figured that I could always lead Sydney by the mess if I had to.
We unloaded the horses in temperatures that were in the low 30s, but both boys were pretty quiet considering that it was a busy day at the park and cold to boot. We tacked both horses up and then spent the next 10 minutes trying to mount up, or at least I did. Sydney wouldn't stand still, and there was no mounting block. I had brought my little step stool, but it wasn't wide enough to use for a horse who is side-stepping all over the place. We finally located a large boulder, and I popped up with its help. Speedy was much more obliging for Louisiana.
We had to ride alongside the fluttering tape of the mountain bike course as mountain bikers flashed by us, but fortunately, both horses barely glanced at the hubbub. As Sydney walked away from the barn, he was jigging and his head was sky high, but I rocked the reins and urged him forward. By the time we crossed the highway and got down on the river trail, he had started walking but was still the looky-loo.
The park's barn is a great staging area with corrals, water, wash racks, and picnic tables.
By the time we passed the soccer fields (with multiple games being played), Sydney finally took a deep breath and dropped his head. While he occasionally froze to stare at something moving in the distance, he mostly just power walked down the trail.
There is quite a network of trails between Alfred Harrell Highway and the Kern River.
Most of the trail from the soccer park to the lake is wide and sandy, but there are a few places to the south where the trail becomes a narrow single track with some rocks. Sydney took a few faltering steps, but for the most part, he was pretty solid.
By the time we got to the lake, he was on the buckle and having a great time. Speedy, clearly poorly named, was doing his best toe dragging slow down! saunter. Louisiana spent the first hour asking him to trot to catch up every minute or so. What I loved about Sydney was that after the first time Speedy trot to catch up, he never flicked an ear at Speedy or tried to keep the lead even when Speedy overshot us and got ahead.
As we neared the eastern end of the lake, which is also the turn back towards home point, Louisiana and I braced for a fight. As we made the turn, Sydney asked if we could pick up a trot. I looked back at Louisiana, who agreed, and we were off. While Sydney wasn't in a perfect frame, he kept his head and listened to my half halts. He stretched out into a lovely, elevated trot that was relaxed and fun to ride.
When we finally came back to the walk, he did so willingly and returned to his methodical march. I dropped the reins down to the buckle, and announced to the world that I have two amazing horses!
The lake is nearly a mile long. There is a biking trail and a separate, lovely equestrian trail that circumnavigates the lake.
From the lake, we rode the narrow stretch between the mountain and the river and popped out into the campground. There were only a few campers, so we just marched through the middle of the campground until we returned to the trail. Rather than returning on the same trail, we took the left turn to the south, you can see it easily in the satellite photo below, and followed the trail to CALM.
We did a fair amount of trotting from the campground to the zoo, and each time we needed to walk, Sydney was back on the buckle. He never argued with me once. After we left the zoo area, we took advantage of the sandy footing and wide open trails for some galloping. Both boys got a little strong, but they were easily slowed down. And again, Sydney willingly walked on the buckle even after galloping.
California Living Museum (CALM) is a zoo that houses local wildlife that has been injured or can't survive on their own.
Once we finished our last gallop, at the west end of the soccer park, Sydney was once again on the buckle even though he knew we were almost back to the barn. Speedy was a big jiggy, but that was mostly because Sydeny walks so darn fast. From the end of the soccer park, we stayed along the river hoping that the water trough was still filled. When we discovered it had been removed, we stopped along the road where Sydney happily marched through a large puddle and got a big drink. Speedy's a bit picky and passed on the puddle.
The last hundred yards were spent nibbling on grass as we left the park proper and ambled again past the fluttering caution tape and the struggling cyclists. Both boys were happy to be back and looked around eagerly for their lunch. After pulling tack, Louisiana and I doled out beet pulp and rice bran and then covered both boy with fleece coolers.
We grabbed our own lunches and a couple of blankets that I keep stocked in the trailer and headed to one of the picnic tables for our own lunch. Both boys munched happily on their beet pulp and dug into the hay bag.
We galloped the thin trail that heads to the west end of the reservoir and the trail along the north side of the soccer park.
The trip home, a mere ten minutes, brought us all back to my barn in fine shape. I could not have been happier with my boys. Speedy was a steady ride for Louisiana (who is still getting used to galloping in the wide open), and Sydney exceeded my expectations a thousand times over.
