Saturday, December 31, 2016

Review of 2016




I've been having so much fun reading everyone's review of 2016 so even though I'm way behind with blogging this year I wanted to make sure I get this one out before 2017 starts.

2016 has been a great year for me overall and while some tough things happened there has also been a lot of good. It's also been a year of less change, overall, than what I've experienced in past years so I think the stability has allowed me to really put my focus on riding and riding related things such as blogging. It shows since I've reached a new high of over 140 posts this year compared with my previous record of 90. I think it's also shown with the improvement that Katai and I have made both in our rides and our relationship.

Without further ado...

January

Started with a bang as I was invited to ride in my first ever clinic, a Dressage clinic with Susanne Winslade.  I also had a rough saddle fitting experience, posted an update on the tack locker I was (still am) working on with my dad, and reviewed my fall favorites.


February

Was a a tough month and was my lowest posting month until November. It started off with an unsound pony who needed a week off and then I spent some time reflecting while Katai was off work. February then progressed with a more unsound pony who needed additional time off. It ended with more reflection on my relationship with Katai and mindset when riding her.

March

Wasn't much better than February for me and the pony. I had a few great lessons and an amazing clinic with Susanne. Then I "broke up" with my trimmer (still one of the best things that happened this year but tough at the time) and had an interesting lesson when Katai was extremely reactive as I mounted. I posted my winter favorites  and then Katai was an unsound pony again.

April

Was a little better and I started off with a tough lesson where I learned some position things to work on. There were some great rides and then another tough lesson where L focused on my position. I also posted about my new farrier and went to the MN Horse Expo and audited a Janet Foy clinic.  

May

I mentioned that I was shopping for a new saddle and posted about a second clinic with Susanne. I posted my spring favorites and then had a great post about a trainer ride for Katai where I finally got some more pictures. Finally, after attending my first show with Katai I posted recaps here and here


June

I was still recovering from our interesting show experience and posted about getting Chiro done for Katai. Then Katai was unsound again  and I posted about lunging and riding L's baby horse. Finally I tried to ride outside more but was thwarted by horseflies. 


July

Tied for my highest posting month with 16 posts. I mainly posted about saddle trialing and going to the National Dressage Pony Cup. I wished I had taken more "bad" pictures of Katai as a baby. I gained more confidence in Katai, finally started looking for a more affordable barn, had my first trial lesson with Jane and decided to move Katai to Jane's barn.

August

Started off with a trailering adventure and then felt a bit odd as I "waited" to move to Jane's barn. I also had SO MUCH FUN at a Hunter Pace and got further in my saddle fitting adventures. I shared a post that really sort of recaps how I felt about the whole first half of the year from a riding perspective. Finally I got moved to my new barn!  


September

Felt like the first month where things really started to fall into place for me and Katai. It started with some fun with friends at an amazing eventing facility and then Katai tried to start the pony apocalypse with Bridget from Oh Gingersnap! I posted about my breeches collection  and I continued to improve by leaps and bounds with Jane as an instructor.

October

Started off with me and Katai's four year anniversary! Then I had a great lesson and a not so nice relationship thing.


November

In November my blogging, and other things, fell apart a bit with some seasonal depression and a tough change of season. In fact in November I only posted twice including this really cool improvement video of me and Katai.

Roommate and friends (from AZ) playing Croquet in the -10*
temps we had the weekend before Christmas

December

This is where things really started to fall into place for me riding wise. I'd been having great lessons throughout November (despite my seasonal depression and not posting much) plus some other personal things fell into place later in the month. To start off I posted this recap of what I'd been doing since I last posted and then I joined the blog hop that was all about location. I complained about the weather and then got into a car accident :( I ended the month with some reviews on my Christmas presents to myself, namely the Stretchtec Girth from TSF and the Flying Change Bridle from PS of Sweden!

I have enough to post about goals that I'm going to do that in a separate post and that will be up soon!

Friday, December 30, 2016

PS of Sweden Flying Change Bridle Review

I've been doing my seasonal "favorites" posts but haven't had much to review recently since I haven't been purchasing much. Thanks to saving up some money I was able to spend a bit more on presents (for everyone including myself) this Christmas and finally got the PS of Sweden bridle that's been on my list for over a year.

Based on the information I had I decided to order the pony sized bridle. I had messaged asking for the bridle size but never heard back. I really should have messaged again before ordering as you're about to see.

Unfortunately when the bridle arrived and I compared it with a bridle I had at home that fit Katai I was pretty sure it was going to be too small. I brought it out to the barn, tried it on her and sure enough it was way too small. Not even close enough to be able to punch extra holes. So, I brought it back home and got it packaged up to return.

In the meantime I spent a lot of time admiring the pretty sparkly broadband
After a couple of emails back and forth and many days later (I shipped it back on 12/5 and it didn't arrive until 12/19) I finally received confirmation that it had arrived and they would be sending me the exchange. They were incredibly helpful and kind throughout the whole thing and I completely take all responsibility for any issues since it's on me that I both ordered the wrong size and was trying to ship back during the Christmas season.

With everything else going on this really wasn't at the top of mind and I've been more worried about figuring out my car. Once I heard that the bridle arrived safely I put it out of mind. It was a bit of a rough week since my car went into the shop mid week last week and I spent a week without being able to get to the barn.

