Friday, November 25, 2016

The Saddle Fitting Trials

I have a feeling that this isn't going to be one of those open and shut cases.

The other year, I ended up with a lovely saddle that had an adjustable genesis tree.  It was comfy and seemed to fit the horses well enough. 

But there seemed to be a problem. 

My lower leg would keep creeping forward.  I worked hard to fight this and thought's just in the way I'm riding.  My equitation needs a lot of help.  I know this.

I also fought the way my leg lay on the horse.  My lower leg turns out and I felt physically unable to drape my lower leg quietly against my horses.

So about eight or nine months ago, I decided to see if the tack store that sold me my saddle would be able to help me out.  The owner is incredibly sweet and willing to work with me.

I wanted to basically be able to trade my saddle without involving an even crazier sum of money.  Unfortunately, I am a tall person, just shy of 6 foot with a very long leg.  Also unfortunately, I ride smaller horses with short backs.   I also didn't (and don't) have the budget for a new, nice fancy $5,000 saddle.

So, the other day I got a message that she finally had a saddle for me to try!  Hooray!

I'm not sure if I'm totally sold yet, but I have a Frank Baines Elegance on trial.  It is quite deep and seems to fit the ponies. 

Now, for me, I'm not quite sure.  Leg seems somewhat improved at the trot and canter, but it is still creeping forward at the walk.

I also still need a lot of work on balancing myself at the canter.  But sorry for blurry video stills.  This is what you get.  ;)

But definite pros are that despite Chili's random skitters, I didn't move out of the tack.  The seat seems comfortable.  It has a nice "Y" girthing system to adjust pressure on forward groove horses. 

Cons are the creeping leg and whether it will still be suitable if little narrow Chili fills out more.  She is five, so I am not sure how much more she will plump up.  I am hoping a little bit so that she will take up more of my leg, but who knows.

I had my friend take some photos to pass back to the fitter along with my concerns.

So we'll see how this version of the Saddle Fitting Trials turns out.

But in other news, I decided to work with asking Chili to bow the other night.  I think we are making progress!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Blog Hop: Before & After

Blog Hop courtesy of That Red Mare

Chili then...I bred and foaled her out.  She was born on mother's day during finals week while I was in graduate school.

A few months old


Two years old

Three years old.  Lightly started under saddle.  My first ride on her.

Four years old.  Last winter.

Five years old.  Her current age. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Almost Famous

A few months ago, I decided to write a short recap of my adventure showing a friend's stallion last minute at Nationals, where he ended up being Reserve National Champion.

Horse & Rider has a small column/section for readers submitting their own stories, so I thought why not?  I emailed the editor and off we went.  She contacted me and liked the story and a few months later, emailed me again with a more condensed version of my story, since I do like to be a bit wordy and occasional ramble.  Anyone reading my blog shouldn't be surprised on the rambling.  Sorry.

A random friend of a friend picked up her copy of Horse & Rider and read the article before I even knew it was published.  Quite a surprise to receive a message on Facebook regarding the story I didn't know was out.  :)

So, as my husband says, I'm "almost famous" now with my tiny 900 word recap in Horse & Rider.

Pick it up if you like from your local story or check in the library.  Let me know what you think. 

It is certainly enjoyable to write and I am looking forward to hopefully writing more articles in the future.  I do currently provide some content to the Morab registry and local magazines, but I'd like to have something nationally published sometime!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Down the Long Side

I have been reaching to books for ideas and exercises to do as the weather has suddenly plunged into winter mode and I am trapped in the indoor arena for the next six months more or less.

One exercise that I believe I pulled from Reiner Klimke's Training the Young Horse book is letting the horse learn to extend/move the trot into a lengthened trot on the long side while on the lunge.

I decided to go ahead and modify this by putting down ground poles to make a long "chute" to guide her straight along the rail, so I could cheat a little and not have to worry about her only going into "auto circle" mode while in the lines.

Chili at times gets tight and ends up doing this little pony trot, so I wanted to have her enjoy the chance to go straight and feel like she could move out without my interference, as long as she behaved and wasn't running off her feet.

She seemed to enjoy herself, but it did bring up another thing that I need to work on and that is her butt phobia.

