Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Winter Favorites

Horze Quarter Sheet:


I haven't had much use for a quarter sheet recently but I've used this quite a bit in the past and really used it a lot this year. It's a nice simple quarter sheet and, of course, it's and adorable Rambo knock off and fits with my pony theme. I like that this quarter sheet is the type that I can put over my own lap (it was about -12* out this day) but it is tough to do much work in so I normally warm up at the walk and then remove it before I trot which sometimes makes for a spicy pony at the trot.

Dublin Boots:


These actually should have made it into my last review post about my most durable horse related items because I've had them for over 3 years now and they get a lot of abuse. I use these as my winter riding boots (as you can probably tell from my recent riding photos) and I also wear them to the barn most months out of the year and change into my riding boots as I'm getting tacked up. They are SOOO comfortable and since I bought one size too large I can wear winter socks and still not have them too tight.

Wahl Clippers:

I don't really use these that often but they've worked really well for me especially since they really aren't meant to be body clippers. Thankfully there isn't as much surface area since Katai is little and I haven't done a full body clip yet. I actually started using the new clipper blades this year so I got a good amount of use out of my last blades as well. I don't know that I would recommend using these for full body clips on a horse but they work very well for smaller body clip areas or for trimming bridle paths and legs.

Horseware Blanket Liners:


Yep, these things again. I'm not going to go into this too much since I just posted about them but they have been one of my favorite things this year. They just give me so much flexibility with blanketing and they seem to be comfortable to Katai.

Prestige Lucky Dressage Saddle:


Yeah, this isn't really seasonal but I've been using it since September(ish) and it's absolutely one of my favorite pieces of tack so I wanted to mention it. It fits both Katai and myself and puts me in a good position without forcing me there. The saddle fitter recently deemed that it was still a great fit and the leather quality is amazing especially for a saddle that was under $2000 new.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Tentative Show Plans

May 29th, St Croix Saddlery Three Ring Circus Schooling Show:

This is the same schooling show that I went to last year which takes place over Memorial Day weekend. It's tough for me to believe that it it only just under a year ago since it seems like so long ago now.

I posted about this show here and here. It was really my first show with Katai and although I signed up for two classes I ended up just doing one (Intro C) where I got a 35.25% haha.

This year my fellow boarder plans to do several rated shows and is just using this as a prep. She's invited me to trailer with her and we're both excited about doing shows together but I'm also a little nervous that I may end up jumping into rated shows after one schooling show especially with my previous score which was pretty dismal lol.

It's not that I'm worried about making a fool of myself, just that I don't want to spend the extra money if I've only ever scored 40% or below since it just seems like a waste. However, I've also got way more faith in myself and Katai and I feel like if we can just get a good few months of trailer loading practice out of the way that will be the biggest hurdle.

Because I plan on riding along with her to the shows she's going to the rest of these are all rated. I'm not sure if she'll do all or any of these but I figured I'd share the shows it's most likely that I'll be going to and then we'll see what happens!

Photo of the closest local show grounds

June 3rd, Spring Party Dressage Show:

This is a rated dressage show that takes place at a popular local fairgrounds which is the home of most of our local rated dressage shows. 

This would be the first rated show I'll ever have participated in which will be very interesting but it's exciting to just think about!

My show outfit plans! Now with black tack ;)

June 11th, Dressage at Alpine I and II:

I'm not sure if my fellow boarder is planning on this one since she's mainly shown at the other location but this is another beautiful local show grounds (at a very fancy, ritzy boarding barn) that's not too far aware from our current barn.

June 17th, Sun Dance Dressage:

I'm going to guess that we'll do this one instead of Alpine since it's back at the location that's closer to our barn. 

July 8th, Dressage at Alpine III and IV:

Again, not sure if we'll do this but it's a gorgeous location so I've sort of got my fingers crossed for these!

July 15th, Midsummer Dressage:

Back at the location that's close to the barn so I'm guessing we'll do this one :)

August 26th, Northern Lights Dressage:

Same location as most of the other shows. There were a lot of rated shows between Midsummer and Northern Lights but they're all a long ways away and I don't think that my fellow boarder plans to drive that far and I also don't really want to go to shows every weekend and, let's be honest, I've never done more than one show in a year so just doing a couple of these would be fantastic!

My main goal for this year is to just get some good experience and miles. Once we have more experience I'll be setting more goals but this year I'm just hoping to get to the point where we're both having fun and where Katai's behavior at the show is closer to how she behaves at home. If we can get that done this year I'll be so happy and really won't care what our scores are :)

There are quite a few more within a 4-5 hour drive but I don't know that either of us will be interested enough to do that this year. Maybe some day!!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekend Rides Recap


First of all you guys I'm doing it!!! I was at the barn 6 days this past week and rode 4 times, lunged once, and did a spa day last Sunday. I can certainly refine it but I'm really happy that I did it, especially since I really didn't want to go to the barn on Friday but was able to pick myself up and go after, again, reminding myself that I never regret going.

Based on my mental ability that night and the fact that Katai felt a little tired I just did an easy stretchy ride. I did get a video which I took by balancing my new iPhone 7 on a jump standard in the middle of the arena. Not ideal, but you can see our most recent stretchy work as well as a decent halt :) There's also some pony cuddles at the end if you make it that far.


