Thursday, March 31, 2016

Throw Back Thursday

Throw way back, before I was born back.

I grew up on a farm that has been in my parent's family for over one hundred years. I knew that they had grazed cows in the field that I had goats and then horses in and I knew that there was a horse or two there at one point. However, I had no idea that this had happened.


Just look at all those horses and ponies!! My great uncle is in there and this is the exact same space that my family had horses when I was growing up.

You can kind of see the field from a slightly different angle here where my high school friend is in the front and I'm in the back on the pony. You can even see the same two wooden posts in the background if you look closely.


So cool!!

Monday, March 28, 2016

My Bestie


Easter Coffee, yes this is actually coffee that I bought on Saturday from my local, vegan coffee shop

I went out to see Katai on Easter Sunday morning. It wasn’t necessary because I was that dedicated, more because I hadn’t been able to make it on Saturday and wanted to make sure to check on her owie. However, the barn time turned out to be the best part of my day. It was quiet at the barn and Katai was her new normal, sensible self in the barn even though she was in there by herself.

Her wound is looking almost completely healed. The compresses hopefully helped with expelling whatever was stuck under her skin there and now all that’s left is a small pink spot with a clear small hole in the center. On Sunday it was still covered in crystalized gunk and had clearly been trying to expel something and since the swelling is completely gone and it doesn’t seem tender anymore I think it succeeded J I put a little antibiotic gunk on it just to be sure there’s no infection and that it’s able to heal up cleanly and then I got her boots and bridle on so that I could lunge.

The barn I board at is so beautiful and my pony has one of the nicest spots
I had been planning to hop on bareback but when I pulled her out of the pasture she was bucking and racing and bouncing so I had decided not to. However, she lunged (as usual) so calmly and was so keyed in to what I was asking that I decided to try it anyway. I’ve been on her bareback maybe 3-4 times in her entire life and only ever rode her at the walk. I also used to be really good at riding bareback since I did that a lot when I was growing up. Now that’s not the case and the only recent time I climbed on her bareback I felt tippy and insecure.

I rode her around at the walk a little and tried to re-balance myself and find that consistent center. At some point she was being such a good and obliging girl that I decided it would be a shame to not try some trot. She actually had a great transition and then really pushed forward from behind into a nice, big girl trot. She had pinned ears because I was all over the place and had to hold her mane to keep from balancing on her mouth but she didn’t try anything silly. She did a nice 20 meter circle for me and after a couple of circles I called it quits before I made her sore.

Not Katai's hair but it could have been this weekend! Pony was shedding
She got handfuls of treats for babysitting me and being so sane and because it was Easter and then I turned her out again. When I let her loose she immediately started bouncing and bucking again. I think that the barn staff wonder how I survive sometimes and they’re always telling me how crazy she is in turnout. I’m glad that she takes advantage of it actually, she should go out there and bounce around and burn off steam. She’s very careful with herself so I’m not worried about injury and it’s good for her body and her mind to be able to play and bounce like that. It also makes me exceptionally proud that she doesn’t try that stuff under saddle.

I can’t believe that only about a year and a half ago I was thinking about listing Katai for sale. Our partnership has come such a long way and now we are actually working as a team and seem to have more mutual respect for each other. It’s been a real shift for me to start thinking of her as a more accomplished and capable athlete rather than a baby horse in training but we’re finally getting there. Her ability to just go to work and leave the silliness behind is amazing to me as is her lack of spookiness. There are still people at this new barn (which is new to everyone) that can’t get their horses to the far end of the arena. I’ve been in their shoes many times with different horses so I’m not trying to imply that they’re doing anything wrong. It’s just helped me realize that I get to have so much fun riding (since I’m not an adrenaline junky ;-) because I don’t have a spooky horse and we’re able to make so much progress because I don’t have to also deal with desensitizing. It’s one of the big reasons why I will now always own ponies. Don’t get me wrong, we each have our thing and I certainly know that not everyone wants to give up amazing movement, or size, or breeding, or many of the other things that go into each person’s favorite horse. I’m just happy that I’m finally grown up enough to recognize what that thing is for me.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

And The Award Goes To...


If it’s not one thing it’s another :( Poor Katai has had more health related issues over the past couple of months than during the entire time I’ve owned her.

The face I get for taking picture and not feeding treats
First was the sore back muscle on the left side which meant a week off. Then the tender feet (I’ve now found spots on her left hind foot where she blew an abscess) for the whole month of February. Next she had the painful ovaries and reactive flail when mounting thing that mean about 4 days off and now, last night she was dripping blood, Luckily it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.