She doesn't like things on her back legs and while intimidated, immediately clamps down and worries, runs forward, or some variation thereof.   I don't know if this is directly tied into the dog attack that she sustained about a year ago that ended up injuring a back leg, but it has been recently come to my attention as something I need to adjust her response and fear.

This is why in the above photo, I'm lining more like the gaited horses with the line up and over her back instead of behind the hamstrings like many people like to classically do.

As this is called the Semi Feral Equestrian blog, I do tend to pick and choose what I do in my semi feral style, as long as the horse is responding.  :)

At the end of the session, it was an excellent time to go back to basics with just running the lines along the ground, up her pasterns and along her hamstrings.  If she worried, I didn't punish her by pulling on her face, although she was still in the lunging cavesson. 
The goal was to wait for a positive reaction in which she didn't clamp her tail, tuck her butt, move forward, and so forth.  Positive response meant I removed the stimulus (rope) and let her relax for a moment. 

Rinse and repeat.

This was a few days ago and I'm happy to say that I worked again for about five minutes tonight on the lines and while she initially worried, it took less than thirty seconds before she relaxed into licking and chewing with the lines in her "worry zones".

I think it will be a point to check in for the next few weeks and months until hopefully, we've moved on past that. 

Funny how small experiences, as in her accident with the dog, can leave deep impressions.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

10 Questions for November

Borrowed from Viva Carlos

How old is the youngest/greenest horse you’ve ridden?
I've been on a couple of two and a half year olds.  I've started some from scratch as well that were varying ages.

How old is the oldest horse you’ve ridden?
Mid to late twenties.  Alex, my auction Arabian is 27 going on 28 in March and I still hop on him.  He's still on crack most of the time.

Were you scared of horses when you first started riding?
Not at all. I'm less confident now that I have had a back injury.

Would you say you’re a more nervous rider or a confident rider? 
Usually a confident rider, but depends on the horse and situation.  For a while, I needed anti-anxiety meds, but not due to horses in general, but life was getting in the way.

Generally speaking, I have most of my mojo back, but still need a pep talk when anxiety takes over.  It does bother me since I've done some bold things with horses in the past.

Biggest pet peeve about non-horse people around horses?
People trying to put their kids up on every horse they come across.  Really, it's a horse.  Don't do it.  If it's on the other side of the fence, it's not yours to touch.  Stop feeding them without permission.  My stuff, your stuff kind of rules

A time you’ve been scared for your life?
I don't think I've ever felt I was going to outright die, but more like "Oh crap, this is going to really hurt."

One time I was riding a big palomino gelding bareback and he had been fairly well behaved while I was helping teaching lessons at a camp.  We were loping back from one side of the field to the other when he started bucking.  He'd buck and I ended up on his neck, I'd push myself back and he'd start again.

Fortunately, I managed to take enough control of his head and got that stopped.  I really thought it was going to be painful though.

I have been bucked off a few times that weren't especially enjoyable.  I also have handled some unpleasant stallions.

Have you ever fallen off at show? What happened?
Oh good grief.  No and let's keep it that way.  I have just recently started showing undersaddle in the past couple of years. 

What’s a breed of horse you’ve never ridden but would like to ride?
I want to ride a bunch of baroque horses like Lippizanners, Andalusians, and Friesians.  I know that too many would drive me crazy by being heavy in my hands, but at least it would be fun to try.

I  have ridden a lot of different gaited breeds, including Rocky Mountain horses, Tennessee Walking Horses, and Paso Finos if that counts for anything.  Nothing too exotic beyond those besides various Warmblood "breeds", but since they have open books, I think that's more complicated.

Describe the worst behaved horse you’ve ridden? 
A lot. I rode a horse that was donated that was pretty spoiled and one of the first times I was riding her, she began alternating between bucking, crowhopping, and rearing.  She just drove me crazy.  A couple rides later she was good and never really caused too many problems again.  I think she just had cowed a few people into getting off of her.

Now that I think about it, I've ridden a few other horses like that.  They just needed to be pushed through their stupid attitude and realize that I (or whatever other) rider wasn't coming off.  Wet saddle blankets are good things for those spoiled critters.

The most frustrating ride you’ve ever had?
I once got bucked off at a halt by a Quarter Horse that didn't want to work.  I got on, thought about asking her to move, and got launched into the dirt.  It was the shortest ride I've ever had as well.  ;) 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Saturday Snapshots

Yesterday as told in photos

Chili and her Fjord friend yesterday

Beautiful Fjord mare

Little miss looks like an adult horse!  Almost...I think
Snoozing Chili when I arrived.