Then on Saturday I had an AMAZING ride! Katai was nice and relaxed (stretchy work ftw) but more forward than on Friday. We started with some walk work and did some leg yields, halts, and 10 meter circles while concentrating on controlling her body parts appropriately.

Then we went to trot and other than needing to have a couple of firm discussions about the requirement of flexion and connection she was really feeling good. Nice and relaxed with nice suspension. We did a little lateral work but mostly just focused on the quality of the trot and getting her in front of my leg without getting racy.

Then we did some canter. She was still stiff and struggling a little. After a bit she gave a couple snorts and seemed to really loosen up as we went. I really think she's just adjusting to our tougher work load so I'm making sure to be really understanding while still asking for just a bit more than she wants to give. With that being said her canter is still feeling stronger and stronger, she's just not as relaxed and balanced on days like this as she is when she's really feeling good. Plus she broke to trot a few times. We've been working on doing smaller circles at the canter and I was able to get a couple of good circles in either direction.

Walkies after Saturday's ride.
I always prefer to dismount and walk her out since it's good for me too :)
Finally, after a walk break, we did some of our best recent transition work. It's been a balancing act of working on walk/trot transitions without blowing her mind about them. Tonight I did them in sitting trot just asking with my seat and she was AMAZING!! She wasn't throwing her head around, was going from walk to trot off my seat, and really maintaining a nice rhythm. I also made it tricky for her by doing shoulder or haunches in between transitions.

Finally we ended with a couple of halts. These keep getting better and better! The only thing that's been tough is that now, since she knows she get's lots of praise for a good halt, she keeps trying to throw them in during our walk work. Poor overachieving pony doesn't like when I gently tell her that it's not always what I want haha.

Then today, Sunday, I had planned to do a quiet toodle day or another Sunday Spa day but I woke up feeling like I was coming down with a cold. I try hard to listen to my body so instead of doing anything I stayed home and have pretty much been napping on the couch all day. It's really ok, Katai had two good work days so she had an easier day coming. I would have worked on trailer loading but it's colder out again than it was so I knew she'd be especially hot and spicy and that's the last thing I need right now.

Oh well, I'm feeling ok after a relaxed day so I'm planning to be back at the barn tomorrow!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Horze Haul

This is what Katai thinks of being a model again
Yes I have a problem, I just love this store so much! European products without shipping from Europe and without having to deal with the exchange rate.

The story behind this shopping trip was that the Horze President Day sale was showing up all over my social media. Of course it was, they know I'm a sucker for their stuff. At any rate, they had REALLY good deals on breeches which I couldn't pass up. Since my breeches collection post I've had to make a few changes including tossing two pairs (the seat on one was faulty and nearly wore through on me at the barn and the others still smelled like chemicals after a few washes). That means that I've been rotating through four pairs and with the number of times I've been going to the barn it's just time to get another pair or two.

I'm still being careful with my budget though so even though I really wanted some of the B Vertigo breeches (normally $200 but on sale for $140!) I went with the cheaper pair ($89) because they get amazing reviews but I haven't tried this style yet so this was a great time. However, Horse always catches me with all of their random sale items.

A little background is that I've REALLY wanted one of these PS of Sweden quarter sheets for a long time now.
Photo courtesy of the $900 Facebook Pony
I've had multiple ISO posts on Facebook groups and have a normal search on Ebay for a cob size but haven't found anything yet. I'd had a random thought a few months ago that maybe Horze had something similar but didn't think I'd find anything that was very close. With this sale and since I was already shopping I remembered and decided to check and found this!!


Obviously missing the cool leather straps (easy enough to add those) and the very cool PS of Sweden branding but it was also only $49 and available!

On to the box opening :)








I was a little worried about the breeches because I've really been between sizes and I ordered the smaller size but they fit great!! I LOVE the color and they're so stretchy without the fabric being too thin. I will absolutely be buying more of this style of Horze breech especially since they've got a bunch of awesome colors :) I don't have a full length mirror at my current house but I'll try to get a picture soon!

I was also concerned about whether the quarter sheet would fit Katai. I got it in Pony since they only had pony and XL left and sometimes their pony size is more shetland sized but it fits Katai really well as well!


I was having a tough time getting picture but this sort of works
I'd pulled it up too far in this picture but it fits so cute!! My only issue with it is that there aren't darts at the back so it sort of has a peak and doesn't fit around her butt. It will be easy enough for me to add darts though so I may do that in the near future. Plus, the wool is really nice quality and thick so I think it will get better as it gets used and softens up.

It's almost past quarter sheet season but it's looking like I'll have another week at least so I'll be using it every ride.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Not Linear: Lesson Recap 2/21

First time I sat on baby pony's back!!
Clearly learning isn't linear but sometimes it's easy to be slightly frustrated about how up and down things can be with my pony right now. Lately it's pretty much been an e/o week thing where one week is amazing and the next is a struggle. I think it's more strength related (or maybe a little bit of resistance when Katai feels like it's been hard) than anything else. This mare picks things up so quickly that she certainly hasn't struggled to understand the work, just to get her body to do it or sometimes to do it appropriately :)

The lesson this week was definitely a struggle week. It wasn't nearly as much of a struggle as we've had in the past, it just hasn't been as much of a struggle since I started with Jane. Now a struggle week is where our canter isn't as nice rather than that Katai wouldn't stop threatening to rear which certainly used to happen.

