Friday, May 30, 2014

VC Blog Hop: Let's Make a Baby! (oh wait, maybe we already did?)

Admittedly, I haven't thought nearly as much as I could about who I would breed Prair to.

Way back when, I thought I'd breed Prair when I was preggo and also out of the tack - but then I sobered up and realized the only thing more terrifying than your first kid or your first foal would be your first kid AND your first foal.  Lord knows I need only be responsible for the good (or bad) behavior of one thing at a time...

All that aside, much like everyone else I love, love, love my horse and want to magically keep her young and sound forever - though producing a quality foal with all the things I like minus the few things I don't is a close second.

I think Prair has lots of nice things to pass on to babies and her success both in the USDF world and start of some success in Hunter Land makes her a decent broodmare candidate.  There are certain things I'd like to help correct... namely her back, but other than that, the mare has proven sound in a variety conditions with a variety of work... so maybe it's not the craziest thing in the world... plus if everything else I rode moved like her.. I'd be thrilled.

Since she's already been bred twice, I might as well start with those breedings and talk about what I like/don't like.

Prair's first baby hit the ground in 2010 and was by Sir Donnerhall (Sandro Hit/Donnerhall).  I like him.  He's pretty, his babies are pretty and he moves.

The baby was sold in utero as a mystery and ended up being a cute little black colt.  I've tracked down a few pictures of him and a video from last fall as a 3 year old.
Handsome Boy.
I'm the first to admit that I'm terrible at evaluating foals and their confirmation.  Mostly my judgements are reduced to "cute" or "not cute."  (for the record, most are cute).

Here is the video:

He's got a nice float to his trot and it looks like he might be a tad more relaxed than his mother.  Definitely starting to see Prair's long neck show up.. but it looks like his back is quite a bit shorter and he'll be stronger across the croup...

So working with a sample size of one.. I like this cross.  And I'd consider it again for sure if I were breeding for Dressage.  If i turned my eye to hunter.jumper land a bit more I might consider other options...

We've already talked about Prair's 2011 filly quite a bit, but I'll still give her some space here.  Prairie carried this foal herself, and I'm pretty sure the extra weight on her back, was probably not an ideal thing.. but the baby turned out cute!

As far as color goes I wouldn't personally breed for it (now that I've had Black, I... well... would rather not go back), but I love how Prada turned out.  The medicine hat, dark tail... so adorable.  The light/dark legs makes for a bit of an optical illusion that might make her look lame when she's not, but I love everything else!

Prada's sire is Radikal, an RSPI stallion (Rotspon/Weltmeyer) who scored well in his testing but has been sidelined by an injury.  He's a looker, but not very proven.  I do love his breeding, and there are some nice Rotspon jumpers out there... so I wouldn't necessarily cross him off the list either.
Prada shares Prair's more refined look (where the colt doesn't as much), and if you imagine her all black, you can certainly see the aesthetic resemblances.

In watching the videos that have been posted, so far it looks like Prada is also a tad more relaxed than her mother.  If anything both she and the colt appear to need some... encouragement in their early work.

Here's the most recent video of Prada starting under saddle.  She's adorable!

So that's what we've already seen come out of the mare (so to speak), so let's talk about what could be. (grin).

Since I'm bad that this, I'm just going to share a suggestion that came by way of D and a stallion she stumbled onto - Bon Balou.

He's an 2006 Elite Hanoverian Stallion (Balou du Rouet x Argentinus x Landadel).  Totally different lines than Miss Prair and lots more spring!  His movement isn't necessarily ideal for the Hunter ring, but I love his look - and I think his nice compact frame would compliment Prair's (less compact) frame and would strengthen her over the back.  He seems to be pretty relaxed and easy over fences, and holy moly is he bouncy!


and some videos, cause we all love stallion vids.

First as a 3 year old in Germany:

I'm not sure that a red head with chrome would help my pursuit of another black baby... but I think this guy is adorable!

So there we have it.  A look at the stallions Prair has already bred to, as well as a possible future pairing.

Fun to think about!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gus Gets the Works

I've been negligent on Gus updates.  Mostly because I've been negligent on Gus visits (gulp).
But never fear, the steady old man is doing well.  Our vet was out for shots last week and I told her to "book some extra time" since I was pretty sure we'd need to address teeth, or bodywork, or something since it's been a while.