We hung out for a while together.  She had me itching her spots.  She stayed down.  A first.

We absolutely suck at taking selfies.  Clearly we both have RBF.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Learning Curves: Other Side of Shows

The past few years I have tried to tame my semi-feral self and to be more involved in various aspects of the equine community.

Through one friend, I have started assisting with a fairly large sized show.  It isn't HITS or Dressage at Devon, but for our area, it attracts around a hundred horses.  I also have been working with an Arabian club and their show events.

Here a few things that I learned while being on the other side of the show curtain, as in assisting the show instead of just exhibiting.

1.  People are generally good natured, but have some questions.  At all hours of the day.  All types of questions.  Be prepared to answer questions anywhere, even while in the bathroom.  :)

2. Show facilities charge fees for everything for the hosting show.  Vendors on the ground means a fee.  People showing from a trailer is another fee.  One facility even charged anytime people used the electrical outlets.  Unfortunately, some of these stupid fees have to be passed along to attendees.  It would be difficult for a show to absorb ten to fifteen dollars a time for each person showing from a trailer.

3. No matter how hard you try, people will not like your class schedule, the order, or the judge.  Sometimes all three.  They also want classes for small, spotted horses of a certain gender that haven't won.  OK, that's a bit tongue in cheek, but it does seem that way.  Don't take it personal.  It's the way it is.

Here's a suggestion for those that show and would like classes added.  Send an email or note and ask if you can sponsor a class.  People are much happier to add classes when they are sponsored.

4. People should put more thought down when putting down stall requests.  If your horse can't be near another living animal, please put that down.  If you have a very frisky young colt, put him down as a "stallion", not a "colt."  Trying to write stall assignments is some sort of mysterious art form that I don't truly understand as it combines horses and human politics and if we don't have all the information, it gets much trickier.

5.  Shows are obnoxiously expensive.  There are many that are ceasing to exist because they just can't get enough horses and clubs are continue to hemorrhage money trying to put on unsustainable events.

6.  If you like your show options, consider volunteering or sponsoring.  Both help creep closer to breaking even or showing a profit, which means more shows for next year.

Anything else that people "on the other side" would like to add? 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Rinse and Repeat

Here's your random photo of the day.  Let's play "I spy"....

OK that's a spider that I found after putting on splint boots.

Back to regularly scheduled topics. 

Chili has occasionally been difficult to load, so last week I wanted to set aside a day to hook up my truck and trailer and practice loading, as well as beginning to clean it out to get it ready for winter.  It is the Midwest after all and despite the fact the weather has been unseasonably warm, it's not due to last forever.

I managed to back the truck up perfectly to hitch the trailer, so that was excellent starting point.

Then I went and got Chili.  The last time I tried to load her was for the little local schooling show with my husband in the misting rain.  She was difficult and a bit of a piss, but I ended up resorting to a butt rope to get her on.

So with a couple hours before I had to go to work, it was rinse and repeat: trailer loading style. 

I originally tried asking her to just load like normal, ie just walking her on which used to work.  Well not so much. 

I went to the whole "work the horse away from the trailer " and let them rest near the trailer.  The downside is that she's an Arabian and she doesn't care about putting her feet on the ramp, it's rather the whole actually staying inside of it that she doesn't want to do.

So I ended up trying to load her with the butt rope by myself, which was a little bit creative, but about 35 minutes, she finally went in. 

It took about two minutes for the next time and then the 3rd and 4th attempt were effortless with her even self loading with the straight load dividers up.  Usually I just swing the straight load divider over so she has more room.

So while I don't think this is the end of our trailer difficulties, at least I think it gave her an idea that loading on the expensive, new shiny trailer I bought specifically for her isn't an optional thing. 

Sunday, I planned to go trail riding with a barn friend and it was time to put the trailer loading back to the test.  In our favor though is that the other horse is Chili's BFF so incentive to any degree.

So much love for that Fjord.  We are also standing on top of a tire at the park

The Fjord loaded first, then Chili decided to hesitate for a minute.  I just tossed the lead rope over Chili's rump and apparently she had butt rope flashbacks, so she just hopped right in. 