I had noticed on Wednesday that Katai had a small, hard, lump right behind her right leg in her armpit. It’s not under the girth or touched directly by the girth but when she moves it gets pushed back and runs into the girth. On Tuesday she wasn’t uncomfortable at all and it didn’t seem to affect her being ridden. Then on Thursday for drill team I glanced at it, thought it seemed the same as before, and went on with tacking up and riding. This thing was smaller than a penny and just seemed like a small scabbed over scratch or something. Horses get these types of things all the time and I usually don’t worry much about them. I had concerns about the girth but after the successful ride on Tuesday I sort of wrote it off.

For drill team I hopped on and proceeded to warm up first at the walk. Katai seemed like she was a little short in front and I wondered right away about her hooves. We’ve still been having crazy weather and I still wouldn’t be surprised if she abscesses again so I was a little worried. However, she often comes out a little stiff especially since the weather got really cold overnight so I decided to stick with it a little and see how she was doing. I did some trot work with her and she was great! Forward but listening and balancing back on her hind legs rather than running through her front. L even mentioned how good she looked but then I went back to the walk and got the same small steps so I rode over to L and asked her to diagnose what she was seeing. As I rode directly toward her she was watching Katai closely but then I turned to the left and she gasped, you’re pony is bleeding! She said "there’s a lot of blood and it’s dripping.

I freaked out and jumped off and low and behold it’s coming out of the little bump which was now more swollen. I felt like that guy who gallops Black Beauty and ruins her knees in that moment, like I deserve the bad horse owner award. I was horrified and pulled her tack off the second I got her out of the ring. She’d bloodied up her girth fairly well in that area and was fairly bloody. The wound wasn’t actively bleeding though and I’m still not exactly sure what it is. A couple of people from the barn are thinking that she may have a little piece of shavings or hay or something in there and it’s trying to come out, I would agree with the way it looks. I did a hot compress for about 5 minutes last night and Katai was leaning into it so it must have felt good. I also cleaned it up and put antibiotic ointment on it.
Ouch
Tonight I’m going back to check on her and doctor it again. L suggested that I lunge but since it’s near the girth it’s going to need some time to heal before I ride with the saddle again. Depending on how she’s doing tonight I may do some bareback rides but that could be entertaining since it’s been a LONG time since I’ve really ridden bareback and I’m not quite sure what Katai will think since I’ve only ever ridden her bareback at the walk.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Winter Favorites

Just a heads up that this stuff isn't specifically winter related, they're just things that I've used enough to be able to give an accurate review now.

Brush Therapy

Magical stuff
This stuff is amazing!! Yes, it's a little expensive at about $5 per package but since I only use it a few times a year it's not bad. It seriously gets the brushes clean and makes them smell like new.
 
Pre-brush therapy brushes

Proof that even princess ponies can be grubby
I have a thing about clean brushes after seeing a little worm like thing crawl out of my horse's brushes when I was in my teens. For awhile I was bleaching my brushes but then I got some nice wooden ones and that wasn't a good idea anymore so I started using a natural shampoo and scrubbing them. I found Brush Therapy at a tack store a year or so ago and decided to try it out and now this is what I've been using to clean my brushes.

In the Brush Therapy
It's easy to use also, just dump it in a gallon of warm water, add the brushes, and let them sit for about 8 minutes. Once you pull them out you just rinse them and they're just like new.

Much cleaner
Roeckl Chester gloves

I've had these since this last summer and I'm little surprised that I haven't reviewed them already.

Honestly I hate gloves, I've always disliked wearing them. I felt like they were always clunky and decreased my feel plus often they seemed to give me blisters worse than the reins on my bare skin ever did. Part of it is probably that Katai has a butter mouth and even though she (sometimes ;-) ) takes a nice balanced contact she's small enough that compared to a normal sized horse that just isn't enough to cause blisters.
Mine are the ones on the right. I do love the Navy ones though!

However, I love these gloves. I knew that I should get used to wearing them so that I can manage them when I show so I got these at the recommendation of a friend. Now I actually am starting to miss them when I occasionally forget to put them on. They have, like people have said they would, improved my feel on the reins and they help me remember to not fuss as much as I tended to with bare hands. So far they aren't showing much, if any, wear but I'm fairly easy on them so they really shouldn't be. With how they look I'm pretty sure that they'll last me over a year but hopefully closer to two.

OneK Helmet
 
This one I haven’t had (or used) as long as some of the other things I reviewed but I have been using it since January so I think I can give a pretty fair review.
 
 

I LOVE the way this helmet looks. I had been wearing a Tipperary which was really comfortable and fit my head really well but I thought was very ugly. Unfortunately the OneK helmet isn’t quite oval enough for my head and creates a pretty bad pressure point on my forehead. I’ve also started to get a headache by the end of my ride especially when I’m working harder. I didn’t think it was bad when I tried it on in the store, and it is certainly better than some (Charles Owens for example) but I’m really concerned about trying to wear it at summer shows. I already struggle with headaches especially when it’s hot out so wearing a helmet that I know will give me one on a hot day is already making me anxious.
 