Turns out poor Gus got the proverbial book thrown at him.  The good news is that the Vet thought that he is looking really good in terms of movement (a big thank you to The Boy for joining me and agreeing to jog Gus instead of watching a waddling, lumbering pregnant lady scamper around).

The only "decline" of note is that Gus has been dropping weight pretty steadily since he moved to his new barn.  I recently boosted his hay and added Rice Bran back to the mix - but we also decided to deploy a Panacur Power Pack since it's been a while and he's been grazing across some very old, very used (by multiple horses) pastures.

Of course, when we checked his teeth there were some good hooks to take care of, so Gus got a cocktail and we got ready to do teeth.

When we took him over last year, he had recently had his teeth done (by another good Samaritan) so they've never been done on my watch... which means I had no idea how good of a sport he would, or wouldn't be.  My only contextual clue is that Gus likes pretty much anything and everything, except for clippers.  He hates the noise, the cord, the vibration - all of it.

Gus doesn't do clippers.

And frankly I haven't had the interest or the inclination to spend time working on that issue with him... though I started to feel badly that I've been ignoring that hole in his education when he instantly transformed from sleepy-falling-over-drugged Gus to HOLY HELL ALL OF THE EVIL IN THE WORLD IS IN THAT TOOTH DRILL THING.  Come to think of it maybe he doesn't mind clippers themselves.. just that they remind him of the scary tooth drilly thing...


So Gus got a second cocktail (we all like more than one, don't we?) and that got us enough sedation to get some work done.

He was still a pig (and I don't blame him) but at least we took care of his teeth and got him back to a good eating surface.  I did feel badly that his eyeball was still broadcasting total terror even when his body was unable to react.  He was not a happy camper.

Of course, why waste perfectly good drugs and willingness, so while he was still suggestible we also decided it was sheath cleaning time.  Poor guy got it from all sides, but 2 hours later all his spa services were done and he was a happy, healthy guy all tuned up and ready for summer!

I'm hoping that between the teeth, extra food and Power Pack I'll see some of the missing lbs come back.  Usually this horse gets fat on air... so this is the first time I've ever even had to think about him needing some extra pounds.  Some of it can probably be attributed to a reduced workload (ha! reduced from.. "barely" to "nothing" is still reduced I guess) and also his paddock doesn't offer any real grazing.. so he's missing the extra pasture calories too.

Either way, we'll keep a close eye on the big guy and supplement with plenty of carrots :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Edgewood Reins, CWD Stirrup Leathers and Fun with Darkening Oil

I like my tack dark.  Dark, dark, dark like "oh wow, is your black horse even wearing tack?" dark.  That being said, somehow I prefer the "dark" of well oiled, worn and loved brown tack, to the dark of true black-black dressage tack.

Lucky for me the hunter ring doesn't even know black tack exists, so I get to spend my time attempting to darken, wear, and love my brown tack to a rich, dark patina.

If I had the patience of, well... anything with patience, this process would happen naturally over time and I would trust the lady at the tack store when she swears all her Edgewood tack has turned "basically black," but I don't.

Aside from not totally believing her, Prair would look like a monster in the bright orange-red of new Edgewood tack (even with oiling) and well - we just can't have that.

Can we picture this on the Prair? (blegh)

One might ask why I even bought Edgewood tack in the first place and that is a totally legit question.

Yes, the leather is deliciously soft and strong.

Yes, it has a great reputation.

But, yes - It's hideously expensive and not what I had in mind when I was simply trying to get my old Aramas reins repaired (dammit).

So the two things that nearly kept me from ever even leaving the store with the Edgewood reins?

1) price.

2) that horrid, horrid color that I knew would be hell to match to my bridle.

Of course, we know my history with staying within budgets (budg-wha?), so issue #1 was quickly ignored, and the lady at the counter was so adamant that the reins would darken I finally capitulated and pulled out the visa.

She dipped the reins once for me, handed me a gooey, oily mess and we were on our way....

After the first coat of oil settled, I pulled out my trusty Hydrophane, a ziplock bag and got ready for some transformation.  I wish I could time travel back 20 years and tell my diligent, Pony Club self to just stuff my tack in a ziplock, pour in some darkening oil and check it in the morning.

