Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Old, New, Borrowed, Blue

Nope, not getting married but where most girls seem to dream about their weddings, I've dreamed  about doing my first rated show.

I've been slowly putting together a set (or two) of show clothes since I've known for awhile that I couldn't afford to invest in the things I wanted when I finally found out I'd be doing a rated show. I am SO GLAD I DID because I had no idea that I'd be doing a rated show on June 3rd this year until just over a month ago and there's no way I could have bought all this stuff at the beginning of this year. Without further ado, here is what I have so far!

Something Old:

The friend that I lived with and rented from when I first got Katai and I exchanged Christmas gifts a couple of years ago. She got me this incredibly pretty stock pin for Christmas in 2012 so it's not that old but I've never had a reason to use it until now :)

I also have this Horze show shirt that I bought early last year (so not that old but I haven't worn it yet) that I will be wearing this year likely.

Something New:

Most of my stuff could go into this category honestly but these are my newest.

This is the shirt I got at the World Cup! It just showed up yesterday and I LOVE it just as much as I did when I tried it on at the show. With my shape I always struggle with finding tops that look good but breeches are easier. Show shirts in particular have been tough for me and this is easily the nicest one I've found. The fabric is technical and light without being clingy and cut really nice! It was also under $100 which is tough to find in cute show shirts (for my body type) it seems.

There are quite a few things that I'm happy to invest money in from a riding outfit perspective however, a stock tie isn't one. If we start showing more and "earn" a cute one then I'd invest in a nice one but otherwise I didn't want to spend that much. The problem was that even the cheaper ones were expensive in my mind and they had poor reviews. Between spending $35 for something with bad reviews and $60 for something that's amazing I'd rather spend $60 but I just couldn't make myself actually buy the thing. So I went to Etsy and found this for $13! With shipping from Europe it was just over $20 but it's amazing. Really nice fabric and fluffy enough. I went with the pre-tied option because I just don't want to fuss with it but they have untied versions as well. I would definitely recommend them if you want a nice stock tie that isn't too expensive. They have lots of options at great prices and awesome reviews!

Something Borrowed:

Well not borrowed but I bought this from another blogger, Amanda, over at $900FacebookPony. When she listed it for sale and it happened to be dark blue and in my size, and an Equiline coat I messaged her right away. I was really excited about the amazing deal I found but now what I'm actually excited about is that this is an experienced show coat and hopefully it will help me and Katai have a great show experience ;) Oh, and it's GORGEOUS!

Something Blue:

I've got navy blue throughout my show clothes closet. Eventually I want to get Katai a grey saddle pad and then I'll wear something navy blue as a show shirt or jacket. I think it will be cute but not too different or shocking to anyone who's more traditional.

Or the seat of my breeches ;)

Modeling my outfits!:

So sorry for my murderous expression. I wasn't feeling that well on Friday morning but I knew I wouldn't have much time this weekend to do this so I went with it.

First two pictures: EGO7 Show Shirt and B Vertigo Rachel breeches
Third picture: Equiline show coat from Amanda and Horze Desiree breeches
Fourth picture: Back to the Equiline show coat, EGO7 shirt, and B Vertigo Rachel breeches
Fifth picture: Old Navy polo (this was $5 so if anyone is looking for a cheap but cute polo this is a good place to check) and Ovation breeches

I'm pretty happy with this! The fifth picture is what I'm going to wear to the schooling show and will probably go with the fourth picture for my first rated show. No pictures of me wearing the stock tie since it didn't get here until Tuesday and the lighting has been horrible for pictures. I'm sure I'll get some pictures from our upcoming show though!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

And Then I Was Sick :(

I've got some sort of devil cold. Everyone at work has had it by now but I had been fighting it off until the stress of this trip did me in. Someone at work has proposed that burning down our building might be the only way to stop it and now that I'm dealing with it I can't say that I disagree.