I’m going to do some shopping and see if I can find another extremely oval helmet and in the meantime use my Tipperary once it gets warmer out. I’m sad to not have a better review for this one because I really love this helmet. I just wish it worked for my strangely oval head.
 
Riding Sport (DOVER) full seat Breeches
 
I LOVE these! They are both comfortable and flattering and they're around $50 new at Dover. They come in four colors and I think I'll get a couple more of them. For the price they're really good quality and very flattering at least to my body shape.
 
 
They've also got some great features like real pockets, and the upgraded sock bottoms that I love. They do run a little short, and I'm short so that's saying something, but otherwise they're perfect. These are actually the breeches I'm wearing in the clinic photos and I think they look great. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Resting On Our Laurels: Lesson Recap 3/20

I had a great lesson on Sunday. Katai was her new, normal self and went right into work mode. We started off with me giving L some more information on how things went at the clinic. It felt like it had been awhile, and it has, since last week Katai had her reactive moment so I did my best to remember the important stuff. The good thing is that through analyzing how things went and working through some of it myself over the last couple of weeks I actually realized something else.
 
Suzanne had made a comment that my glutes were too tight and I needed to use my core more independently. This had actually come up with L previously when she told me to only tighten my abs and not my butt and in that moment I had realized that I’ve always done both at the same time and couldn’t separate them. At that point I started working on it but had sort of forgotten about it. With that comment from Suzanne and the seat realization I had made I’ve been riding different and realized that my tense butt was chasing my poor pony around. It’s crazy what it takes sometimes to really be aware of your body!
 
After a good warmup I got on a 20 meter circle and first we worked on the bend. Very quickly though L started telling me to put leg on. She said that she knew that quiet, not-so-forward, pony is a novelty for me but that I can’t just let her jog around. She shouldn't get quick but she actually needs to use her hind legs. Going to the right especially Katai wants to pull down and drop on the forehand and while everything else is better and she swingier and working through her back she still needs to work and push herself forward and certainly not just drop on the forehand.
 
It was tough, I’ll admit, because I’ve really started to like having a slightly slower, more maneuverable, more relaxed pony. Eventually all of these things will come with her more forward version but now it’s a fine line and I rarely get everything at once. However, once I actually started expecting her to push from behind we got some amazing trot. We also got some AMAZING canter to the left! There was actually some jump to it and some hang time. Katai has always had a decent, three beat, balanced canter but it’s certainly nothing fancy. On Sunday though pony brought the fancy to the left and just not as much to the right which has always been her weaker side.
 
A couple of other things that came up are that I’m over twisting to the inside with my pelvis on the circles to the right, I drop my left shoulder going to the left, and tend to carry my right hand higher than my left. I also give away my right hand and this is starting to cause issues now so I need to really make myself hold (in a giving way) that hand and carry it and not just keep letting go of the contact.
 

The show season came up and I mentioned the first couple of shows that I’m planning on attending. This was the first time I had brought up the Three Ring Circus show with her and I found out that she’s actually taking her green baby horse for the same reason I’m bringing Katai. Because the absolute chaos will be good for him. She is going to trailer in ahead of time and stall overnight so I’m going to try to do the same. We’ll see if there are any stalls available because I know that they normally fill up quickly. If not, it will be a good experience for her to have to stand tied to the trailer and stuff herself with hay (and scream because we all know there will be lots of screaming).
 
And again, my trainer has more faith in us than I seem to :)
 
L brought up opportunity classes (I think this is what she mentioned) and that since I’ve never showed before I actually could do some rated shows this year without having to be a member of organizations (hoping this is what she said. I’ll do some digging over the next week). I asked if I should wait for that until next year and she said –with a big smile on her face- that we should just wait and see how the first few shows go. She was already picking out my rated show schedule and determining which of the local rated shows I should go to. It’s so amazing to have a coach that supports showing, believes in my ability, and is giving me the gentle push I need to just get out and show already!

Adventures in Shopping

I needed an adventure on Saturday so I decided to go to a local tack shop that's been around since 1907. It mainly has western tack but lots of horse care supplies and some English apparel and accessories. Mainly though I've never been there and someone at the barn was just talking about it plus I had the whole day and was looking for something fun to do. On the way there I changed plans a little and decided that I would go to Stone Ridge first. This is an amazing English tack shop that's really boutique and that caries some of my favorite brands including Asmar and Horze. It's a little further away but I had the whole day right!

