Wednesday, April 27, 2022

WW/Trail Adventures: Rocheport

This trail riding post can probably be a WW 😁 this was at a friend's private farm so it's not like the normal public trail posts I write about! Plus I tend to try to limit my sharing of photos of other people here unless they're bloggers (or my husband, he doesn't get much of a choice lol).

In continued suckiness, equilab pretty much never registers anything but a walk, despite the fact that we did trot and canter more than once. Oh well. I was mostly worried about the time/distance/GPS tracking. 

It was a lovely day full of sunshine and good conversation and some adult beverages (which I desperately needed after nearly rear-ending some DIPSHIT on the highway attempting to merge into 65+ mph traffic who decided pulling out right in front of me doing 20 mph was a good life choice on the way there). We got to canter through some fields, play in small creeks, talk to some cute cows, and Ruby even managed to flush a very large black snake by stepping on it's tail 🤣 luckily aside from a small snort and jump, she was fairly good natured about it lol (bless her). We had a ton of fun and I am so grateful for the opportunity to ride at this lovely farm! I promised to show everyone around Indian Camp Creek and Broemmelsiek when the time comes :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Trying the Turtle Top

Thursday while I was gone to the saddle fitting appointment, USPS tried to deliver my bit.... For some reason, the UK seller sent it requiring a signature, so I ended up having to run back up to our local post office Thursday afternoon to pick it up. 

I didn't get to use it Friday because we were out for a celebratory dinner -- DH got promoted to warden which is a HUGE DEAL. This month marked his 13th year with the department which possibly makes him their youngest warden/quickest promotion from CO1 to warden like....ever. I am stupid proud of him ♥️♥️♥️♥️

He bought me another clearance orchid to celebrate 🤣

Anyway, Friday before he got home from work I played musical bits/bridles (and photographed and listed the Custom, go me). I put the turtle top on my PS knockoff and moved the Verbindend to the other half of the paladin/nathe frankenbridle - it's the crownpiece the paladin came on with the Eponia noseband, lol. So Saturday I was ready to test it on the girls bright and early!

Whoops you can see I only knocked the mud off where the bridle sat lol. 

Ruby and I actually had trail ride plans that afternoon with some friends, but I figured a 20 minute dressage school wouldn't kill her 🤣 it was definitely interesting! She did some angry chomping to start out (since she's been pretty exclusively in the nathe for like 8 weeks) but over the course of the ride got better and better. I'm looking forward to seeing what TrainerB thinks next time we see her (whenever that is 😭).

Someone needs a fresh roach. 

I was feeling froggy so I decided to try Cinna in it too lol... Maybe not my best judgement call because she isn't in as regular work as Ruby, but hey, why not? I adjusted the cheek pieces for the bit but I sort of ignored the noseband so let's not look at that 🤣

After we got through the first 10 minutes of "oh my god everyone is out back on the grass without me and Ruby's gonna steal my man I CANNOT FUNCTION" she remembered she could in fact, function, and was actually quite soft in it. No snap decisions since she needs way more consistent work but if it works for her too and I have to buy a second one to keep one on each of their main bridles I will be so annoyed 🤣 although at least they're way cheaper in the UK than here, if I had to spend $230 twice I'd strangle my horses lol. At any rate, I think it's a good addition to my bit collection and I'm looking forward to seeing how they both go in it long term. 

Definitely wanted to strangle this one when she snapped my cross ties. Thankfully she was also hard tied (yay for my new washrack posts!) so she couldn't escape and gallivant. 

Poor ded cross ties. Oh well. They were on their very last legs anyway and ordering new ones was on my to-do list anyway, so I did that Sunday. 

"Wait I don't think two-a-days are part of my contractual obligations!" - Ruby, probably lol

Tune in tomorrow for some gorgeous photos from my trail adventure!