I started feeling sick on Thursday, was miserable on Friday for my flight back (thanks cold, so helpful and pleasant for my 4.5 hour flight), then Saturday and Sunday I pretty much laid around in bed and felt ok. Monday I started to go back downhill and now today I was miserable. Mostly it was because this also hit my monthly headache day so I was dealing with that as well.

More blurry arena photos. I may need to follow T's example
and finally invest in a nicer camera
I'd been doing so well and had made it to the barn Saturday - Monday and I RODE every day!! We also had a couple of great breakthroughs :) On Sunday Jane came out and gave me an extra mini lesson and started working with me more on using my seat to slow the canter. Whatever she said just clicked and I had a couple of amazing strides in each direction where Katai really came up with her shoulders and lightened in the connection. Katai won smart pony of the year award and we just had a great ride.

Then, on Monday we had another breakthrough that in some ways meant even more. With Katai it's the relationship stuff that means the most to me. Both because that's just more important to me than dressage ride improvement but also because we haven't always gotten along very well and Katai was so difficult to start that I didn't spend as much time building the relationship as I should have.

The best part of this trip was the vegan rum ball
rum soaked chocolate cake coated in dark chocolate :)
This weekend Katai has been HORRIBLY in heat (because we like to line up our girly days just to make sure we can be especially productive together once a month). On Saturday it wasn't that bad and I just wiped her off with a damp rag but it was much worse on Sunday and she was starting to chafe and get some raw skin. I put her in the wash stall ready for fireworks since she HATES the cold water and typically she piaffes her way through baths with a couple of rears and kicks at the wall for good measure unless we have warm water (which we don't at this barn). However, I was determined to make this as pleasant and quiet as possible for both of us so I did lots of baby talking and petting. I always try to do this but for whatever reason it really worked on Sunday. She was calm and resting and never once even threatened to kick at me even though I was washing between her legs when she was in heat.

It was just such great proof of how far we've come and gave me lots of hope that we're going to make it through this upcoming show with much less fuss.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

I'm Back!

First, to wrap up a bit about my recent stress, I'm back and it's done for now. I did develop a bad cold though since my immune system apparently couldn't handle the stress. I'm going to be at the barn as much as usual to show prep this week, I just don't know that I'll be mentally all there.

This past week was a bit like the movie Up In The Air. I didn't realize just how stressed I was until my Apple Watch (which uses heart beat as part of the way it determines how many calories you burn) told me that I'd met my goal on a day when I was mainly sedentary (I go on 3 miles walks every day and still don't always meet my goal so it takes a lot). Clearly my heart was beating pretty hard from adrenaline all day. Probably not that good for me but it's unfortunately a part of the job and fortunately not something I need to do very often. If it were I'd find a different career.

I got back to some clean horse laundry so I got that sorted.

Does anyone else love doing horse laundry or
is it just me that's weird that way?
I also came back to three packages. Two were show stuff for me and the pony (posts on that soon) and the other were my SmartPaks so I made up more baggies.

Katai will be fed for the next week :)
I had planned to go to the barn once I got home but between feeling miserably sick and last minute change in plans to pick up Veggie (I was able to get him in the cities rather than driving all the way to my parent's house) I didn't end up making it out there. I CAN'T WAIT to see my pony today and I know it's exactly what I need right now. I'm so glad to be back :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Summer 10

Rhiannon, of The Horse Is Not Black, put together this great list of questions for an informal blog hop that I decided to join. At the very least it's content while I deal with stress causing my brain to ooze out my ears ;)

1. What are your summer goals? 

 All. of. the. shows! I mostly just want to get Katai exposure to trailering off property so that it's not as stressful for either of us. My main goal with her is for this to be fun for both of us and it certainly wasn't for our last show.
More of this...
Less of this :)

2. Do you have any tips or tricks for fly control? 

No, unfortunately I don't. I will say that the last two facilities I've been at have seemed to manage it pretty well so it hasn't been much of an issue. Well, other than the HORRIBLE horse flies at the last barn but I don't think there's much you can do with them.