That made it that much more wonderful that through some Christmas gift from the universe the package was waiting for me when I got back from my parent's house on Christmas Day :)


It was more fun and less stressful to open up the package this time since I knew it would fit. I took my time checking every inch and I have to say that I'm completely in love. I should mention that I've only ever owned cheap bridles (under $100) so I don't exactly have much to compare this with but after some of the comments about the leather I was curious what it would be like. Although I may not have an educated opinion I will say that I'm really happy with it and feel like it's completely worth the price.
Perfect for my princess ladybug
I went back and forth on what to order but my total order from PS of Sweden was the Flying Change bridle in cob size, a sparkly broadband, and the throat latch. I was tempted by the reins but in the end I just couldn't justify getting them for $80 when my favorite reins (so far) from Horze were $23 for Black Friday. I may be a bit of a tack hoe but I'm also a cheap tack hoe for the most part ;)

I really like the shape on her face!
I was able to bring it with me to the barn on Tuesday for my lesson and get it fitted to her. As the leather softens and everything starts to mold to her I'll need to adjust again but for now it's, amazingly, right in the middle hole on both sides. So, yeah, my 13.2 hand pony has the same size head as some 16 hand thoroughbreds ;) The only thing that was way too big was the flash but that's easy enough to punch holes in. I haven't used the throatlatch yet as I really got that just so that I can legally show in this bridle. 

She's so tough to get pictures of because
she just wants to follow me around
Sorry for the wonky flash in these pictures. I took these after I rode and I always take the flash off right away. I had it in a loop on top of her nose, like a lot of people do, but she had a mini "Bobby" tantrum and kept running her nose into the walls of the arena so I adjusted it for the princess.

My only complaint is the crank noseband. I've never had a crank noseband before and while I love the extra padding for Katai's face I'm a huge believer in leaving everything really loose so I'll never use it as a crank. Plus, it's just so fiddly to get fastened up! It does make us look very official though so that's pretty cool.

I'm sure that this will end up on one of my seasonal favorites posts in the future after I've had more of a chance to use it!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas Updates

Wow, I've been a bad blogger. Between not having a car, Christmas stuff, family stuff, and personal stuff it's been a crazy few weeks. I also tend to not take much time off around the holiday so I've been fitting Christmas stuff in around a mostly full workload.

It's looking like I'll be able to pick up my car tomorrow morning, more on that later, and holiday stuff is starting to quiet down so hopefully I'll be back in the full swing of blogging very soon. However, I did want to post a few updates starting with my gift from the Blogger Gift Exchange!



I sent my gift just before the deadline of 12/19 and haven't heard anything so plan to follow up soon. However, I received my amazing gifts a week or so ago and it's just been so crazy that I didn't get it posted right away. My gifts were from Kristen at Stampy and the Brain and they are awesome! This is my first year participating and I'd mentioned that coat care or hair care items would be good.


Kristen got me a spray bottle, wonderful flicker brush, and some hair moisturizer that I'm anxious to try out! I also got an adorable note pad and a really cute card. It was so great getting a surprise for Christmas, I had a great time participating and can't wait to do this again next year :)

I also wanted to post an update about my car. I dropped it off at the shop on Thursday morning last week and they've had it ever sense. Of course Christmas delayed things and they've been great to work with. Unfortunately my car was totaled but in this case since it's very drivable and just ugly I'm going to retain it and keep driving it. I can't wait to get it back especially so that I can go to the barn.

Sadly the only times I've been to the barn in more than a week are for my lessons the Tuesday before Christmas and the Tuesday after Christmas. Understandably for my ride yesterday Katai was stiff and felt a little tight and sore especially since she was very in heat. All of the crazy weather changes we've been having lately certainly aren't helping. My goal is to make it to the barn every day through Sunday once I have my car. I'm missing my little ladybug so much!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Total Saddle Fit StretchTech Girth Review

This time with a black and orange hat
I've already got the grey and pink which are Katai's colors
Yep! I ended up getting it :)

This was at the bottom of the invoice and made me smile :)
I'm also in the process of getting a PS of Sweden bridle and although they are ergonomic and meant to be very comfortable for the horse that is really for me. This was for Katai and since I know her girth is gapping I just couldn't wait any longer to do something about it.

Attachment piece that I probably won't end up using
Prior to this girth I've used TSF girths for the past couple of years. They're the only girths that work with Katai's conformation and don't pull her saddle too far forward or run too badly into her elbows.

I really went back and forth on whether to get the Neoprene or the Leather. I think that both have really great benefits and likely both have some negatives as well. In the end I went with the leather option just because that's what I've been using with Katai for the past couple of years and it's worked really well for us with no chafing or soreness. Why mess with a good thing!

So cushy!
As mentioned previously I already have two PS of Sweden girths. One is a Havana 18" and the other is a Havana 24". The 24" has the older leather that has almost a plastic feel to it and I can only imagine that it's because there isn't a huge market for brown dressage girths, or wasn't when I got it. The leather on this one is nicer than either of the other TSF girths that I own. I'm not sure if it's because it's black or if it's just that they are perfecting the design but I really, really like this girth and the quality is very good.

Not an angle I'd seen online so the gap surprised me a bit.
You can see the strong elastic in the girth vs. the
lighter elastic in the separate padded pieces.
The white thing is the tag with the girth measurement that I couldn't get out of the picture
I know it's odd that Katai needs a 22" girth as a 13.2 hand pony but because of where her elbows fit next to her very well sprung little rib cage if I use an 18" girth her elbows run right into the buckles with every stride and I can't get a girth short enough to not interfere that way. The other way to fix that is to get a longer girth. I had the 24" because of the short billets on my Heritage Monoflap but it is a bit long for this saddle and the ends of it run into her saddle pad. I played with different lengths and decided to order a 22" as I figured it would solve the length issue while still being long enough to avoid interfering with her elbows. Besides, with TSF's amazing customer service I figured I could always exchange it for a different size if needed.