Friday, April 22, 2022

Saddle Fitting Appointment (aka, my horse has expensive tastes)

Thursday, the independent saddle fitter was coming to my trainer's barn, and I asked to be put on the list. I wanted to get an appointment the last time she was out, but unfortunately by the time I thought to ask TrainerB, the scheduling didn't work out, so this was the next time she was at the barn. Because of how many horses there were on the schedule, I opted to flex my work hours so I could come up in the morning, which seemed easier for everyone. I brought the Jorge Canaves Vienna II we've been riding in for about 95% of Ruby's under saddle career, as well as the Custom Advantage to see if we could make it work for her instead. 

My favorite view. 

Ruby was fairly apathetic to most of the process, haha. She couldn't figure out WTF we were all doing on a THURSDAY MORNING when she only has to work at this barn on the weekends. Also a little confused by the whole get on, ride a few circles at all gaits both directions, get off, switch saddles, do it again, and again, and again. But she was a good sport :) 

As I told my friends later, we had bad news, good news, and EXPENSIVE news. The bad news is the Custom Advantage spent about 20 seconds on Ruby's back before getting a definite no from the fitter. The tree is too straight for her curvy back. Sob. So, that's gonna need to be cleaned up and listed for sale. The good news, my Jorge Canaves Vienna II is a perfectly acceptable fit. It's not doing either of us any favors and isn't like.... AMAZING... but it's not hurting Ruby or causing any issues. Unfortunately, it's flocked with synthetic material, so the fitter couldn't do any sort of adjustment to the flocking. Since she had 70+ saddles in her trailer we decided to see if any other options would work better for us, and she asked me what my saddle budget was... Honestly I hadn't even gotten that far in my brain because I sort of assumed that bringing two saddles (one of which Ruby goes decently well in) that we would probably be able to make one of them work, but that was silly on my part, lol. I threw out a very small number but also told her I didn't mind her trying more expensive saddle models if she didn't mind if I shopped for one used and brought it to her to adjust (which she was fine with). I... should not have told her that was okay. You know where this is going. 

Here's the expensive news
(not as in buying the saddle, I haven't done that yet, I just WANT to buy it). 

The first saddle the fitter pulled out was a Kent & Masters. It's a brand I was at least peripherally aware of, although I'd never sat in one. They're not high end or fancy, but they're adjustable and wool flocked. We tried an 18" seat and I was swimming in it, but otherwise it wasn't bad to ride in. The blocks were different than my current saddle (or even the Schleese I used to have, which had MONSTER blocks), but I didn't feel like they were in my way. Overall it was sort of just a ho hum feeling. But the next saddle she pulled out.... oh my god. 

The next saddle we tried was a Fairfax World Class - it's one of their newer models, and it's what Charlotte Dujardin rides in (I told the fitter if it made me ride like Charlotte Durjardin I'd write her a check right there, IF ONLY that were how it worked lol). From the minute I got on, I knew I was in trouble. So much trouble. EXPENSIVE trouble. The clouds parted and the sun shone and the angels sang (okay not literally but it FELT like that). It felt amazing. The trot-canter transition (which is Ruby's favorite place to express feelings about saddles apparently), was effortless. My rogue right shoulder didn't go wandering around. I felt completely secure but not boxed in. My trainer asked me how it felt (I replied expensive) and she's like yeah I'm sorry about that but just so you know, that's the canter seat we're working for. SIGH. I got back off and the fitter said okay this one is $5K (cue me dying inside a little) but let me see if we can find something else that might give you the same feeling but more in budget. 

A handful of the options we tried.

We tried a Ryder (apparently a brand that works for one of the other Spanish horses in the barn), and that was an immediate no go for both of us -- not that they're bad saddles just the model she had did not work for us. Ruby was very inconsistent and wanted to keep popping her head up and I couldn't find my seat at the canter at all. We also tried a different Fairfax (one of their older models so easier to find used, a Gareth I think?), and it was okay it just... wasn't as good as the World Class, sigh. 

I have never been (and probably will never be lol) a fancy saddle person. But DAMMIT THAT FEELING. 

