Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Gear Review: Spur Upgrade

Spoiler alert, I don't love spurs.  I grew up on hot (usually part-Arab) horses who had WAY more go-than-whoa and spent way more time thinking about what bit I needed on cross country and never really worried about what spur (none) would get the job done (none).

As I traipsed into Dressage as an adult, I put spurs on occasionally. 

REALLY long time readers will recall the six (+) months where Pia straight up didn't go forward (at all). and during my early days with Prair, a Teeny Tiny nub of a spur was helpful establishing our lateral work.

I have relatively long legs and have always been able to squeeze the tweedle out of even the laziest of the lazy without much spur.  On top of that, a large spur often results in me unintentionally taking my leg off and causing more problems than the spur solves.

With that info in mind, my spur collection consists precisely of 1) the tiniest price of wales spur ever made.  and 2) cheap plastic ball spurs.
Recently, the ball spurs have been getting a workout.  I almost always wear them on Winds now, as my leg is finally educated enough to know the difference between calf and spur.  Plus, if it's over 68 degrees that dude needs a nudge in the ribs to get going. (#metoo).

BUT, they look dorky, aren't actually very spur-like and after a really hot summer where my trainer raised her eyebrow several times and said "really? I've been using a round rowel on him" I have been casually considering an upgrade to ye ol' spur closet. 

I find a lot of comfort in my big, soft, totally mild rubber ball spurs.  I like knowing that even if I lose my balance and accidentally JAB Winds with them, he won't really care - but the downside of that comfort is that when I do actually want a gas pedal, I don't have a good option.

And as I've lamented recently (though maybe not online): 


I have all the tack, all the gear all the everything I ever (ever) dreamed of (not the least of which includes two incredible horses).  So when the horse gods showed me something that I could actually justify shopping for - I shopped.

It's hard to make spurs fun and/or interesting without going off the deep end. 

For a while I looked at Signature Spurs, mostly because I remain obsessed with the crop I ordered from them and love their service. 

But I couldn't decide *what* spur I needed exactly, and with higher end spurs cresting the $100 mark, I didn't want to order 4 new sets just so I had everything to choose from.

That meant my eye turned to some of the manufacturers making spur sets with exchangeable shanks.  I stalked them on insta, I stalked online... and eventually I opted to go with American Equus.  (due in no small part to my obsession with their stirrups).

American Equus machines their spurs out of aluminum (also true of their stirrups and horseshoes), but that is a material I had never tried as a spur.  Also, they claim that their interchangeable spurs are super easy to swap, and can even be done in the saddle without removing your spur strap.  I hadn't ever seen the spurs in person, so wasn't entirely sure how this worked, but I had a glass of wine and placed an order.

The spurs arrived promptly, and came in a lovely box with customized foam inserts that presented the spurs and extra shanks beautifully. (I forgot to take a picture).  While they offer lots of (really fun) color options, I selected a conservative Show Chrome with the idea that I would potentially wear these in the hunter ring.

The spurs are really pretty.

Show Chrome spurs with round-towel option

Nice styling, crazy light, and very shiny.

The shanks are super easy to swap (as promised) and just require a stiff tug to get them out (they are held in by a compression fit and o-ring).

1/2", 1" and 1.5" options

I swapped the rowels out for the 1/2" shanks and headed for the barn. 

My one complaint is that the spurs themselves are very narrow, and harder than stainless spurs to widen (because - aluminum).  I wrestled with them for a minute and got them to a comfortable fit at my ankle, without having them too loose at my heel.

Before I hopped on, I played around with swapping the shanks while the spur was on my foot, and as advertised - it was easy without being SO easy that I'd worry about them popping out while riding.

Once on, I was really happy with how they spurs felt.  I liked the rounded tips, and felt like they were easy to use with nuance while still giving me some go.  I am also very particular about my spurs moving around while I'm riding, and these didn't slip once even though I didn't have them positioned on my spur rests. 

All in all, these spurs are off to a good start.  I like the look, I like the feel, and I really like the idea of being able to swap out the shanks. 

Winds is a horse that typically needs more spur in warm up than he does in the ring, and being able to downsize my spurs at the back gate gives me one less thing to worry about on course.

And isn't that what I really needed.. :)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Equitation Snapshot

In the name of archival integrity, I need to get some actual evidence of how Winds and I are marching around the ring.

why do these always look so small in pictures??
All in all, I am really happy with how we handled the Equitation ring at Thunderbird both weeks of August.  While I didn't have the big open gallop that I had in the field at Milner - I felt like we were as consistent as we have ever been and able to make (mostly) good choices when necessary.