The 22" is exactly the right length as it no longer runs into the saddle pad on either side but the buckles are far enough up on the sides to avoid Katai's elbows.


This was before I tightened it. It ended up going up to the 5th hole where it was
further away from her elbows but I didn't think to get a picture of that.
18" original in havana, my first TSF
22" Stretchtec girth in black

24" original girth in havana
22" Stretchtec girth in black

I've ridden Katai in it twice now and haven't really felt a difference but with this pony that's a good thing. She's never really been girthy and I knew that if she disliked it, or even felt like it was different, she'd buck going into the canter or would just refuse to canter completely. I was happy to find that her canter transition felt that same that it has recently.

I'm really curious to see if over the next few rides she feels any different but at this point I'm really happy with it! I was going to wait longer to review it but I figured that if it goes well (which I'm sure it will) it will likely end up in one of my favorite things posts in a few months.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Good Ladybug

Edit: I wrote this before I was in the accident but I wanted to thank all of you for your comments. It means a lot :) I was extremely sore yesterday and actually went to the hospital. They told me I had whiplash and gave me some pain meds and told me to take it easy for a few days. I dodged not being able to ride but we had a snow storm yesterday and today so I won't be going to the barn. Tomorrow the high is -9* so we'll see if I go out then. Luckily next week is still forecast to be in the 20s and 30s so I'll be there every day!

First, to explain the title I always used to call female horses Lady. Not as in the name but the way you might say "Hey ladies!" to your friends. With Katai, since she's my adorable little bug it turned into Ladybug :)

The adorable little bug herself
Second, I just want to say that Katai is a good girl. The reason that I don't talk about her spooking, bucking, leaping, bolting, kicking, biting, etc is that she just doesn't. Especially after working with Jane, she just doesn't do anything other than get a bit tense, rush a bit, trot sideways a bit, or possibly giraffe for a stride or two and that's more confusion or when she's feeling a little stiff than an actual "no" response.
You can just feel the pre-ride excitement 
As an adult amateur who personally doesn't have the guts to deal with a big powerful horse that  doesn't always want to play this is absolutely perfect for me. It's the most amazing feeling to go to the barn and know that one way or another we're going to have a productive ride. Of course sometimes I feel better about rides than others and I'm consistently on the struggle bus with figuring out all of these new skills that Jane is patiently trying to teach. However, Katai has been right along for the ride which makes the struggle bus a much less lonely place.

P is for Pony and also Perfect and Princess ;)
She's still a horse and sometimes she still decides to blow me off. Sometimes when it's chilly out and you're a pony and your feet have grown wings and you're stretchy trotting so your rider has less half halting ability it's a lot more fun to go fast than to listen. I wasn't asking for much, just that she slightly slow down based on my escalated seat cues but slowing my posting wasn't working, using my seat wasn't working, picking up my reins wasn't working so I went to pulling on my reins and to be frank, it took a pretty big pull to make a difference. I HATE pulling on her mouth but a "trotting" away pony needs to listen at some point and I'd given her almost too long (more than half of the arena) to make a change.

We're riding at 3* like a badass
After I corrected her we walked for a bit, did a transition to trot (which was beautiful :-) and then I asked her for stretchy trot again. Going down the long side again her feet grew little wings and we were nearly cantering. I started with my posting, then my seat, and finally barely picked up the reins and this time she immediately slowed her trot. What I was really happy about was that there was no over reacting and she stayed stretched down into contact. I ended on that because we were already at the end of a great ride but it's being added to our homework for the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

On Pause

So, I was all set to write about my rides on Monday and last night and get it posted today but then this happened on my way to work this morning.



Unlike the conga line that SprinklerBandits was in I was the middle car. I hit the car ahead of me when I put my foot on the brakes and nothing happened. It was so slick that I might as well have been  in a skating rink and it was a good thump but not horrible impact but then the car behind me slammed into me with enough force to push me past the car in front of me and sideways so that it looked like the car I hit T-boned me.

It was a typical MN car accident with all three people involved apologizing and being sweet and caring about it. The cop also had a great sense of humor and when he almost wiped out on the slippery spot, as he was picking up pieces of my car, he looked right at me, pointed at the spot, and with a straight face said "It's kind of slippery right there". It made me crack up anyway.

Unfortunately my roommate and I both think they may total my car. I just got it about a year ago and it's a newer model with very few miles so it really sucks. Plus I love it. The good thing is that it kept me safe. I'm slightly sore but not too bad, I hurt more after trying to trailer load Katai actually...

Black ice sucks. 



Monday, December 12, 2016

Baby It's Really F'ing Cold Outside

So, after my last post on how motivated I'm feeling I was all excited to ride every day this weekend. I took Monday off, to celebrate my birthday, and was looking forward to a good three rides in a row. Then I woke up on Saturday, put on my riding clothes, looked at my watch and realized that it was 2* out. I looked at the forecast and the high was around 6* with a windchill of -2* all day.

I just about cried. I could probably suck it up, put on my warmest clothes, and with the help of the "hopefully" heated arena I could possibly stay warm enough during my ride haha. However, I just don't think it's fair to Katai to ask her to work in the cold like that. It's not easy on tendons and ligaments or her respiratory system. At the very least since this was our very first really cold day and it was a major drop from the 30s that we were getting just about a week ago I felt like I really needed to at least give her some time to adjust. Then at the very least I could just do a lot of walking. In the end I stayed home and made myself a vegan birthday feast instead.