3. How often do you bathe your horse? 

Very infrequently, I think I actually only bathed her maybe twice last year. Princess pony is a princess and mostly keeps herself pretty clean despite being white so I only wash her if I have something like a show. This year it will likely be more because, well, more shows :) 

This bathing photo is the most recent I have and it's from 2 years ago

4. Do you have any upcoming travel plans? 

Equine or otherwise? Unfortunately yes, I'm in WA now for a work trip. Other than this I'm not planning any more travel. If I won the lottery I'd go to the National Dressage Pony Cup again and would probably visit some part of Vermont and Portland. 

5. What is your favorite way to beat the heat? 

I love spending time at the beach or in the pool. Otherwise I pretty much hide at home in the air-conditioning. My body doesn't like the heat very much so I have to be pretty careful how much time I spend outside when it's over about 95* for the heat index. With our humidity unfortunately that's fairly often during the summer.

6. Do you do anything to prevent your horse from sunbleaching? 

I'm very lucky that I don't need to. Since she's white and a roany chestnut there's not much fading that can happen.

7. How hot is too hot for you to ride? 

Like I mentioned above it doesn't take much heat for me to get heatstroke/an all day migraine so anything around 90* is too hot for me to ride. Once my body gets used to the heat I can make it work as long as I can take it easy so trail rides are ok but anything that involves really riding is out at least unless I can do so in the shade.

8. How important is sun protection for you riding or just in general? 

Pretty important, however since I typically can't spend much time outside in the sun it's sort of a mute point. I really suspect that it's just because in MN we go through such a drastic change every year that my poor body can't ever get used to a temperature. The temp easily goes through a 110* difference between winter and summer so I'm pretty sure that when I move to a more temperate climate I'll *hopefully* be able to handle warmer temps easier. I do love my KastelDenmark sun shirt though and I got myself an Asmar long sleeve shirt for Christmas that I've been wearing as well.

9. Have you ever gone swimming with your horse? 

Yes! I was lucky to grow up within riding distance of the Mississippi river and a beach. When I was growing up we routinely took our horses to the beach and swam them in the river. It's pretty much the most awesome and adorable thing ever.

10. And because shopping is always on my mind, what’s on your summer wish list? 

So many things! Mainly more B Vertigo breeches because they're my favorite. The other things I've mainly picked up since they're all show things but I'll share a post on those later. I've also still sort of got a trailer on this list. I'm going to see how things go this year with K and if it's easy this will come off the list for the time being.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Highs and Lows

This weekend has felt a bit bipolar in both my personal and my horse life. I shipped the Vegetable off with my dad yesterday since I'll be traveling this upcoming week so it's been quiet and weird at home without him. I've also started packing and am still doing my best to deal with the stress of this not completely positive last minute trip which will now, most likely, be Tuesday-Friday.

With Mother's Day today I'm sad to not be seeing my mom (other plans, travel, etc.) and since I'll never be a mom to small humans would like to celebrate with my four legged kids. However, with Veggie gone it already feels weird and then I had a scare with Katai yesterday.

So I've mentioned previously that Katai has had some shortness in her right shoulder. It's been off and on and she's always held tension there and she does a really good impression of the Zanyeta stomp when I take up contact if she's tense. Most of the time though she's even and if she's even on the contact and working without tension she's perfect on various footing. However, if there's even a small amount of tension or if we're asking her to take more contact on the right rein she'll have a slight hitch to her gait.

Jane and I did a full lesson where Jane had me work through a few different exercises including counter bending her and changing the bend a lot and she was perfectly even for almost the entire ride. It started cropping up now that Jane's helping me get more even contact on both reins. There's no heat, no swelling, no "off-ness" to any part of her leg or shoulder but she starts to move that way when there's any tension. You can probably see it in the trotting GIF I shared in my last post. When I originally created it I was paying more attention to how active her hind legs were but when I saw how noticeable it is there I thought about pulling it. However, it's an accurate representation of where we are right now.