I went there first and decided that since I was there I would do some shopping for show jackets. I've been planning out what I'm going to wear to show. I'm picky about this kind of stuff and while I have a little different and more modern style than what a lot of people in the area would wear, I also don't want to stick out like a sore thumb. I feel like it's a delicate balance especially since I have a pinto pony that's already pretty flashy.
Very much the color scheme I was thinking. Just add a little chestnut to the horse.
At first I was planning on basically going with black and white but I don't like the way that looks with my pony plus it's not really me. Then I started thinking about a navy coat, which I might still consider, but what I really like are some of the grey coats I've been seeing. I've been creating this to try to figure out what it will look like.


My first idea for a show outfit
 
My second and favorite option
I'm not going to be ready for a coat this year since I'm sure I'll just be doing schooling shows. It just doesn't make sense to invest in a rated show when I'm sure Katai will be a wild card this show season. However, I'd like to start picking out things to support this outfit. I've got a few things for this year but I'd like to start working on picking up a few things this year so that I don't have to deal with all of it next year. Things like a stock tie and/or another show shirt but I want to make sure that they'll work for next year as well.
With that in mind I wanted to try on a bunch of coats. I really didn't care if they were the right color or not since I'm not going to be in the market for anything out this year anyway and next year there will be different options. I was more curious if there were specific brands that fit me better than others. I already knew that Kerrits don't fit me well so I wanted to find some other options that do fit.

Grey Pikeur coat that I wanted to leave with. 
I found a couple of options that I really liked including a really nice grey Pikeur coat (no surprises there right) and a Horsewear jacket that actually fit really well and was much more in my price range. I also found a pair of Horze breeches that I needed to have (but was an adult for once and didn't buy) and an Asmar Equestrian show shirt that I've been wanting to try on. I would have probably bought that one but they didn't have my size. In the end I only bought a couple of necessities but I have plans to go back soon!

My sad final purchase. A replacement salt rock, brush therapy (more on this later) and a dressage dark chocolate

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rockstar

On Wednesday this week, after the Katai's scary reaction during my lesson, I just lunged. She seemed like she was moving fairly normal and didn't seem overly sensitive about having her saddle put on. She lunged really well and I used the neck stretcher which is really great for her. She can get above the side reins which completely negates their purpose but the neck stretcher helps her to stretch down and work through her back.

She actually started moving really well after the other resident trainer encouraged me to shorten it just a bit. She was commenting how nice Katai was moving and I agree. She looked amazing! After really poking around at her back and not getting much reaction I was pretty sure I could have climbed on her right then but I really wanted there to be more people around.

So instead, on Thursday for drill team I decided it was time. One of L's other students was there who actually saw the original blow up so I felt better that there was someone who would recognize what was happening. I also dropped my stirrups the minute I was on so that I could get off quickly if needed. Luckily I didn't need to! She was just like her normal stuff and the ride went really, really well. Since the clinic I've had a couple really nice rides and Thursday was no exception.

I'll be using these pictures for awhile :-)
Then on Friday I went out to the barn to ride and was a little worried that she'd be sore or something and I'd have a repeat performance. There's no reason for me to think that but honestly it really shook me up so it will be some time before I stop worrying about it. Of course she was fine and was calm, soft and forward. I had a REALLY nice ride and pony was a rock star. She was nice and connected and listening to my seat. A couple of people at the barn commented about how nicely she was behaving and she really was. She just get so soft, foamy, swingy, and relaxed when I get her connected right at the beginning of the ride and because we start there she just hasn't been rushing the way that she used to. She feels like a different pony but then I also feel like a different rider :-)

I'm hoping to be better about getting pictures and will try to get some at my lesson tomorrow!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Tentative 2016 Show Schedule

It feels crazy for me to even be talking about a show schedule for myself. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve done four shows in my entire life and three of those were when I was 13-14. We are really at the point where this makes sense though and I’m so excited! I’ve done some planning and this is what I’ve come up with so far, I may still add some as I’d like to have at least 5-6 opportunities to get Katai out this year for exposure more than anything.

May 29th - Three Ring Circus Schooling Show

This is a big local schooling show that has dressage, hunter, and jumper classes. I’ve been here as a spectator/groom before for a couple of friends. It is quite chaotic and tends to be a show that a lot of people bring their young horses to. That makes it perfect for me and Katai because the more chaos the better and I won’t feel judged since I won’t be the only one with a screaming young horse. The other thing that makes it perfect is that several people from my barn are going which means multiple open trailer stalls.

June 25th and July 23rd – St. Georges Dressage Schooling Shows

St. Georges is a local FANCY dressage barn with board in the 4 figures. My trainer has said that these are low key schooling shows and that it’s worth signing up for the show just to ride in their footing J

September 3rd – Dog Days All Breeds Dressage – schooling show

This one I’ve gone to as a spectator as well. It’s put on by the local Arabian group who do a few Arabian specific dressage shows. This one is for everyone but the main thing that makes it a good option for me is that it is held at the location that most of the local rated shows are held. It would be great to expose Katai to this environment specifically for that reason since I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe, next year we can do a rated show or two.