When I think about the amount of time I spend trying to rub oil in with a rag.... anyway...

I've repeated this process twice now.  Once initially when I got the reins (winter 2013) and once more this past week.  It's so simple - and so flipping easy I love it.

Unbuckle reins, shove in gallon sized ziplock (a fancy ziplock... you don't want spills and leaks..) drizzle maybe a 1/3cup Hydrophane in the bag.  Close and shake to coat the inside of the bag evenly, then leave the mess someplace where a kid/cat/husband won't accidentally eat/puncture/destroy the little package.

12 hours later the ziplock bag will be mysteriously dry inside, and your reins will look less orange and freakish.

I tend to wipe off any excess oil, apply a thin layer of normal conditioner (the Hydrophane can be a tad drying..) and call it good.

This is what my reins look like now:
mucho better
definitely no red

The CWD leathers also started out as a redish-tan that offends my sensibilities a bit.  They aren't nearly as bright at new Edgewood leather, but still, the tone of them can be difficult to tame if the rest of your getup is darker.  My massive tack cleaning tub was lacking Hydrophane when my first CWD saddle came in last year and I foolishly thought I could get decent results with plain Neatsfoot Oil and some serious commitment.
new leathers, not as orange.. but hardly dark.
I did okay, but the red tinge never really ever left, and not wanting to over oil them - I stopped my efforts.

Old Leathers with traditional oil, conditioning and a year of use:

(Picture totally missing because I cannot remember to take one when I'm at the barn to save my LIFE)

When the new saddle arrived, it came with another set of leathers, and since I had a full supply of Hydrophane Darkening Oil, I figured I'd cut right to the chase and start there.

So, into the ziplock they went.  I left them overnight and wow. Biggest. Difference. Ever.  What shocks me about the ziplock bag method is how evenly the absorption always is.  No splotches, no lighter spots, just dark ass leather across the board.

I squeed a bit, then set the new leathers aside to keep as "new" for when I'm back in the tack.

New Leathers after one overnight ziplock bag treatment:
Truer tone, but no detail..

This photo looks lighter than they are..
To be clear, I don't think Hydrophane is *good* for your leather.  It's definitely got some sort of petroleum compound in it that aids in the darkening and helps soften fibers.  I'm not sure what would happen to leather that was regularly treated with it, but I don't want to run that experiment.  It can also cause the dye in your leather to bleed into fancy stitching.  If you're obsessed with keeping your stitching white.. proceed with caution.

I will say I've never had any adverse affects of using Hydrophane initially to get new tack dark and appropriately broken in.

In this instance both the Edgewood reins, and the CWD leathers started as high quality, relatively soft leather.  The Edgewood reins have broken in faster and more wonderfully than any reins I've ever owned.  They are supple, floppy and have that heavy weight of really delicious leather.  The CWD leathers are calfskin wrapped nylon, so even before I touched them they were already soft and supple.

Both pieces won't require a ton of regular conditioning to maintain, and frankly, probably won't need any oil/conditioner for at least a few months.  If I were applying the hydrophane to a cheaper/stiffer leather, I'd probably still stop after 2-3 coats (max) and switch to one of my other go-to conditioners to finish the break in process.

All in all, I think Darkening Oil is a good tool and way more efficient than suffering through a million applications of neatsfoot oil.  Just be sure you test an area first to see how your leather will take it and proceed with some caution if you aren't going for the same dark-as-night result as I am.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

VC Blog Hop: Bit it Up

Ah bits.  Can't have too many... yet I never seem to have the right one.

Prair has had quite the adventure with bits.  We have tried LOTS of bits, and rather than just discuss what we're currently going in, I think this is a good opportunity to review what we've used in the past, what prompted a change and how we got to where we are.

When I first bought Prairie, she was going in a Mullen Mouth Eggbutt Snaffle.  Cheap, steady and easy. 

Prair worked well in this bit and when she lacked any sort of responsibility for her own body she pushed right up to that bit, hit it, and would back off.  It worked well to keep 800lbs of mare out of your hands.  Since she stayed at the barn I bought her from for about 3 months, she just stayed in this bit... I certainly didn't know the mare well enough to evaluate the choice, let alone theorize about possible changes.

