Monday, February 27, 2017

The Devil in the Downpour

I've spent the last week in a hole, horse wise.

Bailey spent a week spooking and melting down under saddle, and slowly but surely I, much like a spoiled child, fell into a state of pouting disbelief. This winter has spoiled me, just like last summer spoiled me; Bailey had come into herself so much, and reacted so positively to the new atmosphere that I forgot that the winter of 2015-2016 was entirely unproductive, training wise. I've forgotten how much time I used to spend just Keeping A Lid On It, where this year I've been training lateral work and actually getting shit done. So the absurd week-long spring in the middle of February arrived and suddenly... the #feralredhorse is back to her feral ways. Spooking. Spinning. Rearing. Noping out violently away from me like I'm going to attack her.

I don't actually have any media of her noping out, but just imagine a horse flinging themselves sideways and half rearing a lot with rolling eyes and that particular look of crazy chestnut thoroughbreds seem to have on lock. 

So yes, I did spend the last week trying to figure out why my horse was broken (and considering everything from bits to supplements to sales ads as my solution) and bemoaning my life, my saddles, my tall boots (guess who's schooling boots decided to start breaking. Again. When I just got them back from the repair man.)

Show boots may become schooling boots.
Because why school in boots that hate anything other than the slimmest breeches and socks? 

And then it got cold again. And Bailey's brain came back. She was still a bit up when we ran up to the upper barn to chat with J on Saturday (though, in her defense, I haven't replaced her quarter sheet yet and it was COLD) but came down to the lower ring and... did work. The turning stayed installed. I didn't wish for a running martingale the minute I got on. There was no bucking, no bolting. Lateral work was a bit resistant and rusty, but the tiny arena and jump saddle position aren't really her friend there. I'm looking forward to pushing the envelope more tonight - and maybe even setting up a jump, depending on arena traffic. It's amazing the things you think you can do when you're able to successfully stop your horse!

I feel silly, getting all frustrated and frantic after only a week - which is three rides - worth of bad behavior. It's been especially infuriating when Foxie is going so nicely and then I get on a horse that is about as comfortable to sit on (with steering and brakes about on par with it) as Miley Cyrus' wreaking ball. Bailey is a damn good horse, when it comes down to it. She's talented, and when she's keeping her brain properly between her cute little ears, she's a dream boat to ride. She truly is my dream horse.

So, here's to hoping I can figure out a tool box to deal with her seasonal reactivity, or at least stay on through it so we can spend the warmer months having fun!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spring Sprang Sprung

My work seems to enjoy letting us have weird holidays off, so not only did I have Monday off, but I also got an early release on Friday afternoon. I hadn't ridden since Monday's awkward squeaky full seat ride, so of course I had big plans of taking Bailey outside on Saturday and was only vaguely sure I would die.

First, though, I spent part of Saturday morning and a portion of Friday oiling the panels of both of my Visions (reminder: I have two now. It's a problem) as I had finally gotten up the guts to email my saddle fitter, who is a saint, and when I finally went to take the photos of the Dressage saddle's panels she had requested, I realized that they were, if anything more dire than I remembered.  There were now sections of deep cracking where the longer dressage panels curve around Bailey's shoulders and flanks and compared to my jump saddle, the leather felt more like pleather than anything.

On the fitter's recommendation, I immediately went out and got some Neatsfoot oil and am beginning to bring the panels back. They still have a long way to go, but they seem to feel a bit better, so hopefully those poor panels are not a total lost cause. Speaking of, I know what I need to do tonight.

Anyways: Saturday I worked in the morning and then headed off to the barn with lots of rocking out in the car and dreams of all the fun things Bailey and I would do. And then I got on her... and she was a bit of a freak. I could tell she was up. How could she not, with the weather, and being in an indoor with a terrifying pony cart leaning against the wall. She was also very offended that I put her slow twist on her, and spent a lot of time being tense and reactive because I was shutting her down too quickly or too well and clearly the slow twist is the devil. And because I'm good at judgement, we joined J and some others for a  trail ride. Outside. I got on her after watching her bounce in an Arabian-impression-excited-circle around me with her tail flagged, snorting, because horses were playing, oh em gee! and we had a semi safe feeling walk around a part of the gallop track. When we got near the road to the neighbor's house (which runs across a small marshy ditch from one of the short sides) people were taking down trees with chain saws and lots of trucks and noise, and Bailey started to get... more up. And I tried to distract her by stopping, backing up, going forward, going sideways, etc... but the backing up yeilded a small, relatively unterrifying rear, so we got her past that quickly and didn't go around the field close to where they were working. 