I should mention that this was the third ride in the Micklem bridle. I loved how I was able to really take a hold of him at the beginning without him bracing or getting tense. Within just a few minutes on the trail, he was walking and enjoying himself. I know that's not all thanks to the bridle, but when we went to the fox hunt, slowing him down took all of my strength. With the Miklem, I just rocked the reins a bit and sat tall. That's all it took to get a slow down.
And the rubber reins? Loved them for the trail. I am definitely keeping them for a while.
Louisiana is off to visit family until the end of the month, but I am pretty sure she'll call when she gets back. We have a lot more trail to ride this winter!
I brought the bridle home, took it back apart, and conditioned the heck out of it (along with my other bridles).
Bringing stuff home to clean where it's nice and warm is the way to go for tack cleaning. Cold leather is very hard to unbuckle.
Even though I've bought my share of bridles, I am still looking for one that is butter soft out of the box. Even my Stübben required some conditioning to get it buttery soft. The Micklem was no exception. It wasn't super soft, but it's better than many of the cheaper bridles I've purchased. One reviewer, and I can't remember from where, described the bridle perfectly. She said something like, 'you're paying for a design, not the leather.' I thought this was a perfect explanation.
The bridle is quite pretty out of the package, but I did spend some time conditioning it, especially at the bit ends. I hate those hooks; they're so hard to open and close when the leather is stiff. The padding on the crown piece and nose band is nice and feels as though it will hold up well. Over-all, the leather has a nice thickness and width. I am very satisfied with the quality and workmanship of the bridle and with some regular conditioning, I imagine it will get softer and softer.
The rubber reins are nice enough, but the rubber is quite thick. I love my Passier laced reins, and I've worked hard to get them super soft and drapey, but I am trying the rubber reins for now. I may switch back. I can tell they're going to be great if I go fox hunting again; that rubber doesn't slip at all!
Sydney is quite a large boy as far as TBs go. Not that I have oodles of experience with his breed, but from what I can see and from what others tell me, he's rather large for his breed. Maybe it's the New Zealand breeding. It's not like he's a giant, but he's really thick. His head is wide and moderately long. I waffled for some time over which size bridle to order. It comes in Pony, Cob, Horse, and Large Horse. I went with the Horse size which seems to have worked out.
Many reviewers complained about the jaw strap being too short; I have to agree. For the "cheek" piece, I have it set 4 holes from the top with 5 to go, but for the jaw strap it's on the very last hole. The flash's fit is similar; it's on the second to the last hole, but I am certain that will stretch.
Ease of Use
Whether it solves any of Sydney's tension issues or not, I still love the bridle. The design makes it super user-friendly. You simply unbuckle the jaw strap and the flash and the whole thing slides off. Putting it on is even easier. You don't have to hold the caveson open or widen the crank noseband, and there's no flash attachment to drop. And conditioning it was fast; there are fewer pieces to dissemble and clean.
If you're looking at this bridle to buy, I would recommend you buy it first because you like the design, second for the quality of construction, and lastly for it's tension reducing abilities. I am glad I bought the bridle, and I think that it's a quality piece of tack for the price.
More to come ...
I have lost count of the number of bridles that I have bought in the last four years. There are at least eight that I can recall immediately. My Stübben show
bridal was perfect, and the most recent bridle that I purchased for Speedy, the Plymouth Dressage Bridle by SmartPak, was also a nice fit, but the other six have not been what I wanted.I never even bothered to buy Sydney his own bridle. Why would I when I had half a dozen left overs from which to choose? And since he hasn't shown at any fancy shows, the dressage bridle that I had pieced together for him was fine.For
the past year though, I've been studying the Micklem Competition Bridle. I do not believe that any piece of tack will turn your horse into a model citizen. Replacing ill-fitting tack might certainly make him behave better, but a piece of tack is not going to train your horse. Even so, the premise of
the bridle was intriguing: ergonomically designed from the inside out to fit the shape of the horse's skull; comfortable, flexible and effective
So I researched. I read every review on SmartPak, Dover, and COTH and any other reviews I could find. And then I waited a few months and read them again. I searched other riders' blogs and read what they
had to say. And then I waited a few more
I finally came to the conclusion that the bridle didn't have to work any miracles. If it fit Sydney, was of nice quality, and didn't bother him, then it would be a justifiable purchase as I wanted a bridle that was chosen just for him anyway. But if it did
improve his way of going even just a little bit, then the purchase would really
be worth it.