I was excited because Sunday had a forecast high of 23* so I figured I'd ride then. There was some snow forecast but the weathermen rarely get that right so I figured I'd be ok. However, We ended up getting at least 6" and since it was still quite cold (it never made it up to 23*) the chemicals they put on the road weren't working very well and it was extremely slippery. I made a trip to Target in the afternoon and felt like I was taking a risk with my life. I love my tiny, itty bitty car, until we get weather like this. So, I stayed home. The snow finally stopped around 9:00pm and after shoveling our driveway at least 3-4 times we still ended up with more snow overnight.

This was part way through the day, we ended up with at least another inch.
At least it's pretty!
Then, I was all excited to ride on Monday, my day off. It had been forecast to be 18* (remember that thing about the weathermen always being wrong?) but it was 3* when I woke up and the high today is still in the single digits with a wind chill around 2* as a high. Plus we're supposed to get more snow later.

Even for MN this is usually cold and snowy which is what the Farmer's Almanac told us it would be like this year. I honestly don't quite know what I'll do if the whole winter is like this and since historically January and February are our really cold months I'm really starting to wonder how much worse it will get.
This was last year on my birthday.
Not a bit of snow and I'm wearing a sweatshirt
I am still planning to head to the barn this afternoon as long as the snow doesn't start until the late afternoon/evening like they're forecasting (remember that thing about weathermen) but I likely will stick to walk and possibly a little trot depending on how stiff she is and how warm the arena is.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A Kick in The Pants

Winter is always tough on my motivation. The seasonal change is the worst but the depression and headaches that always gives me seems to be over this year which is amazing. The winter is just tough because of the dark and cold.

At my previous barn it wasn't so bad since it was kept much warmer, closer to 50-60* so as soon as I got to the barn I was comfy and could wear just a light jacket. This barn is much chillier and probably kept closer to 32* just so it doesn't freeze. Certainly not complaining but as a huge freeze baby I have to admit that it's been tougher to make myself go to the barn this year.

Especially when we have weeks like this in early December
I've still been to the barn 3-4 days a week but I'm still aiming for 5 so that's a big difference. However on Tuesday H was able to make it to my lesson and it was an interesting evening that somehow left me feeling more motivated.

To start this off I want to preface by saying that I love H. She's been a friend since I was in my teens and she's really a good person. I really enjoy spending time with her especially since both of us are into dressage ponies so we have a lot to talk about. The thing is though, that she brings out all of my insecurities. That's not her fault but mine for letting who she is get into my head. 

H is really a triple threat, she's gorgeous, petit, a beautiful rider, and (the toughest for me to deal with) she rides at an absolutely amazing barn with an absolutely amazing instructor where she regularly gets the opportunity to bop around on a 4 year old Gold Premium filly, a schoolmaster(ish) level horse, and ride with clinicians like Janet Foy.

It's not the fact that I feel insecure around her because I really don't and we both have our own strengths. It's more that I'm jealous of her opportunities. Even as a kid she had a well trained pony, good instruction, and a trailer when I had a green broke and naughty horse that had only been on trail rides, no good instruction, and no trailer so no way to show or take lessons since there weren't any trainers nearby that had lesson horses. Every time I'm around her it's tough for me not to wish I had had the same opportunities in the past and that I could have the same opportunities now since I still don't have a trailer or a trainer who regularly shows throughout our region.

Don't get me wrong. At this point I would never trade and lesson with her instructor (who's a well known dressage judge) instead of Jane. He is amazing but I am at exactly the right place for me and Katai right now and  I wouldn't move even if I could. It's just tough every time I see or hear about her scribing and/or showing at large rated dressage shows and talking about all of the quirky show things or partying with our regions top riders after the show.

This time was especially difficult on me because her instructor, who's also a well respected breeder (as you can tell since he has a 4 year old Gold Premium filly that I believe he produced), has recently purchased no fewer than SIX GRPs. Two are older (3 and 6 I believe), four of them are just babies, and H will have the chance to play with, help break, train, and ride all of those gorgeous ponies. 

One of them in particular hurts because she's a Golden State baby (from the same barn/lines(?) as Forest Nymph) who I was drooling over for weeks before I heard she went to H's trainer. Of course I'm glad she's in such a good home and excited to meet her at some point but it still stings a bit. The fact that H was talking about all the ways that her trainer thinks this pony might be lacking for upper level dressage (obviously extremely nit-picky things since he has a Gold Premium baby) made it sting more especially since I have an amazing but free pony, with no specific breeding, no traceable bloodlines, and not even close to "fancy" movement. Insecurities talking again of course since I CERTAINLY wouldn't trade Katai even if the pony were offered to me tomorrow for free. Katai is amazing, she's my girl and my partner and she's really what I want.


Galaxie from Pics Of You Videos on Vimeo.

In the end, after already feeling like H had been a bit condescending about my ride during my lesson (those damn insecurities talking again) I had an emotional drive home. I was completely aware of how silly I'm being. I mean talk about a bunch of first world problems! I have a pony I adore, a trainer I love, and a barn that felt like home the moment I walked through the door and here I'm disappointed that I'm not at a show barn and don't have a 5 figure GRP. Even I know it's funny, it's the fact that H has all of that and she's about 6 years younger than me that leaves me feeling like all the air got knocked out of me.