There are some great schooling show options in between and after these shows that I can fill in. Each of them have their own challenges and no matter what I’ll have to try to find a way to bum a ride which limits what I can commit to ahead of time. I do have to try to avoid signing up for anything in August because work will be extremely busy and I’ll likely be in WA again that month since we are opening a new site in Seattle.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What's In My SmartPak i.e. Baggie

With a SmartPak in it.

I thought that this would be interesting since SprinklerBandits just posted about supplements here.

To start off I have to admit that I have a serious supplement addiction. Katai gets 5 SmartPak wells plus two additional supplements. Of course two of those wells are one supplement but still, that's 6 supplements. Of course she doesn't get any grain to speak of, just 3/4 of a cup (standard measuring cup not a scoop) of beet pulp and pretty much free choice hay.

It all started off with her magnesium. I've done my research and it's something that's lacking in our soil in this area. On top of that I've clearly seen the difference in her attitude and mindset when she was on it vs. off of it. She's gone off and on a couple of times because of various feeding plans and every time I could tell a huge difference despite not even knowing she wasn't getting it at one point.

Then, I researched and discovered DMG and how it can affect muscle recovery and reduce the buildup of lactic acid. Katai had rock hard muscles at one point and although I suspect that a large part of that was the training at the time (it was when I was riding with J) it's also a cheap supplement that I feel it's worth it to continue to give her.

Then, because her coat was horrible and her hooves had always been icky, I started giving her a general vitamin supplement and a Biotin supplement. I saw a huge difference in her coat and hooves with the biotin and although I realize that she doesn’t need to have a shiny coat but hooves are quite important and I feel like a frizzy coat despite regular grooming points towards a lack of something important. The Biotin supplement that I have her on now, Smarthoof, also has some other important vitamins and minerals so it’s one less thing to worry about and her hooves are looking even better!

Then, later this summer, I added MSM since there is so much research showing that it’s actually best to add this before there is a problem. I have noticed increased grumpiness from Katai since I’ve added it and I’ve read that some horses get more aggressive on it. I’ve been tempted to take her off and see what happens so I may do that at some point but honestly I feel like the grumpiness is worth it for a horse that will hopefully be sound and comfortable for longer.

Finally at my trainer’s recommendation I added raspberry leaf. L is actually a scientist for her day job and she does cancer research. While she doesn’t do anything with nutrition she also comes at supplementation the way that she does her job and does lots of research with great sources so when she suggests a supplement I do it without questioning. I had Katai on Mare Magic for a while previously and didn’t see a huge difference but I’m not sure that I was giving enough, now I have seen a difference in how uncomfortable she is and how reactive she is during her cycle. I also have been trying Chasteberry powder (which does test) just to see if it helps at all. I haven’t noticed a difference with this one so I’ll be taking her off it during the next few weeks.

The final list:

-Smartvite Perform
Has all the magnesium she needs plus the other important vitamins that she’s not getting from grain. I’ve compared ingredients in a -lot of different supplements and this is the best combination for what we are lacking in my area)
 
-SmartHoof
Huge difference in her hooves and coat

-MSM
Meh, but proven to help soundness in the long run. I may still take her off this for awhile.

-DMG
Not sure but cheap and I’m not sure it’s worth it to take her off it

-Raspberry Leaf
Big difference in her attitude

-Chasteberry Powder
Not for long though based on not seeing any difference with this one

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Reactive: Lesson Recap 3/13

Well this was an interesting lesson. I heard ahead of time that Katai had been doing A LOT of bucking during turnout but normally if anything that means that she's quiet under saddle because she's worked off her excess energy.

Pretty accurate
When I pulled her in that seemed to be the case. Other than some head tossing in the crossties (which isn't really that unusual) she was quiet and acting normal. She was a little tender about having the saddle put on and I diagnosed that she was in heat which normally makes her a little sensitive under saddle.

I got her into the arena, tightened up her girth, went to get on and all hell broke loose. She bucked her shoulders straight up the second I was on her back, lurched back and then forward almost onto her knees as her front legs buckled. L had had her back turned for the first part of this and both of our first thoughts were to get her moving. I turned her to get her going and this time before she even took a step she flailed up and I almost thought she was going to go over backwards. Instead she jumped forward again and almost went down. At that point L was loudly telling me to get off. I wasn't even quite sure how to manage that but did a pretty good emergency dismount as L headed out of the arena for a lunge line.

As soon as I was off her back Katai got quieter and waited patiently for the lunge line. Then once on the lunge there weren't any more fireworks.