When in doubt, prance.

On the remainder of the trails, Bailey seemed to resign herself to this weird walking passtime and alternated between power walking in the lead (despite having no idea where she was headed 90% of the time) and shockingly, not killing us on the bits of ice and snow the sun wasn't able to reach to melt. She was really quite good the second half, and even on the first, she didn't try to bolt or really freak out more than I could handle, so, I'm going to say it was a positive first trail ride! And yes, she is coming 8 and just went on her first trail ride. Those first couple years were rough, guys.

This was before it rained, FYI.

Monday was obnoxiously rainy, which didn't work well for my plans or for the already saturated layer of ground that has defrosted at this point. I tidied up my trailer a bit, and had a nice ride on Fox while waiting for J to show up, and then got on B. And she was a mess. She seemed to hardly realize I was up there - she was throwing her head and humping her back at the walk, spooking, and taking tiny strides when asked to go forward. Something was wrong, but she wasn't off, she wasn't injured... she was just... wrong. 

I almost got off and lunged her, but instead tried to take her problems in stages. We walked and trotted around semi normally. A canter session loosened her up more, but, as J said "It looks like she can't decide which end she wants to go up". She was hot, worried and offended, even though she was in her micklem and her snaffle. I was wishing I had grabbed a running martingale (of course, the one time I shrug and say, "she'll be fine" she's not). It took a lot of time and the arena emptying to just me and J for her to calm down, and she had a few good sessions of blowing and blowing, which is usually her tell for relaxing and coming down from being spooky. She still spooked pretty violently at nothing when we passed a door that has a gap so  you can see the aisle beyond, but didn't actually run into J's crabby mare, so she at least had grown some self preservation, if not some sense. 

Beautiful, if slightly crazy, BB <3

Bailey's bad ride didn't feel naughty to me, and I find that troubling. It felt like a big step backwards to being #anxietyhorse. I felt like she didn't trust me, and that for a portion of the ride, I hardly registered to her, despite being on her back and holding the reins. I think part of it was anxiety or not being sure how to handle some soreness in her back end (she will be spending more time in Back On Track items from now on) but it still wasn't encouraging. I can blame pain, or the weather, or the weird group of people who were in the arena with us doing weird and stupid things, but in the mean time, #anxietyhorse is going to make me worry. Maybe she will be just fine tomorrow. Or she might be a total psycho. 

Who knows.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

So that kind of sucks.

I've had a couple of good rides (though we haven't done anything that is actually interesting) over the last week. Monday night, I decided to play around with cutting down bulk under my dressage saddle, and also gave it a quick spritz of Saddle  Tight, just because. It's a flatter seat than I've been used to, and while I love the position the saddle puts me in, in general, I'm also floppy and out of shape. A little extra grip wouldn't go awry, right?

Wrong. Especially when wearing full seats. My saddle and my breeches began a night of embarrassing me, as they squelched into separation every time I tried to post. I also happened to be riding in the upper arena, during a relatively beginner lesson with the trainer I've been considering lessons with. Bailey, bless her heart, was doing her best to be a good girl, but between the noise of my sticky ass spooking her and my own sudden inability to ride... she was good but definitely not brilliant.

Still super cute, though.

Other than, of course, being terribly self conscious about my noisy ass, I also felt like I was overly nervous because the trainer, K, probably knew about me. I mean, I'd talked to someone who lessons with her about joining a Wednesday lesson, and she'd actually acknowledged me and asked about Bailey's micklem... and I feel, much like I did last fall when schooling XC, knowing someone was looking at me kept me so distracted I couldn't ride properly. It was distressing, seeing as at the time I was itching to jump (still am) and was strongly considering showing up to the Wednesday lesson - I want to learn, but I'm so intimidated by people, and new people in particular, that I'm worried I'm going to be wasting my money trying to lesson. 

I've always been somewhat anxious - at shows I'm a regular hot mess, and especially since Bailey came home, I've gotten nervous in new situations just because I didn't know how she'd react, and it was frustrating and embarrassing to deal with her in front of someone new. I have had really good lessons with her (though the one that comes to mind sucked in the price range, so the memories are a bit tarnished) and really good clinics with her. She carried me around the Dom clinic when I was an anxious mess:

Someone should probably saint her for jumping this.
But she deserves better. And if I want to get better and learn (which I do, desperately) I need to figure out how to cope with this.