Of course, I have never been blessed with the cheap option staying the best option, and it didn't take long for my Trainer at the time to suggest something new/better.  Keeping the steady cheeks, we moved to a D ring, although a KK Sprenger Dynamic D.. so it was decidedly not cheap.
We stayed in this bit for a long time.  Prair didn't object to it, and it was legal for Dressage which is what we thought we'd be doing.  I struggled with her bolting through my hand (though I'm not sure barbed wire would have stopped that) and lulling me into holding her up.  I think it was comfy for her, but I don't think it did either of us any favors in terms of training.  

Our next stop was using my trusty old KK loose ring which has been in the mouth of every horse I've ever owned.  

Prair seemed to like it for flatting and was always engaging with it, but we didn't necessarily steer so well and it was really difficult to get the mare off her inside shoulder/corner of her mouth, even though she never really "locked" onto it.

When we started jumping we quickly played around with a twisted D to add some much needed stopping power.  I'm not actually convinced that this bit helped much, but we used it consistently at shows and about half the time at home. 

The pony club kid in me cringed every time I used this bit, even though I know it wasn't that harsh.  I think the most reactive thing about it for Prairie was the single joint... Prair seems to really not like single jointed bits, which I'm guessing is part of her mouth conformation. 

The first time we lessoned with N, she suggested trying a pelham, albeit a soft one, so we procured a happy mouth, mullen pelham which we started schooling in about 2-3x per week.  The baby amount of leverage really helped improve our canter work (and jumping) and I didn't feel like I was shredding my horse's face, which is always a nice feeling.  Slowly the pelham replaced the twisted D over fences and at shows. 

The only thing I didn't love was when I took the pelham off for dressage shows, the mare figured it out QUICKLY and immediately laid herself into my hand.... that was not so ideal, but the muscle building and work we got done with it was great.

When the Mare mysteriously calmed down last fall and evicted her gerbils, I switched back to the KK D and relished the fact that I could ride my horse in a snaffle with no serious changes in behavior or way of going.  That felt like a success and indicator that our bits were good tools but not crutches - also something I'm a bit paranoid of...

Once we switched barns N felt like Prair was not in love with the KK D, and suggested we go back to a KK lose ring, so we switched back to that for a while.  After a couple weeks N wanted to play with increased leverage so we put in a double jointed 3 ring elevator and rode with two reins to maximize the snaffle action when we could.  The mouthpiece was very similar to her KK, but the multitude of rings gave of lots of leverage options.  We rode with a snaffle rein on the big ring and a "curb" rein on the bottom ring.  

This got a bit more loft in our canter work and really helped our focus on getting Prair to balance back and use her haunch instead of dragging herself around on her front end...  The biggest difference was in her jumping style - and for the first time we really saw Prair use her back and not just her neck over fences.

Not being something we can show in... we went back to a pelham for most of Thermal - though this time it was a shorter shanked, single jointed rubber one.  Prair handled it well and I appreciated the brakes.  This came out of N's bit box, and the only change from the one pictured is that Prair goes better with a foamy curb chain cushion which she appreciates.  She tends to get a tad anxious with a bare chain.
There was one week of showing with the KK D, which again - made me feel awesome, but since we've been home we've stuck with the single jointed pelham for most rides at home and the show back in April.

Then when N really started schooling Prair on galloping up and coming back (correctly, that is) she felt like even the pelham wasn't quite enough leverage, so we tried a Myler Combo bit.
This isn't exactly the set up Prair has, but it's close.  It's a comfort snaffle mouthpiece, a two ring cheekpiece and a noseband/curb strap that is connected to the leverage of the bit.   Basically if Prair stays soft, it rides like a normal Myler snaffle, but if she inverts and pops above the bit, the noseband tightens and she basically bonks against it.  When it's on it looks something like this:
Not as scary looking when actually being used...

Prair works like a goddess in this bit.  Soft, foamy, lofty, balanced... I've only see her really hit the leverage twice and holy moly, she self corrected QUICKLY.  I like that the mouthpiece isn't extreme and I like that the horse can easily avoid the leverage (Sometimes I feel like leverage bits are still acting on the horse even on a loose rein... this one seems to sit very neutrally when not engaged).

Since the mare is clever and notices (quickly) when you swap bits, we opted to show her last week in a pelham (again) but this time one with the same Myler mouthpiece so it felt the same as her combo bit.  