I processed the whole way home coming up with all of the above conclusions and finally, about 10 minutes from home realized that action is the best thing. Instead of feeling jealous or less motivated I need to just get my butt to the barn, work extremely hard and make opportunities for myself. I need to stop allowing myself to run out of motivation and go to the barn 3-4 days a week and just go and ride my pony! I need to start working out again so that I have the strength to give her a good ride (I died a bit at my lesson on Tuesday which didn't help), and I need to make getting a trailer this year a priority. This isn't about saving up and getting a fancy pony for me (even though I want(ed) Galaxy so badly that it hurts), it's really about wanting more opportunities. Not to win, but at least to get out there and show and to continue to climb up the levels and that's something I just need to work for.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

ASSFS Blog Hop: Location, location, location

I've been fascinated as I'm reading the blogs on this blog hop and decided that I needed to blog this one. What an amazing idea from Sara!

I'm located in St. Paul, MN and Katai is boarded at a barn that's about half an hour north of downtown.
From Rock the Garden this year
I've grown up in MN and lived here my whole life so although I grew up on a farm more than an hour north of the Twin Cities I'm very familiar with the MN horse community. As far as costs it's not bad. I actually think that based on some of the other blogs on this hop our board seems a little pricy in comparison to hay/farrier/vet prices but because it gets so cold here most of the "nice" boarding barns have heated indoor arenas and need to feed a lot of hay and grain to keep weight on horses along with more limited turnout in the middle of winter which means more shavings so I guess it makes sense.

Previous barn but it's a pretty picture
Trim-$35-$50
Shoes-$120+ for all four, the farrier I use would charge $80 for the fronts and $120 for all four
Average cost of a month of full time training- $500-$700 not including board
Average monthly pasture board- $250-$400
Average monthly stall board- $400-$1200 (I pay $350)
Round bale, mixed grass- $30-$60
Square bales, orchard grass- $3.75-$7.00 per bale

Yep, that road is actually glare ice
Weather: Is not good. In the winter we routinely, from about December - March, have sub zero temps. During January and February we can have a wind chills as low as -30* on the regular. Fall and spring are often rainy and stormy and we do get tornados although they are rare (very glad we don't need to deal with more of the big nasty storms). The summers are muggy and still get quite hot. In a normal summer we'll get above 100 for a week or two. Nothing compared to more southern climates but the jump between winter and summer is so large that you never really get a chance to get used to the heat. Plus the humidity makes it dangerous much more quickly than a more dry heat. We can't ride when it's above the mid to upper 80s, for the most part, because of this.

Most horses do pretty well in the cold especially with stalls overnight and smart blanketing. Mostly it's just miserable to get in your car in the dark, after work when it's -10*, drive the half hour to the barn, get groomed, tacked up and ready to ride in the heated barn (heated to 35-40*) and then ride in a heated arena (usually heated to 20-30*). It certainly makes motivation tough when you're basically operating in a freezer for 3 or so hours.

Twins Baseball Stadium from this summer
We don't have any really icky bugs or wildlife. There are rattlesnakes in places but they're rare. Near the barn there are black bears, wolves, coyotes etc but not much that's dangerous to the horses.

The riding demographic is primarily western, as reflected by our horse expo and most big horse shows. With that being said the twin cities has a decent dressage community as well as a eventing and hunter/jumper community. I'm more involved in the dressage community so it seems like more people do dressage than jumping but that might just be based on my slightly skewed perspective.
Large, fancy eventing facility complete with RV
We have several well attended rated shows in the twin cities area and also most people trailer to Mason City Iowa for the rated shows they hold there. We have some fairly big name clinicians that visit such as Janet Foy, and Jen Truett and I'm sure I'm missing some others as well. Our shows are usually well attended but we have a lack of true upper level riders. At most shows I've been to, everyone gathers to watch the 1-2 people showing above 3rd. The bigger rated shows are more well attended but even then, there really aren't many people at 3rd or above.

We have excellent vet care. There are three big vet clinics in the twin cities including the UofM vet clinic which is able to provide many diagnostic and emergency services. We also have several well known smaller clinics and vets that are very horse savvy.

We also have some great tack stores especially compared to some of the states that I've visited. One of my favorites is right near my barn and the other is near H's barn so I make the trek over there when  I want more shopping opportunities.

So much snow!
The most frustrating thing for me is the weather/bugs. In the summer between the sudden intense humid heat waves, horrible mosquitoes/horseflies, rain, storms, etc. it's tough to enjoy riding outside very much of the time. There are brief times in spring and fall when it's nice but otherwise it's tough.

I also wish that english riding styles were more well represented. It's frustrating to go to our horse expo and find maybe 1-2 booths out of over around 100 that actually have nice english type gear or to find more presenters/clinicians that cover english disciplines.

Other than that I like it here! I would say that since I don't deal with the heat well and there isn't such a thing as an air conditioned arena, I'd rather be someplace cold with heated arenas than someplace much further south.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Lesson Recaps

Katai has been perfecting her judgmental expression
Since I haven't posted in awhile but still want to sort of track what I'm learning I thought I'd post a few of the themes that we've been working on and then dig into the specifics as needed later.

Position:

Sit back! Shoulders back but mainly belly button back. I have a fair amount of forward curvature to my spine from my hips to my rib cage so I need to focus on pulling my belly button back and straighten my back more so I can really sit on my seat bones.

I need to carry my hands more forward in front of me. I also need to focus on holding (as needed) with my right hand and releasing (when appropriate) with my left hand since that's opposite what they want to do. I also found out that I also carry my left hand out, off the neck and my right hand against the neck but not enough for correct bend to the left (needs more) and opposite what I should be doing for the correct bend to the right. To correct this (since Katai is white) Jane wants me to think about getting white paint on the hand that's on the outside and keeping the inside hand clean.

