After I gave the Haas brush a glowing review, someone asked if I had tried Epona's Tiger's Tongue Horse Groomer. Why no, no I had not. But at $7.80 with free shipping with my Amazon Prime account, one was on its way to me immediately after I read her comment and the reviews on Amazon.
If you haven't seen one of these scrubbers, they come shrink wrapped at about a tenth of their thickness. As soon as I cut away the plastic, it poofed up nicely. Once again, I used Yellow Dog to see if I liked the way it felt in my hand. She was less than impressed, but Tobias, our black lab, gave it a big smile. When I saw how much dirt came off of him, I rinsed it off with the hose and was surprised to see the scrubber grow even more in thickness.
The day after it arrived ended up being too hot to ride; it was over a hundred degrees, so I decided to make it a grooming day instead. I love getting new stuff, so I was happy for the excuse to try out the Tiger's Tongue on Speedy and Izzy. I adore Izzy, really I do, but that horse isn't picky about much, so Speedy's response to new stuff is my real litmus test.
To manage the dust, the ranch owner runs sprinklers in all of the horses' dry pastures twice each day. The horses just stand there enjoying the respite from the heat, but it makes them rather crusty by the time I get there. Speedy was really gross that afternoon, but rather than being annoyed, I rubbed my hands in delight. The Tiger's Tongue was going to get a real work out.
Except it didn't. To whomever recommended this thing to me, THANK YOU! Within jut a few swipes of the groomer, Speedy's coat was clean and soft and free of rough patches. I've owned horses for nearly 40 years. How have I not come across this particular tool before? It is truly amazing. And cheap. And my horses loved it.
I didn't even bother to use a halter. I just scrubbed Speedy's coat for a few minutes with the Tiger's Tongue - nothing else, and then stepped back to have a look. He coat was gleaming and looked as though I had just spent an hour scrubbing him. It was equally as effective on the big "buckskin" horse.
Izzy's barrel is so yellow that it's hard to see how shiny he was after using the Tiger's Tongue. After scrubbing the dried salt from his rump, I worked at the encrusted dirt along his back and sides. By the time I was finished, he was soft and smooth, too.
Since the groomer is basically a really porous sponge, it worked really well on both legs and faces. In fact, Izzy really leaned into it when I rubbed his eyes and forehead, Even Speedy appreciated his face being scratched with it.
I don't know how well the Tiger's Tongue will work on heavy winter coats, but for summertime use, I am hooked. I found mine at Amazon, but I am betting they are available wherever grooming products are sold. I am obviously in a buying mood, so if anyone else has the scoop on some other brilliant grooming product, let me know!
So while the first test was barely mediocre, I was still incredibly excited for our second test of the day, Training Level Test 3. You would think that with a paltry 56% I'd be dreading the harder test of the level. I wasn't; that was the test for which I had actually prepared. Working in my favor was the fact that we did Test 1 at 10:33 a.m. while Test 3 wasn't until 12:29 p.m., nearly 2 hours later. A lengthy wait on a fairly warm day was exactly what Izzy needed.
I knew that I wouldn't need a very long warm up, and I was right. 20 minutes seemed to be all Izzy needed. He never put a foot wrong. he warmed up like a seasoned pro. I headed up to the ring confident that he would be able to do his job. He didn't disappoint.
Don't get me wrong. The test was just barely satisfactory earning a ... wait for it ... and NO, it wasn't a 59% ( I am getting a lot of those lately). We actually earned a 60.862%! For our very first attempt at Training Level. It took Speedy and I a while to crack the 60% barrier at that level. Yes, I am a more educated rider now, but Izzy is a much more difficult horse to pilot. Am I happy with the score? You betcha!
I truly enjoyed every minute of the ride. I felt no pressure to impress anyone. I rode him as though no one was watching. There was tension, there was giraffing, but there was also a lot of try on his part. Does he need a better connection? Absolutely. We're working on it. Even so, I am really proud of this horse. A lot of you have followed our journey from the beginning, so you know what it's taken to get him even this far (such as it is).