I think as long as we are schooling in the Combo, we'll be showing in the Myler Comfort Pelham to minimize change for shows.  The mouthpiece works well for her, and the pelham (again with curb chain cover) is helpful for keeping the mare off your hand.

I forgot to mention the Myler Baucher which Prair worse for little bit... she went fabulous in it on the flat... but we got that bit just as we crossed into Hunter Land and apparently bauchers are not on trend.... so that bit has been relegated to the garage for the time being.  Also it's a tad large for her, which also kept it from ever being a favorite.  She does seem to like the mouthpiece though... 

I think that is officially our list of bits - It certainly looks like more than it's felt like.. but I suppose that's how these things go, especially when you consider three different trainers and their own preferences/philosophies.  
I've never felt like bits are the biggest piece of the puzzle but I do think that good trainers aren't afraid to mix up different bits for different purposes - and the great ones know when they can move on to a softer/subtler option and still achieve great results.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Show Day 2: More big, bad, indoor (and more blurry, bad video)

The second day of showing left Prair and N with just three rounds over fences (one for the Large's and two Pre-Green).  True to form, Prair looked more relaxed and settled in her stall, the cross ties and warmup.  I think we are just at the point in her career where she is trying to be good but still gets a tad overwhelmed by her nerves and new places the first couple of days.

Knowing the judges were not her biggest fans, (and knowing how impressive some of the other horses were..) I had extremely low expectations for ribbons which made everything more fun (if harder to justify financially..).

Warm up was great, N proclaimed that Prair felt "like she does at home" and the mare looked lovely.  Also encouraging was the fact that after a big day of jumping there was still no sign of mystery foot lameness from the last time we were at this venue.  I'm continuing to believe that we really were dealing with a "jammed finger" of sorts and hopefully nothing chronic that will plague us..

This video is a little... um, low contrast - but you can see that the mare is way more relaxed and comfortable with her job.  Most notably I see her changes getting cleaner and cleaner, and her pass through the two stride was about as slow and un-panicked as it gets for her right now (even coming home).  So that's neat.

N had 5 (!) horses all running on the same open card (with the Small Hunters, Large Hunters and Pre Green) which made for some serious shuffling, but it also meant that Prair was last and toward the end of the entire group and rode all three courses back to back.  N still left the arena each time, but still - no other horses in between her rounds to compare to, or break up the Judges opinions.  Not sure if it was good or bad for us in terms of placings, but Prair seemed to handle it well. Staying in the arena and performing our courses with no break has not been ideal in the past.. she tends to build in her anxiety rather than calm down... so the quick pop out the back gate was a nice compromise even with no one else queued up.

Here's the third (first of the day) Pre Green Round: Only thing of note is really a small spook which was the result of someone crinkling a water bottle.  I only mention it because Prair pulled it together in 2 strides instead of 10 and went right back to work.  Still annoying that she's reacting to to that stuff, but nice to see the level of distraction diminishing....  Prair scored a 72.

Finally, our last round was also rather uneventful.  I think it looked pretty similar to the others, though N said that from a rider's perspective Prair felt way more balanced and self managing than she had ever before - which is totally what an owner wants to hear, but hopefully that doesn't mean it's not true :)  We were rewarded with a 74 for the last round - which still isn't spectacular, but given what we know these judge's think of the big mare, and that the highest score was an 82... I feel pretty good about that.

Since Half Lease Lady opted not to show this weekend, I opted to haul Prair home on Friday and give her a couple days of R&R while everyone else finished out the show.  Now we have three weeks at home before leaving for the next show, which is where we made our "A" debut last year - and one of my favorite spots to show.  It's two weeks back to back which I'm hoping will give Prair and HLL a good chance to settle and really have a solid experience.

N made noise that she feels like Prair is getting close to being ready for the National Derbies (staying at the low height options), which is exciting.  This would have been a good show to try it out at since the Derby is run in the same arena Prair showed in all week, without any weird surprises beyond a slightly longer course and some hay bales... but we had already hauled home.

The June show is a bit more demanding since they run the derby across multiple arenas and it's less reminiscent of a traditional Hunter round... so that might not be a great option but we'll just keep playing everything by ear!