We had a pleasant ride at the park

Complete with lake wading.  It's actually an equine watering spot as the edge is too muddy for the horses to actually drink.

Trying to be artistic, but all you can see are my horse's giant ears. 

Then it came time to load back up to go home.  I asked if Chili could load first and closed up the divider and toss up her lead rope on her back and she walked in!

So who knows...maybe a sign that we'll accomplish things, someday!

Or maybe another round of rinse and repeat is somewhere in our near future.

How about your horses?  Good to load or not so much?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fall Frolicks

It's officially fall here in the Midwest.  Temperatures have been very unusually warm.  We've had some rain lately, which meant that the grass is quite soggy again, so Chili and Donni weren't turned out from the drylots into the much bigger pastures.

Chili has taken the winds + lack of freedom + so many crunchy leaves everywhere=super expressive

I joked in the above photo she's channeling her inner park horse.  Well, she doesn't really carry her neck like a park horse, but still.  She wanted to be a firebreathing dragon today.

I turned her out in the round pen for a few minutes so she could have a chance to eat some grass and think she had some semblance of freedom.

I rode Donni first.  I think I need to go ahead and find a pad that I can shim as she has lost a lot of her topline in advancing age, but she has developed those hollows near her shoulders with the extreme lack of work.  Bad horse owner, I know.  I had the fluffier pad on today, which helps the rest of the saddle, but doesn't really correct the issue.

Despite this, Donni started out being a little energetic.  I just went into the outdoor arena without lunging and hopped on.  She wanted to trot off, so we took a few minutes of just asking her to walk and remembering that being a giraffe is indeed unnecessary.  I forget sometimes with riding Chili so often now, how different Donni is to ride.  I always thought Donni was soft in the mouth, but compared to Chili, she felt a little heavy.

We ended up just doing about ten minutes of trot work and one canter circle.  It's not worth it with an older horse to stress them too much, but Donni did settle down.

I always call her my tattle tail (tale?) horse as if my equitation slips (OK, it doesn't slip, it's just not really there), she bobbles, her head comes up, and I generally look inept.  Great focus to sit back, look at where I'm going, and try not to lock my elbows. 

I really should try and make it more of an adventure to ride her once or twice a week.  She is really turning into a very reliable horse in her lack of use. 

I rarely see the other boarders at the barn, but given I was off randomly on a Thursday, I texted one to see if she wanted to go for a quick trail ride.  It was warm in November, why not?

Chili was of course, still feisty and opinionated and of the decision that the trail looked way different with all the leaves on the ground, but hey, we went the correct direction without too much objection.  I want to keep getting her out there if I can before the snow flies to see if she will begin to relax and long walk again out alone.  It is sometimes much more difficult at home as she has such a routine on the path that any differences in the trees coming down or the corn is cut bother her, where when we trailer out, she doesn't have a clue, so is more relaxed.

Go figure.

What about your horses?  Are they better at home on their routine path or in the novel new environment?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Reason to be Thankful

Just thankful

Thanksgiving is just around the corner or so it seems.  It is appropriate to discuss one reason why I am thankful this month.

I board at a pretty awesome barn.  Care is personalized, horses are in good health, and the moment something is amiss, the family that cares for my horses is on it like my dog on his kibble (He’s a Labrador.  Use your imagination). 

It was April and I received a call at work that Donni was choking.  Donni is 21 and has choked previously, but not usually seriously.  She enjoys eating as her primary pastime and was even eating while she was foaling Chili.  Seriously.  I watched her nibble away on her hay, complete with feet and foal entering the world.  


Well, it appears her eating pastime failed her again.  This turned out to not be a simple choke.  Despite catching the choke early, veterinary intervention became necessary.  I was unable to leave work.  I work in a hospital, about an hour from home and it was one of those situations where I had to just turn it over to the capable hands of my veterinarian and the barn family.  The choke took approximately an hour and a half to clear and involved a cocktail of four drugs to relax the esophagus enough to move the impacted food.  Apparently, Donni had packed down some food which didn’t pass the esophagus and continued eating, until there was a minor traffic jam of food and a major case of choke.  Go big or go home.

The choke was cleared and life was good, or so I thought.

Until the following day when she began running a fever and had slight crackling breath sounds in one lung.  Aspiration pneumonia.