Enter SmartPak. The Micklem Competition Bridle is listed at $189.95 for regular shoppers, but USEF
members get it for $180.45 with free shipping (both ways). My decision was made, the order was placed, and the daily stalking of UPS began.
I didn't take a picture of the bridle in its package because I was in a hurry to get it out and see it, but if you do purchase the bridle yourself, know that it does not come assembled. It's not overly difficult to put together, but it does come with some extra pieces (bit clips and extra bit hangers) that did confuse me for a few moments. You should also know that it doesn't come with directions either, although SmartPak has three very good videos (available in the additional views
area on the item's page) that will walk you through the bridle's assembly and fit.
Even though I had watched the videos several times, I did have to watch one of them again as I was fitting the bridle to Sydney. I just didn't like the fit the first time I put it on him. But after watching Micklem himself explain it again, I got a fit I liked.
So here's what I think of the bridle so far (I will be reviewing it several times over the next few days, weeks, and months.)
My initial reaction: like it. Sydney's initial reaction: love it! As I was adjusting it, Sydney started sucking and chewing the bit like it was candy. His mouth got all foamy in the cross ties, and I couldn't keep his head up to adjust the bridle. I finally knelt on the ground at his feet to finish buckling it together.
This is a horrible photo as I was fitting the bridle in the near dark, but you can see the foam around his lips that formed just during the fitting.
Who needs good hands when their horse happily chews the bit on his own?
Since it was getting dark, I threw my saddle on and rode him for a few minutes just to see what I thought. I've learned a lot myself in the last few weeks about bending Sydney more correctly to get a better right lead canter, so it could simply be that my aids are suddenly more effective, but I really think he went better in this bridle.
It just felt that he resisted less and that he was more through more quickly. He was softer in the poll with less bracing in his neck and jaw. I hate even writing this as it could have nothing to do with the bridle, but I think it might have been more comfortable for him.
More to come ...
16. One thing you’d like to change about your horse: I love both of my guys the way they are, but that doesn't mean there aren't things that could be improved upon.
If I am to be totally honest, I wish Speedy was a bit happier with contact. He can be a bit lazy, and his way of escaping work is to drop behind the vertical. This happens more at home and less at show, thank goodness, but I do wish he was more enthusiastic about the contact.
As for Sydney, I wish I could turn off his anxiety button, especially away from home because this is so much fun to ride. Grrr...
17. Your horse’s future: Speedy's future is much clearer than Sydney's. I don't know how far he can go in dressage, but I hope that we can at least play around with Third Level someday. The good news is that it might take us a long time to get there which means that we have a long time to play around together.
Sydney's future is a little hazy. I hope we can start showing dressage with some success. SInce I don't know if that is going to happen, I am looking more into fox hunting, which he seemed to enjoy. Either way, schooling him has taught me to be a better rider which is worth a lot. For now, I am happy just learning to be a better rider. And if that's all he is, my schooling horse, I can live with it.
Sydney and me, second from the right at Tejon Hounds Fox Hunt in November, 2013. Photo is courtesy of Edyta.
18. Your worst show ever:
scoring a 48% at a California Dressage Society rated show probably qualifies. I haven't had any "bad" shows with Speedy G. Yes, I've been disappointed, but I always learn something, and I always come home feeling good about the experience. That show with Sydney
, however, where we earned a 48%, kind of hurt, and it wasn't the judge's fault. Sydney simply wasn't prepared, and obviously I wasn't either. Moving on.19. Favorite horse show venue:
El Sueno. The show secretary is awesome, the arenas are beautiful, my camping spot is always so peaceful, and I always have a great time! What's not to love?
El Sueno, April, 2013
20. Your show day routine: get up in the middle of the night, dress, throw my breakfast and lunch in the ice chest, drive to the barn, halter my horse, load him in the near dark, drive for several hours, warm up, show, eat, and then drive back home several hours.
But, I prefer two-days shows where I can drive the several hours on Friday afternoon. When we do that, I can arrive in the middle of of the day, get my horse stabled, get my own camp set up, and then do a warm up ride on Friday evening.