L and I talked while I lunged her and L said that Kata's face was a mix of pain and fear when she reacted like that. Her first thought was naughty pony and that I needed to cowboy her through it but then she saw Katai's face. She's pretty sure that the saddle with my weight on it put too much weight on Katai's sensitive (since she continued to show us that she was in raging heat) ovaries. We could tell as I was lunging her that her whole right hip and just in front if it were extremely tight and she wasn't using her right leg like normal. She almost seemed to be trying to swing it out instead of forward. L thinks, and I would agree, that she didn't even know what to do or what she was doing. I could tell that she was flailing her body and it almost felt like she was just trying to stay on her feet.

Poor baby :-(

After she had lunged for a while in both directions and seemed to be softening up a little L palpated her back right over her ovaries and she was quite reactive on both sides but on the right her leg would get trembly and almost buckle just with L pushing on her.

Vegan cheesecake to celebrate surviving this one
It was a scary thing. I've never felt her out of control like that and the second time it happened I honestly thought she was going to go over or down. I was shaking pretty bad after I climbed off but after talking it through with L I'm feeling better. We are having CRAZY weather this spring and the vets have been busy in our area with an unusual number of horses with colic, pneumonia, and various other illnesses since they just can't seem to figure out how to handle the crazy temperature swings. L thinks that that along with this likely being the first real heat of the season just made her abnormally sore. Her recommendation to me is to lunge for the next few days and not climb on her again until she's not sore to palpation.

This is the first time I've ever been scared of my pony and it's not a good feeling. I also feel really bad for her because I clearly hurt her and that doesn't feel good either. Hopefully in a few days she'll be good as new and this was a fluke thing that won't happen again.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Breakup

With Katai's trimmer

It wasn’t something that I’ve wanted to do but when all the evidence started pointing in the same direction it was time to make a change.

I want to start off by saying that I have nothing against my trimmer. I know that she has had only the best interests of me and my pony in mind and is seriously the sweetest and most amazing person. However, it’s time to try something else with her feet.
 

When I first started working with the trimmer she was doing great things for Katai’s feet. Katai went from having some pretty severe hoof issues to starting to develop much more normal feet. However, for some reason around the time we moved to our current barn her feet started to have some issues. 
First she was sore after every trim. Normally for a few days but sometimes up to five or six. Her upright front right hoof also started to be more and more upright and even her front left hoof started to become more upright.
Then after her sore back feet and month off, which I’m still convinced wasn’t solely on my trimmer, people started to grumble. I heard from one of my trimmer’s other clients at the barn that she was thinking of changing farriers because she was starting to be concerned about her horse’s feet. I found out that many of my trimmer’s other clients’ horses had been sore after every trim so it wasn’t just Katai.

I was getting close to trying to find a different trimmer but wanted to give my trimmer one more chance. I’d been asking questions and sharing some feedback but I’m no expert so when I asked if my pony should still be sore after every trim she said that sometimes that happens or made an excuse based on the wet or hard ground and suggested that I give Katai bute. After buying the boots I was all set to give her another trim to see what happened but then, as I mentioned previously, Susanne said something when I rode with her.
 

Actually the very first thing Susanne did was call me over to look at Katai’s hooves. She commented that all four of her feet, but especially the fronts, were too upright and poorly trimmed she suggested that I speak with my trimmer, and also that I shoe her but that’s not a change I’m ready to make at this point. After my ride my BM came over and mentioned that she’d heard that Susanne had said something. I asked if she had any suggestions and she said to find a new trimmer and that was the last push I needed.

Yesterday I “broke up with” my trimmer. I’m going to use a different farrier at the barn who L’s other students also use. I’m sad but it really needed to be done. She was understandably upset and asked why I hadn’t given her any feedback. That upset me a little because I had been texting her after almost every trim letting her know that Katai was sore and either asking for her advice or if she had any ideas for how to make it better. I’m not a trimmer or a farrier, I can’t tell what’s going on, I can’t tell her to change an angle or make Katai’s heels shorter or longer, or anything. That’s why I have a trimmer. Without being able to tell her to trim “different” there wasn’t anything I could do so that’s why it’s time for a change.

Katai is sound and her feet aren’t wonky enough that I can’t ride, according to L and my BM, so the plan is to have the new farrier trim her next time and take some photos of her feet so that I can see the progress.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Clinic

I really enjoyed my clinic ride with Susanne Winslade! I had previously been unsure about her as a clinician but I feel much different after riding with her and I had FUN. What I started to realize is that at a lot of the clinics I’ve been to the clinician has created huge changes through a new technique, or something. This is amazing to watch as an auditor and I’m sure that it feels to the rider like they’re really getting something out of the clinic, however, I wonder how sustainable it is.