Not that it really matters to me what others think of my big brown horse, but it was heartwarming to hear so many oohs and ahhs. Seriously. Izzy earned himself some fans. There were more than a couple of people who had really nice things to say about him, and I don't think they were digging deep for something nice to say. I think they really meant it. Hard to believe, but it's true.
Even though other people liked Izzy, the judge wan't enamored with him. Not overly critical, just not in love. Most of the comments included words like could show more relaxation and tension. Yeah, I know. The judge did award us 7.0s for gaits on both tests though. Imagine what we could earn without any tension! Speedy has to work hard to get a 7.0 for his gaits. The judge also gave me 7.0s for my position and seat, not a score I always see. I get plenty of 6.0s for that.
I am really glad I let Speedy sit this one out. I knew Izzy was getting close to being ready to go out into the big wide world. Now I have something to build on. Speedy has some fall shows lined up; I haven't forgotten about the Bronze Medal, but I am also thinking about what I can do with Izzy next season. I now have to decide who to show and when. What a great problem to have!
So that's it. Not a wildly entertaining return to the show ring, but that makes me glad. We've had more than our share of fireworks. A plain old boring show day was just what I was hoping for. Here's the video if you can stomach five and a half minutes of really boring. The score sheet follows.
And now, onward to 2020!
Before I get to the show recap, I have to first say something. I've been showing Speedy up the levels since 2010. Every season we struggle with harder movements and worrying about earning the "right" scores for whatever awards program I have my sights set on for that year. With Izzy, I had NONE of that angst or pressure. It was Training Level. How hard could it be? No offense meant. I spent several years at Training Level on Speedy. Repeating a level on a different horse when you have no expectations other than keeping his marbles in his head is a whole lot more fun than when you're doing it "for real."
Before you get too excited, let me just say that we did not blow the judge's mind - or at least not in a good way. We earned a pretty ho-hum 56.923% for Training Level Test 1. But. BUT. Holy cow was I excited! Izzy exceeded all of my expectations.
I showed up at the ranch at 5:30 a.m. to bathe and braid. Was he upset by the radical change in his routine? Nope. He shrugged his shoulders and said whatever ... oh hey! There's hay! He loaded like a champ, traveled like a champ, and unloaded like it was something he did every day.
When he stepped off the trailer, he was a bit looky, but I am fine with looking. Since things were just getting started, I hand walked him up to the show ring and the show office. I walked him around, and before two minutes had passed, he was happily snuffling through the weeds looking for a snack. He started with a coat slightly damp from a nervous sweat, but by the time we made it back to the trailer, he was cool and dry.
I changed my clothes, keeping my eye on him. I then walked him to the warm up ring and back to the dressage court where we watched a test or two, standing right behind the spectators so he could hear the applause. He never even blinked.
I walked him back to the trailer and tacked up. I wanted to give him as much show ground experience as possible, so we walked back up to the dressage court. He got more and more relaxed as the morning wore on. The lead rope was loose as he plodded along behind me. He wasn't as worry-free as Speedy would have been, but his level of trust in me was huge compared to what it was when I tried to show him at Introductory Level back in 2016.
My original plan was to take a full hour for our warm up. On our worst days at home, we go that and longer. After seeing how calm he was, I decided that 45 minutes would be plenty. After 20 minutes of the easiest ride he's ever given me, I realized that I had 25 minutes left to kill. I walked back toward the gate not knowing whether to get off or just stand around. The universe decided for me.
Right in front of us, a woman turned her gray Arabian loose in the round pen. Izzy's head snapped up, and I swear a speech bubble popped up right over his head. THAT'S SPEEDY OH MY GOD SPEEDY IS HERE LOOK AT HIM LOOK AT HIM!!!!!!!
Except we all know it wasn't Speedy, but I could not convince Izzy otherwise. He immediately started hollering and his body exploded with tension. My heart sank. But rather than get too worried, I just put him back to work. It took about five minutes and a lot of cantering, but he slowly let go of the worst of his tension. Not all of it, but his brain reengaged.