I want to assure you that I'm not neglecting getting a vet to look at her, if this doesn't resolve itself soon or if it changes, or starts to be more prevalent I'll of course call out the vet and do whatever they think is needed. I have the funds set aside to do it so it's not a big deal but after extensively looking at it Jane and I both feel that it's more of a "rein lameness" than anything else.

With that being said I took her over to the other barn yesterday with just a lunge line and rope halter. This barn is a PERFECT desensitization opportunity. The women who owns it has a pet potbelly pig right up against the arena along with two mini ponies in the next pen over. She's also got three, large rambunctious dogs, a rambunctious kid, multiple other horses, and jumps and standards all over in and near the arena. Basically a whole lot of things that Katai has no familiarity with.

When I got Katai there, while I was incredibly impressed at how well she was handling it, as you can imagine there was A LOT of tension. I just asked for a bit of lunging with lots of changes of direction but she was clearly uneven and this is the first time that I've lunged her where it was noticeable without side reins. I didn't do much and then took her back to our barn. Groomed her, left her, and spent the rest of the evening freaking out. Everything from retirement, to shoulder x-rays, to minor muscle tension, to calling the chiro ran through my head for about 5 hours.

I finally talked myself off the ledge and decided to have Jane look at her this morning prior to heading back over to the other arena for a ride. If Jane thought that anything was wrong I'd call off the ride and figure out with her what to do. If not, I'd go ahead and ride.

I got there and saw that Jane was videotaping her (AMAZING) young horse who was having a trainer ride outside. I watched (with my jaw hanging open) for a few minutes and let her know that I'd like to have her watch the pony trot on a lunge. She agreed but also told me that she still didn't think Katai was off. Apparently she'd been running around and Jane has already diagnosed that tension is what's causing the unevenness and she already knew that Katai was tense when I was at the neighbors.

I got Katai out (honestly all ready to prove her wrong and send us into emergency lame horse crisis mode) and brought her into the arena and started trotting her on the lunge and couldn't find even a speck of lameness. None, zilch, and I was LOOKING for it. I was so ready for her to be off that I changed directions with her a few times and even had her canter just to try to prompt it but still nothing. Then Jane showed up, also pronounced her completely sound (probably feeling like I'm some sort of hypochondriac) and reminded me how that tension would have caused her to be off just as we've talked about in the past.

I was SOOO relieved and tacked the pony up to head over to the other barn. I crossed my fingers that I'd make it out alive but I also had so much hope that she'd be good after all of our recent practice.

Long story short it went SO well! I was able to get some video which I've posted below! I pretty much just cut out mounting (and a bit of the end after I dismounted since I was trying to get a melted peppermint out of a wrapper and even I lost patience watching it) although I wish it had been in frame.

This arena belongs to the women on the right with the exceptionally tall horse and her mounting block reflects that. I had to slowly lower myself onto my pony's back since the top of the mounting block was higher than the bottom of my saddle flap #ponyproblems.

As you can see in the video she still is tight in that shoulder at points, however, for her first ride in a new space I feel like she did well and it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. She'll get four days off next week while I'm out of town so I'm curious to see if that changes anything. If it really is just her holding tension it shouldn't but I'm curious. We really did ride for just about 10 minutes since my boy doesn't do well with quick temperature changes and this was the first 80 degree day we've had. Even with this I had a headache but much more and I would have ended up with an all day migraine. I'm planning to ride over there again next weekend so I'll work more then. Also, yeah I know that I mirrored our test and went right instead of left. I started off without room to go left when I started and since it was more about being able to cue for things at specific points I just went with it.

Finally, once I got back today I finally got to see Jane ride. Normally our schedules don't align so while I've known she's an accomplished rider I haven't quite known what to expect. Some people are better teachers than riders but I was blown away today watching Jane ride. She's not a young women and her horse is in her 20s and a true definition of a school master (at one point the mare decided to try to take over and do a canter pirouette :) and Jane rides like this.