 Unfortunately for Donni, it was not in my pocketbook to ship her off to the university hospital for more intensive treatment, but I elected to keep her at the boarding stable and give her twice daily injections of Pen-G & one daily injections of Gentamicin.  If you’ve never been injected with Pen-G, let me tell you that it’s uncomfortable and animals generally don’t enjoy the process.  Donni was no exception.  A couple pokes into the treatment after giving her 20+CC of Penicillin daily, she was getting upset just seeing me.  I was going before and after work and often arriving at the barn well after midnight.  I was quite convinced that the barn owner was going to find me squished in the stall in the morning.

Donni apparently is a very lucky yet unlucky horse.  After a week or so, I wasn’t sure we were seeing improvements since her pulse and respiration was always high when I measured it each morning and night.  We started discussing dropping another thousand dollars or so on antibiotics.  My pocketbook cried.  My husband was crabby.  I then asked if my veterinarian could pop on out and do another physical exam to ensure exactly where we were in terms of her health. 

Turns out Donni had started developing “white coat syndrome” with me.  Just being restrained for her injections was enough to send her sky high.

It’s taken several months for Donni to reach the point where I think she’s forgiven me.  For the first while, this typically docile horse became hard to catch and certainly wanted nothing to do with being restrained.  Just treats and brushing only, OK and thank you.

But I’m thankful for this tough horse.  More than once she’s come through a difficult situation. 

I’m also thankful I’ve finally finished paying off those vet bills.   

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Slightly Misty

My ever constant goal is to keep pushing the boundaries of my comfort level without experiencing overwhelming anxiety.

Seeing as I am now fully weaned off anti-anxiety drugs as of two months ago more or less, it's a slow process.

I was never an anxious rider in the past, but anxiety from my regular academic life crossed over and paralyzed me in ridiculous ways.

I became worried about cantering.  I didn't want to ride alone.  The list goes on.

These spidey senses can keep us alive, yes, but in the end, it was preventing me from any sort of progress.  Self:  Not that long ago, I could gallop bareback in the rain down a hill without a concern.  So anxiety sucks.

Sunday, there was a local schooling show.  It didn't have dressage or anything along those lines, but I thought I would go to show in a couple of halter classes, then a riding class or two.

I am proud of myself that I did hook up the truck and trailer with little difficulty.  Chili then decided she couldn't possibly load into the trailer.  It was dark and slightly misty.  It started to rain.  My husband was with and he'd probably rather have a root canal than come to a schooling show.  He also hates hauling horses with the truck and trailer since he's convinced we're going to die in some fashion.

I put the butt rope on Chili and then she hopped in.  There was disorganized chaos as typical at a schooling show.  The downside of this facility is that there isn't a lot of great parking, especially when it's wet and muddy.  Many people show out of their trailers, which is fine, but since it was raining, everyone was standing around in the warm up arena.


I ended up showing two classes of halter: novice horse halter and Arabian halter.  We ended up 2nd in Arabian halter behind a professional trainer and 3rd out of 22 horses in novice horse halter, which was nice.  We qualified for the championship class and ended up 5th in a class of well fitted, nice horses. 

Not bad considering Chili thinks halter is not her thing.  She usually spends most of her time sleeping or standing awkwardly with her ears back. 

Then it was the decision whether or not to stay for the riding classes.  Pros: cheap schooling opportunity.

Cons: Iffy footing, no place to warmup since there were 1047104 horses standing around, lack of lighting in the arena which made for some interesting scary corners, and a really crabby, wet husband.

So we packed up and went home.

But all in all, a good, slightly misty exercise in expanding boundaries.

I decided to keep this going and rode the Chili bareback last night.  She is not especially a fan, but I think that stems as she doesn't really like a lot of calf pressure.  Thighs are cool, but leg not so much.  Last night, we just played around with balancing my seat, asking her to move into the trot just from the seat, backing up, and some basic sidepassing over the pole both ways. 

A good exercise just to rebalance both of us, for sure.

Poor Chili had to also deal with dragging this pool noodle the other day.  She doesn't mind dragging something next to her, but behind her is a no-no still, and having something drug towards her front feet wasn't a fan favorite.

Got off, reinforced the points in hand, then got back on and baby steps.  We're getting there.  :)