This lesson I was also feeling a little emotionally sensitive which is odd for me. I LOVE direct feedback and that would always be my preference. I didn't get emotional in my lesson but just left feeling pretty down.

This lesson we focused mainly on lateral work and also tried to get a canter on a smaller circle. Unfortunately for us Katai didn't want to play at the canter and didn't want to work on the bit. I think she was just a little tired from Monday and since we continue to increase the difficulty each week I think she was just feeling a little like this was tough work and she didn't want to play.

Poor pony, oh well we'll be having a toodle/bareback day soon.

On the way home (even though I wasn't that down, just feeling less positive than last week for example) I was thinking about how far we've come from the beginning and thought it might be fun to go back to my first lesson recap and share the first riding video I have of Katai.


This video is from May 2015 and I have to apologize for the blurriness. It got transferred to a few different phones before I ever uploaded it so the quality is pretty bad. At this point I'd been riding Katai for about 6 months (but I'd hesitate to call much of it riding and I wasn't on her back more than 1-2 times per week for that time).

Then here is our first lesson recap! This was from September 2015 and we were working on changing directions on 20 meter circles at the trot! I was still getting lots of pony tantrums and sass and some days I could barely ride because of how stiff, tense, inverted and stubborn Katai was.

This is exactly why I have this blog. To be able to look back and see the net change rather than feeling like I need to make positive change each day :) It's fun to do this when I'm feeling down and since I don't have much to share about the lesson since we did a lot of the same thing and struggled the whole time I thought it would be fun to share!


Monday, February 20, 2017

Ride Recap

Katai and I had a great ride tonight but both of us worked pretty hard. She was full of energy (my fault) and spring sass (not my fault) so I started her off on the lunge. I had her do a good amount of trot and canter in both directions and at first she wasn't listening to me AT ALL which is unique to her mood with our spring weather. She bucked, kicked out, and spooked a few times but mostly was just really good.

CRAZY weather for February in MN!!
She did enough work that I didn't plan to do much with her under saddle but once I hopped on she still seemed ready to burst at the seams with energy so we ended up doing ALOT of trotting. She was really moving nicely and was really being good, she just needed to move.

I did ask her for a bit of lateral work but she was so fizzed up that it was tough to get her to sit back and do it right. I got a good try in either direction and called it. It's almost always worth giving her the benefit of the doubt rather than pushing her and this is so unusual for her recently that I just put the blame on the excess energy and rewarded her for the try.
He played like this for a few minutes :)
We also did a few rounds through the cavalettis and I was impressed that she did them nicely since sometimes running for her means lots of very small quick steps which don't go well with cavalettis set for a lengthened stride :)

After LOTS of trotting (with a walk break in-between) I asked for a canter transition and got a decently calm one. I did a minimal amount of canter and then tried the other direction and again got almost no drama. More trot, more fizzy pony and then I called it. She'd done a really good job and I certainly didn't want to run her into the ground, just drain some energy.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Weird Weekend

Another photo from last Monday's ride
Last week I was at the barn 5 times and worked Katai 4 times which isn't what I wanted but I still feel pretty good about. It would have been better but I volunteered to spend extra time at work on Friday evening for a project and did a regular shift and then went back from 5-9 so no riding that day.

I had a good but brief ride on Saturday but then on Sunday (you'd think I'd have learned from last weekend) I went later hoping that the exhaust would have cleared out by then but it hadn't so I ended up doing another spa day.

I also just haven't felt that motivated to do anything this weekend. I think it might partially be the crazy weather change we've been having with temp in the 50s when normally it would be in the teens. Or it was the fact that I worked so late on Friday making me feel like I didn't get a real weekend. At any rate I put off going to the barn until the evening both days and even then just didn't feel like my normal self.

Last photo before I started leaving Katai's blanket off.
Enjoy the whiteish pony while you can :)
My ride on Saturday was good but I kept it pretty short and sweet because pony was clearly tired from running around in the nice weather outside (no more ice means lots of pony running) and I figured I'd be riding 5 days in a row. Katai was really good though and we got some great work including lots of stretchy trot and a few really good halts :)

This week will be quiet again so I think I'll be back in the swing of things and I'm going for 6 times at the barn with at least 4 rides and one lunge this week!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

RIP

My poor little Cube video recorder!! It lived a good life which was cut way too short tonight.

I pulled it out of my pocket as I was walking, Katai thought it was a treat and reached for it. I fumbled and dropped it and because we were still walking it fell on the concrete and she stepped on it...

In blue cubie's memory :(
I'm actually a little sad about it. It's been such an amazing tool and even though I now I have very blurry pictures and sketchy video from the lighting in my arena at least I have media. I'll be buying another one but will be sad to not use it until it gets here. I also had taken video tonight and had a couple of videos on the Cube that are now lost. Please forgive the temporary lack of media and we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programing soon!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Woohoo! Lesson Recap 2/14

From my ride on Monday
I had an amazing lesson with my pony valentine on Tuesday! After this lesson I figured out at least part of why Jane is so good for us and that is that she doesn't allow me to be such a perfectionist.