Let's start with the first week:

Nothing was very equitation-y, but we rode well and overcame some of our goblins, namely staying straight on the left lead and stepping up to our distances then falling back.

Pretty great for us! We ended up 2nd out of 20.

Our second round was much the same, but they turned on the BIG sprinklers in the ring next door.  I didn't think twice about it because Winds doesn't care about such things, but toward the end as we came into the Judge's line, the wind shifted and blew the sprinkler mist over into our faces.  It was weird, and although you can't see Winds do much, he sorta fell in away from the mystery rain, and I lost his inside shoulder.  That set us up for a borderline late change and then I never really got him back up and balanced before the two stride.  We didn't chip in, but I didn't have him straight and he sorta jumped over his shoulder.  Somehow we won the class - but in watching the video, the tension isn't nearly as visible as it felt.

Week two, the course design was a tad more interesting.  Lots more singles and omg, a rollback. 
Winds was not intrigued by the jumps AT ALL and I felt like I was beating him around the ring.  This horse is so much easier to ride when he cares even just a little bit about what's in the ring, but it's hard to fabricate that the second week of a show. 

I made the mistake of enjoying my coffee while I watched some early rounds go in my ring - and managed to totally freak myself out.  Of the 8 rounds I let myself watch, 4 people fell off, two had refusals and only 2 got through clean.  Never in my life have I seen such a bloodbath at 2'9", and it did nothing to help my brain calm down as I went to get ready.  Usually I watch rounds so that my self talk is "see, it's fine. Everyone is fine, just ride the lines, it's fine. YOURE FINE.". Didn't work out that way this time, instead I saw all the nightmare scenarios I had been dreaming up come true.

Our first round was relatively uneventful (praise Jesus), I lost his shoulder in the rollback and had to add a stride.  In a perfect world if I held my track, I think there would have been one less and looked a bit better - but not tragic - we worked it out.  Even with the wonky rollback we ended up first out of 22.

The second round was FUN.  There were some end jumps that are really hard to see on the video, but we basically got to clover leaf around them which had me a touch worried given the fact that Mr. Casual was all but sleeping on the job. 

Turns out, it was exactly what we needed, and as soon as we turned up the centerline to a new fence Winds woke up, sat up and felt like a very rideable sports car. 

The difference in his interest and balance was SO tangible it's hard to discount.  This horse legit hates line/diagonal/line/diagonal.  Well, maybe hate is a strong word, but he sure doesn't care about it at all. 

We ended up 5th in this round - but fences 4,5,6 were hands down them most fun I had all week.  (that sounds sorta sad when I type it, other things were fun too..).  But as I look forward at my goals with Winds, I'm starting to shift them a bit.  I think maybe (horse gods allowing), this is the horse I take in whatever Medals I can find, and let him play in the derbies. 

I also have to note that we were 2nd on the flat both weeks - and in a division of 20 that is something I am really proud of.  I've been working a LOT on my ability to stretch and stay tall without getting stiff and I think maybe, just maybe I'm making progress.  The same girl beat me both weeks (damn teenagers), but I had her pinned as the winner even out in warm up.  Gorgeous rider, lovely look on a horse and really, really soft.  I'm totally ok riding behind someone like that.  There is no world where I beat her on the flat.

It was a great way to finish the Summer, and really a testament to how much I am starting to gel with Winds.  Love this horse.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Summer Shows, and New Baby Horse and Everything

Holy no blog.  I wish I had been inspired to write the last couple weeks because lots of fun things have been happening, plus a few cute things (LEADLINE) and one not so fun (MRI). BOOOOOO

But let's do the 60 second rundown, shall we?

Thunderbird.  Both boys went up to Tbird in August for both weeks of showing.  Windsor was a superstar.  He did one warm up class with the pro, looked bored, and then didn't come out again until the Derby, which was in a different ring and in hindsight, he was WAY TOO FRESH. 

Bored, but also fresh? V V Confusing

Whelp, lesson learned.  He overjumped everything, and while it wasn't his most fluid course ever, the 72.5 base score drew confused gasps from bystanders who aren't as biased as I am. It's the first time he hasn't made the handy... had to happen sometime!

Then it was my turn.  We did our equitation and managed to win a round and get second on the flat out of about 22.  I was thrilled. 
Turns out Pilates actually works.
Winds was awesome, and our courses were actually interesting.  We were champion.

All of my ribbons have been chewed on.
Quiz made his debut in the Baby Greens and won his first class each day and was SO TIRED in his second that some baby mistake usually came out.  But he is a DUDE.  Didn't bat an eye at anything.  No lunge, no extra rides, prep, voodoo, nothing.  He's just a solid citizen.  He peeked at the flower boxes exactly once as he hopped over and never batted an eye after that.