We entered at A, I cracked a huge smile. He wasn't exactly relaxed, but he was rideable. We entered with a 5 for our halt, but then we earned a solid string of 6.0s until my lack of preparation reared its ugly head. I had worked on test 3 A LOT but had neglected to learn test 1 until an hour before the ride. During our walk work, I made a course error - oops, bye-bye 2 points.
Our scores got back on track where we earned a string of 6.0s for our trot circle and right lead canter. I was feeling really confident about the test when Izzy slammed on the brakes just before B. He went from a happy little canter to a stuttering halt. I could tell something was bothering him, but for the life of me I couldn't figure it out.
Someone later told me that a breeze picked up at that moment and the odor of cows came wafting up to the arena. There are cattle just down below. Not caring what the issue was, I kicked him no less than a half dozen times before he agreed to trot to which the judge remarked, "rider aids to be less obvious." HILARIOUS. He was rooted to the spot. If I hadn't kicked him so obviously, we'd still be standing there.
We were supposed to do a canter to trot transition just before he skidded to a halt, but I realized there was no way to pick up the canter only to come back down to trot, so I just continued on. We earned a 5.0 for the canter from C-M-B and then a 4.0 for the downward transition which was generous. There was no transition; it was caaaanter, HALT .... kickkickkickkick ... trot. We finished with a 5.0 for our final halt which was no surprise as he was still reeling from his near death experience with cows that he couldn't even see.
The judge was kind with his collectives - Izzy earned a 7.0 for gaits and I got a matching 7.0 for Rider's Position and Seat. So while a 56% isn't anything to write home about, we lost 2 points for stupidity and that unauthorized halt during the canter work didn't do us any favors either. Aside from that, it was a pretty decent little test considering it was his first time showing at Training Level AND his first showing experience since 2016 which we all know was a disastrous year anyway.
Here's the video followed by his score sheet.
Tomorrow, test 3 and redemption?
Last week, I had a lesson on Speedy with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. Like I always do, I explained to Chemaine what was going well, and what wasn't - our half passes were much improved, but they lacked impulsion. Chemaine had several several exercises for me to try.
The first exercise she had me do was one from the past, but we used it differently. During the trot half pass, whenever I felt like Speedy was ignoring my outside leg, she had me turn the half pass into a leg yield by changing the bend. As soon as Speedy started moving off my now inside leg, I was to change the bend again all while ensuring that he still moved sideways off my leg. The exercise worked well, but I am going to need it for a while, especially to the right.
The next exercise that we did addressed the lack of impulsion. We did half pass to medium trot to half pass to medium trot. Because the half pass requires so much strength and collection, Speedy was thrilled to be allowed to really go for it in the extended trot. This in turn helped build in some natural impulsion for the half pass. It was a win-win.
Before we finished the lesson, Chemaine said that she had one more exercise she wanted me to try. We've worked really hard to get the impulsion and uphill carriage that Speedy needs for the medium and extended gaits. That's still a work in progress, for sure, but Chemaine wanted to add yet another dimension.
Down each long side, Chemaine wanted me to do big half halts with a lot of leg. As predicted, Speedy shot forward assuming that the half halt with leg meant medium trot. As soon as he went heavy in my hand, she had me half halt and again tap him with my whip. We repeated the exercise until Speedy connected the dots: I didn't want more forward, I wanted more up. You can see it in the photo above. He can't carry it for long, but as we schooled it, both of us got the idea a bit better.
When we moved to the canter work, both Speedy and I had an AHA moment. I realized that I could ask for the same thing in the canter. And sure enough, his canter got a lot more jump in it when I half halted with my outside rein and added leg. Canter half pass and flying changes both are much easier with canter that's got some jump to it.
Here's some video of getting the suspension in the trot.
I have learned more during this past year than in the last ten years combined. While it could get overwhelming to contemplate all that's still to be learned, I don't worry about it since what I am learning is turning out to be so much fun. Not to mention rewarding.
Like I've said before: Second Level sucked really rotten tomatoes. Third Level is the cat's meow!