Both of us are but instead of letting me get on a 12 meter circle and pick at the trot for 20 minutes to get it "perfect" she just expects me to ride a "perfect" trot while doing lots of other things. When it's not perfect, she gives me feedback and trusts that even if it's not good in that moment, I'll work on it appropriately and make it better. She never thinks anything is good enough and I always get lots of blunt feedback on everything but she also doesn't let me wait until she starts to introduce new things.

Right after I realized this I saw this quote on VivaCarlos' blog and it so perfectly illustrates exactly what this lesson was all about.

"You'll never be ready if you keep waiting to be."

iOn my own I would totally just keep waiting because I wouldn't let myself move on until something was perfect and my instructors in the past have supported this or brought this out in me. Jane just doesn't care and keeps on pushing me which is exactly what I need.

In this lesson we covered the following:
3 and 4 loop serpentines
Halt
Medium Canter
Medium Trot
Shoulder In
Haunches In
Baby Half Pass
Leg Yield

Plus, she didn't just have me work on each of these things. Pretty much the whole lesson was her calling out what she wanted next much like a reader would do in a test. 

Shiny pony butt!
 I never thought I'd see her actually shine :)
I don't remember exactly what we did where because it was pretty much one thing after the next but one of the exercises we did was to turn down the center line and then A to E do haunches in which was baby half pass. Then straighten on the wall and at C turn down the center line and do the same thing to E which was haunches in (baby half pass) the other direction. It was SO cool, very tricky and it really reinforced how exact I need to be with my aids for haunches in and how I can't "cheat" with the reins and avoid using my legs correctly if I want to be able to ever do half pass.

My favorite exercise that we did though was shoulder in, sitting trot down the long side. Then half way I would straighten her and ride a short diagonal, get the bend, hit the wall and cue for canter. We'd do a 20 meter canter circle and then canter down the long side and transition into trot before I hit the corner. This was cool because a few months ago both of us would have fallen apart at the seams if asked to do those things back to back and now we both held it together a few times in each direction. We also only got one canter lead incorrect!

Yep, it's spring!
This was also the first time Jane had us try medium canter and Katai did so well! Jane asked me to try it towards the end of the lesson and that was where we ended after one really good try. She really lifted in front and lengthened and it felt pretty magical :)

During the rest of the lesson we also got at least one really good medium(ish) trot, some great haunches in at the walk (we spent a lot of time there getting my cues correct - MUST NOT TIP TO THE OUTSIDE!!!), a couple of ok halts, really nice shoulder in and a few nice leg yields!

Katai was clearly extremely proud of herself (as she should be) after this ride and I was too. Jane had some really nice things to say and it really felt good. It was all messy and the perfectionist in me was crying for a lot of it but I held it together and really rode the whole time which I certainly wouldn't have been able to do a month or two ago. 

So happy with my amazing baby girl!!!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ride Recap With More Video!

First, before we get to my Monday ride recap I wanted to recap the weekend. After a really successful week last week (first time I’ve ridden 5 days in a way in a LONG TIME) I went out on Sunday all ready to ride only to find the arena full of exhaust. Again, my fault since I know they drag the arena late Sunday morning/early afternoon and I showed up in the early evening. I was only frustrated because if I’d shown up a bit earlier I could have taken her outside for a walk (by the time I showed up it was too dark) or a bit later and maybe the exhaust would have settled a bit more. Oh well, I’ll remember for next week.

Instead I ended up doing a good spa day and I worked on spray bottles. I also walked her around the barn finding places that were #justlikeatrailer and making her walk into them and back out. She seemed to enjoy the time without riding and again, I need to do this more.

Sorry for the weird framing, I put this above the
arena door and didn't think it would be in the shot
but apparently it was.

Then Monday! It’s getting to the point where we have enough movements to work on that I need to do more planning prior to the ride about what I’m going to work on. If I don’t I either end up not really working on anything (suddenly getting a perfectly circular circle seems very important) or I try to fit too many different things in and the ride feels hectic. This Monday I wanted to tackle halts, medium trot, stretchy trot, and leg yields and knew that I needed to fit a good amount of canter in there. Because a few of these things are really opposite and I knew that Katai wouldn’t be good at halting after some work on medium trot I wasn’t quite sure how to fit this in but at least I had some goals. I’m happy to say that I did all of these things!

I started off with some stretchy trot. It wasn’t our best stretchy work but it ended up being an effective start to the ride. I’d like to do more of this in the future but for this ride I was happy with her work on this. Then I gathered her up and pretty much went straight to canter. She also cantered really nice (see video) and I’m starting to look less like a potato as well. Both of her transitions were decent even which was great! Right after the canter when she was forward we did some medium trot. The first few times weren’t good but on our fourth try we got a REALLY good attempt! It’s in the video but unfortunately it’s straight towards the camera so you can only partially tell.