I also tend to open my fingers when I want to give forward rather than giving from my elbows.

We've also found that I grip with the back of my calf on my right leg when I use my leg and need to use the inside of my leg instead and keep my toe pointed forward. I've been working on strengthening those muscles so that it's easier. Currently I'm too tired to continue to do this correctly through my entire lesson.

I've always known that I have a tough time sinking my weight through my left stirrup. We've discovered that I'm not weighting my left seat bone equally with the right. This causes me to drop my shoulder when turning/bending Katai to the right since I'm uncomfortable sinking my weight into that seat bone.

Trail walk on a nice sunny day

Movements:

We've added lengthenings and I need to focus on pushing without quickening my posting tempo as well as giving forward from my elbows slightly.

We've also started doing some sitting trot. The main focus here has been on my position (above) and on controlling the bounce to control the temp and "bouncing" straight up and down instead of forward and back.

I'm really excited that we've added shoulder in and that we're doing it at the sitting trot! I mainly can feel this one (it's way easier for me than leg yield) but I need to focus on my position and shoulder vs hip angle. I also need to use my outside rein correctly to keep her moving forward and not let her get the angle too steep. Mainly though I need to sit back and keep my weight on my seat bones.

Canter is still coming along. I haven't been riding enough canter so when I get to my lesson we both get tired out pretty quickly. I mainly need to work on strength so that we can start to do more fun things than 20 meter circles and straight around the track of the arena. My seat continues to get better here and when she's not too tired her transitions from trot and tempo are really good.

First snow this year!

Partnership:

I've seriously learned so much about me and Katai and how we should function as a team from Jane since I've been working with her :) I made an offhand comment about how even though she could be sassy, I loved how steady and un-spookable she was during a ride where the snow was falling off the arena roof. Jane quickly pointed out that she doesn't actually think Katai is sassy. Just that she's a high achiever and when she's confused she lets us know and really wants to get it right. It's crazy how altering my thoughts about Katai and helping me think about her behavior in a different light completely changes how we interact.

I'm continuing to chew on some of this and alter my interactions with her. It's also weird to switch from her being a "baby" horse that doesn't know anything with me as the expert to a true partnership. I'm getting there for the most part but sometimes it's still tough to process.

Me:

I've been feeling a bit better. As the seasonal change has quieted down a bit and I've been more diligent about paying attention to how much vitamin D I'm getting it's been better. I also moved! I'm not sure if I'd previously mentioned this but my grandma moved to an apartment closer to my parents and they offered me a really amazingly low rate of rent to stay at her house and keep an eye on things. It's about 10 minutes closer to the barn and the exact same distance from work plus it's in a nicer neighborhood and I only have one roommate. I think the change in scenery is helping a bit as well. At any rate, it's certainly not hurting.


I'm also participating in the Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange this year which is really exciting! I've been doing some sleuthing and ordered a couple of things during Black Friday. I'm looking forward to sending it out!

Unfortunately I'm still not feeling 100% and have been having a really tough time staying motivated to ride or blog or do much of anything really. Work is also going to be getting really busy over the next couple of months complete with a couple more trips to WA so I'm still not sure exactly how much I'll be able to post. I'm going to try to have more posts in December but I'll see how things go over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Updates and Down Time

We're still alive and things are swinging right along. Basically just more of the same from before actually which is good since the improvement is continuing right along.

I've been quiet for a few reasons. One is that my seasonal depression has been worse this year. I'm going to be getting myself a sun lamp since the vitamin D just doesn't seem to be cutting it anymore. That combined with the fact that I just don't have much to write about from a riding standpoint has meant that I just haven't been at all motivated to blog. Worse, it's been depressing to sit down to type a blog and just have all the same stuff to share. I also spent last week in WA for work. FLSA regulation changes are no joke people ;) I had a great trip and it was beautiful there. It increased my interest in finding a way to move out there!

After awhile writing about lessons (even though they've been amazing), training rides (which have mostly been amazing), and not much else gets old. I don't have a good place to ride outside and this weekend we're supposed to be getting our first winter storm. I still don't have a trailer so I can't sign up for any clinics or shows and since I live in the north our show season is completely done.

Not trying to depress anyone, it's just that I'm sort of stuck right now. This is ok with me, actually I think it's really good. I'm making so much progress with Jane that it's sort of like winter bootcamp :) It's mainly just that it's not very exciting to write about or probably to read about.

I do have a few things that I have in mind for the winter.

One of those is that Suzanne will be back in town teaching a couple of clinics at my previous barn over the winter. I think it would be a good, positive trip for Katai so I'm going to plan on that.

I also plan to do a good amount of shopping for Christmas and will be sharing my Christmas "hauls" as I get them, or as I "open" them.

Also, I'll be posting a year end, recap and goals for next year.

Otherwise though, for the time being I'm going to be taking a little blogging hiatus. It's just tough to have content to share that I'm excited about. My goal is to really work hard this winter and then do many shows/events next year to help Katai get comfortable with it. That will be way more interesting for everyone and I'll have more content to share.

In the meantime I've been posting more to Instagram so if you want to keep up with pony adventures feel free to follow me there @kataipony https://www.instagram.com/kataipony/


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Improvement - With a Video

First of all I wanted to post my previous improvement video


Secondly I have this video from my ride (early this year or late last year?) in the dressage clinic that I participated in as well as footage from one of my recent rides.