In the clinic with Susanne she’s teaching basic concepts and biomechanics. She doesn’t have any quick fixes and, in my case, she’s teaching horses and riders in their native environment. Because of that I think you don’t see intense changes but there is more that is actionable on a daily basis, at least that’s what I found with my ride with her.

To start off she asked me a little about my background and my pony’s background. I briefly summarized for her my riding and dressage background and Katai’s training background. She asked a couple of questions about Katai and had some comments about her feet (more about that later) and then told me to go ahead and warm up like I would if she weren’t there. I started off with what’s been successful recently which is lots of small figures making Katai listen rather than barging through my aids and bending and flexing her body in both directions both at the walk and trot.

She complemented my riding (which truly surprised me) and asked some questions, assessing my understanding of concepts such as flexion, and then asked how much I’d been able to get Katai on the bit during warmup. I let her know that I felt that Katai was really on the bit only for a few seconds here and there. She was pleased that I understood that and then went through information about why she should be there right away. I told her we normally get her there but it takes a good 20 minutes into the ride most of the time.

I have an adorable pony
For me the problem, I think, is that I read and watch a lot of videos on theory. The theory of how to get a horse on the bit is to ride them forward into light and giving contact. The problem is that Katai can go very forward very well with her head in the air and a tight back. At that point enforcing forward is useless so I’ve been "letting" her go around with her head in the air until she loosens up enough to go on the bit. The problem, as Susanne pointed out, is that this means that during a normal training ride Katai has traveled correctly for maybe 10-15 minutes and incorrectly for 20-30. This will, of course, build the incorrect muscles and not the correct ones.


Katai looks like she's enjoying Susanne as well

I do actually understand how to get her connected but to me it wasn’t the correct way. Susanne disagreed with that and was actually happy with my ability to get her on the bit after we talked about it. Susanne had me do walk and then trot but our walk-trot transition was bad enough that we started there. Again, I understood what to do to get the trot transition result that she was looking for but I haven’t been doing it that way because I haven’t felt it’s correct. Once I was actually riding and not just allowing things to happen the rest of the ride went better. I was able to fairly consistently get and keep her on the bit and although, from looking at the pictures and video, I can see that she’s still not quite where she needs to be she is in a much better place than she was.

Overall I think that the biggest take away’s for me are that (again) I need to just ride my horse. I’m a fairly intuitive rider and although that can cause mistakes I mainly need to stop waiting for someone to tell me that I’m doing something correctly or to change something. L and I have been here before but since I never got confirmation specifically that I was doing this correctly I assumed I was "cheating" and needed to learn to do it the right way. For that reason I think that this ride with Susanne not only taught me way more about the concepts that I’m working on but also confirmed for me that we’re heading in the right direction.

Look at her back! Now there's a good suspension bridge
Also, Susanne gave me some amazing compliments which was actually really nice. I really don’t care much for compliments most of the time since they make me uncomfortable and I feel like someone is ignoring something that could be improved or being false. I feel like with something this complex, or with music when I was growing up, there is just so much to learn and improve that true compliments should be rare. However, I’m also learning to accept and when I can tell that they are more genuine I think that they, along with constructive feedback, are helpful in putting together the puzzle. The most surprising comment was that I was a graceful rider. Seriously I’m not a graceful anything, I’m clumsy to the point of running into walls and dropping things on a regular basis and everyone I’m around knows it. However, when I went back and watched the video I could see what she meant, I am actually kind of putting myself together as a rider which makes me feel really good!
 
Well, I look like a T-Rex but Katai looks good
My favorite compliment though is that she said I was doing a really good job with Katai. She said that we were a good partnership and I was a very effective rider for her and she complimented Katai’s movement! Of course she also called Katai adorable several times because, let’s face it, I have one of the cutest ponies in the entire world.

Monday, March 7, 2016

She's Back: Lesson Recap 3/6

I'm so excited to say that I have my pony back!

and yes, I'm making you all wait for the clinic recap. I'll have it up soon I promise.

She was really amazing and wonderful and all of the unicorn things that she's capable of during this lesson. I think that both L and I had started to worry a little after how much she struggled at my last lesson even though we knew that she'd had a month off and just needed a little time.

On Sunday though she brought her pony game face (which was good because in my sick condition I certainly didn't). I think I'm also starting to figure some stuff out about my body and how to use it properly which is always helpful. I've always felt like there are really two main groups of riders, those that subtract energy from horses and those that add energy. I never would have said that I'm the type of person to really light up a horse and make them hot but in thinking back on the horses that I've ridden and the lessons I've taken I think I'd have to add myself to that category.

Don't get me wrong, Katai is already hot enough without me adding anything but I started to realize this when L climbed on and rode her and she was immediately quieter. This especially surprised me since in my experience instructors tend to make horses hotter since they're just asking for more. This really made me think that it was something about me.