What I was proud of was that I was able to maintain the same rhythm and yet she really pushed forward. After that we went right to walk since I wanted to reward that try. After the walk break I picked her back up and we did some lateral work which was a mess. Now that she can do haunches in and shoulder in she offers that instead of leg yield and since leg yield is still one of my weakest things I struggle even more. I can really see it in the video one way where I didn’t feel like she was doing anything but actually she was doing a really nice shoulder in. *headdesk* Oh well, we’ll keep on practicing and I think I found a few holes including that I was hanging on my inside rein and blocking her from going over. We’ll keep right on practicing!

After that we finally worked on halts. She was getting a bit flustered and throwing her haunches right so I went to the rail and slowly broke it down for her and used way more cues than I should need to. In the end I got two nice square(ish) halts so we quit on that note. It was pretty action packed for such a short ride so next time I’m going to work on fewer things. Mainly I need to ride more but work on fewer things in each ride so that’s my goal for this week!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

My Riding Schedule and How It Relates to a Famous Cat


This cat to be exact

Previously I'd have a schedule planned for the week which would look something like this;

Sunday: Lesson
Monday: Off
Tuesday: Ride
Wednesday: Ride
Thursday: Ride
Friday: Off
Saturday Ride

In a good week I'd ride or not ride as planned. The problem was always if something came up, I had a stressful day at work, the weather was really bad, my lesson was rescheduled etc. Unfortunately if those things happened I normally didn't ride on a day off, I just didn't ride on a scheduled day.

One of the main problems is that I have a stressful job. 80% of the time when I think about riding that evening during my work day it sounds not only like the least fun thing I can think of but almost impossible with the mental state I'm in. Especially when I need to get home, make food, change, and then drive the half hour to the barn. Because of that, all I can do all day is think about how to not go to the barn and instead sit at home and veg out in front of the tv.

And I even got some video!
Instead I've changed things up this week and now I'm not planning anything. All day long when I think about not going to the barn I just ignore it and go on with my day while focusing on being in the moment. Then, even when I get home I don't think about it and don't plan anything. Instead as I'm finishing up dinner it's actually started to sound like fun and by the time rush hour is over all I want to do is get changed into my riding clothes and head to the barn. 

Then because I didn't have an expected schedule I just went to the barn every day I could so that when I ended up with a day I couldn't go it didn't actually reduce the number of days that I went to the barn at all. In fact, this is the first week I've made it to five, productive, days at the barn in months. Even better, it was easy and non-stressful.

So, basically all day long I could either go or not go to the barn and that flexibility has made it sound like fun rather than a chore :)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Messy: Lesson Recap 2/8

(very blurry) Pictures are from my ride on Monday
My previous lesson was one of those where it feels like everything just works. Everything Jane asked I was able to do and it just sort of felt easy. This lesson was not that way and everything just felt messy. I’d accomplish something but it was only with Katai flinging her head or being flexed the wrong way or something. Part of it was probably because we did a few new things and those just don’t always feel easy but I think that Katai is still dealing with the increase in her workload and just felt sort of flat and quick rather than carrying herself like she has been.

 Right away at the walk Jane had me do leg yields off the wall to the quarterline and back along the long sides. We did a few, changed directions and did a few more. They were ugly to start off and then got better but I never really felt like we fully got them without extra head flinging and tension. Homework for next time!
Stretchy
Then we went into trot and I was struggling with my posting again. Jane had me do an exercise where I would post 3 times and then sit the equivalent (6 steps) and so on. It really helped me keep my butt in the saddle a bit longer but as soon as I’d go back to just posting I’d lose it again. I haven’t struggled with this much at all lately so it was weird that it was so tough and I think part of it was that Katai was just being more resistant to slowing her strides and was trying to “cheat” by taking lots of tiny steps. At any rate, it got better than it had been so we moved on to canter.

I started to her easier side this time and got a really nice transition and then some really nice canter. Her balance is getting better and she didn’t keep breaking to trot at this lesson. However, she was still running and not wanting to slow down and carry herself. Probably sort of the same thing as the trot and she had some residual soreness in her pony muscles. It was still a huge improvement over the last time I cantered in a lesson and she had enough energy to get through both directions with a fair amount of canter. This one is also just more time and homework for both of us.

Proof that we do canter sometimes, and also of my leaning problem haha
Finally we went to the lateral work. We’d done enough leg yielding to start off at both walk and trot that we went straight to the shoulder in/haunches in exercise that we did last time. We both struggled more this time both because, again, I think she was a little sore or tired and because Jane was making me do it correctly with my legs instead of my arms. It was rough haha.

Afterwards she told me that it’s ok to do it incorrectly at first while I was getting the feel for it but now she’s going to be coaching me to do it more properly or I’ll start to use it as a crutch and have more trouble as we get further along. At this point she said the words “when we get to half pass” and I was THRILLED. She mentioned being surprised at mentioning it already as well and I think she’s really encouraged with how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time. I am too, even if this lesson left me feeling a little tired and discouraged I realize that everything we struggled with just needed more strength or practice which is really very encouraging.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Blanketing

I sort of feel like blanketing is one big game over the winter in MN. If it were, I'd be nearly ready to level up and gain a whole bunch of cool new blankets or something.

I'm only partially kidding.