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, I always get up early and feed and take Speedy for a long walk/ lunge to help him get his wiggles out. He's never "high," but he's not used to being cooped up in those small show stalls so he really appreciates getting out for a look around.
I like to hang out with him in his stall, but I also leave him to go and watch others show. I usually begin my warm up ride 20 - 30 minutes before my test, and if my next test is an hour or more later, I untack and let Speedy rest in his stall (or at the trailer if it's a one-day show). Once the day is over, he gets a beet pulp/rice bran/electrolyte mash and all the hay he can eat.
Once my final test is finished on Sunday, I always give Speedy at least an hour to rest and nap before I load up for the drive home.
El Sueno's show barn
The weather has finally turned winter-like here in Central California. When I rode on Wednesday it was only 47℉. I know that's balmy for most of you, but that's pretty cool for us, especially since it was 25 degrees warmer just the day before.
I share this because I was pretty sure Mr. Hyde was going to be waiting for me in the barn when I arrived. Late afternoons are also enough to change my normally willing Dr. Jekyll into his alter ego. Cold weather combined with the waning daylight and two days off should have given me a danger, Will Robinson! pause. But it didn't.
Throw in Dr. Jekyll hulking into Mr. Hyde and you'll have a good idea of my anticipated situation.
Instead of worrying, I tossed Sydney his dinner and tacked him up in his stall. Rather than being fussy, he seemed eager to get to work. We walked out to the arena with him tugging on the reins as he nibbled on fallen leaves and winter grass. I mounted up and headed out to do our regular walk loop. At the far end (aka the scary end), he did get a bit looky, but I put my leg on and asked for some inside flexion.
By the time we got back to A, he was ready to work. I squeezed him forward into a trot, asking him to swing and relax his neck. He decided to brace and hurry so I kept JL's words in mind, more inside rein and think about getting a bend.
I shortened my reins, flexed him to the inside, and pushed him out away from my inside leg. I focused on keeping a solid contact on both reins, especially the inside, without letting there be gaps in the conversation. And all of a sudden I knew we should canter. I asked, and he lurched to the inside, but I straightened him back up and repackaged him. I asked again, and he stepped into the right lead canter without any problems. I gave a huge cheer and rode a few 20-meter circles before asking for a downward transition.
That was really huge for us. I could feel that he was put together enough to make the upward transition, and I put him there!
I let him walk for a moment as we changed direction. Then we picked up a trot, but I could feel that he was heavy on that outside rein so I started in on the hard halt. I asked for a left lead canter, and halted hard. We picked up the trot and then the canter and then halted hard. Within just a minute or two, Sydney knew that he needed to let go of that outside rein.
The next time I asked for a halt, I just sat deeply and he slammed on the breaks. Yah! We took a couple of walk steps forward, and I cued for the canter. He gave the most awesome hop into the canter from that one or two walk steps.
The best part of the exercise was that his neck and head were way in the air, but I didn't care! I wasn't working on a rounded top line, I was asking him to lighten up off that outside rein, which he did beautifully! A few more days of that and he'll be lowering his head and neck where they need to be because I won't need to hard halt him. Seriously, I was ecstatic over the work he did for me.
I know this isn't very dressagy, but it's working for us. Once he's a bit better schooled to my aids, I can get more subtle with their use. JL calls these kind of aids crude, but sometimes it's what needs to be done. Either way, I was VERY happy with what he did for me. Santa might be ready to deliver that right lead canter before Christmas!
And still more from Tracy over at Fly on Over … or, more of My 5 Things.
11. Critique your horse’s conformation: hmmm … no thanks. You can though, and I won't be offended in the least. Both of my boys have tremendous strengths and a few weaknesses. I know what they are but since they can't be changed, there's no point focusing on them.
I couldn't find good profile photos of either boy: Speedy is in a wash rack so you can't really see all of him, and Sydney is camped out on a slight slope with what looks like a fish eye lens. Best of luck!
Speedy in July of 2013
Sydney in March of 2012 - although this photo has him standing at a weird angle.