Then I got the other piece of the puzzle when I was noticing, and hearing from other people at the barn, how Katai reacts to other people. With me she's nice and calm and hen I go into her stall she'll come right up to me. If I'm in there with her for long grooming her or something she'll fall asleep. With other people she's hot, can be reactive, and gets a little nervous. Also, on the lunge she's always really quiet. I can get her to go from a canter to a walk just by slightly turning my body and I have to really ask to get her to go faster most of the time. That told me that it was something that I was specifically doing with my position and not my energy.

I've been trying to figure it out and I think I've finally got it. I'm aware that when you post it needs to come from the upper part of your leg and that you basically use your thigh and knee as a lever to lift yourself out of the saddle with the horse's help. Heck, I used to post bareback all the time when I was growing up so it's something I'm really comfortable with. However, I figured out that this is not what I've been doing with Katai, I've found that I was really using my stirrups and basically standing up from there. I'm sure that this has translated into more squeezing and tension. I think I've figured out that I started doing this because of where her smaller frame puts my leg. With a full sized horse you have relatively more horizontal surface area, more of a table top if you will, that makes this a little easier. On Katai with her smaller barrel my leg hangs straighter down from my hip so I've got less back under my upper leg. I think that this led to posting from my feet rather than from my thighs.

As soon as I remember this now and do it correctly she instantly slows and relaxes and listens better. Now I just have to make it a habit!

On Sunday I was really making myself stick to this so I was getting a slower and more reasonable trot. Of course it helped that with my cold I felt like a floppy bag of potatoes -said no dressage rider ever.

I also had much better control of her shoulders and much more flexibility through her body even to start off.

L had me warm her up and then after a walk break we started doing shallow serpentines into canter. L want's me to do this because as soon as Katai starts thinking canter she gets extremely stiff through her body. The goal with this is to really bend her in both directions and then as soon as we hit the wall to ask for the canter so that she's already looser through her body.

L also diagnosed that when I'm doing 10 meter circles to supple her she's stiffening and diving for the wall when we're just past the half way point. As soon as she said that I was able to appropriately ride her at the same bend through the circle and had a much more supple pony.

Then, seriously this pony is too smart, after we had done two of this exercise to the left and taken a walk break we went to do it to the right and as soon as I started the shallow serpentine Katai cantered. Yep, after doing the exercise twice in her life and changing directions she still knew what we were doing. I'm going to have to really up my confusion game!

In that light we went back to trot and did another shallow serpentine only we turned the middle loop into a 10 meter circle. Pony's mind was blown. Finally we did one more serpentine at just a trot and then did one into the canter.

L gave me a couple more ideas of exercises to work on and then let us call it quits a little early. She said it was because we're still bringing Katai back after her break but I think she was just tired of listening to my coughing ;-)

Finally, I'll leave you with a sneak peek from the clinic!


Saturday, March 5, 2016

My Turn

Now it's my turn to be off only for me it's the form of a very bad cold. I don't get sick very often and normally when I do it's not bad. This time though I really feel like crap.

I was feeling lucky that I returned from my work trip without being sick but on Wednesday I started to wonder, on Thursday in the evening I was really tired and starting to feel sick, Friday was rough and now today has been really rough. I've been sitting/laying in bed cuddling with my poor bored puppy and watching bad tv.

Although I really wanted to just lay here I needed to ride today to make sure that we're at least slightly prepared for the clinic on Tuesday. After a couple of spirited rides on Wednesday and Thursday I knew that I really needed a good one so I dragged myself out of bed and made it to the barn. Luckily with lots of good cold and sinus drugs I was able to make sure I was feeling half way decent by the time I got to the barn and seeing Katai made me feel better as always.


Just because it's adorable

I lunged first because all the horses were high as kites and but as usual on the lunge there were no fire works. When I climbed on, however, she was pretty up and for some reason was really worried about the horse that was, very calmly, being lunged at the other end of the ring. I started working on occupying her mind right away and after lots of small figures where I really concentrated on getting a correct change of the bend and keeping her shoulders up we got some good work.

Really good work actually, better than we've had since I started riding again. I got a couple of comments that she was looking good again and she sure felt good. After I climbed out of the saddle I just about hit the ground and it was everything I could do to keep myself upright. My poor tack didn't get cleaned but Katai got the good grooming that she had earned. I got home and immediately collapsed in bed.

Cue more bad tv.

I'm getting as much rest and vitamin C as possible today so that I can manage my lesson tomorrow. I've got my fingers crossed that I feel better by Tuesday so that I can enjoy the clinic. I took the whole day off so that I can audit the other riders and just not have to feel rushed with getting ready for my ride. I also got some amazing news! H was able to take some time off so she'll be able to watch me ride in the clinic and hopefully get some video!

Until then there likely won't be much blog content so I apologize in advance.