This past week was a great example. One day was 11, the next was 30, then 40, then back to 17, and then back to mid 30s for a few days and it's been that way ALL winter so far. The week before Christmas the highs were in the negatives and then Christmas day was 40 with thunder storms.

I got the bridle tag idea from someone but I can't remember who, they work really well!
Between the crazy weather and the fact that when the horses are in the barn (kept in the 30s) they wear the same blanket they were out in it's tricky to figure it out. Luckily for the past few days it's been in the 30s outside as well so it's easy and with the amount of fuzz that Katai has I've been using my light blanket liner a lot. In fact I've been using all of my blankets a lot and I've got a pretty good collection.
These velcro tabs are here to work with the Horseware
Ireland blanket but it's never been an issue that I don't use them
In total (turnout sheets only) I have two turnout sheets, one 100 gram liner, one 200 gram liner, one 200 gram high neck blanket, one 300 gram high neck blanket. Plus I can use the liners in any combination with any of the blankets. I LOVE my liners but this is really my first time using them this extensively and they've been working really great!

Where the magic happens ;)
These clips fasten to the leg strap dees and keep the liners completely straight.
I love the flexibility that the blanket liners give me and even if it sort of looks like Katai is wearing a sleeping bag they've held up really well so far.

What's your favorite blanketing hack?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

January Recap and February Goals AND 2017 Goals Update

This picture took a lot of work! Pony kept trying to follow me.
Look at how cute her little Navy ROOTD is!
Also, "love" how everything outside of her blanket is yellow

January Goals

Ride More:

Nope! I did ride more consistently than I was in December but it was closer to 3 days a week than it was 6. I am continuing to work my way up though and the last couple of weeks I've been able to ride more consistently.

Focus on Forward:

Yep! I'm really happy with this one but now wouldn't you know, I need to ride more with my hands. Dressage is just so hard!

Groom Better:

Meh, I did more consistently groom with multiple brushes (George Morris may be having a panic attack somewhere but being happy about multiple brushes is where I'm at right now) than I had been and I did a nice spa day where I clipped, detangled and brushed her tail, trimmed her tail, "pulled" her mane, and sort of scrubbed at some of her green spots with a green spot remover. Overall I'll take it :)

Pony humor=pooping consistently at that far corner
so I need to walk as far as possible to clean it up

February Goals:

"Ride her Neck":

I'm taking this one directly from Jane. It's not as crazy as it sounds, basically I've always had an issue with getting Katai where she should be on the contact and correctly flexed and then I let it go and don't remember to get it back for at least half the arena. That means that she's going incorrectly more than she's going correctly and that's not ok at this point. I need to step up and RIDE! At my last lesson Jane coached me every stride to "ride her neck" meaning correct flexion, no pulling, getting her stretching forward to the bit, NO giraffe pony etc. and I did it! Now I just need to do that on my own and not make Jane lose her voice yelling at me for 5 minutes ;) I also need to not lose the forward, and relaxation, and stretchy that I gained this past month.

Ride More:

I'm making this a goal again. I don't know that I'll consistently be able to ride 6 days per week but I'm making it a goal again. I'm on my way this week so now I just need to stick with it.

Improve That Pesky Right Leg:

My riding position has come a really long way with Jane over the past few months but I'm still struggling with my mutant right leg. I'm going to focus on keeping my hip more closed on that side and keeping my leg back and not braced in front of me. If I can make even a little progress on this during February I'll be really happy.

Getting some use, complete with pony slobbers

Overall Goals Update:

No, this isn't going to be a normal thing each month. In fact I'll probably wait until the end of the year to review my overall goals but I did have one big change that I'm making and wanted to mention it now rather than waiting for December. 

Get a Trailer:

Yeah, I'm disappointed about it but it's for a REALLY good reason. The next few paragraphs are going to be about my personal life so if you can't be bothered feel free to skip down. It's just that this is playing into everything about my riding life right now so I figured I'd mention it.

I've changed a lot about my life recently and the reason  is because I finally stopped living with the idea that I was "getting by" until I have a partner and therefore a second income/all the other amazing parts of having another person as a support system. Last fall I switched my mindset to "owning" my life and not waiting on anyone else. Because of that I switched where Katai was boarded and when I had the opportunity I moved to my grandparent's house all so that I could pay off debt.

I mentioned in this post that I was hoping to build/buy a tiny house and wanted to do it before I hit 40. For the past couple of months I've been thinking a lot about where I go from here. My car getting hit was such a blessing in disguise since it meant that I could pay off even more debt and between that and the other changes I've made I'll have a very large chunk of my debt (everything except student loans) paid off by early next year. 

Spending way too much time pinning tiny houses on Pinterest...
The thing is that this living situation will only last through December (at the earliest hopefully) since I know my family wants to sell this house. I'd just stay and keep paying off debt for a bit longer otherwise (and that's still the plan if it looks like it won't sell this year) but it put me in a situation where I was starting to think about next steps. The more I thought about it the more I realized that it might actually be a good idea to go straight from this place into a tiny house. I've been able to find tiny home loans where monthly payments would be less than a cheap apartment in this area. Even better, it would mean that I'd own my home by the time I'm 40. That would give me so much flexibility to buy land and build a barn, at some point, that I can't even believe it. Even better, I could spend this next 7-8 years living in a couple different place so that when it comes time to buy land I'd know where I want to buy (hopefully).