Best. Baby.
Week two was much the same repeat.  Quiz rocked the Baby Greens again, Windsy packed me around the Eq and the Hunters. 

We repeated our performance in the Eq - and had a nice finish to the show in our Hunters, winning one round, nabbing a ribbon in a HUGE flat class and getting our proverbial shit together in the classic to get 2nd (due to an 85 in our second round).

Also, I fell slightly in love with a Nations Cup rider, who I may have stalked a teeny tiny bit (equal interest in his horse, let's be real), bought a new show shirt, oh and d├ębuted my new Burgundy show coat from AA.  It was a good show.
(He's 20 and decidedly NOT single, but a middle aged girl can dream)
At home, Quiz has continued to be a total stud.  He learns every ride, has yet to get grumpy or say no, and even with a lot of rides by yours truly - is finding his balance and fitness.  I have yet to really fault him for something.

Winds was stepping a bit short at the end of the show, so Paranoid Polly over here had the vet out once we were home.  She confirmed that he was looking slightly off on the LF again, and that it did block out in the foot.  So we headed south for ANOTHER MRI to see what's up. 

Are things continuing to heal? Did he re-injure it? Is this the new status quo and I need adjust his management and schedule accordingly? Who knows. 

Well, Hopefully, I'll know - as soon as my vet calls.  Still waiting for the official report...

OH, and the kid did her first deadline class.  It was insanely adorable and there are so many photos that I need to do a separate post on that.  Hopefully I'll get around to that before she turns 16. 


Monday, August 7, 2017

Making it Official

Finally bit the bullet on Quiz' USEF, which was mostly delayed due to total name paralysis.  You guys had AWESOME suggestions, (and Quartermaster made the top 3, as did the Qrown ___" suggestions).

But the ultimate winner is QUOTABLE. 

I'm actually glad that I got to spend a little time with Quiz before locking in a show name.  While he is big and elegant, he has a quietness to him that made some of the bigger, bolder names seem like a poor fit.  So, Quotable it is.  There are only a couple registered with USEF making it one of the more unique options we considered, and I like the simplicity.  Also, much like Heir Apparent - I like that it hints at quality as opposed to declaring it.

Aside from the name, the first week of work has been a great one, and Quiz is exceeding expectations.

The sweetest
After a few days off to relax and get acclimated, Quiz got to work. 

He is admittedly significantly more green than I was expecting.  He lacks the strength to hold his balance for more than a few steps and his go to is to lock his poll and shove his head up into the sky, or curl waaaaaay too low. 

But, he is also significantly smarter than I was expecting, and in the short span of a week he is already steadier in the bridle, more responsive to the aids and totally willing to work.  I have to also give him credit that he appears to be totally Ammy-Proof.  He hasn't spooked once, no offered any tension in his work.  He's quiet and kind and follows you around like a puppy on the ground and tries desperately to understand under saddle.

I always thought that Windsor would be the most tolerant horse I ever had.  And while Winds is kind, he is also totally willing to let you make a mistake and act like he couldn't possibly have known better and helped you out.

Quiz seems to really want to make it perfect for you, he can't always, but his heart seems really, really impossibly good.

On the flat it's been about getting him straight and soft.  We're making progress.  He has a hard time staying organized in the trot (there is a LOT of movement), but his canter seems to be pre-made, and omg you could ride it allllll daaaaay loooong.  Love.

Tuesday he popped over a couple cross rails quite casually.  He peeked at the flower box exactly once, then jumped it with a total lack of interest every time after. 

Thursday I had my first real ride on him, and while I was exhausted from all the extra leg that he takes (Winds has made me soft), he was such a good egg.  I ended by jumping a few cross rails, and OMG he's fun.  His hind leg comes SO FAR under that you feel his stomp perfectly and the fences just show up.   My main problem seems to be that I don't have a good sense of his gas and brake pedals, so my adjustments weren't always what I was going for - but silver lining- He doesn't care! I parked him a couple times and he just lumped over the fence and looped away. 

I know our hopes and dreams change as we get older, so while I might not lust after a wild black stallion anymore, a tolerant gelding who doesn't care about mistakes makes my heart pitter patter.

We ended the weeks with another great hack and Quiz already feeling more responsive and consistent in the bridle.  He is a GOOD BOY. 

I'm' hoping to take him up to Thunderbird next week for a field trip.  Not sure if he'll show, but I'm curious to see if he brings his same laissez-faire attitude to a big, busy facility like Thunderbird.

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