A few weeks ago, I asked for some feedback on the Thinline reins. My laced reins, which I've really liked for Speedy, suddenly started causing a gnarly callous on my left hand. It hasn't gotten any smaller since then and might have actually grown.
Once I realized that the callous was being caused by my reins, I switched to a pair of cotton web reins. I have quite a few sets from which to choose. They're cheap and usually come free with a bridle purchase. They've served their purpose, but frankly, they suck. No offense to anyone who actually likes them.
After perusing what felt like every U.S. web site, I discovered that The Dressage Pony Store, owned by my friend and fellow rider Valerie Gabriel, carries the Thinline Reins cheaper than anyone else - $95.00. I placed my order. Valerie had the reins in the mail the next day. The day after that, they were attached to my bridle. How come the big online tack shops can't package and ship that efficiently? Riding Warehouse excluded, of course.
As soon as I unpackaged them, I knew I was going to be ordering a second pair for Izzy's bridle. Don't even touch a pair unless you've got a hundred bucks burning a hole in your pocket; they're that nice.
The reins have a wonderful cushiony grip, almost like the gel handle on my whip. They're not tacky or sticky or grippy in the same way rubber reins can be. Which I actually like, so I am not at all surprised that I like these.
I have not one single negative thing to say about the Thinline Reins, but depending on your particular preferences, these might be considered too thick. I love them, but I can see how someone with smaller or finer hands might find them bulky.
Thinline sells these reins with a variety of options, most of which Valerie carries at the Dressage Pony Store. I went with hook and stud ends as they look cleaner in the show ring. I also wanted the hand stops. The reins aren't slick, but I am used to the stops, so I made sure to choose that option. Oh, and even though the Dressage Pony Store is for well, ponies, Valerie carries the reins in pony sizes and a standard 60 inch length which is what I bought.
Both the bit and buckle ends of the of the reins are leather. And while it's probably not the most luxurious leather ever made, I liked the quality. I bent the leather part of the reins back and forth and was pleased that it didn't get that crackled appearance you see in cheaper leather.
I am not sure that a piece of tack can improve ones riding, but I think these have. I felt like I was able to take a more solid hold of the rein without the feeling of holding Speedy by a thread. It may be that as his ability to sit and collect is improving, he may be feeling heavier in my hand right now - hence the callous. I don't think so though. I think I am developing as a rider and communicating differently through the rein than in the past.
Overall, these reins are well priced and unbelievably comfortable in the hand. As soon as I have a couple of extra bucks, I am for sure ordering that second pair for Izzy's bridle.
We are really and truly doing this. Izzy's name is on the ride schedule, and we have times - good ones, I might add. I specifically asked for as late a time as possible because of the lengthy warm up we're (probably) going to need.
I never run through the tests with Speedy. Not even when we were showing Training Level. I would do chunks of the tests, but never a whole test all the way through. Speedy is too smart. If I ran through the test, he would have it memorized immediately, and then he'd be trying to tell me what to do. He already does that at home.
Izzy is an entirely different horse. He's not nearly as sharp as Speedy. He's a firecracker for sure, but he's not much of a thinker. He's much more of a reactionary and lives very much in the moment. While Speedy anticipates, even plotting his next move at times, Izzy always seems surprised by my aids. Which is something I need to sharpen up; he's not convinced that trot at C means RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT!
I realized that it might be helpful to run through the tests with him. I figured it might build some confidence if he felt a sense of routine and familiarity. So that's what I did on Wednesday afternoon; we ran through Training Level Test 3 several times. I was actually really pleased with parts of the test, especially the first time through. The second time we rode it, he started to get sassy which tells me he was feeling some self-confidence.
I'll do the same thing this afternoon and tomorrow. I am really focusing on riding him like I will during the test. There are no do-overs and no circling back. No matter what he does, I am schooling him for the test.
However it goes on Sunday, I'll be glad just to have schooled him to the point where I think he might be ready to show. For so long our daily rides were all about getting him to listen to me without constant jackassery. Even considering him maybe ready for a show is a huge win.
Wish us luck!