12. Horse’s favorite riding exercise: I
think this is a funny question. Both of my boys thoroughly enjoy eating and turnout, but like me, they'd rather leave the exercising for another day. With that said, they do like it when I am balanced and supportive in my aids. One exercise that I do is
the up, up, down exercise where I stay in rising trot for two beats and sit lightly for one beat. This exercise helps me lighten my seat and ride with a stable leg position and a steadier core. Speedy and Sydney appreciate my efforts.13. Favorite spa day products:
I am not a thorough
groomer, but I am a daily
groomer. Since I ride each boy at least 3 - 4 days a week, they get groomed quite frequently which I think keeps their coats shiny and smooth, naturally. When I want to get a bit fancy, I really like Eqyss Survivor Super Detangle and Shine
and EQ Body Wash
. I also use Mane and Tail Detangler, but really, frequent grooming seems to get the best shine out of my boys.
An oft used photo, but he had virtually no grooming in this shot (November 2013).
14. Three best things about your horse: Speedy G: he simply oozes personality, he LOVES to go places, and he's wicked smart.Sydney: his ground manners are superb, his canter is awesome, and he's a really kind soul.15. Favorite picture of your horse:
Lori of Simplee Focused
has made this quite easy. She did a photo shoot of us last fall and took some lovely photos. The action shot of Speedy captured his sassy attitude perfectly, and the shot of Sydney and me always makes me smile; he's a Steady Eddy in the making.
He's all Arab - Photo By Simplee Focused
He simply radiates a warmth that I love - Photo by Simplee Focused.
The gift of winter daylight and warm weather!
You already know that I rode the heck out of my boys over the Thanksgiving holiday. Having so many days in a row to ride without worrying about the loss of daylight was like an early Christmas gift, and I unwrapped it greedily!
Sunday, the final day of the break, proved to be the most successful riding day. I started with Sydney as he is the most "work" and the least "fun." I had been thinking about our most recent lesson with JL and was trying to work out how to incorporate all of our new learning.
We started out with some walking in a frame and moved on to the up, up down trot exercise, which is mostly for my benefit, but it does get Sydney moving a bit more freely through his back. Without giving him time to think about it, I cued for a right lead canter and got it with no fuss. This isn't the minor success as he does that all the time. It's the later canter departures that are the real bear.
We did a little more walking, just to change the conversation a bit, and then I put him back to work, again tracking right. I shortened my inside rein and focused on moving him sideways. And then I simply sat and squeezed for a right lead canter. I kept a very steady connection on both reins, and squeezed harder. Sydney finally lurched into a right lead canter without his customary duck and whirl. It wasn't beautiful, but we were both trying really hard.
I asked for several transitions from trot to canter to trot to canter and was pleased that he was able to canter each time. I think we may finally be on to something here. This was the first of the minor successes.
I then saddle Speedy G for his fifth ride in a row. I knew I needed to try something very different or he was going to be very pissy about still more work. I decided to work on some leg yielding as I've kind of been avoiding that particular exercise. Leg yielding is hard for Speedy G which makes it less fun than the counter canter loops.
RIght away I knew I had a problem. Speedy was completely ignoring my left leg (and spur), which is a crucial tool for the leg yield right. Rather than kick and prod, I hopped off and retrieved my whip. As I turned him around in the barn aisle, I tapped his flank with the whip and got a "yes ma'am" about-face.
As soon as I hopped back on, Speedy was much more forward and attentive. We did leg yield right at the walk with me tapping right behind my leg each time he stepped too slowly. When I knew I had his attention, I let the whip fall to the ground and picked up the trot. We came down the long side to A, made a left turn and leg yielded right all the way across the arena to M. We took a short walk break and repeated the leg yield but this time to the left. He gave me two leg yields that were finally show worthy, maybe not 8s, but definitely acceptable.
Two minor successes in one day is a great way to finish a weekend aimed at expressing our thankfulness. Thank you, ponies; you're both awesome!
6. Favorite equestrian book and movie: Hmm … tough one. I really enjoyed Laura Hillenbrand's book, Sea Biscuit: An American Legend, the Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts, and Buck Brannaman's The Far Away Horses. I am actually a voracious reader and have read nearly all of the horse books for kids. It's really hard to pick a favorite.
For movies though, the answer is easy. I am a Black Stallion fan all the way. I've seen it a million times, but if I happen to catch it on TV and the island sequence is on, I can't walk away. That musical accompaniment during the underwater dance is simply mesmerizing.