After that we'll take July off while we wait for Baby to show up before hopefully getting a couple shows on the calendar for August.  Very proud of Prairie, and very impatient to get riding again!!! argh.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to be a Tack Ho, out of the Tack.

There are several things that are difficult about adjusting to being out of the saddle.  The first is obviously - not riding.  The second is that when you aren't riding there are even fewer things to obsess about both in terms of training, and gear.  Prair has everything she needs to show at 3' with my Trainer, and aside from an increase in purchasing power toward treats - I have nothing to covet, shop for, research or consider.

Don't get me wrong, I would ultimately pick a fat lame horse in a pasture that I could walk around bareback on over no horse at all - but let's be serious part of my horse obsession is a horse-gear obsession and even that has taken a hit with being preggo and watching from the sidelines.

So I've had to get creative, idle hands and all..

First off, I am forcing myself to "rediscover" all my crap.  All my bridle bits and pieces, all my saddle pads, all my everything.  Everything has been cleaned, organized and thoughtfully put away again.  My garage is literally bursting at the seams since so much of the stuff that I used to organize/maintain myself (like wash buckets and fly spray and first aid items) are handled by the barn both at home and away at shows now.

(Note, or everything has redirected to Gus' barn...)

Secondly, I am having to relish every moment that is available to me.  Whether it's oiling new stirrup leathers, or giving the mare kisses - my opportunities and obligations have both gone down to the point that I feel like I'm now doing everything with the deliberation and focus of a Buddhist monk.  (or at the very least an fairly OCD pony club kid).

So, when something as momentous as a new fricking saddle happens I have to figure out how to stretch out the tack-ho-ery even when I can't actually play with my toy.

So far I have been oiling it with all of the misplaced maternal hormones I can muster.  It arrived darker than my previous saddle (yay), but with a really trendy ombre fade on the flaps (less yay).  So I've been dabbing at it with darkening oil, slathering it with conditioner and rolling the flaps six ways to Sunday.  It's looking and feeling really good... I just need a few more passes to darken the grain leather along the bottom of the flaps.. but otherwise we are in business!
Apparently I cannot center the saddle in frame...
While I sat splayed out on my den floor surrounded by greasy rags and bits of leather, it occurred to me that the one piece of tack I hadn't actually looked at in years was my (very) first saddle which has been sitting nicely all zipped in its cover for probably 15 years.

Fearful of what sort of mold or gigantic spider nests could have been percolating for the last decade, I wisely asked The Boy to retrieve it for me and sacrifice his fingers to any possible nastiness inside.

Turns out that $50 monogrammed saddle cover that I begged for in 8th grade has done it's job well and aside from looking even more like cardboard than I remembered - the thing was in decent shape.

This, my friends is what $109 at the local feed shop (tack stores were WAY too expensive) will buy you.  Actually, it would buy you this fine saddle, a bridle that dyed your ponies ears purple when she sweat, some stirrups and "leathers" along with a horrid nylon girth.  In doing the mental math I figured out I made this purchase in 1993... which means this saddle is now legal to drink.
it just *looks* uncomfortable

in need of some TLC
Anyway, since I was in serious-saddle-conditioning mode, I plopped back down and went to town.  The flocking has entirely broken down (or maybe it was always that bad?) and the suede (lol) knee rolls were threatening to crack open, but I was shocked how quickly everything suppled up with a few passes of the CWD conditioner.  That saddle was supple, supple, supple when I was regularly taking care of it - sorta nice to know that even with the cheapest of cheap leather - it can be coaxed back to life.

Such a time warp to spend time with that saddle, I instantly remembered all it's weird (read: cheap) quirks like how the billets on one side are significantly thicker leather than the other, or how the left sweat flap is sewn on with the rough side of the leather facing up instead of down... Or the weird seams on the welting where the "saddle makers" switched to a new piece of leather instead of using a continuous hide...

Also the smell.  This saddle smells different than all my other tack - it always has.  Memory lane, holy smokes..

Anyway, it was also pretty cool to be handling both the (ancient) no-name saddle and the new full calf CWD at the same time.  Turns out there is a difference in craftsmanship and quality - made all the more obvious by a side by side comparison.  Even the horse illiterate husband could tell that they came with extremely different price tags...