So, I'm asking the internet for advice (admittedly people who read this blog generally have good advice for me, vs the wild west of most message boards). Do you get nervous in generally not-nerve-inducing situations? How do you deal with it? 

Friday, February 10, 2017

In the Works, and In the Meantime

I've been working on a few things, like reviews, since I don't have much exciting to report on the riding front. I've also been trying to get some items sold. I've got a listing on ETT, but figured... what the heck. If you're in a shopping mood, here's (the start) of my spring clean out this year:

Full Seat Breeches: 
28 Horze Active Full Seat Breech - brown with clareno suede seat. Seat has faded and breeches show some fading as well. Front pocket and button/zip fly. Visibly worn, but still in good functional condition. Velcro ankle. $25

Medium Kerrits Flex Tight II - Tan ribbed full seat breeches. Has a small hole/run in the knee from a fall but have been washed and worn since with no further damage. $40

Medium Kerrits Microcord Full Seat Breeches - White. Used for shows only. A few small flaws, a bit of staining under the boots, but in great condition overall. I've gained weight and need a larger pair. $55

Rambo Micklem Rubber Reins - brown, pony size. Hardly used, just a touch shorter than my preferred cob length reins. These are the ones with the lovely flexible grips like the Nunn Finer Soft Grip reins. $40

5" Eggbutt Snaffle - Single link, good used condition. $10

Black Cob Size Figure-8 Noseband - brought home from England a few years ago but doesn't work for my horses. Midrange leather is sturdy and gets better with use and conditioning (I have another in horse I've been using). Figure-8 button is padded with black leather, no sheepskin. $35

Professional's Choice Pastern Wraps - used a few times but no longer needed. Great condition - velcro is clean. I have two sets, one black, one brown. $15 each.

WOOF Wear Club Boots - Medium, black. A bit of fading on the velcro, but in very good schooling condition at least. A bit too short for Bailey's long cannons. $25

WOOF Cross Country Boots - Medium, black. Faded velcro from use. These are the older style with more protection around the fetlock vs the normal splint/brushing boot. Would suit a horse with more substantial legs than my girls do. $25

Rider's International Quilted Extra Long Pads - 26"x38" quilted pads made for saddles with very forward flaps or larger seat sizes. Fits my forward flap saddle great, but a bit too short for the extra long flap. I have Hunter Green and black, both used and washed but in great condition and still have good color. $15 each.

60" Smartpak leathers - black with white stitching, with a few holes punched at the top. Used a couple of times, but too long for my needs. These leathers came out of the bag nice and soft and will only get softer and more flexible with use. $40

Smartpak Lite Pads - lovely lightweight pads perfect for under a half pad. Used with some marking at the girth loops, schooling condition. Both are white, one with burgundy trim, the other with hunter. Unfortunately they don't work well with my primary saddles. $15 each.


I'm open to offers, always willing to ship and more than happy to send you photos and information. Feel free to email me at!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Summer Project: Trailer Re-Vamp

I got lucky in college and with some help from my parents (who were thoroughly over me ranting about having to deal with other people's timelines, ridiculous trailering charges and all of the other issues trailering with people from my barn caused) purchased my cute little 1995 Trail-et 2 Horse trailer. It's a straight load, and while I wish it had the nice modern soft mangers and a ramp, this little trailer has been a fantastic asset. It's not fancy, but it does the job and it's a thousand times better than the dark, low ceiling-ed steel trailers my friends often came to pick me up in - it has really decent ventilation for an older trailer, a nice high ceiling, and the horse slots are a really good length, so they make up for the annoyance of having solid mangers. My trailer also has a tack room with under manger storage, and a small to decent sized full size area.

It's even cuter now that I have a truck in a matching shade of red!

When we purchased the trailer, we scraped and Rust-Oleum-ed over some surface rust, sealed the manger windows and escape doors, re-did the top vent, painted the floor boards with more Rust-Oleum to help them resist any damage from urine, added external hooks and added bridle racks to the front of the trailer. My dad did some wiring work to get me rear load lights and a tack room light for any late-night trailering I would need to do (after a bad experience with a late night load without internal lights in a trailer, we both agreed this was a damn good idea).