I am a little late on this post. I am probably trying to avoid seeing numbers that are depressing. This is the third year I've tracked my equine spending, and I've come to the realization that it's not horses in particular that are expensive; it's LIFE that costs so much.
This has been an expensive year. Every time I turn around, I have some new bill to take care of. While many of them are connected to my horses, just as many aren't. Car trouble, truck trouble, dog trouble. It's just never ending.
I unhooked my truck on Sunday to go fill it up and run it through the car wash. It's not a task I enjoy, so as I drove out of my way just for a fill up, I started whining a bit. I was thinking about the thousands of dollars I spend each month on this crazy horse life and began to wish that I was one of those people whose fingernails are always clean. Who doesn't stink every single day on the drive home. Who doesn't have hay in all of her pockets and usually her hair.
And just as suddenly, I realized that there there must be thousands of women who wished they were just like me. Someone with a truck and trailer. Someone who can ride horses any day of the week. Someone who has hay in her pockets and in her hair.
Yes, life is expensive, but I think I've got a good one.
You get three guesses, one for each braid, to figure out why I would be braiding Izzy's mane. Yep. We're going to a show on Sunday.
When Speedy didn't make it to RAAC, I realized that my biggest goal for the season, earning our Bronze Medal, wasn't going to happen (yet). In light of that, it didn't seem like there were a whole lot of reasons to take him to the final Tehachapi show of the season as it's only CDS-rated. While Speedy and I might have earned two more scores for our annual plate, I was more interested in getting Izzy some show miles.
Back in 2016, I took Izzy to 4 schooling shows and a CDS show in Tehachapi. He kept his act (mostly) together for those shows, but his tension was so high that we scored solidly in the 50s. We even earned a 49%. Twice. Once Speedy was recovered from whatever injury he had in 2016, Izzy went back to school and hasn't shown since.
Speedy's not injured, but it's finally time to start doing something with Izzy. When I sat down to fill out the entry form, I entered all of my association numbers and wrote Izzy's RPSI name in the horse section. As my pen hovered over Level and Test, I paused. For a really long time. I paused for days actually. I just didn't know at what level we should show. He has a pretty nice half pass. His stretchy trot is lovely. He can do simple changes when he's really connected. His medium trot is still developing. Basically, we're schooling many of the movements from First to Third Level.
Then it dawned on me that my purpose isn't to show off anything. I am not trying to get a judge's opinion on the quality of any of the movements. I don't really care about his canter through trot at X or whether his trot lengthening showed a difference. All I want to see is if he can get in the ring and not lose his marbles. I decided that he can reliably do all of the movements at Training Level, so we're doing T1 and T3.
I have no idea how we'll do. At home, I can now work with him even when he's tense and anxious. When he's relaxed, which is most of the time, he's Mr. McDreamy. When he's tense, he looks it, but at least he'll still play ball. Hopefully our first ride time isn't too early because we're going to need a long warm up.
Aren't there rules about that sort of thing? What's the time limit anyway?
I wanted to be unimpressed. I wanted to be disappointed. I was neither. Holy smokes, people, the Haas magic is real. It's a thing, and I am now under the spell.
I needed to spend just a few dollars more on a recent Riding Warehouse purchase in order to get free shipping, so I searched through their collection of Haas brushes until I found one that seemed like it would suit my needs without breaking the bank. I ended up choosing the Haas Fellglanzburste Grooming Body Brush. The list price is $16.95, but with a 15% discount code, I only paid $14.41. I've spent more on lesser brushes for sure.
Out of the box, there were no sparks or love at first site. It wasn't as soft as I was expecting, and the handle felt sturdy but not magical. Haas prides themselves on the quality of their bristles, so I was a bit disappointed to notice that one of the holes on the edge was missing its bristles. It didn't seem worth sending it back though, so I tried it out on Yellow Dog who thought it was the best brush she'd ever felt. I was reserving judgement.
My favorite grooming tool of all time is a jelly scrubber, those plasticky things that run around $4.00. I have several that are now old enough to be super flexible. Both of my horses like them, and they work equally well in winter or summer. They are the first tool I grab, and sometimes the only tool I use.