And that is how you waste a Sunday afternoon being a Tack Ho without actually being able to ride, or even purchasing anything new.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Show Day 1 (return to the big, bad, indoor)

Turns out pregnancy brain and horse show brain are a terrible combination.  (have I already started a post with that sentence? can't remember... sigh).

I am about as spacey as spacey gets.  It's fairly tremendous, thankfully I am no longer trying to remember any courses for myself, as I'm pretty sure that even a rudimentary line-diagonal-line-diagonal pattern would be impossible for me to figure out (wait... what?).

Even sitting in the stands and watching 20 horses repeat the same three rounds I couldn't keep track of what course was the Large Hunter round and what courses were the Pre Green.  Not exactly an impressive showing.

Fortunately for me, neither Prairie nor my trainer are pregnant, so they had less brain interference assuming I stayed out of the way.
The gerbils don't need any help.
Apparently Prair was a bit of a disaster on schooling day, and still a bit of a disaster during an early 6am ride on show day.... Not exactly the best set up.  She looked pretty good when she came out for warm up, but a crowded ring (shared with Jumpers.. Prair discriminates against them apparently) along with some wind gusts billowing a giant tarp made for a less than relaxing start.  

Finally, N called it, figured she would be better off spending a few quiet moments at the back gate and we headed for the ring.

The first round was her Large Hunter round.. and it was not so bad! there were a few nice jumps, and Prair seemed pretty responsive and willing to re-balance after each fence.  The two stride was set on her harder lead, and coming home... so that was maybe not our best, but she managed it better than in shows past.  She almost jumped it like a normal horse, rather than squirting through it!

She had a couple minutes before her first Pre Green round, which to me looked a bit more on the muscle, but N was overall happier with.  Our only real issue was that Prair stalled a bit coming into the diagonal line and N opted to add and stay relaxed rather than goose her and make it.  I think that was the right decision, given Prair's mental state...

Finally, the second Pre Green round I thought was her best.  Her pace seemed pretty even, and although she wanted to invert a bit over a few fences, her single jumps were all nice and slow and round and soft.  So that's neat. I think she scored a 72 on this round... I missed the score on the first PG, but with the add I'm sure it wasn't spectacular...

Prair also had her hacks for both the Large's and the Pre Greens.  The divisions were large.. approx 20 in the large's and 15 in the PG (they ended up adding the 3'3" PG's to the 3' division).

As much as I love how my horse moves an I know she's "fancy," I'm often nervous in her hacks and worried she looks too strung out/on her forehand/'not engaged/etc.

Not this time.  She looked AMAZING.  more self carriage than I've seen, lots of spring to her lovely step and nice and relaxed while maintaining her shape.

So, naturally I was flabergasted when she pinned 6th in the first class.  6th.

Her worst hack ribbon ever.

That is until she got 7th in the Pre Green hack right after.


I know the Under Saddle is a massively subjective class, but even the gal who pinned first (on a cute but not very impressive bay) looked confused at the placings.

Oh well, not our judge, not our day.  In a way we pinned so low that I was able to ignore the placing and focus more on how happy I am with how the mare is going.  If she had pinned 3rd or 4th I'd be scratching my head and wondering what the hell was up, but 6th and 7th? Weird.

Just so I don't sound like a total ribbon whore, it's not that I always expect a blue on the flat... but it's weird when you're showing against all the same horses and different judge's put you in such a different order... but welcome to Hunter Land! population: CRAZY).

So that was our first day.  Some tension, lots of success and not so many ribbons....

On to the next!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Par Avion (Again)

Man, almost exactly a year later I find myself compulsively tracking (yet another) saddle shipment.
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The first time we went through this song and dance with CWD, I was anxiously awaiting the saddle's arrival on a Friday so we could pack up and hit our first ever A show on Sunday.

My what a difference a year can make.

This time, Prair's all tucked in at the show grounds and somehow it seems perfectly *normal* that I'm blasting out a couple hours of work before I escape to go sit in the stands and watch my Trainer lope her around the show ring...  Relative normal changes so quickly.

"Blasting out work" probably isn't an accurate description since mostly I'm just sitting like a confused squirrel and brainstorming on what exactly I do with said new saddle.

Last time the CWD showed up the fit could only be described as tragic.  I was tipped so far back that I could barely post out of the tack - though I was so high on the smell of new leather that I tried to convince myself that all would be well once my "custom" saddle broke in just a little bit.