A few things to note:

- while I feel like my upper body has gotten way better, as has my posting (oh boy), my leg has gotten worse haha. It's extremely difficult for me to round my back and still keep my leg back. I'm doing hip flexor stretches but honestly I'm not sure if that's the issue since I need to do contortions to actually feel a stretch and tend to be a fairly flexible person.

- The most recent footage was taken after I finished cantering, gave Katai a walk break, and went back to trot. She's being very good but there's definitely more tension than normal and she's not nearly as through as she gets in my rides with Jane.

- because Katai is so tense I'm riding a bit defensively so I don't think my leg is normally quite that bad and I'm posting ahead more than I have been recently

- I'm not quite sure what happened to my posting diagonals. It's a huge pet peeve of mine and I'm normally correct about 95% of the time. However, we've been using this as a tool for the leg yields so that it's easier for me to effect the correct hind leg and as soon as we started doing that I started messing them up.

- OMG we look so much better. Katai is so much more consistent in the contact, her rhythm has slowed down enough that I can actually ask her for things and I don't feel like she's just running away all the time. I'm improving too but I'm disappointed to see how badly my chair seat is back. It's also tough to see some of the improvements in my posture since I chose to wear the puffiest vest I own during this ride and didn't think to take it off for the video

- Also, this isn't cutting out bad moments. What you are seeing here was the worst part of the ride since before we cantered Katai was much more relaxed and through. The cuts are just to keep this a decent length and to cut out the time we spent off camera.


Finally, I'm so proud of us! We've been making good changes since that clinic ride in the video but the majority of this improvement has happened over the past month or two. I can't wait to see where we are this next spring!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Beware of The Mare

Both of us agree that the weather can suck it.
I'm not happy with our weather right now. Spring and Fall when our weather changes and the pressure changes I always end up with bad migraines. This year in particular there have been so many swings back and forth that it feels like my head will never feel normal again. I've been tired, crabby, and in pain which has led me to not feel motivated to blog or to ride. Also with the recent FLSA change, which is going into effect on December 1st, and other year end things work has been crazy. With all of that I've been setting a goal to ride 4 days per week rather than 5.

For the most part Katai has been fine with that but today between still being madly in heat (seriously weather just go away. It's ok to be warm, or to be cold but please make up your mind) and a less consistent riding schedule she was full of spice.

I feel like we're living in England with this cold rainy weather
Also, she really wasn't bad, at all, but I also had my trainer hat on and so I was pushing things a bit more than normal. I feel like around once a week I really feel up to being a real thinking rider and actively training. Clearly I'm aware that I'm training her ever ride and I'm always working on things but this was one of those rides where I went into the ride knowing that I was going to push her a bit. For this ride that meant changing up the normal routine a bit more. It probably wasn't a good time to do that when I knew she was in heat but meh, it ended up being a great thing.

To start I got her into a good trot. She normally doesn't get as through until after she canters but she felt really good today. Because she felt so good early in the ride I asked for canter fairly quickly. She went into the canter pretty nicely but started off on the incorrect lead, my fault. I fixed it and did a good amount of canter on 20 meter circles and straight down the long side. After I really felt that she was on my aids and going well I went to trot across the diagonal and then towards the end went to leg yield and right into canter in the other direction once I hit the wall. Video below, I can really see some improvement!


In that transition she didn't do anything naughty but porpoised slightly as we went which she hasn't been doing at all so I knew she was feeling tight and extra full of energy. That was her tougher side so I got about as much canter but it wasn't quite as good as in the other direction and then back to trot. I gave her a walk break and then back to trot.

She was a bit tight to start off (she still doesn't think she should have to trot after we canter, my fault for always letting her be done after we cantered) but after a couple of serpentines and leg yields she loosened up. At that point I actually went back to canter which she did really, really well. She went right into the transition, very nicely. I was actually kind of impressed with just how nicely she cantered.
Slightly failed experiment with taking phone pictures
Very happy with that hind leg!
After another walk break I asked her to go back to trot, which I knew would mess with her, and she was quite hot, tense, and sassy. Clearly I was completely incorrect in asking her to do that since Katai knows much more about how our riding plan works :)

However, she did get nice and stretchy and felt great. She was stretching down and listening so I went to do a walk transition but didn't want to give her the reins right away. I hadn't put tons of thought into it, just knew that I can't keep just giving the reins away when I bring her back to walk. That really messed with her and she lost the remainder of her pony mind. She jigged, jogged, pranced, and started rearing. Major sass attack time.

Taking pictures with my apple watch
Children, don't Watch and Ride
There are times when I would just have called it after an amazing canter, or amazing trot but I can't keep doing that every time. Sometimes she has to just be an adult and my plan had been to have her take about three steps with some contact and then let it go and be done. Since she spazzed out though we ended up with another 5-6 minutes of riding and sassing with me talking to her, staying calm and relaxed, and trying to get her brain back between her ears.

I wasn't asking for much contact and eventually she did a good job of walking and relaxed a bit and then I really pushed my luck and asked for another halt/walk transition and she walked off softly with contact so I was done.

I was really proud of how I handled it and the progress that we made and I know that I need to just keep chipping away at this little monster I created with following too much of a routine.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Updates, Lesson Recap, and Future Plans


Because I haven't been blogging regularly I feel like I've just got all sorts of random life and pony updates. Lucky you, I'm going to just dump them all in one post and then try to get back on the blogging bandwagon over this next week or so.