Now that I've got two horses (and thus 5x the crap I used to) and a much smaller storage area at our house than I did in college (when I was able to take up large amounts of my parent's upper garage storage with blanket bins) I'm looking at my trailer now as having a lot of wasted storage space. I don't love the saddle racks, both the racks themselves (triangular, so metal rods rest against the panels, which is a big no-no for me) and their location. I have three plastic Stanley trunks as a result of the barn with no tack room, and currently two live in my trailer while one is living in the barn, becoming overrun with spiders. The main compartment feels a bit like wasted space; a lot of the leathergoods I purchased the extra bridle racks along the front (curved) for have wound up in my tack locker in the barn, and I keep my saddles in my car thanks to Hubby's wonderful trunk saddle rack he made for me.

I'm  considering moving the saddle racks, adding a storage bench, creating a built in storage area under the mangers and a myriad of other things - and my show schedule this year differs from previous years, because I'm planning on a lot of one day shows versus multiple days, which changes the way I use my trailer at shows. I want to revamp my trailer to be more useful for storage - because it's utterly stupid how many times I've had to make do this year because something I need is at home in storage - and also functional for tacking out of for lessons and shows.

I generally only haul one horse (because I'm a control freak and don't like dealing with the myriad of problems a second person and horse bring to the table) but my trailer doesn't have a solid divider, so the second stall space isn't really a viable storage option (at least for anything permanent). I do use the right side manger to hold hay and bedding on the way to shows, as it's so much easier to just put it there and strap it in than deal with moving it once I've arrived and it's about to rain. I do occasionally haul two horses, and always like to have the option. My truck, unlike my dad's, also is limited in storage space, as it's a single bench seat F250 with no back seat, and we don't have a cover for the bed.

SO, dear blogland... tell me about your trailers! What works for you? What do you hate? Have you done anything DIY style to upgrade your trailer? 

Monday, February 6, 2017

I have a barn friend again!

After a long week away from my ponies, I finally got out to the barn on Saturday afternoon. I don't remember if I talked about Hubby's knee surgery (3rd time is the charm, right?) but that ate up most of last week, along with doing our taxes like responsible adults. Finally, I got to escape to the barn and hang out with J, who (freaking finally) returned from England.

Thankfully, I had the good sense to lunge Bailey before I got on her, because she spent a good 15+ minutes spontaneously bolting and bucking in between periods of extreme pogo stick trotting. She finally steamed down enough to stop like a normal horse (vs the eye rolling spooking sideways thing I got with previous halting attempts) and went the other way for a few more minutes, and thankfully that seemed to get it out of her system, because she was lovely under saddle; we didn't do too much that was challenging, but the hunter-lope is back (YAY) and she was back to being polite and actually weighting the bit at the trot, which is a good positive step. She wasn't horribly spooky and I felt like it was a good reset for her behavior.

Foxie was finally sound, as well, and while Bailey got to deal with J and I gabbing while riding (with lots of gabbing walk breaks) Foxie got worked through with no distractions. She was stiff, and a bit bucky (it's quite icy out in their paddock, so I'm guessing they both needed to stretch and burn off some energy) but did some nice flatwork in Bailey's micklem, as well. I don't know if she loves the micklem (and I still need to play with the noseband/bit hangers a bit...) but she seemed happy to be back at work. Her canter is so much more condensed than Bailey's is right off the bat, and it's nice to have her back to remind me how to ride without the ever-forgiving nature of Bailey. Fox wants me to ride with steady hands and proper, polite leg cues, where Bailey lets me get away with a lot more floppiness.

I hope, one day, I can ride Bailey as subtly and as accurately as I am able to ride Foxie, but Foxie makes it easy; she's so smooth, where Bailey is bouncy and quite hard to sit on. I'm looking forward to putting B into some lessons with a dressage trainer this spring - hopefully they can help me find my seat with her. In the mean time, I'm going to continue to experiment with saddles (with both horses; Bailey's jump saddle seemed gappy in new and exciting ways on Foxie when I looked at her from the front) and need to remember to save to have my fitter out again this spring.

Here's to hoping tonight's ride is also sane and (hopefully) a bit more productive; Bailey seems to lose condition pretty quickly and easily, so I need to work on getting her back in shape. Spring can't get here fast enough - I want to work her outside, so we can actually do some muscle work!