So... yeah. I talked to my trainer a bit between saddles, and then to the fitter when I was paying for the consultation at the end. The fitter is so lovely, she completely understood the budget concerns, but had doubts about me being able to find one of the World Class models used just due to how new it is (she's not wrong I scoured the internet last night and had ZERO luck - mostly either sold already or higher than she had the demo priced at). She was willing to work with me a bit/accept payments, but it's still just... massively out of budget no matter how I slice it. Talking to my trainer was tough - I knew my original saddle didn't do me any favors (actually the three or four lessons I had in the Custom made it clear it was a much better fit for me, even though Ruby hated it), but I also hadn't actually experienced riding in one that fit ME well and how much easier that made things. I seriously felt like the Fairfax did more for my position in 5 minutes than 8 months of lessons (and not for lack of effort on my part or lackluster instruction, because my trainer is amazing). But this saddle just... put me where I needed to be and instead of focusing on both me AND Ruby, I could just focus on her. And my trainer could see that just as much as I could feel that. 

Cute snuggle noodle break. 

There are some changes going on out at the barn (it was listed for sale last fall and I think the new owners close next month? It's hard to be in the loop since I'm only there a few times a month lol) so I might actually be taking a brief break from lessons for a month or two anyway, so if I could sell the Custom and throw my lesson/gas budget into a new saddle fund for a minute... maybe it would be doable later in the year? Or I could delay my planned arena footing/drag investment and divert that money into buying this saddle? Sigh. IDK. I guess I'll spend a week or two thinking on it and crunching numbers. And poking around the saddle vendors in KY next weekend. Oh and getting the Custom cleaned up for sale. If anyone local is in the market for a 17.5" Custom Advantage, hit me up... lol. 

Damn you Ruby and your expensive tastes!
(summer dapples are coming and I'm STOKED)

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Lesson Recap: Rubber Band

Last Sunday was another great lesson - broken record here, amirite? Ruby and I are both thriving with the regular eyes on the ground, and Ruby continues to be SO SO SO good and try so hard in our lessons. I still pinch myself that she's my horse! But I digress. Sunday was another solid lesson focusing on the basics of suppleness and relaxation, mostly working on Ruby completing a whole stride instead of getting on the forehand and getting choppy. She had to really let go of the tension in her back, which, spoiler alert, was caused by me holding tension in my back -- is anyone surprised? No. Of course not. 

These $5 Amazon boot laces continue to delight me every time I wear these boots. 

When we moved that work into the canter, it helped the canter departs... take longer, if that makes sense (it probably doesn't, I'm not good at explaining things lol). Instead of a frantic leap into the new gait, there was time for me to influence it. We had a few messy ones, but several quite nice ones! Of course, DH was too busy shoe shopping on Amazon to take any videos this day, lol. 

I got hot halfway through my lesson and had to ditch the vest, lol. 

After some work on the canter departs and maintaining the quality of the canter, we moved on to leg yields, and trying to replicate that throughness of stride while in the leg yield which we were.... not good at. No one is shocked lol. But once I stopped worrying about whether or not we made it to the letter we were aiming at and focused on the throughness, they magically got better. Why is dressage so hard? IDK but I'm an addict, haha. 

I really love TrainerB's teaching style and we were having a lot of fun in this lesson -- at one point she asked me to do something "nonchalantly" and without missing a beat I asked her if she's ever seen me do ANYTHING nonchalantly... lol. At least by now she's very familiar with my anxiety-addled lizard brain. We wrapped up with just working the maintain quality of trot down the long side without letting Ruby build up any speed, and we played the "just one more time" game about four times until I told her this is why I have trust issues. 

She's the best girl. 

That was our last lesson for April, as TrainerB isn't available for lessons this weekend or the following weekend (which is fine since I'll be in KENTUCKY that weekend anyway!), so I'm looking forward to a few weeks of working on our own and then picking things back up in May to see how we feel for some of the later spring/early summer shows! Also looking forward to hoping hitting the trails this weekend, if anywhere is dry enough after the obscene amounts of rain we've been getting.... sigh. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Fail Friday

Happy fail Friday everyone! I'm not going back to pull more of the awful photos from the show, but this one made it to the FB comments on my show post so I figured it belonged here as well, lol. 