Since Speedy was particularly crusty on Saturday morning, I dug into his coat with the jelly scrubber. I can scrub pretty vigorously along his neck, shoulders, belly, and hind quarters, but I have to use a much lighter touch across his back. Here's what the jelly scrubber lifted out of his hind end.
After a solid going over with the jelly scrubber, I took out the Haas Fellglanzburste. I am not going to lie. Within about three strokes I was hooked. I cannot explain it, but the brush felt ... alive in my hand. I could feel the bristles working their way through Speedy's coat, almost like my own fingers. But best of all was that he let me use firm pressure all over his whole body, including his back!
It was almost addictive. I brushed and brushed and brushed and brushed removing layer after layer of deep dirt. Speedy never fussed or grew tired of the grooming session, and he's not the biggest fan of being groomed. The brush worked equally well on the larger areas as it did on his legs and even his face (I was quite gentle there).
I found that shorter strokes helped lift the dirt from his skin, and then a gentle flick sent it off his coat without settling back down. After grooming his whole body, his coat felt clean and soft, almost as a good as after a shampoo.
I also used the brush on Izzy who responded in the same way. He is slightly less picky than Speedy, but he does let me know if I am too firm with the jelly scrubber. He never flinched with the Fellglanzburste brush.
This brush is of a medium stiffness, but it worked great on both of my horses' fine summer coats. I don't know how it will do on heavy winter coats, but now that I've tried one of the Haas brushes, I will definitely be adding more. And fortunately for me, there is a huge selection from which to choose.
Which ones are you using?
Speedy has had 4 abscesses in the past 8 months. He's 15 years old but had never had one before this past winter. There is no doubt that the abscesses are directly related to his Cushing's Disease diagnosis.
I tend to be pretty proactive in the vet care department. When I know I can't treat something, I call the vet immediately. But by keeping my med kit well stocked, I find that life is a lot easier. For one, emergencies are a lot less stressful, and two, I can pretty effectively treat most run-of-the-mill injuries, and even some not so basic issues, all without the need for a visit from the vet. Izzy's recent eye wound comes to mind. There is still a small area that needs to finish healing, but having saline solution and an irrigation syringe handy probably saved me a vet bill.
When Speedy developed a hoof abscess earlier this month, I was thankful to have had plenty of bandaging material and Numotizine in my med kit. While I didn't use all of the Numotizine, I put a pretty big dent in the tub. So much so that the next time he abscesses, I'll only have enough for one or two wraps.
I was also unbelievably lucky that my farrier showed up while I was on the phone with the vet. Within 10 seconds he was able to diagnose an abscess which saved me a long trip across town and a vet bill. He was able to make such a quick diagnosis because he had hoof testers and a hoof knife at his finger tips. I'll give you a quick guess as to what now resides in my med kit.
Yep. I bought myself hoof testers and a hoof knife. While there are many hoof testers on the market, I reasoned that I didn't need a professional grade pair. I won't be using them that often, and with any luck, never again, so I went with a modest pair. I ended up ordering the Tough 1 Pro Hoof Tester 13" from the Riding Warehouse. At $29.95, less with a 15% coupon code, they're perfect.
Not wanting to be a total chick about my new tool, I cut away the wrapper and actually made sure I knew how to use it before a crisis strikes. I poked around at both Speedy's and Izzy's hooves trying to determine just how hard I need to squeeze. I eventually realized that I can squeeze as hard as I can without getting a reaction on a healthy hoof.
You'll notice that I also bought a hoof knife. It's a fairly cheap one, but again, I don't plan on needing it very often. It's a stainless steel, double edged knife that feels good in my hand. It seems sharp, but I didn't test it out. I actually hope I never need to use it. At $3.95, it's practically disposable anyway.
And since I was prepping for future abscesses, I decided to restock my dwindling supply of Numotizine. My last tub was half this size and cost $40 (from the vet). This tub, a full 3 pounds, ran me only $33 including free shipping from Amazon. Amazon Prime is the best "club" we belong to.
Here's to hoping that neither of my horses ever abscesses again, but if they do, I am armed and ready!