Katai has adjusted so well to the new barn. She was right back to herself in very little time. I think that she enjoys the quieter environment. I actually have realized how much I enjoy it as well. I've always enjoyed the social aspect of being at the barn. I enjoy talking horses with people and I always feel more motivated to ride when there are other people there. However, knowing that I'll always have the arena to myself and that there won't be people watching means that I have an easier time concentrating on my riding and Katai rather than what other people are doing which is amazing.

Hussy mare is pretty sure she's in love
with Serenade, her neighbor mare
Jane is absolutely amazing! She provides really good, individualized care to all of the horses. What's really nice is that she treats them all almost like they're her own. She really loves Katai and treats her that way. Katai clearly is already very attached to her which is amazing and brings a really good feeling to our lessons where I can tell how much Jane cares about both of us having fun and enjoying our ride. She is able to really strike a good balance between pushing me and being very direct while still making it fun and lighthearted. For some reason (I think because of how reasonable and reassuring she is) my lesson anxiety (that I've had for my whole life with both music and riding lessons) is completely gone. I've never felt better about going to a lesson that I do right now with Jane.

I was going to do a lesson recap on the specific things that we covered on Tuesday but instead I'm going to just dump it here because again, it's more of the same. I'm sure everyone is probably getting tired of reading about how much we're improving, how amazing Jane is, how I can't believe how much progress we're making blahblahblah but that was still the case at this week's lesson.


For the first time we really NAILED the leg yield and got that amazing floating consistent trajectory feeling. We also had NO tantrums about canter transitions even though she was in absolutely raging heat. None, not a single bit of pony tantrum. I seriously don't know what magic Jane is working but it's amazing and worth way more than she charges. We also did a ton of canter in each direction and only had one break down to a trot. Plus, again no anticipating or almost no anticipating of the trot-canter transitions. I was so, so, so proud.

Rough water on Lake Superior
As for my personal life, it's been a weird week. I had taken a four day weekend, Saturday-Tuesday this past weekend so new guy and I had a road trip planned up to Duluth, MN. Unfortunately things didn't work out between us but the shit didn't hit the fan until we got to Duluth and spent a few hours walking around and shopping. At that point we had to endure a nearly 3 hour drive back home. It was an emotional car ride. I was, and am, sad and upset that things didn't work but I'm also proud of myself and how I handled things. In the past I would have just bit my tongue, pouted quietly and then dealt with it very passive aggressively once I got back so the fact that I handled it directly and yet politely was a big thing for me. My mom also has a great way of putting things into perspective and reminded me that this is exactly why trips like this are so important while dating since it causes issues to show up when it's easier to deal with, early on.

It was a dark and stormy day even before we decided we weren't a good fit for eachother
The nice thing was that I then had a couple of days at home Monday and Tuesday which I basically spent recovering since I was mentally exhausted and, I think, also was fighting off a cold. I don't normally go to the barn on Monday but did end up going to my lesson on Tuesday as planned (see above). I mainly try to leave all of this relationship stuff out of my blog for reasons like this. However, I was really confident that it was going to work in the first couple of weeks and then very confident that it wouldn't during this road trip and I don't want to hide the big things in my life either. It's a tough balance and I'll probably handle it differently next time. Live and learn.

The reason I brought up future plans is that part of what was so good about this guy and the reason that I was so excited to have found him is that he had very similar goals in life as I do. Then I was going to share that on this blog and realized that since I really haven't talked about it that wouldn't mean much to anyone here. Since this is already kind of a dump post I figured I'd just stick it here.

So, as mentioned I grew up on a farm. I was incredibly lucky to be able to have horses, goats, bunnies, ducks, etc. and yet I always just wanted to live in the city. However, even though I wanted to  live in the city I never doubted that I'd end up in the country again with my own piece of land. It was simply too amazing to be able to care for my own horses my own way for me to board for the rest of my life.

I do love living in the city, pretty much everything about it actually, and I LOVE boarding. It's great to be able to take vacations whenever I want and not to worry about having to do chores when it's -20* out. So, while I'm not in a huge hurry, there's also no doubt in my mind that at some point I want to have my own little farm and a small herd of ponies.

My dream location would be somewhere closer to the west coast. I don't have my heart absolutely set on it but I'd LOVE to be near Portland somewhere. My goal would be to own about 5 acres with a very small european style barn and some really nice large, dry lots with great drainage since ponies can't have much grass. Also, a nice track around the property for trail riding, a nice trailer, very nice fencing, a comfortable heated tack room with washer and dryer and... I could just keep going. There are lots of places that I feel I could be very happy, including near where I live now, but that would be the dream scenario.
Who wouldn't want this perfect tiny kitchen?
As far as living quarters for me (seriously who really thinks about anything outside of the barn) I've wanted a tiny house since before Tiny Houses were so popular. I never really planned or wanted one on wheels but I was going to either build a small apartment in my barn (who wouldn't want to feed the horses in their pajamas) or just a very small house. While I'm still considering a barn apartment I'm also getting very fond of the idea of building a tiny house on a trailer because of the freedom that would give me and also the cost. I'm working hard to get rid of debt and really don't want to turn right around and get myself back in debt. I'd like to have these things before I'm 40 but I also have way too much college debt from my master's degree so I'm trying to be reasonable as well.

Absolutely perfect
Of course not many other people want this mix of things or actually don't want/can't have this sort of life. This guy used to live in OR as a kid and wanted to go back, he actually initiated the conversation about living in a tiny house because I had basically given up on finding someone that wanted that. He also wanted a small piece of property, loved animals, didn't want kids, etc. It was amazing until it wasn't and I'm sad and still sort of dealing with it.

The good thing is that it really pointed out to me what I find most important in life.