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Lesson Recap: Live Soft

TrainerB was only available for a lesson Sunday of last weekend, which was a wee bit of a bummer because I had tentative plans to meet up with some friends for a trail ride that day, but I ended up opting for a lesson instead - there will be lots of weekends the barn is at shows I can't afford (lolz) so plenty more opportunities to trail ride, but I really felt like Ruby and I needed some redemption after the show. I needed the reminder that I AM capable of riding my horse, and even occasionally riding her well. And boy did this lesson deliver.

I warmed up while TrainerB was finishing a training ride on a freshly minted I-1 QH/friesian cross (who I adore, he's SO sweet), so once she got off we were able to jump right in. And the name of the game was SUPPLENESS and RELAXATION. You know, the things we DIDN'T have at the show, lol. We started out with 10m circles at every letter in both directions, with several changes of direction via 10m half circle serpentines across the short side of the arena. Do you know how many dressage letters there are? SO MANY LETTERS. It was a good reminder to me to BREATHE and relax my shoulders - quite often if she was tense and braced, there was corresponding tension in my shoulders. And frequently if I took and released a big breath, she would as well. WEIRD. 

10m circles all day every day lol

FB friends quickly pointed out that we looked like we coordinated for the day, haha. 

After the trotwork was really consistently soft and supple, we worked on carrying that over into the canter. There was zero leaping into the canter (well, minus one transition she made, fell back out of, and I bumped her a little harder than necessary to pick it back up again, which you'll see in the video down below lol) and the canter was infinitely more rateable.... soooooomeday we'll have that canter at a show, sigh. But in the meantime, it was good to work on how slow and soft I could make it, and how much of the energy I could continue recycling through her entire body, instead of propping like a porpoise. The canter bears basically zero resemblance to the one I had in mid-March before the chiropractor's appointment and the show. 

She still falls out of it occasionally, but is easily rebalanced and sent back into the canter. 

And to the right lead, just WOW. I can't believe this was our "bad lead" last year (or you know, even two weekends ago at the show haha). 

I scrolled back in my youtube history and found some of the first videos from our lessons in early September (didn't have any video from the August lessons unfortunately) and it doesn't even look like the same horse. If I had more patience for splicing video on IG I'd make some before and after reels of it, but I am fundamentally very, very lazy lol. 

Show season will really be ramping up for TrainerB and some of the barn ladies, so I'll probably drop back down on a 2x a month schedule simply because they'll be gone a lot. We've got an appointment with the saddle fitter late next week, so I'm interested to see what she says about my current saddle, if the Custom can by some miracle be adjusted to work for us, or if there is another direction entirely she thinks we should go in. I also broke down and ordered a bit TrainerB and I had been discussing - a Neue Schule Turtle Top. I can't remember if I posted about it here, because it was in one of those hazy pre-show lessons, but sometimes the nathe is too soft and Ruby blows through it, but the Verbindend is "too much" and she gets offended, so TrainerB suggested it might be an interesting compromise. Long story involving me not so patiently waiting for SmartPak to restock it because they were $100 cheaper than anyone else in the States only to live chat their customer service to check on the new stock date causing them to promptly raise the price (fuck off SmartPak, for real), so then I scoured the internet for UK sites with coupon codes (Lauren is the real MVP there) and I was finally able to score it for about $5 more than the original list price at SP. So. Even if Ruby (and Cinna, I want to try it on Cinna) both hate it, I can easily sell and break even - possibly even to TrainerB, who likes the bit but doesn't currently own one lol. I was supposed to pick one up from a local-ish-to-TrainerB college friend of mine at the show, but I completely got distracted and forgot, so I just broke down and bought my own lol. Anyway - possibly mixing up some tack in the near future to see if we can continue to fine-tune whatever makes Ruby the most comfortable!