This was built by the company I want to work with
Of course it's not a perfect plan but I'm feeling more happy and relaxed about my future than I have in a LONG time and it just fulfills so many of the goals/plans that I have for myself. With that being said the amount I was going to get for my tax refund was going to buy my trailer this year (a small, old, modest two horse since I just don't need anything fancier) but if I put that towards debt instead I'll have everything paid off by December this year which perfectly fits with the rest of my tiny house plans.

It doesn't mean that I'm going to let my plans to show this year go out the window. I've already started talking with Jane and as soon as the ice is gone I'm going to start practicing trailer loading Katai on her trailer. She's also willing and able to trailer to some shows as is one of my barn mates. The women who trailered us to the Hunter Pace lives two houses away from Jane's barn and I know she'd invite me to do more paces with her. Plus, L and my previous barn manager both have trailers and would likely be willing to trailer me and my pony places especially if she's more well behaved. I think that with those options this just makes more sense and is a smarter plan for me this year. I just need to be more stubborn about making it happen but I can do that, especially with such a great prize on the horizon :)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Bits and Bobs


There have been a few random things recently that I haven't found a good place to talk about so I thought I do a miscellaneous post and just role it all into this post. I'm still working on that January goals post so I'll have that to share soon

First, a few weeks ago there was a saddle fitter (Trilogy Saddles) out at the barn and Jane was nice enough to have her check Katai's saddle. I was 90% sure that it was fitting fine but since it's been about 4-5 months since I got it I figured it was worth a check to be sure it didn't need new flocking or an adjustment. The saddle fitter pronounced that it fit great! I was glad but not surprised, just nice to have the peace of mind.

Second, A couple of weeks ago Jane's upper level horse (who's also literally the sweetest horse to ever exist and who looks 12 but is actually in her 20s) got kicked by another horse during their evening meal. I found out when I saw Jane doctoring the wound which at that point didn't seem to be serious. Just about a week later I found out that she was going to be going to one of our large local vet clinical for a stay. Jane was clearly pretty worried and honestly I think she wasn't sure at that point if her mare would be coming back. I had my fingers crossed for the next few days and was extremely happy and relieved to find her back in her stall when I went to ride about a week ago. The vet has been out a few times to clean/drain the wound but she's on the road to recovery which is such a relief.

Third, Katai is getting a massage tomorrow :) She loved her last one so much that I've been looking for another opportunity to schedule one for her and now I have my chance. The person we're scheduling is insanely cheap ($50 per horse) but everyone really likes her. I can't wait and I'm so happy I get to make my pony happy! I'm hoping to be there but I'm just not sure when she'll be at the barn and when I'll be done with work so if I'm able I'll get pictures to share.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fail


That's an adorable pony rolling in an arena. It's also an adorable pony rolling in my PS of Sweden bridle.

*Head-desk*

I'd pulled off the reins for lunging and she clearly wanted to roll so after I got rid of the rest of the lunging equipment I let her go. It was only after she rolled to the other side that I realized that allowing her to roll in a bridle (especially this one) probably wasn't a good idea. I was able to get the sand off and it didn't get scratched but I certainly won't be doing that again.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Strength: Lesson Recap 1/31 + Ride Recap 2/4

Old picture but I figured some media was needed
To preface this I have a couple of posts that I was going to split up but I've got a bunch more posts I want to get up including a February Goals post so I decided to just combine these. Sorry if it gets long!

Lesson Recap:

Earlier this month I ended up with a sore back. I'm not sure why, I hadn't lifted anything heavy or done anything that hurt so all I can imagine is that it happened when I was sick. I'm guessing that I either pulled something when I was sneezing explosively throughout the time I was sick or that laying on the very unsupportive couch for three days did something to me. It's weird in that it seems to vary day to day how bad it hurts and that it's behind my ribs on the right side rather than my lower back. Right now on the worst day a couple of Advil kill any soreness so I haven't felt the need to get it checked out but if it continues I will.

For whatever reason on the day of my lesson it was the worst that it's been. I'd been popping Advil all day but hadn't got the timing right so when I showed up for my lesson I was pretty sore. I went to pick up my saddle and had to freeze and just breath for a moment. I was trying to decide if a lunge lesson made more sense but I decided to just let Jane know and see if we could arrange my lesson a bit differently. Because of that we stuck to walk and trot and focused on lateral work instead.

We started with walk warm up to a nice trot warm up. Katai was moving well so we didn't need to focus too long on getting her loosened up. Instead we went to lateral work pretty quickly and started with leg yields at the trot. They were really working for me (for whatever reason) at my lesson and so after a few in each direction we switched to doing shoulder in at the walk. 

At first I wasn't doing enough to keep her flexed the correct way but after some coaching for Jane about catching her quicker without pulling I was able to get a couple of successful tries in each direction. Then Jane had me switch to doing haunches in for the first time! We did it at the walk and Katai very naturally just understood so after doing it a couple of times in each direction we went to the trot.