This time around, I'm a bit more leery about what I'll find in the box when it lands stateside - but I'm even more confused about how I'll go about making sure that it's a good fit for me.  I currently look like I'm smuggling a substantial watermelon under my shirt, and since even my maternity jeans are busting at the seams (probably not a good sign) something tells me that legging up even just to sit in the thing isn't going to give me a great idea of whether or not it's the right seat for when I actually start riding again.

So... what to do.  Obviously I can have N and Half Lease Lady ride in it (assuming it fits Prair) but that doesn't make it any easier to confirm my fit.


Doesn't this baby know if she'd just come out already we could get to work on procuring her own tack instead of piggybacking on mine? ;)

Just kidding - she should probably cook a few more weeks...

But seriously.  What do I do with this saddle.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Trot is BACK (!!)

I probably should be posting something about Gus' Birthday, but I'll just let the record show I actually remembered and skip to the good stuff.

Saw Prair get worked this morning, and holy-omg-ness - the mare looks great.

For one thing she's putting on muscle nicely, both in the butt and the neck, which are two places she could use a tad more meat.

For another, the mystery diahrea seems to be abating... not totally gone, but maybe 80% better - which goes a long way on the less gross/alarming factor.

But more importantly, the mare looks like a goddess.  She's moving like a queen, carrying herself more and her jumps are looking softer, rounder and those knees are finally starting to snap!  Also doesn't hurt that she looks like a glossy wet seal.  love that shine.

She's been working in a new bit (Myler Combo)  which is definitely encouraging a bit more lift and carriage, but I also think that her body must be feeling good and there was another level of relaxation in her work today that probably contributed to the loveliness.

I wiped the grin off my face just long enough to snap a quick clip of her trot work - and have probably watched it on my phone no less than 30 times since I left the barn.

Nothing makes you feel better than seeing your horse moving well and feeling great, especially after a couple weeks of crossing your fingers that something isn't seriously wrong...

Look at this swing:

I love that her loft has returned and she's lifting through her back more.  I also love that she's staying very light in the bridle (I would too with a combo bit in my mouth..).  Her rhythm is still a little unsteady at times, but I prefer that to her leaning on the bit to steady herself.  Lots of her schooling time has been working on moving forward and coming back - especially at the canter - which I think is helping Prairie to really sit back and round up her back to slow down rather than invert and skid to a stop...

Myler Combos aren't my favorite thing in the world to use, but I do like that if the horse evades above the bit, they correct themselves, and I also appreciate that she's still got a soft, smooth mouthpiece in.  Right now it seems like a helpful tool and the total lack of teeth grinding makes me think she's not afraid of it or stressed out.

Over fences things looked even better, soft to the fences, able to slow her takeoff and landing and comfortable even from longer spots....

After their ride, I got my horse fix in and groomed the mare up, fed her a week's worth of treats and got my trunk organized.

So I'm feeling good about the show next week.  Hopefully we get a bit of redemption from our last outing and we stay sound and happy and relaxed for everything.  I'm off traveling for work right up until the mare's first days of classes so I won't be able to stalk schooling day or obsess much of anything.

love this mare!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Prair Baby Update

Since I have nothing (nothing!) interesting to report on the pony front, I did some online stalking and found a new video of Prair's filly under saddle.

She looks pretty chill and relaxed (more so than Prair), but her lower leg coloring almost makes her look off? does anyone else notice that?

I do think she is spectacularly cute though.  And I can't wait to see what her gaits look like when she is more balanced and sure of herself under saddle....

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Who's Walking Who

Got some good time in with Gus while the sun was shining.  His RF is looking a tad stiffer than normal, though that seems to be par for the course when temps soar above 70 around these parts (ha).  Same thing happened last year when the weather changed.

I only lunged him for a couple circles each way... just enough to see what I was working with, then I decided we should just go stroll around in the sunshine.  So I took the old guy out to the track, and we meandered around.  I suppose he gets just as much credit for walking me, since it's either him or The Boy who has to make sure I shuffle my feet around for at least half an hour each day.  Growing babies is exhausting, who knew.

low energy levels from us both
a bump.

Naturally we both thought it was a good idea to take a break in the shade and eat some grass before we called it a day.

Gus.  What a Gentleman.
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