7. Most common riding misconception: that anyone can ride. I actually ran into this issue at a recent family dinner. One of the guests at dinner said she had a horse. Oh, really? I asked. Where do you board? And I mean no disrespect here, but when the answer came back that, I board at so and so, and I love it because I can not show up for two weeks and everything is fine, I gave a silent sigh and thought, yep, anyone can own horses and ride.
I don't mean to be such a stuck up, but in our society, people think that owning a horse is a lot like owning a bicycle. It's parked in the garage ready to ride at a moment's notice, and neglecting it for 6 weeks causes no harm.
My horses are such important and precious members of my family that I always feel shocked and dismayed that other people don't view horse ownership with the same seriousness that I do. Any yahoo with enough money to pay board can own a horse. Should they? No, not usually. And I'll step down off my soapbox now.
Been there, done that!
8. 2 riding strengths and 1 riding weakness: I have a velcro seat, but now that I've written that, I am sure to come off tomorrow. Don't misunderstand. I have been tossed numerous times … and seriously enough to warrant emergency room visits that included amnesia, MRIs, X-rays, slings, crutches, pain pills, TBIs, cut cornea, and even a sprained pelvis! With that said, most of the time, I can ride it out.
I also have a pretty solid leg. It's not perfect, and no one is going to walk around talking about my good leg position, but my leg is pretty steady, and it's not something I really need to work hard to improve upon.
One weakness, and I only get to list one? Pretty tough, but I think the one thing I wish I was better at was actually feeling where each foot is beneath me. I know this is an indispensable skill for dressage. Knowing where each foot is in the sequence helps the rider know when to cue more effectively. This is something I am always trying to get better at feeling.
9. Least favorite thing about horses and or/riding: There is nothing I dislike about horses and riding. I live for this "hobby." I am not me without riding, shoveling poop, grooming, raking the barn aisle, freezing my butt off, sweating through my t-shirt, and swatting at flies. The one thing I could do without is spending the equivalent of a small nation's Gross Domestic Product.
10. What do you feed your horses: ahh … the question I most wanted to answer. And not because I feed anything special, but because I have strong feelings about what my horses eat. The simple answer is that they are fed free choice alfalfa and a soaked beet pulp/rice bran mash daily, while Speedy also gets alfalfa/oat cubes twice a day. We don't have easily accessible (cheap) hay choices here where I live, so while alfalfa is not necessarily the best choice, it's the economical choice.
This sounds rather simple because it is simple. I am a firm believer in the idea of free choice hay as it most closely mimics a horse's natural disposition to graze for nearly 24 hours a day. Neither of my boys "hoovers" down their food; they nibble all day long as nature intended. My barn owner is enormously generous in allowing me to indulge this one idiosyncrasy (okay, there are probably more).
Our winter's hay
More 5-Day Challenge tomorrow …
Right now, everyone is cantering! Sydney is cantering to the right, sort of
, and Speedy is counter cantering. Somehow, both my boys ended up needing canter work at the same time. Speedy's canter work is proving to be way more fun, though!
Thanksgiving break, all four and a half days of it, was filled with the most perfect riding weather possible. And that's what I did, ride. Both boys (plus my BO's boy) were out every day for rides. We haven't been that
consistent since summer. Normally, both boys get ridden three days a week, but five days straight (including Wednesday) was like boot camp!
Knowing that Speedy can get a bit ring sour if worked too many days in a row, I changed up his work each day so that it was fun and exciting. We did lots of 10-meter figure eights, figure eights on a large rectangle, and lots of other changes of direction. During all of that, I worked on the counter canter as it is the one exercise that has really seemed to improve the quality of Speedy's canter work.
On Saturday, he gave me some of his best work ever. I am so pleased with how he is holding the counter canter for longer and longer. I started a couple of weeks ago with a very shallow loop down the long side. Each ride, I made the loop bigger and bigger until it was a full serpentine.
I love how he has figured out that when we return to the "correct" bend he needs to rebalance. I can feel him really rock back and lift his front end to return to the correct bend. None of this work is perfect, of course, but he's learning how to hold the canter lead AND bend in the direction of travel without falling on his forehand. His "try" has been amazing!
I am really looking forward to the 2014 show season. Our scores might not wow!
anyone at First Level next year, but I know he's trying. That's worth a lot to me!