Alois Podhajsky

and reminded me of this book
It was amazing to watch, like watching a true master. The amount of core strength and how invisible her aids are were just outstanding to me. I've seen some amazing riders but never expected to find that in my instructor and because she hasn't shown much, there aren't many scores out there for her so I just had no idea really. It totally impressed and blew me away and while I've clearly always had so much respect and trust in Jane seeing her ride herself just brought it to the next level.

We also rescheduled my Tuesday lesson to Monday so I'll have more to share soon!

Friday, May 12, 2017


Well, not anything especially different at my lesson this week so not much to share. I did get some video of my ride on Thursday so I'll share some GIFs. The arena door was open so the lighting was slightly better but still not good.

I should  have more interesting blog posts to share soon! I'm hoping/planning to make it to the outdoor arena at least once this weekend and will do my best to get some video. I've been quiet blogging but riding at least 4 times a week and at the barn at least 5 so we've been making steady progress. Katai is in a phase where she's slowly building strength so we're just keeping on keeping on at this point.

I've been quiet with blogging because I got some slightly stressful news about a last minute work trip to WA next week which resulted in lots of prep work this week. I'll be leaving Tuesday and back on Friday but originally thought I'd be gone at least 7 days. I'm happy that it will just be 4 and may even possibly be able to ride still on Tuesday so it will just be a nice three day weekend for the pony.

Without further ado, some progress GIFs :)

Pretty happy with this walk she gets tense and lateral quickly so this is pretty good for her.

Her trot is getting a bit more active!

I'm slooooooowly starting to figure out the alignment for leg yield

Sloooooooowly Katai is starting to gain the strength to not run in the canter :)
(ugh though, can I really stop leaning already?!?)

Monday, May 8, 2017

Test Review

This weekend when I saw Jane she asked if I'd be at the barn on Monday and when I let her know that I would she said that she wanted to help me review the tests. 

I think that it was both so that we could make sure that we'd decided on the correct tests and so that we can see what I need to work on. It was great for both! 

We started with the warmup. Jane wanted me to warm up the way I thought I should and just watched quietly and occasionally gave me suggestions. I was pretty proud that she only spoke up a couple of times but mostly I was able to put together an effective warmup. How it will work at the show we just won't know until we've tried it out but I was happy that I didn't just ride around like a headless chicken.

We've come so far!
After that we took a walk break, reviewed the few things that Jane wants me to do differently which are mainly more transitions and trying to get a longer stride, and then went to training level test 1. Jane called it for me since I don't have it memorized yet and called out a few things. The main thing that I was disappointed about is that I reverted to posting too quickly as soon as I started concentrating on the test but even with that there was some improvement and with some coaching from Jane I was able to get it under control. The other things that we discussed after are that I need to make sure I'm strong enough with my right leg at the halt, we need to practice our walk a bit more, and I need to make sure I support with my outside rein more at the canter.

Oh, and maybe practice my braiding

I also need to practice turning down the centerline since I overshoot EVERY SINGLE TIME. You'd think I'd have this figured out by now and I ride a small pony so I have no excuse but it just seems like it comes up so quick!

After another walk break we did training level test 2. When we first got to the arena and I started riding it began raining pretty hard but through my warmup it slowly let up. However, as we started training 2 and Jane started calling the test to me it started pouring really hard and that was accompanied by thunder and lightening. It was a really great test for me to make sure I had a rideable pony in a more stressful situation but it also meant that I struggled to hear the test and we had a couple of errors. Also, because I hadn't even looked at the test I was coming at it completely blind which made it tough to bridge the gaps in hearing my next direction. We schooled a few things as we went but overall it was good.

More early feral pony :)
Both Jane and I were REALLY happy with how it went. I have some homework but nothing really big and I've got about three more weeks to nail down those few things before the show. Jane also had the great idea of checking with a neighbor who has an outdoor arena to see if I could ride over there and she was fine with that! I'll be headed over there this weekend probably to give Katai some experience riding in a different, and outdoor, space. With that and continuing to practice trailer loading I think we're going to be in a really good place for our first shows this year!