At the trot Jane had me do a new exercise where I would start the shoulder in the way we have been with a 10 meter circle in the corner but then at the center of the long side I would do another 10 meter circle and as I came back towards the wall I would start haunches in and do that to the short side. Other than some very slight fussiness about what I was asking for Katai was brilliant and really thinking and listening instead of just reacting. 

After we had the just of it Jane had me do it again and this time she actively coached me to actually ride and keep the bend and flexion and lower/forward/reaching feeling with the bit instead of just letting Katai fling her head in the air. Wouldn't you know it, with her reminders I was able to very successfully RIDE it correctly.

I'm a very visual person so this sort of thing is so helpful!

Both Jane and I were so happy with that as well as being cognizant of my poor back that we ended at that point and did lots of praising of my amazing pony :)

Ride Recap:

I've been playing around with my riding schedule a bit and trying to find something that works for both me and Katai. When I had Sunday lessons I gave her Monday off and then either Thursday or Friday (or sometimes both haha) and that worked really well. I've been struggling with Tuesday lessons because Mondays off work really well for me but not well for Katai and that sort of throws off my whole schedule. This past week I tried riding Saturday-Wednesday and then giving Katai Thursday and Friday off. 

Because of that my ride today fell after two days off for Katai and so I guessed she'd be full of energy. Oh boy, was I right.

It was interesting because when I was walking her around in the arena she seemed about the same as she normally is (ie. walking around quickly and sometimes with her head in the air) and normally even if she's a bit amped on the ground she goes right to work once I mount up. Today though my adrenaline started amping up right away which is unusual and I couldn't figure out why. Now I think I was picking something up from her. 

I mounted up and she was certainly tense and threatening to rear but never did. She's often better if I go straight to trot which I did and had a gorgeous trot. She was in full suspension bridge mode and on her toes but stretching down in to the contact, if a bit light in the contact, and forward. She wasn't relaxed but she was mostly listening to my leg and other than ensuring she didn't come above the contact I was just focusing on riding her forward and letting her dispel some energy.

Often when she's like this I'll let her decide to canter out of a forward trot and just go with it. Usually she'll canter for awhile, snort a bunch and then when I ask for trot again she's feeling better about life and we continue in a more relaxed and productive way. So when she made the executive decision to canter I went with it. However, a couple seconds in I was having to do a  lot more riding than normal and she was alternating head flinging with bolty steps and some slight leaping. I was just concentrating on keeping her forward when suddenly in the center of the arena she bolted straight up. The only thing I really remember was seeing her withers directly in front of me, that's how bad she bronc-ed up into the air. When she came down I yell/growled at her and asked for forward but she was so frozen up that she didn't move and I could tell she was prepared for battle so I did the wise thing and got off and lunged. 

She could have taught this horse a thing or two today of course I stayed on
This may be an option as a second career path when I get tired of HR ;)
I needed to go retrieve my lunge line, pull the reins off the bridle, and pull off the stirrups since I knew there would be acrobatics (spoiler I was right). When we got back to the arena I pretty much immediately made her go to canter and oh my gosh was she full of herself. Katai has NEVER been one for bucking, kicking, bronc-ing, or bolting on the lunge so I'm used to climbing off a crazy horse and then having a quiet lunge session and being done.

She was kicking out at her tail, bucking because there was a dark spot in the arena, bolting because she had boots on her back legs (like EVERY time I've ever worked her for the past three years) and frankly just being a bit of an ass. Honestly she didn't get in any trouble she just needed to stay forward and out on the line and basically listen to which gait I wanted. I didn't punish her for the antics because it was so clear to me that she just had excess energy and that's my fault. After all we're trying to create a stronger pony so it's not her fault that she is now stronger and has more energy and then after a break needed to express some of it.

After a few "quiet" canter circles on the lunge I did a few transitions and when she was listening we switched directions. She was mostly good the other way other than acting goosed a couple of times when I asked for a transition. Same thing to this side, lots of canter and eventually some transitions and we ended with a few circles at the walk.

Katai's innocent face
Normally I would have been done but I knew I was feeling a little squigged out about the canter transitions (I used to have major canter anxiety issues before Katai fixed them :) so instead I got her put back together (reins, stirrups, and all) and then mounted back up. We started at the walk but she was still slightly tense so before she got to make an issue of it I went into trot. Almost immediately she remembered that she was very tired pony and just went nicely forward, stretching, and also did lots of snorting. She was also more receptive to my cues to bend her and I wasn't have to RIDE as much as I had before. Before I let it drag out too long I cued for canter in her harder direction and other than a slight head toss she did it and was very rideable in canter. In fact she felt so loose and forward, and had such a nice open stride that I'd say it was some of our best canter to date. Again, I didn't wait too long before I brought her back to trot and after a loop to change directions cued for canter in the other way. This time (easier side) she didn't even toss her head just went straight into it and again I had the nicest canter I've had.

I was so proud of both of us that even with a very challenging and scary start we ended in a good place. Adrenaline and having scary moments usually really brings out my frustration so I was especially proud of how I handled this the whole time and that my thought process remained that it was my fault for not working her consistently and was focused on helping her be my partner again rather than getting angry at her for "doing something wrong". After all we're trying to be stubborn together ;)